All The Living And All The Dead

Jackie Crookstone memorial. The massacre of Tranent
Photo by Kim TraynorOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Some days start off this way. Perhaps after deep and unsettling dreams. Or after a night of heavy drinking, prescription painkillers or tranquillisers. It’s a familiar feeling but one which is always startling and profound. That moment when you first wake up and remember that you are alive, and that you are who you are, and exist in the world as a conscious being. And simultaneously, that one day you will no longer exist and will never wake again. In that fleeting moment of conscious awakening, the joy and the agony of life seem fused together in an indivisible unit, and we dimly recognise the mystery of existence and acknowledge the strange hinterland that we sometimes inhabit between being and nothingness.

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The Dance of the Dying Bee


What a beguiling spectacle to behold. Such precise and elaborate movements. The dance, not performed for an audience, but for it’s own sake, with dignity and with joy. The flexing of the wings. The stretching of the body. Up on the hind legs at full tilt. Cleaning the face with the front legs. A rite of purification before the dance begins. Then dancing in circles. First one way then the other, zigzagging across the plain. Life imitating art. Then suddenly an unexpected gust of wind whips the small body 50 feet, 100 feet, 1000 feet in the air and away for ever.

A stunned silence follows. Was it a dance of death or a dance of life? Do any of us know that this will be our last day? Our last hour? Our last minute on earth?

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Bad Dog

Death Flame Death Head

“You have to taint the dog.” The voice says. It is my own voice. I don’t know who I am speaking to or what the hell these words even mean.

I am being overtaken by a rising wave of panic. “Taint the dog. Taint the dog.”

Suddenly I realise that the person I am speaking to has a plastic dog stuffed in his mouth and his hands and feet are bound.

“Bad dog.” I say. “Bad dog.”

I can hardly move my tongue or formulate the words. They come out slurred and slowly, like a record being played at the wrong speed.

It’s too late. The incantation is failing. This dog is evil!

“FUCK OFF DOGGIE.” I shout, louder now, terror rising. “FUCK OFF.”

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Birch Tree Bark Heart

I will make promises that I cannot keep
(heroic promises)

I will break promises that I do not remember making
(forgotten promises)

I will fake promises that I have no intention of fulfilling
(political promises)

I will make promises to myself which I will never articulate
(hidden promises)

I will promise you the earth in this moment and mean it with all my heart, even if I know my promise can never be realised
(impossible promises)

I will promise you anything if you give me what I want right now
(dirty promises)

I will promise you anything if you stop hurting me right now
(desperate promises)

I will promise to love, honour and obey you till death do us part
(contractual promises)

I will promise you my eternal soul if you open up your pearly gates
(sacred promises)

I will promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one dollar
(devalued promises)

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The Hungry Ghosts

Ghost of the Forest

Someone has left their slippers neatly lined up under a tree by a low wall in the orange grove. As if they walked right out of one life in search of another and vanished without a trace. Not even a footprint or a forwarding address. Perhaps they are still out there somewhere in the surrounding fields, partially visible for an instant between the leaves and the branches. Trapped somewhere on the other side. Able to see us but unable to be seen. Except out of the corner of your eye, or under the silvery light of a sad moon.

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William the Bastard

Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings
Photo by MyrabellaOwn work, Public Domain, Link

William the I of England, better known as William the Conqueror, and sometimes also as William the Bastard was a vicious thug, a paranoid maniac and a homicidal despot. Slaughter, mayhem and tyranny were the tools of his trade and his greed and cruelty were legendary.

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