Christopher F. Mills
As whispered in
The Lost Tales
An epistolary fable,
from a wait of over 500 years
Translated from the Eternal by
Copyright © 2016 by
The Moving Map Storybook
& Motion Picture Co.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Since there’s no way your skeptical mind would believe any of this could possibly be true, I now will tell you it is, of course, a work of pure fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover Illustration Copyright © 2010 by Road Runner
The Moving Map Storybook
& Motion Picture Co.
Starleaf Ranch, Texas
Library of Congress catalogue card number: 1.61803398875
Published in the United States of America
First Publishing, 2016
glow in the dark
For Christopher D’olier Reeves 1952-2004
and Dana Reeves 1961-2006
The Romeo and Juliet of our time;
the two-in-ten-thousand true.
Primitive Radio Gods, in
“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth
with Money in My Hand” asked:
If I die before I learn to speak,
Can money pay for all the days
I lived awake, but half asleep?
From their gold album
The Moving Map Storybook Co.
An Introduction to
Christopher F. Mills
I was resting my boots, sitting on the front stoop of The Four Palms, enjoying the tranquil symphony coming from the trees. Since sunset the birds had been moving in by twos and threes, chirping beyond counting. At midnight some were still up, trilling for me a mid-winter’s bird tale. I couldn’t remember ever hearing them speak so deep into a January’s night. One even brought me a twig. They were chirping and peeping one to another; calling out, and answering. It was all very sweet, until it turned to fowl gossip; that’s when I stood and walked over to the Avalon Hotel and sat under a giant palm, where there was peace to think. I don’t truck with fowl gossipers.
Across the street was a young man wearing a red jacket, white t-shirt and blue jeans, leaning hip against the lonely lamp post and smoking the day’s last cigarette. Off Olympic Boulevard, with an audience of one, the young dog was auditioning for a part already taken: America’s first teenager. There’s a hundred-million of them now, all whining about something. This poor bastard was playing a done-to-death role in a silent, one-member-audience movie—sans lines. But at least he’d picked the right lighting. The glow of the streetlamp set a Hollywood halo around him. The other thing the young-man-imitating-art got right was the slouch. When you play Dean, you have to slouch. Imagine the weight of the world on your tortured, slumped shoulders, holding tight to the dream. It doesn’t matter what dream, so long as it’s dream.
Five minutes after midnight he threw down his cigarette, ground it beneath his boot, and disappeared into the fog. I knew what he was doing. He was trying to get to a place where he felt alive. I also know that every boulevard has them. Wherever there’s a boulevard, there’s at least one of them. Broken dreams.
We all know about those.
The man he was imitating was a rebel because he spoke his lines his own way. And he perfected the sag. James Dean never stood up straight in any scene. He hunched, drooped, and round-shouldered it better than any. Stand up straight, don’t slouch! It’s been said to every kid since time immemorial. Dean said to hell with that. By mastering a common theme and making it his own, he created art. What he did was speak a perfected strain of life within himself. Now everybody imitates Dean, Brando, Wayne or Eastwood. People will try to imitate DiCaprio, but his art is too original. Only DiCaprio can speak DiCaprio.
The true stars are all original rebels. They rebelled until lightning struck. They begged, borrowed and stole the lines, but delivered them original. Being original always causes a revolution. If you want to be remembered, original is what you need. Nobody can reverse-engineer original, or turn back the lightning that comes of it. They can only imitate and quote it. Original is copyrighted on the spot of creation. Original is original.
The young man’s lonely audition inspired me to step out of character and play another shade. I had to see what it felt like. I had to finish the scene. I stood and walked into the Avalon, where the maitre d’ said my cash was good at the bar.
With my black fedora low over my eyes and a beefed-up, raspy-breathed hint of Eastwood, I Bogartly replied,
“Cash is good everywhere, Mister.”
Having dinged it past the moon, I was satisfied. My steel-and-iron alloy of Eastwood and Bogart was cinematic perfection. For an audience of one—sans camera—I’d just broke my leg off in it.
I walked to the bar, threw a bill on the mahogany, and poured myself a whiskey. I was wincing at the taste when in strolled a platinum blonde we’d all know anywhere. I shook my head and muttered,
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
I played it straight Bogart. Eastwood has no business in that line. Later, after nightcaps, I came back down and on my way out, told the glassy-eyed piano man he should find himself another line of work, ‘cause this one sure didn’t fit his pistol. As I passed out the door I heard her run in and tell piano man, in her suffocatingly-sexy voice, to play it once, for old time’s sake. I walked out of there, not giving a damn. At the curb I yelled, with all the raw force in me:
“The man of no name from nowhere is now here!”
An original line that echoed over the lonely garbage cans in the alleys. Except for the birds, nobody heard. Beverly Hills is a town of old people who once spoke the lines dead people would remember, if they were alive. Everybody was fast asleep. Step one of speaking original lines: location, location, location.
Yeah. I know all about broken dreams.
I walked down Olympic about half a mile, then sat tired on the curb and watched a Toyota pass. The driver looked my way and for a brief moment, our eyes locked. The odd, sinister quality of the man was evident at first glance. Talk about noir. Here it was for real. I looked deeper, and he turned away. Then I watched, half a block down, as he crossed two lanes to run over an opossum. In the heart of the city walked the opossum, and in the heart of the city, on a mostly empty street, he was run down. I stood and yelled, loud enough to wake the dead,
“Why’d you do that, you son of a bitch!”
That man didn’t have the answer. He just kept going. I ran to the animal. His front paws were moving, front and back, trying to walk. His mouth was gently opening and closing. His tongue hung out. There was blood. With every breath he gave tiny grunts of pain, which gradually stopped as I stroked his fur. It took him twenty minutes to die. At the moment before death he whispered one of the softest murmurs you ever heard. It was a melody, gentle and sweet. Many would wonder how a sound like that could come from an opossum. Most wouldn’t believe our world had been made less by the death of this little being. But it had. As that man had also made less of himself than he’d been the moment before. The sad, sweet song of the opossum was his relief to be done of the man’s pain, which had been given to him because the man was too much a coward to get rid of it on his own. Another sacrifice had been made in exchange for the dull, self-serving darkness in man. The opossum’s song was his thankfulness for the new lease coming and the old one going. That release from pain was a good riddance for the opossum.
I reckon so.
Before he died, as I sat there with him, I had to name him, so I named him James. After he died I stood and began the walk back, thinking on the failure of men, which is never original. Everybody does it. All that helped me step back into me. As if I needed help. But at least my poor part wasn’t pilfered. I wasn’t like Jay Gatsby, come from afar with a fortune gained from mysterious places to get the girl of my youthful dreams. My fortune, being experience, comes from everywhere. And I didn’t need to learn she wouldn’t have any of it. I knew I would never change Holly Wood’s last name. But I did wish to see her for a bittersweet first and heart-and-gut-wrenching last, time. And when I did, I found she runs down poor, defenseless, innocent animals for no good reason, just like most all the other places.
I thought of the young man standing cool under the street light. I wasn’t knocking the boy. I, too, had come to town with a broken dream. Come to town with it, just to drop it off in front of Grauman’s and leave without it. Unlike the boy, I had no need to dress up for a broken dream. It was too far gone. Far too dead in the past to give power or belief to anymore. So as I walked back down Olympic Boulevard, into that cold-hearted shrew’s embrace, I knew she would forever be Miss Hollywood. She wasn’t made to settle down. There are too many dreamy-eyed, beautiful, young men seeking her out. And she’ll run them all down, too; use them all for her own pleasure, same as she always has.
So I walked back into the real world. I went back to me. It’s not much, but at least I don’t have to remember lines I have no taste for. I’d rather write and speak my own. And only Bogart could play Bogart. Those famous lines are indemnified against piracy by being forever Bogart’s. Once he spoke them, they stopped being the property of whoever paid for the script and whoever wrote it. That’s why all but the speakers in Hollywood are destined to be forgotten, if they’re remembered at all. If you want to be remembered, you have to speak the great line. Just one will do. And the truer the line the longer the memory.
It was fun to play Bogart for a moment, but it was counterfeit on top of phony. Maybe that’s why big stars seem so unhappy. Maybe that’s why most everybody seems so unhappy. Playing somebody else all the time never lets them be themselves. You don’t often hear of writers killing themselves. Not the fast way, anyway. But then, you never hear of writers much at all. Which gives them peace to write the lines some few speak and everybody remembers. Now I know I’m dead wrong. No great writer ever knew peace.
The previous day I’d made the pilgrimage to the apartment where, 75 years before, F. Scott Fitzgerald died. I’d stood in the room where the great writer penned his last. I sat my hand on the same fireplace molding he touched as he fell to the floor and died from the heart attack he’d signed papers on in the Jazz Age. I like to think the sparrows were whispering to me that the namer of a generation and supreme dreamer of an age did not die, he just transformed into an iconic, cinematic picture few glean the true meaning of. But who can know what Fitzgerald’s dream was. It was his to know. He single-handed it, the poor son of a bitch.
By 2 a. m. I’d made it back to The Four Palms, where my own sweet sparrow slept inside. Behind stucco walls, white wood shutters and under organic cotton comfort, she dreamed. I set James in a safe place and later buried him in Forest Lawn, up near Jimmy Stewart, over-looking the city and in the back, beyond the fence where the tall grasses grow among the abandoned old stones that once stood over proud rich graves.
At the top of the stairs, I turned around. Beverly Hills was in a deep fog. I mused on the poor quality of the few stars visible between the low, fast-floating cloud banks. The night before was clear as a foghorn and even then there were few stars to see. It was just another of life’s paradoxes that in Southern California, where the stars are famous, there are few stars to be seen. Some think if you’ve seen one star, you’ve seen them all. I don’t agree, and feel sorry for those who do.
Los Angeles made me homesick for a place where no two stars are alike. The death of the opossum made me heart-sick for a man I used to know. First let me tell you about the place. It is a spot where, to witness the stars there, you’ll never see life the same way again. Being a place shrouded in obscurity, it is much different from Hollywood. Nobody kills anybody or anything there. I can’t tell you how to get to it. It depends on where you are now. It’s an alternate route for everybody. It’s where time has stopped and become a one-on-one dimension. You won’t find it on a Rand McNally or MapQuest. You have to go find it on your own. The place I’m talking about is called Candle, and it’s in Texas.
100 million years ago, every inch of Texas was under a tropical sea. Then the sea went away and revealed Candle. It’s in far west, Texas, and that’s as close as I can tell you. If you find it, you will wish to share it, but if you share it, it will no longer be a secret. You can’t keep a promise until you have given it and every Candelian has made the promise to keep Candle secret. By the promise all keep, the beautiful secret of Candle stays safe.
They say there are seven wonders in the world, but each age and place have their own. For me, Candle is the First Wonder of Texas. The other six are the stars, moon, sagebrush, my horse, ancient sea sand, and the wonder which comes from all these. In the cities, relative to stars, the more you have of light, the less you see; in Candle, the perfect darkness perfects the stars. The echos from the canyons in Candle speaks all languages. The more footsteps you take in Candle, the more wonder you come to—and leave behind.
It’s a living ghost town; hidden in plain sight and undiscoverable by the outside world. There are no strangers allowed. But in Candle, nobody ever meets a stranger. Candle is like the sun, it’s difficult to look at it direct. Because most never look at it, most never see it. There is no paved access to or from it. You can crawl, walk, ride or fly into it, but no public road leads to Candle. If it were a book, it would be more like a destination. As a destination, it is more like a book. I don’t know if that helps, but if you ever go, you’ll get what I’m talking about. It’s unlawful to say goodbye in Candle. If you want to become an outlaw in Texas, go to Candle and say goodbye. You can try, but your heart won’t allow it. Of life, Candle is the everlasting beginning. Dream seeds dropped in Candle grow into beautiful things. It’s the most bonny place this side of anywhere.
My great-grandfather arrived in 1914, seeking with thousands of others a large silver mine reputed to be holed up close by. To the chagrin of thousands, no metal for second prize was found. So they left like they came, in a quick hurry. My great-grandfather stayed, named the place, and as the town’s population fell its fortunes increased, until a one-room school, a general store, a church, and a cluster of clay-and-brick houses were all that was required. In the handful of decades since, the population, like the number of stars over it, has remained, by and large, changeless.
The place sits on noble, natural land and is made of ancient sea bed, sagebrush, mile-long trains and countless star-filled nights. It’s two people to the square mile out there. In the city, there are far more people than stars. The charm of Candle is there are far more stars than people. But I don’t knock the city. I’ve been to them all. I’m just saying I have not seen too many bright stars in too many cities, where they’ve replaced starlight with neon and sodium street lights. And while most people are fine, it is unfortunate that some people make everything in this world seem terribly wrong. In Candle, it’s no great challenge, thanks to the number of stars relative to the number of people, to not be terribly influenced by some people. It is a fundamental truth that a man’s peace thrives or dwindles according to the number of persons within his vicinity.
La Maravilla del Hombre is the road that runs through Candle and is, like Candle, shrouded in obscurity. It intersects at several points with El Camino a la Esperanza. It is a bladed-earth country road, soft underfoot. Good for running horse and bovine across. It’s not unforgiving like the concrete roads. On the city roads, they’ll show you their finger and curse your grandmother for slowing them down on the way to their next stop light. On La Maravilla del Hombre, if you do meet anyone, they’ll stop and talk if they have the time, and if the rare event happens where they don’t have the time, they’ll wave as they go by. When you turn from the highway onto it, you’ll have to roll over the cattle grate, so go slow.
Grandfather said La Maravilla del Hombre started centuries ago as a game trail, then became a wagon road heading toward the railroad depot, which led to the big cities and away from the mountain passes. It remains today what it’s always been: just a simple, natural country road you are likely never to notice, though you look straight at it.
So La Maravilla del Hombre has been around long before the time of anyone alive today and has seen more than most, but mostly, it is a quiet road and never whispers a word. It leaves that up to the imagination of those who travel over it. It crosses Lone Pine Ranch, my family’s property, which makes it, in legal fact, a private road, but all passersby and wayfarers may travel La Maravilla del Hombre free, to partake of the natural bounty we are just caretakers of. I hope you can agree that none of us truly own anything, except our own single moment and what to do with it.
For those with commerce to accomplish; for children walking toward the one-room schoolhouse; for cows headed toward water, all travel free on La Maravilla del Hombre. There’s a general store that trades its goods for services, just like they did way back. You would likely call the place antiquated and primitive. Candelians call it untouched and pristine. Nobody there hurts for anything. Everybody helps. The motto of Texas is friendship. Those in Candle, Texas take that to heart. The population at the last census was unknown, being one of those matters shrouded in obscurity.
Much like that silver lode way back.
A THOUSAND AND ONE THOUGHTS
On Saturday, March 3, 1990, I drove in to Candle from college, hitched up my horse, and by the first cold winds of night, headed out for an evening’s star-go. A mile on I saw the headlights. Artificial lights are easy to see in the pitch black of Candle. I went toward them, curious why someone was out in the cold. As me and my horse traveled, I looked up and reasoned,
“These stars are the reason I’m out. Maybe that’s why they are, too.”
The night skies above parts of Texas are like mirrors that reflect all the stars of heaven. They call it the Lone Star state, which is a misnomer. There are more stars to count in the skies over Candle than any other place on the continent. If you like artificial light, you won’t like Candle. The skies there are clean and dark as coal. I thought maybe this light-bringer could be searching for the famous Marfa Lights. They crowd in from all over to see those. Candle is not close to Marfa, but city people get lost in the country all the time. By the time I made it to the stranger he’d turned his headlights off and was seated on the fender of his car. When he saw me he stood and yelled hello and I gave him a how-do-you-do back. It was too dark to see his face, but even without trace of a southern dialect, his voice sounded honest. I gauged him to be about six feet tall, give or take a quarter-inch.
I wondered out loud,
“What brings you out, Mister?”
He raised his hands and spread them to the heavens,
“What else? Stars like these.”
We were quiet a moment, as we sized each other up. Then I said,
“Yeah. Me, too.”
My horse nickered and the man reached over and patted his cheek. I knew the man was good energy when my horse allowed him. He asked,
“What kind of horse is this?”
“We don’t know, as he did not come to us with papers or pedigree. I reckon him as perfect admixture of all the fastest. I figure him one-quarter Thoroughbred, one-quarter Arabian and one-quarter Quarter Horse. In him I see all named and unnamed equines. The only thing I know for sure about him is he is, with no uncertainty or dubiety, the fleetest-footed horse on planet earth.”
“What’s the final quarter?”
The man laughed and said,
“He’s a strong looking animal.”
“He is that, and more. But you may not want to say that other word about him. He might get offended.”
The man patted my horse and said to him,
“A thousand pardons, my good man.”
“What’s his name?”
“GOD. All caps.”
“How’d he come to that?”
“Two years ago, on a spring morning, he ran in like he owned the place. Mama saw him first. I was polishing off breakfast and as she looked out the window I heard her talking to herself,
“Good God, look at that horse run!”
“I went and looked. GOD here was running across our property, east to west, then he’d turn back and run west to east. It seemed he was looking for something. We went out and he stopped and stared. I don’t think he’d ever seen humans before. As long as mama was there, he stayed clear. When she walked to the porch, he came up. He was a wild yearling. Truth is, he’s still wild. I’m the only one he’s ever let sit on his back. He patronizes all others. We figured something must have happened to his mother. We set word out, but nobody claimed him. As for the name, it’s short for what Mama said about him that day. And it fits. He’s the equine equivalent of light. He starts accelerating where other horses stop. He’s a great wind. I’ve added further meaning to that name: Guts On Delivery. GOD here’s got more grit than any dozen wild men or tame beasts.”
“How fast is he?”
“We clocked him last fall at 59 mph. He held 55 for a full quarter-mile, before I asked him to brake it.”
“I shit you not. The deputy sheriff laser-gunned him start to finish. Speed, held that long, splinters all world records for quadrupeds. But GOD here doesn’t need the validation of official world records. That 59 happened on this very road. GOD finds it amusing any car might consider itself his match, and if any travel down his favorite stretch he will prove, if he is not reined in, who the big boss is.”
The man laughed and I dismounted.
I wanted to see what he looked like, so I stood near and lit my cigar. He was moderately filled in with natural, sun-bleached muscle. His hair was golden blond and thick. His face was a graceful composite of ancient Greek and modern German, which came out in the modern age as all-American. His eyes were incisive, bright and blue. The evidence of intelligence was immediate. And he had what country people call a shit-eating grin on his face—like he knew something I didn’t know and was contemplating if I was worth the telling or not. He was a most singular looking man. I saw he was about my own age, but as I remember it now, many years later, the memory of him from that night is of a much younger man. That’s what the years do, they age us, but our memories stay young. I reached out and we shook hands. I told him my name and he responded with his,
“A. C. Braithewaite.”
“What kind of name is that?”
“It’s European, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. I am without family. A. C. stands for Alpha Centauri.”
“What does that stand for?”
“Alpha Centauri is the name of the closest star system to earth. My mother was a free spirit and thought naming her sons after stars was a good idea. To my business associates, I am Braithewaite. To my few friends, I go by Rigel Kent.”
“That’s good enough for me, Rigel Kent. Why Rigel Kent?”
“That is the Latin, taken from the Arabic, for Alpha Centauri.”
I took a six-pack out of my pouch and cut the top off one, so GOD could have his nightcap. Rigel Kent inquired,
“God drinks beer?”
“Well He’s GOD, ain’t He?”
Braithewaite laughed and replied,
“It sounds like it.”
“GOD drinks his amber ale every night before stall time and quiets right down. I envy this horse his ability to go right to sleep soon as his head hits the pillow.”
To prove me right, GOD then finished his beer and layed down in the desert and was snoring by the third deep breath. Braithewaite declared,
“If that isn’t the damnedest thing I ever saw.”
I threw GOD’S blanket over him and he snuggled deeper into the sand, then I threw Braithewaite a brew and opened one for myself,
“We will drink to the stars, Rigel Kent; and all Roman, Greek and Arab poets who named them.”
We raised our cans to the stars and parked ourselves on the hood of his metallic blue ’86 Pontiac. As the silence settled over we sat in increasing wonder. Silence on a dirt road next to an empty sagebrush field in a wide Texas prairie under stars is nothing heavy. It’s illuminating and buoyant. It redirects your thoughts toward the good and great things. It is inspiring.
After a few minutes we set our spirits and dreams between us and layed back on the warm hood of the Firebird, looking up at the stars. He broke the silence with mankind’s oldest existential questionings,
“What is all this? Where did all this come from? All this space, life and matter? None of it makes any sense.”
I raised up from the hood, looked at him and asked,
“I think what you’re asking is, who made who?”
He picked up on what I was saying and joked back,
“Who made who? Who made you?”
“If you made them and they made you, who made who?”
“And who picked up the bill, who made who. . . ?”
“And who turned the screw?”
To that, we both answered,
“Ain’t nobody told you!”
We laughed, clinked our drinks and swigged down the hops, then layed back and wondered on who made who. After several minutes of high-falutin’, beer-facilitated intellection, which altogether precluded a smart solution, I answered,
“Intelligent life arose, and then came. . . .”
That was all I had. I trailed off, lost in my strayed-end thoughts. He added to my ignorance with some more tough questions,
“Life? What is that? Intelligence, what is that?”
I stroked my chin in deep thought, then replied,
“Huh. . . . Those are good questions we will need more beer to give intelligent answers to.”
“Scientific studies have shown that beer’s a causative factor in theoretical thought.”
“Beer’s good for lots of things.”
“I’ll raise my glass to that.”
“To hell with raising glasses, Rigel Kent. I’ll get three sheets to the wind to that.”
We opened one more and drank in friendly reverie, coming up with prodigious theories of time, life and the universe we’d never expound upon. The stars were holy relics and exceptional. As we talked we watched the soft Lady of the Milky Way mosey sexy-like across the galaxy, her sequined nightgown trailing behind her. I was curious about his name and asked him to tell me about that star system of his.
“I have no shortage of hand-me-down facts concerning all that. My mother thought it important to know these things. A neat fact about Alpha Centauri is it’s actually two stars which appear as one. And it may be comprised of three stars, one of them perhaps directly related by gravitational kinship. It’s the closest star system to our solar system and is the third brightest light in the night sky, out-shown only by Sirius and Canopus. To the unaided eye, the two stars appear as a single. Proxima Centauri, the third possible relation, is the closest star to the Sun, though invisible to the naked eye. Owing to their close proximity to earth, one or the other will likely be, when the age of star-sailing begins, the first star man travels to.
“The distance from Alpha Centauri to earth is about 26 trillion miles, which is just a hop, skip and jump—if one is talking solar travel. For a ray of light, the universe’s fastest known mover, a less than five year pilgrimage is a finger snap. In about 30,000 years, Alpha Centauri will reach stationary radial velocity, become brighter for a little while, then begin again a positive radial velocity. In 100,000 years it will reach the vanishing point and disappear among the billion or so stars of the Milky Way.”
I poured my mouth a drink, and said,
“Whew. That’s some heavy stuff, Doc.”
“Your mother taught you all that?”
“No. But she wished me to learn about it.”
He took a nip, then continued,
“Ironic thing is, Proxima Centauri, the smallest of the three, will out last them all. It will remain a star for another four trillion years, hundreds of times the current age of the universe.”
“So the last will be first, and the first, last.”
“Something like that.”
“Why’d your mother wish you to know about the stars?”
“My mother claimed me and this race of man as her own. She thought a lot of this world. She wanted me to learn all I could so as to be of some help along the way. She believed man’s peace with machines was making war with man’s soul.”
“She sounds like a good mama.”
“She was a great mama.”
I held my can out,
“To your dear mama.”
We tipped our cans to her, then I declared, in pontifical fashion,
“Every soul has their war to fight, but with a country road, a five-pack of beer, one god-like horse and the stars? With all that we might find that secret door that opens to another magnitude of being. I see the stars as man’s anthem to look up, to dream, to be human. We look at the stars because this world is not enough. And none of us ever have enough time, except by taking a short lease out on some starlight.”
By the tone of his voice, I could tell this hit a bruised nerve in Braithewaite. He said,
“We wish to never die, and so, fearing death, we never really live. Maybe our fear of death comes from the possibility that our work to become is wasted at the moment of our unbecoming. If so, how important are these little moments. Happiness is a lucky condition the lucky don’t know they are lucky about. My mother showed me the great soul is made of rare stuff. She got to a place where she should have been dead, not only on the outside, but inside, without an ounce of hope left. But she came to that moment when she felt that one precise ounce left, and she held tight to that till the end.”
“She sounds like a hell of a lady.”
“She was that and then some.”
He sat up and drank down the last of his second beer, then said,
“I’ll tell you this much. Time flies faster than the light which measures it. I don’t know why we even worry about any of it. Whatever we dream to do and be will sure come and go, in the blink of our blind, hopeful eyes. My mother told me to lose my fear and discover my reason. She said by reason, a mind becomes reasonable. By reason we discover wonder. By wonder, the mind matures. And the mature mind doesn’t possess irrational thought. Without irrational thought, graceful courage is then possible. And by the graceful state of courage, all that’s true and all that’s not becomes evident, as if by magic.”
After a few minutes to consider what his mother taught me through him, I thought of my own mother and what it was she had taught me. I said,
“My mama taught me that a light breath on a hot cup of coffee will cool it quicker than a big bluster. I always thought that wisdom pertained to much more than a cup of coffee.”
Braithewaite nodded his head in agreement, and said,
“Yes. But on the other hand, sometimes, for things bigger than a cup of coffee, a big bluster is needed.”
“Damn straight about that, Rigel Kent. One thing’s for sure: the only dream this world can’t take from us is to live and die strong.”
He opened the last beer,
“That’s bona fide and right as rain, my friend.”
We tipped our beers and he ended with,
“If this world gives the true example of what it means to be human, then I am not human. But too many in this world fail at all that, so I will give my own example.”
Marvel sprinkled stardust over a cloud
And from the pitch-black there came a bright sight
Of silver color made, and twinkling shroud
To un-barnacle the stars in darkest night
Wonder sprinkled wizard dust over to be
A lit trail in the dark night for life to see
And when the Clock of Time struck past Never
Life sprinkled promise over its mute face
And made Time strike, once again, Forever
And not be so intent on bawdy haste
This world is cruel fever and fair dream,
Loose stitched by life’s faint and unraveling seam
There’s just not wonder enough in this place
For magic to reveal all its charmed trace.
THE GREAT BOLIDE
We had become chilled after five beers and a thousand-and-one thoughts between us, so while GOD sawed wood, we sat in the car. I had come to see that Rigel Kent was playing the lead actor in The Loneliest Movie Never Made. He was near exact my own age, 19-and-a-half, and was awash in life’s first sorrows. So he had traveled into the quiet lands, away from the garish city lights, to do some amateur astronomy.
A. C. Braithewaite, in 1990, was a young prince who had lost his kingdom. He had no side-by-side friend or close family. All those he loved had gone to speak with angels. He’d earned his first million before he graduated high school, so he knew well that money couldn’t pay off the heavy debt of sorrow. It felt to him the promise of his life had fallen through a hole and disappeared. He kept hearing the foul gossipers in his own mind say his chance had passed. So he had made a break for the stars, to speak to them about it. He went to give plaintiff’s petition and soliloquy to the heavens about that sad noir life of his. When he’d made it out there, he found he didn’t know what to say. So it’s good I was there.
But when the human soul has grown faint, if we wait a while, the hope we require will be renewed. That night, we both had been waiting, and we experienced one of the unforgettable events of our lives. I know the exact time of the event, for I can yet see in my mind’s eye—like a weathered photo—the shiny green digital clock on his Firebird’s AM/FM Delco radio. Before, during, and after the event, it read 22 past 11—too long past love but right on time for hope.
We had just sat in the car when the brightest nightlight we ever saw lit up the inside of that Pontiac and the desert around it with total—and at first, incomprehensible—brilliance. We peered out the front windshield and saw what had to be infinity’s greatest shooting star. From the northeast quadrant it blazed straight down, exploding in pastel colors—each more luminous than the last—lighting up the sands of the ancient sea brighter than daylight.
All the tragic, beautiful themes of the world were in that wayward star. Filmed by the universe’s greatest cinematographer, it fell as a three-act moving-picture show. In a handful of breathless seconds, the good, the great and the eternal things were shown. It fell silent as a needle. If it made any noise, we were too dumbfounded to hear.
We had witnessed a bolide—a large, brilliant meteor that explodes in its earthward fall. Often, but not always, they make impact. We couldn’t tell if that one did, the light seemed to blink out just before land—and cowboys being particular about their property—we never investigated.
Years later, he informed me,
“The bolide is a space-rocket making a beeline for earth, zooming down and vanishing into the terrestrial region that for it is alien country. It’s a star’s last waltz and evacuation from space. Why the rock heads south, vacating space and committing suicide on the terrestrial—vanishing into the nether regions of earth—is for the professional astronomers to guess. Perhaps it has wandered around so long, it needed a new experience. Maybe it has to do with the universe seeking life. Some men wish to go up and explore. Some stars wish to come down, and do the same.”
In the nearly ten-thousand nights of star-gazing since, I have seen only two other bolides. Those lesser two hissed, sizzled, and popped, while the great bolide was quiet as snowfall. Maybe they were smaller because I saw the lesser two in a place other than Texas. Everybody knows everything’s bigger in Texas.
It was, for both of us, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of starlight. For Braithewaite, it left behind the burned-in-memory of wonder. He called it heaven’s treacly syrup dropped into the morning coffee of his soul and he remembered its sweet taste ever after. He long wondered what some farmer did with what he must have thought was just another damned rock he found in his field.
Braithewaite had gone to talk to the stars, but they had talked to him. He decided that night to try and put into words what the heavens said. That fallen star ever remained, as he walked through a world where the beautiful lights are scarce and the bright, tacky lights are common, a beacon to his long, dark night of the soul. He considered it heads-up from the heavens that only by the dark does the light shine bright. That Elysian candle informed, and always reminded him, how by dreams made-from-wonder the soul of man lives. He never forgot the wisdom in that light. And so, by the moving map of his mind, and inspired by a fallen star, he built words, relative to other built words, into what he came to call The Gemstone.
Twenty-two years later, when his life was near through, he told me,
“I have made, in my free and thoughtful moments, what I like to call a Streamlined Art-Deco Moderne literature. It is a structure designed-in-hope to make one stare and wonder—and at best—to gape in awe, as if seeing a great bolide for the first time. By the alchemy of the stars I attempted to communicate marvel, to be a propagandist for the miracle. It was my best go at being human.”
And now, after his death, as I look on it from all directions—from back of it, up at it, to the side and from the top of it—I can’t help but shake my head and smile at his curious creation.
He said to me,
“I know it cannot do what it is not. It’s unlikely to achieve fame with the masses, but it may do famously for the few. It is for those ready to extricate their souls from the worldly estates and become. . . if but for the moment, themselves. I am not troubled it might not be fated for the worldly estates. Those are too rich in their conceits. It is for the genuine hearts and souls. It will touch those who are untouched by the world, those ready to free themselves of the clutches of machines and machine-like things. The juvenile will find it despairing, the superficial will find it pathetic, the academic will consider it with cynicism and the impurest of caustic faultfinders will use their two best go-to words—maudlin and sentimental. And I guess it is, in fact, to each of those, exactly all those things. So I cannot fault them.”
I found all that a poignant statement, coming from a man who invented the planet’s most technologically-superior machine.
To truly interpret the Byzantine thought here dissolved into simple words will take the ego free of popular pretensions. This writing is not of any kingdom, but of spirit. The ancient Greeks had no concept of class. Braithewaite was the ancient Greek and by this work called on the winds of old Hellas. Here the spirit of truth and beauty meet with wonder and love.
His attempt to portray life’s spiritual eloquence took the seasons of a lifetime. The effort strained his soul into words. His plain aspiration was to sift meaning from uncountable thinks into concise thought. A great ambition was invested—the seeking by hand, mind and heart for his small place and part in eternity. There, too, was a deep love of humanity involved. The love remains. The acid of his days eroded the ambition. Here is the science of the soul, from which comes all other reasonable science. Here is a source book of wonder.
He instructed me, in his last days,
“Life wakes us to wonder and wonder is the heart of love—and we always end up losing heart. Then love wakes us again. After love, then comes our great despair. If we choose life over death, light over dark, wonder will save us. And on and on, across ten-thousand days and ways, the movement of love, loss and wonder goes. Each despair brings us closer to a higher state of wonder. Our souls, our lives, are moving maps.”
And wonder does connect us. Don’t you think? By wonder, love culminates and perfects the love in the soul and makes for the good and great things. Self-love without wonder becomes emptiness. Wonder without love becomes loneliness. After each despair, we work again on our wonder—the only thing we may ever perfect—so as to try and perfect our love. Those days which define living at its best are those where wonder appeared. So Braithewaite dreamed, then worked, to define a celestial paradigm toward the self-discovery of wonder. As the star fell it turned to dust. He took what turned to dust and fashioned a crystal from it.
The Gemstone is the story of souls. On strange and mysterious paths, this so-called fiction reads true, while much of what parades as true is more incredible than fiction. He made here only words. And like yesterday’s newspaper, they will tumble away in a stray wind down the street. Then the paper will crumble to dust—the grand demolition of his Streamlined Art-Deco Moderne building.
But he wouldn’t complain about it, for he knew well that all stars, life and love are destined for dust and then is left the promise of grace after despair. And that is the only way to perfect the thing called love, which is wonder’s epitome. In that night long ago, in a state of astonishment, he’d said,
“With love and wonder we possess superpowers. With these, we know the bright parts of the heavens. Without them, even if we own the world, we are still in the dark and without heaven.”
That is what Braithewaite said to me on the first night we met, a lifetime ago.
Alpha Centauri Braithewaite, the Ninth Keeper and First Revealer of The Gemstone, died on September 22, 2012, at the age of forty-two. It was the first of fall. His mother had named him after earth’s closest star system. He was a born dreamer and in the time I knew him he taught me many things. In the time since I have continued learning by him. Among the evidence of his existence are the words here.
He was an anomaly; a virtuoso, self-taught polymath who could, in his heyday, perform algebra and calculus at the same moment. I know that is fact. I saw it directly. While talking on the phone, he could add up five rows of figures while debating the non-efficacy of business statistics with his on-hand guest. His mind was eclectic in knowledge and full of life. In him was a philosopher’s philosopher and a common man’s man. At commercial enterprise, he was a wunderkind; he made more money than God made miracles. Well, close enough. And he did that without even farm-to-marketing the incredible widget he created. That is another story, and is a true wizard’s tale. Braithewaite was history’s greatest invisible, unknown pirate, demanding, and being given, a bounty of billions from the planet’s most insidious and profiteering companies. Those who knew, figured the big companies would take him out. But it was a natural death that did what they could not do.
He never knew a base, ulterior motive with any honest soul he ever met or anything he attempted. He was genuine to a core composed of stardust and earth and lived on eternal hope, big dreams and true love. He hobnobbed and told what to do to the powers of the earth, but there was no presumption or assumption in him about any living thing. Arrogance against his fellow man he never knew—even those who deserved it. He buried the dashed-to-pieces animals he found on the side of the road. I was there one time during such an event. He said, through clenched teeth and bitter tears,
“The poor thing shouldn’t have to stay here like this.”
He stuffed the ten-thousand square-foot basement of his Streamlined Art Deco Moderne skyscraper with ancient and modern art, but laughed at the idea he was rich because of that. He lived the idea that true riches are of the mind and spirit.
He said there was only one part of him that ever felt poor; and that had to do with the matter of lost love. Love left him bereft and much too early—and kept on doing just that. His destiny with love was like the rose that drops its petals in the spring just after blooming. A.C. Braithewaite left his heart with the petals at a place called Blue Mountain and then placed his grief deep within, hopped a train, and vowed never to go back.
But he did go back. For many years, on the first of fall, he went back. The last two years of his life he made the trip many times. On Blue Mountain is where he died and is buried, next to her—that beautiful soul who loved love like he did. A few feet over are his patriarchal grandparents, father, mother and brother.
That last year he told the mountain ranger who oversees Blue Mountain that he planned to make one more trip to the summit by the first of fall. The ranger, seeing his physical condition, did not believe it possible for him to scale the 9,712 foot high mountain. Later, when he checked on Braithewaite and found him missing, he journeyed to the peak and found him there.
The ranger said there was a luminous silver-blue butterfly sitting on Braithewaite’s chest, slowly flapping its wings. As the ranger walked near, the butterfly flew up and around his head and then flew off. In Braithewaite’s hand was his grandfather’s original copy of The Gemstone and its lost tales. In his other hand was a blue rose.
What was most dumbfounding to the ranger was the full-bloomed rose shrub he found Braithewaite lying under. He had seen a rose shrub on the porch at Braithewaite’s blue cabin the week before, still in its plastic. Braithewaite told him he was to plant it at the summit when he made it. After the ranger told the story, he said,
“To my knowledge there has never been any blooming rose shrub at the summit. There are plenty along the skyline ridge trail, but none at the summit. It’s just too high for roses to grow at the summit.”
He then shook his head and said,
“But they say God works in mysterious ways, don’t they.”
As executor of Braithewaite’s estate, I was made aware of The Gemstone at the reading of his will. I took it home and perused it over an evening that became the late morning in so brief and long a time that when I finished I could not tell if I had been reading forever or just a moment; nor could I tell if I had been reading the story of some other, or of me. It seemed like both.
In The Gemstone is the philosophy of my friend A. C. Braithewaite—otherwise known as Rigel Kent—and a number of his forebears. I hope your examination of it does for you what it did for me: remind you of the astonishment and wonder hid within existence on this beautiful blue rock. All of it is inside information on the most human soul I ever met.
A.C. Braithewaite was told the legend of the first Braithewaite in America by his mother when he was twelve. He decided then he would become some thing other than what he was: just a poor boy with little chance. For all his dreaming, hoping, believing, and ceaseless working, he was, as he called it, “given” a life rarely experienced. To him, all was gift.
In the end, he made beautiful, everlasting things. He overturned extreme poverty into incredible riches. As long as I knew him, there had always been something special about his life. But he stayed even-keeled about it. As he saw it, he just did the best he could with what he had. He always said he didn’t have much, and yet, had everything. He was the most separate, solitary, uncommon, peerless man I ever knew. He well understood that death will destroy a man’s life, but it did not have to destroy the man’s spirit. A. C. Braithewaite was simply the most godlike son of a bitch I ever knew. His life was a consummate model of the Golden Mean.
After seeing a small part of the heavens fall, he was inspired to write what he dreamed heaven was. He came to see heaven as that portion of eternity we discover serendipitously along the way. He said many times in various ways,
“Our lives are like shooting stars blazing across the sky, quick to come and go. And like the butterfly flapping its wings and the pebble rippling the water of the pond, by their movements the course of earth through the universe is changed.”
This is a book of private letters, with poems attached, to Life. It is a man’s final will and testament to life. Life—that moment’s swoon which comes and goes and is so bright, it hurts your eyes, so you close them. And when you look back, it’s gone, never to be seen again. The Gemstone is Rigel Kent’s sad, but hopeful, history of love. Love for life, existence, and all living things. It was his long search for complete and specific truth. It was method writing at its most difficult, and always cinematic. In our final talk, as we remembered our first meeting, he waxed astronomical,
“The destiny of meteoroids informs us of our own fate. It is rare for a meteoroid to become a meteor. It is rarer still for the meteor to become a meteorite. Rarest of all is the bolide. The rock has to be made of stern stuff to make it all the way to earth. For the bolide-meteorite to be witnessed by human eyes, grand luck must occur. Only a handful of meteorite falls are eye-witnessed each year. To find a meteorite is the rarest of events for a space rock. They are, the lot of them, fated for eternal obscurity. Life is that curious, rare mixture of space-rock, cosmic dust, and understanding—that it will soon no longer be—anything more than space-rock and cosmic dust. . . at least to mortal eyes.”
Rigel Kent told me all kinds of facts about meteors, such as those most often seen are not found on the surface, and those most often found are rarely seen. An estimation is that for each square kilometer of the earth’s surface, one meteorite for every 50,000 years, on average, will fall. They also say one of the best places to hunt for meteorites is in freshly-plowed farmer’s fields, especially after a rain. Important fact: the majority of meteorites contain enough iron and nickel to make them paramagnetic. When he told me, in that last conversation, that someday he planned to take a metal detector and go look for that fallen star, I said,
“Are you aware, even knowing the general area where it fell, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack?”
He smiled and replied,
“I am aware of that, Sir. But I take comfort knowing ten-thousand years after the fall which produced them, meteorites have been discovered. Maybe ten-thousand years from now, I’ll go look for that meteorite. The fusion crust should be gone by then. Until that day, I think I’ll wander around some.”
After we talked through the night, I woke GOD up at the crack of dawn. It was race time. I instructed Rigel Kent,
“Now what’s going to happen is he’s going to smoke you off the line. That’s just a given. He’ll jump the first twenty feet before you can blink. After that, you’ll catch him. But listen to me: Don’t you break my horse’s heart. Keep abreast of him just enough to make him call on the will of the gods, but not enough to make him think he ain’t one. We’ll run from here to the cut-off. It’s about a quarter-mile. I’m going to let him loose to do what he wants. We’ll see if he can break 60. Watch your speedo and let me know if he makes it. After the cut-off, me and GOD will keep straight across and you take your right at El Camino a la Esperanza and we’ll see you when you come in next.”
He stuck his hand out and we shook.
“It was nice meeting you.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Rigel. I look forward to your next visit.”
I leaned down and whispered in GOD’S ear,
“You ready for this, old boy? This son of a bitch thinks he can beat you. What do you think about that?”
GOD twitched his ears and I felt 1,200 pounds of supernatural phenomenon roll from the hooves up. I tensed a millisecond before he shot off. GOD didn’t need whip or fanning to do what he knew was right. When Braithewaite caught us GOD shifted into second. Braithewaite let him keep his nose just ahead of the Firebird. After a furlong, GOD shifted into third, still accelerating. It always felt to me that each of his hooves represented a gear and he switched from one to the other at his own appointed time. He cooked up to his full strength relatively slow, then, when he hit fourth, all hell broke loose and you had to hold on—not tight—but light. It was like riding a bolt of lightning.
When he reached full strength, it was spiritual and physical metamorphosis. God, he was beautiful. As we flew, the thought crossed my mind of all the money the world would say he was worth. I smiled at that silly notion. His worth was far beyond cheap lucre and all it could buy. As he came to me free, he remained free. There was not enough cash in the world to buy him. His worth was making the earth move beneath our feet. His worth was making the wind whistle in our ears. His worth was in his joy of running his heart out. By his straining, he sought his own wonder—and gave free some to me. The wonder of the horse is in speed and strength and he was wonder’s epitome. Every time we went out, we owned life and everything in it. Money? To hell with that. Life is the thing we were buying.
At the point in his run when he switched to fourth, the song of his hooves on the caliche was metallic and hypnotic and the atmosphere immediately dropped decibels. At full gallop, GOD barely touched the ground and the earth grew quiet. At all points start to finish, GOD kept his form perfected. He was life making art. He was life being original. He was the rebel who said to hell with it and did it his way.
To the right of us, Rigel Kent had the Pontiac’s Delco blasting AC/DC’s “Who Made Who”. A few moments after we hit fourth, Kent yelled out the window,
“He just hit 61!”
As GOD ran, I smiled. I had never doubted him. We were a blaze of glory, flying toward daylight and sparking up La Maravilla del Hombre. Dawn was rising. It was a new day.
And that, my friend—with my right hand raised to the sacred memory of GOD—is what happened in Candle, Texas on La Maravilla del Hombre the morning of March 4, 1990. I now hand the story over to you, Rigel Kent, and Mr. Silver. Go walk and talk with them for a little while, take a lease out on some starlight. You can afford it.
The Moving Map Storybook Co.
THE FIRST MEETING
Long ago on Blue Mountain I met an old-timer within the hallowed grounds of a campestral cemetery on fall’s beginning day. His being resembled a craggy old rock and he walked with a broken gait. All of him to me was tall, but I did not notice much the difference. He seemed my size and I seemed his. That is how his kindly demeanor made me gauge it. He was not there to stay. That September day was just a moment’s stop on a long journey for him. The perfect benevolence evoked by his misty-white presence spoke to my heart and set it at peace. On the day I first met him I was aged four years and two months and he seemed as old as Blue Mountain.
Though I never addressed him directly, I came to think of him as “Mr. Silver”. In fact, I never addressed him directly with any name or title. He is beyond titles and my sense of him never allowed me the confidence to imagine I could call him by name—his own or the one I gave him. But in my mind, he was and is Mr. Silver. It was so natural a name it seemed to me a moniker given by some other that somehow I picked up.
Throughout the years of my youth I continued to perceive him. He would walk into a room and I would turn to look and he would vanish. But his form was unmistakable. Then my youth passed and I saw him no longer. He disappeared. For good, I thought. I almost forgot him.
And then, in the spring of my twenty-first year, I began to perceive him again. The perceptions were few at first, but as the days progressed they grew in number until it became routine. By the end of summer I was in complete astonishment by my mystic perceptions of him.
On the first of fall I met directly with him a second time. This time he spoke. It was a familiar strain and I knew right away I’d heard it before. There was a whispering below the voice; a faint, crystalline, silver echo which seemed to be the incarnation of a moment that slipped out of the orbit of eternity. This first-of-fall meeting with Mr. Silver would become a rite of privilege and passage for the following six autumns.
Who Goes There?
There is a stream I know well that runs close by and along a ridge and from the rich clay of the ridge grows giant pecan trees that brush against the bottom of the sky. In my earliest days I picked countless buckets of pecans there with my grandfather. Above the stream and below the giant trees there is a meadow and there is where the fruit falls to be picked up by bird, squirrel and man.
In that meadow is where I met Mr. Silver a second time. He had picked a bucket of pecans and was shelling them. I noticed his method was like my grandfather’s. He would hold two in his hand and crack the egg-shelled fruit with a quick squeeze. He was sitting under the largest of the giants and leaning back against the rough bark. I sat and leaned back with him and partook of his bounty. Then I asked him the question it had always seemed to me, since the first time I had seen him, he would know the answer to. . .
“What is life?”
He did not answer. He did not whisper a word. He merely looked over and watched me and I watched back. I believe that was part of the answer—the initial non-answer. Then he winked and I smiled and he spoke,
“What is life? That is not a proper question. Life asks the question of man, not man of life. And there is only one immortal question that life asks of every man. . .”
He waited two moments. I arched my brows.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Who goes there?” He asked back.
Then he cracked two giant pecans, discarded the shells, threw the fruit in the bucket and said,
“It is a bold question, but life is bold. There is no quick answer for the young and no simple answer for the old.”
I then asked him who he was.
He chuckled and echoed me,
“Who am I?”
He reclined his head in thought and stared at the ground, moving the strands of his silver beard with a silver hand. It was a long moment before he said,
“I heard the answer whispered once, but it has been ages since and I have forgotten. She was sagacious of soul and fair of form and I will never forget her. But her words, to the letter at least, are another matter. I am a wayfaring woodsman and that is all. And enough.”
He then stood with an air of command that informed me my questions to him were over. He swung his long arm around, encompassing with his hand the trees, meadow and stream. I intuited that was designed to inform that nothing before us was to be worried about overmuch, that what we were here for, at this moment and all moments, was far beyond the moment. He said,
“I have come to you—a keeper of the star’s true tales —to speak of astonishment. Among deep shadows and beneath bright stars it was whispered once that these star-true tales are destined to astonish the nations of men. . . . Perhaps. But men and their nations are not often astonished by quiet, wise and beautiful things. But there is the dream of it.”
He drew in a bemused breath and grew quiet in his dream of universal astonishment. Then he said,
“Along with the astonishment of men and their nations I am here to speak of more mundane things, such as the balance of life which is counterbalanced by all that is not life; of the balance of good which is counterbalanced by all that is not good. The dark of the world seeks to blot out the light. And even the fool donkey foaled from a ninny-goat knows that in this world what is wise, good and bright is often trod under by what is foolish, bad and dark.
“All men are destined to meet their maker at the level they make themselves into. All men begin from clay, cloud and lightning and some day are given the opportunity to become starlight and stardust. Not all will choose to. Some go and grow toward the flesh of this earth to become one with their chosen kind, such as the spineless worms which slither there. But all of life is test for life, even for worms. Even the worm must endure the earth that holds her hostage.”
He pointed a long finger at me,
“So Life begs the question: Who are you? Who goes there? Are you spineless worm or bright star, fair? It is a bold question and is your own riddle to share.”
He stopped and looked at me with a gaze which saw everything and then pierced beyond to the other side. He was looking right through and seeing whatever small portion of eternity there was in me. He continued,
“And I am here to speak of less terrestrial things than this world, such as eternity—all the little moments, minutes and hours that make up beingness. The Universe has scales dipped in mortality and immortality and they will never balance. The greatness one seeks to earn is only as great as one’s capacity to listen, question and to learn. Few ever decide to listen so few have questions and thus, learning is for the fewest, after all. But here and now is the appointed hour when we two, among the few, come to break the bread of our minds and share the sustenance within our souls. . . to listen, to question and to learn.”
He stood and walked off, then looked back and moved his head for me to follow. I caught up and he put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me in. He said:
“Your being here is a rare treasure. Your presence here a boon. The universe is enamored of the spirit of your gem-stoned being. Your soul whispers to me. And as the air and ether are privy to all whisperings, it is also my privilege to hear these whisperings of your soul. We will peruse this ledger composed from terrestrial and celestial realms and will discover some answers and think up new questions. We are not earthly-wise now, but debating within the Empyrean kingdom—a mighty and magical domain. You and I have met before and I knew we would meet again, eventually. And now has come the moment long awaited. I would call it serendipitous, except it took so long. No, Milord, it is an affair of time is all. All things happen in time, you know.”
This caused me to remember the first time we met and I was curious of that, so I asked,
“The first time I saw you, why did you not speak to me then?”
He gave a short and simple “Ha!” to that and continued,
“So we will now grow to know what is astonishing to know. We will dream and glean from our brain a mind and from our being a soul. And when tired from all that grand labor we will rest our heads upon feather’d pillows and recline our bones upon gnarled oaks and when refreshed from all that grand rest we will read while we walk beneath the day-star bright and recite while we amble beneath the stars of night. And as our inquisitive eyes follow the path of astonishment we will meet again one old friend from long ago and we three will re-examine these ancient memories within us. There are many of them, you know.”
We had walked to the ancient Indian Trails that begins where the meadow ends. There are two possible paths to take and we took the right one. As we stepped through the entrance the environment immediately changed. The breath of the trail was made sweet by the hanging honeysuckle vines and there were the happy chirping thrushes and the barking of acrobatic squirrels. We had intruded into their territory but I noticed they did not seem to consider our presence intrusive and were more voicing their welcome than their usual annoyance.
As we continued on the path and the squirrels and thrushes followed—leaping among the branches and flitting through the trees—it was a welcome party, I was sure.
As we wayfared in tandem, he said,
“I claim no origin or originality. I have keen ears that hear things that fall from high places. Bright-winged birds and silver-blue butterflies wing down from the celestial sphere and whisper to men. It is a simple matter to understand the language of wings. Birds and butterflies leak secrets from their wings and feathers. They move the air with more purpose than flight. If you see a bird or butterfly fluttering or flying about some wayfarer’s head you may bet it is whispering some secret of the cosmos and creation to the wayfarer.”
He stretched out his hands and swung them around at honeysuckle, squirrel and thrush,
“Life has materialized from the immaterial. It has all come from within the invisible and some bright day goes back into it. Within the bright flashes of the visible-material, life has the chance to see itself and to know—exactly what it is. This deep pondering of life is the pastime of wonderers and philosophers. It is a deep pond they ponder—a loch-spring, you may say. They then whisper into the wind the thoughts they fished from the deep loch-spring. These whispered compositions are translations of secrets within the Empyrean realm.”
He stopped to kneel and inspect an ant colony. As he looked upon it he remarked,
“Like these little beings, the lot of men are comprised of some part of the engine of the world. Some here and there are of the wheel; some the body; and some few are the heart and make the beats that give the engine, wheel and body its movement. These few of the heart give to men their impetus.”
He stood and looked at me and I knew I was being looked upon by a being of infinite grace and it humbled me. He said,
“Who am I? I am a dreamer who has died many times. The first time to die is the worst, but once you have died a first time a second time is not so fearsome. And when all your dreams have died divers times fear becomes a shadow. Shadows are not fearsome.”
We resumed our walk along the trail. I noticed, as he talked and we walked, the squirrels and the thrushes continued following us overhead. He mused,
“But the lot of men are mere passersby. They stand impatient and peruse with expectant airs and muse, What is this matter here? I see them sit and idly wonder and well, there is nothing in eternity that is quick to tell. So they go on their way, the lords and ladies. On to something of do and daring.
“Of eternity? To the engines, there is no matter or caring. None of the worldly beast will sup this wonderful feast. No! This matter of astonishment be of matters wholly indefinite and without value, at least. Of the value that they often do not give to the very air they breathe and which gives them to live their brief hour here. But I tell you, young wayfarer, these be heady matters I will speak of and are not to be taken lightly. Let the engines be about their ways—to conquer the world! Or to try it. Some will come back when they are ready. They are quite too heady for these sweetmeats here. No. They are not yet ready now.”
He sat on a stump and looked up at the chirping thrush and acrobatic squirrel. I sat beside him.
“For you see, Wayfarer, this Book of the Soul I will speak to you be for the two wayfarers in a thousand, nay, the two in ten-thousand true—whose hearts and minds are new. No old, clouded soul or young, ignorant fool will stop here and must remain mere passersby of it. This book be of beauty and wit and of secrets, yet. This whispered tome be worthy of prize and special eyes. So listen my fellow wayfarer and know, you who are full of rare wit and full cloy, who hold close this bright, honest joy, that your presence here is your soul’s beginning. Which after losing all of is just the right time for winning—what the meaning here in life is spinning. And so I will ask you one more time. . .”
He turned to me and his silver eye gave the question his voice did not need to
Who goes there?
And I heard the crystalline whisper,
There is the time left for you to know.
THE DEATH OF FIRST DREAMS
On the first of fall in my twenty-second year we met at First Light Pond at the base of Blue Mountain. Hid by a stand of pines—they being introduced long ago by men part of the land—it was given its name by those who first saw its surface caught the first light of dawn perfectly, as if the pond were an eye the sunrise peeked out of. I discovered the pond when I was twelve and followed a swarm of dragonflies to it. It struck me they all had to be going someplace in particular. And they were.
There was a restaurant over the pond and it catered to dragonflies. The dragons swooped over at seventy-miles-an-hour, scooping up the flies and skating crickets. Nothing had changed in the decade since and this day the dragons were as busy as when I first discovered their hidden diner. It was the noon-tide, and the turtles were sunning themselves on the western bank of the First Light.
He sat under a pine so large and tall it could not have been less than the grandfather of all the others. Pine trees grow wild and stay that way. Man has never tamed the great pine. They are the largest and oldest living things in this world—gods of the forest—and by the wisdom gained from surviving countless ages they stand apart and above man and live independent lives. Along the First Light’s eastern terminus they grow in a bold stand and beneath their brushy canopy the bright noon-tide’s light disappears and becomes like late evening, while out on the water the sun blazes a yellow diadem. I walked over and sat with him and we watched the dragons awhile.
And then he spoke of turtles.
“The first turtle pondered on the first tree and was green-eyed of the plants great capacity to procrastinate and long suffer the sun to grow its limbs. This was the turtle’s first dream—to be like the tree. But time showed the turtle he could never be so slow and unmoving as the tree. So the turtle came to know, as his skin grew into a shell and his spindly legs became thick limbs, that he could never equal the tree’s power of concentration on a single step taken over vast periods of time toward one noble goal.
“And so, after a long period of chagrin he lifted his shell from the place he sat and plodded on just like that—as slow as he could—despite his first dream to be as drawn-out as the tree, which he could and would never be. The tree had humbled the turtle but had taught him that with patience one could become nearly as unmoved as one would wish to be, if not completely unmoved.
“And thus the first dream of the turtle died but in its place a new and little less ambitious dream, of laggard turtle and dragging pace, one in which the slowest in the race finds last spot the best of mortal lot. If the race is to the slowest, the turtle is bound to win. And this, the thing, that makes the poky turtle grin.
“The tree never bothered about the turtle for it was too busy being not busy, working and waiting on sun and season to help make of it a mighty tree. When the tree had grown mighty and large the first bird climbed into the limb of it and pondered upon the four cardinal winds and the eight half-winds and the thirty-two quarter-winds and was wishful of their powers of movement willy-nilly and at moment’s thought to fly anywhere. And so the bird philosophized:
“‘Of winds, it’s been said, there are four, but in sooth, there are many more. There is the wind from the tree that whispers in the forest and the lea. There is the wind from the star that fills both ocean and sea. There are winds from the moon that make the poet swoon—and half a wind from half a moon makes the swooning poet half a fool—but the wind from the moon when full makes the poet twice the tool.
“‘There are winds from the sun’s set and these are winds that are often wet. There are winds from the sun’s rise and these are winds from places dry. There are winds from the mountain valleys; winds from the sea that are furious; winds from the star that are curious and winds from everywhere!
“‘And as I have now pondered all the many winds and see I cannot equal them, but also now I see there are three that are missing. There is the wind from above you and the wind from below you and the wind that is stationary. Here, let me show you. . .’
“So the bird flew up and the bird flew down and the bird flew nowhere at all, but stayed in place, flapping its wings with a grin on its face. And these were the new winds, the bird’s own original winds. And so, after its moment to see it could not equal the winds of the curious star or the furious sea, it then spent a further moment to know it could find its own flow. And the bird went on with its life and made something different and new. Its original dream had died, that dream was not true. And so it changed its mind and off it flew.
“Now the tree’s first dream came from the rock. The tree, in its youth, looked upon the planet’s clock and pondered its never moving unless moved. After realizing it could never equal the rock sought to do as well as it could with what it had—and what it became is not all bad. In all the time in this world the tree has had to become the tree there has been little—that I can see—that is so nearly perfect in movement and un-movement as the tree.
“And so each being has looked upon some other as imitation and guide to becoming its own thing and thus, took from one and added to its own genius and created then some new level of existence, some new thing in the world. From the death of first dreams comes the being’s true beginning.
“Of all things here and there, none made of more magic than dirt and clay—forged from cloud, mystery and light with the earth and history—from which all things grow from and go back to. The Earth made tree and bird and gives form to winds and man—the thinking-cloud animal made of clay—who has learned to name all things, even endless day, and to be still and to move and to grow as the tree, and to fly as the bird and plod as the turtle. But of all things that the thinking-cloud animal does, his thought is best. This is the apex of clay, cloud, man, bird and tree. This rare thought is man’s best gift. Within this gift are all things. And man learned and learns yet this gift by contemplating the tree, bird, rock, wind and turtle. But most of all, man learns this thinking by sitting quiet on a shelf and observing himself.”
He turned and looked at me with that stare that looked through and saw beyond the day. Then he said,
“For man is not the first dream of life, but is the dream after the first dream. And that truth continues with each generation of men. The end of each man is the end of a single generation and the beginning of another and each beginning is the glorious continuation to a question never ending until man ends.”
He trailed off and I took that as my opportunity to be selfish with his knowledge. I asked,
“What about my life. What am I to do with it?”
As is his nature, he did not answer directly, but went about it the long way,
“The mind is an infinite line stretched out along planes of direction east to west or north to south, depending on which arena of the universe one is located at. When an astonished being has decided on a particular arena, they need then merely to raise their eyes to the stars and set their headquarters perpendicular with the heavens and every single thing of a confusing nature will soon become infinitely more clear to the star-gazer.
“Your dream is the compass and your belief is the straight edge and with compass and straight edge the astonished dreamer draws their particular, perpendicular line and angle, relative to the cosmos. It is just that simple. Get perpendicular to the stars. Form your opinions of life at right angles to the heavens.
“All wayfarers are passing through this world on their way to eternity and those who are astonished must seek their amazement against all the engineered obstacles of detractors and malefactors—those who are neither astonished nor believers in astonishment.
“There will be many obstacles to halt the path of the astonished. It is the responsibility of the astonished to make malefactors and obstacles mere gnats caught in the throat of the astonished as they practice their speech, which destiny begrudges them to eventually proclaim. These irksome gnats are mere fodder for the fire in the throat of the proclaimers of astonishment.”
As I walked away that night I wondered how he knew what to say, without me ever speaking a word to him. And then, when I did speak in confusion, he answered perfectly, without saying a single, direct word about it.
THE MIRROR IN THE MOUNTAIN
On the first of fall in my twenty-third year I met him where the waters are famous. At Jump-Rock Falls the waters hop from rock to rock and generations of eyes and minds have been hypnotized by the sight and sound of it. I sat next to him and soon was captivated by the leaping, startled waters. When the claxon geese overhead brought us out of reverie, he finally spoke,
“A mountain is where the land rises to meet the sky. All starlight and stardust meets with mountaintop first, and that is why there is such sublimity on a mountain. It is seen by those who use their mind’s eye. By the eye of the mind, the evidence of extraordinary things is seen.”
He picked up a handful of sand and let it slip through his fingers,
“Break the mountain and it becomes rock. Break the rock and it becomes sand. Sand is the beginning and ending of rock and mountain. Heat up the sand and it turns into a magic glass, in which reflections are passed.
“Behold! The animated-echo, the speculum of mortal sight—the charming mirror! And in time, sooner than time, it and what it shows will turn back to sand and dust, as all must. A quick cast of the eye, a peek and a glance, a twink, wink and a blinking, and what once smiled, now sinking, into despair of dust and dirt. But now we flirt, with our own rare reflection. There it is, I spy, in the mirror and the eye which I see behind and from and in its zoom will find the broom which will, with time, and smiling eye, sweep away the body and breath of me!”
He stood and gestured for me to follow. It was him who I had come to find; he, I would follow. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked,
“Who am I? I am the best and brightest thought within you and there be no worm and water there. For it be a genuine truth that no worm could hope to consider the bright thoughts you have here; for to think such thoughts one must first fit into one’s mind and soul the best of thoughts and lit.
“Behold! A dreamer! And a dreamer’s dream is far beyond the realm of worm. The proof of men and what they are is in their dreams. Dreams speak the truth of souls. What are your dreams, Milord Wayfarer? What are your dreams.”
We went on to walk and talk till the sun waned and the shadows made the boulders appear as giant bison sitting still as rocks. We sat upon the back of one and pondered the sunset and he spoke of it,
“There are sunsets that show well the seashore of time; waves of the temporal sea that break against this world of men, leaving after its beautiful destruction and creation the bright pink and dark red wayfaring clouds that stretch one side to the other along the horizon and in between them the pastel blues and never the wayfarer who does not see such a sight and for a moment pause to ponder the immensity of this all, this time, this life. Those are among the times when the beautiful whisperings in my mind comes, then goes, like this ancient sea that ebbs and flows, showing itself at particular and various hours. And it has been doing so since a very long time ago.
“I have given it many names through the years and it has pared the earth of many tears. Of my own place to sit and stay there is little to speak or say. There is little to know of it or me. Here and there I have been, and well, it has been no less or more than wayfarer’s tale. I have crossed ancient forest and faraway place to catch and carry the flown whisper across my face. As men have slept and decent hour kept, my destiny was toss’d from wave to wave while their dreams leaked out, from them to me. From bird to word these whispers went; from idle lark to wonderment; from wood and lea to you and me, these whispered theories of God and Man, and there began but not complete! For no wonder lives ‘til it find its feet, walking in hearts which find it sweet. . .
“Man opes the Book of the Future, puts his finger there and reads, many choices given and one choice to make; many paths possible and one path to take; many days to decide among many decisions; but one life to live, with no revisions. So ope the book and make a start on time’s own masterpiece—which is you—in tandem with some line that’s new. Your wonder will lend some sign to see, of what it is you were meant to be.
“In parting I proffer, with heart, this: there will come the time when you need some rhyme. When you will sit tired beneath the oak and wish to hear it spoke. When all your dreams of glory have withered and back into the nook of time have slithered and all vain hope of honor got and keen ambitions not. Or perhaps got, but wished had not.
“So sit, my weary friend, rest and let your weary ear hear the best, of tales and spells and rumors of love and humors of war. For love is only rumor and war is only humor to the merciless gods of men.”
He turned quiet as the sun crested the shore of the far western sea. I used that time to plant the flowering shrub I had brought. We then sat in the golden gleam, the night’s dark was arriving and the air was quickly becoming cool. The wind was moving the leaves in the trees and he said of it,
“There are two types of trees: those that clap in the wind and those that whisper in it. On the banks of Jump-Rock Falls are the clapping kind and their applause is for the waters that are famous; for that which is famous always finds its audience. Or is it the audience who seek and find the famed?”
As the last light faded the winds grew still and the clappers become quiet and then were heard whispered the honest, sacred secrets in the famous waters of the falls. And in such things is the lofty peace of a mountain. It is a place of grandeur, majesty and sublimity and without pretense, except for the occasional stand of clapping trees.
I thought he was done but he was not. He stoked back up the inner flame and spoke it to me and his silver being lit up the dusk with a calming glow,
“And I tell you this: dead men do tell tales, of hells and glories, in rhyme and verse, of crime and curse, in lyric and testament, of Pyrrhic victory and what has went, by and down the moss-covered stone of century and wonderment. And one should not straight-off believe what one has heard, whether whispered by man or barked by bird. One should not so quick believe a tale that is brightly told—if one is wise and by wisdom—old. Time speaks in riddles and it has been said: dead men tell no tales, when they are dead.
“Of all things in common here none more so than rose, tree and man. These living, breathing beings who live, speak and think, each in their own way unique. All grow from the same place they were planted, toward a mystical, bright yellow lamp that is slanted and which pervades the ether at the exclusion of neither rose, tree or man.
“The rose and tree rarely fail to attain a perfect melody with this mystical love from the day-star bright. But men are not so bright as rose and tree and could learn from both how best to see, how best to live and best to be.”
We stood and began the walk back down the path. The dim glow of the cobalt sunset behind us shone in sparkles against his silver hair.
“As for me, I have lived on little more than the beauty of a rose; some of these and some of those. And the leaves from a tree hath made fine clothes. And both hath given rhyme for a wonderer’s compose. And one hath given warmth to a wayfarer’s toes. They both served well this forthcoming wayfarer’s tale.”
He leaned in and lightly touched his head to mine, like a big dog to a pup, and said,
“Now ponder this, it was love that shaped the leaf by thought and desire and they were perfectly made and did not require any other dam or sire. Then love shaped the wonderling as it had shaped the leaf but the wonderling was imperfectly made, until the wonderer’s belief in beauty and truth made love’s own work a thing, for men and bird, in verse, to sing.”
My fourth year’s pilgrimage began one hour before dawn, when I woke from dreaming of a thousand falling leaves, all bright yellow, red and orange. It was a bonny dream and I would have liked to stay in it, but wakefulness insisted. I clothed myself and went into the study where, as I reached to turn on the lamp, I saw his fire beneath my oak. He was sitting in the nook of the tree and the flames were casting shadows upon his perpetually-thoughtful face.
I put on my robe and went out and sat next to him. The stars above us, being framed by the Stygian pitch of the tree’s leaves, were extra bright. When the flame faded and the coals glowed, he spoke:
“I live wherever I am at the moment. I am the curator of a great library. I can read, speak and write all the languages of men. I have found that one word in one language at one time is sufficient. Allow me the privilege to speak in your language and I will try to make it worth your while. Your while is worth much so I will give it my best essay.
“But first we must leave this place and go to another place and another time, indeed, another world. A world within this world—and outside of it. A time within this time—and outside of it. Time for a mortal creature is like a window one looks out of trying to decide what to watch as it all moves and passes by. Eternity is less problematic. The sensation of time for the short-lived is drawn-out by anticipation. To the one living it, a single life feels like a short eternity. This gives the short-lived the sense of their time being time enough—which it never is. Not much that will last after it is done can be accomplished with so short a thing as a single life. But for eternity, all has been seen. So the sensation of time in eternity is more proper to its duration. And as history is always a repeater, all becomes twined. All is same. The same sensational events of ten-thousand years ago happen again today, somewhere. In eternity the distinction of separateness dissipates. So the things of eternity must create by sought-for-inspiration what is spontaneous in the new.
“So let us step into a separate dimension from the one we are in. Let us walk into the dimension of eternity. A kingdom it is, within a state of mind—where there is safety, yet danger; hard truth, yet soft beauty—in equal and proper measure. You will experience danger, that is sure. But in the end, and all along, will be quite safe.
“This eternal place has blue and purple-colored leaves on its trees and the sky is deep reds and bright golds at the sun’s rise and set. It paints all that you see from its palette of colors and that is the spirit’s daily ablution, which is as necessary for man as the rains are for streams. These are the same colors of sunset and sunrise at your place and time, just more so. And the sky in day is a silver’d blue light—just like yours—only more so.
“When the stars shine there they send points of light to the blue and purple leaf’d trees, bouncing among them until they reach the ground. If one is quick and captures the bouncing light they may gain the inspiration in great measure there. The moon is brighter, too. You have never seen a moon so blue nor a moon so swooning! This moon is an old moon and likes his sleeping, and if you look real close, will see it spooning, against the night whose shadow is the moon’s own keeping—but with his lamplight’s glow, gives peaceful light for us below. Of a baby-blue shade it is made.”
“It sounds like a dream world,” I said.
His entire face smiled,
“That is exactly what it is! A dream world and a world of dreams. And the air is a pleasing aroma and full with the life-giving ether. It gives to the inspired beings an extra-grand capacity towards the gaining of their aspirations. In this air is the youthful fountain, which is where dreams are fashioned. In a dream is the inspiration that fires the mind of man. All men have it, this fire-from-the-dream. All men are capable of going to this ultra-dimensioned place.
“But inspiration is a thing decided upon by the inspired. And that is the perpetual decision to be made, to go to the Place of Dreams. It requires steps to get there. Imagination is step one. Belief is step two. And two steps many times made will get you somewhere, eventually. And this is for sure: there is no dream without imagination.”
The coals and stars blinked out as the day began and the cool night slipped into the warmth of day. He stood and walked off and I followed. By noon we were in a commons and there were many trees of many colors. The weather was nice and there were many people. He pulled a white meerschaum pipe from his vest and placed dried leaves in its bowl and lit it. The smoke rose in a silver wisp and gave a woodsy aroma. He said,
“When I am not wayfaring, the library is the place I like the most. The study is set in a nook beneath a granite archway and is where I have been reading the tomes of men for some time. I like the old books with the old words, made from wood that began growing when the first men did. I like the new books with the new words, made from energy that just now came to earth. All first editions of every book that has been whispered and writ are in my library. There are the best sellers and the never sold. Among the best sellers are those which have found their proper place and some which have a minutiae of the value of the most obscure and never sold. Some are tattered and worn, having been used much and often. Some are crisp and fresh, having barely been opened—a mere rifling through, then closed up a’new. Some are gilded with true gold. Some are gilded with fool’s gold. Some have rubies and emerald on their cover but little inside. Some are poor of cover but filled with diamonds.
“So there are all types of works in my library. But there is one work among them all I turn to when the seasons change, each season special in its particular fashion. It is my favorite of books and an obscure title. Of the great works of men, I am most particular to the obscure works. In spring this obscure book gives to me, along with the budding, famous rose, a sense of the new unlike any other. And in fall this book gives to me, along with the colored leaves that drip from their twigs like dried water, a sense of the graceful dying of man and nature. And in summer, along with the yellow light and teeming life, this book gives to me the fullness of being. And in winter this book gives to me, along with the white snow and fogg’d-draped lanes of quietus, the wisdom of endings and future beginnings.
“But what I think best and what you do will be different. And that is wonderful that we like best the different things. But all of us enjoy perusing the books of beauty, for beauty is welcome in all living hearts. Beauty is famous with all men. This favorite book of mine is a book of that kind of beauty which is always welcome.”
We were walking along a well-traveled path and there were wayfarers and worldlings in droves. Not a one of them noticed the tall, silver being with the lit meerschaum pipe next to me. But people are full of their own thought and see only what is within their mind to see.
“I have sat countless nights in my study perusing all the noble works of men. In my nook, where I sit and read the screeds, I can hear the pop and crackle of the roaring fire in the great room beyond. The sounds of it remind me of the tiny animals I hear wayfaring along the royal road. The ceiling of the room is seventy-two feet high and the perimeter is a thousand feet.
“There are images in the library none in the world have ever seen from great artists the world never knew. For not all men write, some paint. I commissioned a work from my favorite of obscure painters. I had her draw and color a picture of a loch-spring and place in its clear waters a stone cleaved in half. I whispered this image to her and she saw it perfectly. When she completed her work, I stood amazed. I know well the loch-spring, but the location is unknown by any other. I knew the artist had never seen it with mortal eye, but with the eye of her mind. The canvas is forty-two feet wide by thirty-three feet high. I keep it above the fireplace, for I like the way the light of flames dance over it.
“So this library is a large ship of quiet thought. All the whispered thoughts of men bound in tomes from gilded leaf to polished vellum reside there. In the hush of winter I can hear the whisperings of men echoing up the mezzanine levels. When the echoes reach the ceiling they rush back down, tripping over the words they rushed past toward the top. The acoustics of the library are first rate and that was done by purpose, for it also makes a fine symphony hall. For not all men write or paint. Some make music. In this symphony hall are all composers the world has ever known—and all it has not.
“My favorite composer, of composers obscure or famous, wrote a symphony just for me. It begins adagio, becomes allegro and ends as it began. Every stringed and wind instrument is in it and the melody is sublime because of that; it sings from choir to cavatina and back again. It can be defined as all music becomes defined—pure elegy. If you would listen you could hear it, and you would know its incomparable beauty. The fifth floor mezzanine balcony is the best place to sit and listen to this heart-wrought music of the world’s whisperings. My composer heard whispered this melody and set it to string and flute.
“So in this vast space is the first edition of every story ever whispered. In this place are all the paintings and symphonies heard and unheard. All things famous and obscure are here; all the masterpieces of man. Your story and masterpiece will be here someday. I think especially yours. For I find the beginning of your story to be among the best of all possible stories. Yes. Now there is the making of something heroic.”
“My life is nothing heroic. It is ordinary, austere and tedious.”
He scoffed as he knocked the ashes from his pipe,
“Your life is not the matter of a hero? Ha! How do you know what your life is? It is far from finished. How can you judge proper the painting by contemplating the specks of it? You must look at the whole, and only when it is done. Until then, you must work and wait. Just remember: It is your story to tell, your book to write, your canvas to paint, your music to compose.”
He watched two young passersby. They were holding hands and smiling and talking about nothing and everything. He smiled at them and said,
“The young believe they are too young, but they have been here longer than they know. The old believe they are too old, but what do they know of old? A wrinkle is small proof of the knowledge of time, and there is not enough space on the human face to prove deep knowledge of the race. Of this matter of time it is never too early or late to do what is meant for time to know. No story is writ until it ends. No story is finished ‘til it goes to press. Until then, it is all outline and beginning.”
He stopped and turned to me, a stern look on his face that turned soft by the end of his speech;
“Now, my boy, my advice is to live like a god would live and your days will be true and bold. Write like a god would write and your words will be told. Paint like a god would paint and your canvas will be sold. Compose your music like a god would compose and there will be memory, meaning and melody to behold. . . .”
“I am not sure what it is I am made to do or be. It is all conundrum to me.”
He shook his head and pondered it, then replied,
“Perhaps you are destined to put fair form and face on a pedestal’d place—for not all wonderers write, paint or make music—some wonderlings sculpt. So sculpt like a God would sculpt and the lines will flow and know, what the rock knew all along. There are many sculpted statues in my library of marble and rough-hewn stone. My favorite busts are of the beautiful souls; a fair form and face is not so beautiful as the form within the form. And thus, by bust or melody, book or painting, in the end, these become the stories that men make, and the stories that make men.”
He set a finger in the air, like he was checking the direction of the wind, and continued:
“Or perhaps. . . you are meant and made to propagate the wonder of the arts, a benefactor of wonder and wonderers. I do not know, Wayfarer. Only the wayfarer knows the bold secrets in their own quivering hearts. The secret of you is that faint whispering in your soul. You have been hearing it many years now. Listen and it will spell it out for you.”
He put his hands on my shoulders. They were heavy hands, but I was not burdened by them. I could feel them lift my energy with their weight.
“Just remember that the beautiful and the true are the most famous of things in eternity and what is true and beautiful becomes part of time and is not lost. It is rare that it happens. But what is rare among the common is common among the rare. In eternity is the possibility of all impossibility. Seek the eternal impossibility.”
We resumed our wayfaring and I asked, as he watched the people around us,
“How does one get their book, painting, sculpture or composition into your library?”
“I oversee the press that sets the books, but have no final say or editorial responsibility. The story is each man’s to write. This press has been in operation long before the first Sumerian picked up the first reed. And though I decide what music I will hear on what day, I have no say in what the maestro will make. And I place and choose the sculptures of the beautiful where I believe they should go and put the paintings where they hang best, but no brush or chisel do I control.
“My second favorite place to read and contemplate the works of man, after the study nook, is before the great Roman-stone hearth-fire. It was told to them their stately halls would be crushed and made a place of ashes. They did not believe. Yet there be their stones, a place of ashes.
“I put to good use this Roman-stone’d hearth fire through the cold winter. And in the spring, when the apple trees begin to bloom, I sprinkle the ashes of apples over them and they are made sweeter by the addition of the bitter. A brighter tint of red and green is their thanks for the ash. This is just one trick to make apples and trees grow bright and sweet. When the winter has been cold and I have spent too many hours by the stone hearth I then go wayfaring. There are no places to go that I have not been. But I always end back up at the library.”
We passed a woman sitting on a bench. Next to her was a babe in a carriage. He bent and tickled the nose of the infant and the child smiled.
“This child could become a great composer some day. There is the wonder of music in that soul. I can hear the melodies that wish to be born through her and she can hear them, too, even now.
He straightened and said,
“This child is going blind, and her mother does not know it yet.”
The mother was preoccupied and the old-timer looked her over,
“She is not listening to the music in her child. And so the child may never hear it, either.”
He shook his head and we resumed our walk along the promenade until we arrived at a willow tree, where he sat crossed-legged beneath its weeping leaves.
“Among the short-lived, there are other names for my great library. The poetic-minded call it eternity and imagine it is made of moments of no end. There is even the work of a businessman in my library. He boasted he could reproduce every future sunset there ever could be in the world, to the smallest detail. I told him if he could prove it, I would add his work to my library. The next evening he showed me his storefront window, which caught the sunrise perfectly in its reflection, to the detail. So his great window is now in the library. And this proves there are works of art in all men, if men would see them.
“The mathematical-minded call it infinity and imagine it is made of numbers of no end, but I just call it the library, a place of stories that, in fact, all have known their first ends. For it cannot yet be called a story if there be no end to it. A properly done story must have an end. Until then, it is just hope and outline of story. All the stories of life are in my library and are safely guarded. Even when I am off wayfaring nothing is tampered with. No story, bust, symphony or painting in my library can be sold, traded, lost or stolen. No finished or unfinished work of any wonderling here is maligned or unappreciated. But even with these stories, it is just the first dream. Life, you see, is only the first dream of a soul.
“In my walks I remember men I knew before. There was once a prince who complained to his teacher there should be an easier way to knowledge. The scholar replied there is no royal road to knowledge. So the young prince became a conqueror and then a king and built a new city over the rubble of the defeated and affixed his own name to it and erected the world’s greatest library there. He then built a royal road to it and thus, proved wrong the scholar. He was curious only of knowledge for the sake of power and then made a royal road to it.”
“But isn’t all knowledge for the sake of power?”
“Yes,” he answered. “But there are many themes to power, and much difference between the many themes.”
His face became brooding. I had never seen a more profound face. It appeared to hold all the ideas of all the books in his great library and to look upon it one seemed to be able to read from them, in parts at least, snippets of the story of the world and its tale-telling men.
Then his brows shot up and his silver eyes peered into mine with fire in them and he exclaimed:
“But there has always been a royal road to wonder! And that is why I wayfare through the forest. Within the enchanted brake is the way to wonder. It is a quiet road and the trees are blue and purple leafed. In the colored leaves is hidden the open-air secrets to life. A free pass to citizenship in the world of astonishment is given to all who will walk the enchanted forest with enchanted eyes, for the beauty there is as real as one’s soul can feel what the universe has set for souls to get. But men and their eyes are blind to it, yet.”
He then sat against a tree and set his silver eye on me. I smiled and he smiled and he pointed at me and spoke,
“But someday will come a Prince of Wonder and wonder his domain, wherein all vanity and all who are vain will be turned to smoke in the ash-heap of eternity. And all that is beautiful and all that is true, will be set in an amber shade of blue, everything writ will give life to wit and every rhyme composed will give hope to those, who read the words and know, who perceive in the bright seed, that in the forest is enchantment and enchanting, indeed.”
He stopped pointing and spread his hands in petition,
“But without wonder even a king with all earthly powers will grow bored with powers and will still refuse to discover wonder. I have seen it countless times. But for the soul that goes to the woods and discovers it, there is a kingdom that will never know such penury. In the brake is the genesis of story in men. And after learning from the patient trees what appreciation for life is, men come to know who they are, and could be. Until then they are mere passersby of the knowledge of wonder and existence, hid in plain sight. In the leaf and wonder it can make there are hidden greater victories than all the world’s armies and more power than all kings. But the worldlings, who hide among their own kind exclusively, who never know the forest deep, turn down the glowing lamp of their minds and their hope of wonder is soon put to sleep.”
He winked at me and said,
“But not the astonished! Those are the lamps of life. The astonished are lights, and the things they wonder on are petitions to astonishment. They seek marvels along the royal road and the best among them shine brightest of all seers. Long walks in the royal forest of wonder make for long thoughts, which are then put into short lines, carved figures, painted portraits and symphonies. When the wonderer has worked and waited and discovered their genius—which is in all men if they seek it—the story and work is then writ and made with the blood of berries and leaves and the wonderer’s sweet thought is sated, for a moment.”
He let out a sigh and lifted his hands, then clasped and set them on his lap.
“Then the astonished come to know that no poem, melody, bust or portrait is ever finished till it finds its true place and owner in the heart of the one it was made for. And just as one being may be loved by many, any great work may be loved by all as truly as by one. A wonderer may be poor of earthly things, yet inherit the universe within their mind. A wonderer may possess deed to little without, but hold title to property that never depreciates. These fortune-gambling wayfarers are the earpieces to the whisperings of the world and the whisperings in their own souls. They deed back to the world the beauty they took from it. Their work, from moments and places here and there, becomes singular and stands alone. It is its own thing.
“The great disregarders, those arrogant passersbys, the worldlings who shield their eyes to the light—for their sight has long grown accustomed to the dark—those of the great mob are a breed apart from the astonished. It has long now been but may not always be, for the heart of humanity grows in the heart of every man. There are gods in men that may, perchance, cause a sea-change that turns the tide of men. But that story is not yet writ. . . .”
THE FIRST TALE
On the first of fall of my twenty-fifth year I wayfared through the deep and shadowed spruce and fir forest that stretches along the northeastern base of Blue Mountain. It is a dense woodland that gives room to sleep and live the mountain lion, badger, bobcat and wild blue rose and place to haunt for every ghost and spirit of every modern, ancient and obscure religion. In this wood are shadows made from trees and those are not like the shadows made from buildings and bridges. On Blue Mountain there are old memories in the shade of trees and the night is presaged in them and there are the monolithic thoughts of eternity in the shadows of the spruce and fir forest.
I traveled the entire day looking for him. This would be the sixth meeting and I felt it would be extra important. I was ready to believe I would not meet with him when finally I stopped to rest and then spied him a ways over, sitting in the shade of a gnarled fir. I sighed away the day’s frustration and went and sat next to him, grateful to rest. I said to him,
“I was wondering when you would show. I have been walking since morning.”
He smiled as he stirred a pot over a small fire and said,
“Show! I have been walking along with you the whole day through. I was wondering when you would stop to rest. I was growing weary.”
I laughed and thought, That is life. We seek to discover what is all about us. He must have been reading my mind, for he stopped stirring his pot and said,
“Life—that rich mystery we wonder if and when we will discover—and time’s second and most beauteous dream. None know how, when or why the first dream. That is lost to mystery and eternal wondering. And so this second dream, a paradox to perplex philosophers and wonderers since time immemorial.
“In the primordial age there were many moons and the planet was dark with endless night and mystic dreams of angels slept within quiet waters and the four winds were still and the first stars hid in the new heavens in untold number and there was in those ancient days, after Time’s first failed dream—the Original Being. Its form was formless and later filled whatever shape that gave peace to the mind of its beholder. Some saw it as male and others saw the feminine. It was not of mortal flesh but the possibility of death was surely in it.
“After three great ages had passed, the Original Being created from its hair the first stringed instruments and played the first harp and lyre, and began with this first strain of song the still waters to roil and the four winds to blow and the many moons were coalesced into one moon and the planet was seeded with the life of men by the dreams of the First Being and the long night passed and the stars then slept in the first day and then wondering eyes woke from their first slumber to man’s beginning and all was ready for the destinies of the first men.
“And then the First Age of men failed and died away and the roiling waters and four winds were stilled and the moon turned dark and starlight faded from the earth and the mystic dreams of angels slumbered in still waters. The Original Being slept and dreamt of its failed age of men and died by pining over its broken dream of men. As the Original Being died it passed into the dark void the seed and secret of original being. And a long, dark, dreamless eternity passed until, from the seed of the first Original Being there came a second Original Being who dreamt of the Second Age of Man and that Second Age lived and grew.
“And then the Second Age of men died as the first had died and the Second Being died with them. And so the Third Age began as the first two had. And the men and the Third Being of the Third Age died also, as the First and the Second had died. And so a Fourth Age began and then a Fifth Age and then a Sixth.”
He stopped speaking of ages long enough to stir his pot. It smelled like no spice I was familiar with. It was sweet one moment and bitter the next.
“There have been six revolutions of life before this present, seventh revolution. This has been done six times before. Long before the first age of men there had been the primordial age of magic, the secondary age of giants and the penultimate age of mysteries. After these ages, the first Original Being deemed the time was ready for the age of men and set them in the world, to become the apex and ultimate age of magic, giants and mysteries.
“So then arrived the age of man, which was to be the age of ages, and would meld together all the ages and there would be magical, giant men, full of mystery and starlight. To come together this age of men would need to learn the truth in them. That they possess the potential of magic and mystery; that in them are the seeds of giants; that in them are the secret, hidden, mighty powers of the ages.
“The Original Being walked in the first forest and in a clearing where starlight fell in perfect proportion took from the earth a stone. This stone was to be father and mother of all jewels, progenitor of ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond, topaz, opal and all shade and hue there are in jewels was first in this one. The first being drew the light of the close star and set the starlight in the stone and ancient knowledge of starlight and the mysteries of men were put in the stone and the light dissolved all shadow in the stone and made it the first translucent jewel of the earth. In it were the colors and hues of all jewels. Infused then in this first jewel was special knowledge for future men, and the Original Being set the seed and secret of original being in the stone. From that moment on was set the possibility when men would come to know the knowledge of the first jewel and then be changed and become jeweled men; men of the age of magic, mystery and giants.
“The Original Being then cleaved the first jewel into two parts and threw one half into a loch-spring and the loch-spring became a swirling vortex of pure energy as it was filled with the captured starlight of the first being and the ancient knowledge of the first jewel and in the depths it glowed and made flow the spring with all the colors of the first rainbow and then the first being put the seed of the first man into the other half of the jewel and this half lost its shade and hue and became clouded and dark from the ignorance within the seed of man and waited there to be given back its true colors and beauty, which were lost in the change of state. For the jewel is a living stone, and seeks always to be rejoined to its other half, which is the work of men.
“Then the Original Being walked the world and waited eons, for the seed of men to grow and discover what it is that is in them, to learn to complete the cycle of the jewel, the re-coloring of the half of the jewel. Long are the days of men and their journey to understanding. But all in time, beneath the bright star that guides them.
“The Original Being set within the loch-spring this first of jewels of many facets and carats, the largest of any other, to include within this one all the others, to be the source of inspiration in future men. In this jeweled loch-spring were set the ancient secrets of men, to be found there by the Keepers of Secrets, when time came for them to know their own knowledge. The loch-spring jewel—the beginning and hope of man—and held inviolate and impregnable. There is only one way to make soluble and disintegrate this jewel. Only one.
The Secret in the Stone
“So, Wayfarer, you see now that this starlight-dripped stone set in men is within all men, with various colors, hue and texture. And in the stone are the long-kept secrets of men, secrets from the First Age. And in the stone is the secret of secrets—that of love, which is the secret to magic and mystery here, and makes possible all powers. But men must re-color and then give back the stone to gain the secret. In the tears of men is the loch-spring stone, re-colored by love, and men must drop their tears—a return of love—and by doing that, give back their part of the stone to the loch-spring. In all men are given the opportunity to recast the stone and its color. In all men is this power, but in all men are set various degrees of power.
“Because men of all ages have been stubborn. Men would remain ignorant rather than drop the tear that divulges this knowledge of long-kept, immortal mystery. Men would rather lay claim to this love, and keep it within themselves, rather than give back to the loch-spring what is its own. In the hearts of men is starlight and jewel. This has been said. One man will be topaz and the other, diamond. And each of them has in their heart the jewel they are. The jewel in the hearts of men is a soft jewel, and drops out of them when it is ready. But they must cut the jewel themselves. If they will not cut the jewel and return it to the loch-spring their jewel is dissolved and is not returned, and the jewel in the loch-spring, with its seed and secret of life and original being, fades in color and hue and eventually dissolves away, and also then fades the Original Being, and all of men. This is the one way to break the jewel into its parts, to dissolve the jewel. Men of all ages have been selfish. They seek to own the jewel alone, to claim exclusive possession of the jewel, and thus, they dissolve and waste the jewel.”
He took the stick he had stirred the pot with and held it close to my eye. I felt the languid, selfish tear being pulled out of me and though I tried, could not stop it. He held the stick up and the tear at the end of it glowed various colors and then fell into the pot and the waters glowed a moment by its addition.
He smiled and said,
“See? You fought the release of that tear. It is man’s natural state to do that. Why do men fight tears? They are life’s primal source and come from the fountain of creation’s beginning. Tears are the apex proof of love and the protoplasm of life. Love incarnate is the dropped tear and a single drop adds more to the future life and hope of the world than any other thing. So, young wayfarer, the tear—that most feminine of things to the wildlings—are in fact, the strongest of things here. If the seas were to dry up, the ships could not sail. If the tears of men were to dry up, men could not love. And when men will not love, men cease to be the hope of men. I have seen the seas go dry before. Six others have seen the other happen, six times. . . .
The One Age
“Time cleaves itself constantly—like clockwork—as you modern wayfarers say it. But time is hard and unfeeling. Men are soft and created from emotion. This is the best and natural state of all men and as they veer away from it, become less of men and more like rocks. It is the great strength of men and is their uniqueness, this capacity for softness and depth of feeling. It is what makes them greater than a rock or a tree, and beyond other sentient beings. It is what makes them men. The loch-spring is the place where love came from, and is the place where it must go back to.
“Love is the knowledge of ancient mystery and magic. All ancient mystery and magic must become modern knowledge before men will be able to evolve to the next level. For men to give their love back to the loch-spring is to complete its destiny, and to begin theirs. When it is time to do so is act of faith that it is not gone and that they know this, and give back what is not their own, but everyone’s. Men do not own love but are holders and caretakers of it. Men still learn this. It is a work just begun. The first six ages of men failed and the men of those ages died away because they dissolved the jewel in the loch-spring.
“It is the peace that passes all understanding to give up the jewel within. The wisest among men are free with their possessions, for there is no true possession, not even of love. It is the jewel of the loch-spring they are knowing, and that is the community property of all souls. When the passage of the jewel from the heart back into the loch-spring is complete that is an evolution of the soul that has been accomplished. When men love, the power of starlight and jewel are combined and man’s power is made complete. Man is complete by the jewel in his heart and the starlight in his mind melding and twining together by the love for some other being. This is necessary. Man must love to find his highest meaning and his beginning. Man must love to discover his powers and his story. He need not be loved back. The knowledge of love is enough.
“Love is the moving, soft jewel within men that passes through the mind and heart of men, back into the loch-spring. Without knowledge of the loch-spring jewel there can be no discovery of ultimate wisdom. By men’s discovery of the loch-spring and its jewel within them, they discover hidden mystery. When they give back to the loch-spring part of its one, pristine, perfect jewel, they complete the cycle of mystery, and become wise. The death of the race of men has come six times because men would not learn the value of life. Men refused to grow their wisdom six times before and six times were men refused by life.
“It has been said that men are in a moving carriage, looking out the window at the passing scenes. They are too intent on all that passes to concentrate on all that does not pass—or to perceive that all is still and calm beneath the movement. The captured starlight and the ancient mystery in the loch-spring jewel flows into the hearts and minds of men when they decide to dispossess themselves of the passing kaleidoscope of things and concentrate on one matter—the heart. But too often they grow acquisitive of this captured starlight, believing they can possess it. Men find it hard to become dispossessed. They believe they will lose the knowledge of starlight, when in fact they have yet to know it. They believe that to give it up and let it fall from their eyes will make it disappear and be gone forever. But this is not so.
“The tears and love of a single man come from the loch-spring and go back to it, to replenish the loch-spring for others to know the same love, the same rare starlight, the same joy of the one jewel. And this is good and makes possible the light to shine brighter, and not diminish. There are as many possibilities for love as there are hearts in the world to know it by. All are connected to the loch-spring, for there is but one love, from the one jewel, within all beings. When one man learns of his particular mystery, he becomes part of all mystery, all dream, all men, from all time, even the First Age, when the first universe of time and place was. This love is the common breath of life that fills all space. Even the rose and tree are filled with this common breath. This same love is there in them. Men do not love enough to know this love. It is not lucky for men and their world for men to be so simple about deeper realities. If men would love as true and simple as the rose and tree it would be a new world and the great ages would coalesce into The One Age. That is the hope of this age, to make giants of men, full of mystery and magic. The doom or glory of the age is within the men that live the age. All power for destruction or creation is within them.”
The lights of heaven were in the sky and the night songs of the birds were heard. He began to call to them in their own language, and they spoke back. Then he spoke to me in mine,
“The bird gave to men the idea of speech and the dream of flight. The doe with her fawn gave men their idea of gentleness and grace. The bear and lion gave to men their idea of nobility and strength. All that men imagine their birthright and their own were gifts given to them in the primordial ages. With the first drops of knowledge from the loch-spring men grew arrogant and full of pride. When all knowledge there is to know will be gained men will grow humble and wise. Men now are in the age of pride. No age of man has ever gone beyond it. It is a treacherous age. In it are the seven roads to seven dooms and the seven sea-lanes to the final shipwreck of the sloop of men. Men tip-toe on the slippery edge of forever and a day.
“Men have given the number seven to many things. They have named seven days, even though the days are endless in number. They have named seven seas, though there have been countless seas. There are seven class of angel and devil, though there are as many different angel and devil as there are men. There are seven kings of Rome and seven Romes have been. There are Seven Wonders of the World, but in truth, all the wonders there have been in all the seven worlds could not be counted with every grain of sand on the endless seashores of the seven seas. There are seven joys and seven sorrows and seven days it took to make the world.
“Grand are these ages of seven—the cardinal number for all that changes. Time is the epitome of change and the simple name given to all that changes. And now the seventh world we are in and seven beings who dreamt them and seven wishes to see them live and seven hopes against their doom and the one danger there always has been to try and make ruin of them.”
He stood and as he reached for the handle of the pot it turned into his meerschaum pipe, which he stuffed into his pocket. He looked down, winked and said,
“Meet me at the head of Indian Trail at sunrise a year from this day. Then I will tell you of the Seven Ages.”
And with that, he disappeared.
THE SEVEN AGES
My soul quantum leaped in the time from my twenty-fifth to twenty-sixth year. The time that moves within and changes us remains unmoved for long periods. No matter how long we work to change, we remain the same, and then, in a season or a day or a moment, we become what we have worked to become. That is the nature of growth and time.
I met him at the appointed hour and we began walking the trail. I had been here many times before, but the trail was different now. The world of men had fallen away and we were alone, two wayfarers walking in a timeless place.
“There are seven ages of man. The age of wonder began the ages and is basic to all others. Curious knowledge began and ended the second age and this knowledge gave rise to the age of kings and was the third age. The kings gave to the world the fourth age of conquest which gave its historical precedents of war and glory and blood spilled freely. And then the fifth age of judgment, where conquerors administer the yoke of justice and by oppression the conquered grew weary with chains and questioned whether to throw them away or keep them. After this age of oppression, if the choice is made for freedom, then comes the penultimate age, the sixth age of wonder, when poet and scholar and their knowledge of love and universal understanding hold sway, as war and profit once did.
“The sixth age is the leading-on age, to make possible the seventh age, which is the age of power, where lives the peace and love which makes possible man’s greatest evolution. There has never been such an age or hour. Man has remained perplexed in the fifth age. If the sixth age ever occurs, and then the seventh age, men will become heir to the magic born in them long ago, when the first age heralded a bright and new being in the universe. All men are connected and must all come to agreement and understanding for the sixth age to begin.
“In this future possible age men will not recognize men now as belonging to their same species. That future possible seventh age will be an age of giants and mysteries. To this greatest age original energy has been straining. To this one age, men have been balking. This age now is the seventh age of time for man to be. This is the seventh world that has come. This is the seventh revolution of men. Six times before have men failed.
“This is the age of man’s true beginning, or final ending. Perhaps six failures it takes to make one eternal success. And this is Original Energy’s lesson as much as it is the lesson of men—that nothing comes out as we first dream it. Even the glimmering, glittering, golden hue of heaven’s dream can become the black-pitched doom of hell’s reality. The dream of a god can become, too, nothing more than dust and nightmare. There are no powers in any universe of time or place, of mortal or immortal being, that are beyond failure, sorrow and eternal heartbreak.
“The first men were wildlings, and the first of them to cry at the death of another wildling caused bafflement. The wild men stoned to death this first tear-dropper, but then wondered at it. It woke in them the ancient memory of the loch-spring and this became the first instance of a sacrifice and ritual burial. Love among men began slowly, this love of brother for brother, after this first death was pondered on. When the wildlings began to love one another, they became less wildling and more men. That process continues today, in various degrees, over the paths and peaks of the earth.”
THE SECOND TALE
On the first of fall of my twenty-seventh year I met him again on the Indian Trail. A thousand falls before the last of the ancients had walked there and ten-thousand falls before that the first had walked there, carving from the mountain a path to travel from the eastern edge of the mountain where the sun rose to the western terminus where the sun sets. The ancients believed the trail was a nexus of eternity, linking the past with present and present with future. They believed to walk the trail in a day from begin to end, from the sun’s rise to its set, would give to the walker some knowledge of eternity.
I arrived at trail’s head before the first light and found him stirring his pot of tears. There is a rose garden at the foot of the trails and he had picked a red, yellow, purple, pink and white one. I watched him place each rose in the fire and they flamed into the color they were and the ashes they became fizzled with the color they were and then he dropped each of them into his pot and stirred it and the magic of Mr. Silver never ceased to amaze me. After the colored rose fire he picked up his pipe and we began to walk and he began to talk.
“Mortals disagree concerning the number and name of the First Being, that original and beginning muse of men. Homer—that immortal, blind Greek poet—said of these muses there are a few. Some say he named three, and others, nine. The idea of many muses has prevailed by resting upon the authority of the most distinguished of men, such as this blind and immortal Homer. But Homer was no blind poet. There have never been and could never be, blind poets. But the tale is a good one and is oft told that the poet saw the muses divested of their drapes, so deep into the mystery of the muses did he peek, and blind became the poet Homer by the wrath of the muses. But that is just first-hand report of no one who was there. But it does make for good anecdote.
“In the ears of distinguished Homer were whispered immortal things and in the tears of blind Homer fell memories of beautiful things, but the true number of the muses was not among them. He added muses that were never whispered of. So among Homer’s immortal leavings was that mortal thing—mortal because untrue. Only the truth becomes eternal. But Homer spoke far and true things and those will continue on into the immortal days.
“Homer gave Greek men joy. In the voice of Homer the Greeks heard the stirrings of a new man and this privilege of hearing Homer’s voice made grateful the ears of these Greek men and they wrote down what blind, new Homer said. And so among Homer’s recorded truths were also untruths. There are, in all ages and nations, only a few new men. Homer was the first new Greek and gave to them their impetus and heritage. He defined that particular strain of men.
“So the universal fame of Homer gave birth, by his celebrity, to falsely-named muses, and then other famous men gave birth to other false muses, and on go the false tales of men. By the scholia of texts, the truth is amended and changed. The number of the muses is the same question as the number of Homers. But the name of Homer is just the single name inscribed on the living sarcophagus of all ancient Greek wonder. He, too, was given many names, and was once of many names, but the many names now end with only one—Homer. All the wonderlings of ancient Greece are now named Homer. Homer gave many names to things as historians have since given many names to Homer. But in the beginning as in the end, there was only one.”
He looked over as the first light of day crept into the sky and said,
“If the poet speaks in riddles, it is only to fool you with. Not all of poetry rhymes, some of it riddles. Blind Homer made riddles.”
His stride was long and his feet swept over the ground. We were making time to reach the skyline trail along the ridge by noon. It was good that I was young and strong for his pace demanded it. He continued:
“Homer’s muses were charming of sight and wreaths of rose adorned their heads and golden arrows and silver tridents were added to their bold forms and they wielded them with grace, wisdom or merciless abandon, depending on which muse the Greeks needed to see at the moment. The birds and the lions were tame to the muses and they carried the torch of light and love and of all true power. These false-named muses held within them all the museums of the future world. All future stories slept within them. But they are just stories dreamed up by poets long ago who thought it becoming for a god to wear rose-wreaths and carry silver tridents. Each age clothes their gods in the attire of their own image and age while the truth is that lions and birds have always been tame to all who have been tame to them.
“The Alexandrian Greeks named the muse of eternity Aeon and fated him to live throughout all time. But of the form and being of eternity there has been a few, and none were named Aeon. A named muse may only live by the insistence of men’s thought which give life to it. Aeon was created in the thought of ancient Greeks and Aeon will gather in his last mortal breath when the final Greek stops his last mortal thought. Then Aeon will let loose his mortal breath and die as the last Greek dies. These Greeks called the muse of eternity Aeon but time is much older than even the first Greek—he who was Greek but had yet to be named a Greek. They cannot name exact what came before them.
“Men are still a young race and time has been longer than one who tells time by a rock-clock could understand. A rock-clock gives only an approximation of time and a mortal life is approximation of an approximation; a mere passing thought and thing. The second-hand and the hour-hand of a clock and the calendar of the four seasons, made by the four winds, they are useful for mortal wayfarers and short-lived things, but of no import for the eternal and immortal.
“The heavens are not immortal, but are the epitomes of seconds, hours and seasons, and have no need to remember the thing they are or their named names by ephemeral man. That is the difference between man and star. One long has been and one is still becoming, but not yet become. The one not yet is dedicated to the minutes, hours and seasons and ever whittling them away over the eternal question of when and where one will finally become whatever it is one will be. But what will become of man will never end till man ends.”
The Early Days
Without breaking stride he reached over and cracked a branch from a tree to use as a walking stick. I tried, without success, the same thing. After procuring the stick I caught up with him. He looked humorously at me and my stick and continued,
“Whatever you wish to become you must first name it. I have long walked the world, so the wayfaring woodsman would be as well as any other name for me. Dry valleys have been filled with rain water to become deep lakes and then have dried up again during the time that I have rested between walking. I planted the first red rose in the age of the first Egyptian Pharaoh and it gave birth to every rose that came after and I then picked the last rose of this particular line and by then, in your modern world, the red had faded to white but the red rose and the white rose were born and plucked on the same day to me. The rose is a living symbol of the choice within the mortal soul of man—the choice to live on—to become immortal. Men are not perennials but annuals, living some seasons and dropping their seed, then disappearing. But by symbol and example of the perennial rose is the hope of man’s immortality.
“After my early days passed I set out to travel the world and after walking a spell I found a plain by which to set and rest. After some time the plain began to grow. It lifted itself into a hill and beside the hill the rain water began to form a pond and then the hill became a new mountain and beside the mountain the pond grew into a sea and it met with the sea beyond it. I decided to make a wayfarer’s home at the top of the mountain and watched as the eons passed and the mountain grew. So great grew the mountain that the stars became less far and it seemed I could almost touch the bottom of them from the top of the great mountain.
“As the eons came and went the once small pond that grew into a sea grew greater than the mountain that once had overshadowed it. The great sea slowly dissolved and sunk the great mountain into its waters. The waters of the now ancient sea broke the great mountain back into its constituent parts of seconds, hours, seasons and rocks. And then further eons passed and the close, bright star dried up the great sea and where the ancient waters had covered the great mountain there was now a bed of salt and all of that the remainders of what once had been the great mountain.
“Time has made, unmade and remade again all things in the time that I have been here. The sea of time is a wave that laps perpetually against the land and breaks and makes again the land. There have been many generations for me to ponder life among the earth-breaking sea.
“I have grown old since the days of the young mountain and have watched the plants grow, generation unto generation. They have sprung, bloomed and lived then withered, faded and died and been covered over by centuries, pressed into the dark of the earth and by eons of pressure were reformed into ruby, diamond and bauble of every hue, in the dark part of the earth. And other jewels have come from places far, from planet and star beyond these. There are more jewels in the deep than men can know. If they knew, there would be holes everywhere and the price of baubles would be less than the price of salt, for there are more baubles in the deep than there is salt. And this be true with most all things, that the greater value of them be within them. The greater value of the earth is within the earth as the greater value of men is within men. There are great jewels in men, it has been said.
“The true value of baubles is their incorruptible nature. Set iron in the dark of the earth and it rust into nothingness. The earth will break iron. The iron in men and the iron in stone. Set a bauble in the earth and it remains a bauble. The value of gold is that it cannot be tarnished and the ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond remain what they are. Like the stars they have found their place and will not be moved except that time moves them. You cannot break the bauble into constituent parts. Shatter a diamond into a thousand pieces and there will be a thousand diamonds. The precious stones remain inviolate and insoluble no matter the label given them or the breaking of them. You may purchase them but they cannot be bought. They are incorruptible. But there is one single way to ruin the bauble, as we know.
“The true value of man is his ambitious, noble curiosity, which then evolves into his genius. Genius is a malleable gemstone that cannot be broken into constituents. It is a pristine, soft, prismatic stone in the mind of man which by light of knowledge and ambitious curiosity displays the brightest, best colors in man. Man and his ambitious mind, and by that curiosity, developed to heights unknown by other curious animals. This is the perfection of proportions. It is knowledge that makes man. Ignorance is the sure doom of man, but knowledge is man’s single and sure hope against his doom. In man is his own destruction or salvation.
“I have walked a lonely way beneath the mournful light of the moon and many blue moons ago my skin became a faded hue. I am of moonlight and mountain. In my soul streams the waters of ancient seas and in my ears echo the whispering grasses of original plains. I am of the earth and the earth is of me. I know the secrets of centuries like men know the minute-hand of a watch and I know the eons like men know the days of the week. I have been to all places and have lived in all modern cities and the cities of antiquity are all modern to me. But above all I am a woodsman. I pass time best and happiest within the forest. In the grey and somber shadows of the weald is to be found the peace that passes all understanding and there in the primeval forest is the time that I am most particular to, near the loch-spring of captured starlight where glows eternally the light and hope of men. Held in secret is the place of it, but known to all who will seek it.”
The path grew bright. We had walked out of the canopy of pines and were surrounded on all sides by great boulders. It was approaching noon. Fellow wayfarers passed us heading back toward the trail’s beginning. Not many walk the entire length of Indian Trails, but only go a short ways and turn around. He motioned toward the short-walking wayfarer’s and said,
“I have long walked among the short generations of men. Seventy-thousand times seven of them there are and have been. This one now is the same as the first that was. And beautiful to me since the beginning of time have been the wayfaring wonderers. These I seek out and whisper into their ears and hearts and they go and write it down. Some write the literal word, some others add or detract, to their own taste. Sometimes they write it better than I whispered it. The wonderers listen and are quiet. By their quietus they come to hear the wrought and whispered wisdom in the winds, rains and rarities gleaned and given among the faint light of stars. I give to the wonderers to record the eternal and immortal things. When some of them hear their own whispers, then I am astonished.
“I am of the wood and world, the ancient world and the new, and there is not so large a difference between the two as the new believe. I have used the lines of trees as my compass in walking toward the light of stars and by the parallax of stars have I measured the marvel in man and by man’s marvel has the flame of stars shown brighter. I do not reckon time like men. A thousand years is long for clock and man but for me, a thin growth-ring in a great tree. The withered, cracked mind of a hundred-year-old man thinks it a long while since he suckled his mother and was made fat and content. But that was short and gentle moments ago. Few immortal things by the hand of man are done in a century. Little change can be made in so short a reckoning, unless a man dips his mind into the loch-spring pond of captured starlight. From the loch-spring pond comes all immortal things wrought by the hand and mind of man.
“I knew a wonderer once who said of me that the dust of a thousand centuries could well describe him. He spoke true. I planted the seed of the first tree that grew and tended the bud that sprung from the dust and brought the waters that quenched the buds thirst. I called upon the starlight to build the roots that became the trunk that stretched itself into branches and found its final expression in the leaves that grew, then fell. And from the generations of leaves and the winds that blew them the four seasons were born. Every leaf from the first tree I touched flew in the winds to fall elsewhere and there sprung the world’s first forest.
“And then grew other trees and other leaves and they flew in the winds and became the second forest. The primeval forest that I touched and grew became lost inside the second forest. The first forest dropped its seed and it became the second forest and the first man dropped his seed and it became the second man and many trees and many men grew from them. And the third forest became the bringer of the fourth forest, and so on.
“Long centuries have passed. There is no more productive specie of life on earth than the tree, mighty and green, old and venerable, except man. Man has grown like the tree has grown and has produced his kind over all the earth—a forest of men and all connected. A stand of men and trees, by which to. . . . Well, that is up to man and tree, this which to do and which to be.
“Trees gave the first thoughts to men. I have watched and waited while men traded their ignorance for knowledge. The twigs of the trees which the first men held made the first men ponder. Ancient sunlight danced through ancient leaves and caught the curiosity of ancient men and their eyes beheld and wondered for the first time. There is starlight and magic in the seed of every tree that ever grew. Also is this starlight and magic in the seeds of men. All men are fashioned from immortal seeds of starlight and are like the lamp-lights of heaven from which they come and though their movement is predictable it is still their own movement.
“The tree grows heavenward toward the lamp-lights and this caused ancient man’s gaze to be drawn upward, as they lifted their eyes from the ground to climb the tree from root to trunk to branch to last leaf, where beyond were the pale and bright lamp-lights. These lights passed beyond their understanding but wonder in man was born by them. Man then climbed the tree to be closer to starlight, to attempt to reach and hold it, and to know it. When the first wondering man first spied the stars he was in the branches of a tree holding a twig with a leaf in his matted hair, reaching for the starlight.
“All of this was long ago as you reckon time and there is no written record of it. But it is merely some few, gentle moments since these first beginnings of what has become man’s immortal things and thoughts. Savage, dumbstruck and unsurprised generations passed before the first prodigy, surprised and full of rebel thought, discovered the heavens and beheld in wondering eyes that most unnatural spectacle of lights in the sky and then by his grunts of stupefaction, fired the race of wondering and bewildered men on their way. This first wonderer, surprised and stupefied, died a quick death, as the wildlings imagined he had lit the heavens on fire. Wild, dumbstruck, unsurprised men now know that no stupefied, surprised wonderer ever burned down the heavens, but much remains unchanged.
“The discovery of fire, wheel, and the lamp-lights of heaven were the wildling’s commencement toward society and civilization. The inspired curiosity of the first wonderer has not abated since, nor the rolling juggernaut of man’s rolling wheel over all creation’s beauty, nor the fire of men, set to blazing and into ash-heaps all the forests of the Original Being. But yet, the twig-holding, leaf-draped wondering scholar, who has been the primal cause of the upward flight of men, though wheel and fire get more credit, remain. Beauty and wonder caught the eye of the savage beast and slowly transformed him into something new. It has always been the things man has held in his hands and beheld with his eyes that have caused his wonder. And the holy tree was this beginning.”
We had walked halfway. He set his walking stick down and reclined against a tree. I sat next to him and pulled out my sandwich and finished it in three bites. He placed his pipe in his mouth and spoke around it,
“It was beneath a tree as I sat pondering when I heard the first chirping of birds and I listened as the birds taught and gave to man his first idea of speech. The wonderer remembers this instinctively and by intuition. When they hear the songs of birds in the midnight they hear within the memories of the first chirpings of birds from the ancient ages. Man uttered back to the birds, and birds and men did not know what it was that man and bird chirped and uttered. But in succeeding ages man began to hear in his utterings the first of meaning. This caused his curiosity to grow and thus grew his knowledge and after knowledge, powers.
“The wildling then was no longer at the mercy of ignorance—which was then as it remains now—merciless. As the last wildlings gave way to the first men, wonder grew in them. But still the average wildling’s curiosity remains mostly for power and thus puts in jeopardy his destiny. True wonder is a gift to the few. Man, still half wildling, grows fat in his mind, curiosity dies, and the fifth age remains.
“Not so for the wonderer. The bird did not learn to sing until after many generations of chirping. Same for men. Man’s speech and the songs of birds are connected. Even yet it is only the bird which can speak the language of men, yet the bird still has not figured the meaning there. The birds would like to know the secret meaning in the words of men as men have wished to know the secrets in the wings of birds. One still seeks to know while the other has learned the secret of both. By the flight and light of stars was man helped to grow his wonder, and also was he made to wonder by the flights and chirping of birds.
“Birds learned to sing by emulating the speech of men as men learned to speak by emulating the chirping of birds. Each grows like the other. And though the flights of birds are what taught men how to fly, by giving him first this dream of flight, the wildlings, devoid of wonder and knowledge, still strike dumb in their flights the strong-winged falcon, the bright-eyed sparrow and the silver-throated mockingbird. But no winged bird was ever killed by a wondering man. Eternal, unholy wildlings are they who are no better than to kill the sacred servants of man in sport.
“By the expression of wonder is the hope of man and man’s hope of wonder. All knowledge resides in wondering men. Wonder’s origin, and the life of men, is a direct evolution from trees, birds, starlight and leaf, just as spring’s bud becomes summer’s rose. The primordial beginning of every wonder, and every life that becomes a wonder, of all lines ever penned by hand and every soul ever hemmed by love, are originated from the tree. The trees make homes for the singing birds, who sing in the quiet morn and still hours of night, and by that, wake-up the slumbering wonderer who then climbs the tree of memory to view the stars. These wonderlings, in the quiet, small hours of eternity, hear the bird that sings and chirps in the tops of trees, and then, wonder.
“He who hears the whisperings in his soul is in the ancient evolution of losing the last vestige of the wildling. From wildling to wonderling is she who climbs to the tops of trees, where ancient knowledge sits among the leaves and where beyond glows the wonder of the lamp lights. The callow wonderling gazes upon the universal firelight and stretches mitt and mind to the stars while sitting among the branches. The fear of climbing higher is overcome by the climbing, and by hope in curious man of capturing some point of starlight the fearless wonderling gains the extraordinary knowledge of wonder.
“But the most of men have never ventured to the tree-tops, and many others who once did, have come back down. Their eyes now upon the ground and without knowledge of primordial wonder. But there is hope. More men have known this immortal feeling of wonder than there are men who will claim it. That is the thing now to accomplish—the proud admitting of wonder. When wonder becomes as famous a thing as power, men will become giants, full of magic and mystery.”
He stood and we resumed our walk. My young bones were tired, but his old ones seemed not to be affected by the long walk already taken, nor daunted by the walk yet to do. The hardest part was now ahead of us, a steep ascent toward the crown. I dug in and listened as he spoke.
“Love is the wonderling’s art. Once non-existent, then rare, but coming on, and now still not as common as it should be. The wildlings did not love in the beginning for the same reason it is still not common a thing—the wildling does not love by nature and would never have come to it had not the first wonderers—those spiritually-mutated beings who saw meaning where the wildlings saw no meaning—come to teach them over much time its secrets. Love only became a thing to do and be after wonderers began speaking of it, and later, writing of it. The first beautiful letter was writ in ancient dust by a wonderer with a twig. That letter and language is lost to the library of history, but was the first of writing and of history, a half-wildling, half-man, writing his meaning in the dust. Love, for the wildling, is a most unusual and difficult thing. But the deep reason why this is so has been told.
“After a thing becomes famous it is under strain of a fate and possible destiny unworthy and unbecoming of its original composition. Love, long ago, became cliché. The truth of it has been watered down by false loving. In the beginning, before its fame, none knew what it was, only that it was different than anything they had ever known. The first wildlings did not know the first tame thing of love. It was a strange idea when introduced by the first two wonderlings and they were stoned to death by the stupefied wildlings and have done the same to many since. And yet, true love remains. For it is the possessing of a hidden jewel, the one jewel of the starlit loch-spring. To those who love, there is this jewel and its possessing, and no wildling can take away what they cannot touch or see.
“Some intuit me and give me the name they are familiar with. But I am just a woodsman, a denizen of forests. I speak to all who speak to me, though my voice be but a whisper. My whispered speech to wonderers and their whispered speech to me fill the ether. They are true and artless words passed, without subterfuge or seeking of advantage. In my long-walking I have found nothing more honest than the speech of wonderlings. All men are wonderlings in their deepest, most quiet moments. All men have whispered to me at one time or another.
“Men are in the fifth age, and never has there been an age beyond it. Even that which has no death in it can come to die, as men will come, again, to die, in this oft repeated, world-weary, broken age, if they continue to keep the gem within. The wonderers of men live and leave honest letters of leaves and petals, which were first composed by the winds, rains and sunlight of centuries. These wonderlings are the primal scholars of nature and heartfelt things, who pick up the twig and wear leaves in their hair and stand gaping, open-mouthed, at the stars. All the glory of men have been scribed by them.
“Here on this planet are tales of trees and leaves and chirping birds and love in the hearts of men, once kept within but let loose again, to drift over the hidden gemstones in the earth and find refuge in the canopies of trees, spying again there the curious lamp-light of the stars. All wonderers are men and all men are wonderers, who ever loved a single thing here.
“Here on this blue rock are the whisperings of scribes. Some scribed long ago and some recent, but all of them, to me, came about in a yester-moment. Some are perfect transcriptions of the whisperings and others are the wonderer’s own pure, heart-wrought engravings. For all that I whisper has been whispered to me. I compose nothing, but remember all that men have told me—in their quiet, deeper, desperate moments. Some men are tuned to the mysterious whisperings. They are good scribes and count it their duty to write of what they hear. Others cannot hear a thing and pass by the whispering, moss-covered stone of century and wonderment with barely a syllable. But nothing whispered is lost.”
He stopped speaking and sat down, his feet dangling over a steep incline. There was six-hundred yards of straight drop beneath us and still another half-mile before summit. I sat close beside him.
“Do you remember when you asked me why I did not speak to you the first time you saw me?”
He took out his pipe and knocked it against the red rock, spilling the burnt ash over the precipice. He replaced the pipe with new leaf and after a few puffs, said,
“You were not ready to hear the words. That you perceived me at all was extraordinary. Your perception of me continued until your mind’s eye blinked shut. In your nineteenth year, when most begin closing down their minds, you began opening yours again. It took awhile, but soon your perception was total, even becoming able to hear me. Not many have ever seen. Much less have ever heard.”
He stood and brushed red dust off his leg. I stood with him. I knew what he was going to say next. He put his hand on my shoulder and looked at me and winked. Then we were quiet awhile as he looked right through me, to that little spot of eternity. He finally said,
“I take my leave now and hand to you the movement of your own tale. Speak to your contemporaries of antiquated, beautiful things, so they will know of them. Go easy with them, for they are unbelieving of antiquated, beautiful things. They are foundlings of time. We know that a hundred-year-old wooden chest is but the green wood from a sapling just planted yesterday, but they will believe it old. As you know, all things are relative, especially things of time, wood, and heart.”
He uttered these last words then walked away, disappearing in the bend of the trail that leads to the summit.
I stood a moment, then turned and headed back down. I had not been to the summit in nine years. I would not go now. The last time I was there I saw another I loved go away. I was experiencing the same emotion I had then, unutterable sorrow for one who was gone, but also incomparable gratefulness.
Over seven falls I had walked and talked with him under the stars and through the hills and as I looked upon the marvels of creation I wondered if his words to me had come to an end and if I would ever perceive him again.
Christopher F. Mills
It is not the name you will find affixed by map-makers, but its full and unofficial moniker is Wild Blue-yonder Mountain. That name was given it by one beloved by Rigel Kent. They were sixteen and had just scaled the summit the first time. As she looked out over the million acres or so below them and the three trillion acres or so above them, she threw her angelic voice into the lower million in proud exclamation:
“I claim this mountain! And from this day until the end of time it shall be called Wild Blue Yonder Mountain!”
He would always hear that echo as a song on the wind.
The name is fitting. In the flora, fauna and topography there is sprinkled much the color blue. There are wild blue roses and wild blue pine trees and ancient blue rocks. The soil has a tint of blue to it, as if all the fauna ever to tread here had blue on their feet and tracked it off as they wayfared over the Blue Yonder. There are blue deer and blue wolves and blue eagles. All these blue things are especially so in the sunsets and sunrises, when the earth is tilting like a giant blue ocean toward the star and catching its light at the angle that best catches the color blue.
In their wayfaring over the Blue she told him the legends of it; that it was the first mountain for a blue moon ever to travel over. She said there comes a perfectly blue rose, wolf, deer or tree ever so often there. She said there is a blue pine forest full of blue roses that grow by another light than the light that grows regular roses and pine trees and is concealed from earthly, living eyes but visible to those who have passed beyond the veil; the pathway to it protected by a blue wolf and a blue deer, who lead the living who wayfare close by away from it, and those who have passed on into it.
She said that blue is so in evidence there because the mountain is so high and has been high for so long that the color of the sky has settled upon it. She told him the story of a rare blue butterfly who lives nowhere else in the world except on Blue Mountain. Only a few have ever seen it. She said her grandfather told her these legends when she was just a little girl. As Rigel Kent grew older, the color of the mountain gradually settled into him. And that was bound to happen. Live long enough and the color blue is bound to become a part of you, too. All in all, it is a grand spiritual estate, this blue mountain.
In August of 1963 his grandfather and his second-born and only living son began building a cabin on a thousand-acre tract at the bottom of the Blue. They completed it on May 12, 1964. I know this fact because they set the date in the concrete of the front porch which, half a century later, can still be made out as clear as the day they stenciled it in with a pine twig. Grandmother Braithewaite annually complained about the color of the cabin’s wood so Grandfather Braithewaite, in 1969, finally painted it blue. Two years after she died.
Since he was a boy Rigel Kent’s grandfather had the dream of building his own home with his own hands on Blue Mountain. He had walked the Blue since a year after he was born on it and had, some years after, become acquainted with the wild pines there. He tamed a few by the felling of them and built his blue cabin with them and stocked it with the last of his dreams, which he had kept all his life in that old handed-down cedar box. On the property were two sturdy horses named Handy and Mandy, who he doted over like they were his children. He kept time between regular meals by the ham sandwiches Kent’s grandmother brought him. The first night Rigel and his love stayed on the Blue alone, on the night of their eighteenth birthdays, she named it Blue Cabin Camp, and that is what he called it ever after.
Whatever it is named, this is sure: to Kent’s grandfather, it was the most bonny place on earth. He liked it so much he thought to die and be buried on Blue Mountain would be his best hope for Heaven; and that is what he did.
Rigel Kent finally went back to Blue Mountain on the first of fall of 2010. He was forty years old. He had not walked Indian Trail since thirteen years before. He had wondered then if he would ever return. He wondered because the young can never be expected to know anything about the future except what they come to make of it; as the old can never be counted on to know exactly what they have made. He went back to write the last of his part of the tale.
As his days back on the Blue progressed, a remarkable thing began to happen. The old whisperings of Mr. Silver picked back up. That crystalline echo began to slip through him from the eternal place. His being began, in parts and places, to turn craggy and his gait became broken. In that first year back on the mountain he began to perceive the proximity of an ancient astonishment and evidence of an eternal, ethereal, crystalline-echoed being. As he was dying, he was also coming back to life.
He had traveled to the mountain to remember the life he had lived. In his memories he began to perceive a truth that had been around him all his life—though he did not know it—nor did he realize he had transcribed a spiritual map to it. What had been perceived as lost for age upon age was slowly becoming found again. By the end, and on the Blue, that knowledge was to come full circle and he came to know at least one of eternity’s special secrets was his very own.
Mr. Silver had taken plenty of time to wake him up to the deepest truths in his soul and to a story there older than he could have imagined when he first began telling the tale. As two years passed on Blue Mountain he slowly remembered most the rest of it.
Concerning Mr. Silver and Blue Mountain, they are portals to the eternity within; bookends to a questing life and purveyors of knowledge of other life. We are all small drops in the sea of eternity and as compared to the lives of stars, even the long ago is recent happening.
Rigel Kent learned on the mountain that eternity is here among us and true love never truly dies, but continues on—if not forever—then at least a mighty long time. There is little I know of eternity except that it is long and so will make no absolute predictions about it. But I do know love is a spiritual contract signed into being by two souls and is no abider to man’s earthly law or the tempering, corrosive power of time. I do believe life is a sitting outside the abode of eternity and death is the door we walk into eternity by, wherein all who we ever loved and who ever loved us, greet us once again.
When he arrived on the mountain he had grown old in the bones but his spirit waxed young again. He did not go there to live, but to die. He wished to leave with grace and a proper remembrance of the path he had walked. He went to see the world from the top of a natural place, and not be hemmed in by the concrete mountains men have made. He wanted to see the curve of the earth as it is: a dish that holds the bitter-sweet weed of life in it. He wanted to be close in his end days to the resting place of the one being he had always loved while here and who had made it sacred.
He had loved her from his beginning, and had loved her all along, after their earthly end. He perceived he had loved her in ages past and he believed he would love her in ages future. He would love her till the end of time as man knows it, and would love her beyond the knowledge of time. He went to the mountain to whisper to her. He knew she would hear his whispers there. And he knew being close to her again would make her whispers heard better by him.
Earthly life is where the soul gets to walk-about. We get to think and become, not something we really are, but something we get to be, for a little while. On Blue Mountain there are wonderful trails to walk and ponder the subject of life and at night there are magical stars to dream on. The leaves of the trees there are silver and blue and the starlight that reaches them falls in perfect proportions.
Rigel Kent walked the many miles of Blue Mountain and used the lines of trees as his compass while wayfaring toward the light of stars. And then, after traveling over the trails toward the light of stars, his body grew weak and wished for sleep and his soul sought respite from the toil of living and his mind asked of time to remember the work of the soul here in life. All of these things are facilitated by the wonders of any mountain; but especially one like Blue Mountain.
So by its very nature a mountain will make a philosopher of a man. He slept deeper in his time on the Blue than any other time in his life. It was the sleep before the sleep—to catch up on his soul’s remembering before he made the trip into eternity. On those days when the light was right and after he woke, he sat on the porch in the pine-hewn Adirondack and remembered old dreams. Dreams up in smoke; dreams he had put into his pipe and let go back into the ether.
It is wild living on a mountain. There is the firewood to chop and the well-water to haul up and then into town for supplies and to pick up packages of cigars sent, evidently, by Pony Express. Town is the only place you will see many people while living on a mountain. People-watching had always been a favorite past-time of Kent’s, though early on he realized they never changed much from the first time he saw them. After town he would go back to Blue Cabin Camp and the day would end and he would retire after the evening astronomy.
But he would not often go right to sleep. He had too big a sleep coming to do that. There is much to think about when life is coming to its end. He would lay there and remember her, and sometimes he dropped the tears that allowed him to remember her best; tears he had never leaked out. We know that is always good, to let go of the love and to cry it back into the spring, where the gemstone is.
The tears were proof he was wealthy once; the possessor of a great spiritual estate was this wayfarer who roamed far and wide from his home. And though the beautiful being who deeded over this rich estate was early gone from this earth, she was never gone from him. Within yet was the estate they once roamed together. Once they looked upon the wonders of creation and he spoke to her his dreams and she whispered hers to him and they melded together into one dream, and it was good and great and immortal. So he dropped, on lonely nights, the tears that gave back to the loch-spring what once was given free to him. Every night he slept at the blue cabin he would hear the train’s horn.
He loved trains. He called them wandering poems. He told me their story,
“Their sound, singular in its forlorn, yet not forlorn, wail. Their clackety-clack along the track is a rickety-clickety poem composed for all who travel along life’s lonesome, yet not lonesome, trail. Their weight is great and reminds us of the power of being. They are powerful and pull many box-cars behind them—far more than their own weight—and this reminds us that the greater the engine, the more it pulls and only in rare instances does it ever push. And so it assists and insists, down the pathway of being, many beings.
“The train’s horn is the sound of power itself, reminding all to get out of the way, but being fair about the warning. I think if an ancient soul who had walked through eternity and knew the sound of it were to name the one sound that could describe eternity, it would be the horn of a train at night, when all is quiet and the moon is bright. There is no deeper, more lonesome—yet not lonesome—sound, than the melancholic train horn. It is the sound of forever, in short bursts of pain.
“The 84-88 Track, so named for the miles it runs one way, then another, travels a north-south course close by Blue Mountain. When the train went by its sound invariably cued his memory of when Grandfather Braithewaite would sit him on his knee when he was three and tell the lonely tale of The Mighty Melancholic. Rigel Kent said,
“He did not sound like a train, but he would begin by making the sound of one. And then he would say—in a deep, old man’s baritone—a voice I thought then and think still, would be the voice a train would have if it could speak. . .
“Many were the nights while the world lay asleep when I would lie awake and listen as the Melancholic rumbled by. Miles away it traveled and even so, it sounded right outside my bedroom’s window. It was in the fall of the year, when the first cool air had settled in, and by that, the sound carried cleaner.
“For you see, during summer the air is warm and is muffled with the dreams of the deep, where is carried to the surface the faint, fairer portion of the sea and in that portion are the dreams of whales and dolphins. Those dreams come up from the deep and are carried into the air, to eventually settle on sea and shore and muffle the sounds of train and man. . .
“So I could hear the Melancholic clearer in the fall than in the summer. In fall the dreams of whales and dolphins swim on to other cities and climes. But the ocean was not far away and I knew those dreams would always come back.
“Now I have heard the Melancholic since I was three—the very age you are now, sitting on my knee—and long decades before that it had sounded its lonesome call. But I never heard it before like I do now. That train has been running that same course over a century or so—give or take —I don’t know. Those tracks make a rattle-clack sound that is hypnotic and true. There is only one color in that sound and it is blue. That train’s horn is the same horn I heard when I was three, long ago now when it meant nothing to me. And then when I was ten I could not remember when, there had ever been a time I had not heard that train.
“When I was seventeen I heard the Melancholic, outside my bedroom window, just before sleep. It was then I began to know, there was something in that horn very deep. It made me ponder many nights when sleep would not come and I lay there wondering of the Melancholic and its hobo and bum. Those passing wayfarers in the night and going who knows where—hobo and bum without home or care—making an open-pit fire and having songs to share. Now by the age of twenty, the Melancholic’s sound had become slower and sadder by then; now a time way back when.
“And so the Melancholic has grown sadder by the year; the horn of that train and the tracks below it—or have I grown more melancholy by which to know it? Among the most melancholy sounds and sights man ever made is the sound of a train and the track of its shade. Here comes and goes The Mighty Melancholic! Coming, going, and never staying. Just a quick stop to do some weighing, then back down that track; one-hundred tons of what is soon to come back.
“Now in my mind the Melancholic moves only by sight, while the tracks move under it and make for its flight. Truth is, no train ever left its port and no horn ever made a noise but that the dreamers made it move and blare; it was the dreamers! Those who had songs to share; those eternal, melancholic, dreaming souls, making passage by the Mighty Melancholic’s fired coals.
“So you see, my boy, the Melancholic is the bringer of dreams, and the taker. The bringer and taker of dreams is the Mighty Melancholic. I think all trains bring and take magical dreams, but maybe I am just being melancholy about it.”
Grandfather Braithewaite told Kent the price of a ticket to ride the Melancholic was belief—that with the Belief Ticket to ride it would move all in its path to get one down that track with pride. Yes. That is the ticket to ride the Mighty Melancholic—the simple belief it will get you there. And all that was the sound his grandfather’s voice made to him when he was three, back when he was small enough to sit on his grandfather’s knee.
In the evenings after dinner he’d sit on the blue cabin’s porch and read from the poets and philosophers. Just before the sun set the light would come in at an angle that set every leaf on Blue Mountain to shining like stars. He thought on the works of the wonderers of man and he believed those are starry-eyed heliotropes and their wonderings are dreams given birth to after sleeping—when the sun has finished burning and the moon is weeping. And later, just before retiring, when the moon had risen and the leaves had turned to shadow, he would sit and remember. . .
When he walked with his beloved many moons ago, it was fall and the leaves were leaving. And it was sunny, for the star was shining. And it was all good, so he’d be grinning. She was a graceful beauty, and there was the thought of sinning. He would watch her walk to the willow that weeps, where she would sit beneath its pining, melancholic place, and he remembered the love writ in her face and in her eye some painted trace, of the weeping willow’s sorrow. He recalled when he had known her, and mused awhile, on how the poem of a thousand words begins with a single wink, from two hearts that rise and two minds that sink, till both meet and are made sweet. As he remembered this it was then he knew what that melancholy was upon her face. It was that nothing last, not even a trace—of love, weeping willow, or grace.
He had become well acquainted with many old trees on Blue Mountain and became close friends with more than two dozen of them. They had told and taught him much over the time he was there. He began to listen to them when he was young and grieved and was contemplating the difference between life and death and could not see there was a difference. That first friend he made of a tree said to him, as he wondered of life and death:
“Life, too often, is the best form of suicide death ever invented. Men would truly live, if they were wiser. Men would know joy, if they were alive while they lived.”
That is what the tree told him, pausing between sentences so Kent’s mind could understand. The tree’s words filled him with much thought, and more shame, that he came to wonder on the gap between the good of living versus the bad of not living. From that moment he worked and wondered, to bridge that gap. He did not always succeed, but came as close as he could.
In the first fall on the Blue, many years ago, he met a trio of trees on the ridge, near Indian Trails. Tall pines three, much taller than he. A tall pine line, where blue eagle, blue sparrow and blue squirrel dine. These blue pines stretched then, and stretch yet, in a line east to west and have been together since they shot up from the blue forest floor. Three tall pines, in a neat row. They tower over the younger saplings; those modern-day offshoots of Father Pine. They are old and their bark is deep. He sat many times among them, listening to their wisdom. They were old then and are now even older and did not mind sharing what they knew.
The oldest tree had instructed him,
“New life follows from dying to one’s self; as the tree prunes itself of limb and leaf. Future joy follows from struggle endured, as the tree endures wind and storm.”
This was the middle tree who spoke and though his limbs had not grown as wide as the others there was his crown above the others; perhaps because it was in his genes to grow highest, or because the others protected him from shearing winds.
The Eastern pine replied,
“And our present is the gift we give to the future, if the future is what our work is for.”
And the Western pine finished,
“And our dreams are the seeds.”
He never forgot the wisdom of the pines. He found other remarkable things to know, such as: life and love are the same things. Love, that epitome of life that brings to a point all of a being’s energy and fuel for living. And he came to know: In the beginning we live with fire, passion and dreams and in the end, remember with regret or grace.
So love and life are like the seasons. The winter takes all summer and fall to arrive and the day of winter’s start is also the death knell of the winter, for on the second day is added to the minutes of the day some few of them, and on each succeeding day more are added. So the winter, like all things, begins dying just as soon as it begins living.
And also the summer. It takes winter and spring to arrive at summer and on the very second day, the summer begins to die. So the seasons, like life and love, often arrive late; we come late to know we are in the muck of them. Just when we realize their arrival, they have begun withering towards their death. So we spend too much time in pastel springs and patient falls, hoping for winters and dreaming of summers.
Of the matters of life and death his beloved asked him once if he had ever walked in a graveyard and felt the spirits communing; or walked an old farm route and pondered the silence on it. He answered her, not then, but later, when he thought:
“I have walked in bone-yards and down farm-routes and have felt such things as such, but have not spoken of it over-much. Like the owl that sings in the cold, starlit night alone within the pine, what I see and what I hear is mostly just for mine. It takes an owl to know an owl; their language is heard, but misunderstood—except among their own brotherhood.
“Bone-yards are for living wonderers to know that what lives above will soon lay below. Farm-routes are for farmers and wonderlings to see; that what dies in others, dies also in me.”
The air is rarefied high up on Blue Mountain and causes the mind of man to dream lucid dreams. One night, near the end and in late summer, he dreamt of her. . .
They were walking a foggy path beneath a forest of dark pine—arm in arm was he with his beloved. She was beautiful in his eye and in her eye he was happy and by her smile was made complete.
As they sauntered beneath the starry sphere she looked over and meditated on him, then asked,
“What grieves your soul, my lad? What makes you sad?”
He spied then a fallen timber and stopped to rest on the log. And it was just him, his lady, and the fog. He gave her his reply,
“It’s just the passing gust of a dream, my love. A moment’s upsetting of a little boat. Our lives are dreams and dreams are storms. As we sail our ship over the sea, storms come up and we are not prepared. I wonder if, when we make it to the end of our sailing and find our port, we will disembark and look back where we came and the great sea we traversed will disappear before our eyes and we will know none of it was real. All along it had been just a stormy dream.”
She picked up a twig and drew circles in the air, and sparkles were there, and they formed into words. From the sparkled words came the sound of her ethereal voice:
“Speak not of storms, or what things seem. Tell me a tale and put it in a dream.”
As she trailed off, the sparkles fell to the bed of needles and disappeared among them like stars disappear in the dawn. He contemplated her wish and it gave him this. . .
“Ten thousand years ago, and ten thousand years from now, there was and will be—there lived and lives now and will live then—ten-thousand-years ago and ten-thousand-and-ten, at the foot of a great mountain, a wise and beautiful woman. A natural philosopher and a supernatural being she was, is and will be, of unearthly, rare powers she breathes and lives. She is wise in her soul and beauteous in her form and everything she loves turns to wisdom and joy.
“Now far from Blue Mountain and the lady philosopher there roamed, a wayfarer traveling far from his home. Deep into time he had walked and one day fell into a profound and tired sleep, to continue his life in the dream world and to keep, all things beautiful—safe—and all things precious—kept—free from acid tears he had wept. In the wayfarer’s dream world there were and are all things same as waking life, except a heavier meaning lies there and there is more of strife, but the colors are brighter and so, by bright color, heavy burdens made lighter.
“The wayfarer dream-walked for a very long time, then woke and remembered his path while sleeping. He remembered the path he had taken to the great blue mountain. He recalled she had set in him the light of being and had given him beauty to live by. She had never questioned why the wayfarer had chosen his path. She had said,
“‘Every soul chooses what it will and must, and the end proves noble the beginning and middle, I trust.’
“So, after a long sleep the wayfarer woke, on a great blue mountain by a stream that spoke. There was one blue butterfly, a blue wolf and blue deer. They all were drinking and each, being near, the wayfarer could see, were also busy thinking. So the wayfarer wondered, as he sated his thirst, and he wondered some more, till his wonder had burst. Then he knew: It had to be magic which made these animals think? Or perhaps it is only now I can see, these animals are full of thought like me.
“After drinking and wondering, the wayfarer sat on a log and remembered better the dream. It awakened his mind and he chewed on the wonder in its theme:
“‘The Lady doth equal her quotes, forsooth. And methinks she more than equals her quotes, in truth; there is a knowledge in her beyond all quotes and books, which could be found in libraries and philosopher’s nooks. Methinks she is supernatural and from Heaven a sign, that this world is not lost, and our struggle, the cost, it takes to come to a heavenly sum. . .
“The wayfarer had traveled far from love and his soul had slept and dropped into sod—every last dream-seed of love and God. He had carried a burden of beauty hard to hold, and could not barter a single piece for bread or crumb, and the lies of men had struck his truth deaf, blind and dumb.
“And then came the day when he met a soul who knew, where the first spring sprang and the first sparrow flew. And she knew where the gemstones were bidden and rare to find, and where the first spring was hidden as it wrinkle and wind, in and out of sight its ethereal light, among gloomy brakes in the darkest night.
“Then the supernatural being spoke to him,
“‘Keep the trail along the river and it will take you to a place where the stars in the heavens will pause to know your face. And there the stars and you will know where the first spring sprang and the first spring flows.’
“After she spoke he woke and remembered she had saod,
“‘When you reach the place where the stars know your face, sit and rest and unhitch your burden; lean back against the tree whose roots are within the spring and remember all you have done and regrow your wing. When famished for new wonder take your flight, soar from that place and the darkest night, fly from that spring with newer wing and fly greater than before—over all of it soar! This is my wish for you, my tired and blue wayfarer true.’
“So he searched for the place where the stars would know his face and when he found it he sat against the tree whose roots are within the spring and he watched the sparrows, how they leap’t into the air like arrows. Then he walked to the edge and peered into its depths and heard the wind and its song—then he jumped! And ‘ere long his new wings caught the wind and his wings were true; they were true as any sparrow or perfect arrow ever flew.”
In his last days, as we sat on the porch and viewed the wonders, he remembered this dream and told me of it. Then he reflected further:
“What is this present moment but the beginning and end of time? I’ve made it to where the past drops off and becomes the future. Except by our sweet sentiments, our senses cannot wholly perceive life. We are wrapped up in life by our sentiments. But if we listen close to these sweet, small parts, all the rest, I think, will divulge itself. All secrets of time and being will become known to us. We do not have to be confused.
“Of sweet parts, our deaths are the second most sentimental things to us; that place we all must go, where life drops off into the eternal place. Life is the gift. Love is the pretty bow. Death is life’s unwrapping—at least here — beneath this yellow, straw-colored starlight.
“Generation has grown into generation, and all that’s past and future are still things, like those ancient Egyptian pyramids, which remain mostly mystery to us. So no matter what happens, we should remember we are host for the miracle of life, and so should always try our best to be graceful hosts. I have tried to be a good host.”
He remembered, in his final wanderings over the Blue, a poem she wrote about the moon. He was eighteen and she was, too; and he and the moon had yet to become blue.
Oh! look at the Moon
Mr. Moon up there
Oh my! he looks
Like a lamp in the air!
Last week he was smaller
And shaped like a bow
But now he’s grown bigger,
And round as an O!
Handsome moon, Handsome moon,
How you shine on my soul
And make me feel light
My heart so full of glow!
You shine on my garden
And all that I love
And in awe I glance up
To your grand place there above
And there, a star floating
Close by, and maybe
That small, twinkling star
Is your faithful, sweet lady.
Long it was for him, when the moon was dark and his soul was too, to remember her love, when the moon was blue.
It has been said she told him all the legends of Blue Mountain. She told him, on their last trip to the summit, it was named blue because the ancients said it was a holy place, where sadness goes to be taken away from those who are sad. And then she planted an imaginary blue rose in his heart to take away his blues and said that is how blue roses get their color, by taking away the blue in souls. Blue roses and blue moons were among her favorite blue things.
THE LAST FIRST OF FALLS
They were born on the same day in the same summer of the same year in the same small town beneath the same great mountain. Their mothers introduced them in the first week of their lives and they saw each other near daily from then to the age of eighteen. If she was not with him he was with her. It was evident from the beginning they were soul mates; that is what their mothers called it. They’d say: Look at those two, they are joined at the soul. That was as true for them as it was of any. He was told it was her name he spoke even before his own mother’s.
They first hiked to the top of Blue Mountain on the first of fall of their fourteenth year. It was their first of five summits. On that day their astonishment ran deep and their wonder flew high. Every first of fall after they hiked back up the Blue. By the age of seventeen, death was growing in her, but they didn’t know it. When they were together, the flicker of life glowed bright and death seemed impossible.
On the first of fall in 1988, they hiked to the summit of Blue Mountain their fifth and final time. Her death was in the air by then, but they thought they had longer. After their wayfaring up the mountain they lay down and fell asleep, side-by-side, arm-in-arm and fair-and-square—the golden glue between them sticky as bubblegum, and just as sweet.
After an hour he woke. As she slept he stood and walked to peer over the ledge. The majesty of the valleys beneath the Blue were breathtaking. He called her to come see, but she didn’t move or make a sound. He called again and she remained asleep. He walked over. What he saw brought amazement to him. Crawling over her sleeping body were hundreds of ladybugs, high on a mountain where they are not supposed to be.
After amazement came a moment’s wonder of how she could not feel the ladybugs, even in sleep. He thought she must be very tired. He knelt beside her and then he understood. While they slept she had fallen from the top of Blue Mountain into eternity. On the quiet of Blue Mountain’s summit, she had gone to sleep forever.
He sat beside her and knew his life was never going to be what it could have been. Everything was changed. His first dream had died. Now it would be what it was then fated and destined to be, but it would not be his original dream. Though he loved her that day more than he could know or tell that he knew, it took from that day to the end for him to know exactly how deep was his astonishment and how high was his wonder, because of her.
Of all those he had loved in those first years she was the first in his heart and the last to go. He had lost early everyone he ever loved. Even before she died, death had grown large in his soul and after she died it swam in him like a giant blue whale in a shallow lake and there became no room for anything else. He felt there was nothing left here for him. That hole felt deep as eternity.
Gradually he came to know it was no hole, but a fallow field, where a sacred grove of trees were to be planted. He had the responsibility to grow and care for them with the life in him. That hole was his future and it felt empty because it was not yet filled with the roots of the sacred grove. All that was the failed first dream and was long ago.
Now the great hole has been filled. The grove has grown and the trees thrive. The love he once thought he lost never disappeared but was deep within. Her love became his inspiration for living. Her love sheltered and kept safe his soul as he wayfared through life.
For it has been said: no love is lost. It remains within. Our love for another cannot die except we kill it. Love is self-contained. Love that cannot be known directly is the great purifying fire of life. Eventually we are faced with the decision to plant a tree within for a beloved that has gone on to some other place.
There in his heart was the grove and her tree among them sheltered directly the heart of Kent. Love is a mutually-signed spiritual contract between two. Death is not the day when “there is always tomorrow” is no more; death is not the ending of love’s contract. We die many deaths in our souls before we come to know this.
There is always tomorrow. . . . is the most hopeful phrase in the world, and the most heartbreaking to those who have lost their hope. We should be happy eternity last forever, for in eternity lives only love and those who give it. Sometimes love takes a short forever to arrive; but yesterday, today and tomorrow are the same day in eternity. Love is the energy that makes the immaterial materialize; love is the soul inside the clay; love is the elixir of life and the water of the loch-spring that drips from us.
The world tells us not to weep, but more correct is to not weep after weeping. The world tells us not to complain, but more correct is to not complain after complaining. The world tells us not to be weak, but more correct is to not be weak after being weak. For there is a time for everything and for everything, there is a time. When one time is over only then can we go on to the next. When one hope is over only then can we go on to the next. When one dream is over. . . .
So when the time to be weak and weep is done we will go on and laugh and be strong. When the time to dream is over we will let go that dream and dream again. Love is never a thing to be given up on, though it take ten-thousand years to find.
But there is this: some dreams cannot be gone on from; some tears are endless; some things are always going to remain; some things cannot be let go of. Love can never be questioned. Love is always the answer. The important thing is to not be the destroyer of your own answer.
Many believed Rigel Kent destroyed his chance at life by loving a dead girl, at the exclusion of the living, but he knew she was, alive or dead, his one chance at life. That she was his heart and its wonder was ancient knowledge in him. Her physical presence was missed, but the memory of her was presence enough. The advice he gave to all star-gazers, from one fool who considered it the best thing he ever learned by living, was: Be who you are. Deep inside is that knowledge.
By late summer of his forty-second year he knew if he was going to make it to the summit of Blue Mountain it would have to be soon. He was tired. Invisible weights weighed down every cell of his being. It had become a struggle just to move. But he would make it back to summit by the first of fall. Somehow. He had not been there in twenty-four years. Making the peak was his ultimate and final goal. He didn’t know how he would make it, only that he would.
On the last day of summer, Kent was sitting on the porch of his grandfather’s blue cabin contemplating the trip to the top, when he walked up. It had been fifteen years. Kent watched as he rounded the bend on the trail, coming toward him. There’s no other like him, so he knew right off.
He had come back.
Kent had wondered about him for a long time so he had, at the ready, the first question he would ask.
Mr. Silver stopped in front of him, set his boot on the porch, put his hands on his hips and with a hundred-dollar smile Kent had never seen him execute, grew two silver dimples that could have been the very cause of creation. Kent held his own smile inside, and asked Mr. Silver where he had been and why it had taken so long to get back.
Mr. Silver did not straightaway reply. He casually sat down in the pine-hewn Adirondack chair, comfortably pulled out his meerschaum pipe, and thoughtfully packed it with his favorite leaf. He took his sweet time with all things. Eternity never hurries.
It had been, to Kent, a long time since he last saw that, so he looked on with unspeakable delight. Kent’s effort to not smile broke as Mr. Silver struck his match against the rough pine and lit the leaf. It was the same aroma he remembered. Mr. Silver had found his perfect tobacco long ago. He puffed the leaf into life as he rocked, then said,
“Well, my boy, where I have been is no matter. What is important is I have come back.”
He then looked over and gave Kent that stare that sees right though to eternity and for the first time Kent was able to look back the same, which made them both smile. Mr. Silver continued,
“It was your time to walk alone.”
“So why have you come back now?”
“Because now is your time not to walk alone. Now is the time I speak to you of a lad who was the noble count of a sacred wood and of his lass, who was the first keeper of the stars true tales. What they composed—it was whispered once—is destined to astonish the nations of men.”
He puffed his pipe and its aromatic smoke drifted over them like the years and then dissipated into the ether and all the time apart drifted away with it. Mr. Silver said,
“So tell me what you have learned.”
Rigel Kent sat on his tale a minute. Then he looked over and saw through Mr. Silver, to the eternity within, and said,
“I have learned that life is a moving treasure map, and wonder marks the spot. I have learned that melancholy for me is a busy city, where the mountains are made of cement, glass and steel, and none of these things make growth rings. I have learned that trees hold the memory of seasons within them. Nature is born in them, dies in them, and is reborn in them. All summers, falls, springs and winters are held in them. All ancient memories are kept sacred in them.
“I have learned the written word is lost on one who will not read; the spoken word is lost on one who will not hear; love is lost on one who will not serve; evil is lost on one who will not lie; beauty is lost on one who will not appreciate; life is lost on one who will not dream; death is lost on one who will not die; light is lost on one who will not see and darkness is lost on one who will.
“I have learned there are two paths into the ancient wood and it’s important to take the right one. I’ve learned when a soul comes to the end of hope that is when they must let go of hope, and hold on to faith. I think I’ve learned there is no real death—not to hope, to life, or to love—but I am not sure of it. I’ve learned it is important to wish upon stars every night, so as not to forget what stars, nights and hearts are made for. I have learned it is important to remember in the day the wishes of the night, so as to not forget what the day, hands and belief are for.
“I have learned that love will make you wait; but when love finally arrives, you must stop waiting. When it comes you must hold it, or you will lose it. Love is the sacred thing here and it cannot be taken for granted. One thing I sure came to know was if men were burdened with eternity, wonder would be necessary for them to know the value of a moment; and if men were vouchsafed only a moment, wonder would be necessary to know the value of eternity. I believe I have discovered that love is wonder made perfect. I have learned, I think I have, that in some of us there is one loch-spring stone for two. But maybe you will disagree with that.”
Mr. Silver sat pondering the far western shore of the world. The sun was setting and it was a spectacle of red flaming clouds. After several minutes of waiting, he said,
“It is rare, but it happens, that in two souls is one part of the stone. It happens about once every ten-thousand years, give or take.”
The western-flame show quieted down and was replaced with a faint blue. The Milky Way was forming overhead. Mr. Silver, without taking his eyes from the last lights, asked Rigel Kent,
“Why did you come back?”
“I didn’t want to die among the empty shadows of the city. I didn’t want to die on a man-made mountain but a natural one. There are no growth rings in the cement mountains of the city. The only growth rings in the city are the thin layers of latex paint on the walls. I wanted to die on the mountain of my fathers and mothers. I came back because this is where her heart is.”
He trailed off, deep in the memory of her. Then he completed his thought,
“I came back so I could finish this with you. I thought you would show earlier. I have been coming here these last two years. So why so long?”
Mr. Silver kept his gaze on the sunset. But Rigel could perceive he was thinking of the emotions in the question. He could see Mr. Silver’s soul as if he were standing before a magic mirror. Mr. Silver took a deep breath and looked at Rigel Kent,
“I have been here all along, like that time on the trail, like all other times. But you did not need my distraction to interfere with your coming to know what it is you have learned. So I stayed concealed, waiting for your soul to ripen into wisdom. It was important your time here be alone. This is the end of just one grand journey. Now you are ready and we will walk together to the end and after this end I will carry you through to a new beginning.”
Kent wavered on his feet. Mr. Silver reached over and steadied his body with a powerful hand,
“There you will see her again, as you have seen her all these years between lives, and as you have perceived her in this one. You both will talk of the beautiful wonders you have known and there will be a joy I cannot express to you properly here. In the next life you both will finally know, completely and without ill-timed break, the love earned over many trials and dark years. I will see to that myself. There will be no early hurt in the next tale to be told. The story of you two is destined to bring light to this dark world. It is not given to all to do this. You two have done well and I am astonished by both of you.”
He smiled at Rigel Kent, then said,
“It is rare that I am so astonished.”
There was a tear at the corner of his eye and when it dropped Rigel Kent caught it. He looked into his hand at the single, pristine, silver-blue pearl of the loch-spring. It was warm and filled his being and then the beautiful memories of all he had ever loved came back to him in a single moment. He clasped his hand like there were two pecans in it and kept the jewel to himself.
Mr. Silver knocked the burnt ashes out of his pipe, refilled and lit it. Kent watched the shaded scenes from the lit match play across the old man’s face and saw how it was the same face he had seen long ago; a face that showed in it all the scenes and beingness of the world of men and their stories told and untold. All of history and future was in it. Mr. Silver shook the flame out of the match and puffed his pipe and said,
“My boy, sit a spell and let me tell you a tale of a story long told but not all of it yet told, nor yet fully known by any mortal wayfarer here.”
Then he sat on his tale to be told a moment or three, then he gave to Kent the bright secret of his eternity; which long he had come close to knowing, but had not been able to fully know.
“By your death long ago you brought a great, undying grief to one who was beloved of you and beloved by you. You left and she had to live on without you. It was a spiritual burden she bore for twenty-two years after your death. Her name then was Claire Capture. Your name then was Chauncey DeBeers. All of that has been five centuries ago now. In the time since you two have sought each other. In this life you are now living, which now comes to its end, you both found each other again. For a brief eighteen years you loved with uncommon devotion and understanding and then, on this mountain, she left you and you had to go on without her as she once had to go on without you.”
The ancient memories flooded into Kent. He was remembering what he had never really forgotten, but could never fully believe. All that he had come close to knowing but had never truly known was now filling the gaps in his mind. Mr. Silver continued,
“Men do not know their deepest purpose here until that purpose repeatedly shows itself, by time and circumstance. Even then, many will not listen to what their meaning and purpose is, so they never come to know it. And when they do listen, their anxious fears keep them from knowing the full meaning and measure of their soul’s secrets. A great sea of sorrow flooded into you, which then became fear of sorrow and that threatened to prevent you from knowing these beautiful secrets of your soul. But you refused to fear. You went beyond it. Had you held your fear close, these secrets you now know—these things that have enlightened you—and replaced confusion with power—would have remained forever unknown to you.
“All along the secret of you was in the words handed down to you from your fathers. The particular stories beneath the stories of particular men never stray far from them. You knew this in your youngest days—even before you knew how to speak a word. Then the grief came and you grew weary and fearful of grief and wished for something easier to spend your time on than the truth of your own spirit’s journey here. You filled your time with work by which to forget, but you came back and threw that weariness off and continued the course.
“You two are bound together by your own eternal bonds. By your death five-hundred years ago she came to know the truths in her soul. She learned of the beauty of existence in this incarnation. She came to see, after the grief of your leaving, the wonders in the leaves. You did not mean to leave her. You had hoped with all your being to stay, but a higher message wished you to go for her enlightenment. And many years to man later, but a short moment for eternity, she gave a returned, bittersweet gift, when she left you. After grieving you did what she did; you came to know the wonder in the leaves, during and because of her living and then because of her leaving. You both have lived and died for one another.”
Kent stood in a state of quiet, perfect astonishment. In an instant, the memories of her in this life and the other life washed through and cleansed his soul of the grief of both lives. And then the loch-spring dripped from him and Mr. Silver caught and kept the jewels for himself. Kent sat down and said,
“I just could not forget her, even when I tried. I could not walk on without her. She felt then, as she feels now, to be as much a part of my eternity as I am. She had, since we were young, made me read those words of Chauncey to her. I thought she fell in love with me because of those words, but it was that I had first written them to her. And now I know why she never liked me to read Claire’s words.”
Mr. Silver explained,
“The pain and knowledge of the past was deep within her; and the knowledge of the future. She is wiser about all that than most. As for forgetting her, how could you? That would be the most impossible thing you could do. The first dream of you two has been in your possession all the years of your life. But be happy now. I have come to take you to meet her again. But first, we must finish our wayfaring. Your walk here is not over.”
He noticed Kent’s rose shrub against the wall and asked what he had there. Kent answered,
“By her last year she had become a dedicated rosarian. On our last trip to the summit she brought a rose bush to plant along the skyline trail. Her goal was to make a trail of roses to the top. She chose a variety bred by a man she said was the Van Gogh of rose breeders. I cannot now recall his name. We renamed that first shrub to her liking. I continued that practice.
“In ’88, we planted Claire Capture. In ’89 I planted Lost Love; in ’90 I planted Blue Bolide; ’91 was Star-crossed; Lost Kiss in ’92; Blue Stardust in ’93; Stars-on-Strings in ’94 and Mr. Silver in ’95. I stopped planting after that. They are all crown hardy and die back to the ground in winter, but shoot up new canes in the spring.”
Kent stopped and said,
“But you know all about these roses, don’t you?”
Mr. Silver winked and said,
“The name of that Van Gogh rose breeder is Griffith Buck. He was and is a fine rosarian.”
“Yes, that’s the name she said. This one is not a Griffith Buck. It’s called Hope for Humanity. I liked the name and thought it fitting for my last planting. What do you think about the name?”
Mr. Silver quoted some facts,
“I think it’s a fine name for a fine rose. The flowers are born in small trusses of four to five blooms each. It double blooms a deep blood red. And like all great rose shrubs, it will bloom all season.”
“If all goes well, it should be putting out truss upon truss of red blossoms in a few years. I would like them to be blue, but I could not find a rose that blooms blue.”
“Yes. In a few years. If all goes well. . . .” Mr. Silver replied.
“Her heart lies within this mountain, and so I wished to plant roses in her heart. I wanted to make that dream of hers come true by making Skyline Trail a path of roses.”
Mr. Silver stood, put his hand on Kent’s shoulder, and said,
“Well, you did it.”
Mr. Silver picked him out of the rocker and carried him to bed. Kent was light as a feather to him. He set him down and as he covered him with Grandmother Braithewaite's hand-sewn blanket, he spoke in a sing-song- voice,
“By turns the wooded way unwinds, toward the cabin turrets high, on bended wood the staircase climbs, past cozy loft and cedar sky, where the view is grand and bold and the trees are great and old. This sight on cash is not dependent, this place where stars are so resplendent. We’re here to know what’s in our souls and along the way we’ll pass, as they paw beneath the snow, the happy buck and his proud doe. We’re here to watch the stars in flight, and here to find our graceful light, and then, in blankets, a restful night.”
He tucked the covers beneath Kent’s chin and finished,
“A warm goodnight to you. Get some sleep. We have a long hike starting at first light.”
Then he passed his silver hand over and Rigel Kent closed his eyes and went to sleep.
THE FINAL SUMMIT
Rigel Kent woke as dawn peeped through Blue Cabin’s four-paned window. When his eyes adjusted he saw Mr. Silver standing at the door, watching over him. He seemed as tall as the cabin’s roof. Kent smiled. It was like old times.
“You ready to get a move on?”
After a breakfast of amaranth, clover, dandelion, prickly pear cactus and wild onions, they headed out. Mr. Silver walked slow and as they traveled he gave a clear description of a perfect sight Kent had seen many times. He spoke of First Light Pond,
“The First Light was the first pond to capture the starlight of the first morning and within its waters is the other half of the gem-stone; in it is the light of perfect proportions. It long has been the main watering hole for the wild mountain goats that were here before men came. Of the trees surrounding the pond, there are many; plenty of the wild, whispering, needled pines and the civilized, clapping-leaf’d trees and of wild blue roses, there are many of those. It is a good rest spot for backpackers and is also the main drinking spot for skunk, badger, coyote, bobcat and brown bear. The claw tracks of wolves and the hoof prints of deer are always in evidence upon its banks, where hunted and hunter come to drink its pristine waters, which smell like the pine forest that surrounds it. Countless to man but counted by the maker of man are the generations of life which have wayfared to First Light Pond to partake of its bounty.”
As he talked and they walked beyond the First Light to Indian Trail, he told Rigel Kent of the very first to walk here, in ages so long ago he could not easily remember the number of them; back when the trail was level and the mountain was yet a plain—made of rock, sand and mirror—that stretched as far as the eye could see, without plant or tree. He spoke of the long ages passed away and then the plain grew into a new mountain and then a sea flooded the valleys and with its waters—in short moments relative to eternity, man and earth—turned the mountain back to rock, sand and mirror and then age upon age passed and the mountain grew back again.
“And this has happened more times than men know of and now here is a new mountain, but the sea will come once again and to turn the mountain back into rock, sand and mirror.”
Then they passed into the place Rigel Kent had heard about but never seen. Blue Forest, where the needles of the pines glowed a luminescent blue and throughout were blue butterflies, blue wolves and blue deer, who were not frightened at their wayfaring through, but joyed by it. Kent stopped and in wide-eyed admiration, took in the steady presence of Mr. Silver and the graceful light of the forest. He had been tired for years, had become an old man too young, but now he felt a surge of energy within which made him feel young again. Blue Forest gave to his soul a peace that passed beyond understanding. He spoke in whispered breaths. His words possessed a faint sound of the crystalline echo to them,
“It is so beautiful. . . .”
They continued on and sooner than it seemed possible—for the hike up Blue Mountain is a day’s journey—the summit was accomplished and they turned to see the path they had wayfared over. It was the same sight Kent had seen in years gone by and he was made happy by the sight. It had never grown old, but was always to him the newest sight in creation.
He saw again, as if for the first time, how the colors begin at the top of Blue Mountain and cascade down its slopes like a waterfall ablaze with colored, jeweled light. He saw this bejeweled light and color flood into First Light Pond where, from the top, it appears like the eye of the world, from which all things are and all things can, be seen.
They looked on and smiled their appreciation, then they planted at the top of Blue Mountain the Hope of Humanity rose shrub. The surprising thing to Kent was he was not surprised. It seemed a thing they had always done, this walking together to the summit of Blue Mountain. They had crossed the barrier of time and place and now there was no time since and no time until and no place between. They had journeyed into the eternal moment, where the everlasting and ageless is. They were at the place Mr. Silver can see in everybody, just by looking.
After the planting Kent stood and beamed proudly at Mr. Silver, who was smiling at something. Kent turned. She was standing a dozen feet away, next to the trail’s head, watching him.
They were born on the same day, in the same summer, in the same small town at the bottom of the same great mountain. He would know her anywhere. Now they were at the same place they had last known each other mortally and all the time since evaporated as if they had been together all along. It was like he had never walked alone; she had been with him the whole time. Their parting had been the smoke-and-mirror of incomplete, mortal existence.
They had devised special sign language as children and she showed Kent their favorite sign. He smiled and signed back:
She looked to the great silver being, that supernatural wayfarer who walks through dark forest and over high mountain; he who is wise beyond wisdom. When she called him by name Kent realized she knew him, had known him all along, and knew he knew him.
“Where will you go from here, Mr. Silver?”
He walked to her and put his finger beneath her chin.
She smiled and winked. He said,
“Before I answer that, answer me this: What have you learned in your spirit’s journey?”
She turned and walked to Rigel Kent and took his hands and fixed him with a stare that saw his heart and nothing beyond and said,
“I have learned that the divine proportions of life, death and re-birth make for the perfection of wonder. I have learned life is best lived at the speed of wonder. Any slower is ho-hum. Any faster and you miss the sights. I have learned wonder is life’s essence, and is a necessity to truly live. It gives to we vapors of a moment an elementary understanding of forever; to the long-lived, it informs the understanding of the beauty of the ephemeral. As a tree, rock or star could never truly understand the value of a moment or a man, without reading or wondering on a moment or a man, so the same with a man, relative to tree, rock and star. But a star, tree or rock cannot read or wonder on moment or man. But a man may read and wonder on them. So the answer is simple: A good star-go, a good wonder, is the go-to experience of life’s epitomes.
“I have learned man is the mote in God’s eye, and God is to man whatever the mirror reflects when men peer into it. By not appreciating the blade of grass, the drop of water, the single moment, we fail the bigger things outside of these. By appreciating the smallest of things, we gain, add to and profit the whole world. By not appreciating the smallest of things, we lose, we waste, all of it. Man sees these truths only when he wonders, then appreciates this wonder. Man remains blind without wonder.
“What I have learned, Rigel Kent, as I have traveled on a beam of silver-blue light, using the light of stars as my compass while wayfaring among the cosmos, to finally land on a tree with silver and blue leaves and find myself nothing more and nothing less than the gleam in your wondering eye, is that true love is the purest form of wonder in the universe.
“What I have learned, Chauncey DeBeers, as I have plodded slow alongside the pokey turtle—waiting on you—is that pure wonder is the truest form of love. And though they are not, at first, the same things, they become the same things. They are two right paths leading to the same bright place.”
She held Kent’s hands to her heart,
“It was you who taught me all that. I have learned wonder is a secret, but those who do not seek for secrets do not learn them, and so they remain ignorant to secrets. So the beautiful things keep their own untroubled company. I have learned that to know wonder and love, one must first be full of wonder and love. What is sought must first be inside the seeker.”
She turned to Mr. Silver,
“I have learned eternity last forever for those who have not love and wonder inside; and for those who do, eternity is not near long enough and is just the blink and wink of an eye. Eternity contracts or expands to fill up the time of the life and soul experiencing it, depending on the soul’s capacity for wonder. To the soul that wonders, there is no distance of time or place. Every life lived is that soul’s best chance to make of life something worthy of life. There is no future and no past. There is only today. It is only never which last forever. Our life is our best chance to know, to make and to create—wonder. And of all good and wonderful things, love is the seed of them. Life knows our path better than we do; which is why we should listen for the answer Life whispers. That whisper is not us, but a wisdom beyond us. These are things I have learned.”
She ended her speech and they stood, looking at each other and saying nothing. But like always when he said nothing, he was saying everything. The whispers of the world were about him and during the quiet times one could make them out, if just faintly. She broke the unquiet silence,
“So, where will you go now, Mr. Silver?”
He grinned and replied,
“All is vanity, spake the king! Wisdom makes for sadness and sadness makes for wisdom and all that makes for a solitary walk for the lonely wayfarer. I will go and use the lines of trees as my compass while walking toward the light of stars. And in time, I will, if history proves, become forgetful of wonder and so will seek those who can make me astonished again. When there are no more leaves and stars to count time by; when there are no more of the astonished and amazed to know life by; I will sit down to rest and hope there is more to show for it besides the answer of who was best.”
He touched the planted rose-bush and put into it three springs and three summers and it sprouted canes which sprouted buds and from the buds bloomed luminous, blue roses—truss upon truss of them.
“Except for the propagation of wonder, there is little new to know. All that has coursed and fell has given story to tell and by the time the tale is told the teller of it has grown old and is tired and sits and drops the last of his being among bored, world-weary wits.
“Those wits then make tales and sales out of what’s been told and sold. Then some new, young wayfarer will come and weave what the old left behind and the same old course will wend and wind and the new wayfarer will find—among shooting stars and falling leaves—what I once found.”
He looked out over creation. There was the waterfall of color cascading down the slope of the Blue into First Light Pond. The sun was setting, sending the captured, turquoise blue starlight to all parts of the western sky. He said,
“In a bitter winter some few years ago I had grown weary of wayfaring and of sitting in the library reading. I then walked the earth scores of times over and found none who were astonished and was nearly bereft of the hope to find any. All tales of astonishment from days of old had grown stale. For as you know, wonder can only be found in some other when the one seeking wonder also has wonder within them. My wonder was dying. So I buried an acorn, sat over it and rested.
“The acorn sprouted and the sapling grew and turned into a young tree and I remained sitting, as it set shade about me. When the oak shed its first season of acorns the birds and squirrels came and ate their fill, then hid in the earth, or dropped upon it, the surplus acorns. These then sprouted into saplings, which then grew into young trees and in time became venerable old oaks.
“So, from the first acorn, there grew about me an aged oak forest. I remained sitting beneath the first tree that had grown giant and hoary-barked with age, until one day there strolled by a wayfarer in whose heart I perceived a pure astonishment. We spoke hello and well-mets and then spent the while conversing. I learned of his love and the reason for his astonishment and I sought her out and walked a ways with her also. All that was a little while ago, and now we three are here together, once again.
“In all the ages of man the failure or success of love has been the theme of the story of man. No other two hearts have been so true to one shared love. This love in your hearts has not been equaled or bettered in the last ten-thousand years.”
He bent and plucked two freshly-bloomed blue roses and handed one to each of them.
“What will I do, Claire Capture? Well, winter is coming soon. I will wayfare back to the library and pull my favorite book from the nook—that obscure volume—where two star-crossed, tear-dripped hearts loved true for over five-hundred years, against the obstacles of time and seeming death. Those two whose gemstones melded into one. As has been said, their story is my favorite story and I have marveled at it every winter now since it was first penned and set in shadow. After winter I will wayfare over mountain and meadow once again, to listen to the whisperings and to see if I can perceive in some such a love as this one. I will go where I have gone before and do the same things I have done, for there is nothing new for me under the sun, except. . .”
He took the moment to smile at them that double, silver-dimpled smile,
“There is nothing new here for me, except when I discover those who are truly astonished. So I will look again for two who are ready to hear the whispered voice within their ear and when I find them I will become again—as if for the first time—astonished!”
He bent and kissed her cheek and took their hands in his and said,
“Two little doves sat on a bough, one said I love you and the other said, I know. You two little doves have a wonderful flight home. I’ll be seeing you.”
Then he turned and walked around the bend that went back down the mountain and soon was gone from sight. They stood a moment looking after him, then she turned to Rigel Kent and said,
“Milord Chauncey, my bright, guiding star, please tell me what you have dreamed and thought.”
He answered, his voice become now a bright, metallic whisper,
“I missed you with me, beneath the moon and starlight, and for a long time my thoughts were heavy and dark. Then I came to think of these heavenly lights: these that are made of love’s light, by which to guide our souls by, these lights by which to ask why, I am here and she is there. And when, again, to meet and be. These lights by which to know, immortal qualities of things below. I long now have pondered on the progression of stars, the fables of men, and the poems in winds. For we men are their chroniclers. But even all this cannot equal one kiss from some being we miss. All wonders in this blue-marbled world for the seeing cannot equal one moment of lost love from the being, who makes all these lights worth their burning. And now, by the line of your face and the curve of your eye, I can answer why, and can dream of light again.”
She smiled and cupped his chin in her hand and asked,
“Did it seem a long wait?”
“Until today, it seemed forever. Now it seems only a moment since I last saw you.”
“It was just a moment.”
They gazed over the majesty of Blue Mountain.
“I like what you did with my picture, the one with the sun, moon and star.”
“It is my favorite work of art. And at forty-two feet wide and thirty-three feet high, it makes a perfect center piece in my library, over the fireplace.”
“You liked it that much?”
“Who wouldn’t? And it reminded me of us.”
As they walked toward the sunset, he asked her,
“Do you remember telling me how Blue Mountain became blue, and how the dawn comes every day?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Would you tell me again?”
She put her arm through his and said,
“Well see, it happens like this. A great flock of true-hearted sparrows fly inland from the dusky dark sea and as they near shore they dip their wings in the big, blue water and scoop up the day with them and fly northeast.
“When they make it to Blue Mountain, they dip their wings over it, and from their dusky, dawn-laden wings, there falls the day and the waters of the big, blue sea are captured by the soul of this great mountain and in the day it drip-dries itself by the light of our closest star.
“After replenishing the soul of the mountain the true-hearted sparrows fly back east in the murky night’s fog. As they go, the starlight drips into their wings and this then falls into the big blue sea, which makes again the triple lights of the eastern shore of our world. Not many know they live on Blue Mountain. . . .”
She stopped long enough to give the kiss he long had missed, then finished,
“But all do.”
The Moving Map Storybook Co.
& Lost Tales
Chauncey & Claire
by Christopher F. Mills
This part of the story begins in the late 1400’s and as you now know, just recently concluded. It is a tale about wonder across the ages and is told for those who ever lost, and for those yet to find, their wonder.
Rigel Kent discovered his own wonder when he was a boy and lost it as a young man. After complaining about it, he decided if it took a year, a lifetime or a thousand years; if it took longer than all the time man has counted and could count, he would find his wonder again. In his soul was the memory of this lost wonder and he felt bound by duty to find what had been lost. There would be no amount of time, distance, place or powers; there would be no wild, tedious, irksome men or tame or untamed beast who could eternally forbid what was destined to be found again.
So at an early age he found himself in complete astonishment at being alive. In that astonishment he heard whispers—secrets of being and of having been. The wonder of it kept him in astonishment for the next little while. Of these secrets he heard whispered, he eventually came to know some were older than the first sunset and others newer than tomorrow’s sunrise. He sensed there was a secret within the secret. It would take long and his soul would know great sorrows before he came to realize the secret. He had known a small portion of eternity in this search for his lost wonder and it was only the miracle of wonder which gave him the strength for this age-long search.
Wonder is a journey back into history, where half of all wonder originates. In the future is the other half. His own journey back into his wonder’s origination is a short trip of only five-hundred years. It’s not so long a trip to take, if you will imagine for a moment. . .
This present moment. A moment just part of the last minute and that minute, part of the last hour. That hour, just the last of a string of them which made up the most recent day, and that being one of seven days which made up the last week. Last week, just a quarter of the last month, which was one-twelfth of the most recent year. For some years now we have lived and before that, other years to come and go. All in all, there have been and will be many years time has counted.
Imagine a century ago. To do that, first set an eternal perspective. Eternity is not practicably measurable by man’s present senses or knowledge. We simply cannot understand or perceive that long a time. Perhaps a century relative to eternity is like one trillionth, or one centillionth, of a second to man. Which would make a single heartbeat of a hummingbird seem like a drawn-out event. So now, to imagine one-hundred years ago is no big deal. It was just a moment ago. So travel back with me a century.
Now imagine this short century becoming two and two becoming four and then add one more, which makes five. In the blink of a thought we are now five-hundred years back, which is just the beginning of what time has done, and will do, to this moment we are in. Fables we are to become—and when that is accomplished, what we did and did not do is just a little sum.
So now we are five centuries past. It is an ancient time—which, oddly, seems much like this time, without pollution. Five-hundred years ago is where we will be in spirit, there is where this story begins, after some few pages of description of the long ending which precedes it.
If you can believe time is a more complex affair than the moments, days and years, one after the other, and there is more to life than what we normally experience of it, the enigma presented here will become, for you, a realized mystery.
Now I hand the pen back to Braithewaite, for it is his tale to tell.
THE BEGINNING OF TIME
The Hundred-year-old Chest
My grandfather was a connoisseur of antiquated things. I say that, but to him they were just mementos from his antiquated life. To my four-year-old mind his souvenirs seemed old as time itself. Among his possessions was a seventy-five-year-old wooden chest, bedecked with jewels and redolent of ancient cedar. I believed there were magical spells within that box. It was then as mysterious an artifact to me as the Egyptian Pyramids are now and into it I peeped for the first time in 1974.
It has been a lifetime. Now I am the possessor of the spells within that ancient chest, and of all other venerated things inside it. I can spin the dial of the old, gold lock (right three spins, stop on 5; left one spin, stop on 12; turn right and stop at 6 ) and spy within the romantic love letters from the 1920’s and 30’s between a young man and his lady-love—one born in 1906 and the other in 1908. There are deeds to homes no longer in existence and business records from the early 40’s through the mid 70’s. It’s the entire literary estate of my grandparents, long before they were grey and wrinkled, during the times when they were dappled in the bright colors of youth.
His life, beginning to end, is no longer as old or long a thing as once I imagined it. During the time he has been in the grave he has become younger to me as I have grown older. Among the literary effects are a handful of stilled watches, one of them stopped the exact day he left behind the failed dream of his first love. That was 1925. He had told me, relative to that particular watch:
All the time it once kept still means something to me.
And then he had smiled and looked deep into the past, remembering the lost moments the watch had ticked away. After the memory passed he looked over, and peering into the young soul there, said:
“But you are at the beginning of time and cannot yet know about all that.”
And he was right. I did not understand his meaning that day, but have since come to it.
There is a stack of dried-out, yellowed notebooks, filled with illegible scribblings. Some books of philosophy and poetry and a petite woman’s green and white Cardigan sweater. Grandma was tall and big-boned. She never could have worn that sweater. A decade after he died I discovered, secreted away in the pages of his books, old pictures of him when he was no more than one-and-twenty, sitting in a chair and preening like a peacock with a cigar hanging out of his mouth and a petite young lady sitting on his lap. It’s hard to tell, as the picture is black and white, but the striped Cardigan sweater she’s wearing could have been part green. Whoever she was, she just passed like a Cardigan-sweatered ghost through Grandpa’s life and drifted back out into wonderment and idle curiosity, at least relative to grandpa’s life.
What caught my eye that day in ’74 was a collection of papers held together by brass braids, with a cover so colorfully and artistically designed it was bound to catch my imagination.
“What’s this?” I asked.
He pulled the papers out, stood and straightened out his bended back—which took some doing—and with a mischievous gleam in his grey eyes, said,
“These, my boy, are the Lost Tales of the Necromancer!”
Then he took my hand and walked me outside his office, where we sat on a bench in the late summer’s straw-yellow sunlight. Opening the artfully-painted cover, he began to read to me. I know which poem he read that day because next to “Advice from an Old Man” is this inscription:
Read to my grandson on September 4, 1974,
R. D. Braithewaite, Sr.
It was my introduction to a collection that would mean more in the years to come than I could then know. Grandpa died, as all grandpas must do, a little over two weeks later. I could tell you he died suddenly, but it had taken him almost 68 years to make it back to the other side. His advice and gleaming grey eyes live on for me.
DISCLAIMER AND DEMITASSE
On the first of autumn in 1999 I sat in a downtown bistro in the company of a pompous Dabbler-of-the-Arts, who, relative to my grandfather’s Lost Tales, remarked:
“The poems and the story behind them could not possibly be true for the history is wrong at all points. Claire “The Fair” and this Henry DeBeers fellow have their locations mixed up and all that business with the King! Why would Henry the Seventh go, personally, on a small expedition in the Ettrick Forest against the Scots, Vikings, or any other? And besides all that, have you not noticed the treacherous grammar in the poems?”
He prattled on for a quarter-hour the whys and wherefores of the logic against it all and at his conclusion, I rejoined:
“So a few facts become mangled over the course of five-hundred years and you find it improbable these events occurred at all? Perhaps Claire did not know her history or geography, or perhaps she did, and rewrote it to her taste. Perhaps she possessed imagination. Or did she write it right and those after her copy it wrong? Maybe there never lived a Claire Brunswick and Charles and Henry DeBeers and some fat, old guy wrote all this as he sat on the john. In your impressive knowledge of history you remain ignorant of its most salient fact, which is unless you were there and saw it with your own eyes, it’s all hearsay. The realm of history is a vast kingdom of paradox and to pragmatically disbelieve it or wholly believe it is evidence of a young mind unprepared for ancient or future history, or much anything else.”
I paused a moment,
“As for the grammar, that’s the way it came down the pike. Besides, if you must be so punctilious, go enjoy your Strunk and White. It is poetry, Sir, and thanks be to the divine, supernatural deity for it being independent of form; in fact, poetry is dependent on not being dependent.”
As his face turned crimson his nostrils expanded and contracted like bellows across his face and his eyes receded under a dark canopy of furrowed brows. I couldn’t be sure if all that was from the Madagascar pepper I had clandestinely sprinkled in his demitasse while he pontificated, or it was just his facial response to my fine words relative to his gross ignorance. However the cause, it was quite a show. For his benefit, and my pleasure, I continued:
“The truth, Sir, imprisoned within the lie and the lie hid within the truth are elusive things perceptive minds must distinguish by subtle means. In your perusal of history in books, you have read right by the story-between-the-lines. As for me, I prefer to believe that whatever is truth is forever sealed in forgotten, obscure graves on two continents and stretched across, at the least, two centuries—and seven at most.
“Whatever are the secrets of the Tales are secrets of the grave and so are safe from absolute knowledge and her curious seekers. In the final subdivision and judgment it is simply a book of belles-lettres, with a legend built up around it. Poetry itself is a chronicler of secrets—beautiful and sublime ones. This history you speak so authoritatively of is nothing more than the disclosure of some secrets and the eternal hiding of others.
“Historically, critics of art are more hostile attorney and prosecutor for the corrupt literary status quo than ally to art and artist. You, Sir, are a jargonist—which is an artist—of a sort. Your academic training has made another victim of a naïve mentality. The genuine scholar is always sui generis and self-made; their knowledge comes by what the university can neither build, make or fake—the independent mind.”
Being a professionally-trained haikuista and Keeper-of-Poems at the local library, he took it as his duty and prerogative to merely scoff at my words and pretend he hardly heard them. He daintily picked up his demitasse, his pinky finger sticking out at the proper English angle, and sampled from it as he looked, with a false-poet’s disdain, out the window at the passersby, worldlings and wayfarers. I knew exactly what he was doing; he was speculating on some tall head-work that no mere mortal could possibly fathom.
I had been waiting for a particular moment for the past ten clicks of the clock. I had other business but would wait this one out. This fellow evidently had an incredibly stout olfactory sense. But I was confident it could not hold forever. The sneeze that finally erupted from his peppered, bellowed nostrils blew his proper English pinky out of alignment, thus causing him to spill his demitasse on his fuchsia polo.
“Gesundheit.” I said, and throwing cash on the table for the coffee and pastries, walked out.
Surely I am not as bright as your average haiku poet and Keeper-of-Poems at the local library, but I do believe that some legends may grow to become more important than some facts. This splendid universe we live in has a great imagination and what may be in it and what may become of it, no man can know. We are the fused atoms of starlight and God-thought, our time to be here is but a moment and of all that we may leave here? Well, of that it has been said—no man can know.
On men and their pasts, there are too many graves on the planet to count and the number is unimportant anyway. All former wayfarers and worldlings have slipped back into the atom of God’s thought, their starlight relinquished into the void. Perhaps when we become, again, the atomic thought of God only, what we did with our starlight will shine on and the lesser facts of our lives, no longer important to anything or anyone here, will be mercifully lost in time and be put among the countless other jumbled and meaningless facts. The biggest thing I know is that I mostly do not know. And I find that keeps my wonder sharp and my lamp bright.
BELLE-LETTRES AMOR IMMORTALIS
The Literary Theory
Five-hundred years ago there lived in England two star-crossed lovers. What they lived, wrote and left has been secreted away all this time, until now.
The Literary Theory is the story of Chauncey and Claire, two who lived at the end of the Middle Ages in merry, olde England. Claire was coy and made Chauncey wait, till he prove his love. And so he waited and he wrote and the proof of love he left in rhyme and time, and a true love’s heart. So this, my merry, modern wayfarer, be a pathos-filled tale told mighty and well. This tale be as old as today is new and speaks of love, bold and true.
This book be half-a-thousand years old, this book be strong in joy and rhyme this book be bold and unafraid and possess no woe nor dread of time, that power which gives to mortal things, apprehension in their wings—that flight will cease and the earth be sought—for time to rest and come to naught. Apprehension is not here—for this book be not of fear—this book be immortality. This tome be time’s epitome, from ancient loam beyond the sea. . . .
This book be for the fully alive and for those who wish to be. It be for those who are in love and for those who wish to see, that love is the best of all formed things beneath this day-star bright, and beneath the white stars that form night. All it cost is just some time, and charges fee—of tear and joy and mortal cloy. This book be for strong souls, for bold and meek souls, and I can promise some wise thing here will give some salt to tear, then make of it some less a bit, and give dull minds a jig to wit. I assure you it be bright with life, it be for husband to give to wife, if love-struck he wish to be. It be the buttered bread in hearts, and warm knife to carve love in equal parts.
So I beg some time-spell, some quiet moment of yours, to peruse these tales as ancient as shores. These two ruddy roses, fettered and twined by time in old England’s heart, who had not the good luck or fortune for longer part. But there be no end to them here nor there, and as bold as Chauncey was, twice bold was Claire. The stars themselves were no match for this pair. The devil himself would not dare to stare, down the game and gallant Chauncey, nor his beautiful and brave Claire.
The hands that wrote these tales are together yet. And glad we must be, those two met. They gave the rhyme in their hearts for each other a test—and kept love’s promise safe and fully blessed. Now their hearts rest together in England’s cold and wet weather—in some forgotten God’s acre, their atoms have gone back to dust—but their souls to their maker.
The imprint of their hearts here, all of a piece. And in their book of a thousand stars and half-a-thousand years peace, your lit candle will drip light, will drip light, then cease. Then place this book upon mantle, mantle-and-piece, and drift softly to sleep and dream of these hearts, of Chauncey and Claire from Olde England to you. Step back quiet in time and listen to two, who spoke of their love in beautiful rhyme, in tome that has traveled from cottage to you. Changed, yet unchanged, still, yet unstill; there is nothing in here that time nor rumor of time can or will kill. So this be candle-light and love’s-dream, captured and kept; this be hearts and their rhyme, raptured and wept. And by weeping, made true and by keeping, kept new.
Here two wayfaring avatars who walked deep into the wood and composed the night. They knew life well and told the tale of wonder here, among daffodil and sprite. And we mortal wights who go to death, leaving all that’s best of good and bright, all noble hopes kept within our weak and weary house of skin, we may come here and read some of how best to live as men.
Here a prince and his verse—the wrought and written word. He spoke truths to men in verse, of star and winged bird. So give to him your ear, if you would hear what a prince would pen about the play. Here a princess, give to her your ear and she will lend, some sage, delicate, wise thing to you, she will wend. From the hand of her to the soul of you will go, some old thing to the gods, but new to you, and so.
Some day wise young scholars will find them and read, what be of the future its very seed. Two poets gave for life their rhyme and verse, like the dying rich man his gilded purse. But one is wasted in a day, while the other goes on and on to say, the best things of life and what is sweetest, these good things from the mind of two who were fleetest. Like the winged birds, the falcon and sparrow, here be works of life’s full marrow.
Here be the end of love, and the beginning of it. Here be the wit of minds and the best of finds. Peruse these scribblings and be done with the world; make a quit of vile clamor and sit and ponder, what two poets writ after wonder. And in your own mind go deep into the bowels of life and sit, ah, the rhyme’s now done twice, I admit. But twice is not as rich as thrice nor near as poor as none—and why should there be end to frolic or of fun?
So give it a drink and sip a bit and smile to the bards while the fire burns low in a poet’s night air. Enjoy these words of the dead and the fair.
This be a tale of love from ages past, of a lass named Claire and a lad named Chauncey, who were blue-blooded, poetic souls in the late Middle Ages. It was a time on the cusp of our own modern age. Castles and moats were commonplace then, as well the kings and lords that sat and shat in them. . . .
The Roman Empire had fallen a thousand years before and the Father of English literature, a fat and happy fellow named Chaucer, had written his own tales of vernacular wit some hundred years previous and collected for them his kingly gift of wine. This Bacchanalian benefaction was the precursor to the title of poet laureate—an honorarium long now fought over amongst verse-makers—like kings once fought over land and lady.
Now we are in an age where real kings and true poets must be found in books and tales; all living representations of them become now mere fodder and filler, poser and killer, of kingly towers and poet’s powers. Chaucer was poet to a king and patronized by the same, yet his name, like Chauncey and Claire’s, fades from the historical record after the poet’s death. It took a century for the haughty English to erect a stone above Chaucer’s dust.
And that is, like Chauncey and Claire’s story, a good lesson to us all: that though we end alone, among weeds and worms, seeds we once sowed may spring again after long drought and noble name need not be forgot and defiled by time or foul circumstance. Our lives may have immortal meaning and be remembered, if we do something grand to be remembered by.
This glorious ambition among men; this singular search towards particular immortality—if found—will save a single man’s name from forgetfulness and all possible calumny and is the noblest of the virtues, for it includes all of them within it. Fame forever is immortality, and celebrity a mere parochial moment. Immortal fame, struggled to claim, through fire, blood, mud and rain, reclines at last on proud pedestal and even Time kneels before it.
The fact be obscure where that stone is that marks Chauncey and Claire’s mortal dust, but here be their immortal leavings, living yet. Claire’s struggle was greater than Chauncey’s, because it was longer, and lonelier. The greatest part of the story to me concerning Chauncey DeBeers and these tales was and is a true-blue girl named Claire. She be the life-giving heartwood in this long-lived tree. The mourning pedestal she slumbers on was built, drop by drop, by a salted love that stayed true against the painful injustice of her life’s short eternity without it.
POST SCRIPTUM, CAVEAT LECTOR
Reader, beware. . .
My Dear Reader,
I assure you, it is no mere form of licentia poetica, no poetic license, to give warning that the powers herein are bona fide—that is to say, they are true and neither specious nor counterfeit—towards the procurement of romantic love from that fairer race of men. . . which is women. You hold in your vision the lex scripta—the written law—of love. This be the vox vita, the voice of life, in lyric and verse; these sub rosa, secret poetics, held for centuries in safekeeping are facta non verba—deeds, not words—and are as real and powerful as your breath. Use them wisely or they will turn on you and bring utter destruction.
Centuries ago a spell was cast upon these words by one versed in the abracadabra of magic and mystery and the awesome powers within these enchantments have only grown more potent with the ages. I have learned this lesson the long way, friend, so heed my words and use this book only for the good. It is an amulet for love and if used for ill-begot end, will turn on the user of it ‘ere long. Bring this book into the spiritual realm of only the one you truly seek to love—and be loved by—platonically or romantically; otherwise its powers will wreak havoc in hearts. You don’t believe me, do you? Well of course. I knew you would not. You must learn this on your own.
Love is an agenda of sunlight and shower, minute and hour. Love is the belief that you are as one and forever among the soul of the one you love. Love is the one you hope to walk, talk and smile with in the sunlight, side-by-side and fair-and-square. Give this tome to that one only.
But wait a moment. As I ponder it I realize I have grown old and imagine that a warning from one beleaguered by days could ward off the very thing—the pain in life—that makes life memorable and meaningful. No. There is primitive, required knowledge that comes only from love lost and love frustrated. I see I have grown too old to be foolish and so, am now more foolish than I was when young.
I change it all. There can be no—and should not be any—warning to the young (for they must learn on their own); nor the young at heart, (for they have decided on it directly, despite knowing); nor to the eternally foolish (for they will not listen anyway).
Yes! There must not be a wise tempering of this gift of life, for life, like wine, is best drunk fresh, and there is nothing more refreshing than maelstrom and tempest in heart and mind. Looking proper upon it I see it is the days of storm and fire, of pain and ire, that give to our lives their meaning and matter. Yes, it is so. They were and are the giver of the meaningful and eternal memories—those fire-filled, painful days—after loving and losing. So to live safely is not the best of living, and who knows what is meant to be, and not meant to be, before they know?
No one! Not a single soul is here to tell of the spell, or any of it. To live in the spell is to live dangerously and on the cusp of eternity; it is to reach deep and pull back out what and who one really is.
So give this book to every soul you wish platonic or romantic love upon and let its magic take over and the stars fall where they may. And I bid and pray you a fair and fond love among the hours and sunlight of your life, and all the hours after.
Remember now: Omnia Vincit Amor (Love conquers all), and Memento Mori, (Remember, you will come to die). And now Consummatum Est. That is to say. . . It is finished.
PROLOGUE TO THE LEGEND
Once upon a time there lived a lad and long before and far away from him there lived another. I will speak of both for they are the progenitors of these tales. Whether they actually lived on this earth or are merely familial legend, only God truly knows.
As my grandfather related to me over a quarter-century ago, my great-great-grandfather came to the New Country from the old in 1781, at eleven years of age. A stow-away without prospect or relations, he was befriended by a kind family who took upon themselves the duty of caring for this seafaring vagabond. Upon arriving in America they gave to him their last name of Braithewaite, as well the means by which to grow into a productive member of society. In time he became an old country doctor and that is how he lived out his life, uneventful but useful.
As physician and patient alike must do, Doc Mills grew old and died and among his estate was found these poems, along with the Legend. That manuscript I do not possess, but I do have the copy of my grandfathers, which was a revision of his grandfather’s. And that sets us near enough to the original of Doc Mills’. Where he got that copy and its chronicle there is no tale to tell beyond what already has been writ.
In the poems as well the legend I admit changing a word here and there and I postulate my forefathers did as well. So if these lays and their legend have become embellished or embrangled none can know or say, for they, like my forefathers and yours, have become lost to history, at least in their original compositions.
I have heard it whispered that life is a powerful storm and love is a lit-candle in a glass case and neither can last. Our little lights flame and flicker in a billowing wind and then go out, without trace. But here in words be the quiet burn of two immortal lights, from the nib of their heart’s light and the end of a mighty age, gone to night. And though the names among men be obscure, the thoughts of their hearts be pure and live on. Rare was Chauncey and rarer still was Claire, who kept him rare.
It is not well perceived in our world that fame is no prover of greatness and obscurity is no prover of humbleness. I have known dozens of famous persons and cannot name three genuine acts among them. The vigor of this verse is the mark of the souls that composed it. I am quite sure an obscurity spell was cast to give them time alone. So now, the hidden-in-the-coat-pocket of eternity legend, of Chauncey and Claire.
THE LEGEND OF THE NECROMANCER
Claire’s Final Wish
January 1521 A.D.
For a brief time in the late Fifteenth Century, which in relation to eternity just passed last night, there lived a youth by the name of Charles Alexander DeBeers, who went by the moniker of Chauncey. He was the son, brother, nephew and fast friend of king, duke and earl; of knave; noble and lord, and was the greatest prince among them. Being close cohort with such a band of men, and descended from the high-born and the low, Chauncey DeBeers gleaned the best from all and if possessed of their bad had not time to show it. He grew into his early manhood with the same conceits all young men do and upon his coming to the age of matriculation was sent to the learned halls of the famous university in Cambridgeshire, which by then was close to three-hundred-and-one years old. “But still a young university for such an old place!” My father used to say.
So some years of philosophizing passed and Chauncey, being bright and quick-witted, found it all pleasing enough but rather boring; excepting for the fact that he was a bit of the dandy with the ladies and spent much of his time within the copse and lea, often with a colleen or two by his side. At University, life was the subject Chauncey studied most and he found that the woods and starlight were the best means by which to learn. Of all his affections none were as dear as those he held for one lass by the name of Claire. But as girls will be she held Chauncey at arm’s length, for having many suitors she had many choices and being prudent (or coy) wished to choose wisely. She eventually chose well but by then Chauncey’s time on earth was nearly closed.
Warfare among kings and kingdoms and those who would subdue them has for ages been a fact of our existence. In the last days of spring in 1499 there came from The North Sea a band of rogue Vikings who, by marching, within a fortnight laid waste to village and hamlet under protection and aegis of England’s bold realm. And so the King of England marshaled forces to meet the Vikings. The blue-blooded Chauncey was required of his station to be among those to join the fray. So there came this small battle—small enough now to be unknown to History—but large enough then to incur the displeasure of King Henry the Seventh. The Might of England met the Vikings in the Ettrick Forest at the River Tyne, which meandered then as it still does, through this ancient forest by the sea.
The battle commenced shortly after the day-spring and for the next sundry hours the power of England drove the belligerent band of Norsemen back toward the brine. But the Vikings were proud men and upon smelling the salt of the ocean were inspired to fight ever harder. With mallets, fireballs and oaths flying fast they soon dispersed the Saxon forces. Now the English King found himself without his protective phalanx and soon was besieged on all sides by the heathen rotters, save for the brave Chauncey, who was felling Vikings by the score.
But no man lives forever and even the ablest warrior may be overcome if the numbers against him be sufficient. Chauncey was struck a mortal blow when a point pierced his breastplate. If his wound were unkind it had at least not come too early or late, for at this juncture arrived his fellows and they soon routed the foul Vikings.
The King took leave of his steed and knelt beside the dying poet, gently placing the lad’s head against an old, burled oak. He bade the poet to give utterance of his last mortal desire. And Chauncey spoke,
“Take my heart to Claire. . . .”
“It will be done,” spake the King.
And with his sword he knighted Chauncey where he lay. As the lance touched the shoulder the knight expelled his last breath beneath the gnarled knighting tree and there, perforce, was buried, with the proud tear of a monarch upon his beardless face. His heart was taken to the fair Claire, and never again was she to be so fair, for she had secretly loved Chauncey as he had openly loved her. I know well how much she loved him, for I am her.
He who I loved has been gone the same difference of forever. To me, it is the same as centuries. My hope of pure joy in this world died with him, but I have kept his heart close. Chauncey captured truth, tamed it and it revealed its name as Beauty. They were his secrets and since his death they have become mine; these, my own secrets and possessions. I have relegated them to the shadows and there they have kept safe, these pronouncements and epitomes of love. Beyond my life I hope to keep them still as my own, to give no secrets away, but wish for them to be veiled and hidden in mystery by a Sub Rosa Society, till the time of the son of the Last Secret-Keeper who, if by the age of two-score and two years has no heir nor issue to transfer these letters to must then reveal them to the judgments of men, and they then be given to a world that I knew little joy in, but much beauty.
Truth cannot be hid away forever, not in dungeon, lie, nor secret box, dark and moldy. No, truth is bold and full of fury and will find its own way back to the light. But these tales must be kept till the last atom of me and Chauncey have slept, and slumbered so long that but our verse is left.
That is my final wish.
January 12, 1521
A SCAPEGRACE GIVES HOMAGE
The poet’s brother
An introduction, perhaps. I am, for a short while longer, Henry Cecil DeBeers. Let the simple name of a simple man be enough. Any further description would comprise vanity on my part and I have been vain enough and have seen enough vanity to last many lives. I will not soil the beauty of these writings with vanity but will only attempt to shed some light upon them. It is winter now, in my life as well the world. The cold in my bones makes me hurry to give completion to things that are soon to be finished, complete or not. Fifty-three years ago the poet of these tales lived and died. His name was Charles Alexander DeBeers and he was my youngest brother. He was also the noblest friend this old scapegrace ever knew.
We among his most intimate acquaintances called him “Chauncey”. One who is beloved invariably becomes named some other than the Christian name given them by their mothers. Why that is so is another mystery of life I never gleaned the reason of. He loved most fervently an elegant lass by the name of Claire Capture Brunswick, and was not the only one to love her. I count myself among that brooding, melancholy class of men.
Their time to know each other was short-lived, but their love was fierce. And so I encumber myself, an old and fading man, to set forth some pertinent facts regarding these belles-lettres of two whom I loved dearly. He was her first love and her last—because of his early death—and her refusal to ever love another.
Claire Capture Brunswick died over thirty years ago, in the fall of 1521. She became stricken in her care of the afflicted and that was proof of her spirit, to give herself in charitable endeavors. Among her earthly goods I found these tales. As they had been Chauncey’s secret, they then became hers. I had never gleaned he was a poet. But I was young then and my own world had more meaning given it by myself than was proper.
Chauncey had always a keen and curious mind. He had read every book our father owned by the time he could break a horse. And though he enjoyed his time alone I presumed he was spending it with the lasses. Turns out he was holding hands with Eternity, there in the Grey and Somber Wood. The Legend of Claire’s is her own but the story behind it I can vouchsafe for, as I am who told her of it, and I was there. . .
The enemy dispersed our forces and during a period of great hostility and confusion, our King was set upon by a score of heathens, his protection routed, save for Chauncey. The strong arm and quick eye of the poet saved the king and then Chauncey’s breastplate was pierced. I charged in with my own iron shaft, stuffing the eye-socket of the rogue with eternal bitterness. Avenging the death of my brother was an easy life to take. Many years to relive that revenge, only wishing I had been sooner. In the end, I could not defend him, only avenge him. It was a poor, lost second. The battle turned and our victory was soon complete. The last Pict I ever saw smiled as he died. They were proud men.
We buried him among the roots of the great oak under which he died. His heart we took to Claire as he wished. Good and brave men are buried deep within the Ettrick. The invaders we set on rafts and set ablaze, as is their custom. Not one among them lived to give prayer to their Gods, so we prayed for them.
Chauncey’s Oak is still noble, I deem, and a true and proud young man’s bones rest eternally and peacefully among roots that have twined themselves about his dust. I have not put old eyes upon that sacred spot in half a century.
So it is a long time since I last saw my brother. But reading over these roses and sweet-briers gives me the spirit of the lad who put himself into them, and of his love, who plied her own trade of poesy upon a love that broke her heart but gave her soul its meaning. They have become the poesy of my spirit also and enthuse a magical elixir of youth into bones aged and brittle. I commune with the dead when I come here and I raise the souls that set their essence into words. That is what I feel as I read, that I break a fifty-year silence and discourse again with my brother. I was the last thing he saw in this life, the light in his eyes illuminated by the fading beams of the setting sun, then he closed them forever and was done. But I see them again, when I contemplate his verse.
As I read it, Claire’s own hand is in The Tales as well. She changed words at her wisdom and placed titles above lays that Chauncey never named. She told me Chauncey had related to her, the tears of the innocent are holy water. And though not innocent, my own eyes became water, for I remembered the eyes of my brother as he lay dying. There was a tear at each orb and as he expired they fell out upon his face. I had never seen the lad cry, and for the princely reasons he did that day those tears were made holy.
Claire Capture was never the bride of any man. They were born in the same summer and in many ways, both died on the same summer’s day. She was ever useful in the small world she sequestered herself in and though her grief was not a thing she sought to prolong it remained a part of her, despite her love for life. Time could not heal her wound.
Spring, with its flowers and new growth, was her favorite season and despite her grief, she found a measure of happiness. The spring after Chauncey’s death she planted two oaks. The summer they grew to touch was her last season. She instructed that a certain faded parcel be placed with her in her tomb. I know well what that was. It was my brother’s heart. Claire learned of his death at her homecoming.
So here are the remainders of my brother and the girl he loved. The ancient Greeks had a saying that reads thus: Hon hoi theoi philousi apothneskei neos. It is attributed to an obscure Greek philosopher and it equates to: Whom the Gods love dies young.
So I come to the end. I had nothing the gods would need and thus was given long life. In leaving I would impart a peculiar thought and beg your pardon of an old man, his peculiars. I have long now imagined this book of dark grievings and light leavings, of line and rhyme, is a blank book. It has always been blank. But to open it enacts the spells set within it and then a world of imagination is set to spinning and then come the words, the rhymes, the lines. I tell you this sheaf of poetry is a magical vortex of souls, and no less. It has been hexed and put to the spell of a mighty, magical, white sorcerer. Close the book, and the lines disappear.
But never you mind trying to catch them gone for as long as the human eye looks upon them—they simply are. It is a spell of eternity that has been placed here and was writ by the light of stars that this book ever be within the eyes of men. My brother was an ambitious sorcerer who stirred the lazy lights of Heaven and pulled magic from them. There was sure a charm in his pen which does delight the sight of men.
February 23, 1552 A.D.
THE LOST TALES
The Letters of Chauncey and Claire
1499 A. D.
Being away so long now has given me pause to wonder if you have forgotten me? Being so sought after yourself, and busy besides, you must have long ago forgotten there ever was a Claire you counted dear and fair. . . . My homecoming is the Ides of July and so we have a seven-month between us, or courier and fortnight’s pell-mell. I will look forward to meeting with you again as if for the first time—it has been so long.
December 8, 1498
Priceless, irreplaceable, extortionate Claire! With your words you seek to move me, with your sentiments to woo me. I know your angle and your hand, and I call you on it. How well you know I could never forget you—not in a thousand weeks, or a thousand years, or a thousand thousands. You know it well, but like much to hear it. Very well then, I will appease the beast within the bosom and tell you the entire truth. . .
A few weeks for you to be gone and I have known no good night’s sleep since. Six months yet and I proffer by then I will be a shipwreck from the missing. I could fly to you if I had the wings of a falcon and be done with the missing, but no such mercy. Tell me now, in your next missive, how you miss me, or I will write no more! It is cold in the world, the first of winter, and nearing the Savior’s birthday, so send some sweetness and warmth in your discourse.
Postscriptum: I will, to prove my missing, write belle-lettres in your name and by your inspiration, ‘til you arrive back home.
Your Humble Servant,
December 21, 1499
My Darling Chauncey,
Oh, sweet poet! Sweet, kind, sensitive poet. Surely you read large what was meant small. Clearly a little defect of such fine intelligence to sometimes betray yourself as to some other’s intentions. Why would I ever deceive to gain your indulgence when you always offer it freely? But perhaps it is true somewhat. Having not my best flatterer about is causing me some measure of agony or perhaps your laughter and spirit I miss the more? You must send me a new letter for the new year, and tell me about it.
I cannot wait to see these belle-lettres; and if you are humble I am the Queen of England!
Your Extortionate Claire,
January 3, 1499
My Dear, Fair Queen of England,
Perhaps I am not the most modest of men, but you should be queen, if any should be. A belle-lettre, you say? If I must, very well, then. . .
First off I must tell you the man looked old as Time itself. He was one, long, gaunt wrinkle from head to toe. And he was of great height, with a nose like a hawk’s beak. The only thing young about him was his deep-set, crystalled, silver eyes, which never turned from mine during my stay with him. But I felt comfortable with him. In fact, there was a benevolence emanating from his being that was palpable.
As I said, he was old. The dust of a thousand centuries could well describe him and his being was a silver’d shade. I had ambled a ways through the Grey and Somber Wood (as you know is my habit), and soon found myself in strange environs. The sun was excluded from the place by virtue of the aged hardwoods and an august melancholy pall hung from the leaves turned lavender against the fading light.
Quit of human clamor here was peace and place to think. I sat on a fallen timber and allowed the woods to invigor my thought. Presently my mind was quieted and as my eyes grew accustomed to the dark shade of my surroundings I became startled in amazement at what was forming in my sight, for less than ten steps from me, sitting against an old, gnarled oak, was this ancient being I speak of. I had almost tripped by him without knowing the difference! He and the oak, wrinkled and hoary with age, made me wonder which the older. It appeared the roots of the ancient oak had grown from the roots of him, or had he grown from the roots of it?
Seeing my surprise he cracked a smile and asked me, without sense of pretense or command:
“Who goes there?”
So I told him who and he said that would do well enough and we spoke well-mets. From then on I was held a thrall from his knowledge of life and death and all that lies between. I took no opportunity to ask of him anything about himself for I did not wish to stop the flow of his speech, which was not speech, really. It was more a whispering; and yet I heard every word.
A silvery, gilded aura emanated from the being of this grey and alabaster man. I felt wiser and better just listening to his voice. Long into the shadows he bewitched me, until the day-star slipped deep into the west and it came time for me to journey back home. Inspired by his words I lit a taper and composed Advice From an Old Man and The Prince. The Prince is his own; I was able to recall it word for word.
It has been a fortnight since our parley and I have yet to meet him again, though I have journeyed back to the spot many times. Maybe there never was an old woodsman? Perhaps I have gone mad and imagined it all? Write and tell me your thoughts, most treacherous and beautiful Queen Claire.
Advice from an Old Man
There’s change ahead of you, my boy. A lot of good and a lot of bad. Take them both the same. And never expect the tears and laughter to remain. For Time will take your present joys and pains away, to replace them with newer joys and pains, in some newer day. Son, grief and joy are but transient things, like the impatient bird that in the morning sings. My lad, build your home with bricks and lumber; and don’t bring it down with too much of slumber. And don’t expect too much of your friends, just occasionally, to you, their smiles and laughter, to lend. And never forget that with every mountain there comes the danger-filled valleys; and between the lighted merchants walls, the darkened alleys.
Junior, if you please, aim to be the leader of your race and time, and a seeker of every face and clime. Partake of the music of Heaven when discordant notes have warped your tune and find again your balance, as the hummingbird his nectar in June.
Whippersnapper, if you must, and I advise to try it, pursue noble glory and high adventure, yet keep your prudence about you, so as your talents not to indenture and your peers not to doubt you. Believe in these things equally: love, beauty, wealth and power—and the common moments in every hour—yet above all these, Greenhorn, aim to be a man who seeks no petty enjoyments from the common crowd, who simply goes about his life—a good man and proud And lastly, remember well it is all things which the passions rule—it makes the butterfly an eagle, the wise man a fool. That is to say, wisdom is reason and folly is passion; one a rare season and the other, today’s fashion.
A pass to citizenship in the World of Astonishment is given to all who will walk the Enchanted Forest with enchanted eyes, for the beauty there is real as one’s soul can feel what the universe has set for souls to get; but men and their eyes are blind to it, yet. . .
But someday will come the Prince of Wonder and wonder his domain, wherein all vanity and all who are vain will be turned to smoke in the ash-heap of eternity, and all which is beautiful and all that is true, will be set in an amber shade of blue, everything writ will give life to wit and every rhyme composed will give hope to those, who read the words and know, who perceive in the bright seed, that in the forest is enchantment and enchanting, indeed.
Your Meek Servant
January 14, 1499
My Dear, Meek Sir,
I have long known you are mad! But what good is any man who is completely sane? Your story of him and the letters are now among my favorites. I wish I could have met him. Perhaps he was a soothsayer possessed of unearthly magic and appeared to you as a vision, not of flesh but of spirit; a thousand-year-old wood-fairy shewing himself only to those who are able to see? There are such tales, you know.
Would you wish to grow so old, a hundred years? I would not. It seems to me life is lost in the old. The spark that creates, how could it survive that long? Is not greatness of life a process of spontaneous inspiration? And what spontaneous can there be about us being old, but our decay? I have wondered if they are as tired as they look? I hope not. It just seems to me only a fire that ever burned low could ever burn so long. To know the gossip of a hundred years is no romantic ideal for me. There is, or can be, glory in dying young, whether king or peasant. But to die old, even a kingly death, would seem to me anti-climactic. But it is true—I am young and ignorant and know it. What do you say about it, old and wise one?
January 26, 1499
My Dear Claire,
With one philosophical question you raise a host of others. Which are we here to do, live or die? If the latter, then the old are the only ones busy about our true business and the young are just a large group of busy-body procrastinators. But even God must have paced the floor and straightened the portraits before sitting down to his creation. You are wise enough but maybe see only one facet of the diamond, and how else could you? The dew still lies sweet upon your cheek and the sunrise still simmers in your pretty eye.
All life is creative and in any such endeavor there is the seed of art inside the waiting. Much waste could be prevented by artful waiting. I know that I have caught much that is good this way—waiting for something sublime to fall from wherever sublimity comes from. I imagine that all good thoughts are merely the drippings from stars—star-drippings—that fall where we sit. A fisherman of stars I am! And my bait is patience. So if the old have some artful end in view their protracted time here will have been to good use. Having stored up all their epitomes and absolutes, gleaned from a lifetime of long-sufferings and joys, they perchance will be able to converge it all into some bit of immortal meaning.
The old man proved that life is not wasted on anyone if that one does not waste his life. But life is difficult and suffering seems to be the chief occupation of man and beast. I think the old must suffer much, having more days behind than ahead. The sands of time have sifted out most of their hope and left only memories—beautiful memories, perhaps—but all beauty becomes sadness if left with Time long enough. Tragedy is merely beauty at its artful, awful perfection.
So the old have drawn out their beauty to where it stretches thin and begs to break. I, too, have often wondered if the old feel life as we do. Have all their summers burned out long ago? I am young yet and will gratefully procrastinate the long while till I know for myself. I am, humbly, your most wretched and meek beau,
February 6, 1499
My Lovely Lord,
How is it that you are so smart, wise and good—and such a rake besides! I think you will make a great old man someday. But as you wrote, “We are young yet, and do not know what old is.” Perhaps it is a better thing than it seems? Until then I shall not mind wasting my time being young.
The smell of an early spring is in the air these days and caught up in it, I did as you would do and went for a sojourn among the shire. Coming back home I fell into a fit and composed my own little lay and now, for your display. . .
Flowers are the corsets of the human soul, giving form to the mind and spirit to the whole. They draw up the mind in vagaries; give honor to men and bumblebees they shoot from the earth in springtime’s clay, give color and mirth to the day. When men’s eyes list the sunny flowers, God deigns sweet his waking hours. In spring all earth is born anew in flowers colored yellow to blue. To the innocent babes they are but colored things, but to grounded man—ersatz wings—giving flight to the soul in life’s grey hours; these are the gifts of springtime’s flowers.
You must write to me and critique my little poem, for I wish to know your thoughts. Star-drippings! I do love it! You are a star-dripping yourself, Chauncey DeBeers. You must tell me what a belle-lettre is. What makes it different from other writings, besides the rhyme?
Your Most Woeful Claire
February 27, 1499
To Earth’s Fairest Poet,
There is no more beautiful a poem in all the King’s English and surely no more bonny and woeful a poet. I think all flowers bright and now everyone I eye seems to be signed with your name to it. I will now pilfer from your fine words and affix them to my own, for they are too fine a collection of words not to be used twice, at least. Knowing your charitable heart I assume beforehand your kind forgiveness.
The Old Man told me if one walks among the brake long enough a keeper of the stars true tales he will become. I did not understand what he meant , but now that I hold and keep your letter, I know what he meant completely.
What is a belle-lettre? If writ by you I would say it is no less than the literary theory of God. It describes creation, defines the beautiful and sheds light upon truth. That is all it is and all that is not that, is everything else. Here is one. . .
A Sojourn among the Shire
The spring broke late within my breast this year, when winter bed. But kind was fate, though late confessed, when buds, their wonder shed. My eyes were slow to comprehend the wonders in the glen, but as the spring began to blow my soul sat up and saw, that onward now the river flows and winter has his fall. Death had been unkind to me, no words so oft expressed could cure grief’s frigid heart, but that spring expressed it best. She is gentle maid of flowers, spores and winds, and kind reprieve from grief, she lends.
I scribed this last year in fall, but a poet can rhyme out of season and not be flayed or fined for it. So now give me your thoughts and know that one day I shall be your favorite poet as now you are mine.
March 4, 1499
My Dear, Deplorable Chauncey,
You have long been my favorite poet! How many times do I have to tell you? Surely you just like to hear it repeated. Your Sojourn is a perfect example of what a poet may do with spring and her accoutrements.
How do you come to peace with the fact that most of poetry is of the sweeter things; that it speaks so much of love and beauty, flowers and spring—and that the lot of poets are men? Beauty is the central idea of poesy and poets, and of all things, the most feminine, but spoken of most by men. And tell me what you would do if there were no copse and lea, no lake nor tree, from which to fashion your poetry? Could you live in a world without such things? Give pen your paw and write me a tale.
You write these literary theories of God as if you spoke directly with him. I would maybe call you a literal theory of God, but you are no theory, but real, true flesh and bone—all of it full of mischief and poesy.
Your doleful Claire,
March 12, 1499
My Fair and Doleful Claire,
I’d lief as live in any world without much at all, as long as you were there. But without you, then Nature and her dressings I’d require to while away the time till you came.
Poets are men because of beauty and her femininity. It isn’t that we speak of her, but for her. Beauty is feeling and compassion, devoid of subterfuge and artifice. Beauty, being beautiful, offends the ugly and would be racked and quartered were it not for her defenders. Beauty is love and love is bashful; poets are merely the defenders of her virtues and the criers of her honors. The poet stands bravely before a mocking, ugly world, while quietly behind him sits preening Beauty, safe to frolic and self-admire. The evil that seeks men, and those who seek evil, will never entirely prosper while Holy Beauty has her say.
Nature is the Holy Bible of Poesy and any man may ‘ope the good book and read the mysteries therein. And as with all religions contradictions abound, but to the poet, all makes sense. The poet is the scholar of nature and where the common eye sees prose the poetic eye sees poesy—something else entire—God’s perfect creation. Simply a walk through the forest, a pair of eyes, hands and ears and one soon becomes initiated to the sublime wonders of a world created, if not by a God, then something like it. The poet studies nature because all wonder resides there. A wondering wanderer, that is the poet.
But beware wonder! It makes the young do odd things. It will grow their souls. That is why Nature is often quiet. Her solitude is a womb that allows for the becoming of souls. She is a prodigy that makes the young start and stare and hold their breaths and upon the resumption of breathing the young eyes never see the same way again. This is the way it has been for me, these last few years.
Love, Beauty, Wonder. . . . These are the ideas that grow us. The birth of a soul is a quiet, invisible phenomenon; something of a secret and mostly disguised as the young going about doing odd things. The emerging spirit seeming to lack all worldly ambition, climbing roofs to view the million stars, spending idle hours cloistered among the trees, but never alone among them; these new wonderers, strutting about, with curious looks upon their faces.
Yes, Milady, I do believe our souls are born in the mysterious maelstrom of curiosity and as surely may die in the stagnant, world-weary pool of indifference. Our lives are hinged, not only by ironies, but by the questions we ask, the answers we seek. We should be meddlers of the truth and inquisitors of the mysterious and later, after learning some bit, pious peddlers of it. So if the soul is of the simple matter of curiosity, to extinguish curiosity is to extinguish the soul. Foster curiosity and you help grow it. Such things are left to gods, blackguards and heroes. One we will never be, but ever our choice to be one or the other.
The Old Man told me that time is the acid that corrodes all, that even knowledge may become an acid to wonder and to not attempt to learn everything, only to find one’s wonder melted away. Leave some things to the imagination, he said. Speaking of wonder, it has long fascinated me that all things can be connected to all things by straight lines. No matter where we go, or how far apart, only one straight line between us.
As for God, I do speak with that quiet, still thought, and there is a talking back. When I am among the stars and my wonder, among the trees and my memories, among the quiet wood and my thoughts, I speak and listen and it seems I hear some whispers returned.
Worlds more doleful,
March 25, 1499
My Doleful Lord,
What romantic ideas swim in the curious, blue sea of your brain! All of us are poets at least once in our lives; some just draw it out longer. Perhaps it would all go better if more would do the same? I think so. Just one straight line you say? That, a number of miles, and two more moons would be more true to facts; but a fact is not always descriptive of the truth, for the truth is I feel a connection to you wherever you are, no matter how far. Your words swoon my soul and make it curious and drunk with wonder. But then again, they make me sit and in quiet moments, think things I never did. And then I become sober.
Is it not peculiar to you that in the dawning of the day the poet’s composition and the moon’s begin to wane? How is it that the day dispels the words and form of the poet and his moon? Why do the poet and the moon sleep when it is day? I would like to know the answers to these questions from a poet true, so I ask them of you.
I composed my Flowers the other morning during the early hours before the day-spring, and finished it as the sun peeped over, just as the inspiration died with the light. Have you found the same conundrum?
I am, by your absence,
More Sorrowful than Sad
April 3, 1499
Milady of Sorrows,
Because soft is the night and sweet are the stars and beauty lies everywhere upon the dewy grass, while the seamy and sordid undertakings of men are neither seen nor heard. Sublimities flower is a nocturnal bloom and cannot stand the gaudy noon. . . . At least that is my take of it.
But I have found when contemplating one Claire Capture Brunswick of Lancaster that I have been able to compose anywhere. To the poet, all around is silent evidence of something extraordinary, and silence is required to know it. Next to direct blows, silence is the greatest communicator and I believe in quietude God himself speaks to poets. Poetry is the poet talking back and silence is the slow time between events—to glean wisdom from the last event and to prepare for the one coming.
To make poems during the slow time is perhaps good for the poet but a fool’s errand, nonetheless. A poet should write from his curiosity and admiration, and beyond that should expect nothing. Blind, deaf and dumb are most men toward a poet’s speculations; and rare the rhyme that ever gains glory. But I ramble, long-sufferer. Pardon and forbear me. In parting may I relate that I am the Lord of Regret that I have not met with you, yet. At least since some long while.
April 17, 1499
My Lord Regretful,
Do not despair! The days are bringing our next meeting closer by the hour. And you may drivel, blather and babble for all time and I will still be listening at the end. Time! It is such the mystery. Whither from? Wither go? Today we are young, tomorrow old; in between this day and that many things to forget and few to remember.
“We are small things, our time but a pebble among a world of rock. Time is the great lever that moves all men and worlds and makes meaningless all meaning.”
And he also says:
“God’s timepiece must have been slow, because this could not have all come about in six days!”
Father says a lot of things, for instance:
“Forgive the stupid and become a saint.” (It is his motto.)
“If we are immortal, then to murder oneself could possibly be a reasonable thing, but why hurry a death that is itself hurrying?”
I think he has a bright point here.
“There are many fools and few wise because Truth itself is hard-edged. If we were to hang all the ignorant there would be none left to laugh at. Laughter is the mock defiance of the mockery that death will make of us all.”
Father laughs much and often, but I do not believe he really finds much that is funny; he is so serious about it all. I think Father thinks too much and I feel he feels too little. He believes love is merely nostalgia made constant—a perpetually revisited sentiment. That is too morbid a view of love for me. I think love is when you can’t believe the whole world does not see the object of your love the same as you do. It is maybe the feeling of being exalted and humbled; feeling large and small together. But perchance I must first fall in love before I can truly speak wise about it. How about you, he who has loved more than his share, what do you think of it?
And of regret I know a bit, for long now have I thought of it. Our last meeting is too long now being, our next meeting too far for seeing, but time is ever towards it spinning.
Your Rueful Claire,
Dear Rueful, Curious Claire,
In your missive you begin with time and end with love. If we are lucky, the same with our lives. Time makes life possible and love makes life bearable. Of all that is mysterious, life is the most mysterious; of all that is comprehended, love is the least comprehended. But when life and love meet, a world of mystery is comprehended and in that place and time two pair of young eyes know things old sages forgot long ago. I believe you both are right.
Of course, the cynical are always wrong to those who feel that love is a special matter. But the cynical do not feel, they think, and are better formed for computing figures than hearts.
Your father is an old sage. We cannot expect him to see life from our vantage. He knows, too well, that in everything there is time and in time, everything. He knows too much and remembers too little, of the best things. But I think somewhat like him also, for I believe romantic love is nothing more than illusion. What magic it is. And love forever is mere perpetuation of illusion. Love is inspired and comes from our dreams. Today is the reality of the dream of yesterday—we live in the mystique of dead and dying magic—and to live tomorrow beneath the same spell, or greater, we must ever be renewing our spells and enchantments.
Life! The Magician. He sweeps his hand across the dust and then comes things. Sight, by which to view limitless wonders. Mind, by which to know things seen and unseen. Death! the Sorcerer. Behold him, my Claire. He sweeps his hand and all things seen and unseen, all that is beautiful and grand, become dust again. Which the greater magician, Life or Death? Methinks both are without guilt and it is Time that is cruel and culpable. Time gives malevolence forever, but beauty, only a day.
Many say the Devil causes all our grief, but to me grief is just romance without object and the devil just the pale result of poor decision. Men claim for the devil what they are guilty of. Many say God is sole cause for all our good and I can agree with that—if God is love—for only good can come from that. Time? I do not know what that is, except it being one of two ingredients that go into the making of a wise man, the other being a fool. But we are neither gods nor devils, but men, born of minutes and hours, not centuries and millennia. Our basic duty is to figure out how best to use our little time.
The Old Man had said,
“The days of life come and go like the rivers flow, and it is not wise to miss too long what one cannot hold. Life and love, like wine once opened, cannot be kept and are best drunk fresh. Life, love and wine can only be cupped and quaffed and will never hold between your fingers, it’s only the fragrance and memory that lingers.”
So I entreat you, Claire, most beautiful and fair, when love comes to hold you do not waste it and time, for they are the best use of each other when together. To make love go idle is to speed up time by the wasting of it, until the moment of love’s possibility is forlorn and forespent.
By your absence, I am,
desolate and dissipated,
May 5, 1499
Dear Dissipated Lord,
Your sooth-sayings enchant me! A rare knower. Here we have a poet’s proclamation, and I know now that in one flask of ink there swim a thousand pretty lies of the poet and a dozen harsh truths—when he puts away his rhyme and scribes a more common line. Which is your favorite star, Chauncey? If truly a poet, you will know.
What do you really know of my beauty?
Who is Gloomy,
But less so, as the days go
May 19, 1499
My Fair and Gloomy Claire! What do I know of your beauty? Ah. I see. You bid a poet’s proclamation of your pulchritude, I gather. What you bid, I do. But first a philosopher’s query for you:
If beauty is the ambition of poetry and poetry is the ambition of poets, then are not poets the best arbiters of beauty? The lyrical poet is more than all others the Court-Seeker of Literature and Beauty and Truth are his twin sovereigns. ‘Tis a commonplace that the poet must ‘oft enlarge upon the truth to make what is merely beautiful something sublime, but being essentially a truth-seeker, hopes that he may meet with a subject who, by its virtue alone, may not compromise his artistic credibility in the construction of arbitrated beauty. More by serendipity than by organization does the poet’s pen discover the best ideals of beauty’s virtue and perchance the long ago past is the most fitting place to find such a bewitching beast. . .
It is now a full two-score of seasons since I saw you the first time. That deathless day you exited your father’s cottage and were ambling across the quadrangle toward some destination since forgot by you but ever wondered by me. I whispered these words to no one in particular, but to me: Where is such a beautiful creature going, and how can I but follow?
I wondered of the enchanted wind that followed you. From that first memory and your recent inquiry, I composed this ode and methinks it a pitiable eloquence of so lofty a theme, but the best that I could essay. By my eternal enchantment of your being I have been given the same within me.
Ode to Beauty
Long ago in my youth
There breathed the sweetest being
Who was the animation of all poesy writ
In the age of Proserpine
She was born in an Elysian meadow
Where roses colored sapphire to indigo
In zephyr’d wind, perpetually blow
Her hair, the converse color of white
That resembled the starry night
And fell about her shoulders
In strands of sable’d delight
Her face could have out-shone the sun
And awoken winter’s field into spring
Causing all the robins to chirp and sing
And even the butterflies to swoon
Round her face wrap’t eternal noon
And though the night be enchanting
She’d out charm the envious moon
How to describe the eyes?
Beast and brute they’d civilize
Those orbs where sleep the sunrise
Statuesque was her frame,
And no crier need proclaim
Her beauty waltzed before her
And never lost its aim
And stared all did in trance
When pleasantly she danced
Or across the quad she pranced
Not knowing the hearts she lanced
Long I was wont to ask her:
“What draught of immortal beauty
Have ye drunk from some secret spring,
What loins from some atheling,
What princess from some handsome king,
Have ye gathered the comeliness and grace
The lineaments and the lace
Of thy perfect face?”
May 27, 1499
My Gentleman of the Quill,
I have heard it said (it was Father), that all of literature is a lie, like all of history. If that is true, then you shall do nicely, like a prince and future king, among letters.
I believe that all of poetry is a form of rebellion, and the closer the poet to a true form of beauty, the closer he comes to a true form of revolt. The rebel is first cousin to the knave (and the king), and as well the authority of the future—if his revolt succeeds. What is it you revolt against, my sweet courtier? For your poem is a true form of beauty and I flatter myself to think you wrote it for me. I will sit and write you a lovely poem some day, if you be lucky! You write as if you love me. But I could not believe it, could I?
It is early June and a little more than a month hence I shall be home. I cannot wait to see you again and talk with you about all that we have authored, and all the stars besides.
Which reminds me, as charming as the poem was you still failed to relate to me which your favorite star—and where—so that I might espy and view, by the faint light, and perchance at the same time as you, though in divers places. Have I relayed to you the news that I am an ardent admirer of the Court Seeker that is you? It is so, it is true. And this be as true as any other: in your heart is my heart and in your soul is my soul and you are duty-bound by love to return them to me.
Spring is ending—summer is coming!
Your Happy Claire!
June 6, 1499
My Happy Claire,
I rebel against what all rebels revolt against—the present day. I am merely trying to hurry along today into tomorrow, one day early. I believe tomorrow you will love me as today I love you, and as yesterday I loved you, and as I loved you years ago, when first I spied you. How does the tree grow? God believes it will. The belief is the magic in the seed. I believe it works the same with love.
Yes, you must believe I love you. I insist on it, for it is true. I could tell you how much I love you had I as many quills as there are sparrows in a thousand springs or stars in a thousand skies. But I will wait till your return home to prove it, if that proof you will allow. Now, perforce, a small matter about a star. . .
My Favorite Star
Which is my favorite star?
Why, the one I can see
Glimmering there, so close to my eye
But up so high, beyond tree and sphere
Of which we are a part of here
My favorite star, you ply?
With romance in your eye
‘Tis the one that slips the quarter-hour
From here to there, without a care
And in the tranquil morn, where sentiment is born
Slips the star, and you and I
So sweet and sly
My favorite star? You chatty lass
You do harass, a poet’s mind and thought
Let us lie upon the grass
‘Tis heaven bought, and good for wear
While we ponder which star the best
And which the bright
Oh what a sight! You there
Upon the well-worn grass and fair,
With your ensorcelled eyes of blue
But I digress―it is your dress
So well-formed and fit
To house your skin.
Of stars and men? I know the best
It is you, my love, and there
See that star that shimmers so
Beyond The Olden Tree?
Oh, what grief! To give a poet
Such a thing, but I shall try
To name the best star in the sky
It was the one that gleamed up high
When first into this world, you were
And then that night, while you dreamt
It glittered there, and stepped
Over softly, as you slept.
My favorite star? An easy thing to know
It is the star that here below
You eye with greatest frequency
The star that binds your soul to me
I possess you and that star
But as a portrait in my eye
And can neither steal nor buy
‘Tis but a gift till when I die
My favorite star is you, my sweet
The one that lies here at my feet
Go hang the heavens, they are but mist
My favorite star is one that kissed
My lips, when love
they longed and missed.
I have long thought there can be no poetry about the future, for it best celebrates and consecrates the past. But I was wrong for as you see, here is a vision of you and me. Next month upon your arrival we must go to the woods and survey the stars and discover which one suits us best. In a love letter, Claire, many things may be writ and rhymed, but it is the last word that marks best the leaf. Before the last word and the last moon I promise I will return to you what is your possession.
Your Chauncey, who is
bound by duty, but made free by it.
June 18, 1499
And this was the last of their writ. Chauncey galloped to the weald and traded life for duty and gave to Claire her eternal despair.
PREAMBLE TO POETRY
These words of power
Of quiet hour
Born of glory
And immortal story
And simple rhyme
But of all time
Here rolls now
From poet’s thought
Oh, what may come
From such a thing?
Poetry—the soul on parade
And as in all parades
You meet with the beautiful and the gaudy
The sublime and the ridiculous
The cacophony and the melody
And here I hope you meet with these
Your eyes, your ears, your souls
To Fell Critics:
Life and art, and the galore forms of them, cannot be safeguarded from the vulgar anymore than the banker can keep his key to the vault from the armed thief—unless he be foolish about it. What a malefactor cannot gain, be or possess, they will just as soon bring waste and ruin to. What it took creation to make over an eternity, the contemptible destroy in a moment. And so it is with our world, that by thievery of laurels, the laurus nobilis is rendered back into seeds and thrown to new climes and lands.
NOTE: As I found them, mostly I left them. There is little punctuation in many of the poems; many are in paragraphs. It was first annoying, then over the years, as the readings grew, I found it superior to marked rhyme. It allowed me the responsibility and freedom to stress and punctuate. It made me think and feel more the poem and its told tale. Someone thought: Who am I to put the pause, the end, the exclamation, in the poetry? After initial irritation and confusion, it made for a free and independent reading.
Life is punctuated by the one living it. If you are smart enough to read poetry, you are doing two distinct things: seeking to live authentically, and making the poem your own. So you are smart enough to do two things: punctuate as you will and let the pedantic dons do as they will.
THE TRAGEDY OF CLAIRE CAPTURE
The Fair-eyed Lady,
& Her Blue Moon Prince
In long poem, belle-lettre, sonnets, etc.
Dedicated to: C. C.
The. Onlie. Begetter. of.
These. Insuing. Belle.-lettres.
&. sonnets. etc.
All. happiness. And. That. Eternitie.
Promised. By her. Ever-living.poet.
Wisheth. The. Well-wishing. Adventurer.
In. Setting. Forth.
THE BLUE MOON PRINCE
and his fair lady
Once upon a time, there was a princely poet,
Bold and fair was he
His story here writ, to know and share
He lived in a land where the moon was blue
Here his tale, told bold and true
He lived in a land where the sun was yellow
And there never breathed a better fellow.
He lived once upon a time and far, far away
As all princes in tales so told once lived
Now one fair day the princely poet pondered
And remarked how beauty was in the wood
So he sat on a stump, near a pond
Where the fishermen wade and the frogs played
And shook off the worry of war and power
And sought in his soul the fleeting hour
And what therein was of beauty, made.
The days passed bright and then happened by
A lady, whose fair eye bade him try
To know her name and what, of fame
Her being was composed of.
And soon her name was upon his lip
And in his brain, her beauty, pleasing
And he searched inside her spirit’s being
For beauty’s best and only seeing
And found beauty then, the princely poet
Within another soul.
Many were the hours spent
Of love, joy and mutual giving
But short was their season of life’s best living
Great was her love for the princely sir
And great was his love for her
But brief were the days for them to see
All that’s best within two hearts free.
So the Fair-eyed Lady grew sad and numb
And chained she was, deep in her being
And the blue moon cracked and waned
Inside her soul it stormed and rained.
She sat and watched the seasons pass
And watched the rain grow the grass
And the Fair-eyed Lady racked her brain
With heartbroken, anguished thought
And a great disquiet oppressed her soul
Against her death, she fought.
So she journeyed to the thoroughfare
Where strain of men fill the square
And departed then, her sad melody
Replaced with men’s cacophony
And listened then, the Fair-eyed Lady
To mankind’s peculiar, foreign thought.
Their thinking was not of her being
So her mind’s eye went back to seeing
Her and her beau of one true mind
And when her fingers were intertwined
Within his own.
She heard the words that men will use
To pass the time when wonder is lost
And saw their souls were mostly bare
Their shoe, dress and hat were fee
Expensive fare, for gluttony.
There is no immortal meaning
In man’s mortal work,
Beyond the day of it
Whether busy bee, or shirk
No message in their words
Though they speak a country mile
But all will listen anyway
Makes easy to pass the breeze
The sugared words of greed,
Is like nectar to busy bees.
And then she chanced upon a rhyming poet
Who was voicing quaint rhythms of the day
It was spring and the month was May,
THE DARLING STARLINGS
Awake! Awake! My little darling
Outside is spring and a little starling
Is chirping from his little throat
A symphony of little notes
Outside the buds have turned to leaf
And winter’s face has turned his grief
Toward higher climes
These are the times
That fill the heart to full again
That make the sad sing, and then
Make poems in the hearts of men.
The fair-eyed lady was delighted
And gave the poet a golden piece,
For all future rhyme he could compose
The Fair-eyed Lady made a lease
To pay for line and rose,
And so the age-long days did pass
And the age-long seasons, too
And the great big world spun
And the endless universe flew
And the great day-star grew yellow
And the little white moon grew blue
Then the fair-eyed lady remembered the place
Where the patient fishermen wade
And there was the memory
Of the moon once blue
She paid the rhyming poet
To well describe the spot
Where croaking frogs and fishes
And bantam mallard chicks played
Where the love of the prince-to-be
Was not long for the fair-eyed lady to see,
Composed the quaint rhyming poet, this:
One moment of light,
One day of night
One Lord of Power,
One dainty flower
And the bloom but a day
Where the chickadees play
His love but a rose,
That bloomed for a day,
Her words but a breath
That died in the May,
To give the Fair-eyed Lady
Words to speak in an hour,
One hour of life,
By a tree upon a shore,
Some words of life,
Sweet words nevermore.
And the poem made sad
The troubled fair-eyed lady
And she sat by the tree
And looked deep into its leaves
And the fair-eyed lady made a poem
From what she saw,
When the moon was blue,
HE SHOULD BE
We should be viewing the stars
There should be sunflowers in my hair
And he should have put them there
Our moon should never have set
As it rose when first we met
But set it did, and our flowers are fallen
And the stars I see, just them and me
The love I lost is the love he was
And it makes my heart a prisoner
From days when I was free
So now the moon is black
And my thoughts are, too
As I recall his love
When the moon was blue.
Broken in her heart,
Stood the lady on a shore
Beneath an ancient tree
Where true blue love
Once tarried and played
Where the gosling and mallard
Were birthed and made,
Where croaking frogs and fish
And patient fisherman wade,
Where true blue love,
Once bright, now night,
Covers over the spot
Where true love was got
And the moon of blue
That once hallowed this nook,
Was nothing but night
Where his love was not.
But the fair-eyed lady grew tune in time
And became a rhyming poet
She spoke to the still night
As the blue moon hung low
Beneath the limb of an ancient cypress tree,
THERE WERE ROSES
There were roses in my cheeks
When first I met him
I know, he saw them there
And told me all about them
The sun was trapped in locks
That made up my hair
And every strand was fair
Or so he once said
And sweet and secret was the stare
He kept upon me.
There were roses in his cheeks
When first I met him
That is what I told him
And my perfume filled the room
When I left it
That is what he told me
Beauty was my scent
And everywhere I walked
Is everywhere he went
He was pure enchantment
All of magic’s best
His laughter was a sunset
That lingered in the west
My love for him a melody
Sweet song within my chest
That beats and never rests
That is what I believed,
Though I never told him.
Then the fair-eyed lady rose from her seat
Beneath the cypress limb
And raised her voice to Stygian night
I LOVE AS SURE
I love him.
As sure as the stars are far
And the moon is bright
As the sun is yellow
And the snow is white
As sure as canyon is deep
I love him deeply
I love him,
As sure as the days come and go
And the years that fly
As the trees spread and grow
And then to die
And as men breath and dream
And come to sigh
And leave their breath
And all their dreams
As dust on windowsills
And surely time is dust,
What lives, it kills.
As sure as all things are as God wills
As sure as no man may know
What man may be
As sure as the future is
God’s own mystery,
I love him.
And so through the dark night of the soul passed the Fair-eyed Lady, on a shore beneath an ancient tree where true-blue love once played, where gosling and mallard were birthed and made, where frogs and fish and fisherman wade, where true-blue love once bright, now night, covered over the spot where true love was got.
And the moon of blue that once hallowed that nook is nothing but night where his love is not. And long the days to pass and the seasons too, and the world has spun and the universe flew and the blue moons have been many, and the lovers, too.
But ever the memory of love seeps into ink to describe, the broken hearts of man and their particular tribe. All know love at least once beneath the yellow sun and faithful moon. And all love and life must come to its end, and too often too soon.
One being of light, one being of night, one lord of power, one dainty flower, and her bloom but a day where the chickadees play, her love but a rose that blooms for a day, their words but a breath that die in the May, to give the lords of power fair words to speak in an hour, one hour of life, by a shore and tree.
And this was not their ending
but their beginning
ONCE UPON A TIME
There was a young lass who lived long ago
And there lived a young lad who loved her so
They both together make for this sad tale
A thousand sunsets across countless tracts
Has not obscured or made mindless these facts
The young lad lived short, but his love, forever
For brooding lass, her love’s end was never
Her love was mystic and mysterious
And time has not severed her soul’s soft glow
In them, youth was captured and held fast
In him, love was enraptured and held past
The time for time to stand still and bind
Her lost and pained love of long, long ago
He, whose bright virtues brought her dark woe.
The rains of long ago washed away his dust
But she kept deep and stored within, his being
And all of him that she held sacred in trust
Was kept in her soul for the better seeing
His love was kept in lachrymal pearls
That no foul winds could sweep far away
There is no trace of his feet, print or curls
Except in words now printed, once prayed
But we need no ephemeral, short-lived proof
For in her heart, his step was pressed and mint
Half-a-thousand year’s suns have shined and died
But still beneath his mound, her heart, well spent
And though garish time has, his heart decayed
Her quaint words have well, her love, relayed
He sleeps and grieves nor joys here anymore
His love and life long now, her eternal loss
And all of beauty’s despair from forlorn shore
That sleepers know nothing of, anymore
Of beauty’s destruction, there are tomes writ
And of beauty’s repair, that need is infinite
So she sat and her pain prevented her joy
While somewhere he lay, her bright-hearted boy
When their short time had known its full measures
Death sought and broke him and set her feet
Time’s clock did not give to him its pleasures
Yet still she kept time by his own heart-beat
And by the echo of his love, kept herself
Within the divine reach of love itself.
Claire captured beauty, the prize was divine
These two battled long, two rushed-breaths expelled
His eyes were a glass and hers were his wine
Two to make rhyme no king could tax or geld
Two who fought a brave and valiant fight
Two to capture beauty and bind it fast
One to find his grave within her sight
Who made mortal remains a deathless cast
Two penned a tale to speak in times to come
When bright eyes are blind and tongue is made dumb
So speak well of these two who made a pair
Here is sad tale told by two who were fair
She was his sweetheart, he was her swain
He was her sweet love, and unfading pain.
The world laughed as she cried heroic tears
From honor’s sacred breast was honor plied
As she wayfared over her sacred years
The world bemocked as his poesy died
It heaped coals and danced, such matters but jest
The world killed with its lance his beauty and truth
Then the poet did die, his grave and he wed
And it was uncouth—That his beauty was dead
But it is, forsooth, yet his words she had yet
That passed from his tooth to the pen of his hand
Set from where he pared the glory of earth
Sacred to memory, his bones and mirth
From them she fashioned her soul’s fresh birth
But small recompense for battle-scarred theft.
These mournful words here she has left.
THE LITERARY THEORIES OF CLAIRE
What might we say of the rose of love?
Is the rose of love but a savage flower?
Is the rose bright red from the blood it’s sucked?
No, it is to me a lovely flower, that rose I plucked.
What might we speak of the time to love?
Is the time to love but a moment that soon
Like the brief hour of night in a winter’s tale
Is to be lost to the garish moon
And leave our faces pale?
What might I remember of my love’s sweet lips?
Flaming, like a rose, bright red
To be forever a thing I’ll miss
At least until I’m dead?
What may I think of seasons and days
When love’s caress does not soothe this pain
How may I catch the beams of the star’s light rays
Or the droplets of a summer’s rain?
What should I think of a God that made
One heart so fair and dear
But in the end my heart to flay
By taking it from here?
Forbid me not, in coming hours
To miss your love and be struck dumb
For I’ve a sweet tooth that cannot be sated
And you are my sugarplum.
THE POET’S SLEEP
The blue moon cast light about my feet,
A mystical, persuading liaison
Where love and moonlight meet
So I lay and dream to arrest the passage of time
Love is the moon’s dream I loathe to awaken from
And there in the soft, blue light of the moon
Which makes vanish the glare of noon
One may love continually
Love is a dream set in mist
Where once two danced and kissed
And long I have slept to dream of death
And for me that sleep is sweet
For this dream was once a life
That I knew and loved complete.
THE THIEF, THE ROSE AND THE MOON
April 4, 1501
Out one eve, while the world lay asleep
I used my time to grieve and walk in sadness deep
To pine over things that once knew my love
In wanderings marked by tears
I pondered on the years
That has seen such perfect beauty
Only equaled in the spheres
So I walked, traveling west
Toward the merry, yellow moon
Seeking a companion in my wayward flight
And chanced upon a rose in bloom,
She smiled at us there in the light
So the moon and me, we plucked the flirting rose
For her blossomy, velvet appeal
And the moon said I may keep the flower we chose
If the weight from my heart she could steal
So I gave her my tears and she gave me the rose
And the trade was unfair, I suppose
For here at my desk I am filled with rose-mirth
While the moon reflects my anguish towards earth
Tonight I had no honor, tonight I was a thief
For it’s the moon that now repines in grief
In exchange for a blossom, I gave her my pains
And sit now with Beauty, while sadly she wanes
ODE OF INNOCENCE
(Of young love grown old the poetess speaks)
Among grey boulders I stood and pondered While the cold wind lap’t the sacred lake And ruffled the down of hen and drake And rustled the leaves of Poplar and Oak And this, my memory spoke,
Old visions beneath a hot, sunny sky in May On the shore across the way, of first love And here I stand in the bleak, cold winds of December On this rock-strewn shore of remember The memory spoke of a time more fair than this When we walked among the mist On that sandy shore of yesterday And no lake of time between us,
This hallowed sight, where love breathed its first Gush of air, undying thirst For life’s love full and death’s demise Let nature seek for deeper eyes Than those he had, years now since seen By his poetaster, and by poetry, redeemed
This fair lake, where once in youth We caroled round and spoke Youth’s short song, in summer’s heat I’ve grown old since then And long have dreamt we’d meet again,
That lovely soul, since gone to dust I’d hold his hand and hug his bosom And speak of days since passed and long Since those days were present song I’d watch his lips as words expelled From ivory teeth and love withheld
Cursed, I remember what he said, “I will love you always, till I’m dead.” Oh, this sepulchered sight. Where from my eyes have flown his light And replaced in them a creed that’s dead A repeater of things his lips once said This first love, long since deplete, And only by poesy made complete…
THE EPHEMERA OF SPRING
Love dies like the rose dies
And lives too, the same
And ope’s her buds in fairest weather
Just like my true-eyed flame
Love dies like the rose dies
And lives too, the same
And gives her beauty to all who see
Though her blush be not of shame
Love dies like the rose dies
And lives too, the same
And grows wild in sylvan glade
And in gardens, seeks her fame
Love dies like the rose dies
And lives too, the same
But I have not a rose to hold
No love may I proclaim
For my love has died, like the rose has died
And no fairer flower may live
Though the fields be full of bloom and blossom
When the season of spring God gives
ODE TO ENCHANTMENT
Falling leaves, falling leaves,
Everywhere they float and sink
Helped by wind, earth and sea
Mother nature at work again
Painting earth a rainbow blend
Fall is here, splendid sights
Shivering cold fronts, sparkling nights
Summer’s work, done and gone
Winter’s work, silent song
But between the two we have
An enchanted world for young and old
Trees all mixed from palette of gold
Mother Nature, master craftsman of earth
Maker of beauty and God-touched mirth
Master poet who writes her words
In falling leaves and soaring birds
Who, in the death of life she makes
Beauty and splendor, thoughts sublime
Her charitable death a loving rhyme
And only the dead, her charity forsakes
You may gauge your life by the beauty of fall
Whether within its charming ways
You’re inspired to enjoy these brightened days
Or continue your life without a sense
Of heightened awareness or pretense
But as for me I’ll stand up high
Attempt to fill the earth and sky
Hold out my hands to catch a leaf
And stake my claim on future years
THE SLEEP OF LOVE
There in hallowed ground
Sleeps my love, lost treasure
That no surveyor in God’s acre may measure
There, beneath the green, resting light
Only in my soul is seen, his vision bright
There, unknown to men lays my soul
And fades now into earth, with gallant beau
There sleeps peace and love, a heart’s devotion
Thus I awake, and stand guard at night,
Till day doth break
And guard the secret mound of earth
Where cached is beauty, my lovely sweet,
Where earth and angel dust doth meet
There, in heart, rests his light, vision bright
In a world where evil strays, I alone
Possess the spot where beauty lays
And though night’s dark chamber of death
Will never fill the void of life
That death will kill
Life will live despite the death of love
And then go back, to earth, to fit,
Back into that which gave birth to it.
THE TREE AND THE BROOK
Oft through the coming years I’ll forsake this life to drop sad tears To recall your beauty, withered and fled From stem to earth, long now dead I’ll stoke the embers to bring back the flame And dream you love me still the same,
In this grief I am a tree while you, a brook Rolling furious and fast By where my roots probe the soil Your waters gave me life, years of growth now past Now my limbs have withered, all my roots uncoiled But with tears have I made a well And with earth’s spinning help They have dropped and fell,
And from this water, sacred and true I grow new branches and reach for you They shoot to the sky and embrace the sun Yet, in truth, only from wonder, as to why And where to, your brook has run,
My crown will grow To reach above the forest high To chart the course where your waters flow And then my limbs will wave goodbye And with one last earthly look At your swift running brook That meanders through the forest And the hidden valley’s nook My tree will heave a long-fought sigh Its heartwood long since broken I’ll fall to Earth and flowing stream From words your brook had spoken Your waters will fill the crevices That time’s decay has wrought You’ll fill my heartwood up again It’s all I ever sought,
And within a newer spring From broken branch and flowing stream Up from the dead, new shoots shall burst, Our love alive again, unquenchable thirst.
In the spore winds of spring
New poems are born
When the poets go ambling
Through fields of hawthorn
The poets are fertile
And this season of seeds
Gives birth to a motley
Of lyrical creeds
And quick the creations
Of so mystic a breed
THE LEAK OF THE VESSEL
Death resembles not what life does at birth Back when roses flamed the cheeks And the prospect of death was once so bleak,
But if life is long and filled with pain Death is a blessing, a poor man’s gain The poor become rich within the ground Their precious loved ones all around Wrapt in timbers made to fit Bones to dust and dust to grit Upon earth’s face, their names moonlit,
Life once strong spreads swift wings What death takes is what life brings All souls beneath this day-star bright Will one day release their hold on life And sleep beyond the night,
The night so dark and bright the day Death, the hunter; Life, the prey But graves are not so dead as they appear There lie sunken sorrows of hearts yet alive And though above you spot no lover’s tear Within that pit there is joy none may revive,
A lurking omen pervades the days Of all our future years What’s cause for merry in the present moment Will one day be cause for tears So drink deeply from the Spring of laughter Gurgle it in your throat For Death is coming after That hole within your boat.
I awoke at once from troubled dreams Wherein I spied his grave The mound above my cherished love, In sleep, I felt the woe As I knelt beside the spot Where beauty lay below A cooing from treetops near the site Caused grief to abrogate, He was a dove with wings of snow Not death there far below T’was the cooing of my mate I heard, old joy within me stirred My love had wings, he was a dove In heaven there above,
The dawn then broke and I awoke His grave was silent drear Yet perfume from my snow-white dove Still did linger near, I picked myself up from the Earth Only but to scan For the sight of soaring dove And his white wingspan, I spied him in the rising sun A speck of white on gold And held him there, as far as eyes can hold My darling there, my golden love Was a white-winged dove,
I wept some tears, for the years Of life we’d spent on earth The weeping water filled my cheeks And asked of grief to smile Tear-filled memories of the time That we’d spent awhile.
Last night in reverie, deep in thought I saw such a wondrous thing And the beauty that his spirit brought Flit through my soul like a bird on the wing, But sleep had chance to take a flight A thief of dreams and pleasures great And whether is or isn’t right I sat and cursed this morbid fate Of love’s lost dream of a perfect mate, Oh, last night I dreamt such things I’ll set before you, if you have the time Some quick description of my love’s sweet crime, His hair streamed gold in a celestial fire His hands as soft as a child’s meek whisper His eyes glowed in radiance an angel’s sapphire And God had left perfection in his innocent lisper,
He spoke to me gently, in cloying, loving words God had reunited his favorite lovebirds And I, still mortal, attempted to capture That singing lovebird that caused me such rapture, So I held him fast, with love’s strong hand And gazed into the depth’s of his kind, angelic soul And God shouted down this reprimand:
“You must, my dear, let him go!”
So I released my gentle love And thanked him for the flight That against God’s law he took From Heaven to earth tonight And he flew back to God And perched upon his hand And I gave to God this haughty reprimand:
“See that no harm comes to him For I too shall die one day And if I find him wronged, dear sir There shall be hell to pay!”
And God smiled down,
“He shall be fine, This lad is yours as well as mine. No power on Earth or Heaven Shall harm this dove of ours And his heart shall remain as sweet As bouquets of springtime flowers.”
So I woke from this saintly vision Of the sweetest crime And attempted to paint the same Within a lover’s rhyme No more wondrous a beauty May any dream bring He’s wrap’t around my heart Like a wedding ring.
A POSTSCRIPT ROMANCE
If I could hold again a perfect love in the May
Give voice to darkness in my heart and make it day
Sing to love an old, sweet song and weave the light
In between my fingers in the night
Sigh to my love and ask of him the kiss
That his love’s true heart doth sweetly miss
Among the garden path walk in tune
And catch the glint in familiar eyes
Beneath a lover’s moon,
And then sleep in the forest and wake,
Teary-eyed in the light of noon,
Just to part ways again, too soon,
TWELVE ARE THE MONTHS
In the skies above December I’ll catch some rays That, from above the cloud cover Will repeat always And then, I will remember, In the skies above September, To catch some falling leaf As it flutters Down to earth,
To lay at piece my old belief. In the skies above August, Was once the month of his birth And its royal decree I’ll compare with his worth And its lack within me
In the skies above June I’ll set free my soul To view spring far below Twelve are the months and their skies And below them come and go The seasons of life and love Far below and high above
I shall drink this cup of rhetoric
And be drunk
By these youthful soliloquies
Now in ages sunk
But written upon this parchment wrote
My great love’s words
Not with Time’s fell swoop is smote
But alive as ever
In his old love’s mind
I discover again my lost love’s words
A treasure find
OF THE SAVAGE, WILD ROSE
A savage wild rose, it were,
Yet not so savage nor wild as her
And there, in the blood-red bloom of roses wild
I saw the face of the mother’s lost child
Set among the savage, wild roses, unkept
Lay the tears of the mother who wept
In the bloom was the outline, in perfumed relief
Of the face of her child and the cast of her grief
Among the thorns she knelt and picked with care
But two, and let the grief she felt flow true
From broken vein she bled life back to her child
And the portal flowed down to give a sorrowed crown
And there in the garden, love lay bleeding
While in the myrtle bushes the birds sat singing
LINES OF QUESTIONING
Tell me love, why you cry,
That great tear from mournful eye?
Tell me loud and say it clear
Why you drop that liquid tear
Does thy hand tremble quite
‘Cause thy soul is not aright?
Is there pain and grievous thought
Hid inside with fears a’fraught?
Does thy soul quiver still
As a frozen daffodil?
Does thy smile exist in times
Known only by your poet’s rhymes?
Then forget thy future and hold again thy past
Dispel your tears and kiss me last
This man, genius with words his forte be
To make my mind soar aloft, and see
The wings of gentle dove in morn
He, children, men and beast, adorned
Clothing simple paper with mighty pen
And across the centuries and a million men
There’ll be not one to compare with him.
In a gentle May’s eve I spied three lovely things:
A teardrop, a sieve and a leaf
Within the tear, there was joy and none of grief
In the leaf, light once bright and none of night
In the sieve, life once lived now none to give
And now these things now come to this
A final state, like love’s lost kiss
Once warm and wet, but better yet
Once new and bright, like day in night
But time has captured their essence fast
What force could break their final cast?
What’s done is done, what’s past is past
My sleeping love, eyes of light
Once they were, but now it’s night
Just as dark, and sleeping light
Beneath the stars, outside tonight
My sleeping love, heart aglow
With love for life but now below
The morning dew, he sleeps and so
I sing and grieve my lover’s leave
And wish there were such stars as he
Among the sphere so far from here
But here I sit among the lit
Up night and grieve my lover’s leave
SONG AND CIDER
Here in the months of fall
Leave the leaves upon the ground
Where they fell with merry sound
And heap them in a great big mound
Here in the months of fall
As the cold begins its course
Do not look back with sad remorse
But give ye friends a full discourse
And end the day full-spent and hoarse
Here in the months of fall
When the sun begins to glow
Upon the newly fallen snow
Give the horse his reign, but whoa!
Watch out for creaking ice below
Here in the months of fall
Pick the pears with ample care
And as the twigs begin to bare
Peer through them and loud declare
Fall is grand, I swear!
And when the day has come and went
Rest ye feet and be content
And song with cider fully blent
This, of life, what God had meant
THE BIRD’S WHISPER
The birds whisper of the coming spring
And later, in the falling rain
Their words gently fall upon my window’s pane
And this, I believe, their plea:
“Cut no branches in the spring
And leave all cats indoor.’
So the wren may happily sing
When her young ones learn to soar.”
He gave to me for safekeeping
The best of him, but the weeping
If you please, his alibis
While he idled, sat here writing
His best, unbridled, and a sighting
Of immortal, far-flung glory
Here the portal of the story
But no lending, hope requires
A poet’s gift soon expires
Like life, its ending and love, its wending
Every good gift, with time, retires
ODE TO THE GREY
To those who would wonder,this poet’s flown away To guild her wings beneath the sun and escape this home of grey; Look not to the shingles, there not I Old dreams with stars commingle Somewhere else I’ll scan the sky,
Look not to the door where hangs the wreath My haunting here complete I’ll find some distant, pristine heath And there I’ll place my feet,
Look not to the study, there not I Wrapt are my studies, Look not to the garden’s trees I’ve pruned them my last And now they cast a fine shade From this forest in the city made,
If you would have a portrait of me Look to Silver Leaf, Ash and Oak And there the limbs of swaying tree Will whisper verse that once I spoke,
And if you would know my soul Then look to the rose’s bloom For there, some bit of me Is forever and ever entombed,
And to those who may come after Enter these walls with care For a poet walked here once And sacred its very air Two score and some was it The time I grew here And when I vanish from this place I’ll leave behind all my fears In some salty trace.
Lay Me in a Soft Grave
In the orbs of my sight there came a cloud; from the east or west I saw not where, to lay rain drops upon my cheek And from there they fell, to mingle in dust and growing wheat, A love I hath no more of.
Tears may be the means by which we soften the earth Before laying those we cherish within it.
If my grave be hard, may the day I die be raining, So God may do the work of men.
CLAIRE’S LAST LETTER
You once told me when we were young to not cry for some small thing. You said to save my tears for the times when they will be needed; that a tear cried for what is beautiful will be counted towards my soul but one cried for any other thing would not.
You said each of us is given our well-of-tears and to run out of that holy water before one is done is a grievous thing. That some day there will be an end to tears, and to meet our end with a dry well and have no last tear to cry would be a thing to cry about all itself, but there would be no tear to cry.
My well has run out, nearly. The moon passed over in the midnight and then was eclipsed by the dark clouds and then came the rains. Before this storm the world and I were as dry as the ancient Egyptians. In my age I have found a rain-storm fills in all the dry spots. Live long enough and you get dry spots where tears used to be, but like the phoenix with his immortalizing fire, the rain replenishes me. Though not the way it used to be.
By my belief in you, you created me. And now, seeming countless moons since I last saw you and some days I cannot fully remember your face and form, but the form of your soul I still know. It is here in me, and in your words.
There is no great thing any weak fool could not destroy—except for the soul of a man—no fool can destroy that. A mortal ignorance took your own mortality, but no mortal, ignorant thing could ever touch what was immortal in you. With the fine point of your mind you eclipsed the heavens and then some brute with his blunt point blotted out the bright light within you. But you left with me what also you took with you, for I know there are bright, eternal souls in the dark, mortal flesh of men.
I go soon to take up where we left off, to see which star the best and which the bright and to walk again with you among them. I will, with the soul in me, walk in tandem with the soul in you, a soul that has been free for some little time, waiting upon me at the waiting place some call oblivion and others call Heaven.
Like all the young nearly, I feared an early death then. Now I fear a long life. But it’s not really long life I fear, but long life without you. It has already been too long. But you have talked to me daily in these years, and I have always listened.
Without you, flowers to me would forever be dumb and have no voice. Neither would the whispering of trees and chattering of birds, nor stars and moon in the sky, nor hearts and souls in men. Without you, for me, all love would be unknown. The art of love would be no art.
I am sad much, but happy, too. You wrote once that poetry is a joy that comes from grief, which itself comes from joy. You were fearless and unblinking in your eyes to all that came. You saw and felt all, took every season as it came and stood brave and serene against fate, with joy in your heart.
Some are fair-weathered and cannot contend without the sun and close their eyes to grief and its wisdom. Others are dark and cannot stand the light and live as if every day were raining. It was you alone, among all I have known, who walked outside and took the weather as it was, dancing in the rain same as the sun, for the joy of it, and never calling it any other name than what it was. I know now there is nothing heavy as a tear. You left before we had begun to laugh, and all the laughter I would have known has been kept inside and wept back out. Laughter is heavy with life and love. Joy makes for heavy tears.
THE DEATH OF CLAIRE
1521 A. D.
Imagine an ancient world of five centuries ago, when kings ruled the lands and before a Space Age came to show men that flight to other worlds is possible, yet still does not make a man anything like a bird or god. Imagine the primeval Ettrick Forest, ancient then, and moldered further and made more ancient by all the time since. See the young man, emboldened by duty to defend another and delivering over his life for that other, and so, in that place of primeval shadow, giving up every dream he had. Sword did that day what Time would have eventually, but what beauty the sword killed half a millennium ago in that ancient forest by the sea.
Honor in a man does not die with the man, but lives on in the world and gives noble example to men yet living. No better way to preserve honor than to give the pen the tale, to prove, after all, that it is mightier; though the sword be swift in its merciless task. Imagine Claire, who pined the moons away and died the year when the two oaks met, when a moon so blue cast a graceful light upon her through the open door and her grief finally had its end.
I have imagined what the Fair Claire may have said, as she lay down to die and held Chauncey’s heart next to her own fading heart:
“You lived long ago, fought a long war with a great, invisible foe, and won Beauty from her chains, where she was imprisoned by dark forces. You captured Truth and locked it tight, within an unspoilt chest. And though you sleep alone in the forest, your heart is here with me, and that is enough.”
Then I imagine her hands softened upon the dust within them and her lungs softened upon the duty of breath and her heart softened upon the duty of life and she gave up her ghost to the other world and her dreams to this one and there lay—quietly and forever—a pristine soul that was perfectly beautiful and in peace.
So Chauncey’s Fair Claire died and slept and went to the place where things lost are kept and she found again that which her heart desired. And here on earth her heart and Chauncey’s heart then slept together, and sleeps still, in some ancient place that today we would think a normal and modern place. None who live there know the beauty that is close and below. It is to them just some old stone and an old tree, if these yet remain; surely the name and date on the stones were rubbed out by time and water long ago? The bones gone to dust, where they have slumbered these five centuries past.
All that is what I imagine she spoke and did and though it may be too sentimental for the concrete men of this concrete age, I care little of the unimaginative opinions of concrete men. As for me, I will not straight-off believe the boring, oft’ recited prose pieces while foregoing the perusal and contemplation of the reality of this world and its poetry.
What would a grave of five-hundred years look like? It would look like the ground we walk upon; a common place. But there is still an ancient thing here in our modern world that is still unchanged from then: the moon under which they pined is the same under which we do. And our seeking to love and be loved is the same seeking also.
April 4, 2010
Five-hundred springs have sprung and died
Since Chauncey’s pen or sword have plied
A line of verse or assassin’s breast, ‘tis a shame
Chauncey, a brave or truer name
No poet or squire that ever framed
Such mortal flesh that we, the same
Have heaped on paw and chest
Five-hundred springs have sprung and died
Since Claire last saw her secret pride
And for all of that, ‘tis a shame
That letters writ in first love’s name
Have kept their secrets from the same
Poet who loved that lass the best
Five-hundred springs have sprung and died
And History’s hours have wept and sighed
That love so sweet as Chauncey and Claire’s
Knew not completion or bright heirs
No brave heraldry with love, the crest.
THE NECROMANCER’S GRAVESTONE
June 1, 1990
Here lies the Necromancer
With his immortal charm
So give dead flesh delight
And with ye arm
Spread ope his lays
And read by light
What he writ with his soul
In the dark of night
THE SPELL OF THE NECROMANCER
These lines were writ with secret powers
In darkened night and hidden hours
And still is oft their fame and day
With obscure hand and pen were print
This sweet vision of the firmament
He came to sift the lands and oceans dry
Of mirth and death and life’s full sum
To herald the age with fresh blood and wine
To arrange love’s words in poet’s rhyme
And if obscure, these things he write
No less was his great delight
For love wrote the poesy ambition will claim
Love knew the joys; ambition, the fame,
But fortunately there be time to know
And not much longer will be hid,
These enchanted rhymes under lid
They shall be unleashed in coming times
And all of the earth shall be beneath the spells
Of the necromancer’s tales
To the pantheon of poetic gods, sound alarm
Here wrote the necromancer with their immortal charm,
With bedazzled lines, minds he will enchant
And homage to all other bards they will recant
So sit a spell and through your eyes
Your very soul he will mesmerize
And when you die, carry these verses,
Along with your soul
To bedevil the gatekeeper at Heaven’s toll
THE LITERARY THEORIES OF CHAUNCEY DeBEERS
FOURTEEN VERSES TO ROMANCE
THE PERIGEE OF HEAVEN
I walked one day amongst the light and was filled with wonder when The sun dreamt down upon the earth and awoke in a budding flower, and yawning the flower gave rise to mirth at awakening in such an hour. Then vestal virgins of the season of spring tripped gladly about in a garden bright and there in a halo of heavenly light the virgins and flowers found need to sing of the beauty that God and Earth could bring to virgins and flowers and men And later that night
The moon dreamt down upon the Earth And awoke in the soul of a poet and the splendor was as bright as a day in June for the light of the sun was encompassed in the moon so great was the brilliance that the poet had to speak down some verse to give praise to the moon and her mystique And through the night while all slept the poet painted the moon and the promise of rhyme was kept but the day was coming soon so the moon slipped the cover of dawn above her head bid goodnight to the poet and both went off to bed
Then some star dreamt down upon the Earth in some later day than this and found expression in the romance of two virgin’s first love kiss and all the light within creation Fused and melted in their hearts And their joy knew not the boundaries Of the constellation charts
I shall speak here of a secret Known only by a few True love does not fall, but fly Its verse not old, but new The earth goes round with mighty sound
Old ages fall away But men and might grow back a’right When lovers have their say
PRELUDE TO A DREAM
I chanced upon a maid among, Priceless art and portraits painted, And looked upon her as she sold, The antiquaries, very dated I thought I did, She makes a better, Living portrait than these painted, And so I scrived down some lines, And wrote a portrait of her visage. . .
Her face a lyric poem and perfect melody Set against the music of art’s threnody And her face, so wrap’t in art, Is but death-spell to hearts And her visage is a rhyme Set in feature and in line of her gentle race few more fair than her face few there be quite so fair As this damsel with the gilded hair
Her eyes like a glass that few mortals may easy pass Without detecting in their hue Some enchanting green and blue And her nose it is sweet How it makes her features meet In perfection all as one God designed her and was done
I think to kiss her lips would be nothing short of heavenly But the maiden has a beau So her charms I will forego But I will quoth this Despite knowledge of her kiss:
She is the plainest beauty, So perfect and so rare This golden lass with the sun-touched hair.
THE SEEKER’S LETTER
The sun seeks the west And the moon seeks the sea And I seek you As the bird seeks the tree… Freedom seeks the slave And sovereignty seeks the king And I seek you As winter seeks the spring… The common seek for happiness As the ambitious seek for power And I seek you As history seeks the hour… The speaker seeks the audience As the writer seeks the pen And I seek you As the grave seeks for men… The bow seeks the hunter As the arrow seeks the aim And I seek you As the candle seeks the flame… The pirate seeks the plunder As the chest seeks the treasure And I seek you As the surveyor seeks the measure…
Wisdom seeks the light And darkness seeks the blind And I seek you As knowledge seeks the mind… Hunger seeks the hare As the hare seeks the briar And I seek you As air seeks the fire… The story seeks the author As the author seeks the theme And I seek you As the child seeks the dream… The sugar seeks the jam As the jam seeks the jar And I seek you As wonder seeks the star… Death seeks for nothing As life seeks its giver And I seek you As the stream seeks the river…
Love seeks the heart As the heart seeks for love And I seek for you As peace seeks the dove… The man seeks his bride As the bride seeks her groom And I seek you As the rose seeks the bloom… The sea seeks the sailor As the sailor seeks the galley And I seek you As the fog seeks the valley… Sunlight seeks the deacon As moonlight seeks the thief And I seek you As the ocean seeks the reef… The lady seeks the pearl As the pearl seeks the nape And I seek you As the storm seeks the cape…
Dust seeks for death As birth seeks the cell And I seek you As water seeks the well… Age seeks for thought As youth seeks for play And I seek you As snow seeks the sleigh… The head seeks the hunter As the savage seeks the wild And I seek you As the lullaby seeks the child… The calendar seeks the season As the season seeks the day And I seek you As the poet seeks the May…
The maiden seeks her beau As the widow seeks her dower And I seek you As dewdrops seek the flower… The bear seeks the salmon As the salmon seeks the brine And I seek you As romance seeks the wine… The beast seeks the dungeon As beauty seeks the stare And I seek you As the hollow seeks the bear… The baby seeks the cradle As the chick seeks the nest and I seek you As valor seeks the breast…
The lip seeks the kiss As the hand seek the touch And I seek you, my love. May one seek too much? Here a love letter for lovely eyes Here fond emotion without disguise Here my death warrant and my demise But that I love thee, I will await until thy love answer me.
VISIONS OF THE LADY
She be ephemeral, like a sunflower And refreshing, like a rain shower And if romance be of the night I claim her, till the last hour But if destiny has set to wing Gifts that fate would bring To memories I will cling And though versed in such things Know I that no poet’s word could descry The beauty in her eye. And surely one who longs over the vision of a lady, surely a poet is he And surely a wonder is she a marvelous conception and fodder for the poet’s eye And know I too that love is what makes loneliness possible.
THE MAY QUEEN
In sleep I slept a double sleep it were For in my bed alone I was But in my dream with her In my dream there was a river And down we sailed on reeds of willow While in my bed my sleeping head Rested soft on feathered pillow In my room my lips were dry While in this dream of fancied bliss I came to think that I would die As she smothered me with kiss
In my sleep cold were my hands All wrapped in fabric covers But in my dream firebrands Within my lady lover’s
In the world without the trance My feet were bare and still While deep within somewhere we danced The melody of whippoorwill
Outside my hovel the sky was grey And drizzle found the brittle grass But in the dream the mood was gay When sun laced the bonnet of my lass The month in fact was cold November But no facts do dreams remember Thus all I knew within my dream Was the smiling face of my May queen
To a boy who loves his girl the wait is always long No matter if short it be Like waves mighty and rolling In forever and endless sea The coastline seems to never Loom up into view As he floats and swims forever In the deep and mystic blue
Among marble halls I walked disguised and chanced upon some royal maids of noble mien and full of fancy To one whose iris was speckled-green I gave entreaty:
If I was royal and my head was crowned With wreaths of wealth and earthly fame Would you walk with me and hold my hand Beneath the sun’s eternal flame If I were born of high degree A lord of fine estate Would you genuflect upon one knee And deem that I was great If I were sired from king and queen And princely my domain Would you stroll with me upon the green And hold me as your swain These I asked and she replied:
If these you were my pretty bloke I’d swoon to be your bride And dress, for you, I’d uncloak Then she smiled and sighed But pauper’s son you seem to be A thing of low estate So shall I give to thee one knee Whose kingdom is a crate?
But take this to thy churlish heart Thee with mouth so bold I will love to you impart If prove heroic mold
So I bartered quill for sword And galloped to the weald Gave battle cry to lord whose blood I shortly spilled A fortnight passed and then I found myself upon the gallows My head was soon to roll But gave entreaty to the king For one last hope within my soul Before this deed be wrought May I plead for that I fought and the King gave me the right To beseech this last request So to her I gave entreaty And hoped that it was blessed
As they take me down to death Will you lay soft kiss upon my cheek? So when I take my dying breath I shall not die so weak And this was her reply:
I shall give thee kiss my sweet Upon thy lip and cheek And knee with plank shall meet So thy death won’t come so bleak
So my liege lady gave her bow And the people gave a roar But her kiss was quite enow As they broke the hangman’s door
The verse is lost
Stardust and Earth must Come together To compose a rose And so too, a man The unforgiving Earth And gentle woman’s hand
ONE VERSE TO MOTHER
She is the hope of God Safekeeping life within her Till it may survive without her She is angel-maker And with ingredients of her soul Gives recipe to grow wings She is alchemist and from base metals Creates silver and gold If the maid is a jewel The mother a treasure And though her son be King That monarch her subject She is God’s poem And her children the verses
To be a poet is to feel most comfortable among the woods, trees and stars; and among those who know them best. I would choose to be a poor beggar among men, rich in the gifts of sight and appreciation for the natural and the good, than wealthy in accoutrements, yet poor in all else.
The poet peers into the mystery and hopes to find something to take back home, some gifts for the soul, to fill it up for the thin days when the soul must remember life more than live it.
I have these memories of sunsets and the flights of birds and the wonder of life. I am ignorant but not so much to believe that the rapture of life is a thing that will be cast throughout life. I have known those who, long before their deaths, died. What has befallen other men will also befall me. So I struggle to put this memory of life within me, when my life will falter. I held a lit taper tonight against the backdrop of the stars while I sat upon the shingles and thought of you. Then I scribed a poem where I sat. I do not know what is out there, among the lamps of heaven, but it looks a fine place.
NINE VERSES TO THE HEAVENS
The poet is he who holds a candle against the stars To compare the brightness of the two And leave tale of the earthly view The poet is he who loves the maids of spring and fall And compares the wonders of the two To leave tale of the rendezvous The poet is he who sups with pauper and king To glean the hearts of the two And leave tale of which the true
The poet is he who woos and wins the blue-eyed lass And observes the morning sky To compare the shadings of the two And leave tale of the color blue The poet is he who, though garbed in pauper’s cloth Dresses the world in prodigal attire And by the act of his creation Gives beauty to the funeral pyre The poet is made by God And sets before the world old things anew Of true poets, but a few
THE POET’S MOON
The May moon is the poet’s moon And all other moons besides No man may eye the moon and by Its movement be not moved To think some beauty or some line And seek to have it proved The moon of June is the poet’s moon And summer hath its let And soon a poet and his lass Will seek the solace of the grass And seek for lips well met The moon of July is the poet’s moon And summer hath its peak And the poet to his lady reads Some poet from the Greek The August moon is the poet’s moon And now betrothed the poet swoons Well-met in May and now the day The poet and his bride betray All other poets and their lays That pen or lip can write or say
STARS ON STRINGS
I looked into the starlit sky And knew this was a truth That all star-gazers know On earth below And it be this: Where there is no night The sky is too bright For the star-gazer to see Into the deep mystery And so These lays blazed forth Across the sky And fell to earth as stone As if from strings and loaned So I took my chisel And carved upon them And poems the rock became Of comet and sky the same
Beyond the pane the sunlight spoke But none could hear the words For her voice had provoked The chattering of birds The sunlight whistled through the tree But could not hold her tune For the buzzing of the bee Intent on honeymoon The sunlight sang and filled the air But none could hear the ditty For all intent upon despair What a special pity And then the sun grew old and died And buried in the West All of hope that men could hope Within their mortal breast And then upon a sleeping Earth The sun she lived again And echoed back sweet sentiments Upon her sleeping men
THE SUN AND THE MOON
Sadness and wisdom go hand in hand Like the sun and moon in opposite lands One burns brightly a celestial page While the other wanes remorsefully of a dying age But they are two sides of a common coin And in between the face and back, an Earth In which fear and sadness dare to join An optimistic hope of bliss and mirth A wavering balance between rapture and tears One creates boldness the other fears One makes empire of marble and stone The other composes poetry in times alone Keep time by the star and you may go far Hold hands with the moon And your soul she will consume
TO THE BARKEEP OF THE TAVERN
There breathes destiny in the dawn As the dark-lit past gives a yawn And quick comes the day in radiance sublime As the poet nods to sleep in the lap of rhyme Soon are the stars to relinquish their light When dawn’s halo blushes in the eastern night And as the orbs of Heaven fade then fail to blink With them dies the poet’s ink And if the day gives food for thought The night gives drink Thus the poet is a drunkard and rhyme his wine And God the barkeep who fills his stein
The poet needs the stars as he does his breath And without the gift of either knows his death Those suspended gems of light in the ethereal night How they give my soul its pleasure and its sight For blind the man who knows but his rest When the Heavens ‘ope The Book of Almagest In ancient Greece there too were stars as these From the antipodes of Earth to its apogee
When the golden moon rises above the walk And hangs below the stark limb of a tree The sun wonders what the moon hears of talk And the moon what the sun has to see For blind is the moon in the dark of night And deaf the sun in perpetual day And knows of the others eyes and lips Only in the occasional eclipse
THE TOUCH OF FATE
Above the sky there looms a finger of destiny and fate that does not linger upon the prayer of man or wail of beast it describes a recipe Life the feast
THIRTEEN ODES POETIC
A POET’S ADVICE
Advice to those who write
Carry your quill day and night
Advice to those who love:
Wear her like a glove
Advice to those who work:
Do not your pleasures shirk
Advice to those who dream:
Make magic your life’s theme
Advice to those who fail:
Great odds make great the tale
Advice to those who win:
It’s time now to begin
Advice to those who lead:
Truth, your only creed
Advice to those who live:
Find something good to give
Advice to those who die:
Forget not the goodbye
Advice to those who give advice:
The job is thankless,
And wears like lice
THE POET’S CREED
Of lyrics and leas and emerald trees The poet’s eye glimmers when these he sees Of fables and myths and heroes of old The poet’s pen quivers when these are told Of babes and sucklings and sun-crowned youth The poet’s heart believes a higher truth Of swans and robins and cooing pheasant The poet’s soul is blessed for these are pleasant And lest you be mistaken Of these, the poet’s taken
I exchanged my young life for these Gave up happiness wealth and power For the starlight n a flower I have seen the glories of Earth And to the tune of Heaven Have danced a poet’s dance In lieu of nights of fabled romance And all the fools do think I gave the better for the worse So little do they know That I did the better first
I have seen such visions of greatness That all the world would sigh And blush they would to see such things As the scarlet rose in July I have gazed long at stately walls Walked in lonely cryptic halls But no voice have I in the halls of kings No golden fleets or ruby rings Just six feet above the Earth I end And six feet below one day as well So what reason behind ruby rings and silly kings ‘Tis but the semblance of heaven for hell
I was given to this world to dream and to leap Down lonely alleyways in the neighborhood of sleep To gape upon the wonders of imagination’s cavern And drink from the steins of inspiration’s tavern And with flask of ink and a poet’s fire The gods of rhyme will not be appeased Till the whole of God’s creation In my pen, is seized
A POET’S PLEA FOR IMMORTALITY
WHY I WRITE
For all I know My life’s length may be short And my days may be few But my words may be long And compared to a rock My time may be weak But my pen may be strong And though silent when I die While I live I make song And though short to the tree I may writer taller Than any three
THE DREAM MERCHANT OF TYRE
The poet is dream merchant And his fingers are flutes That give rise to melodies That soothes savage brutes And if thee would purchase His Lydian wares Take care thee hath heart For his paean airs For not gold doth the dreamer Take for his dreams He asketh thy soul In exchange for his themes For no barter of goods May justly recompense The bard his lays Or his poetic sense ‘Tis but the jewels of thy heart That his muse require To build treasure in heaven From the seaport of Tyre
THE POET KING
All is gone!
My days of youth, when Time was long
Now cheers, forsooth.
All is gone!
Time can’t mend, the errors of life
All is gone!
The day her love was born,
And upon her lovely bosom
I fell and waxed foresworn.
All is gone!
As a tempest my heart is shaken
And though her scent lingers near
It will remain forsaken.
All is gone!
That first enraptured look,
When blushed the cheek and eye bestirred,
My eye her eye forsook.
All is gone!
Her memory now a myth,
And like a princess thief
My soul she took forthwith.
All is gone!
Except my might! Prepare the steeds!
I am a King! I leave forthright!
DRIP OF THE CANDLE
Drip, drip O’ candle, upon the brass
Thy pensive flame doth flatter, it seems
Thy wax doth melt so quickly now
And life is less than what the poet dreams.
Drip, drip O’ candle, upon old tallow
Thy heated staff may light this page
With some old glow that seems to smite
These black scribblings upon the white.
Drip, drip O’ candle, dispel the gloom
Shew thy scented light and yield
Some haunted pleasure before my doom
Some delight before my bones are sealed.
Drip, drip O’ candle, the Riddle of Death!
And may I utter correct with dying breath
What it were the living candle spake
To those dying, the woeful shibboleth.
Drip, drip O’ candle, but spew thy flame
So that it may give my name to fame
And by writing in the cold and dark of night
Leave tale of what I became.
And in the drip of life, death and time
May God himself see this rhyme
For he himself inspired the poet
While slander covered what genius proved
That Heaven and Earth both had moved.
OF ROBINS AND ROSES
Of robins and roses, God spoke eloquently
Then I came along, to attempt the same in song
God could not be bettered, but futilely, I tried
Now in between the covers of books
My essays, they will hide.
When bright fame spreads, beware!
His dark brother, obscurity
Lurks quite near
And in the bright shadow
Of the dying sun
Laurel wreaths may find
Their crowns undone
In the struggle between glory
THE AGE OF FABLES
We are fancy now but fables soon
May is done now comes the June
Spring is song and summer long
In fall will die many an eye
We are fancy now but fables soon
In youth we hung the very moon
In age we sung a merry tune
Then Time and myth make monolith
Of names and dates, the wretched fates
They string and measure and cut our treasure
From low to great the Earth makes room
And each of us she will consume
‘Tis her duty and our doom.
Poetry comes only from happiness
No matter how sad the line
There shall be some poetry and wit
If the poet knew joy just a bit.
Poetry comes only from powers
Tested by grief’s harshest woe
And lines writ in fate’s fairer hours
May rise from well-springs far below.
Poetry comes only from gladness
Of life’s better moments that will
In time turn to dust and to sadness
The evolution of joy into madness.
Poetry comes not from worldly wealth
No nabob with his pompous pelf
Ever writ fairer line
Than Chaucer ever did, or myself.
Poetry comes not from the scholar
Rote makes no poet of a man
Rare is the schoolboy who ever thought
To the degree, that Socrates ever did, or me.
TO STARLINGS AND SPARROWS
THE STARLING REVELER
The birds were chirping in the morn So I said to one near my bower born,
“Give voice to some rhymed inspiration To me of this budding day, And I’ll put your verse in a play.”
So the Starling cheeped this lay And he thought it very clever:
“A flower may last but a day But its beauty lasts forever If set down in a play By some poetic reveler.”
So I set his lyric to ink And looked back up to see, He was gone in a flash and wink, Of pen and eye, from the tree. So I wished that long his wings In winds and breeze, to fly Across the cloudless sky And when Death some day Seeks his wings, Still his voice to be heard In future evenings, And in castle, street and bower His lay remain as lovely As the budding flower.
Beauty may become Grace
And Grace always becomes Beauty
But Beauty, like the rose
Will pale and fade
While grace, like the Oak
Will grow to shade
All beneath its elegant limb
ODE TO THE WINGED POET
When The lights burn warm and the day has ceased
And Men then turn to sleep and rest
The poet’s hour has just begun
He Forgoes sleep for what is best
The poet writes what the day confessed
A poet is the bird that sings
In moonlit hours among the trees
And restless are the poet’s wings
And must record that which he sees
Could be the bird is new
And this his first of warmth-felt springs
So he warbles and he coos
Tired worn hearts he warms and soothes
The poet is the bird that sings
While his feathered friends are blessed
Wrapped in downy-covered wings
Quick to sleep and long to rest
Night will bring the cease of day
And if mild and sweet the weather
God will give some tuneful lay
To a poet wrapped in feather
His song in sleep is heard
By men and fellow bird
And as the sun crest the rim
The poet’s eyes are soon to dim
For sleep must come and food forgot
And hunger thus the poet’s lot
To the poet no thought of the waking east
The sleeping poet upon his song doth feast
THE TALE OF GREYWING
THE SHADOW GREY
I chanced upon her in the brush
When the stars I went to view
And found her lying where she fell
Upon the midnight dew
A lifeless child of flight and brief Her life condensed Sad wing gave silhouette to night
And stark the contrast in my sight
So the muse within me paused
Of regal things sublimely sensed
They hold empire within the sky
These things with wings that fly
Some bit of king within their wing
Some bit of queen when verse they sing
Some bit of prince some bit of rake
When low they swoop across the lake
Some bit the baron and the lord
When they glide above the world
And deep the sadness when they die
And take their leave from shining sky
If death were but a gift to life
Grown aged infirm decayed
Then I could reconcile myself
To such a thing as this
But to give to life these wings and sight
By which to view the world
From the region man aspires
Then to clip its wings
And draw its lungs of breath
Is to take away empires
And fling it unto death
She will sing none in the grave
This shallow grave I made
No king-like view will she command
When spring comes by next year
But I may dream her dust may sing
If mixed with poet’s tear
And fly she may within my mind
Among the poet’s sphere
And though her death a common lot
I think her life were not
She once could fly and sing
Now quiet is her lyre and airless is her wing
And sadly from her heart I plier
The arrow from a sling
A CATHEDRAL AND A SAINT
In a forest primeval I took a jaunt When the trees of leaves were gaunt And soon felt some awakening So I knelt upon the forest floor To gauge the time by light That wrap’t its atoms amongst the leaves Of the aged Oaks branching might Knelt I did in reverence and wonder For here in the Cathedral of God I was but repentant sinner Hewed from air and sod Stood I did amongst the brake And wondered if for livings sake Could God have meant that man is blessed When trees in light are dressed
Could God have fashioned for man’s baptism The raging storm and rainbow’s prism Once did God breathe upon the Earth And cause the thicket’s wind And thus give man and beast the seasons Of heat and cold a blend
To take such things for granted when God gives sight to men Makes of them God’s sepulcher And seems surely to me a blunder When man makes light of wonder
The tree is nearer to God for having no ear Does not hear the preachings of silly men Nor guilty idea of sin The tree is nearer to Earth for having no feet Plants his being in the sod to soak up The sweet sweat of God The tree is nearer to Truth for having no hands Has no knowledge of mighty commands And simply gives up his leaves When time comes for merciful reprieves The tree is nearer to man than man himself is And having no mouth gives no weak reply When God and Time sends decree That he should die And take his leave from shining sky This be the tree a noble majesty
FIVE ODES MELANCHOLIC
And of Tragedy
THE LADY AND THE MANDRAKE
And the Twilight Sleep
A winsome lass of bright eyes of blue and shadow’d light Came into view one moon lit night My words will tell the ghastly sight So on back where with utmost care Could speak this scene of lost Colleen So lit I my taper put nib to paper And penned this tale of ghostly pale
‘Twas a twilight sleep she took In the forest among the shade Within the bore out nook That God and beast hath made Diverse times she woke From vision of fancied amore But the spell was shortly broke Same each time as was before
So a twilight sleep she took One to close the lid of night Down upon her forest world And escape her dreary blight And soon among the brake Before her sleeping eye Danced the deadly mandrake In lovely symmetry
And the girl waxed enraptured By his sweet and beauteous form And let her soul be captured In perfumed chloroform In dreams she laughed and danced With step airy and light As the mandrake wrap’t and lanced Her form within the night And in the sylvan glade The moon cast down its beams To wake the sinking maid From the mandrake’s killing dreams
But the light was soft aglow And no match for the tendrilled beast Who slaked his thirst on red Bordeaux And supped on tender feast Came now the borderland of night Where dreams step into death And with her fading wight She took her dying breath Then night passed into day And day passed into night And grew a living gravestone To the sleeping sprite
JUNE DAY DEATH
A PINK ROSE FOR ELEANOR
(Eleanor Duchaine, 1484-1495)
Tonight her grave is quiet Beneath the moon Her body turned to dust, too soon Yet may her soul be free of fear She was a lover of pink rose petals,
What God leaves undone on Earth In Heaven, settles Earth knew of her anguish deep But now she’s wrap’t in nectar’d sleep And where that spot is, we shall know For there will pink rose petals grow And there, love curled and wrap’t in bloom, Upon her sacred tomb
THE GARDEN PRINCESS
(to Eleanor’s mother)
She was perfection, like the rose, Which there beyond the willow In the garden, grows A dainty figment within God’s imagination He touched the Earth and she blossomed, Poetry in creation.
She was perfumed, like the spring When gingersnaps and daisies cover the hills, And there are the beatings of crickets and wings To augment the beauty of daffodils and things
She was an angelic ray of delight, Charming and refined as butterflies in flight Diaphanous wings of silver and gold A bewitchment for man and beast to behold
She was a ballerina of gentleness and grace And all monuments in Rome Less perfect than her face Eyes the hue of sunset, set around some features Which God had deemed to set a crown As queen of all fair creatures
SEVEN ODES CONTEMPTUOUS
And of cynical mien
AN ODE OF CONTEMPT
THE SUN SLEEPS
When the sun sleeps, the poet weeps
And as surely she opes her eyes the poet dies
Care-worn the poet’s heart in sunny skies
The poet’s bride is his pen and he a loving groom
Who sings her praise with his verse
Within his study room
Bed-mate with grief and gloom
And loneliness his doom
How quick the heart of the poet is compressed
Between the kiss and wink of an eye
And the heart of a lady is the one part of woman
Upon which the poet must rely
And that part which gives to him his eternal sigh
The critique of poetry is but The creation of complications When it’s really quite simple; Read it, feel it, decipher it yourself! And add not the scholar’s pedantic pelf
THE RHYMESTER REPOSES
Here I sit, upon my bejeweled chest, A writer of rhyme, And within treasures little known, But as I sit, I ponder the time. . .
Tis great to be rhymester of things so beautiful and rare Of things so undiscovered and fair Of things so exquisitely wrought with care An army I command When pen meets with hand And the grace of the rhyme A trumpet call to arms Of all that’s best within Here I sit a rhymester, But a rhymester king, no less And far-famed one day, unless These rhymes find their keep In the hands of one asleep If so, then rhyme will weep Here I sit, a solitary soul, With pretty writings on a scroll To mark the time that I have strolled Across the mystery But an ambitious rhymester, no less Whose rhyme shall go to press From there, the fools may guess
The sun does rise and the sun does sink For simpler reasons than we think He does not lift the veil of night To make for leader’s clamorings An easy light for greater things But to show for eyes of apple-mellon What wondrous things there is no telling The stars that twinkle in the spheres Are not to guide the Ships of State But to allay the fears That burden sweet minds with heavy weight The moon that smiles from east to west Is not there to suggest A guide for croppers of the field But is offering of light when earth has exchanged day for night And if the clouds do not swirl To every corner of the Earth To reflect in the eyes of little churls A purple dragon, breathing mirth, Then I claim no arrogant knowledge Of the bigger things around me, Ignorance shall be my high degree And I’ll die the way life found me
LISTEN! THE POET SPEAKS
I am but a seed That in time will surely sprout So look not on with superior glare If I sit in thought or wander about I am a man I’ll do as I please I’ll steal through the forest For the company of trees I’ll be a companion to the woods Two hermits beguiled This man will not forsake The wonders in the wild
Idle hands are the devil’s tools Only for the aimless and the fools For the better part of a lifetime My hands have worked at what’s best with no sordid, filthy crime to mar the honor in my chest To rhyme of trees and birds and light Is why God gave my hand the right To pine away the precious time In pensive thought and pretty rhyme
Vile death! Come slake your thirst with my blood, Spate thy wrath in full Grind these bones with thy teeth, sir And hew my loins asunder But my verse you shall not carry under! Hell hath no cupboard Where such nectar could stay, ‘Tis but the dregs you carry away
SIX ODES TO POWER
With thyself and thy rings of smoke
Build an invisible frame of noble works
Within thy bower
And to the Muses of Fate, invoke
The budding fruits of thy power
Strike thy flame and give debate
To whether or no ye shall be great
Then sprinkle grey ash upon foul qualms
And dream of thy day of inaugurate
And doubts, by fire, assassinate
Who do you dream to be? The supreme soul of an heroic age, Imprinting your name upon history’s page? A courageous dreamer in the night of youth, Whose dreams come out in the day as truth? A soul who stood against all obstacles Strong, free and tall And in the end was greater for the fall? Then you must know,
No man is island or king who will stand undefeated Before God and everything And in the greatest there is weakness of the most common kind, As well stupidity and ignorance In the most sublime of mind And in the end, the height of a man Is but his dream, And his breadth is but his trust And if his actions be supreme His destiny, sacred dust.
Imagine you are a king With all powers of the Earth Bowing to no single thing Divine decree your birth Imagine you are the wind With its force and fury And with your fury, bend to break, Your weakened worry Imagine you are the Seven Seas And all waters besides these And with raging oceans swell, The fears of mortal man dispel Imagine you are possessed of wings And the gift of flight And in flight all everything is in your realm of sight Imagine your feet are speed defined And when the ground they barely meet The swiftest of mankind Imagine knowledge of Earth and Heaven Within your mind, is stored And with this power given Over the world, a lord Imagine your heart is larger Than all the universe A lover of all life and form To slay the hatred curse Imagine your soul a pantheon
Wherein all gods have space To make of you a champion Master of your race Imagine all of this, and more, God gave you these great powers But just remember, The greatest wars Are won in simpler hours
THE VICARS OF GOD
Blaze loud, ye Trumpeteers! And reign in thy steeds. Dress the table for banquet and make provisions of the noblest vintage. Robe the theatre in ivied garlands and prepare the podium for declamations.
And take note: Ye Poets, ye Philosophers, ye Men of Glory! Raise thy pen to paper, for here cometh I, The subject of your story.
And take measure: Ye Lords, ye Kings, ye Men of Power! Raise thy scepters high, for here cometh I, In this immortal hour.
And take courage: Ye Children, ye Babes, ye Youth! Arm thy souls with boldness, for here cometh I, to give paradigm upon which to hang your truth.
And take pains: Ye Tyrants, ye Despots, ye Dictators of Hate! Raise your storied armies, for here cometh I. And soon you will know my weight and whether or not it’s great.
As for these: Old Mortal Time, Dateless Mighty Dust, Dark-Hooded Mystery, soon you will be humbled, for here sits Brooding History.
The stars at night shine for the kings The queens and their princes and Vile thieves in the wings While darkness envelopes and light invades As the lot of mankind reenact former plays
The businessman gathering, The philosopher reading The poet pining and the godhead leading Across nations of the world And over mighty seas Nature will continue To spin her mighty creeds
A thunderbolt from heaven From God’s majestic hand Will be the cataclysm To unite the brotherhood of man The Justinian code and law, World-nation, one and all
The Egyptian Pharaoh’s tombs, Hid beneath the catacombs The Emperor who, in his youth, Was pupil to the slave A meeting of minds, Each grown from the other Was end of the beginning, To the Age of Knaves The birth of a greater order, The Age of Brothers
Epictetus and Aurelius, These two who sought Wisdom in youth And age in thought Plato and Aristotle, Another pupil and mastermind Two greater philosophers This globe will never find They began the modern science, From a tyranny’d past This knowledge from questions They themselves asked
Alexander the Great, Splendid youth at its best Reigned during the age of the civilized savage And upon that foul wave, he crest Yet still men fail the test
Newton and Galileo, Minds of genius, sons of light And with their planetary laws, Set the worlds to right Milton with his godly pen, Upon his parchment wrote Blinded by the fear of God, Every age he smote
Socrates of Athens, Ignorance his degree Torchbearer of Man’s Democracy And thus he drank the Hemlock drink To make men after weeping, Begin to think
Washington and Lincoln, On the edge of Western time Made for all successors an impossible paradigm And now these men are statues, Where virtues in their face Seep slow into the Race
Mortals, I bid thee: Watch those who seek to lie In marble bust on pedestals high
Chauncey DeBeers-circa 1490’s and
A.C. Braithewaite; 1990’s. Until Doomsday, unfinished
THE GREY AND SOMBERS
Three from The Woodsman
THE BIPEDAL KING
An Old Man spoke to me once, in the Grey and Sombers, and said
“I lived, aye, I lived, Life flowed like a stream, Life flowed like an ocean, Like a magical potion The years were enchanted, Indeed it would seem.
“I laughed, aye, I laughed, It cracked and it plundered The guilt in my breast, And due to the laughter The grief was divest.
“I thought, aye, I thought, Of things sundry and various Of things sold and bought And knew all such thinking Would be destined for naught
“I wrote, aye, I wrote, My pen flashed with wit My wit filled the page, Worth not a spit, Said the arrogant sage.
“I walked, aye I walked, Round in circles and lines Up steep hills and ravines, And despite valiant effort No deep wood or concrete, Bear the print of my feet.
“I loved, aye, I did. My heart was full of gladsome glee My mind was thinking She’d stay with me, Old age has sure taught That love is a tryst, To meet in the dawning And part in the mist.
“‘Tis true, sure and true, All life may be vain, Full of bloated desires, But it’s still good to be king, of bipedal liars.”
THE QUILL AND THE SWORD
‘Tis only the written, Among human things, that lasts And among scribed pages, The best of legends past As the warrior’s blood doth dry, So doth the ink But one remains to die, While the other, in the eye ‘Tis the story remains To leave tale of martial pains.
Do all that greatness may But count all acts as waste If no poet writes the deed In rhymed or unrhymed haste From Birth’s loom to Death’s scythe And all the world’s description Old lives of note but myth, If not the bard’s ambition The pen’s greater than battle-sword Dark ink survives the lord.
One, by time, decomposed By worm and sod While the other remains alive By act of God ‘Tis the pen that gives light To heroes hidden And sad farewells once bidden, ‘Tis the pen that crowns the dead And gives voice to things once said, ‘Tis the pen that writes the story And gives to men their glory,
‘Tis the pen.
The old man told me:
“Take from life what life will give And remember the first rule of life is just to live Add to it some measure of your own And take in the harvest your effort has sown Give back to nature and the world at large And your interest and fee take care to undercharge Along the path, smell the roses, love the seasons Make good of your days And never discount the wonders Of man’s mortal gaze
“The common sunset, miracle sublime Common to every race and clime, The prose ambiance of the noon-day star Should not be taken lightly it is an avatar God sent to earth in the shape of light To make flowers and children And to slay the night The rose bloom and the winging sparrow Trees and springs These are the things of an atheling A man of royal blood a charming prince Will not claim these as appurtenance
“And do love the lives of those you meet And every day find more of life to greet For they are cherished beings of life divine And for a brief passing upon this earth shine Whether pauper or slave rich or elite All memories of the dead are deemed bittersweet
“Time is a thief — never forget it, brother And in time will take your own And children’s mother To wrap them ‘neath scarlet leaves and heavy bough And with decay make mockery Of what he once endowed But life is present and ye youth hold it fast Make of it much for it is no immortal cast Time is a giver before he ‘comes the thief And with his gifts a river Though the flood be only brief
And then he ended with a couplet in the gloom and I tell you, I believed then There was something of him not earthly;
“Of every existence and all eternity this hour is made, As light and shadow, the shade.”
Then he faded into the gloaming, And parted with a wink and smile, And I have not seen him in a very good while
THREE ODES TO THE SCHOLAR
Dedicated to a hoary-bearded scholar
TO THE HOARY BEARDS
GOD IS THE PEN
DEATH OF THE SCHOLAR
FIVE ODES PROPHETIC
And a Summer’s Idyll
These lays, writ in secret, in nights long ago
Shall come to light in a distant age
This poet’s pen and page
And if destiny be a gentleman to me
Long ages after that, his poems to see
The poet is, too, a seer
And in those ages, far distant, I hear
His lyrics being recited by mouth and ear
So now, I close them up
All in their quietus, complete
And one day to be rediscovered, full mete
And Time forgive for my deceit
1552; Henry DeBeers
Where serendipity dwells
There is where the necromancer
Weaves his spells
And of roses and loves and lives
Composes his tales
And the rest connives
A fiery dawn foreshadowed the day
When his bright soul flew away
A starlit night covered the Earth
When death tallied up his worth
His body was buried in earth without trace
And eternity will hide his face. But yet,
A day of victory will give cause for the lyre
When I leave successor to empire
A double immortality shall give eons to a name
And age upon age to his fame
And as encore to the play
These lays will seize the day
When he and I no longer may. And so,
I shall die one day soon
But will leave this leaf behind
So as to continue somewhat in living
Unless all men be blind
If so, then never mind
But here they are and shall remain
These, the beautiful lyrics of his brain.
A SUMMER’S IDYLL
I remember, When in the morning upon arising I’d shuffle to the window to gaze upon the world, And saw in the life about a new day unfurled, And in the East above the sunrise There loomed a storm, To bathe the dawning day in cleaner form,
And when, in the course of a hard day’s labor The sweat-dripped brow looked up to see, Far off shimmering in the golden light, A pond of blue with fishes striking, God never made anything more to my liking,
And later, in the vespertine, When the sun covered the world In golden splendor, and a gentle wind stole the trees Of their emerald leaves And the blue jays floated upon air With their wings of feather, I knew Nature never made more perfect weather.
And in the night, when the day’s light passed And the birds ceased their flights And the earth settled down After the sun sunk in the west, It was summer days like these I deemed the best.
I danced a poet’s dance
Beneath a poet’s moon
And soon began to swoon
From the merry tune
So set I down to rest
And soon my pen was blest
With poems from my breast
And these became the lays
That ye may just appraise
While conversing in cafes
THE NECROMANCER’S LAST TALE
First of Summer, 1499
A Promise of Periwinkles
Here are some heart-wrought lays
To read by some warm fire
In dark and rainy days
Take them from some shelf,
When this poet’s gone to hide
And read some of myself
That I left before I died
And to the worms: Eat the meat of me
And your feast will be sublime
Mother Earth will have teeth for you in time,
And if but fodder in a field
Is what you’ll leave
I will give some trace of God, I believe
Here on earth there are giant men
Unknown on any stage
That go by names, though oft’ mispronounced
Of poet, pauper and sage
Aye! That is I, the wise poet of the pauper’d class
And if you would, Milord, raise toast
With crystal’d glass
And Milady, if you please
On some brilliant, starlit night
Blow sweet kiss at lonely grave and think of me
And in my death will grant this fee:
I will carry your kiss
To the noblest of stars
And thy scented breath
Will make them twinkle
And the Heavens will be lit
Like a field of periwinkle.
Soft is the poet and his heart
Like summer idling in a grove
And lovely the object of his devotion
So let death not take this scripted emotion
For sentimental is this hooded cleric
For his spells of rhymed chimeric
And when my ground is cold
And I’m wrap’t within it old
There below some verdant mound
The poet cached and without sound
When the hope of further beauty is dead
And the earth and me have wed
Let the weeds take over that forgotten sight
But remember these things I write.
POSTSCRIPTUM TO THE TALES
One once stated to me:
“These tales could only be as true as the heart is romantic.”
“Of course! Truth is the most romantic thing going in this world, which is why I don’t find too many terribly romantic. It requires a rare bravery to be true.”
I then looked at him over my bifocals, and queried,
Truth is, far more fantastic tales than these have masqueraded in our world as truth, while, in fact, they were something quite else, and still most believe them to be true. History is full of noble and knave, coward and brave, poetic and prosaic, the easily-believable and the incredible. That most of the stories of man have gone unwritten is a simple enough fact to understand, and even if the best and greatest tales of history were to have gone unrecorded, yet to be told as tall tales, half wouldn’t believe the half of it and the other half would have to amend the tales to suit those mere minds of the pragmatic dispositions.
Such souls say that truth would not be so poetic, and such poetry as this could not be true. Well, poetry—like history—is not often all true. To make truth poetic and poetry true, one needs to paint a little poetry into the prose that originated it. A book of poetry is no less than biography of a soul’s history set down in verse. Hold a magic mirror to the poem and you will see juxtaposed with it the soul of the poet who wrote it. Where to find such a mirror. One thing is sure: the poet’s poems are more true to the truth of the poet than any dozen autobiographical works.
Whatever is fact and fiction of Chauncey and Claire’s lives we at least know their souls; whoever, whenever and wherever they may have been. And if they painted, with the brush strokes of the artist to the canvas that was their lives, some bit of poetry to their prose, I give them only appreciation due on the true portrait the artists made.
R. D. Braithewaite Sr.
THE FINAL TALES
The Love Letters of the Seventh Keeper
To his Kept
Robert & Ruby Mills
My Gal Ruby,
Tell your father his demands are met. I signed papers on the place at 1112 Ogilvie and we own it now, lock, stock and barrel. It is a good little home, with a young oak in the back, a neat little walk-way to the door, and shutters on all windows. There is no porch in the front but there is place for one to be built. It has three bedrooms and one large kitchen. It’s a three-quarter acre lot, with space for at least a dozen flower gardens. All your needs will be met and I’ve just procured contracts that’ll set us up well. You know I love you and there has never walked a woman here or anywhere who can hold a candle against my darling Ruby.
I keep late hours, doing business with reading and some writing. One day I’m going to write the great American novel about our perfect love affair. Write and let me know when you’re ready.
April 2, 1931
My Guy Robert,
Father says I’m not going anywhere with you until I get a ring on a certain finger. He says you can come anytime you want, long as you bring a license of marriage. I want to be married here. You know Mother can’t travel easily. I’m afraid of the big city and don’t know how I will get on there. You know how shy I am and I’m afraid I won’t know anybody and nobody will like me, coming from here. They are so sophisticated in the big city. I have been worried about you there, all alone. You are alone?
I was looking through magazines the other day and saw a skyscraper in New York. The article said it is over a hundred stories tall. Do they make buildings that big? May is a good month for weddings.
Your Darling Ruby
April 12, 1931
My Gal Ruby,
Yes, they do make buildings that big. They are calling that one the Empire State Building. It has to do with the size of heads in big cities. Their heads are so big it takes big buildings. Our town doesn’t yet have buildings near that big, but give it time. It’s a nice, medium-sized city and the people are friendly as they are back home. You’ll make plenty of friends here, I’m sure of it. There’s much more to do here.
They have a stage for live plays and movies downtown. We’ll go there on Fridays and Saturdays and catch the latest flicks and watch the thespians strut some Shakespeare. I don’t care for the talkies that much, but I know you do, so we’ll go every week. Maybe I’ll grow into it. The Municipal Auditorium is a nice scene. The structure is what they call Art Deco. I think you’ll like it. They have dedicated it to the fighting men of World War 1. Downtown is full of window shops and furniture stores. Around the Courthouse are great oaks. They are at least half a century old by the looks of it.
Just off Boston Street is “Reds Alley”, named after a man named Red, who was killed in a duel in 1849 by a man named Green. Seems to me they would have named it Green’s Alley, for Green was the victor. It seems Green offended Red’s ladylove. You women have caused more mayhem in this world than all devices of man’s mayhem combined.
They have streetcar service, but I haven’t used it. Even the governor lives here. A lot of people think he might be president some day. We won’t be living directly in the big city, but a smaller town across the river. It’s more a village, really. It’s less congested and not as much history and no building bigger than two or three stories. A lot of good people here. May sounds good. I’ll be able to get there, with license and ring in hand, on the 12th. Till then,
Your guy, Robert D.
April 21, 1931
They were married May 16, 1931. After a weekend stay at a honeymoon mountain-cottage on Petit Jean Mountain, they moved into their little home. Over the next four decades they raised one son, lost one son, and grew old.
She died in 1967 and he followed in ’74. Their home was sold and renters occupied it for the next 33 years, at which point it was demolished. In the of 2008, flowers were growing where the living room used to be. A few years later they built a parking lot over it, to make way for the travelers staying at the new hotel built over the sight. Beneath the black asphalt sleep the seeds of a shy woman’s flowers. No doubt that someday they will grow toward the sun again.
THE FIFTEEN LITERARY THEORIES
R. D. Mills, Sr.
The Seventh Keeper
The Ditty of ’26
‘The Mule and the Philosopher’
The work of the philosopher is to ponder
The work of the mule is to tread
And long are the miles
And sublime the thoughts
Before the mule and philosopher, dead
The Ditty of ’28
The mortal poetry of dusk and dark
Is best writ with blade
In lover’s bark
But beware thy sweet writings
Gain not new love’s sightings
A Ditty on The Making of Hay
For the poet it is a boon
To make sleep before noon
And better yet, to make sleep
With a brunette
Before the cock crows the day
Tis good, for the poet
To make hay, before the sun-set
Halfway across the earth in Tibet
Good enough to know, for the poet
That it’s a decent hour somewhere
When he lays his head down to sleep
And prays the lord his rhyme to keep
A Ditty on Education
A Clever Ditty
A man could speak as clever as any ever
If intelligence his lever
And from doubt and unbelief, he sever
A man could think as clever as any ever
If he will toil at thought, while all else are never
A man could act as clever as any ever
If he would attempt his great endeavor
And to failure and defeat, give but one reply:
A Ditty upon Time
Or ‘On the Futility of Arrogance’
Time will travel a thousand years
Into a future where
Nations will rise to glory and fame
Nations will crumble to dust and shame
And a thousand names of renown, the same
The cycle of life will revolve and grow
And the cycle of death will take below
All things that crawl above, and so
A stillness of composition, and then
Another thousand years
A Ditty on Fish
If men were fish
And thoughts were water
There’d be no need for gills
For all the seas would have gone dry
And not a fish to wonder why
A Ditty Upon Life
Life is what warms you
In the winter
When the ground is a’ frozen
And the air is a’ shiver
Why, life is heat giver
Life is what makes the toes numb
Why, life ain’t dumb
It has a way of making you
Come in from the cold
Especially when you’re old
A Ditty Upon Poets
A poet at twenty, a poet indeed
A bloom-scented lady
And life his creed
A poet at thirty, a poet indeed
If such be his fate
And God his seed
A poet at forty, a poet not quite
Youth has vanished
Into the deep night
A poet at fifty, no such thing
For so long
No man may sing
A poet at sixty, shame to the beast
Long since a fat man at the feast
A Ditty for Sympathy
Born unto an ill-fated lot
The Age of Eros all forgot
Once there were men who lit the night
Now today, few the bright
How is it, my destiny
Be wrapped up in this poesy
And none so made as me to share
These thoughts of God, and rare
One amiss from this pair
The Ditty of ’39
Beware of the night,
You are what you dream
Beware of the day,
You are what you seem
The Grand Poem of ’25
(The poet at age 19)
Here are the stars Before my eyes
They are the prize Of the poet
And being poor of worldly things
Of stars and things The poet sings
His recompense For lacking pence
God makes his view Forever new
These are grand things The poet sings
These lays, these plays, these days
And if I were a god Or if I were a clod
I’d still think it odd
That man missteps so at the promenade
for Life is the magic that animates clay
Life is the light that animates day
Life is the voice that has its say
Life is the flower in the May
And life, too, the teeth within the prey
The Blossom Queen
How may one judge between the lily and rose?
Well it’s quite simple, Sir,
Use your nose
And if the nose lies
Then proceed to the eyes
The two are contrary
Though beauty lay in both
One is white
And the other may be
But red is the color
You’ll most likely see
And if eye and nose
Are not sufficient, I suppose
The laying on of hands
Will detect which is the Rose
This bee’s fruit has thorns
Which make the hands bleed
No poor, defenseless object
Is this sacred reed
The rose, a symbol of love,
But hatred sometimes, too
And though the rose is red
A heart she may turn blue
Now the Lily is of purity
No thorn upon her plant
And as her chastity implies
Do not her roots replant
She’s stuck to one spot of earth
No new spot she’ll agree
It’s at the place above her birth
She serves the bumblebee
The rose is happy anyplace
Transplant her here and there
There will still be smiles upon her face
And bees within her hair
She is the beauty queen of blossom
All earth is to her liking
And to the man or an opossum
The rose is always striking
The Valentine’s Day Poem
(The poet at 21)
To my first love,
There is no love like the first of love
It captures the heart, enraptures it still
Till the sands of time reach their last And the hour-glass bottom reaches its fill.
There is no love like the first of love
It sleeps ever quiet while the pendulum swings on
Till some quaint little memory he stumbles upon
And the memory of her love comes gushing, anon
There is no love like the first of love
It begins our histories, we count time by the date
When first we kissed Kristy, or Kelly, or Kate
and all kisses after fail to relate
There is no love like the first of love
From winter to spring two new hearts explore
Through summer and fall four feet foot-sore
And thoughts of forever, and one to adore
But first love’s a season, perhaps a year
Though her mem’ry forever, with a fear
That but one day to love, but ever, revere
My first love, my heart’s first lyre
Seasons gone, now quiet the choir
“Love forever,” spoke sweet, the liar…
So other eyes and lips, my eyes and lips to meet
But to find their virtues incomplete
Other voices and whispers, I confess
To ease my lonely heart’s distress
But a century gone, and another day
Shall pass but no voice or whisper say
Things so sweet as she did back when
We sat beneath the lark and wren
The Grand Address
May 30, 1963
To all Scientists, Scholars, Philosophers and Poets; To all Lords and Ladies of the realm, I wonder. . .
What will your work after this day be?
It was not your fathers brought you here, But that brain within your eye! So reason close and listen tight, see all that falls within your sight, the world is more than black and white. There are miracles beyond your ken and can’t, so use your minds for a wiser slant—upon the unusual mysteries. The old energy now does fade away, replaced by the new. . .
What will you say?
We old lions have roared and now grow quiet. You young lions whine and wish to buy it. But great thoughts cannot be bought or paid; they must be fought for, Heaven made. Life’s great gifts go to noble souls who work! So idle, easy pleasures shirk. Go now and grow, you poets, philosophers, and scholars free. Think those new thoughts we old lions could not, would not, think—or see.
Robert D. Braithewaite
At Junior’s graduation
A CHAUVINIST POET
Robert D. & Ruby Braithewaite, Sr.
December of 1947
It was an evening in December, 1947. They sat in the living room. She knitted as he pontificated. They were in matching French mustache leather club chairs, the kind old, tired people enjoy sitting in. They were only 41 and 37, but people were older sooner back then. A half-moon flame mahogany table with an Aladdin alacite lamp sitting on it was between them. The light’s bulb, being the old-timey incandescent, was warm and yellow. She had commandeered the footstool.
He was deep in expression:
“Time eventually charges double for our happiness—a grief tax always comes due—and only the soulless are forever delinquent in the payment of it. Until then we may and should be prodigal in our spending of gifts given by providence and circumstance. That is wonder —the extravagant spending of the currency of life.
“Think about it. All songbirds are male; all bright tail-feathers are male; the male of the species seek to woo the young-bearers of the species. It is our destiny and our undoing. And that is why we have wonder: because we have beauties and beauty. The fairer race (of women I speak) generally do not wonder because they have not the aspect of observation men do.”
Her own expression changed at this. He raised his finger,
“Allow me to explain, Dear. Of your fairer race I plead forgiveness the comment that you do not have wonder. Of course you have wonder! Just not like we men have wonder. The reason for this is the true enchantments of the Man of Wonder are nature in general and women in particular—so why would lovely woman need to wonder so? Perhaps your spectacular and special race of beings wonder about lesser things than man, precisely because man wonders about woman, but woman does not wonder about woman, for she is woman! I do put my foot in my mouth?”
“Perhaps we should carry on as best we can and forget this matter of who wonders best?”
“Perhaps. But this I know: a thing is more perfectly observed from an objective point of view, which is why women are coy and off-putting. They are giving the wonderer his proper time and distance with which to view the work of art which they are. Remember? You did that exact same thing with me, long ago! Romantic wonder is the first and last of wonder. All other wonder would have been still-born were it not for love. Wonder is the elixir in love which makes it famous and immortal, and a love song is the heart’s payment to another for love given or beauty received.”
She continued knitting, looking over at him just long enough to express her pity. Not happy with not having the last word, he replied to her pitiful look,
“We sing out, Milady, our wonder so we may come to know our completion. The female completes the male. I do not know what completes the female. I do not believe it is the wonderer. Perhaps womankind do wonder greater than men. Perhaps from her wonder of herself. Yes. . . that must be it. She completes herself by the wonder of herself!”
She put down her knitting and wondered out loud,
“I’ll tell you what I wonder about, Old Man. Why does that lamp give off a yellow glow?”
Grandfather knew very little about light-bulb science.
“Huh. . . . That is a mighty fine question, Milady.”
And as he pondered it, the woman then had time to knit.
THE ANCESTRY OF THE TALES
A. C. Braithewaite
The tales created in the Old World during the Age of Discovery have known a long and obscure history. Their journey began with the death of their writer, when they wended their way into the hands of his sweetheart, Claire Capture Brunswick, who kept them privileged for the next 22 years. Upon her death they passed into the hands of Henry Cecil DeBeers, the poet’s brother. There is no record of the year of his death and where journeyed the poems after his stewardship.
From circa 1552 A. D. until the year 1853 A. D., their course is lost to conjecture, and in point of fact, until 1944 A. D., the year they were passed on to my grandfather, there is no extant medieval or modern manuscript of The Lost Tales. There is only this one and my grandfather’s 1943 edition.
The succession of The Tales of the Necromancer in America commences with the arrival of the orphaned Braithewaite in 1781—my 4th great-grandfather—at 11 years of age. A stowaway adopted by the charitable Braithewaite family, he would have a son born in 1803 by the name of Charles Alexander—my 3rd great-grandfather—who would die in 1825, at 22 years of age. Charles Alexander’s posthumous son, George the 1st—born the year Charles Alexander died—would be the first receiver and Keeper of The Tales in America. This occurred in 1853, after the death of his grandfather, Doc Braithewaite, when George 1st was 28.
George 1st—my 2nd great-grandfather—retained them 43 years, until 1896, when they would pass to George II. Twenty years later, in 1916, they were bequeathed to Robert M. Braithewaite—my great-grandfather—who was then aged 37 years.
He who would keep them 28 years, until 1944, when they were transferred to my grandfather—Robert D. Braithewaite Sr.—aged then 38 years. He secured them 30 years. In 1974, he handed them to my father, Robert D. Braithewaite, Jr.
My father then presented them to me in 1984, when I was aged 14 years. It is a foregone conclusion I am not to marry or author a descendant and keeper of beautiful secrets by Claire’s appointed hour, as I am, in some few hours, to be 42. The Sub Rosa Society has come to its end.
Since their sojourn here in America, they have quietly traveled through eight generations and the hope of a ninth relay is no more a prospect. What will become of them? None can know. So this, the final, modern-day draft of the lays and letters of Chauncey DeBeers and Claire Capture Brunswick.
TIME-LINE OF THE TALES
“. . . I shall relegate Beauty’s secrets to the Sub Rosa Society and they will keep safe and secure these pronouncements of love till the time of the Son of the Last Secret Keeper.”
Claire Capture Brunswick,
THE SUB ROSA SOCIETY
Charles (Chauncey) Alexander DeBeers
I. Claire Capture Brunswick (1499-1521)
(Born 1478?—Died 1521)
II. Henry Cecil DeBeers (1521-1552?)
(Born 1470’s?—Died 1552?)
III. “Doc” Braithewaite (?-1853)
(Born 1770—Died 1853)
Charles Alexander Braithewaite
(Born 1803—Died 1825)
IV. George Braithewaite I (1853-1896)
(Born 1825—Died 1896)
V. George Braithewaite II (1896-1916)
(Born 1854—Died 1916)
VI. Robert M. Braithewaite (1916-1944)
(Born 1879—Died 1944)
VII. Robert D. Braithewaite Sr. (1944-1974)
(Born 1906—Died 1974)
VIII. Robert D. Braithewaite, Jr. II (1974-1984)
Eighth and Last Secret Keeper
(Born 1945—Died 1984)
IX. A. C. Braithewaite (Rigel Kent) (1984—2012)
Ninth Keeper; Revealer
(Born 1970—Died 2012)
ELEVEN FINAL THEORIES
A Short Trip to the Moon
Once Upon a Time
What Would a Creator Say?
A Question of Time
Mr. Silver’s Theory of Possible Greatness
The Wonderling’s Manifesto
A Proclamation of Astonishment
Afterword, Epilogue & Conclusion
A SHORT TRIP TO THE MOON
On the road to wonder, wonder will talk to you of the state of the world, of men, and of the stars that guide them. Wonder will speak for all who ever lived, and ever will. Wonder is clear-eyed witness to this earth and its troubles. When we lose our natural wonder, it is often replaced with a sophisticated disregard for the miracle of life. The speed of life is subjective; it’s how long it takes to get from one life-altering understanding to the next. With wonder, in a few hours you may go from being half-dead to fully alive.
My basic observation is that the Copernican principle that earth is not the center of the solar system, galaxy, or universe has been in the minds of men far longer than Copernicus. But the idea that man is not at the center of the universe still has a ways to go before it finds its champion. Mankind simply may, or may not be, the tiny part of the universe which is aware of itself. On the other hand, to produce the actual number of men truly aware of themselves would, I think, be the most astonishing of all universal truths in that, having the capacity for self-knowledge, the lot of men forfeit that painful recognition for empty ego gratification.
By the default of men toward following their own star, death wins the dispute between existing versus living. There is a great corollary between astrophysics and life. Man seeks forms of fame more than life, while fame—and light—are no true properties of mass or of life. As one famous philosopher-astronomer said, The existence of numberless visible stars can prove nothing against the existence of numberless invisible ones.
Arthur Stanley Eddington said we learn about the stars by receiving and interpreting the messages which their light brings to us. The reply one makes to such a message is dependent on the light within them. Man measures the matter in the universe and calls it knowledge, while to consider measurement as possibility rather than finality is the measure of wisdom. Errors must be assumed. All the universe, and the life within it, remain an open field. The forces out there make our earth no more than a grain among great mountains. Those forces do what we do here, tear each other apart. The prime labor of man is to learn how to control energy, rather than use energy to control. We are here by unbelievable sequences of astrophysical and geological circumstances. Is life rare? Space in the universe could be rare, depending on how you define space. So see to your definitions.
Light is the cosmic speed limit. The speed of light in the vacuum of space is considered a universal physical constant and is used to measure distance. Light travels in waves. The speed of waves are dependent on the medium they travel through. If the medium contains any particulate, even dust, light will bend, resulting in negative alteration in speed. When light passes through a diamond, the gemstone will cut the speed of light in half.
To consider the values of light, its speed, and the distance it measures, let’s begin with a millisecond—a thousandth of a second. Light travels 186 miles in a millisecond. The brevity of a millisecond is too small for man to comprehend by the senses he possesses. A microsecond is a millionth of a second. A ray of light will travel roughly 1,000 feet in a microsecond. What about a billionth of a second—termed a nanosecond? Light will travel a foot in a nanosecond. These are measurements man can understand only by math, not be sense.
Light takes 0.000005 of a second to travel one mile. In one second, light travels 186,282 miles. In a minute, light travels roughly 11,000,000 miles. In one light hour, 670,616,629 miles have passed. That equals 670,616,629 mph. A light year is 5,878,499,810,000 miles. That’s about 6 trillion miles. As with the smaller distances, so with the longer distances. Man cannot realistically, practically imagine them; but these figures prove useful for measurement—and imagination.
From sun to earth, a distance of 93,000,000 million miles, it takes about 8 minutes,17 seconds. In universal terms, that’s just a hop, skip and jump. For light to cross the 5.6 billion-mile-wide solar system, it takes 8.4 light hours. To cross the Milky Way Galaxy, it takes 100,000 years. Andromeda, the nearest big galaxy, is 2.5 million light-years away. From earth to the edge of the observable universe? 46.5 billion light years. Now we have truly entered the realm of incomprehensibility. How many galaxies are there? Their best guess is billions. It could be trillions. Or more. None know.
The moon gives us the best practical understanding of the speed of light and the distances involved in space. Compared to the size of the universe, the moon relative to earth is essentially a spooned-up companion. It takes 1.3 seconds for the reflected light on the moon to reach us. That’s traveling about 238,000 miles of distance. In 1969, Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. It took 4 days, 6 hours and 45 minutes. The Saturn V rocket blasted the astronauts off from Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. The lunar module “Eagle” landed early on the lunar morning of July 20, 1969.
The speed needle on Apollo 11, as it exited Earth’s atmosphere, read about 7 miles per second. The first stage took Apollo 11 to 6,120 mph. The third stage took the craft to 24,000 mph. From then on Apollo 11 decreased its speed and coasted “uphill”. Twenty-six thousand miles from the moon, they initiated a fall toward it. As stellar flights go, it was like an infant crawling upstairs, then falling back down. But we crawl before we walk. The closest present-day man will ever get to flying—independent of planes and rockets—is to climb a tree, balcony or mountain, and jump.
But, you may ask, if the earth is moving around the sun and the moon is being pulled through space by the earth, shouldn’t we be able to go to space and just stop and wait a couple hours for the moon to get to us? And that is the best question I ever heard relative to such matters. It speaks for an old axiom: If they are made in the spirit of wonder and curiosity, there are no silly or stupid questions. So what is your plan for the next light year? There can be no silly or stupid answer to it, not if it is answered in the spirit of life.
ONCE UPON A STAR
I know what you’re thinking. You are skeptical. Your nut was not cracked. You think Mr. Silver is a figment of the imagination of a writer. I did, too. Until he insisted on being heard, over and over again. I thought the same thing, until I sat and thought about it. My mind, being open to all possibility, helps me not be sure about the things I cannot know the truth of. So I just don’t know anymore.
Since nothing actually makes good sense, it makes perfect sense to me that all of life is the figment of some prolific writer’s imagination. Our days and all their starts and stops are this invisible writer’s constant, annoying revision. Whatever is sure, a man is a work of translation and transformation that never ends, until a man does. And who is to say we ever end? None can. They can only say it’s reasonable we end, but considering how little we know about anything, I do not believe any who speak in absolutes—even grammarians. The moment I find someone who knows, without doubt, the secrets of the eternal verities, even the infinitesimal points of grammar, I know I have met a ninny-foaled-from-a-jack-ass.
So that is my best fit for reason. I don’t know a thing. I invite you to try the same. Sit for a spell and consider it all, then come up with your best fit. I think you could probably figure out just about anything, if you wondered about it long enough. That is what man is, after all, the sitting-and-thinking animal. The laziest people I ever knew worked too much with their hands in a sweaty effort to keep their mind idle. Idle hands are not the devil’s tools; it is the idle mind which does all the worst things here. Some people don’t think deep or long enough. Anybody worth their salt can labor all day, but to think all day would be so out of the question it would cause a revolution.
I have wondered on Mr. Silver for a while. This supernatural being who shows himself every 500 years, or is it every ten-thousand? Whenever that acorn has grown into an oak forest, it’s his time to appear again, to the two in ten-thousand true. To the wonderer’s of the race of man, who keep the wondering heritage of the race intact, he shows himself.
The Milky Way Galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars—some think a trillion—and at least 100 billion planets. The number of stars are unknown, which tells you how difficult it is to come up with facts. It takes a long time of wondering to discover true facts. Before anything is known for sure, one billion—or perhaps one trillion—thoughts of wonder must be accomplished. This is why knowing very much, as a matter of fact, is a true rarity. The single easiest thing for a person to do is take the first thought that is given them. Most fail themselves by accepting the failed dreams of others as their own first dream. The same problem exists with knowledge. Men take the first failed facts as knowledge. Here is something to think about: knowing stars are being born and dying at any given moment makes the number of stars there are in constant flux. So even if they knew the number, it couldn’t be a true fact. Knowledge and facts change, just like everything else. As the cities are gifts of the rivers, so is man the gift of the stars. Being sure of that, I consider it one my grandest and most ignorant absolutes.
So sit with Mr. Silver by a river of stars and speak awhile of your own absolutes. If you are the kind who believes everything you hear and nothing you see, you are his kind. If you believe everything you see and nothing you hear; you are his kind. And if you believe nothing at all, you are his kind. He likes a good nut to crack. He will show you things you will not believe, and that’s the point. Wonder is too incredible to be believed. All the things easily believed aren’t worth spit. If you investigate, you’ll find much more unbelievable than believable. Your sense of wonder requires only your curiosity. Your skepticism, being a form of curiosity, will help with your wonder. I am sure it was Mr. Silver who wrote this book. It is a simple book he wrote, made of pristine wonder. You don’t believe me? He knew you wouldn’t
You should introduce yourself to Mr. Silver. Go sit on the porch and wonder of the stars and life. Take society’s proper dress off your eyes, un-blind yourself, and see the Milky Way with naked eyes. There is a pretty lady there who wears a soft gown that sways behind her as she strolls across the sky. True story. I’ve seen her.
Take up your telescope, call on the ghost of Galileo and resolve the hazy light into individual stars. Find the 30 constellations and give your own names to them. Find the center of the galaxy, it is in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. The Milky Way is brightest there. Go walk through an oak grove and wonder of life and death, and why it’s important to do all that. Plant an acorn and begin your own oak grove. Discover the perfect mountain trail, and consider the work that made it. Sit by the tracks and watch the Mighty Melancholic roll by. Hear the train horn and watch the moon rise over the iron rails. How can something so heavy go that fast—and over such thin rails? It’s like the bumblebee they say cannot possibly fly. But I’ve seen them. They do fly.
I don’t know. Maybe life is just an old wife’s tale. Maybe that pretty lady who wears the soft gown with the long train behind her, way up in the Milky Way, is the old wife and we are her tales. I don’t know. But I wonder. I have been enthralled by the miracle of existence here. Do the same and I think Mr. Silver will show up for you, too. Eventually.
I’m pretty sure it was Mr. Silver who first wrote Once upon a time. He wrote it in the first book ever writ. For most, that was long ago. But time is relative, depending on the observer of it. Depending on which direction you are looking, the future and the past are just the other side of a moment. But to go from one moment to the next does simplify the days a bit. In that spirit, this is a simple book. They say the first book came from Byblos, and is the grandfather of them all. I’m pretty sure Mr. Silver was the one who wrote that book, too.
The first known cities of man learned that the adding of sand and water makes the sea. That was the first dream. Jericho, Byblos, Damascus, these are, relative to the forgotten cities, young cities. Our cities of today have very little history, they are made mostly of young, first dreams. It was once a first dream of a first man to write a first book. That man didn’t know what about, he just had the vague idea of it. Ten-thousand years passed while man perfected the first alphabet, then the first book was finally writ.
Here is what I think about the origin of Mr. Silver. Once upon a time, when Mr. Silver was a young man, he met an old man. Mr. Silver thought the old man seemed older than the dust of a thousand years. The old man said to the young man,
“Let us walk and talk beneath the stars. We will speak in the ancient, sacred language.”
So it happened that once upon a time there was a wonderer. Ten-thousand years ago he lived. He was beautiful of face, form and spirit. In him was the light of stars. After speaking with the old man he made his way into the world and looked and saw the anger of men; he saw the ambitions that twisted their souls. He became life’s first clear-eyed witness to the on-going, unfolding story of man. After seeing, he spoke his truth to the heavens,
“I will not be like these. I will be brave, good and noble.”
With this, the wonderer began his journey into the world and was hopeful of a noble destiny in him. He walked and talked under the stars with many, and knew virtuous life. Then came the day when another saw that the wonderer knew what was in them; he saw the darkness in them. Their soul was twisted. They wished these things not to be known, so they threw dark aspersion on the wonderer, so as to deflect the truth of themselves, by speaking it against another. But the wonderer just smiled and said,
“I will remain bold in my soul, no matter the timid soul you have inherited.”
The timid soul brought others of like mind and twisted soul against the wonderer. These others were also ambitious. A lie is a get-powerful-quick scheme, and these were schemers par excellence. They lusted after the fleeting power lies give to men, and being knowledgeable of lies, spoke even greater lies than the first timid-hearted liar had spoke. The wonderer mused,
“Ah, I see history does not repeat itself, it mimics! These have come and added unto the first liar and made themselves the greater liar! Does the sordid ambitions of men have no end?”
And the wonderer heard a faint whispering,
“Only when they meet with brave truth.”
So the wonderer shored himself and stood bold against the breaking wave and said,
“I will not fail truth, though you all fail it.”
Being bold in great numbers, but timid against brave truth, the liars soon packed away their lies in the first silk ties and left the wonderer to his solitary being; saved were the liars, for a moment, by the blind sight of those who are skeptical of truth and beauty, and believing of ugliness and lies. They were those who easily believe what should not easily be believed.
They had crucified the wonderer, tore apart his name, but still he stood, braver than bold. Now the wonderer was dripping in truth, where once only his tongue had been whetted. The truth in the wonderer that once had been blessing, now became burden. One night the wonderer spoke, in his solitary being, to the heavens,
“I will not fail truth, though truth has failed me. I will give to beauty what beauty has not given to me.”
And the young wonderer heard the whispered reply. It sounded like the old man he once had spoken with, about stars and wonderful things,
“Truth and beauty have not failed you, Wonderer. They have stood by you. They have become you. Brave, good and noble, remember?”
The wonderer smiled by his teeth, but not in his heart, and answered that he remembered.
And so the wonderer worked and lived and wrote the struggle of truth and beauty in the world. It was the first story of the first wondering man. All story is biography. And all men make themselves men by the same struggle. He wrote of one who refused to become ugly, though ugly was given. He had made beautiful angels from thin air.
When his work was finished, the wonderer was weary, and lay down and died. Or so he thought. But he was only at the end of his first dream of life, and soon to begin another. He had given original tale of life, despite having known the destruction of life. Life is the oldest tale in the world. Life is the story of souls. The wonderer had made for scholars of the spirit, for those who wish to climb to the top of the tree of life, a view of it. He had fashioned the first book from stardust and the dust of his first dreams.
The lowest limb in this tree is higher than most care to reach, for most are believers of facts, so called, and have lost their wonder. With the Believer, wonder is not required. Wonder is for the skeptical. For those who do not know, wonder takes the place of knowing. Wonder is for the queen bee, the lion; the anagenesis. Controlled by their education, men lose their imaginations; possessed of belief that the world is flat, men will refuse to sail too far. Possessed of knowledge, men will refuse to wonder. But for those who have winged minds, flights of imagination are not scary. By the vice of their beliefs, men are prone to error in their creative visions. So the story of Mr. Silver is reserved for those who truly wonder. It is not for the modern-day, but for those who will succeed it. It is for those two-in-ten-thousand true. It is for the future.
By the wonder in souls, and for the sake of wonder—Mr. Silver lives. Wonder’s destiny is never guaranteed. So he lives, to spark the good fate and make happy the countless destinies. He is the old, and ever new, secret to man’s evolutionary saga. He is the bringer of light. He gives direct indictment of the history and present age of man and hope for the future of them. He is the invisible creation of wonder by grace. Against the merciless anvil of evolution, he was formed. This is the story of a long struggle. Out-numbered was, and always will be, Mr. Silver, and yet, the wonderer won. His spirit proves the victory.
So once upon a time, far away, in the first savage age, there lived a peaceful wonderer. He won his inheritance and gave to the savage race he was heir to some silver treasure. He exchanged happiness, wealth and power for the starlight in a flower. And then set his light down for others to see by.
Here, some of the things Mr. Silver and the old man said. I am absolutely sure of it. Now you are the young-who-dream. Here is some of the ancient story; the first ever told. It is an ever-present story, and has been going on these last ten-thousand years. It is the story he will tell you about, if you will stop and speak some with him. It is part of the first story wrote about in the first book.
A young man asked Mr. Silver once,
“How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens?”
Mr. Silver replied to him,
“The same dangers to win a good name anywhere. Whether you build a city of peace—or utterly destroy it—will matter little. What makes a good name bad elsewhere is in difference of opinion. There being differences of definitions is what makes difference of opinions. So no matter what you do, a good name here today may not be good here tomorrow, or even today—in another place. But all men seek, by their own definition, to make a good name. So do your best to make a good name and leave all else to those with opinions.”
But as you may know, history does not repeat. . . . The first dream is always destroyed, and then may come the second dream, and that a more beautiful dream than first imagined. So here is ancient poet’s fable. The place of this story is within you, and within time. As you begin your wonder, remember this: you are mystery unfathomable by science.
I now hand the story over to you. Go walk and talk with him beneath the stars and then write your own tale of wonder here. Owing to your skepticism, that which believes nothing straight off, I am betting you may be among those who will perceive him for what he is.
WHAT WOULD A CREATOR SAY?
What would a Creator say to us about the world we have made with the lives we have lived? No man can know, though many imagine they do. I have no idea what a creator would say, but maybe I know what he would whisper.
Perhaps a primordial, original, creative being would whisper the words that a medieval poet would then scrive about the love he felt for his medieval lady, and then, after the poet’s death, his lady would then hear also the whispered words of this mysterious being who talked her through her grief. Then she would set in quietus and secret their scrived and whispered words of love, to be kept inviolate and sequestered for the next five-hundred years, while some among the secret-keepers heard also their own whisperings, and set down next to the medieval pen some of their own heart-wrought, heard words of this mysterious, whispering being.
Creation would say men are wild yet and assume much. Original Being would say the best proof of man’s savagery has been the relegation of the distaff to secondary status, yet the masculine majority find nothing more empowering of their own supposed strength than the soft and gentle love of some feminine being. The nobility within the distaff art of kindness has never been common enough to bring into existence an uncommon age and so, all ages of men have been more common than supposed, even the famed ages of Pericles and Presley. All who ever molded their lives into the graceful form of their innermost being did so by insisting on the better, kinder side of their nature. But yet the staff-and-spear have become so fashionable these days, even the feminine gear-up.
Creation is the positive relation between devastation and construction. But life? It is nothing at all if not the continuation of construction. So when man destroys, he unmakes that much more of himself. Man continues to exists more from luck rather than her own intelligent engineering. Luck always runs out. What man perceives as necessary becomes pragmatic in the wildling nature and so selfish, base desires become the norm among men. Masculinity is favored, for it is easier, more enjoyable and is believed safer among the timid. And all of this is gross ignorance of basic, essential, constructive life principles.
So said a Creator. In my opinion.
A QUESTION OF TIME
What is time? The first calendar was the seasons and man subtracted from the winter, spring, summer and fall all the months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. In order to keep track of time, man invented it. But still, if so, what is time?
To the natural philosopher, time is wildly transcendental. To the empirical scientists, time is notational and no quixotic speculation is necessary. So depending on who defines it, time is theoretical or absolute. The metaphysicist question if there is empirical proof of it. The scientist scoff at that. None know for sure. Is time the temporal, earth-bound aspect of its agent? Does time run different outside of earth and man? Do we give too much meaning to the present moment, while disregarding the past, which may be more important? Or do we not give enough import to the future, that place we never seem to reach, directly? Have we been reaching the future all our lives, and being ignorant, do not see it all around us? Is the past just memory and the future only dream? Do these dimensions of time contain in themselves—themselves—each existing in some higher plane of existence or dimension of space? It is possible that time is the product of motion, and without movement, time stops. Does the flower bloom by time, or by. . . unidentified-cosmic-belief within the flower? Maybe the present holds within it the past and future simultaneously.
Perhaps time is the background emission of the first moment? If so, what is the first moment? Time could be the eternal question the universe ask of itself. Is time what it seems? Probably not. Not much else is. Perhaps time is an artificial construct of human intelligence; it could be that perpetual motion machine the engineers seek. Or could it be the perpetual-static machine by which intelligence measures. . . itself?
Time is reality to some, theoretical construct to others. Jettison all metaphysical wonder relative to time and our trip into time becomes meaningless. We must wonder. Time may be the one unanswerable question that leads men to all possible questions.
MR. SILVER’S LETTER
TO NEW SOULS
Who goes there? A new soul? A being of wonder? What is that? I cannot tell you, exactly. That is your question to answer. But in general and after the initial wonder, it is a hatful of hard work in cramped places, lonely and bereft of much that passes for life. It is a stenographer—a potentate of thought—and the thoughts a wonderer comes to are not meant to be bought, but put on lay-away. The being of wonder does not write or speak from a sappy desire to express themselves, but from a deep-seated need to express the wonder of life. The pleasure is the enjoyment of difficult labor and hope towards the day when lightening strikes and immortal wonder meets perfect emolument, that knowing inside the wonderer that wonder has been discovered.
A wonderer is the artist-in-residence of the holy rapture of existence and the work of wonder is incidental and elemental. The wonderer with pen, pallet or chisel is the human epitome and apex of action. By the writing, painting and sculpting of wonderers, the story of man will be perfected. The wonderer is a stander-up against the bringer-downs and is a full-time occupation, bound to interfere in the making of an easy living. It is no simple existence. And then there’s the matter of reputation, which will be ruined if one seeks wonder too long. That is one of the better things about becoming a wonderer, for only ninny-goats and donkeys need or seek the popular reputation. All strong individuals that ever strode this earth never worried terribly much about the weather or reputation, for no true wonderer can do truly great work being thought well of. But if lucky, the wonderer’s reputation while living may be saved after death by wiser men than those they brushed shoulders with while living. And then again, the lightning strike of famous laurels may strike the wonderer while yet alive and save it for him while he yet breathes. These are things best left to the muses and the gods and men cannot know what will happen, until it does.
So it is the thing to be communicated—more than the act of discovery—which is important. The modern age—and all ages are modern—has become self-therapy for a wearied, blunted world culture. In tandem with that are the sordid, sacrificial dreams of the ambitious. Of all things nefarious to the propagation of true wonder is the desire to become rich with materials. Seeking things, men miss meanings. Who would wish for what dies in a day when one may gain what grows on forever? Perhaps those with the sap drained out of their souls and minds. No true wonderer ever wished to become rich, except first and foremost in their minds and souls. The wonderer wishes to discover, then elucidate, what is true and beautiful. Truth is simply profound. As you know, nothing profound was ever not also simple.
Wonder comes as by-product of seeking, then finding, truth. This discovering of truth is the paramount perplexity of the wonderer. Perhaps it is that the Being of Wonder is chosen by providence. They balk and work to break the chain, but it holds. And then wonder grows from inside the soul as a thing itself, independent of its host, but bound up with it. Most are cogs of the Perpetual Motion Machine that is society but in the wonderer truth is the engine that grows, and slowly. The Flower of Beauty, long awaited and long to germinate, then blooms from truth discovered. And though ephemeral, transcendent and fleeting, when the wonderer discovers beauty, it blooms into astonishment.
To be present when some amazement will come fleeting by, the mad, astonished turtle must keep odd hours and thus, is no good for the machine that’s become the world. The astonished are sticks in the spoke of the wheel of the moving map of the world—the iconoclast, the rebel—these are the astonished. The wonderer apologize for their astonishment? Men should apologize to the astonished for their lack of it. And they do eventually. The best of them, anyway.
Wonder is the negotiation between the wonderer and Mother Nature towards the exchange of truth and beauty for appreciation. The astonished gives to Nature their appreciation and Nature gives to them some of her beauty. The gift of the astonished to the world for what Nature gave first to them is act of appreciation. It is the same old contract wise Mother Nature draws up with every new and astonished being. This is why the astonished are best off poor of material things, or at least not wrapped up in them. Beauty is not free, it is priceless; we must seek and earn it. So it is rare for the materially-rich to be able to see what is beautiful and profound, only what is profitable and elementary. The astonished must pay for this beauty in the effort required to discover and be worthy of it, and then, what would be the proper remuneration for that which is priceless and profound?
Men have not yet figured out what proper price to put on such a wonder; perhaps a penny? I think that would cover the cost of berry and parchment, which are bargain-priced in the dry seasons between floods. To be required to pay the real value of a work of astonishment would bankrupt the appreciator of it. And besides all that, cash is cold and beauty warm and to wed those two would only change and charge beauty. Beauty would become cold, and no longer beautiful.
Woe to the mother of the natural-born wonderer. Of all earthly powers, wonder is the most sublime. But there are no practical benefits to be gained from it, for either the poor wonderer or his sad matriarch. The best and most sensible thing the wonderer’s progenitor may do is set the mad turtle free and let it alone. It will still be in the garden at dinner time—full of wonder at the colors there.
But such a sensible, long-suffering parent of such an unreasonable, dawdling creature? That is maybe asking too much of heredity and luck. So the race of man is to the swift and the wonderer is a turtle. And no proud progenitor wishes for their shaveling a slow walk here. But Truth will not be seen while racing by. There are some few who must see it. But entropy eventually has its way and the hare slows down and the turtle catches up and then the hare looks over and spies what it could have seen long ago.
Wonderers are old souls in young bodies that then, if time wills it, become young souls in old bodies. To succeed at wonder requires the same three steps that success requires in all else: try and fail, try and fail, then try again—all the while waiting on slow success to catch up with the swift feet of failure. Success is lazy and if she shows up at all, is sure to come only after all the work has been done. As for wonder, it’s simple as walking; just put one marvel in front of the other. Scholars of dead wonders would have you believe something else. Don’t listen to them. They are boring on their best days, and dull as the dead all the rest. You know more than they do, anyway. They have had their brains in books and their minds on reputation for so long now they forgot long ago, if they ever knew, what it meant or means to be full of wonder. But not all of them; just nine of ten. No Milady and Milord Wonderer, I admit I fashion few humble opinions, but it is only because I am humble enough in my person and refuse to give to my opinions the same sordid, boring fate.
So you future wayfarers, wonderers, and astonished, like the man said: Be bold! Heap the fires of hell and stones of brim upon sworn enemies of wonder; bring war to hypocrites who would pile their acid on it. And in the end know that all you will get—if you be lucky—as remuneration for your wonder, or your life that becomes astonishing, is just your poor, beggared name to live on along with your astonishing work, or through the work of a noble life, as good example to other life. Nothing more than that. And that is only if the stars align. Mostly they do not. Just an astonishing romp through eternity is the best your name may get, and you won’t be here for any of it.
But there is this: all who are eternally astonished, no matter how old, die young. The wonderer is the anagenesis, the new man, in a perpetually old and dying age. The astonished are the souls who seek a greater evolution of man and his soul’s being here. The rebel-wonderer is the mutation in a world that ever seeks to remain the same. And that is proof they live more for eternity than in these small, grand, moments of life. There are so many more moments in eternity after all, and the truly astonished are ambitious for all of them.
MR. SILVER’S THEORY
OF POSSIBLE GREATNESS
To all candidates for greatness. To truth-seekers and beauty-keepers. To wonderers in the womb. To those who have yet to lose, I proffer advice and propose a theory―and call into the world an Age of Wonder.
To you who will some day read these words, those who now live but will then be dead are not in a position to tell you where it is they have gone, but they have lost their very lives, that is certain. They lost much before they lost that last thing; much which they loved. They once felt, from that first day of the age of love, that there would be only days filled with love’s reality, a reality given to angels and gods. But it was not to be, and they lost all proof of love’s reality. They were there one moment, gone the next! Nothing is forever. This has been proved countless times. But everything is—for a little while.
That is the thing! Before they lost, they dreamed of, then gained. Once they lived, and once they loved and were loved. But they are now gone—fables—their lives and loves.
But here you are! You who have yet to love all that you may; you who have yet to lose all you will. You, who have yet to become like them―the forgotten sleepers and fable keepers. They have passed into the Age of Fable and Fiction, and that is where you soon go, too. Quiet now are their wailings and pained memories of love’s dream. In the dark and deep of the earth is their dust, but in the mystical and merry Empyrean realm their souls wing. . . perhaps.
So you bright young wonderers, go gain what you may, this is the day of your gaining, these are the days of your living and loving. Do not fear too long of gaining what you dream of being. Be brave and seek for that which you love, and that which you wish to be loved by. It passes quick, this life. It is just yesterday they were less than one score. Then they were twice that, and once more twice that; now they are centuries that; now they are a thousand years and a day; now they are the memory of dust and their tombs cannot be assayed.
At one score, you cannot truly perceive the idea of death. It would be an impossibility―the stupefaction of life itself prevents it. But with time the knowledge will become part of your bones. You will grow to have this bone-knowledge of death. It does grow in you, this death and the knowledge of it. But beauty and truth will keep you alive and young, somewhat. They are not panaceas for death, but stavers of it. There will come the day when you will grow into the idea of loss forever, and that will be the bone-knowledge of death.
You are the great future, young wonderers, its epitome. So go forth and act like it! Write verse and make war—against the hypocrites and the ignorant, against those who would, as their fathers have before them, put truth in a cage, dark and dreary. Be one who would loose truth from chains, be bold and full of fury, and let truth back into the light. And never wash your hands of dreams that life itself gives you. Be a mighty spirit, a thinker of great thoughts. Bend the universe to your will and your will, to truth. And may your death be peaceful, to offset the struggle that will surely come before it.
The particular men of all particular ages will pass from the earth, but by the work of the astonished the particular story of man will remain. The great work is to pen or to paint or to sculpt or to build the particular tale and energy of the age with its most peculiar ingredient―Truth; that heavy burden that good men carry and bad men let alone. It is sequestered power’s oldest pragmatic key, the camouflaging of Truth. But the work of good men, of truth-keepers, of light-bringers, gives defense against the bondage of it.
You all run in the dark. None know where they go; few remember where they have been, and fewer still know where they are. Both future and past hem men in the present and stretch and distort that moment into a thing none can now figure out, although the answer be around you, plain as the day. The joining of these three concepts of time into one is the mystery of the universe. Life is the fly in the window. So I propose a toast and a hope to the coming Age of Wonder. If the world were to have such an age, it would be the first such event in the history of men, and such a peculiar age would outstrip all other ages.
Truth, after the struggle of discovering it―represents a theory―of possible greatness. And then the truth-seeker who has become a truth-knower has the option of keeping truth to themselves or sharing it with a world antithetical to it. So all who know Truth are marked men, marked by Truth, as keepers of it. But Truth would not be kept. To give up Truth to the world, or to keep it hidden and locked away, that is the eternal question of every human life.
One thing is certain, they will call the truth-knowers mad as March hares if they seek to give away their truth. It is an old tradition and a central theme of power, this discomfiture of truth. It is why man needs an age of wonder, to make truth popular again―like it was in the Golden Age of man―when there were kingdoms of prince and princess, queen and king, and dragons were slayed and magic was common; when minstrels and wayfarers ambled through the purple-leafed wood, and old, wise sages walked out of ancient trees and then back into them!
Truth is insanity in a counterfeit world. But seek this skewed definition of insanity, young wonderers. Do not be afraid of the false words of vile men and those words and men will lose their power and the pedestal they stand on will become their guillotine. But your true words, they will move worlds, and become the scythe that lops heads from traitors to truth. Write tall. Live bold. Build beautiful things. And seek to put light on the cloaked secrets of eternity, young wonderers.
THE WONDERLING’S MANIFESTO
by Mr. Silver
This, a panegyric and defense of the wonderling’s noble art. So to begin: The wonderling’s first duty? To discover what is wonderful. To record it for posterity is the last duty of the Wonderer. Among the duties of mankind is to make the wonderling’s discovery immortal. With immortality, the record does not die and thus the seeking and discovery of wonder—unlike the seeking of bread, mammon or power—lives on for others.
Wonder, recorded and revisited, becomes conversation between the souls of men but first is conversation between wonderer and Life. The shallow mob cries to the wonderer, Get action, young man! But the wonderer would rather sit and stare than do and dare. . . Or so they think. A man’s name, given to him at birth by proud progenitors, is his title. What right has the child to grow and impugn the dignity of his name by becoming a wonderer?
That could as well be the question posed to the budding wonderer by his fellow men as he grows into himself and his soul begins taking shape soon after he has sprouted taller than his father. The judgments of men have always been thorns to those who wonder. A golden age of letters must first be cleared of the dross of ignorance that hinder it. Because ignorance is man’s heritage, favorite sport and most honored pastime, the cretin mocks the wonderer. And also, ignorance, sport and pastimes are far easier than the evolution and spiritual strain inherent in wonder. If some other does not partake of them, it belittles them and their partakers just enough to make the past-timers wonder. . . if it be true that they waste their gifts on empty diversions and shallow recreations.
A worldly poverty is often the fate for the astonished, for their fullness of thought does not include such things. And then the narrow minds of men heap coals upon the bowed head of exasperation and the seekers of wonder are made grievous. The astonished seek to kill the beast of ignorance by finding the question that will slay it. While the curious seek questions and the slaying of beasts, the rabble about him worship idols of idiocy. But this struggle of the curious is basic to their art, and there be reason and future rhyme and reason found within the cretin’s cacophony, for the wonderer creates from such destruction. In dark devastation there is often discovered the smallest particle of light within that blackest night. There will be many long nights in the woods for the wonderer. It is a World of Darkness. Except for the light of the wonderer.
Though a poet compose verse with a pen, his hand need not be soft. The wonderer has need to labor for bread as for line. To plow a field into a furrow and the heavens into a rhyme are both grand labors and many are the wondering wanderers who have done both. Walk a field and discover a line and an answer; there are more things than seedlings there.
Any work of immortality has as its base an unprecedented inspiration. Nothing new or unprecedented comes by normal ways. Any such work proves there is a God, at least within the worker; and proves also he was a man, but sought to improve upon that condition. I have been here a long time and know well the lot of the world to be nothing much more than the vociferous, foolish and prideful, attempting to out-fool, out-yell and out-pride one another. The wonderling prefers their own wonder and the working out of questions that led to it; those quiet answers hid among the stars and deep within the wood, or in the heart of some other.
What a curiosity! Think the riff-raff. But the wonderling should make no apology to any that their greatest dream at twenty was to leave beauty and truth behind as proof they lived. Pure, unadulterated, pristine beauty, gleaned and sifted from the cosmos through the imperfect prism of a soul. That the most of men talk like lions and bite like fleas is a commonplace, and so it is always the common who give annoyance to one who is busy with some uncommon work that the flea cannot comprehend.
I mean not to be too English about the matter, but when the grandsons of grandsons yet alive have heard the name of the wonderling, where also is the name and fame of the well-combed, high-heeled flea? Is it on some broken stone in a forgotten God’s Acre, covered by weeds? Yes, there it is. There it will be.
Fame is the making common everywhere of one’s name. Immortality is the eternal perpetuation of fame. Many are the famous but few the immortal. It is no mean feat and no more honest and hard-earned fame ever came to man than by the work of his brain made manifest by his pen. The getting of immortality, which is an uncommon, perpetual, getting of a living, requires the same as the getting of the common living—work—except much more of it. If the wonderling seeks to create a work that could possibly make a living forever while all others seek only for his bread and the gaining of passing advantage, I say it is ample proof of an uncommon originality and singular bravery. Who is truly audacious enough to seek immortality?
Immortality—that admixture of the common with the uncommon in such a peculiar way as to make men wonder at it for all time afterward. Surely the aspirant towards immortality and his work require some kind of action, but the empty-heads are oblivious and unfamiliar with subtleties, and could never look upon an immortal work and deem it so, nor upon the young soul who made it and deem them as acting. They cannot see the entire hub-bub of the world is but the end-product of the thinkers who have gone before.
One can see the might of a man’s arm, or the strength of his account at the banker’s, but the glory and greatness within souls are invisible things and essentially unpopular while manifest in the living. Most of men are rarely known for what is best within, and the pitiful destiny of the faux celebrity is to be loved only for what others imagine and wish them to be; while the destiny of the immortal is to be cleared of all, except essence.
So it is a commonplace that a strong arm can cover a puny heart and a large account may be the product of a degenerate soul; but they have the outward show of it and that is how men judge—like children—seeing only the picture before them and unable to read among the lines the truth that bellows out.
I am reminded of what an old woman said to a young wayfarer once. Perhaps he was a bit green and arrogant in his new-found status as doctor and she picked up on that.
“Young man, do you see these lines in my face?”
He replied he did.
“Well don’t assume, my good man, that you can read between them. You could not know the struggle that made them; you could not know the pain they come from.”
And she was right. Her struggle was her own, as each is particular to them. No two struggle the same, and though one is more or less than the other, what is common is all struggle. For seeing more and being more, the curious wonderling struggles equal to their blessing. It is a cursed blessing. There is no shallow or simple admixture in the peculiar wonderling and their soul.
“I have worked harder to make one line of poetry than I have to earn a sweat-dripped, muscle-breaking day’s wage. But Life gives, eventually, the line the wonderling writes, though he is a hard task-master and bonds the wonderer for the verse. Just one great line. I strive to be worthy of that.”
This, I heard whispered once, under some old and ancient moon. His argument that he worked harder for one line than a day’s toil for wages can give no proof to its defense, it is put forth merely as fact. What can men know of what they will not do? The hunting of Truth and Beauty gives no meat and the truth be that most are carnivorous.
Action! It is the by-word of the world, the Motto of Man. If a wonderling moves the future world from where he once sat, while some worldling moves the present world only for the benefit, mostly of themselves, who moved the most? Who worked harder? Whose work greater? One great work by one wonderling equals more than the lifework of any number of worldlings. One work of art by a wonderer represents a deed and action so sublime and eternal that worldlings, who cannot enjoy it proper, choose never to conceive it as an action at all, or what is worthy of action. There can be and should be no apology for wonder. The apology must be reserved for the ignorant, but the ignorant never apologize.
The defense of wonder is that it remains. It lives on, long after the lives of its detractors. True wonder leads to the defense of some beautiful and defenseless thing—some needed truth. Why are truth and beauty defenseless? For the wonderlings to do their defending. If there were no greater work beyond the getting of bread and shade; sleeping and getting the bed made, what good or grand thing would there be? There must be meaning and you must decide what it is. By wonder you will find your greatest meaning.
The product of wonder shows itself in man’s verse. They say that poets lie and are thieves; but the poet’s lie is a pretty one, in order to speak ugly truth; his defense that none would find truth comely in working man’s cloth. What is the defense of all others, who lie to gain advantage? What is the defense of those who yell the loudest, to drown out the bashful truth? This is an eternal question, and has been posed since men first learned to think. All men know the answer, for it resides in plain sight, but the power of the world resides in the lie; that is to say—truth is hid then dies, in the lies of men—and since most men seek for power, this world will not be done of the lies that serve power and its getters and begetters.
The seeking of truth are rarities in this world, like remarkable flowers that grow common, so all become accustomed to seeing them and pass them by, forgetting they are there. All that—and Truth does not pay well. But occasionally there comes the soul who sees and the soul who is not burdened by dreams of gold. The vulgar and vociferous ignoramuses who control and order the world are mostly immune from beauty, for the ugly has been so long a part of their being it has solidified into their bones.
Wonderers are revolutionaries; at times they are quiet and at other times fretfully unquiet. Wonderers are bold attackers of hypocrites; they are dreamers and defenders of the noble things. The propaganda of the poets is hid away in books, to turn the hearts of men to a better way, to prune old growth, rarely; but to bend the sapling toward a straighter growth, often. The poet, even of just one poem, makes himself such a rebel. And in time, may become statesmen of man’s spiritual realm.
Wonderers beget wonderers as fathers beget sons, and if sons love their fathers, they honor them. As all fathers and wonderers are fated to die, and yet those noble statesmen of their own revolutions, by their quiet or unquiet rebel yell, live on, if at all, by wonder.
To the father who makes no poems; who knew no wonder, that father fails his children, and the world. When wonder skips a generation, the bust of wonder then is placed double in a heart, so as to make up for wonder lost. Then is doubled the burden of a man, and men. It is a singular privilege of life to have known wonder.
Life is strong, but death is stronger. It is that way for all. You come into the world with a cry and leave it with a sigh and then are done. Inspired by the words of wonderers from old realms, give your own best essay into wonder and beauty. Do this, while the time is ripe for wonder. You are more inspired by dead and dying wonder than you know. Keep it alive by the relay of wonder in you. It will be a sad day to die, and not have known wonder that was yours to know. It will be a proud day, to die, and look back on wonder known. Here is your wonder, in your eye and hand and dreams. Breathe the rare air of wonder’s realm and expel back into it some bit of your own.
Here is the wonder of the Fair Claire, of that time and place long ago, who gave this to be secreted away till the Last Keeper. I add to Claire and Chauncey’s epistolary and poetic romance some of my own mystery and antiquated beauty that have been a boon to my mind since times long ago. Though they are a manuscript of medieval mien as old now as Columbus’ discovery of a new world and older than Shakespeare’s pen close to a century, with the passage of time the beauty here seems not to age, but to stay young. Sitting by the fire, I read from it every first of winter, spring, summer and fall.
A hundred years before Shakespeare came these! Five-hundred-plus single years have wedded to become over five centuries and all possibilities within history since have made way to the reality of today; all of that now a distant and dim past—one which you all will become heir to. So it goes as it always has gone—the old ages ever make way for the new ages.
A PROCLAMATION OF ASTONISHMENT
On Giants and the Knowledge of Flight
I asked Mr. Silver: What is truth? He answered:
“Truth is the flower the bullies step on. Truth-seekers step on the bully. The truth-seeker is a fighter and all the greats of history fought against corrupt powers, while behind them stood the mob that later would trample them. Dreadful, dishonorable men speak falsehoods of honorable men; but a false charge does not a false man make. A truth-seeker is always a poet, who rhymes or rhymes not, and stands for the true and the beautiful against mob or man that defines truth and beauty’s opposite. So a poet does not need to make a rhyme to be a poet; they just have to be a protector of what is beautiful and true. And if it becomes a habit—a life-long quest even—sooner or later somebody will notice and then the mob will start proceedings toward a hanging. And perhaps they will get to it some day. Then the future mob will call the poet a saint and they will have dinner parties and give bacchanalian toasts to them. Some get entire festivals named after them. Some get streets and cities named after them. Whatever it be, it will be after the wonders of the poet.
“Truth should not make martyrs of men in their speaking and protecting of it. But in this world truth is too often a dirty secret to be kept hidden by those whose business relies on dry-cleaned lies.
“What do you think most of the ancient ritual sacrifices were? They were cover ups for the extermination of one who knew too much. The yearly or seasonal habit of it was insurance for the time it was actually needed. It wasn’t about rain or the hunt; it was politics. The savages have always been savvy.
“The perfect poem, essay, and life of a man is one that can be edited by the reader of it to include themselves within it, and then both editor and edited be made greater. The greatest poem ever writ is the one that can accomplish this feat for all men everywhere who will read it. Such a work is rare in the past and will remain rare in the future, but those future gods are in the seed of the world.
“The doctors and PhD’s of doctrinaire and dogma will say, after they come, then go, that the great men were foretold. But there is no foretelling greatness in this world. It is a spontaneous coming into being. The poem that all men can include themselves in, that is the poem a god would write. The Leaves of Whitman do this trick. And Emerson’s prose is so sublime one cannot call it prose or rhyme, but a perfect admixture of the two.
His eyes gleamed as he remembered the Sage of Concord,
“He was a full-fledged potentate of thought. Others cannot but walk where he walked when they read what he wrote. He puts his wonderers in a lofty place. The power is his, but for a moment that power seeps into all who read him. And that is what he worked to do—to share his powers.
“The best generation of men are and will be wondering poets, giants who speak, sing and write wonderling’s verse and build the spiritual paradigm of the new society of man. But deceivers will always discredit truth-bringers, and small men will always make light of their betters, and that is the way of this world. This is a small society of men, these Sub Rosa Society members.
“There in England there were three Romantics—Shelley, Byron and Keats—and in each of them was transcendent beauty and blooming of truth within souls destined for early mortality but eternal life among the spiritual realm of living man. All that’s highest in a man was in them. They, and men like them, flew. They were not afraid of the transcendent and highest realm of man’s passage through life. Masters of flight, and the crawling men below them, who had not that gift of avian industry, despised them for their flight while secretly wishing they too could escape the dust of the earth and be free of the marks it leaves on their knickerbockers.
“But the transcendent believe every man has a giant within, and possesses the inherent, long-forgot knowledge of flight. So speak and walk with the wind and its whispers long enough and it will show you again how to fly and how to walk, how to think and how to talk, very tall, like a giant; a giant that flies. The Astonished use their time to search for this knowledge of flight that was learned long ago and has since been forgot by many or most. Each generation is one that has forgot to remember again. This newest world has perfected the art of flight in a machine so well that the art of flight by man’s own being has been mostly forget. Man is befuddled and befogged by cheap delights and expensive entertainments.
“Gaze into the glowing embers of a dying fire and you will see the hidden gemstone in the wood, revealed in its final moments before it becomes dust again. You also may see, in your own curious thoughts, proof of your own gemstoned being. Man’s curiosity has grown men, and nothing else. What animal was ever curious by the flickering light of the fire? They only fear it. Because of their fear, they never could harness its power. As the proof of the gemstone in the wood is in the glowing, dying ember of it; so also with man; the proof of the gemstone is revealed in the dying ember of him. The lights of earth and heaven makes men stop, stare and wonder. To those who wonder the most, the future hope of the race is given. But all living things have the gemstone of the loch-spring within.
“The singular mark against a poor age is when they first disrespect, and then forget, their inheritance of wonder. Men have forgot there is more wonder in more living, sentient beings than they can imagine. The new wonderer rediscovers these old mysteries. The wonderer sees the living gemstone in the dying wood and the dying men. The wonderer finds the gemstone is always where he happens to be.
“Just as the first wildlings killed the first of their kind to become a wonderer, so they will jest of your ambition to learn to fly again. The bored and common will call you eccentric. But in time, if you write bold and live tall and serve the coming ages, those in that future will call you astonishing. So live for the future, for there is more of it, and they are wiser about what happened in the past. Do not seek the safety of numbers, but stand alone—a man apart; a wondering man. Just step over the common on your way to the uncommon. And when you get to your stepping-off place and lose the last vestige of the wildling, which is unnamed fear, name the fear, and become a new man.
“The common opinions of wildlings should not be matters overly respected. If you will seek the uncommon you cannot be undone by what is common. So go you Wonderers, who are bold and fair, and grow your wings, relearn some things long forgot, but never gone. Stare into the fire. Think, talk and walk like a giant. Be astonished, and then you may become astonishing. And take your hat, for it’s windy up there, I hear. And the view is grand, I swear.”
Every man should seek with his life—directly and with due diligence—astonishment. What else is the work of souls, if not to become astonished by life?
Rigel Kent scribbled that in a notebook as he sat on Blue Mountain that last first of fall. And then he scribbled this:
“I have walked a long and lonely wood, and the path was, at places, clear and bright and at other places, dark as night; and sometimes the leaves were newly fallen and the copse was full of being and at other times the leaves were dead and no more were they for seeing.
“I have walked a ways through the wood and kept safe my song, as I knew I should. I kept it in my coat’s pocket, and when I finally made it to the lea, I sat a spell and sang the tale—of woods, of love, and me.”
It was the last thing he ever wrote.
As I sit here looking on this, I wonder about Mr. Silver. For awhile now, he’s made me thoughtful. Why silver? Maybe because silver is the perfect blend of black and white. Maybe because silver is reflective.
In Kent’s meetings with him, he was strength and clarity. He brought Kent to a state of high wonder. He was strong yet malleable. Having withstood time and its elements, but being fluid, he shaped the broken into the completed.
In Mr. Silver was the time for reflection and change of direction as he illuminated the way forward. He assisted in the cleansing and releasing of blockages. Mr. Silver opened new doors and lit the way to the future. He bolstered stability.
Always courteous, dignified, self-controlled, responsible, patient, and determined, he was an honest and fair critic of faults, always impartial and compassionate. He calmed by gentle qualities. By showing Kent how to remove negativity, he encouraged the wonder in him to grow. He was the direct relation to a higher soul.
Most often soft spoken, always eloquent; he was visible in the darkest days. Because of him, success at appreciation, no matter the day, came easier. He opened a mind to new possibilities and bent a soul just enough to be wrought into something ever to be improved.
The best of self-reflection is not self-consciousness, but that which connects with self-consciousness. The beautiful and the true things, the everlasting verities, these tie in. For instance, the sunrise, that supreme thing, which always will be beautiful in the eyes of one alive in wonder and alive by wonder. The beauty of the sunrise is one of the absolute, immortal truths, and remain pure as the diamond, never tarnishing through time. When was the last time you saw the sunrise?
Too often, what is cheap is perceived as valuable, as what is valuable is perceived as cheap. Mr. Silver reflects what things are, not what they seem. The entire picture is seen, not just the part shown. Then is when one sees through to the other side. Kent’s meetings with Mr. Silver were the possession of a magic mirror. By that mirror he learned eloquence within himself, relative to the world and life. By Mr. Silver he learned of the Seven Wonders of Life, which are: the Past, Present, and Future; Love, Truth, and Beauty. Mr. Silver never spoke of the seventh, saying each should wonder about it on their own. I am still wondering what it could be. He said each soul has its own way to the Seven Wonders of the Soul.
Mr. Silver enhanced the sacred energy of the gemstone within, as well as drew out the negative energy, replacing it with vibrations that healed. It was a transformational energy. He brought with him hope, love, kindness, compassion—all the stronger qualities of being alive and human. He is the better part of us. We all fail at the better parts. But we all can go back.
Mr. Silver is honest self-conscious-knowledge of one’s self. I advise you to seek for Mr. Silver. He will not let you down. He will, if you call him, make it to you. It may take a while, but on a day you least expect him, he will appear, as if by magic.
I’m absolutely sure of it.
The Gemstone is private letter between individual and creation. It is a portrait of wonder, with which to remember the nobler parts of souls. It was commissioned by broken dream and made to remind one to be inspired. It nettled it’s recorder to physical, mental and social exhaustion.
We arrive and then we prepare to goe
And like the red rose, that bleeding flower
We bloom a day or two and then we knowe
From our perch atop this tortured tower
That all hopeful being and becoming
Comes neatly to its eventual end
We string together our present gift
And wonder if the good we give will lend
Some inspiration to those left adrift
But a rose’s dream is not for being
She just lives the day-to-day as it is
All her days are ours for the seeing
But we staye blind to her shallow breathing
And drown in the midst of her bequeathing
A UNIVERSAL SONNET
by Mr. Silver
What is beautiful is universal
The rose of China or Rome is as fair
And each beauty to each man, personal
As is his one mind and two eyes to stare
And judge of true beauty or of fair face
Must needs be sage merchant of fair value
And not give highest worth for high birthplace
Lest his standard be catchpenny and askew
Deep eyes that gaze upon fair silhouettes
Of the hovel’d bonny or palace’d queen
Become king and peasant and gain a debt
No banker may exempt the swooned-heart’s lien
Though dark-skinned, grey-yellow or lily-white
Beauty’s transparent in heart that’s polite.
What is your story? If you are at the start, what will it be? If you are in the middle: one last chance. If you are at the end, what has it been? The greatest stories—like the best lives—come from a place inspired by wonder. Do you have wonder? If so, make your own extraordinary tale.
This treatise, being commissioned by
Life, The Supreme Being,
God, Allah, and Odin
Prana, Chi, Mana,
And dedicated to:
The God of Skys and Skyscrapers
The God of Sun and Moon
The God of Stars: fallen, shooting and exploding
The evening star, the morning star and the day star
The star-crossed, the star lost and the star bright
The God of Winds, Thunder and Lightning
And the Twelve Greek Titans
To all named Greek Gods and their Roman counterparts,
Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite & others
And the primordial deities of the ancients,
This is dedicated.
To the gods of Europe, Africa and the Middle east,
To the gods of America and Meso-America,
To the gods of Asia, Australia and Oceana,
To the Christian mythology and their saints,
And all Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian gods,
To Cronus, Eros and Chaos
To Thor, Zeus, and Atlas
To the Three Fates.
City, town and village
And state, nation and world
To Jew, Christian and Muslim,
Hindu, Taoist, and Buddhist,
Heathen, Pagan and Agnostic,
This is given. And also to:
King, queen and royal offspring
Princess, prince and entourage
Street urchin, pauper, and cobbler
Seer, visionary and magician
Amazon, virago and shrew
Plumber, carpenter and housewife,
Hall-of-famers, also-rans and heroes,
and giants, titans and pygmies,
to film-makers, actors and actresses,
to screenwriters, directors and producers,
to genius, polymath and savant,
to simpleton, imbecile and moron,
to scientists and bus drivers, persons of enterprise,
to Communists, Marxist, and all totalitarians,
to republicans, democrats and statists of all persuasion,
to religionists and fanaticals of broken wings,
to politician, state worker, elected representative,
and other villains who are in between honest jobs,
And to the greats to come, who might imitate:
Newton, Einstein, or Hawking,
Tycho Brahe, Kepler, or Galileo
Da Vinci, Van Gogh or Rembrandt
Voltaire, Shakespeare or Chaucer
Twain, Fitzgerald or Emerson
Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart
Franklin, Lincoln or Jefferson
Homer, Confucius, or Grandma Moses
Byron, Keats and Shelley
Presley, Jackson and Swift
Dean, Brando, and Eastwood.
To all thinkers and thought-provokers; to all followers and masses of followers; to the light, the night, and the twilight that breaks them; to all cosmic energy permeating the universe; and all conceived Supreme Beings; this work, dedicated to and for the sake of the suicidal, savage, and dramatic race of man—and specifically for those of the coming new and greatest age, who will listen, learn and love.
This, for the sixth generation of men who will choose to rise above the fifth age, that age of men who would not listen, and so did not hear; who would not learn, and so imitated and mimicked history; who would not love, and so forfeited their chance.
This, for Texas. Where everything’s bigger. Where my father and mother breathed their last rarefied, earthly atmosphere, before going on toward the celestial. Texas, where I saw a bolide so bright it captured my attention forever. Texas. May it live up to its reputation and be big.
For all these, The Gemstone is fondly dedicated.
Now may the world take this, burn it, and throw its ashes to the winds.
In Medieval England lived two star-crossed lovers fated for early graves, but their words — handed down among the Braithewaite family — held a secret destined to live on in the Sub Rosa Society. In our Modern Era, twenty-year-old A.C. Braithewaite lost on Blue Mountain his one reason for living. He hopped a train and vowed never to go back. But the next year he began to perceive a being he named Mr. Silver and over the next seven falls they roamed over Blue Mountain, learning secrets whispered from the cosmos and creation. By the end of his life Braithewaite would finally learn the one secret that had been his to discover since before he was born. The Gemstone is a tale of marvel, mystery, magic and history; of a silver-bearded sage and man's mystical age. It is a visionary and metaphysical walk across existence and full disclosure of the one thing that makes our lives meaningful. It is a story of lost love, and love found again; a storybook of one man's magical walk through eternity and a tale of true love across the ages. In Rigel Kent's The Gemstone, walk Blue Mountain and discover. . . your own capacity for wonder.