Writing Prompt #1: Challenge Accepted

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The Legend of Sir Chester Nutt

(or, Thank God for Karma, She’s Less of a Bitch than We Thought)

 

One day in your car for a whirl,

You swerved to avoid a squirrel.

He swore on his life

That he’d make it right,

Then he went off to train with the girls.

 

Xena taught him to use a sword,

And Wonder Woman her golden cord.

And he trained his might

To become overnight

The squirrel who quite loudly roared.

 

Then one night you are held up with knives

And you rightfully fear for your life.

You squirm and you struggle

With this frightful big muggle

And then suddenly, that squirrel arrives.

 

He’s a great sight for you where you cower

Defeating your foe with great power!

With a whack and a thrust,

He’s the hero to trust,

Defending you in your dark hour.

Beyond “Dover Beach”

 

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So this April I am mixing my poetry with lots of cool poetry by people who are not me, the famous and the not-so-much.

Matthew Arnold’s best known poem is “Dover Beach,” written on his honeymoon in the south of England while war was going on (Napoleon?) on the Continent. But he wrote other stuff. This poem has the weird rhyme scheme: ABBB, CDBD, EFFF, GHIH, JKLK, MBMB, NONO, PBPB, QQBB. I am pretty sure this is not a classical rhyme scheme. I think he was just messing with us to get his point across, and having been born way too early for modernism, used rhyme anyhow because there were no other options.

Self-Dependence

Weary of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire
O’er the sea and to the stars I send:
‘Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,
Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

‘Ah, once more,’ I cried, ‘ye stars, ye waters,
On my heart your mighty charm renew;
Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
Feel my soul becoming vast like you!’

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,
Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,
In the rustling night-air came the answer:
‘Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

‘Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

‘And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.

‘Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
In what state God’s other works may be,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see.’

O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,
A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:
‘Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery!’

Psycho Sunday: Badass Women in Combat Gear #3.5

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Raise your hand if you spent any part of the 1970s spinning around in your living room, hoping that this time, you’d gain superpowers, a golden lasso and maybe an invisible jet. Watching Diana Prince (Linda Carter) beat up the bad guys and save Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) again was very fulfilling and set me up for two decades of disappointed TV watching until the mid-1990s came around and Wonder Women’s spiritual daughters, Xena and Buffy, appeared kicking ass and dusting their enemies.

And while Linda Carter will always be Wonder Woman to me, the new DC comics movie is coming out this spring, with Gal Gadot in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Given that Gadot will be in the solo Wonder Woman film in 2017, I have hopes that the actor, writers and directors step up to the plate. I had always hoped for a Joss Whedon written/directed film with Lucy Lawless in the title role, but such vain hopes were not to be.

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I still want some bullet-repelling bracelets in case I need to travel outside of New England, but I suppose if they were out there on the market, the NRA would try to make them go away.

Badass Women in Combat Gear: Valentine’s Day Edition, Or, Dorothy Parker Was Wrong

((For those of you who, like me, were not Math Majors in college, I apologize. But this particular blog post seems to need a ridiculous number of parentheses and a rather surprising number of braces {curly} and brackets [square]. Be warned.))

There is a fairly famous rhyming couplet by the 1920s Algonquin Round Table wit, Dorothy Parker, that has been widely anthologized (and it suddenly occurs to me that a whole slew [this is a technical literary term] of the editors anthologizing this were {white} men], which says, “Men don’t make passes/At girls who wear glasses.”

I have been thinking about this since Mike Allegra (heylookawriterfellow) asked me to add to my BWCG series some BWCGs who wear glasses. I thought of this most recently after viewing a teaser for this coming Tuesday’s Agent Carter, in which Agent Sousa (the delightful Enver Gokaj) says to (an injured and therefore unavailable-for-the-mission) Agent Peggy Carter (the even more delightful Hayley Atwell) that what they need for the coming mission is someone who can “blend in with the glamour and throw down in the gutter.” Damn, Spanky, I LOVE the writers on this show!

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Any Gentle Reader who has spent any time at all reading this blog will recognize that this is not only the dual nature of what I look for in my Female Leads of TV, Film, and Life, but also a micro-blueprint of who I would like to eventually be. I have to admit that the second part sounds much less painful to me than the first part, because as Agent Dana Scully admits in the most recent New X-Files episode, running/fighting in three-inch heels is no country for really anyone, but absolutely not Women, Older Men or Sane People of any Gender. Okay, she didn’t say that.

But as Jane Austen might have said, “It was nowhere said, but everywhere implied.” Come on. Amy Acker has said that at one point her only “stunt ability was running in heels” (Citation, as Wikipedia would point out, desperately needed. My guess? A ComiCon. San Diego? Maybe. Who knows?).

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My point here is simply that Dorothy Parker was wrong and Mike Allegra is right. (Full disclosure: I wear glasses. So sue me. {Twenty-odd years at MIT’s Writing Center (some of them more odd than others) has made me as blind as my cat Musashi, if not as a bat or a possum. [If M. were a little boy, he’d be wearing Coke bottle glasses and a bowtie]}.

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So in honor of a Sunday-facing Valentine’s Day (black Tuesday meets the Lord’s day), I offer you some of my favorite female actors (Nope, don’t call me a teacheress, professoress, editoress or martial artistess; I avoid calling them actresses for the same reason) in glasses.

 

I tried very hard to chase down the pics I have seen online of Lucy Lawless as herself, rather than Xena, wearing glasses, to no avail. Similarly, her soul-grandmother, Linda Carter (the always-and-everywhere Wonder Woman, despite DC’s brilliant work with Gal Gadot).

And because I believe it is important to look back and forward at the same time, I also give you Ingrid Bergman and Scarlet Johansson.

Also, the classic, brilliant, unimitatable Katherine Hepburn on a skateboard, because duh.

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To my pal, Mike Allegra, men and women who love women in glasses or, you know, on skateboards: YOU’RE WELCOME. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. NOW WE WILL LET THE WEATHER BECOME WARM AGAIN.

The Problems of the Epic Fantasy Fan Poet: Reportage, Character and Style

 

As I mentioned on Saturday, the big motivating questions behind so much fan fiction are when did the two characters finally get together and how. But for me as a poet, the question is more about who gets to “report” on these matters, and how do I do it with style, finesse, dignity and just a tiny bit of steam?

First, I set it after Gabrielle’s (brief) marriage to Perdicus. That gets the whole virginity thing out of the way, and it also gives me another chance to see Xena’s Hopeless Yearning (which is something that, as a writer, I have a whole lot more experience with anyway).

Alone on Her Wedding Night, I Think of the Past

 

Once upon a time, an innocent village girl

Left behind her village, parents, sister, even

Her betrothed, to seek adventure on the open

Road. Always ready to talk her way onto a farmer’s

Cart or out of a fight. Talking, stalling for time:

She has a real knack for using words. It’s as if

The words come to her, begging to be said

By her lips, molded to her uses by her tanned

Hands. If I could be a word, I’d come to her

To be said, over and over, like a litany

To Artemis the Huntress or Athena the Wise.

 

Why are all the best goddesses virgins? What is it

That men do to take a woman from her truest self?

Before I stood with her, I braided the garland

Of white flowers for her to wear. She should have

Had a laurel wreath, a crown to tell the world

Of her mastery of words, and the mystery of it:

How she reaches out her hand to touch

The stars, caress the waxing moon, and when

Dawn breaks, a scroll lies next to my pillow.

Perhaps she will write for him now. I promise you,

He won’t know enough to appreciate it any more

 

Than I did. If I had a heart to break, I would cut it

Out of my chest, leave it to beat its last on some

Flat rock, garlanded with a discarded wreath

Of small white flowers, fading as night falls hard.

It doesn’t take a blinded Cyclops to see where this

Night is headed. There is a storm on the horizon,

Purple clouds rolling in with the flash of lightning

Piercing the repeated booms of thunder. And I,

I stand in the pelting rain, oblivious, cold,

Alone again. Once upon a time, foolishly,

I had thought it would be me.

 

I have some poems where I show Xena letting Callisto die in the sandpit, and then I made a bunch of poems set during the Athenian games, which shows all the characters (including Joxer, Salomoneus and Autolycus) dealing with Gabrielle’s grief and mourning. Xena gets (briefly) killed and comes back with her friends’ help and then the ladies get back on the road.

I chose to have Xena be the one to tell what happened, but in an indirect format. Since Gabrielle is usually the bard/poet, I though I would have Xena try a shy love poem. Because beginning poets almost inevitably lean on rhyme, I knew I had to use some rhyming elements, but because I wanted the poem to be dignified and not sing-songy or trite, I used a stanza form with endings ABCDEFGH, so the first line of every stanza would rhyme, etc. Also, in the first two stanzas I used end-stopped lines, which means that the line either ends with a comma or period, or it ends at a fairly sensible place in the sentence. I only start using enjammed lines in stanza three, where a sentence ends in the middle of a line and a new sentence begins right after. So, similar to the events the poem recalls, she starts out shy and awkward and gradually gains confidence and speed.

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Shyly, X. Tries Her Hand at Poetry the Morning After

 

Four hundred nights I must have watched you sleep,

The dying fire catching the gold in your hair.

Your sweet breath rose and fell and rose again

With the rhythm of your dreams I was not in.

I did not see you clearly, not at first.

Experience makes innocence seem weak.

Not until you fought beside me did I see

That you had steel in you and your own light.

 

You were a secret I felt I had to keep.

I could not ever let you catch me stare

When you, eager, scratched the parchment with your pen

Or dutifully cut our dinner, gill from fin.

But it was the long spring nights that were the worst,

As I lay by the fire, cold and bleak,

Knowing my desire could never be

More than a whispered dream of warm delight.

 

I could not know how time would make you weep.

The violence of my life you chose to share

Would take your light and heart and try to rend

Them apart, a battle you could not win.

Your pain, my fault; because of my past, cursed.

What changed it all was tragedy. We are Greeks.

We never take life easy. You and he

Married, deflowered, widowed: one day, one night.

 

The poets say that what we sow, we reap.

I had to make it right. I could not bear

To see you in such pain, my more than friend.

My vengeance had little glory, was messy, thin,

A deed I had to do, although perverse.

And after, it was hard for us to speak

Of any of it. The silence between you and me

Crashed through the trees behind us like a kite.

 

It took a few more months for you to steep

In your grief, to face the morning air

Without mourning his reaching of life’s end,

His power over you and its long romance.

You threw large stones into the watercourse.

You say you did not dream. Tears on your cheek

Kept my hand from touching your knee

To “comfort,” a self-deception I had to fight.

 

Then, one evening I heard you moaning in your sleep,

Crying out my name, demanding more!

You were tearing at your clothes and then

Reaching for me. I felt my whole world spin.

I touched your face. I thought my heart would burst

As your eyes flew open, blushing that I could see

All of you now seeing all of me

Finally! At last! And then, all night…

The Problems of the Epic Fantasy Fan Poet: Subtext that Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen

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A poet, among other things, is a problem solver. (Ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming.) It’s true. We try to find a thing to say and then say it in the clearest and/or most beautiful way we can. A fan poet, like a fan fiction writer, is also trying to resolve the problems in an original piece of fiction/television caused by the original creators and writers. Sometimes this is about bringing Characters Who Shouldn’t Have Died back to life; more frequently, it is about fulfilling the subtext romantic possibilities of a pair of characters, whether or not that relationship ever happened in the official canon or not.

Back in the 1990s, I never saw the romantic subtext between Xena and Gabrielle. I just thought they were really great friends who had each other’s back no matter what. I thought this up until Season 6, episodes 19 and 20, two episodes right before the series finale, by which time, to quote Rupert Giles, “the subtext [was] rapidly becoming text.” Including a poem by Sappho, fer cryin’ out loud. Even I with my firmly established Straight Brain couldn’t ignore that.

Part of the difference in how I see the show now is the difference in the time it takes to view it. In the nineties, when I was watching a 45-minute episode once a week, it was easy to not see the way the relationship was changing. Now, when I can watch five episodes in four hours, the minor touches, the number of times Xena kisses Gabrielle on the head or touches her arm–it all stands out so much more.

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Part of the difference is simply how the world has changed in the last twenty years. In 1995, I thought I only knew half a dozen gay people. In 2008, my state, Massachusetts legalized gay marriage here, and I saw a lot of friends take advantage of this. In 2015 the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage as the law of the land, and increasingly in film and on television we have been seeing LGBTQ romantic storylines as, gasp!, text. Maintext: sometimes as side plots, as in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and sometimes as main plots as in the film Carol.

So this led me to the motivating questions behind so much fan fiction: when did the two characters finally get together and how?

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It was clear to me from the beginning that Xena would have a hard time initiating anything. The six seasons show how most of the physical relationships Xena had in her past were manipulative and destructive, so she would be extremely cautious about expressing her desire, since passion had so often been entwined with power issues, perhaps in part to mask the vulnerability she had no interest in feeling or showing. Also, because Gabrielle is a virgin and has only ever shown an interest in men, Xena might feel hesitant to express her feelings, because if the answer is no, their journeying together will be awkward, or possibly even over. So I wrote this, which conveniently also explained the episodes when Lucy Lawless was attending conventions or doing publicity like the Jay Leno show where she broke her pelvis.

 

On the Road Alone, X. Explains Herself

 

Sometimes the heat builds up to such a pitch,

I have to leave you, make up a mission,

Far away–urgent–must rush–I will

Be back soon. You say, “Don’t forget me!”

As if I ever could. That’s why I go.

 

Only by riding away can I feel the heat

And weight of you, the one person in the world

I can’t have. I lie awake by the fire

Sweating for what I want, the one day

You turn and catch me looking, and understand.

 

Far away from you, I have space to imagine

What it could be like. Maybe your eyes close,

As you shudder when I run my hand

Down your arm, your leg. Maybe you breathe

Against my neck, wordless for a change.

 

Maybe you press yourself against me,

Urgent, your cool fingers finding, sharing

My warmth. Maybe you ask for more, and again,

And eventually lay your head against my shoulder.

Far away from you, I allow myself to imagine.

 

Far away, I can get you out of my system

For a little while, relieve the pressure of

My wanting deep in the belly, the knot

That ties me to you, that no one else can see,

Not even, or especially, not you.

The Problems of the Epic Fantasy Fan Poet: Establishing Character Relationships

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So in case you were wondering to yourself, “Self, exactly what does an Epic Fantasy Fan Poet do?” because you think you might want to be one when you grow up, I am going to spend the next few days Taking My Blog Audience To Work with me, here in my toasty garret at the top of a high, crenelated tower with the pointed roof and the colorful pennant waving in the breeze. Mind you, this is my mental garret, as my actual garret is the second floor of an apartment building with roommates and cat, but never mind.

I have talked before about what the poet Maggie Anderson calls “important excitements”: those small projects where you take something interesting and look at it from a dozen or so angles. So for example I have at least a dozen poems about the women in some of Hiroshige’s woodblock landscapes of Edo (17th century Tokyo), their relationships, their lives, their extended story—all of this even though it is highly unlikely that Hiroshige saw any relationship among these women at all.

So last February, I thought to myself (as one does), “Self, let’s write a few poems about Xena: Warrior Princess. That’ll be fun! And it will give me a good excuse to watch it on Netflix streaming!” After all, as my colleague Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze says, “If you get writing out of it, it’s research.”

So I went back and watched the first season, which I had seen before via Netflix, but had not actually watched during the nineties; I only discovered Xena on TV at the beginning of Season 3. What I noticed watching this time with Poetry in Mind (with poetics aforethought?) was how little respect Xena shows her new travel buddy Gabrielle for the first half of the season. Some of this lack of respect appears to be the somewhat Yang/Yin nature of their relationship: Xena is almost a foot taller and she is the fighter with all the experience (apparently sexual as well as military), in comparison to the frumpily dressed Gabrielle who keeps telling us she is “not the little village girl my parents wanted me to be” while at the same time proving over and over again that, actually, she kinda is. Sigh.

But as someone who has watched the entire series a few times (no, I don’t have a life; what’s your point?), I know that an equal partnership is coming, although it will take another three or four seasons to fully realize. So I looked for the moment when their relationship shifts and I tried to write a before/after sort of picture. What I found interesting (considering that in episode 1.3 “Dreamworker,” Xena repeatedly tells Gabrielle “Words before weapons”) is that the major shift seems to come immediately after the Amazons teach Gabrielle to fight and then they all go into battle together.

 

Now this is problematic in a lot of ways, ways that the writers both do and don’t address throughout the six season of the show. On the one hand, Xena’s point that once you lift a weapon you will be classified as a threat and summarily attacked is valid. And a weapon you don’t know how to use belongs to your enemy. And they do say that taking another person’s life changes you dramatically. So to some extent Xena’s repeated refusal to teach Gabrielle to fight seems reasonable. However, Gabrielle points out that being able to defend herself would be helpful, at the very least so that Xena doesn’t have to do all the work. What Xena in her height and combat experience does not seem to comprehend is how terrifying it must be to be Gabrielle: every time a band of bandits attacks the pair, Gabrielle is just one warrior’s death away from a brutal rape and death or possibly slavery.

One warrior’s death: Xena’s. If Xena dies, Gabrielle hasn’t got a fly’s chance in shit of making it out of there alive and well. And although later Gabrielle and the audience knows that Xena doesn’t die (or—spoiler alert—at least not often or irreversibly), in the first few episodes Gabrielle can’t know that and neither can we. So Xena doesn’t look too good, refusing to empower her new friend by letting her learn to protect herself. This ticked me off. That, and the fact that in the episode after the Amazon fight, Gabrielle is fighting back to back with Xena as if she’s had endless practice and experience. In the nineties we could imagine that she’d had a week on the road with Xena (since the previous Saturday afternoon). When we are Netflixing, the next episode could be the next day. Nobody but nobody learns to fight that well in one day or seven.

So, in the section on Season 1 of my epic fantasy fan poetry, I fixed that, and I even got to use Plato. Woohoo!

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What We Might Regain: G. Contemplates

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Sometimes I wonder what she sees in me.

Sometimes I think of that story Plato wrote

About the people with four legs and two heads

That Zeus got all upset about and split

With lightning bolts, leaving us all asunder:

Only two legs, one head, and half a soul.

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If, when Prometheus was rebound and doomed

To have his liver eaten by foul birds,

Day after day, mortals lost his gifts:

Fire and healing. Then what would it mean

If some heroes saved him? What does it mean

That she lets me travel with her, unable

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To help with her adventures? It is intimidating,

Sometimes, watching her work like she is

A female Hercules. The sword is one thing,

But backflips and double kicks? I have begun

To write it all down, as Homer did for Achilles

And Odysseus. More people should know of her

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Brilliance. Too, I sometimes wonder, if

Saving Prometheus will bring us back our fire

And ability to heal ourselves, what would we

Gain if she ever found that hero, the one

Who somehow in another human body holds

The other half of her enormous soul?

 

Now since a big part of fan fiction is sorting out the potentially romantic connections between two characters that subtext has hinted at but not directly addressed, I also knew that I was going to have to set up the “before” picture. And anybody who knows anything about old-fashioned TV production companies knows that a show (gasp!) starring two women is going to have to do some foundational work proving that these two Straight Gals are Just Good Friends. Hence the (non-Bechdel test-worthy) initial episodes of Season 1 kept putting potential love interests (male) in both their paths. This serves to prove the gals is straight and that Xena has a lot more experience with such things than Gabrielle, which serves to differentiate the characters more–as if Lucy Lawless being six feet tall in her boots and armor doesn’t do that enough. Fine, I can use that.

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X., Jaded, Rolls Her Eyes

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Everyone, she thinks, has some great love; she watches

That boy and girl hold hands and tells herself

They have something she is missing, something more

Than the adventure, travel and new people she now

Enjoys with me. I can’t really blame her. Even I

Once made eyes at my brothers’ friends when I was

Young and foolish. Even I had my small conquests

With the village boys before I learned to make

Larger conquests with my gathered armies.

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Take that pacifist son of a warlord. Big blue eyes,

Muscles, armor, a big sword, a soft voice.

His reluctance to follow his father’s profession

Makes her think he’s “sensitive.” Maybe he is.

Certainly, the peaceful village farmers don’t

Deserve the rapacious attention of the old man

And his charioteers, the way they torched

The village silo. I never killed women and children.

But nobody would have ever called me sensitive.

.

And that dying lad she described as “warm and sensitive”

(That word again!) “funny, perfect, smart.”

He called her, she told me, “a rare beauty.” Yeah, he was nice,

I’ll grant you. Helpful, too, in a dangerous situation,

Because, like all of them, he wanted to save her.

They always fall in love with her somehow.

But it’s easy to be nice when you are counting

Your final days. It’s easy to be brave when you have

Come to terms with your own inevitable death.

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And let’s not forget Hercules’ sidekick, who I once

Seduced for a week, hoping he would turn

On his friend. I guess I didn‘t tell her that part

Of the story. Maybe I should. Though I suppose

I probably shouldn’t use the word “stamina”

Or “dynamo” to describe him. Maybe instead,

I should tell her about the steam coming up from

The bath and his bright eyes. After all, I wouldn’t

Want her to think he was not sensitive.

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Once I have set up the before picture, I have to set up the How It Changed picture, which in this case is Gabrielle becoming (long story) and Amazon princess and being quickly trained to fight with a long staff. Then, after combat, I give Xena an epiphany so that she halts their journey to train Gabrielle properly, as, I would argue, she should have done in the first place. I made this one a kind of dialogue, with Xena speaking and Gabrielle fuming in silence. I imagine a lot of couples start out communicating in just such inadequate ways.

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Riding into Combat: G. Flashes Back

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The staff still unfamiliar in my hands, I step

Into the queen’s chariot at the head of this

Mismatched army: Amazons and Centaurs riding

Into combat together, on the same side

For the first time either tribe’s sages can

Remember. The rumble of chariot wheels is loud

As we gather speed, but my terrified heart is louder.

Behind me, I hear her war cry and I recall

That with her on our side, we will likely win,

Though that doesn’t guarantee I will survive

Myself. I struggle to keep my feet as we roll

Faster and faster down the hill where we can see

The warlord’s army scrambling to grab

Swords, spears, axes: all the ways I might die

In the next minute or hour. My stomach in

My throat, I nearly gag as the Centaur pulling us

Slows, stops, slips off his harness. The roar

Of the enemy, all men in black leather and purple

Scars, is a chorus of sudden death, but I hear

Her battle cry again and I turn to see

Her grinning as she leaps to meet the first.

If I have to die, then fighting by her side

Is not the worst way to leave this life. I jump down.

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Breathing Lessons

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X., Out Loud

I saw you in battle. I was impressed. What you lack in finesse, you make up for in sheer ferocity. That will take you far in a short fight or a longer fight with an inexperienced foe. How you didn’t die out there, I don’t know. Maybe Artemis likes you, kid. But beginners luck won’t last and you’ve got bad habits. Tomorrow I’ll find a stick that I can use to practice with you. Meanwhile, you get some sleep, little warrior. You’ve earned it.

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G., In Silence

Why does she always do that, call me a kid?

It’s not enough that she towers above me

Even before she mounts her horse. Somehow

She always has to belittle me too. I think

She doesn’t mean to. Her eyes are always kind,

Or mostly. But all those weeks I begged her

To teach me to defend myself and today,

I went into mortal combat with a mere day’s

Worth of practice with the staff. If I had died,

It would have just been more blood on her hands.

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X., Out Loud

You keep your stick close to your body, like this, to get a stronger pivot. It’s not the stick that does the work; it’s you, your body weight that gives your strike momentum. Commit yourself fully to each strike. A staff is not a sword. It metes out pain with both ends. Strike the man in front of you with the front end and use the momentum from that blow to hit the man behind you with the back. Try it. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.

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G., In Silence

My bruises from the Amazon battle purpling,

I lie down stiffly, feeling the new ones rise.

She shows me how to rub them out with my thumbs

In a circling motion. Her hands are gentler, now

That practice is over. I’ve never been so tired.

At dawn it begins again. She’s so much stronger

Than me. Even when I block her strikes, some hit me.

But she looks tired, too. Normally she hates this

Sort of thing, focusing on basics, endless basics,

Endlessly explaining it to me, again and again.

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X., Out Loud

Breathing now. To hold your own in a fight, you need stamina, and that means correct breathing. If you don’t want to get sucker punched, never let your enemy see you take a breath. Unless you are crying out to terrify the enemy, keep your mouth closed. It’s harder, at first, but better in the long run. In the East, they talk about the energy in the body. I learned some breathing techniques to produce more to protect the organs when you get hit. When you’re ready, I’ll teach you. We’re done for now. Tomorrow we’re back on the road.

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G., In Silence

I am too tired to boil over. I ache too much to tear

My bread apart. I stare at the fire and forget where

My crackling muscles end and its golden ache starts.

How many days have we camped here? When did my

Calluses stop bleeding? She sets her saddle near me,

Rests her head on it. She looks at me a long while, says,

“I thought it’d take longer. You’re a quick learner.”

A backhanded compliment for sure, but I smile, my mouth

The one place I don’t hurt. She watches me, worried.

I say, “Yes. Okay. Eventually, I will probably forgive you.”

 

NOTE: I do not own the rights to these characters, which are held by NBC Renaissance Pictures. I am getting no remuneration for this creative work.