House the Sun

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Trees in Motion by Mark A. Harrison

If anything living
could house the sun
I bet it would look like you

Music from another world
makes us want to dance
hard enough to fall
into the future present
following fireflies
up into the silent
olive branches
sipping lilac soda
under spreading granite trees

Instead we reminisce
on the transience of memory
the still-green four-leafed clover
pressed between pages
of Webster’s pocket dictionary
Dust in the hallway
where we used to run
wrapped in ragged sheets
through our cheap
match-book museum
pretending to be ghosts.

– T.H.

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Interlude

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Winter Light, Summer Tree by Mark A. Harrison

Doing boring grownup stuff is made infinitely better with a big fluffy coffee and a muffin on one side, and your sweetheart on the other. The city’s feet are slushy brown and the sky’s a muted grey, a few lazy white flakes drifting down as if they forgot where or why they were. One loose branch caught in the fingers of the others on the tree outside the window, hanging on despite the shivering breeze.

Snow

Seemed an appropriate theme for one of the coldest, snowiest Decembers we’ve had in a long time. Five original images by M, from the archives, in slideshow form. You can right-click to open a full-rez version in a new tab, where you can see all the insane detail that goes into one of these.

Here’s to the New Year picking itself up, dusting itself off, and putting on those well-worn, many-times-mended gloves for another round. We can do this, folks. It will get better!

 

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iv. But I digress

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Photo by Mark, messed with by me

In the absence of ambition, we become a conglomeration of tangents, an aimless wandering path laid down by the stick the dog is carrying: a scrappy, stocky, short-legged terrier beagle something or other cross, who has somehow outdistanced her loping, tongue-lolling, muddy pawed golden retriever pal, and is dragging a branch far too big for her size, but nowhere near equal to her spirit.

The broad line laid down in the dormant November grass, still wet with last night’s frost, will last for a few hours, at most; the sun has already thawed the exposed areas; only the shadows still carry hints of freezing, the ground crunchy and damp under recently unearthed winter boots.

A path laid down by accident, without purpose or intent, a temporary testament to life having passed this way, proof that momentum exists, that change is inevitable. And yet, itself, it is static, empty of life, mere black marks on a white background, bird tracks and fallen branches, a memory of what was, rather than a bold imagining of something new, something yet to come.

But if you follow the trail long enough, it will do at least one thing: it will bring you home.

Music: Thelonious Monk, Live in Japan 1963

iii. Cooking, and other creative endeavors

The components of the spell are there, the page in the recipe book yellowed with age, smudged and stained with cocoa and brown sugar and cinnamon – not because you need the recipe any more; it was memorized years ago, as instinctive now as any other everyday task. You know exactly what to reach for, in which cupboard, in which order. You have the perfect spoon, worn soft to the touch; the perfect bowl, beautifully weathered, scratched and dented, fine hairline cracks in the porcelain, like an old painting.

The smaller metal bowls ring when you clean them, a clear mild tone, teased into wakefulness by an enthusiastic swipe of the frayed checkered dish towel, encouraged to greater volume as the sink provides quiet settling background noises, the last soap bubbles sighing in resignation, collapsing, imploding in near-silent release.

ii. Art

Visualizing: the painter in her many layers: cotton, wool and fleece, an outer layer to break the wind, thick socks in practical boots, hybrid gloves – the kind where the finger tips detach and bend back to grip Velcro fasteners, leaving thin fingers free to freeze solid.

She stabs her stubby, short bristled brush into the orange, yellow, red, white, green, squinting in the dying light, painting more by feel and memory than sight. The application of paint is reassuring in its methodical swiftness, confident and direct, devoid of hesitation. The basic physics of the equation are those of a crafts-person, building a picture as one might a chair – the first rough cut, before the joining and sanding and polishing.

There are some of those on the wall too, quick sparse sketches, laid out in wide utilitarian strokes, slapped down in a hurry while the light lasted. They lack the glow of the two finished paintings; the canvas lies flat against the uneven bricks, no real sense of depth, despite the hasty blue shadows thrown across the snow, the flash of winter sunlight on the south-facing wall of the farm house – a depiction not so much of a specific building, but rather a symbolic representation of the idealized form of the southern Ontario concept of House: a sturdy rectangle with a triangular roof, three windows and a door, smudges that might be pine trees cozying up to it on either side. The sky is two shades of blue, the brush strokes reaching from ground to sky, as if following the memory of the last time the aurora borealis enveloped the house in dancing green fingers.

i. People

The lady across from me is wearing a long john top, the kind I used to wear as PJs when I was in high school, waffled grey with disconnected grey-blue stripes. Her long black and white homespun scarf partially doubles as a sweater, or a cloak. She’s wearing her toque indoors, despite the mild day: purple wool with a pink rim, topped with a perky navy blue pompom. I’m thinking she has bird in her ancestry, some ancient feathered dinosaur with a lean face tapering to a fine, sharp point, long skinny legs and hollow bones. If I were betting on who would be able to glide if thrown off a cliff, she’d be the main contender; so light she’d waft like a feather.

Fragility

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Photo by Mark A. Harrison

Fragility

Muscles clenched
into a fist
wrapped around my spine
as if intending
to pull it out
through the flesh of my back

If only thoughts mattered
I could live a thousand lifetimes
I would be a mountain
pocked, scarred, eroded
wearing my damage like a testimony
to having lived
watching oceans grow and shrink;
I would be a phoenix
endlessly burning
all my sins turned to ashes
pulling myself, choking, back into the world
again and again;
I would be a river
carving out the earth
wearing down centuries
roaring torrent or sluggish as a snail;
still I would move, and move.

Without this fragile shell,
bound by bones & blood & sinew
I could converse with dark nebulae
wander the tracks of galaxies
discover what really happens
when you fall into a black hole;

But without these volatile chemicals
flowing through temperamental veins
tickling twitching, fragile nerves,
would I still feel delight at the birth of a star?
anticipation approaching the speed of light?
sorrow at the heat death of the universe?

Without these mundane aches and pains,
the constant nod and wink of death’s eventual shadow
would happiness taste as sweet?
Would we trade these perpetual growing pains
for an eternity without joy?

– T.H.

Passing Effect

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Everything in a Box by Mark A. Harrison

Passing effect: The effect of passing through things
– Leaves, hair, branches, hearts –
Equal and opposite reactions;
We pretend that contact is only temporary,
that everything always
only passes by, and through
– and yet –
We all affect each other, even Jupiter’s tiny moons
affect the giant’s gravitational field.

Gravity: A force so weak, you can defeat it
with a fridge magnet, or a piece of tape;
by a hop, skip, jump, the push of single finger;
– and yet –
Even the weakest forces can surprise you
how they keep coming back
the persistence of the everyday;
You can jump up, but you’ll always land.

All these fleeting melodramas,
our brief starring moments on the bright-dark stage,
all the private riots, the secret rebellions,
a universe of stories unfolding, moment by moment,
inside the sacred prison, the infinite travelling picture show
invisible to everyone else;
one might call it
a kind of madness.

Flashing lights and sirens, a circling fruit fly, living speck of dust;
Do we weather the small annoyances in the name of compassion,
or wage instant meaningless destruction in the name of indifference?

Every time inspiration hits, the world is transformed
– and yet –
the persistence of the mundane is like gravity, like inertia,
the approaching fall, the curling of dead yellow leaves,
the sinking in of desiccated fruit, a hint in the air
of the coming cold, and the long, long sleep.

Orbits inevitably decay,
all returns to the earth, through fire, or drowning,
the final burnt traces sinking into the ocean, ashes falling like snow
winking gold & silver in the light of the setting sun.

Not all the mass times constant squared
in all the known universe
can give you more Time
…and yet…
Sometimes, in the suspension of the moment, we imagine
that this now is eternal,
the world moving past us, as we stand
on the brink of what is possible;
That little voice in the back of your mind,
whispering a subtle dare,
to take that one small step
out into the air;

And always, that one desperate, aching pit
in the darkest centre of your soul
that screams an affirmation
always straining against the barrier,
waiting for the day, when everything becomes clear
and we know at last
that flight is, finally,
possible.

– T.H.
(Selected excerpts, edited, from a freefall poem written in 2014)

Blue

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Blue Twin by Mark A. Harrison

diminished

where the hollow of her arm
once held you safe
against all
the familiar demons
where comfortable wrinkles
once nuzzled your back
the antique linen, buttercup gold
now stretched taut, iron-straight
cold as stone and empty houses
by its emptiness refines
the very idea of loneliness
we are borrowers, only
love is never ours to keep
only to brush by, with a sigh
and a wish, like an exhaled breath
in a vacant room.

– T.H.