Work Header

Thistles and Roses

Work Text:

Child of Grove and Nave, Fire, Fig and Thistle

There is frost on the long leaves of the tree at the turn in the path that marks the bounds of her mother's demesne in the direction of the village where the priest-her-father resides one week each moon. The autumn-browned ferns are picked out in silvery-white, rimed in fragile ice as are the rocks they grow among. The late rising sun will melt the filigree of early winter, but moonlight only makes it shine and glimmer. As a very young child, she would stand at the invisible, intangible boundary, wondering at the swift changes of the seasons out in the world of Men, where her mother's house was nearly always set in early summer, unchanging except at her mother's will. Now she knows the boundary can be crossed, both ways, and it is she who will change, swifter than either of her worlds.

Now she knows that her worlds are far more different than either of her parents gave her to understand as a child dressed in spider-silk and chancel-linen. They had found a way -- against all convention, approval, even sense -- to be together, little as it seemed even possible. Perhaps it was the very unlikelihood and challenge that had spurred their determination. For in their own way, each was undoubtedly determined. Stubborn even.

She knows her mother is as changeable as weather, inconstant and fickle as the wind that ruffled the treetops. At the same time she is like the hedgerow trees that rooted the stone and thorn and briar-bracken walls that stood between now-here and there and no-where: enduring and ageless and meshed deep and wide and fixedly within those chosen bounds. Her father is just as much a contradiction of mutable and fixed, though it manifests differently. She knows they love her, and yet do not understand her any more than she understands them.

For she is not of either world, but both: fire and ice, bound and free, fey and fixed and flowing all at once. And how could she be otherwise? For however much or little she chooses or resists change, she always will be herself. She is not uncontent with that, with being herself alone, but with the incandescent example of her parents, she hopes there might be others with feet in more than one world, and that her lane might one day lead her to them, or them to her.


My mother is a leprechaun, could the milkman be a faun?
A son of Herne the Huntsman, stalking aurochs before dawn
Or tending pastured unicorns, eating figs among the thorns
With clever fingers coaxing milk from creatures crowned with horns.

His door is carved, the doorposts knurled, and his hinges copper curled
In shapes like milkweed thistle, and cowslip buds tight furled
Do eyes peep from his window pane, gleaming bright in sun or rain
Grey-feathered owl or green-eyed cat, that watch keep on the lane?

Oh up that road are shops and mills, the human world of goods and ills
Of sturdy shoes and well-trod ways up reliable hight hills
That milkman is a somber fellow, dressed in drab, not green and yellow
His kine are cows, his door is plain, and kindness in his bellow.

Which world is mine? Why both are, of course
Though one way be asphalt, the other of gorse.

My father is an errant priest, (though not monkish in the least)
His purview several parishes to north and south and east.
Quite what in him my mother sees (across the water, from the trees)
I do not know and cannot say, and when I ask she'll only tease.

He may be oath-held to his god, parish rounds his daily plod
Chaste by ordainment and decree (and isn't that just odd)
But by the Huntsman and his brother, the fae have laws that are quite other
Since he has loved (and loves her still) he's married to my mother

My mother is a faery-wife, my father with advice is rife
And each would have me choose their way, be of one kind, live but one life
But I'll not so diminish me, when I am both, and would be free
To hold both figs and thistle-floss, both noon and midnight be.

Betwixt and between, fickle and fey
Steadfast and stolid, both yuletide and may.



A Carthage Rose come to Logres

I loved the towers of Cathay,
The scented Nile breeze
That blows from Cairo up to Thebes
In smoke and fountain spray

I've heard the many learned tongues
That bound the inland sea
A polyglot of melody
And perfume in my lungs

I've walked in palace gardens grand
On windy steppes and wild
With kin and clan e're since a child
No home in any land

Oh blossoms rare and sweet I've held
Seen halls of every style
Grown and learned with every mile,
With wanderlust unquelled

And never did I find a bloom
I loved for ragged petal,
All thorns and roots and stubborn mettle
Till I chanced on your coomb

Here in this misty land I'll bide,
Though born a Carthage rose
A home I'll make midst hedgérows
With you, love, at my side.

The flowers on her hands move as she does, stylized, elegant, patterned in red-brown, shaded in orange and ruby and red-ochre that is nearly black, the henna expertly applied. The flowers in her dark hair are crimson and scarlet, petals and stems twined into her braids and curls, nodding in the breeze as she walks, her steps a dance on grey stone more accustomed to clove-pinks and briar than the vivid hues of hibiscus and orchid. Even her clothes have flowers - burgundy rosettes and sprays of curling leaves midst winding vines woven bright against the cream and silver-brown that make the warm tones of her skin glow with life. Her scarf and shoulder-drape flutter, the pleats of her skirts swaying like windflowers and roses in a garden. So demure and serene in her sari and henna, fingers feather-light, eyes bird-quick.

In this land of mist and opal air she seems at first exotic, a rare bird out of place, even alien. The light in her eyes is sea and starlight, but her feet (bare and brown and long-toed) are firm in the earth of the path, as sure as the stones that hold the hills, and in that surety the land knows her, upholds her, welcomes her home.



Sacred Stones Set Not in Narrow Ways

Feet. Stone feet. Feet assembled of stones, with pebble toes and rocks with arches and insteps, water-worn and every color. The thing that stacked the stones had a sense of humor it seemed. Or was trying to send a message. "Run away" perhaps, or "get me out of here" or "Step lightly." There were more light-colored (white, cream, gold, yellow, pink, mottled and streaked, rough and smooth) than dark (charcoal, black, rust-red and parti-colored) all cunningly placed, interlocked in constraint, inside the borders of the drift-wood path edging, planed wood red against the silvery surface, fresh-cut edge and weathered face both showing cracks. They were new-laid since last seen — or perhaps they had always been there, and he was the one who had new eyes, since now he came for love, not duty. Desire of the earth, of the heart, of seeds and soil and rooted life.

Or perhaps, viewed from another angle, they were stone soles, pressing up, not down, making footprints in the air. Faery souls, treading lightly as they danced among the clouds, on spiderwebs and mosses, fleeing from the fixed thought, the maps and plans and rules of men. He looked down at his own feet, hidden under wool and leather, and his toes ached to feel the air. Well they knew the worked stone of sacristy and nave, the planed wood of choir and refectory, plaited straw of monastery sandals and the rough weave of linen toweling or blanket cloth. The textures of order, in ordered measure.

He looked up from the path to the house it led to, a thicket of thatch and tree-stems and round stones. Lights glinted from windows that might be paned in mica, or crystal or ice for all he knew, though the breeze that tugged at his hair was warm. It would be never quite the same, and yet there was that that told him he would be welcome here in every season, just as he knew he was and would be a priest. There were those who would condemn one or the other of those things as false, incompatible with the other, unthinkable to have both as to hold fire and thistles together.

And yet, there he was, the fire beckoning him in, and the thorn-hedge warding the boundary on both sides. No division between flesh and spirit. Everything to do with love.

Oh what is man but flesh, and mind, and soul
A curious connected thing of parts both base and high
Of blood and beauty, bone and thought one whole
Yet we in feeling, need, desire cry
Out for touch, that which would, oh, not complete
What is one self, but join with other selves,
And so ignite the heart, and in that heat
Create connections, joy, the spark that delves
Deep under skin, spins silver webs and steel
Twixt each disparate breath and seed and thought
And bridging contradiction, setting seal
On all the greater joy this work hath wrought
If god is love, then love in any kind
Is sacrament, not just that of the mind.



Wandering Home

In the sunken green lane between the dense hedgerows of thorn — blackthorn and hawthorn, holly and firethorn, stems dark against green leaves, dusted with pink petals and white, thorns tipped with drops of dew that flashed in the sun — two women walked. They were sun and shadow, bright and dark, neither commonplace. Both walked in two worlds, each whole in themselves, yet, in the lacing of their fingers, the interweaving of their hair, the mingling of breath and words and spirits, they were more together than apart. Not unlike the hedges they went between, warding and warded, loving and loved, traveling and staying still.


Whither away, oh wither away, come home from time and travel
The mortal road that weary goes its dreary way unravel
The moon is lit, the stars they flit, midst mica, gems and gravel

Oh daughters fey and fair and dark, find fortune on your journey
Through staid lands and pearl washed strands and places fey and ferny
No easy way you tread this day, though armed as for a tourney

For those that wander far and far, see now the distance dwindle
May firelight guide you aright, and candle-thorns akindle
Till home you find, and love you wind like floss upon a spindle.

Oh Gillyflower and Carthage Rose, no more you'll stand alone
The milkman's son and leprechaun have well your journey known
And glad the song they'll sing ere long, of lives and loves well grown