The Wind

Start small.

Build a tree, and a chair beneath, and then wind, and then night. The wind is cold.

An actor enters, sits on the chair. They are waiting.

Start small.

The actor is a man with red hair. His clothes are old, cut for a larger person, perhaps stolen. The man sits in the chair and leans back. His head almost brushes the bark of the tree. He shivers. He is waiting.

Already the lines form in the dark, already the roots spread.

Tempting to leave him here. Tempting to leave the man to his moment. Is he waiting for a lover, waiting for a rival, waiting for the sun to rise? Ask but the answer is already clawing against your teeth.

He is not a young man, nor old. He has a knife tucked in his belt. He once loved to sing, but now does not remember the way of it. He is waiting in the chair under the tree on the edge of the town (a town! of course, this moment requires it). He is waiting for another traveler, one that can lead him home. He has promised gold to the traveler but he has none. He has no particular plan beyond waiting and the knife and the roll of the dice.

Does he have a name? He does, but not one you can claim. He has two, but they did not travel with him. Why him, why this shadow and not one of your own? The question is sharp and heavy but you feel the moment passing.

The man in the chair looks up, almost as if he can hear you pondering.

You are close, you are tempted to speak – but the moment is passing.

The wind is cold. The man waits and hopes to have more than a knife to offer. The tree and the chair and the town wait. The wind is cold.

rime

stand at the edge, doorway house

green field around you

you are awake at last

but empty, maybe less

than before

you wear clothes you have swallowed the thin soup

you are ready to know

if you are who you were

jonas is off chopping wood

now is the time

where you can walk alone

on skeletal feet to the edge of the water

the edge of the yard, the sun beats down

is yellow, is daffodil face

you are ready to know

if you are less

you hum

you are white hair blowing in the wind

you are skin and bone

you are

merely human

 

regret but also relief

that sleep could prove a thief

 

now you can live and die and eat bread

drink wine and let sleep take

whatever it might wish

you can be

merely human

 

ah, but now

a spike of fire on your brow

you on the edge of the water

on the edge of merely

you do what you must

you reach down

your hand in the water

your hand in the water

your hand is the water

the water is now

you replace blood with wind

skin with storm

you drink deep

ah, you drink deep

 

 

 

Belenus and Belisama

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47db-b605-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.wOnce before the world was old, a woman walked from her village to the river to fill a vase with water. She was no maiden. Her feet were strong on the earth, her hands full of care. She had borne two children and lost two children. Her eyes were dark and her hair was darker. Her heart was darker still. But still she walked to the river to bring water, still she sang the songs when the three moons demanded it, still she ate and still she was she.

She was named Maero, which means sorrow, for sometimes we are marked for the paths we must walk.

But on this day as she walked to the river, she found a man groaning on his back, laying on his back just a few feet off the path.  He was a golden man – hair, skin, even his eyes. A green snake was wound around his legs and the serpent had sunk its fangs deeply into his thigh.

Maero sighed and sat her vase down.  She crept forward with her careful hands and grabbed the snake behind the head. She pulled the serpent’s fangs free from the golden man’s leg, then crushed the serpent’s head with her strong feet. Without pausing, she knelt at the man’s side and drank the poison from his blood and spat it out onto the dead snake’s corpse.

The golden man moaned, but at last grew still. His golden eyes stopped fluttering and he looked at Maero.

“You saved me,” he said, “you saved me. Thank you.”

“Yes,” she tied her scarf around his wound with steady motions. “Did you not see the snake?”

“I…fell,” the golden man looked embarrassed, “I didn’t see the snake. It came upon me as I lay here.”

Maero looked around. There were no trees of any particular height on this path, nor a cliff or mountain. She looked down at the golden man in suspicion, “You fell? From where?”

The golden man pointed up towards the sky at the face of the bright morning sun. “From there.”

Maero sighed and stood. She reclaimed her vase from where it waited in her path. This strange golden man was mad and she had no time for madness.

The golden man sat up with some difficulty, “Wait! I’m telling you the truth! I am the God of the Sun, I fell from my chariot. Very embarrassing, but it is true! I am Belenus!”

The woman turned and looked at the golden man with doubt. “The god of the Sun? Then how can you be here if the sun still shines in the sky?”

Belenus opened his mouth, then closed it again. He pointed up at the sun again, but then let his hand fall. “It’s complicated!”

Maero laughed, just a tiny bit. She then turned back to continue down to the river.

Belenus had by now managed to get to his feet and called after her, “Wait! Don’t you want me to reward you? Or maybe you could…perhaps…help me?”

Maero sighed and then replied without looking back, “God of the sun or no, time waits for none of us. If you wish to come with me to the river, you can help me fill the vase. Then you can carry it back for me to the village. Then I will feed you, perhaps.”

She walked on to the river and the sun-god followed, limping but relieved.

And so it began. Maero led and Belenus followed. She taught him to fish from the river and taught him to make jars from clay and taught him to sing when the three moons demanded it.  His wound was healed within a day but he seemed in no hurry to return to the sky and his chariot. She taught him how to tend the green grapes and how to weave the sheep’s wool and how to fight when the wolves came howling.

After some time, the elders of the village approached Maero in confidence.

“Maero, “they said, “We have watched the moons and consulted the old songs, and summer has gone on too long. The cold winds should be blowing, the leaves should be turning – but none of that has happened. The sun rises and sets, but it does not alter its course. It is time for the sun-god to return to the sky.”

Maero nodded, for she knew better than to argue with Necessity.

She called Belenus to her and took him by the hand. She walked him down the same path where she had found him until they stood by the river. Maero pointed at the bank and helped him lay down. She went into the water and looked down at him.

“It’s time for you to go home, ” she said.

The sun-god opened his mouth to reply and she seized him and plunged him down under the water. Belenus flailed and clawed at her, but she was strong and sure. At last the golden man grew still and she let him float down the river.

That winter was long and cruel, and spring a weak remainder. Summer found her waiting and unsurprised when Belenus walked through her door again.

She took him in her arms and comforted the sun as it wept. He could not stay and she could not go and time waits for none of us. She drank the poison from him and spat it out on the earth, then she turned so he could see the child sleeping behind her.

From then on the woman chose a new name, Belisama, which means faith, for sometimes we choose our own paths no matter how hard or shadowed they may be.

As it was told to me, I tell to you. Let the sun turn on the wheel and bring us back together.

Invocation Sketch

Sing in me, O Muse

of fire.

Fire that burns the grass

fire that is the grass

perennial

sure and rude

on the hillside.

Sing of fire and sing of the night

when.

The night when She saw Fire and

everything after

The tournament of wands

and the beloved annihilation.

And

everything after.

The fire is here

come closer

it is what we always say.

Or

are you Fire?

 

Vagabond Contract

In the course of events it often becomes necessary for travelers to enter into common cause for needs of safety, efficacy, and mutual gain. A simple covenant is best for all parties to prevent any misunderstanding or ill repute at the termination of the time of joined purpose. All that sign this contract pledge by their sacred honor to abide by and uphold the following terms, until such time that a simple majority of the undersigned agree that the contract be nullified.

Bond the First: Safety. You shall do your best to protect the life and possessions of the contractors. You shall not allow harm to befall the others through malice, duplicity, or lack of care.

Bond the Second: Efficacy.  Goals and objectives will be decided through free dialogue and simple majority vote. If a contractor cannot abide by a decision, they may leave the contract with no penalty. See Breaking Contract section below.

Bond the Third: Mutual Gain. All wealth collected by members of the contract will be divided openly and evenly. Accommodations can be made for equipment, tools, weapons, etc. that could prove of no value to some members.

Breaking Contract

In good faith: Contractor leaves due to pressing concerns beyond their control or due to an honest disagreement with the other members of the contract.  They are eligible to their share of any earnings, along with whatever supplies are needed to send them safely on their way.

In bad faith: Contractor breaks one of the three Bonds, leaves without warning. They are eligible to nothing but the swift vengeance of the remaining contractors. They are an Enemy of the Contract and should be dealt with harshly, in accordance with local law.

Completing the Contract

All contracts of this type must have a clear termination point. A tangible goal, a specific milestone, a destination, or simply a date on the calendar. When this point is reached, the contract is fulfilled and all contractors are released. Each contractor must agree to the terms that fulfill the contract and they may not be amended without a unanimous vote from all involved.

Completion Terms






 

By signing below we tie our fates together and place our lives and honor in the hands of strangers. If the words of vagabonds can hold true, then no storm on the road nor beast in the dark can prove our path false.

  • Xenodross Nicander

servant

i see you

standing on the edge of the tower

the mountains behind you

the flat town below you

i see you

and i see who you serve

i have not done

i have undone

enough

i was not watching

i am not doing

enough

i see you

and i see who you serve

time to remember

who i claim to serve

my eyes are red

with not seeing

enough

Writing Update

Over the past year, friends and acquaintances will ask me ‘ So, how’s the writing going, Derek???’. I usually grimace and give some sort of a half-answer. I sat down today to write a seven-eighths answer, and this is what I wrote.

A traveler came to a city on the edge of a forest. The windows were dark, the chimneys were cold, the few people he passed had empty faces and sharp teeth. This was a place where Hunger wed Time, and he could see that soon their vicious children would be born. He had no wish to enter this city, but his shoes carried him down into its red tile streets all the same.

The traveler carried with him a box — a box wrapped three times in cords of silver. He did not know what was inside. Along the path, next to fire and  under the moon he had told himself many times what the treasure might be. He knew it was no heavier than so, no more fragile than so – but the silver cord was wound too tight for even the tiniest peek at the contents.

A long time ago perhaps, he had promised to carry the box to the city. Of that he was sure. But as Night gave slaughter to a legion of days, the rest of his charge had grown hazy. Was he to give the box to someone? Was he to perform some task with it? Were there other preparations he had needed before arriving at the city? He did not know, was not sure if he had ever known. Only the familiar weight of the box in his pack, only the road blooming in front of his feet, only the city waiting on the edge of a forest.

He wandered up and down a few streets, uncertain. Fewer and fewer people could be seen – and those he did see were walking knives. The sun was dying, so he hurried on. He found an abandoned house on the end of a narrow street and slipped inside. He laid out his bedroll in what must have once been the dining room of the house. He ate a few meager bites of his provisions and listened to the wind hoping it would have some suggestions.

The traveler went to sleep, his pack and the silver-wound box tight in his arms.

In the dark he dreamed of nothing, the lonely house swaying in the wind.

He awoke and his arms were wrapped around nothing. His pack was gone and the box.

The traveler cried out in fear, then in anger.  He ran to the door, the morning sun beaming down on him and an empty street. Not even stopping to retrieve his meager bed roll he ran out into the city. Up and down streets, past empty buildings and broken windows. He saw no one. Not even the few hollow people that he had seen the night before: the city was empty. Nothing but red tile streets and shattered doors and the sound of his feet hitting the ground. He ran for hours, until at last simple exhaustion brought him to a halt.

The traveler sat on the edge of a dry fountain and felt the sun’s heat. His charge was gone, he was alone, and there was no one to explain. He groaned into his hands and took a long breath.

After a time, the traveler stood. He took one last look around and then shrugged. It took him some time but he retraced his steps to the abandoned house where he had slept and found his bedroll tangled and waiting. He folded it carefully and slung it over his shoulder – it was all he had left to carry.  Taking a loose nail from a broken cross-beam he took a few minutes to scratch his name on the outside of the front door.

Then he shut it behind him and walked out of the city, beyond the city. Into the dark forest, the road blooming underneath his feet.

The Black Lance of Talbot

Two knights, one foul – one fair, met in the dust of a forgotten town. This was not the first time.

The war was over. The war is never over.

The Black Knight leaned on his lance. The White Knight tightened her shield-strap.

They had a late lunch. The local inn was nearly empty that day. They talked with the easy familiarity of gravediggers. The innkeep’s bread was stale but the ale was fresh.

A few of the townsfolk made note of them. Enough to tell the tale later, enough to remember the wrong way. None of them remember the toast the Black made. None of them remember the song the White sang. None of them remember that they laughed together.

In the heat of the drowsy afternoon, they rose from their table.

They walked together to the end of the town, walked together behind the ivy-crowned walls of the church, of the graveyard. They paced out the ground together, helped each other with their armor. Then they mounted their chargers. No more words were said.

The Black was a lightning bolt, the White was the mountainside. Again and again they met, ending each pass with more pain, more blood.

It came to chance, as both knew it would. One horse stumbled, one did not. The black lance tore through the white armor. Both knights fell, one rose and leaned on his lance.

The White died soon thereafter. No more words were said.

The Black walked away with his lance.

The townspeople say this: that the Black Knight was a true servant of evil.

That he stabbed his lance into the stones behind the church as a curse, a warning, a blight. That it can cause warts, destroy crops, summon demons when the moons are right. That only a heart as black as night can lift it from where it rests.

But none of them were there. None of them truly know.

The Black Lance waits still, like the stump of a vile tree.

None have been able to lift it. None have ever discovered the fate of the Black Knight, or even so much as his name.

None of them know the secret.

The war is never over.

retrograde

My life has been defined by desperate acts.

(crack of thunder)

Yes, I sip from this goblet of dark wine and stare out this window at the darkening moors. This is not going as intended, but I have become accustomed to such things.

I’m trying to write my way through something. Writing is just words, just symbols and shapes – pushing them around until they look like what we want to say. Until they look like what we see on the inside, on the other side, on the upside down. I often wish that I could draw or sing or sculpt or dance – something to cut down the latency. I’m feeling  this, this is how I feel, hear it in my voice, see it in the clay. Words are the best I have but I’m never sure. Never sure if I understand what I’m saying, if I’m being understood. Then I come back later and read them like a stranger’s riddle. My memory is an ocean, without bound, no maps, few islands. Does Circe remember me? Does it matter that I bled here, bled there — it’s all just salt water.

And then I pull myself up. Make a joke. It’s all about where you stand really. I ring the bell for the butler and daub wine from the tips of my immaculate mustache.

The same images, the same shapes – the ocean, the desert, the tower, the sky. Places without directions, travels without motion. I write with my right hand, erase with my left. My palm across the hot sand brushing away the sigils.

What am I doing? Where am I going? I choke on the questions and blur through the days. I feel like I’m failing, know that I’m falling – but am I? Am I? After a while it’s just air on either side. I wake up and I’m gone and I’m home and I’m alone and I’m in the shower and I’m driving, driving, driving. Is this part of it? Is this wondering part of it?

I like a narrative, it goes well with these drapes. If in a month, in a year, in a decade I — what? Arrive somewhere. Then the wandering was part of it, I was building my backstory, John Wayne in the desert, prophet gone mad in the dunes. But what if there is no arrival? Then it was just empty, callow, hollow, simple, mundane.

But I don’t know where I want to arrive, what will put the end on this beat. I like making, I like being petted on the head, I like not being poor —

 

Now it’s too simple, its just about failure. Common as brass, sinister as salt. I don’t know where I am or who this is typing, but I don’t want it to be that. I don’t want that to be me.

Because that’s the trap, isn’t it? If it’s about corporeal success, then take Door the First. If it’s about deathless prose than take Door the Second. But that’s not quite it either.

That’s not quite it either. The drum that beats.

Part of me is just ready for the wandering wizard. Just walk out from behind a wave and either point me towards my destiny or let me know this isn’t for me and it’s okay to go home.

I hate this. I hate the feeling, I hate the reeling, hate that everything becomes low, becomes base materials, becomes nothing more than feeding the fish. I don’t want this to be me, I’m glad in an hour I’ll forget.

Writing through the swell of a dark wave, holding onto the keyboard like a rudder. I can’t see anymore, I only have muscle lore to rely on. Where am I going? What do I want? The stars that burn at night are just holes in a sheet.

Pull up. Make a joke.  This scone has entirely too much rosemary, have the butler shot.

I know it’s the act of a child to want a parent. Please just sit me down and give it to me straight. Tell me it’s okay to forget. Tell me it’s okay to not sing at midnight. Tell me it’s okay, tell me Lucas can stop playing the lines. The lines are never going to connect and the mask-man is dead or the mask-man is me or the mask-man will never ever stop whispering. Tell me to put my head down and die again. Tell me I can come home and tell me it never mattered.

This is what I’m afraid of. Of the things I can see, of the things I can know, of the things I can make – but that I don’t. I feel old, I feel tired – everything is heavy. That’s the way of the world.So far I’ve been able to leap forward in tiny ergs of desperation, acts of drug-seeking blindness. But now I don’t know, now I don’t believe.

I repeat the same things again and again without resolution. I’m not making a map, I’m keeping a journal. Hoping that one day I’ll read it and know the answers.

Now, what. The very act of typing illuminates and it elides. This moment is already erasing. I can find a nice picture to put at the top and click publish but the moment is already passing, without clarity. I come back again and again and I still don’t know. I still don’t know. Is this part of the plan or just flash in the pan? Where am I doing? What am I going?

Here is the place this thing was said. These shapes I chose, as well I could. Not quite right.

I sit alone in my study and watch the rain begin on the darkened moor.