Weekly Tanka Prompt Challenge – Week 8 – Lemons & Mother

When life gives you pain

Mum said, holding me to her

Pick up that damn pain

And squeeze it like a lemon

For there is sweet in there, child.

 

Tanka: 5-7-5-7-7

Lemons & Mother prompt from: Ramblings of a writer 

 

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The last witness

The day the earth died passed by unnoticed. He watched it happen like he was watching a car fall off a cliff, and in that one moment he saw how all the pieces of rescue had been lost along the way.

Some had proclaimed that the end of the world would come suddenly, panic igniting the great, grey beacons, primed and long stoked with the coals of rhetoric and fear. Some had hailed the coming of the horseman, death carried on dark plague ships of antibiotic resistance. Some whispered that the swansong would come slowly, tales of Bluesky told by the lost ones in generations raised under a grey sun. Some declared it would end with water. Some that it would end in a battle between heaven and hell. Some had sworn with their lives that aliens would come back for everything they’d left behind.

But they were all wrong. All of them. Because he had been there, he had seen the moment the earth died. And it hadn’t ended in chaos, it had ended with one ordinary person and one small, insignificant choice. A choice so small, it seemed like nothing more than throwing a plastic bottle into a bin.

When a car is balancing on the edge of a cliff it just takes one small thing to tip it over, and once it’s falling, there is no way on earth to stop it.

Power isn’t about governments, it’s about choice. The end is coming, and the moment of no return is closer than you think.

 

Some other Icarus

He lay his thoughts out carefully, fitting them around the shape their conversation like he was playing a game of scrabble, ‘You know how some people say that everything in your life has already been decided?’

‘You want to do this now?’

‘Humour me, Harry,’ he smiled encouragingly.

‘Okay, well then sure, some people believe in a predestined existence.’

‘But not you?’

‘I’m not convinced that a team of cosmic micro managers have packed us off to this world with a lunchbox of lessons to be learned,’ he checked the time on his phone, ‘Sam, where is this going?’

‘Nowhere, it’s going nowhere. The door is shut behind you. Go to jail, Go directly to jail, Do not pass Go, Do not collect £200.‘ He drew two words into the last remnants of spilled coffee, ‘And you have no choice, not once you’re here, you just have to do the best you can to live up to some set of undisclosed rules.

‘So you’re a victim, I get it, can we just go now?’

‘Not yet,’ Sam sat up, ‘let’s play with this, let’s imagine that the route of your life was already punched into the Satnav. But you took the wrong turning, you ignored the frantic recalculating, you didn’t go where you were supposed to go. What do you think would happen then?’

‘We all get to choose how we live our own lives, even if it’s messed up, it’s still ours to decide.’

Sam shook his head slowly, ‘I’ve bargained my way around those same words all my life, and I just can’t seem to make them work.’ He glanced over to the door as the car horn sounded again, ‘What do you think would have happened if Icarus had decided to become a chef when fate had decreed he would be building his destruction out of feathers?’

‘Can’t we talk about this some other time?’

‘I’ll tell you what happens, Harry. When you don’t go where you’re supposed to go. Nothing. Not a damn thing. That locked in life just carries on running along all by itself.  And you don’t get to drive, you don’t get to punch in a new postcode, you don’t get to say…’ he held his hand over the words he had written on the table, ‘you don’t even get to pull the train whistle.’

‘Fucking hell,’ he leaned in, ‘Sam, are you having second thoughts?’

‘What if I were? What if I told you that I wanted to pull the plug?’

‘Then I think she’d hunt you down like a dog and kill you.’

He drew a circle around one of the words, ‘Icarus would fail, and he would be dragged back to his old life to crash and burn just as fast as he could say, Did anyone check that the gas was turned off?’

Harry grabbed his arm, ‘Sam, I need you to focus here. You’re actually saying you don’t want to go through with this?’

He looked up, ‘I can’t be that other Icarus, that other person, any more than if I’d never been born at all. And trying to be him is like screaming into a vacuum.’

‘If you’ve waited till now to tell me you’re gay…’

‘I’m not gay, Harry.’

‘But you actually want me to stop this?’ he stood up, raking his hand through his hair, ‘Shit Sam, I never in a million years, shit.’

‘No.’

‘Then what the fuck is this about?’

‘It’s just second thoughts like you said,’ he pulled on his jacket, ‘Come on, let’s light this damn wedding up like a firework.’

‘And that?’ Harry gestured to the two words written in cold coffee, ‘Is that second thoughts too?’

Sam just smiled, ‘It’s all second thoughts buddy, that’s the problem.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to hell

The crows watched in silence from the tops of the tall trees, their dark sunset fracturing the skyline and casting a hex of mutilated shadows onto the ribbon of pale stones that led up to the house.

She tilted her head, running her fingers along the edge of the curtain, ‘I wore him like a cloak, he kissed my flesh into fire and poured his sweet poison into my heart. And it was so easy, so easy just to let him take me…’

‘We all walk a fine line between light and dark, it doesn’t mean we’re bad people.’ He said the words gently because some smiles could break your heart quicker than ten thousand tears.

‘Did you know that the ground of damnation is barbed with swords, blades set into rock with no room between them to rest?’ she looked to him for understanding, ‘And they are so tired, they are all so tired.’

He sat forward, ‘Who are tired?’

‘It was so easy…’

‘Who are tired, Ella?’

‘Do you believe in hell?’ she whispered the words, but as she turned back to face the window, the gallery of crows snapped into life, and under a mirror of dark lashes her eyes rearranged the sky.

‘I believe that heaven and hell exist within our own minds, ‘he said, ‘and as such they are real places.’

‘That’s nice.’

‘You think that hell is a physical place?’

‘It’s a physical place alright,’ she smiled again, ‘I’ve been there.’

‘Okay, and can you tell me about it?’

‘Oh I can do better than that.’

She saw the fear catch light in his reflection. ‘A description is fine,’ he said.

‘Nothing can prepare you for the suffering,’ she held her hand out and turned it over as the first of the crows hit the window, ‘I mean the pain is bad of course, but it’s the suffering that really slaughters you.’

He jumped, glancing at the glass, ‘Pain and suffering, tell me how you think they’re different?’

‘They seem like they aren’t,’ she turned her hand back over slowly, ‘but believe me they are, they’re poles apart.’

‘Okay,’ another of the birds hit and he pulled his body tighter into the chair, ‘so you can manage the pain but not the suffering, is that what you’re saying?’

‘When he took me there I was lost, and the pain was so bad all I could do was figure out how to survive,’ she shrugged philosophically, ‘enduring an eternity of pain is all about managing your resources.’ Along the windowsill a row of solar candles stuttered in the feathered light, ‘And I would have done anything, promised anything to get out of that place. But when I saw them, when I saw their suffering, when I had to leave them there…’ she shook her head like she couldn’t believe it either, ‘I actually begged him to send me back, funny eh?’

‘You spoke about them before, who are they, Ella?’

‘They are you and me,’ she closed her eyes, ‘you and me and everyone, every bastard soul on this planet, caught up in hell.’

‘So this is an esoteric event,’ he dragged his fear ashore, trying to hide the relief from his body language, ‘you’re describing a kind of spiritual torment?’

‘You go ahead and think whatever you want,’ the glass groaned and cracked as the envoys of carrion took the last of the light.  She closed her hand into a fist, ‘but that place, that place is real. And the only way out of it, the only damn way out, is when you can’t bear to leave.’

 

 

 

 

 

Not the triumph, but the struggle

I’ll be the first to admit that Sporty isn’t one of my top 10 attributes, I once sprained my shoulder while thinking about taking up yoga. Which was why I was taken aback when the father of the modern Olympic Games stopped me in my tracks today. Not only was Pierre de Coubertin the owner of one of the finest moustaches ever to grace my computer screen, he was also speaking directly to me as a writer.

The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’

Pierre-de-Coubertin-2365-3x2

Now I’m not saying I hate sport. I actually quite like watching fast people chasing each other around. But it wasn’t until I read Pierre de Coubertin’s words that I stumbled around with the possibility that the worlds elite athletes and I may have something more in common than ill timed blisters and an irrational fear of test tubes.

So I’ve dusted off some of my old Sports Psychology notes (…yep) and set some useful reminders for my writing:

  • Focus your energy on the things you can control. Yourself, your actions and your attitude, everything else is beyond your control don’t waste your time with it.
  • Confidence fluctuates. Anxiety and doubt are a natural part of the ‘sport’ but your attitude towards them is always a choice.
  • Focus on what you’re doing right. Learn from mistakes, rummage through the wreckage, take anything useful from it and move on.
  • Know where you’re weakest. Negative tendencies are only destructive when they go unnoticed. Reset yourself and start again.
  • Strong emotions are part of the process. Use them as creative masterclasses.
  • Process not outcome. Focus on improving your art, let the outcome sort itself out.
  • Disappointment comes with the territory. Park it and move on.

There is an old saying, ‘Obstacles do not block the path, they are the path,’ and as Pierre de Coubertin so wisely said, ‘The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.’ I guess when it comes down to it, nothing else really matters.

One last time

Jonas could see the woman was nervous. She held out the question with her hands like she was trying to feed a wild bird. A long time ago he’d have taken that, hell he would have loved it. Rolling around that particular straw pole of excellence had kept his ego stoked for years. But it just felt heavy now, it all felt heavy. Too many of the same faces, too many of the same questions, too many of the same years, trading themselves on the open market. He turned to face his audience, arching his fingers in that familiar style they had all come to see,’Memories are nothing but images stolen from photo albums, things that never have been mine,’ he spoke softly, knowing it wasn’t the soundbite answer the woman or the room full of people wanted from him.

They wrote it down anyway, in their sea of expectant notebooks.

‘Those bits,’ the woman leaned forward then, clutching the microphone close to her chest, ‘the ones that feel like they belong to someone else, were they the checkpoints in your other lives?’

‘Right, checkpoints….’ he spoke as automatically as they listened, but inside his head everything had gone crazy. One last time, he had promised himself, just this one last perfect time and he was done with it.

‘You said earlier that this is not the first time you have played with time… does that mean we could have done all this before?’

And a silence, deep and dark, filled up the space where the words had been spoken. Jonas sighed, ‘Damn it,’ he said, ‘now I have to start all over again.’ 

 

Dreamland of the damned

They say that there is a well at the centre of everything.  And around the edge of it is a heaven so fair that no one would ever choose to leave it. 

The grass was warm.  He curled his fingers into it but he didn’t open his eyes. He could feel the thoughts crawling around him, whispering, pulling at him, and he moaned with the taste of them, still so sweet on his lips.

For some, salvation came blazing like an ark, screaming redemption from the jewelled citadels of a distant Jericho. For others it carved out majestic towers, archives of knowledge that catalogued a prescribed progress in the same bright scrolls of rescue. But for him it had always come softly. A sad, familiar kiss that told of the ending of the story.

He knew it didn’t matter, that form was only the lure to draw the fly. Because everyone came willingly to the place where the wise ones met. He had seen them too, leading their own disciples to that same wasteland, spewing out their heroin rhetoric in million bloodied standards, each carried high as gods in the guided cages and circus posters of ruin.

Because this was also the place where wisdom came to die.

He had been drawn back here so many times, back to the well and back to the source. And it had been something once, a cheap and glittering pathway of front row seats that led all the way to the sweet summer meadows. But he had become lost in the finding, and there was a longing that wouldn’t leave him.  A place deep inside the well, that called him home.

‘The one who starts the journey doesn’t get to finish it,’ his teacher had said before he pushed him in.

The earth shifted beneath his fingers, it was the only constant in this dreamland of the damned. And everything, everything burned in the fall.

They say that there is a well at the centre of everything.  And around the edge of it is a heaven so fair that no one would ever choose to leave it. 

 

This one goes out to all the rule breakers…

A friend of mine cautiously confessed a passion for rummaging through the stacked music archives of charity shops. He hastily added that the trick of it was to buy albums you’d never heard of, but kind of like the look of.

I was still a little hesitant, after all my neighbors had only just replanted their petunias.  What if I were to fork out 50p on a dark and gothic looking CD, only to discover that I had actually purchased a  Dubstep version of the Sound of Music?  He assured me that sure it was a risk, but the potential for a new music experience was huge.

For some reason it made me think about this place. I love reading all your blogs, WordPress is like a having a huge library of original, beautiful and rule breaking art.  And I just want to say thank you guys, all you writers, poets, musicians, artists, please keep doing what you’re doing because you are frigging brilliant.

Also, 1000 tears EP, by Cause for Concern. Found today, wedged between James Morrison and The Wanted.  Never heard of them.  Liked the album cover, love the music.  Who needs Pokemon Go eh?

Hungry Ghost

Her hair caught the sea air in dark ribbons which played with her mouth as she spoke, ‘And is there a future for us?’

There.  He held the memory close.  There was the space, the moment, the chance for him to tell her.  He rewound the tape, replaying the scene again, searching for the Easter-Egg hidden somewhere in that desperate tally.

He had written the words to a thousand different endings, he had created a thousand ways for them to live happily ever after. But as he watched the scene again and again, the same damn words were buzzing at the edges of his mouth until his throat hurt with the effort of holding them back.  All the words he could have said, so many words that would have been okay, so many other words that weren’t, ‘I don’t know.’

The storm had come from nowhere, stealing the sun from the sky as her eyes held up a mirror to that same tethered star. And when she walked away, he had watched her until there was nothing left but the space that had held her.  He remembered how he had welcomed the rain on his face because he had no tears of his own.

And when he closed his eyes, he could still see his scars blistering on her skin.