Blood running hot, and never cold
it presses forward, always bold
calling us on to run and fight
propelling legs as they take flight
and for one moment stop and think.
Then the next instant to the brink
The red eyes are blind
to all that’s gentle, good or kind.
A teasing swish, matador’s cape
will goad the bull. There’s no escape
from spears embedded in his back
that prod him to futile attack.
And down his skin run rivers red,
his life poured out and painted dead.
We feel the ruby pulsing heat
within our chests with every beat
of every crazed deluded heart,
so sure that this is just the start
of something lasting, fine and true,
of you and me.
I always knew
that red would overwhelm this love.
Though lovers gaze at stars above
and whisper declarations soft,
these ideals that they hold aloft
soon fall to earth.
Nothing to say.
Unbridled passions win the day
over mere intellectual words
when feelings fly like scattered birds
and reason flees.
All that remains
is quivering flesh and dripping veins
left hollow by an anguished flood
of passion, anger, rage, and blood.
Follow the heart, obey the head.
Go fast, full stop; now quick, now dead.
We take our son down to the beach, enduring sighs and cries and stops for water and wee-wee shortly after and kicking the back of my seat and then we arrive, unload the car, careful with that and don’t forget the sunscreen, before trudging down the path down the steps round to the left, find a place among the rocks and did you remember his hat, let’s set up here and wait, you need sunscreen and okay off you go but stay where I can see you, the sun nicely warm but it still can burn even through clouds, there’s a doggy but don’t touch he may not be friendly, glad you brought the chairs even though they’re heavy and a pain because I don’t fancy sitting on this sand, it gets everywhere, there are a few clouds scudding along and that means it’s time, get out the kite and assemble it while he helps, no don’t put that pole in there, okay you can hold it but we have to finish it first, the doggy can’t help, we can have a snack after, sandwiches and juice in the cool box, okay have a little drink first while I fix the tails, and then off we go to the hard flat sand, not a bad day at all for a kite, come with me, hold it tight, run out the line, Daddy will let you have a turn in a minute, wait, hold it up and when the wind is right just toss it into the air and there it goes, bright fluttering rainbow and long tails, he laughs and points and claps his hands, forgets to beg for a go just yet, and we are three in a big wide world, checking the weather, holding the line, one grounding him, one holding him and then giving him the right push at the right moment so he can catch the breeze and fly high above the mundane earth, looking back at where he came from, looking towards the sky’s blue horizon.
(A video uploaded to YouTube shows a woman, her face in shadow, speaking directly to camera. A soundtrack of wave sounds accompanies her words.)
Curfew has been in effect for some time. We didn’t think it could happen here and many people openly flouted the rules. Until James Beck vanished and never came back. He was the first. We were all more careful after that.
The news is always cheerful, telling us things are getting better and our leaders are making great progress with diplomatic approaches. Just carry on with your lives. Be sure to be indoors by ten o’clock. Everything will be just fine.
The dream came occasionally at first. I thought I was just pining for old times, wind in my hair, sand in my shoes, melting ice-cream licked from my fingers. Nostalgia for a rose tinted past in a grey present and uncertain future. It was always summer, warm but not too hot, the sea rippling deep blue under azure sky. There were no clouds.
Upbeat news fills monotonous days, yet my night world sparkles with sunbeams on gentle waves and the drowsy heat of midday. They tell us not to worry. We don’t worry; we lie alone in bed staring at the dark and hope it hides the monsters.
I must go down to the sea again. My sister used to recite that poem over and over until the words lost all meaning. It comes back to me now, the soundtrack for my wide-eyed nights and my eventual dreams of summer. They are long in coming, but now they come most nights.
I asked Daniel to come with me, but he said he was too busy and anyway, we’d risk being out after curfew. It’s just one time, I said. I won’t ask you to go again. He said he’d think about it.
Once I upload this message, I’m going back to the beach. I know what I will find.
The sky will be a hard, pitiless blue. The sea will darken, and pause for a moment before a brilliant flash. And the sky will flower with a thousand suns, and the last cloud will rise.
If anything remains of us, know that some remembered summer.
When we talk about experience we assume that more is always better. Those impressive antlers tell of years lived and challenges overcome. That’s something not every deer has. It is something to aspire to. And it’s a very good thing, if what you want is to get a set of antlers just like it.
But what if there’s more to the world? What if you aspire to see what’s beyond the forest and the herd, and live a bigger life? Then relying on years of in-forest living is at best wrong-headed and at worst, dangerous.
Years ago, I worked with a man who had big aspirations. He was a few years senior to me and our career paths would diverge after a year on the same team. He was very good at his job, but not the kind of person to invite to dinner; arrogant and insensitive. He said one thing that has stayed with me to this day.
Don’t be dazzled by people with more experience than you. It might be ten years of varied experiences, or one year of experience ten times over.
His words resonated with me as a young professional used to being patronised for being a greenhorn, amongst other things. True experience learns and enlarges itself, rather than treading the same path over and over until it becomes a deep rut.
In every fairy tale set in the woods, the heroine is told to stay on the path and stay safe. She should listen to the voice of the wise elder. But we all know that the real heart of the tale, the real learning experience, only happens when she strikes out to risk the unknown.
When we have some experience, we expect to command respect. Too often, people think that more years and grey hair entitle them to a louder voice. Well, that depends. While you’re growing bigger, heavier antlers, a hunter is fixing you in his crosshairs. You might wish you had listened to the little bird who flew over him, and tried to warn you.
Often creatives are exhorted to do this, or avoid that. Being an artist is flaky, you can’t make money from writing, poetry is old-fashioned, you won’t make it as a musician. Get a steady job (if such a thing even exists any more.) Sometimes these statements are well meaning.
But at their heart is fear: the fear that if you do try and maybe even succeed, the adviser’s own failure to follow their own path will be exposed. They might have had a different, bigger life. But they stayed on the path and played safe. Now they want you to do the same.
So when someone uses “experience” as a trump card in an argument, consider the source. Have they done what you hope to do? Have they lived the life they recommend, or implemented their own advice? Have they ever taken a risk?
If not, think again.
You may end up growing the wrong skills, in the wrong forest. And the hunter is coming.
Why do we talk of feeling blue? Depression is not blue. It is impenetrable fog grey, the ghosts of ships unseen on a black tide, the lighthouse beam obscured by solid clouds that touch an angry sea. It is thick and puckered scars that yield only to the sharpest, deepest cut. A slash of knives draws no pain from this unfeeling carapace. Far below, if you bridge that distance, oily dark blood oozes, curdled with loss and longing.
None of it is blue.
Walk on muffled leaden boots, here in the below. Strain my ears, hear no sound. Eardrums burst from the pressure, under the sea, bottom of the Marianas trench. Deeper yet, in the Laurentian abyss of my soul. I gazed into the void, but it did not gaze back. It too has forsaken me. Weighted like an old style diver, I wade through the sea of futility. Up above, water sparkles Caribbean blue, gold sun shines in a brilliant azure sky, birds sing. Down below, impenetrable dark and blind monsters. Nothing to see.
It feels like home.
Push past doubt, anxiety, fear. Now we reach the bone, skin nibbled and hanging in tatters, only a flash of white beneath grey and rotting flesh. Eaten alive but already dead, the marrow leached away, colours bleached away. What’s on the other side none know but me. My pulse thickens and slows, matching the absent drumbeat of null.
It is calling me.
I have forgotten my life topside, in this my true reality. When will my heart beat its last, when will I join? Let the nothing take me, let the absence consume me, let me be assimilated and so vanish, zero sum.