Sunday, 24 September 2017

Catalina and the ship of dreams

Catalina: and the ship of dreams
Kindle Edition
  • ASIN: B075VSBT3S

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This is the Kindle version.

Every seven years

 Tales, distant as ships sailed
 upon shared moments, are told
 to nighttime’s  deaf ears.

 My skin haunted with desire
 while beside me you snore
 in small ripples of sleep.

 Regret attacks cells; flesh
 hardens, becomes a shell
 to slough off when next
 spring breaks the ice;
 sends green shoots
 through earth and heart.

 The old flesh
 waves a confederate
 flag; failures take their toll
 yet, as yellow sun
 ignites hope anew,
 we move on
 from sedentary rocks
 to sandy paths.

 This love we devour -
 a lizard
 able to reinvent itself
 with weaving patterns
 that tell our story.

 We, accommodating growth,
 shed old images of self -
 emerge again, blinking,
 smiling, into the sunlight.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The unseen novel cries like a nightingale.

I dreamed last night my novel
was published—released into the world
like a storm or a pebble
and it was colorful (when it should not have been)
and was read by the blind
and heard by the deaf
and when I told my wife (in my dream)
that the novel was released she held me
like I was a puppy or a tree
just beginning to bear fruit
and in the dream I knew it was odd
that she should hold me like that and Sigmund Freud
started to speak with me
but the dream rolled on like pages
flickering through fingers too impatient
to pause at any one page or maybe
as if the book
was held by someone unseen who stood in a bookshop
and could not stop to read
but must browse
in case they missed the really good book
which was mine
sitting there on the shelf


Odin, wishing his son was not grown:

When Asgaard was young and wolves had not yet begun to howl
and the serpent’s tail was not yet unlatched, breaking the circle
nor my eyes weakened so that each day I squinted a little more,
we would walk, you and I, down by the river where it always rained –
the water sunk deep into the weeds, and the bank overrun with activity
as everything tried to get in or out of the churning – I remember
that your little footsteps squelched as we trod, leaving little pools behind.

My hand clutched yours and we peered into the river’s murky water,
your eyes constantly drawn by the lure of fleeing speckled frogs
or the shimmer of returning salmon: in those days you paused often
and let my words, like that swift river, wash against you, filling you,
I hope, with some of the wisdom I had luckily collected in my travels.

When you were four years old you hid a duck under a tin bucket
until it was found it three days later. Then there was that spring day
you clomped down the wooden stairs, a brush in your small hand
that dripped paint like bright laughter, and the time you comfortably sat
on the window ledge and leaned too hard against the fly wire screen.
We laughed until we drew tears when your bewildered head popped up-
a Jack-in-the-box from amongst the pineapple sage’s deep red flowers.

I wish you’d come home, my man-now son, but not all grown-up.
I’d like, just occasionally, a miracle and that three old to visit me again
so I could hold him close, feel his soft skin and maybe try even harder
to imprint what I know must fade with the thieving years. As it is,
standing by the river, the rainbow bridge shows signs that it fades,
and my empty hand throbs with memory – and I sense your absence…
I feel like I am a duck under a tin bucket, in the darkness, waiting...

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Hope is like Water:

Again I have broken in,
like a tooth ache calling
a tongue,
this house beckons

as I pass it every day
from your house to mine;
it speaks in many voices
this old house

with the sign out front
letting me know
its time is short.
I know about short time.

I understand the way
it sits still,
waiting demolishment;
I can hear its soft final sigh

tinged with regret
as it echoes to the feet
that once ran up and down the stairs.
I enter via a downpipe

every night around twelve,
carrying a bottle of port or some such.
I sit in this silent house and drink.
I feel something in my heart,

like the petals of a magnolia tree,
fall silent
down a deep, deep well
into an emptiness

I had never thought possible.
Sometimes I waken
to the bird calls, quickly leave via the front door
hoping in my absence

you may have telephoned.
I feel hope rising in my chest;
knowing, even as I hurry,

everything is too late.


 Autumn fairyland - 
 Twinkling reds and yellows... 
 Dead stars dance the sodden earth 
 in a frail imitation of joyous birth: 
 How they once danced! 
 They gathered and shimmered 
 with such intimations of vitality. 
 Now there is only this pathos waltz 
 across soggy dead cousins. 

 Autumn drizzle - 
 a softness that falls and falls... 
 A melancholic wetness 
 creeps into the heart of everything, 
 dirges whisper in the winds 
 that clang bare branches together 
 as if warding off the demons 
 winter always marches in. 

 Autumn twilight - 
 the light seduced by fading colours... 
 Everything resonates, saturated 
 with things already done. 
 It is a time of incubation 
 as that which has occurred 
 merges with that which still may. 

 Autumn slowly squeezes us, 
 like a gentle parent, 
 it forces us to retire. 
 It is a revolution of the senses: 
 it sits in judgment 

 and delivers us unto peace.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Station of Unification

Station Number 1

 Reddish light sneaks past the curtains. Dawn stretches across John’s world. He cares nothing for the sun’s brilliant return as he sits with his eyes closed. He holds his body rigid to prevent the urge to rock back and forth. He thinks about Marianne, dead these several days. A wind scurries under the door. Dust particles welcome the wind as it stirs the minute dust planets into spinning and weaving a heavy atmosphere.  John does not want to believe the events. The death. The loss.

 The room is cool and damp. A storm seems immanent. Clouds gather around John. In his mind a thousand accusations prod his psyche. John’s universe has ceased to unfurl. It contracts. His brain, a magnifying glass, stares down into the grave and studies the memory of her coffin as it was lowered. His ears still hear the squeaking sound as the flat green belts lower her down. His right hand anxiously plays with the golden banner that adorns his ring finger.

 John studies memories while cigarettes perch themselves between his muttering lips. He is lost in the flips and eddies and strange turns of events. The wind grows stronger becomes a wail, like the wail of Marianne’s mother as they stood silent and angry around the hole in the earth that wet day only days ago.

His hands rise up and cover his ears but the wind finds the nooks and crannies. The wind whistles up his misery. Tears, like rain on glass, slide down his immobile cheeks and the wind scatters his thoughts. Memories of Marianne fill his mind. He remembers his joy when she smiled at one of his silly jokes. He remembers the way the sparkle of her eyes constricted his heart. Worst, he recalls the warmth and luxury of her curved sleeping position that allowed him to conform to her shape with the greatest amount of contact.

 John looks down at his hands that are no longer his hands. He studies his legs that are no longer his legs. A ricochet of the tragic event continually cannons into the soft flesh of his heart. John contemplates the unknown reasons why Marianne chose to visit that particular spot on that particular day. It was not a place she often frequented.

 He remembers the news flashes as they came over the television. He recalls the wind as it whipped the trees. He replays, again and again, the reporter’s damning words as, wearing a thick, protective overcoat, she struggled to maintain her balance and the excitement of breaking a major story out of her voice: ‘Marianne! Marianne! How I wasted the moments we had never realizing how precious those moments were, how few moments there would be! ‘

 John rocks back and forth in the chair. The rocking gradually increases speed as his nerve endings turn to shards of glass and cut his soul to shreds. He remembers Marianne's parents coming to collect her things. They walked into his house and took everything except three or four photographs he had and one of her paintings that she gave him at Christmas: even that they would have taken except they saw the madness rise in his eyes as they dared touch it.

 The wind gathers like a descent of vultures and regret presses firmly upon his chest: ‘they blame me, they blame me! I shall never forget the look her mother gave me. She was never happy that Marianne lived with me. Me! They think I wanted this? They think they can judge me more than I already do? They feel robbed. Oh Marianne, if only I hadn't gone canoeing that day!’ John sobs as he fights for breath. His hands slam down upon his thighs.

 The music he had put on hours earlier finally runs its course. The frenetic moment passes. Silence settles. John stares across the still room at his cd stack. The silence forces a decision. Action is easier than silence: In silence John’s thoughts are able to force their attention upon him. He moves out of the chair and crosses the room. He replaces the cd’s in the player’s cartridge with a new selection. He leaves the old cd’s out of their cases, scattered around the cd player.

 John glances out of the window and notices that his blue canoe is still tied to the roof racks of his muddy car. Tears fall freely down his unshaven face. He watches the wind as it strives to undo the ties that hold the canoe securely to the racks.

 The telephone rings. John waits. The telephone insists. He answers it.

 “How are you John?” asks Sue, a friend of Marianne’s. Images of Marianne and Sue as they played pool come to John’s mind and he fights to restrain the tears that, like children, stamp their feet and demand his attention.
 “I am fine,” says John emotionlessly, though he knows he isn’t. ‘What does she expect me to say? No I’m not okay. I’m horribly fucked! I want to scream until my lungs give up. I want to take a blunt implement and coarsely scrape the pain out of my chest. How can I explain to anyone that I can’t be bothered doing anything? How can I possibly explain that this sluggishness I feel is probably the only thing that saves me? Its like I’m lost in water; nothing is easy.’

 John stands with the receiver pressed hard up against his ear. He grunts responses until Sue finally releases him. He drops the receiver and lets it dangle sadly from its stretched cord. After a moment he replaces the receiver; the little beeps it emitted more dangerous than the telephone calls that invade. John walks across the room and turns on the music then returns to his chair.

 John sits and ponders. Somewhere amongst the dust planets, like a spaceship, his lover’s face visits. The latest cigarette finishes its brief song and a cold breeze causes the frail ash to crumple within his chest.

He wants to sleep but remains awake. His thoughts spin things over and over as he catches every possible refraction of the event. The wind turns cold and its tendrils ensure his alertness. Alone he sits through another night.


Station Number 2

 I park the car close to the river’s edge and sit in the car, staring at the water as it urgently flows downstream. The sun shines overhead. I feel its warmth through the windshield's glass. The warmth makes me tired and I rest my head on the warm steering wheel, allowing the sunshine to bathe my face. I close my eyes and the haunting face reappears. It is the face of an old, one-eyed man. It is a wise, smiling face that has haunted me for several weeks. The haunting began a few days after I left the security of my chair and ventured back into the outside world.

 I find this re-emergence strange. I feel ghost-like. Things move through me. People speak but their words fail to connect. Marianne’s death still binds me; I wonder if I will ever break free. Nothing, especially not myself, is real - except my continual pain and the old, one-eyed man’s visitations whenever I close his eyes. ‘Who is this one-eyed man? Why does he haunt me? I do not know him. I have never met anyone like him. Who is he?’

 Laughter breaks my revere. I look up and see a group of teenagers walk past the car. One of the teenagers turns her face towards me and Marianne’s eyes send me reeling. Hands shaking, I start the car and drive home, the canoe unused, again.

 Asleep that night, I dream again of the one-eyed man. The dreams are all similar in that nothing much happens. In my dreams, I am walking along a gravel road, the loud crunching of the stones underfoot causing alarm; I become conscious of the one-eyed man either walking beside or behind me. I try to avoid turning to look but I always do. When I look everything freezes. Sometimes the one-eyed man smiles. Sometimes he nods. Sometimes his single eye remains fixed in the distance and he ignores me altogether.

 Fourteen months after Marianne’s brutal death from a stray bullet that a madman had meant for a traffic attendant, I put the canoe back into the water. I accept the guilt I carry even though my having gone canoeing that day was not the reason for Marianne’s death. My mind understands but my heart cannot help but ponder the “what ifs”’. I carefully step into the canoe and push it free of the bank.

 Light rain falls. A cool wind blows the rain into my eyes. I squint and grimace as the feral day catches me within its reckless spirit. Paddling slowly, the ache builds into my unused biceps and thighs. I immerse myself in the wet world that battles for control of my canoe. Hours pass and I reach the small jetty where I meet the ferry service that will take the canoe and me back to the car.

 I return the next day. And the next. My nights belong to the one-eyed man, my days to the water. The water allows my thoughts to untangle and I feel myself returning. Every time I navigate the river alive is a victory.

 One afternoon, as I gently paddle down a calm stretch of the river, I look in the distance and freeze. There, some distance in front of me, apparently standing on the water, waits the one-eyed man. The one-eyed man waves then heads for the riverbank. Panic coursing through my body, I paddle furiously and sweep past the vision.

 And so it goes for six days until finally I surrender and paddle to the riverbank where the one-eyed man waits. I pull my canoe out of the water. The one-eyed man squats on his haunches and his one bright blue eye peers into me.

After a few moments I ask, “What do you see one-eyed man? What do you see?”
 “Pain,” replies the one-eyed man in a gravel voice, “Pain and guilt. Pain and guilt and courage and more guilt.”
 “More guilt?”
 The one-eyed man points a gnarled finger at my chest. “You feel you shouldn’t go on even though you want to. You feel yourself to be a betrayer.”

 I am shocked by the words and stagger back towards the river’s edge. I look down at the canoe. The old man waits. I look at him and ask, “Who are you one-eyed man?” The one-eyed man vanishes.

 I am back in my canoe paddling down the river, very near the jetty where I must catch the ferry back to the car. If I miss the jetty, the rapids ahead will carry me far away. I will have no way of getting back. I manage to stop the canoe four meters from the jetty and only a few meters before I would have hit the new patch of white water.

 The next week I again surrender to the one-eyed man’s invitation. I feel must name the old man. “Have you hung from The Tree one-eyed man?” I ask. “Have you hung from The Tree?”
 “I have.”
 “Have your feet swayed to the Rhythm as the wind sung our mistakes and our dreams fell like desiccated leaves?”
 “They have.”

 I don’t know where the questions come from but they are the right ones to ask. Images of old Gods and Heroes, undergoing sacred trials and quests, flood my consciousness. My thoughts become a stream of silver light as I let the words and questions bob up like unexpected boulders.

 The day disappears and a full moon suddenly shines above, its rays catching the water and the gleam in the man’s single eye. “Have you visited The Well one-eyed man? Did The Crone greet your ignorance with a brackish laugh and a wise nod? Did She pluck your bristles and return you to a babe? Did you stand before Her or fall at Her feet? Have you visited The Well one-eyed man? Have you visited The Well?”
 “I have.”
 “Did you surrender your eye to She Who guards The Well at the dawn of time? Did you barter your kinship for Kingship? Did you sip from The Well’s waters and see the possibilities in our futures? Did you gain wisdom and plot your Father’s downfall?”
 “I did.”

I am confident I understand. I point a finger at the one-eyed man and say, “If you have hung from the Tree and drank from the Well then I name you...’ but before I can utter the name the old man shakes his head sadly and vanishes.

 Light returns, bewildering my night-accustomed eyes. Again, I find myself in the canoe near the jetty. I paddle furiously and manage to land the canoe though the white water’s fingers slither across its hull.

 A week passes before I again meet the one-eyed man by the bank of the river. This time, I promise himself, I will only ask the questions that come to mind so that I might discover where the one-eyed man, might lead me. As I speak, my mind becomes a stream and I allow it to carry me away. Like the time before, the daylight vanishes and the full moon shines to illuminate the periphery of the world.

 “Where have you been one-eyed man? Where have you been?
 “I have been to the heart and seen glory in death. I have been to the boundaries and seen sadness in life. I have been nowhere and found it to be the centre of the universe.”

 My questions demand release. It is as if the one-eyed man’s answers are important but secondary to the questions that I need to ask if I am to remain in the silver stream and reach the design I can feel tugging at my core.

 “Have you visited The Island one-eyed man?”
 “I have.”
 “Did you slay the Gorgon? Did you steal the golden fleece? Did you seduce The Maiden?”
 “I did.”
 “Have you supped on the wise Salmon and learnt Her secrets? Have you been eaten by worms and found your inheritance?”
 “I have.”
 “What do you hear one-eyed man? What do you hear?”
 “I hear the wind’s secrets as it bends the grass to its desire. I hear the water’s hunger as it reduces the rock with its dance. I hear the fire’s passion as it consummates the forest. I hear the earth’s regret as it watches everything constantly alter.”

 As the one-eyed man speaks, the questions scratch in my throat. As soon as the one-eyed man is finished speaking, another question tumbles forth. I waste no time on reflection. Nothing is as important as the questions I ask.

 “Have you heard the Dog’s three barks?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you bent your bow in your own house?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you rode the Centaur’s back and sung with a harp for your existence?” “I have.”
 “Have you flown with Pegasus and blinded the Cyclops?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you fought the dragon and descended into the earth?”
 “I have.”

 I lose all sense of self and merge with the images pouring forth from my unconscious. The questions come out in a blur yet the old one-eyed man never misses a single word or inference.

 “Have you crossed the boundaries and stood before lost worlds? Have you donned various disguises and unmasked the hidden word? Have you sipped of The Chalice and sated your sacred sword? Have you slept beneath the oak and rested upon the forge? Has the snake tasted your bosom? Has the scorpion stung your scrotum? Have The Three Women covered your hurts? Have the stars unraveled your questions? Do the vultures eat from your hand? Do bulls know your thirst?”
 “All of these things you mention have connection to me.”

My thoughts slow and the stream becomes a silver trickle. My breath slows and I watch, fascinated, as the one-eyed man reaches out a withered hand and touches my right foot. My senses explode under the power of the one-eyed man’s touch. I hear the water lapping at the bank, the fish breathing in the river, the trees around whispering. I even think I can hear the twinkling of stars. I see the ant near my toe, a mouse scurrying past, and fish leaping for mosquito. I feel the immensity of the moment, the earth’s movement as it inhales and exhales, the sadness and joy of life. Most of all, I sense the possibility for anything and everything.

 Softly, aware the one-eyed man is slowly rising to his feet, I ask “What do you see one-eyed man? What do you see?”
 “I see myself in all my could-have-beens and I survive to tell.”
 Urgency creeps into my voice. “How does it feel one-eyed man? How does it feel?”
 “It feels different every time, so different that it feels the same.”
 Hurriedly John asks “Will you share what you have learnt one-eyed man? Will you share what you have learnt?”
 “What I have learnt is not for the sharing.”
 “Can I ask nothing of you one-eyed man?”
 “You can ask.”
 “And will I receive?”
 “What do you dare to risk?”
 “Let us hope that will be enough.”
 “It is all I have.”
 “So be it.”
 “What happens now one-eyed man?”

 The one-eyed man laughs and says, “Farewell John.” He vanishes. I am back in the canoe being swamped on all sides by wild, white water. I crane my neck around and see that the jetty is a dot in the distance. The canoe is swept around a bend and I forget everything as I fight to stay alive.

 The battle rages for hours. My arms ache. My teeth chatter and the cold seeps into my bones. My legs quiver and beg for release from the cramped canoe. Suddenly the water ceases its madness. I find myself in a large lagoon. Ahead lies the black mouth of a cave. The cave is a magnet. I direct the canoe into its depths.

Station Number 3

 A small canoe gently rocks and croons an archaic lullaby to a pool of deep water. The water’s liquid wrinkles caress the canoe’s small wooden hull. In a subterranean cavern as vast as the cosmos, in a silence so profound it sings, John sits listening to the stalagmite weeping; frozen Odysseus tormented by the Siren’s ecstatic voice. John discovers that in harmony, he, too, weeps. He weeps not from sorrow or melancholy but because the cavern’s ancient song begs an expression that John’s voice cannot attempt.

 The emotions build up in John as images of Marianne consume his thoughts. As the images flicker, one to another, the pain in his heart builds and his mind reels until the sheer potency of the moment shakes him free. His soul soars out of his body and joins the immense expanse that merges the dark space with the entire universe.

 John’s body lies slumped in the small canoe, unconscious. His left hand hangs over the edge of the canoe and his fingers dip into the freezing water of the underground lake. The golden ring slips free from his hand and sinks below.

 Hours pass. Suddenly John’s head jerks up and his eyes open. His soul has returned. It is accompanied. He sits up and lifts his fingers clear of the water then sucks the life back into them, aware and uncaring that the ring is gone. John awkwardly takes hold of the paddle and turns the canoe around until it is facing a pinpoint of light. He rows towards the light. He is careful not to turn around lest the accompanying soul be lost forever to the cavern’s depths. As he paddles towards the light, John smiles.