Nang Tani, in Thai lore, is a spirit that appears as a young female predominately floating around banana trees. If the moon is full and shining down, chances are that Lady Tani is haunting banana trees in traditional Thai clothing. And if you’re a man who has mistreated a woman, legend states that she will avenge them, but generally she doesn’t cause harm.

Ghosts in Thailand’s culture are well-revered and Lady Tani is commonly loved. When I first discovered her, she intrigued me because, I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought the banana angle was unique (and I am obsessed with bananas). I thought she seemed beautiful, serene, and loyal and I loved how she floated above the ground, her feet bare. But I wanted to dig more past the surface.

Knowing that my dark poetry and short story collection BREATHE. BREATHE. featured not only elements of history, folklore, and mythology, but also the pain of trauma such as domestic violence situations, sexual assault, and more, I was drawn to the aspect also of Nang Tani avenging women who have been wronged, like me. I let my presumed female character, filled with my own emotions from partner and stranger violence, travel in my mind to Thailand. I let her view the bustle of the river bank, smell the damp air, touch the banana trees, and take offerings. And then I wrote her story (my character’s story), detailing her anguish in searching and calling for Nang Tani, and poured her emotions onto the page.

I didn’t find anything in my research of how she avenged women of abuse and mistreatment, if she did other than haunting these vile men, but I also couldn’t find what the two together, banana trees and avenging women, had in common. I began to think about how we rely so much on bananas for nutrition. They are like a life force, and in Thailand, or other places with rural poor, fruit is a luxury or at least, when in abundance naturally, a main staple of meals. This made me think about renewed life.

However, I still needed a twist, and as usual, I didn’t know what my mind would concoct at the end to finish off the poem. I hoped to find a way it adhered to my theme though, so I kept writing through my character’s eyes to see where she’d lead. She left sweets by the trees during the full moon in hopes to lure the legendary specter sprite, but began to mourn, as I did as an author not seeing her clear path (much like when I felt alone or abandoned), until finally Nang Tani arrived with a fervor, ready to help.

I had learned something more about the wild banana trees in Thailand, while researching and writing. These types of bananas that grow there are inedible due to their overabundance of large, nasty, black seeds (AND I have heard other origin stories that the first man was created from a banana tree? Are these the seeds of man?), unlike the bunches we buy at our grocery stores, but their giant pink or red flowers bloom beautifully and are a pleasure to view. Their leaves can be used for childbirth and enact magical powers in relation to fertility and childbirth, one of the amazing gifts of women, and so I believe Nang Tani protects them. Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a woman scorned can become new and vibrant as a flower. From the pit of humanity where man sinks, a woman can be cleaved out and become a radiant goddess. From her body, she can bring forth the fruit of a nation.

In my poem, when Nang Tani arrives, and she hears what my character is in distress over, she siphons the evil from the spirit of the abusive men, all the men who hurt my character, putting them in what I believe was severe pain, and then whispered their souls into the bananas, which turned instantly rotten. Of course, the mired bananas were then disposed of and would seep, trampled into the dry dirt.

I didn’t put alllllll that latter detail of what happened to the men specifically in my poem, just a subtle part of it in ending, but hopefully, readers understand between the lines to see the deeper story. Nang Tani was a savior to my beaten down character, a way to enact revenge and heal, allowing her to go home cleansed, not even needing to carry the chip of a ghost on her shoulder anymore.

But not every banana tree carries the shame. Other banana trees, always growing with seeds of hope, remain untouched from the captured souls of tainted men. And there are good men out there too. Either way, all trees and the fruit, just like all women, can showcase the beauty that can lie underneath, or after healing, through colorful flowers (life).

Nang Tani, I knew, would continue to haunt the places these diabolical remnants roamed and to stand guard, though with a gentle demeanor, around the fruitful trees, and so the poem was complete, but the story never ends. If you’ve read this poem, or some of my others, you can see that some are shortened narrative stories of free verse, because if you fill in around the succinct scenes that the poetry emblazons on your mind, you’ll see the symbolism, and maybe, even find a little of your own story in one of them too.

Offerings to Nang Tani

(The Lady of Tani – Thai Folklore)

From Breathe. Breathe, Unnerving 2017
by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

 

 

 

 

Out into the grove
of a wide expanse,
I travel and wander
with back pack attached.

Glistening water with sun’s
rays bouncing, muddied and
filled with small women in
straw hats, and shriveled old men,
before me in serene view.

Mountains covered in foliage
stalk me from the far right,
shacks and fishing boats line
the near left of the bank.
Tanned-skin people
squat by the river,
washing, and staring.

I peer past them at the green grass,
and the tall reeds,
all growing lush and vibrant.
Chilling mist seeps down
and swirls around the low of the valley.

Kluai Tani banana trees surround the
outskirts of the dirt path out of the village,
their giant, green leaves shading the small
green bunches of fruit.

A swath of yellow glares beautifully
wrapped around the trunk of a tree.
Small gifts of sweets and fragrant incense
line the ground below.

I crouch and watch the tree,
then I creep towards the trunk,
and pull out scented orchids
and candied fruit from my bag.

I call for Nang Tani to come,
I can see she haunts this tree
as the locals have left her offerings,
and I hope she likes mine,
and me.

It’s still so very early in the morning,
just at sunrise, and I question if her
nocturnal clock has not already put
her to sleep.

I’ve hiked hours and miles, after riding
in small cart driven over a bumpy path,
an exhausting trek on an ancient train, and
first, a long airplane trip. I’m not good at
being patient after all this.

I call Nang again,
and then I wait.

I cry.

My head in my hands now,
I fall to the ground,
with my arms around my knees.

I fall asleep, and when I wake up,
it’s nighttime, a full moon, and
a glow emanates around me and the
wild banana tree.

I look up and I see a beautiful woman
with long, black hair and a greenish
complexion floating slightly off the ground
close to the tree.

She tilts her head a little
and looks at me,
a small smile gracing her red lips,
as she licks the sugar from the
candy off her fingers.

Her top is made from a banana leaf,
caressing her small chest, laid over one shoulder,
and her dark green sarong starts at her slim
waist but trails off into supernatural wisps
near her ankles, her feet bare.

I’ve come to ask for her help,
I’m abused by my husband and
I can find no way out.

I’ve read stories of her,
of murder and revenge,
even though she’s generally
not to be feared.

Men who wrong others should though.
Men who wrong women to be more exact.
I want her to avenge my life, to make sense
of the confinement, the rape,
the broken bones.

I’ve traveled to offer Nang
sweets in exchange for her
to give me my life back. It doesn’t
seem a fair trade.

But she grins, she knows my mind,
she’s haunted by the same feelings
of degradation and despair,
and when she disappears I know
where she’s going.

She’ll be back to breathe his
vile essence into the bananas,
which is why they never ripen.

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

Amazon Purchase Link –

Breathe, Breathe by Erin-Sweet-Al-Mehairi

Also available via Kindle Unlimited.
Find in print at Barnes and Noble and other fine online retailers.

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

Al-Mehairi creates engaging characters and often has twists to her plots that make for a unique reading experience. The highlight of this section would be the story “Dandelion Yellow,” a magical realist tale about a young girl and her box of crayons. It’s a rich, colorful tale with a suspenseful build up and haunting ending. Overall, the fiction section of the book is very well done.” – Cemetery Dance

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!”
—Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy)

“Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.”
—Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching

“Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.”
—Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.”
–  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.”

-W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, an editor, a publicist, and a consultant among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

BREATHE. BREATHE., published by Unnerving, is her collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry behind NYT best-selling poet, Rupi Kaur and holding in the Top 100 best-sellers there and in horror short stories consistently for three months past publication. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called HARDENED HEARTS, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe., is also featured in the MY FAVORITE STORY anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017. This year, February rings in with the publishing of her poem, “Chained by Love” in Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. Currently, she is working on a new project as the guest editor for a new anthology of poetry and short stories coming from Unnerving this Fall, called HAUNTED ARE THESE HOUSES.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. Besides her team of freelance authors she works with, she also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor, and works doing PR for Raw Dog Screaming Press as well.

A past Young Careerist of Ohio and Woman of Achievement Award winner in her community, she volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is an infrequent co-host adding her #MarketingMorsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers, every once in awhile.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

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