Beryl Eichenberger

Mind storm

In comes the storm,
a clanging, scattered
army.

In her mind, jagged threads,
running,
playing.

A door creaks.
Tender husband
enters the storm.

He takes her anger,
envelops her gently,
lets her rage.

Peace descends slowly.
Tense, unheard rooms
fall quiet, easy.

Limp cool hands
in silent acceptance
flick in zigzags across her lap.

The brilliant lightning
throws their sky
into surreal silhouette.

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Beryl Eichenberger

Pebbles of words

I own my words.
Like a pebble
rolled in my hand,
round and proclaiming
is my word, digging
into the hill, planting
its smooth time,
a fragment of the earth.
Little world they whisper,
sleepy caves own nothing
even the grain of sand
sifting, owns nothing.

Looking, walking, being
takes back the soul.
You were island, country,
it was from you always.

In my hand,
I roll my pebble
to a small grain of sand.
My words a granule
I own.

Beryl Eichenberger

Flight

Her breath transports through self and into dark skies
Future lies within her grasp as wings take hold
Lifting , flowing in the centre of her world
beyond reality

Night wind woman flying through the perilous night
Chasing in and out of dreams in fleet pursuit
Spirits lifting as the world reflects in light
Reality calls

Beryl Eichenberger

The secret ingredient

The cavernous chambers opened out from a vast stone staircase widening in its descent from the light above. The stairs were an experience! Each one was as wide as a landing, lit with fluttering fireflies bobbing and weaving to create the greatest light. The edges of the steps were jewel encrusted catching and reflecting the dancing light of the fireflies.

Great urns were set on each step, fragrances wafting from their inners reflecting nature’s bounty, catching the senses and creating thoughts of wide fields and plains thick with herbs and flowers.

At the bottom the cave stretched far into the distance, dimly lit crevices barely visible in the shadows. Massive cushions and a deep armchair (as big as a ship) were bright with coloured throws and looked lived in and worn.

The fireflies led the way, fluttering and floating as one chamber after the next was revealed in the eerie, yet strangely comforting light. From far inside a heavenly fragrance drifted outwards and the clatter of pots and pans and murmurs of a deep voice resonated against the craggy walls of the cavern.

Alois, the gentle giant was busy concocting his secret recipe.

His great hands deftly threw a pinch of this and a pinch of that into the big pot on the stove. His hair, tied back in a pony tail, damp with exertion, his chubby cheeks pink with the heat from the flames. His warm dark eyes searched the shelves above for the vital ingredient, the one that created the special emotion that everyone needed. He pushed aside jugs and pots and urns his muttering reaching a crescendo as anger took hold.

He turned to the little girl watching the theatrics from the corner of the vast kitchen.

“Where is it? “ he thundered.

She picked up a shard of a broken urn and ran her finger over the surface. She licked her finger and said: “It was here!”

He roared again and realizing that his anger had wasted the precious ingredient – he started towards the girl who scuttled out of his way She knew that she had to find some replacement to restore the calm in the great cave.

As he lumbered across the kitchen she gently put her hand up to stop him and turning she ran into one of the many dark crevices that held secret passages up to the magic field.

Alois sank into his old kitchen chair to wait.

Twisting and turning, the rocky passages opened up for tiny Topsy as she quickly ran through them climbing up, up the special flight of stairs that only appeared when she clicked her fingers.

Out into the light she ran across the flat mountaintop into the rocky outcrop that held the magic bushes. Spying the creamy yellow flowers she sought, she ran faster.

Alois will be happy now and calm will return, she thought.

Her special friend had saved her from the jaws of the mountain bear and given her a home deep within this “mountain of the moon”. Her knowledge of the many plants growing in secret places on the mountain and his love of cooking had made them into a formidable team and now they had discovered the dish that carried the power of salvation.

She grabbed a fistful of the pretty flowers and with them clutched tightly to her chest she ran back down the magic stairs into the kitchen.

“Here,” she gasped.

He took them from her, breathing a great sigh of relief. Grabbing his pestle and mortar he quickly ground them to a powder and threw a measured amount into the pot. As he stirred and tasted he felt the anger dissipating and calm flowing over him.

He bent to pick Topsy up in his huge hand.

“Thank you little one – we have the secret dish to save the world,” he said. “It is time for us to introduce it.”

Beryl Eichenberger

Calm waters

Cool, calm space with bright splashes of colour.
Calm. No anger, no tension.  My being floats. Tranquil.

Words on the page transport me to a new world. Thoughts take hold – a flurry of striking waves. The hard pip of anger grips me, turns light dark. I live desolation, alone and in fear. Black puddles where unknown forces spin into an unrelenting spiral, make a hungry howl worthless.

Wailing against injustice is wasted energy. Railing against cruelty is wasted energy.

Approach with calm for best effect.
Package calm and anger to use when appropriate.

Beryl, Carol, Cheryl, Jean & Jean

Seeing or Not Seeing

by
Do I see only what I want to see?
Do I look beyond the perfect mask?
Do I delve below the surface?

The space of challenge
is tossed and turned on the sea of life,
a lighthouse on a stormy shore,
under the north star.

Seeing or not seeing?
Just a physical phenomenon?
Is there some line of dark light in a meeting of minds?

Find the dark core
where dragons and whirlpools live,
where fireflies play in a midnight forest,
where nothing is cast in stone.
Where silence is tangible,
where the unseen is seen.

Beryl Eichenberger

Voices

Take my voice and light it
vibrant in its tone
Take my life and fold it
in the circumstance of time
Take my love and hold it
in the river depths of thought

Take my limbs and wrap them
in the resonance of time
Take my words and hear them
as the babble slowly dies
Take my face and watch it
as expression frees and flows

Take my mouth and touch it
trace the lilt of quirky curves
Take my hand and hold it
feel the rhythm of the pulse
Take my hope and live it
as the scale of life flows on

Take my voice and light it
let reality take hold.
Take my life – enfold it
till the shadows move in tight
Take my love and live it
when all else is gone on earth

Beryl Eichenberger

The Memory Book

At 80 she was still very active and her small house at the edge of the sea in the Cape West Coast village was bright and cheerful, always full of youngsters – friends and family, ex-students and hangers on. Her bright humour and endless stories were a catalyst to these curious young people.

The early morning hours allowed her to savour her memories, enjoy the solitude.
Always busy with this or that project, each day had a goal. Her latest was to gather all her bits and pieces, photographs, scribblings – poetry, prose, – recipes, calligraphy and her memories – and craft them into a book that would be a legacy to the friends and family she loved.

June 7
Dear Diary
Something woke me at 4am and I lay in the darkness unable to sleep again. All I could see was the faint glimmer of the moon reflected on the sea.
Calm – peace – this silence allows me to reflect.
I eased myself out of bed and opened the kitchen door to enjoy the ozone freshness that lingers at this time. Mischka greeted me loudly – cats are such a part of my life.
I am so grateful that I found this place – the perfect space to record my stories. Today we’ll start with the very early years and see what fun I can have with those colourful, long distant memories.

I am seven years old and invited to a party.
All the way there I chatter to Dad – I am a bit nervous ‘cos I don’t know this family, but all the kids in my class will be there, so it’ll be all right.
But a party!!
We haven’t had parties for ages…. I know there’s still rations ‘cos Mum always has to give those stamp things when she goes shopping so – a party!
We get to a café in the middle of town – it’s all closed up and looks like no-one’s there. Dad rings the bell and this huge man opens the door – he has a moustache and looks quite friendly but I don’t know him.
Mr Frost (that’s his name) takes me into the café and the tables are all laid and look very pretty – there’s balloons and streamers – it looks like Christmas – but no-one is here yet – I am the first!
What if no one else comes and I am left here all alone until Dad comes back? I sit down and Mr Frost asks me if I would like a drink. I open my mouth but I can’t speak I am so nervous – my throat has closed – what if I can never speak again?

August 4
Dear Diary
Finally the days are getting longer and my pattern of early rising has set in so I enjoy more of the morning and the sunrises. I have more time to get my memory book in shape. It takes longer to do things now but maybe that’s a good thing – time to think – not something I used to do as a pastime!
The book is taking shape, sometimes I think it’s just my excuse for reliving my past but then one of my young friends comes and asks me how it’s getting on and can they see it and they seem to like it. I suppose it takes them back to a time they didn’t know.
Today I am going to the local café for a birthday tea. I remember a time, so long ago, when going alone to a birthday party paralysed me with fear and left me dumb.
How life changes one.
I love the liberation of going alone, staying as long as I want and leaving when it suits me.

I am 22 and have made my first major life decision.
I am tired of being herded into a life that I know is not for me. I don’t want the conventional marriage, two point whatever kids, a nice home and all the rest of the stuff that seems to be the most important thing to my family.
Today I decided to escape.
I told Dad and the twins, very clearly and slowly that I had decided to leave the country and go to South Africa. I told them twice.
I told them how I saw my future here and how I wanted my future to be.
I know this is the right thing to do – I feel brave and adventurous and now I know it’s OK not to be like everyone else.

August 5
Dear Diary

Well the party wasn’t so bad!
There we sat, a bevy of chattering old ladies making a buzz of noise in the usually sedate café. Deliciously decadent slices of chocolate cake were served with steaming cups of good Italian coffee – I do like good coffee – never really got into the instant stuff.
The real highlight was Rose’s granddaughter who read us the most delightful poetry – truly inspirational. Seems she is a published poet so I spoke to her about my project – rather diffidently asking if this type of thing might be published. She was very encouraging so I invited her to come to one of my famous pasta evenings to continue the conversation. Am I being over confident?

She flexed her fingers carefully to get the circulation going properly and opened her computer. The manuscript was growing daily as she transcribed the many words she had written over the years.
She turned the pages of a battered notebook, this was an interesting year, her arrival in Cape Town from Johannesburg. Her old eyes grew misty as the memories flooded her mind and her fingers flew.

Beryl Eichenberger

False hopes
 
The walls of his office were bathed in soft light, creating confidence and warmth on this cold winter’s evening. The leather couch looked inviting as he motioned me to sit. I sank into the soft folds and accepted the drink he offered, feeling safe and cosseted.
 
It was good to be with this old and trusted friend. Suave and sophisticated, he was the epitome of success – immaculately dressed, perfectly coiffed – he came from an image-conscious generation – the mask of good looks never slipping.
 
My mind drifted back to the early years of my business when he had helped and cajoled, advised and offered his accounting skills to see me through those first confusing years.
Now we were both well established and had remained friends rather than business associates as we had moved on our separate paths.
 
The sharp, wheaty smell of the whisky lingered in my nostrils and stung the back of my throat as we toasted to successes past – and future enterprises!

“ I have an interesting business proposition,” he said.  “I need your advice.”

A jab of caution made me hesitate, but as he proceeded to tell me about this new investment opportunity, his enthusiasm infected me. By the time he had finished I was hooked, leaning towards him with all the eagerness of a child not wanting to miss out.
 
The plan was made – I rallied our friends around and suggested they also get involved – we were excited at the future prospects. What did we have to lose? It was a surefire investment – we pictured how comfortable we would be in the future – maybe a new car, invest in a property – a good holiday….the ideas flowed as we dreamt of how to spend our wealth.
 
A month later a phone call sent a sliver of ice through my heart!

Our money had gone straight into his pocket – there was no “investment” he had stolen from all of us – his trusting friends.
 
If only my commonsense had prevailed when that quicksilver, intuitive flash swept over me on that fateful night.

So perfectly staged – so seemingly innocent, who would not have fallen for this smooth operator and his silken promises of riches to come.

If I had listened to my inner voice I could have saved myself money, anger and fear!
 
Ah, but revenge is sweet.
 
He had reckoned without our numerous resources and the fact that amongst the circle of friends he had chosen to infiltrate, a number of lawyers held sway.
 
Within days we had sequestrated our former ‘friend’s estate’, bringing him to his knees and his fraudulent dealings to an end.
 
Our money restored, but our pride still rather battered – how could we, as intelligent, highly educated people, have fallen for this scam – we waited impatiently for the court date to be announced.
 
En masse we entered the courtroom.

The prisoner looked up nervously as we took our seats.

No longer was this the man we had known. Dishevelled, badly shaven and rake thin – his pallor had all the signs of long days of being confined.
 
A twinge of pity crossed my heart – to be quickly dismissed.
 
A simple case of fraud was entered and with short shrift the case was heard and judgment was given.
 
We watched, like brooding vultures, as he was led down to begin his prison sentence – justice had prevailed and this man would not menace our society with his games for many years.

As we walked away, jubilant in our victory, I felt the angry waves that had assailed me since hearing how I had been duped, wash away into a calm, slow moving tide.

A sense of warmth enveloped me – there was justice after all – and, like a safe harbour after the storm, my pride regained its place.
 
I raised the glass of whisky with my friends, savouring the smoothness, enjoying the warmth.
 

Beryl Eichenberger

Caught in the middle

The old, scarred doors creaked open. Percy didn’t normally travel in this ugly tradesman’s cabin with its reputation for grinding to a halt at inappropriate moments. But it was hot, the lifts were acting up and this was the first to come.  The walls were scuffed and the lift smelled – of stale sweat and printer’s ink. Someone had attempted to polish the brass plate and the buttons were streaked with green. Percy fastidiously used his handkerchief to press the 6th floor button.

The doors shuddered closed, then with a grinding crunch opened again.

Lisa, the pretty Woman’s editor dashed in looking nervously around. “Shut the door – quick – “ she muttered and pressed herself against the opposite wall. Her normally coiffed hair was untidy, black rings underscored her eyes. She looked unusually disheveled, Percy mused, she who always looked down her nose at him. He smoothed the folds of his Armani jacket over his corpulent frame, drew himself up and held his stomach in.  He turned to ask her what the problem was, but with a glare she faced the wall, tapping her foot impatiently as the doors drew slowly closed.

Percy fiddled with his collar. The enclosed space was getting hotter and sweat gleamed on his bald head. Lisa glanced with distaste at the arrogant little man, head of Marketing. Percy fixed his eyes on the brass plate. Silly bitch – probably some problem with that smarmy husband of hers.  He returned to the details of the campaign he was planning to present to the Board  – if the lift ever got to his floor.

His grand plans did not include neurotic females with wild emotions and irrational behaviour. No – his plan would take the magazine in a new direction, and this stuck-up Constantia bitch didn’t feature.

She seemed somewhat recovered so put on his kindly face and asked,  “Had a fight with Jim, then?”  Lisa looked straight at him, hating his pug nose, small mean lips, the currant eyes nestling in the chunky folds of his fat face. She lifted her chin disdainfully. ”Mind your own business,” she said quietly. This was something that no-one could help her with! She turned to face the wall again willing the lift to move faster. If she could only get to the safety of her office she would be fine.

The lift cranked slowly and inexorably upwards. Maybe it would help if she told someone.  “There was a man following me from the car park, I ran into the lift to escape him, “ she breathed. Ah, thought Percy, now when she may need help she’s all sweetness and light. “Hrmmph” was all he could muster.
As if on cue and echoing his tone the lift doors clanked open.

A thin, foxy-faced man with a distinctive white streak in his hair stepped in. Quickly pressing the “close” button of the lift he leaned against the brass plate and leered at the two occupants. “Clarence! Lisa gasped.  She looked wildly towards the fast closing doors. Clarence laughed at the expression on her face. “Well, missy we meet again and you can’t run away this time.” His rake-thin body shook with mirth. “And who might you be” he looked at Percy menacingly.

Trying to look nonchalant and unconcerned, Percy drew a deep breath He was about to answer when the old lift juddered to a halt – between floors! Jolted off his feet he staggered to regain balance and grabbed hold of Lisa’s arm
 “We’re stuck” he cried. ” Press the emergency button!”
“So we are,” replied Clarence. “ Exactly as I planned. So now Lisa there’s no escape – aren’t you going to give your brother the welcome he deserves?” he grinned showing chipped brown teeth. He reached out to grab her arm.

Percy’s eyebrows shot up as he took in the elegant blonde and the shifty looking man – now there’s a story, he thought.

Beryl Eichenberger

Parting

The naked prawns lay in a bath of creamy melted butter, redolent of garlic, lemon and herbs. The rising mists of the rich sauce teased her senses and the fleshy pink of the prawns resembled fat pinkies elegantly curled in anticipation.

“This will revive the spirits,” she thought as she moved towards the table.

He was toying with his glass of wine, silently contemplating the careful details of the table.

To the strains of a violin concerto she moved slowly in rhythm with the music and as she laid the dish before him she gently nudged him.

“Eat – things aren’t that bad,” she laughed –“enjoy this whilst you can – in a few days you’ll be in the desert and this may be the last really good meal you have for a long time.”

He looked up at her – taking in her smiling face and her relaxed demeanour. To others’ eyes this would be a romantic dinner, yet here they were, two old friends who had never been lovers, celebrating a parting  – a completion of this cycle of friendship. Theirs was an idyllic relationship – no physical entanglement to confuse the senses but a complete understanding of each other’s needs – friends who had a history of more than 30 years. Across continents, between marriages, as children grew up, uncomplicated their lives had melded and parted like the waves of the many oceans that had separated them over the years.

She raised the juicy pinkness to her mouth, crunching softly, allowing the butter to spill down her chin, lying in glistening jewels against her skin. He reached across to wipe them away and his gentle finger lingered, tracing the butter jewels and moving up to her cheek to lie against the curve of her cheekbone. She raised her hand to cover his in a womblike embrace releasing him from the guilt of parting.

 “We’ll always be friends,” he countered to her unspoken comment, “you are my anchor – always here, smiling and welcoming. I will be back.”

She touched his arm and in that moment felt the current of sensuality flow between them. A ripple of warmth spread through her body.

A tightness in her throat allowed her only to nod as she felt his fingers move slowly back down her face to cup her chin.

In tune, they knew that they would be together long after the last lover had closed the door, and even as the tides of parting rushed towards her the moment was complete.

Beryl Eichenberger

Sudden rain over a darkening ocean
Compass points hidden by the approaching storm
A demon swirls beneath the surface,
howling at the rising moon
Jean Badenhorst

Sudden rage

Steam rises above the rippling surface
Coolness below salves the heat
And the gentle path to shore
allows them to drift
gently…
Grey clouds gather
The sea ruffles and splinters
Sudden rain over a darkening ocean

Sun on their backs
Summer afternoon promise
Sea swiftly changing
as waves start hurtling
Mind starts fracturing,
foaming on a choppy path
Searching…
Flimsy craft topples
Searching…
Compass points hidden by the approaching storm

From the madness of the city
crazy white waves gather
rushing towards her
White edges snarling-
no swift peace here
Hilly outcrops call
beyond the limits of her rising fear
One step faster,
crashing helplessly on the beach
A demon swirls beneath the surface

Galloping moments of anguish
ignite the passion,
Light flashes across the wild breakers
The time between
grips reality
Voices whip through the crippled trees
The last gasp of the early evening
seeks help.
Darkness starts its embrace
howling at the rising moon.

Beryl Eichenberger

Stepping of thought
lies deep in my life
Shallow yet beyond the daily emptiness
Am I able to wait for what lies for me
deep inside
These new seas to traverse
Mind grasps visit
and creative healing process
In the depths: excitement, lightness
has the same uplift
Shapes, moulds as we have forged upwards
Life moves outwards…

Life moves outwards…
shapes, moulds as we have forged upwards
has the same uplift
In the depths: excitement, lightness
and creative healing process
Mind grasps visit
These new seas to traverse
deep inside
Am I able to wait for what lies for me
Shallow, yet beyond the daily emptiness
Lies deep to my life
Stepping of thought

Beryl Eichenberger

Corridor of dreams

Unhurried, she entered a long hallway, lit from a skylight above. Softly dancing shadows moved in front of her feet. 

Doors opened off the hallway. Painted in brilliant primary colours, like a child’s building block, they were alternately ajar or closed. A red door stood open, and she walked closer, drawn to it by a familiar smell.

Her mother stood at the stove, a bright red apron tied around her waist, prematurely white hair drawn back from her face.  The blackened frying pan she always used stood on the old gas ring. Crisply diced onions sizzled in bubbling chicken fat and her mouth watered. Next she knew would come carrots, bright and earthy, tomatoes, sweet and tender and finally the roughly diced liver that with its strong animal fragrance bound them all together.

Her eyes drifted upwards and she saw a young teenager struggling with homework in her upstairs bedroom as the smell of food drifted up the narrow stairs. Soon she would be called down to join her family for supper. Her mother, alive and sparkling with bright humour, her nuisance twin brother and sister dragged in from their outdoor games, her father jovial and attentive.

She softly drew the door closed and looked down the corridor to the next door.

This door beckoned bright yellow and the dust and sweat and hot African sun assaulted her as she stepped over the threshold.  It had rained and the five o’clock thunderstorm had left electricity sharp and pungent in the air. The streets were washed of dust and grime leaving them gleaming and bright ready for the familiar tramp of people – more and more people. She was tired, another all night Hillbrow party, and so she had spent her Sunday browsing in old record shops, picking up long forgotten LP’s, then wandering into Exclusive Books to spend a lazy morning soaking up words. Sometimes she felt as though words ignited her and sent her flying into the next adventure – the adventure to find who she really was …

She walked over the brow and on to the sedate tree-lined streets  – a suburban edge to the vibrant transient centre. This heavily populated flatland was her stamping ground, full of young immigrants and travellers making their way around the world She climbed the steps to her block of flats and travelled the five floors in the creaky old lift to her worn front door. She called hello to her flatmates, but as she opened the door, a quiver of green caught her eye and she turned back to look down the long corridor.

Green, the colour of vegetation in the lushness of the tropical. The door swung open  to the smell of spices – a potent and heady perfume. A cobbled street lay before her and beyond that she glimpsed the high wall that led on to the courtyard of the secret house. Secret only to her and her lover – their afternoons a tangle of sheets and sweating bodies as they grappled with their lust and then faded away into the soporific gentleness after lovemaking.  A secret that saved her sanity and reminded her she was still attractive and desirable. Time was edging her out of life and she needed to grasp hold of it.

At the far end of the long passageway a door gleamed blue, bright and precious like tanzanite or the azure of the sea.

She grasped the handle, pushed and rattled, but the door refused to budge. She stared at it, perplexed, intrigued. There must be a reason it won’t open, she thought. I’ll come back and try it again, tomorrow.