Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture.org has been on the internet. Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure is on the internet now.
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Ahead and across his path laid a tree felled by fungi. The wild child of the Cherokee plunked down on it, thinking, ‘what a day this has been: a day of trying hours and fear-filled seconds. Time remembered is time suspended.’
He moved from sitting to lying prostrate: motionless, quiet. Feeling diminished both in spirit and in strength, he listened to the complicated dirges of the jungles: the howling and hooting, fierce cries, mating calls.
‘A song of the spheres: it’s in my ears.’
The song traveled deeper to be within his being: harmonic reverberations ringing through his reverie. Then came pauses in the jungle song, so complicated, that when the song stopped, silences crossed the air in waves. He lay motionless; only his eyes moved. They traveled up to the tree tops to settle on the canopies weaving together mosses and vines, nests and neak-tas, birds and leaves.
‘These tree branches are so thick with profundity, I can see but brief sketches of the skies.’
To the ground his gaze traveled: down to a soggy earth, up to the mosses hanging on the trees. To the air, and the insects flying with transparent wings. To the trees with snakes slithering up the bark, to the dew sparkling on tall grasses.
Jungle creatures watched him with knowing eyes. Around, and over all floated the amorphous veils of mist that softened the distances of space to time. Waves of lights drenched all with a milky phosphoresce that emanated from the combinations of the jungle’s funguses. All around him shone this phantom light, and in the skies shone the light that was born of a dozen dying stars. Together, the light of the skies and the lights of the earth created a powder-luminosity that came to settle on the rosy orchids clinging to the bark of a host-tree.
His gaze paused to focus on the orchids lit with this iridescent radiance, the orchids woven through and across with the webs of spiders: the webs sparkled with dew. And while he was watching the flowers being woven through, unknowingly, he was being hypnotized. How long before the wild child was deep within the webs of orchids? Was it moon-driven moments or the time of tides? And when he was being webbed through, he was neither feeling the humidity, nor was he remembering his recent and near escapes from death. He, too, was being woven through to be within silver-star time spinning him to slow to slower. He was leaving his body: he was going out and further out to be behind yesterdays and following them. He was without will when he left his body to step over his soul; his heart so swollen with dreams, it felt heavy in his chest. Transported, he became a part of the timelessness, which did not feel the lizards or the ants that were moving across his prostrate body; he was the same as the banyan tree on which he was resting. No more, or no less than the bird in the lower branches of the tree. The bird was neither fearful of the wild child, nor were the insects. Somewhere, sometime on his journey, the wild child had lost his human elements to become but a part of the rain forest, but he was not aware of his metamorphosis, and he did not know when the change in him occurred. He was not even aware that a change had happened. He had but vague recalls of something inside of him taking flight.
“Seek to Exist” (detail) by Wardha Shabbir. 2015. Gouache on Wasli. 40 x 15 inches.
In a star-struck, new moon night, not so very long ago, something left his body; he heard it flapping on wings that flew deep into the darkness. Then there happened the magnification of his loneness when he realized that he was but a speck in the vastness of a single second. And even now, with a threat of death so close, as to be waiting for him in the next moment, he was void of fear. He was instead adhering to a cycle of life in which he was the same as the moss beneath the tree. And while being hypnotized, simultaneously, he was being cocooned into a creature of acceptance.
At first he thought it a dream, his hypnotism into a winged creature, but in a mystic moment, together he and the winged one were flying through time and space. Hearing wings flapping, he realized they were his’, and that it was he who was winging through space: he who was seeing a planet being dominated by an arm rising and pushing to separate night from day. Over another world he flew: this one covered with high rises. Seeing the frantic people below scurrying about like ants from an ant hill, he realized that they were down to their last drops of water; it was the gasps of their last breaths that he was hearing. Onwards, and up past planets and platitudes to hear the echoes of the big bang reverberating across the night skies: back and forth from one planet to another.
‘So how important am I?’ he wondered, and concluded- ‘only me to myself, which is everything and nothing.‘
Wings through stardust then wings over a black hole he saw fast-circling to devour an entire planet and its three moons. Drifting within swirls of mist, he felt the universe yet expanding from the big bang. He descended, he, with the mist, and within a waterfall. He and the waterfall splashed a powerful ballet down canyons and gorges to float through a leaf-filled river; the river weeping the foamy tears of mankind. The river and he carried time to paradise lost.
With open eyes, he dove deep to be at the bottom of the waters. On the river’s bottom, he heard water songs gurgling. He looked deeper than the river bottom. He looked down to sixty-six thousand feet where he saw the fires of life burning at the core of earth. And at the core laid the bones that constructed the waters and the earth, of which he was no longer a dominating creature, but only of it. Waters separated the land; earth above the fires, fires burning into being. Time traveling back to space: time passing the mermaids of fables and the fins of prehistoric creatures: gills and fins curling into the currents that had been splashing in and out since Zeus, but before Cain. He, within the river, curved around logs and mossy rocks. In the waters first as a plant, he broke off a coral reef to the fins of fish and came ashore to circle a dance to life.
He brightened to become the rays of a new-born-sun, as seen by the archangels. Stars, sun, and the ethereal dust that floated on sunset beams: all were a part of his journey. He floated in the river to empty into the tides of seas: he and the seas uniting in arms that stretched to encompass the earth. Over him and over the river of time____ shone the benevolent light of mother moon, and the far-away stars tip-toeing across the milky-way.
He left the river to channel himself into a white bat that took flight through the skies: the skies now flush with sundown. And with the bat, he flew across the heavens while they were waving ribbons of sunset across the skies. Twilight came, and he was dipping soaring towards the heavens while yet holding the memories of a sinking sun. He, with the bat swooped down to be amongst lichens and liverworts: mosses and epiphytes. The bat screamed a cry of the despised, and he screamed with him. He folded a webbed cape around his body before he held a night séance with a shadowed moon.
He was diving down to the earth: wings___ to the earth on padded feet to slither the steps of a stealthy panther. His eyes glowed scarlet, as he traveled with the night creatures, deer and sloth, scorpions and wild cats, spiders and owls. He became the axis that bridges earth and sky and night to day … and all to tomorrow and back again.
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