The Ballad of Swords and Sparks and Stuck

Kate Greiner, Special Contributor

The following piece won the Quill and Scroll writing contest for December 2021.

She listens to the ticking of the clock,
Pen glistening by the light of the morning.
Ink dried… still infinitely
Stuck here at this desk in mourning

In mourning of the stillness,
The stillness of the rhythm–of being stuck
With a pen no longer writing,
Waiting for ideas to flood, to be thunderstruck

… … a meter…
… … a rhythm…
Line upon line upon line,
Words fractured in a prism.

Enter the magic,
The chaos within–
Enter the writer’s head
So the battle can begin.

A battle of sparks.
A battle of swords.
Clutch the pen gleaming,
She faces the word warlords

She rushes into the fight
Vanquishing unclear words
With a wave of her pen,
Led by the sparks, bearing the sword.

Yet the paper clutters.
Her battle is nowhere near finished.
For she is just an imposter,
Her writer’s identity diminished

Prison bars thick with rust,
The rust of the immortal stuck.
She’s stuck feeling helpless,
Blindly searching for luck.

But luck never comes unless you pick up your pen
And sharpen your sword upon the quicksand
Which holds you. Despite being stuck,
She swings the blade, striking the land.


It’s a paper unfinished–
The ideas have been drawn
With eternally empty words
Stuck until the light of dawn,

So let her draw a guideline.
Let her pen grasp it tight.
May her hand draw a rope
And with tremendous might

Pull up from the quicksand–
the sucking, sinking, drowning–
Toward the cloud of creativity.
Now syllables she’s counting:

A field of purple poppies (7),
Roaring beasts screaming fire (6),
Pounding waterfalls as dark as stormy sky (11),
Fireflies bouncing with sparks across the briar (12).

It’s a crumbling castle
Paved by her words–
There dwell a prince and queen
Whose stories are told by the birds,

The birds who saw sparks of a story
Who flew the winding forest path
Where lightness lies, darkness to the side…
And a writer controlling the aftermath

Of the final bloody battle that awaits
Where soldiers hate. Entwined like a thread,
A roar fills as their hearts are pierced,
With sharp swords running red.

Red with the sting of failure,
Red criticizing in a voice bold,
“Your work is uninspiring–
“Your story will never unfold”

She takes a step on the battlefield,
Careful not to trip…
She raises her sword to
Clear the ink from the tip.

She runs from the soldiers,
Their chants discouraging,
And toward the castle where
The prison of stuck sat perishing.

The field once full of poppies
Now scarred from the beast’s fire.
Smoky sky replaces the once clear wild.
The words written softly, destined to inspire.

The battlefield path so long traveled,
Made of the quicksand dry and cracked–
The trap of failure, the trap of stuck now
As far away as a fantasy land of swords and sparks…

… a ballad now intact

Morning light peers through the clouds.
The prism of words has escaped.
There is euphoria in the writing,
Awake, Author. Awake.

Awake to the indescribable beauty
Of a fully-written page, sunstruck.
Awake to the glory and the satisfaction
Of no longer being stuck.

Meter can now be drafted.
Rhythm can now be followed.
Furiously and frantically, the pen moves,
Rising victorious, sparks ignited, fear swallowed.

Word upon word upon word
Scratching, marking, creating
Crafting, shaping, controlling
An infinity of blank pages no longer awaiting


The thoughts disarrayed, the rhymes running amuck

In the battle of swords and sparks and stuck.