Waves of Insurrection

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Rain drummed incessantly on the shell of my hood as I walked through the rusting iron gates of the public park. Fingers red and burning as they gripped the plastic handles of shopping bags, I started the long trek up the hill, rivulets of water streaming down the path to run around the soles of my shoes. I trudged steadily upwards, getting closer to the clouds, passing the ‘Mediterranean Zone’ with its laurel trees and then the ‘Prairie Gardens‘ with its grasses weighed down by water. As I walked higher and the rain fell down with more intensity I began to make out wisps of a voice ghosting through the watery air. It was so soft that I had to turn my ear towards the peak of the hill to hear it against the pattering raindrops. Intrigued, I walked faster, squelching upwards towards the source of the voice and the water. Passing the rhododendrons of the ‘Asian Zone’ and the clipped hedges of the ‘Lost Garden’ I came to the green lawn that spread downwards from the Edwardian glasshouses that stood at the edge of the park. On the grass stood a wooden stage and the source of the voice. Above the stage hovered a dark cloud and the source of the rain. I sat on a park bench, facing the direction from which I had come, to contemplate both.

I sat next to my bags of shopping as the opera singers rehearsed for the next day’s concert. Behind the stage, grassy slopes slid away to reveal a vista of what I had just been a small part of: undulating waves of redbrick terraces, grubby spires breaking free from the parallel lines to shoot upwards towards a seething sky. Streaks of cloud scudded at right angles to the spires, some high, some low, some a pale white, some a bruised blue and some a peachy red as they reflected the rays of the dying summer sun falling behind the western hills. Bolts of that fading sunlight speckled the urban blocks, dancing across house windows to produce a sparkling luminescence that flickered in waves across the hills. This shifting mosaic of light and colour formed the backdrop to the motionless stage as, overhead, a lower dark cloud moved stubbornly slower than the rest to pour its contents onto the heads of those few who watched the rehearsal.

A few damp figures composed this audience; the elderly, the unemployed, and young mothers with pushchairs. These figures stood in disparate clusters in front of the stage or, like me, sat on the benches that lined the path. One enthusiastic group had even produced small flags to wave at the climax of each song, striving in vain to shake the cheap rectangles of red, white and blue plastic free from the heavy water that weighed them down. We listened in the rain as the singer sung songs of victory, glory and hope; the words and ideas as dusty and old as a grandfather clock, a porcelain teapot or a cucumber sandwich.

During one such song, a single shaft of sunlight shone across the stage to fall on the ‘Western Temperate Zone’ and reflect off the glistening bark of the native oaks. As it did so, the silken waves of rain sparkled with the line of falling sun, the convergence of light and water representing the brief merging of cycles that had continued for aeons. Behind these curtains of flickering light the orchestra reached a crescendo of noise and the singer held onto a wavering note. Suddenly, as he did so, the whole scene was bathed briefly in a flash of nearby lightning to burn the outline of the scene onto the retinas of the watching few. Seconds later a loud blast of summer thunder tore the watery scene asunder to shock the singer from his third ‘never’ and upset the harmony of the instruments. The performance faltered as rhythms and pitches clashed together in anarchic waves of clattering metal and rasping air.

The dying orchestra grew quieter than the pattering raindrops and the feet of the audience members shifted on the sodden grass. The flags hung limply in the rain, no longer moved by waves of patriotism. The unemployed and the elderly looked around, embarrassed for the musicians. Then suddenly the opera singer broke into a giggle that flowed into wild laughter. His huge lungs went from belting out lines about nationalistic mercantilism, to silence, and then to generating booming laughter. The orchestral players looked around at each other and began to laugh too.  As they did so more bolts of sunlight shot down to fall across the glistening grass like spotlights across a Gilbert and Sullivan stage or like searchlights against a Vera Lynn sky. The rain lessened to a drizzly mist, more air than water, and I pushed my hood back to warm my forehead in the soft evening light. With the laugher behind me, I picked up my shopping bags and left to walk out the entrance of the park, upwards towards the clouds that flowed in waves of red and white across the darkening blue of the summer sky.

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

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Two Drops in a Shower

 

Torrents of water pour down the hillside and across the path. Inside the shell of my raincoat the sweater that sticks to my skin fails to bother me. I walk in the rain to escape. No-one would be out in this weather. And then, when one of those magnificent patches of blue sky comes along, oh bliss! And all to myself.

Streams of rain flood down the valley and across the track. My feet are swimming in muddy water but my mind is an island of sweet solitude. A sense of being that grows as each falling raindrop beats tranquillity into my forehead. Who else would be out in this weather? And up above; those heavenly patches of blue that seem to streak along whilst the clouds hold still.

The insides of my boots are wet but I rejoice in the discomfort of my feet. My legs pump back and forth like two unstoppable pistons fuelled by the falling rain. I stride along the ribbon of path, a clammy but contented colossus.

I wear sandals because I just don’t care. The water and earth flows between my toes, I am one with the hydration. No sound, not even birdsong, just the pattering of rain redressing the equilibrium upset by the imprints of my transient presence.   

Oh, a tree? Oh!

What? I don’t believe it!

Whoever he is, he has ruined my walk, absolutely ruined it. What the hell is he doing anyway, it’s torrential!

Well that’s it; he’s spoilt it for me. Why can’t I just be allowed to enjoy something on my own for once?

He’s getting closer, is it me or is he walking along the middle of the path like he owns it! He’s on the right now.

Is he on the left or the right, walk straight man! I shouldn’t even have to be thinking about this. He’s on the right now.

Stupid man.

Stupid man.

“Morning”

“Morning”

Better not be anyone else.

Hope that’s it.

I liked his sandals, very bold. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Have to get to the top to have my sandwiches and flask of coffee.

He had a nice jacket; I wonder what his name was? Probably just the kind of person I should be making friends with. Oh well, down the hill I go.

Oh wow, bliss! What a shade of blue! Where is he again? Oh, too far away.

Incredible! Amazing! What a spectacular rainbow. Where is he? Oh, too far away.

I wonder if he’s seeing this too? 

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

Pause

 

Colours seep together as the intense white of the sun obliterates my perception. Within this washed-out world I push down on hot aluminium pedals, rubber tyres already beginning to roll along hot tarmac. As the bike gathers pace I squeeze the frame with my thighs and ride with no hands, tangling and untangling the headphone chord with my fingers. Slipping the buds into my ears I press down buttons that pulse the electricity that begins the music. As my hands grip the handlebars and my back arches down, the beats lay down the sinews of a framework upon which my mind can construct reality.

A shower has just passed and the clouds in the distance tell a short story of rain that has gone and rain that will come. All around me the spent water is evaporating into the ether as the sun’s hot rays vaporise its molecules into upward movement. I split this migration of hydration, puncturing the long trails of moisture as they re-begin their long journey upwards. Overhead, new clouds race along tracks of azure sky, eager to add to an ever enclosing encirclement of grey. It will rain again very soon.

Ahead of me the traffic lights are changing from amber to red. I can see the orange shades darkening into ochre as time slows and everything seems to pause. A bass beat of music pulsates through me, underlining the rhythm of the cars as they vibrate slowly behind painted lines, impatient drivers scowling as their feet begin to push down upon pedals. Everywhere water hangs in the air, a melody of molecules refracting the rays of the sun as they play towards a sky in which a kestrel floats, blown upwards on the heat that rises from the hot tarmac below. As quickly as it slowed, time resumes it’s normal speed and I accelerate, piercing the intersection at a tangent to the floods of cars that career through seconds later, front ranks of drivers angrily honking their horns.

Up ahead is a congestion of traffic. I overtake a lorry as it begins to slow down, running parallel to it as the spray from its wheels combines with the sweat from my forehead. I look up and smile at the driver as he looks down and glares at me. I swerve between stationary cars, signing my brief existence into the rising water and falling light with a flourish of liquid synergy. Thoughts rise and fall within my mind as I breathe in and out. I am one with the flow of the movement. The motionless will take care of themselves.

Suddenly I escape from the bottleneck, shooting out into an empty road like a single raindrop squeezed from a bruised cloud, falling into a blue sky. As I look to the  road ahead the music stops as it pauses between tracks. My mind settles and re-focuses even though its edges remain blurred. Sometimes I’m not sure where the stationary objects stop and the flowing movement begins. Enclosed, as we are,  in a mind of pulsing electricity driven by a heart that beats on a planet that spins in a universe that is expanding and contracting into eternity, who does?  A new beat begins as I pedal on, the sky above me steadily darkening, my fingers tapping on the handlebars without pause.

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

 

N.B. Four Tet ‘Pause

Eternal Leaders

 

I was born under a double rainbow on a holy mountain that straddles the border between ‘what I own’ and ‘what I don’t’. As my mother heaved me out beside the banks of a frozen lake, winter changed into spring.

I was born at 5:33 in a hospital on a cold Thursday. Mummy says that I looked so beautiful that she entered me into a competition to be in a soap advert!

 

When I grow up I will rule over twenty million people who worship me as a living god. I can hold my breath under water for one hour. Daddy says I’m the most handsomest boy in the whole world!

When I grow up I will be a star! Daddy says that I sing like an angel and that I should enter a talent competition like Pop Idol. All my friends say I’m just so pretty and that I should be a model.

 

When I die, rows of mourners will prostate themselves in front of my golden statue, their tears soaking into the paving slabs that I will own for eternity.

When I die I will go to heaven and everyone will be sad. Lots of people will write sad things on my Facebook page but it won’t matter because I’ll see them when they get to heaven too.

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

A Chinese New Year

 

I ran up the down escalator as she ran down the up, taking swipes at each other’s head’s as we passed. We did this for twenty minutes, frustrating commuters, foreigners and manual labourers alike; a thoroughly communal anti-socialism. Exhausted, we were catching our breath when she lifted a five yuan note from the ground. We yelped in delight! Debating how to spend it, she mooted the idea of actually riding on the subway!

We found the ticket machine and not knowing where to go or where we were, we pressed buttons until cards emerged. Restraining ourselves as we went down more elevators, train’s arrived on both sides of the platform. She chose the right one because, unspoken, I knew she liked the look of the advertisement painted onto the side of the carriages. I followed her as I always do.

Being accomplished elevator riders and not fully comprehending the concept of subways, we decided to walk down the carriages. Under the intense lights I could see just how grubby her face was. I told her this and she told me she doubted it was as dirty as mine. We both whooped with laughter and picked up the pace. We eventually tired of walking and got off to ride the escalators up into the fading twilight.

We gasped as we looked around. The buildings were higher than the mountains of our home! In between these megaliths the sun was setting into the smoggy haze. All nearby consciousness was focused on the sky, on the twirling rosettes waltzing their way across the penthouses of the rich and dancing through the ghost trails of fireworks long since fallen to earth. We stood and stared at the top of the escalator, those still emerging pushing past us angrily.

Cordite stung my eyes and as I wiped them I followed the smoke trails down to the ground, to where a man stood holding a burnt-out match. I recognised those clothes, that stance, that haircut. Father? No! It couldn’t be, Uncle? I shouted ‘Uncle!’ but he couldn’t hear me above the cacophonous explosions. Then suddenly his face was caught in the flash of a rocket. Neither of them. I looked at her and she looked back knowingly.

Not really having much of a bedtime plan we held hands as we stared at the sky, smiles fixed to our faces, tears at the corner of our eyes.

 

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

N.B.  improved immeasurably by being read to the sound of a Four Tet song (most things are improved in this way). I’d suggest ‘Circling’ from the album There is Love in You.

Inverted Spectrum

 

Raindrops shoot down the window like a meteor shower, their brief streaks of individualism dying as they plunge into the windows edge to recombine into a reassuring whole.

The train is stationary, the harsh strip-lighting from inside the carriages flooding out into the inky black countryside. Anything could be out there in that cold gloom. Anything could be peering in at us as we sit in this hot and stuffy cage, facing each other but not talking, knees and feet brushing together but feeling nothing but annoyance. The fat man sitting opposite me is reading A Short History of Anglo-Saxon England. There is a picture of Bede the….the…oh what was it again? The obscure? the impenetrable? Oh I don’t know. Didn’t he say something about a sparrow?

An announcement rasps out. There has been a fatality on the line up ahead. The fat man tuts:

“Why do they do it?” he says to no-one.

The woman sitting next to him shifts with embarrassment and reads her magazine with an increased intensity. The man in the seats adjacent to us glances at the speaker over the rim of his glasses but his eyes returns to his crossword. The fat man shakes his head and gets ready to return to his book. Suddenly, unexpectedly;

“I don’t know, with the way the world is today……” contributes the man sitting next to me. The question sways in the air like a noose.

The fat man likes this;

“Yeah you can say that again. Who knows anything anymore”.

‘Anymore?’ I want to say, ‘Anymore! Whoever did know!’ I want to shout into his shiny red face. But I don’t, I just clench my buttocks and dig my nails into my palms. The harsh light reflects from the fat mans engorged cheeks as he settles back into his chair with a satisfied sigh.

The carriage returns to a slow death by incandescent lighting. The raindrop meteors continue to sign their brief existence across the window pane with a flourish of futile fluidity. The outside blackness bores into me.

Sometimes it feels as if I am within touching distance of some real meaning, of the questions and answers that really matter! But then they float out of reach like a speckled butterfly in a darkening twilight, not because something has come between them and me but because I have just lost interest.

The carriages shudder, wheels protest, and the train judders into motion. Quickly we are moving again, an acceleration of frustration pulsing through that cold darkness, cutting an unhappy line of light from dusk to dawn. Now I remember! Bede said that a person’s life is like a sparrow flying briefly into a warm, bright feasting hall and then out again, back into the cold, dark unknown. And that, written in the so-called ‘Dark Ages’! I’ll say something to that Bede if I ever meet him in that cold dark.

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë

2B

 

The wood that it was made of came from a tree that grew in the coppices that were the remains of the great forest that once covered this country from coast to coast. Its seed fell from a nearby branch, swirling in the autumnal breeze until it came to rest on the warm soil.

The graphite that was enclosed by the wood came from deep beneath the ground. Many grains of sand ago it moved through air thick with carbon. Once or twice it fed from the ancestors of the tree and it grew stronger.

The man and the woman that made the boy lived in between the tree and the graphite. In the autumn they walked hand in hand through the coppice. Once they even climbed the tree to kiss in its boughs. They never saw the graphite.

As a seedling the tree was nothing much. It grew slowly and its translucent stem paled in comparison with those around it. But then, one day, a nearby tree fell, crushing some of the saplings that grew close to it. More light fell onto it, more water soaked its roots and more soil waited ready to be colonised. Steadily it grew until it was magnificent.

The graphite had seen so much more light than it had seen dark. If it still could, it would remember the dappled light of an autumn day falling between the shafts of branches to warm it’s forehead as it gasped its last few breaths, lifeblood soaking into the soil beneath it. And yet it had still seen a lot of nothingness, deep beneath the ground. It could have been diamond but instead it became graphite.

The boy was born on a Thursday in October, the light of a distant star falling on his brow as his mother rocked him in her arms.  As he grew older he would explore the nearby coppice, gathering nuts and seeds and swiping at saplings with a stick. People said it was lucky he had been born when he had. He still had to join the army but the war had already finished.

And so, one day, the tree was cut down, the axe exposing the white of its flesh weeping into the watery sunlight. And the graphite was dug, the pick splitting it for the sun to warm its dark surface once again. And the boy joined the army, his mother shedding translucent tears even though she knew she shouldn’t.

“s’alright Dave I can manage it without one” the young man in the khaki said as he concentrated on the map in front of him. The line he was drawing was straight enough, it was a good pencil. And yet, the graphite was just a little too weak and the lead snapped. Blowing away the bits, the line was smudged slightly. ‘Should be alright’ he thought. A little while later a million people died. A few became graphite and a few became trees.

 

© 2012 Thomas Halvë