NPM: The Handless Watch

Monsieur Cotillier had not always been

the remarkable person of fable.

He was once just a child

By the name of Armand

who slept on the hay in a stable.

 

And little Armand woke up every morning

to care for the cows and the hens.

He’d work through the day,

then lay down and pray,

and sleep to start over again.

 

A less magical life can scarce be imagined.

Armand knew that this was his lot.

Until one day there came

a traveling market

and everything changed on the spot.

 

For after the milking and feeding was done,

Young Armand snuck off to the fair.

He saw trinkets and baubles

straight out of his dreams,

enchantment hung thick in the air.

 

A two headed-lizard spoke sonnets of love,

Cards built themselves up into towers.

And out of a wagon,

a wizened old woman

sold beautiful crystallized flowers.

 

Such blossoms have never been seen on this earth

They delighted and dazzled the boy.

Each perfect cut bloom

so vivid and sharp

filled Armand with ineffable joy.

 

The woman looked up and noticed the child

admiring all of her wares.

“Long have I waited

for you, my dear boy.”

Armand could do nothing but stare.

 

She reached into her shawl and pulled out a chain.

A pocketwatch hung from one end.

“This is for you, child.

Now open it up,

It’s time for your tale to begin.

 

Time and Fate are two faces of the very same coin

Together they bend and are bent.

So why should a watch

tell only the Time,

but not Fate, to a certain extent?”

 

Wide-eyed, Armand took and opened the watch,

and stared into a face without hands,

but he heard a small voice

that spoke right in his ear

and revealed a bit of Future’s plans.

 

“You will travel, Armand, you will see wondrous things.

You’ll face danger, betrayal, and fear.

You’ll know love ever-true

but it is not for you

to spend life with the one you hold dear.

 

And much like this bazaar, from your travels afar,

you’ll collect many wonders exquisite.

People will come to you

for a glimpse of true magic.

Only once in their lives can they visit.

 

So go, dear sweet boy, and don’t lose the joy

you hold in your heart like a flame.

You are destined for greatness,

But never forget

the humble start from whence you came.”

 

When Armand looked up from the watch’s blank face

A shiver ran all down his spine,

for the market was gone

and no sound could be heard

but the whistle of wind in the pines.

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NPM: The Stringless Violin

The streets of Vienna are gilded with frost
as a gentleman moves through the night.
At first it would seem that the man is quite lost
till a door cracks and spills out some light.

The man whirls around and laughs loudly and clear
then hurries toward the threshold.
He embraces a woman with thick raven hair
who bids him come in from the cold.

The man shakes the snow from his coat and then turns
to find the hearth merrily blazing.
The woman is bustling around the small room
and he can’t keep from furtively gazing.

Her hair is as dark as the day they first met.
Her lips are the color of wine.
Her eyes dance and laugh when they rise to meet his,
and her smile just for him is divine.

Though his fondness and longing seem so evident,
his manner becomes more reserved.
For their history’s filled with unspoken desires,
and through silence their friendship’s preserved.

The woman has noticed his sobering mood,
and with a sad smile she collects
the item he came for, which she had procured,
though it’s nothing like what he expects.

A case lined with velvet, with clasps made of gold
opens to reveal a violin.
Its wood simply glows, but its shortcoming shows
for there’s nothing where strings should have been.

The man looks confused, though the instrument’s fine,
he had thought it would be more arcane.
But the lady still smiles and brushes the neck
of a violin far from mundane.

At her feather-light touch a sonorous note
rings out with a tremor so sweet
and the room fills with music so achingly pure
the enchantment it weaves is complete.

The man’s eyes fill with tears as the notes harmonize
for the music is tender and sad.
It sings of a love unrequited for years,
and a future that cannot be had.

He buries his face in his hands as he sighs,
then feels a light touch on his wrist.
“This song is ours,” the woman reveals,
“It’s the story of all that we’ve missed.”

He kisses her palm, holds it tight to his cheek,
then rises and closes the case.
He moves to the door, turns the knob and looks back
for one final glance at her face.

And as their eyes meet, an affection untempered
passes between, multiplied.
And still to this day, the violin plays
the theme of a love that never died.

NPM: The Clockwork Bird

A fable is told round the nightly campfire

of a nomadic deep-desert clan

Of a magical bird made of wheels, gears, and cogs

And a curious, marvelous man

 

It was years ago now when the man came to stay

after wandering through the white sands

He appeared in a shimmer just like a mirage

Unmistakably from foreign lands

 

He approached their silk tents, executed a bow

and politely inquired of the chief

If he’d heard of a bird made of metal and gems

Or reports of an infamous thief

 

The chief simply refused to speak of the matter

till they each drank three cups of mint tea

The man grinned and nodded, delighted at once

by the tribesman’s hospitality

 

They entered a tent draped with rich printed silks

strewn with pillows of fine filigree

The sweet smell of incense hung thick in the air

As they drank the three cups of their tea

 

The chief cleared his throat and said, “Surely you’ve learned

that I am the one whom you seek.

I’ve known you would come, for my wife is a seer.

And she told me we needed to speak.

 

Yes, I stole the bird from the sultan’s fine palace

thinking only of riches and gain,

but the false bird is cursed and I’ll give it to you,

for it’s brought to me nothing but pain.”

 

The foreign man smiled and sipped his mint tea

and waited a bit to reply.

“I know of the curse. If you’ll give me the bird,

I’ll take it away by and by.”

 

From a chest of acacia carved over with vines,

the chief lifted a bundle wrapped tight.

When he opened the cloth, a bright glint of gold

shimmered in the candlelight.

 

A mechanical bird then perched in his hand

inlaid with fine precious stones.

It stretched out its wings, and whistled a tune

that shook the man down to his bones.

 

From his worn leather pack, the man lifted a cage

of intricate ivory make.

He opened the door, the bird flew inside,

And the chief realized his mistake.

 

The cage was the key to keeping the bird.

Without it, the curse took effect.

The cunning thief-king thought to steal back the bird

and the cage that would keep it in check.

 

His eyes quickly hardened, he reached for his sword;

it was as the strange gentleman feared.

But in the next moment, the man tipped his hat,

took the cage in hand and disappeared.

NPM: Off Rue de la Reine

In a tiny antique shop

Off Rue de la Reine

Which is owned by Monsieur Cotillier

You can find quite a few

Implausible items

and things that just shouldn’t be there

 

A violin without strings

That regardless still sings

the most beautiful notes to be heard

A cage made of ivory

Cunningly wrought

that houses a live clockwork bird

 

A watch lacking hands

that does not tell the time

But tells cryptic secrets instead

And on every hour

it whispers the future

to those willing to hear what is said

 

In the back of the shop

Is a red painted door

that leads to a courtyard of white

At its center, a fountain

That flows after dark

With a liquid resembling starlight

 

Though Monsieur Cotillier

is the strangest of all

In a wonderful, magical way

For he welcomes each patron

as if they were kin

asking if they have somewhere to stay

 

And the charming old man

talks with pride of his shop

and the travels he takes to acquire

The remarkable marvels

His collection contains

And remembers in detail each buyer

 

If a thing strikes your fancy

Monsieur Cotillier

will always implore you to buy

For he knows that a road

May lead on far and fast

And you may not get a second try

 

When your browsing is done

And you’re ready to leave

A sad gleam comes into his eye

And he wishes you well

Clasps hands warmly with you

And murmurs, “Adieu, friend. Goodbye.”

 

If on subsequent trips

to the Rue de la Reine

You return to his shop to drop by

You’ll find nothing more

Than a red painted door,

A courtyard, a fountain run dry

NPM: The Tree of Life

As I walked along by a lazy stream

That tumbled and flowed like a liquid dream

I looked into its depths and saw a gleam

I reached toward the glint and managed to free

from the silt and the mud a golden key

Embossed on one side with a silver tree

I slid the key deep into my coat pocket

Somewhere was a door, and I would unlock it

And I cherished that hope, though some might mock it

But the key never fit, though I tried many locks

Though I traveled to places where no one now walks

And listened for guidance where no one now talks

My heart said it mattered, I shouldn’t give in

If I persevered, I would certainly win

If I opened the lock, a new life would begin

I dreamed of adventures and stories untold

I dreamed of lost treasures, and mountains of gold

And in the long meantime, my body grew old

Quick, light, and hushed comes the footfall of death

And so ends the surging of blood and of breath

The eyes must go blind and the ears must go deaf

And as my heart finally started to fail,

I slipped softly beyond the thin mortal veil

and came to a door of exquisite detail

Tooled with a tree laden heavy with fruit

Lofty its crown and unfathomed its root

I trembled before it, reverent and mute

A weight in my hand, I noticed the key

Somehow it had passed to the next world with me

I approached the grand doorway in awe, timidly

Inserted the key, turned the latch, pushed the door

and found all I’d spent my whole life searching for

A new life, a treasure, a story, and more.

NPM: The Fire’s Heart

Far under the cracked and dying earth

the molten fire had given birth:

a thing of light, almost too bright

it sparked with joy and mirth

 

The fire’s child pushed up through rock and sand

and climbed toward the surface land

The darkness deep, it could not keep

the bright fire child within its hand

 

The child broke into the open air

expecting worlds both rich and fair

Its laughter bright, filled with delight

rang out, fell soft, grew silent in despair

 

A shadow of the glory days of old

A ruined waste none had foretold

The fire child’s glow was dimming low

Its warmth did wane, its heart grew cold

 

There still remains upon that barren ground

the crater where the child was found

and all alone, a glassy stone:

the fire’s heart at last unbound

Enchantment

And where have all the spirits gone

that lived beneath the fallen leaves

and scampered quick among the rocks

and bedded down within the trees?

.

Who blew upon the morning buds

to make them open up their eyes

and painted all the colors on

the lacy wings of dragonflies?

.

We once knew more about their kind

and apt we were to see their hand

among the wonders all around

in sea, and sky, and stone, and sand

.

But we forgot that life is more

than facts and numbers, black and white

And so we lost our secret kin

and they, bereft, have taken flight

.

To somewhere else where fancy dwells

And men have eyes to see and know

with wisdom far beyond our own

That magic helps the plants to grow