• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 04
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The Training

The important thing is to keep going. I walk as though this is what I planned all along — to fall so deeply that I have no choice but to wear purple and green, to live with a hat that becomes the horizon.

I have not believed what they have told me, or I have believed it too much. Whichever way would hurt the most, I have accepted. I always thought I had so much time. But time is a cold and vacant presence, I have found. It lacks personality. It is like the whiteness that cracks under my boots: it doesn’t exist, not really, only holds us with the appearance of love, the habits of numbness and sleepiness. It blinds us, until all we see is ourselves, laid out as we ever were, dark and nestled against our eyelids.

There is no turning back for me now, but if there was I would push through all the blankness, force my way to that woman in her thirties, that woman in her forties, who had no idea how to say yes. I would tell this woman about the ice, which even as a metaphor is unexpected: it isn’t as potent as I would have hoped for, or as wise. It is only a semi-death, the great white before the white of the mind, the darkness before the darkness, somewhere to walk and to train myself.

I know what I am training for, and this does not make it easier. I am training for continuation, for the constant tread of my boots on the ground, the swivel of my hat, the flatness of my thoughts over every single mountain. I am training for my end, then, the place where I accept my smallness at last – even in this cape, even in this skirt – and I learn to keep going.

1

Our Lady

My mother had a secret altar. Smoothed wood stained red with golden characters carefully written in the corner. Burnt incense and fresh oranges adorned the feet of Guan Yin - the goddess of compassion - I found her when I was playing in the rice store. Mother had said demons lay in wait near the rafters - they especially liked eating small girls with rosy cheeks. The ladder to the forbidden area usually lay horizontal like tracks. It was heavy and cumbersome; I couldn’t have lifted it even if I wanted to. However, it had been left like a gift leaning against the ledge to the upper floor. I held my breath and clambered up.

The face of the goddess was fine porcelain – smooth and cold to touch. Her salmon-painted smile and gentle black eyes stared back at me, knowing, as if she was concocting some mischief. She seemed familiar - the long hair, the flowing robe. Perhaps she had visited me in my dreams.

'False idols' were banished. How funny then it was to find her. Father never ventured in there. Cooking rice was mother's job. Her fingers the right kind of gauge for the cold water in the pot.

Father's job was educating the family in the ways of Jesus Christ, well, that is what Miss Celeste had told him. Since starting the meetings at the church he was wearing suits and a hat. He looked silly but mother told me to keep my eyes down and my mouth shut tight.

Miss Celeste visited our home once a week bringing with her scripture, in books that opened the wrong way. I laughed and pointed to her. She thought I wanted to hear more, but my father's face contorted with shame. After our final prayers Miss Celeste bid us farewell wrapping her shawl around her gwai lo shoulders and covering her head in a hat larger than our pans. As the door closed behind her.

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2

By footsteps

Stockinged feet in the snow, clouds at her ankles. The day is starting. The day is ending. The moon has just blinked over the horizon. The moon has just been washed away.

Her hat’s wide brim affords her the long view: high mountains, wide vistas. Her steps a sure steadying on slick surfaces. She doesn’t need boots. She needs to feel the curve of the ground with the soles of her feet. One learns to love a landscape by footsteps.

This is what she knows:

How snow sculpts the land at dawn and dusk.
That shade, shadow and stone lose distinction.
Broad sunlight gives too much, batters the eyes.

She is not cold. She is not lost. Not in these hills. No matter if frost covers the lichen or all the cairns sleep. She’s not in a hurry. There is no despair here, only her own footsteps. The air is still. Her cloak and skirts flag up because she moves like she knows this place. She does.

3

The Oganess

It was a beautiful day when he had set out on that fateful morning. Pink and yellow skies were streaked by thin white clouds. There was just the softest gust of wind that kept him cool the way he liked it, as his walks would often warm him up and cause him to perspire.

Suen had fought the naysayers longer than most thought he had the stomach for. They told him to give up his job, his tradition, his legacy. It would mean giving up on his ancestors, but no one understood. The first male to do so, Suen was the twenty-first generation Oganess in the role, and he was the proudest.

Before he stepped out into the cold winter’s day, he dressed, a routine that hadn’t been broken for the twenty years and three days he had served in the role. Over his bodywarmers, he put on his green snow boots and green tunic. And just at the door, he would don his purple cape and purple satellite-hat, the same that had been worn by his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The naysayers laughed at that too, they thought that the satellite-hat belonged in a museum.

On that day, Suen took his usual route to the mountains. Making sure that his transmission was switched on, his satellite-hat beamed the signal proudly. The Oganesses believed that the signal was attuned to a receiver that their parallel-dimension selves would pick up.

The walk to the mountains was always lonely, but somehow, Suen felt comforted that day. He reached his first checkpoint and recorded it in the log. That was the last trace of him.

Sniffer dogs trailed his scent to the first checkpoint and the records confirmed it, but there was nothing from there. Suen disappeared that day and with him, the Oganesses' signal.

4

A BLOT ON THE SUN

"What on earth" was my last thought
on seeing the billowing blackness
Pitched here out of context on the hillside
Quite at odds with the fecundity of the geography

Something twinkling
Something tinkling
a haze rises on the air
I rub my eyes to make some sense
Stood before this mystery
There's unnatural density to the shade
One cursory glance behind and I enter
like a person with options

Soaking
in this new sensation
Basking
in the cool and dark
Engulfed
in the belly of it

All at once then, a thousand daggers And me squinting against white heat
But it's gone
Ever higher I see it ripple
a blot on the sun
a magic carpet from myth

Rising to my feet I follow it
to escape this now intolerable place

5

When I was a boy

When I was a boy
and other boys were cruel,
I would wonder,
because they had
such peculiar grandparents.

You would meet them
in the street
dressed in purple suits,
both of them,
grandma and grandpa,
each with matching cornflower boutonniere
and trim gold spectacles perched on pointed noses
and red floral Foulard ascots
and mud-drenched soldiers boots,
and they would jointly say
are you Marvin's little friend?

Marvin who had just walloped me,
really creamed me on the playground,
then stood above me and heckled.

But I said yes and they gave me candies:
Rose-flavored lozenges wrapped in brittle paper.
And how did such an aggressively dull thing,
such a clod-shaped, dim-eyed, full-fisted dope,
come from such showy peculiarity?
Would Marvin grow to dress in purple
and pick out cornflowers for his lapel?

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6

Pinnacle

In an old house in Paris
that was covered with vines,
she changed her hat
and dressed to the nines.

Dressed to the nines
she left for the peaks
and wished for boots
and pondered weeks

Where in the news
top men were fired
again and again.

And women were tired
of that old trope
of disrespect

Now was there hope?

They were not afraid of war
All were sisters at their core.

And in the middle of one valley
Miss Clavel began to rally

And, not wanting to give in,
Miss Clavel thrust out her chin.

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7

Portrait of Mrs Dupin

I am tall as a shadow disguised at dusk
I turn my moth face to the pale moon
which wakes quicksilver gardens
and paints it's face in the mirror of day
never seeing the same tree twice
my frock is burnished leaves and petals
tiger eye honey spice berry highland sunstone
days are drawn like illuminated manuscripts
by harnessed birds exchanging seeds
and scores of meadows
at evening when only light moves
I collect dappled hopes
and display them like butterflies
I have wings and claws like a book
and hide in the folds of galloping white roses
I fly into crimson night which bellows like an accordion
the rain has no fear of dying
8

Cappello Romano

Sister Bridget thinks the safest way
down the mountain is to hold onto her hat
and pretend to be a frisbee.
She gathers speed and leaps

over the edge, one hand gripping
luminous rosary beads, the other
clasping her purple Saturno.
Flight doesn't come easily to her;

her green skirt billows around
her head, slowing her progress
and revealing red knickerbockers
forbidden by the Reverend Mother.

As she touches down in soft snow
close to the convent door, her cheeks
reflect the pink of the setting sun,
her puce cloak veils her indiscretion.

9

White Noise

They’ve always seen me as a thing, a perfect thing that doesn’t need to know but yet everything was explained. And told. Told how to behave. How to dress, how to speak.

Past trees that pattern against a canvas of smothering grey; choking russets and orange, leaching verdant hills to the swirling darkness of the bay, I will return, braver than before, my voice will rail against their tired, old noise.

10

You Need a Hat Here

You need a hat here,
high up, in the air,
espesh if your feet are on clouds.
You need a hat de bon aire,
to cover your hair,
partic when your arms are in shrouds.

My footwear’s poor show
up here, high, in the snow:
socks in this weather are silly.
But the hat keeps me focused,
in a kind of hypnosis:
and wards off the streptococilli.

When the rescue team come
and I hear the blades thrum,
the hat will come into its own.
For what ’copter pilot,
could miss my bright topknot,
when I over a cliff have fell down?

11

Draupadi

I, Draupadi, have lived under the shadow of my husbands.
I had many - they say.
Brave and full of valour - they fought for their right -
They say.
And I was the reason
I was the guilty -
they say.
My Husbands - supported my wishes, fulfilled my dreams and lived for me
- they say.
Yet I was the witch,
I was the goddess
- they say.
Here, today there is none.
No husbands.
No guilt.
No reason for fights.
In this Himalayan range, I'm the sole survivor,
They're not here.
They left.
I was so ambitious,
Partial in loving them,
I deserve to die alone
- they say.
But I -
Deserve to be reborn,
Deserve to be ambitious,
Deserve to live my life
- I say.
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12

Beneath the Delicate Fabric of her Heart

When she was 40, she dressed in
vintage clothes, patterns from the jazz age
traversing over shoulders clad in silk and velvet.
She'd go to the local pizza joint for a slice
of pepperoni, sweeping through the door
with flare, wrapped in emeralds and aubergine.
Grand entrances were her thing.

At 48, when the cancer came and
chemotherapy loomed at the door with
teeth that threatened and growled, she
scoffed and went shopping for chemo clothes.
In a purple suede dress and costume jewelry
with flowery beads the size of plumbs,
she sauntered up to the reception desk at
the cancer center, dressed with flare
to fight for her life.

In a hospital bed at 52, a month before
her death, she scoured clothing catalogs
and ordered a dress to die in.
Peach silk that reflected the light in her
cheeks, she beamed with joy at how
beautiful she felt on the night of her final
Christmas, laughing with her children.

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13

SWEET DREAMS

I am doomed now. Every time mothers' newspaper or magazine smacked on the table there was the accusing glare. To be fair, her warnings have come true. Scary predictions, backed by medical columns. As long as I can remember she used to read aloud items concerning substances, additives and the like, pursing her lips and shoving more veg into the never--ending stew pot. Poor mum; she knew that I was just hoping for a sugar rush in a pudding.
That is the reason I'm in this position, sticky-booted with marshmallow and overlooked by glacier mint mountains. Sky like a giant haribou stripe. Even my cloak and spiky hat are the colour of chewy opal fruits. Thinking of 'spiky' reminds me of a 'spike' when you get a sugar hit (according to certain advice). Then it supposedly drops, leaving a person with a downside, or something similar. How can a natural piece of plant, such as a sugar cane, be harmful?
This place is a bit Willy Wonka-ish and makes a girl desire to wallow. Regret stealing angelica packs from the corner store. This dress is kinda same shade of green. I'm sick of green. Sick. Shouldn't use that word. It's my destiny. Too late to backtrack. Can't escape now.

Doc's voice filters through. 'I'm afraid no more can be done, ma'am. Time has run out. it must be turned off. Your girl has just about worn out her body'.
My last thought: wonder if angels bake angel cakes...

14

Shades of Family

She had taken the purple, a Violet with the violence of puce who spoke with a plum in her mouth whilst damsoned words dribbled from her disapproving lips. She was the relative who pinched cheeks, the Grande Dame with the supercilious air, the one who sniffed haughtily whilst making mountains out of molehills, looking down from their summit at those who ran around after her.

Yes, Aunt. No, Aunt. Yes, Mama. No, Mama. Yes, Ma’am. No, Ma’am. All obeyed the purple tyrant, their green eyes focussed on hidden gold, the silver lining of their blood tie. They allowed her to stamp across the landscape of their lives, not realising her bank account was as empty as her heart.

And when Violet shrank from the world, her family showed how closely they resembled her as the reading of the will left them with nothing, except angrily purpled faces.

15

Sweet Lady

Dressed so nice
winter colors
make her outfit
look glorious
walking with strife
cape blowing many thoughts
wings across the season
little mountains sing with songs
walking home
to enjoy cooking
then resting by the fireplace of high value
landscape to the natural horizon
an winter scope of wonderment
white light
16

Lowry

Grandad loved pastels.
His temper could be nasty.
His Lowrys were meticulous,
if perhaps a little crowded.

Nan would cook and run us baths.
Peel carrots at the same time as
booking hair appointments,
Picking us up, running to church meetings
With her bulbous homemade trifles.

Could he have painted her, in all that glory?
His wife of fifty years, with not an ounce of the rule or reason
He so worshipped in her body.
Perhaps he missed
The shine of her coat -
That nutmeg in the mashed potato -
Those dimples sitting, in their quiet wisdom,
Above her tired smile.

17

SUPERNATURAL

It’s high, purple...
up mountainous regions
approaching the peaks
answering prayers
in images.

It’s how we speak
with minds, find
links intertwining thoughts;
intuition doesn’t explain
its workings.

It’s instant food
quicker than recognition
an opening in cloud
where light shoots
awe at the earth.

18

The Enchanted Forest

Make good speed to the enchanted forest, where she hoped to find something worth her while, a golden ring, perhaps even a pair of glass slippers among the forest’s secrets. Like the Ardennes but more imaginative, mystical, magical, haunted, the home of all kinds of creatures, if she came across a frog and kissed it would it turn into a prince? She hoped on the other side lay a castle with buttresses and battlements and a drawbridge, along the way a house with a smoking chimney, inhabited by an old crone or gnome or an elf, an elf would be good she thought.

Weird lights, were not sprites, they turned out to be simply fireflies, eerie sounds were not eerie at all just child made windchimes, a Will-o‘-the-wisp drawing her from the safety of the dirt road turned out to be just ignited methane gas, there was no ogre hiding under a stone bridge to pass, no trolls.

The trees were still most of the time, they did not talk to her, the canopy floor did not offer any treasure of any kind, just all the usual things one would find on a forest canopy floor. No magic wand, no book of spells, no ginger bread house, no wishing well, no big bad wolf, but there was no grandma’s house, the only thing she saw was a forest mouse. No wizard, no orcs, no fiendish plan by some evil force to suppress the land. The alpine landscape is still in view, now behind her and halfway through the enchanted forest where she had come in the hope to find, a golden ring, perhaps even a pair of glass slippers, her prince, she found none of those. She did find with all its quiet and beautiful flowers, an enchanted forest.

19

Colours of the Evening Path

Because the mountains are always there
and they are bare and stripped of trees and vegetation
and because they do not judge the clothes I wear
and because the sky reflects the colour of my cape and hat –
I’m not looking at sky colours, not right now,
but I can tell that evening, pressing on my wide brim
will cajole me to look up once I have found a path.
I’ve heard a path exists but it wasn’t you who said that,
you said other things
but I would rather listen to the mountain silence
and even if there is no path
there is somewhere that I have to reach
and I walk in the direction that I choose, always.
20

King of the Andes

Over and over I play "El cóndor pasa," Flight of the Condor.
Andean music with wind pipes and pan flutes speaks to me.
Soaring above the clouds with the King of the Andes,
My heart flying higher and higher with every haunting note.

Clouds shot swiftly across the snow-covered Andes,
Early rise at sunrise, thick alpaca wool purple cape,
Flowing green skirt, and wide brim purple sombrero.
Warm and sophisticated, I fly like the wind.

The mighty Andean condors float eye-level on the thermals
Rising from below, glided, turned, dived and climbed,
Soaring above my head, before making their way down,
Peru’s Colca Canyon, the center of the Earth,
disappearing out of sight.

“Adiós, mi amigos,” I say smiling wistfully,
Softly humming, “El cóndor pasa.”

21

Dementia

Between the peaks
Of loving you
And letting you go off
In chilly confusion
Having forgotten my name
Shuddering at my touch
I watched you wander
That cold landscape without me
Walk away from our marriage
As if it had never been
As if it weren't still frozen
Below us both
Waiting for our familiar happiness
To blood again.
22

Pestilence and Misery

When I saw you last, with your lantern and your boat, fading away within the darkness of the ravine, you reminded me of a heretic solemnly accepting their punishment. The light had already faded from our valley, and the twin peaks of the mountains flanking your departure stood as monstrous sentinels, sealing your sentence. I stood on the shore weeping over your receding silhouette, your tremendous sacrifice, and you never looked back. I didn’t know then you were dead set on making your great escape.

In the hollow days following your absence I tried to piece our lives, my life, back together. Those familiar routines, when performed in isolation became jagged and cold, crushed glass in my red raw hands. Like the rot I found spreading in the larder, the logs you’d chopped for the fire mouldering in my hands, and the shivering in alone in our big bed at night.

The vision of you shovelling in the flurries of snow in your thick black cloak returned to me again and again. Do you still hate me for blaming you for her death? I know we had no choice, the pestilence had taken her already. I know.

One night, for one moment, I forgot everything and I called out for Misery. How could I forget? You’d found her wide eyed at the front door. You took her by her scruff down to the icy river. She was yowling and hollering the whole way, but you had on those big leather gloves and she couldn’t get to you. I watched from the kitchen window, my heart in red pieces, a trail the snow, leading from home to her. You held her little head under, and you pulled out her body long after the bubbles had stopped. You buried her in a shallow grave frozen earth and I didn’t cry. You told me that the snow would preserve her body, until she was discovered by coyotes.

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23

All Purple

Hallucinations in the world of living,
nightmares swaying like walnut and oranges
I break a twig, a star is born,
I break a twig, sunsets happen.
How do you name occult and a rusty conch in symmetry?
I snip the cold waves
I snip the moisture sitting on my palms now
with feeble lips and lips of hope
I am a paroxysm and firecracker
dancing on the tip of your pink tongue
count my skull, numberless defeats
I am a purple paranoia still surviving.
And in years to come, I will dissect the snow
slitting its cold inhuman lies
Mundane Mondays and Sundays-
with a shrivel and a fierce harpoon,
It will be all purple and smiles.
24

Spirit of Greenland

Spectacular Schweizerland Alps,
thrusting towards pink and gold sky.
South-east Greenland sunset,
pre-Aurora Borealis light show,
pristine deep lying snow and ice
over rugged basalt rock faces.
Mont Forel, steep-sided, dominant;
Matterhorn-like, scene site of air crash,
1969, Santiago-Bergen. - Legend has it
ghostly purple be-hatted lady, with poncho,
trudges wearily through drifts in
vain hope of finding her twin infant sons.
25

The Promise of Crocuses

Winter’s retreating flood
trickles to thin gruel of mud.
Her skin sings with a soprano itch
while cloudy billows roll and pitch,
and teacher’s purple cloaks the valleys,
snatched by the wind in the dearth of trees.
A hat perches on her head, a mauve oblique,
a determined dash across a crown of snowy peaks,
it echoes in Aubretia’s afterglow of magenta and gold,
promises crocuses on the nature table when spring unfolds.
26

Rain-bow

I got my colours done a few weeks a-go. My sisters paid for it, for my birth-day. They said I have looked sallow sin-ce the thing. I probably did. Am. Will be. Anyway. I went to this lady, she sat me down and said, you must stop wear-ing yellow and white. I hadn’t realised I was. Yellow, that is. White I know a-bout. I like white. Liked. It’s blank-ness was a com-fort. I wore it be-fore the thing. But she said, no more white. She said red made me look over-heated like those cigarette light-ers you find in old cars. I don’t mind looking like a swirl of rings, but she said no and my sisters had paid for it so I obeyed her. Obey. Blue? Also out. Not for me, she said. Blue was a cooling col-our and I need to be an even temp-erature, she said. Like a bath after you’ve given the water five minutes to set-tle down. I have no bubbles to speak of. We n-arrowed it down. We dis-missed orange (too trop-ical), and brown (over bear-ing). I asked about magenta and she said may-be. She said green is best for me. It b-rings out the colour in my veins. And maroon. Ma-roon. Maro-on. That was me. My per-sonal colour, she said. It’s all I wear no-w. Those two colours.
Sp-lit me in half.
Chop my me-mories.
I search for somewhere to piece it all back to-get-her.
27

Inappropriately Dressed

I wasn’t dressed for snow,
or clouds,
or wind,
or for walking at all,
if I were be honest.
But sometimes
you just have to give it a go
and trudge through the clouds,
kick up the snow in passing,
challenge the wind
with the size
of your hat.
It wouldn’t dare to blow
it away, would it?
Sometimes
you just
have to don
your dark glasses
and stride out to the sun,
regardless of snow, or clouds, or clothes.
Sometimes
you just have to go.
28

The strange death of Jenny Joseph

When they came hammering
I was already worrying my way
over the lupine snowfield
inadequately clothed against
the heart-stopping cold
of an alpine night.

Jenny? Can you hear us!
but I had gone
where bent birches
awaited the bear breath spring;
where snow rolled on for ever.

Heaven had dropped to earth
to lie crumpled and soft
as a cot blanket.

Hello, they called, Hello?
but I was so tired -
my summer-gloved hands
scrabbling with cold -
and wearing purple in my detachment
at the margin of a mountain page
where soon I would melt,
invisible as white ink,
lost in my wide hat, satin sandals
and the weight of eighty five winters,
finding colour no remedy against darkness.

29

In Place

She had a peculiar penchant for novelty hats. Nothing rational here, and wearing purple didn’t equate to growing old and vice versa. Her hat collection was monstrous, and when the children, then the husband, then finally the dog left home, the hats began to seep in through the brickwork. It was a gradual development. One netted piece with a peacock feather, bought for Ladies’ Day at the races. Soft materials, all, mediocre replacements for the plushness of human skin. Countless hats for countless weddings (grandchildren, second cousins, as the compulsory Drunk Older Lady), because she worried that she’d be branded A Bit of a Tart without one. That’s what they’re like if anyone over 40 dares to wear a skirt which falls above her knees. They’ll be having a go at her for her leopard-print underwear soon, despite the fact that no-one sees her lingerie, bar the cat and the painting of Great-Aunt Alice hanging opposite her bedstead.

She was proud of this particular acquisition. Velvet, decadent, the sort of hat a muse might wear, sprawling luxuriously on satin sheets and rose petals. Utterly unpractical, of course, unless you wanted to act as a bird table. It kept the weather out of her face, and the passing public at (more than) arm’s length. But here, in the hills, the vastness of everything matched. Big hat, big sky, big lump of rock to climb. This was the only place she was in place.

30

To Illustrate, To Evoke (Ekphrastic for Daniel Frost)

Where are you going,
tall slender figure in snow, still falling,
melting in the heart's eye despite
the distance of your long disappearance?

Blue mountains rise behind,
each tip white, blanket-rounded
as rock to foam before a hopeful
sunrise sky.

Your mission has that elegance,
inconspicuous but perhaps that's just
the nature of you: the stirring subtle
sensuality of Garbo
suddenly given
a mauve finch's flash
in your undulating cape
& that matching hat's wide brim,
an Easter-egg halo.

What a nimbus that is pulling at us,
as is the flowing cloth below,
your skirt of muted pine stirring up puffs.

The sifted drifts sparkling christen
your feet "Determined" while,
watching rapt
we too long
to take that veil.

31

Matilde

Matilde travels light. Her alpine
inclinations had cock-crowed dawn,
determining her drift, alone,
as now she goes, along an incline

into this open realm of free,
irresistible, thought-full movement.
And, just for this snow-rich moment,
she claims for herself the liberty

of melting down the drawing room,
and sweeping clear the bureau’s
clutter. Out goes the past – tomorrow’s
nothing to her now – as there loom,

instead, her titans: they who jutted
up, some other ageless dawn; who
put life’s petty pomp into
primal perspective. Now she’s whetted

her appetite for such ascents.
She positively billows joy
and sports her hat a care-free way.
She travels light.

32

Clouds low around the ankle

Some cirrus were low around the ankle
like dust spun off from the diaspora ahead
A ravine was to be reached...
the colours of water were everywhere.
Two words stuck in her head, revolving in rhyme...
Wool and fuel; fuel and wool; wool and fuel...
"New ideas in old clothes."

My mantra, she mused.

A yard of altitude, she been informed, was an increment removed from air pressure at sea level. She, Marianna, was a sea-level person; despite her swiftness of ascension and her acclimatisation to reduced Pascals.

That was ok - she still had dried fruit in her pocket. She had the guise of a pastel-rendered spy. No, she would not be burnt - even from this impossibly long distance away. There was the horizon, the sky at its rim. Too so from above peeking so too was the sun's brim. Peaking beneath the sun's brim, the Andes were peaking. The disconnect was considered. Low clouds itching around the ankle. "New ideas from old ideas." Subconscious itching - "Old thoughts from new ideas."

Her feet taking her into the sunset, a timelessness descended. She experienced a feeling of being outside the scene. No longer in Bolivia, but of being a part of a work of art. In pastel shades, a subject.

"New clothes from old imaginings." Another mantra for travelling she considered.

They had left her far behind - no hope now to catch them up.

33

Purple Stranger

It was the way day turned to night, like the flicking
of a switch, shadows scrambling to unpin themselves

from the snow, the moon hastily draping a cloud over
her naked bosom, stars still, not ready to twinkle, the

glare of not knowing transforming into dark realization
in an instant, as if something had been revealed, as if

something had been hidden, forever. Except today, when
an odd twilight slipped into the silence, like a stranger in a

purple coat walking slowly over the slopes, holding the
eye, stretching distance, stark against the emptiness,

carrying not to the inky gloom that was to come, but the
light that could brighten a heart for just a little longer.

34

Cardinale Frucci covets snow.

A purple wing of cloak , pigeons
the insistant cooing of his slender
frame, the velvet mules like frosty
cherries, stain with little sinful steps.
He covets snow, ostia sweet and chill
as convent cloisters, a melting flakery.
Look. That galero, heady claret, dilutes
a purity of air, shades the purpose of his eyes.
Each distant cleft and cleavage tempts him
further on. How mountains deceive with
eternal unattainability, how wolves prowl
his heart, their footprints mark in virgin snow.
He waits for a miracle of ice.
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As Long as You Are Wearing Fuchsia

There is no such thing as a bad day,
when cloaked in fuchsia,
and walking straight into the billowing-cheeked wind.
This is a determined color.
Mindless criticism glides off your cape,
like a greased slide at a playground.
Blustering snow swirls of negative self-talk
are no match for a broad-brimmed hat,
designed to stand up to
all forms of weather.
Imagine that these garments are invisible,
yet they intrinsically follow you wherever you go.
Like the piercing high note of a dog whistle,
only those on the offensive can see this
transparent, hot pink ensemble.
They know to stand back -
make way -
refrain from harsh words,
because negative energy just beads off
your waterproof jacket.
You are swimming in the duck pond.
You are climbing that mountain
with every metal cup, thermal tent,
and extra pairs of long johns
that you could ever need.
With preparation, perspiration and inspiration,
you are reaching for that distant mountain peak.
But, in truth, as long as you are wearing fuchsia,
there is no final destination.
Walk on, pioneer!
36

ACCLAIMED

Sanctimonious, their disdain they voice
with hateful quasi-superiority,
and tut-tutty tolerance.

And still she has her favourite milliner
fashion an outrageous purple creation
light enough for graceful nape.

Rattling out pop-poetry with awful regularity,
they proffer cosmic compassion
to those not as wise.

Her matching cape is woven from the pulp of
rejections made by a gifted Steampunk friend,
who can make the paper dance.

Masticating platitudes, ruminants
mouth repetitive sycophantic adulation -
grovelling on calloused knees,

hardened by years of tongue-buffing editors' boots, camouflaging dehumanizing pustules, dried
by desert of sophistry.

She leaves them behind, striding up the mountain,
her Tiffany blue gown merging with the slopes,
defying the winter chill
in courageous search for next inspiration.
What chance has their bitterness against such vim?

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BIRD OF PURPLE VIVIDNESS

Purple bird swoops low

wings outstretched – traveling with surety and determination

vaporous plumage protecting from icy wind

distance no deterrent, as feet graze the ground

sure of footfall – sure of destination

As she passes by I marvel, speechless

that so spectacular a being shares space with earth-bound mortals

If I reach out, will this phantasmal creature melt into nonexistence?

if I close my eyes, will this violet figure disappear?

her very creation a possible mirage painted from high altitude breath?

38

Saturation and Value

Believe in color. Its power to heal and to offer
escape from the recesses of grey, cold minds.

Stale, gelatinous masses gradually harden and
affix themselves along the moraines of skulls.

Colors adhere to no such substances. Artists adhere
to rules of edges, shape, line, and composition.

To limited palates, titanium white, Payne's grey, yellow
ochre, and cadmium red. But colors obey nothing.

Flooding hills, fleeing valleys at sunset. And this woman,
too, heading through encrusted ice and snow with no

boots, only a sex red cloak and a rigid summer sun
brim unbound by dull gravity. She parts without

a single glance backwards. She knows the power
of color and will not stick around to blend in.

39

Florinda

She stole the hat - which she said she had loved from the moment she saw it - from a monsignor in Rome, and took his cloak for good measure. From that day on she stopped wearing her pearls when she went out walking, though she still wore lipstick. What, she said, if someone had wanted to photograph her?

She had been named Florinda after a legendary Spaniard who her mother had read about while waiting to see her dentist. But people were always misspelling it, so for years she went by the name of Dolly. Until she started wearing the clerical garb, when she reverted to Florinda.

I was ten years younger than her and when I was a little girl she would swat me away. Go and play little girl, she'd say. I used to hide behind the door and listen to her singing. She had a high voice, but within it there was a deeper timbre; everything about Florinda was contradictory. People said that she sang while she was walking and that little creatures followed her. Of course no-one really knew, because she walked where others did not. People said that she didn't wear shoes. I knew that could not be true, not on hills like ours, where under the snow there are such sharp prickles. Some people talk such nonsense.

When we were both much older Florinda and I met by chance in other place, a southern town. She was sitting on a wooden bench, under the shade of a plane tree in a small square. I sat beside her to rest, for the midday sun was hot. At first I did not recognise her, for she had grown fat and her chin was whiskery. Then I saw the hat, the monsignor's purple galero, by her side. It was faded but without doubt the same hat, with its extraordinarily wide brim. Florinda! I exclaimed, and she chuckled, in that unmistakable voice that was both high and low.

Read more >

40

Curate’s Egg

Insomnia burns a figure onto my field. The shape is washed by the early morning light.

The figure’s feet brush away the vapours of sleep.

I want to trust it. There’s a mind in there, and minds can often be trusted.

It’s morning, and the figure has been robed in the colour of power.

Can this colour ever be indeterminate? Must it come down on one side or the other?

Can the figure walk away from certainty? Yes, in a world other than the one I know.

Who puts on the purple cloak?

I know many priests. Few of them wear a robe.

Few of them stay in the designated holy places.

Few of them are known to the authorities. Few are certain.

Do they burn in the sleepless morning? Do they walk in mountain passes?

Do they walk in the high field? Do they wear the purple?

41

Studies on the Losses of Travellers

The forbidden mountains of far off lands
Attract their unfair share of explorers.
Leather and hobnailed hoofed feet
Signing their doesn't-matter-where signature
On tranquil paths trodden only before by goats.

Woman and man certainly weren't invited
So most mountains act carefully discourteously
An avalanche here, a sudden drop in temperature
Or a far too inviting ice bridge
That doesn't owe the world a thing
least of all it's patience.

But this subtle shaking of people from their shoulders
Carefully negotiating the etiquette of natural disasters
and not wanting to seem to formal
Is rarely enough to deter the hardiest of explorers

Those with oak aged skin
and lemon sharp wrinkles
Weathered eyes in storm sockets
Those who calluses have calluses
and whose callused calluses are working on calluses of their own

These explorers get everywhere.
Like an embarrassing infestation
The mountains don't like to talk about them.
And so they suffer in silence
and blush the sunset pink of the afternoon
as they are traversed

Peaks conquered without consent.

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42

Tilting at Wind Hills

Surrounded by irritation
Adapting to the silence
The barren wasteland Peaks
Curling Low cloud scuffed
Nurtured by loss
Reflect swift swirling
The cape of some hope

Pastel pale coloured,
Worn clarity triumphant
Dust Crag draped
Shadow compass tilting
The breadth of the brim
Reducts impatience stoic
Stone virtue cold contest

43

WITHOUT A TITLE

Alone,
this mountainous expanse
frozen before me--
a blank slate as it were.

In this I am moment
neither male nor female,
nor anything in between.

Glacial white--
infinite impossibility--
tarn reflecting naught
but what has come to be,
and therefore has no being.

This purple cloak--
is it a sign of royalty?
This wide-brimmed hat,
far-flung as the ring of Saturn,
or the whole galaxy--
has it not the circumference
of what I have released
into the Void?

44

The Woman Who Refused to Wear Shoes

Don’t take this wrong, but she was strange.
The stranger the better is what I always said,
which is what I thought when she told me,
You can’t hear Earth speak if you wear shoes.
You're deafened by barriers, so be vulnerable,
and listen to Earth's wisdom, she said.

There was deceptive simplicity about her,
no-nonsense, brisk, brusk, muscularly lean
and chillingly sparse with her words.
She even walked barefoot in the snow.
Always barefoot on snow. On ice.
The colder the better is what she said.
The stranger the better is what I always said.

But we knew better; she wasn't immune
to her own mistakes, which explains why
she strode into the Cairngorms one morning.
Into the peaks. Into the valleys. Into primal
sun beating down on a cloak of fresh snow,
her toes crunching on crusty white, grabbing
the cold soil underfoot as her purple cape
swept the wind aside with intriguing glory.

Read more >

45

Helicon

Once, when this mountain was in its infancy,
I had wings:

a coral cloak that fluttered like tattered pennants
in katabatic winds

that spread through the valley like clemency,
and along veins of rock,

filling villages with chilblains, dampening
the vain hopes

of cattle hoping for a thaw. When the cold came,
it turned eddies

into still circles and waterfalls into walls
of splintered ice.

The wind played a lovely waltz but my cloak
could not suffice

to keep out the bitter raw air. My soft feet
grew numb,

my laurel staff snapped, and the supposed hot springs
were dead beneath

the ground. And when I found the story stones,
they were dumb.

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