Choice: A Story in Five Parts ~ Part One

Art by Mark A. Harrison (“Font”), story by Tanah Haney

I

Mistaken for dead, they carried him to a stone room, the room where his brother lay.  Seven years since the fall, when feathers had drifted snow-soft, and silver blood pooled mercury-thick on the frozen ground.  Measuring the hours by the frequency of the static on the radio, the day by the twining of the vines that grew from the bodies, how long it took for the red flowers to open.  When the pollen broke free and drifted up into the night sky, bright motes of dust turning to stars, he would know a year had passed.  And so it went.

> Part Two

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)

Stolen Voices

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“Time”, Detail – Photo by Mark A. Harrison

An old one for today. I still like the imagery in this one, even if it is a twenty-something’s perspective on age and time. Things definitely look a little different on this side of forty.

Stolen Voices

I’ve only seen him old;
He walks in the park with a black umbrella,
feeds stale popcorn to the squirrels;
He must be old as mountains,
his youth a hot river of lava,
rushing through new born seas,
throwing up geysers of steam to come down rain;
His feet hit the puddles in rubber galoshes,
he walks in the park with his son’s dead friends,
dreams the same dream every night:
He’s walking up a hill
double-shadowed in the streetlights
under a fingernail sliver of moon;
the silhouette of a church,
a jagged hole in the deep blue twilit sky –
the closer he gets,
the less the shadow changes;
he is waiting for the features to emerge
like the face of an old friend,
but it only grows darker
save for a glimmering faintness, like distant stars;
Each night he’s just a bit closer
to stepping through.

I’ve only seen him old;
He claims to have made his peace with the world;
He says that paranoia is a form of vanity
and that too much luck will only kill you in the end;
He walks by the river with his son’s dead friends,
leaves fall on his hat like dust on cobwebs;
He whistles a tune from some old black and white movie,
ghosts gather hawthorn in his wake;
His feet are light as dandelion pollen
and barely touch the ground.

– T.H.

Worst Paragraph EVER (Today’s Fun with Editing)

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

So I’m innocently skimming an earlier chapter, quite a ways back from the bit I’m currently on, and I find, to my horror, what I’m officially designating the Worst Paragraph in the Entire Novel. One might wonder how I could possibly have missed it the first time around. In my defense, this stage of editing mainly involves jumping from one editorial comment to the next, and only cursorily skimming the prose in between.

Thankfully, a consistency issue sent me back, and the salvaging of the Worst Paragraph Ever is underway – after nearly two hours of (1) attempting to tweak rather than re-write, (2) realizing this is impossible, and reassessing the entire scene including which street corner it takes place on, and (3) spending a ridiculous amount of time playing with Google maps street view to determine exactly what will happen where.

This, my friends, is how a planned 20-30 minute quickie editing session turns into a behemoth that devours your entire evening. A brief glimpse behind the curtain of that mysterious alchemical process that transforms first draft dreck into a proper novel that you’d be proud to have someone read. Or so I fervently hope.

Flying with crows

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Oil & Light by Mark A. Harrison

flying with crows

I sometimes imagine
I’m flying with crows
over autumn fields
and deep river valleys
telephone wires catching
the last of the evening sun
shining white mercurial fire
against the slate dark sky
hills lying like a giant’s body
elbows crooked, cradling a head of stone
how long does it take
for forests to grow up and cover
this still sleeping form?

I don’t believe in miracles
or divine intervention
the universe is what it is
but if I could find the market
where they sell time
I’d find the merchant with the cold, dead eyes
the one who never smiles
and while his back was turned, I’d steal
as much as I could carry;

I hold onto each year like it’s a ledge that’s crumbling
I want to reach out and strangle time
want to steal more than I’m allowed
I have so much more I want to do
but someone cut the brake lines
and here I am, reaching out for anything
to grab onto, to stop this insane headlong rush
I’d write myself a thousand lifetimes, if I could.

– T.H.

(a shortened, edited version of a poem I wrote when I was eight years younger than I am now)