Two Pieces by Evan Guilford-Blake

 Two Pieces

by

Evan Guilford-Blake

19 Manhattan Photographs from 1977

one.

The line of her mouth is firm; it bears the memory of having flowed, beautifully, and still contrives to a terse pen-and-ink prettiness which is never quite to disappear.

two.

The figure is squat, white-bearded and -mustachioed, as Santa Claus might be were he crossed with The Absent-Minded Professor. The hands, well-manicured, are spread: a crumbled crust of bread is offered to the darting beak which pursues it from his forearm, to another from his thigh, a third from his lap. Passersby stare: “The pigeon man,” they whisper. He goes on, gently smiling, offering the food, offering himself. The birds take what they want and give rapture in return.

three.

They stand, fingers brushing, sharing the gentle intimacies of unexamined love, of newly discovered and -discovering lovers.

four.

The eyes are wide, and starkly blue. They open into fright, balanced on a pale yellow tremor which flutters across the iris.

five.

Standing before the gravestone of someone not-quite known, the wind whipping at his face, at his hair, tossing it into a frenzy, whipping the cloth of his coat behind him like a tail springing from between his legs. He stands there and lets the tears come, little tears, little sighs against the lashes of the wind.

six.

She is an old woman. She smokes Camels and carries the Farmer’s Almanac. Thin and long, clad in a green chiffon party dress, yellow mary-janes, a triple strand of paste pearls; hair in pins, an artificial daisy by her ear… She stands, reflecting fantasies in the mirror of Cartier’s window.

seven.

Her eyes catch the full moon and gleam its chaste and icy mystery from them.

eight.

They watch each other from opposite benches: a young girl, barely sixteen, her bubble-gum adolescence careless and coy, blond-curled and red-nailed; a somber Quixote, gray crew-cutted, blue-suited, bow-tied, patient, tacit, smiling. They look at each other curiously, wondering, wondering: Should they meet?

nine.

Her hands have lost the battle for Youth to Time, while her face has assumed the lineaments which supersede softness and precede slackness.

ten.

She is a little girl, fourteen perhaps, with a small, evocative mouth that teases a half-smile. All very simple: the floss hair, muted in its brownness, the folded hands and undecorated eyes that look very, very far away.

eleven.

Getting lost in an East Side World, the gleam, the refraction of images in black and low-cut creme. Ice-cube rhythms, glass meeting glass, smile meeting white-frost lips. Chic, cool, distinguished: polished like zircons in a silver-plated setting.

twelve.

These are the treasures of youth: a red, white and blue belt with an Uncle Sam buckle on it; a bagatelle-in-plastic ring rattling on the middle finger. Will they be put away, saved, to look back upon and savor; or lost, even from memory, to disappear with the youth that made them precious.

thirteen.

She is small, but not fragile-looking, with eyes from a romance novel and a slight face draped and circled by misbehaving black falls. She looks gentle and soft, but there is a sense of illusion surrounding that look: The smile is missing, there is resolute sadness behind the eyes.

fourteen.

He stretches across the seat, scratching his chapped hands against the red face; his legs extended, gnarled, winter-white, swollen and brittled by cold. Amid the snowflakes, he sleeps.

fifteen.

Black-garbed, swan-necked, spare as a sapling in its first winter. A petulant profile, the dark eyes filled with half a tear and half a dream, half empty and half full.

sixteen.

They are, almost all, over forty. The suits should have been out of style twenty years before, but they are worn as proudly as the mismatched ties and white socks, the toupees or delicately combed thinning hair.

They stand in a series of corners and edges, no pairs, many clusters, many units, wooing women wearing the prom dresses they first wore twenty years ago.

seventeen.

She sleeps with a pout on her face; as though resentful at being denied the realm of her waking senses, she has chosen to brood to her subconscious.

eighteen.

His face, though brushed in Renoir contours, lets through the capacity for harshness impressed behind the Impression.

nineteen.

Her face has been composed by Tchaikovsky: plaintive, with high, shadowed cheekbones and a slightly turned-down mouth. Age will be unkind to it, the skin will whiten and the now-soft lines will define and tighten against the bone. It will still have music, but the score will be by Schoenberg.

END

QUESTIONS

a play

Cast:

MAN: Over 30.

WOMAN: Over 30.

TWO BEARERS: Any age. Capable of carrying the Woman in her coffin.

Setting:  A bare stage with a platform and a palanquin.

Time:  Any time

AT RISE: There is the SOUND of WIND. Discovered is a platform, with a lidless palanquin. At either end, a BEARER stands, dressed in black. Behind it, a MAN stands, also dressed in black. HE looks down, slowly, into the palanquin, shakes his head and looks up.

MAN

Why is it the Living always carry away the Dead, but the Dead never carry away the Living?

(HE looks into the palanquin a long

moment, reaches inside, withdraws a

flower and steps back. The BEARERS

lift the            palanquin. The MAN nods to

them, then turns away; and, solemnly,

THEY start off. As THEY move, a

WOMAN, dressed in a white gown, rises

from it and reaches back toward the

MAN. The SOUND of WIND rises.)

WOMAN

Why is it the Dead always reach toward the Living, but the Living never reach toward the Dead?

(SHE continues to reach with growing

urgency as the BEARERS continue to

carry her off. The MAN turns toward

them as THEY exit, then looks at the

flower, cradles it gently, and exits via the

opposite side. The SOUND of WIND

rises further on the empty stage.

LIGHTS fade.)

 END OF PLAY

Bio: Evan Guilford-Blake writes plays, fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction for adults and children. His plays have been produced internationally and won 42 competitions. Thirty are published. Noir(ish), his first novel, was published by Penguin. Holland House will issue American Blues, a collection of his short stories, in October. He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a healthcare writer and jewelry designer, live in the Atlanta area.

The story “My Father’s Robe” can be read here

Flash fiction “Balloon” can be read here

Twitter: @EJBplaywright

Copyright © 2010 Questions – previously published in Free State Review

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

REPRODUCTION WITHOUT SPECIFIC WRITTEN PERMISSION IS PROHIBITED

Caution: This script is provided for reading purposes only. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Questions is subject to royalty. It is fully protected under the laws of the United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union. All rights, including but not limited to professional, amateur, film, radio, and all other media (including use on the worldwide web) and the rights of translation into foreign languages are strictly reserved; and any unauthorized use of the material may subject the user to any and all applicable civil and criminal penalties.

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Freedom by Hilary Spencer

Freedom 

by

Hilary Spencer

                Lunchtime. The best part of the day. The moment when the cruel hands of the clock line up in a rare harmony, temporarily freeing those who suffer inside the towering office blocks. The sweet air outside had tempted me all day, whispering through the windowscreen, and so I pulled open the office door, the scent of nearby flowers leading me to the city park. Gripping my lunch bag loosely in one hand, I headed for a nearby bench, settling at one end and observing the chipped paint adorned with layers of graffiti. Markings of the goings-on of the local teenagers; who blew, who was here, who loved who. Shrugging, I attended to my sandwich.

                The woman caught my eye as she slowly made her way down my path, and I watched. Her face was old, the last remains of what once must have been great beauty erased by the lines etched deep into her pale skin. Her blue eyes were dull, and I found myself wondering how she could see. A slight coolness on my leg alerted me to the mayonnaise dripping from my sandwich; by the time I wiped it with a napkin and looked back up, she had sat on the other end of the bench. Her head swiveled as she looked around with a sad smile on her face. I could see her shiver in the faint breeze, and wondered why she wasn’t wearing a warmer coat. Her silver hair cascaded down her shoulders, curling at the ends.

 “It’s always so beautiful here,” she said, noticing I was watching her. I blushed, looking back down to my sandwich.

                “I grew up in that house across the street,” she said, pointing to a low-rise apartment building. “Before they tore it down. All my children were born there.” She looked around the park, the same sad smile at the corner of her mouth. “My husband proposed to me right here in this park, fifty years ago,” she said quietly. She pointed to a spot a few feet from where we sat. Squinting, I saw nothing now but some yellow grass and a dead squirrel “That was long before the cancer. The doctors said I have to go to a treatment center in Boston, and I probably won’t come back.” Her hand slid inside the pocket of her light coat and rested there for a moment before emerging. I stood up quickly, recoiling from what I saw in her hand.

                The cold metal gleamed against the papery skin of her hand. There was the faintest clinking noise as the rings on her left hand pressed against the gun.

                 She pointed it, not at me, but at her own face.

                “I spent my entire life in this town,” her voice was still quiet, calm. “I’ll never leave it.” She smiled, glancing once more around at the faded grass. “Freedom,” she sighed. Her finger pressed down, and I screamed.

                The funeral was a week later. I don’t know why I went; call it closure. I met her husband, silenced by his grief. Her children couldn’t understand. It was as everyone was leaving when her oldest daughter beckoned me into the kitchen.

                “Did she say why?” She asked, the silent tears pouring down her face.

                 “She wanted to die in her hometown,” I explained. “She said she had to go to a treatment center in Boston, and the doctor said she wouldn’t come back.”

                The daughter’s breath caught, and her hand flew to her heart. She turned her back to me, searching for something on the spotless counter. Finally she located a plain white envelope, which she handed to me.

                “I insisted she get a second opinion when she got her diagnosis,” she said simply.

                 I opened it, scanning the first line of the paper inside, feeling my heart sink.

                 “Test results,” it said. “Negative.”

Bio: Future cat lady Hilary Spencer lives various parts of Maine. She can be found at http://nerdlylittlesecret.tumblr.com/

: a writer of nil repute by Rebecca Dempsey

: a writer of nil repute

By

 Rebecca Dempsey

This is an overview of the life and works of the writer                 . It was first submitted to, and is believed to have been published in, the first edition of The International Review of Literary Quantum Locking, which sadly is no longer available due to the very nature of its highly contentious subject area.

The works of writer                   are illusive and difficult to comprehend for most close readers; thus, little recognition has been given to              in her own country, Australia. However, certain European post structuralist feminist philosophers in the vein of Cixous and Kristeva have highlighted her achievements of late, while others see something of the school of Jacques Derrida in her works. Given               is a writer whose texts are quantum locked, in that her narratives and poems are only visible when not being read, her work is problematical at best and present especial impenetrabilities for translators. Post modernists agree her vision and creativity to be vast and entirely under-appreciated. Her admirers believe her output phenomenal, particularly considering her tragic personal circumstances as indicated in this account below:

While not considered a commercial success, the many works of                 have found favour with specialist or niche collectors. This, perhaps, is more out of an appreciation of their rarity rather than any literary or other merit. As objects they are difficult to identify and maintain given the inherent physical state but those who have copies have testified to their value.

The value of the works of                have also been measured through their academic worth. Recently, academics of the Kristevan school have chiefly found favour and been inspired by this exchange, below, from her first obscure novel:

For feminists,                     has come to symbolise the silencing of women in culture, and                  continues to be cited in discourses regarding the Freudian use of the term lack.  As a female author                      significance is enshrined by the absence of even her name, and so she comes to represent all female authors who have been silenced. So to             stands for all those historically outside the traditional understanding of the literary cannon and subsequently uncovered by academics such as Dale Spender. Forthcoming research should address                works as post-colonial constructs. Yet                 is also eternally current, as her enforced anonymity can be understood as a comment on the cult of celebrity and a further step beyond the Death of the Author, to the entire Absence of the Author. As, in the slightly more sophisticated later poetry, with this:

And numerous examples abound of                   eloquence in the face of immense odds. Yet the rarefied world of academia is bitterly divided on including her corpus of prose and poetry in the canon. Some have questioned her ability, and in fact have called into question                   very existence, comparing her to the infamous Ern Malley, a fictitious 1940s Melbourne poet created in Australia by poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart, the cause of notoriety for many in the Australian literary community. Some, indeed, have joked she is a Malley descendent. Others, avoiding such issues, focus on the works, and detect the influence of seminal Italian writers and academics Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco, and while it is believed she has offered some comment on her literary influences, in her limited edition collection of essays, entitled                      , this could be considered conjecture. Some followers remain intrigued by                  voice and discuss how her distinctive Australian style is conveyed and how well it is enjoyed or even understood in international circles.

For all her transparency, the author is chiefly concerned with language and ideological and philosophical barriers to communication – how words delimit meaning as much as they convey significance. Some more imaginative readers have compared               her works to that of Pink Floyd, and their construction of The Wall during their famed concert, hinting the very attempt at creation is one that simultaneously invites and alienates the audience. This is a theme that Feminists have also picked up on and it is also a paradox currently under examination by theoretical physicists.

Some post-Symbolists have considered the development of texture in her works, and have written extensively on the evolution from raw and angry ingenuity into something more considered, serious and layered, indicating a maturing in                  . This is hardly surprising, as the influences of her education seem to have been profound. Indeed, she is believed to have completed an Honours Degree in Literature, her thesis exploring the language of modernist poetry, this excerpt, below, seems to be a typical indicator of her later analytic style and of her influences:

has also written extensively on her educational influences, especially the inspiration she found from lecturers               ,                         and                              from                                                 . Her unique gifts seem also to have stemmed from her                    and                 , both accomplished artists in oils and sculpture (mainly wood and clay). Below are examples of their extant works, which, are also similarly affected by quantum locking.

This seemingly familial link between the creative output of the                        has fascinated geneticists, but also equally those interested in the role of environment in shaping lived experience. Others warn of the pathologisation of art and artists and the dangers of medicalising literary or artistic merit and creativity. Furthermore, physicists have expressed interest in conducting experimentation. This is in an effort to better understand quantum locking in addition to investigating some practical applications if it can be harnessed. There could be cause to explore whether her talents would be more usefully employed, in writing legislation, for instance, while others conjecture that she in fact has.

Among the scientific community there are those who maintain this phenomenon can only occur naturally amongst certain individuals involved in creative concerns such as the members of                    family.

Then there are those who are less interested in whether the author is real, than if her works actually exist, however, some recent analysis shows that what is present is more than merely blank space, but a creation devoid of any method of detection. Science is yet to catch up, as it were, to her works. At the same time, debate within theological circles has considered whether her work is a part of a Via Negativa espoused by mystics in various spiritual traditions, and as embodied, (no pun intended), by Meister Eckhart. There is some debate as to whether her influences extend to Eastern spirituality, such as that of Lao Tzu in that the way that can be spoken of is not The Way. In this way, works of       that can be read are not           works.

Another traditionalist group have considered whether she is a follower of Rene Guenon, who argued what is most important is inexpressible, or possibly be aware of his notions of selfhood influenced by Hinduism. Within this school it is contended she is a Nihilist or of the Absurdist School and her texts are a commentary on the futility of High Art and a kind of practical joke where all readers are emperors with no clothes. Many foresee the complex debate between linguists, physicists and mystics regarding her achievements continuing.

As a consequence of                      work, the quantum locked literary movement has garnered sufficient interest to generate multiple theories regarding its place within the broader arts. See the list of texts below, which examine this phenomenon, and which will be examined in depth in further reviews.

There are those, too, who have sought to emulate the texts of                          , maybe seeking the elusive commercial success that               works failed to gain. Few, despite their efforts, have yet succeeded in achieving a comparable evocation of fragility and conflicted eternal temporality that remain the hallmarks of                                     works, if indeed that is their goal. Like so many imitators, they have employed similar devices, or attempted to address the same themes, or modelled their approach to their works in an analogous fashion, yet in this, come to act as only as conduits back to their inspiration,                                          the greatest writer of the early 21st century never to have been read                         .

Bibliography

The following is a commentary by the author:

10-17-12 By Kathryn Peterson

10-17-12

(Hospice-one month after learning your toothache is a malignant tumor.)

By

Kathryn Peterson

(Hospice-one month after learning your toothache is a malignant tumor.)

We’re watching the Tigers blow a chance at the ‘Series when you say  my  name the way you say it.   Your voice  resonates and my  insides flutter I know what will  follow will not be  light  conversation.  You tell me you are going on a four day weekend  with Dan.  My  eyes fill with  tears and  I just  nod and start to pack the things you will need.   We sit in silence as you hold  my  hand and say  calming things (calming things to me!) about needing to go, that you will be  back on Monday, that the Tigers have one more shot tomorrow night and my heart begins to slow it’s pounding.  We watch  the game like it is church.  I  put  my head on your shoulder and we watch the rest of the game.  I  listen to you breathe.  I smell your neck. I  listen to your heart beat.  I  try not to cry. When I look into your giant, brown eyes I am  dumb-struck  by  my  love  for you. Do you see what you’ve done here?

The nurse packs your meds.  You ask for extra pain pills because four days is a long time and who knows?  She makes an aside to her co-worker, calls you “drug-seeking,” I’m not sure if you heard.  Fucking bitch,this is the same one that gives you dirty looks when you want another beer.

Four days pass as I obsess over your absence.  First I am happy you are with your brother,then I am anxious.  When he finally brings you back, you are smashed like a pumpkin.  Dan smiles and staggers you to the love seat.  It is three in the afternoon, your chin drops to your chest and you snore. My heart fills to overflowing, my face hurts from grinning.  Danny has your smile on his face.  You two are really something, God I love you guys.   Do you see what you’ve done here?

At 7 p.m.  I can’t wake you up. Your heads lolls to the side and green goo foams out of your mouth?  I scream and call for help but there is no real help.  You are put into a gown and into bed.   I watch you breath.  The snore is not a snore…four day weekend and  a month worth of oxy is missing.  I see what you’ve done here.  Oh my God.

I call Dan at 10.  He is drunk and silent and he knows when he gets to the door.  You die after breakfast on Tuesday.  Two years, it took me two years to see what you two did here.

It is series time and watching baseball makes me cry.  Fall leaves make me cry.  Dan’s smile makes me cry. I dream of thirty oxy’s and thirty beers.  But I don’t do it, I don’t come find you.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m living, but I do understand why you did what you did.

A Worldview from yet a Higher Elevation By Bhisma Upreti

A Worldview from yet a Higher Elevation

By 

Bhisma Upreti

We had decided to get up at four in the morning of 6 November 2008, but couldn’t, due to extreme cold. It was meaningless to be troubled, because there were a lot of foreigners and we were informed that the breakfast would be prepared for them first. We were full of curiosity regarding that day’s journey. We were preparing to feel the ecstasy of it. We were marching ahead past the Thorang-la Pass, the highest point of the round Annapurna trek as well as the topmost place of our journey.

Mailadai (the immediate younger brother of the eldest one among three or more brothers) came into our room to call us around 4:15 in the morning. ShreeOm, Mani, Thakur and I quickly got up, fighting the cold. We completed our morning jobs and got down to the dining room.

A group of foreigners had moved towards Thorang-la Pass.

We had Rara noodles. As per the doctor’s advice, we took water in garlic juice, some Cadbury chocolates and chewing gums in separate bags so that we could take them out easily in need and keep ourselves safe from high altitude sickness. To be internally strong and to prevent ourselves from high altitude sickness, we took some medicine. In this way, we were mentally and physically prepared for the journey.

We moved in dim light at about 5 with our bags on our backs, and sticks and torches in our hands. Before we stepped uphill, I silently prostrated to the mountain God and requested him to accept my bow. Our relations with hills and mountains have ever been inseparable since time immemorial. We worship the mountains, and believe that we will be warded off from disasters. We believe that Gauri-Shankar and many of our other deities live in the Himalayan region. We make it to heights out of determination, taking pledges to scale them. We grow old, playing with these mountains, and rolling on their laps. Ganga, a perennial source life for us, springs out from these mountains. It is from such rivers that we learn our songs; they make up the source of our culture, ideals, civilization and ways of life. Today, a rare turn of luck has brought me to the lap of these mountains – especially Annapurna, and I am making preparations to climb the Thorang-la. Before setting my first step for the voyage, I thought it to be my prime duty to bow to the mountain in reverence. This is a modesty or honour I probably learnt from the mountains.

The journey upward had started. If anyone walks quickly at such a high altitude, there is a possibility of being sick. So, we were told not to walk quickly so that our breathing could be slow. We all had decided to walk together. We tried to walk but some of our friends began to walk slower than expected, and we found it hard to keep the same pace. Therefore, Baba, Mani, Thakur and I continued at our own speed.

The way was high, stiff and steep, and the hill was strong and hard. Everyone had to walk at a measured pace because if he stopped, he would feel extreme cold and if he walked quickly he would have a breathing problem. The mouth would go dry after walking for a few steps. Therefore, we walked drinking garlic in water and juice. Now and then, I had a bite of Marsh chocolate as well. It gave me some energy. The rest of the time, I chewed gum.

The moon was shining in the sky. Stars were twinkling. We were climbing over an altitude of 4500 meters. As long as we went up the moon and stars looked closer and our curiosity and excitement increased at the same speed. On the other hand we were highly conscious, as we feared high altitude sickness.

Our friends, particularly Samba and ShreeOm, had been left far behind. We were not worried because the doctor and Mailadai were with them. To ease Samba, Baba heartily offered to help him carry his luggage, but Samba didn’t agree. At any rate, he was determined to carry it himself. Baba got upset as Samba reacted, taking the offer as a as a criticism on his not being able to walk steadily. Mani and I convinced Baba. As Govinda had felt difficulty in walking the previous day, he didn’t want to take the risk, and hired a horse for that day’s journey.

We arrived at Thorang-la height after climbing for an hour. There were some hotels and restaurants. The hotel staff informed us that those hotels were full of tourists. We stood at Thorang-la height for ten minutes. Standing only at one place could chill us further. So we moved here and there. Our friends arrived. They also expressed their desire to stay at the top for some time, but we moved instantly.

It was already dawn. We didn’t need torchlight. The juvenile light of the early morning was bright enough to show us our way. We walked straight for some time and began to climb uphill again. Silvery snow greeted us on the way. I wrote Mani’s name in the snow and drew into his attention. He jumped with excitement. His ecstatic excitement fetched me some happiness too.

A long queue of trekkers was seen walking on the way even after passing Thorang-la Pass. They were from different parts of the world, who enjoyed trekking in the mountainous region. I was really excited to see such a big number of foreigners climbing the mountain in queue.

It was quite late. I silently thanked Ramesh and ACAP once again for managing this journey. Nepali tourist guides and porters also were seen among the foreigners. It was like a rainbow. The moving rainbow over white snow and blue sky really looked very beautiful.

Excitement suddenly rises on seeing a long queue of people trekking in such a journey, and it increases our confidence in moving and reaching the destination easily.

We were climbing upward. As long as we climbed, the snow-capped mountains looked shorter. The stars also looked as if they had descended down to earth, making us feel that we could reach our hands out to them in a moment. It was real fun.

Walking on the snow in spite of a weary trip uphill, I was feeling extremely cold. The cold grabbed our palms though we were wearing thick gloves. It was difficult for me to continue holding the juice container. In spite of that, we took some snaps standing on the snow. It was not that easy to operate the camera but nobody could tame their desires for long, at such a sensational time.

Gradually the sunrays fell on the earth from beyond the peaks. The snow got drenched with sunlight. The air really looked bright and pure. We experienced a slight rise in temperature, as the sun shone bright in the eastern sky.

I turned back after reaching the top. Other friends including Samba had been left far behind. They looked as if they were not walking, but crawling. Mani and Thakur were on the lead from the beginning of the journey. At the same time Kiran also arrived and we walked together. Ujjwal and Yagya were walking rather well that day.

I realized the significance of black goggles. All the trekkers had used black goggles to protect their eyes from the sun. I didn’t have goggles. Goggles never appealed me. But rays reflected from the snow directly hit the eyes. The eyes could not be opened. I moved ahead opening my eyes very little and looking only towards the ground. For the first time, I realized the importance of goggles I never expected to put on.

I won’t forget black goggles while mountain trekking in the future.

Walking slowly with half-closed eyes, as I looked upward, a big crowd of people appeared. They were dancing, shaking hands, embracing and taking pictures. Wow! It was the ultimate destination of the journey – the peak of the journey; the center of attraction. It was a fountain of inspiration for walking further even after eight days of rigorous movement and extreme tiredness. It was Thorang-la Pass, the border of Manang and Mustang. I attempted to get there in one go. The emotions not only filled me, but overflowed along the way. The excitement and the exuberance of ecstatic emotion took me to a state of flying. The feet stepped quickly though it was difficult to open my eyes. The feeling escaped from me.

‘Thorang-la Pass – 5416 meters’ was written on a pillar constructed at the top of the Pass. The pillar was fully covered with flags and ceremonial muslin. The faith of Lamas at the peak could be explicitly seen here. We have a ritual of worshipping the Mountain God, height, the sky and water. The ritual was presented at its best here.

People were taking pictures by the pillar. At Baba’s suggestion, we also took some pictures. Some foreigners also were doing the same. A young white lady said to us, “Come and take a picture with us.”

I also mingled with them and took some pictures. We don’t need to know people to share happiness. The familiar ones are needed to exchange sorrows. Everyone was exchanging congratulations with one another. I also exchanged congratulations with some.

There was a small coffee shop at Thorang-la Pass. We had hot coffee in the chilly weather. Though it was expensive the service was more important than the price.

Mani, Thakur and other friends arrived. We again had fun and shared our excitement. Again there was a photo session and the exchange of congratulations.

Some white hills attached to Thorang-la Pass looked still higher. I thought about exploring those hills and viewing the world, reaching still higher.

I climbed a few steps but the obstinacy was not practical. There was neither a track, nor any equipment for climbing. I returned.

“It’s no good staying here for long; our brain will swell and it will create problems,” Kiran said. It hadn’t been long since we had arrived so we hadn’t fully enjoyed ourselves; we had not fully celebrated; we weren’t done floating on the snow. Mani said, “We should organize a poetry concert before we move. It will be historic and unforgettable.”

“Where is the banner?” I asked.

“It is with Ramesh.”

Ramesh hadn’t arrived.

“Here goes my poem, and I shall move downhill after this,” I said and recited a poem.

The foreigners also listened to the poem. They appeared quite happy as they knew that we were on a poetic journey. They had never expected that they would get a chance to listen to poems on such a high and deserted peak. Nor had I ever imagined or dreamt of reciting a poem in such a height. Therefore, there was no boundary to our happiness.

A group of foreigners took pictures with us again. This time they were not taking pictures with Nepali trekkers, but with Nepali poets.

I came to know that a descent of around three hours would take us to Muktinath. Muktinath is one of the greatest pilgrimage centers for Hindus. I had a desire to take a bath in the hundred and eight water spouts there if possible. Though, that became impossible because of the chill, I had been craving to wash my hands and face at least. We needed to walk further ahead in order to reach Jomsom. We had planned that day’s stay at Jomsom.

I closed my eyes and stood still for a moment before I left Thorang-la Pass. I wanted to feel the ecstasy and enjoy the journey with full contentment. This piety associated with height, the purity of environment, its freshness and novelty hold the capacity to fill every heart with ecstasy, however unhappy or pauperized it might have been. Once transcended from the plane of sorrows, avarice, jealousy and intrigue. The matchless attraction and beauty of the pious and pristine sublimity make the human heart leap up and fly as does the white cloud under the blue firmament. In fact, it is beyond the interface of beauty and ecstasy that man attains Shivatva – the highest order or transcendence in Lord Shiva’s Being. That point where the Shivatva is attained perhaps forms the abode of Lord Shiva, and in fact, the abode of all gods for that matter. This was what I experienced, standing on the Thorang-la slopes, overwhelmed by the unparalleled charm of a pristine beauty.

Having sat for a while with closed eyes, various ideas emerged in my mind. I remembered every step, experience and weakness of the journey. Love has a great significance in life. To oneself, it is a great achievement. If a person doesn’t love himself, he cannot love anyone else. First and foremost, a man should know and should love oneself. I touched myself, opened up and found several spots to be mended. Similarly, I remembered my relatives for some time and I really was thankful to those who had helped me come to that state, directly or indirectly.

To love oneself is to find and correct persistent errors and weakness.

“Shall we move now?” Baba asked.

“Let’s wait for some time,” I said.

He didn’t say anything.

There was a long queue of people coming from below as I returned and looked down from Thorang-la Pass. I contemplated: on the days gone by, how many people might have walked this way! We also had come through the same way, just now. I scanned the trail along which we had to go. Some people were going down. After some time, we also would move through the same way. After that others and yet others … To move upward and downward is nothing but continuation.

I took out my diary and wrote thoroughly again.

In spite of a relentless walk

for all these years,

this way we treaded along

could never become ours.

 

What is ours

after all

is merely the journey

and it’s so, ever.

The moment of standing at Thorang-la Pass was the sublime moment of the journey. That was the last stop of the upward hill. We had walked for eight days to arrive here with curiosity, passion and excitement. To anyone that asked us, we said, “We are on the way to Thorang-la Pass.” After arriving at this spot, all excitement, passion and curiosity froze and became like the snow. We gradually eased ourselves. After the end of curiosity, passion and excitement, the body gets tired. We were exhausted several times along the way, but were not tired. Now I really felt tired for the first time as I had to go downhill after the end of the journey uphill. As far as our eyesight reached, we saw just the returning route, without curiosity and excitement. The remaining journey would be brightened by the experiences, the series of events, the scenes and the knowledge gained from our conversations with people on the journey till date. In spite of the slow pace due to tiredness, the same light would show us the way to reach the end.

The same thing happens in life as well. The second half comes to be less encouraging, less exciting, more exhausting, lonely and tiring. I had just crossed forty, a year ago. Time had come for me to prepare for the second half. The body chilled as I contemplated. However I thought, in the second half of my life, the gained skill, experience, obstacles and knowledge would prevent me from going into darkness, as I had learned by this journey, and it would help me to be better managed, balanced and capable of achieving more. Thinking this I was encouraged to accept and enjoy the second half of my life happily.

I smiled to myself.

Translated by Mahesh Paudyal

BIO: Bhisma Upreti is a Nepali poet and essayist. He has published 6 books of poems and 8 books of essays. He won the first prize from the National Poetry Competition organized by Royal Nepal Academy. His works have been translated into English, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Serbian, Slovenian and German; and have appeared into various anthologies and journals from across the world. He is joint secretary of Nepal Chapter of PEN International and also a member of the Traditional Poetry Writers Association of the World. He lives in Kathmandu with his family.