Archives for category: poetry

Dustless | Volume 12 | Mask [iv]

Oh, well – what is their world, after all…? Look at it. A thing of make-believe and shallows, when all is said and done.

At the turning of the year, great festivities. The eating of rich foods, drinking of fine spirits, the gathering of large crowds: pyrotechnics, processions and the putting on of shows.

Under the bright lights of the ceremony, we are dressed in our finery, display our best appearance, and perform for each other: we stage the end of a dying year, the start of a new play and a new season.

Across the entire empire, village streets, town squares, city plazas, all are changed to theatre, and people let go of their ordinary lives, and join with each other, taking turns to deliver lines, or to stand in the audience and observe.

But away from the dazzling playhouse lights, distant from the crowds? In the shadows of the alleys, is there a different drama being performed? What scenes may occur where no one witnesses?

And in the darkness, when it is hard to see, sometimes we can become confused, and grow unsure if a mask is on or off — if a mask has become a face, or a face a mask.

And should the play of murder start?…

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Dustless | Volume 11 | Mask [iii]

It’s here – in the room – right here! Oh!

In a village huddled on the Endless Plains, on the eve of a great festival, villagers keep their vigil through the winter night. To pass the hours, they distract themselves with stories and games.

Terrible forces may assemble in quiet places. In the intricate designs on forbidden cards, strange figures emerge. Creations of an ancient culture, no longer understood, but profoundly revered: on the floor of time’s pool, forces stir, sending currents upwards, causing the calm surface to tremble and swirl, marking the present with ripples and shadows.

Peering into the world of a mysterious system, playing with the fire of unknown powers, the villagers entertain a masked guest. But who is he? And what may be seen should the mask fall off?

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Dustless | Volume 10 | Mask [ii]

…where things give up the limits of themselves, and become revealed for what they are, the drifting envelopes of dust…

Not only people wear masks: nature, too, embroiders to dissimulate, and paints in beauty what may in naked moments kill.

A pretty golden-eye thrush upon the branch of an old plum tree, with a song so sweet: it cocks its head, looks for passing bugs, unearthed worms, is an assassin.

And the assassin snake slips out of its skin, and is a new assassin.

Or a white butterfly stares with black and red eyes rounded upon its wings, through a shape of false force seeking to escape the unwelcome attentions of a hunting mantis.


Through an immense arboreal forest, travellers make their way, and the world prepares for a universal festival.

Villages put on their finest shows. The temples are decked with ornaments, banners proclaim the beauty of the sutras, pay homage to a far-off emperor.

The roads become tracks, and the tracks become paths. Paths narrow, and the trees press in. There are only small settlements: there is much wilderness. The prospect of safety dwindles. The chance of misdirection grows.

As in the world, so in the head: one traveller takes off his flesh, enters the vegetable labyrinth of the mind, and in smoke and dreams wanders ethereal palaces, the banks of fertile rivers, the streets of unending cities…

Although form is dust, the way to the Dustless state must be by form. To hold a glance, there must be a face: to look out, one must have eyes.

If the face in the mirror is a mask, what lies behind the skin? If the person inside the mirror is invisible, what is there left to see?

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Dustless | Volume 9 | Mask [i]

Brace yourself, and act the man

When truth is in doubt, people wear masks.

The road becomes roads. The journey grows more complex. Travellers begin to lose their way. The longer they live, the more they learn: childhood begins to retreat, and the world, like a great forest, stretches on and on around them, and within them, a wilderness.

In such a world, there are many strangers. Are they truthful? Do the faces they show mirror their hearts? Or do they wear masks?

In such a world of dust, it is hard to become Dustless. In a world of strangers, wearing masks of lies.

Go deeper still into the wilderness: become truly lost. Then look to your comrades: look to the ones you know and love.

They, like you, are creatures of dust. Do even your friends wear masks?

And if so, who are they?

And you?

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From a seed of stone
mountains sprouted.
No one knew.
We were busy, and, anyway,
there was the sky.

Time passed, as it has
the habit of doing.
We passed away, others came.
Under their feet, very slowly,
the landscape was changing.
They didn’t notice:
they moved more quickly,
their moments were flushed
with vivid colours,
and these colours
caught their attention:
the rest
they demoted to background,
especially the grey
of rocks, even
the chrysalis hidden by dazzle
in the first winter snow.

We kicked pebbles, or put them
in glass vases, as ballast,
and to set off
the flowers we cut and placed in our rooms
for beauty, or perhaps,
more obscurely,
to remind us we were mortal.

As we changed, the sky changed,
we didn’t notice.
We had love, and grief, and our bodies
bleating in the dark
asking for milk or for a tender hand
to reach out, and be for us,
to soothe, to slip us
from our clothes,
to offset our pain.

And then, one day,
somehow there were mountains.
What could we do with them?
We lived with them, but
they weren’t very useful.
Did they remind us of flowers?
Of fathers we had lost,
of the dying of years,
of lovers?
Or of towns, out on the plains,
we had left, long ago,
places we’d only ever
meant to pass through?

Perhaps. Still, we couldn’t
rearrange the slopes, the peaks
and the divides,
wash them, keep them clean,
ask them to explain,
or take them with us:
but they altered the earth’s
relation to the sky,
and they lingered
changing the way
clouds behaved,
and in our rooms
in the warm, still
moonlight of summer
the dust motes
trembled, turned
to face the summits,
and, vibrating as we slept,
floated,
already far along
into their journey

to be mountains.


 

Please explore…

Volume 1 | The Sentinels

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Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
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ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

Cradle, hearth and towers gone,
the road will be our home for now,
for now, tomorrow, the years to come,
the years to come our lives to pass,
to pass bearing our heavy load

TANZO-VACCARA • TANZO-VACCARA
we are born and die upon the road
our whole lives upon the road

So, traveller, as you ride the road,
ride the road, look down and see,
see the work that we have done,
have done to make your journey free:
free, we lay down our bodies’ load

TANZO-VACCARA • TANZO-VACCARA
we are born and die upon the road
our whole lives upon the road

We worked that you could travel free.
Your road is made of our bodies.
TANZO-VACCARA
Look down as you ride on home.
Your way is made from our bones.
TANZO-VACCARA
From ourselves is your road made.
All people are people of the Way.
All people are people of the Way…

The tanzo-vaccara road gangs hold a special place in the culture of O. Roads — tanzo — are seen as physical manifestations of TanZo, the pure Way. The empire is vast, and keeping the way open — often in remote regions, with hostile climate and terrain — is considered a task that combines sacred duty with harsh, unremitting, physical labour.

Over the centuries, the members of the tanzo-vaccara have become an enclosed, semi-religious group of people — predominantly men, but with a sprinkling of women, too. Their numbers include ex-convicts, returned from exile, who consider their sentences insufficient penalty for the crimes they’ve committed. They see in the hard work and difficult conditions of the life of the vaccara a form of expiation. Sometimes, too, people following the Way join the vaccara for a certain set period, and use the time in the community to train their bodies and spirits to respect and transcend the world of matter: for these people, the vaccara is a kind of endless pilgrimage.

The core of the vaccara is formed by people who devote their entire life to the repair and maintenance of the empire’s roads. In come cases, they literally work themselves to death.

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It was like building a great ship in a land where there was no sea.

To labour over many years, in a dry country — but seeking to make the ship magnificent, to ensure it was sound, and beautiful, to build it alone.

Now, towards the end, the ship is done. It stands, towering over the mean wooden buildings on the outskirts of a lacklustre town, prow pointed into the desert, and the desert stretching away for hundreds of miles, until it reaches the mountains, and enters vanishing.

Townspeople sometimes lean out of their windows, or, while watering flowers up on the their roof-gardens, pause, and stare at the vessel, and the huge curved pool of shadow it casts over derelict shacks, broken fencing and stony wasteground. The hull gleams, the masts strike up into the blank, heated blue of the sky: the propellers’ massive petals are frozen, and the rudder steers motionless through the sand.

A wonderful vessel: as elegant as it is gigantic, as graceful as it is imposing — perfectly suited for the ocean, sculpted for the waves, honed down in design by necessity for sailing: anything superfluous, any feature that would have added weight without purpose, or increased resistance and impaired passage through the water, all was removed, until the finished form was reduced to pure, essential nautical lines.

Yes, yes — a miraculous vessel.

And the people wonder. Living here, weeks’ driving from the nearest coast, they have only ever known dry land — for centuries, for millennia, all the inhabitants of this town, all they have ever known is dry land. A bare earth, rock, a few trees, and then the desert, the creep of dunes, the shifting dream the wind makes in its sleep: dry, dry, hard, ungiving — land forever.

And so they wonder. Why?

The years begin to pass.

For decades, perhaps, they were sceptical: but the ship was so great, and so beautiful, built to last. The houses came and went, the fires, the famines, the years of plenty, governments changed and rebels marched, the economy collapsed and revived, the town thrived and declined, and through it all the ship was still there, and the people couldn’t deny its presence. And eventually, they began to feel that, by some obscure process of identity, they belonged to the ship, or it belonged to them; and, eventually, they felt themselves drawn closer to it, as if it offered a kind of home; and then, eventually, they began to believe.

And with the belief came understanding; and with the understanding came deeper belief.

At dusk, at sunrise, at noon, in odd moments of the day and night, they peer over at the ship, silent and enduring, poised on the desert rock, prow pointed into the dunes: sometimes they stare at the black rows of portholes, sometimes they crane their necks and look up at the rail: sometimes, they admire the anchors, visible at the bow; sometimes they glance in passing at the towering masts glinting in the moonlight.

And they no longer wonder, Why? They understand.

And so they settle themselves down, and wait for the sea to come.

Heavier than a thousand suns, lighter than a protium atom…

Slowly, slowly climbing the stairs in the vegetable palace of the King of Dreams, winding and winding gradually higher…

On the Siloso, the circular river, where the Lord my father standing at the rail of a fragile cruiser, among the crowds of craft, is a swan among gulls…

In a garden in the pleasure district of Shigoga, where I drew my sword and fought the famous duel of bubbles: those girls in their sumptuous robes giggling and sniggering, heads rocking and eyes blinking, lush and retarded, spirits sunken and sluggish as they float on the stream of the prince’s soul-stealing intoxicants

To arrive in a room in the Ghosts-of-Angels Palace, to look through the window on the chamber where snow is eternally falling from an invisible ceiling, and where, it is rumoured, sometimes a hunter may be seen, sometimes a lord wandering lost in winter

To the children with their little books, to the limited ones with their little dreams: left

We moved on through the crow-haunted wastes of the Desolate Cantons, met a warrior with nose broken in his youth, half an angel and half a boxer, smoked his pipe of raw kaziah, left us all to the sleep of the doomed

Heavier than a falling moon, lighter than a single feather, a feather floating from the iridescent wing of a jester hummingbird purring among the sulphur-throated blossoms of dark orange night-scenting hibiscus

In the scales, the throne of O, set against a single finger’s caress

To be in the regal state beyond the laws

What would you choose?

To be everyone and no one

To be there to feel her touch, to be

so softly undressed

To be high

To be fine

To be Dustless

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It’s written against the times. Against the easy, easy times.

It moves slowly, it’s like the land beneath our feet, the ground itself.

It’s not going to go away, it accumulates gradually, like mountains.

It’s not about destinations, it’s not about journeys. It’s greater than that, and more humble. It’s not about conquest, not about mastery; it’s not about moments, or years; it’s not about you.

It’s not straightforward, but, importantly, it’s not facile. It’s not about the end. There are no maps to it, and it possesses no exterior. It isn’t an object. It isn’t a riddle. It isn’t about winning, or losing. It isn’t about knowing, or finding, or being lost.

It will change you, certainly – but then, what doesn’t change you?

It’s like anything you take up and put down: it returns to itself, and waits.

It’s banal, and modest: a sprinkling of salt on a few green leaves, the light of the setting sun on a line of plane trees in early summer – the shadows your fingers make as you turn a page, the landscape passing as you sleep on a suburban train…

It’s simple, and it waits, serene and alien as a deserted lake: it’s now, it’s here, it’s gone…

It’s Dustless.

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It is said, among certain Marks within the ZirCong, that “the universe has already occurred: it has completed its cycle, and returned to the void. Therefore, why hurry in our lives? They ended, long, long ago”.

If it is true, and the book of this world is already complete, how can we know whether we are near the beginning, or the middle, or the end of the text?

Since the rise of the RoMayZine and SurGaKu dynasties, and the retreat of the ZirCong from influence over terrestrial power, TanZo has put away all such theories of completed days and events already concluded. For the TanZo of these present times, it is considered a deviation from the Way to speculate overmuch upon events yet to transpire, or to sacrifice the present to a possible world to come.

Huddled in their great Metallic mansions, though, the houses of the ZirCong, their ancient bloodlines woven by ShoKun, the Mark of the Hatching Egg, do they still cleave to those old, discredited beliefs? And if so, has their power over the dusts of the mind permitted them some sense of a world to come, yet already over? Down what cerebral corridors may they move, inside what rooms may they sit and listen, straining to hear some faint echoes of futurity?

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