Unmarked

Another looking back poem inspired by the Daily Inkling prompt about the importance of the dashes between the dates on gravestone.

 

It seems such a commonplace thing, a gravestone,

a marker in the earth where a body is planted,

the place where descendants visit,

to water and tend, hoping perhaps the dead will grow.

I have no gravestones to water,

no headstones with names and dates,

no weeping angels or whited sepulchres

bear the names of my ancestors.

When the earth yielded barely a living,

a scratched grave in it merited no monument.

Or they died in the wrong place,

where even the earth was not their own,

and masses said had more purpose than stone

markers in that wrong place, wrong earth,

beneath a sky that lit the wrong faces.

We live and die, move on, away,

not tethered to a stone or anchored with weeping wings,

we take our memories of lives lived,

the stark stops of dates at either end,

pebbles dropped in the stream of time.

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Flower explosion

For the Daily Inkling’s flower power theme.

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The force that drives the flower

is the power of the sun,

the thrusting molten rock in fusion

of deep earth fires.

Two furnaces strive,

two anvils, forging titans,

filling the universe with burgeoning stars

and billions of eyes to watch their ascension.

The culmination of this struggle,

burning gases, rocks

and the scintillation of stars—

a shaggy-maned dandelion.

 

Flash fiction: The seeing

This is inspired very loosely by the words of the Inkling prompt: On the other hand. It’s a different angle on a scene from my WIP that I’m going over at the moment.

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In one hand, he clutches a broken piece of a belt. His brother turns his sightless face to him at his approach, and Dónal’s step falters. He had thought to terrify him. A blind man is surely always in fear of surprise by some evildoer. Is he an evildoer? The thought barely brushes his mind with its wings before it is flown. Evil has little sense for Dónal. He does what is expedient. What he considers expedient. He is annoyed and just slightly uneasy that Énna is aware of him. He would have his brother cringing, afraid that he might take advantage of his blindness. Instead it is he who suddenly wants to hide.

“Have you brought me something of yours?”

Énna’s voice is cool, calm. Dónal has to struggle not to hit that misbegotten face. He holds out the woven belt. Énna’s hand reaches out unerringly to take it and again Dónal shivers.

“Sit here and be silent. We will do the seeing here, by this fire.”

“Don’t you seers need a special fire built from special woods and sprinkled with the crushed bones of the Salmon of Knowledge, or some such mysticism?” Dónal sneers but already his skin is beginning to prickle with the strange atmosphere of the glade in the hazel copse. The leaves rustle and he seems to hear the whispering of a hundred voices.

“All fires are special, brother. Sit quiet now, and watch.”

He turns back to the flames, exposing his back. He reaches to his belt, and Dónal tenses, but it is only to take a dried red berry from his pouch and place it beneath his tongue. Dónal shudders and reluctantly crouches at the far side of the fire. He watches the flames consume the woven tissue of the belt, peering intently. If Énna sees things in the flames, surely any man may do the same. But he sees nothing, just the scorching, curling hemp threads. Énna is not watching the fire though. His head is bent over a silver bowl full of water.

Dónal cranes his neck, but sees nothing but the reflection of the flames. Énna stiffens; the bowl in his hands trembles, shivering the surface of the water, and as if it had burnt him, he lets it fall with a sharp cry. “Father!”

At the same instant, Dónal is aware of footsteps hurrying along the track, drawn by the firelight. In that instant, he knows what was in the seeing, and the beast curled half-sleeping in his head stirs and stretches. The beast stretches out a talon, and the knife at Dónal’s belt is in his hand. He leaps to his feet. Feet crash through the bracken, running, eagerly.

“Is he here? Con? Are you there?”

The knife blade glints. “No, Father, he is not. But I am.”

 

Microfiction: The dreaded question

For today’s Inkling.

 

I went for a job in a bank and they turned me down, I went for a job in insurance and they turned me down, I tried them all—retail, social services, farming, working in a home for seniors, in a centre for illegals, the police service, the army. I even tried dog breeding. Each time I failed at the same interview question. When they asked what was my greatest weakness, I said, compassion.

Random momentous thoughts

 

This Daily Inkling’s prompt is to write a ten-sentence story using the word randomizer. The words are to be used, one in each sentence in the order they are given by the randomizer. The words I got were:

cooing, stir, dry, far-flung, bee, tacit, chide, fill, complain, punishment.

In the park, mothers are cooing at babies in prams, pigeons are cooing at pieces of stale bread, and the traffic drones. A breeze stirs washing drying on a line at the other side of the road and I imagine a white-sailed ship carrying me to some far-flung paradise that only exists in history books, and even then, their truths are disputed. Anywhere would be paradise compared to this, where excitement is watching a bee pollinate a daisy.

We don’t complain about the irreality of this existence; there’s a tacit understanding that we have chosen gadgets and virtual reality to the earthy, untidy needs of nature and must accept the consequences. Below in the park, a mother chides her child for picking the daisy—one less, one step closer to extinction.

The media fill our minds with the comforting news so many of us prefer to the truth, like there’s no such thing as climate change, the bees are fine, the ocean levels aren’t rising, and Bangladesh was a waste of space anyway. We complain about the cost of everything, want it cheaper and cheaper, so we can have more and more junk, regardless of the real cost in misery and destruction. Our punishment will be annihilation, straight after the bees.

Haibun for the black tides

Yet another nasty piece of shit crime, on the day of the march to oppose anti-semitism.

For the Daily Inkling’s ‘Monster’ prompt.

Quatzenheim is nowhere, anywhere, a quiet little town on the Alsace-German border, type with storks in the chimneys and Korean tourists in the streets, where last night, by the light of the moon, there was a furtive fluttering in the Jewish cemetery. And lo, this morning, the tombs are decorated with daubs of bright paint, and eighty swastikas march among the solemn stones.

In Paris, Simone Veil’s face branded with the broken cross stares grimly from its defaced commemorative street art. You thought it had gone away?

The black tides rise

they hate you

and me too.

Haibun for a father’s birthday

This haibun is in response to a fortuitous prompt from the Daily Inkling. Today is my dad’s birthday. The prompt is ‘I’m the King of the World.’

 

Today is his birthday, not was. It will always be the day he was born. He’d be an old man now, too old to remember the stories he used to tell us, the poems he wrote, the people he’d known. I’m glad he never lost any of his force, physical or intellectual. Living so far from his roots was hard enough, to dip into the sea that lapped his home shore, to feel the same bleak wind in his face. He’s there now, if only I could see him, standing legs braced against an Atlantic gale, looking down into the bay where the seals play and the gulls scream.

Wind full of voices

pours from the distant sea

salt in the wounds.

If only

Five-word messages to send beyond the grave, for the Daily Inkling’s prompt.

 

“I said they were poisonous”

To next-door’s kid who ate the holly berries.

 

“The pic didn’t come out.”

To your bestie who was in a selfie accident at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

 

“It wasn’t your size anyway.”

To the girl you stabbed in the January sales.

 

“I said the bus stops.”

To your grandad knocked down up on the main road trying to flag down a coach full of Dutch tourists racing to make the last ferry to Rotterdam.

 

“I thought I’d filled it.”

To your brother who dived into the empty swimming pool during a drunken party.

 

“Pitbulls are rarely just smiling.”

To your brother after he agreed to hold his dealer’s dog for a minute.

 

 

 

Flash fiction: Casting off

Flash fiction for the Daily Inkling’s prompt—sink or swim.

With thanks to Paul Militaru for the photographic inspiration. This one’s for you, Paul

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They had often stood on this bridge, out in the middle of the river where the current appeared to rush fiercest, though it seemed to her a lifetime since she had watched the rushing water with excitement. Once, she had felt carried along on the back of some great animal or bird, to places she had never seen, to be someone she had not yet met. She felt like the river, rolling and racing to the sea, longing to throw herself helter-skelter into its huge embrace. The world was vast then and there was no horizon.

He stands next to her in silence. Once, she would have known what he was thinking. Once she would have cared. Doesn’t she? She has to ask herself. There’s a twinge of pain, because the answer is, yes, she does care. She twiddles the stem of a red rose in her fingers. He has always bought her a rose when the Gypsies come around the restaurant tables. She used to think it was romantic. Now she sees that he simply doesn’t want to look like a cheapskate.

She twiddles the rose and looks along the river to the horizon, because there is a horizon now, and she knows that whatever is beyond it will stay hidden, out of reach. What you get is what you see. He shuffles, and she thinks she hears a sigh. She moves closer. Their hands touch and he doesn’t move away. They are on the edge, of the bridge, the horizon, the rushing water, the unseen ocean. One way is back to the bland indifference until they wake up one morning and find that somehow, the other is no longer there. The other way is onward, to watch the coiling water and follow where it leads. How to know which way to fall?

She lets the rose drop from her fingers. They both watch as it falls, head first, red and unopened. They watch as it is caught by the current and dragged out of sight. The water squirms, dark green and rapid. She realises she is holding her breath. Then she sees it, the red splash bobbing, twirling in a little whirlpool before shooting off after the rest of the river. To the sea. She turns and he is looking at her, an idiotic grin on his face. Reflected in his eyes, her face smiles back.

Somewhere in the dark

This evening I was offered a challenge by ‘Daily Inkling’ to write a poem to the prompt of ‘distant voices’.

 

Somewhere in the dark a dream is waiting,

In the withheld breath and twig-snap of the trees,

To the rhythm of a wild heart palpitating,

Murmuring the language of the breeze.

In the rustle of the dry leaves on the oak boughs,

In the drip of raindrops onto thirsty earth,

The same sad voice, I hear it when the wind soughs,

When it seems so long to wait for spring to birth.

Somewhere in the dark a life’s unfolding,

To the music of rain water in the stream,

Cascading all the colours my hands holding,

Painting wind-words on the canvas of a dream.