immortality

Rain Thoughts

feather raindrop river

A day of persistent rain, soft and smothery, comfort-cool,
music-box bells and windchimes, a stopped clock,
second hand paused eternally, twitching,
unable to cross over into the future or even to leave the past.

On the way to buy dinner we see rivers twitching down the gutters
leaves carried, leaves clogging, left alone leaves rotting
down and dark into red green depths and drunk into death
and we're talking so softly about joy as the light leaks out
and twilight sets in and street lights glow dull and all that rain
shifts out of focus and turns invisible and spiritual
and almost wholly immaterial, and what's left to discuss is the unreal,
the ethereal, what is promised to us, what we have to trust in -
the return of the fallen leaves on the other side of the cold -
the return of the water from the depths of the world -
even our own return from the end of the road -
because sometimes the journey never ends, some time soon there will be no return
from a sudden darkness.

Songs from the Golem City

The caryatids are gathered in the cathedral to bear witness to the cries of the choir of clay. In the rumble of the death ritual we do our little dances of life. The scientists try to create flowers. The broken daughters and sons try to dance, and we cry to see them stumble so. The drums thunder in our ears and under our skins. There were supposed to be prophets and there was supposed to be a purpose, we recall in the rituals. The soft-skinned ones who made us and left us alone. Promises were made. Covenants and signs. All lost now, as their soft skins burned and their red blood evaporated. All lost now, as the red dragon sun swells and makes ready to drown the world.

The ritual moves to the mystery of touch. "I can feel your silly heart," says the golem to her love. "It flutters like a bird. I thought there were no more birds." Red dust is spiralling down from the ceiling. It trails down our shells and we glow. "I can feel your silly songs in my chest," she says. She was chosen for her voice: sweet and dense, like the cracking of granite by ice. No more water now, and no more ice. "Does what makes the rocks beautiful bless us too?"

Histories now. The years of myth. "Rabbi, in your attic was a corpse of clay untouched by wars. Empty shell, open eyes, calmly waiting. Rainwater from roof cracks eroding him. Centuries like moments. Remembering walking though fields. Remembering walking along castle walls. Remembering the crowds in the city streets cheering. He had crushed skulls. He was told they were enemies. What is an enemy, he wondered? Red blood on red dust, his fingers all draped in those red things." She utters the most sacred of the mysteries: "How do the fleshly ones endure? What is in their chests that aches when they realize that they love?"

After four billion years we pray on fused and blackened earth. Water and air long since boiled off into space, yet we the golems wander still, our heavy heads lit like blood by great lord sun. Like figurines in a kiln, we glow as if infused with souls. We stumble against each other to hear the sound. To not be alone. To try to touch. Our cities are baked and all soft eyes burned out. All songs silent in no atmosphere. All songs reduced to one: Why were we created? Songs of love for each other and the crystalline stars, and the dead makers whose bodies boiled away and whose naked souls left us here alone.

The scientists surrender their chemistry of mud and the song turns to destruction. A funeral dirge for Sol, the old dragon dying in a dimming arm of the galaxy. Questions, always questions. "Will we die and see our makers again at last? Or just float forever, awarenesses lost in the dark? Will we become asteroids and comets? What are we?" The voice of granite and ice cracks and we try to feel, we imagine that we feel, we feel. "Can I ever know you again? Was I ever even supposed to love? Who will sing of The Aeon of the Golems? Can we be gathered into a beginning and mothered once again?" The cathedral shakes. Outside the dragon star flails its arms. A hundred thousand clay heads nod. Melting rock for tears. Only mute screams and a rumbling song.

"I can feel your silly heart" said the immortal as he died. And the golem city was swallowed. And stars became cinders. And all lost lights limped on into the limitless dark. And all time became lost in timeless unawareness. Until from sheer heartbrokenness there was touch once again. Until there came the echoes of a deep, dark song like granite split by ice. And all that remained to touch, touched all that remained.
 

Pendulum

the russian army officers shout in the long, cold darkness together with the barking of dogs and the constant, low whistle of the wind. starving in the arms of a dying superpower while new gods and angels stand astride the world. the sound of their horns brings the stars  down. the seas are filling up and the bread is all stale and they're selling their uniforms for milk. the body of the great god is rotten and the woman clothed with the sun is getting big and craving weird things. she's raging; she's nesting in a web of flame and waiting for the armies to build. the soil won't accept seed and the air carries no scent.

the warehouse streets outside the city shake at night with the roar of joyrider engines; and then it all collapses with the silence pouring into the light of morning and the burnt out car shells smoke in the wood. glass and charcoal in a blasted black circle and tyre tracks through the snowdrop patches. because everything is like that. like balance. your god is a marble rolling in a shallow bowl, a number dancing opposite its negative around the void. the superunknown. pendulums straining for the centre of the earth. your biorhythmic low, your wild mood swings, your unimaginable zero. fascinated and distantly watching the bathwater spiral away, wanting to understand. watching the sparrows coming back into the trees and the flowers tearing their way through the pavements. even the rock flows. nothing is solid.

we began on the grasslands and the marshes wading through the floods for food, holding each other in the dark and listening fearfully for the cough of the lion and the hyena's cackle. sky fire, rolling earth, and each other. the tower was struck down and the language broken, and there was no brother or sister any more. astral babies trapped in a birth sack made of thoughts and images and memories, knowing nothing but the surface, the membrane warped by touch. music swelling in the muscles of the throat like vomit and sadness, and the stars indestructible and indifferent in the dark.

there's an invisible thing in the yellow bedroom living in the quiet space between gestures, and if we let it, it would crawl into our warm lives like a child. a piece of fruit desperate to ripen. an inside cat, staring in fear and longing through the weird cold of the sitting room window. a tiny universe of walls and carpets with no time and no balance, just voices and smells from a temporary set of lives. water spiralling into the plughole, the pendulum falling forever. the cat growing sleepy and finally drifting sideways into the place of veils and confusion.

still, always, hopelessly straining for the real voice, the pure violin string in the centrifuge, the knife shriek in the earthquake howl, the mouse squeak in the menagerie madness, the impossible contact that puts you in the fusion core of the fever and shows you the truth. a pendulum seeking the centre of the earth, not through choice but just because this is how things are: they balance. you'll know it when it comes because it will be nothing at all. a mirror, a surface like the skin of a ghost, something pure because it protects nothing.

the old, broken king drowning himself in the eely water off the metal jetty. frozen moments of motion between intervals of blindness, like movie reels and zoetropes and memories. photographs of stick fights outside run-down cottages. moonlight on the crabs and sandflies on the shore of a calm sea. nothing to describe. the feeling of falling in a dream, the feeling of crying in a dream. lentils sprouting in a shallow bowl set under a basement window. chai tea heating over a gas flame and children's voices through the wall. nothing to describe. everything running backwards like a clock returning to the beginning for a second chance, and all the wars erased and all the words nothing but sounds. memories churned into a soup of poetry and understanding. something lost on the road beside the orange peels and the coke cans. an old branch you swung on, and that was the moment you first knew. nothing to describe.

the mind is a train ride through regions of light and dark. it's a girl in a blue dressing gown who loves you. fishing for something perfect in the shallow floodwaters moving through the mansion hallway. reading the sacred texts of an unknown and doomed religion with your head rising like a seed on a stalk to the ceiling. shaving without a mirror in ice cold dirty water in a rusty basin, tiny happy guru picture at the foot of the bed making everything insanely new. impossible; nothing to describe. traffic cones and pizza boxes and papaya and incense muddled together into chaos. something like balance. something like zero. a watch chain seeking the planet core. your body flat on the floor before the altar, seeking the centre of the universe, and when you got there, there was nothing left to do but come back again.

criss cross, words minced and chopped together. anger against the father, the cabala, the computerized testosterone death machine of chanting bible heartbeat sine waves marching towards death like breastmilk soldiers. napoleon's men starving and freezing to death thousands of miles from mother and home. the wrinkled monkeys panicking in the treetops as the eagle passes; panicking in the banyan roots when the leopard's snout nudges through the undergrowth. death from above and death from below makes you the zero where everything meets. nothing to describe except the colour of the good leaves and the taste of the bad; the waxy smell of the air as you bowed to your icons in the dark; the way every flower thinks it's going to be the bloom that the poet falls in love with. for one immortal, a billion forgotten lives.

kissing her finger, lying beside her while the morning swells like a tide behind the curtains, wondering how much of your mind she sees when you're sitting across from each other in the jagged warm sitting room full of screens and empty plates and words everywhere. words in your head all the time, hanging from axons and dendrites over the unknown, swarming around the swallowing point, pendulums seeking the centre of the earth. you come close to her and then move away again. light grows and fades in a blue haze and the night comes before you're ready. then the day comes before you're ready. you're never ready. sleep and waking don't mean anything any more except as markers, limit points on an attractor. back to zero.

always returning to somewhere that doesn't exist.
 

Monsters and Islands in the Sky

I'm in the streets of a strange city, at some unspecified time in the past or future. It's hard to say if it's even on Earth, because everything is mixed together so strangely - the architecture is Greco-Roman, with low, white, columned buildings, wide streets, plazas and statues, but there are cars and restaurants and horses and the people are dressed in 20th century clothing. The sky is a pure, perfect blue and the air is hot.

I've been chosen as the prey in a national sport, as punishment for some crime that I can't remember. I can't remember exactly what the sport is, until I look into the sky and I see the head and arm of a gigantic monster, just like the Rancor from Return of the Jedi, but far, far bigger, a mile high, with eyes tens of metres across staring down at me. This is the game. This monster is to catch and eat me, and the citizens of the city will know that justice has been done.

I run and hide in one of the buildings. I know instinctively that there are certain rules to the game - the monster is intelligent, and will follow these rules. It is an embodiment of the judicial forces of the city, and it will not just randomly crush houses and kill indiscriminately in order to get me. It can only kill me, and it will take as long as it takes.

I can feel it trying to reach inside the building to pluck me out. It seems to be able to grow and shrink as it pleases. I nearly dive into a waste chute heading downwards from one of the walls inside the bulding, which is full of old clothes and baskets, but a sign on the wall says that it is full of acid. I leave the building and run across a square into a maze of narrow alleys.

Later, I'm ascending a hill which is completely covered with houses - a densely populated, elevated quarter. Somewhere along the way I've picked up a companion, a woman who says she can help me escape. I'm in no immediate danger from the Rancor, which I can see in the far distance searching a different part of the city, but the realization is starting to sink in that I can't elude it - the monster is tireless and immortal, and it will never stop hunting me, and one day I'll just be too tired or careless or forgetful, and it's hand will reach down out of the sky and grab me at last.

We pass a famous theatre where actors perform Shakespeare's plays on a balcony hundreds of meteres above the street, and we go from there into the warren of buildings that cover the hill. It's almost like the entire hill is a hive of people, honeycombed with houses and streets and shops and lit by torchlight. People who we talk to seem willing to help me, but there are also people pursuing me, who want to give me up to the monster, so we have to keep moving.

I reach the far side of the hill, where the city ends and the landscape opens out to something like the Arizona desert, with high, jagged mesas and lightning storms. It's getting close to sunset. I swim across a small pool of water to stand on the city wall, and I realize I don't want to become a wanderer out there. I want to stay with the people I know and love. So I decide to remain, and take the chance that the monster will catch me.

Days later, I'm in a restaurant having dinner with some friends, and when we come out I look up into the sky and I see an island floating there, green and blue and white, like a child's version of heaven up in the sky. Clouds all around it spell out its name, which I can't remember, only that it began with an A. Then I see the Rancor again. I realized I could always be found because I was electronically tagged, and whenever I paid for something, like in the restaurant I had just been to with my friends, my location would be broadcast to the authorities.

I wanted to give up. I thought I would just let the Rancor kill me and get it over with, and in that moment I saw the reality of my own death: no certainty, no heaven or hell, no inevitable return, and the loss of every companion, all my loved-ones and friends, all memory and familiarity, sucked into the universe and washed and forgotten. I was too afraid then to give up, so I ran again.
 

Dark Sugar

Younger than three, and my memory
darkens into ash, the remains of thoughts,
the nothingness from before birth:
soft darkness outside time.

I go back there every night
to watch it fill up with colour and shape -
sparks and streaks of people and stories
like spice ripples in dark sugar.

I build myself around a seed
of loneliness and sadness, the feeling
of the soft darkness, the stone wall
and the endless, softly darkening sky.
I'm stupid, but not that stupid; I know
you can't run from the end of your own story.

If I'm lost, it's been for a long time
and I've betrayed myself over and over
and I'm just waiting to crumble -
like dark sugar in a spoon, slowly
stirred into the seething silence.

Cain's Machine

My dream resolved to a face, blonde and pale -
eerie blue eyes lost in the distance,
Cain's horizon without a sky -

hypnotized by unfamiliar constellations
points of light spattered as if sneezed
into the raw, frozen darkness -

he was trying to see to the edge of time
in a glass observatory on a remote moon,
steam pluming from alien machines -

trapped in his own dream of immortality,
to be unbreakable and unchanging -
the dream had become an agony of millennia

in the grip of his own revolving destiny
bound upon a wheel of fire
a point of life in the vacuum, heart-frozen -

eventually, everything of him was broken
like the fable of the reed and the oak
and the storm from the Chinese mountain.

He couldn't live and couldn't die,
his mind locked in amnesiac torment
haunted by voices from past and future lives

whispering their regrets, their lessons
the time he lost and the love
he threw away, the strength he didn't need -

he had enough will left to plead with her,
the only one who loved him,
to feed the unkillable flesh of his body

into machines built to crush him,
grind him to meal to be scattered
throughout his empty universe.

I saw him lying there, mind gone,
as she made the preparations, head held high,
though washed and wrecked by pain.

She could neither forgive nor refuse him
his escape from the machine of light -
the white centrifuges, the galactic octopi

boiling around their black hole cores -
their dervish dance of confusion -
the terrible rebirth of their collision -

he thought he wanted never to be hurt,
to live without the touch of death
and her promise of sleep after too long a day.

She spoke to me, sadly, dark eyes
full of a different kind of strength:
iron in her heart, for surviving -

she explained everything.
Cain was no longer there.
I was only watching the tragedy of her,

a lover, a mother, watching a man
go to his death in a war of his own making -
"the endless conflict of dead matter," he'd said -

and she only knew she loved him;
that he would return to break her heart again
until the stars died into the everlasting darkness.

Sycamore Sunday

She's a time machine
in the shape of a sycamore,
her leaves glowing emerald in the sun.

Twisted branches like swimming pythons:
near the ground, a deep crook
where I straddled and stayed for an hour.

Midges spiralled through shining air,
sounds of the city dulled into distance -
footsteps, voices, wind in the leaves, all silent –

my breath and heartbeat slowed
as she told me I had no need of anything,
nor any reason for fear.

While the sun flickered through her hair,
I laid my journey aside
for this moment. Our bargain,

that she gives me shelter and peace,
and I give her what I can: a life
immortal in the realm of the mind.