Running

I used to crave the friction

Of toxicity in my life;

Something to lean against

That always pushed back.

My boss once said

Misery loves company and

I have found myself in the company

Of many a miserable man.

But you have come out of the shadows,

Running, and I never knew

I could crave stability

Like I crave your arms.

You are predictable in the most wonderful way.

I can always count on

Your love.

Melting

The way you touch me

Is like fire on my skin.

I melt when your fingers trace my body

And all that’s left of me are

The pebbles of a snowman’s eyes;

A puddle when the sun’s come out.

The Nightmare Again

The wind was a tyrant the whole world bowed down to and all the abnormally warm days of December consolidated winter into this one pitiful storm of a February morning. The streets were strangled by a heavy fall of snow that left the ground one even slate of crisp white . At the hour our story begins, the deep dark of early morning was punctuated only by the billowing journey of millions of snowflakes finding their way to the earth.

Down a ways from the city’s library, past an Indian restaurant on the left and a coin-laundry on the right, 52nd Street boasted a wonderfully tall, devilishly red-bricked building on the verge of being dilapidated. Fourteen stories of ramshackle apartments, and every window stood dark; every human and nonhuman occupant dreaming sweet dreams of fires. Against the black backdrop of sky and frozen buildings, this one stood out; the snow did not cover it, would not stay on the windows or even grace the little broken sidewalk up to the front door. The hands of winter could not touch her.

On the top floor, in room 8B, Max Kazinski woke with a start; his body covered in a hot sweat and his heart pounding outside his chest. His one blanket was on the floor, his bed wet with his perspiration. He rubbed his hands across his eyes to rid himself of the dream he had just departed from, and sat up on the edge of his bed. His head hanging low, he tried to slow his ragged breathing, tried to calm his palpitating heart. It’d been the nightmare again. She’d seen him once more.

He raised his head, slowly, in emotional defeat, and saw the snow outside that would not linger or even stay on the window-but melted instantly. He furrowed his feverish brow and stood up, the cold air enveloping his body as he walked to the window and rested his hand against it. It was cold as ice. He looked down at his hand in wonderment and began to recall his nightmare once more when suddenly a terrific gust of cold air battered the window so hard that it rattled in its panes and sprung open. Shocked, he leapt back and tripped over a pair of boots scattered on the floor, sprawling him backwards on the hard wood and bruising his tail-bone furiously. For a moment he couldn’t breathe. Then, as soon as the air rushed back into his lungs, he heard a faint croak on the stairs in the hall.

Getting up, eyes wild with fear, he rushed to the window and shut it with a bang. He paused, silent, and listened for the sound on the stair once more. Nothing. He tucked his boots in the corner, pulled the blanket back onto his bed, and crawled under the covers, welcoming the sticky warmth. He shut his eyes. It was only the nightmare that’s spooked you. It was only a dream; nothing more.

And then CREEAK, groan, and a heavy step on the wooden stairs. Unmistakable. Someone, something there. His eyes flung open, his blanket pulled back, he sat up and strained his hearing for the tiniest hint of a breath or a human inclination. He heard nothing. He looked out the window, at the snow that would not stay but fell in pillows down to the earth. The city was beautiful in this white darkness. Why couldn’t he sleep silently in the beauty.

And then CREEAK, groan, and another heavy step and Max was at the door, sweat once again on his brow as he leaned his body against the heavy wood and kept both hands on the silver knob.

“Who’s out there?” he whispered, and even his whisper seemed like a giant, echoing roar. “Who’s on the stairs?”

There was nothing, just silence. And a bad tingle running down his spine, telling him the nightmare and the snow and the creak were not coincidences. She was out there. It was real.

But then he heard it, slow and distant at first, but then louder and nearer and more terrifying with every moment. A laugh like breaking glass, disjointed and sharp. He put his hands over his mouth in horror. He knew that laugh; it was hers.

He backed slowly away from the door, horror like fresh paint on his heart. He knew what would come next. But he didn’t think he could bear it.

The window, came a voice from inside him. There’s always the window instead.

His eyes shifted from the door to the window in one, slow turn of the head.

CREEAK, groan, and heavy steps to the top of the stairs and only a few feet from the door. Max backed all the way to the window, cold air fresh on his back. Heavy footsteps dragging ever closer and Max could hear his heart beating outside of his chest. It’s her.

A feeble knock at the door and a low, crackling snicker.

“Who… who’s there? Who’s out there?”

Silence.

The silver knob started suddenly, slowly, turning. Max couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t feel the cold, he could no longer feel anything but terror, couldn’t hear anything but his heart, couldn’t see anything but his door start to creak open and then her. All the nightmares did not do her justice. He turned and fumbled to open the window, sweaty but sure now. His fingers couldn’t work fast enough, his hands were too slippery to do the job. He could feel her, smell her, sense her behind him, and just as he was pulling the window open, he was tugged gently back by rough hands. And in this moment he was brave, Max Kazinski of room 8B, and he pulled himself away in one quick motion and squeezed out of the window, turning and hanging by his fingertips. As he looked up one last time into the face of the woman, she smiled and turned away. His fingers slipped. The air was cold.

Avalanche

The pain of losing you:

Like an avalanche in my gut;

A cold tumble of every moment

You touched me and I felt alive.

Months of carefully

Structured happiness,

Delicate planning to not get hurt;

A mountain coming down all around me.

The snow and ice and turmoil,

This culmination of every beautiful thing

We ever had.

This will surely be the way I go-

Frozen to the spot,

Unable to get out of the way.

Go and Sit

Parted eaves of hanging flowers-

Dahlias, daisies, delphiniums divine.

Have you ever considered the magic of their powers?

Go and sit with them sometime.

Climbing vines and purpled buds

The blooms of blue bachelor’s buttons blind-

Some beauty softens us to love;

Go and sit with them sometime.

The Three Snake Leaves Re-Written

Based on the idea from the Brothers Grimm fairytaleThe Three Snake Leaves”

PART ONE: “ANYTHING”

Abex was starry-eyed and in love, the son of a farmer who could barely afford to feed him. He came from a family where milking cows was a far more prosperous trait than wooing women. And yet somehow, he had caught the fairest girl around. Sure, she was rumored to be involved in witchcraft but jealous talk breeds fantastic stories. He wasn’t worried in the slightest. He loved her more than he’d ever loved anything.

Sabitra was older, wiser, and very much into a broad subject which we shall just call the dark arts. She did not love Abex but rather knew how to keep him fooled, after all he was as naive as a suckling calf. She had strung him along for six long months now and she was anchoring for the question that would seal his fate: she wanted him to ask for her hand in marriage. It would be easy, she knew, because he bought every lie she told him. It was all a matter of timing.

One fine spring day they were sitting under a magnolia tree in the town’s cemetery and she was talking about her spells- something he found enchanting, when the very thing she had been planning for happened. He took on a glow only people in love exude and the words rushed out of him in a quick breath, “Sabitra, marry me. Please, I beg you. You know I love you. You know I’d do anything for you. Make me the happiest man in this town. Say you’ll marry me.” His eyes pleaded his case.

She forced a blush, easily accomplished by imagining the tongue of a toad she had hidden in the pocket of her dress, and batted her eyelashes.

“Anything?” she asked, and his brows furrowed.

“What?”

“Do you really mean it when you say that you’d do anything for me?”

The tension in his face eased and he smiled a beautiful smile; punctuated by his poor teeth. “Anything.”

“Alright then, I’ll marry you,” she said.

He jumped up and grabbed her by the waist, swinging her up in the air and spinning her around and around. Finally he set her down and kissed the top of her head. He had never been so happy in all his life.

“Just one thing,” she said and he said “Anything,” once more.

“If I should die before you, you must be buried with me.”

And in that moment he felt a flash of doubt that dissipated like so many raindrops on a roof. Head in the clouds and his heart in a whirl, he barely saw the evil in her eyes and whispered one word over and over, almost as if saying it like a mantra to convince himself. “Anything.”

PART TWO: NEVER MARRY A WITCH

They were married the next week. The whole town attended and many people sought to warn him of the extremity of marrying a witch but poor Abex believed with all of his big heart that she was a good woman and therefore a good witch, casting spells to help people- a “white witch”- if you will. He thought everyone must be jealous for Sabitra was, indeed, the most beautiful girl around. His mother and father were happy to see him married but Sabitra gave them a bad feeling in their bones and they’d wished their son would have chosen someone else. Nonetheless, Abex and Sabitra said their vows and escaped to the neighboring coastal town for a few days of honeymooning.

While in their little one-room shack decorated with tacky seashells and horrendous paintings of the ocean, Sabitra refused to eat the dinner of deer meat her new husband had labored over for her. “Dear, I don’t feel so well,” she said, hand to her forehead, feigning a sickness she was secretly inducing.

Abex rushed to her side, concern etched on his tanned face. “Whatever is the matter, my love?” He too felt her forehead and was even more worried to find she was, in fact, burning hot to the touch.

“I feel as if my insides might be melting,” she said dramatically. But she was actually right. She had cast a spell the night before, saying an incantation the wiser witches would have advised against, that was literally going to melt her internal organs, killing her from the inside out.

“We must get you to a doctor, immediately,” Abex pressed, but Sabitra flat-out refused.

“I won’t go to any doctor, this will pass quickly. I just need to lie down for a moment and rest.” So Abex let her, tucking her in to a cool sheet and kissing her gently on the side of her face.

“Feel better, my love,” he whispered, and she smiled. To him, the smile was the essence of sweetness but to her, the smile was a secret being kept.

She was dead the next day.

PART THREE: PROMISES

Of course Abex pined for the lost love of his life, but not once did he worry about the promise he had made to her only a week before. At first, he didn’t even remember it. It wasn’t until a group of women approached him the day of the burial that he was reminded of it at all.

“We represent the dead,” they said in unison, voices high and rasping.

“Do you speak for Sabitra?” he demanded, hope suddenly etching itself on his worn face.

“Yes, indeed we do,” they chimed.

“Does she have a message for me from beyond this world?” He was suddenly on his knees, tears in his eyes.

“Oh yes,” they practically sang. “She says there is a promise you must keep. A dark and secret promise. We are here to certify that you fulfill that promise.”

Abex stood, full of a dumb courage he had seen others in battle take on. He may have forgotten the promise and he may have been a complete fool, but he would not go back on the word he had given to his love.

“Of course,” he whispered, steady and ready for death. Then, right there in front of everyone standing around the grave, he dropped himself into the hole and laid down, hands folded across his chest.

PART FOUR: THE THREE SNAKE LEAVES

The group of women (witches, they were truly) were no doubt impressed by this sacrifice. You see, the dark magic of the spell Sabitra had cast was so that should Abex break his promise (as she had thought he would) everything that belonged to him, including his life, should become hers. She would rise from the dead and not only that, but acquire his farm and what little money he had.

Three of the witches dug in their long, gray robes and each pulled out a snake leaf. The first witch, tall and scrawny, dropped her snake leaf into the grave. “For blind love,” she said. “That got him into this mess.” The second witch, short and plump with tight curls on her fat head threw her snake leaf into the grave as well. “For difficult promises, which bound them together.” The last witch, small and looking all but twelve, gently placed the last snake leaf in the grave. “For courage, because it takes courage to fulfill difficult promises made out of love.”

And although the people gathered around the grave were horrified, they heard legends of this very group of women and the powers they possessed. Not a single one there was prepared to help Abex if it meant they would cross paths with a witch. And after all, just about everyone had warned him of the dangers when marrying Sabitra in the first place. As the grave digger began to throw dirt over the bodies, Abex breathed in the salty air one last time and shut his eyes.

Once the bodies were completely covered, the crowd started to dwindle. No one wanted to be that close to a man six feet under who would slowly die next to his wife. But in just minutes, a hand came up out of the dirt, unburying the body it belonged to. The witches stood by, in the near distance, and watched Abex slowly start to climb out. In his other hand was the tongue of a toad.

He looked like he had just woken up from a long, long sleep, and as the witches approached him he nodded his head in understanding.

“Sabitra cast a spell that would only work if you broke your promise. She thought too little of you, for you kept it heartily. Because you were true to your word, you not only kept your life, but sealed her fate. She will not be rising up from the dead,” they chimed.

He held out the toad tongue. “And what of this?”

The youngest and smallest witch stepped forward. “It is the essence of her witchcraft. You have her magic now, and by all the power of the world, we hope you use it more wisely than she.”

Abex smiled. A beautiful witch had cursed him but three snake leaves had saved him and now he could cast spells of his own.

“What can I do with this magic?” he asked, ideas spinning around his head.

“Anything,” they sang, “Anything.”