Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mantra

Outwardly he was always calm,
serene of face as though some balm
had soothed his worries all away
untouched by traumas of everyday.

Intrigued I asked of him one day
What it was that made him this way
a simple smile I got in return.
"There is a lesson you must learn."

He said "the secret is young man,
and don't forget it if you can,
that when the gift of peace you need,
say the name of one that will lead

you to a state of bliss that puts all,
cares and worries into a ball,
that you can throw away and find,
there's nothing left to sear your mind."

Puzzled and unhappy with his replies,
I forgot this sage's words so wise
Until much later into my life
And found that when I had a wife

With love as precious as pure gold
It was her name I could say so bold
That filled me with a strength so great
that my fears and cares did abate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My fight with a dragon

I'm not scared of the Dragon's Lair
Of his fiery breath I have no care,
Yes, his pointed teeth do look bad,
But soon he will be very sad.

It is no joke I'm here alone,
The others? They soon went off home,
Some weak excuse about their tea,
So Dragon it's just you and me.

What stirring now? You ugly beast.
And looking to the west and east,
There's no help for you or for me!
We'll fight it out and then you'll see.

Your spiny tail just gave a flick
Mind! My sword will give you a nick
You dare to fight and not be fair?
Damn and blast you have burnt my hair.

So you think a truce has been drawn?
And no doubt that I will have to fawn
To your demands for territory.
No, on the morrow I'll get the glory.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Can you keep a secret ? (or a Recipe for disaster)

I walked along the beach last Tuesday. There was hardly a breeze and the late Autumn sunshine quickly warmed the nip out of the air. The tide was out and it felt really good to be alive. After setting a brisk pace for some minutes I slowed down and looked for a convenient rock to set myself down to contemplate the waves and offer the gulls a crust of bread.

It was wonderful just sitting there. The gulls once the bread ran out lost interest in me and flew off to fossick in the shallows or find other benefactors. I leaned back and shut my eyes, letting the sound of the waves and the warmth of the sun seep into me.

"Can you keep a secret?"

I opened my eyes to see who had said those words. By my side not two metres from me, also sitting down, was an old man. He must have crept up while I was drifting off. His small wiry body was enclosed in an old pair of striped trousers and a turtle necked sweater. He sat forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands, tortured with arthritis were clasped together. As I looked round at him, he too, looked toward me.

He repeated, "Can you keep a secret?"

"It wouldn't be a secret if you told me."

His face, care worn, tired, wrinkled and brown, seemed so sad I wished I had not tried to be clever.

"It will be your secret then, not mine," he said wearily.

"Why me?"

"Somebody has got to take it, then I can go."

"Is it a good secret?"

"No."

"Why should I be the only one to keep it?"

"Because it is dangerous to let anyone else know about it."

"How do you know I will keep it a secret?"

"When you know the secret, you won't dare to tell anyone about it."

"I am sorry to keep asking these questions," I said, feeling now that I was talking to a looney. "How can you dare to tell me?"

He kept silent for some time. The waves continued to break unceasingly on the shore.

"My time is nearly up. There is only one person that can hold the secret. I have searched many years to find a successor. Someone who will keep the secret. I thought I had failed. Now I have found you. If I cannot pass the secret on it will mean the end of the world. It will be the end of time. You won't let that happen, will you?"

"How can you be sure," I interjected.

"Please say you will accept the secret. Do you want to risk the end of the world if you don't take it?" The old man now looked decidedly unwell.

"Is that the secret?"

"No. Will you keep it if I give it to you?"

I decided there and then to take the secret. Not because I wanted to know it, but more because I wanted to appease the old man. He was clearly getting upset. Perhaps he was unbalanced. It wouldn't hurt to take his secret from him.

"If I take it, when do I pass it on?"

"More questions?" he asked. "Don't you see,? You pass it on when you are likely to die. Will you accept it?"

"Yes," I blurted out. "What is the precious secret?"

He certainly seemed relieved when I said yes.

"Good, good," he nodded in satisfaction.

Once again a silence ensued. Then slowly he unclasped his hands, and thrust his right hand into his trouser pocket. He drew out an old tobacco tin. Then with an almost theatrical reverence he handed it to me.

"This is yours. Never ever share it."

I was about to open it up, when he shook his head violently. "No, No. Wait till I have gone. Look at it at home."

With that he got unsteadily to his feet and shuffled away over the sand, he painfully pulled himself up the ramp to the esplanade and then disappeared from sight. I thought about what had passed, and convinced myself I had been taken in by the old man's warped sense of humour.

I stayed where I was for a few more minutes then walked back along the beach, up the steps at the kiosk end to get back home again. As I was walking along an ambulance sped by. As I passed another walker said.

"Probably an oldie at the end of their time."


A shiver ran through me. Could it be the old man, who had told me that it was his time to go? Eventually I got home. Lucy greeted me at the door.

"You were a long time."

"I got waylaid on the beach."

Lucy then looked at me in very strange way.

"When you were out there was a phone call for you."

"Who was it?"

"I don't know. But all he said was to tell you, 'Don't even tell your wife. Remember Eve.' What secrets are you keeping from me and who is this Eve?"

"Nothing dear. I don't know any Eve. Did you recognise the voice?"

Lucy shook her head. "What have you been up to?" She asked suspiciously.

Then I remembered the tin.

"Just a minute," I said. With that I went into the hall and then into the bathroom, locking the door after me. I took the tin out of my pocket and sat down on the toilet seat. I slowly opened the tin. Inside was a little card. On it was written just four words. The words were..."No, hang on, I can't even tell you, can I?"

I turned the card over. It was blank on the other side. There was nothing else in the tin. What did the words mean? I said them out aloud. Then I read them again, stressing each word in turn. Over and over again I read the phrase. Lucy knocked on the door.

"What are you doing in there?"

"Won't be a minute."

That silly old man had set a poser just to niggle me. Meanwhile Lucy was getting fractious outside.

"I'll have to call the Fire Brigade!"

I came out of the bathroom. I told Lucy about the old man on the beach. She was most intrigued.

"So what is the secret?"

"I can't tell you."

"Oh! Come on. I'm your wife remember?"

"I'm sorry Lucy. I promised."

"You promised to keep a secret for a dirty old tramp on the beach. I can't believe this."

Lucy was certainly annoyed.

"Look Lucy, I don't know what it means even. When I work it out, perhaps I'll tell you then."

This seemed to satisfy her for the moment. But I had forgotten how persuasive she could be when we were in bed together. Sure enough when were cuddled up together she brought up the subject again. It's very difficult to keep a secret with a very friendly body wrapped round yours.

So I told her. Time just stopped at the very moment I shared that secret.

There was no big flash, no big bang. It became very dark indeed. No moonlight, no stars, no streetlights. The bedside clock radio no longer worked, the power was gone. There was no movement, no noise. The world had just died with just a little whimper. That whimper was mine, when I realised what I had done. Life cannot exist without time. Our lives were over, we were quite dead. There was no Time! All because I couldn't keep that secret! My last thoughts were of the old man looking at me and sadly shaking his head.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Sad Song of Courage


The day was breaking. The inky night slowly transformed itself from turgid grey-blues, through weak pinks to the promising orange of a fresh morning. The sea fog took heed of the warmth of the sun and slowly separated and secretly disappeared as the roll of constant waves beat their endless tattoo on the shore.

The shore itself was preparing for morning too, as singing honeyeaters called to assert their territorial rights whilst the welcome swallows ignored such claims and winged and scooped and soared in the morning breeze and caught insects on the wing.

Far out to sea a mother whale cautiously sonarred to shore. She read the answer; plenty of depth, rocky beach, others of the family close by. It was time.

As the contractions started she was joined by a female relative who kept close to her and nudged encouragement as her labour intensified. When her calf was born the mother let out a great snort of relief through her blowhole. She sank down into the water and gently pushed the calf to the surface. She sensed the baby had breathed and she relaxed for the first time for many weeks.

A pair of gannets flew overhead and wheeled down over the basking whales.

"Why are you here?" they called.

The mother whale only rolled over keeping an eye on her calf and dared not tell her secret. Birds would tell anyone who would listen of their adventures and what they had seen. They were not to be trusted.

As the new calf got stronger and fed and played by her side the mother whale kept a constant eye open both to the sea and to the shore. The land showed no sign of man. There were no buildings, no fishermen on the beach and no smoke. The sea was clear of boats and the family of whales in the bay seemed calm. All was well.

That night it blew up a storm, and the sea boisterously tossed the whales about, so they drew away from shore, and dived deep into the gulf. No storm could touch them there and in the morning they found the raging sea had abated to a flat calm so they cruised inshore again. Spouting and calling; leaping and crashing; and floating and flapping as was the way with whales.

Other mother whales calved and soon the bay was full of high spirited youngsters, splashing in the shallows, cavorting on the crests and playing around the pod. Our mother whale felt assured at last that this was a safe place to be. For many years they had calved in the bays on this coast but man had found them again and again, and had driven them further and further north. So many of their number had disappeared in a sea tinged red with blood and the sad song of despair was sung by those that could get away from the sea of slaughter. This year they were safe, but what of the years to come? Did she have the courage to keep on finding safe havens?

It was the Black Backed Gulls that told the men. They didn't say so outright but by their actions they spelled it out quite clearly. Gathering in greater numbers, following the whales and their calves, feeding off the flotsam and membranes from birthing, they told the men the news they wanted to hear. And these grizzly, rough spoken men, with their long boats and their harpoons and their iron pots and their fire and their foul smoky breath, found the new bay where the whales had sojourned.

With tracks and destruction and tree felling and fighting and with bravado and anger the men settled into a cove close the beach that lay inshore from the nursery ground that the whales had found.

It was with fists and fighting and booze and belching that the men awaited the whales the next season. Unknowing and unthinking the whales returned. Before they could flee the bulls and the cows were caught in their haven, and were killed at sea by cheering, jeering, swearing, dirty men as they shot, and they stabbed and they cut and they stripped and they boiled the carcasses down and they laughed as they recounted their exploits.

And they drank, and they swore and fought and they totted their money in hands smeared with grease. But not all the whales were killed, there was one not in calf that year that came late to the head of the Bight.

She sensed the terror in the waves, she tasted the blood in the water, she saw the gulls in the sky, and knew that she must leave at once and sing her sad song. And as she swam further away, even further than man could follow after her, she prayed in an enormous whaley sort of way that man would one day change his ways.

And perhaps he would.


Photo of Southern Right Whale breeching by Dave Watts