Tuesday, 3 January 2017
Something grows in winter
Out of the dead, frost-embalmèd leaves.
I do not know its name, for there is no
Botanist can study these preternatural buds,
No encyclopaedia lays bare its Latin alias.
Spectrally it rises from icy lakes, breath-like
It billows into our hibernating lives.
Its clammy fingers scuttle inside our marrow,
Take root. Flower. Give forth fruit.
“We now are halfway out of the dark,”
We say, and clap our hands when all the world
Seems lit with candles, and fairy lights
Festoon the trees. Yet still it grows,
The spring’s sickening antecedent,
Still it burrows, like the mole, into our heads
Or out of our deadened ears and eyes.
The night retreats, and the day grows long;
We stumble in from the cold, back to the fire,
One branch fewer than this time last year.
As the sun comes up, we give thanks in the lightThat we faced down death, outlived one more night.
(3 January 2017)
By way of introduction, this piece was originally published in 2015 in the book Outside In: 125 Unique Perspectives on 125 New Series Doctor Who Stories by 125 Writers, from ATB Publishing, covering the new series of the show from 2005-2014. If you're interested in buying it, you can do so here. Right now it's on sale for $24.95, and includes many more fantastic essays than mine by luminaries like Kate Orman, Jon Blum, Steve Lyons, Lance Parkin, and Phil Sandifer, so why not give it a try?
You don’t forget the first time you die.
Between my fourth and fifth ribs was the carved callous barb of a fire-spear, jutting out of my stomach like an arrow in a boar. I gaped at the sharpshooter on the other side of the Redswamps. Back to my chest in bemusement. Back to my killer. Back to my chest.
They say you have only a second before the napalm catches. I squandered a slack-jawed eternity.
And then I was alight, the rivulets of flame tonguing my limbs and my face, embers burrowing into my clothes. However much I struggled, and fell upon the marsh, and clawed at my melting eyes, the foul black smoke wafted and drifted away oh so serenely, oh so mockingly. To hear the blistering of one’s own skin and the crackle of one’s own hair, to feel the flames’ greed and to smoulder under the purple twilight…
And my killer watched. The blaze in my own ears must have been music to his.
I recall one more thing from the Redswamps: after the pain, serenity; after the scorching, coolness.