Friday 14 June 2024

The Heretic's Daughter


I don't want to write in code anymore, Esme.  At least, not this time.  Not with you.  But the truth is I don't even know if I can speak with a genuinely mortal tongue anymore.  These delicate things that mean so much to me.  These matters of the heart.  I find myself a little speechless when I try to talk as a man and leave the angel aside.  But I'll try.  For you I'll always try.  In my dreams they call me so many things, and none with my consent.  Heretic, prophet, sorcerer.  I've even been called a demon-prince in that hidden place beneath the waking world.  That's quite the claim, isn't it?  Quite the title.  I don't know what I really am.  A blogger, I suppose.  An artist fond of free verse poetry and video collage.  Allusions and purple prose.  Cut-up techniques.  I hope I'm also a storyteller of some description.  A decent one.  A kind one.  And above all else I hope my stories have been useful to you.  If not to you, then to those you love.  If not to those you love, then to somebody.  Anybody.  Don't misunderstand me, Esme.  This isn't sadness or pain.  This isn't even melancholy, though I've had my fair share.  This is just someone trying to speak openly to a cherished, distant muse.  A very special piece of his heart.  I don't need proximity for that.  Or even acknowledgement.  I just need to try.  Inelegantly, perhaps.  Stuttering, stumbling.  But honest.  Authentic.  I guess I am a heretic though.  In the strictest sense of the term.  I've never been one for general consensus.  I care little for the old dictates and demonologies of Rome.  All this fucking bullshit passing for Christendom.  Corruption, conquest, oppression.  Let’s be honest, they gave Catholics a bad name.  Christians in general.  I say this with a heavy heart, as a lover and scholar of Christ.  I have the deepest respect for the Christian mysteries. They changed my life. My issue is with violence and hypocrisy, not the glory of God.  Where's the reform that Paul spoke about?  Helping the poor and destitute, having forgiveness and goodwill towards all men.  Maybe I missed the memo.  But I suppose I'm something of a pagan too.  A digital folklorist, an online mystic.  But real paganism is so often the terrifying province of the blood-cultist.  Literal animal and human sacrifice.  It’s ugly, brutish and dark.  Not exactly a haven of higher thought and nuanced creativity.  And what of 'prophet'?  Do my prophecies ever really come true?  Sometimes, I suppose.  Enough to unsettle.  But I don't know what this really means, Esme.  This 'coming true'.  Except in dreams, of course.  In dreams I know so many things.  I have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the place below the world.  But we're not talking about the sorcery of dreams right now.  We're talking about the cold light of day.  The revelatory glare of morning.  Making a dawn goddess from the letters of your name isn't enough anymore.  I don't think it ever was but we do what we can to get us through the dark times, don't we?  If I sound cynical or harsh please forgive me.  I'm angry at the world these days, and with good reason.  But never with you.  Oh, Esme.  Sometimes I imagine you're real, you know.  That you really exist, that you appreciate these words and that I've helped you in some way.  Maybe it's silly, the height of cringe, to imagine with such vigour when all I'm really doing is projecting.  Screaming into the void.  Maybe it's a social media thing – all these para-social relationships.  Faces and names.  Strangers on a screen that we convince ourselves we know so well.  An imagined intimacy.  If I've merely put your face to an imaginary muse then at least I picked a kind face.  Your bright, soulful eyes.  They've helped me through the dark times for sure.  To me they're the eyes of a brave, beautiful young woman who stepped with sacred purpose into the world.  On a holy mission to protect the children, to uplift the weak and wounded, and to give voice to the voiceless.  But maybe that was my mission all along, Esme.  Not yours.  Maybe you just wanted to make beautiful music in the beginning.  But I like to think we all aim for greatness.  We all want to help the less fortunate.  Don't we?  And we all dream.  Maybe not as vividly as I do sometimes, but dream nonetheless.  In colours, and song.  I know you dream like that, sweetheart.  Imagined or not.  So, maybe there really is a piece of me somewhere in your soul.  Maybe the love you carry shore to shore is the true legacy.  Yours, of course.  Your design and your genius.  I would never take that away from you.  But hopefully a little of my inspiration too.  In some soft, secret, innermost way.  There isn't much more I want to say right now, except this: you've brought me so much comfort over the years.  So much joy, meaning and hope.  I see it in the crowds, Esme.  I see it in their eyes.  That sense of finally belonging, being seen, recognised, understood.  Being loved despite their strangeness.  Their loneliness.  In those crowds I see the promise of something brighter.  And you galvanise that promise.  You mobilise it, as all good teachers do.  I watch them take that light out into the world after the closing notes have lingered.  And they change the world for the better in a thousand profound little ways.  A shining potential within each of them, somewhere between the real and the imagined.  It isn’t as clear cut as people think – this magical threshold between waking and dream.  And that's the place you know me best, I hope.  That's the place where I'll always love you, Esme.  You’re braver and bolder than I could ever be.  I’m so proud of you, truly.  Artist to artist.  Storyteller to storyteller.  And I wish you all the magic and music in the world.

Monday 3 June 2024

All Storms

Mira, have you ever felt guilty for the agony of another even though it was not your doing?   Like a teardrop on the fire?  I have.  I once heard the wending of a great shriek in Man's notion of grace.  It broke my heart, the knowledge of such suffering.  You see, I heard it even in the almost-silence of dawn.  The murmuration of early hours by the rivers and lakes.  I heard it in the bright cacophony of the ports.  The glorious din of merchant sailors trading curio, rumour and bombast.  In the cities too, beyond temple paving.  In the markets and alleys.  Keen-eyed children, painfully thin, scampering barefoot through dust, their fingers slick with the juice of stolen berries.  The fruit of other shores.  A riot of heat and colour.  Spices, fabrics and sandstone.  Or the cooler coastal stone.  Pillars and Hellenic halls of learned koine.  I heard the wending folded through it all.  The suffering.  The outpouring of grief.  For over a thousand years I have searched for song enough to soften such pain.  Light enough to brighten all darkness.  But you already know these legends of the humbled one, don't you, my first light?  My namesake.  Shadows, shelters, Damascus gates.  Struck blind with epistles and angels.  Apostolikon, fit for the ages.  But there is so much more to the story, Mira.  In most retellings they omit the stars.  They forget the phantasmagoria.  The stories say the humbled one was a prisoner of Rome, shipwrecked upon a Maltese coast.  A haunted night-shore where two seas met.  Like those legends of Josephus.   Those legends mention little of daughters however, or sorcery.  I suppose it's put upon the dramatists, playwrights and poets to restore what was lost.  Isn't that always the way?  Few of us can escape the tempests, Mira, or the torment.  These fictions of the air.  These realities of the drowned, sunken realm.  Every writer is made humbled by the enormity of the task.  Made little.  To say something of meaning, to provide guidance, or, at our most ambitious – to leave a legacy that changes the tenor of lived experience.  You once told me children were that very legacy.  My God, how right you were.  My beautiful, thoughtful girl.  Hear me, apprentice.  My gifts are not counterfeit.  And neither are yours.  I shall not speak for you, but I can see and hear and know things that others can't.  Occasionally it’s wonderful.  Often it’s terrifying.  Perhaps it’s the guilt of this second sight that I sometimes imagine myself a grander thing than I truly am.  A warrior, angel or king.  Instead of a wounded fantasist shipwrecked upon the eternal shore of mythopoeia.  Guilty as sin.  I wouldn't be the first writer guilty of such confabulations though, would I?  The oldest perhaps, and the grandest, but definitely not the first.  My brother alone claims that title.  My Mira knows the secret, as do my other daughters.  But do you, Fallen?  Do you know who my brother is?  My tears became a testament because of him.  It's a strange thing, this drowning.  Especially for one who summons the seas.  Like being anointed in the depths of spirit itself.  A baptism beyond mortal grasp.  It humbles you, to recognise the particulars of your own language and limitations.  I could rewrite the entire world but it would never be enough.  Only loving service is enough in the face of such a wending shriek; that great lament folded throughout Man's history.  Hungry children, grieving mothers and drowned fathers.  One day, at the very cusp of a new heaven and earth, I don't want to finally break the surface of these depths and cry out in despair.  I don't want to hasten Man's lament with the eventual recognition that I should have done more.  More words, more stories, more magic.  And so I offer what I can.  We offer what we can, here and now.  Our highest, sweetest intent.  The wise ones in our midst will call it beauty.  And so will I.  I call you beauty, Mira.  A great beauty.  The world and all its people have such beauty too.  I know because I’ve seen them, walked with them, ministered to them.  Like my namesake.  In all my travels I have found that love is the grandest teaching of all.  The love we share among strangers or friends, given freely and without barter, is the wisest, brightest beauty of them all.  Song enough to soften all pain.  Light enough to sail all storms.