Three Poems by Zoë Chamberlain


The Williwaw *

The Williwaw is here again.
It’s howling round my door,
And rushing down the mountain
And pounding on the shore.

The Williwaw’s a wayward wind
With willynilly ways.
It puts my world into a spin
And makes a turmoil of my days.

The Williwaw’s a phantom never seen
With chains of dread and sorrow,
Uprooting safe routine
And wrecking havoc with tomorrow.

The Williwaw’s skilled in treachery.
It comes when all is well.
Its touch is that of Destiny.
I pray it will not dwell.

* The Williwaw is a ferocious wind that blows along the Strait of Magellan.

The Mountain

The mountain was cut in two
And its once-secret layers exposed
In hues of red, and green, and blue
Laid down millenniums ago
In some calm and tepid sea,
Then during later cataclysms
Twisted and folded in bold
And undulating patterns
As if painted or woven
By timeless Indian fingers.

The mountain was cut in two,
Its heart dissected
(In a matter of days)
By mechanical teeth and claws.
Now, in unrelenting triumph
An asphalt river rushes through
And from our flying pedestal
We watch (for just an instant)
The mountain with its silent wound
Withdraw into the distance.

The Glove

While walking down the street one day, he found
a glove—an old, tattered, forlorn-looking
glove. He picked it up, not knowing why,
except that he’d always liked to find things—
strange miscellaneous treasures that lent an accent
of mystery to his existence. The glove was definitely
unappealing—fingers with holes and missing a thumb.
But he liked its rough texture, its ragged,
comical shape. He ignored the obvious philosophical
connotations—who had worn that glove and why
was it there in the middle of nowhere (so to speak)–
and casually pocketed it, while thinking he might
put it in a painting. Later, when he needed something
to fill the space between a bottle and a book,
it came to mind. It fit nicely. He was pleased.
And for some reason, over the years, whenever
he needed a something between a something else,
the glove was always at hand.

“It is the Hand of Destiny,” said one. “The Hand
of the Mystery of Life,” said another. “The Hand
of Christ upon the Cross (the holes denote
his suffering.)” “Obviously worn by a working man.
Like many of our artists today, Clavé‚ is a communist.”
“The surrealistic touch—a dream glove.” “No,
it is the hand of the artist himself—it is
his signature….”
Many years later,
in an interview, the artist solemnly confessed
the truth—“While walking down the street
one day, I found this glove….”

‘The Men With Glass Skulls’ & ‘Love, Hope, Joy, and Sorrow’ by Zoë Chamberlain

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The Men With Glass Skulls

Once there was a race of men with glass skulls…. men whose thoughts, seen through the windows of their foreheads, were illuminated by the colours of their emotions and emphasized by rhythmic clicks and chirps, low melodious humming, whistles, or primitive shouts and gestures. Laughter made images bubble, sobbing made them writhe or quiver. Mothers, for example, cuddled their children in tender greens and joyous yellows or scolded in thumping greys and browns. Lovers merged in seas of fire reaching, at times, to peaks of golden ecstasy that faded gradually into pale yellow waves or disappeared among blue shadows of separation.

Men without deceit, without the possibility of lying or cheating. Without the means of stealing or committing premeditated crimes…. but passions and emotions shifted often like sand dunes in a wind storm, blurring reason and distorting harmony. Envy clouded the mind like a dark green shadow, while frustration created static pictures of jagged red on blue. Pride was projected like a swollen balloon glowing in reds and yellows; resentment, like a sinister whirlpool flashing in greens and purples. At times colour, form, and rhythm jammed in futile combat, then mental functions dissolved in a frantic spray of fireworks.

Music was their only form of art. They played unsophisticated melodies on primitive instruments, while colourful mental patterns pulsated and whirled in response to their wild rhythms. Painting and sculpture, literature and poetry were nonexistent, and architectural structures were unimpressive glass boxes. Perhaps it was the total lack of intimacy, stifling the growth of individuality, which inhibited any creative impulse among them. There were no dark corridors to explore, no secret dreams or yearnings to probe. No shadowy butterflies rising from watery depths. The men with the glass skulls were not given to introspection and had always been quite satisfied to cope with the material necessities of life, while their thoughts paraded forth in naked abandonment.

Afterwards no one could remember exactly when he had arrived among them, but it was thought that he had appeared, dressed in long white robes and decked with garlands of ivy, when the almond trees were in bloom and the first swallows pierced the clouds like tiny arrows. O-nlu, the luminous one, so called because of the special radiance of his forehead. He taught the control of the mind through concentration on image and colour, passing through various stages, each one a step to¬wards perfection.

O-nlu led his pupils into the immensity of the universe filled with spiralling galaxies carved out of darkness, or into the intimacy of a flower opening slowly to the morning light. He urged them to touch the rich reds and browns of the earth, the different greens of pine needles, ferns, and tiny blades of grass. He took them on mental excursions to towering, snow capped mountains and hidden valleys shuddering with the spray of waterfalls. They followed a silver stream rippling over pebbles bright as agates and a wide red river that led to the shores of the sea. The sea….turquoise, azure, cobalt, grey….whispering, caressing, roaring, and pounding….always changing but ever-constant….the sea, where life and death become one.

When his pupils had mastered the control of images, O-nlu submerged them in the world of absolute colour. They saturated themselves with the colours of the rainbow, advancing step by step through yellow, orange, and red; green, violet, and finally blue—the threshold to whiteness, and fulfillment. White was the colour of purity and innocence, of infant minds before they began to mirror blurred images of their surroun¬dings. White was the concentration of all colours and, therefore the realm of wholeness and completion.

Mental discipline and creative thinking were the means to self-discovery, and eventually O-nlu’s disciples began to develop a certain sense of freedom entirely new to them, somewhat like doves finding their way out of a jungle. Many had achieved whiteness, but only O-nlu could radiate that special luminosity like sunlight filtering through drifting clouds or ocean spray in moonlight.

But O-nlu was not revered by all, and for some—those who dominated by means of aggressive images—he was a threat. Since his arrival their thoughts had been darkened by green shadows and flooded by black pools of hatred, so when the appeal and success of O-nlu’s teaching became evident, they signalled warnings among their own. They accused him of at¬tempting to enslave the glass-skulled men. Control of the mind would erode that most essential of all rights, complete freedom of thought. But above all, they charged O-nlu and his disciples with subversion, with wanting to veil their though¬ts and thus destroy the basic structure of communication. Next they would invent helmets for their heads and build their houses of wood or stone. Their practices were an affront to honesty and decency. But reasons like cold steel could not hide the lust for power that oozed in purple stains and rattled like wolves’ teeth….

Men with glass skulls…. advancing like lava…. picking up stones and clubs along the way. O-nlu and his disciples, contemplating irises and lilies of the valley, never drea¬ming that nightmares like iridescent rams would over run their peaceful meditations.

But there were some who rallied to their defence—those who had never favoured the dominating faction, those who had often shown a flickering contempt from depths of grey submission. Now united in purposeful rebellion, they, too, collected large sticks and stones.

Then strife rang out like thousands of glass gongs and hundreds of innocents were slaughtered like lambs. O-nlu and a few of his disciples were thought to have vanished—melted away like snowflakes in a tropical storm—perhaps someday to become white butterflies beneath a summer sky…. Neverthe¬less, hatred and vengeance continued to burn and desolation spread…. until the men with the transparent skulls were reduced to slivers of colourless glass.

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