The Earth is Shifting On Its Axis

Dedicated to Kaarina Wilson. I wish I’d understood what you said then, Ma Petite Rouge. Or maybe, I always did. 

The earth is shifting on its axis, where one eye meets the earth, and the other the sea,
and all war nests are torn apart, fought for, to release the cackling, to let it fly free,
leaving runes, and raspberries to lie there, and grow for all eternity.

The earth is shifting on its axis, where the fox reminds you that you’re responsible, forever, for what you have tamed,
where Wonderland grows again, in outside crawls where unbirthday parties have been named,
and you get become and be yourself, and never again be blamed.

The earth is shifting on its axis, in the place where Time goes to die,
between the looking glasses where twins and doppelgangers hide in shiny corners to spy.
Here, in the centre, you know that all of them are true, and encroaching. None of them are a lie.

The earth is shifting on its axis, tilting inexorably to the end of this rhyme,
like the days of Forbidden, independent in the city, in the heat of our prime
I wish, oh I wish, you were still here, before the centre, asking me if it can still be Bed Time.

The earth is shifting on its axis, in the kaleidoscope you find the sisu — the will of the Finn — you follow it, stubborn, down a cinematic path, with a determined warrior grin.
Before the darkness, you laugh and you shout your parting words, your punctuation. “I win!”

The earth is shifting on its axis, after pointing the way that starry night, in the snow, what you already see,
beyond it you have traveled now, left its meandering ways, its pains, its aggravations, its reality.
The only one left to see the earth shift on its axis now, of the two of us, is me.

Aelith

Written and performed around last Halloween — or the Season of the Dead — by my bard in our Fifth Edition D&D game. 

There is a forlorn beauty within the White Pines,
filled with crumbling husks of majesty, and broken lines.
Now home to beasts, and creatures of many kinds,
it once claimed manses housing High Elven minds.

There were palatial homes almost grown from stone,
of which fabled mounds and toppled pillars are now their bone.
Numerous farms were once tiled by ancients under the trees,
but they, too these Elven farmers’ secrets, were worn away by
Time’s frigid Northern breeze.
This Kingdom, this Empire, spanned from North to West,
this flowering of High Elven civilization at its very best.

Now, there are only broken columns, and archway outlines reaching
for the sky,
as though these few still remain to beseech, and as of the world … why.
Why did this ageless, noble nation die?

This question is the breadth and width,
of the ancient tragedy of the Temple Warden,
of the High Elven warrior …
Aelith.

Long ago, before the Elves of the White Pines,
the Mountain Dwarves of Mordimeer came out from their mines,
their numbers coming forward, going forth,
to contest the High Elven nation’s claim in the North.
Perhaps it was for the sake of power, or for gold,
that the Dwarves, then, decided to be bold,
or due to eternal grudges that never go away,
for these two long-lived nations set out to, each other, mutually slay.

But in shining raiment, and majestic power,
the High Elves still maintained their longest hour,
until, from the East, came Chaos, came the Orcish Horde, to ravage
and scour.

In massive numbers, the Green-Skins invaded both races first,
but the Elven nation was attacked the worst.
Long-lived and once sedate the Elves had perhaps been too used to peace,
with the Dwarven presence just skirmishes at least,
but spread too thin they didn’t hope to stand the Hordes that never ceased.

Many died, and others hid,
while still more Elves to their Empire farewell they bid,
as they left to form other nations, other cities
into eventual decline they slid.

But that is not what Aelith did.

Tall, and lean, and slender,
stone could not, in good conscience, render
the high cheekbones of her face, the haughtiness of her mien,
her keen slivered eyes that many a battle, more than others of her kind,
had seen.
Her red-gold tresses shone with a beauty that was hard,
overshadowing a gaze that never, once, let down its guard.

Perhaps, once, Aelith had a family, a lover, or a spouse,
but what is known is that towards the end of her nation,
she had been married only to the War God’s House.
Aelith, Temple Warden, had guarded the Warrior Shrine
for centuries, and years,
so when the Orcish invasion came, she was not overcome by fears.

It may be that she warned her people of this day,
that their indolent lives, their complacency would not eternal stay.
But if so, very few in Aelith’s words believed,
and because of this, perhaps, their doom they did receive.

Yet, that fateful day, that fateful time, it was lives that Aelith sought to retrieve.
She and her soldiers, the War God’s children, many orc lives would reave.

With slender fingers calloused by ancient wars, and hands that grappled with her God’s demands,
Aelith, keen-eyed of ken, took her bow of moon-silver, and shot down many a marauder again,
and again.
It’s said that when she killed, her voice sang out, perfect and metallic, silvery with prayer,
as she dedicated the lives of her people’s killers to her God, as their slayer.

But deep down, perhaps Aelith sometimes wondered,
was this wrath inside her, this glory for battle, grief for her people,
or what the War God thundered?
Was it, then, that something in her, a deep surety, a steadfast belief had
gone and, and truly sundered?
For with the others, the Gods of Peace and Pax had fled,
leaving behind only Bloodlust, and inevitable Dread.
And, perhaps, something else in their stead.

Perhaps, something deeper than sentiment, and eternal myth,
had always burned in the breast of Aelith.

Aelith, whatever else, had bought her people time,
but this is not where ends the tale of this warrior archer, farsighted,
in her prime.
It would be easy, to say, that she did indeed — with her warriors — earn
a noble death,
amassing orcish skulls right down to her final breath.

Outsiders continued to terrorize her home, and ruin her lands,
and she still yet fought on, in vain, as her soldiers — too few now —
died under the invaders’ — these defilers’ — hands.

Perhaps, as these final defenders, these Elven warriors made hunters
of thinking beasts,
which blood and viscera became their only feasts,
began to starve and fall without food or game,
the fire within Aelith’s soul fed another kind of flame.
Hungry as they fought, she and her soldiers became
far past the point of any reason for it to tame
Until, driven to very few, to the corners of their Shrine at last,
a desperate spell, an evil curse, they decided upon themselves to cast.

They turned the pool beneath the Shrine, into an abattoir, the heart of a blood-smith,
for their leader to forge, there, the Doom of Aelith.
Perhaps it was their own lives that they sacrificed, through blood-stained orgies,
and profane rites,
though orcish prisoners, long-broken, would have also sufficed.

And, with this, as she tried to control their fate,
all they had left — Aelith and her soldiers — was the power of hate.

Thus with a terrible ken, that made her song more discordant, more keening,
Aelith sought — in her Shrine — to keep on dreaming
for Death their lives never to sever,
as they would defend their Temple, their Home, and fight the Enemy, in eternal war …
Forever.

And when Aelith finally died, and her blood — with others — ran like a crimson river,
it is said that her God — her spouse — by request or curse, bound her soul into her constant companion,
her moon-silver quiver.

It is said, even now, that Aelith still exists,
she and her soldiers now spectres, ghosts, and angry dead whose war continues to persist.
And, if once a year, in the Season of the Dead, lost roads in dirt and thinned veils form anew,
and outsiders find their way to the site of the Temple, of the foundations they would flee
if they only knew,
then the spirits will lure them, as they had their age-old prey,
and take them, to feed their restless bones, where they now lay.

And Aelith, a far cry from her glory,
ancient, and hideous, and far from sorry,
now a withered, and unbearable sight,
will take advantage of the outsider’s plight:
even, and especially if they too possess an Elven light.
Perhaps, long after her kin ignored what she had foretold,
for them and all, her heart had long since grown cold.

Her hunger, now, is that for souls,
as she can, and cause, for others what Death ultimately tolls.
All so she can feed herself, and almost look again alive,
to be young in corpse-light, and terrible for her ageless war
to inevitably survive.
Armed with spectral arrows, from her constant bow, that rot the body,
and assault the mind
this, and her violence, is all of her that is left behind.

For her war song now is the Song of the Banshee, the House of the Dead,
a charnel battle where all should fear to tread.

Who, now, would go so far to guard their home, their way of life, in her stead?
Or keep their lust for vengeance, for violence, perpetually fed?
Or who would dare live the life that she had led?

Who else can’t see that a Banshee’s Song
is only a war that has gone — or will happen before — far too long?

The Elven roads are gone now, beautiful manses and temples long since buried,
treasures plundered, and millennia quarried
over bones, that could have been ageless — but died young, and unmarried?
Even so, in the shadow of the White Pines, in the pall of the Fall, there are few terrestrial, even fewer viridian sith,
that will outlast the keen keening lust and hunger of the Temple Warden, the Warrior,
the Banshee Archer.
Aelith.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

Hymn to Nautilae

Written and performed by my bard during our D&D Fifth Edition Session. 

If you listen to the chiming laugh of a brook in the wood, 
and follow where the Moon-drake winds,
you will find a cavern, and an ancient bridge, 
with a rock visited by many kinds.

Elves and Minotaurs, Satyrs and Beastmen, 
and all manner of other fey,
they’ve come, like you, to the shimmering disc above, 
where her calm waters hold sway. 

There, she comes to you, smooth and cool,
from an offering dropped into her pool.
Silver given to a silvery sheen,
the Faerie comes with intention keen,
her magic strong enough to let her glean
your wishes that are yet to be seen. 

She’s like a Nereid, a Nymph, a watery Queen,
the finest that you’ve ever seen. 
Beautiful lady, ending with a tail,
to this vision, this humble bard sings this modest hail.

Her silken hair from her head crests out in waves,
like the glimmering veins of the world hidden in secret caves.
Rocks crumble, fires die, and winds move on,
but water, Terra-life’s blood moving, is never gone.

If you are wise, and your manners are fine,
with silver presented she may grant you a blessing undine. 
For with her touch, an axe might shine,
a staff made clear of evil’s brine, 
a hallowed bow’s soul no longer confined, 
each item freed from age or taint or temporal decline.

Yet above all, if you believe only one word of mine,
the Faerie holds the guidance of the watery line.
She offers a map under temples long grass,
sunken cities that mortals can no longer pass, 
traveling down roots where no stories tell,
or to a place of lost souls through an ancient well
where hope, thought long gone, may still yet dwell. 

Such are the mysteries you might find, where rock and waters play,
if you pay homage to the underlake of night and day,
for silver to a silvered tongue is yet the best way,
to court the favour of the Good Queen, Nautilae. 

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2019.

Of Serpents and Foxes

Hello again everyone. I’ve been away, and busy, for a change but I want to start writing again on Mythic Bios at least once a week as I originally planned. I didn’t actually feel like writing anything until I got another Project of mine finished, but I feel the need to you updated on some of the things that I’m doing and to keep a record of some of my work as well.

It’s been tough for me this past while. I’ve had this Twine idea in my mind for some time and it was only at this year’s Toronto Global Game Jam that I’d been able to even start on it beyond the modest notes I’d researched and taken.

Unlike last year, I didn’t force myself to stay up until twelve or two in the afternoon to finish off my game. Aside from the fact that I had a headache during the Jam, even when I was better I realized that rushing through it and making something out of pure exhaustion would only give me sloppy work and very little to show for it: never mind the fact that it wouldn’t have even been a working narrative.

I’d gotten as far as creating an entry for it on the Global Game Jam site. At the moment, my Twine creation is called The Serpent and The Fox. I spent a whole night trying to think up a good abstract summary and a title for my creation in progress. Unfortunately, the late first night of the Jam cost me in stamina: to the point where I couldn’t even create an outline.

In the end, though, it was just as well. Most of my creative works each have their own unique processes and this one didn’t really want a pre-existing outline. Rather, it wants to use the fragments I’ve written down or have in my mind and flesh itself out from there. However, what’s really interesting about this interactive narrative is that it may well be the most structured Twine game that I’ve made to date.

Each part of my story is going to be an interlinking series of haiku: a poetic structure of five syllables, then seven on the next line, and five on the last. Of course, for the sake of storytelling — and sanity on my part — they are probably not all traditional haiku. They don’t all deal with descriptions of nature, and while I attempt to capture emotion in them, sometimes I need to use them to detail other matters. And while haiku apparently aren’t supposed to utilize metaphors, I might have to break those rules: if only to make them part of a metaphorical structure themselves. And while I will be using the five/seven/five schema when I can, I will vary up how many lines I use in each section and take essential creative liberties.

This brief discussion of poetic structure aside (and years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking about this, never mind finding it remotely interesting), I am particularly focusing on the perspective of the story. I can tell you right now that my story seems to start from a third person perspective, but depending on the choices that you make as a reader — on where and what character you click on — this will change.

What I am pondering at the moment is whether to follow the usual Twine and interactive choose your own adventure tradition of the second-person perspective, or go right into the first-person.

If I make it first-person, then you can see into the minds of the characters themselves even as you can choose their actions. However, ironically enough the perspective of “I” can be alienating for a reader: it’s just another divide between them and the character even if it might provide more insight. One of the texts that inspired me to make this Twine uses the first-person and I can see its strengths in that.

On the other hand, the second-person flat out, through its use of “you” makes you — the reader — into the character. It places you into their mind and body. When you make the choices that the game provides you with, you could feel a greater relation to that character. But then there is the issue of what happens when the character feels something and narrative attempts to claim that you are feeling it or thinking it too.

Either way, there is going to be some audacity involved. Another issue is that I wonder if I can get the different character perspectives to intersect again at some point and become unified depending on what the reader-player chooses: without being totally boring and repeating myself. And would the second-person, would “you” be able to relate to another character and feel the beginnings of some kind of relationship compared to whether or not you are an “I.”

I will have to find a healthy medium and keep exploring this issue further. I was reluctant to talk about this, link my entry to Mythic Bios, or even mention the name of a work that isn’t finished yet. I generally like to either link to finished works or just hint on the unfinished. It’s been weighing on my brain for a little while and taking up a good portion of its memory (I am also a less than closeted perfectionist).

Me and my Head

 

But it’s been a while and I thought you’d find this digression interesting in some way.

I hope I will be able to continue and finish this. I want to see how people react to it and I want to move on with my writing and other plans. I hope the world is treating you all reasonably. Hopefully I’ll be back next week. Until next time.

Observations of a Part-Time Poet

Believe it or not, I don’t make poetry often. In fact, poems like Berserker and Necromancer usually come very rarely to me and it is even less often these days that I will post them up publicly for other people to see.

Poetry is not easy for me. It is neither easy to force out nor easy to ignore. It can even be harder to read.

Most of the time when I read prose, I read it silently or skim sentences to absorb the whole and get a greater picture to form in my mind. It is hard for me to explain that in any other way, but that is how it is.

Then there is poetry. I used to avoid it like the plague. I once thought that it was all supposed to be formula and rhyme and iambic pentametre all the time. I only rhyme when I want to be clever, make fake prophecies, or when I am exhausted beyond belief: which is more often than I’m going to talk about. I also used to think it had to be sappy and sentimental and all about those dreaded, diabolical things known to and feared by all humankind as … feelings … ;P

Of course, the wonderful thing about poetry that I had the privilege to learn is that it is the ultimate experimental game of language. You can crystallize whole nuances and depths of thought and emotion into as fewest words as possible. If you are really good at it, you can describe a world in a sentence, discover the rhythm of a very catchy phrase or aphorism (a one-line philosophical quote or word of wisdom to make you look smarter than you really are), actually turn a phrase like a musical note, and word-smithing: actually create entirely new words and meanings from old and strange and wonderful things.

I’ll also tell you this: I’m not sure when I started talking as I write or type, but it helps to catch that rhythm and make things sound far less clunky: though I still manage to ramble and not always make sense anyway. Maybe in some part this is because of some of the poetry that I was encouraged to write and then occasionally have to give vent to.

When you write and read poetry, you really have to read it out loud. That is what I have been doing with John Milton’s Paradise Lost so far. Sometimes it feels like I am chanting from a magical tome and somehow making the energy I find in there mine. What really gets to me is that a lot of the time, aside from the fact that some poetry can be very highly metaphorical and charged with so many symbols verging to the point of attempting to record the speed of thought, feeling, observation, and experience is the structure of a stanza.

You know what I’m talking about: stacks of compact, small sentences stacked above each other and separated by line breaks. You can look at my poem above and see that I gave it a stanza organization: though this one doesn’t rhyme and is more free-verse. What I mean by free-verse is that it is not a form poem: I’m not trying to make a sonnet, or a haiku, or a limerick. As an aside, I’ve been told that my form-based poetry is actually better than my free-verse. I’m also told, and I can see that I use a lot of heightened diction. What I mean by that, and what my former teachers also meant is that I use a lot of big words. Either way, I’m just trying to communicate.

But for some reason I know that I myself will be tempted to try and gloss a narrow stanza-arranged poem like I would a piece of prose and my mind will just not get it. Reading a poem like prose can feel like a real chore, and I know I can get frustrated by this seemingly deceptive short piece of writing that you sometimes think you can just scan through and is actually much denser than its “light-weight” stanza arrangement leads you to believe.

So yeah: in case you’ve been skimming past terms like “stanzas,” and such in this post, maybe what I’m saying is that poetry is like Mithril or Valyrian steel: deceptively slight but it packs a punch when it lands a hit or a graze to the mind.

I would definitely not like to get hit with a psychic conceptual weapon made of a poem: though I would definitely like to make one. Take from that imagery what you will.

I’m actually a fan of poetry that shapes itself like prose into sentence structures. You still have to keep reading it very closely, but it just seems more charged and potent for it. The line between poetry and prose is very blurry and I suspect that the first came well before the second.

When I actually think about it more, I wonder if that is how our minds work: if our thoughts are images and impressions that function on a kind of intuitive continuity. And I like that word: intuition. Maybe poetry is from that time when the words were just forming from the symbols and images in our heads that attempted to come into being through our voices and our scrawling. Maybe we dream in poetry and that is why sometimes it takes certain states of mind to understand it differently from one day to the next.

It can be primordial, or mathematically-precise, or the fragments of a life, or whatever it is you need it to be. I tend to think of poetry as a state of mind or perception of reality that can help you write, speak, and express yourself better. But whatever it is, I think is part of the root of creative writing and the clay of expression and as such it is very important. So you may see more of my poems on here at some point. We shall see.

Necromancer

I catch them in a pool
of ruby libation
leisurely prepared
though they try to repent
in haste.

The spirits that always followed
in the grey charnel fields
and faded Edens that trail behind me,
and the ones always loomed ahead
in the spires that haven’t crumbled
and the blankness that is always there
across the furtive lake:
they find the liquid feast
to tide them over before
they return to the repast
of my own mind …

Only to be captured by their hunger.

They scream and cry
as the words come back to them
and they tell me the things
clearly that they hissed
and whispered in the slips
between my vigilance
and the terrible question:

How many red? How many red?
How many … red?

I do not answer what the dead
and the not gone yet already know.

Trapped in silken streams
I take them into my hands
rolling them into my palms
and savour the burning muck
as it finally stains my skin
and self honestly.

I make the pain into a chord
and begin to spread their blended whiteness,
hammering their grey cold feelings,
burning their secrets,
distilling the vapours into an old formula …
until I have all the substance.

Folded edges fold again
upon themselves and each layer,
each wire moulds them
and the sweetness and pleasure
replaces the churning depths of Agon.

For weaving the ghost-metal
into legions of origami weapons:
their stories now my own
to unleash on the planes
of hindsight:
they are perfection every time.

Berserker

Unhappiness grows within me,
deep inside until, in the end
it becomes mine.

Unfurling through my being,
it ingrains itself deep into the bone
and the still lips of my mouth.

My face unlined, unsmiling
it hollows out the bore
within the centre of my chest:
leaving only emptiness.

But it is not nothing,
for the blackhole is the prelude to an
exploding star.

Anger turned inward
by powder-pegs of savoury bitterness
and the elegant fabric of contempt stretched thin
rips inside out into the red light
of vital defiance.

I taste it on my tongue
and my faceless mask twists
into a quirk of disdain
and then a tight, tight grin.
And I laugh.

The sound is high and cold, encompassing,
and all inclusive.
For the wound-womb of my soul,
shaped by my unhappiness,
is filled again
with the culmination of all these things.

With bloody glee.

With fire.

With power.

It is perfect symmetry
this force that I use,
that uses me,
that I let use me,
to smash the faces of cowardice,
and treachery, of hypocrisy
and promises never made.
And I enjoy their pain.

Especially my own.

Each blow I make is hard
and potent beyond endurance.
It strains and snaps a part of me,
burning edges of myself away,
as I dance.

But I do not care as I am too caught
in the moment to feel the pain
save for how it adds nuance
to the beauty of my rage.

The shadow of me quickly
becomes the dancer of obliteration.

Then all that is left is destruction:
immune to appearance, to sentiment, to reason,
to responsibility, and to conscience.
And I laugh, and laugh, and laugh
gloriously: because it is good …

Because it is freedom.

My hatred is pure,
purging and scouring fire
leaving no mistakes, no good memories,
nothing behind as it starts from
Before: from Ground Zero.

And the small part that wants
someone to stop me only adds
to the meaning of what I do.
Because finally,
when the world matches the darkness
inside of me,
and hatred finally dies,
perhaps then all that will be left
to fill it is love
and compassion.

If not from me,
then from someone better.

Exhaustion takes me:
and the spot made from my unhappiness
lets me come into itself,
as I curl into the warmth of its comforting shadows.