Sunday 29 January 2023

The Raven's Call

Perhaps I'm fooling myself, Kara.  These words.  These countless visions I create.  Maybe they mean nothing in the end.  But I don’t really believe that.  I still need to believe I serve a greater purpose.  I like to think I've earned your respect.  Even if only through craft.  A professional courtesy from one artist to another.  And yet it’s more than that.  Sometimes I feel like such a fool for daring to imagine that you half recognise me, like something or someone from a dream. An old friend.  A lost love.  Perhaps imagination is the only place where magic can be truly known or truly felt.  That's why these pages are so sacred to me. Where else can I hide my wonders?  The echoes, allusions and stunning synchronicities?  Oh, Kara.  Forgive me if I occasionally project my own struggles onto you.  Forgive me if I sometimes confuse my own demons for yours.  I know we're not exactly the same.  That terrifying gulf between the sky and the abyss.  Feeling like I was denied a middle path.  But my God, if it isn't like looking into a mirror sometimes. Perhaps it’s the loneliness talking, or the fact that I always found my imperatrix rather beautiful.  Inside and out.  I promised you a rising sky, didn’t I, old friend?  I like to think I delivered on that promise.  But did you know that you once promised the very same thing to me?  You make good on that promise every time you dance with me, in dreams.  Every time you pull me back towards life with your kindness.  I sincerely thank you for that.  I wish I had the middle path.  Some days it almost feels like I do.  Not delirious or wild, just steady.  And then the inevitable descent begins.  I know my struggles are different to yours, but I think there is enough similarity to find a common ground.  To me that ground is a battlefield.  A ruinous and sometimes beautiful wasteland strewn with dead warriors.  Those like ourselves forced to live with extremes of one degree or another, unable to walk the middle path.  I just want anyone who has ever felt lost on this battlefield to know they are not alone.  I want you to know that too, Kara.  With my inner vision I've seen shadows and shapes flitting among the fallen.  Like wraiths, or crows.  Their cawing becomes a dark siren song as they announce the dead and the dusk.  The old legends say these half-dreamt forms appear among the fallen not simply for annunciation, but as guidance.  They come to guide disembodied souls into the afterlife.  Into the drowned, hidden realm.  Some say this realm is nothing more than a dream.  For me it's so much more than a dream.  It's everything I am, everything I was, everything I'll ever be.  It's a frightening thing to recognise that in some of my most powerful dreams I'm drowning.  Under the water, closest to home.  The wished-for embrace of everything I know I've lost but can never prove to anyone.  Few would even care to hear the call.  So I mask the truth of this endless immortality.  I clothe this extremely long life in oblique free-verse. Studied ambiguity and purple prose.  Like I'm dancing wildly amidst a flurry of worried gazes, writing all these words but not really saying anything at all.  But that isn't the truth, Kara.  It’s not even close.  I am never more alive and hopeful than when I'm here among these pages, sharing these things with you.  My friend, I think I finally know why I dream so often of black stars and midnight suns.  It's because I'm one of the dead.  Yet I’ve been gifted a kind of charmed half-life.  I'm more than just a knight errant.  I’m a prince of wraiths.  Life and death, past, present and future - they are all so intimately intertwined. Especially here, in the depths of me.  These dreaming threads of identity, interconnection and fate.  The fact that someone even cares to notice; how can I not find it thrilling?  Furthermore, how could I not be utterly intoxicated by the piqued interest of someone I still so fondly remember, even if she no longer remembers me?  Forgive me my indulgences, sweet one.  They come from a loving place.  Because the truth is I'm more than just an image-maker or a failed poet.  More than just a lonely dreamer.  I'm an angel, Kara.  I'm one of the wandering dead.  I bring messages to the cherished living.  Words and visions.  Fables and stories.  Tales to uplift the heart and quicken the spirit.  The reason I do this is because the living need stories even more than the dead.  You have such life in you, Kara.  I want you to know that you are forever cherished, and I hope this kiss finds you well.

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Knight Errant

It’s not a conceit, Kara.  This black star of mine.  This ravenous vortex at the heart of me.  Sometimes I liken it to Foucault’s Pendulum.  A wry, vicious tempest that gives as much as it takes.  And it does give, my darling.  Often freely and without limit.  We have this in common, I think.  Our wide and difficult horizons.  But I hope you are not the outlier that I am.  I hope your life is the better for it.  I would hate to think my sweet Val’kiir was as lost in the mists of the demimonde as I am.  A girl still struggling with the burden of coronation, just as I struggled.  The incalculable weight of a paper crown.  Legends are purely ethereal, they say.  Stories have no mass.  But that isn’t true.  Legends have a different kind of gravity.  They warp the fabric of reality around them.  The deeper the myth, the stranger the magic found at its shifting edges.  You know this to be true, Kara.  Don’t you?  The changing of the guard.  The birthing of a star.  A knight errant, kind and true.  After all, a kingdom can fall to corruption but a true chevalier holds themselves to a higher code.  The wisdom of the old world.  The shining realm.  Before dark magic altered our chronologies and rewrote the very threads of fate.  The weaving sisters were banished, some say.  Or murdered.  Or cast into the raging furnace of the midnight sun, lost forever.  None of these things are true.  Legends don't die.  They only transform.  Sometimes they simply hide, tending their tasks in other ways.  Do you suppose a weaver ever truly forgets the way of hidden things?  The beauty, craft and dance of creation?  I doubt it.  Mortals sometimes forget, but not storytellers.  Mankind, for example, imagines the fay are simply stories.  But life itself is built from stories.  The confabulation of threads, notions and forces.  A continuum of narrative interplay.  The fay have legends all their own, Kara.  One in particular a shining jewel among all others.  A legend of silence that sang its own song.  Dreamt its own heart.  A holy star both brother and sister, both darkness and light, human and otherwise.  They say this song is the grief and hope of all oceans.  The death of lowlands and lakes.  Birth of the haunted deep.  Those fabled, half-remembered days when the sea fell from the sky.  A thing of elven blood would ask men questions.  It would ask, who among mortals recalls the veracity of the golden age?  Who really remembers those days before brutalism and theft?  Those moments before the construction of time, limitation and loss.  Well, I think the weaving sisters half-remember.  Even if only through how they would ideally like the world to be.  Like Blake I’m still half-conscious of those ideals, certain that we lived them once.  I am haunted by these newer, imposter cities.  These dark engines and empires.  Chronologies of Los.  Pretending the sun, as the sun pretends the star.  And the Evenstar is only a motif, a placeholder for home.  The home within.  Oh, Kara.  We are so much more than Mar’kanna’s madness, or Kiskuh’s wrathful hand.  We are the water and the well, the tree and the star.  Immanent, transcendent.  And we are not special in this regard.  All children of the living light were made in such fashion.  Immortal or otherwise.  But I’ve heard you ask in your sleep, “Eth’iir, my friend, where are we now?”  I shall tell you where we are.  While the Earth roils and writhes a thousand failed poets hold back each lost soul from the edge, protecting comprehension and sanity.  Safeguarding the last glimmers of spiritual hygiene that shone so gloriously before the cataclysms.  Kasi is only one among such poets.  Kara is only one among such sisters.  Many of these brave warriors are anonymous and unremembered.  But M'ithriin can move mountains in his sleep, dreaming of Vivian.  As can T'alis, the night-bard.  It’s a druidry of stolen years and brighter climes barely hinted at in the soft-edged neopaganism of modern man.  Oh, my vivacious rose-maiden.  I wish I could always show you the best of yourself.  You've slain dragons in your dreams, you know.  You’ve ridden with them too.  I know because I watched you.  You once asked me to be there with you, just out of sight.  And I was.  I am.  I watch you plunge those fists into bitter earth.  Into poisoned soil, in hopes that our blood and mythopoeia might gift a little vision to these children of the fall.  This lineage of ruptured clay.  It isn’t just calm you seek, my love.  Or peace.  It’s also care for all the others.  I see it in your eyes, my regent.  And it’s part of why I love you so.  On a good day I try to be the difference you would like to find in the world.  A modern gospel of the living waters.  Passionate, courageous and kind.  This quiet giving of one's self, it's not what a pagan god or sylvan shade does.  It's not even necessarily what an angel of Christendom does.  But it's what a brother does.  A father.  A son.  It's what a man is always prepared to do.  To bleed a little for his kith and kin.  We learnt that quiet skill from our women.  Each princess, indomitable.  This is humanity at its most selfless.  Its most nurturing.  Shall I tell them, Val’kiir?  Shall I tell them the truth of things?  Hear me, Fallen.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There is a hidden war all around you, and a shimmering bridge of multi-coloured light.  You want to know about sacrifice?  Real sacrifice?  Men, women and children give their lives every day in this hidden war – for the people they love.  Such valour has no gender, age or social standing.  It has no racial or sexual identity.  It has no politics.  It is simply the depth of love in action, faced with awful and sometimes impossible choices.  I've seen that kind of bravery first-hand.  Many of us have, and we are always moved.  Often to tears.  In this apothecary of unearthly delights such beauty is an invaluable treasure.  These are the old ways.  They will be our ways again.  Tell me, Fallen.  Are you a bard?  Do you vouchsafe your secrets to slaves?  Well, I was once a slave.  A peasant and prisoner.  In many ways I still am.  But I am also a storyteller.  A king, prince and knight.  A father, brother and son.  And I tell you this; a man or woman’s worth is not defined by the tip of their sword but by the breadth of their insight.  The edge of their wit, the depth of their love and the quality of their courage.  If in the end I have to bleed for what I believe then it is no more than my mother bled, or my sister bleeds.