Regarding The Purity of the Glowing Ember
I am never certain with what degree of self-consciousness to write in this forum, as I am never really sure if I have an audience or not. I am reminded of Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the troop of players goes on performing after the title characters have left, they are later incensed to be denied such a basic element of their lives - the assumption that someone is watching. Anyways, I have once again given in to the temptation offered by the possibility of an audience, despite the lingering terror of of humiliation that I am mistaken. Regardless, I will not be continuing to post selections from Glowing Ember. When I began that endeavor I had forgotten exactly how personal certain sections remain, despite my efforts to deautobiographize the story. I can imagine in some distant time, when I am a well enough establishing writer to get away with something so eccentric, when perhaps I am more confident in myself or more distant from the self that it describes, or using a pen name, publishing it, but for now it will remain unread.
The Cavern of the Ocean Tree
For all at last returns to the sea - to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the everflowing stream of time, the beginning and the end. (Rachel Carson)
Out over the blue and the black of the flickering sea
And the grey roof above it and the rolling sand,
He heard the heartbeat of the waves,
And out over the surf he walked in pursuit.
The beach grew firm and ridged and from around his feet moisture was pressed,
Foam on his ankles and eel-grass strands unwinding,
He swam into the ocean of the night.
In its deeps the water was cold,
Under the pressure of its vast weight thickened,
And he swam and dove and surfaced. Beyond
The cresting waves and the reaching headland,
He swam and dove and yet did not rise, for
Far down into the cold a tide had pulled him
Until he floated before the ancient lord of the ocean.
It was a beast unmet, its tentacles splayed
And great body still. Its otherness and strength
And with inhuman focus its eyes meeting his.
And then its ropey limbs entwisted him and
With the behemoth he dived.
His mind was numbed by depth and cold and water,
Salt burned his eyes but, the sea’s mirrored undersurface dim,
He could not close them for the gazing.
Above him, silhouetted in the currents and the moonlight,
All manner of living creatures racing along invisible pathways
To every corner of the ocean.
And then air and dripping and thrashing
And the ocean’s blood pressed from him
To flow down the stone of the cavern.
And then light, as he lay released and collapsed,
Green and white, a rind of life glowing:
Flowering polyps and skittering shelled things,
Shinning in the phosphorescence their curious mirrored being.
He then rose and stepped with care,
For the grooved stone was slick with
Some lit creature flowing from within
The recesses of the cave.
Toward that source he crouched and slid
As the chamber narrowed and
Then opened into a basin, shallow and pulsing with that same light.
In the center of that subterranean lake rose an isle
And rooted to it was the ocean tree:
Smooth and silvery driftwood at its core and
Kelp, fronds held aloft entwining all,
Barnacles and sea moss and starfish and green mottled crabs -
A hundred denizens of the tide, all alit, all dripping
From some crevice far above, all growing, wild with life.
Across the pool was a dwelling in the cavern wall
And by the tree, beneath its luminescent branching leaves,
She stood, calm and pale as the moon,
Her hair long and haggard, her dress worn thin.
He waded into the lake and stepped on to the isle,
She before him in radiance,
Her eyes afire with the violence of the eternal sky.
I will admit that recent assignments in my literature class include Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, though this is actually an adaptation of a story I wrote several years ago.