City beauty

A sequence of short poems inspired by Claudia McGill’s reflections on geraniums at windows.

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There is joy and beauty

beneath the city grime,

and the blackbird’s song

is just the same

beneath this sky.

*

There is beauty in the stone that glints

with the colours of the changing light,

and in the chaotic fluttering of sparrows’ wings.

There is kindness in the dirty blanket

laid beneath an old dog’s head,

and happiness when a greeting is returned,

a stranger’s uncalculating smile.

*

The earth is deep and dark in the garden plot

where snails creep,

elegant and unhurried,

among the stalks.

The earth is deep and full of life

that shoots and climbs higgledy-piggledy,

without order or patience,

riotous and lush,

because the sun and rain fall here as anywhere.

The earth is,

deep and eternal,

beneath my tread,

and over my head,

the sky.

 

And on a lighter note

 

How grey the sky and damp the air

and loud the screech of tyres complaining.

Beyond the cloud and heavy mist

somewhere there’s sun and it’s not raining.

Sings the moon

I haven’t done a cleave poem for a long time and thought I was due for a bit of self-inflicted punishment. I’m adding it to the dverse open link night because these poems are so hard to write, and I’m pleased with the way this one turned out.

If you don’t know what a cleave poem is, it’s a three in one poem. Each side is a separate poem to be read vertically, one side dark, the other light, opposites. But they can be  read horizontally as a single poem too.

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Loud the city silence                 sings the moon

Breaking glassy fragments      in a sea of darkness

All about                                      the brittle stars blink and listen

I stop my ears                              to the swell tide’s refrain.

Though scraps of anger            ride on peaceful calm,

White or red                                 sails full of dawning

Grow round and full                  like moons on water

Fruiting in the heat                    lily blossoms, reflections

Of a summer night                     in a still forest pool.

 

When the hum of the city

Photo©Robert Natkay

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When the hum of the city enfolds me,

And the shrill, broken laughter pierces

The rumbling yellow-lit doorways,

I wish I were miles away.

When I hear a voice cracked and splintered

Breaking a tune in pieces

And wringing its blood on the doorstep,

I wish I were miles from here.

The light never fades in the city,

The shadows too shallow to hide

The ruins of soft living and dying,

And I wish that the windows were blind.

When the streetlights hang veils in the night sky,

Like hellish moons daubing the dark,

I wish for a falling star’s magic,

A white owl, I’d spread wings and fly.

Autumn afternoon

Photo ©fr::lb:User:Ernmuhl

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Walking through the city, in my hand the keys to the house in the countryside.

Not the big barn door key, an antique almost the length of my forearm but the house door and the veranda door. We need spares cutting.

The air is hot, sky blue, and the key-cutter hums to himself.

Even the traffic lazes along, slow and steady.

I jaywalk across the boulevard, up to the triumphal arch and beyond to the cathedral square, where a mime artist, spray-painted gold, jerks into movement and a guy falls off his bicycle in surprise. The Spanish punks with their sleeping dogs laugh, but on the whole, nobody notices.

Past the town hall and the cobbles, fishscaled and uneven, along the railings of the municipal gardens and the art gallery to the park, resin-scented and dappled with hot sunlight, where two policemen are arguing with a young guy sitting on the back of a bench with his feet on the seat. But nothing is happening, the boy sits and the other policeman watches the girls in the café opposite. Then the older policeman huffs and puffs and they get back on their bicycles. The air is too hot and calm and peaceful to make a fuss.

The shopping mall is a hideous sixties pile, built when there was a lot of money for big projects, but maybe not much of it went the architect’s way because the result looks like a heap of old Daleks and giant leggo blocks stuck with beach pebbles to remind us, I suppose, that somewhere quite close is the ocean. But inside the concrete pebble-dashed bunker, there is quiet, no music and no crowds. I need a frying pan to take to the new house, and some Italian cheese, because shops in the countryside are sparse and Italian cheese will be a luxury. The boy at the checkout is getting everything wrong and the women at the next tills, older and maternal, laugh and help him out. The queue gets longer, but nobody seems in a hurry.

Walking home, the air is hot and lazy and the pines chatter with children going home from school and the shadows are a little longer.

I walk in the golden light falling, down the street that says Cours d’Albret on the nineteenth century enamel plaque, and Cours Messidor engraved in the stone beneath, reminding me that this city was once the seat of revolutionaries, and I wonder if they were as sleepy as we are now.

In the hot autumn light, gold and pine-scented, the city has a friendly, comfortable feel. But the keys jingle jangle in my bag and the song they are singing is of cool stone and trees where orioles warble, shading a stream, and morning light falling through open shutters onto a small piece of terracotta-flagged floor that my feet will tread gently back and forth until I make it my own.

Desert

The Daily Post prompt is: Desert.

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It stretches bleak from side to side,

Dust and arid stone shapes rising,

No heart beats in this dead wasteland.

 

No tender green to break the drabness,

No gentle blue in seas of grey,

It stretches bleak from side to side.

 

I search the skyline for trees waving,

But the wind blows, finding only

Dust and arid stone shapes rising.

 

Neon falsifies the moonlight,

No pulse throbs just engines roaring,

No heart beats in this dead wasteland.

Vine climbs

For the Daily Post prompt: natural

Tiny

At the foot of the wall,

in the shade of the sill,

where the grey shadows fall,

and the workmen drill,

there’s a small piece of green,

a patch of new shoots,

that nobody’s seen

and torn from its roots.

At the foot of the wall,

In the shade of the sill,

A vine starts to crawl

In a fierce show of will,

through a bed of dog ends

and discarded litter,

green tendrils sends,

with raindrops aglitter.

At the foot of the wall,

in the shade of the sill,

in its own space so small

the vine struggles still.

At the foot of the wall

in the dust of the street,

the earth shows us all,

where life and hope meet.

In Paradisio

Yesterday, despite a migraine that made me feel sick as a pig, I got on like a house on fire with In Paradisio, the third volume of the Wormholes series. In the cold light of a post-migraine morning, I can see that this story is not exactly a seamless web—we seem to have gone from William Blake to Bladerunner. Migraines do have an effect on the writing style and content! See what you think.

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He turned back to the path, a pale, sandy line in the darkness, and in a few moments, the ash, the yew, and the star were lost among the forest shadows. Within a few more minutes, the ‘forest’ petered out. Carla recognised the signs of an industrial wasteland, with dilapidated hangars, oil drums, plastic bags spilling their vile-smelling contents across the scrubby grass, and the quick scurry of rats. Memories of the mall and the hordes of rats that infested the rubbish heaps came back with a sharp shock and she stepped backwards. Harut held her firmly.

“You said you wanted to see other worlds.”

“But nice ones! This is too much like what Earth became.”

Harut’s teeth glittered in the wan moonlight. “Your Earth became like this, at the end. Some worlds have been like this for centuries.”

Carla shivered, dreading what the shadows of the crumbling warehouses concealed.

“Now keep quite.” Harut whispered in her ear. “We don’t want to attract too much attention. Even if we are armed.”

“Are we?”

“Of course. Remember the first exercises you ever did? What do you think you were supposed to do with the energy you transformed?”

“Self-defence, I suppose.”

Harut snorted. “Yeah. You’d better be prepared to defend yourself, then. And definitively.”

Carla looked about nervously

“There’s never much action here,” Harut whispered. “Let’s go into town.”

The pale moonlit sheds disappeared, replaced by the oppressive mass of tall buildings, some in complete darkness, others lit up like Christmas trees. A six-lane highway cut a wide gash between the buildings, joined by tiny dark alleys, not wide enough to walk two abreast. Vehicles whizzed past silently, and a skytrain flicked by on a rail that ran down the median strip. Apart from the muted sounds of rubber tyres on asphalt, there was little noise.

“Where is everybody?”

“Everywhere,” Harut replied. “Watching.”

“What?”

“Anything that moves in this place is suspect. Look.”

The shadows moved in one of the dark alleys at the far side of the highway, and something slipped into the flickering light of a passing train. Something that ran on two legs, then dropped to four. Whatever it was darted down the next alley, dragging a bag of refuse behind it. Carla started to ask a question, but Harut hushed her with a tightened grip on her arm. A scream of agony followed by a long drawn out howl broke the expectant silence. Moments later, two more hunched shapes broke from the alley, bent over cumbersome bundles, and disappeared into the darkness.

“Let’s go see,” Harut said, leaning into a running pose.

“No!” Carla hung back. “I really don’t want to get close to whatever went on there.”

“C’mon! It’ll be fun, you’ll see.”

Reluctantly Carla was scooped up in Harut’s aura to the far side of the highway, to the dark entrance to the alleyway the first creature had entered. She wrinkled her nose. It stank of something rotting, the smell that lingers in the bottom of dustbins, and the smell of corruption, of things long dead. Harut strode forward, his hands working as he gathered energy from the light sources, the electricity humming in the train rails, the fear Carla felt in the air all around her.

“There. Behind those waste containers.”

Harut pointed. At first it looked like a bundle of plastic bin bags. Until it moved. A hand reached out and clawed the ground, trying to get a hold on something, maybe to stand up. An arm reached out, a shoulder lurched from the shadows, then a head. Carla gasped. The head jerked and eyes opened, fixed hers, dark and glittering. Blood poured from the head, the shoulder, running along the arm, dripping from the fingertips. The face was the face of an ape. It grinned in terror. Its teeth were as bloody as the gash in its forehead. It scrabbled in the dirt, grabbed a bag and clutched it to its chest.

“It’s been eating man flesh,” Harut said. His voice was cold, but Carla sensed his rising excitement. “In the bag. What the other two left.”

Carla turned her head, not wishing to see what spilled out of the bag when Harut threw a fistful of power at the creature. She heard the soft splat as the bolt hit home. She heard the beginnings of a scream of agony that stopped, strangled in the throat by death. She dragged on Harut’s hand, but he shrugged her away and strode into the alley to inspect the remains. There wasn’t much left to inspect.

“Let’s go get the others,” he said, as he strode past her back out towards the highway.

“Why?”

“Why not? They’re vermin. If we don’t get them, they’ll only jump somebody else.”

“You mean, in the bags, it was… it was…”

“Yup. It was person.”

“Harut, let’s go back. I don’t like it here.”

In the dark, in the intermittent flashes of passing cars, Harut’s face grew cold. “You said you don’t understand why Nisroc wants to keep out the hordes of dead souls. You seem to think all spirits are peaceable just because they’re dead. Well, it’s time to open your eyes. Come on!”

Carla tried to hang back, but Harut took her in his arms and she found herself at the end of another dark alley. The walls, black with filth rose so high the night sky was lost to view. The same stench caught at her throat, making her gag. Harut crept deeper into the sinister ginnel, listening for the movement. When she heard the furtive sound of whispering, Carla stiffened, getting ready to run, but Harut leapt forward with a cry, the twisted mesh of energy in his hand glowing, lighting the huddled forms cowering against the wall. The same ape-like faces, dark and malevolent, or was that dark and terrorized?

The energy leapt and the two creatures flew backwards in a sheet of flame. Skin sizzled, hair glittered like ruby light, and the screams of agony were brief. When the glare faded, Harut stepped up to the carbonized carcases and kicked one. His boot caved in the shrivelled ribs. He drew back his foot in disgust.

“That makes three more dead souls crying to get into Paradisio. That’s the kind of thing you want to have walking the green valleys with you? Filthy cannibals?”