Archives for the month of: April, 2015

‘Fourth card, reversed: The Wheel. A card of power.’

Now, here was another card of the Old Suit. Elgen laid it horizontally, signifying that the card was to be interpreted in its reversed aspect. It showed a five-spoked wheel, floating in a cloudy sky. In the background, at the edge of the card, the sky was of a membranous pale blue. In the midground, a whorl of once-pristine, fluffy white clouds appeared to be forming some kind of vortex, a stormy whirlpool in the centre of the heavens. The wheel was either spinning the vortex out of itself, or was infinitely falling into the void at the vortex’s centre.

At the hub of the wheel, there was an eye, staring out. The eye was grey, its gaze unceasing. Again, by some cunning of the designer’s art, Zy had the impression of movement, of turning – the graphic had an unnerving vitality to it, and even viewing it at distance, Zy felt a sense of whirling, of rotation. He leaned further forward, abandoning any pretence of maintaining the proper SharBason – without changing his position, the soft light from the cube lanterns wasn’t sufficient to pick out all the details of the XaMin card.

He stared at this card with greater concentration than at any so far employed. And it, in turn, seemed to stare out at him. He felt a little dizzy as he stared – the wheel within the Wheel appeared to be spinning, an optical illusion of great power. What perplexed and fascinated the boy most was that while, at one moment, the wheel seemed to be turning clockwise, the next moment it somehow abruptly reversed its direction of spin, and in doing so, the whole movement of the card changed.

Not only were the clouds rotating around the wheel, the wheel was rotating upon its own hub – that steely, merciless eye.

Shifting forward still further, as Elgen was delivering his interpretation, Zy leaned a little to one side, too, bringing the card – still frustratingly dim, because of the lenses of his goggles – into a sharper clarity. And there, he saw within the big black pupil of that dominant eye something which he’d initially believed was either reflected light, or the illustrator’s illusion of the same phenomenon – but it was neither. Zy could see now that within the centre of the eye, there was another eye – very small in comparison to the one around it, but exactly the same in all other respects.

Zic zic zic.

Zy began to feel physically unbalanced. The card possessed a kind of energy: all the others had been static, depicting timeless scenes, but here Zy felt himself being sucked into a vortical core – he wanted to know whether, in the centre of the tiny eye, there was another, even tinier eye, staring out – and within that, yet another eye, and then another…

It was impossible to know that, of course, but the designer and maker of the card had been so skillful that Zysoshin had no doubt at all that this infinite descent or regress of eyes, of staring eyes, was implied in what he could, actually, see.

Uh! And the gaze held him. Now, the clouds span around the wheel, and the wheel span around the eye, and the eye dropped away, sank, vanished into the gaze of another eye, around which it, too, began to spin…

Zy had to stick out a hand, and make a mental effort to block himself off from the whorling, machinelike core of this most strange card.

Excerpt from Mask [iii], Volume 11 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 1


…‘But I met this man in great Maril, a traveller, and he showed me those seeds, and told me they were a special kind – “late-sowing wheat”, he said.’

‘Oh, late-sowing wheat’ Bor Gero said, straight-faced. ‘Ah, sai: late-sowing wheat.’

‘Early-dying wheat, more like it’ Ezel Meru grunted.

‘And there! That was a madcap thing, going running off to Maril’ Eppen Agur murmured. ‘That’s no place for a farmer like you, Elgen Ibur. Stick close to the earth, my beauty – that’s what you should do. The earth – that’s our place, and no one else’s. Same as Maril is for town folk, and flash men – and travellers.’

‘Oh, I just wanted to see it. It’s a very great place!’ Elgen floated out in a reverie: Zy could picture Elgen, wandering around in a great – well, in whatever kind of a place MarilSan was…

‘Well, now you’ve seen it, and now you know. That’s enough wild footsteps to last a lifetime. Red Rock born, Red Rock bred: Red Rock living and Red Rock dead – that’s us, or it should be. Just as the rhyme has it. The earth for us – for me, at least.’

‘Ay, and me, Eppen – and me’ Ezel Meru agreed.

Sai, sai – and me. Village life is best: let me alone here, in RotaBerl, that’s all I ask’ Affen Zema joined in, his deep, sonorous voice lilting out his words.

‘I have never seen Maril, nor want to, neither’ Eppen said with conviction. ‘My old dad, he said to me, he said: “Eppensodur, there are only three things in life that a farmer can trust: earth, family, friends. And you can’t trust your friends or your family”.’

Eppen delivered this last piece of wisdom with a flourish: there were smiles, nods and laughter, but something about the way in which Eppen’s remark was greeted suggested to Zy that these neighbours had heard it many, many times before, and that their pleasure lay in its familiarity, in a kind of rhythmic, seasonal quality to the expression, rather than in the plain significance of the words themselves.

‘AyYi, he was a wise old fox, old Dursojay was’ Affen Zema commented.

Sai – he was a good man, and a good farmer’ Eppen acknowledged with a dour pride. ‘Of course, he was joshing a bit. But he loved the soil, did my old man. Often talked about it. Same as his old man, my granda. “Trust the earth”, they both used to say – “the earth can’t let you down”. What do you stand on? Earth. What’s there for you when you fall down? Earth. And where do you go when you lay out your dusts? What holds you when the living is over? Earth. YiYi: it stays put, the old earth. It doesn’t go running off. Sai. Trust the earth, that’s what we jahzigs have always done. Feel it breathe on a summer’s night after the rain – mm: fresh! Feel it under your boots baked with two months’ drought: hard as iron, solid, strong. Yah! And I know, there are them that think we jahzigs are just topohir, potatoes – I’ve heard it said, and I remember. But I tell you, my boys, this old earth will be here long after other things have gone down to the nothingness – and there’s many a thing a man puts his trust in will flitter away or melt like ice – but the earth, never! That’s my feeling. Yi! This old earth will still be here – and we jahzigs will still be standing on it. Always have, and always will. Trust the earth.’

‘Ung! Wise, wise words, Eppen Agur’ Ezel Meru remarked after a long pause in which this speech of Eppen’s was absorbed by his neighbours.

Sai, Eppen – never better said. Well done’ Affen Zema agreed. ‘Yah!…’ he sighed, and murmured, ‘Wise, wise words.’…

Excerpt from Mask [iii], Volume 11 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9

The Sword 5, too, was a whole story, although one with veiled meaning – a lone warrior, in the foreground, with a disdainful smirk on his face (Zy didn’t like him), stood with two swords carried over his left shoulder, and another sword in his right hand, its tip pointing down into the ground; a further pair of swords lay on the earth, apparently abandoned. But in the background there were two other warriors, apparently from a different Mark or House, who seemed to be utterly desolate – one held his head in his hands, as if traumatised or ashamed, the other was wandering, as if in a daze, straight towards the sea, which formed the top half of the card’s scene.

What strange story was this?

And then, there was the Arrow 4: different again. A young but serene-looking romarcho was seated beneath a flowering tree: the day must be a spring one, it looked very clear and still. The romarcho was in the SharBason position, apparently meditating, with his back against the tree-trunk. He was wearing no armour, and his monaRo could be seen, a washed-out violet ground embroidered with geometrics of purple circles ringed with black surrounds.

Zy almost wanted to walk into the card, into its spring day. There were white blossoms on the tree, and the blossoms weren’t yet falling. There seemed to be no agitation or unrest in that place: although the young man was clearly a warrior, yet there was no evidence of war or conflict at all. Except…

Three arrows were stuck, tip downwards, into the grass, arranged in a series before the peaceful youth. A fourth arrow, however, was appearing out of thin air – there was half its shaft, its barb, but no feather – and its tip was flaming. The arrow looked as if it must strike the youth where he sat, apparently meditating. Had the youth seen this arrow? Wasn’t he afraid? Or was he in the Still Building, entirely unaware of his impending wound or death?

Was he meditating at all? There was an odd, faraway look in his eyes. He looked so peaceful. Zy had never seen anyone look more peaceful. Everything in this young romarcho’s world seemed calm, tranquil, quiet. And yet, here was this flaming arrow appearing from the spring air.

Well! Zy gazed and his mind was gone. Proud as he’d been to have sat down, SharBason, among these grown-ups, to have been invited to join them, to be part of an adult world, as the boy dreamed over the Arrow 4 the villagers melted away into wreathes of pipe smoke and murmured conversation. For Zy, it was this world of the cards that was real now. The lumber and scented world of the remote village waystation, with its simmering tchoga and glowing cube lanterns, its hairy jahzig faces, and hairy mohsha jackets, faded: Zy was not there. He had stepped across a card threshold. He was with this enigmatic young romarcho, leaning against the tree, on a slight rise in the land, the plain stretching out behind him. Was this youth meditating? His eyes were open but he seemed absent from his own gaze, in another place. Was he about to die? Or was he already dead, and dreaming?

It was irresolvable. The simple oblong card had the aura of a story, but no story – it was a key without a lock, or a lock without a key. And yet, rather than detract from the power the cards exerted over Zysoshin’s imagination, this very absence of a beginning or an end to the stories depicted upon them fuelled and energised his creative mind.

And in some ways, Zy felt, just before Bor Gero swept up his hand, and gave the cards back to Eppen the dealer, it didn’t matter what the Arrow 4 seemed to be describing – it didn’t matter if the handsome young warrior was dreaming, or whether he was unaware that the flaming arrow was flying towards him, and in instants would pierce and burn his flesh. Because those instants would never occur: in the time of the card, that arrow would never cross the intervening space, it would never pierce the serene young man’s body. Forever, the romarcho would sit in zamen beneath that old tree; forever, the black-boled tree would stand there, and its branches would put out those delicate white blossoms; never would the arrow harm the youth; its cruel barb with the iconic pink flames could never touch him. He was in the world of the cards – frozen, motionless, and inviolable. Whatever fate lay in store for the romarcho, it surely could not befall him? Uxo: he would sit there, forever, at peace beneath that blossoming tree, on that lucid, sunlit plain, the air not moving, the light forever early afternoon…

How Zy envied that young man…

Excerpt from Mask [iii], Volume 11 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9

In a way not thinking at all, Zy browsed over his book like an insect grazing upon a leaf. Then the boy would flick open his wings, jump, and settle again. From “banana” to “glacier”, “coffee” to “grave”, he flickered through pages, and moved from definition to definition. It seemed a magical thing to him, to be able to travel through language in this way: words that lay one against the other could still belong to entirely different climates, it seemed, and to read down a page was to journey mentally across a continent, but leaving out vast tracts of land as you went…

But the continent of the cherished IramZine [“lexicon”] felt as if it had only a shadowy and inconclusive relation to the world outside itself: Zy accumulated more and more words, understood their operations with increasing clarity, their tiny mechanisms – seamless, like the devices of the Ancients – felt them lock one to another, and their wheels turn, grinding out meaning as a clock grinds out time; but although he felt he could with growing power and accuracy describe the life beyond the book, it was only in terms of the book – the actual, massive, physical, empty, ambiguous world beyond the edge of the page, and beyond the edge of the Word, seemed more and not less alien to the boy, more and not less mysterious, more and not less uncertain…

 Excerpt from Mask [iii] | Volume 11 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 1

I have no home and no need of one
(and the breeze blows softly).
I have a lover, yet I am alone,
here in this room overlooking the water
in a town without a name.

It’s hot now, and the summer’s been long,
but you can feel the autumn coming.
The summer dies upon the stem
like flowers, and the dragonflies with them.

The light has been a great light,
and the sun has burned my arms.
I know little, and want to know no more,
but am content to write my words
rough and useless though they are.
I know little, but must know some more,
though I have already learned all there is to know.
Love? – well, it’s just like money and time:
there’s never quite enough.

Enough –
there’s never quite enough.

The wind blows softly, what else can it do?
There were bees among the wisteria
and the blossoms hung like empty grapes.
I am a lover, yet I am alone,
here in this room overlooking the river
in a town without a name.

She lies naked and her back is so beautiful,
strong, but who can carry time?
It’s hot now, these are summer’s last days,
drought has left the fields all dust,
and burned the flowers on their stems
and my words with the flowers,
and dragonflies…

A white butterfly dead beside
the statue of a saint
gold, and peaceful in meditation:
a white butterfly, with grey-spotted wings
on a wooden floor, beside a man
made of wood, sitting in zamen:
the insect and the saint
rest in the empty morning light,
made of the same stuff…

But Love? – well, it’s just like money and time:
there’s never quite enough.

Enough –
there’s never quite enough…

Excerpt from Mask [ii], Volume 10 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9

From the Emperors of Steel to Moin III,
one thing has kept this world pure,
and forged together sky and sea,
made to shine, made to endure:
in the sounds of hammers and the ring of swords,
in the chains of blood and in all our words,
from Moin III to the Emperors of Steel
one thing has bound us, wheel to wheel:
that thing is metal.

Metal daughter, metal son,
we are the Metallic ones:
metal son and metal daughter,
calm in peace, calm in slaughter,
cool, fluent and indestructible,
through our veins runs purest metal,
and – oh, my noble daughter,
oh, my faithful son,
therefore, we are the Metallic ones.

Well, the world it turns and the world it burns,
but always, the world must learn
who alone will rule beneath this lonely sun –
we will, the Metallic ones.

Sleep then, Baby, right through the night
like soft silver, glowing, bright,
sleep my Babe hard and sweet
until Evening and Morning stars meet:
sleep like a metal beyond all dust,
sleep like a metal, through all rust
pass, pure and straight,
through the dawn’s defenceless gates:
and when you rise, rise like a sun,
always a Metallic one.

Fall, my sweet, as light on a lake,
fall, my dear, like white snowflakes:
and when you wake, wake first, wake quick –
for you are my child,
and you, my child,
are Metallic.



RoMayZine lullaby

Excerpt from Mask [ii], Volume 10 of Dustless

The nature of sight cannot be seen by a blind person. Nor can the nature of blindness be seen by a blind person. By the same token, the nature of blindness cannot be seen by a person with sight, nor the nature of seeing by a person who can see.

Only a person who has been blind, and then sees, understands the nature of sight and of blindness.

Only a person who has seen, and is then made blind, understands the nature of blindness and sight.

The Building that resides in all people is mysterious.

Most people never even realise the Building exists within them at all. They are either blind, or seeing: they are limited ones.

They are ignorant, even of the fact that they are ignorant. They are like blind people, or people who have always only ever been able to see.

Only those who grasp the limits of their ignorance, that they are ignorant, may start on the way that leads to the Building.

Only those who have been blind, and then see, may realise that, as seeing was beyond blindness, so there is a condition beyond seeing.

Similarly, only those who could see, but are then struck blind, may grasp, through the loss, the illusion of their seeing, the limits of sight.

The Building that resides in all people is mysterious.

In order to understand, one must first cease to know.

Dustless | Volume 9

Packed into an inn, the sign of the Scarecrow, in the remote village of Deer Path, travellers must wait out a snow-storm before continuing their journey through the Sea of Trees…

‘…Ay yi yi! The snow that came that day! They say that in the south of Uchar, even in northern Gon, horses died on the road…’

‘…foolish – that’s just my view, mind!’ ‘Well – I can’t help thinking you’re right, Zubo.’ ‘Great SilVo is a howling distance away.’ ‘So many karsts…’ ‘And they’re strange folk, out of MerZirvora.’ ‘Ay yi, that’s true, true.’ ‘Amaria’s old man, though, he is of SilVo.’ ‘A decent man, they say.’ ‘Oh, I don’t say different, I say no different – but not a man of MerZirvora.’ ‘Uxo – not of MerZirvora.’ ‘Got beyond herself, a little bit, Amaria, some might say.’ ‘Some might.’ ‘With her letters, and all, flitter-flattering off to SilVo…’ ‘Only city folk in SilVo…’

‘…and Somo Kali said, he hadn’t seen a single soul on the road: not a one. Like the whole south was empty!…’

‘…Well, we will find out, we will find out! The ancestors and descendants watch over us!’ ‘Sai, sai, and the Great Father himself: may he watch over his souls’…

Snugly, droopily, Zy listened to these conversations. It was like tending a saucepan of broth – watching the bubbles form in a brown soup, bleb up then slip away. After his more or less sleepless night, he didn’t have the strength to stir the pan. But he listened with a kind of inattentive concentration. He noticed how slowly and carefully the jahzigs went over the ground of their conversations, marking it out, walking it, often going round and round a particular spot, standing still for a while, then starting up again. He liked the way the talk went in circles – as if the people were loathe to move too far from one conversational place, but wished to test the earth of it, press their feet down on it, dig and rake at it, and then dig and rake some more, perfectly content with a few square dedaziles of earth.

The peasants’ talk was like the peasants themselves: solid, dependable, rooted. He felt oddly comforted by their funny ways: whatever might happen to the riders, Zy felt, dreamily, it almost didn’t matter – for as long as the jahzigs went on with their lives, then the world would really always remain the same. Sameness, after all, was the jahzigs’ world: their lives were lived within a small compass, perhaps, but they were lived thoroughly, with strong, obdurate attention to details. Wasn’t this a kind of vigilance? Wasn’t this the Way, too?

Outside, the great snowstorm blew. Zy felt half grateful to it: the wildness of the elements had forced these travellers to gather here, crouched in together, stalled, weathering. An oil lantern, hung from the ceiling beams, giving off a heavy, fishy odour, swung in a draft. The Sign creaked and seemed almost to sway, as if it were a boat and had become unmoored, and were drifting along upon a big river of snow, heading no one knew where, because no one put their heads out of the cabin: everyone was inside, battened down with their bread and their cured meat, their pipes, their babies, their rakono

The Lord’s head had settled forward on his shoulders. He was still sitting cross-legged, SharBason, but he had laid his sword down beside him, folded his hands in his lap, and appeared to be asleep…

Excerpt from Mask [ii], Volume 10 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 1 Dustless | Volume 3 •DUSTLESS-FIN5 •DUSTLESS-FIN7 Dustless | Volume 9