Late Evening

Late evening, Sunday, stars and oranges raining through the open windows of my bedroom. I made it upstairs, so stoned I can hardly move, staggering through a roaring silence like under the ocean. Posters on my walls of roses and aliens looking like they move when I close my eyes. Girl across the road taking her top off, candlelight lilac, slowly closing the curtains. That was yesterday I think. She was nice. Cats screaming in the gardens at night. Saw a shooting star just now. Music and voices downstairs, spiralling in my head making me roll on the floor and pray for sleep. Sleep sleep, sleep.

The ocean is just the ocean.

The bedroom window brought in the morning, a teenage rain kissing my eyelids. A kind of desire rises, to make love to the sky. I open my eyes and the sunlight is so beautiful, even through clouds. I can’t move much, I feel so heavy, a ghost who fell into a corpse. The feeling of being me is falling in a vast and gentle well of dark light. The sky is like a girl who forgot to go home. She’s laughing at me because I think I’m home. The silence brings music into my mind from a great distance, years of being me singing forever in my heart. The girl in the sky is making me laugh now. I know she doesn’t exist, but she doesn’t know. We both think we have a secret.

My lungs feel like bags of cement. Somehow I make it into bed, some clothes off, pull the covers up to my neck, breathe out slowly, it feels like fifteen years ago, mother tucking me into bed, telling me I’m the best baby boy in the whole wide world. Years, lifetimes of sitting in the shade of a white porch in the summer in India, chanting from the arati going through my mind while I rest my feet and watch the river move, slowly, from heaven. This country is so cold. I’m sure there was a time when I knew what I was supposed to be doing here. Things seemed so simple when I was young.

I woke up when my girlfriend found me, she laughed and told me I was in the wrong bedroom, no wonder it all seemed so strange. “I smoked my tits off last night you know,” she just laughs more and puts her hand on my forehead. I still don’t feel like moving, but I like the brightness and the safety of the afternoon and her hands. “I love you babe.” She takes her clothes off and gets under the covers with me. If this was someone else’s life, would I know?

All the days, raging, tears and iron, monsters from the houses. The rain becomes old and haggard, giant trees, horrific amphibians gripping the mud and the ferns, sharks as big as ships rippling through a boiling ocean. Sand of the sea-bottom shifting with crabs and flatfish, millions of colours of coral, seaweeds dancing in the warm currents. A volcanic sky stained with ash like the forehead of a priest. The sky has to remember. Winds and burning rain for a thousand years, the sky has to remember.

I was born thirteen thousand years ago in a room full of sun and heat. I was painting a picture of three spirals on a sheet of blue silk when I died. The ground writhed like a stricken man and the fire and the ice came. Thousands of years of living buried and burned. The sky has to remember.

“Babe, you talked in your sleep.”
“What was I saying?”
“I didn’t understand it. I don’t think I heard properly.”
“Mmm.”
“It was weird, I thought someone else was in the bed. You didn’t sound like you.”
“Really?”
“It scared me a bit.”
“Don’t be scared.”

Still stoned, hugging her is like hugging the sky. I am a shapeless thought. Her body is like a feeling in a dream, moving in its own rhythm. I went so far this time, so far out into the nothingness, the falling-feeling. I never went so far before. I hope it’s okay. I hope this will be okay.

I woke again when the sky was still fading into dark blue, after sunset. It felt so strange. The last time I remembered sleeping through a whole day was when I was very ill with glandular fever. The whole night was taken up by terrible struggles with dreamed creatures, travels through landscapes of delerium, and I slept with the curtains closed as the day passed, bathed in sweat.

I swam down to the sea bed and felt the edges of the coral with my fingertips. Tiny angel fish darted through the crevices. The water was cloudy.

We climbed down into the caves, holding on to rusted railings, dodging starlings and bats that fluttered in a panic out of their roosts. The clay was red and moist, and stained everyone’s clothes. The air began to feel stiller and stiller, until the passageway opened out into caverns full of totally still, clear water. We shone our torches in to the pools, and sometimes you could see the rock at the bottom, forty or fifty feet down, and it looked as clear and bright as five feet deep. In other places the torch beam disappeared into unfathomable blackness. We took our shoes and tops off and swam through the caves, stopping to hang on to stalagmites, ducking our heads through narrow openings of sharp rock, tapping stalactites to see if they would sing. In one of the main caverns, one of the walls looked like a gigantic church organ, the limestone shaped into tubes that plunged from the ceiling into the deep water. We clung to the tubes with our hands while we waited to gaze into the deepest underwater caves. When we got out of the water we turned all the torches off, and stayed quiet for a few seconds in absolute darkness. There was no light for the eyes to adjust to, just nothingness hanging in space. In the silence it was like having no bodies. Our ears rang with emptiness.

I was sitting out on the wharf in a half-lotus when it started to rain. First the sky darkened and the sun was hidden, and then, as a boat appeared in the distance from its trip around the island, the first cool raindrops fell. I was sitting on a towel dressed only in shorts. As the boat came closer I could see the people sitting in it, my friends, young devotees of Avatar Adi Da Samraj, their faces indescribable. How do you describe the expression of someone who is visiting the home of the Incarnation of God? The rain grew heavier. The sea lost its green tinge and became grey, and the surface started rippling in tiny circles. The boat ground itself against the sand and they started getting out, heading up the beach towards the retreat centre, while the rain increased, until the sea was starting to hiss. I was still sitting down on the wharf, my hair dripping, my towel already soaked. The Fijian men waved and the boat pulled away again. Two girls from the boat stayed to swim in the sea. The rain kept deepening, hardening, pounding the palm leaves and the shore, creating a fine mist just above the surface of the water. I stood up and stretched, and lowered myself into the sea. The water was warmer than the rain. The vision, as from a thousand years ago, of the two girls with their faces turned up to the sky, rain pouring down their cheeks, hands holding back their hair; and then sinking back below the surface like mermaids. I took a deep breath and floated, with my arms stretched out behind me, and for the first time ever, I totally relaxed in the water. I gave my body up to the waves in a bliss of surrender. The rain pattered on my face and the hissing all around me became soothing. I closed my eyes and the darkness extended around and through me in all directions, so that I no longer had a clear feeling of where I was in relation to th shore, or what direction I was moving. Maybe I had drifted out into the deep ocean. Maybe there was no island. I truly didn’t care what happened to me in those few moments. The only disturbance was the unstoppable observer, the consciousness that noted all the phenomena of my senses; I still felt like ‘me’. That was all that was wrong, but it was enough.
    When I opened my eyes, I saw that one of the girls had left the sea and was running back to the dorms through the rain, carrying her towel over her arm. Just then, the sun appeared through a break in the clouds near the horizon. The rain continued, ferociously, but the trees and the sand took on this electrifying reality, as if the sun had traced their edges and filled in their colours with the luminous yellow all-colour of its own light.

ama amma

am am am

As we watched a rainbow formed on the beach, touching down perfectly on the dark sand, colouring the palms, bringing with it a silence so unearthly that it drowned the rain and sank my heart into the True Water. No moment like this has ever existed.

“My life is over now.”

The rain ends, the shell remains. The work is done.
 

Little Burning Petals

Yellow roses are cold. Red roses burn you inside and white roses are broken pieces of a purer sun, but yellow roses have no flame, they are cold. Everyone knows this.

Karen remembers the day Dad gave her roses. She sometimes thinks about his as he was on that day, at that moment, the butter flowers making his face glow as if with an interior light. She knows it was only the fluorescents reflected off the petals, because as she took the flowers they chilled her skin.

Karen still sleeps in her old bedroom. She takes the same steps every day and smiles to herself as if each of her actions contained a secret. She is a shower of dark hair. She gets more beautiful every day. In the morning she sits outside and waits for the sun to crest the oaks at the edge of the garden, soaking up as much light as she can. When she comes back inside she radiates it – it’s almost painful to touch her, and there’s nothing beautiful in the world except her. When it rains she folds up her light neatly and draws it into herself. She drifts through the house like a thing barely alive. She arranges the flowers in every room. Daffodils for the kitchen, daisies for the bathroom, lilacs for the hall, and roses…

Roses are powerful flowers. Dad brought her roses that day. Their stems were bound with rough string. His face was caught in expressions from which he had no escape – every smile held the seeds of the frown that would soon return. He brought her flowers because it was raining and he knew that rain broke her heart. Karen thinks that the rain falling in our garden sounds like a dead person breathing.

Karen has put all her books in boxes and she says that one day she’ll burn them. In her bedroom she is surrounded by red and white roses in vases, jars, glasses, dried and hung from the ceiling, pressed between sheets of paper, pictures and paintings of roses, roses on her bedcovers and sheets. She says that they keep her warm at night when the sun is gone, and while she sleeps the scent wraps around her and she feels loved. I’ve seen her smiling in her sleep. I’ve seen her sleeping with open eyes.

She saw it in Dad’s eyes when he gave her the yellow roses. She didn’t say anything then, but later she told me that she had known what would happen. The yellow reflected in his eyes, the smell of the petals, the slow crumbling of his smile. The way he’d been reluctant to let go of the flowers when she took them, as if he needed the light. When she took them he went grey again in an instant – the stone eyes, the stone mask of skin, like a golem. When he left again she dropped the roses on the ground and wouldn’t pick them up again. They were pulling the heat from her, she said.

Sometimes I bring her away from the house. I try to take care of her because she needs it so much. She sees all places as if they were the same place. She gazes through people as if they were as shallow as the skein of dew on flower petals in the morning. But at home she’s alive because she knows where she is. Even on her dark days she burns from within like an angry ghost. When I have to go out she turns the lights off and moves through the darkness, and I come home hours later to find her glowing a subtle white, floating from room to room with her arms full of flowers, wet from the garden or crisp and pressed from the pages of books. Some day she’s going to burn the books.

She says that as Dad turned to go upstairs she heard him whispering, but she didn’t catch the words, and then it seemed to her as if she might have been wrong, and what she heard was really the sound of the rain in the garden, the deathly whisper.

I keep the room locked, except when Karen comes to me with yellow roses in her arms, smiling, her eyes full of hope, a knowledge that she would give to me if she could, and I open the door for her. He had always given her flowers. After Mom died his love locked itself deep inside, and the harder he tried to reach out of himself, the further away his voice seemed to be when he spoke, the more distance his gaze had to cover. Karen sometimes cried after he spoke to her, and that’s why he brought her flowers. They made her smile again, and the house would grow warm for a short while, and his spirit would come closer to the surface of his skin. He gave her lilacs and carnations and daffodils and irises and hyacinths and roses. Red roses and white roses. Then yellow roses, at the end. I’m sorry. That’s how she knew.

At first, Karen burned the roses in his room because of the gunpowder smell. The cordite scorched her nostrils and brought tears to her eyes, and she put the yellow roses in vases on the windowsill and the shelves of his room and burned them with a cigarette lighter until the sweet perfumed smoke hung in the air like fog and the smell of powder was gone. Black, tattered petals floated to the ceiling on plumes of heat and fell on his body as ash. Then she came out and looked at me and I locked the door because I didn’t know what to do.

Yellow roses are cold, like the moon. Karen watches the moon at night and smiles to herself. She knows who it reflects and she knows she shines brighter. She drinks the sun in the morning and gathers flowers for the house. She knows a secret. I don’t know the secret and she can’t tell me. She burns flowers in Dad’s bedroom to take away the smell. Dad smiles a smile that isn’t going to go away. Karen floats through the house like a star. I try to help her but soon we will have to go. When she smiles I feel warm. She’s my burning little sister. She cries sometimes because she doesn’t know how to say what she needs to say.

She says that we’re outside time now. We’re always going to be here, she says, and we were always here, pressed like petals between the pages of a book. She burns the roses and she will burn the books too. I know we’re not always going to be alone here. Someone is going to come. It’s not supposed to be like this, but I need her. I need her and I love Dad’s smile, his beautiful cold smile.

When the others come Karen says she will bring me home at last.