In the dimly lit pub
she dances barefoot
the bells on her ankles
She says she comes
from the far-flung East
in that smooth, rolling tongue
of the southern hills
Yet the men pretend
not to know
And the barkeep’s daughter —
She smiles dreamily
as she washes
their empty steins
The gray lady glided in a gown of tempered silver, bobbing like a distant traveler’s lantern in the winter hush of a November dusk. Warriors dropped their swords and shed their ineffective amulets to lay down in the battlefield. They found the cold snow as welcoming as soft pillows and slept. From dreams into death they passed, unknowingly and pleased. The great wizards with their spying glasses trembled from high on the ramparts and the king guarded by his castle watched as she strode unhurriedly, cowing his great army as the drawbridge unwound itself and lowered.
Deborah sunk her toes into the wet sand where the edge of the water lapped in enticement. Fifteen-odd years since she had smelled the brine of the Sound, the suffusion of salt like a fine powder tickling her nose and down into her lungs. The pulse at her neck fluttered and something else she had not felt in a long time.
Two warm hands cupped her bare shoulders where the sun had tanned them brown.
“Come over,” George whispered and kissed her behind her right ear. “The kids have a birthday surprise in the bungalow.”
Deborah laughed and turned, kissed him fondly on the cheek where there was stubble. He’d been clumsy that morning shaving, all sleepy-eyed and lazy and adoring. Tropical paradise could dull even the sharpest of men.
“In a minute,” she promised.
She watched her husband lope back to their rental house, until even the speck of him was gone. Then with shaking hands, she opened up her canvas bag and dug beneath the sunblock and extra towels for an old ratty sealskin. She took a deep breath, felt the gills around her neck open fully, threw the skin like a shawl around her, and ran for the ocean.
Di-Ah was going home.
On the hill, the sky is promised
Over the sea, the horizon of a fantastic land
And in your laughter, eternal joy carouses.
Yet, between the space of our joined hands
Resides the feeling they are merely shades of.
On a distant planet
She imagines trees that reach the moon
And fronds of light swaying in pelagic waves
Where whiskered creatures
Speak in clicks and whistles
With the haunting bellow of orcas
Between the rims of awareness and dream
An ether hovers ghostly white
And stray thoughts boxed tightly
Spring forth in a pinching fog.
Condensed in snowflake precision,
The palace of ice arises and falls
Ebbing with the harvest moon.
He watches with false eyes the lay of the snow
The whiteness a great blankness
Although his brothers tell him the words for it:
The powder that is freshly fallen
The permafrost that refuses to crunch underfoot
The colors of blue like lampshades thrown
Each tint uttered with the same reverence
Shown for a beautiful woman
It is not until much later that he learns he was born
In a palace of eternal summer
And snatched away during the heat of battle
A babe pushed into a cuckoo’s feathers