Dream World

 

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Dream World (Solace 2)

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… dream worlds circle outside my bedroom window … starry sky … two full moons floating, one real, one mirrored in the glass …  inside the bedroom, tulips inscribe red gashes on white-washed walls … sharp fingernails scrape across paint, blood red shadows trickle down to the floor …

… above the azotea, the temples of Monte Albán string out their sheets on the sky’s washing-line, glowing in the moonlight … against a background of granite and stucco, trenchant shadows sculpt dancers into grotesque, pipe-wire shapes as they struggle to escape their carved imprisonment …

… priests in long black robes gape at the night sky. From their sanctuary in the observatory, they plot how they will persuade the people to believe the future they will foretell as night’s giant finger herds the wild-cat stars …

… three young women walk at an angle up the temple steps … when they reach the top, a moonbeam holds them in its spotlight and they wax with the full moon’s beauty …  the doorway to an unclosed grave opens its crocodile jaws and the three women descend the temple steps, ageing as they walk … at the temple’s foot, they enter the tomb’s dark mouth … an old man in a faded grey suit walks behind them … the grave swallows them all, burying them in the hidden depths beneath the mound …

… dreams back themselves into a cul-de-sac, a wilderness of harsh black scars … an ancient Aztec god catches Rabbit by his ears and throws him against the second sun that sizzles in the sky … his sharp teeth burrow, burying themselves deep in the sun-fire’s light … the second sun loses its glow and turns into the moon’s cold stone …  the rabbit’s skull simmers in the new moon’s dwindling pool …

With a clicking of claws, knitting needles come together to pluck me outwards from my dreams and upwards towards death’s golden guillotine that floats in the sky. The moon sharpens its knife edge on the keening wind and sets my blood tingling. I want to be free, free from those nightmares, those nocturnal visions that rise up from the past and stalk me as I lie in bed.

Drowsing, I long for the alarm clock to shuffle its pack of sleepless hours and to waken me with its piercing call as it tears me from these winding sheets, these grave clothes in which I lie. I wait for the sun to shine into my window.

Xmas Baby

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Xmas Baby

Plural, it should be plural really, Christmas Babies. In Oaxaca, Mexico, the cribs lie empty, awaiting the miracle of the Christmas birth. All the cribs, everywhere, in the main square, in the cathedral, in the shop windows, in the schools, in the houses, the homes, the hallways, the bed-rooms. How can the baby be lying in the crib throughout December, when he isn’t born until midnight on the 24th? All those empty cribs, all those foster mothers and fathers, in waiting, so to speak.

Joyous times, full of expectation. The piñatas swinging from the flat roofs of the azoteas, and the puppet masters pulling the strings as the young children, blind-folded, take turns swinging with stick or baseball bat, trying their best to break the papier-mâché and release the Christmas goodies from their shattered container. There are many kinds of birth, and re-birth. Such joyous expectations. So many ups and downs as the clubs are swung and the piñatas are raised and lowered. Then, the lucky strike, and the silver-paper-wrapped treasure trove falls to the ground and the children dive in and collect their long-awaited goodies. Such joy. Such merriment. Such great expectations, and so seldom deceived.

Meanwhile, in the zócalo, the central square, the balloon lady sits in her  castle surrounded by the technicolor splendor of her plastic walls waiting for the children who will arrive, coins in hand, to purchase her wares and take them on their wind-walk through the square. How wonderful to see them, aerial dogs sky-walking with proud owners tethered to the ground below. How sad to see the child’s face as the occasional balloon seeks freedom in the blue sky above the cathedral towers. What pleasure to see the joy restored as another balloon replaces that first one.

Last night, they set fire to the castillos and waves of firework and flame flooded down church walls as rockets climbed to the sky to knock on heaven’s door and demand that the gods wake up and not forget their people rejoicing here in the streets below. Yes, the gods, for Oaxaca is still a pagan land where the old gods roam and devil and angels mingle on the cathedral steps with the witch doctor who lights his fire, burns his copal, and worships the old gods in the good old ways that never perished, in spite of the attention paid to them by the priests of the Spanish Inquisition. They hang on, the old gods, the old customs, the old Mixtec calendars, in barber shops and craft stores and you can purchase them in the market place or in the secret stores where mescal is brewed in the centuries’ old way and the yellow worms wiggle and glisten as they sink to the bottom of the bottle where they lie in wait to sink their hallucogenic teeth into the minds of  unsuspecting tourists.

Today, however, is Christmas Day. The baby is born. The cribs are filled with his little image. Some shops have a live child, with his mother and father standing there, waving, showing their baby off to the worshiping crowd who cluster, mouths open, at the window. Marimbas play. Village bands march. The State Orchestra warms up. What joy in the land, this Christmas morning as, back home in Merrie Olde England, all the bells are ringing and across the frosty meadows, carillon carols ring out loud and clear.

Alebrijes or Inspiration

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 Alebrijes or Inspiration

 Are they half-grasped dreams
that wake, wide eyed, to a new day’s sun?

Or are they alive and thriving
when they fall from the tree?

Does the carver fish their color and shape
from his own interior sea?

Or does he watch and wait for the spirit
to emerge from its wooden cocoon
to be reborn in a fiery block of color?

Daybreak:
in a secluded corner of my waking mind,
my neighbor’s dog greets the dawn:
sparks of bright color born from his barks.

My waking dream:
dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head
keeping me comforted.

In the town square, the  artist
plucks dreams from my head
and paints them on carved wood.

Comment:   Alebrijes step out from dried wood and stand in the shower of paint that falls from the brush’s tip. Yellow flash of lightning, pointillistic rain, garish colors that mirror those of the códices. The carvings take the form of fantasy figures, anthropomorphic animals,
 and mythological creatures.

Sometimes one individual selects the wood, carves it, then covers it in paint. Occasionally an entire family takes part in the work of making the alebrije. One person collects the wood and prepares it for carving. Another carves and sands it. A third works on the undercoat, and a fourth applies the final patterns of paint.

The great debate: does the form in the wood 
reveal itself to the carver
 or do the carvers impose their own visions on the wood? In the case of the team, do the family members debate and come to a joint conclusion?

These thoughts, exchanged with wood-carvers in Oaxaca, have led to a series of interesting conversations. What exactly is creativity? Where does it come from? Do we, as artists, impose it upon our creations? Or do we merely observe and watch as new ideas float to the surface of our minds? How does the creative mind function? And, by extension, how much of the sub-conscious creative sequence can be placed into words?

These questions lead us into our own minds. How do we, as writers, frame our inspiration? Do we wait for the muse to descend? And what if she or he (for there are masculine muses, too) doesn’t? Does this waiting for the muse lead us into the dreaded realm of Writer’s Block where we sit and twiddle our thumbs and wait and hope? Or does it lead us into the land of positive expectations where we use basic writing exercises and look for inspiration among our thoughts and words?

A practical solution for inspiration is regular writing in the journal … regular writing. From this practice, we soon learn to recognize beauty for we often generate small gems that can be dug out and polished. Sure, there is a great deal of dross, but a good wood carving leaves lots of shavings, and a few cut thumbs. That’s the nature of artistic discovery … and remember, it is the beauty in ourselves and the world around us that we are seeing and describing. Reading the words of others also generates small sparks to which we respond and the corresponding interplay of ‘their words with ours’ is not to be under-estimated.

By extension, the Bakhtinian Chronotopos is also important: man’s dialog with his time and place. Bahktin uses the masculine ‘man’; a woman’s dialog may well differ, but her dialog with her time and her place is equally as important as a man’s. Sometimes more so, and we do not pay sufficient attention to this fact. That said, we must always remember St. Teresa of Avila’s delightful line: “También anda Dios en la cocina entre las pucheras” / God also walks in the kitchen among the pots and pans.

One of our tasks, as writers, is to find the beauty of our time and place. It may seem insignificant at first for we are such tiny beings in an enormous and often anonymous universe, but when we sit in the sunshine and see the dust motes rise and count the angels dancing in the sunbeams before our eyes, we are indeed witnessing the daily beauty that surrounds us. It is our task to name that beauty and to describe it. And remember, too, that it is there in the flying snowflakes, in the pale disc of the sun peering through clouds, in the slide of the raindrop down the window pane.

My job as a writer, as I see and feel it, is to sense and see the beauty that surrounds me. Then my task is to describe it and bear witness to it. To bear witness … sometimes, that beauty is brutal and the bearing witness is painful in itself. The knife or chisel slips, the blood flows, and the musty cobwebs applied to the open wound seem to do no staunching. But there is beauty in injury too and we must also bear witness to the brutal beauty of blood.

Such brutal beauty can be found in Tanya Cliff’s latest book, A Haiku for Ricky Baker. In this volume of poetry, Tanya exposes some of the problems inherent in child abuse.  Her inspiration is taken from real events and her poems describe the lives of real people. This poetry reveals the color of blood and hurts with the deep slice of the knife into the carver’s thumb. Tanya has two main tasks: the first is to bear witness and the second is to gather funds by offering the proceeds from this collection to the very children who need help. I wish her all the best in her endeavor and I encourage all my readers to explore this project of Tanya’s for themselves.

Obsidian’s Edge 7

Room in my Mind
10:30 am

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My latest  alebrije
wags his tail and flicks
forked lightning
from the forge of his mouth.

His ancient mocking spirit
slowly emerges
from the trickster wood.

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Made from scrap metal
by the man down the road
who recycles old scraps,
Don Quixote sits on the reinforced
toecap of a workman’s old boot.

Two spent sparking plugs
join to form his body.
His presence lectures me
on the ages of gold and silver
long since past.

“We exist,” he says,
“in an age of recycling.”

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Shadows double
themselves in the mirror:
recycled lines of shade
carve the shower’s glass.

Wary of shade and flame
I stand in a dust-
laden beam of sunlight.

Motes in my mind:
flesh and blood chessmen
play their game,
dark squares and light.

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My neighbour has six cats,
two children, and a tulipán tree.

I bought her youngest daughter
chocolate, and she showed me
how to play a simple game of cards.
But the pack was different
with the three
ranking above the queen and jack.

I throw away my threes and lose the game.
She laughs at me and calls me tonto.
She is ten.

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Nochebuena,
single and double petals,
crimson and cream;
cempasúchiles,
flowers of the dead,
guide their footsteps
leading my lost ones back to me.

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I think of milk bottles placed on a concrete step.
When I go out in the morning, sparrows have pecked
the silver tops to get at the cream.

Memories: once open doors
now slowly close.

Keys no longer turn in the locks.
Sleep gathers in forgotten rooms,
falling like dust on silken flowers.

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My mind drifts in and out
between sun and clouds.