t h e c l o u d p e o p l e
b y A n d r e w L
o v a t t
the ole ones used to tell of the days
when the island was hidden to the world, shrouded in the clouds to
of man-dom, in the deep
black green sea. ships from the so-called civilized man world disappeared
there enough times so that later man ships avoided the dark swirling
green place and dropped it from their cartography, or marked it with
skulls and crosses as a death-end from where none returned. the ole ones
cackled when the shipwrecked ones crawled ashore and told these yarns.
of course the shipwrecked never left. no boats and no wish to leave either.
they found themselves wrapt in the arms of the green people, more hospitable
and unlike man they’d never met. they drank big draughts of their
black stuff and ate plates filled with mounds of steaming food. so quickly
seduced by the cloud life were they, these shipwrecked ones soon joined
the locals in climbing the mountain to worship the clouds which danced
above their heads in a tumultuous symphony of welcomes. welcome to the
little hole in the clouds where they could venerate their sky. they called
it their sky and were sure no others had this particular piece of it.
they called it haven too, and buried their dead on the slopes, the higher
to the apex the more they’d wish to pass off into it when the passing
time came. they called this a spiritual path and many paid a dear price
to be buried saintly near the top.
so it was the clouds they worshipped on a daily basis. down from the
mount, under the belly of the swirling creature where the light was a
speckled flickering of white and black and gray all between, in so many
shades of shade that shadows were rarely seen and obviously not needed.
the people knew in their bones all things are conditional, one thing
on another in a web of interlocking moments of coincidence, so they never
constructed a usual logic to put everything in its place, and boxed for
safety too. (an understandable, sanctioned reality of known contents.)
they knew the world was wild, unreasonable, full of fury and fire. life
and death were real and to be reckoned with, a living teacher. and sometimes
too a weird unspoken compassion crept in. whether it their imagination
they were never sure, but it seemed somewhere beyond the clouds something
emanated and crept in with the light. insinuated itself you might say.
little particles of radiance appeared. and as they saw it, so they saw
themselves and differently. certainly they never quite knew how it did
this. but in those moments the landscape itself and all the people on
it changed their meaning. they saw each other anew as if the sun came
out. saw the radiance of soul glinting all around and in the cracks of
things. as if something in the light redeemed it all or they saw life
illumined at it’s proper intensity. with love, some said. they
had no other explanation. and none was needed either.
thus the new ones, having confronted tempest and fallen through the black
swirl of unknowing, arrived to a shore that was unlike any other anywhere.
the greenness of the trees and bushes and fields overwhelmed, swept into
every pore of mind and body like perfume to the eyes. once you had seen
it you could never be the same again. it too had this unreal-seeming
magic potency, infiltrating the senses, informing the mind, speaking
to the heart. so the new ones were changed the minute they stepped ashore
dripping from the green sea. the minute they wiped their eyes and saw
it. it was done. they had seen. and it was enough to make them welcome
to the cloud people, who knew the mystery was clear enough to all even
if it seemed unanswerable. they had given up logic centuries ago and
learned instead to live between things, like creatures living in the
cracks of some massive moving living thing. existing in the rhythm of
time and circumstance. they were the crack people as much as the cloud
so it was the music and the dance which the gods gifted them which told
the story in a living form. they could drink a pint to it and tap their
toes and remember. it was still there even in the darkest of moments.
that and the fire pit spirit which brought them back fighting for life.
for life they knew was a precious battle against the odds of the universe.
you live at your peril. an irony of existence they knew well, and sometimes
by all accounts this cracked seeing shouldn’t be allowed. and in
man countries that was true. they had long outlawed un-logic and canonized
the head as the king of brains. it hung as an idea in their dry imaginations
like the picture of an ancient skull ritual. a head on a stake. a snarling
pained looking bone face, which they venerated and decorated so beautifully
that all over the world the man people worshipped this dead idea and
thought it real and true and wonderful. the dressing of the dead as alive
became so excellent done that doubt disappeared as a virtue. all the
myth and mystery became sucked into icons of nourishing logical consumption.
brightly colored consumable things. so that the more the man people ate
the more they wanted and the more they worked to make the things they
ate and wanted, and the more they paid. all the man people were fat with
this logical eating. but it never fully satisfied, so that the more they
made and ate and sold and bought, it was all the same and became stale
and boring easily. there were whole industries, which grew like culture
used to, dedicated to inventing new colors and configurations of known
things. the rulers rightly feared a bored public. for once the gut of
dissatisfaction reached critical, the fire of revolt burst up and overwhelmed
their precariously ensconced head brain and swept hell and death and
war around the globe.
this the green people heard from the shipwrecked.
so many stories in fact that they became wizened by the listening and
never had the desire to leave the island to find out for themselves.
of course it could have been a fable, all these anecdotal stories, but
they piled up one on another the way things do until they became biblical
in their re-telling. the shipwrecked always found a high stool in the
pub made for them, and plenty of the black thick stuff to wet their throats
so they’d sing a sweeter story. and the ole ones would gather round
and cackle into their big glasses of black drink and wink at each other
these stories of other lands had been told since the beginning of their
time and everyone had learned of man world; in great detail too. but
it was the shipwrecked who had the biggest eyes and ears when the ole
ones became moved to talk. then they’d gather round wooden tables
of spilled black wet stuff, and listen to the ole ones as they drank
and smoked and blew great clouds of haziness around everyone. like a
halo of unknowing. entering a land of no map and no reason. fitting through
a crack in the apparent. slipping into a space that opened before them.
a clockless place where the stories are found, coming and going like
the clouds they worshipped. never fixed. never concrete certain. never
logical. never quite the same. always new. ever being born.
yet there was something in the stories all the same that made them loved
and wanted by the people. and the cloud gods returned this love and devotion
with even greater stories to tell through the mouths of those who were
moved and found themselves in the right place at the right moment. it
was just like the clouds. even when you climbed the mountain you had
to be fortunate to be in the right spot and give up the anxiety of last
and first, to find the space that is ever there and not there, which
comes when it pleases. still to be there and still, almost breathless.
to witness the beauty of the clouds forming and shaping and growing and
passing over you. the shocking contrast of this living thing against
the cool blue motionless sky speaking to them that have ears, or through
the eyes of those that could see. between these two great living things
and behind them lay something else sensed and hinted but never apparent.
it was both in them and out of them at the same time. they lived within
it. and it was this ineffable presence they felt to be the source not
only of the radiance that sometimes came upon them all but also of everything
existing. as if this presence was existence itself.
rosie laughed. her head tilted back and mouth opened to the ceiling.
such a big deep rippling laugh. it sounded like water running over stones.
a hundred little laughs in one. her face lined with laughter. old weathered
skin stretched skywards. all lines pointing to the absurdity of the moment.
her bony knuckled hand was wrapped around a big glass of the black stuff,
which was half raised in the air and slopping and splashing over the
edges like an unconscious ritual; blessing the table. she was in the
right moment. something changed in the air. all around the table the
others and the shipwrecked paused instantly, sensing the place had been
found. they waited for rosie to tell it. and as her mouth gave up the
laughter, the lines of the face turned into gentle curves of mirth. she
slowly tilted forward, coming upright, and everyone could see the particles
dancing in her eyes. so they listened very quietly.
rosie looked at them all and laughed. she liked the story too.
the beginning of it all, they tell me, was when the great ship plowed
into the green ocean and did battle with the tempest of unknowing. braving
the element of doubt face to face. so at sea was the great ship that
it lost compass and place and bearing. was tossed up and pitched down
and turned all around by the great dark green sea, which played with
it like a child, but a serious child for whom one feels responsible for
its learning. even in death there is knowing, this it knew. it could
swallow the thing if it wanted to. but it didn’t, and the great
ship and all upon her fought for their lives as never before, with such
a deep certain soul none had seen on land or ever before. and it was
their courage and audacity which brought them before the cloud gods,
who came down to sniff and push and lick the great ship and all upon
and within her, like a giant mother panther would play life and death
games with her litter; the better for their growing. they came down swirling
and howling and black and gray and white and thundering, to see if this
thing was alive and worthy of recognition. and so moved were the cloud
gods by these green people that they wrecked the great ship where it
stood. just stopped it and flattened it out into an island, with a few
bumps for variety. but leaving the huge mast built up as a mountain.
as a way for the green people to climb up and speak to them. they wanted
to know us and us to know them."
the gathering muttered, clinked glasses and looked and smiled at one
another, then quietly placed them down on the wet wooden table and resumed
looking at rosie. it was plain to see she wasn’t finished. the
young one nudged the old one for a cigarette and lit it up and blew smoke
into the middle of the gathering. he was allowed.
rosie sipped her glass with gathered poise, not her usual happy lustful
haste. under the influence of the opening her mind was tuned to the clouds
and beyond, and filling and emptying with light and images which resonated
so strongly they reached down into her toes.
it wa the coming of the tall ones through the black spring storms…"
11 may 03, newbridge
a work in progress
image: gold clouds and gray, by a lovatt