Nedd says, “A regular cup of coffee?”
The barista says, “Americano?”
Nedd nods the affirmative, says, “Where’s Jeremy?
“He called in sick.”
The barista says, “American soldiers WWII couldn’t handle espresso.
Raised on that drip-coffee boiled in aluminum pots. . .
Italian espresso was just too strong.
They did the thing they do with everything.
They watered the espresso down.”
Nedd says, “Americano, ‘dirty water’, please.”
The barista says nothing
Why did the entrance to the House of 12 Doors
have to be in Iceland?
Karl said something about it’s the opposite side of the world
from the Aboriginals
Nedd pulls a rumpled piece of parchment from his pack
Places it on a table and tries to flatten it
In spattered ink and cracks in scribbles
A map of a room
a room that is a dodecahedron
Notations on the map:
Alegria Paixão ~ Ivory Door of Joys and Passions
Ansiar ~ The Green Door of the Great Yearning
Calabria ~ The Teakwood Door of The World of Flowers
Casati ~ The Bronze Door of the Dancing Shadows
Cor ~ The Blue Steel Door ~ the Soul of the Machine
D’l Kyrug ~ The Oaken door the Mages
Devlin Ra ~ The Silver & Black Door of the Night Wanderer
Exu Hector ~ The Azure Door of Science
Höðr ~ The Bone and Ivory Door
La Profondità ~ The Turquoise Door of Pressure in the Depths
Paixão ~ The Crimson Door of the Heart-Song
Te Ao Koraha ~ The Ebon door of the Angels and Demons
And in the lower right corner
a mahogany table, an ancient chair
a silver bowl
and a window, the sun slanting in from the left
His coffee is ready
He wishes Karl was here
and Jeremy made a better cup of coffee
Nedd A’Egwen is trying to get a passport
at a post office
somewhere in the dark corner
of the northwestern part of the southeast
And the clerk is trying to be helpful
(honest, she is)
“I’m not sure how you’re spelling this.
This apostrophe. . .?”
“This is the spelling they gave my grandfather
when he emigrated in 1863.
He was Welsh.”
“So it’s A. . .’. . .E. . .gwen?”
I swear I’m typing this right.”
The computer keeping putting typos in all his data.
“Do you have a picture for your passport?”
“They told me you could take one here.”
“It will cost you extra.”
And the camera refuses to work correctly
She looks at Nedd
He is not really tall or short
His hair is very dark but. . . silky?
It’s like there are these electric blue highlights moving
across the world of his head
Its strangely hard to meet his eyes
the color of robin’s eggs
and his face is strangely regular
But the camera just can’t seem to focus on his features
and when she uses the Auto-Smart-Fix tab
it gives him a different face every time she takes a picture
Some of the portraits are angelic
and most are just boring
Nedd walks up to the camera and says something
that sounds like he is quietly barking at it
(he is actually speaking pulse-width modulated binary
into the audio pickup of the digital camera)
then pets it like it’s a good animal
He returns to the stool
and she snaps a perfect picture of his features
She quietly slides a copy of his photo
into one of her private files. . .
Karl Tries to Tell a Dragon Story
Karl appears to be very sensitive to caffeine
but Nedd wonders whether or not Karl is addicted
because his attendance at the coffee shop is intermittent
Karl says, “Nedd, you know the best part about being retired?”
Nedd sips his Vanilla Flavored Monkey Spit Yerba Mate
in his custom made gourd
Karl takes a deep, satisfying swig of something cultivated in a dark jungle
“I got paid to get up this morning.
I’m getting paid to be alive.”
“And lively you are.
Tell me a story, Karl.”
Karl’s pupil size and apparent amplitude of accommodation
seem to indicate that he is ready for such a task
Karl says, “In the year 2011 there was a psychic war.
The Russians started it
but it quickly escalated to American and Chinese engagement.
You don’t remember, do you?”
“No Karl, I don’t remember any such thing.”
Karl says, “That’s cause they mind wiped everyone.”
Nedd says, “Convenient.”
“Anyway it was over in seconds.”
Karl looks out that big window that faces the river
Nedd says, “Who won?”
“Don’t be stupid, Nedd.
Nobody can win something like that.”
Nedd says, “So, this psychic war,
how did it end?”
Karl says, “The Aboriginals of Australia and the Africans shut all the humans down
Pushed the Nasties back to their perspective Membranes
and sealed the riffs.
Course, they couldn’t seal them perfectly. . .
There is still some leakage.”
Nedd says, “?”
“Look at the papers, son.
Things went sideways back in 2011
and have been really wonkers ever since.”
“Is this the story?”
Nedd is trying to finish his monkey spit drink without wincing
Karl says, “No.
Anyway there are worlds where there is more magic and less science
and others with more science.
I want to tell you a story about Casati,
the world of the Bronze Door. . .”
Karl says, “Hush a minute.
Casati is the Land of the Song.
The skies there ring when the sun enters the sky.
A world where dragons and wizards compete and bond.”
Nedd says, “Bronze Door?”
Karl says, “Look, the transition points between worlds. . .
Some people see them as doors.
For the purposes of this discussion let’s say
that there is a door made of bronze that leads to a world
where humans and dragon or drakes
are bonded into teams that solve problems.”
“What kind of problems do they have?”
“That’s what the stories tell us.
This story is from the time when the humans and drakes
were just getting to know each other.
You gonna let me tell this?”
Nedd gets up and goes to the ‘order’ bar for a handful of rum and whiskey biscotti
He drops his monkey spit cup in the recycle bin
Karl whips out his journal and makes a few notes
Looks something up and appears dissatisfied
He finds what he is looking for as Nedd retakes his seat
Karl says, “In the First Age of Xephyr
K’Ree ~ Firedrake Guardian of the Eastern Seagate stretches,
rakes titanium claws across granite and schist
gouging scratches inches deep in the floor.
He blinks wearily in the light of this pewter hued day.
Today is mid-winter
and the human’s will be throwing virgins at him again.
Not that he is particularly fond of human virgins.
In fact he doesn’t care much for humans, virgin or otherwise.
They taste a little too much like pork and not enough like mutton.
And the noise. . . get one of them excited
and they keen in the most piercing harmonics.
It goes on forever, totally disrupting his digestion.
unfurls and stretches his copper wings.
Checks the left tip to see how it is healing.
about thirty seasons ago humans started hurling maidens
and he struggled to catch them lest they be injured by the fall.
Best he could ascertain from human actions
young women humans started out cute and amusing as cubs
but became bothersome and irritating as they grew older.
It seemed the elder humans would select the most annoying cub
and cast her into his den to be rid of her.
Maybe they used the event as an object lesson
for the other nettlesome woman cubs
but one thing was for certain, no-one had asked him how he felt about it.
Unfortunately, the cubs were never grateful
when he saved them from a painful death.
In fact they usually tried to harm him or return to the very humans that had cast them out.
One year they threw the same cub back three times.
K’Ree transported the ones he managed to catch
to the islands of Calabria Beyond the Sea
where the cubs seemed to be accepted by the humans there as deities.
He never hung around to see what these humans did with the virgins
but there was no bones or spore on the ramparts of Calabria
so he assumed the best.
K’Ree has considered moving to other climes
but the mutton that the humans grew in those other places were really toothsome
and his current abode waterfall/cave/den fits him perfectly.
Not to mention the occasional workout with aspiring armor-plated man cub
is often great exercise as well as satisfying.”
Karl leans back
pushes the journal to the middle of the table
and looks very smug
Nedd says, “And?”
“K’Ree the dragon?”
Karl says, “What about him?”
“What happens to him?
What does he do?
Does he stay or does he go?”
“What I told you
that’s the story.”
Karl appears disappointed with Nedd’s reaction
“That’s the story? That’s not a story.
There’s no dramatic question.
There’s no Joseph Campbell arc.
For the love of all that’s holy, Karl,
there’s no plot.”
Some one across the room gets up and leaves the coffee shop
Nedd stares are Karl
Karl says, “Maybe it’s a poem.
Poems don’t have a lot of plot.”
I stand in the door
one more transition
one more shape
one more becoming before i rest
i’ve endured the darkness
and beheld the stars
i’ve committed the blasphemy
of bending time and space
i have lifted the seas from their beds
and beheld the treasures hidden there
i have wept an ocean
and walked it dry
i have run the spine of the night
and held the winds in balance
I have walked though the hole in the zero
i have cast light and shadow
i have forged weapons that few can even imagine
and i have given blood to the earth
storm and shadow
and ever shall master the skies
and lift the fallen precious ones
into a new light
In another Place
One of the Far Places
I walk the Deep Forest of Xu-Hector
For I am often found amid bracken along the brae
And this is indeed my favorite Season
I poke this rotted stump
With my staff . . .
I guess I am never so sane as I am here
Under these patient oaks
Under these cyan skies
I toil not nor do i spin . . .
I look up into a cathedral of scarlet oak leaves
And bear witness to the day
To the laugh slash of this brook
To the undulation of the grasses
As they whisper hissy secrets to the wind
To the dance dancing leaf shadows dappling
The meandering waters
Playful as a pup
Tugs at my clothing
And then runs on ahead
I can feel it before I see it
Something is here
Something . . .
Something is here . . .
She pictures an open door
the Sun when its spent
She pictures the corridor
now vacant with lament
She pictures the empty shelf
no leaves upon the tree
She draws me outside myself
but never pictures me