green willow(short story) part 4

and now…the conclusion of ‘Green Willow’.

The clearing was empty save for Green Willow and a
bunch of woodland creatures who came at Oueichi’s
request. Oueichi himself was perched on a boulder
next to a tree stump. Green Willow’s heart began to
beat wildly. She was dressed in her full ceremonial
garb. By instinct, she clutched her sacred necklace,
the one Winter Dove had given to her before she left
for the next world.

The wind carried voices. Tones and words that were
strange to her ears. The animals stood their ground
in the distance. Green Willow hid among thick bushes
and saw the pale skins. They wore metal and leather
and looked haggard. There were eight in number. By
appearance, they weren’t sinister as the stories went.
But they were still so different. Her heart fought
with her will to run, to flee for help. But she set
her jaw and raised her chin as she stepped out of the
brush upon seeing them approach. “Oi! Look here then!”
one of them said, his eyes as dark as coal, making his
wheat colored beard stand out. “A wee savage lass.”
He reached out to touch her face quickly, and Green
Willow bit at him. The white men laughed. “Savage
indeed!! If the spirit be as wild, let us hope her
flesh is too!!”, another yelled.

In an instant they all grabbed at her. Green Willow
fought as best as she could, even wounding a couple
of them with her flint knife. But she was subdued,
and when she struggled too much, the men decided to
chain her up. “She must be from inland. She’ll make
a nice gift for the cap’n! And it’s a good two day
hike to shore!!” the first one said with a laugh.
With those words, they began to set up camp. The
animals hovered at the edge of the clearing under
Oueichi’s watching eye, waiting for nightfall.

The fire crackled amidst the howl of a timberwolf
in the distance. The animals slowly made their way
into the campsite. All of the enemy soldiers were
fast asleep. Green Willow was not asleep, however.
Her hands and feet were bound with ropes, the chains
having been removed earlier. A timber beaver made
its way to her and chewed through the binding quickly.
In minutes she was totally free. As she stealthily
rose to a crouch, she saw that the invaders had all
drank themselves to sleep. One was far off, perhaps
to keep watch. Taking one of the feathers from her
necklace, she smeared some of her dried blood on its
tip and gave it to a rabbit. “run fast, little one,”
she breathed. The rabbit ran off in the direction of
the village.

“Come, we must hurry.” she said in a whisper to the
others. As they gathered around, Green Willow removed
a small pouch from her dress. Opening it, she removed
a handful of pieces of roots, greenish brown in color.
She laid some of it on the ground around her for the
animals to eat until there was one piece left. With a
slow pace, she began to chew it, grimacing at its
harsh taste. Everything in her life had been for this
moment. Tears ran down her face, but she was happy.
This, this must’ve been exactly how her mother went
to the Great Spirit,
she thought. Her skin began
to toughen up. Her heartbeat slowed to a near crawl.
The animals began to change as well. Soon, they took
the form of saplings and kept on growing. A soft rumble
could be heard throughout the air. Green Willow felt
her arms stiffen as she held them out at her sides.
In minutes, her flesh became bark and her insides had
become nearly solidified wood. She could feel herself
growing taller and she looked at the wasichus
below. The clearing where the camp was had shrunk so
much that there was only a small circle left where
they had slept.

When the men awakened, they found themselves in the
midst of a thicket of trees which weren’t there before.
They stared in bewilderment at a huge tree that stood
exactly where Green Willow had been tied up. In its
hollow, Oueichi the owl rested there, his solemn golden
eyes fixated on the men. Their hearts filled with an
overwhelming sense of fear. “Sorcery!!!” “Evil!!” they
yelled. In haste, they gathered up their belongings
and rushed headlong through the forest. But they lost
their bearings and soon found themselves face to face
with a pack of wolves that had been a mile outside of
their original camp looking for food. Only one of the
original party ever made it back to the coast, and was
so starved and crazed that he succumbed aboard his ship.
His last words were, ‘the forest grew around us..the stars
CHANGED.’ In this way, the village was saved..and so was
this tale.

green willow(short story) part 3

A few days later, Winter Dove died. As was custom,
the village stopped their lives to pay honor to hers.
A huge fire was lit at the edge of the river nearby
and Winter Dove’s body, wrapped in heavy blue and
brown blankets and adorned with her jewelry, was
laid atop the burning logs. In this way, Green Willow
became the medicine woman of the village now.

For a time, life was peaceful. Four seasons passed
with no worry to speak of. Green Willow carried on,
training Quiet Fox as an apprentice. But as the frost
disappeared from the grass and the leaves returned,
an ill wind settled upon the forest. Green Willow
could sense it, taste its bitterness even on the
mint leaves she was collection to make poultices.
“It’s a strange world. One can sense danger before
it comes and yet we rarely take care to avoid it.”
she said to herself, still kneeling in the grass
in a quiet clearing. Oueichi flew overhead in a
slow circle, and she watched him fly lower and lower
until he perched in front of her. “And where have
you been to, mischievous one?”, she asked with a
grin, looking at the feathers of her inseperable
friend. Whuhooo…he replied, dropping
what was caught in his beak. She stared at it in
wonder at first, afraid to pick up the shiny belt
buckle. After a minute, she did so, tucking it into
her bag. Running at breakneck speed, she reached
the village in time to see Proud Hawk and five
warriors. He turned and greeted Green Willow with
a look of amusement. “And what makes you fly faster
than the light young sage?”, he asked in a light
tone. “Father of the village, I fear a change is
coming.” she replied, holding out the belt buckle.
Proud Hawk took it and viewed it with a somber look.
The sky above began to darken ominously.

Later that night, Proud Hawk called a council of
elders to discuss what should be done. “What has
worried us most is almost here. The pale skins.”
he said quietly. “We should slaughter them all as
they did with the nations to the north!” Red Dog,
a fierce warrior yelled. “It may be best to leave.
Move in towards the mountains.” Brown Turtle said.
“This is our home. We should fight as long the
spirits give us our breath. We can meet them in
the clearing just beyond the river. Seed the field
with their bones.” Tall Oak, Proud Hawk’s lead
general said in a low rumble. The debate went on
and on until Green Willow said in a voice strong
and clear, “I will go meet them.” The tent fell
silent. “Medicine woman, you cannot joke at a time
like this!!” Red Dog said with a derisive laugh.
“Leave this talk to those who do not fear blood.”

“And who among you does not have this fear? Who
else but one who was born to heal? Loud words do
not win other words nor battles. And these pale
skins…if the tales are to be believed, are not
a normal enemy. I only ask to try.” Green Willow

“If you should perish-“, Brown Turtle began.

Green Willow stood up. Oueichi, who had not moved
at all during the council, spread his wings
mightily as he perched on the rafter. He swooped
down and landed on her outstretched arm. “It is my
duty to this village, to this tribe to do what
must be done to save it. My life is a blade of
grass; if the wind takes me away, then something
more beautiful will grow in its place. Such is the
way of this world.” Proud Hawk drew himself up
and took a puff of his pipe. After a minute, he
looked at Green Willow with pride and a touch of
sorrow. “What we have heard is the spirits’ own
wisdom. Green Willow, you may go forth. This
village owes you its life. It took one who heals,
again, to show us that everything changes and that
this is another life we must all lead. In your
place, Quiet Fox will be our medicine woman. May
she live up to your name. With this, Proud Hawk
stood up and bowed. The other elders and warriors
followed suit.

floating feather

these days
i’m prone to float
like loose feathers upon the breeze
my heart
swims within warm seas
of blackberry molasses
that course from chest to knees
and i do not question it
when thoughts of you make it sing
you had made your name
become lush music
using the tendons as guitar strings.

green willow(short story) part 2

Time walked forward through many seasons. Things were
very peaceful for the most part. Green Willow grew up
to be the fairest, if not one of the fairest women of
her tribe. Her skills as a medicine woman grew in
leaps and bounds under her grandmother’s tutleage.
Winter Dove was very proud. Green Willow had learned
her lessons well. She had even learned to communicate
fluently with the animals of the forest. This was seen
when a giant brown bear as tall as two men had attacked
the village. Green Willow rushed to the where the bear
was and clapped her hands once. The bear turned towards
her and as it did, she spoke to it in low grunts. The
bear sniffed, lowered its head and left quietly.

“She is a warrior and a healer. The Great Spirit has
chosen well.’ Proud Hawk said one night to Winter
Dove as they walked outside after a meeting of the
elders. “Yes, she will be special, and that may be
what we need most.”, she replied. Her heart was full
of joy, and some regret. She knew her moons would come
to an end soon. Winter Dove bade Proud Hawk farewell
and entered her tent, finding Green Willow sitting in
front of a simmering pot. In the rafters, Oueichi the
owl sat quietly, his blueish-tinted feathers casting
a soft glow as he slept. He was Green Willow’s loyal
companion since she was little. Some said he was a
warrior consigned to owl form serving penance for sins
committed against the great spirit. “Daughter, what
are you up to?” “Only preparing herbs for Red Elk.
She’s still bleeding after giving birth.” Green
Willow replied. A low hiss from the pot made steam

“Come. We must have words.” Winter Dove said as she
sat on her pallet and Green Wilow sat next to her.
She touched Green Willow’s face and smiled warmly.
“My child, you have grown in wisdom and beauty. My
time is almost at its end. I am proud to know that
this village, this tribe will prosper under your
great care. These are difficult times. Our people
are beset with disease. And war will soon be a way
of life here once again. And this time, we may not
win. It is up to you, Green Willow. You must have
heart. A medicine woman cannot heal without it. Your
mother knew this.”

“You’ve never told me much of her, grandmother. How
did she-“

“Your mother, Gentle Wind, one day had gone to the
glade beyond these woods, not far from the sea. She
saw a sight never seen before in these parts. Large
boats, far from the shore. And men with pale skin
wandering about. She began to make her way back
when she was spotted.” The light from the fire began
to soften. “She put up a struggle, even used her
long knife. But it was not enough in the end, they..
they…” “They what?!”, Green Willow asked, not
realizing her voice was raised. “Please, tell me.”
Winter Dove stared off into the distance. “They
killed her. But not before…using her. They wanted
to know where our village was. When she wouldn’t
talk, they tied her to a tree. Raped her. Then left
her, her belly slit open. how we found her.
Still alive, but only for a few minutes.” Tears ran
down her cheeks. Green Willow found herself frozen,
even as Oueichi flew down and settled on her shoulder.

Winter Dove sighed heavily. “Gentle Wind did say
something. But she led them to the southern woods
where the great spirit sent the hand of plague. The
pale skins either left for the next world or sailed
away.” She stopped to look at Green Willow.”Your
father never got over it. And he left this world
soon after because of grief.” Green Willow’s face
was full of anguish. “I..I never knew.” was all she
could say. “Dear child, remember that you are a
healer and a warrior.”, Winter Dove said, wiping her
tears away as well as those that began to run down
her granddaughter’s face. “I am sure that with this
knowledge, that you will do what is right. It is in
your blood.”

An Icon Passes. (for Dwayne McDuffie)

when i was younger, i was still enthralled by the world
of comic books and everything they held. that love was
nurtured in me by my sister Andrea and her collection
of Archie comics, and my own foray into the world of
G.I.Joeand soon, everything Jack Kirby did beginning
with Black Panther. i still do recall one day in particular
when everything that dealt with my love of comics changed.
and for the better. my neighborhood rests on the border
between New York City and Long Island. three blocks doesn’t
seem like a good enough distance to make a difference but
whenever we went into Elmont as kids, my friends and i noticed
it whenever kids there saw us. our main reasons for going
were to play ball mostly. i started going to the corner store
right on Dutch Broadway for video game magazines and comic
books. ’cause outside of that store,my only chance to get
comics was off of Jamaica Avenue in this one newsstand in
the 165th Street terminal. this one day in particular, i
remember just going into the corner store to check out the
latest releases. the place had begun to have an odor, one
that would get stronger and stronger as the years passed.
don’t ask me what it was. as i scanned all of the titles,
one caught my eye. ‘Blood Syndicate’. i saw nothing but brown
and black and yellow faces, more than i had ever seen before
on the cover of a comic. more than that, the art felt so crisp,
so BOLD. i wound up grabbing that issue, number 3. and a bag
of Ruffles and a Mistic. i walked home as fast as i could,
also carrying the first issue of ‘Icon’. once i got home and
started to read, i was floored. these comics were way
different than Marvel, DC or even Image comics, which i had
just begun following. i mean, ‘Blood Syndicate’ was DARK. a
street gangwith superpowers? bananas. ‘Icon’ was even more
compelling…an alien who comes to Earth, becomes part of a
slave family and then becomes a Booker T. Washington kind of
brother? C’MON FAM. that had me open. just the fact that
Milestone could come up with these storylines and make them
more compelling that what was going on with Superman hit me
in the heart in amajor way. soon, every time a new issue came
out i was grabbing them left and right.and it was good that
i did because if you didn’t pick them up fast enough,they were
GONE. Milestone Comics came into my life at a point where i
felt i needed it most. they helped bolster my imagination
that much more,and made me feel connected. the storylines,
artwork, characters…it all had flavor. now, i realize that
they also influenced a lot of my particular views on
storytelling, and helped me create my own voice as a writer.

it never ceases to amaze me how much one can learn standing
in front of comic book racks. but i’m grateful i did.

Mr. McDuffie, thank you for creating new worlds where i
truly belonged.

Rest in power.

green willow(a short story)part 1

i figured i’d treat you guys to a short story after
this bit of time away from the blog. i’ll be putting it
up in parts…before i begin though, i’d like to say a
few words on the inspiration for this story. the photo
you see is a painting from Alfie Ebojo, a highly talented
artist and activist out of Los Angeles, California. a
friend of mine put me on to her work 4 years ago and
it has been nothing short of wonderful. this piece is
called ‘she gives me peace’ and basically was striking
enough that i started writing, giving you the story
you are going to read now. if you want to view more
of her work, check her out on Facebook, Twitter as well
as here:

and now, the story..’green willow’.

She was afraid.

The drums began at the setting of the sun. The sound
grew and covered these woods around her and the village.
Green Willow felt her heart move in time with the beat
of the drums. The roaring fire in the center of the
village clearing rose into the night. The elders sat
in a group off to her right as dictated by custom. The
warriors sat to her left. She could hardly feel the
chill of the November air through her dress. Everyone
else wore their fur cloaks, which she was prohibited
from doing. The chief, Proud Hawk, held up his hand.
At once, the drumming stopped. He rose up slowly and
stepped into the inner ring a few feet from the fire.
‘Begin the ritual!!!’, he bellowed.

Green Willow’s grandmother, Winter Dove rose. She was
resplendent in a fox fur cloak accentuated by a
necklace of wolves’ teeth. Her gray mane of hair
streamed behind her in the wind as she walked with a
sure step. her mocassins stopped before where Green
Willow sat. ‘Come child, gather your courage. Arise.’
she said in a sonorous voice.

Green Willow stood and faced her grandmother. It was
all for her, the whole ceremony. She had known this
day was coming, and she was afraid but ready. Winter
Dove had made sure of that. She was the village’s
medicine woman, and on this night Green Willow was to
be recognized as one as well. Winter Dove clutched
a stone knife, sharpened heavily with a handle that
was shaped like the head of a hawk. She began to
chant slowly, and Green Willow obediently lowered
her head and took her hands out the folds of her
buckskin dress, stretching them out in front of her.
All of the eyes of the village watched as Winter
Dove’s chants grew louder and saw her hands make a
series of gestures over Green Willow’s head. The
crackling of the fire was the only other distinct
sound to be heard. Green Willow felt the sweat begin
to course down her neck. As afraid as she was, she
was more afraid of those fears that were internally
pleading with her to run. But her heart made its
voice resonate throughout her mind and bade her to
stay still.

Suddenly Winter Dove stopped chanting. “Look at
your path, child.”, she said tilting Green Willow’s
face upwards by the chin. Winter Dove had felt a
twinge of sadness mixed with pride as she gazed
upon her granddaughter. Green Willow’s face held a
shiny copper hue, her eyes as dark as night. Her
full lips were set in a tight line. Dark hair fell
past her shoulders, which shivered. With her free
hand, Winter Dove grapsed both of Green Willow’s
wrists and drew the knife swiftly across her palms.
It took all of her spirit for Green Willow not to
cry out in pain. The tears danced at the corners
of her eyes. A helper ran up with two clay bowls.
Dropping the knife, Winter Dove took one bowl and
let the blood drain into it for a minute. She set
that aside and took the other bowl and withdrew
a mixture of leaves and herbs and slapped it on
Green Willow’s wound. Instinctively, she clutched
the mixture tight as it burned hear skin. Winter
Dove then took the first bowl and tossed it into
the fire. The flames rose mightily upward, their
roar slicing through the tense silence.

“It is done. Let the fire and blood mark this day.
The spirits have found another healer!! Step forth,
Green Willow. You are now worthy to be a healer of
this village and this clan.” Winter Dove proclaimed
loudly, finally letting a smile play upon her face.
Green Willow had shut her eyes, but now she opened
them and let go of the poultice. Her hands still
tingled, but the wound was beginning to heal. The
village erupted in cheers and song as she walked
up. Proud Hawk stood beside Winter Dove as she
placed a necklace of bird feathers and wolves’
teeth around Green Willow’s neck, proclaiming her
to be an apprentice healer. Green Willow was twelve
years old.

awake in her beauty

you deserve
sunsets of desire
to match the shimmer mascara
that graces your eyes
let others who only see
lines of age upon your skin
live as fools
while i look to find
those reserves of sugar they hold
with my fingertips
you grow concerned
with thickness of the stomach
hips and thighs
but i seem them only as
lush beds of orchids, cinnamon and ochre
i wrap myself around as a prize
let others live as fools
and ignore the halcyon that is you
i can only be glad
i’ve been awake in your beauty
all this time.