Birka

 

Maybe what I miss most

Wasn’t the beige dwellings

housing our belongings.

Though I protected them with all my might

I longed to escape their confines.

 

Maybe what I miss most

wasn’t the calm lake that spilled

into the Baltic Sea.

Though it was a silent witness

where Solveig and I made secret love

beneath the twinkling eyes of the gods.

 

Maybe what I miss most

was a curl of Elin’s yellow hair

wisping up into the air

as she loosed her lethal arrow.

Cheeks flushed.

Eyes ablaze with the glory of war.

 

Maybe what I miss most

were sounds of military merriment in the tavern.

Victorious and raucous.

While I washed the blood off of my axe

in the quietness of the lake

that swallowed our stories into the water.

 

Maybe what I miss most

were the sounds of twenty boats

breaking a path through the Baltic Sea.

The promise of fortune and fate

drawing out the heaving breaths

of my army, working the oars through the black water

towards a destination far beyond

what we could see.

 

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Inspired by the very real historical Viking Warrior, who was first assumed to be male upon excavation in 1878. (And also inspired by a song with the same refrain). Due to the remains being buried with an arsenal of weapons and a game set, used in strategic thinking, it was clear that it was a warrior’s tomb.

It took more than a hundred years later for someone to examine the bones and confirm that the lack of Y-chromosomes indicates the remains were female. This caused much controversy. But the evidence speaks for itself, and the myth of the female Viking warrior became fact.

The artifacts in the tomb indicated she was a high ranking warrior. My poem tries to capture life through the eyes of this dead warrior, in the Viking village of Birka.

Geography plays a major role in the activities and organisation of a community. In this case, Birka (located in Sweden) was a major trading post between Northern Europe and the rest of the world.

Anthropological and historical studies show that much of what the modern world perceives as uniquely masculine or feminine gets debunked by findings such as these. Where medieval and sometimes ancient customs do not have the same roles and customs assigned to specific genders as we do today.

 

Written for dVerse Poets Pub

 

**Images from Smithsonian.com. Featured Image: (Antiquity Publications Ltd./drawing by Tancredi Valeri)

 

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A reconstructed Viking Age house in Birka. Image source: http://www.worldsheritage.travel.wordpress.com

 

 

 

The covenant

Long ago we made a promise

to meet under the blue skies

beside the acacia grove.

You asked me to search my heart for justice

when fear clasped its chains around my feet.

And as I turned and stumbled away

you promised me unconditional love.

 

Separation began.

 

You knew in time I’d learn to trust my feelings

in the season when cool winds scatter dust around.

Apart from you, I found myself.

Who I really am.

 

Though there’s nothing in life to be certain of

I looked inside and found the answers

amidst the memories.

That love is truth and truth is justice.

And in my heart I found all three.

 

 

 

**Shared with dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night #239**

 

 

*Image from twinflames1111.com

 

 

 

 

 

A pair of tools

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

 

“What’s happened to my piano?” Sanjeev gaped at the musical intrument filled with soil.

“Firstly, it’s mine. You sold it to me. Second, – ” said Rakesh.

“If I knew you were going to violate it, I wouldn’t have!”

“Violate? Do not be coarse with me. I am an artist.  A medium. A tool of God, I -”

“Oh you’re a tool alright! This was an antique. Pure Ebony. Real ivory. Mahogany wood.”

“And yet, you got rid of it.”

A pause. “Had a gambling debt.”

Rakesh hands him a shovel. “Long handle. Strong steel. Unused. Perfect to beat yourself up with.”

99 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Submit to the link below and join in!

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Thinking of the beautiful country of New Zealand today…

Transform

 

 

Dust off those dreams and ideals spiked long ago

When your caged heart was free and lived with gusto.

With the Pen in your grasp

Switch genres, change the title and unclasp

the yoke around your neck.

Write one word, then never look back.

*****

 

In my google search, it turns out a quadrille is also a dance.

I was not familiar with the use of the verb ‘spike’ as in rejecting something. Usually used in publishing where a manuscript is considered and then rejected and put on the spike. So I thought I’d use it in my attempt at a quadrille.

This was nothing short of a mental crossfit workout… Hope you enjoy it.

Written for dVerse.

 

 

 

 

 

Forever young

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyre

“Remember this place?” Andy said, spreading his arms out over the cobblestone streets.

Delilah marveled at his crinkle-free eyes. As hazel as the day they met forty years ago. A pair of women in strappy dresses smiled brazenly at Andy. Boldly flirtatious. So different from her day. She wasn’t mad. They assumed she was his mother. How were they to know Andy stopped aging at twenty-five?

Miraculous, the doctors had said.

“How could I forget? This is where we first met.”

“You mean when you almost bumped me over with your scooter!” Together they laughed, eyes shining and hearts fluttering.

100 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Join the group and submit your story through the link below.

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March Madness

 

Summer rages on his deathbed, fighting off the change in atmospheric pressure. Minute turns of an invisible weather dial, the sun beats mercilessly down on dust, tar, bricks and sweating scalps. Children delight in a deceivingly endless warmth, only the old feel the new chill in the breeze. Winter arrives unannounced, freezing the greenery till they drop to the ground, brown upon brown.

Cooling Summer’s rage

“Tis only hibernation,

not the death you fear.”

 

****

Written for the dVerse prompt on March Madness.

This is my first attempt ever at a haibun. Very challenging, but rewarding too.

March is blazingly hot here in Botswana. But it is the month when it starts to shift into Winter. And so, it feels as if Summer is turning up the heat in defiance of the coming season. (So very Dylan Thomas) We hardly have an Autumn or Spring to speak of. Literally one day it is Summer, the next thing it is 3 degrees celsius at night.

I look forward to your feedback, so I can learn and improve my poetic craft.

 

 

 

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Not a cloud in this blue sky today.

 

A deli-cate romance

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

 

“There used to be many of them around here.” Clive held the door open for the woman in a green coat. Natasha shook off her gloves and began scouting the cured meats on display.

“Amazing!” she said, delighting in the olive bread and odd-looking cheeses that was definitely not cheddar.

“Now our delicatessen is the only one of its kind for miles.” He selected a few items, placed them into a paper bag and held it out to her with a lopsided smile.

She looked at him from beneath her lashes, “Well, let’s hope it is here to stay.”

99 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less.

I’m with you on the mutual hate of updates, Rochelle. Have been resisting the new editor on wordpress too. I struggled to submit to the link up this week. Eventually, switching browsers helped. When in doubt, switch browsers. 😉

 

 

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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Her favourite flower was roses. Various mediums depicted Dorothy’s unapologetic floral partiality. Printed fabrics of light and dark hues dressed her windows and tables and crocheted patterns draped over her armchairs in stern solidarity.

A ceramic, gold-tipped single rose pendant dangled at her throat.

Another strange and eccentric old woman to the outside world. She knew what people said about her.

Her mother was named, Rose. Died giving birth to Dorothy.  Years later, her daughter had been Rose too. She remembered the tiny coffin that took all the love Dorothy knew to its equally tiny grave.

96 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Submit yours by clicking the frog icon and read other’s flash fiction.

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Smoke gets in your eyes

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

 

It was a surprise for Berr. Cooked meat, with a new tool that Eli called fire. Over many moons Kaya’s friend taught her how to make fire.

Berries and a fist of boar meat, which Eli gave to her, spread out on the rocky floor. A sound alerted her to Berr’s entrance.  Dragging Eli by his hair, matted with blood. The light in his green eyes muted by death.

“You belong to me. No one else.” his voice echoed around the small cave. The smell of blood and roasted meat overwhelmed her. Kaya threw up, tears burning her eyes.

99 words

What an awesome, inspiring image! Certainly was challenging but I enjoyed writing this story that weaseled its way out onto my blog.

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less. Submit it to the link (frog icon) below and read other flash fiction too.

Hope you’re all had an awesome week and here’s to an amazing weekend!


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Metamorphosis and negative spaces: Knowing what life should NOT look like

I hit rock bottom a few years ago. Depression. Growing self hate. And eventually resentment towards others. Completely lost. I didn’t know who I was. I’d like to say that I turned it around, made myself proud. But I continued to fall and scrape my face on new lower levels of rock bottom. Like some sort of horrific video game of inverted qualifying levels. Each wrong choice qualifying me for a lower level of even greater despair. It is a bottomless black pit.

I was an amazing person. And then one day she was gone. And there was only a shell. Ironically, my compassion, supernatural empathy and resilience was what led me to this dark place. These should have been the very qualities to lead me to my personal success.

What happened? I was missing one key quality. Self-love. Self-compassion. That inner guidance system was completely muted because I listened to all kinds of guidance outside of myself, including but not limited to religion, family and society.

Yet life is great and God is greater. Even on the wrong path you find reflections of the path you should have taken. IT calls to you. People come into your life to nudge you towards that inner light, to remind you of who you really are.

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An editor reached out to me a couple of years ago, across miles of Atlantic Ocean, to write a piece on Muslims in Botswana. This was a time when I was starting my fiction-writing journey and I submitted a short story to her anthology. She very kindly asked me why I submitted fiction when she specifically asked for a true-to-life non-fiction piece. She could have just left it at that and gone her own way. Instead, she encouraged me to find my true voice by telling me the old adage, the truth will set you free.

I was so afraid of opening up, that I had tremendous anxiety while I wrote it. I had to dig deep, confront inner demons and obstacles that told me not to do it. Fears that told me I shouldn’t stick my neck out like that. Yet, everyone knows that to be a writer, I need to be able to express myself. And if I want to connect with others through my writing, I need to do that in an authentic way. Years of being told to be quiet, to not rock the boat, to not express myself was being undone. My desire to be more than I was, was greater than my fears.

I knew then, that it didn’t matter whether it got published or not. It was clear that it came my way to help me find my voice. To connect to who I really was at a time when I was lost. Adrift in a choppy sea of life trying to keep my head above others’ expectations of me and rules for my life, with no rescue in sight.

Was it a coincidence? No. In hindsight, I see that I had begun to express a desire deep within me to live a happier life. It may have been mere whispers. Perhaps at a sound frequency beyond human hearing. It was a true desire and the universe responded. Finding my voice opened a window that let some light into my dark pit. I could look out this window and see a different path where wildflowers grew. Scattered. Bushy. Unrestrained. God-forbiddingly wild. And oh so colourful and bright.

Again, it wasn’t a straight line learning curve. I didn’t leap out of the window into my future. As a self-proclaimed visionary, I could no longer picture any type of future for myself. I spent many more months that stretched into years, gazing at possibilities. Sometimes inspired by it, other times trembling in absolute fear of it.

There were many other people since then whether they know it or not, some I was fortunate enough to know in person and some who I’ve only seen on YouTube videos, that helped me to find my way. Please, all you wonderful people don’t stop inspiring others. You never know whose life you are saving with a kind word to a friend, a motivational video or blog post.

I recently found my scrap-book from when I was 17 years old. I posted some artwork from it last year here. That young woman had big dreams. Massive. She wanted to make a difference to the world. She wanted to teach people how to fish, not give them fish for a day. She was all about empowering others.  Even in her darkest times, what gave her joy was seeing others succeed at what makes them happy. (Perhaps because she wanted that so much for herself too.)

She so much wanted to contribute to the world she forgot to save herself. Piece by piece she gave away herself away. She gave others the gift of complete acceptance but would never accept herself. She would speak up for others but would never express how she truly felt and what she truly wanted. Society makes us think that this is a good thing, but I’ve since learned that the very people who want you to give up who you are in order to be who they want you to be, would never do the same for you. What’s more, they would not help you when you fall into that black hole of despair and desperation having lost yourself completely. And further, they had no right to expect me to be anyone else but me.

 

 

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quote by Buddha

 

I have begun making changes. Deep, soulful changes that require absolute courage and resilience. But I know I have those things, I’ve seen them in action for others. I just need to use it for myself for a change.

Will I ever be free of those dark emotions, and dark pits? They have dragged me down so many times before it is hard to believe I will ever be completely free of it. So I’ve accepted them as part of my life. I’ll go even further to say that I am grateful for those dark emotions and shadows that linger on the edge of my consciousness, as they are guideposts to tell me that I have made a wrong choice somewhere. That I thought something or chose something that was not true to me.

In my journey to self-love and self-compassion so far, I have learned what it means to change the world by starting with yourself. I have learned that you can do anything, but not everything. In fact, it was exactly this mindset of ‘I can do anything’ that led me to do things I didn’t want to do, and keep on doing them longer than I should have because I was actually good at it. I’ve learned that my compassion is not complete without compassion for myself.

negative-space-illustration-wallpaper

It is easy to regret the past fifteen years of my life, lost to bad choices. However, I consider myself an artist. Of sorts. I love how art reflects life. In art, there is a concept of negative space. In simple terms, negative space refers to the space around and between objects that allows it to stand out clearly. Images like the one above are commonly used in fun psychological tests. Depending which negative space you see first, determines which object stands out for you. (Did you see Katniss from Hunger Games with the bow and arrow first, or did you see the larger image of the profile of her face?)

If I zoom out and look at my life as one massive artwork, of light and dark spaces, I can see that I have been exactly where I was supposed to be.

All those wrong choices, mistakes and lessons learned, they were dark for a good reason. They were the negative space around the object of my life’s artwork. While I was there, I was figuring out what I don’t want. Who I don’t want to be. And painted it black. (or white – depending on which colour you choose as your negative space) And so I was shaping and creating my life.

It is the same space and thought, which Rumi, Buddha, Kahlil Gibran and many others referred to when they spoke on the topic of pain and sadness. You cannot know happiness without knowing sadness. It takes knowledge of one, to know the other. Or in terms of negative space, it provides the contrast for you to know what happiness is not. And more specifically in my case, who I am not.

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