“A Troubadour’s Dream”

I stand half-floating                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              in a field of purple heather,

beyond a hill beside me lies the sea.

Smells of seaweed, salt and honey

swirl in the air, pungent, sharp, sweet.

A woman appears, walking slowly,

purple blooms untouched beneath her feet.

In her cupped hands

she carries

a living, licking flame.

Her smile

brushes my mind –

here comes Brighid, goddess bright,

lady of smithcraft, wordcraft, fire.

Her shifting eyes, a thousand colours and none,

meet mine

My spirit cannot help but speak.

I feel words bubbling from my heart,

streaming from everywhere into me,

and I must tell…but purpose

is like a foggy mirror…

Brighid’s hand lies gently on my forehead,

presses fire into my skin,

draws out shining new flames.

Her ringing singing voice

speaks inside me:

This rises from you – by your fire you live

Seek the stories for telling,

sing them loudly over the hills

Burn away your fears with a poet’s flame,

a troubadour’s song.

Your task is to tell, and share, and shape

until pockets of puckering, fearful, poisonous silence

turn bright and hopeful

with the sparks of your eyes.

Her touch warms me

and I know, waking,

that the fire will keep me strong

when my feet stumble.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Dubai, copyright August & September 2013.

This is my attempt to offer a reply to “Why do you write?” It’s a question I’ve heard a number of times, and never found easy to answer, because boiling the answer down into a few simple words can be a tricky thing – usually, what you get from me is either silence, or a tangled, involved explanation. No doubt other writers of many kinds are asked this as well. For me it’s something I need to do to purge intense emotions, deal with a crazy world – or, sometimes, just play with interesting sounds.


Whisky, uisge beatha , water of life

“After Auchentoshan”

Chug-a-chug-a, chug-a-chug-a

rattling into the hills

on a small train

green grey brown flash past,

bridges and sheep flicker

in the corners of your eyes.

It’s been a day of big oak barrels, gleaming copper,

cool underground smells, heady fumes.

A bottle of dark gold

whisky uisge beatha water of life

nestles like a curled-up story in your bag,

waiting for dark after-supper time

when hot-coal colours flicker in the fireplace,

familiar well-loved voices warm the air,

talk is long and slow,

hummed notes distill

into bright rich song.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

Auchentoshan is the name of a whisky distillery near Glasgow, which I toured on my recent visit to Scotland (more about the trip in this post). Part of my reason for going to the distillery was research for a translation project I’m currently working on, and the other part was sheer curiosity. Definitely an intense place – I think I’m beginning to understand why whisky has the potential to fascinate people so much. Slàinte!

Wandering to Tea


Raw silk cotton half-dark,

white stucco, whitewashed brick embrace,

smells of incense and spice.

Music in the corners of your mind

Turkish lamps, draping the low ceiling

with gold-light lacework.

Chessboard crazy-mosaic tables in different shades of wood

Low cushions in soft bright colours

Corners that feel like home,

an arm about your shoulders.

A hundred different types of tea,

all flowing – flowing endlessly

Warm round pot on the sticky tabletop,

a hot comfortable cup in your hands.

Shelter, discovery, smoke-scented gentle love – all at once.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

I recently took a trip to Glasgow, Scotland, to visit a close friend. During the week I spent there I came to some realisations about myself, and made a number of discoveries. One of these discoveries – with which the seasoned and maybe also the new travellers among my readers will be familiar – was that if you are shown around or told about a newly-visited place by someone who lives there, you will stumble across wonderful spots you might not have discovered on your own. That’s how I found myself in the Glasgow tea-house Tchai-Ovna, which inspired this piece. If you are ever in Glasgow and fancy a good cup of tea, I suggest tracking it down.

Shadowhunters, Goddesses, and Fanfiction


Walking in, I didn’t expect

to find her standing there –

Diana, Cynthia, Artemis, moonshadow rare.

Silverbright, dark-eyed,

silhouette curved like a bow,

arrow-tall maidgoddess

draped in a midnight velvet coat.

Do you seek me, voice-of-the-moon?

It’s strange to see Apollo’s sister

smiling in the lowered light,

carrying a glass

which changes

into a kylix cup…

she drinks, swallows, offers, invites

with her forestshade voice,

her gleamnight eyes.

Come, share wine, join my hunting band…

My lips sip lightly

We might now share more than just a drink,

goddess and ordinary mortal.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia, copyright July 2013.

This began as something of a fanfiction concept, along the lines of: “From the cast of characters in The Mortal Instruments, what if Isabelle and not Alec were the LGBTQ sibling?” I tried to write the piece that way, but somehow it didn’t really go anywhere. Then I tried approaching things from a more general ‘supernatural woman interacts with a mortal in a sexual/ romantic way’. Somehow a bit of a moonlit Izzy feel stuck around for me, and morphed into a poem about Artemis, Greek goddess of the moon. I like to imagine Artemis as having a rather fluid sexuality, interested in women, men and those who identify otherwise. Perhaps a bit like Captain Jack Harkness.

Observing Apples

“Wild Apples”

The apples of the Otherworld

taste of spicy honey,

of wildness, whirling, courage and taking new paths.

In my mind-travels I’ve had that taste upon my tongue,

sweet, tickling, prickling, mad,

fitting, more than necessary.

But these apples –

red-dusky, green-crisp –

are right here, right now.

Taste them on your tongue, my friend,

wild as the other kind, fresh and bright,

and then I’ll take a bite.

The world may tilt and break around us,

yet in this moment

we have the chance to share apples and each other.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia, copyright July 2013.

This was inspired by a walk I took a few days ago, and by an apple tree I observed in a near neighbour’s yard during that walk. Amazing fruit, apples. Sometimes the simplest things about them can be fascinating, such as the way they can be completely ripe, yet green on one side and red on the other.

What it is like to be a Muslim woman, and why we know what freedom is (and you may not)

I first read this post a couple of days ago, and am not sure how to respond to it in a way that doesn’t sound trite or meaningless. Nonetheless it struck a chord with me, because I believe in every person’s right to be allowed to have and make meaningful choices about their own life. I believe that every human being is worthy of being treated as such, with respect and compassion. I also believe that we are all responsible for the way we behave towards one another, and for the way we react when we treat someone with injustice, or encounter such treatment.
The author of this post has my sincere gratitude and my deepest respect.

Bus Shelter Blogiversary

“City Lullaby”

I’ll sing to you from across the street

a city lullaby of buses rumbling past,

voices phone-babbling away,

birds chirping ear-clampingly loud,

squirrels chattering crossly in the park

when they go unfed.

I’ll weave for you a city lullaby

of smells from a hundred rolling food trucks,

the sight of a crowded courteous sidewalk,

too many cars, yet there’s room to be, somehow.

I’ll hum for you a city lullaby,

corners bubbling over with art,

fights right under everyone’s nose,

long winter walks that numb your fingers stiff.

I’ll croon for you a city lullaby,

noisy friendly laughter, hands held out,

new exploring ‘round every corner,

roughness and dirt, clear sharp bright spring air,

life happening now and now and now…

Hush, my city, in sleeping-time,

together we’ll waltz to quick dream-tunes,

smile at each other when the music rests.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia, copyright June 2013.

You can thank a scratched green bus shelter for the title of this post, because that’s where I was two days ago when I had the idea for this piece. It’s dedicated to Toronto, which, I suppose, I think of as one of my homes, even though I haven’t lived there for a couple of years now.

Also, two days ago was this blog’s first birthday, so happy Blogiversary! Thank you to everyone for visiting and reading, it means a lot to me to have such a friendly and supportive audience. I’ll keep writing, and feel free to prod me whenever it’s been too long since my latest post! Feel welcome to share your work and ideas with me, I’m always excited to learn about different kinds of art. Love to you all!

Lady in the Moonlight



the Lady rises from the Lake,

moonshadow bright.

She comes not for Arthur,

nor for Merlin of the dark eyes shining –

though she has known them before,

in love.

Light-foot she steps

upon the rippling wave,

song-strong hands

carrying breath, thought, lovebeat.

Gentled her power

no fate she decides tonight –


shall her touch caress,

share, cherish, ward.

Your feet, bare, damp,

slip in lakeshore mud,

but no matter.

You wait and watch,

twisting your heavy girdle between your fingers,

twisting the hems

of your rain-spotted gown.

The Lake parts a little,

the Lady takes your hand,

clasps your waist,

presses her lips

lightly on your braided hair.

One small step

shaking yet sure –

your mouth, daring and nervous,

brushes against hers, exchanging breath.

Since when

does the Lady of the Lake

come only to kings and warlocks?

~ Marta Ziemelis.  Written in Dubai, copyright May 2013.

This is my riff on what the Lady of the Lake might have been like in her private moments, the moments which don’t appear in the stories we hear. Inspired, at least in part, by Heather Dale’s lovely song “Lady of the Lake”.

Disappearing Ducks!


Twilight ducklight softly falls,

evening follows close behind,

walking softfoot upon springy grass –

up-and-down, up-and-down.

Bordered all in dark-green bush reflections,

shadow-pale lake water cups the sky.

Fishbone clouds, scatter-sharp, poke into the drowsy blue,

anchored in a gilt-edged sheet of gray.

Three ducks fly low in a flexing V,

feathers skimming, raising silky liquid ripples.


they disappear,

melting into bushdark border-water.

Three white splashes plish plash plosh

 foam up, blooming, poking holes –

this is where the ducks dove into greendark.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Dubai, copyright April 2013.

Linking Inspiration

Here are links to the websites of (or about) a number of authors whose work I admire. Each of them captures my interest, and the majority inspire my own work as well. Happy browsing!

Bill Bryson: http://www.billbryson.co.uk/

Jacqueline Carey: http://www.jacquelinecarey.com/

Charles de Lint: http://www.sfsite.com/charlesdelint/

Anne Fortier: http://www.annefortier.com/index.html

Neil Gaiman: http://neilgaiman.com/

Terry Pratchett: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

J.R.R. Tolkien: http://www.tolkien-online.com/  

Jane Yolen: http://janeyolen.com/