Tag Archives: dreams

… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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… I lost an ally, but not her frequency …

Launch of 'Heart of a Sufi.'

2011 launch of ‘Heart of a Sufi’ at a friend’s place.

Before I share the book cover of ‘Course of Mirrors,’ my first novel to be released in spring, I must step back and credit once more a book I co-edited and am proud to have helped produce. ‘Heart of a Sufi’ was published by a group of friends in 2011. A limited print-run of hardbacks sold quickly and recouped our expenses. I wrote about the background to this project in honour of Fazal Inayat-Khan here in March 2013.

 

Joe Linker, a blogger friend, wrote only this week a spot-on review of this unusual book – brilliant, heartfelt thanks. One of our small editorial team, Rahima (Elspeth) Milburn, would have been delighted with the review of this book she endorsed with passion. Sadly she died peacefully shortly before 2017 was rung in.

by-ashen-portrait-of-elspeth-spottiswood-smallerI miss her. She was a deep thinking woman, a painter, psychotherapist and lover of poetry, especially Rumi, whose verses she recited often in her very deep and distinctive voice.  She was an inspiration to many. For over ten year, up to 2004, we run monthly seminars and additional workshops together, on themes like mythology, the power of the imagination, and the significance of dreams. I feel deep gratitude for her supportive friendship and feel strongly that her frequency lives on.

The portrait on the right I did in her studio, around the Millennium.

A group of us, companions on her path, will travel to Cornwall next week to join the large Milburn family and send their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother on her journey. Some of my readers may remember a humorous poem I wrote for Rahima and her family – posted here last October:

Regarding ‘Heart of a Sufi’ … while there are only very few of the beautiful hard copies left, some with Watkins in London, the work is also available as an e-book  with Troubador or Amazon.

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… I mourn the round clock …

P1100988I mourn the round clock

the poetic face of time

gazing into now

 

hands whirling round hours

much like the planets orbit

our cradle of light

 

pulsing in us – too

as heart hub where the Muse dwells

minding her own pace

 

you are the turning

– she hints – laugh and weep with me

create more beauty

 

from her calm domain

she may join freak storms as rain

and make deserts bloom

P1080058 - smaller

poets and children

glimpse how she weaves dream fabrics

to wrap up each now

 

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… imaginary time …

Image by Almos Jaschick

Image by Almos Jaschick

Today is one of those when I can only attend to bits of information, short sequences of writing, a paragraph maybe, while my eyes are drawn to ivy leaves moved by the breeze, a blackbird family feasting on apples left for them, a pair of woodpigeons landing and swaying in the branches of the huge beech at the top of my garden. Again and again I engage in pockets of attention beyond the window and shake off focus, ironically, in order to re-find the focus towards a coherent little blog post. A sudden rainfall is followed by the sun spinning through marbled clouds, while the heavenly voice of Kiri Te Kanawa streams through sound boxes linked to my computer. Eventually, my eyes return to the words I’m assembling here about the mystery of time, also relating to the emerging parallel worlds featuring in my two, coming to three, imaginative novels, where intentions create connections – from invisible realms beyond space and time.

Check out this and similar posts on YouTube, ha, ha, a few speculations. I haven’t been there for a long while. Don’t get lost.

‘The distinction between past, present and future is an illusion, although a convincing one …’ is what Einstein wrote in 2007 in a letter to friends. Time, he showed, has no universal constant and is relative. His famous equation E = mc – energy equals mass times the speed of light squared – had enormous implications, technologically, as well as socially.

This valued theory seems, at present, incompatible with the Quantum Physics that apply to tiny things. The chase for a unifying theory that includes quantum gravity is on. Moreover, physicists puzzle over the unseen pulling and pushing forces in our universe that elude detection.

We perceive time as proceeding steadily forward, although the laws of physics allow for time to equally run backwards. When it comes to our subjective inner experience we easily accept time as non-linear and relative. In therapy work, for example, a shift in attitude towards a person in one’s past can change a generational pattern.

We define time, create time, record it, hoard it, take it apart and re-frame it into fresh representations and stories. Stepping from one reality into another without losing coherence of mind is the province of individual adventurers of consciousness. Some artists like to dwell in liminal spaces where time shrinks and expands, like the twisting passage between one dream and another. Many devote their life to the re-framing of events in time. Imagine for a moment where we would be without people who create novel perspectives on entrenched realities. To call such expressions mere fantasy demeans the symbolic understanding found in the vast dimensions of the psyche.

Try and compare the creation of our cosmos with the conception, cell divisions and the birth of a human infant. The procreations and expanding consciousness of humans make for multitudes, while each of us inhabits our own self-constructed world. A psychic universe held together, it seems, by forces not unlike the unseen tides our visible galaxies swim in, the ocean of dark matter and energy that exists symbiotically within us.

Dark matter is assumed to collide with oxygen and hydrogen nuclei in our body, speculated to happen at the rate of up to 100 000 times a year. There, you may be hit right now. To my knowledge, no idea has been proposed as to what might be sparked or exchanged in these collisions.

In any case, at this, another year’s ending, quite a few of us spark flames and kindle candles in dark nights to celebrate the cosmic dance, the birth of light.

 

I’m wishing you, my readers, wherever you are, a time of peace and reflection.

*      *     *

From Little Gidding by T. S Elliot …

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always –

A condition of completed simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

 

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… the system seeks advice on a faulty human …

Wheelborough - Copy

A tad comical article about auto-piloted cars tickled my imagination. Billions are invested towards finding failsafe systems that will eradicate human weaknesses, for our own good, to keep us out of trouble. Given the comments under the linked BBC article, people seem to trust technology more than their fellow mortals. Besides, as things are going – obey and be insured.

I was inspired to write a quirky 180 word micro/vignette …

*    *    *

I wake from troubled dreams, having overruled my programme last night, exceeding recommended wine units. Cheating harms my insurance record. Devices linked to the microchip in my arm start talking. My toothbrush warns of reduced compensation for dental work should I skip procedures. The coffee machine burbles, adjusting caffeine to my metabolic rate. The wall screen chirps, ‘Don’t think, trust the links,’ followed by news edited for stressed nerves. My car purrs, ‘Maintenance appointment,’ then drives me off, while I sit back and endure its placid voice reminding me of deadlines, birthdays, supplies to order, lapses regarding procedures.

Jackson Pollock

                            Jackson Pollock

Seemingly alert to my irritation, the voice suggests mild anti-depressants, adding, ‘I detect irregularities,’ and … after a pause … resist unplugging from the system, it will wipe all your Brownie points.’

The last straw, devices are not supposed to get personal, are indeed prohibited from reading my mind. I inform the maintenance crew. ‘My car requires a full test for irregularities. No hurry. I’ll be going for a stroll.’

In my secret retreat is a mirror that brings in the sky.           *    *    *

Elba travels - lower

 

The system does a google search … Lost contact with a faulty human – seeking advice …

… All our lines are currently busy, please hold …

 

Maybe you feel inspired to write a micro something on the theme of automated systems 🙂

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… dreams …

Photos by Ashen

Photos by Ashen

I used to host regular dream groups. We did not so much set out to analyse our dreams, but we played with them by engaging with their images, characters and objects. Sometimes we enacted scenes to widen associations and deepen our insights. While there is some excellent literature on working with dreams, a lot of it is boring, misleading and superficial. For me, the main purpose of valuing dreams lies in befriending the unconscious and the bringing to light what is timely and meaningful.

When we have no obvious explanation for events, dreams may bring subtle messages, offering glimpses of dynamics usually hidden from our awareness. A staggering 90 percent of personal and collective psychic dynamics trigger and compel our actions in life, and for good reason. The self-regulating psyche protects us from too much awareness. When encouraged, respected, and left to do its work, much like the immune system, the psyche can encapsulate runaway viruses of the mind by blanking out anxieties and obsessive thoughts, unless a trauma results in an ongoing inner storm. The processing of traumatic experiences is vital for the health of the individual, the family, the tribe, and our collective psyche. Something equally important to consider is that as adults our natural childlike curiosity about life may have become flattened by engrained habits and obsessive needs for security and control, both diminishing the meaning of our lives.

Note: Each embedded link here will not lead you away from this post but bring up a fresh page.

In an earlier blog post Joe Linker’s comment led me to an article by Oliver Sacks on altered states in The New Yorker  where Sacks pointed out a long tradition of ceremonial drug-use to stimulate the brain. Drugs certainly relax jaded attitudes by activating the senses and bringing insights and fresh perception. Sacks, and many like him, were admiringly fearless and creative, before there was a clamp down on drugs and they became illegal.Dreamseries 2

In dreams as in trance, induced or not, the mind can kick up imaginal representations of feelings, and metaphors. We shift to another realm, escape the logical structure of time and also tap into the collective psyche. We may hit a T junction, one path leading to an illuminating visionary state and the other to a schizophrenic state of confusion, which is why science sticks with rationality and is generally not keen on the imagination. The question as to what pulls us towards Heaven or Hell has no easy answer, yet all inner state, when approached with respect, patience, and most of all, wisdom, can have a healing and effect on our personality, and, in instances, as we know, result in significant works of art.

Dreamseries 3

Freud’s iceberg metaphor illustrates that our individual psyche swims like a mountain of ice in a vast sea, only to reverse into its fluid state once its coherence dissolves back into the sea. As a simple and more intelligent map of various unconscious states I prefer the egg diagram by Alberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.

Active imagination is a gentle way to befriend the unconscious and build bridges towards consciousness and daily life, and a way to explore dreams without messing with the dreamer’s unique meaning. I share here some practical tips:

Remembering dreams:

You can ask for a dream, especially when you feel stuck and ponder a question. You might even write the question on a slip of paper and put it under your pillow.

Try not to move your head after noticing a dream. Place holds memory.

Have a notepad and a soft pencil next to your bed, maybe a microlight, so you can scribble down a memory facet before fully crossing the threshold into waking. Even a single image, phrase, number, colour or feeling can act as a key for recalling a dream later on.

To catch a dream – try disrupting your sleeping pattern with an early alarm clock setting.

Experiment with your head position while sleeping – north, east, south or west.

Towards understanding dreams:

The psyche does not care about logic. The meaning of a dream may however unfold like a seed when we attend to its poetry and rhythm.

Ask yourself … how do I relate to the characters or objects of a dream? What feelings and sensations are evoked? In what context did the dream arise? How does it relate to my present situation?

Write a story or make sketches of the images. Tiny fragments can offer connections via free associations.

Give a voice to the characters and objects appearing in the dream. What do they want? Allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. Such dialogues can reveal surprising insights.

Change the script, create a different outcome, face down a fear or a shadow and follow through to what wants to happen. This approach can move a dream to a different level of understanding.

Ask yourself: Where does the energy want to go? What is emerging?

Dreamseries 4

 

Dreams express the voice of the soul; they are our contact with our deepest self, our inner substance. The mere act of recalling, experiencing and consciously honouring our dreams connects us with our real selves and awakens previously unavailable levels of creativity and vitality, even without interpretation.

Carl G Jung

A related post on altered states.

And if the subject of dreams interests you, here are some more links:

Edward C Whitmont was a Jungian psychoanalyst, who deepened my understanding of the psyche through his exceptionally clear writing. His books may be out of print, which would explain why they’re so expensive:  Dreams – a Portal to the Source and The Symbolic Quest

Other excellent authors to look out for, apart from Jung, are Anthony Stevens, Private Myths – Dreams and Dreaming, and Marie-Louise von Franz – The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.

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… marginalia of bodies …

moon's swing door

moon’s swing door

the white rock sails adored –

silent swing door to sanctuaries

imagined beyond where

each being claims its mystery

un-evidenced

 

 

winged by unknown purpose

spirit seeks shelter

tumbling through cells

to the orb of a home –

embodied in you and me spirit mimics

nature’s mirrors moments after now

though once inner vision unfolds

our dreams are branded …

framed by the one eye

supreme to all eyes …

sun’s furnace illuming draperies

history sanctioned

seemingly evidenced

but for the singular breath

of insight needling between

obvious fabrics to thread

intense tales of beauty …

sample of my occasional art, 1998

sample of my occasional art, 1998

 

The poem was inspired by June’s full moon.

Places accumulate impressions, snippets of reality that draw us forever into experiences from different directions and points in time. The one place we carry with us – OUR BODY – remembers what reason does not. While the intellect sorts memories into virtual boxes and slaps on the tag ‘facts,’ the body, animated by each breath, deeply informs our singular perception, helps us to adjust the past, refine the relationship with ourselves and others in the present, and opens a new wavelength and vision towards the future.

 

The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’

Fazal Inayat-Khan, notes from an attended lecture, 1989

‘Spirit without soul has no vessel – soul without spirit has no direction.’ Roberto Assagioli

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… surfacing …

surfacing

Segment of 'The Magician,' a painting by Silvia Pastore

Segment of ‘The Magician,’ a painting by Silvia Pastore

her nocturnal creature mourns as meshes of  night disband the Other of her dream into strands that flow like oil colours –

marbling still waters under grey or rain-bowed sky as canvas for inventing random patterns of each day

beneath the mirrors an ever-turning gyre of souls in deep wordless liaison keeps churning the ocean

her inward creature drifts through curls of emptiness sifting strata of seasons

to gathered wisdoms of the human heart

its patina of touch and wear

sediments of ache and bliss

its gilded secret

cypher for another Eden

from which her inversed image falls

to the next fluid mirror always desiring the Other …

Ashen 10th July 2015

Maybe needless to say, just about everything I post here is relevant to my novels.

In relation to the poem, I thought you might enjoy the fascinating Art of the Marbler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyga8VMWXKg

And a short introduction to The Churning of the Ocean of Milk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MItyUwPAjLA

The segment of the Magician image is the work of a fine painter, Silvia Pastore http://www.silviapastore.com/ … Time and space are illusions …  Having obtained the copyright of the Magician as a cover for ‘Course of Mirrors,’ it seems my publisher, who I re-signed a contract with, has other ideas. I love Silvia’s work, but will remain open to suggestions, as long as my first novel is launched within the year. It’s been sitting quiet since 2011. Maybe all good things take time. A sequel is waiting in line, and I’m working on a third book in the series.

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How do I read?

one of my notebooks

one of my notebooks

I jotted this question in my notebook a while ago. How do I read, in the widest sense? There is plenty of observation and advice on the art of writing, composing music, painting, photography, film. Less is said about on the art of reading, perceiving, interpreting, or how we reject or embrace what is expressed by others, and ourselves, even how we read our dreams.

I conclude there’s no difference between, let’s say writing, and reading, other than visibility, since any creative composition derives from an inner process of reading, the picking and shuffling of impressions into our frame of reference in relation to the larger myth of reality.

One could say the secret of being read lies in one’s talent and ability to read one’s inner psychic world, even when filtered through one’s most personal and eccentric imagination.

Long before communication was easily reproducible and reached greater audiences, people were reading the world, though only a tiny fraction of inspirations and inventions was circulated. Today’s media channels swamp us with communications. It’s confusing. We must choose.

In reading novels, I follow my intuition. The gimmick of an instant attention grabbing action scene puts me off. A proposal may be impossibly fantastic, but if I detect an authentic voice, rhythm and movement, I travel along. Invited into a mind, an atmosphere, a time, a place, I want to be absorbed in this other world and experience myself anew in a conflict between light and shadow from within the heart of another consciousness.

Whether meaning is intended or not, I read my own meaning into what has been imagined by another mind. An insight, a memory may surprise. Some books I treasure for one or two illuminating sentences, so I guess reading for me is a bit of a treasure hunt, which begs a question. What am I hunting for?

world objects for sandtray work

world objects for sandtray work

My interest is fleeting when events are contrived, plucked from the air. Characters convince me when they are embodied and grow around obstacles, reaching towards the light, while spreading roots and producing seeds (new thoughts,) even when they come from mythical creatures, kings and slaves of the past, or explorers of distant futures. As long as events happen in a believable psychological setting, I engage.

Then again, I’ve been convinced by writing that made no sense at all, until, with a little patience, I discovered a new comprehension shining through an abstract form. It’s a wonderful feeling, and important feedback for writers, who may be surprised by what is evoked in readers. Once I finished my present project, I intent to spend more time on reviewing – a most giving art of reading.

Stories for stories sake can be dull, while stories in which nothing much happens outwardly can be riveting when they resonate with the human condition, where, quite often, what seems true becomes false, and what seems false becomes true.

It is said we write the books we want to read. When writing, I search to combine words that convince intellectually and emotionally, until something true is mirrored back. Maybe what I’m hunting for in my reading and writing are fitting metaphors for the miracle of existence.

I always delight in discovering neglected writers, like Marlene Haushofer,  or the poet W S Graham, whom I wrote about here as part of a post in Sept 2013.  And beyond new works, there are innumerable old favourites, including H G Wells. The link connects to a post I did about one of his lesser known stories.

Thinking about photography, my other passionate reading, I was inspired by Henri Cartier Bresson – the link leads to my post about him.  And here the archive of the street photography of Andre Kertesz – enjoy.  I’ll leave film alone, that’s a whole other story.

What are your reflections on reading?

 

Some related blogposts:

Storytelling and the primary world.

Mother-tongue and other tongue.

Memory and Place.

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… dream – a storyteller teasing my dad …

I love this image, but can't find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

I love this image, but can’t find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

Two nights ago, an enchanting storyteller appeared in my dream. She glowed from within, embodying her yarn with captivating gestures, her eyes saying – you’re loveable. Her whole being was a joyous dance. She flicked her fingers before my father’s face, touching his chin – making him laugh – his freed anima, maybe?

Ah, dreams are wonderful, unpredictable like liquid mercury, living silver flowing into shapes.

It was heart-warming to see my father laugh and absorb the affection, the irreverence, the humour. He did not retreat into silence before the piercing wit of the storyteller. The probe was softened through caring eyes … a miracle.

Alone, I could not have invoked such light-hearted banter with a father, who pulled the drawbridge to his heart ever since I dared to think independently. The dream vision lifted the cloud of my helpless woe.

After the dream, I recalled part of a poem I wrote long ago. Daughters may recognise the patriarchal fault in the lines of this poem, the discrepant realities that want bridging. It’s the same old story that could teach us, in the words of my late teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan:

‘We are not here to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’

Truth worth seeking springs from the middle of each moment. Evolved individuals don’t see a women as inferior to men. The concept has harmed, and still harms, the psychological growth of both men and woman. Yet the deeply-etched hierarchical system keeps working its mean distortions across the globe.

He rests in stasis – cast in stone,

placed high in a niche

of this grand cathedral.

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

His daughters wake

and dare looking up.

What are they meant to do

with this apostolic vision

in their genes?

Someone tell them now,

tell them how the vacant room

was always theirs to own.

Here – sun streams through

rounded glass – crimson,

amber, cobalt, gold and green

play across crisp white walls.

Here – colours soften light,

a child can breathe deeply,

is free to release stale sorrows

and style fresh dreams.

Dad, we kick your ghost

out of here … no more

bargains with your fear.

What’s the cause of this stasis, so feared – like dying life, or living death? I think it’s war, each new war piled on top of other wars, and the unbearable injustices my father, many fathers, and mothers, were, and still are, subjected to. I shake my head, I nod my head, and somewhere between all contradictions I must accept the inherited traumas of humanity and seek life and joy with each new day.

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