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Sunday, 29 September 2013

PLUCKING ROSES

Glorious, gloire, gloria
So many words for euphoria
All curling the same
Way on the tongue
Spilling the same air
From the fluttering lung-
All holding the very sway
Tremulous with the same ambition
The same avid decision:

So do we grasp the Rose
By any other name?
And is our reaching out
The same?
Do I stretch out wincing
Fingers to the stem
Or boldly grasp careless
Of the thorns or pain?

Oh but I think
I'll do the unexpected
Reach in to the bed of petals
And plunge my fingers
Into the moist
Tightly furled core
Rip out what I need
Ask for no more.

So Rose beware:
Even as you carelessly
Spill seduction in the air,
Count not on your thorns
To win this fight:
You will spill no blood
From me this night.

I take your inviolate heart
Coiled veiled velvet fire
That not-so-pure desire,
I bite, devour, tear it apart.

Glorious, gloire, gloria
So very many words for this one euphoria...

Manuela Cardiga

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

CHOCOLATE

Chocolate, this I swear by:
When in doubt,
Eat chocolate.

When in pain,
Afraid to love in vain,
oh yet again?

With sweet chocolate
You will gain
One more precious moment,
A brief respite to decide
On the rest of your life-
To risk all, to throw wild the dice
And make that momentous decision
By which you must abide.

Deep breath, Ladies,
Take a bite,
Let it melt
In sultry sensuousness
In your mouth and mumble 
Through the dark slick delight:
"Fuck off, buster!...
Who needs a heart?"

Chocolate, chocolate
We never shall part...


MC

PART 7: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga


Severina smiled. “Wiles? Indubitably vile. Why, your crusty shell that so pungently smells has been by devil gelled. Would you have us believe that underneath that repulsive sheath a sweet heart does beat? Your condition be tragic, but I do feel your magic be black as coal and moulded in some debauched gremlin’s hole.”

“Miss de Salvage, what you see is just a mirage. Your visions have been painted by something loathsome and tainted. Everything is fake, our perceptions it takes for its own pitiful sake; lonely and forlorn since the day it was born in this soulless lair that drove it to despair. It feeds on the need to trick and deceive, and if what we see we believe, its aspirations are achieved.”

“How know ye my name? I say the black arts are to blame.”

“Oh, bud from Mudd, to darkness you are no stranger. A servant I’d wager. Don’t make me laugh, for I follow the path of light and my gift is the sight. The charade you parade only serves to degrade. But that having said, I require the aid of the one who is strange, if you want your visions to change.”

Severina began to titter, but her eyes were cold and bitter. “Oh, strange my sister, I do ye warn that your heart will be torn and cast aside if you tried to use trickery and lies to prise Sly from I.”

“Oh, wild child, how you do so fuss. I’m afraid this is a must if we want to help us. Sly, strange man, come take my hand.”

Sly moved to meet her, intrigued by her peculiar demeanour; and ignored the tirade from his lover, Severina. As their fingers touched, he felt a sudden rush; a tingling feeling that had his head reeling. Suddenly she bust out of the revolting crust, which smashed against the wall and crumbled to dust. A shine came to her hair, which became velvety and fair. The change to her features transformed her into a beautiful creature. Her body became toned, as though it’d been honed by some heavenly existence who’d worked with persistence and direction to achieve utter perfection.

“I am the Lady of Light,” she cried. “And with all my might and my powers, I shall protect the Strange man from the crimson showers. I will guide, I will lead, so I tell you take heed. If a safer passage you do require, one not so dire, then follow me till we reach the Western sea.”

Severina snickered. “Oh dear, we seem to be short of a dragon. How go ye? By wagon?”

The Lady of Light gyrated, and then levitated. She flew all around, then returned to the ground, and said, “That is how, it will do for now.”

Gnashing her teeth and smashing her fists against her thighs, Severina smothered the enraged cries rising to her lips. It would not do to allow such rage to deform her face. She must play at gentle smiles, and all the while nurse her hate and weave her wiles to draw this hateful Lady to a dire fate…

But oh the fearful spate of bile-black spite boiling in her heart! Her perfect eyes shimmered with the deceptive glimmer of jeweled tears; tears that might surprise and move had one but known: Severina never cries except from hate. With a fearful heart, the picote did shiver as if from a fever. One more soul had he to save, another added to the list of lives in his care…

But then, as if she had heard his fearful thought, the Lady of Might did whisper: “Fear not, picote, no power nor shower of malice Severina can device can strike me. In fact, let me advise: before me she is as helpless as mice in the claws of a cat; but…Let’s not tell her that! Let us allow the Troll’s vicious daughter her little spite. In this way she might just reveal her true self to the Strange man, and thus break the poison spell her pretty shell has woven over him, release him from his strangling dream of lust; and then, if all the Gods be just….”

And here the Lady of Light did pause and said no more. Sam came near and half a-feared did draw Esprelotta’s dear hand in his to greet with his sweet smile devoid of any guile the Lady of Light.

“Welcome, though surprised, we bid you welcome on our ride, or in this case” Sam smiled, “this flight! Allow me to present the fairest Lady yet, Esprelotta of Slaughter, the Ogre’s only daughter; and I - at your service Lady of Might - Simple Sam a poor man with no more to recommend than a small talent for being a friend.”

“You are too modest, Simple Sam, say I. From my eyes naught is hidden, thy talent is more - and soon, be thou sure - shall reveal itself…Further I say to you, do not count as of small account the rare ability to look on the frailty of a fellow man and love as much as you can. Nay Sweet Sam: nothing in you is simple. I would warrant in fact you the least simple of all these gathered here.”

Severina watched with impatient eyes. Even her deceptiveness could not disguise the despite that did arise from her shallow heart at every word the Lady spoke.

“Shall we discourse? We can, of course! But I warrant it is time, and wasting it is a crime, for soon the sun will rise and burn out our eyes. Let us away, before the break of day. The Gorgon’s Gorge is our only recourse to travel safe, so let us set a hurried pace!”

“I beg to differ, the thought of that poison Gorge does makes me shiver! I tell you there is another better way: if you would trust me I will lead, I swear you will not go astray!”

by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 23 September 2013

Adagio for a Gypsy Violin

Adagio for a Gypsy Violin

They say Paganini trapped a human soul to voice his hunger on the strings of his violin.
They say he killed a woman and strung the violin with her pain; but I say he drew her soul out in a kiss and with the enchantment of her gift, anointed his violin with her desire.

Shall we do the same? Shall we be sobbing strings of fire pulled taut and humming with desire? You want to play? Shall I play you like a violin, or shall I strum you like a lyre?

Or like those hill-billys playing the fiddle, fingering it like a guitar “Hey diddle-diddle The cock’s in the middle…!” running fast and plucking rough and eager fingers so the poor strings twang; the aching sounds of pleasure bordering on pain? But I think I’d rather touch you with reverent hands as I would a soulful Stradivarius, run my fingers over the satiny smooth warm inviting wood, and even before I play, I know how it will sound. I know how it will fit the cup, and welcome the cradle of my hand. I run my palm over the humming strings. I twist my hair and string a bow to draw you further to desire. I stroke it with that gentle bow and the Stradivarius leaps to sound and life against my cheek; uttering first one moaning sigh; then another touch draws a deeper sound. 

And oh the sound…what plays who? Or who plays what? 
What use would they be apart? The skillful hands or the leaping aching strings?

So the melody grows: unfolds and moans crescendos stringing out the lovely rounded vowels… 
One last note foretells: here the music ends, and I, unwilling to let it go, lay a tremulous mouth against the singing strings and drink that final aching sound.

Manuela Cardiga

Thursday, 19 September 2013

PART 6: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

“Make haste,” Severina cried. ”For now we must ride! Secure you saddles, don’t dilly daddle. Strap all your packs to the backs of the dragons, slake all you thirsts; then refill your flagons at the well in the dell, where the good rain fell. Time is of the essence, we need no unwanted presence of spies and trolls on early patrols.”

So everyone did what Severina intended, all the while fearful of being apprehended by some repugnant atrocity, lacking in empathy.

When they’d finished their tasks, they climbed on the backs of the impatient beasts, who were whining and snorting and stamping their feet.

“Hold tight to the bridles,” warned Severina. “As it will be vital, passing by the Gorgon Straits, that you don’t meet your fate from a fall from a dragon. Alive or dead in the labyrinth of canyons, you will be abandoned; carrion feast for carnivorous beasts. But now it’s time to race. Picote, set the pace!”

Barbon wore a hat with a lamp at the end. He wept and rejoiced and saluted his friends. With his customary jiggle, he let out a might roar, then got down on all fours, got on his marks; and with incredible agility, ran through the dark.

The dragons breathed out, and although no flames escaped their snouts, their puffs were still smoky as they followed the picote.

Through the dark of the day to the dark of the night, they moved speedily with little respite. Until Barbon sniffed out a place for a temporary basis; a tropical wonder, a beautiful oasis.

“Oh, wonderful picote,” cried Sam. “To such beauty you have brought us,” as he gazed at the palm trees and crystal clear waters.

“Be careful, young buck. I fear dark forces are at work,” said Esprelotta with trepidation. “This paradise could just be our imagination.”

Sly coughed and spluttered before he uttered, “Daughter of Slaughter do explain, for don’t you see the pain and the fright on the face of my young acolyte?”

“Oh, strange Sly, I feel this is a lie. It must be a lark. How can there be light in the dark? We must all beware, for we could all be in some demon’s lair and this be the bait for us to ensnare. Sorry, young Sam, I never meant to scare.”

“To Esprelotta I be fair, I have heard of such lairs,” said Severina. “If a foul wind does blow, then we will know.”

“I say we depart before a foul wind starts,” said Esprelotta.

Just as she spoke, the ground beneath them broke and in darkness they were cloaked. The ground became a void and they all began to spin from the terrifying force of a sulphurous wind.

Oh the wind that arose, up it drove and clove the night with the fearful bright flash of razor wings from strange things that screamed and dove towards their heads. The trembled and strove to protect their ears and eyes and sought for cover but over all that fearful spot that mercy itself forgot was not a sign of protection, nor mention of a single dot that could offer them respite from the razor wings or the rabid spite of the flying things.

They cowered beneath the onslaught and all their striving would have been for naught had the sly picote not thought and fought with all his might. He reached for his knife, and with a muttered prayer and “please sweet Lady bare thy hand and bear no ill” drove the point into the skin of Esprelotta’s palm. The darkling blood welled up, and did no harm, but the picote then raised his bloodied blade and chanted charms and cants of might, and at that sight; or perhaps some strange power that may flower from ogre blood, the fearsome creatures of the dark did hurriedly depart.

Slow to her feet did Severina rise, and thought it wise in grace to smile on the picote and the Lady, fountain of their salvation.

“Thank thee, picote, thou wert most wise; and to thee Esprelotta, daughter of Slaughter I thank you likewise. Now let us not abide for a single night in this treacherous place. Rather honest Devil’s Mudd Town with it’s hideous face; for here does deadly malice bear the fashion of grace. Let us away, lest the break of day find us still far away from the Gorgon’s Gorge; for should the deadly sun arise and catch us in the desert sands, no clever thinking or bleeding of hands shall save us. The deadly rays permit no strays, none survive under these pitiless skies.”

But as yet they rose to depart, a wrenching cry tore at the hardest heart.

“Fair my friends, forbear! Leave me not here!”

The motley crew did turn around and did see staked out upon the ground a figure of despair. It was a maid from the length of the hair, and the sweet sound of the flute like voice; though her figure was not choice; and her features far from fair. Indeed a caul of hardened scaly meat did seem to hide her flesh from her neck to her feet. Her face was bare: her eyes an odd and vivid scarlet flame to match her lips; the face cadaverous with no feature to commend the supplicant to comeliness. “Oh leave me not here, I beg you! Take me with you, I have arts; and such wiles as I can spare, what ever your destination, I swear to help you there!”

by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 16 September 2013

SHATTERED RAINBOW

Why did you 
Seek me out?
Why did you
Open wide
Invite me in?

Was it a game 
To see me unshelled?
The armoured Mantis
With the avid claws
And the prismatic eyes
Bewildered by your
Dazzling dark?

Why did you
Bind me free and
Leave me gagged
On a new song?

Go stay away
As you have withdrawn
From me the presence
Of your revealing shadow

Why did you? Why
Whet my mind-appetite?
Was it a joy to you
To say "I see you"
To the blind?

To see me unfold in joyous dance
All feeling and rainbow bright
Suddenly to fall in mid-flight?


Manuela Cardiga                                                      
SECOND ODYSSEY

Love is not blind - that is a lie.
It is seas deep, and deeply sees
It is no fawning supplicant on its knees.
Honest love, should you embrace it,
Despite it's fierce regard, is kind
A tender giant with telescopic sight.
But should your desire be that Cyclops
Lid his fiery eye; you may rest
And be well comforted, Ulysses.
Quenched sight does not demand.

Remember though,
For this Second Odyssey
On which you would embark
There will be no Star of Truth
Nor loving hand to guide:
Adoration is quite blind.

Even the helmsman Homer
Singing the wine-dark sea
To leaping life
Though his sight was emptied,
Had not a shuttered mind.


Manuela Cardiga


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Excerpt: MANscapes Chapter 28

Sylvine carefully inserted the eye-dropper in the struggling bird’s tiny beak. Her whole attention apparently focused on the fragile scrap of life trembling in her fist. “Do you love him?” she asked. “My grandson, I mean.”

Clara smiled - “Winston! Why yes, of course! I adore him.”

“I mean, are you in love with him?” The bird contorted itself almost to breaking point in its struggle to free itself from Sylvine’s gentle grasp.

Clara gasped for breath as an intense flash of embarrassed heat seared her chest. “NO! No.”

“How do you know?” Sylvine opened her hand. For one dazed moment the bird sat in her palm, than leaped away in a flutter of turquoise iridescence.

“Because it doesn’t hurt, because I’m not afraid.”

Sylvine tilted her head to look at her, her dark eyes bright. “Do you think you know what love is, Clara? Because I don’t. Even to this day, I cannot explain, why for that one moment when you are suspended - and are entirely there and completely sane – that one moment just before…Did you know that it feels exactly the same? So you cannot tell if your heart is about to be broken or healed of all its pain.”


Manuela Cardiga

Saturday, 14 September 2013

from New Sonnets from the Portuguese:

POETS BE NOT PROUD

I clear my throat, lift up mine eyes and cry:
“I will not soil thy purple with my dust,
Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass”

Why how dramatic! think I, and smile
Though I must admit some part of me does sigh
And tremble and aspire to (dare I say desire?)
Such passion as would treat as trite
And paltry the gifting of my so unworthy heart -

Oh sweet my love let you and I not part
In the moist heat of this very night
Nor let starlight slip envious fingers
Betwixt my hungry lips and thine…

And then, of course, I giggle.
I am an incorrigible giggler.
Poets do not indulge in giggles.
Or guffaws.
Indeed they do not admit to such flaws
Of character as I so patently enjoy…

So not wishing to cause undue distress
I gather up the silken folds
Of my pre-Raphaelite dress,
Toss back the one artfully arranged tress
Gracing my snowy shoulder and address
A mumbled excuse at the gathered crowd,
I run to the closet where I shall not be found
And laugh and laugh.

Oh Poets, be not proud!
Cause here I sit, giggling, on the ground…


Manuela Cardiga

Friday, 13 September 2013

Excerpt: MANscapes Chapter 12

She followed her nose and her ears to the very end, where a door led to a large parlour that unfolded into a broad veranda. A myriad cages housing a babble of birds hung amongst the grasping arms of the bougainvillea. Brilliantly coloured bits of bright feathers hopped and fluttered, screamed and uttered.

A round table was set with a linen table cloth. A gigantic black tea-pot, with the sheen of hard wear, presided over a pile of steaming scones and what looked to be a honey-dark teacake frosted with a satiny-white glace.

At the table sat her hostess, her silvery hair upswept from her imperious face, her strong hands holding a tiny porcelain cup poised delicately on her finger-tips.

“Clara! Sit, have some tea!” She reached over to a trolley filled with tableware, cutlery and mysterious jars and boxes, and brought out a lovely opalescent tea-cup and a matching saucer.

She nodded invitingly to the chair next to her and proceeded to pour a thin aromatic stream into the shimmering porcelain cup.

“Would you like some cake, or a scone? Do you like my friends?” she waved up at the bird-cages, “Aren’t they pretty? The boys bring them to me from all over. South China, India, Australia…My little bits of joy!”

She cut Clara a generous slice of the dark, moist looking cake. “Eat, girl, you need your strength.”

Clara found herself chatting calmly to Sylvine, hopping from subject to subject as lightly as any of the tiny frail-boned exotics in the cages.

“Are you French, Sylvine? You have such an unusual accent…”

Sylvine laughed, displaying small white teeth, clearly her own.

“That, my dearest Clara is not a question you should ask anyone outside that damn resort! And never here, at The Retreat.” She set down her cup “But, in this case, it is not a secret. I’m not French. I am Japanese, Ainu.”

“I got the name from my first owner, Yves-Marie Devereux.” She giggled girlishly, “Poor man was a fool. A Hokkaido Madam sold me to him for a fortune, telling him I was an Ama - I was useless to her, fought and spat like a cornered wolverine. So he brought me out here and sold me to John Benedict. To dive, for the pearls you see. Ama girls were famous for that. I, off course had never done any such thing. I could swim, yes, but diving for pearls…”

Her lips tightened in remembrance.

“I’d learned a smattering of French on the voyage out. There I was, 15 years old, Benedict took me out to sea and told me to dive. He kept saying: perle, huîtres, plongée, plongée…He threw me into the water. I kept trying to climb back into the boat, and he kept pushing me off. I was terrified. He took me home that night and he raped me. The next day he took me back and tied a cord to my ankle. He showed me an oyster. He threw me off again and again. The next day he put a stone in my hands. I finally realized what he wanted me to do: dive, get oysters. So I did. I held that rock and followed it down. I had never held my breath that long, not even as a child playing games with my sisters, it hurt. After a while my throat burned, the air burned my lungs. I saw no oysters - later, I realized, even if I had seen one, I couldn’t have pried it off without a knife. I gripped a piece of coral in my hand and turned up. It was so bright. A shimmering silver lid on the world, and that silver was bleeding out of me too, bubbles bursting from my mouth and nostrils. I followed them up, and out. That piece of coral saved me. He realized: if I could bring that up, I could bring up pearls. I dived every day, going deeper, staying longer. Once I found three pearls, and he kept me diving that day, until he had to haul me up on the cord and pump the water out of my lungs.”

“How did you…You were freed?”

“I dived for him for three years. One day I simply refused to board the boat. I was six months pregnant. He beat me on the quay, and a man interfered. He killed that man. The authorities arrested him. He was sent away in chains. I never learned what happened to him after that. All that was his: the boat and this house became mine.”

Clara stared intently into her eyes.

“You kept the child.” It was not a question.

“Yes. Surprising, isn’t it, you can love a child of rape, but yes. I had my son, and I loved him dearly. You are not surprised.” Sylvine stared back, “You know how it is.”

Clara nodded. “Yes, I do know. Did you have…another life, after?”

Sylvine laughed, “You mean, did I have men after, did I have sex? I did better, my dear, I fell in love.” She patted Clara’s hand, “And so will you, if you want to be whole, if you want to survive.”



Manuela Cardiga

Thursday, 12 September 2013

PART 5: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Sam smiled with joy; for although he was coy, he felt love so pure (of this he felt sure), for Esprelotta, daughter of Slaughter. ‘Could one love so quickly?’ he thought. “Or is it the need for love that I sought? It could do me no harm, for I love her feminine charm.’

Barbon picote listened from afar; wiggled and jiggled and roared a mighty, “Hoo har!” He held back his tears, put aside his own fears and rejoiced at the knowledge that he’d spend more time with a friend he’d defend to the end.

Esprelotta stared at Sam with love and compassion. She said, “Come here, young Sam, please take my hand. My trust is in you, my dashing buckaroo. Those creatures of lust, I simply don’t trust. They are mean and they’re cruel, but I’m no ones fool. If treachery I was to suspect, would you promise to protect?”

“If I sense something shady, I will protect my beautiful lady. But think thee not bad of Sly; it’s her we despise. Sly can be strange, but he’s not as deranged; for inside he is human. He needs a different woman.”
”Oh, love it can change the deranged and the strange... As for a different woman, be careful, my Sam. Do not utter or mutter, or in deep dreams stutter such a thought! That worm the Troll did sire...Oh her jealousy would be dire! I would not envy the woman on whom her Ire would fall...Nay! For though on Heaven she call, no help nor hope would save her from the hate and spate of rage that would bring her to a truly ugly fate.”

And so the two- with the trembling picote completing the crew-snuck downstairs at half past four, in some some distress for fear the cold eye of the Troll and his night-patrol might somehow catch windfall; some sound or scratch as they lifted the hatch to the pantry door set on the floor.

From that cavity, with some levity the picote did lift(to the Troll’s future grief) a bottle or two of a heavenly brew, a loaf of bread someone had made from soft white flour taken as trade or perhaps in a raid on Angel’s town(and was not ground from bone under the blood stained stone of the Devil Mill.) Also some meat that had not felt the heat or the beat of a human heart; cheese curdled from a goat’s milk, and last but not least, no more than a fist of seeds from a mysterious flower some claimed to hold enormous power. This did the picote stow in a sack, and this did Sam haul onto his back. Not much you might think, to pack for a journey that might track across all of that dizzy-spinning world and back.

“It must suffice!” Esprelotta sighed. “And friends, I will advise we from the start must devise a careful partition; for by the power of division must these sparse victuals last at least until we pass the narrow strait of the Gorge of Gorgons and come at last to that place of sedition and vile perdition: Purga Tree, that Westros town. For there, though their minds be foul, we will find their rituals yield up edibles upon which we shall not frown.”

The three snuck down the hideous town’s wandering boulevard lit by the frightful fires of charring nubiles. Here and there the fearful middling herded weeping juveniles into their houses, and a few drunken minor trolls conspired to steal a luscious haunch from a braising corpse.

But all in all, though it appalled, the trio’s trip was uneventful; up until the very moment they crossed the line that was patrolled by the vicious Raunch, a murderous creature- and none was fiercer- devoid of pity and whom no ditty would de-move from death, dismemberment or even worse.

And so it was on this very last course, they came across the deadly duo they’d come to meet: Severina and Sly awaiting in the glimmer-light of false dawn, and crouched at their feet did yawn the sprawling shapes of dragon spawn.


by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Excerpt: MANscapes

Little by little her flowering womb absorbed her. Clara took to walking down to the beach at sundown, just as she had done in the Walker days. Wading into the silken waves to bathe her arms, and cupping the sparkling waters, she rained down liquid blessings on her curving belly.

To her delight, the child would leap in joyful eagerness at the distant caress of the water through the dense veil of her flesh. It leaped, like a sea creature wanting to escape the narrow confines of its inner space, to run into the salt embrace of the ocean. Clara would hum to it, pouring her meagre handfuls of molten silver over her flesh, then turn her belly into the deep surging flow of the coming waves. She would walk home, the wet dress clinging to her legs; to the high proud curve of her ripening flesh.

And Winston would be there. Halfway home he would stand - leaning against a fence - waiting. As she approached he’d fall into pace, casually throwing a light embracing arm over her shoulders. They would walk home thus. She, with her belly proud and tight with the leaping child; he with his arm - the lightest burden she had ever borne - laid along her shoulder.




Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 9 September 2013

NOTHING, AND NO PAIN IS PREORDAINED

Oh Shiva Warrior Lover
Creator and Destroyer
Of all the worlds,
Embracing Death and
Dancing life to Life;
Summoning grace
With a myriad tender
Hands that trace
The path of a thousand comets,
Or the upturned face
Of one humble
Supplicant.

Oh Shiva unfold
Your many-petaled embrace:
Raise you hands
With the whirling worlds
Tumbling from palm to palm
And dance your power.

Stamp down the Wheel,
Deny the preordained-
Let there be no Kharma.
Hold fast to Fate, free faith
And let us seek our Path
From day to day
And heart to heart.


Manuela Cardiga

PART 4: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

“Oh, Severina, how you’ve lied to the flock; the ones you now so mock. You are no queen, not even to be. So don’t expect of me to go down on my knee. Your father’s plans have changed, our wedding’s arranged. I’m to bear him a son, and he’ll be the one to rule supreme. A magnificent king, highly esteemed.”

“Oh, Esprelotta, daughter of Slaughter. I do believe you’ve been utterly deceived; by a silly old fool, who lusts only for your flesh. I’ve seen how he drools. A word in his ear is all it will take, for you to forsake; to restore my claim and be rightfully ordained with my lover, Sly Strange.”

“If this be your will, I’m sure we can still… come to an arrangement. A deal we could seal. For I love not your father, and think I’d much rather travel, have adventure and marvel at wondrous sights I never have seen; journey through places where I’ve never been. I’ll leave it to you, I’ll let you decide. Do you endanger your place on the throne, or do you let me ride?”

“You perfidious witch! For what you’ve suggested, I could have you arrested; thrown in jail, receive a mistrial, and then be impaled.”

“The Troll won’t know, unless someone does sow, words in his ear that he doesn’t want to hear. He will be peeved; he will be aggrieved; to find I’ve been freed. But when you return, his heart will burn with love so extreme, he’ll make you queen.”

Severina sighed, and then turned to Sly. “What are your thoughts? Do you think she ought?”

Sly shrugged his shoulder, moved slightly closer and whispered in Severina’s ear, “What if we sold her?”

Now Severina smiled -and smiled not so mild as to seem to esteem the dastardly scheme-but as one who is between two minds and finds these delights so extreme in their pleasure that to chose twix the two would be to lose a priceless treasure…

“Esprelotta - the daughter of Slaughter - dead at the hands of my father’s daughter might be the excuse the Ogre would use to wipe his shoes on our dead bodies. He craves to take our delicious town, and slake his taste for human flesh (both the pale and the brown) on our nubiles, our tasty lush middlings and our tender juveniles…We shall give no excuse, indeed we shall use your delightful idea, and thus need not fear the dread Ogre’s revenge or the anger of Slaughter at the death of his daughter.” To Esprelotta she added with the faintest frown “How know I you will not return? How know I you do not burn to trap me, to weave and enfold a scheme so mean as to make it seem I would thwart my Fathers will; that I would dare to resist and enlist to assist my new lovely Beast...Nay I cannot trust you do not lust to be the mother of the Troll’s vile child, and rob me, Severina the Wild, of my rightful pride!”

Once more a wild delight transformed Severina’s delicate smile into something resembling the ravening maw of some monster with a razor jaw. Aside to Sly she did deride the lovely Princess and her dignified pride.

“Indeed to see that girl so bold openly sold for good red gold at the slavers’ Market of Despair; stripped naked down to her hair - nothing to cover or to hide every ill inheritance from her vile Father - then we shall see Esprelotta squirm! I must see it! I must see her cringe! I crave with a fearful lust to drag her down to the very dust!”

“Severina the Wild, the Ogre’s only child!” cried Esprelotta, daughter of Slaughter. “You have to believe, I wish not to conceive a child with the Troll, or wed and grow old. If I do leave, I shall never return to this contemptible town where I’d be tortured and spurned. I’d be violated and cursed, and my fate could be worse. The Troll’s fierce ire could have me tossed in the fire. Charred and black for an abomination’s snack. This place I do loathe, my oath to you both.”

Severina glared with wary eyes. “Early we’ll rise, but you’ll need a disguise. For if you’re recognised by one of his spies, it will be our demise. We shall meet in the morn, when the foul screech at dawn. Bring your own edibles and water in flagons. We shall ride on the backs of tame wingless dragons. Now Sam, don’t forget, that ridiculous pet; Barbon O’ Brody, the sad eyed picote.”

By Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Sunday, 8 September 2013

MORE MYSTIC CRAP

I believe faithfulness is impossible to the shallow-hearted.

It is not that they do no wish to be thus; there is just not enough depth there to sustain a true regard, and so, they must – like Narcissus - perforce seek always their reflection in a myriad pools. Only thus can their intensity be sustained and contantly renewed: self-worth affirmed - confirmed - by the shallow reflection in the still pond of yet another eye.

Oh but if you seek and find an ocean-heart, then can you dive! Such revelations as unfold, will invite you deeper, and once you take the courage to be so much yourself with one person, you can never again look away. Dishonesty of any kind becomes impossible. Any lie is a lie to the mirrored self.

So it is really a question of understanding what you have before you, and within you:
a perfect pool to dip your toes in on a summer afternoon?
Or an ocean deep enough to swallow the rest of your life?


Manuela Cardiga

Mantis Shrimp Pray for Blindness

Mantis Shrimp are delicacies
Undelicate delights; devouring killers
Cursed with mystic sight,

Someone told me they see light
Percolated through curtains of dense shadowy hues
Of endless blues, and such light, such beauty...

Armoured and avid, moving through
The dim they see and sea shimmering crystal cones
Unfolding into rainbows of unimagined light.

Can you not understand, then, their devouring?
How each sight enflames their lust?
That endless hunger always - for how can it not be unsatisfied?

The Mantis raises it’s claws stained with slow blood in prayer
To the wavering world above - ripe with proffered flesh
And langorous-finned appetite - and bliss descends

It fills it’s mouth again and again and distills in its own flesh
Passionate emerald blues, the icy fire of reds, joyful expansions
Of yellow and such other things as have no name.

The Mantis, in its endless ravening,
Fills and fills and empties itself again
And still nothing can satisfy.

So it scatters prisms of summoning-
Curves itself in an endless spiraling invitation of desire,
Proffers its beauty in whorish abandonment:

Come, come closer…
Be flesh, be meat, be soul to me
Fill my eyes, my mouth, fill me; be me

It seeks and seeks, and then
In one thunderous flash of ecstasy,
It is blinded, it is seen.

Manuela Cardiga

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Statement of intent regarding apples

I am disturbing the universe with all my might: upsetting the apple cart.
I am running after the tumbled apples and from the brightest and juiciest, I will take a bite - and I don’t intend to be polite. I'll stand there with the juice running down my chin and laugh with my mouth full, and lick my fingers when I am through.

Then I will reach for the next day, and the next…


Manuela Cardiga

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: Author Mike Walker presents "OUT FOR BLOOD"

Mike Walker's forthcoming Novel "Out for blood"!

Summary:
National Revealer’s Clark Kelly carved out his killer career as Hollywood’s most-feared gossip columnist by exploiting mankind’s most ancient vulnerability:

“Everyone’s got a secret . . . and someone’s dying to tell it!”
Clark never reveals his to-die-for secret!

NEWS FLASH:
Dude’s a vampire!

CUE SCARY MUSIC . . . our undead gossip guru flies the night skies to spy on Hollywood’s hottest stars—then inks about their bedroom kinks! Imagine our studly, urbane journalist jotting notes as he hovers outside Scarlett Johansson’s bedroom window, or peeks into Tom Cruise’s “bachelor pad.”
Star secrets . . .?

This vampire BITES!

And what’s sexier than vampires, ladies? Just ask smokin’ hot starlet/tabloid terror TayLo Logan—this Wild Child gets crazy with bad boy Clark because his bite makes her blood boil!

Then it’s LIGHTS . . . CAMERA . . . ACTION! . . . but not in a good way: Vampire Boy and Tabloid Train Wreck TayLo unwittingly end up stars of a sizzling sex tape—destined for worldwide display on the notorious vampire fan sex site, FANGBANGING.COM.

Still, the duo’s beyond-the-grave love story simmers away as Clark rips the lid off a murder cover-up—then discovers a murderous plot against TayLo!

DANGER! Can Clark stop a stalker who wants to drain his lover dry? Or wreak revenge on Tinseltown billion-heiress Roma Kane for her poisonous plot to paralyze TayLo—and her career? Can he foil a murder cabal so evil it feeds stars’ pets to coyotes?

AND THEN . . . talk about the plot thickening! Roma’s billionaire granddaddy, mogul Montague Kane, taking a breather from the nymphet “nannies” paid to play his naughty high-chair games, springs a backstab surprise—buying out Clark’s beloved National Revealer.

Suddenly, “deadline” takes on a whole new meaning
Triggered by vengeful fury, Clark goes “rogue vampire!”

Evil is punished . . . and the sun shines once more when he creates a Hollywood happy ending that makes everyone (undeads included) a STAR!

Hold the front page! Because Clark Kelly’s . . .

Out For Blood!



EXCERPT -

She recoiled, screamed again as my hand snaked over her shoulder from behind, clamping her mouth, muzzling the shriek. My fangs grazed her neck delicately, barely piercing the skin.

My hot breath soothing in her ear as I whispered, “Just a tiny sting, baby . . . easy now! Okay, all done . . . just relax.”

Her eyes popped in a terrified stare. Suddenly, I was standing face-to-face with her again. She shuddered, swayed. I steadied her.

“Easy, girlfriend!”

“Jesus! How did you . . .”

Her eyes focused, watching my tongue flick hypnotically back and forth across my teeth as I tested her blood. I sighed.

No question: Positive.
She flinched as I touched the tiny pinpricks I’d left on her neck, then showed her the crimson droplets on my fingertips. “Blood never lies, my sweet. You have tooted primo sniffy in the past hour. Not a lot, to be sure, but it’s a fresh trace. La Coca.”

Category: Fantasy / Paranormal

Publication date: Oct 31, 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

TOO MUCH GREEN TEA MAKES YOU PEE

There is only ONE.
All things are singular, all else is stuttering.
ONE is pure, in and of itself. It defines all plurality by its very singularity; and what it most desires (as all singular things do) is not to be one only, but MORE.
A single thing that is MORE.
So it stutters, in an attempt to rhyme; to be a string of MORE that is a lovely ringing sound.

In other words: the boy stands on the hill.
He is ONE alone and he calls the wolf home to stand within him.
And when he comes down from the hill, he is the sum of the heart of the boy and the death of the wolf.
Or is that the heart of the wolf and the death of the boy?
Anyhow...

He becomes more, but he is still ONE.
He is just not ONE alone.
See?


Manuela Cardiga

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

THE BOY WHO SCREAMED WOLF- Poem and Illustration

THE BOY WHO SCREAMED WOLF

Oh the boy on the hill
Was a shepherd
Who so craved the thrill
Of the wolf
That he painted
Wolf-faces
On his gentle sheep
And screamed
In mock fright
As he ran
Down that hill
Uttering delight.

Oh but one day
From such
Passionate
Summonings
A wolf came,
A sly wolf came
And took him,
Stood in him
And devoured
His heart -
Swallowed
Every part.

And the boy on the hill
Screamed quietly,
For the rest of his life,
For the wolf was in him,
And sweet my sister,
It cannot be denied
Oh the scariest wolves
Are hairy on the inside.


Manuela Cardiga


PART 3: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

A crowd gathered round; to their queen they did bow; wailing and panting, spitting and snarling. Severina beamed as she relished the scene.

“Be quiet, be hushed and curtail your lusts. I have come home, but I’m not alone. I present you young Sam and my wonderful man. His name is Sly, some call him Strange; the most beautiful beast in the pouring rain. Kowtow and grovel, give praise and sing; show your respect to your future king.”

The contingent all chanted and did as commanded. They jostled and grappled with a huge ballyhoo, desperately striving for the front of the queue. Bats left their bell towers, flapping their wings, while hordes kissed the ring of their future king.

Sam stared at Severina and to her beseeched, “Please, my dear queen, I’m in dire need of sleep.”
“How dare you speak to me, when I have not spoken. I could cut off your head to use as a token, slice off your skin and have you bones broken!”

“Forgive me, you highness, your majesty. I humbly apologise, please take pity.”

“This ritual will end when I ring the bell; then on my say, we shall go to the hotel.”

“Thank you, dear queen,” said Sam with brightness. “I bow down to you for your wonderful kindness.”
When the ritual was over, Sly was relieved; to be rid of the masses, fetid and diseased. The made their way slowly to the eerie hotel, and when they arrived at the door, Severina rang the bell.

Sly grinned wide and Sam stared in awe, at the unusual creature that opened the door. He looked at sweet Sam and Sly with inkling, before he howled and guffawed and held out his paw.

He said, “Pleased to meet ye, I’m Barbon O’ Brody; butler to the queen, her trusted picote.

While the other two entered, Sam could only stare, at the figure before him, so large and so fair. He had long thick claws, the face of a dog, a protruding jaw and the legs of a hog. Most strange of all, we must admit, was not the feathered ears or the silver spit; but his eyes that did appear as gentle and candid as the Troll’s in contrast - were fervid and rabid. In fact in that strange countenance some God had laid eyes more suited to the tender face of some porcelain daughter of a fairy prince; not a denizen of this foul place. With a jump and a wiggle the picote did lead the staring Sam past the hallway and up the stairs, all the while chattering of the affairs of state and state of mind of the odd inhabitants of that great house.

“Come in” he cried, with a lilting cry, “the bed is hard, the linens most foul, and if you’re lucky you still might find a fat purple louse from our last guest, or (what would be really best!) A leprous mouse he didn’t digest, but regurgitated into that chest of drawers under the window.” Sam shuddered as the wycote pranced and opened the drawer to look for that rodent.

“That’s most kind,” poor Sam cried, “But really, if you don’t mind, what I’d really like is to get to bed. The day’s been long and in my head are buzzing wasps; and my feet are lead, heavy and weary is my heart; so I beg you dear picote, spare me the part about the louse or even that cadaverous mouse!” The picote nodded and smiled, but oddly enough his gentle eyes cried; so while his huge jaws grinned and grinned, above them the crystal orbs distilled jeweled tears of kind concern.

While exhausted Sam slept, the picote wept. Weeping and mourning as young Sam was snoring.

“Oh young master, ye shall be saved, from this repugnant town, the corrupt and depraved. For yer heart is pure, of this I am sure; yer aura of white sparkles so bright. But yer guide worries me, for in him do I see, an aura of green that’s rare to be seen. But Barbon is babbling, I do beg your pardon. It’s time to sleep and pray benign gods my souls do keep.”

Sam woke alone the following day. He looked out of the window and stared in dismay; for the day was still night, bereft of the solar ray. Outside the door came a raucous din and Sam gaped in terror when a giant feline walked in. She stroked on her whiskers and spoke in hoarse whispers.

“Who might you be and what are you doing here?”

Sam shook with fear at her penetrating leer. "Sam is who I am, please do me no harm. I’m here with Sly Strange, my mentor, my teacher and the generosity of Queen Severina.”

“If you be bluffing, I’ll rip you for stuffing. My name is Katrina, some call me Katie. Cantankerous Katie, I’ll tell you, matey. No mouse or louse survives in this house; for I be a cleaner, the hotel’s housekeeper. Away with you, young scoundrel, time to leave the room, for those who’ve disobeyed, have felt the weight of my broom. And when that has failed, I’ve worsened their ails, with a cat o’ nine tails.”

Sam took the hint and with haste he did sprint, out of the room in search of Sly Strange or Barbon O’Brody, the sad eyed picote. Down he trundled, or rather - stumbled - down you might say, he tumbled…down the steep stairs, leading to the hall of the dread house (where even a mouse’s death could arouse unseemly lust) head-over-heels to fall with no grace at the feet or the toes - of a pair of high boots. He fell dazed and found himself gazing up at a face which he later admitted (it was no disgrace) astounded him, confounded him and breathlessly left him speechless and gaping in admiration. A Lady she looked, and of the highest station, and yet the hand she extended to Sam was odd: thin and strange, with thick black fangs instead of claws, while in her jaws, pearly teeth did glimmer in a gentle smile.

“Sweet friend, do take my hand…Up thou must rise, for any who lies overlong on this floor, is soon victim of tooth or claw.”

So Sam took the hand of this lovely Lady and with great strength she set her new friend on his tremulous feet. Tremulous indeed, for her smile unlocked his knees, palpitated his heart and set every manly part of Sweet Sam quite a-tingle…Why if Sam was a bell, he’d most likely jingle! The dark walls receded from his besotted gaze, only his Lady’s smile floating through the haze did he see.

“But who, sweet Lady, can you be? Why help you me? In this dread lair there is none to care if I live or die…” Here did Sam pause and sigh, “Nay, not even Sly… The Lady sighed too, and bent her long neck to gaze down on Sam. 

“Cannot you see? I am the daughter of the King of Slaughter, sent to this place to wed the Troll, the King of this knoll; and thus unite, one nation one might under the rule of the son I shall bear. This is what’s destined to one almost fair.” 

Here she raised up her hands with her fanged claws. “Think you some other would care or dare to bed me? My father an Ogre, my mother the loot he carried home from battle. He dragged by rape, from her womb a daughter. Most lovely my mother, child of a mere and a silky fair. But hard was her heart toward me, she pushed me away from her breast; there I never did rest, not even as a new born child. Aye, she rejected the get of her captor, and lay there dejected. Odd my new friend that even a fiend can love: that vicious ogre had clover and daisies, and in a cage a dove sent for to cheer her. He leaned over her bed of woe, and crooned such words as seemed gentle to one of his metal. She died. I did not, I was all he’d got from the only love he’d ever had.”

Severina appeared with Sly, brazen and loud; while partisans in the house cowered and bowed. Some fell to the floor, some fell to their knees, sobbing and begging for her wrath to appease. She regarded them with indifference, then teased and taunted; until she eyed Sam’s lady friend, who was seemingly undaunted.

“Bow you not to the queen?” she berated, while she stared with cold eyes at the woman she hated...


By Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

LIZZIE BROWNING ROCKS IN HER BOX

My dear, though it may seem vain,
My tongue was once acclaimed
As sharply precise; satirical, sly-
My elegantly cutting turn of phrase
A thing of wonder to bring tears of pain
To the hardiest masculine eye.

I was once known for my wit
And now I find that wit turned shy
Blushing mumbles stumbling
Solemn cadences marking time
Love/ glove/ dove -
Oh love!

I am clumsily slicking
Kisses from my mouth to yours
On the back of stolen words,
And sadly do I find
I have no skill for marking time
And these silly games of rhyme.

Further, in loving you, I sadly discover-
God forgive me- Oh the shame of it!
Not only have I lost my ready wit,
But all this fierce sincerity, and all this verity
Have made me sweetly tender-hearted.
I pray you find these make me your true lover

For embarrassingly I own it,
They have made of me a very bad poet.


Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 2 September 2013

NEW NOVEL: "Jacaranda Dreams" by Manuela Cardiga - First 3 Chapters

JACARANDA DREAMS

Prologue

I found a story. Or rather, it found me.
Be careful, dear friends: do not wander the world with incautious ears.
Stories and ghosts (are they not the same?) seek always a crack to pour themselves into, a mouth to utter them, sometimes unknowing; a hand to write or paint them and when they are done, leave you empty, bereft, discarded.

This story I found may or may not be true. I know it is not real. It is a peculiar little coincidence: synchronicity in all its bewildering symmetry playing its tricks, leading us to odd beliefs, most surely far from tried and tested reality.

This story I found is about a man, it’s about a boy, it’s about a city, it may be about love. I think there is a tree in it somewhere, and a marabou stork, invading a city garden.

Where do such stories begin? How do they begin?
There is always a Traveller on a Journey: a farewell and a leaving behind, both sweet and bitter. There is the Way: slowly emptying out the Before into the Now; and lastly the Arrival. This is also how all stories end: the Journey, the Way, the Arrival.

We must then choose where to start.

Let us start by naming, a most powerful ritual: a man others named Mohandas; a boy who called himself Search.
What have they in common?
Nothing.
Everything.

They breathed the same sweet air, paced the same streets, were dazed by the same sunrise.

They lived as far from each other as the Moon from the Sun, as close as consecutive pages in a book.

They were small.
They were mighty.
They changed the worlds they lived in.
The worlds they lived in changed them.

They began as Travellers, who became Exiles.
Castaways washed up on a far shore, the furthest shore you can imagine, in the strangest land, squeezed between tall mountains and a lazy Ocean.
A land of ripe beauty, lush with green, haphazardly peopled, peppered with towns, and one City.

This is the story of change. How it finds us, how we find it, and how sometimes, we change each other.



Chapter 1


A child takes ship to a distant shore. How frightening must that departure have been. He was leaving behind him all he had known, heading for an unknown future. His recently sorrowing widowed Mother was transformed into an expectant bride. They had been the only two survivors set adrift in a sea of sorrows, clinging together as survivors are wont to do: the only survivors of the wreckage that had claimed successively, father and siblings. Now he was no longer the very centre of her life, though she would always be the centre of his.

His name was Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa. He was seven years old, and the very bud of a poet trembled within him.

He left pink Lisbon slumbering behind him, with its faint aura of voluptuous corruption, the inheritance of centuries; the fruit of an uneasy marriage of unlikely partners. The descendents of mulish Iberian Celts, wily Phoenicians, stubborn Jews and sly sensuous Moors were reined in by scent of Inquisition still wafting in the wind of recent centuries. The narrow streets, cobbled it seemed, in contradictions, echoed to plaintive guitars and the wailing agony of broken souls. Old sorrows were carefully stored for frequent laundering, hung out to dry in fluttering lines across the narrowness of the streets. The very light of that January morning was bitter with mist from the river, the hesitant dawn seeking out a few nacreous glimmers from the sleeping city as a farewell gift, a souvenir for a fearful child.

How he must have clung to the icy iron of the ship’s railing as the city faded and the sea engulfed him. Surely he was small, as surely the world and the future were large and uncertain.

It was the year of Our Lord of eighteen-ninety-six, the sixth of January, the very day of the King of Misrule, a day for mischief from time immemorial, dedicated to the old pagan gods, carefully transformed by the Portuguese into The Day of Kings, when the Magi had brought before Christ that mixed bag of gifts: Incense for the God, Gold for the King, and for the Man the bitterest reminder of mortality and the decaying of flesh.

They sailed the uncertain seas of January, braving the storms around the Horn, down, ever down-ward to the very antipodes of the world, and around another spike of land sundering two warring oceans. There they left behind their ancestral icy Atlantic and ventured into the warmth of the Mozambique Current, the sultry heat of the Indian Ocean.

What a journey, from Winter into Summer: the glimmering waves rich with leaping life, the air hectic with screaming, diving gulls.

Finally the arrival: the green shore and a welcoming stranger. Strange indeed: the new husband, (his rival) presenting himself, perhaps, with avuncular bonhomie; the new house with its deep verandas shaded by the mauve silhouettes of the jacaranda trees, the solemn dark-faced servants with their expressive pale palms gesturing strange cadences of speech. The very air is alien; hot, humid and scented with rain.

He awakens in the drowsy afternoon heat and stumbles out to find her, his Mother. He pushes open the door, and wavers in the soft clack-clack of the ceiling fan, mystified by the shadowy gloom of the shutters, casting soft stripes of lilac light across the bed.

She glows in that darkness, her flesh freed from the encumbering stays, thighs raised tremulously. Between them his stepfather shudders, his pale shoulders divided by the paler vest, flexing as he strives. His buttocks clench in their thin veil of hair. He gasps as he rocks on her, surely hurting her, surely. She cries out, her face turning towards him in blind ecstasy as his stepfather shouts in triumph.

The boy runs, runs back to his cool shadowed room. He climbs onto the bed and clamps his hands over his eyes, squeezing out the sight of his Mother’s ecstasy, her gross betrayal, her surrender to some half-sensed bestiality, to nauseating pleasure. His stomach cramps and he spews his horror and his anger across the sheets. He crawls as far away as he can from the vomit and curls himself into a small ice-cold ball of pain.

He lies for hours, the icy sweat drying on him in the sultry air, the strange sounds buzzing distantly in his ears. In that distance he senses a presence, movement around him, hands lifting him. His Mother holds him, rocking him. Fernando, Fernando. She murmurs to him, she calls his name; she wipes the dried vomit from his face with a moist cloth, pushing back his hair, kissing his babyishly soft forehead again and again. She is still his. Her soft arms cradle him, her soft bosom under his cheek. Her sweet powdery fragrance surrounds him. Under her familiar scent there is a hint of musk, the olfactory brand of her lust, the rank smell of a male’s pleasure.


That evening he notes across the dinning room table the glistening waxed moustache move, flexing above the moist lower lip as his stepfather eats. He notes the sated look of satisfaction as he glances at his Mother, the avid eyes fumbling at her shoulders, her rounded neck, her swelling bosom. Worst, he notes the half-shy flush of desire and promise as she gazes back at him. He is excluded. He eats slowly, silently, listening to their sibilance as they talk, talk. They perform a skilful duet: their words wafting across the table lightly, enchantingly, deceiving all; the guests, his uncle, everyone but him. He knows now: they long to be alone in their repulsive intimacy. She is no longer his.


The servants hiss their feet across the polished floors, they slide in and out of the lamplight. The last of the meal is removed, vanishing into the shadows around the table.
His stepfather leads the male guests out to the veranda, where they light fat aromatic brown cigars. His Mother and the ladies rise and she gestures to the shadows. A tall figure bends low to whisper incomprehensible words to him, his Mother nods and smiles encouragement. He allows himself to be led away.

He lies in that alien darkness, testing the crisp sheets with his toes, listening to the night. He misses the slow rock of the ship, the familiar lazy yaw of the waves, the thud-thud of the engines’ heart. Something flutters against his window. The wind shuffles the leaves, slowly he lets himself float into that sound. Never before has he lain alone, uncomforted. She is no longer his.

He awakens to sound. Chirrups, cackles, raucous cries invade the silence of his room, slipping in through the green shutters. Barefoot in his nightgown he goes to the tall windows overlooking the veranda. Beyond its shadowed scarlet mosaic expanse, a green world beckons. He swings open the heavy shutters, slides away the netting and climbs out into a sharp-scented dawn. Already the first hint of the coming heat mists the horizon, but as yet, a freshness, a clean coolness permeates the garden. A velvety lawn, impeccably green, invites his tingling toes, a riot of rosebushes bloom extravagantly. A huge tree, tall and massive, lifts over-laden branches to the breeze. It is displaying heavy bunches of scaly skinned fruit, reddish-brown split here and there to expose pale gelatinous flesh. It is this tree the cause of the sound that draws him in: dozens of birds perch and squabble on the branches. In the midst of such plenty they strike and quarrel. Hopping with raised wings and gaping beaks, chasing each other away, even though the tree could feed hundreds, does. The ground is littered with pecked fruit, partly eaten and discarded.

Never had he seen such a variety of creatures, such wealth of life in a city garden.
In the midst of the lawn a short plinth supports a shallow basin filled with water. The birds swoop in to wash, fluttering their wings, spraying the air with a myriad rainbow droplets.

He sits enchanted. The cool grass tickles his bare feet, the dew soaks through his nightgown. The delicious scent of the awakening day enfolds him. Suddenly the birds’ quarrelsome cries change to something strident with fear. A slow ponderous figure floats down to the bird bath. Tall, as tall as he, much taller: an arrogant gait, thin legs balancing a heavy body with vigorous black barred wings, a bare wattled neck, a strong beak sharp as a blade. It lifts deliberate feet, glances side-ways at him. Its eye is quite mad, reptilian. The massive beak clacks menacingly. The huge wings open, delicate as a dancing master it takes one more step, closer to the bird bath, to him. It bends it’s nakedly pink sparsely haired head down to drink, and its mad eye watches, watches. It straightens, water dribbling from the cutlass beak and still it watches. After one long moment it leaves, rising on those enormous wings, a visible effort taking it aloft.

The other birds utter cries of relief, the alarm subsiding as the memory of the giant fades.
The garden welcomes him, embraces him with a peaceful acceptance at odds with its other inhabitants, all busily striving for mates, for food, for status in their small world.

He sits dreaming until she comes for him. The same tall figure in its starched, whispering dress leads him by the hand back to his room, to strap him into his hot and scratchy woollen suit, his stiff collar. He wants to go back into the garden. He wants to run in his nightgown. The woman, he thought, clucked at the wet and green-stained gown. She clacks out words under her breath in a strange language, she strokes his hair back. Her gestures are strange. She uses her palms, not her fingertips, a more comprehensive touch, somehow more complete, more intimate. He watches her face as she tends to him.

Her eyes are impenetrably dark, her skin a velvety texture that seems to drink in the light. Her nose is a sharp blade pointing down to lush lips, precisely delineated; her hands long and graceful, with those pale palms that seemed to turn each movement into some momentous gesture. He watches her solemnly. A pale-skinned dark-eyed boy, out of whom something sharp and fierce peers.

She taps his chest. Nkosi. Come, come. He hesitantly touched his finger to where she had touched him. Touched that finger gingerly to her chest. Quem és? Who are you? She smiles the dark face transformed. Nandi. She taps her own chest. Nandi. He smiles back shyly and takes the proffered hand. Nandi.

Two days later Nandi leads him through the strange streets to another place where familiar figures in the long habits of religieuse welcome him and lead him to sit with other small figures at wooden desks in a hugely tall room with a now more familiar swooshing fan hanging from the ceiling.

That first day he sits mystified, the words, the sounds pressing on him, bewildering. He sits very still, his eyes drinking in his surroundings, his ears seeking patterns in the cadences of the strange language.

At last she comes for him. A great bubble of relief expands in him at the sight if her. In her starched white dress, her smooth dark face, the folded white cloth covering her head, she seems the very image of an angel. She takes his hand in hers, leads him back, talking always talking in her own language, which he can perceive is different from what the Nuns and his stepfather’s guests speak. It comforts him. She comforts him.


At the house his Mother kisses his cheeks lovingly. She draws him in, she tells him she loves him, she hopes he is happy. She is wearing a long lovely gown he’s never seen before. Her hair is up-swept, her waist a lissom miracle above her curving hips. She sparkles. She is far from the woman who bitterly divested herself of her household, who cast herself and her small son on her mother’s charity. She is a bride, inebriated by the promise of a new life, astounded by the reawakening of her senses.

His stepfather steps in, beautifully dressed, carrying a long box. He kisses her respectfully, he smiles and hands her the gift. She gasps with delight at the sumptuous tumble of feathers within. Gently he drapes the ostrich feathers around her shoulders, slyly sliding his fingers along the edge of her bodice. She blushes, lips parted, eyes moist. Goodnight my darling, goodnight Fernando. They leave. Adult business.

Nandi bathes him, she serves him dinner. She tucks him in, carefully arranges the muslin veils over the bed. She hums a strange monotonous song. He is not alone, he fall asleep, listening to her soft voice.




 Chapter 2


Another ship, another port, another homeland left behind. This time the wind is ripe with spice and colour, heat and humility. The gods have ordained, men have obeyed, and humbly bare themselves to the bitter whip of chance as fate.

Another hesitant embryonic creature ventures to a new beginning. Behind him, he leaves his family, his ancestral roots. He is more fully formed, a little more certain; yet just as malleable, as new to life as the child.

Mohandas Gandhi:  a man, a father, a son. A loving son, tormented by an inheritance of
pious guilt; a father before he was a man; a man still uncertain of his will, his strength, of his place in the world, he sets out to an unknown destiny with a burden of past failure bowing his narrow shoulders. Not his first great journey, but destined to be the longest. He was headed to the south of the world, the fabled coast of Africa where his people had been summoned to harvest sweetness and reaped, instead, a bitter crop.

The boy and the man converged on the same destination. The boy and the man, both from families of status, of power; orphans both; uncertain of the future, and undefined in their identity.

Unknowing, man and boy, both arable land, ripe for the sowing come ashore to a land of
tears.

Downwards from that long rip in the continent’s flesh lies this green land. That vulva that once gave birth to Man, will one day birth a new Ocean. The Rift shudders, groans and gapes, sending ripples of change ever outwards.

Do you believe such titanic forces leave men untouched? If the tidal pull of the Moon troubles oysters in a tub; if the flutter of a butterfly’s wings topples towers; how then can we foresee the effect the birthing spasms of the Earth’s womb will have on sensitive minds? Do you doubt the existence of some vestigial memory linking us to this most vital place? Step ashore, if you doubt me. The very air summons graces. Draw deep into your lungs the scent of this earth where Cain slays and slays, renewing his angry vows day after day. The smell of blood, that perfume of perdition; the welcoming odour of  rain and steaming earth will tell you: this is home.

Home. What a word. Full, gravid with meaning. Home.
Home is where you go when your heart is empty, when hope fails you.
Home is where you lose your heart and gain your soul.
Home is the place that outgrows you and leaves you outside, looking in.
Home is where you go to be born, again and again.

Imagine, if you will, a strange infection: a stranger comes to this land and drinks of this air. He carries away with him deep in the delicate tissue of his lungs (as others once carried tuberculosis), the seed of momentous change: human earthquakes, if you will. As the rabies virus causes its victims to eschew water which would destroy it, so this infection impels its carriers to seek out greatness; to dream (hallucinate) of the change one man can bring; to be that pebble that brings down a mountain.

So then, what do we have?
One small man finds at the end of one long journey the beginning of another.

He set out, leaving wife, son and mother behind, to school his clumsy tongue to an alien discipline. England. Alien, that cold, grey land: scentless the breeze, cold the rain. The food is colourless, tasteless. The people: cool and reserved, are strapped as tightly into their castes as his own people are to theirs. There is some understanding in him, some sympathy for their ways. Their women move in cages: as trapped in their corsets as his own women are in the tight circle of their traditions. The fates decide your status, you earn you place on the Wheel: there seems to be some concordance on this also. Besides, they are his conquerors, with all the glamour and seductive power of such. He must please them.

He keeps to his small tight disciplines as well as he can: he eats no meat, he pares his meagre pleasures down to nothing. He takes pleasure in his rigour. It empowers him. It sets him apart. He endeavours to forget burrowing eagerly into his wife’s young body as his Father lies dyeing in other arms. The memory of his avidity is repugnant to him. He will be a good son after all. He can deny his flesh, keep his vow to his dead Father. In this he does not fail. He must not fail.

At long last the exile ends, he returns. He dreams night after night on his narrow berth: his Mother, frail in her silken muslins, stretches out her narrow arms. He weeps. Dark, perfect circles bloom on her shoulder as he weeps. Her thin arms bring him home, forgive him, redeem him.

There is no thin figure on the quay. His brothers, rotund and prosperous, greet him.
She is dead. Long dead. No heart-quake warned him, no mystic breath whispered it to his cringing soul. The very centre of his life is gone.

This is failure, one bitter taste followed by another. Some demon steals his speech. His mind so agile and quick, cannot reach the outside world through the portal of his mouth. Another failure. A stumble-tongued lawyer: a family joke. What can be done? A summons comes. Far, far away a man needs an advocate of his own race.
He will be unique. No other exits in that far bastion of the Empire, none like him.

He sets out bolstered by his reinstatement in his high caste, carrying around him the invisible aura of his uniqueness, his privilege. A new start, a fresh beginning. He will wash away his old sins on a far shore, and come back resplendent, reborn.


***



The ship lays down anchor in a busy port: he walks down to the quay, dignified in his grey English suit, his white turban crisply folded.

Three men await him, men of his race, though not of his own people. Moslems.
Portly, glossy with success, they greet him, welcome him with splendid words and graceful gestures to which, he answers with dignified restraint; with splendidly arrogant humility.

The oldest of these men takes his arm to lead him past the raucous bustle of the stevedores, calling to each other, reeking of acrid sweat and the sour sweetness of sugar. They heave sacks on to their backs, heft cargo on platforms shouting “Heeeee! Heeee!”; answering  the calls of the foremen, their corded muscles rippling with the strain of the ropes, the measured weight of their labour.

They swarm the ship, the quay, black ants punctuated here and there by the termite pallor of stiff-shouldered Englishmen, wincing from the barest brush of alien flesh.

Further on he notices a bull-necked man, whose smoke yellow eyes follow them with the faint derision of the warrior for the merchant-caste. The massive bullet head swivels slowly to follow their progress. Heavy, broad lips draw back from white square teeth. A stream of thick yellow spittle spatters in the dirt at their feet. The man laughs. His naked arms roll with obscene looseness in their sockets, his shoulders shrug his despite. He laughs and others join him, calling approval, their mockery transparent in their voices.

He sees himself briefly through those eyes, smoke yellow with swallowed rage: a small narrow bodied man, scurrying along on his spindly legs and stiff hips; his shoulders bowed piously.

The man himself towers in massive, slim-hipped splendour, his naked chest sports glistening pink scars like rosebuds, raised proud against the smooth blackness of his skin.

His companion hurries him along, pouring a constant stream of commentary into his numb ears.

The Zulus…savages…insurrection…hate us….the Impi veterans the worst…Come, come, you will see how we receive you, come, come…

They leave the docks behind and take him into a broad-avenued town with the splendid aura of prosperity. His companions explain, exclaim, complain. People move busily to and fro on the broad pavements, carriages and wagons trundle past. A small boy, pale faced and wan walking hand in hand with a stately black woman in a white dress, stares at him with disturbing dark eyes.

He sees, horrified, a young black girl with jiggling naked breasts laughing merrily and waving her hands gracefully in the air. Her palms flash moist pink like a glimpse of intimate flesh.

He averts his eyes but sees, again and again, the loose motions of her body.

They lead him to a respectable-looking house, introduce him to an array of eager faces: young, old, thin and generous-fleshed, they are all eager to welcome him, flatter him. Their regard pours healing balm on his wounded pride.

That night on his solitary bed, he dreams the girl, her naked conical breasts juddering above him, but in the final moment of his pleasure, she leans down and moans through broad heavy lips, teeth clenched in ecstasy, smoke-yellow eyes glistening with hatred and lust.


 Chapter 3

His new life takes on its own particular pattern. He wakes to birdsong, sneaks out into the dazzling dawn; Nandi leads him back, scolding, into the shadowy room to don his shell. She takes him to breakfast: his Mother mouths at him, his Step-father winces his moustache, he leaves. On the way to school he gazes about him, drinking in the novelty of sights and sounds, breathing in the dense intoxicating perfume of the humid air.

He savours the sensation of safety her firm, dry clasp on his hand conveys. He loves the crisp swish of her starched petticoats, her voice. In the moist heat she carries a freshness about her, a quiet composure. The two of them seem to move through the busy streets surrounded by the impenetrable bubble of her dignity.

At the school he is handed over to a Sister, herded into the classroom to be mystified by the rhythms of the new language.

Day by day the sounds acquire an enchanting precision.
Words. Sharp, delicate chisels with which to carve out new forms.
Words. Like circling horses, curvetting, pausing, turning: gracefully obedient to the flicking whip of his burgeoning mind.

How he loves the taste of this new language, his growing hoard of words.
The day slides by and soon she’s there, Nandi with her tranquil face, to lead him back to the haven of the garden, humming with cicadas in the sudden twilight, and the peculiar silken slither of bats fumbling through the lilac air.

He stands pale in the tub in the lamplight. She sluices warm water over him, her quietness soothes him. Her firm capable hands strip the dripping water from his limbs before wrapping him in the linen towel. He is thin. His small narrow shoulders and thin frail limbs lack the boisterous ruddy energy he has observed in his classmates. His pale face boasts no rosy hues, his lank dark hair no enchanting glint of russet, and still Nandi´s hands are gentle, tender with his translucent flesh.

In the dinning room he concentrates on the illusion of the spoon vanishing into the soup.
Despite his care, it clicks on the bottom of the plate, the peculiar sound of silver on porcelain, and his Mother frowns. She has grown plump. He flesh has acquired a lush lustre. She is absent from him, distant and distancing herself from his gaze.

Nandi again, his angel, covering him with the crisp sheets, placing a firm hand over his eyes before draping the fine netting over his bed. He lies quietly in the darkness she has drawn over him. Tranquillity descends. He sleeps. Tomorrow, he knows, has a pattern he can describe, a comforting cycling of events. Pattern is safety. The future is clear.

***

In the quiet pool of lamplight he stoops his shoulders to the book. His pen scratches deep precise furrows on to the page, it pleases him to watch the sluggish flow of the glossy ink, slowly drying on the paper.

His words flow effortlessly through his mind, travelling swiftly to egress through the sharp steel nib. This fluency pleases him. He builds his case, graceful bridges of logic consolidating his arguments over the flowing river of facts. What agility escapes his stumbling tongue is compensated by the grasping leaps of his eager mind.

In the tranquillity of that warm night, any phantom of failure is allayed. He works until the delicious weariness overpowers his limbs and cottons his mind. He lies on his bed and lets the slow waves of sleep lap against him.

He imagines himself (narrow in his dark western suit), gesturing with humble authority; his arguments fluent and impassioned. In his half dream the Judge wobbles his jowls in awed (though reluctant) approval…


***




The cool sharpness of the morning wipes away the remnants of the night’s weariness.
He does his morning ablutions with scrupulous care, dresses carefully and joins his client-host for breakfast. In his old life, something unthinkable, here it seems natural.

They discoursed quietly over their food, drinking their scalding tea in tiny sips, while the bright ghosts of the household women soundlessly tend to their unspoken whims.


***

His fantasy is not to be. He must head west and northward, to the fabled land of gold and gunpowder, there to negotiate a settlement. He will not gloriously expound, but only quibble and squabble, like a merchant or a panderer, over coin.

Still, he will represent his client with dignity. He boards the stagecoach impeccably dressed: hair neat and gleaming with pomade, suit sharply tailored; glasses flashing acuity.

He speaks politely and knowledgably to his fellow travellers, one of whom had spent some time in Bombay, trading tea; and now trades hotter beverages to the mining camps. At the border to the Republic of the Free State of Orange they changed horses and drivers in the middle of the icy night. The passengers somehow managing to slumber through the stop: the guttural voices, the clinking of metal on metal, the hoarse blowing of the horses as they are backed into the traces. Frigid dawn sees the next stop. The door opens and a broad bearded man climbs in, bringing in the sharp smell of the cold, mingled with the smoky odour of pipe tobacco.

Wat is Dit!
`n Koelie!
Ek sal nie langs `n Koelie sit nie!

The creaking and swaying of the carriage announces the heavy descent of the driver and his companion.

Wat se jy Meneer, Dat ons Koelies is?

Then two faces staring at him in astonished indignation, the scarlet faced fury of the new passenger barely impacting on his consciousness; and the rough hands are grabbing at him. He is tumbling, crashing to cold hardened earth, a-sprawl, gaping at thick-soled, dirt-caked boots.  

He is dimly aware of the exclamations of alarm of his fellow passengers, some sort of argument.
The harsh voice of the driver interjecting in some coarse form of English he could barely understand:

No Koelis! No Indianers! This is die Vrei Staat, Engels!
Indians verbode! Forbidden!
Geen bedondered ape!
No monkeys!

The sour sting of vomit rises in his throat. Dirt cakes his teeth, his lips split and bleed as he grimaces in pain and humiliation.

Bandar. Monkey.

All his proud pretensions brought to dust. This dust, soaked with his bile and his blood. He is less than nothing.
Less even than an Untouchable.
He is dust in an unforgiving land shaped by warriors, shaped for warriors.
He is dust.


***


Crouching on the stirrup runner, he has a sudden vision of himself: Folded stick arms and legs, monkey head hunched against the cold between his shrugging shoulders. His fingers cramp desperately to his hand-hold on his perch: fear and ice adding tenacity to his grip. Numbed, floating beyond any point of consciousness he ever believed he might survive, he is jarred by the sudden jerk of the carriage coming to a stand-still, nearly shaking him loose from his precarious perch.

He clings, oblivious, until gentle fingers pry him loose, strong hands lifting him into blessed warmth. A lap rug is wrapped around him. In the unfocused haze of his naked eyes, the Boer passenger’s scarlet face looms.

Sies ,man, Koelie…

An awkward silence hangs in the carriage. A palpable miasma, like the mingled smells and hot plumes of breath: an unwelcome intimacy. Leaning back, eyes closed, his eyelids glued shut by tears of dust and shame, he sees himself. He sees himself, again and again, fastidiously drawing his garments around himself to avoid the contaminating contact with the unclean.

Unclean. Untouchable. Unthinkable.

He has scorned good men of his own race as impure while seeking the approval of an alien nation.
The stinging rejection of the people of this land burns his pride scours away his complacency. Their hatred, their scorn, their despite, make them brothers.

  
.***

  
His arrival in Johannesburg, tottering stiffly from the carriage, wrapped in a blanket and stained with dirt, adds another layer to his suffocating rage.
The curious sidelong glances from his fellow passengers and passers-by, has him fumbling for a handkerchief scrubbing vainly at the shameful map of tears on his cheeks.

Mr Gandhi?
 Mr Gandhi!
What has happened to you?

The solicitous kindness in a familiar lilting accent almost has him sobbing in relief.
He is taken away from the sardonic stares of the big men with the fierce beards, the urbane scorn of the Englishmen. He is cocooned in gentle indignation, warm familiar scents, comforted.

His humiliation is complete.
Those whom he has secretly scorned as his inferiors, in both status and intellect, have shown themselves far above him in generosity of spirit.


Manuela Cardiga