Mythologies

Knowing nothing is all you ever know.
Like seeing the fallen cedar limb that has come
down while you were taking the temperature of tomorrow
with a question.

On a whim, that reckless cousin of fate,
you drive out again to that pond where yet again
airy thoughts collect into a solid mass.

Take aim against the water’s pale skin,
or at least imagine how a measured throw
might glance against the grain and skim
the order of things.

As if stories were other than a claim against chaos,
the invention of ripples from clean silence.

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Depending on the myth

Eating the fruit or seeds and pith
means staying or going, while we lament
the source of fears, mists we’re sent.

And long enough stranded on the shore
imagining the skein in the far, dark sky
and braving despair gladly,

already how far this resplendent neverness
seems etched like smoke and ice beneath the skin.
Towers tell their pain in ethered puffs,

a translucent track through twilight.
The world has clouds and light enough already
to tend the moon, abseiling night.

It’s already etched in, the scent of skin,
to this damp and sliding soil, the swallowing earth
wondering what fruit, if any, it may birth.

The kind thief

Her new name tasted different by daylight.

This was what it felt like to feel the rain again, for the first time, wet rivulets splashing against her face and the river. This was the feeling of a map being drawn by mist and carved from aged wood, the same way your eyes seem to burst the world into life after dreaming, as every single day itself seems newborn.

We could pretend that this was a new story, something of a sort that has never bloomed before. But all stories have their roots in a somewhere else, in buried seeds that drip their way into the earth and the past. It is neither the first time it has been told, nor the last time it will be given a new gloss and fresh attire.

So let us not pretend, let us follow, watch from somewhere on the shore as she steers her small craft toward freedom. Look how, for a moment, before we lift the haze, we are offering her many choices, a stream without end and the promise of endless water.

These were her fears:

That she would be caught before her voyage ended (because our past is always catching up with us, just as you turn your head towards shadows)

That she would lose sight of herself and not recognise who she had become (because these things are possible in life, but more so here, where different rules apply and we are always divisible into our unseen selves)

That the river would end, and she would be left behind (because even though the territory exists, we have not yet reached it, not knowing how tomorrow will unfold its unspoken hours)

There were hopes, too:

That the river would bring her back to where she was going (she had once heard it said that if you waited long enough, you would one day embrace air your ancestors had sighed, and sharing the taste of their past, you would feel their truth and lies together)

That there would be no end (one tranquil afternoon, before she was old enough to detach the days into their calendar parts, she remembers running and falling through fields of dandelions, once or never or always, with her mother beside her. Those pollen days, before she had seen cruelty and known suffering, she wishes might have lasted forever. What would be their echo now? )

That the light would hold its spell (there being no name for the god who tints the day its proper colour and hues the sky, she knew not where to direct her prayers, but wished she knew. There were many things she wished, but wished too that unmet days would offer up new answers, these being among their promises)

Of course, we know that the moon should come into shape tonight, a glorious onion that peels itself blind, turning its radiant back on us while basking in its purloined light. And like a kind thief, or one dripping coins from its stash as it flees the scene of quiet misdeeds, it will offer a little of its heist. When her breaths become pronounced, and there is ocean light, discovering that she has entered open waters, she might look upon the golden canals and silver channels. Has she become accomplice to these kind misdeeds? Might she gather up these flickering treasures and keep them for herself, much as they have fallen loose upon the floating earth?

Even if and when the hours take her from where they have kept her until now, she will find her course firmly held in place. At a distance, we might remove a pin from a small wooden box, and mark her location on the territory, imagining that we are seeding some tomorrow on paper, fixing a point for a return.

And beneath the unimpeachable neon, calling her back to life again, we imagine her reaching down into the field, gathering up pollen grains beneath robed wings and coating the land in dust.

Try to hold the name in your throat, before the wind shifts, before the moon pirouettes, before the tide sings itself back out.

She turns again, looking.

Tomorrow, she will try on a new name.

Foraging for stars

Cutting up the sky to reinvent the earth,
in some small way, would be like plucking a star
from its socket, endarkening a nest of stories.

Their blazing path peeled clean away
dips the ordered life out of joint, amiss.
Can’t you have that too, the dream made flesh: this?

Must it always keep diving back under the dark surface
into escaping orbit, far and slippery beyond your touch?
All the while you wonder rivulets and speak so much

your eyes wishing myths might breathe again, for once,
for the first time, your mouth and lips testing
the bruise of these soft syllables, foraging for stars.

Sounds from another life

We need new myths instead of these recycled yarns,
not just re-imagined bodies of the old, where Achilles
will always crumble, Troy will always fold and we are enjoined
from entering. Because if every story begins on the second page,
it carries the weight of the past in love and hate
and most of all in knowing how déjà vu skitters in
to tell us how it must end.
Pull me out of that place where things lack names, where careful weavers
have already stitched their nouns into all our suspicions.
Steer me down the Thames or the Styx while I pretend
these neat streams possess for us both the same sound.
Like the stone’s many arcs across the pond’s skin
(while Narcissus reflects while almost falling in)
we can never truly begin from scratch when someone,
somewhere and sometime has etched the constellation,
gripped at the same boundless flesh and given it language.
Only now we share Sisyphus’s itchy sameness, knowing
a single point rolls itself into many conversations
until enough of this universe holds its shape
because the same stories flow through us as if our understandings
were preordained. Even the mythopoetic has a purpose,
if only as the string between teller and listener,
granting us an elsewhere to tell skin from sky.

Serpent Stories

We make a dish of serpent stories,
take the taste and repentant
shock, averse to the look:
that twin propeller spinning its thin tongue
one way, then the other.

Like some amuse truth
if you pardon the look,
pink paste piped and waiting for
a trip of the tongue,
(yum yum).

Much more taste it turns out
than a tangled mass of
myth and memory.

Nestling in the silver light,
under the blackened cityscape
back, back where a thousand
dazzling dots and night gusts
outside this blinkered room
and this was real for
who you were then
and this was and is fear
for all of you now.

(These nights deceive us all
even as we recompose them,
even as we invent them.)

A single offering to your past
and future
you
so salty.

All while the propeller’s tail rotates
and flaps its tempting truth
knowing a reluctant taste
leads onto taste and another bite
will have you leaping back
never realising it breeds
that craving:
more, more.

When nibbling again on that tale
over and over gnawing its root
you find it so smooth,
delightful the way it crackles
on your tongue
soft and sharp without suspicion,
too much like butter
how easily it melts away.