14 January 2018

Highwire Over the Black

8:13 PM. Notes from the cell. A mid-winter night's nightmare. I tell you now this is not a "feel good" essay.

That which troubles my sleep, and my waking hours. I am tightrope walking over a scar of infinite black below. The curiousness of the activity stems from not comprehending how it came to be. My mind is not expansive enough, yet. 

On one side of this chasm lies a carnivale of connection and affection which I crave. On the other lies a fortress, built of the stones of bitterness, into which my heart wishes to retreat. All the while, my feet shuffle gingerly over the wire. The wind of desperation tests my balance.

Move forward, move back, it matters not. Any choice involves a fall. The blackness of mistrust threatens to swallow me whole should I slip. It threatens to swallow me should I stand still. Paralyzed, cold, frantic. Mistrust seeps into every feeling, every thought. This is no way to have a life.

Paradoxically it also feels like being backed into a corner. Two walls, floor, a low ceiling all closing in. There is no wind, only a thickening atmosphere. Left with nothing but desperation to figure out who to trust, as there is none towards others or myself. The unofficial motto for the Disunited States of Me: “In Pain We Trust”.

Snow is falling as I write this. I see the fat flakes hurtling to the ground. On the radio, The Jayhawks croon “You shouldn’t hide your colors” to which a bitter chuckle escapes my lips. Shouldn’t hide my colors? Noble, it might seem. Courageous, perhaps. I let my colors fly because I believed those things to be true. My reward was to watch while the heart to which mine had pledged allegiance cut down my mast and set the flag ablaze. Glory ending in ashes and rubble.

My soul is neither coroner nor archaeologist, but it finds itself sifting through the blackened debris that surrounds it. Fragments of a life. Bits and pieces tattooed with words barely visible through traces of smoke and charred edges. It is painful, this performing of forensics on the shattered remains of one's own heart.

Out on the wire, nothing stays still. Thoughts, feelings. The pulse in the veins even contributes its own instability, a constant challenge to the act of standing still. Staring into the tea mug I watch the trembles of my hands translate into ripples over the mahogany liquid. Closing my eyes, I dive in, surfacing on the wire again. The sun is peeking through the clouds. But I am still there suspended over the void. Connection seems so close, if only I could believe. 

The fortress may be cold and dark but it has thick walls. Walls that deflect pain and rejection, behind which sleep might be possible. The carnival is bright and warm but in the past I have paid dearly for the cost of a ticket. A ticket which did nothing to prevent the despair of rejection. So it is I am paralyzed on the wire. My colors are mute and hidden. It is only a matter of time before I fall. The question is, which way?


07 January 2018

Moment Stretches On Forever

Nothing lasts forever. Everything is transient. So says popular wisdom and some religions. If so, does that mean time is elastic? Heartache drawn out in front of a second hand that never seems to move. Despair squeezed my heart with a cold hand, the shock of which galvanized me into twitchy wakefulness.

Awake to a sky burnished pearly and streaked with dull orange. The cottage cold as the fire burned low. Sitting up on the edge of the bed I felt the dream receding like the waves sliding up and down under the ice along the shoreline. Head heavy and sluggish, the ocean looking the same and eerily gelatinous. The ocean, I thought, is transient in appearance but not in existence. It is there. Always.

Apparently like the pain I felt this morning. Still feel, that is. The notion of transient and "this too shall pass" seeming an insult in the face of the broken heart lodged in my chest. It too shall pass? 

"When?" I muttered to the icy air. "Time is stretching out before me, and the end point of this seems nowhere in sight!"

Oyster colored clouds parted out over the waves. A thin beam of sunlight slowly made its way into the cottage, limning the interior with a glow that had little warmth. Outside the waves continued their slow caress of the beach along the headland. Faint tinkling reached my ears as the ice clotted along the tideline shifted. 

The blood seemed thicker in my veins. I could smell the salt water but it did not stir me in the usual manner. It was cold. I needed heat. I needed light. Time to stoke the fire. I shuffled over to the hearth, picking up the ice cold iron poker to prod the embers. Driftwood was low. I would need to do a beach walk.

I threw a few pieces of salty wood into the fireplace. More would go into the small potbelly stove, for tea and breakfast. The flames winked into existence, slowly growing in intensity. The minerals in the wood flared faint blue and green as they burned off. The heat seeped into my grateful bones. 

I turned to look out the windows facing the sea. The water was jade flecked with orange and gold from the sun. It was beautiful. The horizon stretched from side to side, infinite, relentless. It became my moment, delineator of pain, stretching on for what seemed like forever. To my lips came the prayer that soon the clock would tick, and this moment of pain would pass. The waves break, the ice cracks and groans. I wait.

31 December 2017

This Is The Line That Divides

At the end of the year
television screeds exhort
Spend for the car now
Buy my happiness now
Claim your life back now
through concentrated application
of money not possessed
but manifested through plastic
and a life of electronic servitude
Time elongates, heart spasms,
mind melts with thoughts
of nothing left to lose here
at the end of the world

24 December 2017

The Fall of the King

The king awoke to the metallic caw of ravens, and a sharp stabbing pain in his left arm. He struggled to open his eyes through the crust of dried blood caking them shut. A raven sounded loud in his ear, and he started in spite of himself. The heat ebony bird hopped away and took flight. It had been pecking the the king's exposed arm. The vambrace was missing, lost somewhere on the hill above the beach.

The king groaned. A throbbing in his head sent forth waves of nausea, threatening to spill out on a flood of bile. He gritted his teeth. Bloody, groggy, he determined that he would not embarrass himself by spewing the little contents of his stomach in front of his men.

His men. Where were they? he wondered. The only sounds he could hear were wind on the grass and waves on the strand. No human noises met this ears. Only ravens and the earth. The king struggled to sit up. Rolling over, he braced his arms against the turf and pushed. He made it to his knees before a lancet of pain shot through his head. He trembled. He spat blood onto the emerald grass.

Slowly he lifted his head. The helmet he began to lift off. His hands trembled but managed to slide the iron with a bit of tugging. Blurry eyes focused on the inside of the helmet, dark and slick with blackening blood. One side of the piece was deeply dented. It was only by grace that whatever had struck his head had not split the helmet asunder. 

The blow had perhaps knocked him unconscious. Gingerly he felt around the top of his skull. Sure enough, there was a knob about the size of a small goose egg, split slightly across its middle. His fingers came away damp with blood, a few graying hairs sticking to his flesh. The king sent up a prayer of thanks to the war god that the wound was not worse. 

But his men. In his field of vision he could see what seemed a field of corpses, strewn about the hillock, entrails and blood bright and obscene against the deep green of the grass. Not a soul stirred while the ravens feasted. He saw them. They hopped and pecked. They ceased to pay the king any deference now that he appeared to be alive. Their feathers shone dully nacreous under the pewter overcast sky.

"I am alive", said the king, "yet the world appears to be dead. By what fortune is this?"

The king struggled to his feet. A cool wind sprang up, bringing with it the smell of blood and ocean, iron and salt. His sword lay in the grass. The tip was broken. The oyster colored steel shone through a film of blood. Notches in the blade gave testimony to a hard fight. On instinct, the king reached for the sword. The dread eased as he wrapped his scarred hand around the grip.

The sky was swirling with ravens. A cloud of jet broken only by patches of gray sky a few brave seagulls flitting in and out of the crowd. Death saturated the air, barely kept at bay by the ocean breeze. It was clear to the king now that he was apparently the only survivor. The captain of his guard lay a few feet away, his skull split by the axe still lodged in the bone. The sword of the captain jutted from the ribcage of his killer, both unseeing and stiff beneath the sky. The rest of his guard and the cohorts of the barbarians were splayed about the hill. Not one appeared to breathe, or make a sound.

Wind picked up, gusting, bringing with it the scent of rain. The king turned to face the sea and found himself wishing the drops would fall, if only to wash the blood and failure off his broken armor and battered body. He felt the specter of sadness nosing about his mind. So many lives lost of those who had believed in him, had made him king. But now he felt there was no kingdom, unless the territory was defined by the shell of his body alone. The king wept.

Hours may have passed. Maybe days. The king grew insensate to time, or so he thought. It was the creeping chill of sundown that finally roused him from his despair. Behind him the birds had settled down, some in a nearby copse of trees, others walking stilt-legged through the grass pecking at insects and the bodies. 

The king stood. The sun, peeking fitfully through the clouds, neared the horizon. Waves beckoned to him, and he resolved to wash himself clean in the saltwater. A staggering walk downhill along a rutted path, he divested himself of his armor and padding, piece by filthy, bloody piece. He clutched the sword by habit, but when he reached the tide line he thrust the pitted blade downward into the sand. As he did so, he pierced the body of a crab that had washed up in the wrack.

Fitting, he though darkly, that no respect is accorded to the living or the dead. He stood naked before the sea. Cold wavelets lapped his feet and ankles. A few sluggish strides forward found him see-deep in the surf. The waves were gathering height and force, now, and he wondered of the sea god knew he was here. He wondered if the sea would reject him, now that his kingdom seemed lost, his body wracked and bruised.

The king raised his arms and leaned forward to plunge into a tall wave that rushed up the strand. The shock of the green water evoked a roar from the king's ragged throat. Seawater ran over his body. The salt stung the myriad cuts and scrapes that webbed his flesh. Pain and cold galvanized the king. He struggled further out into the surf, scraping blood and the flesh of others off his aching frame. He roared again, anguish and shame pouring from his soul. Out in the water came an answering voice, which to the king sounded like a command.

The king swam deeper into the sea. Up on the hill, in the company of birds and the night, the remnants of the kingdom  slowly faded from sight. He swam on, not knowing if it could be saved or if it would rebirth itself, and he would once again know the feel of a crown bestowed by the heart of another.