Fall Wedding

I drank in the crisp air, thin and sharp like the bite of mint – the sting ran down my throat and lanced the belly of my lungs.  A soft wisp of steam poured from my mouth like the smoke from a train piping through a bright valley morning. I could feel the heat lighting from the back of my neck, and from the tips of my ears, covered though they were by my soft, brown wool hat.  I hugged my elbows closer to my ribs, squeezing the heat back into my core,  smiling beneath the ineffectual sun as she shone bright but cold upon my face and upon the water of the pond.

A soft breeze scattered a fleet of dried leaves across the nascent ripples birthed on the sheer surface of the glass-smooth water.  The sunlight bobbed and danced over the ridges, shooting crazed patterns like knives in the pumpkin and stone colored canopy above.

I stopped on the path, just before it ducked into the shade of the chattering maples and oaks.  I listened in the quiet to the playful chattering of beech leaves on slender, elephant-smooth trunks.  Those leaves would hang through the long, cold winter in fierce competition with the late oaks – the blissful ignorance of youth pitted against the reluctant willfulness of the ancient.  I would merit from them both, happy animal that I was – free to meander through the light and shade, open to thought and motion so quick as to be ephemeral.

That day I squinted my eyes against the radiance of an October sun on the umber-cobalt sheet of the pond but I gazed through sheaves of years, back into memories of greenest grass and pique of buzzing midge.  I looked not upon the gravel path, succumbing to the onslaught of falling leaves, but rather gazed into the shining eyes of a semicircle of storied faces, backlit with dreams and good intention.

My mind was not focused on the collective whispers of the forest leaves, nor on the mournful cry of walnut-gray geese resting before the continued push south.  Instead I heard the soft strum of string, the guitar ringing free in the outside air, looking for wall and floor to spring from in echo, but finding only shining air and distant cloud.  I no longer heard the soft lapping of frigid waves licking the edge of weathered hull, but instead my ears remembered the expectant hush of minds focused on myth and ceremony.

I stood complete and present in a time that was no longer present.  Fully self-aware in a memory whose mutability my probing thoughts enhanced, I swayed beneath a closer sun, years away and a season apart.  I could hear no words, nor see the detail of face nor of raiment. Yet I felt the mood, and bathed in the goodwill and expectation. We set aside there doubt and fear.  We cast anger from ourselves like empty cloaks – it was not needed in that place we had built.

I knew the sun waned through twilight to evening in the vision.  The untamable eye in the heavens replaced by man’s pet servant – fire, as she danced and kissed the sausages and vegetables, charring and caressing.  And in the darkness we feasted, dancing and singing and smoking and drinking. With feet bare, and hearts open, we revelled in the togetherness of celebration, and we forgot of yesterday and of tomorrow, and of those things to come later.  In that moment we were. Simple and fulfilled, we were.

A shiver ran through my toes, and I, as if from slumber awaking, became present again in the present.  I stood, short pillar of gray and green against the racing brush of time, painting the world before me in maroon and brown and yellow.  So slowly, and yet so very quickly, I counted year upon year stacking neatly behind me, ever pushing me wiser and older down the path towards rest and completion.  I looked upon my world, pastoral beauty framed in billowing trunk beneath cloudless cold sky.

I looked and felt a stirring for the crafty peace of autumn, for smokey childhood days of heroism and timelessness.  I watched a small boat trail glacially slowly across the pond, piloted by a passive silhouette of detailless suggestion.  I felt the heat of the earth retreating slowly into the depths as if all of nature were drawing a hushed breath before slumber.  I knew a wistfulness for the unbridled possibility of youth, and for the slow, deliberate wisdom of age. Within me stirred some primordial duality – the hope for newness and creation, married perfectly to the restfulness of death and darkness.  I saw myself not as a part of the world, but rather as someone watching a world, a stranger catching a shadowy glimpse of a deeper truth that was so much larger and grander than I could comprehend. But I was so thankful for the symbolism, though I understood nothing of the meaning.  I stood in awe, a child behind the discussion of kings and gods, lost and adoring, alone and insignificant – but complete.

I pulled the boots from my feet, and tucked my socks neatly inside.  I placed the boots next to each other, resting to warm in the nearly cold rays of the sun.  The earth beneath my feet was distant and cold. I did not feel grounded. Heat and life fled from my toes, evaporating in the cool dry air, feeling carried away by the breeze.  The soles of my feet spoke of stones and twigs, but their voices were muted in the vacancy of my mind. I walked to the water’s edge, and felt the clear tongues of the waves as they lapped at my toes and ankles.

I drew a deep breath again, and closed my eyes.  I spread my arms and tumbled into the icy blackness of the pond, the flame of consciousness extinguished by the icily merciless bite of the cold, dark water.

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Practicing again

The flames crackled in the darkness.  The sounds of the small clicks and pops flew out into the air of the forest night like so many cinders carried aloft in the rising smoke.  Doug settled his back against the stiff bark of a fallen log, still fresh and hard with recently departed life. He could feel the ground drawing the heat from his body out of his ass, leaving it just warm enough to feel uncomfortable on the protruding roots.  He shivered and drew his thin blanket tighter around his throat.

Beneath the bright tongues of flame that consumed the small twigs and branches, the vermilion coals within the growing bed of the fire danced and sighed in the light breeze of the night.  Doug look to the pile of kindling the lay just within the glowing circle of the firelight, resting atop a larger stack of coarse pine and poplar logs that he hoped would stave off the cold of the long autumn night.

Far off to the west, the faint flickers of an unseasonable thunderstorm lit the overcast sky with deep bruises of purple and gray-brown.  The storm was too distant for the thunder to reach his ears. As the hour grew on, Doug saw the storm clouds marching slowly southward, lavishly dropping their precious fall energy against the northern slopes of the tall mountain peaks.

Above his head, sharp, yellow-slate clouds leaped between heaven and Earth, greedily lapping the faint starlight from the sky like hungry dogs.  The valley between Doug and the storm flickered with the lights of the town below, where solemn towers of wood smoke dutifully supported the blue-black dome of the sky.  

Doug turned his gaze from the valley floor.    Though he couldn’t make out the details of the houses from this distance, he closed his eyes against the flickering yellow gems.  Trying to fight back the memories of the woman he had left, Doug succeeded only in conjuring the image of her face, still wet with tears, to his mind’s eye.  He felt the sharp tang of her voice, raw and rough with anger, as she shouted at his back. He could still feel the sharp clap of her words as they crashed into his ears, now ringing red with shame and pain.  Then a pregnant silence, a rich pause in the anger that waited expectantly for him to turn, for him to say something. Anything. And he did pause, for a moment, breathing heavily with a knot in his throat and a tickle in his spine.  He stopped for a second on the path – not considering really, not feeling anything at all except the racing of his heart. His cheeks glowed in the bright afternoon sunlight, and the rim of his hat itched on his sweating head.

Then for moment, he did consider.  A moment too long.

The silence fell sour and was dashed upon the rocks of a single broken sob.  Its impact knocked him to his knees, as the sound of the sobbing faded behind the soft clack of a door on its frame.  

Doug felt the color wash from his face, drawing out his life as the setting sun has drawn the heat from the air.  For a moment he lingered, savoring the pain before the inevitable numbness sank in. He wanted to remember something before he forgot everything.  He bowed his head, and with his eyes shut, felt the echo of that last shout bounce through him and around him before fading to memory in the dying afternoon light.


Beneath it

I simply cannot.

Insurmountable weight of institution

crushes with cloying and utter disregard for truth

or development beyond the self-inflicted limitations

of twisted self-examination

through the cold queen’s mirror,

blind hanging on the granite wall

aping images of inconsequential merits

and self-aggrandizing themes

so bold in their inanity

their insanity.

Today I simply cannot.

I lie beneath this oppression,

this eighty hour torment of cracking the nut of the earth

for a morsel of bread,

only to dig another hole on the morrow,

on the morrow

on the morrow

until there are no more dawns to await,

and I lie myself in the ground

to feed the worms and dust

until I too am forgotten,

forgotten,

empty dust.

It simply is.

It is that it is,

and I am the very intent of inconsequential,

the idea and concept of trivial,

yet do I not suffer and know?

Indeed.

It was a cruel jest at best,

horrid experiment of vanity at worst

that lead me to know,

to taste what is joy,

at the cost of the deep understanding of sorrow,

the devil-defining shadow of god,

the same reality bound in different vantage only.

Today I cannot.


A pillowy soft shroud of purple-gray cloud

is raked slowly across this early autumn sky,

uncaring as it removes the hot sun from my shoulders.

With strides unmeasured,

unhurried,

I walk across the face of the world,

unhurried,

at peace.

I am.

I am now become that I am,

complete and alone and filled.

I rest my soul on the comfort of five pillars,

each a glowing strand of what I have built,

and of what has shaped this peace

and now carries these tired old feet from nowhere

to nowhere else

unhurredly.

At night I lay restless and in physical agony,

in a house that is a home that caresses the small parts of life

and smooths the folds with unmeasured grace

to drive to forgetfulness the hunger for gold and bauble,

and instills in me a swelling,

a pouring over,

a celebration of who I am and what I will leave

as my mark upon immortality

though I must surely fade as those forgotten before me.

But for now,

I am here,

and the I that is me can live a bit longer,

perhaps,

through these ten glowing eyes

and shining smiles,

echoing through eternity in protein and laughter,

I shall become even greater still.

 

Continue reading

Pre-joy fog

Bow me down before I sleep,

the long, tired walk of restlessness in pseudo-dream

and fog between waking and knowing.

Therein lies a mist-blanketed shore,

acrust with gems of shell

and litter strewn by eons lost

beneath Time’s own slumberous tread,

forcefully forged from bone and shield

to powder dust of crystal

and thought.

On silent beach spill sapphire waves

yielding their life upon unlit sand

and polished heart of wood

no longer adrift.

Under clouded night

with moon hid behind gauzy cloud,

gray-yellow above the black glass sea,

unfolds nothing

but weighty time

and build of pressure,

dead steel of sword upon my head

shorn and cold and alone in thought

beneath ever deepening nightshadow of cliffs

tall and stern and proud –

unyielding.

 

Unfold my eyes before the dawn,

cold grey expanse.

The day is pain of sinew and structure,

of back and foot and head and heart.

Perhaps the joy, indeed, lies under varied sky,

and I err to search for it here.


Leik and the Fount

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters I, C, and E.  It’s prose an several pages.  It ends abruptly, perhaps with an ellipsis.  Apologies for that.  Enjoy.


Leik climbed carefully up the slope.  In the dark, it was difficult to know where to place his feet.  Tumbles of scree skittered down the slope behind him. He turned to look back at the vista behind him.

The moon hung like a fat ball of yellow glass, bathing the plains below in a dim, angry glow.  He could see the horses tethered to a few scraggy trees a mile or so off into the distance – small black shadows silhouetted against the horizon. Leik and the others had ridden in from the west, riding down overnight past the boundary of the great Eastern Forest.  The small foothills at the eastern edge of the forest gently gave way to the grassy basin he now looked over. Far to the north, barely visible in the against the night sky, rose the Argonne mountains. Behind them lay the cold Northern Sea. Leik strained his eyes to make out the sea far to the northeast.  Maybe on a clear day, someone with keen sight might be able to see the glint of the water. But not tonight.

Tributaries of the Gliebe flowed from the east, skirting the southern edge of the Argonnes, and growing as they leapt out to the sea to the north.  A small river cut around the eastern side of the small mountain he now climbed, cutting sharp cliffs from the flat top of the mesa. As he turned his gaze to the east, Leik could make out the edges of the ancient stone bridge that spanned a section of white rapids on the narrow portion of the Gleibe.  Though he could not see them now, he knew there were a pair of pillars at the western end of the bridge, adorned with runes and letters marking them as the beginning of the Great Road on its trek eastward to Alyzrad and Stanbrook, and finally through to the Drylands.

Dane and his armies would come along the spur of the Great Road.  Like a black fog, they would pour across the bridge, leaving command groups on the far side of the river, safe to direct the battle outside the threat of dart or arrow.  The Great Road climbed swiftly through a set of switchbacks after the bridge, gaining several hundred feet within the first half mile of westward climb. One of the switchbacks snaked around a large ledge that overlooked the basin.  Dane would set up camp there, posting sentries along the walls of the road the lead eastward. In the event that the Comorraugh were triumphant, the retreat would never devolve into a rout.

Leik turned to look back up the slope to the south.  He was following a small trail, perhaps left by game – goats or deer – that lead to the top of the mountain.  The mountain had as many names as there had been people within the basin – Stone of the Gods, Malock’s Tooth, Umlauk, Grim’s Folly, Leijhorne’s Bane.  It loomed above the basin, an enormous red giant. The sun had baked the rock dry, exposing the red bones of the earth. Trees did not grow on Umlauk. The grass along the path was sparse and coarse, thin brown tufts creeping out from behind boulders.

Leik took a few breaths.  The air was cool and thin, and a lifetime of study had left him ill-equipped for a strenuous hike up the face of a mountain.  He closed his eyes and felt for what had called him from the basin below. It was stronger here, near the top. It was like the scent of rich flowers under a sunlit meadow – or like the call of some strange bird under the thick canopy of the forest.  It drew him onward and upward. He felt a calling that urged his body forward beyond what he knew was practical.

Leik had felt something in basin before.  Many years ago, when he had crossed from Alyzrad to the west.  He had only been a child, only the first signs of whiskers darkening his chin.  But he had felt the calling as the caravan drove eastward. With no training, it was like the memory of a distant scent – something he knew but could not understand.  Now, as a demi-chain wizard, he could feel the call so much more strongly. He turned his face southward and closed his eyes, baking in the light of something invisible to his eyes, something unknown to the men that walked the basin below.  The source lay at the top of Umlauk, a few hundred feet southward and upward. He drew a deep breath again, and hiked up his robes to keep from tripping. After half an hour of climbing, using his hands to half-crawl up the slope, Leik arrived at the top of the mountain.

Umlauk opened before him, bare rock a full furlong across.  The mesa tilted slightly, dropping several feet to the north.  Leik stumbled, feeling as though he would roll off the flat top to the basin below.  The sky unfurled like a flag, radiant with star and moon, driving a feeling of smallness towards Leik like a thunder.  He cringed in the nakedness atop the mountain, squatting against the bare rock and panting like a wild animal.

But the draw was so strong here that he could not long stay crouched.  He felt the aura penetrate his body, filling his lungs with each gulp of air, inflating him with presence with each heartbeat.  It was almost too much. He wiped a tear from his eye, and walked slowly, but purposefully, to the center of the mesa. From here, a rich vista spread out to Leik’s eyes.  The moon seemed to swell, pulling more light from within to better light the valley below. Leik felt he could see the shore to the north, that he could hear the gentle crash of the surf on the beach.  He closed his eyes and sensed the conversation of his comrades below. In his mind’s eye, he saw them walking, scouting the field for the battle to come. Leik fell to his knees and wept silently, filled beyond all that he knew.

After an eternity, after a lifetime of bliss, he opened his eyes to the shining night.  He laughed as he saw the fog of his breath rise in the cool still night air. He walked briskly back to the path he had climbed.  Looking around, he gathered several small rocks – each the size of an egg – and placed them in the pockets of his robes. Then he walked back to the center of the mesa.  

He bent and placed one rock at his feet, closing his eyes to sense the source of the flow.  Then he rose and strode a full chain’s length to the north. Then he gently placed a stone on the ground.  He repeated the process at each direction, making a circle of stones roughly ten meters across. Leik returned to the center of the circle and picked up the stone.  Kneeling again, he drew a small mark as long as his palm on the ground. He took a short iron bar about three links long from his belt. The end of the bar had been bent into an eye four inches in diameter.  Leik knelt and held the bar out before his chest. Each hand was balled in a fist around the shaft of the rod. Leik held the eye of the rod level with his own face, making a circle with his arms – the end of the rod hovering above the mark on the stone ground.

Leik closed his eyes and inhaled several times, drinking in the scent of the area.  In his mind’s eye, he saw the landscape around him. He felt the magnitude of the mountain, and each boulder lying on its shoulders.  He felt the gentle massage of the river along the eastern edge of the mountain’s foot. Leik brought his focus closer, feeling the bare surface of the mesa.  He saw and knew each divot on the face of the stone, tested and tasted the thin dust that covered its surface. He stilled his mind until he could feel the tremors of the stone itself, vibrating imperceptibly in the night.

At each breath he drew in, he felt the presence of the stone itself drawn into his body.  As he exhaled, he kept the energy within. He felt himself swelling larger than his own body, growing with each breath to something larger than he could be, an entity that was not himself, but that contained all that he was.  Leik kept his focus on his breath, as his training had taught him, lest the energy consume him. He felt the chill on his skin, his hairs prickling against the frigid air. He drew in the vibrations until he felt he would burst, until his heart cried against the ecstasy.

Then he breathed it all out into the iron rod.  All the vibration, all the energy, like a deflated bladder, like a slow rolling volcano, he released all that he was into the foot-long piece of iron.  

Leik did not feel the hairs on his arms singe as the iron glowed white hot.  In the weakness of release, he allowed himself to squint against the glaring white light that leapt from the end of the rod.  He raised the eye of the rod a few inches, then drove with all his might into the floor of the bedrock beneath him. Like a hot knife into cheese, the rod slid easily into the ground below – sizzling and spitting as it went.  Leik buried the rod up to the edge of the eye, a full eight inches into solid rock.

The world dissolved into unknowing.

 


Therapy

Though I rise slowly,

the Earth drops below me at an alarming rate,

the palette paling from verdant azures to the quickening void of space.

Even as the vista shrugs off the color and sound of life,

my view is narrowed,

pulsing and throbbing in silence at the edge of my sight,

washing away to a single, uninterrupted circle of focus,

a portal into a deeper nothing than that surrounding me.

I am not truly here,

no.  I am no longer truly anywhere,

and it is a broken husk with sightless vision that stares emptily

at a horizon that my consciousness cannot perceive –

I am become a ghost,

tormented apparition that is itself imperceptible

even as I lose the concept of perception.

The breath of the wind touches something that used to be a part of something

that I was a part of,

but am no longer.

The rushing caresses the intimates of ears

that no longer drive thoughts of hearing or of sound or of meaning,

the clip of my boot on the ground is a sound lost,

empty shaking of air with no information,

no echo in my person.

Like the breeze race past thought upon thought,

dreams of understanding,

aspirations of immortality and of grandeur,

and all that is is contained in the wake of their passing,

but I am no longer drawn to stretch out the reach of my mind to grasp them.

Instead I know of their passing,

I understand the loss of their whispers

as my apathy and impotence finalize their emphemerality.

Like a single drumbeat,

cached in the roar of thought and unheard sound and sightless vision

stirs a still, small voice that hums a single phrase;

Sickness.


No title

Broken I am

A man crouched upon tired knee

Brought down by Duty and Ethics and Morals.

I sit removed as an inner part

Of this desiccated husk sucked dry of will

And of beauty

And of magic,

A lingering awareness surveying the ruin of self-doubt

And of strain

And of years poured into creations steeped in falsehood

And in emptiness

Broken monuments to the egos of men whose value my own exceeded beyond measure,

Though I am no longer who I was

But only the he who I have become.

In the still times there is no silence,

Nor do those songs and fantasies play out on the stage of my perception.

Now there is a gnawing doom that consumes my thought,

An unending torrent of failure.

Do not look for me here.

I am gone away.


Naked Snow

Alone I stand,

shaking.

Alone.

 

Insanity runs.

Insanity sweet and perfect.

None of you can touch me now.

 

Thew snow falls shallow,

yet the cold of the Earth affect me.

I twist,

I throttle,

Naked and alone –

my arms stretch out to my sides.

 

Run. Run away.

Run from the insanity that is within.

 

I am naked and alone in this snow,

and none of you

shall ever touch me.


Imprisoned

An old creak as the doors of the morning rattle from the sweet cover of unconscious dream.

The painful light of being bears down on me,

urging and pressing and warring.

In waking there is no repose,

Duty latches onto my first thought –

a schizophrenic voice,

maleficent and sharp.

There is no soft glow of morning here,

no quiet solitude before the dawn to prepare.

Here no sailors press the shoes of luck before the day begins,

for the night has been a brief pause only,

and yesterday’s burdens beat the dust of responsibility from their coattails

and into my sputtering,

coughing lungs.

Now the cold light drips down on me,

artificial and frigid,

it stings my eyes even as it reminds me that nature lies afar

just outside my reach,

just outside my sight.

I rot in this cage of the mind,

watching as each precious moment of being is traded for a morsel

and mortgaged for another sack of chores,

always waiting

always bearing down and pressing crushingdehumanizingdamningkilling.

There is no escape.

I have no metaphor,

no poetic analogy.

I am trapped.

This is Hell.


Mick On Everything

Just a regular guy who is interested in everything

Wherever you go, there you are.

And here I am, Judith Clarke, writer.

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