Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Orion

Like the gray Willamette, time flows
Toward its unseen confluence.
Like the bare-limbed cottonwood, time digs deep, 
Stands tall, holds fast in the earth
As waters bear us onward with their flow.
Behind we see its rising branches, bearing old nests of herons, 
Until the current
Carries us round the next bend.

In February the leaves of osoberry unfold
Pale green at the knees of the bare forest,
Cool on the tongue, bitter as cucumber.
Now for a week or two, most years,
Winter rains become distracted,
Forget to fall.
Mild breezes, bright play of sun -
A cat's enticed to bask in a sidewalk gutter,
Rolling in the warmed dust.
This doorway season,
Hardly winter, not yet spring.

As heaven clears, Orion rears
Into the evening.
This year his shoulder dims and seems
To trouble him.
But no doubt
A simple passing twinge.
This proven steady fellow,
Tested by time,
Reliably returned
And bravely round again
Beating back the Bull
For countless years to come,
As far as I'm concerned.
Until at last the day arrives
He's slated to retire,
Unbuckle his belt,
Disperse into the dust and the dance.

Each February I add another integer to my tally.
The vining clematis we planted just last year
Blooms with white stars outside my window
For the first time.



Wednesday, September 4, 2019

As Above on Manawaker Studios Podcast

Quick announcement - My short story "As Above" was read on the Manawaker Studios Flash Fiction Podcast this week!  Thank you to C.B. Droege for his vocal talents...

http://www.manawaker.com/podcast/0430-as-above/




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame



"History hath triumphed over time, which besides it nothing but eternity hath triumphed over."

Photo: Francois Guillot

The fires remain unextinguished as I write this.

On seeing the images this afternoon of the Paris skyline with Notre Dame broken-backed and engulfed with smoke and flame, I think the particular shock arises from the proof that even such a work of spirit and craft is transient in the phenomenal world.  One is drawn to think that having already endured over centuries, the cathedral should by rights be eternal.

But the experience also came to me with a strong sense of deja vu.  Connie Willis had already struck to the heart of this foundational fault of experience and memory with her novelette "Fire Watch," published in 1982.  

Of love, and memory, and time.  Of what is irredeemably lost, and what can never be lost.

"... what is, like Langby, like all of it, every moment, in us, saved forever."  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Vintage Worlds Published

Happy to receive this in the mail today!





















It's nice to finally see my story "Pen Pal" in print and to be able to share it with others.  I was pleased with how naturally this story unfolded and grew from its first seed to become the full tale of sixteen years of friendship and interplanetary crisis.  I still love the narrative voices of Meliari Thulissia and Mary Havens, and I hope that folks will get as much enjoyment from reading their story as I did from writing it.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

As Above

A quick announcement that my short-short story "As Above" has been published by Flash Fiction Magazine at this web address.

Under a thousand words, and, of course, fundamentally a gimmick story indulging my predilection for astronomy.  Yet in developing what it would take to make the gimmick work, there turned out to be some depths and disturbing implications, more topical than I had planned - in the accumulation and arbitrary exercise of vastly uneven economic power, in careening technological advance, in matters of character and personal history and whether to come to terms with loss.

It's common enough to seek to draw down some meaning from the stars into our own lives - perhaps by checking the horoscope column in the morning newspaper, perhaps by firing a red sports car out toward the asteroid belt.  Not everyone's cup of tea, certainly.  But the daydream of somehow, against all evidence to the contrary, finding a way of turning back time and undoing that one crucial mistake - I take that to be universal.


P.S.  While researching the astronomy for this story, I discovered that the superlative Randall Munroe had independently struck upon much the same concept.  For an exquisite visual demonstration of Tighe's task, you need look no further than here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thoughts on Der Taucher

I took as my writing project last month a translation of Friedrich Schiller's "Der Taucher" (The Diver) - having recently revisited my version of "Ode to Joy" and remembered the pleasant challenge of transposing from an unfamiliar language within the constraints of meter and slant-rhyme.  I thought I might try again - and picked another of Schiller's poems roughly at random.  Not quite what I expected!

Understand that I had not previously read this or been familiar with the story.  I deliberately didn't look at any other English translations because they would be bound to bias me.  My German is poor enough that just scanning ahead did not give me much more than a few recognizable words. So I found out what was going on one stanza as a time, as I translated each one with the dictionary.  It went something like this:

Stanzas 1 and 2:  Okay.  Nice adventure setup here.

3 and 4: Or, setup for a comedy.  Of errors.

5 and 6: Oh dear. That got... very intense very fast.  I think this is what they call Sturm und Drang?

7:  OMG Shit is getting real!

8:  Jesus Mary and Joseph it is not even halfway over yet!

And it carried on from there...

The big theme is the Romantic awe of the natural world, which is indeed magnificently rendered and of which more in a moment, but first let us pause and acknowledge the indisputable fact that the king's daughter is the only character in the story with the sense that God gave a barnyard goose.  I take no responsibility for poor decisions made by these people.. The diver lad stretches the line between bravery and stupidity out to a vanishing point like a spiderweb.  And the king - well, judging by his behavior, my guess is that goblet had already seen heavy alcoholic use that afternoon.  Dude!  You're sending him down there again?!? I'm not sure the kid even had time to taste his victory champagne.  I guess some guys are just mean drunks


But more seriously... the way Schiller perceives the energies and creatures of the ocean is a strange combination - fearful rapture at the wild chaos, underlain by a kind of existential horror at what exists in the depths.  And it's hardly wrong to do so; since still every winter I read news stories of vacationers swept away by a rogue wave on the Pacific coast.  

But in a way it is also a function of the technological abilities of the time in which he was writing.  In 1797, anyone observing the sea from fifty fathoms down would have done so very briefly before a quick and untimely death; so I guess it stands to reason that Schiller would think of it as an aquatic hellscape.  As the diver looked down into the abyss I was half-expecting to glimpse Cthulhu gazing back at him.  And I am still not quite sure he wasn't.

But I did also grow up watching the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau!  Scuba divers amid brilliant silvery fish schooling and flashing in unison, kelp forests swaying in the waves, luminescent jellyfish gracefully pulsing across the blue... I know that the world beneath the sea has every bit the beauty of a summer forest. And to paint it all in tones of shuddering horror perhaps tells us more about the perspective of the writer than about the reality.  

Not that any part of Earth's natural world is exempt from pain and mortality.  Every fractal beauty and graceful curve is formed out of the incarnate history of the world; these intricate unfoldings, these joys in motion, are exactly what has survived and persisted beyond billions of generations of deaths. 

So, strange to hear the same poet saying

From the breasts of Nature
Every creature drinks of joy its fill.
Good and wicked, each is drawn 
To follow on her rosy trail

yet also

But terrible dread still abides down beneath,
And Man should not tempt the old gods in their might,
And never should crave to display unconcealed 
The night and the horror they've mercifully veiled. 

Both true - inextricably, inexplicably, intertwined.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Vintage Worlds Kickstarter


 Several cool pieces of news on the upcoming anthology Vintage Worlds, where my story "Pen Pal" will be appearing:

Firstly - we have a cover!  Check out the spectacular illustration below by Matt Forsyth.  I think this really captures the spirit of the Old Solar System. (And seems vaguely familiar...)  I got to see an earlier version, with which I was suitably impressed, but this image takes it to a new level!




Secondly - Founders House Publishing is running a Kickstarter campaign this month to help finance publication and distribution of Vintage Worlds.  Please check out their Kickstarter site for a full description of the project, including biographies of the seventeen authors included, an excerpt from John Michael Greer's introduction to the anthology, and a beautifully done video that was put together by fellow author and video producer Arthur Vibert.  Kudos!!  

The campaign opened a couple of days ago and is running through October 2nd.  So far it looks like it is doing quite well and attracting a good number of supporters; but there is a ways to go, so please feel free to drop in a contribution.!

Thirdly - hmmm.... let's just see if I can link to that video on this page... if it does not work for you, you can pick it up on the Kickstarter site also.