Offer prayers to dispassionate gods, with the ground you walk and the blood you trade. Hear, in the calls of the night and the sighs of the snow, the silence in their answers.
I was fascinated; silence as a measure of something, or of nothing at all.
But Sato was shaking his head. “You have a strange sense of humour Gen, if you were trying to be funny. That is not a book I like.”
The worn cover might have indicated otherwise, but I closed the book and folded it into my lap. Beneath one hand I still traced the sword upon its bindings, thin and crude when compared to the graceful characters traced on the pages. Continue reading “Orison”
I would cry for the saving
Of that falling old-new city
Watercolours a keen note
And the sky, a walkway singing
You knew me there
And we traced between
Stone bridges, fluted steel
The flowers, the bells still ringing
Rainbowed eyes and sea arising
Where we walked I swim, tiring
So time is passing by
In the watercolour city
Elizabeth Cook, 2016
On March Comes in like a Lion ED
It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear a thunderclap.
~ Sun Tzu
Two nights ago I read 9 of the 13 sections of The Art of War, and wrote 13 pages of notes. I need hardly explain why my dreams were medieval and confusing. I could explain why I am doing this during exams, with my undergraduate seminar paper hanging over my head, but only if I knew.
Perhaps some of you are also perverse in timing things. I read Sun Tzu’s carefully framed quotations and the commentary offered by those such as Li Quan, Mei Yaochen, and Zhang Yu, and simply didn’t find a stopping place. Reading their reflections on terrain called to mind the varied landscapes of China, and I found myself Googling images of mountain jungles and rice fields.
I did not read the remaining four sections because I thought I should do some math instead. It turns out this was an excuse to pick up another book.
Today I finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I discovered a “Reader” app on my super-high-tech-complicated Android phone, and lo and behold, there were classic book inside. Free.
How could I not read a free copy of Dracula, which I had never read before?
So I exchanged the “ground of life and death” for the wilds of Transylvania, and the Count’s great ruined castle on its promontory. Continue reading “China, Transylvania, and Rome”
Orison – 1
Orison – 2
Orison – 3
Even without sight I could tell as the house loomed and I was borne within.
I could only act as myself in part, and could be nothing more than what I pretended to be. On this my life rested. My eyes flashed open once inside, and with a cry I let out all the fear that had been building. The man carrying me did not so much as miss a step. The house was great and empty, and I froze in awe at the room he brought me into. It stirred memories too old to recall. Cushions littered the floor around a low mahogany card table. Divans made a half-circle, and a great harp stood behind them.
I wriggled free. I think he let me do so, for there was no other way out of the room, and I scrambled away across the cushions until there was nowhere left to go, and there I sat drooping but wary, exhausted by the effort. Continue reading “Orison – 4”
Orison – 1
Orison – 2
Before a year had passed I was restless. Balsa knew before I did; I saw her watching, and was at first puzzled by the new lines around her eyes.
We were in the kitchen, peeling roots. I thanked her again for all that she had done for me, and asked how I might repay that debt; she replied that it was only right to settle debts before leaving a place. And she set me to bringing in the washing, and taking inventory in the cellar, and cleaning the baths.
It went on for some time. Until Balsa struggled to find new tasks for me, and wore an expression that made me sad and guilty.
I avoided her eyes and their lines. I wondered if it was wrong to go – I hoped that I might stay. But men had made roads that went north, and even had there been no roads I would have been forced to go that way, lest I live without deserving each breath.
Spring turned to summer, and one morning Balsa gave me a bag.
“It is best to go when it is warm.” She kept her face blank and I was torn. Continue reading “Orison – 3”
Orison – 1
In a room with white paper walls they asked me if I had any reason to live. If I had, what had I been doing during my time in the streets? What had I been doing with all that I knew and all that I did not know? Why had I not been seeking, tireless as the pole star, after some way – however despicable – to climb up from my impermanent place in the world?
Kneeling, head bowed, I begged their forgiveness.
When I woke I was the weakest I have ever been. I laid there and memorized the straw bed, and the bareness of the room. I could not see out the window. After some time a woman came, and she asked me how old I was. I did not know.
She was Balsa, wide and tall, who kept that inn with no one but her hired help, and who had an old sword hidden behind her bar. They said she had used it before. Continue reading “Orison – 2”
You can find the Prologue here.
I was taken to the house of a relative, a narrow place with many staircases in the midst of the city. At first the bustle tossed me around, but then I learned to dart up and down the creaky wooden stairs, to hide in corners, and when I could not hide I learned how to run errands through streets that teemed with hands and smells and curses.
The meals I had once known were revealed to be elaborate, the rooms I had had played in were revealed to be clean and beautiful, and all was beyond reach.
They talked of money often, in that house with many staircases. By the end of that summer the yelling swelled and at night the air was heavy and unpleasant. As their resentment grew the meals became poorer and I ran more errands, hiding out of the house rather than within.
You could hear things in the streets. I listened, I learned who was safe to question, and I eventually began to ask. Continue reading “Orison – 1”
The night my life began was not the night I was born.
I had fallen asleep in the grip of that pox which almost all children catch; my face swollen and hot, finding no relief in cool sheets or in the hand and voice of my father. He had stayed long after the doctor came and went , stayed to repeat reassuring things and to draw my fingers away from my body when I might have scratched. The frustration of my hands above the sheets, while my skin writhed beneath, slowly exhausted me. I wept and thrashed my legs and closed my eyes.
That sleep was heavy and troubling, but seamless was my move from oblivion to sitting up against my pillows, and looking into the courtyard beyond my bedroom.
I saw the small flashes of silver in the moonlight, quick and perfect as fish in a night sea, a waking dream that drew me from my bed. Continue reading “Orison”