31 December 2012

Magpie Tales 149: Smoke and Sand

Image by R.A.D. Stainforth, via Magpie Tales

It is curious, this last day of the year. An otherwise unremarkable date, gaining meaning only through the arbitrary imposition of calendars on the passage of universal time. I set down the last cigarette, the one I will not smoke, to gaze undisturbed through the feathery glaze of ice befogging the old window glass. The panes are thin. They do not so much keep out the weather as restrain it from overrunning the interior of the cottage. I have replaced many in the years my bones have held court here by the sea. The number of original panes is somewhere south of twenty, out of how many I cannot tell. The ancient ones betray their history through the tiny bubbles trapped in the vitreous humor of the windows. I amuse myself some sunny days by watching the little gray shadows of the bubbles track across the table and the floor. The glass is flawed, some may say, but fulfills its nature in spite of an imperfect beauty. As perhaps, do I.

I sigh. Cool air smelling of salt and Chinese tobacco fills my lungs on the uptake. The two rooms of this, my one-man abbey by the sea, have carried this aroma for decades. For some reason, this surprises me. Again. I shake my head and breathe on the windowpane. A clear ring opens in the frost, tears of ice melt forming runnels down the glass. Through this impromptu porthole I spy the breakers pounding the beach. "My very own camera obscura," I say to the silence of the room, and the idea brings a smile to my cracked lips. Wincing, I run a finger over my bottom lip; it comes away clean and dry. The whoosh of waves echoes the little sigh of relief escaping my mouth. No blood this time. This is good.

The spot on the glass begins to fog over as the wan heat from my earlier breath dissipates. The ocean beyond distorts and ripples, gradually becoming more of an idea about waves and less of a concrete reality. The effect is not unpleasant, akin to that diffusion of thoughts and images that occurs in my mind often as I drift off to dream. Dreams, anyway, on those occasions where I am blessed by Caer Ibormeith to have them. Thoughts of Celtic myths haunt me almost every day here by the ocean; I chuckle ruefully to think that too often these nights it seems only goddesses or medication can carry me to the isle of sleep. I much prefer goddesses.

Wind moans gently around the eaves of my cottage. I hear the susurration of sand across the glass. Shivers track up and down my spine. The sound joins with the groanings of the breakers and my mind is seized by the absurd idea that the ocean, or someone in it, is attempting conversation. Or calling me to join them, there under the cold gel of the sea. My thoughts again drift to my Celtic past, the salt tang of which flows in my veins, pushing and pulling on my heart in tides of blood. Crazily, I think it might be Manannán mac Lir calling to me in the froth and flow of the iron-green waves. Perhaps, perhaps.

The makeshift lens of breath and heat is rimed over. Winter grips the beach here on the headland, and I am weary of constantly feeding the timid fire that smolders on the worn bricks of the hearth. I don't burn peat as much as I used to; nowadays it is more likely to be hardwood when I can get it. Burns brighter and hotter, although I reckon my tea tastes not the same as it might from a kettle kissed by a peat fire. But I haven't risen from my chair in what seems hours and the cottage is growing cold. The hearth seems far away.

I rub the glass again. I want to see the waves, the spray. They glisten in an unexpected shaft of sunlight that lances through the sullen pewter sky. Unbidden my hand creeps toward the cigarette I said I wouldn't smoke. My other grips the worn chrome lighter that belonged to my father, and his father before him. Yellow-blue flame flares into existence, lighting up the thin cast of my face reflecting momentarily in the window glass. The flame extinguished, my face vanishes, leaving me to gaze through a widening hole in the frost.

I breathe, I listen, my lungs fill with smoke and sand. It is the last day of the year, I have been told, and if we are blessed, tomorrow the sea and I will carry on as usual.

19 December 2012


The old soul wearing a middle ground body sat in preternatural calm, on warm rocks with the cold sea lapping at his feet. He thought of currents, the Gulf Stream and Humboldts of the world caressing his legs with soft whispers of presences in the deep. His jeans were three shade of indigo dissolving into the restless water. There were barnacles, scratchy.

For the first time in his life the gelatinous fingers of seaweed entwined about his toes failed to make him shudder. This was new. Perhaps a sign of new things to come. A sea change, he thought. The idea brought a smile to his sunburned cheeks.

Sea change. Yes. The old soul reached up to adjust the salt-rimed hat that crowned his head. The hat was old, its fabric soaked with memory, and with pretensions to being green. He snugged it down, and pulled his windbreaker a little closer in. The argentine sun was high up in a sky that defined cerulean yet it offered little real warmth. Wind and water saw to that.

Still, he kept his feet where the breakers could touch them. The water was cold, but felt good. In its own aqueous way it felt like a blanket the old soul used to have, back when he was a boy and the world was new. The water rose and fell, inducing the tide in his veins that swelled to spring tide in his heart.

He sighed. waves gurgled and hissed among the rocks. The leading edge of the water slowly edged backwards away from him, and quiet fell along the shore. The old soul looked up. He expected that seventh wave to come roaring out of the sea, and if his eyes didn't deceive him, there was a big swell eating the horizon. His teeth flashed in the sun. Salt air filled his lungs, and he knew.

Sea change, yes. It was there. It was coming. As a younger man, the sight of such a swell would have sent him running up the beach. But not now. He laid his hands in his lap, mind filling with nothing, waiting to embrace the wave that would surely sweep him off the rocks.

17 December 2012

Magpie Tales 148: Through the Front

photo by Andy Magee, via Magpie Tales

Worrying about the drive,
you play a zero-sum game
Turn your attention front and center
to gaze the rain-slick track you ride

Low radio murmur is no sin
Songs offer their own warm company
to those bursting through the front,
Wheels like pigeons wayfinding home

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very different creation from that of my first impulse. That first impulse was a story, not blank verse, and it involved elements that, in the light of recent tragic events, were too visceral and dark. I owe a debt of thanks to Tess Kincaid, whose Magpie Tale I read before I wrote my own, but after I had that first inspiration. Because of that poem, because of 'dreich', because of rain, I made something from light. Thanks be to quantam entanglements and thank you, Ms. Kincaid.

16 December 2012

Guard the Flame (Sunday Meditation #26)

Chimneys without caps,
Our brightly burning fires doused
Deadly metal rain

15 December 2012

Broken Voids

December 14th, 10:27 PM. Vile headache from parsing news of the latest horrific gun violence tragedy. Rain falls, and thoughts of bed beckon me.

There comes a time where the left and the right, the liberal and the conservative, the 'must-control' and the 'cowboy militia' crowd simply must cease to talk, blather and yell.

They simply must be silent...unless they want to join us devastated human beings in a scream of volcanic anguish that surely could be heard at the edges of the universe.

Now is not the time to squabble about the deadly tools that usurp our hearts with broken voids. Now is the time for considered reflection, to fill those voids with love.

10 December 2012

Magpie Tales 147: Tara Cognita

Image from The MetaPicture via Magpie Tales

Sailed the seas of her
roaming over black rogue waves
pounding the fearful ego
A bittersweet joke
Lost on Mare timoris,
compass in the heart
Bed, a safe harbor
Her breath, waves lapping the strand
soft hips, map to home

05 December 2012

Sleeping Dogs In My Head

Crash! Clang! Bang the lids
Warbling yelps, claws scratch hardwood
while bastard me laughs

03 December 2012

Magpie Tales 146: Metronomic Incarceration

Object to be Destroyed by Man Ray, via Magpie Tales

Breath frosts rippled glass,
Brown falling leaves, she blinks, sways,
Soul tick-tocks away

02 December 2012

If I Could Speak My Mind (Sunday Meditation #25)

9:54 PM. At my desk, on  the cusp of what I hope to be a good nights' sleep. Poems and music in my head.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
   ~ from 'The Second Coming' by W. B. Yeats
Man I've had it up to here
Gear I wear got 'em goin' in fear
Rhetoric said
Read just a bit ago
Not quittin' though
Signed the hard rhymer
Work to keep from gettin' jerked
Changin' some ways
To way back in the better days
Raw metaphysically bold
Never followed a code
Still dropped a load
Never question what I am God knows
Cause it's comin' from the heart
 ~from 'Welcome to the Terrordome' by Public Enemy

I returned home about forty minutes ago, tired but content, from a social event where I got schooled in what in means to surround one's self with beautiful things that make one happy. In other words, Art. All I know is that I stood there admiring some prints, and thought "That is what I want to do. Please."

On the ride home I had a mashup going on in my head, poetry of two widely divergent decades swirling around in my head. W. B. Yeats in a church, sepulchrally intoning 'The Second Coming' intertwined with the staccato baritone of Chuck D. knocking out 'Welcome to the Terrordome'...and I couldn't stop marveling over the power of shadow and light and words. I couldn't help but feel a tad helpless in the face of such talent and skill.

I thought of my cameras and notebooks waiting patiently at home. I wondered, given what is out there and the sum total of powerful art that has been created, if my aspirations to be a shaman (of sorts) are wildly misplaced. I like to think I see things, hear things, that maybe no one else does in those creative moments of mine. But I have much to learn when it comes to pursuing and creating art, of any kind, be it written or visual.

Yeats, Chuck D. and an artist whose name I didn't write down. I can see them on the road ahead of me. I've miles to go, people, miles to go on the road to who I want to be.

01 December 2012

Shattered Tarn: A Love Meditation

November 30th, 9:57 PM. Weary, and thinking about moonlight on the water.

In the absence of wind and aquatic life, a full moon reflects perfectly on the surface of the lake. Casting in a stone shatters the silence and the lunar countenance, silver shards refracting and splintering in the wavelets. Such a sight may upset the peace we seek within ourselves. The perfection, or near-perfection, that the senses lead one to believe is there is gone in that instant. Celestial harmony has been disturbed; we anguish over it not returning.

So we wait. We take small breaths, attempting no movement. The shards merge and separate in a liquid dance plucking at the strings of the mind. We hold on to dimming hope tempered by the realization that the surface of the lake will never truly sit still. It never did. The promise of that reflection was peace and harmony. It was a place in the universe where balance was achieved, now broken. Perhaps this invokes small despair, and we lament a loss.

Sitting on the shore of that mountain lake in our hearts, we gaze upon the moon on the water and think it perfection. We fear its destruction. But our casting of stones into the water destroys the reflection, not that which shines. To lament this shattering is a deceptive path, one that we would do well to avoid. The attachment to that reflection is the shackle of anxiety. The shackle can be broken if we turn our eyes to the sky, and offer thanks not to reflected light, but to the moon.