Thursday, 21 September 2017

Hope is like Water:

Again I have broken in,
like a tooth ache calling
a tongue,
this house beckons

as I pass it every day
from your house to mine;
it speaks in many voices
this old house

with the sign out front
letting me know
its time is short.
I know about short time.

I understand the way
it sits still,
waiting demolishment;
I can hear its soft final sigh

tinged with regret
as it echoes to the feet
that once ran up and down the stairs.
I enter via a downpipe

every night around twelve,
carrying a bottle of port or some such.
I sit in this silent house and drink.
I feel something in my heart,

like the petals of a magnolia tree,
fall silent
down a deep, deep well
into an emptiness

I had never thought possible.
Sometimes I waken
to the bird calls, quickly leave via the front door
hoping in my absence

you may have telephoned.
I feel hope rising in my chest;
knowing, even as I hurry,

everything is too late.


 Autumn fairyland - 
 Twinkling reds and yellows... 
 Dead stars dance the sodden earth 
 in a frail imitation of joyous birth: 
 How they once danced! 
 They gathered and shimmered 
 with such intimations of vitality. 
 Now there is only this pathos waltz 
 across soggy dead cousins. 

 Autumn drizzle - 
 a softness that falls and falls... 
 A melancholic wetness 
 creeps into the heart of everything, 
 dirges whisper in the winds 
 that clang bare branches together 
 as if warding off the demons 
 winter always marches in. 

 Autumn twilight - 
 the light seduced by fading colours... 
 Everything resonates, saturated 
 with things already done. 
 It is a time of incubation 
 as that which has occurred 
 merges with that which still may. 

 Autumn slowly squeezes us, 
 like a gentle parent, 
 it forces us to retire. 
 It is a revolution of the senses: 
 it sits in judgment 

 and delivers us unto peace.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Station of Unification

Station Number 1

 Reddish light sneaks past the curtains. Dawn stretches across John’s world. He cares nothing for the sun’s brilliant return as he sits with his eyes closed. He holds his body rigid to prevent the urge to rock back and forth. He thinks about Marianne, dead these several days. A wind scurries under the door. Dust particles welcome the wind as it stirs the minute dust planets into spinning and weaving a heavy atmosphere.  John does not want to believe the events. The death. The loss.

 The room is cool and damp. A storm seems immanent. Clouds gather around John. In his mind a thousand accusations prod his psyche. John’s universe has ceased to unfurl. It contracts. His brain, a magnifying glass, stares down into the grave and studies the memory of her coffin as it was lowered. His ears still hear the squeaking sound as the flat green belts lower her down. His right hand anxiously plays with the golden banner that adorns his ring finger.

 John studies memories while cigarettes perch themselves between his muttering lips. He is lost in the flips and eddies and strange turns of events. The wind grows stronger becomes a wail, like the wail of Marianne’s mother as they stood silent and angry around the hole in the earth that wet day only days ago.

His hands rise up and cover his ears but the wind finds the nooks and crannies. The wind whistles up his misery. Tears, like rain on glass, slide down his immobile cheeks and the wind scatters his thoughts. Memories of Marianne fill his mind. He remembers his joy when she smiled at one of his silly jokes. He remembers the way the sparkle of her eyes constricted his heart. Worst, he recalls the warmth and luxury of her curved sleeping position that allowed him to conform to her shape with the greatest amount of contact.

 John looks down at his hands that are no longer his hands. He studies his legs that are no longer his legs. A ricochet of the tragic event continually cannons into the soft flesh of his heart. John contemplates the unknown reasons why Marianne chose to visit that particular spot on that particular day. It was not a place she often frequented.

 He remembers the news flashes as they came over the television. He recalls the wind as it whipped the trees. He replays, again and again, the reporter’s damning words as, wearing a thick, protective overcoat, she struggled to maintain her balance and the excitement of breaking a major story out of her voice: ‘Marianne! Marianne! How I wasted the moments we had never realizing how precious those moments were, how few moments there would be! ‘

 John rocks back and forth in the chair. The rocking gradually increases speed as his nerve endings turn to shards of glass and cut his soul to shreds. He remembers Marianne's parents coming to collect her things. They walked into his house and took everything except three or four photographs he had and one of her paintings that she gave him at Christmas: even that they would have taken except they saw the madness rise in his eyes as they dared touch it.

 The wind gathers like a descent of vultures and regret presses firmly upon his chest: ‘they blame me, they blame me! I shall never forget the look her mother gave me. She was never happy that Marianne lived with me. Me! They think I wanted this? They think they can judge me more than I already do? They feel robbed. Oh Marianne, if only I hadn't gone canoeing that day!’ John sobs as he fights for breath. His hands slam down upon his thighs.

 The music he had put on hours earlier finally runs its course. The frenetic moment passes. Silence settles. John stares across the still room at his cd stack. The silence forces a decision. Action is easier than silence: In silence John’s thoughts are able to force their attention upon him. He moves out of the chair and crosses the room. He replaces the cd’s in the player’s cartridge with a new selection. He leaves the old cd’s out of their cases, scattered around the cd player.

 John glances out of the window and notices that his blue canoe is still tied to the roof racks of his muddy car. Tears fall freely down his unshaven face. He watches the wind as it strives to undo the ties that hold the canoe securely to the racks.

 The telephone rings. John waits. The telephone insists. He answers it.

 “How are you John?” asks Sue, a friend of Marianne’s. Images of Marianne and Sue as they played pool come to John’s mind and he fights to restrain the tears that, like children, stamp their feet and demand his attention.
 “I am fine,” says John emotionlessly, though he knows he isn’t. ‘What does she expect me to say? No I’m not okay. I’m horribly fucked! I want to scream until my lungs give up. I want to take a blunt implement and coarsely scrape the pain out of my chest. How can I explain to anyone that I can’t be bothered doing anything? How can I possibly explain that this sluggishness I feel is probably the only thing that saves me? Its like I’m lost in water; nothing is easy.’

 John stands with the receiver pressed hard up against his ear. He grunts responses until Sue finally releases him. He drops the receiver and lets it dangle sadly from its stretched cord. After a moment he replaces the receiver; the little beeps it emitted more dangerous than the telephone calls that invade. John walks across the room and turns on the music then returns to his chair.

 John sits and ponders. Somewhere amongst the dust planets, like a spaceship, his lover’s face visits. The latest cigarette finishes its brief song and a cold breeze causes the frail ash to crumple within his chest.

He wants to sleep but remains awake. His thoughts spin things over and over as he catches every possible refraction of the event. The wind turns cold and its tendrils ensure his alertness. Alone he sits through another night.


Station Number 2

 I park the car close to the river’s edge and sit in the car, staring at the water as it urgently flows downstream. The sun shines overhead. I feel its warmth through the windshield's glass. The warmth makes me tired and I rest my head on the warm steering wheel, allowing the sunshine to bathe my face. I close my eyes and the haunting face reappears. It is the face of an old, one-eyed man. It is a wise, smiling face that has haunted me for several weeks. The haunting began a few days after I left the security of my chair and ventured back into the outside world.

 I find this re-emergence strange. I feel ghost-like. Things move through me. People speak but their words fail to connect. Marianne’s death still binds me; I wonder if I will ever break free. Nothing, especially not myself, is real - except my continual pain and the old, one-eyed man’s visitations whenever I close his eyes. ‘Who is this one-eyed man? Why does he haunt me? I do not know him. I have never met anyone like him. Who is he?’

 Laughter breaks my revere. I look up and see a group of teenagers walk past the car. One of the teenagers turns her face towards me and Marianne’s eyes send me reeling. Hands shaking, I start the car and drive home, the canoe unused, again.

 Asleep that night, I dream again of the one-eyed man. The dreams are all similar in that nothing much happens. In my dreams, I am walking along a gravel road, the loud crunching of the stones underfoot causing alarm; I become conscious of the one-eyed man either walking beside or behind me. I try to avoid turning to look but I always do. When I look everything freezes. Sometimes the one-eyed man smiles. Sometimes he nods. Sometimes his single eye remains fixed in the distance and he ignores me altogether.

 Fourteen months after Marianne’s brutal death from a stray bullet that a madman had meant for a traffic attendant, I put the canoe back into the water. I accept the guilt I carry even though my having gone canoeing that day was not the reason for Marianne’s death. My mind understands but my heart cannot help but ponder the “what ifs”’. I carefully step into the canoe and push it free of the bank.

 Light rain falls. A cool wind blows the rain into my eyes. I squint and grimace as the feral day catches me within its reckless spirit. Paddling slowly, the ache builds into my unused biceps and thighs. I immerse myself in the wet world that battles for control of my canoe. Hours pass and I reach the small jetty where I meet the ferry service that will take the canoe and me back to the car.

 I return the next day. And the next. My nights belong to the one-eyed man, my days to the water. The water allows my thoughts to untangle and I feel myself returning. Every time I navigate the river alive is a victory.

 One afternoon, as I gently paddle down a calm stretch of the river, I look in the distance and freeze. There, some distance in front of me, apparently standing on the water, waits the one-eyed man. The one-eyed man waves then heads for the riverbank. Panic coursing through my body, I paddle furiously and sweep past the vision.

 And so it goes for six days until finally I surrender and paddle to the riverbank where the one-eyed man waits. I pull my canoe out of the water. The one-eyed man squats on his haunches and his one bright blue eye peers into me.

After a few moments I ask, “What do you see one-eyed man? What do you see?”
 “Pain,” replies the one-eyed man in a gravel voice, “Pain and guilt. Pain and guilt and courage and more guilt.”
 “More guilt?”
 The one-eyed man points a gnarled finger at my chest. “You feel you shouldn’t go on even though you want to. You feel yourself to be a betrayer.”

 I am shocked by the words and stagger back towards the river’s edge. I look down at the canoe. The old man waits. I look at him and ask, “Who are you one-eyed man?” The one-eyed man vanishes.

 I am back in my canoe paddling down the river, very near the jetty where I must catch the ferry back to the car. If I miss the jetty, the rapids ahead will carry me far away. I will have no way of getting back. I manage to stop the canoe four meters from the jetty and only a few meters before I would have hit the new patch of white water.

 The next week I again surrender to the one-eyed man’s invitation. I feel must name the old man. “Have you hung from The Tree one-eyed man?” I ask. “Have you hung from The Tree?”
 “I have.”
 “Have your feet swayed to the Rhythm as the wind sung our mistakes and our dreams fell like desiccated leaves?”
 “They have.”

 I don’t know where the questions come from but they are the right ones to ask. Images of old Gods and Heroes, undergoing sacred trials and quests, flood my consciousness. My thoughts become a stream of silver light as I let the words and questions bob up like unexpected boulders.

 The day disappears and a full moon suddenly shines above, its rays catching the water and the gleam in the man’s single eye. “Have you visited The Well one-eyed man? Did The Crone greet your ignorance with a brackish laugh and a wise nod? Did She pluck your bristles and return you to a babe? Did you stand before Her or fall at Her feet? Have you visited The Well one-eyed man? Have you visited The Well?”
 “I have.”
 “Did you surrender your eye to She Who guards The Well at the dawn of time? Did you barter your kinship for Kingship? Did you sip from The Well’s waters and see the possibilities in our futures? Did you gain wisdom and plot your Father’s downfall?”
 “I did.”

I am confident I understand. I point a finger at the one-eyed man and say, “If you have hung from the Tree and drank from the Well then I name you...’ but before I can utter the name the old man shakes his head sadly and vanishes.

 Light returns, bewildering my night-accustomed eyes. Again, I find myself in the canoe near the jetty. I paddle furiously and manage to land the canoe though the white water’s fingers slither across its hull.

 A week passes before I again meet the one-eyed man by the bank of the river. This time, I promise himself, I will only ask the questions that come to mind so that I might discover where the one-eyed man, might lead me. As I speak, my mind becomes a stream and I allow it to carry me away. Like the time before, the daylight vanishes and the full moon shines to illuminate the periphery of the world.

 “Where have you been one-eyed man? Where have you been?
 “I have been to the heart and seen glory in death. I have been to the boundaries and seen sadness in life. I have been nowhere and found it to be the centre of the universe.”

 My questions demand release. It is as if the one-eyed man’s answers are important but secondary to the questions that I need to ask if I am to remain in the silver stream and reach the design I can feel tugging at my core.

 “Have you visited The Island one-eyed man?”
 “I have.”
 “Did you slay the Gorgon? Did you steal the golden fleece? Did you seduce The Maiden?”
 “I did.”
 “Have you supped on the wise Salmon and learnt Her secrets? Have you been eaten by worms and found your inheritance?”
 “I have.”
 “What do you hear one-eyed man? What do you hear?”
 “I hear the wind’s secrets as it bends the grass to its desire. I hear the water’s hunger as it reduces the rock with its dance. I hear the fire’s passion as it consummates the forest. I hear the earth’s regret as it watches everything constantly alter.”

 As the one-eyed man speaks, the questions scratch in my throat. As soon as the one-eyed man is finished speaking, another question tumbles forth. I waste no time on reflection. Nothing is as important as the questions I ask.

 “Have you heard the Dog’s three barks?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you bent your bow in your own house?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you rode the Centaur’s back and sung with a harp for your existence?” “I have.”
 “Have you flown with Pegasus and blinded the Cyclops?”
 “I have.”
 “Have you fought the dragon and descended into the earth?”
 “I have.”

 I lose all sense of self and merge with the images pouring forth from my unconscious. The questions come out in a blur yet the old one-eyed man never misses a single word or inference.

 “Have you crossed the boundaries and stood before lost worlds? Have you donned various disguises and unmasked the hidden word? Have you sipped of The Chalice and sated your sacred sword? Have you slept beneath the oak and rested upon the forge? Has the snake tasted your bosom? Has the scorpion stung your scrotum? Have The Three Women covered your hurts? Have the stars unraveled your questions? Do the vultures eat from your hand? Do bulls know your thirst?”
 “All of these things you mention have connection to me.”

My thoughts slow and the stream becomes a silver trickle. My breath slows and I watch, fascinated, as the one-eyed man reaches out a withered hand and touches my right foot. My senses explode under the power of the one-eyed man’s touch. I hear the water lapping at the bank, the fish breathing in the river, the trees around whispering. I even think I can hear the twinkling of stars. I see the ant near my toe, a mouse scurrying past, and fish leaping for mosquito. I feel the immensity of the moment, the earth’s movement as it inhales and exhales, the sadness and joy of life. Most of all, I sense the possibility for anything and everything.

 Softly, aware the one-eyed man is slowly rising to his feet, I ask “What do you see one-eyed man? What do you see?”
 “I see myself in all my could-have-beens and I survive to tell.”
 Urgency creeps into my voice. “How does it feel one-eyed man? How does it feel?”
 “It feels different every time, so different that it feels the same.”
 Hurriedly John asks “Will you share what you have learnt one-eyed man? Will you share what you have learnt?”
 “What I have learnt is not for the sharing.”
 “Can I ask nothing of you one-eyed man?”
 “You can ask.”
 “And will I receive?”
 “What do you dare to risk?”
 “Let us hope that will be enough.”
 “It is all I have.”
 “So be it.”
 “What happens now one-eyed man?”

 The one-eyed man laughs and says, “Farewell John.” He vanishes. I am back in the canoe being swamped on all sides by wild, white water. I crane my neck around and see that the jetty is a dot in the distance. The canoe is swept around a bend and I forget everything as I fight to stay alive.

 The battle rages for hours. My arms ache. My teeth chatter and the cold seeps into my bones. My legs quiver and beg for release from the cramped canoe. Suddenly the water ceases its madness. I find myself in a large lagoon. Ahead lies the black mouth of a cave. The cave is a magnet. I direct the canoe into its depths.

Station Number 3

 A small canoe gently rocks and croons an archaic lullaby to a pool of deep water. The water’s liquid wrinkles caress the canoe’s small wooden hull. In a subterranean cavern as vast as the cosmos, in a silence so profound it sings, John sits listening to the stalagmite weeping; frozen Odysseus tormented by the Siren’s ecstatic voice. John discovers that in harmony, he, too, weeps. He weeps not from sorrow or melancholy but because the cavern’s ancient song begs an expression that John’s voice cannot attempt.

 The emotions build up in John as images of Marianne consume his thoughts. As the images flicker, one to another, the pain in his heart builds and his mind reels until the sheer potency of the moment shakes him free. His soul soars out of his body and joins the immense expanse that merges the dark space with the entire universe.

 John’s body lies slumped in the small canoe, unconscious. His left hand hangs over the edge of the canoe and his fingers dip into the freezing water of the underground lake. The golden ring slips free from his hand and sinks below.

 Hours pass. Suddenly John’s head jerks up and his eyes open. His soul has returned. It is accompanied. He sits up and lifts his fingers clear of the water then sucks the life back into them, aware and uncaring that the ring is gone. John awkwardly takes hold of the paddle and turns the canoe around until it is facing a pinpoint of light. He rows towards the light. He is careful not to turn around lest the accompanying soul be lost forever to the cavern’s depths. As he paddles towards the light, John smiles.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Edge


 Every morning I sit at the shore. An old travelling blanket is wrapped around my skinny legs and tucked beneath my blue feet. I feel the cold so much more now. Feel it deep down in my bones. It is there from the moment I first come awake until at last I manage to slip away for a few hours of ancient dreaming.

 Every morning I sit and watch him row. This early there are two noises daring to disturb the waking day. There is the soft lapping of the sleeping water and the dip and lift of his two oars. Dip then lift. Dip then lift. Even the gulls are still asleep. Not he. He is always rowing. Slowly, he etches himself across the ocean. The action does not appear effortless, rather, the power defies imagining.

 Sometimes he has but one passenger and at other times two or three. He never acknowledges his passengers. Never worries them with a sharp glance. He rows, his back to them, his thick, tanned arms lifting, moving. A silent reproach.

 Often I catch him alone as he rows out of the early morning mist towards some point beyond where the cliffs jut out into the ocean. Where does he row to?

 My stomach grumbles; a nagging pit inside my guts. These days I am always hungry yet I am unable to face eating once I confront my food. I sit at the table and hunger flees like a rat before a fire. Why?

I still possess all my teeth. All white. All shaped to fit the expected norm. All regularly flossed and brushed. It is a habit I maintain, along with so many other habits gradually perfected over a lifetime. Each habit has replaced a moment of spontaneity.

 People pass by softly. They believe I am asleep as I lounge in my chair with my eyes shut. No, I am not asleep. Simply caught up in the swirl of red patterns upon my closed eyelids. Each pattern a direct descendant of a long, lost memory. With memories come the ache, as if a part of me has gone missing. And she has. And she has.

 The intensity of this memory gazing causes me to sit so still I am convinced people believe I have already passed away. Occasionally one of them will carefully reach out to touch my shoulder, fascinated and repelled. It is hard to touch death: Hard and irresistible. How they jump when I open my eyes and catch them with a smile.

She arrives every afternoon around three. An old, old woman, wrinkled and creased like a screwed up piece of paper. Beautiful nevertheless. She always wraps herself in an old, black shawl. She wears the same grey dress, the same thick, black stockings.

 Each day the old woman, shuffling across the sand, navigates the shifting tide line. She sits herself down with a grunt, suspends her cane from the arm of her chair and reaches out to take hold of my right hand: Every afternoon, the same clothes, the same shuffle, the same chair. She is like the rising moon and the turning seasons. She can be relied upon.

She holds my hand with such strength that at first I was terrified. Now I find it reassuring. I feel my blood caper through veins grown momentarily soft. I miss that energy, that belief in life. I miss the surety of my own strength. At times I grew dizzy with the joy of my strength, the sense of muscle, the glory of sinew.

 Sometimes I am angered by my frailty, my inability to carry out even the simplest of tasks. Even tying a shoelace has become a trial beyond my capabilities. It is why old men take to wearing slippers: We do not need the constant reminder.

 Through the first hour or so we sit in silence and listen to the soft lapping as water weakens earth, takes minute fragments on impossible journeys. We sit and let the silence build. It is as if the need for words must sprout like a plant. Must first reach into our hearts to spread roots and branches and leaves until words pop out of our mouths like lush pieces of fruit.

 Her conversations always touch upon her relatives. There is nothing too sacred, too secret. She talks about this sister or that cousin or this niece on and on through the afternoon. Rarely am I asked to comment. Sometimes I might sit through an entire afternoon and not say a word. Just sit and let the words touch me.

 At other times I might let something slip. Something somehow connected with what she is talking about. Always it is a scrap of me. A nail begging to be prised loose from an old, weather beaten board. I am always surprised by what I let loose. Today, for example, it was such an ancient nail; so rusted that I had forgotten it was there.

 Once when I was six or seven I stabbed Peter Weir. I was lined up with my class outside church, preparing to enter its cool shadows and I lost my temper and stabbed Peter Weir. It never ceases to amaze me how a name will suddenly drop on to your lips. A name not mentioned in seventy or eighty years and then there it is, fresh as the day you first heard it. It was a glorious day and I stabbed Peter Weir in the back with my fountain pen. Stabbed him so hard the pen hung for a moment from his back. I stared at the nib, at the tiny hole in his blue, nylon shirt. Stared fascinated, at the point where nib entered flesh, where blue ink and red blood mingled. Stood, rock still, amazed at my act.

 After I have spoken to the old woman I breathe easier. The air tastes cleaner.

 If the man rows past while she is sitting next to me he always lifts the oars straight out of the water and nods, once, to her. She is the only person he recognizes: The one person who impinges upon his existence. It is as if his whole being is for the completion of a single chore and she is his overseer.

 She never acknowledges his salute. Always he is defeated. He lowers his oars and slowly, sadly, rows away.

 I wonder if he would cease to row if she would, just once, acknowledge him. Would that be the end for him? A penance finally lifted? A labour completed? They are like the sun and moon. He blazes for all to see and is seen by all but the one person he wishes to see.

 As soon as the sun kisses the horizon she ceases her words, releases my hand and leaves. Never has she uttered a parting word. Never a goodbye. She simply ends the day by ushering in the night.

 I usually stay seated a while longer. I remain until the chill builds itself into an unbearable pain. I lift myself out of my chair, though I fear I will fail, will find myself stranded on the beach, frozen by the night, discovered by an anonymous wanderer the next morning, already stiff; covered in dew as if the earth shed the tears I could not.

 At night in the cottage I sit by the tiny heater. Its single red band glows in the dark like a familiar pet, a shaggy dog, a purring cat. The heater brings me companionship. Even in summer I must have the heater on: A guardian through the long, dead hours of night. We share the night, the heater and I. We share each passing fragment, each labored breath, until finally my eyes sink beyond fear and I begin to dream.

Today it is raining. A soft rain that beguiles all who love the dry. I don’t mind. I like the feel of rain. I like the way it gathers in mass to slide down my wet forehead. I stretch out my tongue as a landing platform. I keep my eyes open to let the water swim through.

 As a child the rain touches our most primitive aspects. It touches our oldest memories; memories buried so deep they inhabit the genes. Is it that we remember, in some primordial way, how it rained for sixty thousand years when the first clouds burst upon the cooling earth? Does some ancient part of our psyche celebrate that first cloudburst? That first step towards life?

 Now the rain is like a mother. She washes away the intensity. She relieves the anguish. She welcomes the prodigal home. Somewhere deep within the rain I hear her voice soothing me. Calling me. I feel like that ancient dry earth touched by the hands of fate.

 He parts the mist, a performer’s entrance. He rows with such purpose, such a sense of belonging. I wonder, was the ocean created for this? For him? His muscles? The shifting of his oars? Are all waters a descent from these waters?  I remember a time he rowed directly out of the rising sun. Oars touching fire, water, fire, water. I believe I discerned the line attached to sun and boat. Who is he? What is his secret?

Once I saw a passenger stand up as if preparing to attempt the swim back to shore. The man never slowed, never altered the rhythm of his oars and it was as if that was enough. Totally defeated, the passenger sat back down, shoulders slumped forward to accept the load, eyes vacantly fixed upon the broad, strong back. How terrible the power of his back. The judgement of his oars.

My daughter paid me a visit today. She brought my grandson with her. Usually she doesn’t, but today she did. How he has grown. His bright orange hair catches the sun. His clear, blue eyes are filled with the future, touched by the tide of the past. I see me, my father, see past and future mingle in his every movement, in each of his mannerisms. When he concentrates he even bites his tongue like my dear departed brother.

 He makes me cry and that is why she rarely brings him. She wishes to guard against the madness of old age, the way tears slip so easily from old eyes. I think she should not. I think it is better he see. Better he retain a faint memory. She thinks the tears are pathetic. She thinks they are proof of my descent into senility. She does not understand that my tears hold a truth, a wisdom I had never expected to touch. They are a gift. An exchange for the withering of flesh.

 He detests sitting in my lap. I don’t blame him. She makes him of course. She is ruled by manners. Manners and civil conversations. No warmth. No display of affection.

 I think she has never forgiven me for that one slap which sent her tumbling down the back steps. She broke her arm in that fall. Often when it is cold I catch her rubbing that arm, that break, and in my soul I sense something that needs to be rubbed also.

 How can I explain to her that I am sorry. Once in my madness I begged for the removal of that single act from the universe. Now I let the act remain. I accept it. I accept the change it wrought in her. Wrought in me. The act brought about so much, like a ripple through our lives, our contact with each other.

 They stayed and chatted to me until my grandson grew impatient. I love him. I love his honesty. She became embarrassed but I could see she wished to leave also. I told her I was tired. I helped her on her way. I love her.

I grow curious. The need to know where he rows to, from whence he rows, has become an itch. A sting that refuses to rest. Is this his gift? His parting wave?

 Summer has returned. Some days the sun almost thaws my bones, but not quite. Never quite. Only the moon refuses to lose power. The sun burns so brightly, but, truly, he lacks the mystery.

 The first tourists have arrived. We are lucky, only a few hundred tourists seek sustenance in our waters. Most of them are familiar now. They recognize the old man. They leave his chair alone. Ignore him as they indulge in their yearly rituals. People assume I do not have the energy to be disturbed, or perhaps they think I can no longer understand social intricacies. I understand so much more, though the old woman is wiser still.

 Where does he row to? Where does he row from? What lies beyond the cliffs? I have never seen the land beyond. I have never before wanted to. Now my poor, white legs lack the belief to carry me. Yet the desire grows.

 I asked the old woman if she knew what lay beyond the edge. She laughed. I knew if I should repeat the question she would laugh again and continue to do so until I asked no more.

 I begin to understand. I sit watching him row and I begin to make the connection. I even jiggle the two coins in my pocket. Now I know why I have hung on to them these many years.

 It grows easier. A thing I never expected. With each passing day, it grows easier.

 I bade farewell to the old woman today. My time is close and I thought she would want to know. She took my hands and kissed my knuckles. Her cracked lips are still amazingly potent. A last stirring blossomed with that kiss. She too possesses power.

 She sat with me through the setting of the sun, her hand gripping mine in understanding. She gave me strength. Both of us watched the light falling as if jewelled insects danced upon the water. Even at the last a surprise. She stayed.

 She is sitting with me still. It is night. It is not cold. The full moon rises, its silver rays catching the waves of the whispering ocean. Everything is whispering. Everything is aware. Everything is bidding farewell.

 Out of the mist, the moon creating a path, I see him rowing his boat towards the shore.