- Vol. 08
- Chapter 05
Lately I’ve been lighting my morning fire with the thin icicles that I’ve plucked from the guttering of my neighbour’s garden shed, stirring snow into my bitter coffee, spreading it onto my toast.
The edgeless days leak into each other and I can sit watching the blue flames for hours without moving.
Nothing seems to curdle, wilt or rot now. My milk is eternal. Plum jam does not crawl from the toppled lidless jar. My gaudy Christmas roses might well see the spring.
If I had a chiffon dress I would wear it to enhance my translucence, let its fluted sleeves flutter in the warm breeze of the central heating as I wait for the ice man to come with his chiller truck. He will bring bricks of water and a cold cargo of birds carved from blocks of ice – plump sparrows to cool my gin, sparkling swans to grace my lonely table, large ducks to roost on my softening blocks of marzipan. He will bring a box of little eggs, like ovals of polished topaz, packed in straw. If I put them in my mouth I would taste the sharp ether and sugars of an arctic night, but instead I’ll put them in the brittle nests I’ve hidden in my sock drawer.
There’s a man with green boots frozen to Mount Everest, frozen where he fell half-way up the mountain, gummed to the thing he loved and I think that in this strange fevered season we are all neither here nor there, always on the point of freezing or melting.
My lover has become a glittering fixture at the end of the garden, standing with a fruit knife in one hand and half a glassy orange in the other. When the sun shines through his crystalline skin I can see the old autumn meat of his heart. I can remember the way it sparked and crackled when we loved.Read more >
I haven’t seen my sister for three weeks. Now she is on my doorstep holding out this weird picture she’s painted. I scratch the prickling scar on my abdomen. Hold my sour dressing gown over myself.
‘You needed family time.’ She shrugs. ‘Is he…?’
‘Asleep.’ I jerk my thumb behind me. ‘And at the pub.’
She looks away and I know he’s texted her – told her to come.
She brings the frame in and leans it against the wall. She looks into the bassinet.
‘Ah, yes.’ She circles a finger around her face. ‘The Birkdale nose. Yes.’ She backs away. ‘Very cute. He’s adorable.’
‘I’ve just got him down, or I’d offer…’
‘No. Really.' She turns to me and frowns. ‘What’s that noise?’
I open one wing of my dressing gown. My breast is compressed in the plastic funnel of the pump, the veins purple, my dark nipple distended.
‘Cuppa?’ she goes into the kitchen.
I sit on the sofa and stare at the painting. She has been watching Bob Ross tutorials again. I know she has from the picture.
And I know it from the way she beats the baby bottle brush against the sides of the sink. I lie back and stare at the pump pulling me inside out. I peel a damp flannel from the sofa arm and lay it over my chest.
‘I brought wine.’ She looks into the lounge. ‘You can’t though. Or can you?’ I shrug.
She moves gift bags and piles of pale blue knitted things to sit beside me and we look at the picture together.
‘I went rogue… after I painted the trees.’
‘The trees are good.’
‘Trees are easy,’ she says but I can see she is pleased.
‘The rocks and heather…’ I point with my toe. The suction cup buzzes on and off rhythmically. I glance at the 3mm golden meniscus in the bottom of the collection bottle. Two hours work.
Read more >
You cannot enter rock. Break it into however many pieces, each fragment remains a locked door to a story beyond imagining. The ancient geomorphic pressures. Aeons that weighed down upon it.
We were camping at the edge of the forest, where the pines dwindle towards the bay. My undergraduates kept themselves busy collecting samples, building campfires, flirting. Me, I was gazing at feldspar in the lab tent – looking for the etch pits of fungal hyphae, evidence of a trade with the vegetable world, minerals exchanged for food. Even as my eye was working, I listened out for news from my students.
It was an hour since lunch to which, unusually, I had contributed.
Everything began with a cry. I confess my heart performed a cramped little dance. I abandoned my microscope, lifted the flap of the tent.
They were gathering about the girl. She was crooning and pointing towards the bay. Her vocalisations, her trembling arm, might have been disturbing, yet no one seemed afraid, for it was clearly not terror, but wonderment.
Others began to see what she was seeing.
The ice, they said. The ice was back, and not merely as a crust on the surface of the ocean. Great gleaming cliffs of it. I stared at the sea. There was nothing, save that tiny island with its sentinel pines. Then, as when, in the nineties, you gazed at a Magic Eye picture and an image would emerge from seeming randomness, I saw it too.
The ice cap filled the horizon – water turned to stone, the strata of centuries of freeze and blizzard. You could feel its immensity. The force that scoured these rocks, that scooped and fashioned the world into which our forebears walked. We stared at the ice wall, and a fissure opened in it.Read more >
I tunnel dreams
hide from blinding light
above is below of frozen
in this hall of ice held
I am an island
afloat in mercury
trees stare from sparse heath
alien watchers of an ancient forest
is it time to spin
will roots go deep
grip green stalagmites
to thin mossy cloud
a troll conjured sky
land barren blue-white
hard without comfort
will I survive
in my reflection
for the season of blue glass.
They told me
that when I got here
I would step inside the iceberg
hanging in the sky above the land
it had once passed over,
far apart in time
returned to the locus
where they intersected.
A shaft in the ice
but no sense of direction
or of gravity. Long ago now.
I could stand
under a tree
and look up
onto the ice above,
to drop like a human stalactite,
We used to light our lamps
solely by the sun in the sky,
forgetting the glow of dandelions,
the golden tips of treetops,
the oval ripples of moving water,
transporting reflections from
one part of the stream to another.
We forgot about the sparked light of ideas
seen in the eyes of those who create,
the warmed hearth light of those
who listen with compassion,
the love light of someone
who shines all of their attention
on those in their care.
We also forgot about the tunnels of light
that live and reign within us,
the single flower of persistence
residing in the soul,
the steadfast belief in not just ourselves
but in the promise of this world—
that it will still be here tomorrow.
On days when rain blurs our vision
and the opening to the heart seems small,
we must remember the vast lake of life
existing inside each being,
the trees, the fertile soil,
the window to other connected worlds.
All of this lives and keeps living.
It’s in that thick air—you know, the kind you can dip yourself into for a while and feel the muggy energy suspended around you. It’s in the lethargy slipping from your tongue and splashing in your lungs. It’s in the fog creeping between the pines, circling your ankles, and slithering along the waking earth.
It’s nearing that springtime bliss—you know, the kind that holds minuscule sentiments of change within each bundled bud, each new nook of moss, each crystalline spiderweb.
It’s in the promises left in hollowed tree trunks, it’s in the love letters whispered deep into burrows of ivy, it’s in the secrets desperately dug into sodden soil. It’s in the voice you let echo, tumbling over itself in aching fields. It’s in the way your soul reverberates around the caverns found within each dewy droplet. It’s in the worlds that only take shape in soft afternoon light. It’s in the kisses of golden sun on cold cheeks, the tugs of lilting wind in tangled hair, the ghost of fingertips dancing across grass stained kneecaps. It’s in the imaginative haze you’ve shrouded yourself in for far too long—you know, because the mist rolls off your sullen shoulders, soaked and barren, leaving you breathless; all too aware of your own weight pressing into spongy ground.
It’s nearing that springtime bliss when mirrors made of puddling rain remind you of all the rotting promises you left yourself in forgotten hollows so long ago.
When landscape gives to portrait crop,
fantastic range proves personal;
a harvest prompting eroteme?
An indie viewpoint, publish need -
ice tunnel first a chasmal lid,
top layer cake with fondant struts?
But eye must turn to limits set,
the narrow brief, judged adequate.
Deep fissure through our paradigm,
more caverns measureless to sum,
lake placid, discworld, undermined,
how reconcile contextual strain?
Why does this brain wave leave me cold,
scenes juxta, posed, that sunless sea?
Student to Divinity School,
I ambled All Saints Passage way,
British Antarctic Survey board,
mixed huskies, St John’s, polar, texts.
Seek unities of time and place,
an incarnation, ice age grace -
for colour see the northern lights,
beside the lake, by fishing boats?
So many choices given place,
from basement Keller, ferment brew,
to upright challenge, narrow view
of widest wildest angled hue.
Both far but near in textured join -
how thin must be this interspace.
It began with something
What, I do not know,
An piece of snow maybe
An icicle perhaps
A piece of frozen water that came
Falling down from on high
To land in the water
With a plop that echoed hollowly off the frozen walls
And sent ripples flowing away to all corners
Bouncing off the shores and trees and rocks
Until every last ordered ring
Had been turned back into the chaotic calm of the water’s surface
When it began,
How it began,
I cannot say
It simply began
Like a child throwing stones down a well
And we were the water at the bottom
And once it began it did not stop
Then a few
Then a constant hail
Of plop plop plop echoing off the walls
As if to say,
In their hollow resounding voices
“Don’t look up”
When you are building ravines of illusions
You will find where I planted my seeds
That now navigate you in circles
Even when I am not there
We are incomplete and incompatible
Defeated in deflection
We uprooted each other
But silently survive
On the pieces of ourselves we never shared
There is a stillness
Between the void we made
And the hope on the horizon
That all illusions disappear
We will scatter your ashes on the lake today,
When the sun shines full upon it;
Like you always rose early.
We will remember you,
And this remembrance
Will mark the beginning of our forgetting.
We will scatter your ashes with heavy hearts,
Because these ashes are you,
And we are at fault.
We will be silent,
At least we would be
If we could,
But we never can and that’s one of the reasons why ...
We will scatter your ashes in your favorite place,
Though these ashes are not you
And you will not see it.
If you were here,
You would only make sarcastic remarks,
As would be your right;
But you are not here,
After lunch, we remained at the table, chatting
about everything and nothing, letting time
fade like culaccini between us on the glass.
I glanced through the sash window, out to the channel,
where an iceberg, after centuries of staying
put, had suddenly calved loose like a boxer’s tooth.
It unhooked its bulk from its brothers and set off
towards stretches of meltwater or falling tides.
I watched transfixed as this frozen dry dock glided
into shot, slow as an unwound clock, in no rush
to reach its resting spot. You touched my hand, hoping
to heal the fissures… to stop the ice from breaking.
she said, as she picked up a flower
from a vase. A flower from a bouquet bought
for her birthday, unwrapped of its cellophane
to claim the edge of a windowsill as its fleeting domain.
what a sad kingdom, she said,
a world without tender words nor wisdom,
without winds that travel and whisper
into an ear of wheat. I couldn’t phantom a life without fields
that sprawl along rivers carrying our grievances,
pouring them into a tidal cradle of salt.
Now answer me this, she said, as she looked into a petal,
have you seen how the sea mimics the sky?
do you think that is a coincidence?
I see you both in the light dazzling, spectacular and breathing deep. Not like in snores but like in excited inhales of a new day. Your silhouettes appear as distant stars, cosmically inherent . I see you. I see you both in your favorite clothes. A slender woman in silk magenta and pistachio sari and lean man in a tweed jacket with woolen pants. Mom you are laughing with your head back in full abandon. Always a trusting child. And papa, you seem to be thinking of some ideas for your next novel. I try to capture you in my poem, but the notebook slips and falls with a heavy heart at the meeting of the mountain skirts.
Ice canopies float around and the sun and moon snooze together in the igloo. Their union is kind of magical like the times you both cared for each other when sick. Flowers are growing from clouds and butterflies whisper in my ears. Trees are walking about, and dirt is flying incognito. Your words are being hummed by ripples in the water and I am very thirsty. It seems like a portal I can walk through, but my hands hit an invisible fence. I turn around with my tears snuggling under my arms and walk back. Hands of my feet frantically tug on the heart of my shoe strings. “Try again. Try again.” They pester like elves in Santa’s shop wanting to make more toys. I fly instead to the boat in the water which looks like a tiny island and fix my eyes on the brilliant light.
I've been staring at the world like it's upside down.
I've been looking at progress as if going back to being an infant is best, I forget that I am older than I used to be.
Progress means starving, in this upside down paradise: negligent to myself and reliant on those who still cannot swim themselves.
I've been swimming through the world, and my fingers turn to raisins- but, that's okay, "all the best ones' do." All the best ones shrivel up, I suppose, so that's what I'll do...?
Well, with every stroke that I do not take, I sink deeper, and deeper. Upside down becomes more upright. Frightening, really. Alone and drowning means safe and sane, but I'm pretty sure that I'm starving.
Starving: I sink deeper and I become positive that this is what I am, but I cannot keep sinking. Everyone too is starving up there. Up there, at least I can fight for food.
The surface offers air, poisoned air. Air with starving smiles. And I am an animal for taking my turn; jealousy can have an unkind way of showing its burn.
There's land in the distance, people floating, trees coming from the sky and somehow not falling, even though they look so heavy; but from here it all just looks upside down. And they all rest up there in a way like I do not know how.
I've been seeing the world upside down lately, & in here it's freezing. There's safety in the distance, I'm seeing everything upside down for sure, I have to stay positive that I don't fall and break my head. I can't stand to be called dizzy and mentally unrest by those who may not have my hearts' best. Look in the distance, maybe you too will understand.Read more >
I wanted time to freeze. I wanted summer
perfectly. Every moment of waxing June,
lightning-splashed afternoons of July, and August
falling onto its sheets salty and ripe.
I would lift hours with fine tweezers, place
them on a cherrywood base, protect those days
in a globe of blown glass--to lamp the lost, my self
among the clumsy hands, stumbling minds.
It would rest within my ribcage. I would open
to some moment, random as a gray-blue butterfly,
and fill my breath with its honeysuckle air,
becoming the decibels of wren and grasshopper.
I wanted to remember that summer like some holy book,
recite it to my darker self until it knew brewing coffee,
ducks materializing from tree-lined fog, the music
of knives and spoons and glass, first star of evening.
I wanted to touch that summer shoulder,
stroke the back the sun had warmed, be
embraced by hours and feel them growing,
hold them in my belly and my arms.
A telephone will ring or a dog will bark.
The sun off a fragment of mirror will
blind you. There might be the faint trace
of a smell like something burning. Wrong
words twist into objects of torture.
I want to freeze time three breaths before
the moment before the speed of light broke.
It began in the Atlantic current, its dependable, meridional sway
stalled, like libido, just outright stalled, and a giant swath of cold
dense water congealed off the coast of Greenland. We were too busy
to notice anything happening off the coast of Greenland, but an ache
began to make itself known in strange, intimate ways: a drinking glass
burst, a crack in the mantle, the silverware turned in new directions
inside their drawers. No one was in control anymore, so kissing became
a farce. Even then, no one expected what came next: the great shelves
of ice, the walls and jagged caves of it, flipped the earth, or at least
what we could see of it, the polar caps taking their places in the sky.
What I mean is: there was now a ceiling of ice, and we could not adapt
to a ceiling, even when sunlight streamed from the end of a tunnel,
since the tunnel was the sky itself, we were doomed. There remained,
for a while, nostalgic places one might go to replenish: National Parks,
islands, fields of wheat. But we could no longer see the stars at night,
and even the moon slept beyond the ceiling. I had a feeling it went on
forever; we didn’t anticipate the role ice would play in the whole of it,
the entire briny universe. We began to burn all the paper we had.
And no one said things like reach for the sky or the sky’s the limit because
now it was. And even when we grew brittle with cold, we would not
hold each other. Instead, we dreamed of the ancestors of other species,
all that perished under different conditions, but so often without view
of the stars, be it cataclysm or asteroid. Under the ceiling, all desire
exited, and we took up the tools of self-preservation, which is the end
of pleasure, and it became too much to pretend that what was happening
between us wouldn’t end and end suddenly.
I recently came across the image published in your latest issue and was wondering if you could put me in touch with the artist.
This may sound strange to you, but I believe the image depicted is of the crossing that opens between my home and yours, once every one hundred years. I was on that crossing and have spent my whole life thinking I was the only survivor.
I remember so little; I was that precarious age between toddler and child, where memories exist only as echo and fog. It was early morning and we had been sailing through the tunnel of ice without incident. Our ships are made for ice you see, they creak and groan but for them it is like breathing. They relax into freezing temperatures like hands around a cup of hot chocolate. Excitement rose as we neared the edge and heads leaned over railings to catch a first glimpse of our new home. Cameras chirped like birds in spring. (Yes, we too have cameras. In fact, where do you think you got yours from?)
But when we hit the water, that violent transition from hard to soft, from solid to liquid, a hand fell away. Warm breath turned cold. I can still hear the angry snap of wood; the hard splash of bodies.
It is everywhere: in the honking of horns, the shatter of a plate, the flick of a switch.
A family discovered me in the woods, shivering and blue. They believed me to be abandoned which I suppose I was. They took me to their cabin and as I warmed myself beside a fire, they built a story around my sudden appearance which I could not contradict. Read more >
May I suggest a journey unnecessary
From point A to point A its reverse opposite
We have everything here including apple trees
Candles cutting boards songbirds and a place to sleep
Time to boot up and call hardship an adventure
We march into a world of icicles and drafts
Forgive my sniffing nose it is not all glamour
To make it interesting let's forget our rucksacks
Hell would not quite be hell if we had chocolate bars
By the end of the hike let us sit down and cry
Over lost ambitions and frostbitten fingers
Over lost ambitions and frostbitten fingers
Over lost ambitions and frostbitten fingers
By the end of the hike let us sit down and cry
Hell would not quite be hell if we had chocolate bars
To make it interesting let's forget our rucksacks
Forgive my sniffing nose it is not all glamour
We march into a world of icicles and drafts
Time to boot up and call hardship an adventure
Candles cutting boards songbirds and a place to sleep
We have everything here including apple trees
From point A to point A its reverse opposite
May I suggest a journey unnecessary
When the ice caps started growing, I took it as a good sign. Nature, recovering. Maybe we hadn’t messed things up quite as badly as we’d thought.
Great sheets of ice slid southwards, bulldozing cities. My daughter screamed at the television as she watched an avalanche consuming houses.
“It’s alright,” I said. “We’re fine here.”
The television was always showing terrible things happening far away. I switched it off and sent Alice outside to play.
As Moscow disappeared under a southward march of ice, our forests were as green as ever. One bright day, I drove Alice to the lake. The water was warm around my toes, but she wouldn’t come in for a paddle. Instead, she stared wide-eyed at the glaciers on the horizon.
“They’re coming,” she whispered.
I sighed. This would be a hard topic to move her past.
All summer, the icebergs towered above the mountains, but they didn’t do us any harm. Clouds snagged on the tops, emptying their rain in sheets that froze as they fell. We enjoyed six straight weeks of dry weather. I took Alice hiking, pointing out flowers and insects to keep her gaze from drifting up.
One afternoon, we sat on the porch licking ice creams. I’d given Alice my tablet to keep her occupied while I patched a worn-out pair of shorts.
She dropped her cone and pointed. “Look, Mama!”Read more >
Inside, water flows, nurtures green growth,
sustains life, within limits. All this,
under dove-grey ceilings: air recirculated
for millennia. Like us, our forebears faced
a constant sight, on their skyline,
a vast entrance, filled with ice-white light.
Like us, their eyes were drawn and
their hearts, bodies, minds, longed to follow.
Would stepping away from grey extinguish
heartbeats and existence. Or could we, could they,
move to everlastingness: infinity, beyond death?
Today, as loose pine cones bounced on my bent head,
I knelt at my granny's grave, sought guidance.
'If I move into the light', I said, 'will I embrace life,
or be bleached to death?' Her face flickered
in memory's haze and I met her love-lulled gaze.
Suddenly, I knew. My choice would define my days,
but nothing could erase my roots underground
in this mulched, imperfect place. Perhaps,
it is time. Our tribe can risk resettling, naked
in another sun's tempting embrace. Knowledge
may disappoint, or may lift us luminous,
to a state of grace. Tonight, before leaving,
I shawl my shoulders against fear and ancient cold.
Where the prose of the lake
meets the poetry of sky,
stories flow in the wind's wake.
Words ripple above and below,
uxorious lovers open windows
with sonnets and odes to light,
while storytellers voices tales
of magic, romance and night-
time adventure, breath in their sails.
They anticipate the distant thunder
and its crescendo into rainfall
to replenish the magical,
romantic, frightening, and wild
poems and stories for you, my child.
Always a pagan
though his lass was Christian
along island's grassy southwestern coast
in a fjord-indented
the glaciers and the sea
dig through the permafrost
remove windblown glacial sand
fills the rooms,
fragments of looms and cloth.
an iron knife, whetstones,
soapstone vessels, a double-edged comb
dairy and sheep farms,
churches, a monastery,
a nunnery, and a cathedral
with an imported bronze bell
and greenish tinted glass windows
His farm, was called Steep Slope
remains of a church,
surrounded by a turf wall
to keep farm animals out,
a great hall where
they cooked in fire pits, ate meals,
recited sagas, played board games.
Huddled in sheepskins,
I listen to the bruised silence
of the empty hillside.
In the fictitious light of dawn,
I see wraiths of armies,
swelling and retreating
like tides of the estuary,
scouring my land.
The sound of clashing swords
hangs upon memory like leaves
upon the trees above me.
We were myriad as pine needles,
now only I remain. I wait.
The lake is still now, no war canoes
to plough that grey tranquility.
How long? I wonder. How long?
My wound is deep but narrow,
I bleed but little. It is time.
A reluctant sun shoulders clouds
aside in fractured brilliance,
reveals the other-world beauty
of a frozen sky. Translucent portico;
a luminous carriageway of ice;
the gateway to Paradise,
He never could decide if it was God or a mirage that brought him home that day. In the end, perhaps it all boiled down to the same thing. One moment there was nothing but the lake and the pines, a drab sky looming over them; the next, the clouds had split to form a cave of dazzling light. Its walls were thick and made of ice, or something that looked very like it, and the angle was such that the glow appeared to radiate from the very back, from a spot that was, as it later turned out, more or less directly above the town.
That was how it was in the story he told, anyway. One moment nothing, then nothing but light, and he knew with sudden certainty in which direction to walk. When the rescuers finally found him, four days later, he was weak and raving but remarkably chipper. He even posed for a photograph with his saviours, a picture that then appeared on the front page of the newspaper beneath the incredulous headline: HALLUCINATING HIKER WALKS 80 MILES ON BROKEN ANKLE. No mention of God, at that stage.
‘I just knew where to go,’ he always said. ‘I knew, deep down, and my subconscious showed me. I just had to keep moving in that direction.’ His fiancée, Emily, had been the one to raise the alarm, and they married as soon as they possibly could, the pins still fresh in his ankle. They named their son Clark, after William Clark, one of the greatest explorers in American history. Never mind that Clark had traversed Louisiana, not Alaska. He was intrepid and rational, and that was what counted.
Five years later, a second child. A little girl, baptised Grace.Read more >
The ancient melody
arrives in the waters harmony
of unity and peace
a place of serene
a city faraway
filled with opportunity
a place to write and write
and keep writing without stopping
just for a drink of water
and bread to feed our hunger
for life a mirror of reflection
ice lands in never land.
The tourists watched the Inuit at their ice-fishing and reveled in the jaunts across the frozen ocean by dog-sled and thought how quaint the culture was, how refreshingly uncluttered and uncomplicated their life and dreamt of living their lives free of the demands of the world.
The tribe exchanged packages with the regular pilot and chatted cheerily with him away from the passengers as they boarded; then waved at the commercial plane as its skis lifted from the runway they’d cleared that morning. They waited until the craft was a speck before breaking into an excited dialogue as they hefted the parcels and crates onto the snowmobiles.
Brad – his mother was a Pitt fan – was looking forward to trying out his new amps at the dance tonight. His band had been working on their fusion of traditional and modern music.
Grandfather was providing the haunting throat song for the atmospheric background, and Amaaluk – the young widow they had taken in – was an enthusiastic apprentice of the traditional drumming.
But this modest entertainment wasn’t the main source of the buzz among the greeting party. No, it was the anticipation of sloughing off their winter gear in favour of the lighter clothes after the hot showers at the New Lodge.
Whalers had brought disruption and disease in the 1800s, but also an introduction to technology, and while the crass world had been seething towards destruction using that developing technology as a paddle, the Nunavut community had – per their philosophy of working with nature rather than conquering it – spent the last 200 years preparing for the next climate shift.Read more >
The lake is as still as Worldsend,
the islet where the hermit lives a moored ship
against the eerie light from the surface
which is not just beyond the corridor
as it appears, but a thousand miles above:
the filtered reflected light from Jupiter’s atmosphere
a mockery of what we destroyed.
It took a century to build this model
Which resembles Canada more than my native home,
but it’s alive
as am I,
and the believers who came with us to Europa.
There is no point searching for answers in the surfaces of lakes. But still I return, day after day, to the shore from which you disappeared. Sitting at the base of your favourite tree with the branches snapping beneath me, I listen to clues in the sound of the water lapping. Maybe I’ll find you in the cracked reflections of the sky. On a still day I see a more complete picture, like static clearing on a TV screen. Fissures open in brief flashes and I catch glimpses of the light, but it is never enough. The window closes as soon as I try to concentrate on the empty space.
You told me once that the opening means nothing without the surrounding walls, but I can’t help falling into old habits. There is still hope as long as I keep coming back. Building walls and holding you in my mind. I whisper your name over and over into the lonely silence, but the birds are the only ones to respond. One day I’m sure I hear voices in the rustling of trees.
Sometimes in my dreams I find my way back to you, but by the time I wake up the puzzle pieces have fallen back apart. No one wants to hear about other worlds. They are happier living on the land where the sky is bolted shut. But it's too late for me; my shape has already shifted. Returning to the water is better than digging holes. There is still hope as long as I see pictures in the surface and feel your presence in the roots.
ages have passed slowly he says
we’re near to a rift in the delicate fabric
when it comes my hair will have that new-washed
shine my skin unblemished my whole self
aglow the chosen will ascend in glory
we will be angelic I see familial spirits
a flock of pure white doves soaring
into a wondrous sky
the sublime the rapture
I close my eyes my stomach
flutters it’s unimaginable
but I can’t help trying a great glorious
cloud sweeping over hills towards
the assembled all praising singing joyous
Will it be like that ? I ask
Something very like he replies
Tunnel of ice. The promise of sun. I walk towards you or the place where I think you are. Where I want you to be. Where I need you. In sunlight. Beyond the ice. Perhaps there it’s another season. Spring perhaps—rocks and green hills and evergreens running down to the now open waters. Our island in the distance. We will pack a basket and a book and venture there again. Tomorrow. When we too are unfrozen. Released from this cold dream, this frozen world.
You will take my hand. Or so I imagine. I will turn to you, smile, look into your eyes—limpid as the waters. We will turn and move toward the lake, uncover our canoe, and paddle out across the deep, shadowed by the mountains on three sides, toward our island. It’s not where we live. It cannot sustain us. It’s just where we dream. Together. Apart. Side by side. We gaze at the water, the mountains, the shadows, the high frosty clouds that remind us of the wintry corridor from which we have finally emerged. We breathe. One breath. Two. We share our meal. Talk softly. Read our book. We gather our remains and return to the canoe. We paddle back to the mainland.
We know we will return to ice. We will cycle back to our intemperate tunnel. The white icy glare. The promise of sunlight. Again. Someday.
I woke up on a Tuesday morning and found myself stuck in a snow globe. I had to blink to make sure it wasn’t a dream. You see, I had difficulty sleeping. My husband got me pills, very useful he said, but they made me woozy. So I stopped taking them. Instead, I would wake up to nightmares. Then stare at the walls and count the squeaks of a night lizard until our duet of breaths and squeaks, would be punctured by a long sigh. My husband.
He always woke up at 4 a.m. He did not need an alarm. He died in calm sleeps every night and was born again when the invisible rays of the early morning sun clapped four. I would pretend I was fast asleep until he would utter a bye, looking at his shoes, and click the lock.
But tonight, when the lizard squeaked, and I opened my eyes to welcome the walls closing in on me, I found myself shielded by glass. There were no walls, no corners. The globe was round, and the glass cool to touch. Gigantic trees with needle like leaves clasped peaked icicles that met them halfway through. There was Up and Down, separated by crushed ice floating on water. I crawled on the sides because I could not swim. I scaled the snowy triangle peaks, tasted the air, and dived into the cheery coniferous spring. I found I could crawl upside down, without falling. I squeaked. The world was round.
My husband gave a long sigh. In the deadly quiet, he tumbled out towards the coffee machine, eyes half closed, toilet seat still up. He poured the evening’s cold liquid, sipped, scowled, mumbled a bye and left. My side of the bed looked shadowy, and creased, empty but perhaps not void enough to be of alarm.Read more >
The universe is a giant negroni,
which means we are all either
tumbler, gin, vermouth, Campari
or ice cube, and I don’t know
about you but in the giant assorting
we are soon to be swirled up in
b) we’re gonna need a stiff drink
at the end of days, and a) do you
want to be drained vessel, angry red
headbanger, or transparent lip-
puckerer in this anthology. Let’s
put it like this: come the apocalypse,
also known as being grateful your
aesthetic is ‘short trousers / bare ankles’
where will your florid/panic memory
path take you back to first? Yup –
see you on the Navigli, last one there
picks up the tab, no aperitivi for you.
The film crew pressed on. Day after day, three 4x4 vehicles traced lines around the Carpathian Mountains. The nine men and women on the expedition were growing restless, their patience ebbing. Would they ever find what they were looking for? Time was running out. Even big budgets are finite. Tempers were frayed. The three drivers, jaws locked in surly determination, fired interrogative shots at their unit directors, looking for signs. On and on they went. Only the location director and his assistant would recognise the destination. On the fourth day, they approached Bucura Lake. The three vehicles bumped along the heather-strewn track, twisting down towards the edge of the lake bordered by dense coniferous trees. Then Dirk, sitting next to Andy, the driver of the first vehicle, shouted, “STOP! That’s it! Oh, thank you God! Nirvana!”
He had found it. The perfect location to film the commercial for Fox’s Glacier Mints.
There was a rush of wind as the sun spilled into my window. I could see the bright and blinding rays of the afternoon sun as it slowly moved across the sky. This was my favorite time of day.
My grandmother called it the “L’heure de soleil”. She would tell me tales of how our world would meet the spirit world during this hour. For just a moment, our worlds would collide and wonderful things could happen. She would tell me of how the sky birds were the only ones who could travel between the two worlds. This was why my people said these birds were harbingers of sacred events.
I rested my hands on the window as I let the sun warm my face. A deep breath in. During this hour, the world seemed to stand still. Even the ripples of the waves stilled to create a glossy reflection. In the “sunny hour”, I could smell the earth. Rich, deep aging earth along with ancient pines and sweet grasses. The wind blew past me and I breathed in again. The warmth from the sun lifted every lovely forest scent and brought it to me as if it were a gift.
I loved this moment in the day. I loved the rest and felt my soul stir within me. My eyes closed and I took in the quiet sounds of the world around me. I even heard the ice creak in the distance. The melody of the simplicity of nature was lovely. My heart was at peace. I again looked out over the view. The sun slipped past the glacier pass and the warmth left my face. I agreed with my grandmother, this hour of the sun was truly a magical moment. Something to be cherished and revered.
I stand amidst the tall pine trees
that dot that bouldered landscape,
buffeting one other,
like soldiers propping their
kindred buddies, swaying
beside the mirror-lake, perfectly calm, still.
No carp or trout glides
underneath those grey ripples.
My arms stretch out to touch the
December sky full of
cumulonimbus clouds, soft, puffy, fluffy,
clumped like cotton candy,
white, like those from my childhood.
The clouds part into iced
and make way for the crystalline
glint of morning sun
shedding fractals of winter –
alluring, inviting, beckoning.
a place such as this,
from those who
believe our lives don’t matter.
Reparations they claim.
called another name
who can’t be
share what they have always owned,
but our laugh is last.
buried here by those long
slumbers beneath the water
and the rocks cry out.
The river of stony sunlight cuts
through the still lake.
I want to move like a river
and I have been a lake
for some time.
The Papyruses sway beyond the lakes,
on the sides of rivers.
This whole painting looks
like the first ever instance
of a Naturalism Painting.
Way Out Through the Clouds
I sense a sky I never gave enough
of my thoughts or time
to learn to walk on.
There is Sun blazing
and no dampness in the
on that side.
The clouds have rained and washed away
Way Out Through the Clouds
is the sun that feels unpleasant
for a few hours
Read more >
They will tell their children
how snow flakes
fell from the sky
about their crystalline beauty
their soft crunch underfoot
about the glittering frost
in the mornings
the ice on the ponds
icicles hanging from eaves
birds searching for food
leaving tracks in the snow
they will talk of times
when people inhabited igloos
cut holes in the ice to fish
when holidays were spent
on snow slopes or ice rinks
mountains were white and serene
there were snow angels
huskies drawing sleds
they will tell stories of glaciers
and Mount Kilimanjaro
Bodies buried in the centre of the loch, put pressure on time and hold the second hand still on our clock.
Families wax and wane in perpetual tension, hoping and praying that their lost ones are worthy of attention.
Their worlds now frozen, at the point where the top soil was beaten down. It is not the hope, but the unknowing in which they may drown.
Some say the bodies must be left in the centre of the loch, to keep peace between factions, to preserve the flock.
Peace is something these people may never find, whilst haunted by scars they cannot leave behind.
The past cannot be entombed without dignity; it will breed unrest, until those in the loch receive serenity.
Larch tower, echo ancient thought,
where spruce align in thick agreement.
Skyward, the yawn of awareness
blooms as an island adjusts its lens.
In elemental luster, ideas awaken,
settle amid an orbit of visionary flow,
where the elegant mind of Mendeleev
receives the seeds of divinity,
the scientific truths of expression,
arranges the periodic table of elements.
stories of our children's
children who will learn
to sell daylight by the ounce.
They speak not of now,
but what is yet to come: forecasts
based on fortresses
of solitude. No man
is an island except a dying one.
In the final hour, his voice
cracks like the barricades
he built to keep the horizon
O say, can you hear
the frail echoes of a pharaoh
with a hardened heart?
The cavernous cries of a last
man standing, then falling...
stories of a world that doesn't end
so much as it folds in
clouds part, shaped like glacial tunnels,
white light pouring from its beyond,
bestowing a pure glow on the lakefront, on the gentle greenery revealing shades of fall, promising hope next spring.
leap like everything is possible, asks a goddess
take flight through me (believe in miracles, manifest me baby), asks a saint
quit contemplating me (i own mirrors too darling) move inside me now, release your spirits into this
realise your queerness, find your muses and walk, no, run towards them with virility, let the lust for life carry you
into my universe.
no biggie. easy ask. the countryside was a gentle hibernation through the first world's end, the cotswolds haze a welcomed song to tune into.
'had the world been well we would've enjoyed it more, done more, trekked more, lockdown ruined it for us'
... is the type of rationale that would drive us to incessant dissatisfaction,
rotten entitlement for nothing in out control.
alas, planning a future in the great beyond inspired us
painting cityscapes onto our pillows
onto our walls and floors,
bringing them to life, watering every seed to its bloom.
a bursting supernova, a big bang,Read more >
I am in vertigo season, head in a fishbowl disappearing down a ravine. When I shake my head no the world swims. When I nod my head yes scenery jumps out of its frame and blinks back at me.
These are real hallucinations, real, the really real! I mean, really. Please. The picture is not askew. No symptom knows where to point. Believe me. If up was out I'd have clambered out of this fever dream long ago instead of seesawing the hours away.
Instead I swallow my pills and close my eyes and pray without believing, just like I fear ghosts I know don't exist.
Some years ago S and I were on an ironic pilgrimage when we discovered a hidden pool hundreds of feet below our mountain side. Steep cliff's drop. And marble hued water looking at us, one cyclopean eye. What dizzying depths did it hold? As if crystal but opaque with chasms, mud settled into brilliant moss into a reflection of sky. S clambered down goat-like and I followed, holding onto tufts of grass to keep from free fall.
Next to the pool finally, we peered in. It seemed to have caverns and secrets, an underwater lair. We peeled off our clothes. S jumped in and did a neat lap of it. I sat on the edge with only legs inside, kicking the depths for clues, making spiders glide away across the surface, a flurry of fish. S stood up at last, nudging pebbles with toes. Water only up to the chest. We laughed and laughed.
That is how things were then, even though they looked otherwise. Then S and I could travel together, even if irony filled the gaps between us. If now we tried to, whole bodies would fall through the cracks.Read more >
Bury the dead under a capstone dolmen
But make sure they face the light
Illuminate the space for drawings
Keepsakes you’ll need to take for the afterlife
The squaw sits in the canoe
Arms folded no sounds but the
Lake water lapping like the low
Sounds your mother made
By the drum beat and circle
Coins on the eyes drifting into
Valhalla or set alight
Little torches cast across the
Sea, the home of us
An open scroll was found
on the waves.
The words on the paper were faded.
It had floated on white billows.
The parchment told of other times and places
that could only be imagined.
While relaxing in crystal water,
I saw light from a distance.
My canoe was at the edge of brilliance,
having survived the harsh winter.
With my hand in yours
I’m pulled down your trail.
You are my anchor,
steady and secure.
I’m pulled down your trail
towards serenity, you’re
steady and secure,
winding down the depths,
towards serenity. Your
breath on my tongue,
winding down the depths
til our feet touch the bottom.
Breath on my tongue,
pressure popping in our ears,
til our feet touch the bottom.
We’ll sink together,
pressure popping in our ears.
You are my anchor,
we’ll sink together,
with my hand in yours.
I have heard stories of Titans
and of a war to take,
a war to hold the universe.
I have heard stories of Norse, of a world
birthed from ice,
a world birthed from war.
I have heard stories of lands
and time and time again
history repeats itself.
poor creature, our earth.
A mere spoil stocked underneath
of several other cold wars.
miserable thing of multiple origins.
I have heard stories about you, about your
unknowing in the beginning
and tales of your unknowing to come.
Yet, we dare ask what was
and what will be.
History repeats itself, time and time again
but what do I know
of wars before time?
When the wall fell, a wave rolled across our land, smothering us in ice water. It carried away fences, gobbled up cattle, drowned crops. Shoulder high slabs of glacier settled, new rocky outcrops coated in glitter. Light illuminated the far reaches of our homeland. What appeared in darkness as four solid walls now emerged as a forest, her fingertips stretching farther than anyone could have imagined. We turned from the light, our eyes used to pin pricks and muted sun. What was clear is now blurred, our edges fragile, peeling away from us. We waded thigh deep for three days until it subsided, leaving nothing but an island of ancient ferns to mark the place we once called home. The ice lagoon is a marker, the end of what we know and the beginning of a journey. We travel now, to escape the chill before it consumes us, our backs to the light which guides us away, breaking down walls that never existed.
post three score and ten
and just a few more spent
meandering through oblivion
backing the wrong horses
time and time again then
cutting sharp corners
to gain an extra yard
creating part truths from nothing
for little more than ego
given half a chance now
reached the end of my tether
en route down my hill
to the periphery of a horizon
with trauma close behind
the unknown ahead in
my parochial predicament
looking off to the lake
through conifers and brush
to a boat by the quay
from conflict an escape to
far across calm waters
rippling in my cranium
from darkness into light
ingesting the parfum of nature
wafting in the breeze towards
Across the lake as setting sun breaks through the clouds
I'm gifted a glimpse of heaven's path,
a snow cave, carved out of what I once thought
was a white, fluffy fog of little substance.
I stopped to think, to find my way, closed my eyes
and on opening them my view changed,
clouds were gone, this suspended cave path remained.
I begin to climb the hill among the trees to try to reach this
sculpted pathway to the next world,
a place of eternal light as far as I can see
with vistas even more beautiful than the one I am leaving.
My heart beats faster as my mind seeks
the place for jumping off, to cross the divide from
trees and hill and lake to that cut-out above me.
I'm wearing a jacket. Quite glad of it,
for this pathway to the next world, to the place I'm
sure will offer comforts beyond compare,
this path looks to be a cold, hard walkway.
At least the first steps to Nirvana will
indeed be cold comfort for my body even while
promising light, warmth to my soul.
My visions disappear almost
before they are formed—
What was I thinking?—
I don’t know.
Sometimes I recapture a tiny piece,
an image that means something
I’ve already forgotten.
Is this mortality?—
an incurable dementia
of misplaced references
to things long departed
to things incomplete?—
or are the threads of time
so frayed so tangled
so densely packed that
they have rewoven themselves
into another life?—one
that combines what I once
gazed upon with the secrets
I could never share.
Slabs of air crawl across the lake
past life embalmed in eddies,
flurries of ice crystals grow
burning life from leaf and stone
Summer sun leaks through the gap
a ten month wait, released
the basest warmth kisses the ground
skipping over the lakes half frozen slurry
to feebly chip at crystal growth
The briefest three weeks of sun
fights never-ending echoes of winter
spring, autumn, no longer pass
Summer, the barest release
So when the aperture shuts
death slides in, a slow aching grace
Not everyone can be an engineer or a king;
none of us can be a wizard flapping his arms into the sky
searching for Mother Dragon who lives above the lake,
her scales the perfect pigment of sky blue;
but everyone of us if we are caught unprepared
can meet the Polar Madman as it angles its thick jaws
heavy with a thousand teeth, too many slivers, a steel blade
into the one who is not ready leaving them on the pathway
their skin the color of frost, their large eyes dragon white.
The thing with experiments is that you never really know how they’re going to turn out. That’s because they’re experiments. And since human beings (well, a decent percentage of them anyway) have a boundless sense of curiosity that uncertainty has never stopped anyone. Generally speaking, of course, things aren’t left completely up to chance. Conditions are controlled and environments made safe (insofar as possible). And hypotheses are tested out on an incremental basis with a gradual scaling up over time. Unfortunately, this presupposes that you have that time available to you. Not that the problem you are testing solutions for has become so exponentially unmanageable that you have backed yourself into a corner and all you can do with that caution is throw it to the wind. We all knew the ice sheets were disappearing but until the tangible effects of that started impacting on the lives of the people who were in a position to mobilise resources to halt it no such mobilisation occurred. And so, ultimately, we were given just a year to come up with a make-or-break plan to send the meltdown into reverse. It took an international effort of beyond-pandemic level proportions but after nine months we had worked out a plan for geo-engineering a build-up of ice deposits and were ready to try it out in a remote part of northern Canada. I could say the results exceeded our wildest expectations but that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Unlike the ice we made. A runaway success they called it. An unfortunate description as it turned out. Now all we can do is stare open-mouthed at the glacial expanses creating themselves above and below us and think, "But isn’t it beautiful."
My grandmother has a weather house on her mantlepiece, a small Alpine cottage with an arched door on either side of a mercury thermometer. On the threshold of the left door stands a girl with golden plaits, wearing a dirndl. Her black bodice is tightly laced over a white cotton blouse, her red polka-dotted skirt is fluffed out by petticoats. On the right stands a boy in lederhosen, feathers pushed into the cords of his felt hat.
I have seen others like this in my friends' homes, where the figures dance to the tune of the weather. The girl steps out when the days are fair and the skies are clear. When clouds gather she scurries inside and the boy takes his chances in the gathering storm.
It is never this way with my grandmother. Nor has it ever been. We take our cues from her mood. If she is having a good day – if the tablets are soothing her arthritis, if the butcher has delivered lean beef, if grandfather has made her morning tea just as she likes it – then she coaxes out the wee girl and the skies turn blue. Sun picks out pathways between the spruce that cloak our valley, and deer pluck at green shoots, ears pricked for danger.
But on other days – when her knees stiffen, when the potatoes grandfather brings in from the field are riddled with grubs, when the priest calls for the monthly tithe – she pushes the girl indoors, poking at her belly with rough fingers. The mercury retreats and the boy is forced outside, cursing his lack of jacket, his polished and too-dainty shoes.
Grandmother's anger rises in walls of ice around us, a glacier of discontent, and we shiver as Arctic winds blow across the lake, freezing every ripple.
I fell in love with you at the end of the world
Where igloo meets earth, and words taste like bitter snow
Where only the fingers with the most stains can intertwine
Where tears permeate into a person’s retinas
Where sounds distort as they are imbedded into your skull
Where the taste of blood is treated like a fine delicacy, and not a course of savagery
I sometimes wonder if I am hallucinating seeing the sun
Or perhaps that is what I see when we slow dance so quickly I can only laugh
How truly rare it is to smile when the world has decayed up to your knees
“I can see all the ice melt around you when you whisper my name,” you say
Funny, I can see the same thing when you yell out: “Follow me love!”
We do not stitch perfection to our names, we do not seek out absolution
We simply hold each other up to the sky and hope for the best
I never doubt your sincerity, and you never doubt my candor
When you sleep at night I wonder what landscape your dreams favor
A world bereft of darkened skies and lonesome forests
A world highlighted by a million twinkling stars and flowers that climb up to the sky
A world drenched in fatigue and fear being awoken by a soft song sung among the fray
All these hypotheticals fall out of my frazzled head as I stare at your mouth
You remain silent but I can see the hint of a smile on your face
At the end of the world, I held you so close that you joked you could barely breathe
Then I told you something that has been on my heart for as long as I can remember:
“Because I found you, I truly found me.”
This was not forecast
Though dark clouds hung in a big blue sky
And winds got up to rattle roofs
This bright March day
Began dry and sun filled.
Now I sit,
Wet right through,
Cold to the core,
I look for someone to blame,
The weather man or woman,
The unpredictability of spring.
I just feel conned into believing
It was going to be a beautiful day.
while they promised us something
we had never seen before.
The promise held
and we spread,
in all directions
let the carpet of pine needles
guide our feet, caught in lazy hands
the fruit that threw itself from the trees.
northward, I suppose,
and when the air grew too cold
we simply chose to stop. No matter,
we said, and stood looking at the land
we would never
a home for our legends instead,
painted across our eyes
like a mural.
We turned back
for some cover
only when the meltwater
began dripping off the sky.
She said don’t be sad
when she flipped my world,
said not to forget
blue skies can be under us, too—
that half of the earth
is always in dark
no matter how fast
we turn toward the sun,
that words up and down
are relative terms
drifting in space.
There are two well-trod roads to the afterlife:
one, a tunnel of light;
the other through a forest border.
The first is almost blindingly pure;
the way to a world in which
we become as a shape burnt on a retina:
a silhouette, of a hue so vivid –
ringing clear, yet hard to name
(we don't have waking rubrics for the things
we can only see with our eyes closed).
The other route,
the way of moss and stone and green needle,
was Dante's way and Blake's.
At the border of 'now' and 'never'
ancient trees stand unwhispering
amid the smells of birds and insects,
and scampering things that scampereth.
These are creatures half-wild, half-eternal.
They have been here since before forever
our stumbling shoe-shod exit.
A vision of pine, a small island,
but what is this cuboid of light?
Could it be upside-down?
So we retrain the brain, the layer
melts, not cloud, sea flows into a cave
a fern canopy, no forest of evergreen
Yes this makes sense, so surreal
I turn and turn again. Which do I prefer?
The friable roof of a screen of ferns
the friable laptop roof, I refrain
from resting the view upside-down
to stay between ghostly cliffs, no island
no terra firma. Why else fall
for the impossible, imagined dream?
Doesn't everyone want to return
their feet to earth on the ground?
Only the jostle of conifers holds us to earth.
The sun, scooped from caverns of cirrus, bright in a crux,
has spilt meltwater milk. Sloping foothills of sky,
reflected in flat planes of lake, dark spit of island.
Turbulence in high tides foaming to crescendo,
Oscillating to refracted facets of light.
Playing wave-music scratched into life by a stylus
chipped from the surface of dawn, from the flawed universe.
Heaven is a loaded gun. We drop to our knees
in the sorrel and nettle, and wait for the headlights of a god
who is actually just weather. The stands of pine,
grasses gold and stratospheric. You hold the drywall
to catch a heartbeat, hear the groundwaters freeze and thaw.
Listen, you say, and I can smell your blue ice breath.
The streets we used to walk evaporated with the red slosh
of sun-glare. The cars and pylons greened and sank,
as things of progress might. You say this is the beginning, now,
and we walk rock and shadow and hope to witness
something bigger than Time. Listen, and we listen
to cumulonimbus in Doric columns, the thunder clap.
And we are weeds in Eden. Blasphemous and perennial.
Listen, and we do.
Well the land was cold in those days,
worked and worn from our greed.
Like the animals,
we should have gone.
Within our sleep they came
to beckon us away,
to places strange and new.
Out of our caves we'd go,
to the next and the next and the next,
where we had never slept.
Clutching sticks with stones,
We'd follow them.
In bitter wind
and moonless night.
Vast woods and plains,
stretched fast before us
like trinkets hung,
Our feet are torn and callused,
from this chase
and that first step,
from thorns we did not see
but thought we knew.
In daylight and in waking,
they were not here,
Read more >
It’s cold today. Colder than usual, colder than it has been for a while. When I yawn, the air that flows down my throat feels solid, scratching at the inside of my cheeks and the roof of my mouth. The hand I use as a pillow is ghostly white compared to the one that gripped my daughter as we slept; that one is red from my wrist to the tip of my fingers, itchy and swollen, little nubs of flesh sticking out at the joint and making it hard to pull the blanket over mine and Emmy’s shoulders.
Emmy. She doesn’t stir, not even when I move my still-feeling hand in front of her nose until I feel a slight exhale against the pads of my fingers. The relief makes me break out in a sweat and for a moment my body is tricked into thinking it’s not freezing to death. I take advantage of it, moving away from Emmy’s heat and tucking the blanket under her tiny body.
The twigs I’d set alight to before bed have turned black, icicles attached to them as if they’re growing branches. I snap one of the icicles off and slip it into my mouth, rubbing with my tongue until saliva and ice turn it into water I can swallow. Then I gather the twigs one by one and carry them to the eastern corner where a pile of black ashes is laid out. Careful not to make any noise, I crush the twigs until they’re dust in my hands and then close my eyes. I’ve not felt sand in years but this is close to what I remember. I almost smile. It seems we will reach the beach today.
I’m there in an instant, handing her icicles to wet her cracked lips, laughing at her disgusted face. We take our time getting ready; Emmy methodically packing her rucksack and tying a new rag across her blind eyes; me planning our route as I watch her. When she’s done, I take the hand she offers me and turn her towards the cell door. Read more >
There is an island, in the lake.
We don’t know who lives there
but if this was a fairy tale
it would be a princess, trapped in a tower,
or a prince, monstrously transformed.
The landscape seems barren
but the grass, as dry as a deathbed
whisper, holds life.
The water contains
everyone who has ever been.
Preserved as if in a bubble,
salted away in an oiled stillness
broken only by sounds in our imagination.
We travel a lifetime to reach these shores.
Ringed by cliffs of ice
as unscalable as the afterlife.
Perhaps, on the island
a ferryman waits to facilitate
our final journey, for the right price.
Because how else will we leave this place?
Beyond is blinding.
The sun in the sky like the coin
in the mouth of a corpse.
You were recognized a warm-cold day of March
fiery playful child of the North
You – dark blue colour of a lake
you are the serene surface of the water
on which I mirror myself
and you remain Still
until I fall inside you –
You are trembling –
You – watery Form – become Solid –
Fertile Island of the horizon –
– Undefined Creature –
You become tall – a Tree –
Your hands are branches wrapped around my waist
the pollen of your flowers is carried away by the wind –
A tempting invitation –
You - mysterious Light of life
so tender and fragile
– defined Form of ether –
You are the Destination –
to where I come to harvest the fruits of Love.
on the hill a tree
on the shore a fringe of trees
on the lake an island
on the island dead trunks like sentinel chimneys
at the waters’s edge a village trying to begin again
villagers worship a square of light melted from an ice sky
by morning this will be the memory of a dream held captive in cold sheets
breakfast will be served on a blue tray
pale curtains will open behind the mirrored dressing table the light will blind you
the dark will find you
dressing will strip you of colours
your grey appetite will be served on empty plates
cold dreams cold dreams cold dreams
this is the day we fall at the world’s edge and pray for all we’re worth
prayers for the village to draw a line
on the island signs of life smoke
in the lake a second chance
trees trees trees trees
trees on the hill again
One mast, a signal fire on deck, and the shrouds at full clip. Pull and pull in the tides of air that bend and spin from the shouldering cliffs. One more voyage from the island there to the doorway into light. One last search for the world beyond, to remind ourselves that vaulted night is nothing before the vaults of stone above us in our contemplation. One more voyage to prove to those that have never sailed that one more sky and a hundred more stars are nothing before the shadowplays we see above, and the echoes sent back to us from the chthonic heights as all voices raise in single purpose for the telling. Let the stars speak amongst themselves, and the rest of us dwell here in timeless stone.
Years ago, she drove me north and north and north,
on a mystery trip, to a tiny cabin in Kielder Forest.
I observed grumpy barn owls clicking on their posts,
disagreed with the angry signs about grey squirrels,
watched salmon burble along tunnels, technicolour.
We lumbered up to the dark sky zone - in daylight,
were back down before nightfall, nothing witnessed.
It would have terrified me, such starry, tender clarity,
such sheer open person-less space for the universe
to stretch and shift and bathe, skin itchy with comets.
I stood by the great lake carved out from the earth,
tried to grasp that it just didn't exist for so, so long.
I read about a baby born in a cabin, a life rewritten,
a world terrifying, spiralling, opening - and so still.
In my mind, there was never any doubt of the setting.
All we need is the magic word
to open up the past
and step inside
and enter an age
of cold and ice,
in our warming times.
All we need is a touch of magic
and it will be back
the worn down,
to step inside,
a new old world
waiting for us to enter.
It's easy to believe in heaven on a day like this,
when clouds make cream of the sky
and the wind handles us kindly.
Then we wonder if heaven is really beyond those clouds,
and if so, how far away is it?
The clouds confuse us like dreams, rushing and moving,
going backwards, turning upside down,
Heaven must be a divine grotto we can't see yet,
white and full of light we have to work hard for.
God must be inside it, leaning out,
resting his huge elbows on those sturdy clouds,
watching us like newborns in a rickety crib,
waiting for us and puzzling why we don't look up more often.
Jewel of the seasons has risen
Free like a spirit floating with the midnight sun,
Spring opening its door without strings,
In explosive energy that kindred the horizon
The sky glitters without shadows.
Spring is here with a door to journey through,
As the horizon floats in its love
Adventure is a must for the hopeful and enduring,
Come let us enjoy life as if promise,
Like the pine trees sprouting spring leaves
This is the season of peeling bells
Crystal bridal gown and decorative aisles
Petrified nature freed from the grip of the harsh wizard
As spongy earth blooms with pungent wild scents,
The ocean is blue again,
Frosty waters burping with fishes
Hibernating mammals in burrowed trenches resurrected once more
When the living becomes dust
The peal of the trumpet call will be heard in spring,
That bright morning lush and heavenly,
The smell of Eden perfumes the sky
Like dolphins with arms inter locked
Floating merrily in love
In my dreams, I'm outside. Impossible landscapes:
green folding into blue into crisp purple,
browns tumbling into greys and burnt orange,
light and dark blinding me to what cannot be.
As I sleep, I walk, I fly, I traverse whatever boundaries
my subconscious has deigned to invent, letting
unreality take over, as if forests and lakes and rocky cliffs
are my daily walk, not pavements and crossings
and swerving out of the way of pedestrians without care.
At night, I explore as I've never before, not scared
of the wild, the wilderness untamed, danger and getting lost
without hope of being found. I range far, without
fetters, agape at the beauty, the sheer unbelievable beauty.
When I wake, I'm inside, enclosed, four walls,
one ceiling, one floor. Taking stock of reality, for now,
quantifying, counting down, as freedom is coming.
You will get used to the white light. It comes at you
first like a spear, like a sharp icicle in a fencing match
you didn’t agree to and can’t remember all the parries for.
It is more the idea of cold than cold, the texture of expectation
so a wool scarf is more a comfort than necessity. Some start
with heavy cloaks woven from goat and alpaca but they become
cumbersome. The mainland of course has other options.
But once you’re on the island. At night
you can hear the forest chittering over the lake and the ice
creaking as though they were chatting right over your head,
like your parents in the next room after you’re supposed
to be asleep. It’s disconcerting. Sleep masks are a must
and of course dark glasses for a time. But other than that.
The air, say the artists, is crystalline. The other day
I tried to paint a fish that circled and circled a rock
in the shallows as though trying to decide whether to ask
a favour. Each scale glancing copper and silver. I reached
a hand into the water and the fish swam through my fingers
like mercury. They have not yet entirely let go, the ones so
close to shore. I wish I could tell you how long it will take.
It’s more an art, as they say, than a science. For some mere
minutes. For others days or weeks, although those words
will become quite meaningless. This morning I saw my hands
glistening in the water. A bright glimmer of silver over my skin.
It’s quite painless. And whatever you find on the shore is yours.
I will have no further use for any of it.
Mid-August, the grass is all but yellow.
Small forbs and sedges retain some green.
The rushes wilt.
Spruces - thought to be eternally forest green -
a subtle response to
No one knows where the ice-lords came from. Or
even if there are ice-lords, but now
instead of sky there’s a dome of white.
I say dome, but it’s square - rectangular to be exact.
By definition a globe is round, but
ours is now encased in sharp lines of an eternal
What is the word again?
Not cube, cone, cylinder, or sphere. The fifth one,
It had something to do with light
It isn’t true what they say, that you’ll never use geometry in real life.
Not that knowing the correct shape would change the
steady thrum of dread, which
reeks a silent havoc
on my mental health.
burrowed in our frozen tombs
honeymoon smiles lodged in ice
we were mammoths with glazed eyes
living out some scenic fantasy
of porcelain lakes and chromatic firs
there were no unicorns hiding in this forest
its hues had muted gradually
as we waited for the thaw
a frond of light
to show our separate exits
I stand here, looking out over the journey ahead. The Truth looks so close; only a days travel, at most. It glimmers there, at the horizon. But I know that’s not it. Not at all. I started out fresh and innocent of mind, like my fellow Travellers.
Thirteen of us crossed the Border together. Thirteen youngsters deemed ready for the life-changing Rite of Passage. Not even half of us would succeed, we were told at our departure. It didn’t scare us. To grow up seemed a worthy enough cause to die for. Besides, we were all skilled survivors. As long as we help each other out, everything should be fine.
Four were lost during the Spring Mountain ascension. Brown’s fault. He was the natural leader, Chieftan’s son as he was. Too many were too ready to trust his word before common sense. Fish, Beam, Pine and Pebbles all paid for the mistake with their lives. Stupid, unnecessary deaths, caused by a stupid boy’s desire to prove mature. He was replaced without question and forced down the ranks; he only risked killing ants with his feet now. Our new leader, Speckled-Fur, was kinder to him than he deserved by not forcing him to return to the Mainland.
I’m on watch duty. I have been since the beginning, thanks to my superior eyesight and agile limbs. I can sit for hours without moving, night after night, and sleep during the day instead. That was Boulder’s idea. The giant boy was willing to carry me during the day if it meant that the rest could sleep uninterrupted during the night during my watch. They make sure to save me some food throughout the day, and only wake me in the event of a particularly rare sighting. I sleep the rest of the day, trusting my friends to look after me just as I look after them during the night hours.Read more >
I left the scintillating macrocosm
To enter his heart, my microcosm
All I got, ice and frost
A lugubrious welcome, a diabolic bleakness
But I travelled, my love, unsullied
Undulatory I crossed hostile icy ways
Only to meet the river, another phizog of his heart
A bellicose soul, once more determine to expedite
A fervent bliss ensued from my struggle
As I saw a lush forest afar
Finally, the journey ended
Journeys always end at home as
He warmly welcomed me in his heart, a warm fáilte
Into the lush green forest full of love
Camaraderie of lush pines, rustic mosses
Witnessing our vehement love
As the forest of his heart echoed with
Our serenading hearts
Maktub, raison d'être
The directions were: through the forest,
just beyond the mountain. "What's there?"
"You'll know it when you see it."
Ominous potential last words.
"Is there a specific time to arrive?"
"Sunrise is best."
I topped the adjacent summit the next morning.
Blinding, eye-level sunlight streamed
from within an enormous snowbank tunnel
on the horizon. The entrance extended
like a range hood over the peak where I stood.
My skin reacted the way it did when standing
before an open refrigerator.
They said to prepare for everything.
I wriggled into heat-retention gear,
temporarily disengaged my awe,
put one foot in front of the other.
Of course, I moved toward the light!
But the reverberating buzz of children's laughter—
that is what gave me courage, summoned me forward.
It opens up like a split-second vision in a thunderous flash, a fleeting, evanescent image conjuring up the past and future. Like a photographic ideal. Both for the seer and the seen. A moving mirror, like a sacred vision, pirouettes against the canvas of the blue limitlessness, rearranging the signs of the physical universe with an infinite array of glistening reflections. She feels as if she is looking through a glass of hard rock ice beyond the tunnel of her suffering. A passage from night to a bright day, when the image suddenly bleeds before her eyes, leaps to her mind and swells, producing a strange intoxication of a vision that unfurls in the breeze around the placid lake. There, against the pure light, it is impossible to feel the edge of the abyss, the desolating depths of darkness and evil. It anchors her, shelters her in this azure canopy of bewitching luminosity.
It has been like that for her for quite some time now. Images appearing and disappearing, leaving her to wonder whether those were more dreamt than seen. But the pure sensation that comes over, a compressed energy running through her, dismantling the infinite, dizzying her to merge with the bright light on the other end of the tunnel. No, that is no hallucination.
There’s a hidden energy, a hidden will she knows in the limpid grace of water, as it tries to place her out of her own self, connecting her with a silence, untouched. She tries to decode the message, in its final form; it vanishes, making her its hypnotic prisoner. What was it, she wonders? Could it be the sign of a future humanity promising eternity?
I remember it well; the sky that reflected the water below, where the smell of pine scented your hair as the wind passed through it. The embrace of the rising sun comforted me as I sat admiring the view I would never forget.
You emerged from the depths, trying to see through the curtain of crystal droplets falling from your hair. Your smile could light a thousand of our lifetimes, and in that moment I knew I was at home.
I opened my eyes to meet the crack of light coming through my curtains.
All dreams must come to an end.
They never guessed it could have happened.
It was too dark for some, others had gone into hiding.
They told us too, and then I did. You did too.
The pipe didn't reach far enough and we scratched our heads.
Because we knew, after trying the other way forward.
It looked like he had a gun in his hand, his life now lost.
Afterwards, her phone died without a way to recharge.
It became obvious when the lights flickered.
Time was running out before the doorway melted.
They didn't believe it could be possible, the distance between
farther than it appeared, like a funhouse mirror.
Attempting 100 times more than on that frightful Friday.
Then light broke through from the other side for no reason.
* Answers appear in random order and don't represent value or popularity. No other poems were hurt in the writing of this poem.
Behind the sky there are caves,
Caves that we do not dare to imagine.
Imagine such a cave in your mind, and you,
you will be lost in its icy labyrinthine ways.
Ways that will leave you bereft and lost.
Lost to the calm life you now lead.
Lead in the calm sun filled forests
Forests of your true, untested life.
The portal opens. We are heady with sleeplessness and endorphins. Our breath comes, hummingbird-quick. Trillions of computations have realized what theorists have spun from overwrought speculations. Visions from H. G. Wells converge with the philosophical ruminations of Luce Chronus. Titans or Titians of intuitive insight and quantum confabulation have set the problem before the cybernetic cerebral cortexes of the entire planet—which was, is, will be the perforation of the membrane between time and space to save us from the frozen death our ancestors bequeathed us, along with the tools to which we now owe our salvation.
The irreversibility of time, the one constant that chained us to the arrow of our martyrdom now bends to flow backwards upon itself. Luce Chronus sacrificed their life to perpetual twilight, descending into dream stasis, where the organically-enhanced computational data synchronicum they conceived, built, and programmed absorbed them. Luce of the many embodied streams of data dreamed lines of instructions as their body, plagued by mortality, withered and died.
The portal is open. Wind whirs about us. As air floods through the portal into our underground station, it condenses into fog, then water. Rising heat, variance in atmospheric pressure, gusts of intentional air disorient us. To my right, my colleague, Sie Gau sheds outer layers of thermal protective gear. I try to stop them, but too late Sie pulls the tubing from their nostrils, tosses the helmet aside, coughs and sputters. But it’s too late to help them.
I fight the panic, squeeze my gloved hands into fists, and stare. The portal spirals through the mountain of ice, polishing the slick blue surfaces into gleaming glass. Sweat pools inside my suit. Read more >
photons of light shine oh-so bright
-ly into tall walls of solid H2O,
these frozen forms into one
large lake of liquid H2O,
the end of Earth
’s last glacial period
& the dawn
of a new interglacial period
to span the free-flowing
of this ongoing
Looking down, my feet planted on the steep ground, slowly getting eaten by rock-filled-green-and-soft-and-bare-grass where men once fought; to stay
Looking down, at the tall forest like pine trees in an open landscape that enemies once filled
Looking down-and-out to where I wish to go. The same place they wished not to go—
“how do I escape this?” — “how do we defeat this?”
Similarly, we are pining for what is best, or better
Two dreams, polar opposites like the North and South Poles
I see the blue glimmering light; So buoyant
They saw the blue glaring light; So harsh
I cannot get out and I do not know why? Did they want to leave too but were stuck?
But I forgot to look up… and so did they
Exiled, with no hope
Crept out of camp
Fled our lands
Are you hallucinating?
Crept out of camp
Intermittent food and water
Are you hallucinating
Looking for the promises
Intermittent food and water
Once we had a community
Looking for the promises
Rocks jag our feet
Once we had a community
Fled our lands
Rocks jag our feet
Exiled, with no hope
On the way to the light
At the end of the tunnel
There is an island
An island at the centre
Of a mist shrouded lake
The mist must be enveloped
The lake must be cupped
The island must be embraced
Before the tunnel traversed
Before the light breached
For the mist is the obscuring veil
The lake the unknown road
The island the tipping point
The stepping stone the in between
Between the here & now
And the there & then
Between what is and what will be
Between life and death
once upon a time
hedges were sparrow-packed wing flapping
long summer chirping
bees thickened flower borders wasps buzzed
at windows daddy-longlegs tangled curtains
do you remember?
out on moorland lapwings gathered
peeewitting peewitting evenings
sundews waiting still and stalking as
cornrakes crackled welcome
and those speckled starlings who swirled
swooped danced in nightly murmurations
giving way to flying mice cruising dark
pipistrelling the shining firmament
say you remember
at sea-edge those sucking filling emptying
rock pools where sea anenomes open close graze
where kelp and mermaid purses drift and hermit crab look for love
the ice came
before the seas rose
oh please remember.
With a silent roar that awakens the night
Revealing a part of itself and the light divine,
The morphing ice
Melting, tumbling, hurling, gushing
And rolling all—
With no Shiva in waiting to tame its watery self
Resigns to the earthy cracks
Creating an image of the paradise
Also on this side.
For us to breathe in the life as we care
The freshness of pines tall and bare
For us to reach if we dare
Pray at the feet of once revered, now in tears,
Lay bare the human fear
To this world and the mankind,
The glacier decides
To stay morphed on this side.
The gates of heaven open,
Skies like the ocean,
Sun striking the land
Like a lightning bolt,
The desolate grasses electrified,
Trees small as pinecones
Under the expansive promise of
What’s to come,
Another way of life,
Another place to rest our hopes upon,
A dream beyond the perimeters
Of lake and mountain,
To some great unknown,
A path into the soul.
Winter sleeps in the sky. Up there,
a frozen swamp. A shock of wet.
It douses summer leaves and does
strange things. It can send a bitter
chill in July, act odd as a full moon.
It'll leave you standing on a street,
condemned to shivering in June.
Winter doesn't seems to grow old.
Summer does though, daisies fade,
lose their bragging rights to fresh.
Fool that I was to cut my hair, my
neck's shackled to every icy day.
Meantime down at the lake,
the trees are melting into spring,
and extracting the juice from green,
ever faithful as a returning tide,
like I hope I'll do one day to heaven.
A dream is a dream is a dream
Until it becomes reality
Reality is something more
(or less, depending on who you ask)
We all thought ending climate
change was a dream
but when that scientist
(or guy in a lab coat, who knows)
threw that switch
The earth became enveloped in ice
The climate changed
but there was no more
Dream became reality
Just like those genie wishes
always sneak up on you
and leave you worse off than before
Good news is that everyone,
almost everyone is dead
so they don't get to feel
Bad news is I am cold
and I am lonely
and I miss the sun
and Netflix and cable TV.
Is it a door to afterlife?
Or is it a wormhole
to another time,
to those planets
we count on the fingers
of two hands yet
have never seen.
Is this Gaea turning
stone-cold, heart hardened
by our indifference?
These caves of ice,
these upended glaciers
these countless molecules unseen
unknown in the ocean,
then turning to liquid,
These warping anatomies.
These drowning jungles.
Is this behemoth about to melt
and wash our earth
with pails and pails of water?
Will we evolve into
lungs, too old school
to breathe in
this newfangled air
or will we be
safe keepers of
this unconquerable land?
Alf is a blight on the landscape. His blood-sore cheeks are a stain on the watercolour scene. He languishes on his folding chair, the legs buckling under the weight. His stomach is distended. It bulges over the trousers, belly button caressing thighs, as he sways slowly from side to side.
I select a bloodworm and try to tease the hook through its hairy flesh. It doesn’t give, not ready to succumb to its murky fate. I go again, ramming it this time, until the skin pops, innards explode. These bastards can bite. They have a venom specially reserved for folk like me. Tiny fangs ready to shoot revenge. It’s gunning for me now, flailing wildly beneath my fingers. I haul my rod back, and throw the thing into the water.
Alf follows suit, but first giving the worm his standard ‘lick for luck’. I hear the roughness of his tongue scraping against the side of the worm. It recoils. I recoil. Alf winks at me before launching it into the glistening abyss in front. We sit back, in silence, watching the water. It’s clear as anything, and we can make out the vivid red worms far beneath the surface.
It’s a nice day for a bloodbath, I think to myself, images of fat trout and gawping salmon filling my hungry mind. We sit for hours, watching the bright red sparks bob about in the water. They are laughing at us now, I’m sure.
There’s a bite to the breeze, and I shift in my seat.
“Why don’t we head out into the open air over there, Alf? Out the cave? It looks warmer that side of the lake.”
“You don’t want to walk into the light,” he says. He shakes his head, puffing out his cheeks, thread vein seeping out over the skin. “What if we miss our big catch? Oh no. This is the only spot for the big one, boy. You watch.”Read more >
when Sky will reveal
its true face to Sea and
Pillars will have to stand from
chairs to stop the in-
evitable fusion of Blue
that day when
Mountain will meet Mountain
like resting shoulders of lovers
that day when
Trees will raise their hands
in prayers for Grasses
the Light will come
and it will illuminate
that this Universe is just
an another Egg among many
napping in the black Nest and
maybe a tiny blue Fish
in search of her true colour
will follow the Light
will cross the portal
on that day the Shell will crack
a new Life will emerge
This issue of Visual Verse is published in collaboration with Comma Press and guest edited by Comma's Zoe Turner. Like us, Comma Press celebrates the alchemy of collaboration with collections by new and established authors, interdisciplinary collaborations between authors and experts (e.g. writers + scientists), and translation by voices from across the world, including the first ever collection of science-fiction from Palestine, Palestine +100.
Comma Press have twice been shortlisted for the British Book Awards for ‘Small Press of the Year’ (North of England) and in 2016 they founded the Northern Fiction Alliance alongside Peepal Tree Press, Dead Ink Books and And Other Stories. The Alliance is a radical publishing collective showcasing the creativity, diversity and outward-looking agenda that sets publishers in the North of England apart.
Find out more at commapress.co.uk