Cristina of the Carpathians

Van Helsing made a hair comb out of vampire teeth
And gave it to his lover, Cristina of far-eastern Hungary
To comb her long raven hair with blades of danger.

He fashioned crosses out of bloodied stakes
And presented them to the Vatican
With the flourish of Queen Isabel’s conquistadors.

Cristina had loved a young man from her village
Who joined the priesthood and at night she watched him pray
through the small parish windows lit against the dark.

Darkness always falls in the valleys first,
The mountains’ up-stretched hands
The supplicated the last of the day’s light.

Her priest watched Van Helsing from afar--
Out of envy, admiration, lust, we don’t know--
“Bless you, child,” said the Vatican.

Every night Van Helsing went a’hunting
A little bit of magic died in the world
And so too our own wild natures.

Cristina watched the backs of both men
Retreating further from her against the twilight
And she knew the beasts of both men
Were trying to tame
Were only inside themselves.   

Raven Time

My beloved clock, no matter
How many times I set you
You’re always 15 minutes fast
Or an hour-and-a-half slow.

I never know
What time you’ll be
Whenever I look at your smiling face.

Why do I keep you, anyway?
#1: You’re beautiful.
I bought you on State Street
In Madison, a city I love
A place in history, my own,
That shines.

Your face is tattooed with a noble raven
With a painted crown
Like King Arthur himself,
Or maybe Brân the Blessed of Wales,
Heart-shaped tulips and
Red cherries and you make me smile back.

#2: Your soft, gentle ticking helps me fall asleep.
No, you’re not inexorably marching forward, reminding me
Of how little time I have left before death.
You slow time for me.
You remind me in this break-necked age
A second is still a second.
The length of a minute has not changed.
My heartbeat slows to your raven-time,
And my anxious mind bucks its heel-spurs.

#3: Because you’re imperfect.
You march to the beat of some mystical drummer;
You keep your own time and still you never fail,
My wabi-sabi clock. You’re on
Raven time. You remind me
To be brave about being myself.

What Happens to a Promise

What happens to a promise when it doesn’t matter anymore?
I've made promises and I remember them
But just when I've forgotten or told myself they don't matter anymore,
The universe phones me on the cosmic call
But who do they matter to now?
What happens when the heart makes new promises
Behind one's back?
New promises to something else
And new promises to oneself?
Langston asked what happens to a dream deferred
But what happens to a promise suspended in the air
Spinning slowly in an empty landscape
Of obscurity
Remembered and forgotten everyday
To be picked out by vultures and put back together--until, if--
Unsure it will ever be summoned again.

Blue Horizons

Winter is amenable to poetry
Early spring in Wisconsin, not so much.
27 degrees, no more excuse to brood
Or hibernate--the rest of the world's moved on
Spreading wings, blooming, nesting, planting,
I'm still nestled
In a rustling grey winter coat
That dulls the senses
Like this recalcitrant place, I should stir,
Cast off, wake up, change, transform.
Have some sort of ripe revolution
That overthrows every worn-out element.

But blues--the color, not the mood, that is--
The presence of blues is constant
Or so I think,
As I gaze at the horizon where a great lake meets the great sky
And ignore the interruptions
Of phone notifications and phone calls
And I think:
We are never the same twice
Despite repetitions
Despite encores

And what makes me reflect on this
Is friendship--
Specifically, I have a friend
In southern, warmer latitudes,
Who sends me a photo each night
Of the twilight
And in so doing
Reminds me to be present
And notice the sky,
Reflecting on how the sunset is never the same twice
In spite of its nightly show
And neither are you, nor I
In spite of a continuous procession
Of days
That bleed and melt
Into seasons and years--
The culmination
Of so many blues.



MARGARET KING is a Wisconsin writer who enjoys penning poetry, short stories, and young adult novels. In her spare time, she likes to haunt the shores of Lake Michigan, similar to many of her fictional characters. Her recent work has appeared in Scintilla Press, Unlost Journal, Moonchild Magazine, Verdancies, Poetry Superhighway, and The Ginger Collect. She is also the author of the novella Fire Under Water.