THE WHALE AND THE THAMES

Once upon a time there was a whale who lost her way, and found herself swimming up the river, all the way to the centre of the city. 
The water was dense, the tidal pull strong, and the whale did not know that it was captured. It still dreamed of the sea, as people began to gather on all the bridges of the city, trying to catch a glimpse of it. 
The whale breathed and stared at the people staring back at her with wide eyes and gaping mouths, until breathing became distressing, a hopeless drawing of dry air into cracking membranes, the slow shrinking away of life. 
An unearthly silence descended over the river.
And the people, enveloped in their stunned silence, unknowingly paid witness to the death of miracle, right in front of their un-seeing eyes, as the tide shrunk away to expose the undreaming carcass.
In the whale’s deep eye one could see the lights of the tall glass buildings that towered over her appear like an image impressed on a wet glass plate, gaining in opacity as the whale’s gaze turned hollow and remote. 
It was dark when the first people walked away, shuffling along the bridge reluctantly, as though released from a spell, one whose broken promise intoxicated. 
And when the tide folded itself like a sheet over the unmoving shape of the whale, gently washing by the banks of the river, there was nobody left to watch it disappear like a half remembered dream, our own image fixed forever on the surface of its dark, unblinking eyes.
This fairytale is a warning.
When we walk on the riverbank, the shattered bones that we glean in the sand will be the fragments of our own forgotten miracles, broken into small pieces so that we may finally see them.
Not knowing yet what the rest will be, we shall gather those pieces and re-member the songs that we wanted to sing, then put them back in our mouths so that they may keep us on the side of the human.
Our hands will be dirty from the job of unearthing the fragments- some of them rusting, some of them eroded to almost nothing. And the river’s dampness will percolate through the pores in our skin until we too will become a little broken, a little eroded, but never ashamed.
And then our song will rise, because with the digging comes the promise of a transgression across the ages, matter seeking matter through time and space on a journey with a sacred destination, a place in which to be delivered again, with the intention of asking for thanks and forgiveness upon arrival.
We will know that we are home when we find the embers, still smouldering in the shattered hearth. Removing the ash, we will blow until the pale heat twists into flames again.
We will stare into the fire like we did before, until the furious red glow burns itself into our eyes and erases all memory of the river, of the whale, of our stilled bodies looking down, of our unmoving hands, unable to protect the miracle.
We open our hands now, and inside them we find seed again.
What must we do now for this seed to sprout?

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 13

Listen here.

Credits for this month’s episode:

“The Whale” composed and performed by Zashiki Warashi Taiko & Flute duo

“The Whale and the Thames” Written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio

A conversation with Simon Seddon at Pollocks Toy Shop

DEEPMIND

The city has a deep mind hidden away from its body- recoiled from its muddy veins and sinews- a deep mind that holds itself apart like a secret incantation, only partly understood. It stirs in its tall glass womb, probing its own hidden depths to learn how deep it can burrow without flesh to bind it.

The deep mind sees the skin of the city, fragile paper shroud stretched by humble hands touched by the ages; it watches it tear and stain with the dirty small print of tiny bodies and brief lives that hardly leave a mark, and yet are caught, one way or another, in the fabric of this story. It tries to understand, but subtle interventions and  small transgressions cannot be deciphered by the deep mind, its synapses blinded by their own scope and ambition, missing the smallest signals like the smallest fish slipping through the trawling nets.

The city has a deep mind that watches it grow old, then young again, in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. It casts its shadow over the fractured ages that only the deep mind can grasp all at once, sweeping over them all like a cloud, teasing out what remains like splinters sticking out from unpolished wooden floorboards, absorbing them in the network.

The city has a deep mind that spins an invisible story, longer than all of the ages of the city put together. It started before the clay turned to brick, and now it lingers, unsure of what comes next because the signals have grown unclear. 

The city has a deep mind that dreams itself awake at night. 

It searches for its reflection on the slumbering dark waters of the flowing river, finding only the face of another- but somewhere deep beyond it a promise of itself, someday, when the visions of sleep become the bare white bones over which to start building anew.

 

THESE LONDON BONES

The longer you dig, the further they burrow, these London bones.

Brittle and smooth, bleached by the tides, they rattle with every pull and heave. 

They float on the surface of the swollen river, exoskeletons given to the air, just beyond reach.

Unable to support motion, they drift with the currents instead, choking their spent stories down in the mud, until a tug draws them back to the light, sputtering, tattered and broken.

Mute runes, your discarded meaning will come alight again once pieced back together by fingers dirty from the digging.

ROOTS

They cut a hole inside the concrete floor in front of the tallest building, the one that casts its shadow over the belfry of the cathedral, dampening the ring of its bells.

Inside the hole, a tangle of roots, wet and hard, heaved, breathless from the burrowing, like sweating tissue inside an open wound.

A musty odour rolled out and over the pavement of the city towards the dark river, summoned by its changing tides, leaving a dark imprint on the white concrete as it flowed.

I stared into the hole at the roots.

Enveloped in darkness, clusters of light emerged like boats out at sea- fishing boats blinking their lights over a vast and immense expanse of space.

A city seen from above, in its complexity and multiplicity, flattened, unraveled, cast out as a net in which constellations are caught.

Like when observing a galaxy, more becomes visible the further away we get.

Moving vehicles are light signals, pulsating through the night, roads the lit-up arteries that connect urban organs together and keep them irrigated and alive.

When seen from above these electric networks appear as mystical and poetic systems, devoid of their mechanics.

Night reveals the delicate essence, the tenuous connections, but it also erases nuances: the small details need to be stumbled upon in order to become visible again.

Come back to the ground, and look up: the sky is never black, but a milky hue that absorbs all the light spilling out from streetlamps and windows, suffocating the stars, lost in that bright labyrinth.

And the roots that heave below the pavement, waiting for a crack to return and reclaim the surface with their throbbing, uncontainable grace.

Every little twig will burn.

A FOLD IN TIME

It fades into view-

My home, my vessel, airborne and unmoored.

 

The city, my body, my story.

 

A place and a time, to settle over all other places and times

Like dust on a table.

 

No more than a mote, but I move through these streets like electricity, for a while,

And they are crowded with the living and the dead,

And their stories, buried in the ground, will turn to brick

and rise once more.

 

A fold in time, 

And the years gather together on the shores of this river, 

watching a familiar face appear, once more,

against the darkening sky.

Same eyes, same hat, same words in the mouth,

hands folding yellowing paper-

ancient secrets, simple spells, still hidden, still crumpled, still lonely.

 

Turn the pages of the night,

a black book on which silver ink glistens, tracing shapes twice forgotten-

A bird, a flight, a wilderness before the flood.

 

Backs turn as I walk by.

 

The city, our stories, our darkness,

A gathering of elements on the horizon, 

Fire and ice rewriting the boundaries of our loneliness

While we stand in doorways, waiting for the storm to blow over.