Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cymbal #39:: The Shapes You See In Smoke

It was almost dawn when he put his tools down. Rising from his bench, he shivered in the cold of the morning, for the fire in the grate was all but embers. He swept the scraps and curls of discarded wood and leather into the fire and banked it with a stone to die slowly. Then, he tucked the figurines he had carved into his tunic and wrapped a thick cloak of rough wool about himself. Shutting the door behind him, he had to repress a sudden desire to go back inside and sleep till the morning was ripe, when he would have to tend to the goats.

The steep stone path led along the cliff to the citadel. He walked up it, his stride lengthening gradually as the cramp in his thighs faded. The frosted grass which had stiffened in the frost cracked and crunched under his boots.

From the west, the sun rose out of the sea like a hand full of gold opening, spreading its wealth carelessly across a table. The fishing boats would head out soon, he thought, for there to be fish in the market by midday. Soon the town would bustle with its citizens, buying, selling, striving, laying claim to their shares of wealth and profit. Grain from the farms, fruit from the orchards, wood from the forests, and occasionally, goats from his pastures.

Florence and the Machine - The Chain - 2010

At the citadel, he passed the Hall of Audience and Hostel of the Guards, both of which lay in the lee of the Palace. Where he was going, neither kings nor soldiers called for attention. Hewn out of the very rock of the citadel was a small white building with no windows and a shallow dome. From the ocular hole in the dome rose the slightest hint of smoke. This was the Temple of Confessions.

He stepped through the low door, and as always, the priestess awaited him in her throne of olive wood. He bowed before her, and she rose from her seat and stepped forward toward him and the brazier which stood in the centre of the temple. The warm blaze was reflected on the metallic sheen of her veil.

“You come to me again, goatherd?”

“Indeed, priestess. I was burdened at night, with dreams.”

“Show them to me.”

He reached into his tunic and pulled out the three figurines. The first was of a child, a young boy, with eyes of blue stone like those of the son he remembered. The second was of a horse with wings, saddled and harnessed with leather. The third was a knot with neither a beginning nor an end, a thing for cutting but not for untying.

The priestess weighed them in her hand. He noticed that her fingers were gnarled and leathery and dull, her nails like the shells from the sea. She anointed the figurines with oil and pastes of red, green and yellow, and then consigned them to the flames in the brazier. With a stick, she poked at the fire to stir it up. The flame crackled and from the bowl of iron came a smell of far-off places, of pine needles and bare rock, of the dry air of the deserts.

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way - 1976

She stirred it again, crouched over the fire, her back to him

“You have brought me your dreams. They were crude and ugly and common.  Now they have been made perfect. Go.”

He stepped out of the Temple, into the morning, the streets full of strangers, the sun high in the sky. A thick smoke streamed from its dome, a smoke so heavy that it struggled to rise.

He walked down from the citadel. It was time for the goats to be taken to their pastures.