Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Daedalus Describes the Maze to King Minos

The bull is a herd animal, Your Majesty. To contain him successfully we need to bear this in mind. Isolated and taunted, he will go mad with fury and solitude. Therefore,  built into this maze will be a series of reflective surfaces: mirrors, polished stones, broken glass, and the like. These will fragment and multiply the monstrous image. It will be at once belittling and enraging.
The bull is a herbivore, with carnal longings. We will plant those herbs that speak to us of meat: mustard seed, thyme, mint and garlic. He will eat of these and his own flesh will be fragrant and mad for wine or blood.
We will undermine your monster. Let there be great pits. His bellows will echo piteously, and hearing his own cry amplified will give him cause to fill his lungs and low for more or less of what he cannot have.
Let your bull-man have space, Your Majesty, but not enough Just as he can feel his shoulders start to uncramp, we will construct a lid, studded with broken stars and a pale moon-curve of light on which to bang his unlovely head. Let's spin your bull into a circle, a bull ring at the centre. Let the capes of invention flicker and tempt him to madness. We will devise the picadors of desire, let nymphs dance in the shadows and disappear when he rushes them.
This maze will encode the seven circles of hell for your monstrous bull-child. The first circle will be appetite, the second image. The third, freedom proffered and snatched away. In the fourth circle let us place temptation of a spiritual sort. He is kin to all the bull-gods of antiquity. We live in modern times my Lord, but let us not forget the potency of the old religions. In the fifth circle let us suggest peace. We will plant it with daisies and pipe in the smells of milk and green grass. Your bull will sense the trickery but not be able to put his hoof upon it. Six, of course, means reversal. The whole thing inverted and played again. How will he know it's for real? he won't until he enters the seventh circle, where he meets the very shape of his terror, for here at the very heart of it, the maze is adorned with the god-like novelty of man. In the end, let him lock horns with those who dare. Perhaps the sword will strike its own reflection in the shield. Perhaps this bull's peripheral vision will be his saving grace and not his downfall. Perhaps it will fall to chance in the adrenalin-scented evening. But just perhaps, let's say, it will more likely fall to the cunning devices of the labyrinth.
Applause unfolds inside King Minos' heart. He nods. And Daedelus gets the job.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Prodigal: Origins

The  first thing I remember is the smell: turpentine, chrysm, ash; These are the smells of the self in the act of creation.
I come from the Isle of Yearn. My birth was hard and easy at the same time. Pushkin, kin push and here I was. All of me. I tumbled from her body into the nettle-ditch of her embrace and when I was red and howling for love, she fashioned  for me a tiny perfect babygrow of dock-leaves. After that we never looked back. We belonged together like the fret and the sea.
In my earliest memory, Alisha is in her vast attic, painting and I am in my corner, keeping watch. It doesn't matter because she is oblivious to the world. She has returned once again to the white painting, is busy reinventing its lethal purity. She fans herself with the torn off wing of a gull. We all remember that, of course. A cathedral of perfume arches over her, lofty, sprung with incense and air, the subtle salts of dead bird and sea-heather.
Outside on the windows, ice forms and melts. My mother is lost in the act of self-obliteration. Old clinkers fall from the sky, as though the stars have twirled too vigorously in their sockets, and I can hear the angels beat their mighty wings. Her brush releases its wild perfume. She breathes in light. As she paints she glows. She is inhabiting the continuous present, begrudging the future its moment. She paints the shivered dream, the heart's grace, the guilt she feels, bright as a fixed star. If it was unwatchable then it is unbearable now. I close my eyes. How could I have forgotten?

This is my mother, painting us all into being.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Prodigal: Many Happy Returns

Open it, Alisha invites him. It won't matter how beautiful your guess is.
It is October, Rafael's seventh birthday, and Alisha has filled the room with pomegranates, blurs of rouge in the foxed  mirrors.
Show me where it is written this year.
Alisha unpeels her shirt and turns to show him the length of her back tattooed in purple: All I ever wanted was a seven year old boy.
The air around Rafael rings with his happiness, and he tears open his present. Layers of newsprint stream around him until a length of wood is revealed. A plank. And a padlock, the exact size of a boy's heart. It's perfect. It's what I always wanted.
Look, Alisha unfurls the last gift. She has made him a train, a long cape of feathers in the pink and peacock colours of the aurora borealis. He ties it to his child's waist and struts the perimeter of his plank like a demi-god.
Later, we go down into the orchard, a rowdy cavalcade of party-goers. Alisha pokes sparklers into our headbands and sets us alight - make a wish - and Rex runs with us through the pear trees in the dropping light, whooping and triumphing us into exhaustion.
When the moon appears Alisha tucks us into our beds, and I hear her whispering into Rafael's ear: The stars have climbed into their constellations, in the barn the cats are licking the mice to sleep and you are seven. And we are so safe.