Do not write angry; it only dilutes the power of your pen. Compose instead with cold, calculating, concentrated conviction. Let each and every word carry weight, worth, and wrath tempered and honed by authorial skill. Your end must not be reactionary revenge, but rather the smashing of lies by light and the destruction of oppression through free thought. Never forget that truth has a way of being contagious; that the honest revolution is not sparked by force, but by the revealing of an inescapable, inevitable choice. It is up to you, the writer, to clear the path to that choice and hold aloft the lantern which guides the way.
These are the words I find hidden in Martin Abel‘s sketches, lines of prose where he believed only pencil lay. He posted this drawing and, per usual, I immediately connected with it and saw through to the universe he creates when he composes images upon a page. I just thought I would share a little example of how our collaborative efforts usually begin: with my overwhelming love of his work.
Though the plucked flowers which adorned her flowing hair were bright with spring’s nectar, her heart grew cold, her summer soul seizing sickly, wrought with the frost of winter death. Some would insist it was but a melancholy autumn mourning, but she knew far better; one’s spirit could not survive such loss, would not. A thousand years and a thousand tears could not wash that which the great waters have taken away. The sea, in its crushing depths, holds strong those it grips; such drowned souls do not wander afterlife shores.
She turned to the heavens, heavy with dejection. The stars shimmered. Were those who were lost amongst their number free to swim through the dark expanse? She believed they must. Did they move with light speed to return to the lovers whom they left behind, brilliant comets with homebound intent? How could they not? Burning suns, millions upon millions of lifetimes away, their lights were not impeded. Then too must their explorers, incorporeal as they may be, catch those pulsing rays and slip once more into wives’ and husbands’ embraces.
But not hers.
Sailors, the ones who dreamt close but deep, the ones who shunned the stars for the sea, played lottery with their lives. They teetered upon and peered into Hades’ abyss, the sort of darkness through which came no light, from above or below, a hellish landscape of lost souls, clutched forever by the greatest of weights. And so he was gone forever, his sight never to fall upon her eyes again.
Those same eyes wept powerless tears; powerless to extract her grief, powerless to return her loss, powerless as brackish brine against an ocean’s salty current. And yet light poured upon her face, stars running down her cheeks, a spirit whose light would never traverse the divide which so split her soul.
The ocean roared. Within its growl came the cries of countless souls, and she heard. She screamed back, the wailing sound of her grief all she had, a foghorn cry to reach where no lighthouse fire ever could.
She wept, and wept, and wept. Even in her unending misery, she was thankful to have at least this. God pity the souls who ventured nowhere, whose whole essence lay buried beneath six feet of shovel-packed dirt. No light, no sound, no spirit could bridge that regretful gap.
It was this knowledge, and this knowledge alone, that kept her blood from freezing in the cold night air, still warm within her veins, returning to a heart which would ache for a time longer than memory could ever hold.
A poem is the breath that was taken away, and a short story but poetry spun and woven into prose. A novel is a puzzle whose pieces are stitched of short stories’ fabric, and the great works of literature are those whose pages hold many novels, told all at once, a beautiful, perfect chaos composed of countless breaths, each ringing true and pure and profound. And thus is life returned to us, captured in timeless essence and bound by something stronger than book glue, more powerful than pressed ink: the need to share that which overwhelms the heart and overflows the soul. This is why we write, because we long back for the breath that the universe has taken from us. This is why we read, in the hope that another has found the same.
How I have longed the year-round for this eve, when death and life are made one, as youthful celebration grants joyous immortality. Eternal are our souls, given that we ever once lived, ever once loved, ever once felt the cool of autumn air upon our cheeks. For though the jack-o’-lantern’s light flickers and vanishes into but a wisp, its memory still burns bright, even through darkest night.
It is the cycle that has governed the universe since time began. From life came death, and from death, life. Gears turning, iterations advanced, ascension ever the goal. Enlightenment must be reached, the spirit made whole and pure. Eyes to the infinite heavens, we yearned to know the Creator. In God’s mind must reside all answers; in His heart, all happiness.
We pushed the boundaries of our being, the limits of space and time and all quantifiable things. We left the earth behind and became of the stars. Burning bright for all our planet-bound existence, the sun and its fires smoldered deep in our souls. We had no knowledge of what lay beyond or before, but we believed. The darkness stretched forever, but still we pushed onward.
Death stalked our ships, but could lay no permanent claim on us. For each that died was born again, crafted of our communal spirit. It puzzled us that this act of God should occur without the revelation of His hand, but such was the knowledge we sought.
Generations came, generations went. Still, we persisted. We, of course, fought Death’s advancements, but could not conquer It any more than It could truly conquer us. Ebb and flow, life and death, light and dark—nothing more than states of being for the Constant we could not yet fathom.
Finally, there came the time when it was but me left, the last to exist. The souls of my brethren welled up within my own, for mine was the lone body for all of humanity. Death laughed in my final throes as I clenched with pain the heart that contained the very spirit of my race. The light faded, and the darkness came.
But in the darkness, once more came light. We understood. We saw. God held us tight in the palm of His great hand and We were one with all. When He opened His clenched fist, it was the butterfly of Our enlightenment that flew away to engulf the entirety of the universe.
How I long for October, for golden leaves and brisk nights, when we might dance on the precipice of death, with summer youth still coursing our veins. Never else will there be such a celebration! A month-long parade of boyish charms and ancient wisdom, culminating all in a single eve, when we fear not that dark reaper, for we become him, slip into his course, dry bones and swing the unholy scythe as if drunk on church wine. But nay! We’ve something more sacred than the courage of any blessed bottle electrifying our excited nerves: Life! Were we ever so wonderfully aware of it? It is our march through the dying season that will make us alive, free us from our fear. We will be as kites, carried on autumn wind, transported above the coming blanket of winter snow, to land softly in spring’s blooming garden, longing once more for October’s embrace.
You will not have our dreams. You will not control our lives. You shall be victorious over nothing and no one.
We are the great conjurers, the grand inventors of the future, and your petty lack of vision will not limit our infinite journeys.
There is something out there greater, larger, far bigger than anything you could ever imagine, and it is ours for the taking. We are the opened-eyed ones, and we see what you will forever fail to understand: There is no limit to our souls. We’ve no boxes within which to contain our lives, no boundaries to hold us back. We will go where you cannot follow.
For there lies joy, knowledge, understanding.
And a happiness you will never have.
We are the nobodies, the statistically insignificant never-weres, small pebbles relegated to the seabed of the world’s great expanse. We’ve no mountains to our names, accomplished no great achievements to be gloriously trumpeted in the annals of history. The unwritten epitaph upon our sodded-over mass grave seems destined: Here lie the unknown ones. They made no difference. Let them never be remembered.
But we’ve no such fate.
We are the butterflies that silently roar, growling with a sound of thunder. We pound the pavement, lay foundations, move ever-forward with passion stoking our hearts’ driving fires. The boots of society seem fit to make us the downtrodden, but we are the grass that grows and carpets the hillsides, emerald green and made of the sun. Billions of blades.
Bricks in the wall, they cry, for they do not see. Bricks, no. Tiles in the mosaic, yes, for there is a picture to be painted as we align ourselves with no other force than shared love, the blind ambition to put forth into the universe that which begs to break free from the ribbed cage of mortality. What is mine is yours, and yours, mine. Ours. This is the glue that binds, active, alive, firm against the solvents they will surely throw.
Alone, we are nothing. Together, we are everything.
He falls to his knees, throwing his full weight into gravity’s greedy hands. The muscles relax for just that single moment as he gives himself completely over to the relentless, unforgiving force. Each patella strikes the pavement; the blows fail to be cushioned by the puddle that has gathered there. His torso heaves forward, forearms slamming to the ground as he hunches over, sobbing. He jerks his head to the sky, mouth open, screaming. Eyelids clenched tightly against all the universe, he cries out, tears running down his face. The rain continues to pour, drowning the streaming products of his eternal sadness. “There is no hope!” comes the shout from his tired lungs. “There is no hope!” screams his aching soul. “There is hope,” comes the whisper in his ear, but he does not hear over his desperate cries.
The child whispers again. “There is hope.” She reaches out a hand. The rain streaks her face, but her eyes remain bright. “There is hope,” comes the soft promise once more. “Open your eyes; I can show you the way.”
The death knell that rings forth from his convulsing diaphragm deafens his ears to her quiet pleas. He pounds his fists into the ground, splashing dirty water onto his face. His eyes remain closed. “There is no hope!”
Just ahead, the sun shines and the fields are green. Though she knows the way, she remains at his side. “There is hope.”
You just have to open your eyes.