Saturday, 18 October 2014


Those moments, brief
A word, a whisper
The barest touch, fingers on skin
Heart beat.
And then,
The kiss.

Dawn, too soon, her grey face
This time, sweet. But gone.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Bathed in gold, that is the sun on the horizon,
Peeping over the bowl of ocean towards home.
There is a gentle breeze stirring, stirring, invisible fingers
Trying at the curtains,
To the chorus of birds outside.

Side by side, two lovers lie, their breathing in unison,
The rise and fall of a night's passion,
Each second eternal bliss.

No need, these lovers be, to greet the prying sun.
Their eyes are for each other, no others; no one can
Understand their private need.

Time, once enemy, fleet of foot, can at last unwind
Its treacherous machinations,
And Distance, unruly bane, can cast down
Its dividing walls.

Yes, though these lovers sleep now, in the gold
Of morning,
They shall, with two hearts as one beating,
Take their place where they belong, their place
In the sun.


Saturday, 13 September 2014


Grey clouds,
This day's companion. Unspeaking,
And yet, speaking volumes.
Through the veil of red tinged vision,
Piercing the shadows of new depression.
Share a cigarette with your shadow, joined
At the feet.
Fresh baptism from cool drizzle in a windless
Alcove under hanging trees, bent with the weight
Of their own troubles: no mentors here.
Just these thoughts, turned clods in the furrows
Of the mind. Ploughed and ploughed some more.
Turn, turn and turn, watching the exposed worms
Hide from the blinding light.

The brief spark of pain, hot ember on a clumsy
Finger. Once more,
Enslaved by reality, victim to gravity
And the knowledge of time plunging relentlessly forward.
The choice: cling to the ride, or elect to allow oneself to fall

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Behind the Wall

There is no peace behind closed eyes
Tonight, I dream of walled cities surrounded
By hungry enemies with bright curved knives
Waiting for that moment of weakness, to strike

The choice, my choice, insofar as there is one to make
Do I hold the walls, the strongest face presented
Or pull back to the fortress, that battered crag, to hide?
So much to consider, and yet, in truth, little time to decide

Beyond, the plains fill with faceless dangers, hurtful strangers,
Above, a sky leaden and heavy with empty promise
There won't be rain, despite the forks of lightning pelting
No cover to hide behind

Trapped, then, I... against a rising tide, in this dream world
I have created, with rules to bend
To stay and fight, is surely to die, but to retreat is a fate
I wish not to comprehend

It is not courage I lack, nor the will for resources to engage
It is just that I want to choose the fight
Being shoved into the corner is not my desire, to set rage's fire
Of reaction and lash out blind, that is not what I have in mind

And yet, in the end, needs must.
For as surely as I awaken and the city is swept aside,
My enemies don't weaken, indeed they reinforce
And wait again for the next dream, behind closed eyes.

With me and my wall, built pebble on stone.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Power of Fire - Sampler 4

Foolish girl!
            If but he could say the words aloud, and to her face. But alas, he could not. For starters, he would be but a stranger to her, and words such as those—uttered as they would be with exasperation and reproach—were none a stranger, let alone a boy, should say. Furthermore, she was quite a few yards ahead of him and with the pair of rogues closing rapidly on her. As such, there were more pressing matters to attend beyond chiding her for the silly cat and mouse game she had attempted to play. That could come later, if at all.
            First, he had to deal with Vasek’s hirelings.
            That they were two to his one was enough to give him pause. There was also the matter of weaponry to consider. He was in no doubt that Vasek’s men would be armed, most likely with daggers of the discreet stabbing variety, more for show than actual use. Intimidation would be their game, and nothing was more intimidating than the sight of a naked blade. In most instances, that was all they required, which suited men of Vasek’s ilk just fine. At heart, men such as these were cowards, relying on fear to bring about cooperation. Though should they be pressed, they wouldn’t shirk from drawing a little blood.
            Richard was without a weapon, having left his own dagger, which would be concealed in his boot, at home, not suspecting that he’d be released from the interviews so early and be saddled with time to wander the markets. So, as expediently as he could, he let his eyes scan around the detritus left in heaps at the mouth of the alley. Without fuss, for he had no time for such, he pulled free a sizeable length of four-by-two from a smashed crate, complete with a jagged quartet of nails at the far end. This he tested with a few hearty swipes, finding it somewhat clumsy, but knowing that it would serve its purpose anyways. As an afterthought, he stooped down again and disentangled a mouldy hessian sack, a very basic strategy formulating in his mind.
            While not wholly satisfied with his choices, he nonetheless carried on, pausing only to peer around the corner and down the throat of the alley itself where the girl was backing away from the two brutes. They advanced slowly, unaware that they themselves had been tailed and in error, thinking that they had time to spare to make something of a spectacle of proceedings. To this end, the man on the left had his arms folded across his chest; as such, he presented no immediate danger to the girl. His companion, though, was a different matter altogether. In his hand was a short dagger, which he flashed before him like a child’s play thing, turning the blade so that its keen edge caught the meagre sunlight angling in over the craggy and claustrophobic shoulders of the buildings that formed this tight alleyway. Whether he intended to use the dagger or not was immaterial. Just having it ready at hand was threat enough.
            And so, knowing the disposition of his foes, and rudely armed, Richard Seth drew a deep breath, counted slowly to five, and rounded the corner.
            He moved swiftly, knowing that time was precious and the window for surprise was apt to slam shut sooner rather than later. To this end, stealth was out of the question. Besides, the heels of his boots scraped and clattered loudly over the cobbles in his haste, so any attempt to be sneaky was doomed to failure from the onset. It didn’t matter though. The bandits were so engrossed with baiting their prey that Richard was almost upon them before they realised what was happening.
            With a shout, he lunged forward, his first target the bandit with the knife. Of the two bandits, he reacted first, spinning swiftly, if rather awkwardly, in an attempt to bring his weapon to bear upon the intruder robbing him of his prize. His curse was abruptly cut off when Richard threw the hessian sack into his face, entangling his knife arm—and the knife itself—within the tatters of sodden, putrefied material.
            Richard had no time to ascertain the success of this ploy; the second bandit, wasting no time for curses, dipped a hand inside the folds of his robe, feeling for his own weapon concealed therein. In a matter of seconds, Richard pounced, swinging the four-by-two at the bandit.
            The impact was loud, terrible. Richard heard the crack of cartilage, saw a bloom of crimson burst from the bandit’s shattered nose. And even before the bandit brought his hands up to cover his face, Richard saw the deep and jagged rents along the man’s cheek where the quartet of nails at the end of the makeshift club had scored through the flesh straight to the bone.
            For the briefest moment, he was repulsed, sickened not by the sight of blood, or the way the wounds on the man’s face pulsated and flapped like fish gills, but by his actions. There was nothing even remotely resembling chivalry in this act. This was thuggery, pure and simple.
            Yet, Richard did not stop.
            Could not stop.
            Something clicked inside him, pushing aside the dry as dust lectures about integrity and fighting the fair fight. This was no textbook engagement; there would be no test at the end, no grading, and no second chances. It was brutal, that was certain, but hadn’t Richard seen bloody noses from fights before: those he had inflicted, seen inflicted upon others, or even received himself?
            There were no formalities here, no build up, or the obligatory exchanges of antagonistic (and, for the most part, moronic) jibes, and certainly no spark to set off the actual fighting. Instead, it was cold, calculating, and utterly spontaneous. Something new to Richard, and even if it jarred with some of his beliefs, he nonetheless felt a flutter of excitement.
            This all shot through his mind in an instant, so quickly in fact that it didn’t have time to coalesce into a coherent thought. It was primal, raw, above cognition. Above reason. Thus, he reacted.
            He swept forward again, three quick steps. The four-by-two once more drew an arc through the air, ending with a sickening crack across the back of the bandit’s skull. Almost immediately, the half-rotted timber snapped, the piece with the protruding nails bouncing away from the force of Richard’s swing. The bandit shuddered, blood spraying from his face as his hands fell away. Then he flopped forward, his head striking the cobbles beneath with a dull, meaty thud. His legs twitched once, twice, and then he was still.
            Richard, now with only half of the club in his hand, turned to face the second assailant, who had only just divested himself of the hessian sack. He stared levelly at Richard, schooling his features so as not to give anything away. In turn, Richard returned the stare, hoping his relative naïvety in such a venture wasn’t written on his face for his enemy to see.
            The man facing him looked battle hardened, complete with a jagged scar that burst from the widow’s peak atop his closely cropped head and ran straight down to the bridge of his nose. He held the knife now with more purpose, knowing the true mettle of his opponent. There would be no more tricks, no more showing off. The tables had been turned, and turned quickly, with much embarrassment to the men in question. Would Scarface be seeking to make an honourable withdrawal, or would he now be seeking blood?
            That he chose the latter came as no surprise to Richard. What did, though, was the manner in which he chose to achieve it.
            He lurched forward, his knife poised for a thrust into Richard’s stomach, meaning to end the mêlée in one decisive action. The attack was rushed, uncoordinated. Richard was able to easily side step the clumsy advance, even when his adversary slashed out at the last second with his blade, and brought his own weapon down onto Scarface’s outstretched hand. The hand holding the knife flicked open and the weapon tumbled to the ground. Without a pause, Richard booted it away.
            With no weapon, and a recumbent partner, Scarface did what any thief caught in the act would do. He deftly dodged Richard’s return advance—not before receiving a short, but harmless clip around the ear for his trouble—and dashed like a startled rabbit for the mouth of the alleyway, all thoughts of treasure and sport secondary to the safety of his own skin.
            Richard waited until Scarface had turned the corner before lowering his weapon, counting off five long seconds lest that worthy should have a change of mind and return for another round. Only then did he turn his attention to Scarface’s colleague, still lying face down in a spreading pool of crimson. Satisfied that this man wasn’t likely to cause trouble, he finally looked towards the girl.

            “Are you all right?” he asked.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

We are never alone

Cold wind and rain,
Whispered prayers, of an untouched angel
Making patterns on the window pane.
Sit by a candle, watch the shadows playing,
While the music, soft in the background
Spins to the start again and again.

Your head on my shoulder,
Gentle, your hand squeezes my hand,
Thrill in the glory that is our touch.
Makes this one moment last forever,
This night, ours, for the dreaming
Of that which we want so much.

Let it be written,
This page can be our stone:
That while now, we're apart,
We are never alone.

Sunday, 13 July 2014


It's freezing inside, but is that just my mind?
These words like the sleight of hand
Of some trickster on a side street.
I could be blind, even with eyes open
To not see it is my own feet I fall over.
There's a man outside, beneath the amber light
His face hidden in a pall of dark.
Furiously shaking his head at the voices inside
And biting the cigarette pressed to his lips.

Each finger of wind through the leaves of the trees
A soft sigh, wordless, yet tinged thick with remorse.
Somewhere, a train grinds through the night
A long haul far away, far from my sight
Like the pale moon shrouded in cloud
And the street curtained in fog.

In my dreams
I run through a narrow tunnel, endless
Running... from what?
There is nothing behind me, but there is
And it gets closer.

This world is not real, but is more real
Than that I live in when I am awake
Even when the air is treacle
And each breath is a gasp.

Ah, but... ah!

There will be no rest this night.
Red rimmed, my eyes
In the coming dawn.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Strength of Faith

Once again, I was an interloper at what was the most sacred of human rites. To say I felt uncomfortable was an understatement. Even though my presence was required, albeit informally until the necessary rituals were completed, there was a nagging sense that I was an intruder, an outsider, and that I didn’t belong. This sense was only heightened by the fact that other than the priest in his official capacity, and myself, there were only two others present, and the dour expressions they wore told me that they didn’t really want to be there, either.
            I remained, though. Not only because I was being paid to stand just outside of the periphery of the three gathered at the graveside, but also because something stark and remorseful ate at my bones in response to the lack of mourners in attendance. No one was crying. Not the young woman on one side of the coffin, nor the middle aged man on the other side, and certainly not the priest, whose sonorous voice was the only noise to be heard that warm and lazy spring afternoon.
            The young woman was the deceased’s daughter. She was dressed in customary black: a long and formless dress, sturdy, low-heeled shoes and a flat, broad brimmed hat with a veil that draped mysteriously over her face. Why she went to such a length to disguise herself was anyone’s guess. She was hardly a stranger to either Father Bryan or myself, having met both of us a few times before this afternoon’s service to make arrangements, and there was nothing in her demeanour during those few brief meetings to suggest that she was shy, or indeed, had anything to hide.
            As for the middle-aged man... well, I didn’t know him from the proverbial bar of soap. And judging by the way the young woman kept her distance, it would be safe to assume she didn’t really know him either. For all anyone knew, he could have been a drifter from off the street, who happened to spy the makings of a funeral and decided to blend in with the crowd in order to access the buffet that would no doubt be in store at the wake. Such callousness was not new. Indeed, part of my job was to keep an eye out for such vultures, just in case. However, given the man’s deportment and the fact that his dark grey suit looked too expensive to belong to a casual “funeral crasher,” I gave him the benefit of the doubt. In a crowd of four, I didn’t wish to cause an unnecessary ruckus, and besides, the young woman had been somewhat adamant that the affair would be neat, simple and quick. In other words, a graveside ceremony with a thimbleful of prayers and ritual, and no wake.
            On the surface, the request would seem cold, devoid of any emotion at all. Yet, it was not uncommon.  Modern life, it seemed, robbed people of so much time that they couldn’t even afford an hour or more to mourn for their dead. Only in this case, it wasn’t the commodity of time that dictated the young woman’s needs.
            “Mother was not a Catholic,” she had explained, sounding both adamant and apologetic at the same time. On me, the distinction was lost, though Father Bryan nodded in understanding.
            Hence, here we were this afternoon, a crowd of four, participating in an abridged ceremony. At the foot of the grave, Father Bryan held court. His voice washed over proceedings, utterly calm, totally powerful, inflected with the experience of decades of attending to the souls of mankind. For a man fast approaching seventy, he still stood tall and straight. Sure, he was gaunt of features, and his limbs were spindly, but there was still vitality in that body. Presently, he was at the penultimate stage of the ceremony, the bit that still brought shivers down my body even though I’d seen it countless times now. It was quite a piece of theatre, done with such clinical practice that unless your focus was on the priest’s foot, you’d swear it was magical.
            “...and we commit our sister in faith to the ground,” Father Bryan intoned. No sooner had the word ‘ground’ been spoken, the winches on the frame bearing the coffin burst into life, and the coffin began its descent into the earth. As the coffin disappeared, he continued: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust...”
            While this happened, my heart skipped a few beats, as it seemingly always did. Despite the best attentions of the sun beating away at the black suit I wore, a sliver of cold wormed its way down my spine and an involuntary shudder coursed through me. And then, as suddenly as it came, it went, but not without tracing the hairs at the nape of my neck with its cold fingers for a final fleeting moment.
            All that was left was the closing. Father Bryan crossed himself, and then with the litheness of a man many years younger, he stooped to where a small shovel poked out of a token mound of dirt. Seconds later, the first clod struck the top of the coffin, the sound overly loud in the stillness of the grounds. One by one, the rest of the mourners followed suit; approached the grave, gathered a tiny clod of earth on the end of the shovel, and added it to the meagre few that went before it. With that, all was done.

            The graveside ceremony had barely clocked ten minutes.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Power of Fire - Sampler 3

Dire signed the official parchment with a flourish, a smile creasing his lips. To say it was a sanitised version of events was an understatement, but it suited the needs of practicality... and protocol, that recurrent bugbear that rode officialdom like a demented jockey.
            He read over the missive, satisfied with not only the message itself, but also the quality of the writing. There was not a single smear in sight amongst the neat rows of perfect calligraphy. It was one of few vanities Dire allowed himself to revel in. Sadly, though, this message would have but one reading, by the Queen, who would grasp its content at the most basic of levels, before consigning it to the archives where it would remain until it was recovered by some intrepid historian centuries down the track. And the chances of that, Dire mused humourlessly, are less than zero.
            “A small price to pay,” he muttered, reaching across his huge desk for a stick of sealing wax and his personal seal.
            In a matter of minutes, the missive was rolled and sealed with his own personal stamp, ironically, that of a crow. Around this, he secured a single red ribbon fashioned into a large bow. With that small task complete, he rose, wandered slowly to the huge windows that graced his study and gazed out over the palatial courtyards.
            Presently, the courtyard was deserted. Unless you counted the guards standing at the entrances and exits... oh, and the occasional boy loitering after his interview for the apprenticeship, waiting in vain for the next boy to come out so they could exchange banter. Only the next boy, and the boy after that—and should the first boy in question prove particularly stubborn, the boy after that—would be shown different exits. In the labyrinthine splendour that was the palace, the choice of exits was nearly limitless. But why go to such lengths to keep the boys from prattling to one another in the first instance?
            It added to the mystique. Pure and simple. The boys weren’t drawing lots for scullery duty, after all, and none of the established Bodyguard, or those charged with the training of potential apprentices wanted to fuck around with any more dead weight than they had to. And God alone knew just how much dead weight there was, just waiting to be pruned, to be cut and slashed... to be burned.
            The power of fire.
            The thought leapt into Dire’s mind, uninvited and unwanted. He saw again the parchment with the death notice flick from Seth’s hand into the brazier, saw the document blacken, and curl, before being consumed by flames. The cleansing power of fire. There were no screams as the parchment burned, but there would be screams early tomorrow morning. Even though Dire didn’t have to hear those screams, he knew exactly what they’d sound like. Such things he had heard before, and doubtless, would hear again. Invariably, the noises were the same, even if the circumstances changed.
            Nothing could remove the shrieks of agony, of fear—of complete hopelessness—from the grey matter lodged in one’s skull. It became embedded there, as if the sounds were a bullet fired from a gun, cutting a straight purposeful line deep into the flesh. Only these kinds of wounds did not bleed and were never really fatal. They hurt, sure; a kind of twisted private agony that only those who have shared similar experiences could understand, even when their own torment was different. After all, empathy can only lend you its wings for part of the journey. If there is no common ground, then it leans dangerously towards fantasy, and from there, becomes a detached observation.
            In the grey light of dawn, there will be new burning, fresh wounds opened in the minds of young men. They might possess the steel in the moment to act on their instructions. Once, twice, thrice—as many times as was needed. But in the harsh light of day, after the adrenaline fades... what then?
            This was not war, at least not in the conventional sense. It was not combatant against combatant. Even though they were trained to kill, those who would be their targets were not their enemy. Hell, they couldn’t even see the real enemy, and even if they could, would they believe that such a thing was possible? The cross they would bear would be weighted with their ignorance. Whether that eased the burden of their guilt was a moot point. There was a fine line between euthanasia and murder, even if the extermination of a few would save the lives of many.
            And what of Marcus Dire? Was he bearing his own cross for this coming deed, for those already performed, or even those yet to be perpetuated? He had to dwell on that for an appropriate answer. What he felt wasn’t exactly guilt, nor was it remorse. All he knew was that he had plans that couldn’t afford to be derailed, and something like the plague, if it were allowed to run its full course, would set back these plans immeasurably. He could label his actions as a preventative measure, but that would imply a level of altruism that did not exist. Dire was far from uncaring; but a humanitarian he was not. On the surface, his motives were selfish. Anyone on the outside looking in could easily ascribe that to what they saw, and without digging further, that label would be correct.
            In his musings, Dire had wandered away from the window and towards the other desk that sat in the farthest corner of his study. It was piled high with a miscellany of heavy tomes, but the one he wanted was within easy reach. He’d even slipped the bookmark to the place he required, so that all he had to do was ease his fingers between the covers and lever it open. What lay on the pages opened before him repulsed and allured him in equal measure.
            Here was the plague in all of its glory, captured in lurid detail in a number of sketches. While the workmanship was rough, even amateurish, each scene was contrived to wring out the rawest emotion to its viewer. It was a catalogue of despair and horror. One sketch, bordering on caricature, depicted a plague victim writhing in their death throes, their limbs emaciated and seeming overly long, covered in the infamous buboes from which the plague derived its name. These lumps were drawn in such a way as to give the impression that they were moving, from the region of the groin, over the chest, to the armpits and from there, to the neck.
            Yet another sketch, this one much more realistic in its rendering, depicted a narrow city street lined with a multitude of corpses, some fresh, others in varying states of decay. Through the piles of human detritus a rickety cart rolled, led by a man dressed in dark robes. In his hand was a bell, which, if the caption were true, he would toll incessantly while crying out, “Bring out yer dead!” On either side of the cart, groups of men could be seen trying to hurl bodies onto the cart, which was already overflowing with corpses. Dire spied dangling legs and arms; there was even one body that looked as though a sharp jolt from the cart would see it tumble onto the ground.
            Yes! Dire’s mind screamed. This is the plague.
            On the next page, physicians could be seen performing their arcane rites in vain. There was blood letting, application of leaches, various lotions and potions being poured into mouths that gaped like open sewer holes. There were amulets and trinkets and priests in funny conical hats. Here, a Grim Reaper strode across a devastated town, his bony limbs hacking at the populous with his trademark scythe, and there, angels gathered at the bedside of an ailing child, ready to guide the soul to the afterlife.
            Dire flicked another page and another. The plague, death, bodies swollen and blackened. One more page he flicked over...
            ...and saw a densely packed city, many times larger than that which existed outside the window. It was perfectly rendered, the artist choosing to include every intricate detail so that anyone looking at this particular picture knew exactly which city was being portrayed, even if they had never set foot inside its walls. Dire’s fingers traced over a magnificent clock tower, over a massive bridge spanning a broad and deep river, over a palace complex that far surpassed the dark and dingy set of buildings he currently occupied. Yes, this was a city par excellence, thriving with humanity, with culture, with history, and sadly, with all manner of pestilence related to those. Only it wasn’t pestilence that was the theme of this drawing, nor the timelessness and urban beauty of its ancient buildings. What commanded the viewer’s attention was the large pillars of fire that rose high above the buildings and the rendering of the sky. Even though the picture was in monochrome, it was hard not to look at it and imagine seeing colour: the yellow and orange flames, the heavy clouds of black sooty smoke, and the sky angry red, like an infected wound, shimmering with copper highlights like the glowing coals of a blast furnace... or Hell itself.
            The power of fire.
            The inferno lasted for four days, and destroyed over one hundred thousand houses. Miraculously, the death toll was a single digit number, at least officially. Dire smirked at that word. Officially. Being a well-learned student of “officialdom,” Dire knew how easy it was to create statistics to serve one’s needs, and anything written on parchment and sealed with wax was pretty much sacrosanct.
            White lies.
            The power of fire.
            However, death tolls aside, the real reason this picture sparked Dire’s imagination was the single one pertinent fact that directly related to the situation here in Thalesia. As little as twelve months prior to the conflagration, the city was at the mercy of the worst ever outbreak of plague in its history. Indeed, prior to the burning, plague was the single most common cause of mortality amongst the crowded populace. But, after the fire... the outbreaks were so infrequent that one could surmise that the fire played a significant part in eradicating the agent that caused the disease.
            The rats.
            Or, more correctly—Dire turned to the last page in the tome that dealt explicitly with the plague—the fleas on the rats. On the final page was a picture of one of these creatures. Under magnification, it looked like a monster from a story told to frighten children. There were six long, spindly legs ending in hooked claws that at this size looked more than capable of seizing limbs and ripping them apart. Then there was the body covered in segmented armour like the knights of old, giving it a formidable appearance, the façade of great strength. Lastly, there was the head, with its beady black eyes, emotionless as an obsidian pebble, and several long filaments erupting from what could be classed as its mouth. It was easy to imagine these filaments wriggling and writhing, eager to drag pieces of flesh, maybe, into the maw.
            Only such things were impossible, given the flea was barely one sixteenth of an inch in size. In other words, barely visible to the human eye. Barely visible? Practically invisible. Yet another joke played on humankind by Mother Nature. An unseen enemy capable of cutting a swathe through huge populations, leaving these ignorant fools no other option but to pray to a merciless God for salvation, and devise all manner of wicked torture in the name of medicine, and thus, perpetuate the conditions required for the reappearance of the calamity. Ah, yes, proud humanity brought low by the bite of a single flea.
            Dire chortled, but there was little mirth in the noise, which sounded loud in the relative silence. He stared at the diagram of the flea, musing, marvelling at the ingenuity of this creation. He was within a nonce of closing the book and banishing the pictures from his mind when he stopped, caught by a sudden idea. However, he had no time to chase down the idea, to make it a coherent thought, for outside the large door that formed the divide between his private life and the world outside came three sharp raps. And a voice.
            “Marcus Dire, sir?”
            Dire winced, let the book fall shut. The thought that so briefly skittered across his mind alighted. “Yes?” he inquired, barely able to control the irritation in his voice.
            “The interviews, sir... for the apprentices?”
            Dire bit his lip. No doubt it was his turn on that esteemed panel. The idea didn’t exactly thrill him, but was part of the bargain he had to strike to get the damned things in motion. Give a little to get a little, or so they say.
            He placed a few other volumes atop the one that was just closed, the incriminating one; a veritable noose around his neck should anyone with curious eyes should happen upon it. Even though he had rebound the book itself, replacing the original cover, [toan], with something a lot more pedestrian: Studies of Architecture. All it took to rat him out—forgive the pun—as a witch would be someone with the right frame of mind to open the volume up at the wrong page. Better safe than sorry.
            “Ah, yes. The interviews,” Dire muttered. He approached the door slowly, hoping to recapture the flash of inspiration that was stolen from him by the knock. No such luck. It had departed, taking with it all traces of its genesis.
            “Your presence is required... soon.”
            “My presence,” Dire muttered under his breath. Out loud, he said, “I’m afraid I am rather tied up at the moment. Is there any way we can... postpone my presence?”
            There was a shuffle from the other side of the door, the sound of voices, indicating the messenger was not alone. Then, a second voice. “Postpone for how long, exactly?”
            Without skipping a beat, and to hell with the consequences, Dire replied. “Can we postpone until tomorrow morning?”
            There was a short pause. Then a reply, unsure, hesitant. “That won’t be liked much, sir...”
            “Too bad,” Dire snapped. “I have other important business to attend.” It wasn’t really a lie, semantically speaking. But the excuse was enough, because Dire had said it.
            “Very well, sir.”

            Dire, grinning broadly, even though his brow furrowed into a frown, spoke once more. “And please refrain from addressing me as ‘sir.’ It hurts my ears.”

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Power of Fire - Sampler 2

The door closed behind him with a heavy thud, a sound his over active imagination likened to a coffin lid being closed. It was loud, but not loud enough to drown out the phantom voice and the snide comment.
            “That’s going to be a quick interview.”
            Liam heard it clearly, as if someone had said it just inches from his ear. He wasn’t stupid enough to believe that the comment was aimed at anyone else. It was directed at him. He knew it, and yet, it didn’t bother him. In fact, it was a true reflection of how he felt.
            He followed the two Bodyguards, his feet moving as if his shoes were weighted with lead. They escorted him down a wide hallway that was decorated with row after row of po-faced portraits, none of whom Liam recognised. He only gave them scant attention anyway, disliking the way their eyes looked down on him, their disapproval paramount in their countenances.
            You don’t belong here, those disapproving faces seemed to be saying.
            I know, Liam retorted, from the confines of his mind.
            There was another door at the end of the passageway, which the Bodyguards held open for him. This was not done as a courtesy, but to shepherd the boy deeper within that inner sanctum. Beyond the door was an antechamber with three other doors at the other points of the compass. One of these doors would lead outside and to freedom. Another, into the actual interview room. The final door would lead... well... Liam didn’t know and didn’t care. If he had the balls, he’d ask right now which door was the exit, bid the Bodyguards a fond adieu, and would skulk away and enjoy the rest of his afternoon.
            Take the easy way out, in other words.
            Liam sighed, a deep inhalation and exhalation that could have been seen, by a casual observer, as someone preparing to take a big plunge. Psyching himself up. If only.
            “This way,” one of the Bodyguards announced. There was no fanfare. Just the rough voice and an arm turning a door handle and pulling open the door. There was not even a “good luck” or something similar as Liam strode between the duo and into the next chamber.
            The meeting room was a huge, high ceilinged chamber designed to make the interviewee feel small and insignificant. To further the sense of powerlessness, the dominating feature of the room was a massive wooden desk shaped like a crescent. Around the outer curve of the crescent were three high backed chairs occupied by the three interviewers. These sat facing the door so that the three interviewers could watch the boy carefully as he walked towards them. His own chair, which the interviewer in the middle of the trio bade he deposit his sorry arse into with a gesticulation, was much smaller, and was without arms or soft cushions. Sitting in it, Liam felt the back of the chair conspiring to hold his spine straight, to force him to actually sit up, and look directly at the men across from him.
            “Good afternoon, Liam,” the tutor in the middle crowed. The chamber amplified his voice, deep and mellifluous, so that it filled the entire room seemingly without effort. “My name is Peter Osborne. To my left is Elias Clough and to my right... Gerard Lucas.”
            “Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Liam replied, his voice sounding tiny and hesitant, pitched a little too high. He hated that sound, hated the tremulous quality he heard coming from his own mouth.
            “So... Liam,” Osborne said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You want to become an apprentice?”
            For a split second, Liam was sorely tempted to answer honestly. Instead, he pictured his father at the moment he announced in his usual brusque manner that he’d nominated Liam as a candidate. There was no sarcasm in his father’s voice, just a dead certainty that whatever Liam said this afternoon mattered little. His place was all but assured. Therefore, what passed in these few minutes was a farce, and it was in Liam’s best interests to simply play along and bring the formality to a speedy conclusion.
            “Yes,” he lied. “There is nothing more I want than to become an apprentice.”
            He watched with satisfaction as all three tutors blanched. The fellow who posed the question coughed, and shuffled at the papers set out on the desk before him. Liam glanced at these but briefly. They were all blank, there for show, each sheet adding a layer of lead around his rapidly beating heart.
            “You’re aware of the requirements for the apprenticeship?” Clough asked.
            “Yes, sir,” he replied, diligently.
            He even allowed himself to sound excited by the prospect of being force-marched around the training yard, of having boys nearly twice his size pummelling him with wooden swords and fists clad in boxing gloves. Just yesterday, he had been the only boy to put the wrong foot in the stirrup and to mount the horse backwards, eliciting howls of derision from his peers. Yes sir, he thought. I am ready for twelve months of humiliation and pain.
            “Can you write?” Lucas demanded.
            “Yes, sir,” Liam said. Sure, he could write, but his handwriting was like most other things he did. It was awkward, uncoordinated, a slow process. It didn’t help that he was left handed and that if ever a tutor caught him using his pen in that hand, they’d rap him over the knuckles with whatever device of torture was in their possession and force him to use his right hand.
            “It’s only proper,” they would quip. That or some other trite expression. What they said didn’t matter. Liam’s cheeks would burn with humiliation regardless of what they said, and so too the offensive left hand.
            “Can you read?”
            At first, the question seemed daft. I can write, why wouldn’t I be able to read? Liam was tempted to say. But thankfully, he stopped himself. The two skills weren’t mutually exclusive, he realised. Any monkey could copy the symbols onto a piece of paper. But not every monkey could read those same symbols back. There was a tale he remembered his father telling him about how ancient priests with precious secrets would hire waifs from the slums and get them to simply copy the scripts from one parchment to another. Because they couldn’t read, the secrets were safe. And once the waifs had served their purpose, they’d be given a few coins as payment and sent on their way.
            “I can read,” Liam said. Then, after a pause, added, “My father made sure I learned that skill.”
            The trio nodded in unison. Whether they approved of Liam’s literary skills or the fact that his father insisted he acquire them was largely immaterial. Until mention of his father, the trio looked about as excited to be here as Liam. He might have been naïve about much, but Liam knew boredom when he saw it. And until his last remark, boredom was scrawled across the faces of his interviewers like an exquisitely detailed map. Now, the faintest glimmer of interest arose in their eyes.
            “Your father is a good man,” Osborne said. “Would you agree with that, Liam?”
            “It would be unwise to disagree with that, I think, sir.”
            The tutors smiled at this remark, cold smiles barely touched with mirth. “Indeed, it would be,” Osborne commented. On either side of him, his companions nodded silently, dutifully. “Tell me... what line of work is your father in?”
            “Trade, sir. My father is a merchant.”
            “A quite successful merchant, too, from what I have heard,” Clough murmured.
            “That is true,” Osborne replied.
            “So the matter of... certain donations... wouldn’t be beyond his means, then?” Clough wondered aloud.
            Osborne shook his head slowly. “Not at all.” He turned his gaze back to Liam, his cold smile still firmly in place. “I’m fairly certain that he’d meet any charitable need to ensure that young Liam here is made an apprentice. Isn’t that right, Liam?”

            In that moment, Liam felt his heart lurch inside his chest. But, like the good boy he was, the good boy that his father always required him to be, he simply nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Slow Dancing

Slow dancing,
Synchronised chemistry, the poetry of two
To the rhythm of our hearts beating as one

Mere inches between us,
Your breath on my cheek
Closer, I hold you, shuffling our feet

In time, our time, forget the music
But, whisper the words softly in your ear
That knowing smile, knowing I am yours

We're the only ones in the world that matter
As I see me in the reflection of your eyes
Yes, forever, much more than a promise

This slow dance, forever.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Step into the light

They cannot and will not
Break these bonds
Crush the flame
Render darkness in this our world

Let them try,
With their falsehood and
Green-eyed words of hurt
Those dagger tongues and envenomed

This, our world, our sun and our moon
Our universe
A night blanket sewn with a million stars
The shared gift that none can steal
Though they shall try

Be strong,
I shall shield you, as you shield me
This our bond, our promise, united
Against the battering hordes beyond
Who seek to come within

Take this,
This spark, this light, my illumination
To throw back the shadows in the corners
Expose them for the falsehoods they are
Banish them, cleanse them, cast them away...

You and I,
Let us take clasp hand in hand
Take that step, the first step, by far the most difficult
But the one that above all else is true;
Step into the light,
Leave the dark behind.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Power of Fire - Sampler

The man dressed in black was not a holy man. He wasn’t there to hear confessions, absolve sins, or offer words of comfort to the dead and dying. Such salves he found contradictory. God had left this realm centuries ago, leaving both saints and sinners to sort their own mortal leave-taking.
            The holy man who was in attendance at today’s function was typical of his ilk. He tiptoed in sandaled feet, speaking in soft monotones punctuated with genuflection after genuflection. While he sought to school his features into a mask of calm, fear rode his back just as surely as the thick weave of his dark cassock. Despite supposedly possessing the secrets of the hereafter, this man feared Death as much as the mere mortals for whom he prayed. And Death currently held court in this tiny hovel in all its mysterious and fearsome glory.
            This was Death: the body on the cot, skin sallow, taut around the edges of the mouth in one final grimace. The eyes were open, looking up blindly at the thatched ceiling, and the mouth was slightly agape, a blackish-purple tongue tip protruding through puffy, barely parted lips. There was no serenity in this tableau, no peace. It was the antithesis of the paradise the holy man promised.
            Dying wasn’t much better. It was a cacophonous symphony of coughs, splutters, moans and groans, interspersed with curses, prayers and delirious ranting. It was shivering as if cold, but burning with fever. It was alternating between being lacquered with clammy sweat and having skin as parched as a desert. Most of all, dying was being held prisoner in your own body while an evil bacterium ravaged it.
            Marcus Dire could quote rafts of information about the plague. He could take the physicians and holy men by the hand and lead them down the swift and brutal road from infection to mortality, outlining symptoms, offering suggestions for treatment and advice on effective quarantine measures. Yet he didn’t. He couldn’t. Having such knowledge was akin to having a noose around your neck; sharing it would be pulling the lever and letting the trapdoor drop beneath your feet.
            So Dire said nothing. He nodded at the appropriate times, as both the physician and then the holy man explained in their limited ways the steps they were taking to control the scourge. He listened to both prayer and prognosis, secure in the knowledge that were he to offer even a thin sliver of his knowledge, he’d be executed for heresy.
            It was a uniquely impotent experience, watched from a point of detachment somewhat alien to Marcus Dire. Still, he bore the experience with stoicism, and when the half hour tour of duty was complete, allowed himself to be led out of the front door to where his carriage awaited him.
            “Rest assured,” the physician promised. “We will do everything within our power to control the spread of the pestilence.”
            Dire nodded, offered a tight smile that was an outward display of reassurance. “I shall report back to the Queen,” he said.
            The lie came easy, as all lies did with practice. The carriage had barely begun to move when Dire signed the piece of parchment. Come sunrise tomorrow, the hovel, its inhabitants, and those unfortunate enough to be tending them would be history. He didn’t even blink at signing what was effectively a death warrant. It was a necessity. In a place such as Thalesia, where ignorance ruled, it was sometimes better to be heavy handed.

            Especially when there was so much at stake.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Imagine a man

Imagine a man with eyes colder than blue
Imagine what this man is able to do
Picture this man inside your mind
Look beyond the coldness in his eyes

What would you do
If this man was you?

Imagine a man with a layer of ice in his heart
Imagine him clawing his way back to the start
Picture this man inside your mind
Look beyond the coldness in his eyes

How can this be?
This man is me.

What would you do?

Would you dust off his jacket and set him on his feet?
Would you feed and clothe him, make him up real neat?
Or would you toss him aside like the dog forgotten the bone?
Or would you take him in... and welcome him home...?

Imagine a man with a smile and sparkling eyes
Imagine him smiling that way to you all the time
Picture this man inside your mind
Like you’ve seen it a thousand times

Could this man be someone?
Could this man be me?
I don’t know.

But I’d sure like to find out.

Would you dust off his jacket and set him on his feet?
Would you feed and clothe him, make him up real neat?
Or would you toss him aside like the dog forgotten the bone?
Or would you take him in... and welcome him home...?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


This is my heart
Beating in my chest
And this, my breath
Held these last few seconds
Here, my hands, my fingers, to touch
The softness of your hair
And now, my lips
To kiss...

And here, your heart
Racing, as we stand chest to chest
A soft murmur, an exhale, a sigh
This long drawn breath
As your soft hands and softer fingers
Over my skin, with a soft caress
Lips close the gap between us
This our first kiss.

Into The Blue

Say it is true
This love for me and you
Point the ship on its course
Into the blue

Strangers no longer
Passion ever stronger
Bravely into the wind
We turn

Watch the sun sink into the sea
Your head resting on my shoulder
Out here in the blue, timeless dreaming
Colours brighter, hues much bolder
Painting colours never seen, children playing
With the decadence of time

Say it is true
This love for me and you
A millions stars in your eyes
No longer blue

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The clock only moves forward

Come on,
The hurt can't be that bad...
Can it?

I hear anger in the voice I imagine
But it is only words on an LCD screen
Laced with vitriol
And the lingering fragrance of jealousy...

Blame? Yes. It's easy to foist that onto someone else
Make them take the hit
And the fall.
Then chalk it up as another failure.

And that monster lurking behind your steely gaze
Smiles inwardly, content, satisfied
At the blood it has spilled
As your lipsticked mouth curls into a cold grimace of distaste...

...yet, that choice was yours as much as mine.
There's your bed, you made it,
Just lie there and suffer.

The clock only moves forward
And I've laced my boots to venture forth
Shut your mouth, swallow your pride
I've already closed that door.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Under a Blood Moon

Under a blood moon, we kissed
This fortuitous sign in the sky
I held you near, measured the faith of your heart
Beneath this watchful eye

As two, we loved, you and I
This first time, under a blood moon
Even as she waned, and bid the world goodbye
Even though the moment passed too soon

Let us abide here, until the end of time
This precious moment, this celestial sign
Bathed in crimson, under a blood moon
Our love, our destiny, a heavenly design

No vainglorious sun, or self-important braggart star,
To mar this, our love, under this eye, forever true
Let this chance bind us, heart to heart, for eternity
Under a blood moon

Saturday, 10 May 2014

That Far Horizon

Throw my bones out to the dogs
And lock my heart inside this vault
Kick me while I am down
Swallow this blame, you know, this is my fault

After all, I cannot help but say the words
To bend the air to form the sound of my purpose
How I long to have a mountain peak to shout aloud from
To clear the air of the doubter's vitriolic curses

My hands, now wrung, become twisted claws
Cruel talons, clutching the bloody flesh of fate
Sure, I understand the trivialities and the sarcasm
But at least my feet know the path I should take

This road strewn with memories and regrets
The assorted detritus of old whims and older desires
Looking ahead, there shines a golden light on that far horizon
Where at last, I can feel the warmth of a million fires

And it is true, all these years and miles between us
Will, at that right moment, evaporate and disappear
As smiling, I take your hand in my hand, hold it tight
Sharing our knowledge that the path ahead for us is clear

Friday, 25 April 2014

Whatever Happens


Whatever happens
I made that promise, forever
And no other dotted line, or bonds and shackles
Will turn me aside
Or shatter this covenant
That I have given you

Should the world be broken
Torn asunder, by violent fevered hands
In fits of rage or spite
Hold true that promise, made forever
This golden covenant
To forever hold true

This is my promise, my absolution
When the world overwhelms and crowds around me
And I should retreat to hide somewhere, alone
Know that once the storm is over
And with the return of clear blue skies
That I will come and find you

Whatever happens
I make that promise,
The promise... forever


Here I am and there you are so far away from me
Looking up into the darkened heavens
Wondering if it's the same moon you see

The stars appear to wink, slyly preoccupied in their space
Of whirling galaxies, detached observers
Fixing me to this place

I count the miles from here to there, from the map on the wall
Trace the highways, and with my finger, fly
And in my dreams I hear you call...

I want to swim in the depth of your eyes
And glide on the width of your smile
I want to paint dreams on the walls of your mind

Want to lay down here with you for a while

I want you to feel safe in my loving embrace
And feel together when we are apart
I want to give the entire world to you
At least the part I am on for a start

I want to be your everything
Making daisy chain tokens of love
I want to be there through joy and despair
To be higher than the sky above

Oh, can’t you see
This is meant to be
A harmony for
Two angels to sing


There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide
And no way to turn off these feelings that
I hold inside

You're the vision in my mind, you are there in my dreams
All that holds me together as the world
Falls apart at its seams

If there is one absolute truth, then let it be this
Your light shall guide me, forever
To the safe harbour of your kiss

And as the sun sets on this day
And I slowly close my eyes
And as the visions from the darkness play
I know how much I've always wanted this

And while the sea between us lies
Beyond our out stretched fingertips
I count the seconds until that first touch
I know I've always wanted this...

Whatever happens between now and then
We will steel our resolve, whisper down the line
Again... and again

And while Time now seems an enemy, a dearth
Maybe Time is just a friend in disguise
Waiting with the patience of the Earth

Whatever happens
I make that promise,
The promise... forever


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

You Know I Will Be Back

Your love is...
A drug
Hooked, I just can't get enough
You know I will be back
For more

I can't help myself
Can't tell the pleasure
From the pain
Keep coming back for more
And more
And more
Again and again

It's no good for me
Infects me like
A disease
And yet here I am
Falling at your feet, again
Admitting defeat, again

Got me hooked

And even though I know better
And I know I should just forget her
She just has to say my name
And there I am
Happy to be with her... again
But what is different this time,
That wasn't there last time?
Another spin, different lines, more
Promises, proclamations, lies?
Until I am spinning out of control
Bleeding from my soul
Cast aside... until...

Next time
And despite my reservations
Knowing our history
Once more I give in to temptation

Can't escape your winning smile
And your promises

You know I will be back.

And I know it, too.

When my eyes close

We shared quaint philosophies
About the moon
Over a quiet drink or two
Running down old memories
Your head on my shoulder
My heart racing in my chest

If I ever wanted time to stand still
That would be the time
As we waxed lyrical
Around a myriad of subjects
Comfortable with familiarity
Thrilling in new discovery

Oh, that perfect moment
Maybe now touched rose with
A nostalgic hue
Nonetheless, a moment cherished
Enough to bring a slow smile
Before a fresh wave of sadness

Now the moon sits full and heavy
Silver halo on a bed of dark clouds
My reflection is sober, introspective
In pain I count the long hours
And yet, when my eyes eventually close
I will dream of you again

Monday, 7 April 2014

Before Goodbye

I cannot remember a moment such as this
Life on pause, waiting
Tongue tied, fingers poised
Still waiting... no reply

Time. Seconds turn into days
Even the monotony of every day can't shift the haze
Bide my time, practised lines
Still waiting... no reply

To say the silence is killing me,
Is an overstatement
Yet we reap what we sow
Such a shitty investment

And I
I close my eyes
And I
I hope I see her tonight
Even if in these dreams
Might find the right words to say
Before goodbye.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Next Horizon

That moment
When everything around you is a blur
And what was once important, means nothing
Just empty phrases, empty gestures
A robotic shuffle from A to B

That moment
Where you turn on an axis, this watershed
Unsure which way is forward
But knowing that that which is behind you
Cannot compare to what may be over the next horizon.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Nothing New Here

How the heartbreak, once devastating
Is healed; and seamlessly
As we scuttle from one disaster
To the next
Where once we bemoan Fate's dealt hand
And turn inward, curse ourselves
Our imperfections
Wallow in self pity and blame

"I will never love again!"
That worn out catchphrase,
That cry for attention.
Woe. Oh, woe!
Your life has ended
Will nothing ease this pain?

Dark thoughts
Pits of despair
The bottom of many a bottle
Green eyes, mulish pursing of one's lips
At the happiness of others
While your mind's dagger drags over the whetstone
Plots of vengeance
The sour grapes upon the rotten vine

Until the next rogue, with silken words
And deft fingers
Unlocks the shackles - self imposed, of course -
Of your heart
With promises and attentions
And that charming smile

So unlike the others, who you only remember
From the bitterness of the end
When their hollowness was exposed
And their litany of perfection was naught but lies
Oh how you take the bait on offer
Good fish
Suddenly forgetting the dark moments
And tear stained cheeks
The heart rending, pathetic
"I will never love again!"


The cycle, started anew
On the same old worn path
With no surprises
Lurches like a trainwreck
In slow motion
But we can't close our eyes, nor turn our heads
When it is played and replayed
Right before us
Ad infinitum

We, well-practiced cynics
Wait for the derailment
With tired patience
Sagacity dulled with boredom

Nothing new here.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Just You and I

Remember that day
How the sun caught your eyes
How sweet the way
Walk the path where our love lies

Forget the night
How the moon hides the truth
Hold what is right
Let love be our proof

We will lie side by side
In this endless heart tide
Without sleeping
Without dreaming
Just you and I...

Heavens apart
We cast shadows in the light
Race back to the start
Don’t let go of me tonight

We will dance through the sky
While the world turns its eye
Without leaving
Without seeing
Just you and I

Now the world I know can be cruel
But if you promise, I will promise too
Promise to be true
If you love me, I will love you

Then we’ll lay side by side
In this endless heart tide
Without sleeping
Without dreaming
Just you and I...


At first I was scared
Of the beating of my heart
To acknowledge aloud in words
The thoughts crossing my mind
Safe with everything I knew
Hiding away, where I felt safe

And then you came
And my eyes opened
There was light, for the first time
I could really smile

There is no distance now
The miles, inconsequential
Just a smile at a long remembered memory
That's enough to save me

Monday, 17 March 2014

And then...

And in the blink of an eye
Lightning dances along a dark, restless sky
Rain like teardrops cascades to the ground
What was lost can never be found...


Fortunes from some twisted Tarot deck
Connections aligned in circumspect
There is a line in blood drawn in the sand
That cannot be erased by a mere mortal's hand...


So sad, so true
This flower I give to you
See her petals misted with dew
Before she is crushed in the vice of time and

Rivers flowing slowly into a dark boiling sea
Words left unspoken, regretfully
Rage like a tempest, the rising storm
Once more you walk the world... all alone...

...and then...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Hold On

This is where we start
An end, but a new beginning
Brand new, this golden morning
Alive with fresh chances of winning

Hold on
There are blue skies ahead
Life can't be all dismal and grey

Hold on
There is light at the end of the darkness
We both can't be losing our way

Set one foot in front of the other
Let us go forward hand in hand
Don't stop, there is no need to look behind
At our footprints that trail in the sand

Hold on
There are blue skies ahead
Life can't be all dismal and grey

Hold on
There is light at the end of the darkness
We both can't be losing our way

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Welcome to my world

I wake up
Get out of bed
Find my mask and put it over my face

Wipe the dishes dry
Brush my teeth
My apathy forces me to lock the door as I leave

I trudge the road
My head is hung
The frost crunches beneath my No Brand shoes

I smile at my colleagues
I bite back retorts
I want to teach the little bastards to dance

My mind is numb
My thoughts are dumb
Each hour passes without a blink

I stare into space
Eight and a half hours
A two pack day and one foot in the grave

Home again
Mask by the door
I sag against the jamb, fall to the floor

Dinner for one
Frozen peas and white sauce
I toast the mirror: prost!

Then to bed
Early to rise
Another day, more lies