Marian Shinn

Busy signal?

In fading fragments of a dream
you were there, in green forest light,
talking intangibles, mouthing unspeakables.

Maybe you spoke to catastrophic, inner histories.
I was humming on standby
in search of the next edge.

Maybe ask the universe. It always listens.

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Marian Shinn

Angel Guard

The air was thick with angels. Margaret said so. I didn’t know it at the time, but what else could explain the lack of blood shed from the mind-numbing gunfight that raged around the parking lot. One man peed his pants – but wouldn’t you if you’d had a gun held to your head? But shattered pride was the only wound that day as a tattoo of robbers beat a retreat from the grocery store.

Things happened in slow motion, yet in a crack of time. The shotgun was coming down, aiming at the windscreen in front of my face. I ducked. The noise was numbing. But it was the car behind that was hit.

I was still. Whose foot was on the brake to stop me rolling back down the rise? I don’t recall putting my foot there. I was only conscious of the tremendous noise wrapping around me as unceasing gunfire blasted – through angel wings?

On and on the guns raged. I peeked. The escape bakkie was alongside me now, edging backwards down the drive. Guns were close to me, but they pointed past me. On and on, the bloodless noise.

Suddenly, I was standing next to a screaming man, with my hand on his shoulder. Was he hurt? They’re trying to kill me, he yelled into his security firm’s radio and at anyone listening in this bloodless place. His windscreen was shattered, as were his nerves. But there were no wounds to bleed.

How did I get to this man? I don’t remember. I saw my car, parked neatly in a demarcated spot, under a tree. Who parked it there? I don’t remember. The sun was shining- that I remember from seeing the shade on my car. But I felt no warmth or breeze blowing. Senses seemed to have been blasted away and cocooned in numbness.

Margaret put her hands on me. There were angels looking after you all, she said. Why else was no one hurt in the shattered phone booth across the road? Why were no shoppers hit by flying bullets? Why did the security man rushing into trouble, not get a face full of shattered glass and bullet fragments? Who helped him fall out of the bakkie in time?

All those bullet cases circled in police yellow chalk – and no blood?

Think about it.

Marian Shinn

Night-wind Woman

Night-wind woman, hollering at the open sky,
whirling on a broom of choice, shedding lifelong
shackles, way down there, to soar on thermals of
wild imaginings.

Dismissed earthbound thinglings shade their narrow gaze
as night-wind woman soars on winds of wonder
to punch star holes through black velvet heaven to
peep into new worlds.

Marian Shinn

I watch myself come to the surface
Refusing to be shallowed and banked.
The current driven into the bend in the bank
I glimmer through myself from the colour behind
Margaret Legum

Rhythmic Rebirth

Floating, untouchable on a
rhythm of its own, a benign
moon tugs at the beat
of an ocean floor. Stirring
bits from the depths,
heaving them frothing to
the shore, slamming
into rocks, sucking the sand,
spray painting the air.
I watch myself come to the surface.

Adorned with seaweed,
feet shod in crunching crystals.
Naked behind a slippery shift
of quicksilver water,
I claim the shore
of a mutable world.
Compelled onwards, away from the roar,
not glancing back to the shadows
on the far side of sunbeams.
Refusing to be shallowed and banked.

Teased by the breeze from
distant parched places.
Reeled upwards against the
shoving flow of mountain water,
to the ancient spawning grounds
and death in giving life
in a brew of snow-gouged minerals.
To rest, exhausted and expiring,
in the current driven into
the bend in the bank.

From the rounded pebbles
I glance up through clear
water, to life—refracted
by wind made visible
in rippling crystal,
adorned with slivers of
lives long gone—bronzed leaves,
lonely wings and faded blossoms.
I glimpse through myself
from the colour behind.

Marian Shinn

 Becoming the Earth

Bubbling muds of creation
laced with detritus of aeons passed.
Shaping and evolving strange and
glorious creatures. Children
of the universe, filled in
every pore with shatterings
of the Big Bang – sucked up
into veins, feeding brains
sparking creation.
We are the children of the
primeval ooze, energised
by the lightning of creative
earth storms, shaping the place
we call home.

We call home.
Earth storms, shaping the place
by lighting of creative
primeval ooze-energised.
We are the children of the
sparking creation.
Into brains, feeding veins
of the Big Bang, sucked up with
every pore, with shatterings
of the universe filled in.
Glorious creatures, children,
shaping and evolving. Strange, and
laced with the detritus of aeons passed.
Bubbling muds of creation

.

Marian Shinn

Doors to Destroy

Solid doors, built to overawe and imprison,
opening only to engorge children into a red-bricked abyss.
Sucking them in from their carefree open spaces.
Spitting them out – broken or duplicitous – at the final bell.
Black metal trunks, owners stencilled in white,
lugged by black men in white tunics up red-polished stairs
to rows of mosquito-net shrouded beds in pastel-walled dormitories.
Hawked over by Victorian spinsters, spewing colonialist bile,
shaping, paring, twisting young lives into acquiescence for peace’s sake.
Watched by silent black men—patient, biding their time,
waiting for life to re-assemble on the far side of shattered doors.

Waiting for life to re-assemble on the far side of shattered doors.
Watched by silent black men—patient, biding their time.
Shaping, paring, twisting young lives into acquiescence for peace’s sake,
hawked over by Victorian spinsters, spewing colonialist bile.
To rows of mosquito-net shrouded beds in pastel-walled dormitories,
lugged by black men in white tunics up red-polished stairs,
black metal trunks, owners stencilled in white.
Spitting them out – broken or duplicitous – at the final bell.
Sucking them in from their carefree open spaces.
Opening only to engorge children into a red-bricked abyss –
solid doors, built to overawe and imprison.
 

Marian Shinn

Keeping the Faith

Hunting history in the detritus of forgotten lives,
liquidising hostile places with
the energy of anger.
The sting terrifies and comforts me.

Liquidising hostile places.
Blessed is the holy child of my writing.
The sting terrifies and comforts me –
I long for the centre of the waterfall.

Blessed is the holy child of my writing,
but hobbling, as if with crutch.
I long for the centre of the waterfall,
faces tumbling,

but hobbling, as if with crutch.
Hunting history in the detritus of forgotten lives.

Marian Shinn

Deflections of Being

Slivers of being, ever receding, never yielding.
Do you see me, or just your perception
of what you think I’m shielding?

Are these tricks of light, these images I’m wielding?
Bouncing between us in perpetual deception.
Silvers of being, ever receding, never yielding.

Snug haven of a soul constantly fielding
the probing lights that seek comprehension
of what you think I am shielding.

Shifting shadows duck and sway, shielding
a hesitant soul from too much attention.
Silvers of being, ever receding, never yielding.

Flashing shards of images, deftly concealing
mirrors of understanding or tell-tale reflections
of what you think I am shielding.

Is this me? Is this you? Or are we wielding
shards of imagined selves, eclipsed for protection?
Slivers of being, ever receding, never yielding
what you think I am shielding.

Marian Shinn

Rapping at the Door

Clear the clutter.
Sweep the desk.
Dump the wrapping
of who I was.
Make space.
Make light.
Make fresh air.
Come on in to
shape the new life.

All this stuff
was stress and fluff
picked up on
meandering paths.

Lessons learned.
Move on now.
Truths have soaked
into strong bones.
Don’t need the
wrapping any more.
Make space.
Make space.
A new pace
is tapping
at the door.

Marian Shinn

Magnetic Mystery

Barefooted
Treading softly, compelled onwards.
Hesitant to unbalance
this delicate vibration.
Pulled towards magnetic mystery.
Naked nerves claw the air –
searching for signals.
The tenderest, tentative touch
sets tightening violin strings humming.
Stillness. Heart too timorous to drum
its betrayal of control.
Magnetic mystery tugging.
A delicate vibration of wafting moth wings crescendos
The tightening strings
straining to rip from their pegs
to fly
across a yawning chasm
to resonate a hymn
of surrender.
Touch shatters the delicate vibration-
shoves tension trembling into turmoil.
Turmoil ignited into cymbals of thunder
sent flashing to earth.
Stripped naked.
Silenced
by gentle rain.

(100 words)

Marian Shinn

Reflection of Time

Through the freshly opened window I see the mist wafting off the cold river, down there, beyond the azaleas. Its cold seeps up the frosty lawn which no early bird has yet visited. They’re still snug in their nests.

Silence. No bird song, no cars. Just the gentle murmur of moving water and the drip of dew off the gutters.

Tiny diamonds of mist animate into a slow waltz of mercury trails. They accelerate as I open the window wider. The lifting gloom of a crisp spring morning promises warmth once the sun sheds its shawl of mist.

With the light on the walls where paintings once hung I’ll uncover the reflections that one man made of light and life.

Without light, my dear, there is no form. Just feel. What is the point of feeling if your eyes cannot see the shifting reality that light brings to our world. This is what the old farts at the Academy couldn’t understand. Pompous men in suits and hats who wanted to keep their reality in irons. They felt safer that way.

I left them alone, most times. Occasionally I threw some light their way. But they shied away from what they felt was a threat to their order of things.

You see, light ever changes our view of things. Try catching a shaft of light in a dusty room, or wipe a peephole through a gloomy window, and the view changes. Shades of colour and their shadows, etched out in a form, but for a moment. Move your feet and the picture has changed. New angles, new light, different perspective.

I tried, as you see here in this painting of the river, to tell you the time of day, the season, the breeze o n the water, the later afternoon perfumes. But it’s fleeting. The picture changed before my first brushstroke – and the day was different before the paint dried.

People of your time have it differently. Cameras, I believe, snatch and freeze a moment they’re too rushed to savour. Essence escapes such frozen moments. They flash it and promise to reflect. They seldom do – or if they do, can’t recall the inspiration of that moment. You may have caught a snatch of time, but the photograph lacks the feeling of the wind and the warmth of the sun, the smell of the sea, and the sound of a bird flying by. These are pictures – not reflections.

Eventually, just before I died, the men in suits and hats, opened their minds to what I was showing them. There’s some satisfaction in knowing that they finally saw the light. Before the shadows that defined the image bothered the backs of the minds.

While I painted and chased sunbeams we had a good life out here, where the nuances of each season perfumed the air, were felt underfoot. We felt time passing as the air passed over our skin. Only to be confirmed by the ticking of the clock.

Midday lunch was a bounty of the seasons. Jugs of wine from down the road, vegetables from our patch by the river. Monique made splendid chicken pies and, if I extended myself, poached trout caught from the river. I must tell you that the smell of baking bread is a great distraction to a painter of my appetites.

You see, my dear, in these paintings against my sunshine wall, I lived my life in search of the light other men didn’t know was there.

He vanished as the sun topped the willow tree. Was his voice in my head? His reflections seemed so tangible. But were they my imaginings grounded in scholarly tomes and reference guides. Had his spirit refused to leave this place, presuming heaven to be too bright and crowded and complacent compared with his space on earth.

I walk through the lightening rooms, touching rustic furniture and favourite objects of 150 years ago. Blue and white crockery. A striped jug that once held summer posies. An impression of the life he lived – composed from objects, memories, knowledge and imaginings.

He’s still here. Watching me. Willing me to absorb some of his spirit. The spirit that refuses to go to heaven where it’ll be wasted on the comfortable dead. Is he waiting to see if, by the end of my day’s wandering, I will begin to really know what he tried to show us.

There’s a whiff of pipe tobacco. And linseed oil – from his smock or the furniture warming up in the weak sunlight.

Just a fleeting imagining of a big man. Ever watchful.

Marian Shinn

Dusklight

Canyons in dusklight;
vastness surrounds us –
layer upon layer of harmonies,
from core to nurturing air.

Vastness around us
as we whirl in the universe.
From core to nurturing air,
the evening star is our guide.

As we whirl in the universe
night’s silence creeps closer.
The evening star is our guide.
Shrouding pastel dusk in darkness

night’s silence creeps closer.
Layer upon layer of harmonies,
shrouding pastel dusk in darkness –
Canyons in dusklight.