Poetry

some nights, i

some nights the wind whistles

through the old lighthouse and

in the town below the mothers

tuck in their children and close

their shutters and watch their

fires till dawn.

 

some nights you tell me stories

of the village graveyard with the

night watchman and the magic

stick whose tip-taps are the

measure of the night.

 

some nights the stars are so close

that you forget. i dream of old

souls haunting the highways of

the heartland. this late, love,

the night belongs to students

and the stars.

 

some nights i hear a piano; two

notes hesitant in the dark. your

name is now a stranger on my

lips. how could it come to this?

how could it come to this?

 

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Poetry

One hundred years of solitude and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Why do you love lighthouses
she said
what’s with all those maps of distant islands
she said
and those other ones of the stars.
I don’t know
he said
maybe
he said
maybe
I miss somewhere
he said
somewhen
he said
maybe that’s how nostalgia was born.
Adam’s lament for home and we
his children.

O, Majnun!
they said
why do you sift the desert sands
they said
you will not find Layla there.
And Majnun said:
I search for her
everywhere
in the hopes of finding her
somewhere.

In this age of starships and relativity
as we journey out into the dark
we should not be surprised if
on another world
our ships land on other shores and
beneath alien suns
we find our old friend Majnun
sifting through those alien sands
ever-searching
ever-seeking
his belov’d.

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Prose

The Quiet Saudade of Video Games

A city child, down for the summer.

When suddenly he walked into

the twelve-foot wall of corn.

Leaving the dogs. Firelight

on the barn. The smell of Carolina.

The stars making me lurch.

Thirty years ago…

Jack Gilbert, Another Grandfather

SO THERE’S this game. Firewatch. The game is you by your lonesome in a lookout tower, deep in the woods of some heartland American state. Now just imagine that. The woods stretch away on every side, far as the eye can see. You have your little tower and you watch the sun set and rise and if you listen close you can hear the sound of a stream a little way away and the crickets and birds chirping in the forest. Your walkie-talkie buzzes every once in a while and you can talk or not talk and it just adds to the solitude like hearing a piano note hesitant in the dark, late into the night. I don’t know. The idea of that. There’s something to it. To these games that speak of solitude and the quiet exploration of weathered lighthouses on windswept islands (The Sailor’s Dream) or haunting backcountry woods (Firewatch) or even a vast, lonely universe and you in your little spaceship, alone amidst the stars (No Man’s Sky). It’s like they’re a Sufi journey into one of Attar’s seven valleys.

A while back there was this movie about a guy who’s a 9/11 survivor and he’s got PTSD and to cope he plays Shadow of the Colossus, a game where there’s just you and your faithful horse and the deserted ruins of an ancient Babylon.

Then there was Far Cry 4 and, don’t get me wrong, it was nice and all hearing Urdu gaalis in a video game but the best bit is making your way up the Himalayas and pushing through the snow covered trees until you spy the little stone path cut into the the mountain that leads up, higher, higher, and you follow it and it opens onto a little terrace on the side of the great mountains and a small sign by the path says it’s your ancestral homestead and there’s a little wooden house and a well and some goats and a small garden that ends at the edge of a steep drop and you stand there, all of Kyrat spread out before you. It’s home, you know?

Even No Man’s Sky is an aspirin for when you’re star-drunk from staring at the night sky too long and can’t breathe because there’s not much time left and there’s a universe to explore and you don’t have a starship by your side and you never will and you realise, then, that it’s taken so long for the light to reach you from those stars that they’re probably dead and buried on those alien, alien worlds and all you can do now is watch them and realise that that’s why they say ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’…

I’ll probably never play all these games anyway and I guess that’s for the best. This way I’m free to project my own saudade onto them. Truth is, they’d never be as good as my dreams.

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Poetry

El Dorado

There are days like these

she says,

and there are days like that.

Days where the ink-and-paper lighthouses you’ve built

sing songs of El Dorado

and all you can do is

listen and learn

hurt and yearn.

Late into the night

our legs dangle over city-streets

watching city-lights

and the aeroplanes

always the aeroplanes.

We hear the sweet sad songs of anonymous traffic

travelling – forever travelling –

on roads that do not stop

by the little, dusty towns

but speed on – forever on –

toward tomorrow.

They put up new floodlights at Hill Park over the weekend

and there are new stars in the sky

winter’s over

they say,

while I shiver from the cold.

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Prose

Puerta del Sol

Can angels lie spine to spine?
If not, how they must envy us humans.

Kamila Shamsie, Kartography

“FOLLOW me,” she whispered. And he did.

She pulled him by his rough, honest hands up the winding stairs, higher and higher and higher.

“Faster, faster,” she laughed. So he did.

They reached the top of the old lighthouse and sat in the old place, legs dangling over the edge. The sun was bright and he had to blink twice in homage.

“Hi,” she smiled. And, after a moment, so did he.

Although he was a simple man, of simple tastes, the view from the top of the old lighthouse never failed to arouse thoughts of art and poetry. But though he was a simple man, he was wise too and he realised how foolish it would be to attempt to capture this in any form. No, he thought, one must live it, savour it, then let it slip away; for is that not life?

“Remember when we were young?” she asked, slipping her hand into his. And he did. He did.

He remembered the day they’d gone up to the hills and she’d danced between the trees and fallen asleep on his lap and the smell of her hair and the cloud that looked like a boat to him and a house to her and the evening as it fell and the little bobbing light they saw in the distance that was an old man who wandered the hills in the dark and invited them to his small, warm cabin for hot chocolate and told them stories about his wife who left one day and never came back and how glad they’d been, just then, to have each other.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, brushing the hair from his eyes. And he pointed out towards the sea at a boat on the horizon.

The sun was setting into the darkling waters and he was afraid for the little boat. Did it not know that the lighthouse had been abandoned for many years? Its cold, stone walls held no guiding beacon. Would it float adrift, or would it crash into the jagged rocks of the coast?

“Mi amor,” she smiled, turning his eyes towards hers. And, for a moment, he couldn’t breathe. “Mi amor, I promise you. It will find its way home. It is not so little or so helpless as you think.”

And as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, he watched her vanish into the aether, a memory once more. And he stared after the little boat until he could see it no more.

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