The Boy Who Cried Beautiful

‘I made something beautiful!’

The boy was out of breath from running down the street from his own door to the door of his father’s workplace.  

‘I made something beautiful!’ he repeated.  He said it as he burst through the front door and didn’t even notice that his father was not present.  He gladly regaled those who were there with this joyous news anyway.  

‘I made something beautiful!  I made something beautiful!’  He was getting his breath back and starting to laugh it out now.  Dancing on his toes he exited the building and skipped down the busy main street repeating and repeating his euangelion.

No smiles were returned.  People scarcely gave him eye contact.  It was just possible he would suddenly desist before it was too late and it would be well if no one had ever really acknowledged his deadly error.

But he kept on and then they heard the swift heavy hoofbeats, a deep distant tattoo at first and then very quickly, too quick for comfort, the equine thundering was upon them.  It was surprising to be able to hear amid that violent noise the sleeker lethal sound of well-honed blade leaving scabbard in a practiced rush.  

The boy was heedless, still heralding his glad tidings and holding aloft in both hands his creation, thrusting it at this person and the next in ecstasy of proud craftsmanship, the shocked delight of one who can’t believe what his hands have produced.  This creation hit the ground and rolled over a handful of times long before the boy’s head hit the earth.  The clean stroke that took it from his shoulders sent it high and arcing over the bystanders, only a small scarlet thread of blood describing its arc in a beauty none would dare to admit.  The body stood erect and shuddering, a far more profligate spray erupting where the head had been, people near grunting out little gasps and shrieks as they cracked into each other trying to leap away from its staining.  

But the sound that would stick with them all above all these others was the sound that was repeated in every similar circumstance and had to be locked away from consciousness.  The boy’s refrain went through twice more in the air and was half way through a third when the head hit the ground and rolled and continued to repeat ‘I made something beautiful!’ in muffled and then open and then muffled and then open tones, accreting mud into the working mouth.

The horseman sheathed his scarcely bloody blade and made a return pass in which he leant far down off his horse like a showman at the annual fair and scooped up the still declaring head and stuffed it into the wooden box that always hung at his saddle, clapping the lid shut and drowning the declarations to a nearly inaudible mumble amid the hoofbeats.  

They watched the rider out of the main street and then returned swiftly to their affairs, trying not to think of the boy’s father about to return from whatever task had taken him from his place of work, trying to control their shaking, those who were not yet hardened and reconciled to this reality.  They all unconsciously stepped round the fallen creation, leaving it lie without further acknowledgement as custom-law dictated, its convolutions and functions forever unknown.  The shuddering body of the boy was not far from the ignored creation and it eventually crumpled into a heap that the refuse men would hurry to clear away as soon as they had been informed.

At the edge of the town a massive pit opened its hidden entrance to the approaching rider and the noise that roared from this opening would have deafened the rider did he not have his ears ready-plugged against it with the special wax the witch-men made.  He opened the box and tossed the little head with its little words into the chorusing onslaught of the very same, the little voice lost in the unison cry of the crowd of heads all calling out:

I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!  

I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!

The entrance to the pit came crashing down again in a cloud of dust and the clang of its closing helped ram the noise it cut off from the rider’s mind.  He wheeled his horse and returned to his post, one of several such tower-and-livery structures placed evenly about the town.  

The townspeople too had heard the burst of refrain from the hidden crowd of heads in the distance and they too sought to shut it from their minds, throwing themselves into their work with renewed vigour.  The thing that had happened paradoxically caused the rest of their work day to be one of their most alive and productive, carrying a mood of zest and resultant happy exhaustion right into bedtime and waking on the next morning.  Not a few babies were conceived that night.  It was an intuitive and wholesale conspiracy of focus and contentment against the dark of what they lived with.

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[Note: this is the first draft of a story I began to write earlier this year.  It has 3,000 more words so far but I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to really get down to polishing a real version of it.  Such is the case with a dozen or more stories I’ve written, each piece two to seven thousand words in length.  This school year will be given over mainly to my dissertation, so who knows when and if I’ll have space in my life to get down to the serious business of fiction writing.  It’s a lifelong dream and I just can’t tell if it’s one that supposed to finally bow out and die or struggle on to some level of fruition.]

ARK REACTOR

All the animals were gathering into it and hubbing themselves up and up into a hive-mind  affirmation:  I can do this.  Fox bit rabbit’s foot and rabbit’s other foot thumped badger’s nose just as badger was clamping teeth onto bear’s thick excuse for a neck and well, bear was just kind of luxuriating in all the cute little teething going on about him and upon his hairy hard-to-harm hide.  The vast layering and undulating wash of animal sounds was not a cacophony, but a busy-convention humming rumble that rose and splashed and heaped again:  yaps, whines, growls, chirps, squawks, hisses, snorts, hoots, purrs, shrieks, and quacks.  An outright roar or two was voiced, and here and there a grating screech or a quavering paean.  And everywhere a continuous undercurrent of snuffling, slavering, gurgling, and wheezing, out of which rose up yet more of the caterwauling, grunts, barks, moans, squeals, warbles, gobbles, snarls, squeaks, bellows, bleats, croaks, and calls of all kinds.  Gazelle gashed ape just as ape grasped hold of hawk while hawk was flapping upside buffalo’s scruffy head and buffalo had been nodding off to the hectic-gorgeous exhibition of a bird of paradise stropping about before him as if for all the world the ravishing little thing meant to take the burly bovine down with sheer showmanship.  And just so sweeping horns and spiraling horns and curling horns and cloven and solid hooves and unsheathed claws and bared fangs and slashing beaks and batting paws and beating pinions and clutching talons and thrusting tusks and limbs and snouts and flanks and muscle and fat and fur and scales and skins collided carnival and kaleidoscopic.

Yes, the animals were gathering into it and hub hub hubbing themselves up into a hive-mind determination:  I can do this.  They shoved in and shoved in and snapped and raked and champed at each other in cooperative menace.  And the brain case fit them all, snug but always with room for one more as they poured in and in, battling and mauling and mangling and goring with good humour and team spirit.  The bites and stabs became more sincere and at last pelts were pierced and pain-shrieks erupted in tandem with gouts and fountains of dark hot blood spraying and spouting on brown and gold and black and auburn and blue and grey and white and tawny bodies that turned crimson-splotched, deep-soaked with sopping scarlet.

And the brain case began to glow, dim first, then brighter, and its casing gleamed and buzzed and juddered and throbbed, thrumming all the animal sounds into a careening vibrato that would scare the pants off any hominid hombre west of any place whatsoever.  The copious animal bloods mixed and ran down the vibrating walls and pooled down into the grates in the curved bowl of the flooring and began to wet the mouthworks below, a huge smacking of huge lips licked by a vast tongue and a vast sound rasped up out of the throat yet further below and then the vocalisation was released from out of the great animal-packed, internally bleeding head into the hanging air:  I CAN DO THIS.

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‘Mass Distraction’ by Bill Rogers (aka Giveawayboy)

A New Year’s Poem

I don’t write poetry much these days. Poems were the first things I ever wrote as a little first-grader and I’ve been scratching verse ever since. But I’ve long since accepted I’m no poet. Nevertheless, the muse has struck and here’s one for the New Year.  With it I say Happy New Year to all you wonderful, beautiful people. It’s no triviality for me to say that I love you, I love you all. Love is a revolution I’m scared of, of what it will require of me, of my cold narrow heart. But from my heart, I love you all.

Please take this poem as a broken token of my goodwill to you:

A New Year’s Plea for Good Work and Love in a World that No Longer Believes

Quiet, quiet, soft now, hush,
there’s no need to rush,
you can’t hurry what’s coming
and you can only harry your own shortcoming
so much before your rashness becomes a rash,
an itchy red glitch that can’t be scratched enough,
so slow, slowly now, slow!
Be quiet and craft and fuse and nourish
that primordial ooze in secret,
make it beautiful and irresistible,
or at least a thing you can be proud
to have broken your heart and mind upon,
don’t rush the finger-work, the wheeze and blow,
the pacing and returning, the hacking off,
the backing off and the circling back
to add and knead and knuckle and smooth.
This thing is worth it, worth the wait,
so slow! Slow yourself and know
that even angels long in pain, even eons-bright
celestials wrestle with the darkness
of unknowing, of brittle finitude,
the frustration of the wide-winged and many-eyed
who can only soar as high as their imaginations
and find their imaginations are tiny tinny cells
and not the cathedral vaults they had thought.
And don’t forget love – don’t you dare!
Throw every scorching, spike-whipped,
and hungry ambition at love’s consuming altar.
There is nothing else. Or rather, all else is in this.
You will break and break and burn to fading embers
if you do not learn this supple steel truth and bow
to its ecstatic mastery. Ah, yes, they’ll tell you it’s not
real, not really, that love’s a cheat, a genetic idol
we made because we were afraid to be pointless.
DON’T LISTEN! Or rather, listen and reject,
rebel, resist, defy, refuse to bow to the lie
for lie it is, do not be fooled – don’t listen to your heart,
for goodness’ sake don’t do that, don’t give ear
to that little cheater, incurved self-beater, ravenous
other-eater, it has a good thing to say, but that word’s
buried in crap-caked layers of foxy obfuscation, no,
listen instead to the ontic ambient! The scarlet thread
of the real can still be felt even in all this crushing dark
for those who care to feel it – but if not, then go
your way and live and list for what you will and,
rushing or patient, see what it amounts to if it is not
for love, love not as we’ve been sold, but as it is,
for it is, whether we can fathom its naked blaze or not,
not our little nudities and crudities but a gory glory polite
folks should never name. As for me and my darksome house,
we will try, at least try, at least make a go, one or two
of us maybe, to die, or die trying to die in crucial agony
underneath the heliotropic kiss of Logos Lips in hopes
of a kavod-bod for each and every skeleton that dances
on the empty graveclothes of a Myth who persists in being
a Fact we fear to meet, even as we hear the glad approach
of feet refurnished in a furnace we cannot factor into a
universe denuded of all that’s eluded us for so long we no
longer long for what’s lost and declare there is no lost or found,
only ground and sky and sense even as these ontic oddities
ensconce us in yearnings we do not understand – but soft,
soft! Do your lovely work that no one sees and cry your tears
that no one wipes away, for if you do not believe in love, I believe
in you anyway and the wonder-sloshed entity you are and
the truly valuable good-goop you shape and make every day.
Please try, just try, a little, just a little, to believe in me too
even as you hate and fear me on blink-instinct, let’s fight it
off together this year, this year I declare a war on all
disbeliefs in love and declare it the year of Love’s Roar,
the year of Love Rampant, the Year of the Love-Beast!
(Or the year you hear its clawing and pawing at your door at least.)

(All images © Flannery O’Kafka)