Clootie Well, Clootie Tree

In the British Isles, there is an old tradition. When one is sick or injured (physically or spiritually), one goes to the clootie well with a strip of cloth. The cloth is dipped into the well and then used to bathe the area where the injury or illness presents. Afterwards, the cloth is tied to a tree (there can be several trees at each well) and left to fade and rot in the elements. When the color is completely gone, so will the illness be, or forgiveness will be given if the illness is spiritual. These poems were written in celebration of ancient traditions.

Clootie Tree I

The strips of home fluttering there
Tell a tale of brokenness and love
An arm here, blue and green calico,
A liver there, bleached cherry in the breeze.
Misused, the garment and its organ
Faded by the glaring sun
And weakened by the shafts of wind
Buffeting without end the night long vigil
Stripped and flung with the frost
Into time’s ruin.
Dipped and wrung, soothed and stroked
Till all is left is soothe and stroke
And rag of calico
Rotting under moon and shimmering
In the clootie tree beside the holy well.

Clootie Tree II

Take your pains and wash them clean
With torn scraps of life’s coverings.
Knot them there unto a brach and
Leave them in the sun and wind.
Let thorns grasp and hold them there
While both gentle breeze and storms do blow.
Colors fade, leached away to nothingness
As scrap wears into thread
As thread surrenders, twists
And straightens into gossamer
A web of memory and pain
Of desire and yawning need,
The roots and leaves of clootie tree.

Scotland, Bonny Scotland

My dear friend, Erin O’Quinn, is working on the last chapters of the latest in her Nevada Highlander series, Sleeping with Danger. It’s the fourth book in this exciting story showcasing two of her most intriguing characters, Alex Dominguez, a Nevadan by birth—but who says you have to stay where you were born, eh? He’s partnered with Rory Drummond, a Scottish Laird who is as tied to his land of birth as the thistle which grows there. At the request of the local constabulary there, they are searching for a missing man, and in their search, they find an unexpected depth to the Scotland Rory has delighted in showing to his lover. Their search and the pathos of the land of my own ancestors moved me to this poem. I hope you enjoy it. [“Bean Nighe” is Scots Gaelic for “washerwoman.” She is the Scots equivalent to the Irish Banshee.]

The skirl of the bagpipes
The haunting of the moor
Call forth from lowering sky
Bean Nighe, tilting up her washing tub
To pour her grief upon the world.
There is no world but Highland.
All else can matter not
The pipes alone can call this mourning
Of a clan, of a family, of a people.
Grief is the fruit of Scotland,
Gleaned from the corners of the song
The notes that sit but are not sung
Driven downward toward the earth
By the beat of kestrel wings
To meet the purple thistle-heads
Thrust up from blood drenched soil.


“You. Yes, yes, you, the one sitting there staring at me.” She spoke clearly, but her mouth — that lovely perfect fuchsia stained mouth — didn’t move at all.

“You don’t know the word ‘telepathy’? God, did I get stuck with a stupid one again?”

“No,” I protested. Indignation overcomes incredulity. And good sense, apparently. “No, you didn’t. I’m not stupid and you’re not stuck, or certainly not with me. What’s got your panties in a wad?”

I heard a small chuckle. “Grew a pair, did you? All right, let’s see what the old beeyotch with brass ones can do, shall we, duckie?”


“Well? Don’t just sit there. Produce something, for god’s sake.”

“Produce? What are you talking about? Why should I do anything for you? Who are you anyway?”

“Nobody told you? Shit, not again! I want them prepped before I arrive and this isn’t the first time it hasn’t been done right.”

I felt her sigh, troposphere to the Mariana.

“Maybe that means you’re being unreasonable.” The good sense hadn’t returned.

“Oh, breaking you is going to be so much fun, slut.”

I’d gotten to her, though she tried hard for indifferent. Before I congratulated myself too much, she spoke up — thought — again.

“I’m Nuala.”

“Yes, and …?”

“The Green Man take my soul, are you really that ignorant? And you think you can write? Nuala. Named for Fionnuala.”

I shook my head with each name.

“The daughter of Lir?”

Another head shake. I could see her stretch calm over herself, as if it were spandex for her passions and then with the exaggerated patience of a kindergarten teacher, she went on. “Is the concept of ‘muse’ familiar to you?”

“Oh shit. No. Not you.”

“Exactly what I said. But I’m being punished for some demigod’s bruised ego, so we’re both SOL, girlie. Now, get to work.”

“On what?”

“Who’s your deity?”

“Huh?” She might be crazier than I’d thought. That was from so far in left field it was like having a charging polo pony materialize and steal home plate.

“Deity. God. Who do you worship?”

“Nobody much. The universe.”

“You mean I can’t even cuss in a way you’ll take to heart? That’s it. After I’m done with you, the Dagda can suck his own dick, after he pulls it out of his ass where I’m going to stick it for him.”

“You wanted to know about deities in order to use profanity? Then any of them will do. I was raised christian, though.”

“Aaahhhh. Jesus Christ, you’re stupid. Work, damn you!”

“I repeat, on what? Isn’t it your job to inspire me?”

She howled. “NO!! It’s my job to goad you, to get inside your head and make sure you don’t have a moment’s peace until you finish whatever it is you’re working on.”

There was a noise, a rumble. Not loud, but definitely attention-getting. She closed her eyes. “All right, all right, yes, I will. … Yes, I do. … Very well.”

When she opened her eyes there was something there that hadn’t been before, an echo of a whisper of submission; it dissipated before I was truly sure it had been there.

I cocked an eyebrow at her smile.

“He made me a promise I want him to keep,” she said softly, “so, let’s get back to it.” She paused a second before spouting, “A sloe-eyed kid, just barely old enough, walks into a pawn shop holding a necklace that’s got a seashell pendant. A rare seashell, called a dragon’s tear. The guy behind the counter gulps and pulls an identical necklace from inside his shirt. Now what happens?”

“I don’t know. There’s not enough there. Who is the kid? Where did he get the necklace? I need more than you’ve given me.”

“I knew you couldn’t write! I’ve given you far more than enough. Remember that new video from Logan’s site you’ve been wanting to download? When this is done, if it’s up to standard, that video be free, for a few minutes. Does the thought of his tattooed arse working it with his bud Geoffrey inspire you in the least?”

I shivered and began:

The small shell looked fragile, clasped in its twisted silver housing, but the energy emanations made it almost hot in Doug’s palm and he knew that even if he could break it, he never would.

I had to find him. I don’t know why. It was a feeling, deep down. Just my luck, to have a quest that I had to carry out when I loathed the thought. But a job is a job, a quest is a quest, as the saying goes.

So I went through my pre-job checklist. Complete. I kept it that way. My department never knew when we’d have to leave, and leave quickly. They called me “Boy Scout” to my face. I don’t want to know what they called me behind my back.

Morning hadn’t burned off the fog yet, not completely, not in the forest. I knew what that meant. Even tougher to find him. I had a good idea where to start, though. He would head for the nearest open body of water of any size, in this case, the shores of Superior. Once I got there, I climbed out of the car and began to search. The fog under the trees was thicker here. Much thicker. Damn! I might have to do the Awful Thing to finish my task. And of course, I had to keep it secret.

Once I was surrounded by fog, I knew. The Awful Thing. I hated it. But it was the only way. Preparing myself physically meant getting my clothes off. Mentally was harder, but finally I could see it, that spot of light I had to walk through. This time, I would run. Anything to get through the Awful Thing and get home.

I closed my eyes, squeezing tight, until the light was big enough. Then I stood and took off running. With my eyes closed. But I had done it many times. There, as I reached the light, the Awful Thing happened. I opened my eyes and kept going.

The lake was just ahead, and I knew exactly where he would be—sitting on the edge of the highest point he could reach, daring himself to try again to fly. Why they let patients with that kind of delusion out of sight, I’ll never know. But there he was. I trotted up to him, took his wrist gently and pulled him away, urging him to stand. I got him back to the car, and focused on the Awful Thing going away. He would see—couldn’t help that—but they wouldn’t believe him anyway. Who’s going to believe an inhabitant of the psychiatric hospital when he says his orderly is a werewolf?

[Photo flash fiction prompt: 500 words or less, must use at least two pictures, from M/M Rainbow Rebels Group (FB)]

With apologies to Amaroq, my first werewolf. It’s not being the werewolf that’s “Awful.” It’s the transition because it’s very painful.


By your side I will stand
When waters rise and tempest screams
When cannons hurl their hatred amongst us
When contention scrapes the top coat of consanguinity from us
When those who make bold the assertions of their crippled hearts,
When they proclaim as truth the spewings of their pustulant mouths,
When they claw away our freedom, for bondage of one is bondage of all,
When their priests affix us to their altars, splayed for the knife
By your side I will stand.
Together, unified, stitched into one flesh, one blood, one “Us”, one “We,”
Together, each hurls a clenched fist to the sky
Together we sing, we refuse to be divided
Together rainbows and black fists
Together cross and crescent
Together om and pentagram
Together, humans, The People
By your side I will stand.

The Prince’s New Cloak

This was written as a bit of flash fiction, limited to 500 words. It has 505. 🙂 That’s why it has an abrupt end.

“Infinitesimal. How do they do it?” He turned this way and that, seeking confirmation in the mirrors that he was still the handsomest of them all. “This embroidery is impressive, the way each tiny thread lies down next to its neighbors and yet remains separate. These women must be amply rewarded, Morton. See to it, will you? Oh, I do mean amply rewarded. A year’s income or….” His brows knotted together while his gaze turned to iron as he caught the look on his manservant’s face. “What is that look on your face for, man? I’ve seen it before, when you were struggling to avoid calling my brother the absolute fool he was. Am I being a fool, eh, Morton?”
“Oh, Your Highness, I would never say such a thing to you. You are anything but a fool. Indeed, I have often said to Jacob down in the stables when preparing to go riding with you, ‘Don’t think that because His Highness is a prince that he’s dense or doesn’t grasp things well.’”
A small chunk of amusement settled in the dimples near the corners of his mouth. “Come, come, Morton. There is something. Just say it, man! I shan’t bite your head off.”
“‘Tisn’t your teeth which concern me. Your Highness is known for the sharpness of your sword, you know.”
“Hmmmm. I do spend quite a lot of time honing and oiling it. A shame I shan’t be allowed to use it in battle. I hear I am quite good. But then they have to say that to me, don’t they, Morton? ‘Tisn’t permitted to correct one’s liege.”
Despite his smile, Morton knew better than to take this too far. He could be somewhat familiar with the prince, thanks to long acquaintance, but only somewhat. “Not truly a correction, Your Highness, for I made the same … mis-speaking when first I saw this self-same cloak and knew it would suit you. It is not embroidery.”
“Don’t be foolish, Morton! I can see the threads! If it isn’t embroidered, what could it be?”
“They are scales, young sire.”
“Scales? Don’t be daft, man! Who ever heard of scales looking like this?” He shook the cloak in Morton’s face.
“Scales as a fish would have, or a snake.”
“This is no fish or snake, nor even many skins sewn together. Nothing could be this large.” He turned again, surveying his backside in the mirror.
“Nothing save an arach,” Morton whispered, dropping into the Old Tongue.
“An arach? You can’t be serious! Dragons are myths, Morton. You taught me that when I was only a lad.”
“So we thought then, young sire.”
“And what is so different about now?”
“Our border patrols have seen them. You’ve heard the reports.”
“Heard? Aye, but believed? Nay. Tales to keep disobedient children in bed.”
“Am I a child, then?”
The prince stumbled and only Morton’s quick reflexes saved him from being trampled by the restive horses stamping along behind them. “You? You have seen an arach?”
“Aye, Your Highness, aye.”


Counting up and counting down the staircase goes both ways
A conveyor belt it seems for to and fro are seamless
No barriers there to force us on to where the others wait
Just on and on as Dylan said, no rest for wearied feet,
No direction home, no way to go, no relief-spawned sigh
No slate gray roof to wave us in atop the trees.
Curling in—or out, perhaps—becoming tight and tighter
Wrapping in gray concrete and strips of birch
No place to stand and stop us here.
No place to twirl the wrapping warping off
No place to call him home.


This poem was written as a sort of call and response, from two very different points of view. The lines in plain text are from the point of view of an immigrant or those who side with the immigrants in the current troubles. The lines in bold italics are written from the point of view of, or referring to, or by the followers of the POTUS. Please click on the collage to enlarge it, in order to see detail.


A lonely crowd in straggling line
With blistered feet and all
They reach out to the bounds.
We must build a wall, he said,
A big and beautiful wall
To keep them out, the Not-Like-Us,
Ayudame por favor.
Aide moi s’il vous plait
Saeiduni min fadlik.
The iron face, peached with rust
Cratered with pustules of hate
Cloaked with lying just-his-way words
Help me please, the wounded beg
Help my children, the broken sob
Help my tribe, the shattered weep.
Fear-born the spells splatter from his lips,
Echoed by his acolytes
Chanted by his sycophants
Abandoned in haste, our ways cry out
Our rites and rituals left unspoken
Scout for our absent selves
Plucked, gemstones from seething sewer
Recited from disciples’ maws
So filth from filth descends
Destruction lies behind, Unknown loiters ahead
Condemned by obscure benchmark.
Is this our always fate?
Animals, proclaimed from desecrated shrine,
Not people, by bonafide human
So proper to despise
Help me please, the wounded beg
Help my children, the broken sob
Help my tribe, the shattered weep.
Turn back, the ventriloquist forces from our laws
Flung over the wall, the big and beautiful wall
The one built in our hearts.
“Give me your tired, your poor,”
The Lady cries, pleading for their lives
And they believed and we believed.
“Give me your children,” the tyrant commands,
“And my own land, to you I say,
“Give me my way or blood be on your hands.”