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Friday, January 01, 2016

A Night in Nox

In the gray, failing light of the last day of the year, the foot-tired travelers turned there backs to the chilling airs hovering over face of the lake and made for home.  Back, back to the road.  Back to the hard, poured surface of pitch and stone.  The black scythe swathe cut which proved man ruled these woods and went where he willed and did just as he pleased.  If they listened, they could just hear the whispered echoes of the rolling fortresses upon it.  They were not far.  Not far indeed.  The path was clear and hard packed from many feet; the way would be easy.  They would make their own fortress before dusk.

Twisting and twining, coiling and writhing the path led down into a shadow gloom of crouching pines.  Stunted and malformed, an army of ancient children, angry at their maker, keeping counsel with none but themselves, they hid from the light and turned the silent ground below to a moist carpet of needles which gave beneath the travelers’ tread.  Not in soft delight did they place their feet but in eerie dread as if trod upon the very flesh of a sleeping giant.  As if the softness and the blanket might muffle the breaths and they would fall into the very mouth and be swallowed up in darkness. 

Neither had much will to ponder long the spongy earth however as their ears and eyes were hooked and pulled to the gnarled spider limbed branches hanging low over their fearful faces.  A shadow flitted before them.  First one, then two, then three, then fifteen, then fifty, then a countless cacophony of feathers and wing, chirp and screech!  A great squawking, Hitchcockery mob, long overdue in the southlands, hanging here in this wicked wood.  Robins, robbed of their warm reds, cold gray and dull drabs in the gloom, glimpsed only for a moment as their sharp beaks split to cry at the interlopers.  Fear!  Flight!  The impenetrable net above them that strained out sky and light was filled with the wind of beating wings, they could feel it on their faces, it thrummed in their ears, an arrhythmic beat, an erratic madness.  Fear!  Flight!  Flee!  But never far, never far, always one step ahead, one branch further, only to take flight again!  The world around them became a dark, thrumming mass of flashing wing and darting darkness.  Their steps quickened but the path twisted back, this way and that, never free of the copse of malevolent trees and terrified birds. 

Light often comes in strange forms when one feels most trapped by the darkness.  A spell.  The grizzled traveler knew a charm for such times.  He sang an old, throaty song, a song of light in darkness, of warmth in cold, of succor in abandonment.  A melancholy tune of being found when lost.  A song it was, imbued with ancient power, an enchantment stronger than fear, greater than darkness: Hope.  Soon the shadows parted.  The wings drew back, further and further to either side and then fell at last, fell behind.  Joy began to peek out and then…

They froze, the song cut off. 

A call.  A voice of Night.  A sentry’s query.  Ominous and portent.  Who?  Who goes there?  State your business.

A shadow, a silhouette on a dead branch, a horned watchman on his tower.  Who? Who goes there?  They did not answer.  The interlopers dared not speak.  The great watchman lifted up and on moccasin wing and silenced currents went to make his report.  Joy stillborn, hope forgotten, the interlopers pressed on no longer sure of the Road.  No longer sure of Home.  Eyes wide for what may come next. 

What came next were gnomes.  At first the travelers spirits lifted.  At first they laughed at the brightly colored comedians.  The cavorting fools.  The antics of the minuscule denizens of this enchanted wood.  So here, then must be the source of the tricks of light and noise.  Here then was the cause of their folly.  And favored guests they must be to see this village of the fair folk!

But no fair welcome was this.  All they received was course jest and rude name.  Insult and ignominy.  And warning.  The guard made it clear what the natives thought of their grossly oversized intruders.  The dead eyed scavengers gnawing on bones made it clear what the fate of those caught in these woods at night would be.  But fear not us, they mocked, no, no, fear not us!  We are the janitors, we are but the gardeners.  Fear the Parliament!  Aye, they laughed,

    The Parliament, the Parliament,
many wasted minutes spent,
    many fools’ last moments,
wondering what the wee folk meant
    by fear the Parliament!

When they know just what we mean
    split they are from spine to spleen
Too late they see what we’ve seen
    and we will pick their fool’s bones clean
And sing a jolly last lament
    to fools who should fear the Parliament.

And with many more rude noises and raucous laughter at our backs, we quit that place and none too quickly.  And before i and my companion had time to consider the song of the faerie folk, the sentry called again.  From far ahead, between us and the road came the challenge.  It was answered from West.  That challenge was answered from the East.  Then behind.  Again, and closer from before. 

Surrounded.  Hurried we did now.  The gnomes had achieved their fateful work.  It was dusk, we had lost the light.  No silhouette accompanied our warnings from above now.  The sentries hung over us unseen but not unheard.  Now before us.  Now to the side.  Faster and faster we went, as fast as we dared as root and rock sought to trip us in the gathering gloom.  Night fell and still we were fighting the path itself.  This way and that it turned.  Taking us tortuously close to the road, within sight of passing fortresses and then away and deeper into the rolling wood and hollering cataract.  A watery trench between us and the road.  An open maw.  And always the Parliament overhead!  Unseen talons in the dark.  Silent wings at our backs.  The values shifted.  Dark path became ribbon of light. Reflecting leaves became deep shadow.  Trees closed in around us, reached for us, cut us off from the Road and then…

We stumbled and nearly fell down the steep embankment cut by human hands, abrupt, unnatural and oh so welcome at last we came to the Road!  Fumbling for the key, encased in steel and glass, engine roars to life, lights stab the darkness and make it deeper still but outside, outside, blessedly outside.  Escape at pursued impala speeds, they breathed deeper the artificially heated air, they let the chill escape their feet, they tore into sugary chocolate to sweeten the fear from their mouths and set course for home.

The deep raking talon tears along their souls will heal and be forgotten in a week or two.  Or so i’m told.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Probably not an original thought

The Oath is forged in moment of peace
when witness shine upon the maker;
But in battle fierce and darkness deep
are the keeper divided from the breaker.

The Vow is not for when love's river
be swollen with the rains of Spring;
But when choking drought and love's stone well
naught but dust the lover bring.

None need promise what none doubt done
in joyful days when Satan slept;
The Promise is not judged on noble intent
but in the devil's hour when it is kept.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Of fog and crows...

For no one hopes in what they've seen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Voice of the Apocalypse

It has become an uphill slog of gory hand to hand combat to write.  To force fleeting flickers of thoughts to coalesce into lamps of luminous prose.  And it's not a block.  A lump of wall between the world of words and i.  It is the i in i.

i just don't see the point.

Lately i think a lot about finishing.  A conversation with Jeff the Elder in which we lamented and he said something that my mind remembers as, "there is a dearth of men finishing well."  Ending their lives as firm and as solid and as noble as they began them.  There is a falling off which happens.  An inward curvature.  A parabolic arc that turns the man upon himself, inward, selfish, low.  As if we all, like Gollum, bury ourselves beneath the mountain, far from eyes, far from light, far from anyone and anything we need to care about.  Hobbies become obsessive.  My precious.

Depending on how you measure it, i am either in the last third of my life or the very middle.  i think of life in terms of twenties.  Scores.  The first Score: birth and childhood.  The second Score: marriage, family, raising my sons.  i am in the third Score now, what is it?  What's its purpose?  What is its mission?  Does it have one or can that only be determined in hindsight?  Mid-life crisis?  Would we have the stereotype if it weren't true?  To me this score is the last of my productive years.  Anything beyond sixty is bonus round.  But the life i've lived will most likely make it a wasteland of the physical.  My body won't be up for another twenty by then.  If i follow in the footsteps of some of my forebears, my mind won't either.  So i don't hold out much hope for a fourth movement (though who knows?  Moses did ALL of his work from eighty to one twenty).  This is it.  This is the time you have allotted to you.

How shall you spend it?  What shall you do?

i feel the deck heave beneath me.  The world at large and personal is a Titanic in her death throws.  Nothing holds together.  i can hear the screams of the metal as it tears away and it mixes with the fear of the dying.  What is yet worth doing?  Is there anyone listening?  Anyone i can give a life preserver to?  Should i just sit here and draw the bow along the cello until the deep closes over?  Would anyone draw strength from the music?  Would i?

Is it enough to be the last DJ on the overnight, graveyard broadcast, playing his songs as the stars fall?  Pappy Fricken here, your shepherd through the pilgrim's progress of the long, dark night of the soul.  The last watchman on the wall, talking to the crickets and the katydids.  "Watchman, what of the night?" they cry, "Watchman, what of the night?"  Morning comes and also the night, i would answer.  If you would inquire, inquire.  Come back again to WHUT, playing your musical score to accompany the end of the world.  Saying never forget, never forget, Salvation before Revelation, my friends, crickets and katydids.  The end is only a new beginning and you don't want to miss the next world.  It's going to be the one you thought this one should be.  One worth writing about.  Come Lord Jesus, come!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Excerpt of another conversation with Seamus

"Ye know what i hate?" Seamus asked me one cooling evening in our favorite publick house.
"Everything," i answered with the full weight of assurance.
"Now that's a lie you could'a-"
"Excepting Guinness."
"Oh well, then aye.  Pretty much," he admitted.  Small victories.  "So to be perfectly clear then, do ye know what's particularly chafing this week?"
"No, but i'm sure it's epic."
"Completely overused descriptor, lad, it's this generation's 'awesome."
"Paramount then."
"Better," he took a swig of his beer, "it's this whole business of being holier-than-thou."
"Run into that a lot do we?"
"More'n ye c'n know nor likely guess."
"Try me."
"Never ye mind, it's moot."
"How so?  Cuz it's not true?"
"Ach no!  It's dead nuts!"
"So your annoyed that your better than everyone or that they notice it?"
"Not better, ho-li-er," he drew out the key word.
"Ah well, we can't all be saints as righteous as you."
He slammed his hand down on the bar, startling me and not a few others.  "A fookin' cannibal pimp with blood on his fookin' lips could be as righteous as I fookin' am!"
"Right.  Yet it's accurate to label you holier-than-thou?"
"And that annoys you."
"Fook no," he took another sip, as if i didn't know it was for dramatic pause and effect.  "It annoys me that ..," he swept the entire pub and by extension, society at large in a roll of his eyes, "they..think the problem lies with me!"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

An awkward introduction

"Seamus!  You wazzock!  You never told me you were married?  This beguiling woman is your wife?"
"Wife?"  Seamus looked intently at the woman for a moment, "no.  'at's not quite it.  Is there a word for, 'stranger I 'appen to sleep naked in the same bed with?'"
"I hate you," she said to him.
"Nemesis!  That's the word.  Thank you darling."

Saturday, August 08, 2015

about cows

No, your confederate flag does not make you a racist...

But your dogmatic adherence to it does make you unloving...

"Therefore, let us no longer pass judgment on one another, but rather decide this: not to place a cause for stumbling or a temptation before a brother. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself, except to the one who considers something to be unclean; to that person it is unclean. For if because of food, your brother is grieved, you are no longer living according to love. Do not destroy by your food that person for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be slandered. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is well-pleasing to God and approved by people.

So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what edifies one another. Do not destroy the work of God on account of food. All things are clean, but it is wrong for the person who eats and stumbles in the process. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine or to do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is weakened. The faith that you have, have with respect to yourself before God. Blessed is the one who does not pass judgment on himself by what he approves. But the one who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin."  Romans 14

"But this knowledge is not in everyone. But some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat this food as food sacrificed to idols, and their conscience, because it is weak, is defiled. But food does not bring us close to God. For neither if we eat do we have more, nor if we do not eat do we lack. But watch out lest somehow this right of yours becomes a cause for stumbling to the weak. For if someone should see you who has knowledge reclining for a meal in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, because it is weak, be strengthened so that he eats the food sacrificed to idols? For the one who is weak—the brother for whom Christ died—is destroyed by your knowledge. Now if you sin in this way against the brothers and wound their conscience, which is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat forever, in order that I may not cause my brother to sin." 1 Cor 8

Cows should be made meals, not sacred.