Cat Bath

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Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

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When the cat bathes itself

at the bed’s foot,

soft thumps

against the curve of my leg

take me home

to my child self.

Then I always had

an animal curled up fur tight

sharing my dreaming bed

nosing purr close

kneading an arm

sheathed claws

tiny pain pricks

supple companion

chose the king’s spot

the royal feline middle

and I, careful not to disturb

adjusted my legs around

its warm weight

How the Karakesh Chronicles Began

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The Green Man, from Growing Magic, Book V

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about my fantasy-adventure series.

Tangled in Magic, the first book of the Karakesh Chronicles, began as a handmade gift for my twin godchildren, then 12 years old.  It was titled The Three Seductions.  I printed out two copies, folded and sewed the pages, and glued fancy paper to the book board covers.

I even drew some illustrations.

The main characters are the twins Agatha and Malcolm, who live in the dangerous, magical kingdom of Karakesh.  Agatha, age fifteen, embarks on a quest to find Malcolm, who is held prisoner by an evil warlock.

During the next five years, I wrote stories for magazines.  One of my short stories was published in Stinkwaves.  The editors of Stinkwaves, Nicole and Tevin Hansen, sent out a call for submissions to their authors.  I offered the first chapters of The Three Seductions.  They wrote back: Send the whole book.

Handersen Publishing is a small independent press that carries the work of the editors as well as a widespread group of authors.  As a team, the Hansens are both accessible and talented. 

We ended up merging two short novels together: Agatha’s search for Malcolm, and their harrowing journey back to Hawk Hill to repossess their home from the greedy warlock, Santer.  In order to keep track of their wanderings across Karakesh, I made a map.

Tangled in Magic appeared in print in 2017, with illustrations by Alison Gagne Hansen.

Carl III by Alison Gagne Hansen

But I couldn’t stop writing about the kingdom of Karakesh.  I had so many questions: Who was the little girl Agatha found staked out to die in the forest?  What happened to her?  The answers came in Book II, Guided by Magic (2018).  In that book, two sisters are kidnapped and put to work in the dwarves’ mines.  Such practices surely caused trouble in Karakesh.  My wonderings about Karakesh’s royal government merged with a selkie legend to inspire Book III, Awakening Magic (2019).  What if a girl is half selkie and half human?  Does she belong on land or in the sea? Demara faced that problem in Book IV, Ripples of Magic (2019).

The final published book of the Karakesh Chronicles follows Bimi Lightfoot, the adopted brother of Demara from Book IV.  Bimi Lightfoot’s faerie mother gave him away when he was a baby.  But who is his father?  Someday, Bimi promises himself, he’ll seek out both his parents.

That day comes sooner than Bimi expects, when his faerie cousin, Liri Flare, sweeps him into the sky on a mission to steal a horse.  Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father.  He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening. 

What started out as a present for two children in the family expanded into the realization of a lifelong dream: to have my stories (and illustrations) published.  It’s been a great gift.

Find the Karakesh Chronicles on Amazon at

https://www.amazon.com/Tangled-Magic-Karakesh-Chronicles-Ellis

or from www.handersenpublishing.com

Sad Time

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Photo by Sachith Hettigodage on Pexels.com

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Step outside myself

Watch the morning unfold

Watch him shuffle to the bathroom

Watch me coach him through the shower:

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Wash your face with soap

Use the bar of soap under your arms

In your crotch, the butt too

Hold out your hand

Here’s shampoo

That’s my towel and

This is yours

Underwear, incontinent pad

Arms up, deodorant underneath

Now brush your teeth

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He is so grateful.

Thank you, dear.

For trimming my toenails

For shaving my beard.

Thank you, dear.

*

Oh, if only I could say

Thank you, dear God,

For this life of service

Thank you for his gratitude

Thank you for the restrictions

Thank you for the loss

Tell me how to say it.

Teach me how to believe it.

Day Care

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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He has his pull-ups on.

I’ve shaved him. (It’s fun.)

He’s got just one hearing aid.

Lost the other one.

He’s had his breakfast,

taken his pills

brushed his teeth.

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“Where are we?” he says.

I tell him again.

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“I’ll be here when you get home,”

I say.

“You don’t need to call me.

You’re safe.”

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I send him out to the van.

Watch him climb in

wipe away familiar tears

like a mother.

Rail Trail I

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Photo by Karol Czinege on Pexels.com

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Honeysuckle breeze carries

scent of cut grass.

Mower drones

behind shaggy hickories.

He stops to listen.

Maples flutter,

serious oaks think

about making acorns.

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Slow walking

One step to his two-step

shuffle-crunch gravel.

On the verges

phlox lilac pink

dandelion fluff

sinister poison ivy,

innocent in shiny green

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One chorus of

Zippity-do-dah,

He’s happy

under the canopy

shade and sun

in his eternal now.

Satya and Books

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

“I don’t read,” Satya says. 

They are sitting in Satya’s kitchen.  Samantha is in one of the chairs.  Satya is on the floor with her back against the dishwasher.

            Samantha looks at the stack of books on the kitchen table.  One is about Mary Magdalene.  Another is called Eyebody Technique

            “What do you mean, you don’t read?” Sam asks, gesturing to the books on the table.

            “Oh, a page that looks interesting, yes, but not novels.  I can’t sit still that long.”

            Samantha thinks of her own bookish habits.  Sometimes she’ll have three novels going simultaneously, and one for the gym, and an audiobook for the car.  She especially likes to listen to Jane Austen on the way to work. Austen can make Sam laugh out loud.

            Satya doesn’t strike Sam as the restless type.  Sam knows that Satya watches videos.  Sam squirms in her chair and lets out a huff of air.  She doesn’t like this feeling of passing judgment, either on Satya for not reading, or on herself for spending so much time in books.

            Sam has always been surrounded by books.  As a child, Sam’s bookcase in her bedroom was only one quarter the size of the wall-to-wall bookcases in the dining room, the ones her father built.  Sam read and reread the Little House books, the Narnia Chronicles, and all of Marguerite Henry’s horse stories.  Laura and Lucy were as well known to Sam as her friends at school.  In fantasy play with her friends, they acted out events in the books.  Sam remembers that she always chose to be Susan, Lucy’s older sister.  “Why Susan?” Sam wonders.

            There were the E. Nesbit books, also, and George MacDonald’s fairy stories.  Edward Eager’s magic books.  For years, Sam believed intensely that one day she could find a magic coin or step into another world.  Sam and her friend, Marcia, used to stand next to an ornate lamppost near the school playground with their eyes squeezed shut, waiting for a faun to call them into Narnia.

            But in the silence while Satya stares at the floor and Sam sips her tea, Sam returns to Susan in Narnia.  Susan was a warrior, strong and decisive.  The exact opposite of Sam’s girlchild self who was timid, too eager to please, afraid to speak her opinion—it’s taken years for Sam to step away from those qualities.  To be honest, she’s not gotten that far away from little Samantha.

            Who was Satya when she was a girl?  Was she as ethereal and unusual then?  If so, she would have been teased and bullied by her peers, that’s almost certain. 

            “I went to a private girls’ school,” Satya says, as if reading Sam’s mind.  “The girls tortured me.  I didn’t have a single friend there.  I hid in the library and read books.”


Fans of Narnia, Harry Potter, and the other books mentioned above might enjoy my Karakesh Chronicles:

Better than the Alternative

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

It was a sobering experience,

trying on brassieres in Target.

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Full disclosure:

It’s been at least four years

since I bought a bra.

And probably more

than four pounds.

But I was tired of

gorilla underwear.

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In lingerie,

I got the size I was before—

34B.

No underwires, you know.

They obstruct the chi flow.

But look at the flesh

bulging over the sides.

(Don’t look at the belly below.)

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When did this S shape

creep up on me?

When did my waist ascend?

The size I thought I was

I am no more.

Remember 32A?  32B?

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To me in the mirror, I say,

“This is what 71 looks like.

You are healthy.

You are alive.

You’ve escaped Covid.”

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I hang the lacy 34Bs

on the return rack:

the polka-dotted beige satin,

the striped gray cotton,

the black floral.

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Again, I scan the displays. Pick out any 36B.

Buy the ones that fit.

Salat Al Maghrib*

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Blessed are the birds

grackle bullies shriek,

scuffle over sunflower seeds,

muscling away patient goldfinches

cardinals wait on bare oak branches

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Blessed are the dry oak leaves,

pale as deerskin

worn winter thin

that shiver and tumble,

grounded by bitter March wind

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Blessed is the wind

sweeping in from the North

Only ice fairies fly

above the frosted pines

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Blessed are the pines

moaning adagios

windswept violas and bassoons

harmonize at twilight

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Blessed is the twilight

sapphire and steel

calligraphy of branches

writing the ballad of night

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*Islamic sunset prayer

Some Good News

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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It is so gratifying when one’s written words are appreciated by others and sent out into the world. I’m thankful for both of these responses.

  1. One of my poems, Quilt, is appearing in the Summer/June 21 online magazine, Lightwood. Here’s the link: https://lightwoodpress.com/category/articles/

2. Another of my poems, The Memory Tree, is accepted to Amherst Writers and Artists publication, Peregrine. I’ll let you know when it is available.

Words

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Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

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Gait apraxia.

Two new words have sneaked into our house.

Commonly seen in vascular dementia,

gait apraxia

is that shuffling walk

as if feet are stuck to the floor.

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The neurologist tossed the two words

into the air, casually,

but I caught them phonetically

in my notebook

and looked them up later.

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No cues or modeling or suggestions help.

He can’t change how he moves,

so says Sciencedirect.com

We go for walks, and he shuffles along

behind me.

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Before gait apraxia came in the door,

I would say,

“This isn’t exercise!  Walk faster!”

“I can walk you into the ground,”

he’d reply,

lagging further behind.

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Gait apraxia isn’t alone

in taking up residence.

We have anxiety

wringing its hands in the corner.

We have incontinence in paper diapers,

hanging around the bathroom.

But table manners left for the south,

forgetting to close the door.