Boris

Once upon Atime, a giraffe named Boris woke up in a forest high up in the Himalayas in the middle of the Kullu Valley. “It’s very cold up here,” he thought to himself as his knees shook, so he rustled through his bag until he found a hat and a scarf that he was given as a present when he was a little bit younger.

He was alone in the forest for quite some time, which he didn’t mind at first because he was at an age where he craved independence, but after a little while he became quite lonely and began to wonder where he was and how he got there. He had vague memories of climbing into a hot air balloon in the Serengeti, where he had lived with his family since the day his mother licked him to his feet, but he couldn’t remember it taking off and he certainly had no idea where he found himself now, staring curiously at strange white flakes falling heavily from the sky.

He was dressed very inappropriately for any time of year, but especially for the harsh winters of Himachel Pradesh, where sometimes the snowdrifts would have covered even the tallest giraffe, were giraffes known to frequent the area, which, as it happened, they weren’t. He wore only his hat and scarf, which in his attempts to keep warm only served to heighten just how cold he was in all the other parts of his body that remained uncovered. He looked into his bag once again and pulled out a fire log and a box of matches as his whole body shivered against the cold. He didn’t really like fire logs very much as a fire, but he didn’t mind them as kindling, and when he sat down on the rock by the stream, he had a nice little fire going within a few minutes, and he put his front hooves over the flickering flames as his body started to thaw and his knees stopped trembling.

“It’s melting!” he said aloud though there was no-one around to hear him. “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen!” he continued, utterly captivated by the brilliant white powder transforming as it ran its way across the rock and into the stream. He poked at the snow with the end of a hot stick until eventually there was a small avalanche and almost all of the drift by the fire fell at once into the river without melting at all. This saddened him a little but he didn’t really mind too much because he was warm again.

When he got hungry, he snacked on a nice patch of grass by a brook in the river, and he went back and forth between the brook and the fire happily from the morning into the afternoon. “If I’m going to be here for a little while,” he thought to himself as he sat criss-crossing more sticks on the fire, “I’m going to need to find a shelter for when it gets dark later on.” He looked around the valley hoping to see a cheap hostel anywhere in the distance, but all he saw were the endless pine forests that rose up the cliff face of the mountains, separated from each other by waterfalls that fell from a height that made him dizzy. There were no hostels anywhere, nor even a cave that looked a suitable size to accommodate his considerable height. He thought about his situation for a minute and decided that he needed to fend for himself.

“I must build a house,” he said categorically. “There are plenty of trees here and I know enough of carpentry to get the basics right.” He had studied carpentry for five years in school in Africa, and was also a fully qualified architect, despite spending his time on the plains selling leaves to the hungry in the dry season. He got the idea for it one summer during the monsoon when he noticed leaves stayed fresher when they were in water, so he filled his bath with leaves and waited for the food shortage to arrive as it always inevitably did. He reached into his bag and pulled out a chainsaw that started with a whirr the third time he pulled on the chord.

“What’s that racket?” said a voice from above him and he looked up to see who it was. All he saw above him were the pine trees stretching up toward the sun and he wondered if he had imagined hearing the voice. “My goodness!” the voice came again. “What are you planning to do with that?” and as he was looking up he noticed that the voice belonged to the big pine tree he intended to make into a house.

“I’m sorry,” he said to the tree. “I didn’t realise you were alive.” he said apologetically.

“Didn’t realise?? What did you think I was??”

“A house I guess.”

“I am a house.” Boris smiled and took the tree’s words as the green light to begin cutting him down before the tree added, “For thousands of others who are alive too.” He turned the chainsaw off and the tree immediately relaxed. “I can’t help but feel,” he went on, “that you’re being a bit selfish by wanting to cut me down. For the others I mean, whatever about the discomfort it would bring to myself.”

“But when the night comes I’ll freeze to death.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before you came here?”

“I didn’t meant to come. I just woke up here this morning.” Boris said honestly.

“Do you have a name?” the tree asked, sensing the giraffe’s need for empathy.

“Boris. And you?”

“I don’t believe in names. We’ve always thought of ourselves as rooted in the same earth here. If we give each other names we create a separation that doesn’t actually exist.”

“But everything must have a name!” Boris protested, struggling to fathom the tree’s logic.

“We all perceive things differently. There-in lies the beauty of life, but yet there’s always those who claim their perceptions are greater than others. Names are a nonsense that gives an understanding to an irrelevance.”

The tree told Boris where he could find plenty of loose stone to build a shelter for himself. He spent the afternoon talking to the tree as he built a tall, narrow, and neat cottage on the spot where he first started the chainsaw and they became great friends from that day to this.

Sunrise

Once upon Atime, a young moth with no name lived in a two room cottage looking out over a river on the side of a mountain that was covered in snow more often than not. In the Springtime, the warm sun came rising from just over the mountain on the other side of the valley. Every morning he got up early to watch it from his balcony, and every morning he promised himself that one day he was going to fly over the mountain at night to be ready for the light when it came. But when night came it was always dark and cold, and all he ever really wanted to do was stay indoors and fly around the light bulb in the middle of his living room instead.

Then one night when he was flying, the people who lived there were cooking dinner in the kitchen. Ever since he was a baby, he had always loved the smell and the sight of food. He flew down to ask them if there was any way he could help them to prepare it, but before he could ask the lady hit him over the head with a ladle and he fell to the floor and broke his wing.

For two months he crawled out of bed before morning and went out on to the balcony to see the light coming over the mountain day after day. “When my wing is better..” he promised himself, but all his friends used to laugh at him because he always talked a lot without ever really doing much of anything.

He went for walks, helped out around the house, and sometimes tried to play chess to pass the time, but the chess pieces in the cottage weighed more than he did so he found them very difficult to move. Gradually his wing started to heal, and soon he was able to fly from one side of the balcony to the other without stopping for a break. “In a few days I’ll be ready!” he told himself excitedly as he did chin-ups on the washing line to build up his strength.

A few days passed, and another few, but still he couldn’t bring himself to leave the balcony. Then a girl he liked from school fluttered by one morning when he was watching the sun rise and instinctively he blurted out; “Tomorrow I’m going to fly into that light!”

“Can I come?” she asked, and he was so shocked that she even replied to him that he said yes straight away without thinking about how cold it was at night or how safe it was in the cottage when he stayed away from the humans. He told her all about his plan to leave at night so that they could be ready to catch the light as soon as it first appeared on top of the mountain. She told him that she’d meet him on the balcony that night at 4 o’clock so they could leave with plenty of time to get across the valley before the sun rose.

All day he fluttered around the cottage, and all he could think about was what he should do and what he should say to make a good impression. He went to bed very early so that he could be well rested when it was time to leave, but he couldn’t sleep because his mind was giddy and wouldn’t relax. Eventually he drifted off and woke to a gentle tapping on his bedroom window. When he looked outside, he saw her on the windowsill wearing a hat and gloves, with a little backpack strapped around her waist. “Hurry up or we’ll miss it!” she said anxiously. His heart fluttered like her wings as he stumbled out of bed with drool matting one side of his face. “Come on!” she said, not seeming to notice or care about his physical appearance.

They flew off the balcony together, and somehow the cold of the night-time seemed like the heat of the day as she laughed about how crazy they were and how jealous everyone else would be when they heard about their adventure. When he started to feel tired all he had to do was look across at her flying beside him to feel refreshed and revitalised once more.

It was windy in the valley and they both found it tough going to make it across, but at long last they flew past the waterfall at the top of the mountain and came above the snowline that glistened under Orion in the light of a full moon. They landed on a branch of a pine tree that stood sleeping in the snow, but because they were so light and their voices were so quiet it kept snoring softly as they huddled together against the cold. He put his wing around her to help her stop shivering and she snuggled up against him to share body heat while they waited.

They didn’t have long to wait until the first glimmers of light softened the horizon from its blackness and day started to make its welcome return to the world. But when the sun came up, they realised that they had landed on the wrong mountain, and it was actually the mountain behind the one they were on where it sat instead. “Maybe if we hurry we can catch it..” he said to her, trying to hide his own disappointment and keep her spirits up at the same time.

“I don’t know,” she said downheartedly, “Maybe this was a crazy idea after all.”
“Well if we don’t try we’ll know for certain that we’ve failed.”

So they flew off again together towards the light, up and up into the mountains, but by the time they reached the top of the next mountain the sun had already moved and it looked like there was no way they would ever make it.

They kept flying higher and higher into the sky. It seemed like the closer they got to it, the further it went away from them, but just then, as they were about to give up and turn back, it was there before them; the brightest and most magical light that either of them had ever seen. They danced around it together, wrapped up in each other’s embrace, as the darkness they’d both flown through to get there faded away and the light of young love lit up the valley below.

Lúnasa

I signed in here for the first time in almost two years yesterday and found comments and messages waiting for me that I really should have replied to a lot sooner. It was like walking into a house that had been left lying empty for years to open the curtains & knock the dust off the furniture. So much has happened since I last set foot in here that the temptation was to turn straight back out the door and turn the key again, but there’s no harm in giving the place an airing, if only for those who happen to be passing & wondering why there’s no-one living in it.

I tend to keep in touch with more people via the S.A. Murphy page on Facebook. When I set this up originally I had notions that I’d blog fairly regularly, but they fell by the wayside when real life took precedence and I found that the more time I spent online, the less I had to dedicate to the business of actually living and writing.

The more that I’ve seen of the internet lately, the more I’m convinced that it’s used more as a drug than a tool. I find myself susceptible to the trap, often prone to scrolling mindlessly through the various newsfeeds without ever actually learning anything, waiting for the next ping to trigger the endorphin levels & feed the beast. They say the first step to recovery is realising there’s a problem, so maybe I’m on the right path, but it’s a difficult drug to conquer.

I guess that’s why we don’t post photos online of our little boy, or much in the way of ourselves for the most part. At a time when privacy is seen as archaic, I still cherish it. I need the peace & quiet that comes with living in the country, though sometimes that means missing the chance to dip in & out of the noise & distractions of the city.
There’s a gap in this cloud of a summer so I’m heading out for a walk, but here’s a photo that captures some of the surrealism of the past year. I’m the gobshite on the big screen down below. I’ve been lucky in so many ways to have had the opportunities I’ve had, but I try to live by the advice of Naga Ozo, the old Sadhu we met in Varanasi, who once said that “If you give yourself to the universe, it will light your way.”

GPO

Shenanigans

Life has been pretty full on really, in every sense, in a beautiful way. The downs have been heavily outweighed by the ups, and over the past couple of months I’ve come to realise just how small this island of ours really is. I’ve lost count of the readings that have exploded from chance encounters and meetings at the right time and place with people that have welcomed us into their lives, homes, and events with open arms. It’s been humbling, as well as being a lovely reminder of how hospitable we are as a people.

Sales of ‘The Sleeping Warrior’ have taken off better than I ever could have imagined they would. Since publication myself and Chelsea have been travelling across the country to various readings, from bookshops to pubs to theatres to caves to festivals and full on venues, taking in the Derry Heat of the All-Ireland Poetry Slam, where I finished runner up despite the final officially finishing in a draw. That I never competed in a slam before, coupled with only finding out about it at 4pm before a 6.30pm kick off, made for a great night, and although it’s natural to wonder how the deciding vote swung against me, I’m content to know that my words found a place within the minds of another audience, and another dozen book sales softened the blow!

Towards the end of August I took the notion to commemorate the Yeats’ poem ‘September 1913’ by writing a piece a day for the month of September, not really knowing why or if the whole thing would come together. It’s gone to print, and will be available in a couple of weeks. It’s funny how these things work off the back of ideas that spring up on a whim, but it came at a time when there weren’t enough hours in the day to do what needed doing. There still aren’t.

The days are taken up by working on two  different stories that are slowly taking shape. Hopefully by the end of the year at least one of them will be ready, while the other one is already written in my head (though editing is a long and torturous task). Otherwise, we’ve been offline more than on of late, and happily so, the older I get the less time I seem to be able to spend in front of a computer without the need to get the feck away from it again.

The next week or so is the calm before a storm of performances/readings;

October 29th – Out-Spoken in The Star of Kings, Kings Cross, London.

https://www.facebook.com/outspokenldn?fref=ts

October 31st – Yeats Society, Sligo

November 1st – Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

November 2nd, Chapters, Cavan Town

November 8th – Manorhamilton Library

November 16th – Galway, though I need to double check the venue and am reaching the end of the time I can be arsed spending online.

Hopefully I’ll see some of ye along the way. Thanks to all who’ve bought the book. I honestly really appreciate the support and will hopefully catch up with each and every one of you in the flesh to thank you in person.

Stephen

Excerpt from ‘Reflections’

…The day has come, but
they cover their tattoos
with the corporate logos
of importance
in offices
where voices
are a luxury
that doesn’t exist.

*

We still live
in the shadows of empire,
where the lost souls bullied
into time’s last second
end where beginnings
should have been;
The blood of our being,
The ancients of our ways.

I have seen them
fly south for a winter
that will see no spring,
Singing songs
from the island
of the coming,
the going.

Heroes all
of another
place & time…