by David Rose (Two Moons Books editor and contributing author)
This is where I list unpublished works, bits and pieces of other writing, for those of you who might be interested.
This short piece is the result of a writing exercise in which I try to tell a story without any characters or dialogue. While I managed to eliminate all speech and human characters, I did not completely succeed: I ended up with a story in which a house, the wind, and a gull are the characters - and the two inanimate things take stage centre! Nevertheless I'm pleased enough with the result to post it here.
Storm's End October 2014
The wind off the heaving pewter sea flings grit from the beach into the face of the old frame house. The scuffed, blistered white paint and bared grey wood bear witness to decades of abuse. The window panes are dulled by an accumulated rime of salt and sand. Ragged grey clouds are being harried westwards, but the square house stares flat-faced into the wind, unflinching. Somewhere in that watery wasteland lie the corpuscles that once gave it life.
The wind drowns out the sound of an engine, but not the squeal of the hinges of the gate. Tyres crunch on the shell driveway, and stop. A gleaming black car door closes with a solid thud. A herring gull whistles by, its scream fading like a locomotive's as it surfs the wild wind down the coast.
The front door of the old house blows open with a bang as the wind forces its way in. Pictures rattle on the walls, and the floorboards creak in protest. The door is pushed half-shut, but the wind buffets it open once more, before it is closed and latched. One small picture fails to hold on in this last assault and crashes to the floor, where glass splinters across the passage. A monochrome photograph lies prone, caught in the frame. A young man in Naval uniform smiles at the ceiling, holding a pipe between his teeth.
The doorway on the left of the passage shows a large room with a rough stone fireplace. The walls bear some bookshelves, and a large, faded seascape above the mantle. The room is furnished with an old leather couch, some armchairs and a cushioned bench seat below the battered window, through which the sea can be seen crashing repeatedly onto the beach. One bentwood rocking chair leans against the far wall. There is a worn rag doll on the seat. The room is almost clean; only a dulling of the patina of the surfaces betrays an early sifting of dust.
On the opposite side is another door, to a farmhouse kitchen where a large, white-scrubbed oak table dominates the centre. An enamelled coal stove occupies the far wall, and a fragrance of old smoke and kerosene seasons the air. Utensils and pots hang ready, gleaming in the shadows under the glass-fronted cabinets.
There is a bare wooden staircase beside the back door. The treads are worn at the edges, and the fourth step from the bottom squeaks in the way that it always has done. The light is dim on the half landing in the stairwell, and the newel post on the corner is unsteady. The wind still batters at the house, and the echoes of its blows tremble through the timbers.
At the top of the stairs a passage divides, and the door at the end on the right is opened quietly. Here is a large bedroom, walled against the wind. Beyond the window the windswept coastline marches southward. There is a double bed against the wall to the right, and immediately left of the doorway a Victorian wash stand, with a mirror. In the corner beyond the wash stand is a standard lamp shaded by a parchment screen. Beside the lamp is a faded blue armchair, angled towards the bed. Against the front wall, facing blindly seawards, there are a writing desk and upright chair. Centered on the desk, in front of the oak chair, is a large, leather bound Bible. Also on the desk is a black and white wedding photograph, the groom the same young Naval officer whose image now lies on the floor of the front passage. His bride is as tall as he is, her pale eyes under curly dark hair contrasting with his dark ones. In the background a flag is clinging to the trawler's halyard from which it streams. The flag is a small square, dark-bordered and white centered; the Blue Peter.
Outside, the clouds are being driven away, and sunlight is blueing the dark water and sharpening the whitecaps and the spume. The beach is white gold, feathered with the lifting sprays of sand and shell in the gusts of wind. The dank smell of seaweed on the rocks is fading as the tide floods in.
With a loud crack the front door of the house flies open, and the wind drives into the interior. The door is left hanging open, to rattle and bang intermittently, and the keening of the wind against the eaves seems to sharpen. The thump of the car door as it closes is muffled against the rushing of the air, and its engine voices no more than a low murmur.
Later, the battered herring gull returns once more, now beating northward. The driveway stands empty. Upstairs in the bedroom the photograph on the desk now lies face down, and the Bible is no longer there.
This is a bit of microfiction fun which I'm rather pleased with:
Time to Panic
An expression of concern crept onto his face, like frost at the edges of a window.
From the corner of my eye I saw him bite his lip.
What was the matter with him?
This wasn't like Pete.
Was he in pain?
April rain dribbled down the cold grey windows.
Then he began to fidget, or to fumble vaguely about.
Had he eaten something?
I tried to remember breakfast, but drew a blank.
Maybe his hangover was worse than I'd thought.
Was he going to be sick?
Please, not here, not now.
I allowed myself a more direct look,
ignoring Siobhan's discreet fingernail in my palm.
His hands were wandering over his body,
patting, prodding, peering.
Father Patrick raised his eyebrows:
"Where are the rings?"
I really enjoy this form of poetry and the discipline that makes one work at it to get the result one is looking for. Then again, very occasionally, I have to accept that the best form is not according to the rules!
I usually work to a 5-7-5 syllable count.
Here a few of my recent ones:
Words on a page
whisper from the envelope
like tiger claws.
Contented peace is
sleeping on my arm, drowsy
kitten after play.
Look, these bright berries
I bring to warm your bedside –
winter's bitter earth.
Sores, crusted, weeping,
lament her soft stilled mouth;
love she never knew.
Frost reflects starlight;
newborn held close, how gently
she washes His feet.
Aisha Ibrahim Duhulov.
Her urgent eyes cry;
hard faces hem her around.
Deaf stones fly faster.
Reference: "Land of your worst nightmares", in The Star newspaper, Johannesburg,
on Monday, 10 November, 2008. Aisha, then 13, was stoned to death for adultery in Kismayo, Somalia, after being raped by three men. Lest we forget.
Take this, they tell me;
Small fingers hold heavy metal.
Who should I shoot?
Ashes drift, and fall;
Shadowed sunlight illumes earth,
In wooden silence.
A young couple in the street
Anxious, she consents;
Proudly holding small bundle,
he's almost trusted.
Casualty of war
See our ruthless foe,
this unknown dead man, bloodied;
so we have made peace.
Copyright © 2014 David Rose. All rights reserved.