Gregory E. Lucas writes fiction and poetry. His short stories have appeared in Blueline, The Horror Zine, Pif, Yellow Mama, and in other magazines. His poems have appeared in The Lyric, Blueline, Bewildering Stories, Ekphrastic Review, Literary Juice, and in other magazines.
THE MERMAID AND HER LOVER
(Inspired by The Mermaid, a decorative panel by Howard Pyle in the Delaware Art Museum – 1910.)
Entranced by the mermaid’s mesmeric song,
he slides from the rock into her naked charms.
Relinquishing resistance, lured, he longs
for her embrace and falls into her arms.
His red cap meshes with her shadowed braids
entwined with dripping pearls and crimson beads.
They sweep her arched, bare back, flutter on waves
frothing near her finned legs in a coarse sea.
Aligned with their embrace, intent to observe,
full and golden in the starless night,
the moon peeks over the restless horizon’s curve
and tinges the world an otherworldly white.
The ocean rolls and stirs, anticipates
the preternatural passion soon to occur.
From the grip of her potent spell no one escapes;
swooning, he enters the turbulent sea with her.
Between the vacated rocks and battered cliff
a mackerel twists and leaps from the ebbing tide,
and someplace far away, so far, as if
to seem unreal, sing mermaids at the seaside.
INSIDE PIETER BRUEGHEL’S WINTER LANDSCAPE
(Inspired by Pieter Brueghel’s painting Hunters in the Snow – 1565.)
What luck! The years go by with endless fun.
Since 1565 I’ve stayed a boy
skating with friends on a bustling Flemish pond,
not a care in the world, all concerns delayed.
In the meantime, three men gripping poles,
dark-clothed hunters trailed by a dozen dogs,
remain on a hill far above the town.
They trudge, necks bent, shoulders hunched, spirits crushed,
toward simple comforts that they’ll fail to reach,
each weary step printed in deep snow.
Hoods conceal their troubled faces. Bad luck:
one rabbit is all they’ve killed this frigid day.
Hunger and disappointment plague their paths;
needs unsatisfied will mar their years.
One, as if he could outrun his fate,
descends the hill ahead of his two pals,
but he’ll keep his place within the landscape’s frame,
between two barren trees, on a steep bank.
It’s only me who gets to move around.
Unlike the rest in this frozen scene -- I’m free.
I can glide across the ice; do twists and turns.
While raucous crows hang motionless in clouds
or perch on branches that will never sway,
and as peasants tend to a bonfire’s flares
in front of an alehouse with a dangling sign,
I spin -- my scarf waving in sea-green air.
I’m easily lost among such a lively throng:
I zip beneath joined hands of skaters dancing,
coast past a fallen man, who’s lost his hat,
steer between stone arches of a bridge
that a woman crosses with her firewood,
her back eternally burdened with the bundle.
I steal the ball a man hits with a stick,
but drop it by his feet soon afterwards.
(I snatch to amuse, not to be a thief.)
I circle an old woman, who pulls a sled,
then dash into a crowd of cheerful children
before I come to rest, partly hidden by them.
Some folks of course will doubt that I’m for real,
but consider the artist’s placement of the Alps;
those mountains looming large in the background
resemble nothing viewed from Flanders;
nothing like that lies in the Netherlands.
Yet, their jagged, frosty, peaks preside
over the dusky winter scenery.
And if mountains move, then can’t a painted child?
Scrutinize the pond. Squint. Yep -- that’s me!
PROOF IN STONE
(Inspired by a 14th century tomb in Chichester Cathedral -- Sussex, England.)
There’s proof in stone of everlasting love.
One autumn day, a dozen years ago,
in Arundel, an ancient Roman town,
while we held hands by that medieval tomb,
just like those sculpted lovers always do,
you scoffed at me when I said that love outlasts
our flesh and bones and even all the earth.
You said that art is not reality:
“These effigies conceal a shameful truth.
This countess and this earl lived apart.
Their union -- nothing more than a contract,
a business deal between the titled rich.”
Sunlight seeped through the cathedral windows,
pitching shimmering shadows of ourselves
onto the woman’s robe, the man’s armor,
and dappled the dogs cuddled at their feet.
We had the western corner to ourselves,
as we have now this cemetery’s nook.
We quarreled over assumptions that you made:
“Doesn’t such tenderness as these two show
belie a blemished trend of history?
Their personal history remains unknown.”
Love abides in currents exceeding time.
Think of us. Here I am, standing at your grave.
Sunshine escapes the web of trees above
your headstone to brighten just one word: love.
Forever shall I rest -- forever love.
This phrase you chose to be inscribed as death neared
atones for doubts you spoke of long ago
while we stood beside that chiseled monument.
Though dates and other words have begun to fade
as have the names on that Arundel tomb,
love stays bold, unmarred by wind or rain.
and it will endure in hearts, if not in stones.