that's how things go, day by day, throughout morning, midday, afternoon.
And once we've set out, off we drift, more and more deepening the rift to
all those things we’ve chosen to leave be, and yet their memories are
still there, as part of me. Hours upon hours fly by, around us ocean,
wind, illimitable sky – until whatever once deemed us so imperative, so
essential and dear, slowly begins to fade away, like cobblestone beats
from the left behind Ciosan pier. Sometimes I wonder whether we went too
soon... Whatever we do, departure weighs on us: as a pain, a curse,
relief? A blessing? A boon? Well, no leisure for sailors like us to wallow
in reflections of the past. Oblivious we've begun our travels, and
oblivious we bit by bit unravel the changing wind and weather that now
leads us forth, that teases, threatens, shakes us, marks the course.
And thus, with nature's fickle guides the evening silently arrives. It
sneaks around at first, distant, a mere horizon, a thought remote, then
caresses us gently, finally spreading its velvety cloak. It finds me
leaning against the railing still, almost – if you will – untouched by the
past day, as if I've never ever been away to do my sailor's chores: all
that reefing, bracing, tarring, scrubbing floors. Motionless I'm standing
here, my eyes focused on what's left from the outlines of the coast, and
almost unnoticed in the darkness everything begins to drown – mountains,
hills, some indistinct Manthrian towns.
"Still out there?"
I hear the question, but don't look up. The waterfront I'm still observing
from afar, the docks that remind me of Manthria, the kingdom, and then
whole continent behind it, by now appear to be have been cleared from all
hands loading and unloading the ships. Soon we'll leave both, the docks
and the continent behind them. And while the port is almost engulfed in
the murkiness of the dusk, I spot two people sitting on a bench near a
lantern. I observe them as they are watching the sea's late gentle,
lapping movements, listening just as I do to the ever recurring sound of
waves rolling to shore, ceaselessly, unwavering. Or at least I believe in
seeing these two, and that is all that matters to me right now.
"I bet you're thinking about someone, right?"
I don't answer, just keep on gazing at that particular spot on the
waterfront: the bench with the silhouettes of two strangers, two people,
who have gone for a stroll to the harbour to bid the day good-bye,
"You know, I knew a girl here, on this very port. Wanna hear the story?"
Still in thought I look over the water. Then I sense her warm lips
touching my cheek and turn around. Our eyes briefly meet, but a moment
later she's already looking out at the sea again.
"What I wouldn't give to be off towards the sunset in a ship like that,"
her soft voice whispers. "See her sails billowing as they follow the
fancies of the wind? At first she merely snuck along the coast, covertly
like a thief, as if in waiting for a sign from somewhere, almost reluctant
to tear herself away from these lands..."
Aye, I see her: there she goes, and along the way she leaves her fleeting
traces. The waters first tolerate, then quietly swallow them, while away
she sails, on to explore the infinite, the enigma of the distant spaces.
While the sun has been waning, the moon by now has risen, and fascinated
by the scenery he peeks over the sails – the ripples he dips in a luminous
shine, thus lighting up otherwise uncertain trails. A single image
remains, in a moment enshrined.
"But now, look! Now she picks up momentum..."
She points, bathed in delight, in her eyes a discoverer's ecstatic
glimmer. "And her flags bulge and rattle, as if the wind is going to tear
them anytime apart..." She talks, she describes passionately, she exudes
the dreamy eloquence of a poetress, a poetress, who has found her subject.
"Look! How she finally turns... slowly, slowly... but there's no doubt
that she moves away now... away from the coast..." Aye, right into the
vastness of the surrounding waters, into the darkness and the unknown, off
Off and away, off and away, to her destiny she goes. Where will she end
up? Well, no one of us really knows – only that with her gone a day's end
draws nigh. And maybe it's just a thought, but keep it close, I
think. You might raise your hand and wave good-bye, but in doing so:
contemplate also what you chose. So I tell myself as I see her
leaving, left behind. But my breast's still heaving, and so I grasp the
tender fingers next to mine, from the Twelven sent, my gift benign.
"What is it? Something I said?" she asks and I turn and have to smirk at
"Ha, no, don't you worry," I reply. "A thought just crossed my mind, you
see..." It's been there since like forever. While it's uplifting, it's
also daunting, haunting, it's frightening me...
Yet at the same instance already I dismiss the notion, instead I get up to
walk the quay. Back and forth I go, again and again, caught up in
observing my own pacing, lost in a maze of thoughts I am - and all the
while my heart is racing...
I pause for a moment, look out there.
I'm awed by the sight, awed by what I realize: How humble and how devout
man is bound to feel – in face of the ocean's immensity stretching far
out, right there in front of him. While in a man-built vessel he might set
out, with it fulfill his wish to reach the unknown, the fabled other side
– without, alone, he's doomed: wings and gills the Gods him once denied,
instead they left him on his coast to wonder. For thus man was made: mouth
agape to stare out yonder. Man against the mysteries of the sea, aye,
there lies the challenge of one's fate: for either man dares to seek what
he cannot grasp, risk himself as he goes adventuring – or sticks to the
shore, just dips his toes in, probes the waters, merely taking a swim, but
stays with what he knows, to his birth place ever close.
"You know..." I begin as I turn around.
However, my voice again fails me. Quietly I continue moving, while she
just looks on. The ship out there by now has escaped my sight, and with
its departure words I meant to say are… gone.
As if she's aware of my hesitation she finally jumps up. Stirred, curious
and gay, she holds on to me. I stop, for I obey, and stand still.
Silence spreads. From the eternal blue to its bystanders it spills, all's
quiet, save for the surf's incessant rhythm. Then she clutches my arm as
we together look out, trying to take in the vastness of a whole ocean. Ah,
the evening's so calm...
Up in the skies moon and Injèrá both shine down on us, as if to compete
while night already crawls in, and its cold grip more and more defeats the
fading day's once burdening heat.
"So? You wanted to say?" Outspoken she is, jaunty, cheerful. In midst of
deepening darkness she's bright as day.
He looks at her and she at
him, seen from afar their faces almost merge – an afterthought of a day
"Can you still see those two? Those two at the quay? Holding hands,
looking out at the sea?"
His eyes follow the pointing finger, he blinks, then nods. "Aye, there, at
the lantern, near the bench, right? That couple?"
He steps forward, then sits down on a rock and she follows the example,
determined to talk.
Down they look both, from the ledge of the hill they're sitting on,
enframed by bushes, a birch and a yew. They overlook town and port – and
the two strangers of course whose comforting presence enriches their view.
They watch how the couple steps towards the lantern, their shapes become
clearer and as they touch the girl on the hill also moves nearer – to the
man who holds her hand in his arm, who makes her heart jump, lets her feel
safe and calm.
The hardships of love. Image drawn by
think they're in love?" she wants to know and prepares to agree by saying,
"I also thought so."
But quiet he remains. No further word is spoken.
Sounds from below fill the air, muffled, but one by one they climb up and
up to reach the two watchers on top of the hill: from a smithy there's a
faint cling and a clang, somewhere a mother scolds her son, from a tavern
emerge shouting and laughter, a cat's meows echo through an alleyway, and
a drunkard sings praise of the hereafter. The evening lies in the air,
it's a common sight, a habit, a practised rite, an all too familiar mix of
noises, sounds and voices, a delirium of delight. All the bustle rises
from time to time, only to ebb away and start again, buried within are
pleasures, but also prayers, tears, hopes and choices.
From the hill one can see the life, sense excitement, exuberance, even the
debauchery the evening brings with it. But then again there's pain and
strife: glimpses, hints of amusement’s elusiveness, of sorrows, of the
quiet moments, the absence of joy. Up there somewhere sore solitude is
lingering behind a single window. A candle is just about to be blown out,
somewhere remote, on the outskirts of the town. Away from people cheering,
from those who celebrate for a good reason and those who just drink to
forget and flee the world, from those who lament how it turned out to be,
and from everybody who washes away hardship and suffering. Many sit
around, whether they have qualms or they rejoice, all the same: They
follow a pattern they've got used to and have grown tired of trying to
change. It matters not how they arrived, it matters where they are.
A cool breeze crosses over from the sea, for a while decides to join the
watchers sitting on the ledge. Unseen windy fingers shake the trees and
bushes close by rustle cautiously.
"You think?" she finally begins again, yet the question she asked a while
ago seems remote by now, almost forgotten and with it what it meant, to
her and to him. As if to herself she's talking her whispering just drowns
in the emergence of nearby sounds, the sounds of someone walking.
"Here you are!"
The two heads turn as I approach. My voice pierces the silence that must
have engulfed the both of them and finally, with a sigh of relief, I step
towards the ledge as well. I take in the sight, the sounds, the smell,
absorb what spills over from the town below, welcome the invitation it
offers us, the pleasures it has for us in tow.
"We missed you," he says and with his eyes conveys just that.
He makes room and points to where he has sat, and I remember that this is
the very same spot on which he and I once met, when I left the temple and
he walked up from down below, when we both paused for a moment near that
yew, when we began to get to know – each other. Yet familiar already we
started out back then, as if we were sister and brother, sharing the same
thoughts, reminding the companion what he himself forgot, the one always
speaking the words for the other.
"I know, I missed you too", I answer, but don’t sit down, instead just let
my gaze wander.
The wind carries rich aromas: fish, pork, sucklings roasted, soups,
pastries, bread with cheese und nuts, either spiced or toasted, and it all
merges into a single seducer. He circles around, entices, leafs through my
hair, a lively messenger from the evening’s hustle and the bustle, a
dancer holding out his hand, a dancer, who wants us to come down and join
– join, whatever makes an evening bright and life worth living, beckoning:
Your hand, my lady, would you care giving?
"Let’s not linger around here then", I declare. Why just wait till the
night turns cold? I think to myself. Better head down, taste what’s
in the air, see what happens, what in the waning day might still unfold...
"Now, how about it?" I ask. "Anyone here to go along with me for a little
"Sure!" he says. "The tavern waits, so let’s go and eat and talk."
But quiet she remains, and silently she only shakes her head. The town she
keeps on watching – she sees the lanterns glowing, illuminating a web of
streets, streets that flow from here to there. Purposefully this and that
is linked with everywhere: There’s a girl running down a lane... a stray
dog – nowhere he belongs... a flurry chasing foliage down the drain... and
a young fellow right now strolling along...
There are all those buildings,
thanks to the gloaming they're looking tall and sombre, in their own way
they appear to ponder why people go in and out, lean on their walls, stand
about... Folks, it seems, cannot stand still, that is: not for long –
unlike houses whose will is strong, whose determination clear: to remain
unchanged, year after year. Too bad though that they’re made by man, so
that whenever he wishes he also can destroy that home, his own, if he so
chooses, or that of others, be it of foes, loved ones, brothers. As such
is man’s true nature, that is his urge: to build and to strive and to
conquer and purge... Or so they say, that's what again and again I've
heard, it's what the sages claim, throughout the ages rings their wise,
but damning word: that to find one’s fortune is rarely enough to secure a
man’s pleasure. Man will seek more than he can treasure, of might and gain
and fame and love. And with the elders I wonder: How can he ever find his
It’s getting late already, but I need to leave, head out for a while. Get
away from these houses, the goings-on, the crowd, from what makes those
busy people proud, lets them feast and bawl and prance and mistake a
wench’s comfort for romance. Ah, it’s not for me, a poet’s soul who enjoys
a walk, a lake, a tree, prefers to listen to the leaves’ rustle instead of
diving in the ever present social bustle. A thought’s company is all I
need when I’m alone, may it thrive and yield fruit, what matters is: it
has been sown. Hence away from the city and its lights, I go to embrace
what others call a windy, chilly, even ghastly night.
Up the path to Seyella’s sanctuary I walk. People’s noises I’ve exchanged
for the breeze and it swirls around me, sings a soughing hymn. I remind
myself that windsingers use to hunt for gusts like these, on precipices
they stand, calm, all around the weather grim, then they chant or whimper
or howl along – whatever they do, they say to understand the world means
joining its song. Oh, how I envy them! I’m just a writer, clumsily I forge
with words, but by no means I’m as knowing as an elf. Just rhymes to
parchment I do coerce – flawed is what they are, always tainted by the
self. Aye, I give new meaning to what I’ve learned, but the elf requires
none, she merely takes it in. While I think and build and craft my verse,
the singer’s voice is clear, serene and hardly marred. Our intent might be
akin, but the singer's truth resounds from deep within...
"The Twelve with you!" someone suddenly disturbs my musings.
"And with you too!" I greet back. Just briefly I look up.
Two strangers are walking down the same path I’m taking, they pass me by.
How curious, I can’t help but think to myself. What I gladly choose to
leave behind, others set out for, towards the ephemeral they go with
passion inclined. Ha, there they walk, there they laugh, there they
rejoice on life’s behalf, skipping, one might say, dancing on their way
down as I ascend, while I carry thoughts as baggage that keeps me bent.
Off and away, off and away, to their destiny they go. Where will they end
up? Well, how could a lonely soul like me ever know? However a fleeting
image they will remain to inspire a poet’s floundering quill...
...dip in, dip in, take your fill...
Pick what stirs you if you will, so that from such moments might emerge an
ode, a ballad, even a dirge, something at least that stands still amidst
everything that rushes by, that, because it was finally spoken makes us
soar, majestically fly – and marks an eternal token, forever asking what
lies beyond, and why.
...dip in, dip in, take your fill...
Oh, my trusted, my beloved quill! With combined effort merging ink and
skill isn't it our joint duty to point away from the business and
distractions inherent in the day? How adequate then that it's night
already on my mission to find what's steady, hunt for the indelible, the
permanent, the everlasting – by means of observing, reflecting,
incessantly asking... Now, what could we say? What should we write? What
moral do we adhere, what's our plight? Say, quill, or maybe pause for a
moment first, and let's think: What's an idea we’d wish to invite?
Hmm... this sight now, aye, just wait, hush! Let's stay right here for a
bit... I feel it somehow – this must be that very spot... This ledge, this
bush, this birch, this yew, I know the place, often I've taken in the
brilliant view... – well, during the day, that is. As from here you often
can see ships coming through the strait below, the strait that leads to
town. First they pass the gate, then circle around, all the way 'round the
waterfront, eventually they reach the harbour's shore. There the sailors
arrive after months and months, find their longed for place to rest, and
the ship settles down and moors. However rough the sea has been, once
arrived, vessel, hearts and minds turn still.
...dip in, dip in, take your fill...
And here I stand now, let my thoughts drift. Night has fallen. No ships
coming from afar are to be seen. The wind has calmed down, no use singing
with it now, I say to myself and I smile. In the distance I sense the
waves rolling to shore, but they can barely be heard, even less seen. Yet
I know they are still there, and with them what they have to say – a truth
they silently conceal, or at least that's what I understand, in my breast
I deeply feel. Almost inadvertently my lips begin to whisper:
"On and on, arrived then gone
– a wave is but the wind's next pawn.
May a gale pick it up to dance and twirl,
make it sink back, let it rise, toss and whirl,
may it be a maelstrom's pet, aye,
even split by a ship, on and on,
arrived and gone, ever on, just a pawn
– on that endless, endless, endless trip.
Oh, so grim must be the waves’ allotted fate:
in the ocean lost,
waves are all but destined to wait:
They follow the Injèrá
as in circles she goes around,
watch how she dips into the sea.
There she lingers only to rise again,
first forfeiting, then reconquering reign,
at night the disc goes missing,
at morning it is found
– and the waves keep on observing,
There's not much more to its being than
harken to the wind, aye, he's the master.
He knows how to conjure heavenly bliss!
But in the wind’s wake also travels disaster,
it’s the wind that drags innocents into a watery abyss.
Oh, so grim must be the waves’ given fate:
out on open sea, forlorn, condemned to wait.
Do they seek an end to all their desperate strife?
Do waves long for the day when they'll finally arrive?
That day when all the waves will have landed?
But once crashed isn’t a wave anything else but
I know these words by heart, but my voice trembles as I speak. Silence
falls again, no sound disturbs my loneliness. I stay a few more moments
where I've been standing all along, look out at sea and imagine that
couple, which must still somewhere promenade the quay. However I'm quiet
now, too much has been said, too many memories well up from the place I
"That was beautiful..." I
suddenly hear her say as if she were right here.
"How absorbing you speak about the waves, their ways... But, say, must
their life always be so wistful, sad? Is there nothing more a poet
perceives and feels and has the urge to add?"
Her soft voice in my ear I look down... down... down, below me, where my
eyes meet the waves, one, two, a dozen, hundreds, a thousand of
wind-driven slaves. The moonlight shimmers as they gently sway in the
breeze, and as I watch them a poem I've heard enters my mind, a poem, that
awakens my long buried unease: