Microfiction Challenge #16 – monsters and maidens – for Jane Dougherty

lovers_1928There is always a monster in the tower. There is always a maiden to be rescued. These are the rules of stories.

Look at her, then, leaning into him, so fearfully. He has his arm around her, protecting her. She’s beautiful and delicate in her white dress. See how they turn, looking back to the tower. It’s alright. Nothing is following you – no wicked witch, no angry ogre, no fiery dragon.You’re free.

When he climbed up here, torch in hand, it was obvious who the monster was. Everyone had heard the story of the beautiful girl brought here by night, all those years ago, and the foul witch who kept her imprisoned. And just as everyone had said, there was the girl – long hair still shining gold, blue eyes swimming with tears. And just as everyone had said, there was the vile thing that kept her there, that wizened, ugly creature cowering in the corner, afraid of the flame. Too ugly to pity, too pathetic to kill.

So he led her out into the twilight, as the first stars appeared, not questioning anything. Not asking the obvious question – why was it so easy? Why didn’t that wrinkled wicked creature fight back?

Not asking which of us was really the monster.


This is for Jane Dougherty’s microfiction challenge. The image is The Lovers, by Felix Nussbaum. I’m not sure I’ve got this right. I might have another go at some point. 





See, here
in my hand
gold flecked
red orb


And if I flaunt
On the highest bough
Just out of reach
Of your grasping hand
And if I offer my skin
To the wild birds
And if the wasp sips
At my wounds

What then?

What then?


Is a scent

Of sweetness
Floating by


Cornish gilliflower
Pig’s nose
Golden knob
Oaken pin
Slack ma girdle
Farmer’s glory


Blackbird sharp stabbing
Piercing smooth skin russet red
Autumn gifts scattered


I always want to shout
“Don’t eat the rosy side”
But the old woman always tempts her
And she never hears me


I peel it carefully
Green writhing
Away from the knife,
Whispering the secret
Of his name


You hold green
Sour sweet
Mouth music
Singing always


In the warm kitchen
I stir the autumn
Cloves and cinnamon
Warm the long nights.


White flesh shatters in my hot mouth.


This is what Bjorn calls cubist poetry – I think. Check it out at dVerse.

Constellation – a 50 poem for Jane Dougherty

Forgetting foolish rows and crazy fights
And all our fractured days and shattered nights,
We hold our breath and watch this secret sight –
Fireflies copying stars in dancing flight,
And stars that mimic fireflies, sparkling bright –
Hoping we can re-light each other’s light.

Just last week I pointed out that Wednesdays wouldn’t be Wednesdays without a prompt from Jane Dougherty – and now she’s decided to take a little break from doing the prompts. It’s a shame, but she has been so helpful and supportive to her group of poets over the last few weeks, and I can’t begrudge her a break and some time to work on her own writing. 

This is a slightly whackier image than the ones we usually use. It gets a bit wilder every time I look at it, and I don’t think I’ve really done justice to the craziness, but there you go. Jane has asked for a poem of 5 lines, each with 10 syllables – do you see what she did there?File:Constellations1.jpg

Arrangements poem – for dVerse

In the time that it took
To place me, you lost me.
When you labelled me
You forgot my name.
When you placed me here
In this geometry
Of colour and kind
You took my self
And let it fly far
And free, but away
Away away away
Leaving only this thing
That sits in my place
And is clearly classified
with words that mean nothing.


This is for Grace at dVerse, who prompts us with the word “arrangements” and some stunning pictures by Emily Blincoe. I found them surprisingly disturbing once I started to think about them.

Shadow Quadrille for dVerse

If we follow
The shadow paths
Into twilight lands
Will we find
Purple blooms
unfamiliar scents?
Will we linger
by slow churning
Streams that
Whisper secrets?
Will we drink
Dark fire
With burning lips?
Will we ride
Wild horses
On a midnight

This is a quadrille – 44 word poem – for dVerse. Whimsygizmo is serving some shady characters with secret tipples over at the poet’s bar. Check it out for more poems by some amazing poets.

Microfiction for Jane Dougherty – What Freedom!

If you had told me I would spend my days in dancing and laughter with a gallant sea captain – well, I daresay I would have looked at you in disbelief through the lorgnette I affected, shaken my head and moved away.

I was the eldest – and plainest – of seven orphaned sisters, of limited means. I dreamed of romance and adventure, but I knew my duty. I became a governess and watched as my sisters in turn secured positions or husbands. When Louisa, the youngest of us, married the Reverend Coulter and travelled with him to Kettering, I seized my opportunity.

English governesses were all the rage in Russia, I learned, and I secured myself a position in St Petersburg. Such excitement! I took a berth on a small vessel, mainly carrying cargo, but also myself and three commercial travellers .This was the adventure I had dreamed of, and the warm glances I exchanged with Captain Aaronovitch were my own secret romance.

And then – disaster! An ice-berg! Imagine the maelstrom of emotions I experienced – fear of doom, then delight as I felt the Captain’s strong arms around me and knew I would not die unkissed.

And then the unexpected joy of this spirit form, and this sense of freedom – what freedom! – as I and the Captain frolic and cavort in these icy seas, through the long Arctic summer days, and the starlit nights of winter.

The prompt is from Jane Dougherty, and the image is by Ilya Repin – it’s called What Freedom!1024px-ilya_repin-what_freedom

Pain – for Jane Dougherty

I will not write about my pain:
The sharpness of a cut
In the skin, simple hurt.

I will not think of days of rain
And the dull, dragging ache
That bears down in heartbreak.

I will not sing that same refrain,
Burnt child in all but name
I will not fear the flame.

I will not show you them again,
Those healed scars that I bear –
Pretend they are not there.

I will rise up in my disdain
Of that sharp, second dart –
The fear that doubles hurt –

And when I walk the paths of pain
I hope that I will know
Living life made them so.


This is for Jane Dougherty’s weekly poetry challenge. It’s a form with no name that we know of, and the subject is “pain”. 

Change haibun for dVerse.

In that moment, as he lowered his voice and leaned towards me, as he gave me his bruising words, in that moment, I changed from being myself to being someone else. My body became a public thing, my health became someone else’s responsibility. My breast became the place where my enemy lurked, stealing from me – my future, my happiness, my content, my ease. I changed from being visible to being invisible, hidden behind a mask of diagnosis, investigation, medication, prognosis. Words I scattered freely became darts that caused me pain. My children became sources of fear and anxiety. All the other changes led on from that moment. The scars, the skin that aged overnight, the hair thing – I’m a blonde now, not a brunette. What stays the same? Love, I think, the love that holds us in place, that feeds our selves, that keeps us taking one step after another, that reaches out and intertwines with the fine threads of family and friends and home. Love that reminds us that there is always morning, there will be a morning, the sun will rise.

Even in the dark
There is the promise of light
Birdsong calls us home.

Summer changes into Autumn – haibun for dVerse

We float here in these golden days between the seasons, like gossamer drifting across the garden. Summer is fading and drifting gently into autumn. Flowers blanch and burn; seed heads form, altering the architecture of the borders between lane and field; leaves change their pigment- from greens that have dulled over August, to golds and oranges and pinks, a mellow patchwork stitched from flame and fire. Some mornings, we wake to find mist floating milk white, between us and the other side of the valley – as if we are alone, cut off from the clashing noises and colours of the world. There are berries everywhere – bright crimsons and purples singing from the hedges, calling us and the birds. There are apples – acid green, russet, shockingly yellow, dull red – to be held and examined. We store up treasures before the winter – sloes turning gin into liquid ruby; jams and jellies, jewels piled into jars; golden heaps of apples. We wait for the world to turn beneath us, carrying us into winter.
Sunlight diffracted
By mist, drifts through autumn leaves
Gold echoing gold.

Toni has opened up the bar at dVerse and has asked us to write about change. At the moment it feels like we are in the borderland between summer and autumn – so much change happening all around me. I love this time of year.