Fit For An Empress

Draft 2

1963

Sam knew where to find impeccable fit and style that could rocket a man to another galaxy. A dangerous level. Ten seconds inside Wen Fong Tailors and a flash of patterned silk caught his eye. He pointed to it.

The elderly tailor smiled. “Ah- a beautiful cloth. “But- not for you, sir.” Wen knew this customer was conservative. The gold cloth was far too dashing for such a man of the street. The choice piqued his interest.

“No.” Sam lowered his head. “A gift. I was thinking for my wife. She often sews clothes for herself or our daughter.”

The tailor nodded. He turned, shuffled to the cutting table and unrolled the bolt to expose the silken cloth. His twisted fingers slid across the surface of the buttery silk. Once stroked, the silken images seemed to come alive. First a serpent head sprung from the cloth, its neck swiveled left then right. Watchful eyes darted and blinked beneath iridescent lids. A tiger padded paw pushed air, as if chancing flight. Suddenly, it was as if writhing dragons twisted for position.

“Beautiful choice for an Empress,” Wen whispered. “Choose a bolt for your jacket, sir.” He bowed. “ I will cut this cloth for your wife.”

“I’ll pay for it,” Sam said. For goodness sake, he wasn’t a man for charity. Not yet. Sam reached for his wallet. His head banged; he needed a pill. What the hell was going on in here?

Wen raised one palm, “Stop.” He beamed, “ No cost, Mr. Sam.”

Clarity returned.  Sam lifted one hand, pressed it to his forehead, focused on his breaths. When he looked at the cloth, the dragons had settled to their one-dimensional state.

The tailor interrupted, “Tired, Mr. Sam?’

Sam nodded. He felt dead in a disgraceful life.

Two fingers tapped his temple. “Control your thoughts,” Wen remarked.

Wen measured the length of Sam’s sleeve, hummed and muttered, as he eyed his customer. The tailor recorded numerals to mark the sweet-spot where cloth meets wrist bone. His bent fingers gripped a pencil that scribbled notations into a leather bound notebook.

Several rolls of butcher’s paper covered the surface of the work table. As the tailor sketched a jacket form to paper, he spoke of the dragon’s potent power.

“Dragon has control over water, rainfall, typhoons.”

Wen paused to study his customer. He traveled Sam from head to toe as a surveyor maps land segments. Satisfied, he lifted the pencil from between his lips and placed a new marking alongside the paper sketch.

“Dragon, powerful creäture, a shape shifter like man.” He looked into Sam’s eyes and smiled.

Sam saw watery, deep pools of blue-green reflected back. It felt as if he was drowning in this man’s soul, bewitched yet unafraid. The dream like images clicked through a projector of moments. First, he dove into water, punched awake by the icy sting. Diving deeper, he came to rest upon the sandy bottom of a riverbed. His hands effortlessly lifted, dropped and rolled boulders. Some he carried.

Water flowed through Sam; he wasn’t drowning. Rather, this reverie shocked him back to life. All of these impossible feats felt possible while in the presence of this transcendent man. Troubles drifted; he was Atlas. Nothing could cut him down. Upon his shoulders he carried the weight of the world, the Sun and Moon, his wife and daughter, their puny life on Twelfth Street.

Wen coughed. Fingertips lifted the tape measure from the table. With precision, his eyes locked on Sam. Satisfied, he stepped behind his customer, measured from the base of his neck to mid bottom. “Drop must be exact, more British,” he mumbled.

Pleased, Wen draped the tape measure about his neck, stepped back and once again, his rheumy eyes peered at Sam, as if he was attempting to solve  a mathematical equation of parts to form a whole. Finally he spoke; his voice, always a whisper.

“Nine attributes, Mr. Sam. Nine heavens. Nine is your lucky number.”

The tailor looked into Sam’s eyes as if searching for more proof. “Excellent, outstanding people are dragons.” He pointed a bent finger. “You, Mr. Sam are a dragon.”

Sam felt the burn rise up his neck; a fevered flush spread across his cheeks. He wondered, Am I an outstanding man?

Doubt sneered. The push and pull of vice. The gambling house, the drink, pretty women and the sniff of cash, these images dropped before his eyes like a scattered deck of cards.

Yet, this wise man thinks I’m worthy.

Sam straightened. When he spoke, the words strolled out. “I will honour the dragon.”

The tailor flashed his knowing smile and bowed his grizzled head. “Let me share the dragon’s story.” In a voice that rose barely above a whisper he began.

“Ancient Chinese, descendants of the dragon.”

Wen shuffled back and forth between Sam and the cutting table, jotting measurements to paper. “Dates back thousands and thousands of years.” He lifted the dangling tape measure from his neck, re-measured from Sam’s shoulder to wrist. “Emperors wore robes with dragon motif, imperial symbol of nobility.”

Satisfied, the tailor stopped and faced his customer. “ I make us tea, Mr. Sam.” He disappeared into a room off the back of the shop.

 

Sam heard a faint rustle from a distant corner. He turned toward the sound. An ornate brass birdcage stood to the right of the front window. The cage was open on all sides. Light streamed through the bars, creating parallel lines across the plank floor. Inside the cage, perched a Diamond Dove. It began to coo.

Sam closed his eyes. The rhythmic sound lulled him to imagine. The dove’s white feathers, wings outspread became an angel in flight. He felt as if lifted by steady wings. Higher and higher they flew until-

“Excuse me kind sir.” The tailor spoke; the dream interrupted, vanished.

“Our tea.”

He set a tray upon the cutting table. Steam rose from the spout of a cast iron pot. Two porcelain cups sat empty, waiting. Wen poured the tea and bowed. “Enjoy.” He waited as Sam sipped the hot liquid. A drawn out sound much like a keening sob hung over the cage.

“A moment,” he said. “My dear Empress is calling me.”

It sounded as if every heart in the world had broken.

With these words, Wen shuffled toward the cage, opened the latched door and gently stroked the back of the dove. He murmured words that Sam could not interpret. Finally, he reached into the pocket of his woolen sweater and pulled out a crumpled paper bag. Carefully he dumped the contents into a tiny ceramic bowl, an offering for his Empress.

“Ground up soup noodles,” he chuckled. “Her favourite.”

The tailor shuffled back to the table and placed the rumpled paper bag on the cutting board. He lifted his cup, closed his eyes and took a sip of tea. Satisfied, he reached for his cutting shears.

“Now I cut the cloth for your wife.” He bowed and leaned over the cutting table.

“You have a son, Mr. Sam?”

“A daughter,” Sam said. “My wife is expecting our second child within the month.”

The burn returned to his cheeks. He hoped for a boy. Didn’t every man want a son to carry on his legacy? Annie is a girl.

Wen sighed; his scissors sliced cloth. “Hoping one’s son will become a dragon?” He stepped back and looked at Sam, waited for a reply.

Sam straightened under the tailor’s steely gaze.”Yes,” he said.

“Very well.”

Wen’s fingers appeared to dance across the silk, nimble tucks and turns folded the cloth into a tidy rectangular form.  He pointed to one silk screened dragon, now still as a statue. “Four claws. Worn by princes and nobles. Perfect symbol for your Empress’s child.”

The tailor pointed to the bolts of cloth that lined the walls of his shop.

“Now determine your choice of cloth. I will work my magic, transform you.”

 

 

 

 

Fathers and Daughters

 

I’ll cradle you in my arms like a small child sleeping

Holding fast to your lost flesh

Your once muscular body, feather- weight, gone

Your heart beat, silent

As I carry your ashes home

Where is home?

An island, Vancouver, Toronto, Australia?

It is anywhere we were, anywhere we are.

 

It is time to set you free

To know with certainty, you’ll return

In a child’s gentle touch or a stranger’s crooked smile

In a fairy tale mention of an ever- after land

In a scotch and water moment.

 

I am resolute; I’ll find the perfect spot

To lay you down to rest

A place where first light surprises darkness

On the razor edge of time

When Moon kissed Sun.

 

A sturdy tree your marker, a shelter from the wind

Yes, I remember. You sailed through storms.

A tree trunk to support me

As I collapse into the folds

The strength I seek, not found

I loved this man who died.

 

My charm, a ruthless hunter

I wish you back to life

My arms an anchor hitch to hold your heart

I beg you, “Say it.”

Speak the words you kept from me

In turn I’ll share a moment

Of a time you slept unaware

I whispered in your ear,”You are a good man.”

I kissed your forehead

Walked into our good-bye.

 

You say, “Hush.”

Rain mixes with our tears; I bow my head and crumble

And tell you, the years have been long

That I miss us; I’m sorry and know that you are, too

I speak love over and over

Love. Love. Love.

Until we believe it

Until you show it

 

You’re not here.

 

My fingers claw the earth

To find each broken bit that was once you

I’ll assemble you from pieces, return you to the day

Hold on closer than before

I ask you, wait for me.

 

Time has made me wiser

Aware of all I’ve lost

So I’ll tuck you in a pocket

Make you of myself.

 

And when it’s hard to sleep

I’ll offer you back to the night

Toss you to the sky

Sing a lullaby to the stars: this man with the gentle soul,

bless his broken heart.

 

My words form our story

Tender lyrics soothe your soul

A song of mercy

Sung from the book of grace

And I won’t forget to finish that which you could not:

to remember to hold each other up.

 

You must leave

I hear the rustle of wings, marvel at your strength

You glance back, see me wave

Soar heavenward.

 

The eyes of the deer watch me

I close my eyes to pray

Lift my palms skyward and whisper,

“This is the holding of a father and his daughter.”

 

It is time to leave you

See. I am walking away with all of my strength

I am almost there.

 

I am singing. If you listen you will hear me.

x

 

~ Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Moment

Their moments were fleeting; at times, raw. This, was that moment.

“Annie?”

She giggled. A child’s head popped up from beneath the table. His daughter, a sprite of girl straightened and met his stare. A paper doll dangled from her fingertips. The style of  doll was familiar; he knew Jacqueline had sketched it, had painted in the model like features and cut it to form.

“I didn’t see you,” he laughed. “How long have you been here?”

Annie shrugged.

She was his light beam; her smile tamed darkness.

In that moment she charmed him. Feet planted, Annie straightened and dared: stay. Her ruffled blonde hair, wide bangs cut short, and one off- centered, green eye, opened wide; he had noticed her tricks.

Instantly, Annie lowered her head and the spell was broken.

He crouched beside her. Gently, his fingertips smoothed the tussled strands of her hair into place. He cupped her dimpled chin and waited for her to look up. When she did, he traced the freckled path along her cheekbone. Surgical tape stuck to the skin above her left eyebrow. One edge of the tape had lifted. Carefully, his fingertip pressed the errant corner into place. He knew she hated the eye patch, always picked at the edges to get free of the gauze covering.

He lingered in that moment. She was his black cat bone, his good luck charm.

 

 

Poetic Prose

“His Plymouth navigated home on the blade edge of moonlight, that fine line before the razor-sharp steel slices through darkness, revealing the thin leaf of dawn.”

Grace Writes

The corners of the Diamond Club were lit up by the glow of cigar embers. He saw the familiar high rollers mingling in the shadows, highballs sloshing in cut glass. Sexy women wearing rich silks and party attire slipped through the hazy layers of smoke or clung to the arm of a wealthy, married man. Everyone was high on vice.

 

All Knowing

It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to “free” write much of anything worthy of eyes and time. So, here goes a draft of something that has little relation to anything, other than a fledgling writer’s recommitment to practice her craft~

Perched upon a twisted branch, nestled deep within the tree top’s canopy, a raven hid. Beneath its view, a woman lay sprawled upon the mossy floor. Tousled locks, the colour of spun gold, fanned over the green that bedded her body. She was covered in tapestry, its richness deeper and bluer than the ocean that smashed beneath the hillside cliffs at the forest’s edge.

It was the glint of diamond pinned at her neckline that caught the Raven’s eye.

A woman’s body, once an empty vessel, was filling. Was she drowning? One hand slid over her heart. The steady rhythm, a comfort. She stirred, grateful to be alive.

What all knowing presence had snuck beneath her skin? Its comforting warmth now surging through her veins; its wisdom trickling down in whispers, “seek and you shall  find.”

Full lips parted and she drank the words as quenching to her hollow as a downpour over parched earth. As a seed unfurls, she felt herself transforming back to life.

Once again, the voice spoke. This time the words were audible, “You are not alone.”

A flash of black broke through the verdant canopy. Eyes wide, she knew the answer to her question.

This ephiephemy hadn’t come about in easy fashion. Rather, it had been a journey of twists and turns, thorns and roses, darkness and light. Steeped in the brew were moments of glimmering truths.

Beauty is found within shambles. A gritty truth she understood. Glances back through time, a particular poem cut from a Daily, a chipped, floral tea cup, a photograph and an untold story. All small, cracked and torn moments forged to memory.

She stood, a forearm shielding her forehead and faced the dark fury. A lone voice commanded, “Be not afraid.”

She straightened. The others had circled, an army of silent souls. Sentries, they stood guard.  Step for step, they had matched her pace along this journey, only pausing when she had collapsed, to rest her cheek upon the carpeted forest floor.

A Modern Day Fairytale

Fury and force heaved and shattered all that dared defy their presence. With exhaled breath, they battered the stalwart evergreens. Tree- tops spun. Boughs snapped and fell.

I knew it was a matter of time.

In the distance, a low rumble shot like a freight train through the land. The faint thundering of hooves grew louder. Beside me, a squirrel scurried for shelter. Overhead, a raven screamed a spell.

A veil hung, ominous and sheer, separating earth from the heavens. Deafening silence overtook the land. The faintest sound was the pumping of my heart. Even still, I was not afraid.

Leaves spun, suspended in air. Shades of red through orange, shapes of maple and oak teased my outstretched hand. Pinecones scattered and rolled across the mossy carpet beneath my feet.

From a clearing he appeared, lit beneath the hunter’s moon. I watched ringed fingers grip and tug the reins. The stallion reared, muscles taut, its coat damp and shiny, head twitching side to side.

On the charge’s back sat the royal one. A body clothed in leather, eyes the sparks of flint, a rugged face devoid of emotion.

It was then I glimpsed his truth. I saw one hand lift, watched as his fingers stroked the mane. The steed lowered its head and stood like stone.

The Storm King lifted from the saddle. Dark, dangerous, beautiful and mysterious he kneeled before me and bowed.