26 Nov / Vignette

©2019-2021 Michael Raven

She stared at nothing really.

All there was to look at was the Mississippi, already lazy and dancing with slothful eddies and slumbering slipstream. There were the myriad lights flickering in both skylines and mirrored in dark waters. The chill brought goosebumps to her naked arms and I found myself entranced in the perfume of the city in spring, and in her profile.

I could have asked what she saw, but it was the wrong question, the wrong time, all din and dissonance for the asking.

Instead, I let the dream flow like the river before us, unhurried and unblemished by motives.

I originally posted this on social media two years ago today. I made a few minor edits prior to posting here today, but the original piece is 99.5% intact. I had tagged it #MostlyDreck.

Photo by Tom Conway on Unsplash


©2021 Michael Raven

You know, I haven’t seen fehu lately. I wonder when I will see it?

[draws fehu from the black]

This happens daily. Yesterday it was nauthaz. Gebo the day before.

Madness. I am. Or you are.

It is his eyes with witch witch i sea.

A note on “barrowkin fell”

©2021 Michael Raven

More because it came up in the comments than anything, I should probably explain what I was intending with yesterday’s piece, barrowkin fell.

For several decades, I’ve advocated the idea that writing with readily available words and phrasing conventions should not be the only approach that poets take when they write. The poet-seers of yesteryear used a number of conventions to write with, including the use of kennings and, when there was no available word for what they were trying to convey, they were not above creating new language to simulate what was in their heads.

So, with that in mind, I tend to frequently play with mashing words together and (occasionally) create a rare true portmanteaus when I write. One example from my collection of mashups that sticks with me and I’ve used more than once is “glittershine”, which is not a true portmanteau, but felt right when I used it the first time, and I just kept it around because it has been useful to me.

Typically, the current goal of poetry is to evoke an emotional response. Hell, that’s mostly what I aim to do when I write, either to trigger such a response in the reader that emulates my own, or to evoke an empathetic response. I’m not sure when that became the norm, but I suspect it started being so around the 1950s or 1960s, as I can find more examples of “popular poetry” without the emotional qualities prior to that pivot point. I’m no expert on such things, so take that with a hefty grain of salt.

And while I’m all for that (obviously), I am also drawn to the more bardic styles with the focus on storytelling. I’m particularly drawn to some of the skaldic poetry, Beowulf, and the writings of Taliesin (often associated with the persona known as Merlin, which may have been a title and not a name, but I digress). One piece by Taliesin that has always intrigued me has been Cad Goddeu or, The Battle of the Trees. Here is an excerpt with the English translation from the old Welsh:

Gwern blaen llin,
A want gysseuin
Helyc a cherdin
Buant hwyr yr vydin.
Alder, front of the line,
formed the vanguard
Willow and Rowan
were late to the fray.

What I was attempting to capture was not the current target of evoking an emotional response, but to cram portmanteaus mixed with a sprinkling of real words (however rare using “wight” might be) to create a similar sense of something you might see in similar bardic poetry. Instead of using a real language to write that piece, I manufactured words more focused on rhythm than on emotion. So…

leprosity groankin my wight
barrowkin the moonblight
fell feykin traisy burn
fell feykin consumtirity lyrn...
monstrous leprosy of groaning, my man
of barrow, the blighted moon
foul fairie trance dizzy burn
foul fairie consumed in entirety learn...

…and so forth would be a rough idea of where I was heading with it, although I left normal language elements out to support the rhythm, so I could refine the “translated” part further and the first two lines would probably read more like “groaning with monstrous leprosy, the gravewalker in the blighted moon…”.

barrowkin fell is an experiment of language that was done more for fun than for anything else — I find myself too often caught up in certain patterns of writing and, like everything else I am attempting to do with my life, I want to shake up my writing a bit to see if something new falls out.

The Ultimate Price | A Collaboration with Lauren M

©2021 Lauren M and Michael Raven

I can't let you hear
            ragged panting breathing
  I need to be hidden
                    so cover me
                      whole with
                          your body
           smother & jetblacken me

                  maybe I'll come up for air

                                  eve nt ually

        hot lips   your teeth
  tear the sutures clean to drinkme


                      fill me lover
          make me banshee howl
           wash my limp skin rags
     scrub my worn flesh clean

           an umbra eye-witness
 to sickness and laughter 
          nails clipped rough 
   from their beds
           as we assume 
             our positions 
      [in the funeral home

pale legs wrapentraptwine
       and draw hold tight
     in wine-stain'd lace
          neither of us will
     sleep this winter night


               nail me down 
           bury me|six inches deeper
          bone grinding in the morgue
             & the director weeping harder
                 than the preacher
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Lauren, from The Lexicon, once again lets me ride on her coattails for this, as she described it, a nec/romance piece we wrote together recently. I always enjoy when I have the opportunity to work with Lauren, as the pieces we have collaborated on over time seem to write themselves (okay, she does most of the heavy lifting, who am I trying to kid? I get to be the slacker).

I haven’t put the call out recently, but I am generally open to collaborative writing as long as the chemistry works between all of the writers involved (I’ve worked on pieces with as many as five poets on a single piece in the ancient past and it was only possible because we all shared a very warped sense of humor and it bled the piece through and through). Post a comment below, or use my contact form, if you’d like to try to work together on a piece of writing or DAW-based music.

Eyes see darkly

©2021 Michael Raven

The three, I know them now — faces known to me. You know them, too. They celebrate, having ridden this down.

The blinding came to be. I can no longer see, and there were flames all around. Burning everything to the ground. Not a forest, but a bulwark I failed to keep. We witnessed the destruction together, under the stars, under the flames. I wish I could take your hand, it may have changed, but I never did have it, did I? Conspiracy drew us asunder — real or imagined. In the end, it didn’t matter.

It seems so clear now. Nothing is accident.

What is the point of seeing what can’t be altered? Seeing what can’t be known beyond the metaphor?

I wish I could see you rising. But I can see nothing; smoke, tears and blood in these blinded eyes. Cruel dreams, these.

In earnest, these nights, I wish to carve out my sight and toss those baleful orbs into the deepest well and forget I have seen anything at all. I never asked to witness these things twice.

Photo by Andrea Bova on Pexels.com

Taking demons.

©2021 Michael Raven

The following was originally posted 9 Nov 2019 on social media and showed up in my “memories” feed this morning. Any edits made are for only the most egregious of errors, which might (honestly) be the whole of the piece.

“Every night is the longest night of my life,” she said over the coffee I’d ordered for her. She hadn’t touched the coffee yet but just hovered over it, breathing in its aroma. Her voice was weary, tinged with fatigue and, maybe, just maybe, a little apathy.

“I sleep, but only as much as I absolutely need,” she continued. “But mostly, I lie awake all night.”

I was about to say something, she added without looking up from her coffee but exquisitely timed. “Night is where my demons dwell.”

As far as first dates went, this was going in the direction of the two-stars-thanks-lose-my-profile-cos-I’m-gonna-block-you box. But it was early yet. Maybe my date was just nervous, I told myself.

“Demons?” I mean, what do you say after someone says something like that?

“Demon demons,” she said, looking up for the first time since I’d placed the spider-cracked porcelain mug in front of her. Her eyes were like dark pools of water, an abyss of cold emptiness.

“There are demons, you know. We just like to pretend otherwise. And I’m just fated to have to deal with them nightly. You have demons yourself, or you wouldn’t be here.”

She waited for me to confirm her assertion and shrugged when I did nothing of the sort.

“My guess is you can ignore them,” she added, looking back down at the mug. “I can’t.”

That was it. I’d left my last girlfriend because of her mental issues that she’d refused to take her medication for. I didn’t need this in my life, this gal was obviously cut from the same crushed velvet tapestry. Maybe, I told myself, I should take mom up on that nice daughter her coworker was willing to set me up with as a favor.

It’s best to avoid prolonging the inevitable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Not to be mean, but I can already tell this date is not going to work. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”

She shrugged and finally sipped the coffee.

“I didn’t come here to see if we could date but to take some of your demons. You could thank me later, but you won’t find me. The demons do that to torment me. You will forget my name, you forget most of this evening. That’s okay. I’ve gotten used to it.”

I’d had enough and was about to get up. My companion put a hand on my shoulder and stood up before I could do so. I could feel her cold flesh through my shirt.

“Stay,” she said. “It’s better that way. Less confusing when it fades.”

The strange woman turned to the glass door and let in the Seattle autumn wet and chill to disappear around the edge of the window.

Aside from me, there was only the barista in the cafe after she’d left. I looked up, “Man, I dodged that bullet. I’ve had some weird blind dates, but that one was off her rocker.”

The barista looked at me, bewildered.

“Who? There’s only you and me, man.”

“But the woman who was just here…?”

“You came here by yourself, brother. Hey… Are you okay?”

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

secret oktober | storm (part two)

©2021 Michael Raven

The next episode of secret oktober is live:

storm (part two)

The full episode list can be found at secret oktober. If you are new here, start at arrival, which is the first episode in this serialized novel.

For those who are new to the site or just passing through. I am participating in NaNoWriMo 2021.

My current word count is 5,207 out of a target 50,000 words to be written by the end of November. Today’s total word count brings me in alignment with the target of 5,001 words. Considering I didn’t write anything worth mentioning on the first day, I think I’ve done a decent job of catching up to where I need to be over the two days that I’ve been vigorously writing. Now I just need to keep up the pace and I might even finish early if I don’t lose steam or get distracted. Or… run out of plot.

The ending of the second part of storm opens up the door for me to be really cruel to the protagonists, which I fully intend to do. I’d write more, but I think I need to let the story percolate in my head a bit so I can find really good ways to torture those two wannabe lovebirds who are probably too caught up in WTF-ism than in kindling any kind of romance.

I don’t want to get too much into the ghost of a plot I have in mind, but the story is going in the general direction I had in mind when I first conceived of this whole mess. That said, I am already thinking about supplanting Drifter as a song influence with an even older Duran Duran song that was not always available on this side of the pond called To The Shore. I like the idea, mostly because Simon make so little sense in this song (as with many of his early lyrics) and there is the little tidbit of a word that, for all I know, no one has ever deciphered what a sanhedralite is supposed to be. Like Secret Oktober, both songs are wide open to interpretation, so I can borrow as I please and know that I’m at least as right as most people about what the lyrics mean. Lyrics follow:

When your nine day feed is up
And you've drained your loving cup
Come stands reeling to the shore
When the brave are coming out
The dry fight and the dusty shout
See you crawling on the floor
And diamond stars shine glitter bright
Gorging your sanhedralite
Words are falling to the floor
Glands stand pouring fruit tree
Now they glisten on the waterline
See how you are at the shore
I'm moving Chrissie pretty flowers in the shutter maze
Haul up all your petty desires
Leave them lying down before
Wash away the rusty disease
Of your brown town days in our silver sea
Leave it dying at the door
Feather yellow your time to leave
Open out your arms and breathe

     -- Simon LeBon (To The Shore)
Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

secret oktober | storm (part one)

©2021 Michael Raven

The next episode of secret oktober is live:

storm (part one)

The full episode list can be found at secret oktober. If you are new here, start at arrival, which is the first episode in this serialized novel.

For those who are new to the site or just passing through. I am participating in NaNoWriMo 2021.

My current word count is 3989 out of a target 50,000 words to be written by the end of November.

I plan to continue to write today, but I reached a point in the chapter that seemed like a good stopping off point in case I didn’t finish the chapter planned in my very scarce notes. I still have almost zero clue where this story will take me — I’m really letting it write itself, like a true pantster. I’ll go fix up the messes later if everyone (anyone?) shows any interest in this story.

In the order of keeping potential interest in my serialized potential disaster of a tale going, I wanted to have something to show for my efforts today. I still need to put in another 1000+ words today to keep on track to meet the 50k target by the end of the month.

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

There’s nothing like discovering…

©2021 Michael Raven

…That an article you wrote and proposed for the company quarterly newsletter was approved and published — because the newsletter in question appears in your USPS mailbox.

Not because anyone thought to mention it to you…

I suppose I should have expected that would be the way everything went. Why would anyone thing to tell me about it making the grade? I might get uppity if I found out.

I suppose I should celebrate, but the achievement tastes like ashes across my tongue.

I’m needing more and more take that journey I have been talking about…

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

all souls/

©2021 Michael Raven

Dark night of the soul.

Gunshots in the night… What has this neighborhood become? Is it wrong to be disappointed they weren’t for me?

Cut my cancerous heart out with a dull, rusted blade. While others rage, I feel dismay and think of wandering out into the frost-nipped air, welcome exposure, curl up against the old oak tree, shiver and shake until the cold turns warm.

I could sleep then. Sleep and dream. I tire of being awake. Hiding my madness in verse. Hiding the scenes the dreams the face without eyes the screaming the flames the snot running down you’re crying face when I touch you the first time.

It hurts. You know this. I know this. We know I ache with ages of frustrated fixations.

Perhaps you do too.

I want to sever these other threads and find a way home to you. But, what would you do?

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