A quick-fire response to Diana’s May photo prompt. Steam punk isn’t my thing, so this is a first for me, and it isn’t even a story…

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

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The world whispered and sighed to the sound of wheels turning, valves hissing and the soft clicking of gears. Horse hooves beat time, and the pistons of steam engines rattled louder than anything but thunder. Cities had risen and spread in a regular, ordered fashion and society acquiesced to a hierarchy that never changed. The secret lay in the great clock that ticked at the heart of the earth.

Time had ticked since the methodical unfurling of the first fern and the faint throb of bioluminescent proto-fish in the ocean depths. It ticked soft and gentle for millennia and millennia, regular and unfailing. Bird throats chirruped steadily; clip-clopping and pattering animals stepped in time to the universal dance. The hidden iron-nickel wheels turned, stirring the earth’s molten core and sending waves through its magnetic field to draw up tides, swell oceans, bowl winds and storms across the distant outer crust where the ferns grew taller and the fish grew monstrous and famished.

Wheels and gears shifted and the ticking grew louder, more insistent. Time called for a new era to begin and sent the waves into flux, drawing and pulling new spirals of DNA and twisting them into a new creature that would order the anarchy of the crust. Man.

Man sprang from the tepid swamps and desert winds and walked to the higher ground, clearing it of invasive and threatening species multiplying with the regularity of turning wheels and cogs. Wheels and cogs, then pistons using the motion of fire and steam, man fashioned the world after his own image, to function unfailingly, undying, with no irregularity, no flights of fantasy, no wondering why or how. Man, made in the image of the creator, functioned. And the great clock at the centre of the world ticked in satisfaction and saw that is was good.

Time ticked.


On Saturday, the Ekphrastic Review published a short piece of mine based on this painting, Schöpfungsgeschichte II  (Creation Story) by Franz Marc. He painted it in 1914. By 1916 he was dead, killed by a shell at the battle of Verdun.

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Thank you Ekphrastic for giving my poetry and prose a home with a window.

You can read it here

Some things just are

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a creation story. Since I’m in haibun mood, here’s another one.


We work backwards from now, and we ask how, when? Precise questions that produce precise answers. But if we go back to that moment billions of years ago in the silence and cold of nothingness, and we ask, why, what answer do we get? Some say it was the start of the divine plan, a slow-growing plan that filled space with brilliance, and we, in the arc of our tiny spark of light, an insignificant star in a small, run-of-the-mill galaxy on the edges of the wonderland of the universe, wound through swampy fantasies and frozen stagnation before settling into our unsettling and unsettled ordered chaos.

Others ask, but what was before the beginning, what was the nothingness and why was it? If there was no time before the blue touch paper burst into cosmic sparkles and jubilant noise, then nothingness was infinite and eternal. Silence and cold. Was the divine plan in cogitation, or was the divine planner in embryo, to be born (from whom?) out of a need to explode the nothingness and paint a canvas for it to explore?

Perhaps there is no answer to the why question. Perhaps some things just happen, like catching a virus or not, growing up wild or conformist, having seventy-three rosettes or sixty-seven (if you’re a jaguar). Some things have no why or how, they just are. Like love.


Ask not the blackbird

why she feeds a hungry nest—

it’s what mothers do.

Microfiction: In the beginning…

Just saw the Carrot Ranch prompt. Write a creation myth! No more, no less, in exactly 99 words. How could I resist?


Once upon a time there was nothing, and the nothing began to pulsate, and in time to the pulsating, time began to tick. In time, boredom set in and the nothingness changed rhythm and it began to swing. As it swung back and forth, sparks of interest flickered in the nothingness and they swung too. More and more sparks joined in the dance, swinging and swirling clouds and veils of coloured gas, until the ticking became a riot of noise and gaiety mounting to a monumental crescendo and BOOM, out of anarchy, settled the ordered brilliance of the universe.

Microfiction: A serpent’s tale

Inspired by this very odd painting by Hans Thoma.


Titus was angry. He was not very bright but he knew that he was not meant to be here. Nothing was like the beautiful tepid swamp where he had hatched and learned to hunt. The air was dry and the sun too hot, drying his skin mercilessly until it cracked. They wouldn’t let him in the lake where the white robes floated in their white barques singing their monotonous songs. And he didn’t like the attentions of the small ones that pestered him constantly and tried to feed him flowers. They called him Titus, and even that was not his true name. Green Biter was what his sibling had called him before he chased her away.

Time flowed in a strange way here, night and day rattled past and nothing changed. Except his hunger. That grew and grew with every moment. Where were the giant dragonflies that skimmed the surface of the water, the fish with squirmy legs that hid in the mud, the two-legged lizards that raced away, almost too fast to catch? Here, there was grass and hard earth, a cold lake that was forbidden him, and floating white gowns. And beneath the gowns he smelled something strange, something tempting, a blood that coursed hot and thick.

Was it his fault if he had eaten one of the little ones, the pesterers? They had reproached him though, and taken him to be punished by the white robe that kept them all under her sway, with her tedious strumming that vibrated in the air like dragonfly wings.

Titus narrowed his eyes and flinched from the touch of the little one. He was hungry again and the temptation was growing to drag this one into the green prickly bushes, whatever the consequences. But the strummer was gazing at him and although his anger was no less, he lost all desire to anger her. She was speaking to him, her thoughts sinking into his small brain and making him listen, like it or not.

I have a mission for you, serpent, in a world far from here, she said. You will find plenty of hot-blooded creatures to eat, but you will listen for my orders.

What Titus do? he asked.

Nothing. Not yet. You will be told, when it is time. And remember, your name is no longer Titus. From now on, you will be called Satan.


The glass is humming

The idea of the musical glass came from the Crow whose poem you can read here. This is an attempt to tease out the idea in a different way.


The glass is humming in my head,

thrummed by a moistened finger,

idly following the tune,

the hand that pointed from the cloud.


Crystal fills with starlight, moonlight,

gathers silver chords glissando,

building music of the spheres.


The hand with moving finger falters,

having lost its song moves on

to write its orders in the wind.


Wind and water rise and turn

about the pristine crystal rim,

while the greybeard stops his ears.


The glass still hums its monologue,

for who can stop the wind, the tides?

No finger pointing from the clouds

can silence music of the stars

and tell the music of the moon: be not.


For the Secret Keeper’s weekly writing prompt

The prompt words were:



What inspired the mind

That worked the night and moulded space,

Sculpted the cold and made a world?

What power there was in breath,

Heavy with a thousand gases,

Bright with the fizzing lights of fission and fusion,

To produce the ever-swelling ocean,

That rolls to the edge of eternity and beyond.

Was it desire to create a masterwork,

Or was it simply the need to be?

Not enough to be the dark,

The pulsing nothingness of the void,

Not enough to feel the cold, bitter and unchanging,

Not enough to be the only thing.

I, though, hold a daisy in my hand,

Delicately, between forefinger and thumb,

Close enough to see the yellow flecks of dusty pollen

Glinting, sunspecks,

While the dripping globes of last night’s rain

Shine bright as any star.

Did you not know that this was enough?

While you howl in some black hole,

Some brilliant nursery of new stars,

An explosion, implosion, radiating pulsar,

Among the fierce, unknowable colours of your space garden,

I watch the rain fall upon the daisies.



What power, to take a star,
A brilliant sphere of fire,
Concentrated into the purest light,
And shatter it,
Sending sparks and shards of pure white fire
Across the black reaches of the universe.
What artist created such beauty,
Such astounding glory?
No hand is raised in answer,
No voice calls, present, rolling louder than the thunder.
Only silence falls from the overarching sky.
And in the great pulsing heart of the cosmos,
Where matter and antimatter and quarks are made,
In the great heart where stardust and unicorns grow,
Silence sings to the ears of memory,
The ancestral songs that course in every atom of our blood,
And the great wheel turns unaided.

First stars


First stars
Dead now
Light from so long ago
So far away
Still glitters.
Of billions
Of years
Before God was born
The first stars shone
And watched the universe roll and stretch
And a myriad galactic colours grow
And flicker
And die.
Pure and elemental
Reached into the darkest cracks
Between the struggling starbursts.
Light was
That had no need of fear and prostration
To create a dream.