Archives for category: poetry

Dustless | Volume 16 | The Lover in the Snow [i]

Even an unfixed and unstable star still gives out light.

They seek stability, and yet end up floating.

They seek safety, yet remain insecure.

Is this not the state of life? Wise masters of the eras of the past have said: In ambiguity is immortality — but in certainty, only death.

Never still, and yet asleep, they drift on. Waters of beautiful Adomikan blue, so striking against the whiteness of the winter snows. Long-legged herons, with wings outspread; a swirl of currents, water in water flowing; mist in the morning; and at noon, a sharp cold clarity, good for seeing: a world more ancient than the worlds of humanity. High towers, in the distance, reminders of the empire’s order. Fallen statues, the woods alive with the rumours of ghosts. Lost civilisations.

Trade and passage, barter and debt: work in a day for some; for others, luxury of play to pass the long hours.

An obdurate foe. An exquisite ally.

Delirium. Haunting figures.

A great secret, hidden within the mind. And hidden within the secret, a new world: mysterious, irrational, infinite — Dustless.

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Dustless | Volume 15 | For Pride in Their Flight

…boys chasing dragonflies
are lost in a moment
and their lives are too short
for pride in their flight

A city haunted by a decaying future.

Collapse is everywhere. Many flee. Grappling with failing structures, those who remain live out an uncertain present, their options narrowing, resources dwindling.

Because a heart can be numbered in moments, the citizens sense their fragile state: their famous city grows everyday more precarious. They look anxiously across the great river: from the east, forces approach, a new master rising, bringing a new law, creating an old fear.

For certain visitors, there is no choice: rest must be taken, healing sought, time killed. Although devastation is in progress, days are spent sightseeing the immortal glories of the ancient centre, enjoying the culture even as it falls under the shadow of an approaching end.

Among the Subtle and the wise, it is said: Only those who are able to stand alone can be truly loyal. Yet disorder and extreme events drive even the strongest heroes to surrender their isolation.

In the forges of the Ancient smiths, even the purest metals must give up their qualities, and melt, and blend with alien elements.

Weird alliances are formed: and dear pride compromised away.

Will it be enough? Will it be too much?

Desperation.

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Dustless | Volume 14 | The Governor of the Desolate Cantons

…I will be a bridge to you, and you will be a bridge to me

Where old power breaks down, new power is sought. Where old leaders vanish, new leaders appear. Where old weakness is shown, new strength emerges.

Across cantons known as “the Desolate”, the tenuous order of a negligent regime dissolves. The hollow core collapses: in the ruins, a wild vacuum forms. People flee in disarray, leaving no authority: so strangers arrive, prepared to use violence, and good at it.

These are the days of assassins, the days of rats and crows.

A sleigh of bones, carrying a fairy-tale emperor. A thread of black metal, denying the road. A child made of snow, born from weeping. Wolves! Gloom in the mid-day sun: and at night, on the horizon, the light of an incinerating city apes the dawn.

A great bloodshed: a bloodshed like a sea.

How can such obstacles be crossed? How may we be lifted above them, carried beyond them?

A bridge is needed…

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Dustless | Volume 13 | River direction

…the universe power round device time fail I speak it dust enters decay must follow replace the universe power round device time fail I speak it dust enters decay must follow replace the universe power…

They come at last to a place of imperial power, where the eye of the emperor sees, and his soldiers guard the Way.

In a fortress of voices, where it is said there are no ghosts, aid is sought, and the release from burdens.

They witness strange technology at work, devices that pull apart the curtains of the flesh, revealing the play of organs and the show of pain: the visible is made invisible, and vice versa.

A journey is a thing made, a house built of footsteps, a temple raised on riding horses. But the building of the journey can’t be seen, except as a trail of hoof prints in freshly fallen snow, coins and receipts handed over, towels and bedding to be washed, wisps of breath vaporizing in the freezing air…

For those engaged on a journey, all places become a function of direction: once reached, any destination must be left behind; and thus at once sets out on its transformation into memory — a material that cannot be touched and cannot last.

Day after day, the journey renders its world and itself invisible, and the travellers go on, drawn to the west, where a great city and a great river awaits.

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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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