Her Lover Is a Flame by Cecilia Tan

Her Lover Is A Flame: microfiction by Cecilia Tan

Her Lover Is a Flame
by Cecilia Tan

Her lover is a flame and this is both joy and pain.

There are advantages. She can see him almost anywhere, anytime, so when they are apart she is never truly alone. A woman unaccompanied in a tavern is the object at times of unwanted attention, but at the Black Tabard the whispers keep her safe, about the time Tall John’s boots caught afire or that burn that kitchen boy received, what was his name?

The disadvantages come on lonely nights, when he is away, though. When the only chance for his touch comes with the single candle burning on the stones in front of the hearth. She sheds her clothes, baring a sex unencumbered by hair, meticulously shaved in his absence. She kneels before the candle, a delicate finger spreading her folds, exposing herself to the heat of his gaze. The fire roars.

She builds up a sheen of moisture, sweat across her skin and dew gathering between her thighs, spreading it over her pleasure, whispering his name. And then she rears up, the tongue of the candle flame licking at her wetted sex, until it becomes too much and she settles onto her heels again, her finger starting its travels through the wetness once again.

The fire roars.

Eventually even the slowest pace brings her to the inevitable peak, though, her desire consuming her, her edges curling in the heat, until it takes only one last swipe of her finger, or, if she has truly held back long enough, just the barest flicker of the candle near her nub sends her into spasms and gasps of ecstasy. She grinds her wetness against her palm then, igniting that heat again and again, until at last she lies sated before the hearth, soaked with sweat, her skin aglow.

And still the fire roars. He will be home soon.

Cecilia Tan is the founder of Circlet Press and the author of many erotic books and short stories. Details at ceciliatan.com.

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Aside from being pretty damn funny…actor Charles Dance drives home the absolute wretchedness of E.L. James’ writing with his line readings of one of the more randy sections of 50 Shades of Grey. Click onward for the video.

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(The Pillow Book) The Thirteenth Book: The Book of Dead

The Book of Dead


Death is not necessarily an old and withered book
with dry pages.
It can be a thousand leaves
of strong and shining text
on a powerful body,
held erect on the vertebrae of a strong spine.

The heart hardly breathes because quietus has been reached,
the torso is like a rock,
the legs are rooted, the ink is dependable.

if the words of death should be considered faded and
sere – where could be the dignity in dying?

Unlike water, paper does not freeze or condense into steam. It does not boil.
The book to end all books.
The final book.
After this, there is no more writing
no more publishing.
The publisher should retire

The eyes grow weak, the light dims.
The eyes squint. They blink.


The world is prey to a failing of focus.
The ink grows fainter but the print grows larger. In the end, the pages only whisper in deference.
Desire lessens.
Although dreams of love still linger,
The hopes of consummation grow less,
What could be the end of all these hopes and desires?
Here comes the end.

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(The Pillow Book) The Eleventh Book & Twelfth Book


The poems which appear written on the bodies are sent by the protagonist/novelist to the villain/publisher in the movie The Pillow Book. The poems/chapters/books are a complex communication: part bribe, part threat and all tease. I recommend you watch the movie if you haven’t already seen it. It’s visceral and the audience is both assumed to not speak Japanese and not given the time to read/translate the poems if it could. So the translations I’ve hunted down for you are most likely from the script or behind the scenes ephemera from the movie.

They are influenced by the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon who the main character is named after. I don’t believe the poems in the 13 books are direct (even loose) translations of that  ancient lady, however universal the themes. They are more likely the writing of filmmaker Peter Greenaway himself. If anyone has additional information about their authorship, I’d love to hear about it.

If you don’t mind spoilers, the entire plot is described at wikipedia including the significance of each “book”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book_(film)

The Eleventh and Twelfth books of the 13 books are never shown to the audience. Just the titles. The Eleventh Book: the book of the betrayed is written on the body of a character hit by a truck just outside the publisher’s shop. It goes therefore unread.

The next messenger simply drives by the office, giving little time to copy down Book 12: The Book of False Starts.

Maybe that is the reason there is no “translation” available for these works. They appear to exist in name only. And their absence serves to underscore the publisher’s maddening hunger for (and fear of) the “next book”. The Final Book… Book 13: The Book of the Dead which is written on the body of a sumo wrestler/assassin.

viv 21M 1

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(The Pillow Book) The Tenth Book: The Book of Silence

The Book of Silence


Whispering can be a rest from a noisy world of words.

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(The Pillow Book) The Ninth Book: The Book of Secrets


The Book of Secrets


Blind eyes cannot read.


A hand cannot write on itself.


Itch to read, scratch to understand.

Inside legs

Investigation is never complete.


Words reproduce themselves pleasurably too.

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(The Pillow Book) The Eighth Book: The Book of the Seducer

The Book of the Seducer

If you were not to be its victim, this book and body
Would amuse you with its arrogance. It would make you laugh.

Because you were not it’s victim, you would feel no pain of

This book starts well enough
All is clear and positive.
You feel confident.
You rise to meet the bait which is fresh and amusing,
Telling you that you are fresh and amusing too
It seduces by being a mirror to all your vanities.
You never thought you could be such an intelligent foil
To such intelligence.

No wonder you are impressed.
The straight forwardness of its characters is a smart device.

This is a well- washed body of a book.
It sits upright on its table
Which is your unsuspecting lap.
It presses close to your chest which hides
An unsuspecting heart.

And then just when its promises need to be fulfilled
Or else the suspense would grow wearisome
And over extended– you smell a rat,
An elephant of a rat, a rat like an
Elephant that is both on fire and drowning. Too late. Too late to retreat.
Your heart is open. The book has got you.
Your body is wide open. This rat of book has invaded your privacy,
Worried its feelings into your entrails by every private

You bent and flush at the blow
With the greatest embarrassment
And try to straighten up, thinking still
“How could I be so easily deceived?”

Slam the book shut.
Too late.
It has its dirty deceiving foot in your mouth.
Its gnawing has gripped you.
You will be guilty pregnant with its calling- card,
Its now wordless child progeny.




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