The Train of Seasons

The train of seasons goes express

when you get older.

You live through the day,

and maybe make a memory.

 

The leaves turn to snow,

the snow to buds,

the buds to blossoms,

the blossoms to leaves.

 

It is a slowly descending vortex at first,

but it speeds up as it funnels into a

narrowing, whirling free fall

the closer you get to

the end.

 

Its arrival is deceitful.

You think it is a rescuer,

but your grasping hand

is pried from the ledge

and

you

fall.

 

Your scream is a song.

Your death an exclamation point

on bad lyrics,

the notes of your life

a fading echo heard

from a distant hill.

Aven’s Forge and the Lore Binding

It was a sweltering summer night when Aven finished the sword.

The runes would be added later. The wizard Larin, who commissioned Aven’s work, would add the runes himself, for the sword was sacred.

Aven wondered about such things, but not overly much; he was a simple man with an honest trade, and believed he was better for not being too curious. People didn’t come to him for the crafting of arcane weapons, normally, but that was exactly why Larin wanted him: Aven was off the beaten path, and there were certainly those who might have been better at ornamentation, but that wasn’t what mattered.

Larin had made inquiries, and heard from the few who bought from him that Aven’s weapon work was true. He was, unbeknownst to himself, a well-kept secret among his customers. But Larin was a wizard, after all, and news unwelcome and otherwise filtered to him eventually.

He’d invited Aven to see the sacred ritual of Lore-binding, where the sword’s lore would be placed into it. The blacksmith had heard of such things, but didn’t necessarily believe them. He wondered how steel could contain magic properties. It seemed an impossibility, but again, such things were beyond him.

It was nagging him, though, how such things could be, so he accepted the invitation. Tomorrow night he’d deliver the sword to the wizard himself.

Sloshing a bucket of water over himself, washing away the sweaty soot and ashes, and tending the burns the sparks left (though they scarred anyway), he managed to get himself ready for bed.

In a beam of moonlight he lay on his bed and put his hands under his head, contemplating about magic swords until his mind grew tired and his body succumbed to the day’s labors.

***************

There was a presence in the room, radiating a scent of decay.

Aven sat bolt upright to see a presence in his doorway, outlined by a soft red aura.

A nightmare…nothing more.

“You know that to be untrue, Aven. I’m right here, right now, and I can see you as clearly as I know you can see me.”

Aven’s senses were not dulled by sleep, and as much as it frightened him, he had to admit he was awake.

“You know what I’m looking for,” the presence said. “Go get it for me, and see once more that it’s ready for binding. If you hand me an unprepared weapon, the price you’ve set on it will be nothing compared to the one you’ll pay.”

Aven got up, and felt the pull of the spirit’s power sweep over him. He retched as the spirit enclosed his flesh with a dark, cold magic.

“And what shall I tell Wizard Larin, spirit?”

The specter softly laughed, but said nothing in reply.

Aven, his will stripped from him as easily as sundered gossamer, got up, retrieved the sword, and came back with the blade dripping water across his hands. The demon forced him to his knees,  made him raise his hands, presenting the sword as to a rightful king.

The eldritch creature took the blade with the illusion of hands that were young, smooth, and had never shed blood, and inspected the blade with clear eyes that had never seen the corruption of mortal souls.

“You’ve done well, Aven. You may rise.”

Aven stood, his hands balled into impotent fists of defiance.

The spirit came close, looking deep into Aven’s eyes; he could no more look away than if the being had put his own eyes into the smith’s sockets.

“When this battle is done, Aven the Blacksmith will no longer be an obscure peasant tucked away in an unknown valley in the middle of nowhere; he will be a rich man beyond his wildest dreams, making weapons for the likes of high kings until his heart stops, and his name will be on the tongues of bards for centuries to come.

“Rest now, Aven, there will be no ceremony of Lore- binding for you to attend, but rather, the barely attended. funeral of a wizard who crossed me. You’ll know him by the coffin leaking his blood. We will be the only two that see his departure from this world.

“Farewell.”

The spirit faded, and as its power receded with it, setting Aven free, he wasn’t sure if his cry of anguish was from pain, sorrow, fear, or a swirling combination that made him piss himself as he passed out on the floor.

 

 

Deafening

They call the silence deafening, here in these winter hills. It is quite a profound and abject stillness.

The cold has even bid the night creatures to ban their hunts; there will be no prey, and the hunters themselves risk death. Better then, to go hungry and feast in the times of thaw, where the ice and snow become fresh water.

I pull my hood close to keep what fleeting warmth remains.

But in the starry darkness I wonder if it’s the silence that’s deafening, or the world deaf to the cries of my heart.

Am I just a child tugging on the hem of a guardian angel too tall to see me?

Do these snowy mountains hide me from celestial view?

Does the silence shroud me as it smothers the longing of my soul?

This silence, this wintry, bitter silence is far more active than being deaf.

It crushes.

It kills.

It’s indifference to me makes it all the colder.

Useless then, to go on.

Soon I too will lie under a blanket of snow, and become one with the silence.

A Father’s Day Memory (2018)

My father’s love of music got to me at an early age. In his apartment he had a ‘music room’ with a reproduction of Picasso’s Three Musicians (Musicians with Masks) painting.

There was always something on the turntable, a ‘featured artist,’ and stuff I played just out of curiosity. I would get lost in the sheer variety, the crafting of the cover art, the liner notes, which I’d read while the music played. It opened the jazz and classical worlds for me, two genres that your average kid growing up in the South Bronx didn’t really have access to.

He had a particular fondness for the jazz organ of Jimmy Smith, the flute of Herbie Mann, the percussive mastery of Mongo Santamaria, and the radical balladry of Nina Simone.

What impressed me the most about my dad regarding this was his prodigious memory.

During my high school years he’d moved out to Teaneck, NJ, and I spent summers there house sitting while he was at work. There wasn’t much in the way of chores except on the weekends where I’d help with the gardening and woodworking projects, but during the week I was free to dive into the bookshelves and records most of the day.

One day I was playing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass) because I’d never heard it before, and didn’t even know he’d written a Mass. My father walked in, listened to a few seconds of it, and identified it somewhere in the middle of the first movement.

I was impressed. To this day, I wouldn’t be able to identify that if I heard it; it’s not the sort of thing one often plays outside of those who are Beethoven aficionados, or hears played even on classical music stations. It’s a long, serious piece of music, to put it mildly, and I couldn’t say then (1977) how many times he listened to it himself, but it was often enough that he recognized it from a tiny section of audio.

As deep as his love of music was, I don’t know why he never became a musician himself; he was pretty much the kind of man who could do anything he set his mind to. But as far as I know, he never did.

The passion with which he did love it yet remains, and became a permanent part of my life. It provided an escape from the streets, a release for expressing myself, and a legacy my sons continue.

I now have most of my dad’s collection now, Missa Solemnis among them. I haven’t played it yet, but summer’s just starting…

Early on the Bay

The water between the rocks

sounds like the giggles

of an alien child.

The silence is

pierced

by birdsong.

And I am all too aware

of the time passing,

but it’s time

well spent.

I am solitary,

but not alone.

The difference is telling,

but I’m used to it now.

The sun feels so good,

like a hug by the fire

after a stormy winter day.

Small waves make

white gold sparkles of sunlight,

blinding even as they beckon,

but I’m not ready

to go.

Slow Down, the End is Near

Every autumn gathers summer to itself,

and takes it underground.

So it is with humanity,

gathered at the end,

knit together by bone, if not blood,

in guts, if not glory.

The maggots ingest our spirits.

The worms gnaw on our flesh.

We are bound to sin in our flesh,

and bound for someone to share

life eternal in our spirits.

There is, in the end, only one question that matters:

Where?

 

Heart of Steel, Soul of Stone

The heart of the city

is made of steel.

Its soul is made of stone.

It gives no mercy, and has no pity.

It eats the unprotected innocent and spits out

runaways, junkies, whores, and thieves.

It gleams like a glass eye, but like a glass eye,

doesn’t see the harm it causes.

Some write upon its heart to make their presence known,

their absence felt.

The city makes it a crime, and begins its slow erosion

of the anguish of your screaming soul.

It will not remember your name.

It will not care.

It may pay you in cash,

or redeem you in blood.

The choice is yours,

but not really.

 

*Photo by Loes ten Den at Unsplash