Apr 27, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: "Clouds"

Eh. I guess "poetry" is too sticky a wicket for me. All those rhymey words and stuff seem to evade me. So, how about a bit of fiction?


The peat fire behind it's brass grate burned with a soft light, filling the cottage's room with soft scents and dancing, moving shadows. The firelight danced across the brooding arches of the old Philco radio, teasing a golden light off the worn knobs and the convex curve of glass over it's dial. A rack of pipes hanging on the wall caught the light, making the finely grained wood bowls seem to move and sway. "As long as I can remember," he wrote, "I wanted to be able to walk among the clouds." The sussurus of the old Parker fountain pen stopped for a moment, and the man sat back in his old, brown leather chair. The creak of the chair's hidden mechanisms and the quiet pop and rustle of the fire were the only sounds in the little room as he took a few puffs on his pipe. The pale tendrils of smoke coiled and writhed around his head, joining the considerable cloud that already hung like a fog in the room, jostling and gyring around the heavy beams of the roof. A smoke ring joined the clouds, then another, and his head bent back to the journal laid open in front of him. The nib of his pen paused for a moment above the creamy paper, and resumed it's wanderings.

"As a child I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were solid things, and that if I could simply get up to them I would find that I could run, tumble across them without hurt, and leap from fluffy lump to cottony pile." The pen paused again, balanced just above the paper and a few more puffs made the embers in his bowl flare into brief life. The smoke crept up the still air to join the dance above his head, their stately movements broken and reformed as he pushed the old leather chair back from the desk and stood.

Capping the pen and lying it across the open page he turned from the desk, with it's comfortable clutter of papers and burned matches, flakes of tobacco and the glass dome over the nautilus shell. A battered green fedora lay on top of a stack of leather-bound books, and one hand reached out to lift it by it's crown. With a deft flip he perched it on his head and tugged on the wide brim to settle it into place. Walking across the room with an ease born of long familiarity he opened the wooden door and stepped out onto the flagstones, looking out at the open sward before him. Shoving his hands into the volumnious pockets of his jacket he found the tamp made of antler and a loose spill of wooden lucifers secreted there. Reassured, he set out down the path with an easy stride.

Past the huge nodding heads of roses and hydrangeas, around the blood-red spears of gladiolas he walked in no particular rush. He knew that if he wanted to he could find Holmes somewhere in the garden, perched cross-legged on a hummock of grass like a gangly crow all wreathed in smoke, puffing, deep in thought, on his black and oily clay. If he so desired he knew he might find the little grove where Milne and Tolkien stood, sharing stories and a pouch of some powerful blend whose recipe could be traced back to Longbottom. He knew that if he walked enough he would come across his mate working at transplanting bulbs or moving herbs, her red hair and pale skin protected from the evening sun by a big floppy straw hat.

This time however something else seemed to prey on his mind. Clenching the pipe's bit in his teeth, leaving white swirls of vanilla-scented Cavendish smoke to circle and eddy behind his head he set out across the grass, his jacket's hem rustling the tall green fronds like mice in hay. When the soft burble of the creek began to make it's way into his crowded thoughts he paused and looked up. The evening sky was lined with long tendrils of clouds, as though some sky-bound Zen gardner had raked them into perfectly straight lavender and peach furrows, zephyrs representing some eternal cosmic ideal that was just out of reach. He stood there for some minutes, lost in thought, the only movement the occasional puff of smoke from his pipe, wispy white tendrils reaching for a higher roof than the one in the cottage.

With a gentle shrug he let the dark silk jacket fall from his shoulders and, clenching his pipe firmly in his teeth, he bent his knees and leapt. The fedora tumbled down to lie on it's crown in the grass, it's satin lining reflecting the last light of the setting sun.


Mona Buonanotte said...

I have goosebumps all over.

I'm not joking.

This was an awesome read. AWESOME. Thanks for the word!

And his feet found the clouds, didn't they?

Nancy Dancehall said...

Oh, I LOVE the ending. *s* I can see the sunset.

Irrelephant said...

Mona, thank you dear for the kind words. For a blogger/writer who more often doubts his own abilities than he credits them it means a lot to hear that I've moved someone as much as that little blurp seems to have moved you.

And honestly sometimes I think they haven't, not yet. I think he's still in mid-jump. He's at that point where half the time he's certain he's going to land on those suddenly solid clouds, and half the time he's terrified that he's going to fall right through them and not stop until he hits the ground.

Nancy, I'm glad you did. I rewrote that paragraph about five times before I was satisfied with how it flowed. I kept thinking about the sunsets in Baton Rouge--they turn a surreal pommegranate colour that I'm told is caused by the chemical plant emissions there. It always pained me that such beauty could come from poison.

Scott from Oregon said...


I have mixed feelings Mr. Irrelephant. Honest ones, but mixed.

I think you wrote this very well, but what i don't think, is that you wrote it in your own true voice.

Sometimes I hear your voice coming through your writings, and it is natural and gifted.

This comes across as "capable" but not natural. There is a lot of mechanical savvy here, and some good choices of diction. My feeling though, is that you don't trust yourself to listen to yourself and you should. I've heard some good stuff come out of you when you weren't paying so much attention.

Jay said...

I hate to say it, but I do chose prose over poetry almost every time.
There was such beauty in this.

Irrelephant said...

Scott--thank you, most sincerely for the honest appraisal. I've thought about your words and mine, and 'how' I wrote the piece all weekend, and I see what you're saying. I guess I need to stop working at it so hard. *s*

Jay--I love poetry, I do, but I just don't have the knack for it. And honestly, when I write poetry it feels like I'm realllly faking it. *lol* At least prose doesn't have so many restrictions.

Scott from Oregon said...

Try writing this as if it were something that excited or depressed or affected you personally.

In other words, just tell me what happened with the details you, sir, think are important.

That voice in your head is where the special stuff comes from, the stuff that doesn't "sound" like everybody else.

When you try to be too literary, and get all into that, you lose that special voice and your writing becomes too generic.

I like your voice better. Much better.