Stage IX: Dali (and the mysterious Aubergine)

你好!Nihao! Hello!

Salvador Dali has nothing to do with the Yunnan city of Dàlǐ (大理). The draw to Dali has been the art district, cycling, the coffee and cafe culture and my friend Echo. Also, wherever I’ve been in China, everyone mentions the comfortable weather of Yunnan.

Echo or Eck published a poetry little picture book recently. She’s made her nomadic home in Dali. Here she’s honing her artistic talent, existing comfortably and living happily. I dropped by (via Guiyang and Kunming) from Chengdu, Sichuan province to say hello. I told Echo I’d arrive on Sunday but Saturday afternoon, walking by the Terra coffee shop seemed as good a time as any. Yunnan is great for growing coffee and Dali has no shortage of coffee shops.

A good old chinwag and catch up preceded a walk through the ginnels of Dali’s ancient old town to a door in a wall. The door was open and smooth tempting beats were gently rolling out. Ducking below the low entrance, an Old-styled yard with greenery and tables greeted us. Echo’s friend (or should I say complication?) Yali and his brother were serving up delicious pizzas. The pomegranate tree nodded towards the range of locally-produced liquors. Here Echo introduced me to Myrtle Bee, a girl named QiéZi (茄子 or eggplant/aubergine). There were several others but my recollection for names had by now been overwhelmed.

Meanwhile my mouth had been delighted by a cream cheese and tomato pizza, followed by a further shared pizza with zucchini and deliciousness on top. The pesto dip was a smart move. A side salad featured a baked cheese and rocket lettuce. It was a bit too salty for my pallet, but overall very tasty. The funky beats faded and a disappointing bar called King Cat followed. The music wasn’t my cup of tea, but it saved wading through deep puddles and high-bouncing rain. After a later than expected hour, I arrived back to the Jade Emu China Australia International Youth Hostel, only to find my swipe card to enter didn’t work. The matter resolved itself and I slipped off into dreamland.

I didn’t need a sign for Cāngshān (苍山). The imposing green and cloud-kissed range of peaks. The Didi taxi driver from Dali railway station to the hostel had given ample chance to view the waving weaving green peaks. So, with a late rise and a belly full of good food, I set out for a waterfall recommended by a friend. On passing a set of small waterfalls, I headed up a track made by goats or sheep or possibly very narrow humans. The steep track disappeared and I soon found myself jutting between soft earth, trees and huge fluffy plants. By which stage I’d reached a ridge, with a very confuddled water turbine worker, who then directed me up a hidden pathway towards the top ridge. It was a tough but pleasant trail.

The undergrowth swept away to reveal a near-hidden valley tucked between two mountain ridge lines. I wandered down, dipped my feet, watched the butterflies and listened to the idyllic birdsong. One can definitely relax when clouds cuddle the mountains above, and gentle breezes softly drift around your chest whilst your feet are in chilly flowing waters.

Once again Busa called for dinner. Their second opening night led me to catch up once again with Echo, her Yali and other friends. The waitress Hazel, from Changde, took an interest in the book I was reading. A few days later, the tatty and soggy paper back was left for her to read. Echo’s friend QiéZi invited herself to my next walk the following day. Cāngshān (苍山) once again would be the wandering space.

With little barefooted QiéZi (who is no taller than 155cm), we set out towards the Cloud Jade pathway of Cāngshān. Passing the chair lift to our left, then our right, then left again we ascended. Stopping for Pu’er tea, a coffee and a snack at a park Police point seemed reasonably normal. The local boss had her grandson playing with leaves as she served a refreshing brew to us both. We left behind the options of hospitality and wandered paths here, there and everywhere. My pigeon Chinese and a relaxed mood made the afternoon to evening a satisfying and contented ramble.

By about 8pm, after almost eight hours of moving forwards, we descended through dark shadows and paths more at home in the deepest darkest parts of JRR Tolkien novels. Emerging from utter darkness, with only the company of fireflies, seemed to take a while but the adventure was nevertheless a great day out!

The next day (which is today, now) I decided this town needs a little more of my presence. I decided for the remainder of the holiday that I’d be here or there, but not so far from Dali. Why not? A place that puts a smile on your face and opens you to the nature around it, isn’t all bad! Ian Fleming penned some of his books in his Jamaican home of Goldeneye. Perhaps a few days in Dali and I may have found my Goldeneye.

However, a few hours later, I changed my mind. Have shoes, will walk. I will keep looking for answers and smiles.

Zai Jian! 再见!Goodbye!

Stage VIII: Chengdu & Don’t

你好! Nihao! Hello!

The first train from Chaka Lake station left on time. I’d spent an hour or so prior talking to a young your guide called Ethan. His tour group were busy exploring Chaka Lake. He kindly shown me the mine workers’ village and a nondescript shed that doubled up as a shop. Inside it was crammed with fresh vegetables, beers, spirits, dry foods and all the things life needs to survive. The dark shop had a big bottle of water and a bottle of lemon tea. That’s exactly what I wanted for the four hour train ride ahead.

As I went to pay, Ethan, born in Qinghai and a graduate of philosophy, beat me to it. He insisted. It’s hard to fight warmth and kindness from people at times. We sat on his your coach, complete with snoring driver, and talked about Buddhism, Confucius (孔夫子 Kǒngfūzǐ), Muslims (Hui), and harmonious people. He mentioned how one grandfather had fled persecution during the Cultural Revolution, on the advice of fellow villagers and how another had ridden his horse away from the late-World War II battlefield with Japan.

I changed at Xining for the second train. A sleeper carriage all the way to Chengdu (成都). I awoke, still with three hours to kill, flipped open Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries and half-read, half-day-dreamed. Alighting the train at Chengdu Railway Station, I emerged into a world of grey. Concrete and aged. My first impressions lacked enthusiastic joy. I headed down to the subway for a tube train to the Chengdu South Railway Station.

I departed the station’s subway via exit C, emerging into a barren building site. I turned right, trying to find a way to the other side of the surface railway. After about a kilometre of walking, I arrived at the Skytel hotel. I checked in without trouble, then headed out for an exploration of the city’s relics.

My initial impression of the city softened. Littered with monasteries, relics and life, the city of Chengdu became a green established city with limited construction (unlike many other cities) but sadly one that has far too many flyovers and cars. I visited a monument to Zhūgě Liàng (诸葛亮), the one time legendary military leader and prime minister of Shu Han (蜀汉) during the Three Kingdoms period. From there I tasted black ice cream from a black cone. No apparent explanation could be given. The Wuhouci (武侯祠) temple was okay but the modern Jinlin Ancient Street (锦里古街) around it was heavily commercial, in a way resembling so many other cities that have tourism at their hearts. The new version of an old style street is very much a photogenic tourist trap.

The biggest draw for tourists lies to the city’s northeast. The city of Chengdu is famous for the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre. It’s a kind of zoo limited to red pandas (the original panda) and a handful of aquatic birds… and Giant Pandas. The 58RMB ticket seemed a little harsh at first. Every enclosure had a sign saying that Giant Pandas can’t go outside in warm weather. For me it was no problem. For many other fare paying customers, they were angry on the border of irate.

On entering several internal enclosures, I managed to see a few scruffy Giant Pandas. Their housing having turned their white to grey and black to dirty. Usually Giant Pandas sit with their arse to the windows. Maybe to drowned out the think it on the glass by adults and kids alike. Tired looking security staff didn’t seem interested in keeping the noise down. Some opted for megaphone to make sure you didn’t stay still too long and enjoy the majestic mountain beasts.

Cameras and selfie sticks are all fair and good, but waving them around carelessly striking a Mancunian in the face will only result in an ouch and a tut. Said person then asked me to “小心” (xiǎoxin) which means be careful. It was entirely my fault to be stood still and swiped by a careless metal pole with an iPhone begging to be stamped on. But, instead I tutted. Tut!

I observed Sichuan Opera (四川歌剧院) on the way to meet a good friend Momo and also caught up with an organiser of the Dongguan World Cup for beers, a natter and midnight snacks. His former student friends were all policemen and lawyers. It was an interesting insight into Sichuanese language and culture. They were all so very friendly. Just like the Taoist people at Qingyanggong Temple (青羊宫) and Du Fu’s cottage (think Chinese Shakespeare). Most of the food I ate was not too spicy (微辣; wēilà) but often it was too oily and spicy. The midnight snack hotpot from a Chongqing boss (老板 lǎobǎn) was delicious, even though I’d ate earlier!

Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo) isn’t too hot compared to Thai and Indian foods. It’s just a little more drying with a kind of mouth numbing effect. Although for one meal, passing a Scotts Fish & Chip shop I had to try it. For 110RMB, the large cod and chips with a drink didn’t disappoint at all! A huge Tibetan area by the Wuhouci temple also had my belly full far too much. Meeting Momo in Comfort Cafe (British-style) meant my two days in Chengdu featured a balanced diet of hot and bland. A good Ploughman’s is hard to find. Sorry, Comfort Cafe, I didn’t find it. The piccalilli wasn’t bad though.

Meeting a student who was travelling alone, I ended up exploring the Panda Museum at the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre with Jason. He explained how he was studying to be a soldier. I didn’t ask questions. Anyway, we tagged along together and ended up going to the immersive Jurassic World exhibition. The 168RMB allowed a wander through some animatronics and simulations. It wasn’t bad and took me back to the first Jurassic Park movie and book. A highly enjoyable contrast to other cultural parts of the days in Chengdu. Chengdu is truly a modern old city with a futuristic outlook.

Next stop: Dali (after a bloody noisy train journey… or three). It’d be nice if the obese woman and her young child that is full on slobbery would stop screaming down their phones. The phone calls are not really helped by the in-out, in-out nature of tunnels and mountains. Almost everyone around them is going on mad. I’ll just tut. Tut!

再见!Zai Jian! Goodbye!

Hard sleeper.

Six cubic square metres. Space teeters.

Six bunks for warm souls. Sheets full of holes.

Sun beating in from the west. No rest.

Mountains to the east. Facing it with a feast.

Crispy chips and crunching cake. Smelly food they did take.

Coughing and spluttering. Aisle cluttering.

Masks off blowing noses. Ring a ring of roses.

Hot as a desert sauna. Flying biting fauna.

Whatever is that smell? Food bell! Food bell!

Smooth until the shunts. Wheels at the stunts.

Clickety-clack along the long track. No way back.

Bow.

Can’t you feel it? The constriction as the noose tightens and the drop comes closer. The darkness is consuming the light, casting a deep shadow over hope. The smell of victory blew away in a storm’s gust. The sound of a clock’s hands tick ever louder and the pendulum swings with urgency raising your heart’s beat to higher peaks. Chalky dry dust whips up to the lips, parched, cracked and dry in the moonlight. Will another day bring a new sunrise?

What am I?

I breathe deeply yet have no air.

I shuffle and jiggle not in a chair.

I play hard, read well but do not share.

I’m round, long and not a fair fare.

I’m the riddle that you tweak and fiddle.

I’m the sound of the tinkling-rinkling piddle.

I’m the puzzle that at night you diddly diddle.

Giggle all you want, I’m the wink at the tiddle.

I’m the value of the bat’s shadowy wings.

I’m the voice the icy valley sings.

I’m the rhyme at a time that brings.

I’m all manner of great abundant things.

Scribbled whilst trekking in 2017.

It shall pass.

Just as the hour seems darkest;

and your energy seems the lowest;

with your mood at its most testing;

remember, it shall pass.

As darkness battles hope;

raging on relentlessly;

Crushing and pushing your boundaries;

take note, it shall pass.

Because your heart is stronger;

and all before you is more powerful;

we’ve been here before;

it too, it shall pass.

Kneeling down regurgitating water;

grasping the walls as your sphincter trembles;

convulsing on an empty stomach;

soon be over, it shall pass.

The wind of hope messages;

kind acts replenishes;

a moment of support noted;

I believe, it shall pass.

Bon Voyage.

The little man darting up the tree.

The kid with stings, bites and bruises.

The joy at finding spiders and beetles to see.

The sad face when his team loses.

The dancing girl we could all look up to.

Singing about butterflies and happy times.

Telling stories through and through to me and you.

Whistling words with witty rhymes.

Proud teachers and parents gazing onwards.

The strumming rumbling tuneful times.

Their journey goes on and onwards.

The walks, the runs, the climbs.

This isn’t a time of sadness or madness.

You’ve touched us all, including me.

This is a moment to feel collective gladness.

The books passed around silently.

Your departure may come with haste.

Jet off, carry on the journey of life and love.

To the future, you go, do not waste.

Look back, look up, down, left, right and above.

We were here. We were now. We were one group, at one place, in one time. We were lucky.

Get out there. Carry on to share. Bring that spark of sunshine, in another place, in another time. You’ll be lucky.

Hey!

They’ll be lucky.

(Unless Mr Lee makes coffee again: for the love of God and all the holy characters, stay away from the coffee machines)

Farewell and Bon Voyage Shawver tribe.

I wanna follow you

I wanna follow you.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna follow you, wherever you go, whenever you know.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna go there. I wanna be there. I wanna feel there.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna show myself to you. I wanna be completely true.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna open up and let myself go. I wanna give you all my show.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna find the path together. I wanna ride through stormy weather.

I wanna follow with your shadow. I wanna run with you in a meadow.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna go wherever you may go. I wanna see ourselves grow.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna follow. I wanna follow. I wanna follow you.

I wanna follow you.

I wanna.

I want you.

I will follow you.

Inspired by the opening music and poetry of ARGH KiD‘s Never Drinking Again. ARGH KiD is the official poet for the NSPCC, UEFA and Man Utd.

Rooted to the spot.

The feeling is like you’re trembling without moving. Your feet are rooted to the ground like earth beneath them is shaking. You’re still. The earth is still. Yet, all seems to shudder, bend and fold. Feet planted firmly feel they will fall.

Flashes of vivid light, breaches of Technicolor, lightning jagged rays and strobes penetrate darkness. There’s no light but for moments night becomes day. A lightning storm without clouds.

Thunderous calamity like a dozen orchestras each competing to be heard at a rock festival. For a moment the noise ends. Just as suddenly it envelopes and surrounds all. Whistling wind rips apart into a treacherous typhoon. Yet, it is silent. Absolutely hushed.

Rotten roses mix with sweet garlic and freshly chopped onions. They join lavender, mint and thyme in a coriander sauce gently dipped into sticky runny melted honey. Although absence of olfactory senses does not allow this. There’s nothing at all.

On the tongue a smattering of rich sweet tastes, twists in and out of salted sour lemon infusions with the tastes of childhood favourites abound. Of course the mouth is closed and salivation long gone. No tastes present.

This is death.

Heartbeat of life.

You can only see yourself.

But look around you, on the hoof.

There’re millions of souls in bad health.

Those with less, having more truth.

You may be feeling low and blue.

Things may be getting too much.

Will the world gobble and swallow you?

Piling up like a tidal mountain and such.

Look beyond your glass mirror or window.

False portraits of glamour and status?

When you see it, you’ll know.

Take away your self to hiatus.

Be kind, care, aware and share.

It could be a brighter day.

Give a smile, give some fair.

What say, today, add love to our play?

Listen for the heartbeat of life.

A look, a hug, a hand on the shoulder.

Talk to remove the awkward strife.

Lift up and discarded the whole boulder.

Take away barriers when you carry us.

To war children, bring good cheer.

Bring flowering meadows filled with a buzz.

Take away the bombs pounding, fear.

A gesture, a notion and a worthy feeling.

Warriors to worriers to the calm-minded.

Exploring ways to start the deep healing.

End feelings of being soullessly stranded.

Trail of blood.

Heartbreak was never the aim of the game.

Not was collating the rest as conquests.

There wasn’t intentional slurry to bring worry.

Only the trail of blood said he should.

Be more careful and less wasteful, more tasteful and less hastened and dull.

His heart still longed for the romance that never gonged.

The sound of dreams slipped from his seams.

Hope bound to him and wound around his frowned face. He drowned.

Tears leapt from his eyes to skies like waterfalls hitting ledges and wedges of rock. His shock.

He clinged to hope, like a rope ascending a tough slope.

If it happens, happenstance will make it happen. If not, then now what?

Mistakes, shakes, and high stakes versus mountain walks, sea swims and great lakes.

Life goes on. Life. Goes. On. It goes on. And on. And onwards he goes.

Wishes tied to the wind.

A prayer for the fairy sits in the wind;
From my whispers the words are thinned.

She floats on high waiting for its arrival;
What the prayer speaks could be truth or survival.

Only when it arrives to her glow;
will she know, and so go, on to the great show.

Wishes you’ll be here with me; give joy to melody.

Wishes we can share song pleasure of song; throughout the day, night and all along.

Wishes you will want my words and self; bringing days, weeks, months and years of health.

A wish is a terrible thing to waste; so here it goes without haste.

The breeze sails after light dimmed; wishes tied to the wind.

Vaccinated.

It wasn’t so sharp. I didn’t feel the coldness until it withdrew. The tiny fierce syringe shot inside like the wind blew.

The liquid vial, so small in hand. The nurses steadiness and readiness. One swift move, into a groove, of my skin. That’s it. It’s in.

Social Security pays for the ways that give days to this phase that ends slays. With every jab and prick, the world gets closer. Closer to open doors, walked floors, airplane snores, and many less bores.

My arm became heavy, unsteady and a weight I just carry. The doctors, the nurses; and the once-upon-a-time they married, but not now; the lost souls lost deep in books; the young who cast withdrawn looks; the babies and toddlers who haven’t yet seen grandpa and grandma; the grieving and the upset beyond feeling; we’re all getting closer.

The new norm is now. The now is new. The normal normality of the norm is here as a dawn. We could slink away, sink today or sail that way. Lay down your fear. A new beginning is near.

Drowsy side effects mean you feel. If you feel then it’s real. If it’s real then here’s the steel. We’re stronger than before and living longer what’s more. So, take the first hit. Go back for the second stab. Curl up after, roar in laughter. Stay bright, feel right and let go of uptight. The new now is the norm that is is next to you. Let’s go.

Taken for granted.

We’re lucky, you know. When you think about it.

We’re standing here tall, and fit. Filled up on our wit.

We don’t die of hunger or diseases like we used to.

We have passed away those through and through.

We don’t starve or face wars anymore.

We’ve shut that door, for sure, in truth it’s pure.

We’ll not quite, or maybe worse, or not as bad. It’s hard to tell.

Whatever is the matter that needs a yell?

We haven’t quite become friends or ended shouting at our foes.

We’re focusing on looking down our nose.

But, on the whole, overall it feels better for most.

Gone with the wind is that fairytale ghost.

Or most live relatively safely in safety, without doodlebugs overhead.

Tucking one into a silk-lined bed.

The point is: we’re lucky.

Stand up and be plucky.

It was worse back in the Dark Ages.

Turn over those bloody news pages.

Famines are on the down, I think.

Prisons are working, in with a clink.

Live Aid isn’t so frequently needed, so Bob Geldof can relax. Almost.

Concluded, resolved and above all: done. Foremost. For most.

No poverty in such a country and certainly none of THAT or THIS or other problems.

All fixed: Moss Side, Merseyside and other places like Harlems.

Don’t believe the news and the views and the social media conspiracy machine.

Sold you a dream, they did it with a sheen.

The leaders shouldn’t be trusted too, even if they did hug a stray kitten, wearing special mittens.

Good old English, Welsh and Scottish. And other new Britons.

Democracy, autocracy, bureaucracy, European disunion, division by incision. Don’t worry. Don’t weep.

Lambs to the slaughter. Run along sheep.

No need to stop and stare.

We’re too busy on our phones to care.

Dear Wendy

Best laid plans fall apart. Follow the feeling that leads your heart. Throw your full mind, and you will find. It, it, it, there’s something out there.

What it is I do not know, wish it’d clear and then show. Open a door, give me for sure. It, it, it. There’s something out there.

With a tickle in the finger, this itch does linger. One telling thought, is all it ought. It, it, it. There is something out there.

The words softly spoken, could well be the token. The wish had been heard, and with it a word. It, it it. There is something. Out there.

The eyes they do see, they imagine what could be. It could be the one, one I thought had gone. It, it, it. There is. Something out there.

I wonder if it’s a mutual feeling, to feel on the ceiling. Wanting to know for sure, if I’m at that door. It, it, it. Is there something? Out there?

If the wall can be broken, words can be spoken. I can lay down my head, and slip off into bed. It, it, it. I’m sure something is out there.

Stay in or go out?

COVID-19 risk. Be aware! Cover your mouths. Do not scare.

It’s tick season. Take care and reason.

Traffic is heavy and bad. Stay home and be happy or glad.

QR Code, vaccine history. Where to go is no mystery.

Foreigners not welcome here. Sit home with a cold beer.

Camping is strictly not allowed. The Policeman shouted rather loud.

Didn’t you hear me? You need a permit to travel, not free.

You’ll be followed around. Don’t make a sound.

The trains are all booked. My plans are royally…

The Little Picture Book: Lost & Found

Eck and Timu, otherwise known as Echo and the late Tim Mileson, can be found in a book just shy of sixty glossy pages. The compact pocketbook is presented through poetry and story alike. It is conventional and yet unconventional. Interpretation is a skill you can choose to use, or just float on the muse.

Sandwiched between Tim’s personal writing, Eck explores emotions such as loss, belonging and echoes nature throughout. Cute eye-catching illustrations using a variety of sketching styles follow an imaginative route to deliver a peaceful and loving tribute in the form of a poetic manuscript.

There are lines throughout that transport the reader, catch them, hold them and bring them downward. There are uplifting words, moments of hope and flashes of light. It’s a sweet little book deserving of a wider audience. The book comes in both Chinese and English editions. My grade four students at Tungwah Wenze International School greeted that with joy. Next up they’ll interview the author…

In China? Further afield? Order directly from Eck by scanning the above on WeChat.

Toxic Positive Negativity.

Persist, insist, never desist. Let others resist. They won’t be missed.

Move on, it’s gone, voyage of bon. New days don. Move off the con.

Wrong ways, long days, hard plays. Some card lays. Time to seek a raise.

Tough path, don’t laugh, hard math. Take a hot bath. Sometimes you can’t get the staff.

Taken aback, forced whack, cut slack. Lives matter, white or black. Why’d do racists offer a crack?

Equal opportunity, low equity, not pretty. Rappers ditties. City’s witty and gritty.

Division here, always fear, hollow ear. Hate of queer. Too much abuse of beer?

Overgenerous happy, angry snappy, feeling crappy. Invalid invaluable emotionally. Tippy on the tappy.

Authentic prick, red brick, held trick. Fargo, Groundhog Day, filmed slick. Breaking Bad sequel filmed quick.

Persist, insist, never desist. Let others resist. They won’t be missed.

Keys.

It must be there, I swear.

Over here wouldn’t be so queer?

This is rare and surely will bare?

I fear it can only be near.

Under that, that makes sense?

From he to where did it went?

Up there? I’m so dense!

I will find it. It is meant!

Down below, it has to show.

In the cushions of the sofa, can I see?

Behind the bookshelf, yes or no?

In the freezer, it cannot be.

Behind my shoes? No! No! No!

In, on or by my big blue bag?

This hard hunt is making me sad.

Not here. What a drag!

Where it went is driving me mad!

Ah…

There…

Got you…

Surely…

Yes.

My pocket.

No appetite.

You should eat something. You really should. You must. Why don’t you eat some little? You could try this. What about that? Try some soup. It’s piping hot. Some other goop? A stew? Hotpot used to make me feel better. Feeling cold? Put on a sweater. Eat this now!

Don’t drink that! Cold water? You just be crazy. Don’t lay down. You’ll get too lazy. Go rest. Try a nap. Wake up. Too much sleep! Trying to get up? You’re not feeling it, yet? You need hot water. Take a sip. Take a gulp. Swig it down. Drink it all.

We’ll fix you up. You’re not dead yet. Look. We believe you’ll be right soon enough. We’re asking you to believe. We can do it. We’ll get you shipshape. We’ve got this! We’re already making strides. What do we want to do?

Beat.

I ache. I throb. I hurt. I feel my pulse in places I’ve never felt the beat. I find I don’t want to eat. The face I wear is brave outside. Inside is different. Inside, I want to cry. I’m beat.

I slouch. I trust. I turn. There’s pressure in my muscles I’ve felt before. This time it’s different. The shapes I move are difficult. Inside it burns. Outside, it darkens and bruises. I’m beat.

I blink. I squint. I scratch. I’m restless and mindful I don’t want to be beat. at hey say rest. I know I must rest. I feel lazy. I feel guilty. I lay down. The day is going. I’m beat.

I hop. I twist. I hope. I know it’ll be better soon but I can’t feel then what I feel now and I can’t feel now what I will feel then. When? Oh, when, Oh. When. I’m beat.

Obituary.

If you checked out now, how would you be remembered? Fondly by some? Infamous by others? Perhaps. Not. At. All. Maybe you’ll be forgotten, like a lost teddy bear on a train bound for nowhere in particular.

What’s your legacy? Did you do something good? Did you make someone better? Maybe you broke a heart, or a string of hearts. Maybe you’re but a regret to most and a faded memory to another. Perhaps. Nobody. Will. Recall. You.

What did you do right? How did it go? What did you leave behind? A divorce? A fatherless child? A mother grieving over an unborn dream? It could be that words won’t be spoken about you. Perhaps. Silence. Is. Best.

Who’ll be there? At your funeral. Will there be shadows cast from people? Or the shapes of memories dancing in fading lights spun by the branches of trees dancing in the wind? Perhaps. No one. Will. Know. When. You. Go.

Will you get a choice when to go? Unlikely. Most never know. Some expect. Some arrive at an unfortunate moment. Some prepare well ahead but it arrives far too soon. Some get through extra days and leave as heroes. Some die another day. Some have no time to die. Perhaps. You’ll. Never. Know. Until. It’s. Over.

All aboard.

I’m the commander of my own seas. I don’t mean to control them but I shall not let them wash over me. The waves crash beneath me, around me and by my side. They do not sweep me away in the tide.

The ship I choose to sail often changes. One day a frigate, one day a galleon. A skiff here, a galley there. On board a passenger liner with much company. A lonely kayak. A canoe floating along the river of life. Wearing a windbreaker in a windjammer. A rag boat struggling against the battling riotous rip tide. Schooner for later. Luxury aboard a catamaran or yachts heading for the high seas. Drinking tea aboard a clipper.

The undercurrent changes its spaces too. A still torrent floods in ebbs and flows. The rush and drag leaves me bobbing along. Up and down. Side to side. Over and under. Around in circles. Swirling. Staying motionless staring at stars. A whirlpool of dreamy dawns and dusks swishing directions. A flushing sound scolding my ears, drowning out yesterday’s sorrows. A puddle so smooth it reflects the sun like a giant glass mirror. Clouds visible far or vast shadows atop.

So, of you see me sailing through stormy waters, recall the saying of smooth waters not making for great sailors. A storm passes. As do I. Time claims all. I traverse a journey of my own. Will you sail with me? Now? Later? Never? All aboard.

Sunset.

The evening sun has arrived. It’s not a sunset if beauty. We won’t make it until dawn. This sun sets on you and I. Take the blame on oneself. Gloaming deepens. Put aside the dream of tomorrow. Today has just died. We could stand, aside, in a corner. Not now. Never again. Our motion becomes static. The pace fell away. White clouds rush. The sky’s twilight hides the moon. The sun shines not on it. Nor on you and I. The fireworks we had do not light the sky. All light refuses to break this darkness. Dawn may arrive. I choose to wake alone. Goodbye scenery of yesterday. I wake to a new dawn chorus, alone.

Plagiarism.

It’s easy! It’s easy! It’s easy! 1, 2, 3… Copy and paste. Trace. Select.Copy. Insert. Saving time too. Why spend too much time thinking? Find it, reuse it. Reduce. Reuse. Recycled.

What’s the answer that you’re looking for? Look over their shoulder. What did they write? Take it! You know you want to. Less time on work, more time to play. Right? Copy it. Just look how east it can all be!

Feeling integrity needs to be kicked away? Don’t worry. Who can spot you? They’re not paying attention. Go on. Join the dark side. Photograph it. Use their details. Submit it faster, they they’ll be the copy, right? Register the trademark, add the copyright logo, spin their materials. It’s all the same to you me. Same ending, right?

FEEL FREE TO COPY IT.

Disclaimer: Written during academic integrity week. Not to be taken seriously. This does not represent the author’s true views on the title subject. Feel free to copy this disclaimer though.

The departed.

The bereaved have a particular look about them. They look flushed of colour. All their facial expressions drain away. One day they’re happy go lucky and full of vim; the next they’re a mix of grey pastels on tainted dull canvas. Their ears droop in tune with their frown. They look tired and out of focus. Loss is evident across their face. Their words are spoken slower and they take longer to stand up. They don’t bounce around looking for coffee and they certainly don’t race home on their bicycles.

I never know how to act around them. Do I stay the same? No. Not at all. Things are no longer the same. Loss is not a gain. I show my empathy but it never feels enough. I don’t want to say too much, but I do want and try to show I care. It’s not easy. Nothing ever is. Their loss is a challenge. My challenge is simply to be there for them, in the littlest of tiny small kind of ways.

How do you cope with loss? How do you act when someone departs? How many tears are too few? Or, too many? Is silence the treatment? Does that kind of loss ever truly fade away? How long does it take to recover? How many words need speaking? How does memory remain? How can I not forget you?

The dead don’t care. Maybe they did, before they left. Maybe their spirits go to heaven, Elysium or into the clouds. I can’t say. I’m no expert on the afterlife. Maybe they do care now. Or do they live on in us? Perhaps they flutter between the molecules and matters that make life? Could they be the vacuum of space? Or compost bringing life from waste?

I don’t want to feel what they feel. I don’t want to act differently or awkwardly. I don’t want to ask too many questions. I don’t want to forget the dead.

May you all rest in peace.

I love you.

I don’t say the word love lightly. I find it hard to say at all. To family, friends, those I spend my time with and even pets: sorry, it’s hard to say it. Not now, anyway.

You may feel it from me. You may get glances of it. You may touch upon moments where I should say it. You can probably sense I want to show or say it. It probably is bubbling so deeply and ready to escape that I’m trembly. Won’t say it.

Maybe I’m confused. Maybe I didn’t hear it from my parents, siblings or uncles or aunts or Gran or Nana or the postman. Maybe I used it too lightly as a teenager or with that lady who made me a man or the friends who left my sides or the stories I read made me feel different instead. I just can’t find the words.

How can I not love you? How can you not love me? How can love not be for you and me? How can I not love myself? Is it all unrequited? Could I utter it? Could I think it? It’s a gamble, right? Instead I stay silent.

My heart may beat faster. My breathing may be deeper. My eyes may be showing excitement. My cheeks may be brightening. Other things may be happening, some bold, some exciting. But, I doubt I’ll speak it. Not here. Not now.

The next day may be different. There may be more momentum. There may be more desire. Need is here. Speed and precise private precious moments may have dawned. Surely now? Unlikely. Sorry.

Shadows.

The light is dim. Something is flickering. Whatever the source, it casts out growing stretches of darkness into the mostly dim room.

My eyes strain. They can’t focus. Whatever the cause, it struggles to grasp clutches of information by the deepest darkest broom.

My head spins. There’s no coordination. Whatever the thought, my imagination magnifies and spins a yarn out of control filled with doom.

My nose twitches. It tickles inside. Whatever I breathe, it’s not enough to match my growing gloom.

My heart beats. The engine is going faster. Whatever the mood, my lungs suck in and push air into my demanding body’s inverted zoom.

My brain slows. The air hasn’t arrived. My mood, breathe, thoughts and eyes fail. Whatever it was, it was enough. But, whatever I needed, did not show. Not one last little glow. I go.

Written in Nepal, 2017.