Ours was a work of friction.
Disasters happen, my grandfather claimed. This was in the years long before his own. He’d wag his finger and frown like a grumpy goat, and I’d laugh and giggle regardless. Take it seriously, he’d mutter. You’ll thank me one day, he’d say. Of course, I didn’t, couldn’t, not when everything seemed so far away.
Now, as disaster looms and I struggle to raise my head, my own grandchildren filtering around me like ground coffee a percolator, I wish I had. It’s not so I’d know, but so I’d know what to say.
I’m so preoccupied, I forget to say goodbye.
I once watched an artist paint the sky. His brush caressed the canvas like a lover’s kiss. His every fluent movement, poetry in motion. At least, I thought so. The painter did not.
Whether it frustration, or a lack of imagination, who knew? But the fellow grew so incensed, he snatched each sheet from his easel and tossed them into the wind. There they drifted like enormous snowflakes off to decorate unfamiliar landscapes.
The trees provided shade and anonymity. These I used for hours. The painter remained unaware of my presence throughout. And although I couldn’t see what he painted, I took a certain satisfaction in knowing I would.
As the sun evaporated into the river in tangerine bursts, things changed. The poor fellow’s inability to capture what he wished gained momentum until in one shrieking outburst he threw his palette away. It landed upside down in the water.
I expected to see a brief flash of vermillion, perhaps a touch of violet, cerulean or emerald green; there was only black. The paint bled into the river like a cut midnight vein. Spilled ink might have described it, but ink had a purpose and this did not. What a waste. What a terrible waste.
I clasped a hand to my mouth, but too late. The cough echoed into infinity.
The painter turned. He wept. Tears streamed from his old eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I spluttered.
The painter looked right through me, right into my soul. His eyes took in my colours, my personal palette. He refused to stop, swamping me in his sorrows. I feared we’d both drown.
When the sun disappeared below the horizon with a pfft of extinguished flame, only then did he look away. To heaven, actually.
“Ah,” he crooned. “Now I remember.”
“Remember what?” The words left my lips without permission.
“Raven. Her hair was raven. If only I’d not tossed my paints away. Ah, well!”
Head drooped and feet shuffling, the painter packed up his belongings and made to leave. He paused as the moon came out in mercury silvers, turned back. “Never forget what she looks like, young man.”
“I won’t,” I promised.
With that, he departed. I never saw him again.
I often looked back and mulled over his words. He’d seemed so genuine. But only as I too regarded her bone white features and robes of liquid obsidian, did I know who he meant. I couldn’t have captured her raven hair either. Her ebony eyes already had me.
Thank you for reading.
If this hurt of teeth and talons renders numb
Or slashing words and blunt-nosed answers
Tied up with twine, perhaps a handcuff, too
Fails to bring a stinging stimulus
Then what’s the point in pain, my love
If ever there was one, yes, if ever
Has it vanished, upped and left, retracted
Fluttered away on cold breaths and steam
Impaled itself upon a willow strip
Just gone. All gone. Run away forever
Left a soul in need of something suddenly pain-less
She was that age, that ageless something
Between rose petal cheeks and silver waves of fascination
Where the foundations moved but the plans never changed
Where her eyes only ever shone brighter, more acutely than before
Piercing like twin stars set in her own personal heaven
A girl with a woman’s knowing, woman with a girl’s innocence
The sort of carefree soul who bought coral rings just to remember other people’s dreams
It was easier for her living through the dreams of others, I think
As she had no time to waste on her own
I’ve forgotten what they called her because her name never really mattered
Not to those who shared her timeline, her space, her place
A name, as with the asking her age, was pointless
For whoever took the time to speak to the wind
When the only thing that mattered was feeling it rustling their hair
No, her name was only sought by those determined to tame her
To mould and conform her; they might as well have bottled an ocean
Elemental, unbridled, let loose on us all
An ageless angel without a prayer of surviving, she couldn’t have cared any less
And when I was with her, neither could I
Yet, now, I wished I’d known it
Guessed or made up something to define her soul
To capture the uncapturable even if but for a day
I suppose I will until my own spark fades
And all those dreams with it of her body pressed to mine
A Writer’s Dream
Is it wrong to wish to write for writing’s sake? Is it wrong to feel the need to write a disclaimer only I’ll ever see?
I sometimes think I was born to the wrong era, that before computers and watches knew your name, I might have been happy. I’d have sat in my room as others scampered about living their lives and smiled at the view beyond the window, written down what I saw without forethought or fear. The clouds would’ve drifted across cerulean fields like mythical beasts and birds would’ve tweeted the minutes. With a quill for a sword and a wooden chair for a colt, I’d have lived out my days as a warrior of words and others would’ve been happy I did. But it isn’t days of yore, and there’s no time for idealism in today’s world of exactitudes and uncompromising rapport. We are. We will. We do as we’re told.
I sometimes wish the curtains to close and never open. Here wrapped in my private night, I’ll live in peace with these hundreds of thousands of words scattered all around; most long forgotten and stashed away in burrows of rabbited nonsenses. The songs I love will play in endless loops through ears with no wish to hear the spouted obscenities and harsh realities — or so they claim — of this, that and the other. Darkness will fold around me like a lover’s kiss, all-encompassing, and I won’t even know if I’m dead, nor care. But then the words will come, white on black, and I’ll feel more alive than ever.
Sometimes a voice calls from deep within that I presume my own but still doubt. This — let’s call it soul — knows my name, my home, my life, wife and circumstance, but even this supposed virgin self is dubious to my needs. What are my needs?
I have absolutely no wish for anyone to read what I write. I have absolutely no desire to be famous. If people happen upon these reams of written words and enjoy them, feel them, I’ll smile and thank them, and expect no thanks in return. If a child picks up one of my books and their eyes light up with wonder, I shouldn’t care if their parent commands them to put it back — not if the spark’s already lit. If? Such a little word. Such a pertinent package. But the cold hard reality, is something has to pay for a coffin and good intentions won’t.
Sometimes I think I’m free. Sometimes, but not often.
Thank you for reading