Thursday, 27 August 2009




She spins. Her arms full of the memory of dreams, goosebumps on her back. She wears amber on her neck and a wooden butterfly around her ankle. She steps out of the edge, and after a few inches of falling, the mist cups and holds her feet. The wind blows around her, lifting her black hair and kissing her skin.

The river far below
glittering under early sun rays, a swirling serpent -
scales rippling at the bottom of the basin of mist,
full to the brim
an ocean of clouds

She spreads her arms, turn, turn. Take two steps. One, two. The evening is a soft blue-orange. Swirl, the mist ebbs around her legs. Point her toes, tap tap, and a little vortex forms. Her hair flies as she spins.

The humid air, the waves of soft mist. The sinuous, bending river far below, flowing and tumbling, between the two steep cliff walls rippling green with the foliage of the acacia trees.
The air is fresh, lifting her thoughts as she taps softly with her feet. Tap, tap, turn. Tap tap. She has long black hair, black eyes and the small nose of little children. She is wearing a cotton dress with embroidered flowers in the front, and sandals. She walks on the mist. No one taught her but some time ago, when she was out with her mother looking for doradilla leaves to make healing tea, she found the little plant on the edge of the cliff. It looked like it was breaking out of the rock, and after pulling it she suddenly felt like taking a step out into the mist. She knew it would be fine, and it had been. One foot on the moist grey air, and a deep breath. She was aware of the canyon, extending far under her, and the serpent river below, and the breeze. Her mother had shouted and grabbed her hand, but Bansha had smiled reassuringly as she showed her mother how she was not falling, how her foot was fully supported by the mist. Wide eyed, her mother had released her slowly and watched her place both feet on the air and then extend her arms and start spinning, gracefully.

Now she spins again, and as she does, the air lifts her, slowly at first, gently, and then soaring in wider and stronger circles. There is the smell of rock and passionflowers, and of the nesting cormorants lodged high up where only the ficus trees grow. There is a rhythm flowing through her body, like the river, swirl, like the birds, tap tap. If only mother and grandfather could join her here. She closes her eyes and feels the early rays of the sun warming her arms and her face.

> go to page 2

> go to page 3

> go to page 4

> go to page 5

Mist- page 2

< go to page 1


‘Uksmar wants to see you.’ The feather warrior was expressionless under the angry, intricate face paint.

Kihlanni stopped weaving. What could Uksmar want? She had just left him, after breaking fast in his home with tapioca bread and a warm chocolate drink with vanilla and cinnamon. She shared most nights with the leader, and the first waking moments, but they rarely spent time together during the day.

She stood up. ‘Take me to him.’ She remained outwardly calm, but her heart was beating fast in her chest.

She followed the warrior through the rainforest path that led to the settlement. The leaves above were wet and a the few branches fallen from the canopy were covered in bromeliads and orchids.

‘You wanted to see me?’ She asked as she stepped into the tent of the man who was her leader and her lover. He looked up at her. There was a map on a table in the middle of the room and around it stood the four head warriors. Mekh, his second in command, was standing next to him, hands clasped in front of his broad body, his back straight and his dark surly gaze fixed on her. She smiled disarmingly at Uksmar, and then nodded at Mekh. Had they found it?

‘Yes.’ His voice was soft and guarded. ‘Do you recognise this?’ He held out one of her markers, a short dart with green and gold feathers. She tried to think quickly. Where could they have found it? If they had found it by the secret entrance, there would be no doubt that a traitor put it there. Or could they have found the ones she hid in her tent? That would explain how they traced it back to her, but it hardly warranted a solemn meeting like his one. But why had they called her? Had someone seen her placing the dart?

She studied it carefully. ‘I don't believe I do. I'm confused, my chief. What's the importance of this?’ She used a sweet voice and ignored the cold sweat running down her back. She fixed her eyes on the leader, getting strength from the love she knew he felt for her, and avoided Mekh's eyes altogether.

‘She's lying’ His voice boomed. Uksmar shot an angry look at his captain. ‘Let her speak.’ And to her, ‘Mekh believes that you placed this dart as a signpost. One of his warriors claims he saw you.’

‘A signpost?’ she said, her eyes open wide. ‘Signpost to what?’

‘The secret path.’ The one that would lead general Diego to us. You do know his army is stationed north of the rock hill?’

She nodded. Everyone knew this. The invading general had been looking for them for many moons. Theirs was the only tribe that remained unconquered, largely due to their ability to remain unseen. Hidden in a small recess of the rainforest, next to the canyon cliff, a long fall at one end, and a small path through the rocky face of the mountain as the only entrance on the other end. A path that had been protected with magic, the one weapon that the enemy neither possessed nor expected.

‘The dart is showing exactly where to walk into the heart of the rock. We don't know for how long it's been there, or whether Diego's army has seen it. And we don't know who...’

‘It was her, Uksmar. Mo' Nab' saw him.’ Mekh interrupted, his voice a low growl.

Kihlanni felt sick. So they had seen her. It was over. She would now die the painful death of the traitors, it didn't matter that she was the chief's lover. Uksmar didn't say anything, waiting for her response. The silence in the room was thick as brume, and all the men were looking at her. Her mind raced looking for a way out.

‘My chief,’she said, allowing some of the fear to slip into her voice. ‘I have never seen this object. I understand the grave accusation made against me, and I beg you not to believe it. I don't know why anyone would accuse me of such treason, but whatever their motives, I believe you're being betrayed twice over., by placing the blame on me.’ She kept her voice steady and her eyes locked with her lover's. In his eyes he saw a desperate hope growing as she spoke. She knew him well.

Uksmar gestured a man forward. ‘Mo' Nab', tell us what you saw.’

The young warrior cleared his throat. ‘I, I saw her, my chief.’ He took a small step forward. ‘She, um, she was walking into the path through the rock. I saw her because the moon gave some light. There was a shining object in her hand. I was out checking my rabbit traps. She didn't see me. I thought it was odd, but none of my business, so I didn't say anything.’ The soldier looked down.

‘When did this happen?’

‘Two nights ago. I only remembered today when I heard the men talking about the marker by the false rock and about how the invaders will now find us and kill us.’ the young man looked embarrassed. ‘I mean, that's what the others are saying, my chief.’

‘I want to believe you,’ he said to her, and his voice was heavy with sadness. ‘But I don't see what this warrior would gain by lying. If you did place that dart signalling the entrance to our settlement, I ask you to admit it now. If you have betrayed this tribe that welcomed you and accepted you as one of us,’ he said and his eyes hardened, as if he no longer addressed her but a stranger ‘say so now. You will find us merciful. You will have a quick and painless death, and will be given a decent burial.’

‘But, my chief,’ Mekh started. Uksmar silenced him with a raised hand but didn't stop looking at Kihlanni.

‘Accept what you've done.’ His words were stern but she saw in his eyes one last desperate question. He still clinged to the hope that she was innocent.

She let tears run down her cheeks. ‘I didn't do this, my love. I don't know why I'm being accused like this. I would never do such a thing. But do with me as you wish.’ She fell on her knees before him. If she got out of this alive she would run to the hills and to the general's tent.

For a few moments, the room fell silent again. Mekh broke the silence by banging his fist on the table. His eyes were dark and furious, but he spoke respectfully. ‘My chief,’ he said. ‘If you'll allow me, I'll conduct a search of her quarters. And yours.’ At this last words Uksmar looked up, surprised. After a few moments, he nodded.

‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I will go with you. Everyone else waits here.’

> go to page 3

> go to page 4

> go to page 5

Mist- page 3

< go to page 1

< go to page 2


The man standing on the hill looked at the rocky face at the end of the valley below. Frowning, he pondered his options.

‘The marker is gone’, he said. Beside him stood a younger, leaner man. General Diego had promoted him to captain after his remarkable bravery during the defeat of the Akalla tribe. Captain Andrea was very capable, and what he lacked in experience he compensated with courage, but his pride sometimes became stubbornness and that was no way to win wars. Still, Diego trusted him and was very glad to have him as second in command.

‘Do you think the woman was discovered?’ Andrea asked his General.

The General didn't reply. He looked at the valley below. This was a wealthy, beautiful land, with long pastures, extended coast lines of crystalline waters, dense vegetation and blue skies. The most incredible animals roamed the rain forest. Just the other night his men on patrol had seen a small spotted panther watching them from behind a large tree trunk, its eyes shining green discs under the moonlight. It was a magical land, with its abundance in gold, silver, jade and other precious stones the empire had never seen, its brave if rudimentary savage soldiers, and its imposing temples to pagan gods.

Magic, yes, in the sense of the wonders a new world can hold, but a path hidden by magic? A false rock on the foot of the hill, an illusion of a rock?

He had seen it himself, once the collaborator woman had placed the signpost as she had promised. She had arrived to the camp three nights back, and his men had had the sense to bring her to him unharmed. She spoke their language well enough to make herself understood. She was different from the savages he'd encountered so far. She hadn't asked for gold, or for safe conduct for her family. She hadn't been terrified like the other natives who turned on their people to save their own necks. No, what she wanted was power. She had asked for a place by his side. And in return she offered a wealth of information. She promised she would lead them to the elusive Shilapa, and to their renowned treasure. Magic, she had claimed. Spells. A book of chants that was a book of magic. General Diego sighed. He had heard of this book but he had no interest in it. He thought it another quaint pagan book, like the many they had found in the tribes. The conquered Akalla had had a small library in their temple, one that had been burnt after the suggestion of father Antonio. Interesting how father Antonio would have the savage's books destroyed but would insist on keeping the jade figurines and the silver bowls that were used for ceremonial purposes in the temples. General Diego didn't mind. He wasn't particularly interested in the mines either, although he did like bringing golden necklaces, amethyst rings and other ornaments to his wife in the old continent.

He was interested in the significance of the battles in this conquest. He wanted glory and a place in history. The savages were brave and resourceful, they were a proud people. And although they were no match for his army's gunpowder and armour, they knew their land very well and they didn't surrender easily. The Shilapa tribe, the last in the southern region of the peninsula, had hidden extremely well. The other tribes admired them deeply and the stories of their treasures and magical powers were most far fetched. The General had come close to deciding that they were just a legend. His men had canvassed the land, patiently and thoroughly for two months. They had seen no sign of the Shilapa.

And then this woman had come. She had arrived in the dead of night, and had asked to see the leader of the army. She was dressed in silk, with amber and jade adorning her neck. A sign not only that she was important in the hierarchy of her folk, but also that she didn't belong to any of the tribes they had encountered in the region, which were all colourful but simply dressed in their cotton garments with patterned embroidery.

She had shown him a golden dart with bright red and green feathers attached to its end. ‘This will lead you to my people,’ she said. ‘It will open the secret entrance for you and for the inevitable progress you bring to these lands.’ Of course didn't believe her, but had been intrigued all the same and had agreed to her terms out of curiosity. Provided she gave them access to the Shilapa and their secrets, he guaranteed her safety and a place by his side in the campaign, and once it was over, she would remain a counsellor. If it played out this way, she would have to be watched constantly, he thought. She was, after all, a traitor.

Still believing that she was lying, he left the next night, leading a group of ten heavily armed soldiers to the foot of the hill below, looking for the dart she had claimed would be marking the entrance to the ‘magic door’. They found it on the ground, in front of the solid rock wall at the edge of the valley.

He didn't believe anyone could live on the other side of the rock wall, the ships had reported a high cliff top above the canyon on this side of the river, inaccessible and populated only by eagle's nests and gnarled trees.

He ordered his men to approach the bright green red feathers shining under the moon. He then asked them to have their firearms ready and dismounted the horse in silence and walked to the dart. He picked it up under the curious eyes of his men, and looked around him. Nothing but a humid ground covered in lichen, and the rock wall. He took two cautious steps along it and then back, looking up, searching for any other signal. Perhaps a hidden ladder? Or a play of light and shade hiding an entrance? The naked rock stared back at him. He put his hand against the rock wall, thinking of pushing it. His arm touched only air and he almost fell, taken off balance by the unexpected gap in the wall. He squinted, his eyes disoriented in the sudden darkness. This was an entrance. On the other side a narrow path ran inside the rock. He went back to his men and rode back to camp. He would assemble his army and go back in full strength.

Two days had passed since then, and he stood now at the top the hill, looking down on the secret entrance to the Shilapa lands, his army behind him ready for his command.

‘We march,’ he said to Andrea. ‘The hidden tribe might be expecting us but that makes no difference. By this time tomorrow their lands will belong to us’.

> go to page 4

> go to page 5

Mist- page 4

< go to page 1

< go to page 2

< go to page 3


Uksmar and Mekh watched the girl Bansha and her grandfather the craftsman from the chief's tent.

The old man was holding a wild white-nosed coati. The long nosed creature had a lame leg, and the craftsman held it in his hands, humming in an even tenor voice and caressing the cinnamon soft fur. The animal had initially struggled but was now still. Bansha, stood in front of them, asking questions in her high pitched voice.

‘Can you imagine them as slaves, Mekh?’ asked Uksmar. ‘Forced to work in the mines until they go blind or die?’

Mekh didn't reply.

‘Or Bansha, taken away from her grandfather and held as a domestic slave, the richness of her life here replaced with house chores, her mist dancing on the top of the cliff becoming a faint memory while she's treated little better than an animal?’

Mekh shook his head slowly. ‘My chief, we can face them. I am willing to fight them to my death.’

‘That would not be helpful, Mekh. They only kill the warriors. You, me, the other strong men. Then they capture the rest of the tribe and chain them to a life of misery.’

‘We can hold them while you walk south and take the forest path. Kihlanni only gave them the entrance she knew about. You can then look for a secure place on the other side where the Shilapa can live.’

‘That plan holds no hope. Even if you did hold them long enough for the rest of us to reach the forest path, the lands on the outside are densely populated, and all of the other tribes are now under the control of the conquistadors. We would only be postponing the inevitable’ Uksmar didn't comment on the accusation. It didn't matter anymore that they had found the feathered darts among Kilhanni's clothes. They stood in silence.

Down the path, the craftsman released the black and brown coati on the ground. The animal took a few tentative steps and then darted for cover on four perfectly healthy legs, provoking an excited squeak from the girl Bansha.

Uksmar smiled but the smile didn't reach his eyes. ‘We will all leave together, Mekh.’ All but one, he thought. She has made her choice. ‘Nothing is to be gained by facing them.’

His captain growled. ‘I am sorry my chief, but I can not do that. I will not run from them like a scared insect. I will stay and fight, even if I am the the only one who does.’

The chief's voice was flat as he answered his most trusted man. ‘I said nothing of running.’

> go to page 5

Mist - page 5

< go to page 1

< go to page 2

< go to page 3

< go to page 4


In the hard edged darkness, the passage waited, silent. They had to remove their plate armour to step into the corridor. Torches and firearms at the ready, every step brought them closer to the Shilapa territory. There was no shouting, no clang of sword against armour, no decisive stamping on the earth. Instead there was stealth and a rushed expectation. The long corridor inside the rock transformed them into quiet thieves, into careful explorers.

Darkness ahead and darkness behind, on and on the passage went, long beyond what they had expected. The wall of rock on each side tightened high above their heads until only a sliver of stars remained of the outside world.

Smoke. A scent of burning. General Diego knew very well what that meant. ‘We must hurry, they are on the run,’ he said in a half whisper, and raced deeper into the passage, fast even when his sides banged and scraped against the sharp rock.

* * *

Her father had once told her that everyone is alone in the world, and that to believe otherwise is to trust an illusion.

Those were the last words she heard him say, and after that she was captured by another tribe. Kihlanni, princess of the moon, dew gatherer and golden daughter of pillis, had been stolen when she was eight years old. Being of noble birth, she had not been made into a slave, but had nevertheless led a life of eternal captivity and isolation. When Uksmar had visited her host tribe, and fallen in love with the beautiful, solemn young woman, a trade had been made and she had been glad for it.

She had ended living with the Shilapa, and had been grateful for it at the time. But years went by, and for all her weaving, singing and poetry transcriptions into bark codices, she was still a foreigner and still felt utterly alone. In this tribe of magic makers hidden away from the world, she had replaced one form of captivity for another. She felt trapped. She couldn't see the world and the big changes she suspected were taking place in the ruling classes of the main tribes. But the worst thing was that she was no longer princess of the moon, dew gatherer and golden daughter of pillis, she was only plain Kihlanni, the adopted one, the one without magic. She was, as her father had said, alone in the world.

And that was why, when she heard Uksmar talk to the guards outside her tent, and after she realised they had all left, she remained inside. She wore her silk dress and her jade and silver earrings, and she waited for the new world that was coming to find her.

* * *

‘It's time for us to leave,’ said Uksmar to his tribe. They were all in the clearing. The children had sleepy faces as they had been woken up for the gathering. Completely still, they watched him. A fire blazed bright in the middle of the circle they formed. Above them the pale night, the stars weaker now as the sun made its way to the edge of the earth. There was no wind. ‘We must go before sunrise,’ he added. ‘They are already in the path inside the rock and soon they will be here.’

They burnt the sacred books of chants and their scrolls of poetry, the flower and the song. Carrying small bundles of their belongings, music instruments, carvings, dry herbs, they left their settlement.

Mehk, wearing his battle face paint, walked tall by his leader's side. The rest of the tribe followed closely, flanked by the warriors. Bansha held her grandfather's hand, picking her way carefully in the uneven ground in light sandalled steps.

Uksmar lead following the slope down. He turned neither north to follow the rock toward the second passage, nor to the southern trail, but went on into the dense vegetation leading to the river. They crossed the thickest part of the rainforest under broad leaves and cricket songs, treading softly on increasingly damp soil under the shade of lush canopy. When they stepped out of the dense forest and into the rocks surrounding the cliffs, the wind picked up, dampening their faces and clothes with humid morning.

In the cold light of the early hours, bird song showered the earth. The Shilapa walked on, side by side, mothers and sons, warriors and artisans. Between her mother and grandfather, Bansha walked, her muddy hands inside theirs. She had insisted on planting the last of her mother's medicinal herbs before leaving.

They reached the edge of the cliff cold under their cotton cloaks. Silently they stood, those who arrived later gathering behind the first. Above them the sky begun to warm up to daylight, and around them the buffeting wind cried. Far below the river sparkled like their jewels, ever flowing and free.

A woman standing too close to the edge slipped on a loose rock and had to be helped up by those near her. Bansha took in a sharp breath and gripped her grandfather's hand tightly.

Uksmar and his warriors were the first. They jumped into the gap, into the vast basin of wind and mist that separated them from the river. Others followed, and all around them Bansha heard the wind whispering secret words she could almost understand. Her mother's hand holding hers hesitated briefly, like a butterfly, but finally her grip became soft and sure, and as she took the last step, she said ‘come with us, Bansha.’

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Draft - A vastness

A vastness expands within me,
inside a particle with no measure -
like an instant of space.

I am much smaller.
It threatens to explode,
I will fall from this horizon.

My heart opens,
I spill forth like a fountain. The gates
also open, then flood
my body,

a symphony through my veins, tumbling,
symmetries, crystals, paper flowers.

I spill from this wound and into
the night of space, into a cave buffeted by wind,
onto heavy seas under winter rain.

A silent child stands under a tree,
above him a leaf shining in warm sunlight,
around them

many worlds flutter and spin, drawn
to the center they define
just by breathing together
free from death.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008




page 1

page 2


page 1

page 2


page 1

page 2


page 1

page 2


page 1

page 2

page 3

page 4


page 1

page 2

VII-Casa grande

page 1

page 2

page 3


page 1

page 2


page 1

page 2

page 3


page 1

page 2