“Lamentations I heard on every side
but I saw no one who might be crying out
so that, confused, I stopped.”
(Hollander’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, Canto XIII: 21-24)
Ashley cannot sleep.
Before her bed moonlight shines too brightly through her window
(or at least it is the moonlight that she remembers).
In her white little room, the world is so still she could not tell which hour it is.
In a silence she sits up and peers through the window.
She imagines breeze coming through the silt.
It seems that her time alone is frozen in the stream of life,
and that there is nothing in the world that will beseech her in the little room where she stays.
In this eternal silence the door slowly creaked open behind her.
Ashley jumped, beaming into a smile as she heard the familiar voice of the kind gentleman.
You are here!
She burst out into the laughter of a summer bird.
Of course I am; we made a promise.
The tall figure walked into the little room, and sat down beside her bed;
he touched her forehead. Ashley thought his hand was rather cold.
You don't have a fever today.
But of course I don't, I behaved well.
Good. Did you do your assignments?
And out of his brown suitcase he pulled out some scrambled papers--
Ashley heard the rustling sound of the paper and sat up straighter
which made the gentleman smile. He covered his lips
so that he does not laugh, and then cleared his throat
to change into a stern serious look.
And she narrated the story in such manner as if each word is inscribed in her memory.
It is how one reads, she has always thought.
Learning by heart is the only way for her to connect to the outside world.
The world she had never understood.
Why did Virgil ask Dante to break the branches?
This is actually a good question. Do you have your Aeneid?
You find Virgil mean.
But what was Dante’s reaction when the branch is torn?
What was Dante’s reaction towards Virgil? And the souls?
Do you think Virgil should react otherwise?
He walked to turn on some lamplights as Ashley straightened her back.
I think I heard something.
Nothing is there, Ashley.
But certainly, something is there—
Come back here.
She sank back into her bed, crouching on her pillow, she held the rose between her thumbs.
Good. Can you answer my questions now?
She replied patiently, though she had no idea what the question was.
She ended up murmuring with a little whisper:
Sorry... I lost track.
The Lamb smiled as he noticed her guilt, and spoke again in a kind manner:
Would you tell me where Dante and Virgil are in this passage?
Excuse me, who?
She responded the stillness outside the window.
Ashley— there is noth—
Ashley, if you cannot concentrate on your courses I will be leaving now—
Ashley turned back immediately.
Ashley does not need me anymore, she has all her Dante in her mind.
I must pack up my stories back in my suitcase and—
The gentleman stopped. The small figure had blocked his way.
Ashley's tearful face was buried in his suitcase.
He placed his hand on her shoulder.
I am sorry, child.
Please do not leave.
I am sorry— I am not going anywhere. Come.
He sat beside her, looking into the grey-washed wall that cracked open in a shape of a rose’s throne.
What is it that you heard Ashley?
I don't know. I thought I ought to answer... perhaps it is the wind.
Do you want me to check for you?
Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose name was Ashley.
Ashley had long black hair that touched her knees,
and a pair of big grey eyes that sought the lights of the sun.
She lived in a little room where there was a little window.
Beside the window there was a little bed, where she lay alone.
Beside the little bed, there was a little table where
a book lay open on its warm white surface.
Everything around her was white expect a little rose beside her white little table,
which was beside her white little bed.
It was a red little rose wrapped with a black little ribbon,
which smelt like the fresh meadows in early spring.
Sometimes, the Lamb would enter her white little room,
and they would journey a bit together in Dante’s Inferno.
Revised from 2018 short story "Story of a Lamb."
It was a cool afternoon at Kings College. She was sitting beside the building of Maughan Library, on the old wooden bench beside the building entrance. The students were preparing for their finals and so was she, writing her final drafts for a final paper. Entering the left hand side of the building, she would have headed in, turn, and walk on the swirling stairs that goes up into the shelves with latin literature collections.
It was not the books themselves that fascinated her the most, but the scent of the ancientness that the books give out when she sat down amongst them, her back facing the wall of books on Arthurian and medieval literature.
Her mind would unwind as she, looking far off into the narrow road where she entered the building, would see the sunset right there beside her, fuming into the walls and inviting themselves in through the window glasses and land on her books, enshrouding them with a fumoir of the golden age.
It was not the deep red autobuses and the loud commercing tourist spots that fascinated her, but the ancientness of the city, in the accent of the different classes of people that she sensed, the little smirks among the different skin tones she met, and the tall white buildings in its unmovable glory of the past that fascinated her.
It was her working day, from ten in the morning to early afternoon, she would sit there, at times reading books of her own interests, other times, those concerning her studies in culture and performance, sometimes, she just sat amidst the shelves and zoomed out. No words are needed during those moments of satisfaction.
It was a different day though, as she sat on the bench taking out her computer. The coolness of the mist came in through her coat. She had to find a place to stay for the rest of the day, for she had forgotten that it was not a library opening day. Students from other colleges like her, are not allowed to enter the library.
A pigeon landed, pecked the floor, and flew away. A young man came out of the building and sat on the bench beside her, holding a cup of hot coffee, with his legs spread open and an arm extending the bench, seemingly to be enjoying himself. A few minutes later, some students entering the college gate greeted him.
“You know what I like the most for non-opening days? No students from other colleges would gather here or use the library, just Kings.” He smirked with a raised tone in his voice. The other students replied hastily, with an awkward politeness “oh, yeah?”
They quickly walked away, as the young man took another sip of the coffee.
The story ended there. Whether she left for the next library, or headed home for a few groceries, she has forgotten.
The day headed on, and she handed in her final paper on time, probably with the company of her favorite shrimp salad at Prets. This little moment stayed, leaving no changes in her on-going life. It was just an ordinary day with the sun gently shining through the mist of the early spring London, in the year 2019.
And who will be there for you, dear child?
When you face that immense darkness,
As a maiden, a quiet object of the house,
When it encloses your mind and taunts at your being,
You are nobody.
You laugh. You have to laugh.
Even when your sky has cracked open and the
Stars have fallen, and the tides have arisen and
The earth has quaked. Because no one will.
So you count,
A small partial of here and there,
From the woman who would have loved you so,
And a bit of this and that,
By making use of your little labour.
For there can be no force when
Here and now is not permitted.
He has too often forgotten
That the woman of his past life,
was the same person whom you’d call a mother,
That the woman of his present life,
Is not a part of that property at his command,
That her fortune once were also
a share of promise for your own future.
She said she would thank him
Of his care and his love of the house
While out of love for her you
trap yourself in his uneven temper
Watch him play the tragic hero
Dismiss and neglect your words and
Replace your needs with more materials
that enclose his sense of time
Once, twice, thrice, and more
Forty times a quarter a day
And more, praying and asking
Where has she gone?
Once, twice, thrice and more
Thirty days a month of the year
Everything must be kept
As the way she has left it
As the way time does not move still.
Or else I will not sleep.
No. No. I do not permit change.
What is love but an empty trace of
that honored life of your past?
You linger on youth and miss the
Years of growth,You cling on her
as if she would bring back
The time that is no longer here.
Words, words, words,
So much words of these men who
Think my neglect is out of misunderstanding of that pain
As if I do not feel that same loss of losing not one,
As I look into the eyes of Darkness
As Darkness looks into the eyes of mine.
Who will be there for you?
And for years they will call you
Icarus, the reckless boy who flied too high
who reached the sun and plunged into his death.
And no one knew that
your destination never was the next shore
And your flight never was from the high maze
They would never know that
The glamour of the spheres have
Taught you the secrets of their songs
To reach too high is far better than
to fall into the ways of the man
who plows the land and knows not the end
Your story will be told as a tale for the
Children to obey the rules and
You will be mocked at, forgotten, and left alone
Only because you are too young to
Speak in your own words and have left too soon
To defend for your own dreams
Unlike your father who sang his mind so well
that his passion and judgement sent his curiosity
into the maze of his own grave
His mind is remembered such
that little pueri will have to learn from his intelligence—
the man who acted
Yet Icarus, Icarus, the boy who fell
are’t the lights in the ocean singing
The same song of the falling spheres
Churning, swirling, in the embrace of your sun
“What is a choice?”
“A choice is the path where a man takes full responsibility for himself.”
“Is it a choice that the man makes, or is it a choice that is not a choice?”
“Life comes from both sides.”
“And the gods called it our gift.”
“Time made men, and yet men made us their gods.”
After grey-eyed Athena left the lonely shores of Ithaca, Odysseus sat, eyes peering into the far horizon, thinking. He recalled the immortal goddess on her lonely shores. Now too with the flow of time he must endure the loneliness. What a great sunset, he thought. Once, when his comrades left him one by one, he had seen a sunset as lonely as this before.
Once he was young and strong and powerful, and the world was kinder. His idle life was filled with the familiar faces whom he loved, whom have loved him more than their own lives. And then one thousand ships called him onto his mission. A part of him longed to be with his beloved, yet a part of him longed to travel, to live a life bigger than his own, to sail across the seven seas and to drift his youth amongst the forgotten river before Hades made him his reign. So he left, when no disguise would change the mind of the raging Athenians, when nothing could be done to change the tide, his job was to be the hero.
And then… what then?
Every day it was the life of excitement. Yes, no doubt that there was danger, but he was not kind enough to let them down—he was resourceful, him, the only Odysseus whom the world knows him of his cunningness.
He sang with the stars and bargained with the gods. No one would question him, because he was the Odysseus on his famous journey. He knew, however, and only him alone, knew the dangers of the sea.
On the ocean, there can be no doubt. It is not a game, where one takes care of you when you are down. It is not a test, when chances are given repeatedly until you performed to your heart content. It is not melancholic, where in between the being and the not-being, you are honored of your thoughts. It is the time for reaction, and only reaction itself is the prove of your worth.
You do not aim towards the end, because death takes all ends.
You suffer for the journey, but the journey itself is the most fruitful.
That is, if you are brave enough to walk through it with your widened eyes.
Blind Tiresias saw, through his deceptive figures of the light and the darkness, and his knowledge of languages through the gift of the gods. And yet he never left his own being, as his gods-given presence are flawed to journey into the earthly affairs.
Take his advice but walk on your own.
It is the traveler that takes his aim.
His men left him and he alone, chose to return. Giving up his immortality, giving up his sky, only chose to be back. To see his only worth among the seven seas. The place where he grew up from, the place where he lived, the place where he is familiar with, his home.
And yes, it is a torture. All the mistakes come back to you when, in the time being, sitting alone on the shores of Ithaca, you would wish you were everywhere else but here.
Being king, and then being doubted as king. Being needed, and then being hated as needed. Being kind, and then regret everything you do while kind. React, and then being reminded that there is no need to react. They believe you are proud, because they know nothing that tames your mind. They want you here, so that they do not need you.
Like a school of sly fish they honor you with their rules, so that your mind distorts their idleness so easily that you imagine them chaining you up in the name of home. Vacation is over— he whispered to himself. The peacefulness sets him on fire, that depressing psychopath hiding under his archaic smile. It is not the smile of that responsible Athena.
Under the nine rings of hell only he would notice the immense sadness of the bloodless Achilles. His reign means nothing in the world of the dead; that famous rageful Achilles who set Troy in fire too, sought no escape in the realms of peace.
The wild torrent of the ocean calls him.
It does not call. Not always.
People call him a madman. That is because they do not see what he can see.
The world is beyond acknowledgement, with one decision leading to another. For generations they will call him the adventurer, because he has the dare that no one does. Only by throwing himself into danger will he stop that raging fire in his mind.
The question is, how?
He looked into the sunset, where the sun set fire across the worlds.
I need a ship. He thought, and he headed away from the city, deep, to find his worth in that shallowing woods.
What is in the space
Between Here and Then
Between the east and the west
Between the light and the dark
Between the mundane and the spiritual
Between the material and the symbolic
Between the sense and the thought
Between the sight and the sound
Between the words and the symbol
Between the moments and the eternal
Between the language and the languages
Between the story and the perceiver
Between the form and the concept
Between the skill and the creative
Between learning and giving
Between the reality and the imaginative
Moments are seized
Senses are discovered
Is there something more
What is in the space