amy chang, beltaine, beltaine literary issue, beltaine poetry, daisy cains, eve francis, fiction, jean kari, lgbt, lgbt fiction, lgbt literature, lgbt poetry, lgbt romance, literary, literature, lore lippincott, lucy mckee, queer, queer fiction, queer romance, Sandy Hiortdahl
~ in the early dawn, a mallard swims peacefully across the pond while his mate sleeps at the shore ~
we’d like to thank our lovely contributors for sharing their words and voice with us. The full issue is available below as well as under the drop-down ‘Literary Issues’ menu at the top of the page, as well as by clicking on the ‘Literary Issues‘ link. We’d also like to remind our readers and contributors that we’re now currently accepting submissions for our Lughnasadh issue — fantasy stories with a queer twist
The Leaves are Fading, by Lucy McKee
Beltane to me is a time of new beginnings. With the Earth returning to green and flowers beginning to bloom, I naturally associate the season with that of budding romances. In this short story, I’ve tried to show that love can withstand long and sometimes hopeless winters, only to rebound with hope when spring comes around.
Scott is alone on the stage, his heart pounding. The spotlights emit an intense heat that sends a droplet of sweat down his back where it absorbs in the fabric of his black leotard. The floor is dusty with talc; the only sound that of his slippers brushing across the hardwood. As he executes three perfect pirouettes, he is the star of the show. He is Giselle’s duke, Clara’s nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty’s prince.
He stops suddenly, in the centre of the spotlight. As it casts a warm glow onto his face and he raises his arms to the false theatre sun. He arches his back, face to the ceiling, and admires the pale silver of his skin in the bright lighting.
Despite the protest of the half-torn ligament in his foot, he leaps across the stage, his landing a soft whisper in the empty theatre. He lowers his arms and bows deeply. When he looks up, there is no applause. The red upholstered seats are empty, the stage lights stationary, the costume merely a warm-up.
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May Song, by Sandy Hiortdahl
I’m one of those professors in faded jeans who wanders around campus speaking Shakespeare and longing for the winter to end in warmth and joy. May starts the season of freedom and is accompanied by all manner of spirits and high hopes; the frenetic campus energy of stress becomes palpable, sexual, artistic. This poem celebrates a moment in time where the academic becomes the highly pagan, where the ’emptying out’ of one aspect leaves open a May Day influx of passion and fun. The trickster from all traditions comes alive in the stairwell, seducing passers-by with the music of dreams. I hoped to locate it on a campus while inviting the otherworldly, with the ‘notes circling the pole of air’ representing the May pole.
Late Friday on the last day of classes,
the campus empties in concentric circles,
of sycamores, monolithic dorms, one way streets.
“Come on!” he calls, flute in hand, and vanishes
through the heavy door of Gilbreath Hall, now vacant.
(… read more)
Love Is A Goblet of Faerie Wine, by Amy Chang
‘Love Is A Goblet of Faerie Wine’ is a love story set in the spring, threaded with the imagery of seasons turning, fire and water, death and desire, true dreams, and the Faerie Queen. A modern-day fable about love between women with the air of ancient myth, it emulates the tone from Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’.
You ask me do I still love her? Yes. I have fallen in love with many women. Am still in love with some of them, and have forgotten how I ever came to love certain others. I will never stop loving Titania. Nor will I ever forget the spring we fell in love. That spring, I took the train to New Orleans to meet another woman, and she gave me a library that fit into the palm of my hand for the ride. If we had fallen in love already, living together in that blue house covered with blackberry brambles, with two dying trees in the backyard shading the chicken coop, with rickety steps that the chickens had picked all the grubs out of which I always worried about tripping and falling and dropping her baby as I walked down to feed the chickens or fetch the washing, I had no inkling of it.
We had known each other for nearly a year by then, so you can’t call it love at first sight. I could say that the goddess intervened, but I was thinking of my wife when I made that prayer. Well, if you pray to fallen angels, you must be prepared for them to answer your prayers sideways, betimes, or not at all.
I had no idea I would fall in love, for I was already in love, and had been for nearly five years and several lifetimes. Besides, we were both married.
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Stewards, Devas, Gods, and Queens, by Jean Kari
Even before I embraced paganism, I knew Beltane through my favorite painting, Henri Matisse’s ‘The Dance’. The painting and the sabbat it represents capture the truth of pure being and the sometimes frenetic and sometimes graceful and always somehow wild and playful energy of the day. The bisexuality or pansexuality of my primary characters, Danielle and Elare, reflects this energy as they find their way to each other.
Intellectually, I am fascinated by how much meaning May 1st holds: workers’ rights, fertility, protection of land and crops, and, yes, sex. May Day – said three times – is a call for help. In this story, I not only express each of those elements in its individuality, but I capture what those disparate elements have in common: a desire for peace, home, stability and the choices we make to realize that desire.
To her left, a muscular blond cried, “May Day! May Day!” and dived for the volleyball. He missed. His knuckles and forearms scraped against the black soil. The ball rolled outside of the makeshift court and onto the grassy field where laughing partners and spouses watched the play.
“I think you need one more,” laughed a lounging woman on the sidelines who held the man’s jacket across her legs.
To her right, Danielle noticed an old stone waterway winding its way into the woods. Behind her, a multi-racial coalition of teenaged artists prepared the next morning’s picket signs. Their skateboards and bikes littered the surrounding area. Old black and white Haymarket photos adorned some; catchy phrases about workers’ rights, others. She hoped the artists could spell.
Ahead, beyond the oak trees and elderberry brush blocking her view, Danielle heard the opening notes of the Wobble, an urban line dance. A bold orange sun, dusky blue skies and temperatures in the high 60s marked the last day of April and the day before the 5th annual South Side International Workers’ Day rally!
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New Bouquet, by Eve Francis
I wanted to depict a queer couple dealing with romantic tropes and how they could rewrite them to better suit what they wanted in their relationship. When I realized that the typical notion of giving flowers tied in really well with similar themes in queer paganism, I went with it and fine tuned it to celebrate Beltane. It’s a short story, very simple, but is mostly about building relationships and reworking ideas that don’t fit – right down religion, romance, and even bouquets of flowers.
“I don’t like flowers,” Melissa stated rather firmly.
“Why not?” Caroline asked.
Melissa raised an eyebrow, a smirk on her face.
“I mean,” Caroline spoke again, crossing and uncrossing her legs on the park bench anxiously. “Not that I was getting you flowers or thinking of doing that. Not that you don’t deserve them, either. I just… I mean…We’ve only been together a month.”
“I’ve seen people celebrate less,” Melissa said with a small laugh. She craned her neck, combing her long red hair over her ears before she bunched her hands inside her purple hoodie to keep them warm. She looked out at the park, and wearily, Caroline followed her gaze.
The park was across from the farmer’s market, but the booths were closed down now in late afternoon. High school kids gathered in droves by the bright yellow slide. Some of the young couples cuddled for warmth, while others smoked and kept their distance. There were a few children and their parents close by, on the baby-swings near the smaller jungle gym.
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First Kisses, by Daisy Cains
Appropriately my short story is about a springtime romance – springtime in every sense of the word, it is set at the right point in the calendar and at the springtime of the protagonists’ lives but most importantly at the springtime of one protagonist’s development. That is the springtime of my sexual development because I wasn’t Daisy back then, I’m not quite Daisy now (I am mentally but physically a bit of work remains to be done). So it’s early springtime for me as I head for a late summer flowering. I’ve got the dress, the shoes and the purse and with luck my hair will have returned by then and I can ditch the wig.
There are many reasons why I didn’t go up to Michelle that night at the school disco and most of them are obvious. To start with I wasn’t absolutely sure she felt the same way or if she could even feel the same way, if she was made that way. Then there were the glaring reasons, the ones that grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and screamed ‘don’t do it!’ right in your face, the fact that I was shy, nervous, geeky and bookish whilst she was beautiful, strawberry blonde, slender, elegant and sadly vacuous.
But more that all those reasons it was what had gone before that made me hold me. What had happened with Evie made me nervous and what had happened with Jenny made my hesitate.
Evie with her long blonde hair and long brown legs. Her almost completely flat chest and her pert little nose. The things we could do together, walking around Chasewater picking wild flowers. If she could come to the Abbey Gardens with us, we would wander through the meadow surrounded by the tiny twinkling flowers of the wild garlic plants bathing in the gentle ransoms aroma before we had to do battle with the evil mulberry tree. Next I could show her my brood of ducklings in the secret pond near the seashore where I would put my fingers inside her Aertex sports shirt and feel the buds of her slowly starting breasts.
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The Hero and the Palace, by Lore Lippincott
‘The Hero and the Palace’, a sequel to ‘The Hero and the Chalice‘ published in the Autumnal Equinox issue of Hyacinth Noir, continues the story of Darien Price and the lesbian ladies he lives with, Lucy and Marisol.
Within ‘The Hero and the Palace’ lies many attributes of Beltaine, most notably the joy of being in a world strengthened by the presence of a warm sun, by flowers and forests finally alive and unfurling. There are also the emotions of Beltaine, a sense of belonging to the earth, and returning to the self after the darkness of winter; of excitement and uncertainty bravely met by having an awareness of inner power, with the restlessness and animation necessary to pursue the deepest of desires. All with a dollop of two wholesome qualities: hope and love.
As we left them at the start of the Equinox, Darien was getting ready to have his new boyfriend Piers over for the celebratory feast, with games afterward. Flash-forward eighteen months to the brilliance of mid-spring and the exquisite beauty of Beltaine. Thanks to a very unconventional alarm clock, Darien and Piers wake far too early on their handfast day. But things are always a bit odd around Piers’ family farm, including Piers’ smart, sassy sister Kate, Piers’ semi-feral furry dependents, and parents who drop something of a bomb on their son and Darien.
Lucy and Marisol’s daughter, Tempest, is naturally moody about the changes to her life. Lucy, who’s in charge of the flora arrangements for the handfast, tries to impart her patience and wisdom into the matter. An unexpected visitor tosses another complication into the day’s zenith. Relying on their strong love for one another, these characters let nothing stop them from enjoying a wonderful celebration.
Darien Price had grown used to waking up with Piers at his side, and had even gotten used to waking in the big bedroom at the top floor of the old family farmhouse. Usually, Darien enjoyed the lengthy, lethargic mornings at Piers’ family place.
This morning wasn’t one of them.
He really wasn’t used to opening his eyes and finding a magenta-footed pigeon standing right in the middle of Piers’ forehead.
Screaming, flinging himself out of bed with his narrow limbs flying—now that seemed like an appropriate way to deal with the situation. It was also masterfully effective at waking Piers. He flew upright at the waist—pigeon taking off—small silver-white feathers swirling—Piers screaming—Darien screaming again—the rooster calling in the dooryard. For three seconds, the quiet room in the garret brimmed with all the chaos of Discordia’s repertoire.
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