Secret Tongues

 Secret Tongues

 “But they are so crude, Mary,” Elizabeth remarked, setting down her cup of tea on the arbor’s table.  A slight Summer breeze made the cool, foliated shadows wag like tongues all around them.  “What possible enjoyment could be had in a servant’s company?”

 “He is well versed in many pastimes,” Mary said.  A hot flash of redness flared in her pale forehead and breast.  It was so red as to nearly match her auburn hair.  It was not a shade of embarrassment, however, nor fury.  She fanned herself leisurely, despite the cool breeze and shade.  “Many a singularly fine pastime.”

 “He is handsome,” Elizabeth said.  A smile betook her face, as if she had tasted something quite sour and wished to hide it.  “I will grant you that.  But there are many handsome gentlemen in London of equal looks, and far superior wealth.”

 “I have no need of wealth,” Mary said.  “I am an only child, as you know, and subject to no male relative who might contend my claim to my father’s estate.  Moreover, Desmond is excellent with his hands in a manner entirely unknown in gentlemanly circles.”

 Elizabeth cast a curious glance to Jenny, nettled.  The latter was too concerned with a white ribbon in her hair to notice.  Elizabeth chided her.

 “Jenny, you are of an age that ribbons such as those should be abandoned utterly.  And you are married.  Married women have no need of girlish ribbons.”

 “These ribbons were blessed by Father Willoughby last Sunday,” Jenny said, still attempting to tighten the ribbon.  “They are marks of chastity.”

 “But you are married,” Elizabeth argued with an irritated shake of her head.  Her black curls quivered, tied up atop her head and away from the nape of her neck like some tragic Greek heroine from bygone times.  “Chastity is impossible for a proper conclusion to such a ceremony.”

 “To the contrary,” Jenny said fussily, pulling at the golden strands of her hair.  “William and I have decided to remain chaste for the time being, even while in wedlock.  When he is…when we are ready to produce children, the ribbons shall come down.”

 “And the petticoats shall go up,” Mary said, giggling.  Elizabeth frowned at her, which only provoked greater giggles.  Mary sipped her tea to regain her composure.  Birds sang in the distance.  Evening wore on slowly, the sun descending reluctantly.

 “You are a naughty creature!” Jenny exclaimed, encrimsoning as a cherry unclaimed from the stem.

 “And why should I not be?” Mary posited, seriously.  “I am a woman of independence and means.  I need answer to no one.”

 “It is a luxury not all can afford,” Elizabeth admitted begrudgingly.  “Nor do I think it one I might indulge, for I cannot discern how it could be worth the price.”

 “A failure of experience,” Mary said, sympathetically, “leads to a failure of imagination.  Were that your husband could be capable of speaking Desmond’s tongue!  You would never wish to leave the house, either for society or for a fresh prospect.  Nor would Paris or Rome offer, in all their splendours, temptation enough to lure you thither.”

 Jenny frowned, then finally released the ribbon in her golden hair.  “Surely he could speak such a tongue anywhere in the world and you would find yourself doubly satisfied in being abroad and being in desirous company.”

 “Not so,” Mary said.  “For it would presume impudence and impropriety.  Desmond is apt  at his tongue, but not at many others, and so his low-breeding would be immediately apparent, even to a Parisian crumpet.”  She tapped a finger upon her chin thoughtfully.  “Especially to a Parisian crumpet.”

 The conversation now at an end, they nodded and sipped their tea.  Mary looked very pleased in all accounts, whereas Jenny and Elizabeth were perplexed, albeit in different regards.  Another of Jenny’s ribbons had come undone, and so she was very vexed in setting it right atop her head.  Elizabeth frowned, casting furtive eyes of judgment sidelong at her host and friend.

 “It is all jolly-folly,” she said meaningfully.

 For Mary’s part, she was so warm and glowing with a language only she knew among the three of them that when the wind grew chillier, she did not mind it, even as her friends shivered.  The trees themselves seemed to shiver, too, for the shadows stretched long and the sun slowly sank into its shadowy bed.

 “My, I should be getting home,” Jenny said, hugging her shawl about her shoulders.  “Arthur will be wondering at my absence.  Though, I doubt overmuch.  He loves spending time with his schoolyard friend, John.  They are inseparable, you know.  They get along so well together.  Much more, I am afraid, than even Arthur and I get along.  But we are young, and our marriage fresh.  I am sure there is time enough to grow together.”

 It was Elizabeth’s and Mary’s turn to exchange shrewd glances.

 “Will he keep you warm, Jenny?’ Mary asked, mischievously.

 “With a fire, perhaps,” Jenny said, misunderstanding.  “Arthur is so thoughtful that he always insists that my bedroom be tended to most, often to the neglect of his own bedroom.”

 “Separate bedrooms?’ Mary said, suppressing a smile.  “But how does Arthur tend to your fire, then?”

 “Alfred, his butler, tends to it when the night comes on with its drafts,” Jenny said simply.  Naively.  “Alfred uses the poker rather deftly, like a wizard conjuring fire.”

 “So, too, does my Desmond,” Mary said, barely suppressing a giggle.  “But Elizabeth,” she said, turning to her other friend, “what is the arrangement between yourself and your husband, Matthew?”

 Elizabeth cleared her throat, though she could not clear the sharp edge of vexation in her voice.

 “Matthew and I sleep in separate chambers,” she said, as a judge delivering a bitter verdict.  “ I cannot abide his smoking…or…”  She faltered a moment.  “…or his attendance to my fire.”

 Mary gave Elizabeth a sympathetic smile, patting her gloved hand.  There was a goodly deal of condescension in the latter act.  “I am sure there is a servant apter at the art.  My Desmond is indeed a wizard, conjuring flames with a mere wag of his tongue.”  She smiled puckishly.  “He speaks whole infernos into being.  And they keep me warm throughout the most frigid of nights.”

 Again, Elizabeth cleared her throat, shifting uncomfortably.  She eyed her red-headed friend enviously.

 “I do not see how it should take much art to tend a fire,” Jenny opined, obliviously.  “Alfred is nearly senile, and yet he accomplishes the task very adequately.  At times even I tend to my own fire, exciting it with a clumsy poker.  The propensities of fire, and the plenitude of wood, should be sufficient for the need, no matter how novice the pyrolater.”

 Mary and Elizabeth exchanged glances—the former, sly and mirthful; the latter, shrewd and irritated.

 “Indeed,” Mary said.  “Any sufficient measure of wood may feed a fire, but here is something to be praised in that heathenistic affinity in the art of pyromancy.  Why, I feel as a wicker woman all aflame with…passion…when Desmond speaks his special tongue to me.”  She laughed with a girlish cadence of unconscientious joy.  “I am utterly consumed by it, you know.  It is always Beltane when he is speaking his special tongue to me.”

 Elizabeth scowled.  “One can lose one’s soul to such heathenism,” she said, her voice cold with something akin to resentment.  “We must be wary of the Devil’s tongue.  It can sway angels to lower stations with debased practices and unworthy company.”

 “The waves lap wonderfully in my Lake of Fire,” Mary said, too pleased to be affronted, and too emboldened to be restrained.  She tucked a curl of red hair behind her ear.  “Maybe Lucifer was right.  Maybe it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

 Jenny gasped, a dainty hand to her little lips.  “But your soul, Mary!  Truly, we must attend church and repent together!  Father Willoughby will rectify these mortal failings.  There is no salvation except through Christ, and so you must recant such confusion in your compass.  Otherwise it will cost you everlastingly.”

 Mary regarded her earnest friend with a condescending smirk—tight lipped, with a nodding of her head.  She then turned to Elizabeth, the latter stiff-shouldered and scowling openly now.

 “There are times when Desmond’s heathen tongue is so persuasive that I could die in the moment and be eternally contented.  Whatever lay beyond that moment of…exultation…is nought but dreary, drafty winds through a dusty hallway.  The world burns away with the intensity of it, and all else becomes as soot beneath my feet.”

 “And what of the tongues wagging behind one’s back?” Elizabeth demanded, setting her teacup down hard for emphasis on the point.  “They can raze reputations and family legacies with the tempests they whip up.  Have you ever paused to give thought to that?”

 “They are impotent cinders,” Mary replied lightly.  “As impotent as the cries of herons on the Isle of Skye.  All is obliterated in the inferno.”

 “The tongues of fire lap at lost souls in the inferno,” Jenny said, so far amiss in the conversation that her input was no more than the whispers of the breeze through the arbor.  Her two friends ignored her.

 “And what of friendships?” Elizabeth continued, still scowling.  “What of the cost such heresies might entail in regard to them?”

 For the first time, Mary’s smile and gleeful tone faltered.  “I…I should hope that any true friend might weather the infernos for the sake of a friend as devout in her loyalty and its reciprocation.”

 Elizabeth stared hard at her friend, her thin lips set in a narrowly compressed line.

 “You take more than you give, Mary,” she said.  “It is a problem plaguing many relationships, it seems to me.”

      ***

 Desmond stood at the foot of the bed like any butler awaiting orders.  Tall, lean, and with a grimly-set expression of diligence, he was the very figure of decorum and servitude.  Except he was out of uniform.  Very much out of uniform.

 Mary lay on the four-poster bed, watching Desmond with a cat-catches-canary smile upon her face.  She, too, was very much out of uniform, and spread her freckled arms, fixing her fine, smooth fingers upon the headboard.  Her pale body flickered orange in the clandestine candlelight.  There was no one else in the entirety of her estate.  She had sent the other servants home to visit relatives or friends or lovers or whoever would preoccupy their evenings.  She did not care.  The only interest stood before her.

 “Come now, Desmond,” she said.  “Attend me.”

 “I will,” the denuded man said.  “But first…”

 He hesitated, falling silent.  She could see by the flaring candlelight the ambiguity etched upon his handsome features.

 “What do you want?” she asked.  “Less chores around the estate?  A bauble?  I could get something for you while I am away in London next week, visiting Vivien.  She knows the quaintest shops where nearly anything can be purchased.”

 “I mean to accompany you in London,” he said.  “But not in a servant’s capacity.”

 Mary cackled in delight.  “Oh, you have a mercenary heart!  But you know such things cannot be.”

 “And for what reason so?” he demanded.  “You have said many times that you do not care if high society should know of our attachment.”

 Her tone was sobered now; incredulous.  “It is not an attachment, Desmond.  Do not forget yourself.”

 Desmond swayed as if stricken, and Mary’s tone softened.

 “I would not have you away from my estate,” she said.  “You know I cannot trust anyone to see to it but you.”

 The fire in the hearth behind Desmond fluttered to one side, as if a cold draft had hurled itself headlong into it.

 “Such patronage does me much honor,” he said, his face dark and his tone sour.  “To condescend to someone so low as myself esteems you as to a saint.”

 “I will not tolerate insolence, Desmond,” Mary snapped.  “You are a servant.  In this service do you serve me, still.  But that is the total of it insomuch as we are bound.  To stoop to pretending that you are my equal would be to lose face.  Not in society’s estimation, but my own.  And I will never shame myself, nor depreciate my self-worth through such short-shrift.”

 “So I am nothing more to you than a servant,” he said, bitterly.  “You view me as just another pleasure to be taken for granted.  Our intimacy is one strictly of mistress and servant.”

 “You are well-compensated,” she said, sitting up and sliding forward.  She reached out with both hands and took hold of his wrist, attempting to draw him down onto the bed, toward her spread legs.  “Come, Desmond.  I will permit you to sleep here tonight, beside me, if you like.  Is that the intimacy you require?”

 Desmond drew his hand away, and her coaxing smile hardened to an irritated frown.

 “Desmond,” she said, “do not ruin this lovely evening with your unwarranted umbrage.  We could be both of us quite satisfied if you would simply surrender to the strong instinct inherent in your breeding…”

 Desmond yanked his arm free from his mistress at once, turned, and strode to his uniform, gathering it up and donning it in the dimming glow of the hearth.

 “Where are you going?” she demanded, her voice pitched with alarm.

 “I have attended you in all ways a husband might,” he said.  “I have seen to your finances.  I have seen to your servants.  I have seen to your needs, whatever myriad ways they might manifest.  Yet, you have always neglected me in all respects a man should be afforded by the woman he loves and to whom he is devoted.  I had hopes for a relationship by daylight such as we share by moonlight.  But you value me no more than a beast in the field, wanting me for nothing but to expend your carnal propensities.  Nor are you equal in those indulgences, oftentimes affording me no reciprocation pleasure whereas I have selflessly given and given unto a cornucopia of giving!”

 “Desmond, please do not leave me now!”  She leapt up from her bed, hurrying to him in a bereft state of undress.  “Please, do not leave me alone!  Come to bed with me.  Please.”

 He paused at buckling his belt, almost looking at her.  But the anguish overtaking his face was dismissed and dignity resumed itself with an austere measure in his demeanour.  He donned his shirt and jacket, not bothering with his tie.  He headed to the dark portal that was the door.

 “Please tend to the fire tonight,” Mary pleaded, following after him.  She lay a trembling hand upon his shoulder.  “That’s all I wish.  You do not have to join me in bed.  Just…just tend to the fire and keep me warm.”

 “Tend to it yourself,” he retorted.  He opened the door and hastened out into the dark hallway, leaving her behind.

 Mary felt quite cold, and walked aimlessly about her bedroom like a lost soul.  She had come, it seemed, to the Ninth Circle of Hell.  Her womanhood was now a frozen lake.  Her heart gnawed on Judas in bitter disappointment.  She looked into the embers of the darkening hearth and felt the world grow cold to its core.

      ***

 Elizabeth held her legs apart as Matthew, her husband, thrust against her.  It was, as always, over after a handful of minutes.  He groaned, convulsed, and then collapsed onto the bed—onto her— and lay there, heaving and breathless against her breasts.  Afterward, she looked upon the wrinkled, flabby and pale body of her old husband as he sprawled over her, panting.  Pale, loose skin— reminiscent of candle wax long ago melted and now cold—gleamed in the light from the hearth.  She was reminded of a warm, wet slug.  She shuddered, and not from pleasure.

 After a few moments, he rolled off of her and to the side, crumpled like a leaf in Winter.

 Elizabeth’s gown was hot, or so it seemed.  She flung it from her body, and kicked away the sheets near her feet.  She wished for a cold shower.

 “You will catch a cold,” her husband said, his breath labored still.

 “I am likely for a fever,” she said, laying stiffly now, as if a frozen body in the snow.  Her black hair was arrayed about her head, like the halo of some martyr.

 They said nothing else.  Matthew lay in bed a while longer, then began to crawl toward the edge, slowly, painfully, slipping out and onto his shaky feet.  He leaned on his mahogany cane, limping to his nightgown.  Shakily, he lifted the nightgown up and over his head, down his cadaverous body.  He struck up a cigar before he was to the door, blowing smoke into the dark.  The flaring faggot illuminated his vulture features for a flashing moment just before he disappeared through the door and down the hall.

 Again, Elizabeth shuddered.  She leaned toward the bedside table, taking the bottle of wine in hand.  She did not bother with a drinking glass, but kissed the bottle more ardently than she had ever kissed her husband.  Drinking herself into a stupor, she set the bottle down—tumbling it to the Turkish carpet below—and sprawled insensate upon the bed, her skin bare to the crisp, cold air.  She welcomed the cold, and the oblivion.  She welcomed the scorn that was a frigid draft through her bedroom.

 She hoped the cold would find her husband in his bedroom and snuff out his smouldering cigar light.  There were times when she wished it would find her, and snuff out her own light.

      ***

 Jenny lay naked beneath the heaving form of Alfred, moaning in pleasure as the butler rutted upon her.  It was past midnight and her husband Arthur had gone to bed, joined by John.  It was an arrangement both sides found very pleasing.

 After Alfred finished, and he had helped Jenny finish, Jenny lay panting to one side of her bed while the butler rose to gather his clothes.  He did so swiftly and economically, with no fuss or words.  He was much younger than Jenny had said to her two friends while at tea together earlier than day.  Virile and somber and handsome and, most importantly, discreet, he was just what Jenny wanted in a servant assigned to such duties.  He opened and closed the door with tactful silence, his lean frame disappearing down the dark hallway without the faintest whisper of a footfall.

 The butler gone, and the door closed, Jenny sighed in great satisfaction.  The warmth of the recent rigors still smoldered within her, hot as the hearth across the room.  She spoke aloud to herself.

 “Discretion best serves mischief alongside shrewd naivete,” she said.  “Strategic naivete.  It really does make one impervious to the wagging of tongues, whether they be sheathed in the mouths of society, or one’s own friends.  There is no shield like naivete against prattle.  They may demean the naivete itself, but what does it accomplish if even a million tongues whip at a mirage in the desert?  They may wag themselves dry, but the mirage remains, and so distracts from my little oasis that I keep to myself.”

 Having thus spoken at leisure, and in an ease equally earnest, she reached a hand up to the white ribbons in her fair hair.  They were tautly tied.  She undid them with a pinch of her fingers and twist of her wrist.  Her golden hair tumbled down wildly.  The white ribbons lay in a heap, like discarded snake skins.  They would coil there, in their little nest, until the morning when she would take them up once again and tie the tongues of the world up in incessant gossip entirely amiss of the actual truth.

Sweet Blasphemies

“O, you are the Devil, ”

you always say with a smile

while I lick your navel till

you croon, moan, gyrate.  Meanwhile

I say, ”Babe, you pray more

now, when we are making love,

than you do kneeling on the floor. ”

And with a pull, and a shove,

you are Lilith of old,

in Biblical times, in times gone,

and you straddle me, overbold —

demon riding, on and on.

Possessed, you rock yet more,

the paroxysms not yet done,

and you crash, like waves on a shore

beneath a hot, heaving sun.

Panting, sweating, a gasp

expelled, you rake your sharp claws,

Cleopatra clutching her asp

according to Heathen laws.

Galilee ebbs and flows

while old Babylon crumbles,

but listen to Ishtar —she knows

why a lonely god grumbles.

Passion and respect, both,

find a home in the other,

equal in both, and so Love ’s oath

is to joy in one ’s lover.

The first wrong done by Man

was not letting Woman find

in him equality, Woman

denied in body and mind,

and so, my sweet Lilith,

let us take turns in rhythm

and harmonize in breaths till myth

harmonizes within them.

Whosoever atop,

the rhythm remains, a song

of respect, of desire, nonstop;

passion was never a wrong,

and I would gladly flee

the comforts of Eden’s lies,

with you, to be in harmony

with the passion in your eyes.

Some Addvice

The demon on my shoulder

has grown stronger, grown bolder,

saying, Why not add some spice

to the humdrum add some vice

and invigorate your heart

before it s time to depart?

I see wisdom in his words

for society, the herds

who seek spice in drink and drugs,

cheap motels with ugly rugs,

illicit sex, the secret trysts

beyond marriage, handcuffed wrists

and sado-maso hijinks,

roleplay, fantasy, all kinks

adding entertainment for

those engaging it, and more,

as the rest of us hear tales

of those laughing off church bells;

of those kinking and cheating,

of those winking and meeting

for liaisons most foul

where lust and greed and pride prowl.

If you want to, don t think twice:

heed the demon s bad advice.

It is quite fun for us all

when you heed your demon s call

and are, thereafter, destroyed,

for we all love Schadenfreude.

Spider Tea

Amongst cobwebs I sat on her love-seat

while in the kitchen she turned up the heat

on her big pot, setting the tea to boil;

her house was old, dusty, lit with lamp oil

and so dim, illuminating the night

as if reluctant—for fondness, not fright,

and I saw a deck of cards, the Tarot,

arrayed by a book faced with a pharaoh

and I thought what an eccentric lady,

but did not mind, for, however shady,

she had a good figure, like an hourglass

in a red and black dress, and a big ass

that made my loins rigid with excitement

as I waited there, despite the light scent

of metal that lingered in the stale air

and the scurrying I heard here and there.

At length, she returned to the living-room,

holding two cups and a teapot abloom

with a wispy strand of spider-spun steam

that rose to the webbed ceiling, like a dream,

and she a dream herself, smiling at me,

saying, “Oh, you must try my homemade tea.”

Before I could speak, she turned about-face

and set the cups down on the mantelplace

above which were photos, old and faded,

black and white, the people grim and jaded.

She was old-fashioned like them, yet she smiled

and I liked her hair, like a beehive piled

atop her head, and the webbed jewelry

which should we soon get to tomfoolery

I would have liked her to keep on, just so,

as well as her black stockings, thigh to toe,

whereas all else would be shed, as a husk,

while entangled from dusk to dawn to dusk.

“I’m a witch,” she said with a mocking tone,

handing me my cup, pewter white as bone.

I said, “You don’t seem like a witch to me,”

for she was young, graceful and quite pretty.

“But I am,” she said, sitting herself down

right beside me and smirking at my frown.

“You see, I have used my cauldron to brew

this especial spider tea just for you.”

“Spider tea?” I said, looking at the cup,

the fragrant steam like phantoms rising up.

“Indeed,” she said, not at all like a crone.

“It is quite tasty when one’s all alone

and cold in the long winter months to come—

just as good as any brandy or rum

or hot cider or bourbon you might drink

to help you to, and also not to, think.

I said, “But what is it really made of?”

She smiled and said, “A black widow’s love

and the aloofness of a fiddleback

all smashed together, pressed in a small pack

and their eggs, too, along with their cocoons,

aged in a dank cellar for many moons

and steeped in my cauldron, or my teapot

if you will, until it is nice and hot

to bring about the best acridity.

I noted, then, the tea’s acidity

and remarked upon it, to which she said

“Quite.  The venom gives a kick to the head

which invigorates the intrepid blood

to swell and flow like a river in flood.

Not many men may stomach Spider Tea,

nor many men who may satisfy me.”

“I can handle it,” I said, sipping more

as I felt sweat drip from every pore.

I grinned and said, “I’ve had lots of rotgut,

from white dog to hooch, no drink ever cut

because a real man has a lead belly

and doesn’t have insides made of jelly.”

“Oh, you big boy,” she said, licking her lips

to which I grinned more, taking a few sips.

“Big in lots of ways,” I said, leaning in,

my hand slipping up her arm and down again,

and since she did not pull away, I kissed

her fingertips, her palm, and her pale wrist.

“Drink up,” she cooed.  “Don’t let it go to waste.”

I drank all the rest, not minding the taste

since I knew she’d soon sweeten the flavor

with her body, which I longed to savor.

Spider Tea now drank, she caressed my thigh,

then kissed me with lips succulent and sly,

and I felt so hot with lust at her touch

that I did not mind the pain quite so much

while my guts boiled badly from within, then,

and I breathed scalding steam like an engine.

“Do you want me?” she asked.  “Tell me you do

because I brewed Spider Tea just for you.”

I did want her, and I said so, again and again

while my lust burned and boiled outside and in,

and I melted for her, body and soul,

while she sucked me dry, drinking me whole.

Three Poems

Suggestive

The fairies played among Queen Anne ’s lace,

flirty, flippant, flitting, and flying

beneath the white garters, each red face

buoyant with winds, happily sighing.

My, the laughter was so very loud

within the petticoats of flowers —

an orgy amidst that floral crowd

while they quivered, shameless, at all hours.

Such perfume and musk glutted the nose,

all fairies being fragrant creatures

amongst hills and vales, the highs and lows,

and the untamed wildflower features.

Then fox rain fell from bright Summer skies

and gushed over the hot countryside;

Queen Anne opened her delighted eyes,

for she found herself quite satisfied.

 

Rope-A-Dope Politics

Circling and circling, rope in our teeth,

knife in hand gleaming, seeking a sheath;

tethered, as we once were in the womb —

soon buried together in a tomb.

Come!  Speak a petty jibe, begetting

a messy fight, a ripe bloodletting

as easy as a sharp blade that cuts

and spills a man ’s whiskey-rotted guts;

rope in mouth, see the resentful lip

and we unsheathe blindly from the hip

to 86 the opposing side

as two worlds careen, contend, collide.

Scalp them, skin them, flay, debone, and burn

rather than let them have their fair turn!

The battleground is stained, yet does hope

demand we grit our teeth on the rope

while we circle, bleeding at a glance,

lunging and plunging to stake our stance.

 

Soul-Storm

Lives that came and went in a flash

like the radiance of a lightning crash,

a downpour plummets, weeping heavy

as if the rain-man danced upon the levee

to break the floodgates and to flow

the world ’s memory of wrongs and woe

trees tossing in mournful despair

as gusts bellow with raging air,

thunderbirds flapped resounding wings

and screeched of many unjust things,

aloft, high, sundering the skies,

blinding unwary, shameless eyes,

smashing low the tallest towers,

fulgurous with heaven ’s powers,

a twister spun across the plains,

a reckoning of deathly pains.

After all these forgetful years,

rains still fall from the Trail of Tears.

Music Lessons

She professed her passions wholly mute
when enjoined at the cusp, lips tuned to lips,
yet he played virgin curves as a flute,
fingers fluttering with their deft-toned tips,
and he blew in measure so astute
the melody resounded through her hips,
and therefrom did vibrations take root;
from pelvis to legs, from bosom to nips.

Oni Onanism

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Kosaru was an aspiring monk in service to the legendary yin-yang diviner Kamo-no-Tadayuki. He was a devout student and keen to become a powerful diviner himself. Tadayuki had confidence in Kosaru and was proud to have him as a disciple.
One day Tadayuki was summoned to the Emperor’s palace in Kyoto. It seemed the Empress was suffering from a terrible malady and only the best yin-yang diviner could heal her. Tadayuki brought with him Kosaru to learn how to handle strong evil spirits, and to help him in the pursuit of cleansing the Empress. Thus, Master and Pupil traveled many miles by horse and came to the Emperor’s palace within a week. When they arrived, Tadayuki insisted that they see the Empress at once, rather than rest and eat after such a long ride, and so they were taken to the East Wing of the palace by several women-in-waiting. The Empress sat behind a screen, attended by her servants, and the Master and Pupil conducted their rituals on the opposite side, so as to afford her strict privacy and not commit any improprieties.
The rituals were intricate and taxing. Tadayuki was overcome with fatigue after the long journey to Kyoto. He felt he must rest, but in the meantime he instructed that Kosaru— being such a prodigal adept—should continue in his stead. And so Tadayuki retired while the young monk labored energetically, wanting to both prove himself and not disappoint his Master.
Late into the evening did Kosaru conduct the rituals. The women-in-waiting succumbed to sleep as night fell, and yet Kosaru persisted. After a time the Empress began to giggle. Kosaru thought her possessed by a fox spirit, for he could see her silhouette through the candlelit screen, and her silhouette appeared to be shedding its skins. Soon, he thought, the fox spirit would flee and the Empress would be saved.
Instead, the Empress stepped around the screen, standing denuded before him. She had not shed her skins—she had shed her robes! Kosaru stared in disbelief at the beautiful woman standing before him, her voluptuous body as ripe fruit and her skin glowing orange in candlelight. Having borne the Emperor an heir had not left any mark upon her, save a little puckered curve of belly fat which only accentuated her navel and the curves of her body. She was as pristine wilderness longing for a traveler to glimpse its vistas.

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Kosaru gawped for a time, and the Empress smiled as if in invitation. He felt himself stir, but remembered his vows— and the Emperor’s fury—and so sat upon the floor, cross-legged, covering his eyes with both hands and rocking back and forth like a monkey sitting precariously upon a tree limb.
At length, Kosaru uncovered his eyes and saw that the Empress had returned to the other side of the screen, assuming her robes once again. Temptation now passed, Kosaru hurried to find Master Tadayuki, the Empress’s giggles echoing after him.

Tadayuki had forewent all else and retired to bed with a fever. He was not to be disturbed. A servant to the Emperor relayed to Kosaru that Tadayuki had entrusted his best Pupil with attending to the Empress until the old diviner had regained his strength. Feeling at a loss himself, Kosaru went to his own guest room and lay down to sleep. He told no one of the Empress or her salacious behavior. Instead, he tried to sleep. Sleep did not come but fitfully. He tossed and turned all night, unable to escape the haunting smile of the Empress, and her gleaming torso and legs. Anxious, he paced his room for a time, then went to the palace shrine before daybreak.
Kosaru had intended to invoke aid from benevolent spirits and the Buddha. Yet, as he tried to meditate he found his mind scarred with the candlelit form of the Empress. Before he knew what he was doing he had reached into his robes and began to pleasure himself to her figure. He knew he should stop, and yet he could not. Forcefully, he chaffed himself— half in pleasure and half in frustration— until he had finished. Red-faced as a snow monkey in rut, Kosaru wiped his hands clean on his robe and left the shrine, his eyes averted from the statue of the Buddha whose face, in a furtive glance, was full of disappointment.
Kosaru had slept little, but ate a lot. Servants inquired after his success and he demured, saying only that further rituals were required. Thereupon, he was escorted again to the East Wing to continue his services to the Empress. All day the young monk undertook the rituals. His bald head gleamed with sweat and drooped with fatigue, yet he persisted. Once again the women-in-waiting succumbed, one by one, to sleep, until only Kosaru and the Empress remained awake. Hereupon, the Empress doffed her robes and brazenly stepped around the dividing screen. Kosaru once again sat cross-legged and covered his eyes. Yet, the Empress knelt beside him, whispering in his ears of things he knew he should not hear.

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“I am your Empress,” she said, “but you may call me Okame, for I find that I can trust you with my sorrows, young man.”
Kosaru held as still as possible, staring straight ahead of himself; trying not to gaze upon her nakedness. His body trembled with fear and desire.
“The Emperor has no fondness for me,” she said. “I am overripe fruit in his eyes. Unplucked and young is how he prefers his persimmons. Now that my son is a man, and is away in training to ascend after his father, I am a forgotten possession misplaced in the corner of my husband’s palace. I have not seen my husband for a year, and even then only to speak in formalities.”
She leaned closer to the monk, nearly kissing the lobe of his ear.
“I have not known the touch of a man in fourteen years,” she continued, “and even then but a greedy fumble of fingers and a slight pain between the legs. I have had more joy from my own hands than anyone else’s touch. Before I die I wish to know true passion. Will you grant me this boon, handsome boy?”
Kosaru could hear her still, and so pressed harder against his ears.
“You are a shaman,” she said, “and so you explore the boundaries between Heaven and Earth. Why not explore my boundaries. I believe we will find a Heaven of our own in such Earthly pleasures…”
More such scandalous whispers followed until Kosaru pressed his hands over his ears as if to crush his own skull. He deafened himself this way for a time, and it hurt him grievously. Eventually, the Empress returned to her side of the screen, speaking no more. She donned her robes and went to sleep. Hesitatingly, Kosaru stumbled out of the East Wing and found himself at the shrine once again. He slipped off his robe and pants, swathing and blinding the Buddha’s head with his clothes, and stood and gripped himself with both hands, angrily abusing himself as he imagined Okame’s husky voice rising and falling in pitch to the rhythm of his strokes. When he had finished, he dressed himself and stumbled off to bed. Sleep did not come easily, for his desires burned ever afresh. He moaned while abed.
“I feel I must climb to the highest mountain peak and bury myself in the snow,” he said, “and still this burning would not abate. I burn for her embrace! I must throw myself into an icy river and let it freeze over me, drowning me in its cold waters to slake my passions! And still it would not abate!”
The next day, before dawn, Kosaru returned to the shrine to pleasure himself to her image and her voice. He then ate a great deal, once again, and checked on his Master. Tadayuki remained a convalescent, though he was now able to drink herbal teas and speak weakly in a few words. He asked his favorite Pupil if the Empress had improved. Kosaru could not tell his Master of the Empress’s shame, nor his own, but assured him that she was growing in confidence. Tadayuki then fell asleep and so his Pupil returned to the East Wing to continue his dubious rituals for the betterment of the Empress.
The day proceeded as the two days before. Kosaru was diligent and tireless, even if sleepless and fatigued, and he worked his rituals from his side of the screen while the Empress’s women-in-waiting observed him for the sake of propriety. However, they fell asleep once more as the day darkened to night, and once more the Empress let fall her robes and tempted Kosaru with her beautiful body and her beautiful words.
“My handsome boy,” she said, kneeling before him, “you need only ask and I will pleasure you as only Paradise can. Can you not see how I adore you? How I crave you? I know you crave me, too. I can see it in your eyes, and in the way you tremble so. You need only say you want me, and I will gladly give myself to you. I am Empress Okame, and I ache for you. Do you not ache for me?”
Kosaru’s mouth moaned of its own compulsion, but before the moan could become a “Yes” he slapped his hands over his lips and bound himself voiceless. The Empress cajoled and whispered and pressed her breasts out toward him as offerings, but his words were silenced behind the cage of his hands, imprisoned mercilessly behind his clamp-like fingers and sweaty palms. She was a great persuader, and so he fled before she could sway him with her comely body and sweet words and gentle touch.

For a week or so Kosaru tended to Empress Okame. At night, and in the morning, he sequestered himself in the palace shrine— not to be disturbed by anyone—and satisfied himself to image and sound and touch of her. Sometimes he would weep with shame afterwards; sometimes he would not. Sometimes he wept with frustration, or screamed and roared until nearby servants thought him wrestling demons within the shrine. Nor was this a total misconception. Rather, Kosaru knew that oni and tengu and other malicious spirits were most interested in holy men and aspirants, for they were more challenging and the vexation they caused more rewarding. While holy men were indeed stronger against such spirits they were also most susceptible, the paradox being that suppression implicated exploitable weaknesses and, so, it led to greater chances of corruption. Tadayuki had warned Kosaru several times about temptations and the traps therein provided to evil spirits. That was why Kosaru had vowed to abstain from most pleasures, including those between a man and a woman. By denying himself pleasures he hoped to display his devotion to the Buddha and thus be granted greater powers over wayward spirits. Yet, it was easy to be celibate in a monastery where no temptations dwelled. It was much more difficult when a beautiful woman tempted him with every visitation.

Tadayuki gradually improved. In time he felt so hale and hearty that he resumed the rituals once again, dedicating himself to curing Empress Okame of her mysterious affliction. He said he was impressed with Kosaru’s dedication; so much so that he let his Pupil have the day off. Kosaru was conflicted, naturally, since he both wanted to see the Empress again and since he did not want to see her again. To keep his mind off of her, as much as he might, Kosaru went into town. He walked about for a long time until he came to a small temple that resided near a larger Buddhist temple in Kyoto. What caught his attention were the amulets hanging from the small temple’s ornamental eaves. The talismans were kukurizaru, or hanging monkey amulets. They looked like little cloth balls formed like monkeys with their hands and feet bound together with string. There were hundreds of them dangling from the small temple. Kosaru had heard of such amulets before. He knew they were supposed to help a man with a wish, if he only sacrificed a desire to them.
Kosaru looked around the temple, and noticed that he was the only one there. Reaching up, he took a monkey ball down and hung it from the belt of his robe. As he was leaving the small temple, he noticed a graven image of wood serving as ornamentation upon the temple itself. It depicted the Sanzaru, or three wise monkeys, and he knew this was a good omen. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil— that was what he desired, after all. He would sacrifice his desire for the Empress and in return be granted his wish to become a powerful yin-yang diviner.
Feeling reassured now, Kosaru went upon a walk near a bamboo forest. He was pleased with himself, and his good fortune. The air never seemed so fresh, nor the bamboo so vivaciously green with life. Birdsong enchanted him and he felt at ease. Suddenly overcome with the toil of the week, and the exhaustion of his desires seemingly unburdened, he laid down in the cool shade beneath a copse of bamboo and quickly fell asleep. He slept for an hour or so before the chattering woke him. It sounded as if drunkards were laughing. Opening his eyes, Kosaru was surprised to discover a group of monkeys playing nearby.
There were several monkeys, their faces red and their furry bodies either white or brown as they chased each other around playfully. Kosaru said nothing, but quietly thanked the gods, and Buddha, for yet another omen to confirm that his wish would be granted. Yet, as he watched the monkeys, the monkeys took notice of the young monk. They were all alerted by his stare, but instead of fleeing in fear, the monkeys laughed louder and frolicked wildly. They rolled and somersaulted and leapt over one another like jesters in front of a king. Their behavior only reassured Kosaru’s conviction that he was blessed. Then their behavior changed. The female monkeys walked themselves backward toward the male monkeys, their tails raised and their buttocks red. What followed horrified the monk. The monkeys yammered and laughed and howled, and the monk fled in disgust and fright. He did not stop running until he reached the royal palace.
Sweating and breathless, Kosaru heaved and coughed until the pain in his ribs subsided. He began to weep again, for the monkeys were an ill omen. Clutching the monkey amulet in his sweaty, feverish hand, he prayed that the deity Sarutahiko would grant him guidance. Sarutahiko was the god of the crossroads, and the Mediator between Heaven and Earth. Kosaru pleaded to that great deity to save him from himself.
From somewhere in the thin, blue air he heard the wild laughter of monkeys.

Master Tadayuki succumbed to sickness yet again and had to retire to his room to recuperate. Kosaru was once more obligated to attend the Empress, and the Empress was once more obliged to tempt Kosaru with her body and her delicious promises of pleasure. Kosaru lost sleep and, like his Master, was prone to fevers and shakes, albeit fevers that did not overtake him with illness. His loins burned hotter than any hot spring, his complexion so ruddy that it seemed he cooked in the flame of his fevers. Meanwhile, his inability to sleep and his lack of appetite cut deep grooves around his eyes, hollowing his sockets while emboldening the ridge of his brow. His solemn-lipped mouth became inexpressive and drooped seemingly down to his chin. He failed to shave his pate and a strange white mane grew very thick very quickly upon his scalp and down his temples, and even thickened around his cheeks. The women-in-waiting were all aflutter upon seeing him, for he both repulsed them and thrilled them with his strange, handsome features. As for the Empress herself, she could hardly contain herself, and gyrated upon his lap as he sat, cross-legged, whenever he came to perform rituals to cleanse her. Kosaru, however, never succumbed to temptation, and tactfully withdrew every night to the palace shrine where he vigorously exorcized himself of her seductions. His arms grew larger during these rigors, and longer, and his back bent over with the exertions of the motions and stance, his legs bowed. His manhood increased manifold, his priapism ungodly and not to be concealed, even as he swathed it in his monk garb.
And then the farce worsened. Word reached the Emperor and he dispatched his samurai to apprehend Kosaru for his indecent appearance and behavior. Taking him by force, they locked him away in a cage made of wood and bamboo, binding him with threaded rope until Master Tadayuki recovered and could come see him. When his Master finally did arrive, Kosaru’s priapism was larger than ever before.
“My greatest Pupil!” cried Tadayuki. “And now my greatest shame!”
Kosaru would have wept, but his mind was consumed with thoughts of Empress Okame.

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“I must perform a cleansing ritual on you, my friend,” his Master said. And so he began, burning incense and arranging talismans around Kosaru’s cage. He performed many rituals in the morning, before attending Empress Okame, and then retired to bed. Tadayuki was old, and had just recovered from sickness, but his supernatural powers supplemented his age and natural vigor.
Kosaru did not improve, and neither did the Empress. To the contrary, the Empress lashed out at her women-in-waiting, becoming temperamental and angry. She refused to eat, and only drank water occasionally. Falling ill, she nearly died, despite Tadayuki’s efforts. She cried out for Kosaru in her sleep, as he called her name throughout the night. At last, the Emperor had Kosaru taken away from the palace, keeping him caged in a remote area of Kyoto. Since he was so far away, Tadayuki could no longer visit him, and so Kosaru’s condition worsened; or perhaps it worsened because he was so far away from the Empress.
And then one night, while Kosaru’s guards were drunk on sake, monkeys from the bamboo forests gathered around his cage, mocking him with their play and their mating. Kosaru tried to ignore them at first, but their laughter and their mockery became too much for him. He roared wildly, his face brightening to an unnatural crimson, and white whiskers sprang from his chin and eyebrows, and all over his body, the mane upon his head thickening all the more, and a white tail sprouted from the base of his spine. His body grew much larger, and his muscles and sinews elongated and engorged like the branches of trees. His shoulders broadened, tearing open his monk robes. He easily snapped the ropes that bound him and smashed through his wooden cage. Guards ran to meet him, but upon seeing him totter upward, growing even larger, they fled in terror. His face, too, grew, extending longwise until his nose was nothing more than crescent slits in his flattened face, and two giant horns rose from his forehead. The oni transformation should have been agony, but his mind was already pained with the all-consuming desire for Empress Okame. He hollered maniacally, then hastened toward the palace, loping like a giant ape, his priapism like a dowsing rod seeking the Empress’s sacred waters.
Where he loped, terror and destruction lay in his wake. He leapt over the palace walls and hurried to the East Wing. Now the size of a man-and-a-half, he smashed through the hall and came to her chambers. Her women–in-waiting roused at the commotion, then fled, screaming as the whole household was beset with terror and panic, everyone scattering like insects in sudden light. All except the Empress. She rose, in her fine kimono, and dared to gaze at the large demon heaving before her. She was scared— it was true—but then Kosaru knelt before her, trembling and moaning in abject prostration.
The humble monk was an oni now— a demon born of untempered desire. Empress Okame recognized in his weeping red face the eyes of her Kosaru. She saw, too, his engorged manhood, and though alarmed at first, she at last smiled and, with calm, easy motions, undid her kimono and let it slip from her body. She took his ruddy cheeks in her hands and pulled him down with her to the floor.

The servants of the Empress were in hysterics as they rushed through the palace, begging help from anyone who would provide it. Quickly word reached the Emperor and he commanded his guards, samurai, and anyone else who could wield a weapon to hurry to the East Wing. Master Tadayuki attempted to intercede on his Pupil’s behalf, and nearly lost his head for it. If not for his spirit companions spiriting him away, he would have fallen to a samurai’s blade.
The Emperor’s small army went, en masse, to the East Wing with a collective war cry heralding their advance. However, they lost their momentum, and their bravado, when they entered the Empress’s chambers to see her in joyful congress with the demon. Stunned, they stood aside for a moment, glancing around everywhere but at the oni they were ordered to slay.
“Mediate between Heaven and Earth!” the Empress cried. “Mediate until the Earth and Heaven are one!”
At length, the most hardened warrior among them— a samurai who had strewn the earth with many corpses— stood forth, breaking free of his disgust and horror. He raised he sword and charged the large ape demon rutting upon the Empress.
Kosaru withdrew from the Empress and presented his gigantic phallus against the warrior’s blade. His phallus grew larger still, and struck the blade with a counter slash. The sword shattered to the hilt and the seasoned samurai was thrown against the other men, knocked insensate upon the floor.
Three more swordsmen, rallied by the warrior’s bravery, approached the oni, attacking Kosaru all at once. The monkey monk broke two swords with his priapism and caught the third sword with his horns. Meanwhile, the Empress gyrated upon the floor, moaning for Kosaru to return to her. The other men approached now as a mob, at last driving the Oni back with the flashing flurry of their blades. He roared defiantly, ready to fight them all for his mate. Suddenly, the Empress’s moan transformed into a roar. She rose from the floor, her body elongating and sprouting white fur also. The men had seen enough and fled. No one remained behind as the two oni embraced once again.

The oni remained in rigorous congress for a week until the East Wing was set ablaze by the apoplectic Emperor. This fire would consume the entire palace, forcing the Emperor’s staff and guards to relocate to another palace. The Emperor was never quite the same again. His desire for sex with virgins— and sex with any woman for that matter—was utterly ruined. He suffered terrible dreams at night, and it was said that the image and the sounds of the two oni haunted his dreams for the rest of his life.
After the fire, Kosaru and Okame were never seen again, but it was rumored that they lived on in the snowy peaks of the mountains, away from human eyes and ears and gossip. Master Tadayuki later told his son of his greatest Pupil, confessing that he believed Kosaru to be the avatar of the monkey god, Sarutahiko, and stating that he believed the Empress to be the avatar of Ame-no-Uzame-no-mikito. When his son asked him why he had not attempted to save his Pupil, he responded that gods needed no saving, and did as they pleased. It was fate, after all, and no yin-yang diviner could interfere with fate, nor was there wisdom in trying to do so.
His son eventually married and became a powerful yin-yang diviner in his own right. Some say he became powerful despite having married and raised a family. Wiser people claimed he became powerful because of his wife and family, for they helped temper his life with a balance that many holy men fail to observe. He would later confirm, with his own eyes, that his father had been correct about his father’s former Pupil. Kosaru and Okame dwelled in the mountains, given to their bestial pastimes. Being witness to such things could ruin all but the most godly of appetites, but when Tadayuki’s son returned to his wife he found that he was not ruined in his amorousness for her. Rather, he knew that immoderation in one extreme or the opposite was the death of balance. And what was a yin-yang diviner but someone who strove for balance?

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Spellbound

As a pagan priest in passionate prayer
I trace fingers upon your idolatrous curves,
teasing out primal magic anywhere
there is a naughty nexus of ley-line nerves.

Like a wizard performing a secret spell
I manifest my ritual upon your form—
motion and emotion collide and swell
with the summoning of this carnal storm.

I summon your demons by gently passing
my hands along your arched torso to hex
and exorcise that riotous lot amassing
at the hexagram of your hedonist sex.

It is to master elemental attunement,
like scrying upon waters to see what’s to come;
to be a druid seeking what an old rune meant
while knuckle bones are arrayed in a perfect sum.

Yet, I am the one irrevocably bound
and ensorcelled by your bewitching spells;
mesmerized by the heated, heathen sound
of a magic as old as males and females.

The White Knight’s Gamble

Allow me a moment to
emerge from my acid bath of
cynicism
and survey the checkered
battlefield
before you cannibalize the
white knight at play
for being a man of
ulterior motives
while your opponent mocks him
as a turncoat to his own
sex.
The poor piece meant only
good intentions
but now he is sacrificed for the sake of a
stalemate
and a chuckle
as both sides disdain him,
seeing compromise of any kind
as weakness
or subterfuge
or sabotage;
the much reviled
“Nice Guy”
being an emphatic
enemy sympathizer
in a war with
Man on one side
and Woman on the other,
playing the same game
since time immemorial,
never stopping and never
winning
because if one side wins
and the other side loses
then both sides lose
as the Red Queen stumbles
and finally falls.
It does not matter if they switch
sides
(or “genders”)
or seats during this
Chess match—
neither chair is an absolute
throne.
Woman’s pawns will betray
in hopes of becoming the next
Yas Queen,
and Man’s pawns will betray
in hopes of
pwning other pawns
and laying the
Queen
behind the King’s back,
and the naive White Knights
run afoul of the
militant thought police
on both sides because
there is no such thing as
friendly fire
among radical feminists
and men’s right activists
as they lob firebombs
in online forums and
article comments
and the social media sniping
that is the Mad Max tribal wasteland
of the internet;
everyone, including children,
can be victims of the
IEDs
known as
identity politics.
And sooner or later
an extinction comes
brought about by the
unblinking, unthinking
brinkmanship
as the two sides play a game
within a game,
dividing their own forces further
and so succumbing to the greatest strategy of
“The Powers That Be”
as they sit back and watch
Man and Woman
purge their chess pieces
in pursuit of ideological purity,
forever divided, and thus
easily conquered; meanwhile
the quintessential
“Nice Guy”
becomes a “nice” guy
only in the anachronistic sense,
“nice” meaning to
“not know”, to be
ignorant
as in he is ignorant of the
mire into which he unwittingly drives his
noble steed headlong
to save
no one whatsoever
from the clutches of human
complexity
and identity politics,
his sacrificial crusade nothing more than
an honorable mention in the
Darwin Awards
as both sides laugh
and I submerge back into my
acid bath.