A story about solitude, strength, and a sheepdog

Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash

Unraveling over the past year, caught between dread and joy in a world careening, I decide to choose my own isolation and give the mountains a try.

I wake up in a studio apartment above a white garage. Ambling farmland stretches endlessly in one direction and in the other the late September red-gold mountains are shrouded in mist. Wrapped in a thick blanket I make coffee and light the gas stove for eggs, tick tick tick whoosh. …

Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Nighttime is a kaleidoscope,
catching and throwing flashes of movement,
of smiles over coins changing hands, of iridescent lilac-gold.
The heat is a live thing emboldened by the hour and spiced air
presses heavy against skin and hair and clothes.

The market tears apart the night in radiance.
Silk scarves swirl in a whirlpool of color,
eddying green and gold and violet,
orange and sapphire.
Flowering soap with unfolding petals,
red glossy chilies blazing under multi-colored tents,
steaming food and gleaming curves of gold earrings and bangles.

While the world sleeps the night market breathes out energy and chaos.
In a…

I had fallen into a deep sleep the night I met her.

She sat at a high-top table, swinging her legs while staring at a laptop screen. I moved forward hesitantly and she looked up and smiled.

I had never seen her before, but a rushing sense of familiarity overtook me. I knew that smile. It felt like home.

“What are you working on?” I asked, approaching the table.

Her eyes held mine for a moment. Blue, flecked with amber, like a sea on fire.

“I’m uploading a sketch I made for a client.” She tilted her head and studied…

Free Verse

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

The night is alive.
Tree branches rattle like bone necklaces and fingers of soft light
pull back, retreating from midnight’s unchained confidence.
Cover of darkness washes away daytime terrors,
eclipses the tedious hours before it,
tears apart the script of day.

Night is a renegade freed from day’s fatigue
and clamor.
Strange dreams prowl the dark
alongside hearts laying bare tender truths.
Warm fingers threaded together in the dark are larger
than the oceanic expanse of stars in a shattered black sky.

Solace is found in muted voices, dark ceilings, sweet confessions.

The night makes soul-baring rebels of us,
fighting off…

Image by Ra De Luca from Pixabay

under the scintillating night sky
a river of gleaming silver cuts
through ancient

Red-layered rock sweeps up
on either side, throwing
deep shadow
​ ​ ​​​ ​​ ​ ​down
​ ​ ​​​ ​​ ​ ​​​ ​​ ​ ​​​ ​​ ​ ​down
where mirrored water reflects
a universe strewn with scattered stars,
Andromeda exploding
in spiraling purple
and blue —
billions of tiny lights
in the water and
in the sky.

Clouds billow like cotton candy pulled apart,
like will-o’-the-wisp streaking
in blood orange and crimson
across the night,
and somewhere along the edge
strangers gather as mist
and early…

Reentering love in multitudes

Photo by Joyful on Unsplash

When I first found myself in the same room as him it was January of 2020 and we were at a mutual friend’s wedding. My world was unfolding again after a breakup, all big and bright and beautiful after freeing myself from the squeezing hurt of being treated badly in love. I remember how the cold winter air dragged into my lungs as I walked with friends downtown to the venue. …

Photo by Pema Lama on Unsplash

It’s exhaustingly hot in Denver and the wind sweeping through Red Rocks feels gorgeous. We’re sitting between the giant sandstone walls of the concert venue as the sun is setting, watching the stage down below. City lights glitter in the distance.

The opening act, singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs, is pure brilliance. It’s like watching rebellion incarnate. Running across the stage while letting her voice soar, telling us that Red Rocks was a bucket list venue and crying a little, she’s just entirely free. Taking up space.

This essay will appear in the forthcoming issue of Witches Mag: Time, to be published this summer.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

“I want to die young,” she says, her words quick and dancing like the Spanish she speaks. Her dark eyes glitter mischievously even through my laptop screen.

“How young?” I’m meant to be helping her with English grammar but taking a sharp turn from the lesson plan into winding conversations like this isn’t uncommon for us.

“Oh like, seventy-five, maybe eighty, tops.”

“That’s only twenty more years, right? Stop.”

“I’ve lived enough by then. I don’t want to lose freedom from my body growing old, things like that.”

Feeling useless and isolated during the pandemic, I applied to be an…

Photo by Florian van Duyn on Unsplash

The train whistle is a low and lonely sound, but the mournfulness of it doesn’t seize my heart like it normally would. Curled up by the large window with a book and the taste of coffee on my tongue, lazily alternating between reading and watching the world flash by, I feel dreamy and soft. We’ve been moving through the endless forests of upstate New York for what could be minutes or hours. Sometimes when the gray clouds part, sunlight spills through the trees and into the train and warms my skin.

I feel his presence next to me, steady and…

Mel Rie

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