Silence

Save the trails of cannon shocks

In little squares of consciousness

The lighted sparks are brief remarks

Before discursive fires

But silence is reserved for awe

That even jaded eyes adore

Abandoning our jumbled thoughts

From endless miles of wire

Put aside the battle charge

Of every day and more besides

The scrolling spew anew anew

Where reason came to die

But silence is that mountain top

Where breath and wind are almost one

Where thoughts are sparse not intercourse

Like lighted lanterns, fly

Take the sting of barbs and jabs

From life that is a hornet’s nest

Of lights and numbers swelling up

To suffocating bloat

But silence is an unction’s whelm

The ocean in a mother’s shush

The sun above, the sea below

A sleep inside a boat

Break apart that duty rock

That boulder made for Sisyphus

Cast its fragments into ponds

Let angry ripples ride

Their silent journey to the shore

Is gifted to this screaming world

Let awe be present in the soul

A close friend to confide

Betty in the Blue Gown

I think my breath ran out while I was crawling down the stairs to the door.

I don’t know how I opened it – sheer bloody mindedness and the survival instinct, I suppose?

The hours after that were lava lamp swirls and needle pricks in the eyes and chest.

The blue spangled antiseptic ride and polyrhythmic voices stretched, blurred and snapped like elastic in my ears.

Chilli burn thirst climbed my windpipe like a cat up a tree, a gnarled tree that had grown sideways on a rock made of errant prayers.

Where are you among all these stars and chiffon puffs of air, God? I thought that I heard you in the sugar coated tones of a plastic wrapped angel but it was more needle pricks and choking screams.

I heard them saying goodbye into phones. I heard gurney wheels screeching away to collect more on the conveyor belt.

I heard little and big voices call for God in their chiffon, star filled air.

First I was sunny side up then they flipped me to a massage table view.

Blue plastic feet kicked around tubes and detritus, tapping out a beat to the war going on above and behind me, pausing only to let death pass them by to the next bed.

Where are you among all the muffled bulletins and jockeying alarms, God?

My throat closed up on the third day and the machines took over.

Anaesthetic dreams are played on tiny tv screens in cluttered rooms filled with broken china memories and dead flowers.

I remembered a day and lived it in detail.

I breathed the spruce tang of the fell air.

I tasted the crab paste sandwiches.

I felt the cold night waiting for all the lights to go out in my house and it was safe to tiptoe up to bed.

I laid awake dreaming about finding love. I mean the kind of love that just says, “Hey, I see your soul and I think it’s as messed up as mine so here’s a bath and a beer and a kiss on the forehead.”

That kind of love!

If all this goes south then I’ve no one on the end of a phone or video message telling me that the bath is cold, the beer is warm and the kiss is salty with tears.

The tv screens went to white noise, the rooms fell away into blackness and I was a young boy trying to cross a busy road.

On the other side was my grandma on her knees, clutching her chest and falling into a bag of shopping.

The white noise broke up just enough to make out a growling voice.

“You should have done that errand, you little bastard. She’s dead because of you. She was your safe space and you let her die.”

I think that I shouted in my enforced sleep. The blue angels floated around my bed, their plastic shoes barely touching the floor and rubber mallet fists thumped my back and sides like they were trying to ring the bell at the carnival.

Piercing bright light meant that I was sunny side up again and staring into the war zone. It rained hot shards along with histrionics as the dead rolled onto clattering gurneys in quick succession.

Where are you among the pages of flip book memories and the unlucky in your universal lottery, God? The breathless pleas and last gasp prayers into the downstroke of the ventilator.

“Hello, my duck. Fluff, isn’t it?”

I opened one eye cautiously. No one had called me Fluff in years. I used to eat the marshmallow spread on a sandwich. It was my nickname in the rock clubs in the 80’s. But how did the voice know?

“How…er…who are you and how do you know about Fluff?” I croaked into a soaking mask.

“I’m Betty, my duck. I’m in the bed across from you. They brought me here from the home.”

I glanced wearily at an empty bed.

“It’s just a sheet, Betty. Nobody there…”

“Sorry, my duck, I’m FROM the bed across. I’m what you might call a figment.

Do you remember when you got hit by the car as you ran across the road to help your grandma? Well, you separated from the starlight inside and you got a glimpse behind the curtain – so to speak. You woke up to a different world, didn’t you? One with shadows that spoke in soft tones and little balls of cunning light. But you shut it all off because you refused to believe.”

“Shut up! You’re not real. I got better. I had electric medicine and cold water medicine and shouting medicine and it all went away.”

She leaned in from the edge of her tatty mattress, still out of focus and twinkling in the clinical glare. After an uncomfortable silence, she whispered.

“Speak the sharpness of juvenile zest and the fine edge of a stropped blade, lost and found child. The sheep you count when trying to sleep are dead in the snow and your waking world is the frozen grass deep beneath them.

What you wouldn’t give to feel like you belonged to anything. Instead, you block out the sun with heavy drapes and hope that the faint light at the edges doesn’t seep madness into your stoic skull. Open them up and be free to fly back and forth, from your world into mine. Fly into my realm where we scream endlessly at the clumsy living.

I am the Direxit Viam Mortis – The Death Errand. It is the one important message that will free us from an earthly tether, letting us rise in a lantern filled sky that is the Realm of Quenched Souls.

Heaven.

You are destined to die at the hands of this plague but hope can be a spark, the striking flint and the dry brush.

My life was filled with wonder and the warmth of fulfilment.

I choose to reignite it in you.

I choose to wake you up to a new life as a blessed teller.

Will you live and be a new and alive, man?

Will you accept the essence of my soul as yours passes beyond and away?

Smile at me, Fluff or should I say, Mason? Smile at me and collect this unique gift.

Thank you, my duck – goodbye.”

The screeching wheels and plastic feet eased my senses into the room, slowly building to a crescendo of frantic voices.

A pair of bright green eyes flashed from behind a shiny screen and undulating mask and a melodic voice chirped.

“You’re out of danger but not out of the woods, Mason. You need to take things very slowly. You…”

“Your Uncle Roy said that your gravy is better than your mum’s. He’s alright, you know. He’s no more aches.”

The green eyes lightened then filled with tears that spilled onto the crumpled plastic apron.

“Did you go there? Did you see him?”

“No, I met Betty and she opened up my eyes and my soul.”

“Betty was in the bed next to you but she didn’t make it. She couldn’t speak. How…?”

“She asked for a smile and gave me her life force and her gifts. It’s my new calling now. I’ve found a reason to belong.”

“Rest now, Mason. You’ve a long road ahead of you.”

I found God – he was hiding in plain sight.

The Liquor of Dreams

There are nights that melt into the crenellations of the mind, oozing a woozy romance into the liquor of dreams, merging with the springs and fibres of the mattress as fatigue wrings every drop of vigour from a spent body. 

I see fractures, I see lights in the periphery that could be God lighting a cigarette like a 70’s rock star. 

He leans in and whispers like a coffee grinder two rooms away.

“Those faces in your mind that you don’t recognise are the people, peeled from their skin, travelling the hinterland of reality looking for the eager to see folks.

That’s you, baby. 

They’re your crowd, man and they wanna watch you sleep so they can stir their endless dreams into yours with a silver spoon that’s as cold as the back of the moon.

Let go and fall – it’s what I did.”

When I opened my eyes, I was standing by a bed looking at a dreaming corpse and my crowd was all around me. 

I got collected and here’s my story- hang on tight, folks. 

“She’s got the looks that kill – that kill…” Motley Crue rained bullets into the truck from a Blaupunkt stereo as Jam punched the high beam on an offbeat. 

The tight country road, flanked by startled grass tufts between jutting rocks, slithered through the hills with spindly branches breaking away to outposts of loneliness. 

He had been hired to deliver a box and a letter to the estate of Campbell Roche, a squillionaire banker and artefacts dealer. A preoccupation with the hairpin bends and unexpected dips meant that he didn’t notice the box and the letter rise from the back seat as the pounding beat filled the stale air inside. They turned around a full three hundred and sixty degrees before gently coming to rest at the moment the radio presenter spoke. 

“I swear I just…” Jam adjusted the greasy mirror just as two large black birds slammed hard into the passenger side window, bursting into a cloud of downy feathers and terse shrieks. 

He swerved, hit the horn and swiftly regained his composure only to catch his startled reflection as darkness replaced a growling sunset. 

Sitting on top of the box, the white envelope began to bleed from the letters in the name, dyeing the whole thing a deep red like a shark attack in summer waters. 

Campbell Roche had become Capoc.

The radio began to drift through the stations until it landed on a deep, authoritarian voice that said.

“The Capoc or Ceiba Pentandra…”

It drifted some more.

“Pentagon” 

Then again.

“Pentagram most commonly used in witchcraft.”

Then complete silence before an almighty crash into a black metal track that made Jam hit the horn again. 

The one lit road sign, a draw on his cigarette,  found the voice of God again.

“Drive like Steve McQueen, baby – like he did in Bullitt. Drive it like you will break its heart after a wild affair. You have his eyes, baby. The eyes of a saviour, a killer, a mother and a dying star that switch between blinks. Brilliant morning star blinks…”

The authoritarian voice took over. 

“The devil is a composite creature, you know? His features are a flip book, an airport sign, so to speak. They’re ever changing to suit the viewer. Sometimes he is a mouthful of caramel and other times, a mouthful of scorpion tails.”

The roads began to shift into the curled horns of a ram, shaggy verges became its thick pelt and its eyes – those infernal eyes. Turning a sharp bend, Jam sucked in a sharp breath as an oncoming truck blazed its high beam and blasted the air horn.

“The eyes again – I’m losing it!” Jam tasted the metal of adrenaline as the lights and sound filled his head with  constellations of terrifying images.

“It’s coming straight for me!” Jam instinctively grabbed the handbrake and spun his vehicle away into the blackness, glaring eyes, glossy blood and shadowy figures exploding in his vision.

“Did you think I brought you all this way for nothing? You spun your ride like Serpico hit an oil slick. 

I have to leave you. 

I’m sorry, baby but I don’t belong in this neighbourhood. This is his patch and it ain’t my groove. If you make it out, I’ll be waiting with two glasses of whiskey. Later, alligator.”

Jam hit high beam and lit up the biggest gates he had ever seen. The sat nav was slurred but he could make out, 

“Turn back now…turn back…unnamed road.”

Dark grey polished wrought iron gates held two rampant lions, one clutching a dagger and the other, a sickle. Both had snakes for manes and curling horns pointing to snarling faces.

Jam could feel the moisture pooling in his palms being pulled from his mouth. 

“This is the place but it should be…

How did I get here so quickly?”

The engine cut out just as the dagger and sickle lowered and the gates swung open with the chirk of a crone’s laughter.

“Guess it’s on foot from here.” He muttered, grabbing the box and letter before reaching under his seat for a flashlight. 

“Hell, these are freezing cold. I feel like the trucker in Salem’s Lot. I don’t spook easily but this gig has my nerves jangling like cutlery wind chimes.”

The flashlight picked out bent over trees, giant thorny rose bushes and waxy bulges that Jam thought that he recognised. His mind flashed with tiny fragments of memories. Travelling up a long drive in the back of his parent’s car. They were dark shadows in the front. The bright purple room and the loud voices repeating over and over strange words. The man in the mask – that face – that horrible face. 

Jam froze at the sight of the mansion. 

“This is the place…this is where I came all those times.” 

He rolled up his left sleeve to reveal the unusual shaped scars and thick hair on the inside of the wrist. 

“Whiskey with god – that’s some incentive. I just have to deliver this and I’m done being a parcel mule.”

This night was moonless, dank and felt like strangling hands around his throat. Jam gulped down a startled breath as every window filled with cameos of suppressed memories. The naked bodies smeared dark red, the sweet smoke filling the air, the bells to signal silence, the masked man towering over everyone. Fire raged in the ivy as murderous eyes and leering grins swept through the scenes, every cut in his arms leaking fresh blood and the chant becoming clearer and clearer. 

“Clavem regni sinistris…clavem regni sinistris….”

Jam shone the torch at the letter and felt his head begin to whirl. 

Capoc. That was the name on the wall of his dad’s study. It was underneath a black ram. It’s eyes were yellow and would look right into the centre of Jam’s soul. 

“I’ve been waiting for this night since you were a little boy, Jam. I heard you reciting his invocation – clavem regni sinistris – the key to the left. My boy – and, by the way, you are MY boy – I have something for you waiting inside. Please, follow me to the Quam – that’s short for quam ejeceram locus, which translates as the Banished room.”

“So you are Campbell Roche – the man in the mask and now revealed as my father. It’s a little too close to Star Wars, don’t you think? 

So what’s in the letter and the box?”

Jam followed Campbell into a vast hall lit beautifully by a chandelier that hung from a ceiling depicting the war in heaven. Everything was bone white and deep purple with gargoyle statues standing guard either side of a grand staircase. 

“My son, we bear to the left, of course. Oh and hand me my package and letter. All will become clear in a short while. You know Jam is a nickname for you by your mother to cruelly taunt your father. She needed extra sugar besides his stale fruit. 

It’s no coincidence that you are here on the darkest night. You are to be His light reignited and challenge the pious king and his court of fools.”

Campbell flung open two oak doors to reveal the room that visited Jam’s nightmares regularly. 

“Many people have given their spark to become the new morning star. Tonight, you yourself will finish the combination in the flesh and open the vault of night to the realm of dead stars where he waits.”

Campbell tapped the box and Jam’s scarred left arm and smiled, a wide uncomfortable smile as though he were passing a house brick. 

In the centre of the room, the familiar altar was draped in velvet cloth daubed with the same symbols Jam had seen in the windows. The lights flickered as a chill descended and darkness joined silence to bear down on his fragile grasp on reality. 

“All hail the Banished luminary.”

Campbell’s voice was joined by a dozen or more in response as, one by one, small torches were lit by hooded figures, their naked bodies beneath painted in similar symbols. 

Campbell opened the letter with a long dagger pulled from the box. Deep shadows twisted into grotesque shapes, dancing across the walls as the flames from the torches caught phantom draughts. 

“The last sigil – symbol, Jam – drawn for you and must be by your own hand from your own free will. 

Then the deed is done. 

It will be a new dawn, my son. It will be free of the shackles of false morality and dogmatic ceremony. Imagine a world where the devils of the dark walk in a new light of truth. Make the cut symbol above the hair on your wrist and all shall rejoice.”

The shadows began to move faster and melt into leering faces. The walls and floor shook with a pounding rhythm and the ceiling fell away to the black ram he saw from inside of his van. 

“I’m still travelling and this is a dream. I need to wake up.”

Jam could feel his heavy arm seize the knife from a frenzied Campbell and draw the blade close to his wrist. The tuft of hair became flames and inside of them, screaming in terror, were his parents  burning in the house fire. Their charred faces mouthing something at the blackened windows. 

Suddenly, Jam tasted whiskey and a jolt travelled from his dry throat to his shuddering hand. 

“Capoc – the talisman!”

A stillness came over the whole scene and, over in the corner, God drew on his cigarette, pointing at Jam with a finger pistol. He slowly winked and pulled the trigger as the knife plunged deep into Campbell’s neck. The sound of his whistling throat and the clank of metal on marble was the last thing Jam heard. 

He woke up in bed, surrounded by strangers and exchanged a breath for a place next to them when his open wrist stopped running. 

I got to save the world, make new friends, drop the name Jam and hit the open road forever. 

Here’s mud in your eye, God.

Poseidon’s Wishes

Sailor flames in candle jars are echoes of the streaking stars

Anticipating journeys in the scarlet sunset’s wash

Loved and lost are luminaries for this meek departure from

A shoreline glazed in harpies tears and foaming silver broth

Fingers interlaced in prayer and eyes are wrinkle crushed

Whispered words a champagne bottle smashed against the hull

Inside, the air is revellers at new year’s midnight frenzy

And only in her shine less depths shall it succumb to lull

Overhead the night birds are a velvet shape against the moon

Creeping winds they tiptoe lightly on the crest of waves

“Send a sliver of my heart that once was occupied by love

To crushing depths so no one can lay flowers on its grave”

Pangs of guilt, remorse, regret are rocket debris out in space

A long train hitched to countless cars across the sleeping land

The guard he grips the shoreline lantern in his livid broken fist

And hails each journey in his silent weary stare that understands

“Onwards travellers, dear friends, until it is your time to stop

We seekers, we inquisitors, we beguiled and cynical alike

Only in the dreaming world and after the last breath we’re free

From this frail and flawed loose shell

the soul’s dead satellite

Fill your engines up with coal and set a pace that none can catch

Our spirits are a congregation, an elevation, jubilation

The flame of love, of hope, of faith is never truly lost at sea

It finds a way to wash ashore and be the torch of nations”

And as the waves take it away another lands with faintest glow

The embers in an engine cooling in the station’s daybreak gleam

The velvet shadows of the past are ashes in the chimney stack

Nothing burns as passion burns

Or sees what it has seen.

Erratics

Infant sun

The angry star

Eight minutes from our naked eyes

Calmed the feud

On land and sea

With winter for

A dynasty

Changing earth

Not one but two

Peppered with the tears of space

And seen from there

A cataract

An age of moments left

Intact

The biting frost

A tundra’s spite

Before recorded memories

The heart was slowed

But kept its beat

The angry star

Grew fierce with heat

In the endless black devoid of life?

This teeming turning island

Grown in violent instars

From the liquid and ferocious core

Had settled when the mountains

Ceased their cannon fire and demon’s breath

To diamond sheets and dusted sleet

And glaciers from shore to shore

Now adolescent

Infant sun

Making waves that start the thaw

In the shift

Of continents

The rocks became

Itinerant

Travellers

On shifting bergs

Erratics by their proper name

Settlers

Far afield

Out of place is

Their appeal

In the wilds where charts are incomplete

This hurly burly island

Grown from mass extinction

Where clues are layers in icy depths

The cryogenic travellers floating

In their eldritch dispossess

Mountains moved by spring’s release

Settled in their new address

Their homelands have been shaped anew

And they are all that’s left.

The Void

The darkness is not an unexplored place of lurking fears but a blank canvas of imagined horrors

It is a blanket or slightly splayed fingers to peer through at odd shapes in the night

Inside the corridors of the mind, a compendium of dread turns each page on a chilled draught

Reading sentence after sentence in a grinding metallic dirge infused with far off cries

The blackness reaches back to when the first light was a notion

Where instinct was the way around a bitumen back ocean

Where any spark of goodness was ferociously destroyed

Sentient and savage is the place we call

The void

The darkness is not a wasteland of scarred remains but a lush oasis of sights unseen

It is a chasm without a floor, a tower with no roof bellowing depths and dizzying heights

It is pitch tumescent immeasurable space yet can be held inside a dilated pupil

And is where man cut deep beneath the mountains to pockets of obsidian choke and muted waves

The blackness reaches back to when the eye was captured sound

Where textures of the umbra are the heart of an eclipse

Where carbon coated cauldrons cool ‘til all inside’s destroyed

Digested in the gut of time the place we call the void

The plumage of the Corvus

The pelt of lithe panthera

The melanistic snake that shines

As does the ink of cuttlefish

The legendary dog called Shuck

The obverse skin of hunting whales

The maw of caverns in the earth

A candle snuffed for darkest wish

Where not a blink of light’s deployed

The place we call the void

Subtleties

Call unto the never end and evermore shall be

Call unto the graven plates that chart death’s history

Rustled whispers through the void discerned by deep despair

They’re sea foam and the morning breeze infused with midnight’s air

Call unto the life before in frequencies outside

The shrill above the bass below and orbs between that fly

Breath that has a current’s charge it curdles on blue wings

Carried from the here to there by frost that melts in spring

Call unto the candle’s flare by those attuned to loss

Travelled over brittle wires that sometimes can be crossed

The bell, the lamp, the linking hands

The likeness in the voice

The eager skin raised up for them

A moment to rejoice

Call to those that left our realm

And passed beyond the gate

They turn to hear the earnest pleas

From grief’s initiates

Call to hints, a sideways glimpse

A thing they’re sure was there

The chill across the neck and spine

And eyes tight shut in prayer

Call to those still tied to us

By love that transcends pain

The fear subsides as warmth provides

Unmeasured joy

Again.

Hag Stone Heart

Whistle winds from western edges of a southbound storm

Biting into sea foam’s wrath ‘til snake holes have been formed

Magic eyes that spy the dawn through rocks that time ran through

Their bodies made from molten fire when life was almost new

This strangeness that is nature’s quirk where endless tides have swallowed

Chosen from a billion like them never to be hollow

Crystals shine and gemstones gleam but none are fashioned thus

By unseen hands with Mason skills that mystic folk entrust

But I am made of worn down bones and looser still my skin

Where vanity had once held court now there’s no sign of him

Eroded by the tides of news and time for no man waits

These tangible and proven laws take other paths than fate

This age when clouds are metaphors from blackest grey to white

A youthful bloom drank greedily as oceans would alight

From skies into the seas sent rushing through my hag stone heart

That yearned for love’s resplendent shine when all was just one spark

The eye of the beholder sees more than it is worth

A confluence of elements made deep inside the earth

Molten fire wrought into rock when all the warmth departs

A touching heat in every beat flows through my hag stone heart

The Black Sails of Aran House

I’m swallowed by the mouth of night and sit inside to be digested

A cavern filled with shipwrecked souls yet, strangely, I am rested

As above shall be below for seraphim and nephilim

I leave no footprints in my wake just the tapered tail of Djinn

Foreign fields have grown up fast around this sober judge

Presiding over rituals that score the canticles of hell

My eyes have left the physical yet look across their failing stretch

To nooks where sigils predicate the Devil’s reign and goodness quelled

This house of grinding wheels that dusts the ground to snowfall’s china white

Like tea that’s steeped and ages fleet and things that pique the hush of night

The summer’s clemency departs for autumn winds to muster strength

That turn the black sails of the mill with cold and taut malevolence

The house of Aran’s history is sworn by death in confidence

And bones laid out in saraband unbridled in their sideways dance

Here wings of ebony catch winds and chime the threshold’s witching bells

So superstitious proles can brew their lies for vicious tongues to tell

This house of terror’s umbra catches subtleties in moonlight’s flair

Wedded to the goddess cast from sylvan whorls and churning air

Longmarsh flats a battlefield whose dead became a solid ground

And in the pockets of the walls is where their final prayers are found

This house of grinding wheels that mills the bones for baking bread

Like flesh that creeps and lost lambs bleat and things that feed upon the dead

The grey that’s winter’s pallor and the rattle of a failing breath

The black sails in procession turn like carriage wheels transporting death

When you break your daily bread and break the fast inside your homes

Be sure it is not Aran’s fayre risen from the dust of murdered bones.

The Lantern of Blackscarrow

If the pages of the scriptures were lit and razed to ash

Then built into an effigy of death’s emphatic dread

The eyes would be distinguished, that of lunatic messiah

Despised by guards and overlords yet secretly desired

Its robes made out loathing spun into a hollow cry

Flakes of the cremated are the threads of its design

And in its grip a lantern that was Solomon’s to light

A sober truth to blast into the drunken ooze of night

The nether to the hither is its corridor of power

Signalling to journeymen the flame reveals their fate

It is the Lord Blackscarrow with his hanging judge fixed stare

Omens swarm like starlings in the

bleary morbid air

Look behind the candle’s veil of luminosity

Drawn into the astral as blood in the syringe

The Lord stands at the crossroads where the truth and lie divided us

The righteous join the gilded throng

The rest join him as dust