January 01, 2018


She waits in eager anticipation of revelries to come. Standing in the circle, a slip of a hand tightly en-clasped in her each of her sisters'; fingers white with the constricting grip; faces pale in the oppressive heat of silent hope. Their foreheads with wreaths a-bound in rustling haloes; glistening with tiny, sparkling, pearly, beads of sweat. Their shift-like gauzy dresses wrapped in fawn-skin shuffling with the occasional sigh of a restless wind suspiring after the sea and speculating to itself the reason it had gotten all the way up to the hilltop.

The harsh stillness cracks at the clash of cymbals. From her right - towards the Occident comes the mellifluous cacophony of flutes, drums and pipes adding to the tinny monotone of the cymbals. An intense jolt of zeal interspersed with elated passion runs up her spine - through their connected hands she feels her sisters shiver in excitement beside her. The thiasoi were beginning the celebrations!

Slowly, in time to the sound of the beats, she feels herself swaying. Rhythmic, languidly, awaiting the delirium she knows will come. As the sun drowns himself in the wine-red brine, the brackets along the walls of the rock-lined arena flickers to life in a steady stream of yellow bursts in the periphery of her vision. As the beams at the horizon completely blink out, thwarted and extinguished once more by unhurried and impassive waves; the bonfire in the middle of the undulating ring flares up with a hissing roar threatening to burn the very ceiling though the heavens seem far and cold with their haughty stars no more the cold pinpricks on velvet field.

More of her sisters appear with jugs and amphorae. She reaches out with her hands and gratefully accepts a golden goblet. Tilting back her shapely, brown curls, she drains the blood-stained ambrosia - all the while vacillating from side-to-side in synchronous harmony with the rest of the cluster. She passes the chalice around the ring and awaited its return to her. Time seemed sluggish - slow; yet the goblet is already thrust in her hand. The libations are never-ending. She thanks the Gods in an alleluia that is taken up gladly by those around her. The music throbs, the pace quickens, her eyes dull and fevered stare out across the scene. The dancing firelight throws shadows - the circlet of veering and keeling figures form a undulating serpent swallowing its own tail. She smells the sweet fragrance of wine on her lips. Her knotted hair, now undone still has the scent of the oil she coiffed it with. There is a hint of burning incense and rosemary in the air. She feels the pulse of her sisters' hands quicken. She prepares for the gay abandonment of staid decorum she knows will soon come. She herself expects to begin dancing in earnest soon; after all, her mind knows the edge of the precipice of sanity when it senses it.

She starts sensing everything in detail. The sounds of the harmonious instruments, unruly stamping feet, the whitecaps crashing into the rocks below overwhelm her. The lurid colours of the gathered masses in sharp relief by the fire-glow and the dark, lush felt of the night sky above them dazzle her. The sweet, acid tang of the wine and the hint of salt in the bracing night air impress her like they never have. The concept of time ceases to exist. She ceases to exist as a being. She gives herself up to the mystery of it all.

Quite suddenly, she finds herself on another plane, without. She sees herself still dancing and whirling among the women. Yet, here she is observing all of it from up on high. She finds herself enveloped by beautifully shaped, gloriously shining, sublimely god-like figures. The Gods! She bashfully looks up at them with slanted eyes - not daring a direct glance. She notices a smile before she succumbs to the will of the rapture. Her spirit body is aflame, awash with ice. She feels the constant, tingling sensation running up and down her spine - yet she dances on, on the ground below. She spends an eternity suspended in the vacuous expanse surrounded by the very beings she was celebrating. She witnesses all there has been and all there is to be. Then her world goes black. 

She awakes to the faint rosy glow in the Levant sky. She finds herself lying in the mossy bank, deep in the woods on the leeward side of the hill. She stands up to notice a few of her sisters from last night nearby in a stupor. She brushes the last vestiges of the torpor from the corners of her mind, adjusts her clothing and hair; and makes her way downhill to the town and her life.

Drinking from the Saucer

I've never made a fortune,
And I'll never make one now
But it really doesn't matter
'Cause I'm happy anyhow

As I go along my journey
I'm reaping better than I've sowed
I'm drinking from the saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

I don't have a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going's tough
But with kin and friends to love me
I think I'm rich enough

I thank God for the blessings
That His mercy has bestowed
I'm drinking from the saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

He gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I'll not ask for other blessings for
I'm already blessed enough

May we never be too busy
To help bear another's load
Then we'll all be drinking from the saucer
When our cups have overflowed

-John Paul Moore

November 21, 2017

The Standard-bearer

A roseate sky to greet the sun,
Below the tall, greying mountain,
Blood-soaked sand crunch beneath men,
As they march through the noisome fen.

The carrion fowl circle the sky,
Early come; ranging far and wide,
Lowering now; as the armies cry,
When men war in senseless pride.

Their frenzied mob in fevered awe,
A hush pervades as the Captains halt,
A cry bursts forth the Leader's maw
Eager soldiers begin their assault.

Banners waving; the Cornets bawl,
The army gathers in the Flag's thrall,
The Ensign forth; brave and tall!
Proud his slogan; heed his call!

Forces clash with ringing steel,
As helms split and shields yield,
Red rivers flow as the sands beal, 
Brothers fight on for the sallow field.

The Ensign leads, the loyals charged,
A halberd unseen, his gut enlarged,
The Standard planted, his duty discharged.
Dead eyes behold the pennon, love writ large.

When the battle is over and all is done,
And the old wails for the fallen son,
And voices shout that peace is a mun,
The pennant stands still; alone it has won.

October 29, 2017

The Travel Companion

He wasn't a regular passenger – she knew pretty much everyone on that route. She took the bus everyday to the paintball arena where she worked. Day in, day out. She enjoyed working – sometimes when the customers didn't have enough members on their teams she got to play to make up the numbers. Consequently, she was a decent marksman; in her own words - “wicked cool”. She knew the driver and the conductor. She knew the young boy and his father who ran the butcher shop down by the market. She knew the two old women who ran the little clothes store a couple of blocks down. She even knew the short, muscular young man who was no doubt going home after another night guarding the bank near the bus stand. No, he wasn't a regular.

She had just managed to settle down on her seat – not that the bus was crowded so early in the morning. But she had her favourite seat right in the middle of the bus where the creaky leaf springs still afforded some sort of shock absorption. It was by the window so she could look around both forwards and backwards during her journey. She never tired of her beautiful little town. It was a matter of perspective, she surmised. The smoke from the heavy, lumbering vehicles left over from the American invasion she studied about in school; the filth accumulated in piles behind the street markets and the alleyways where tourists could satiate their desires for the right price. In stark contrast were the temples and pagodas with their serene, gold domes; the gently flowing river with blossom-leaden trees dipping in their heavy branches in time with the whistling breeze and the happy people going about their businesses in their colourful clothes. Her town was a happy place all in all. Which begged the question as to why the stranger had a frown. He wasn't a regular passenger for sure.

He got on the bus at the stop next to hers. He made his way past the first few seats acknowledging the passengers with tiny, jerky nods of his head and made his way to the middle of the bus. Hesitating a moment, he set down his bulky frame in the seat opposite her. Curious, she studied him surreptitiously. He was a heavyset man in his early seventies. A two-day old stubble crept around his cheeks. His clothes were, while shabby, not decrepit and seemed to accentuate his slumped shoulders. In his hands, he carried a bouquet of fresh garden flowers that didn't boast of arrangement by a practised hand – he had made it himself, she surmised – and a white plastic bag that didn't seem leaden. His eyes were dull & listless and his lips were pulled down in a spectacular frown that made him look like he had been burdened with all the many evils that were once stored within Pandora's famous box. Quite suddenly, as if he was aware of her scrutiny, he turned to look straight at her. It was so unexpected that she sat there frozen, their gazes affixed. She felt her skin heating up as her cheeks coloured. The man's eyes slowly brightened and his lips slowly pulled up until his frown became an indulgent, avuncular smile. 

Pretty soon, she was talking with him like she had known him for ages. He was a factory worker at the canned goods company near the docks. He had saved enough; he would soon retire and live a quiet life running his very own souvenir store near the floating markets. No, he didn't come this way often. He had a daughter who he was going to visit. The flowers were for her. There were sweets in the plastic bag – her favourite kind. He told her stories of the war, of how he had been a scout during it. He spoke of the many regimes and rulers of the past. He seemed so animated when he had someone to speak to. Yet, during intermittent moments of silence he succumbed to his dour countenance once more. He was such an enchanting old man that she didn't even realise how the time flew. 

A stop before hers, the old man raised his prodigious bulk out of the seat and announced that he had to get off. She wished him well and asked him to pass on her greetings to his daughter. He smiled again and thanked her for her companionship. Collecting his belongings, he alighted from the shuddering vehicle. As the bus backfired and trundled ahead, from her window, she saw him amble slowly; head downcast, shoulders drooping; into the cemetery.