Archives for category: Fiction

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.

•DUSTLESS-FIN-1

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Men and women
take pride in their beauty,
look long in the light,
and their years are like mirrors
under permanent skies:

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


Poem from Dustless: Volume 15, For Pride in their Flight

•DUSTLESS-FIN-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…

Song from Dustless | Volume 10 | Mask [ii]

Men and women
take pride in their beauty,
look long in the light,
and their years are like mirrors
under permanent skies:

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


Poem from the novel, Dustless: Volume 15, For Pride in their Flight