Tag Archive for ‘prose’

The Spectrum of Space

 

“What are you doing?” I hear a man ask, his footfalls coming to a stop behind me.

“Reaching out into the cobalt chasm,” I reply from behind my camera, taking the shot.

“Reaching out for what?” the man asks.  His voice sounds lonely, searching for conversation with a stranger.

“Meaning, I suppose,”

“Meaning?” he asks.  I can hear his smile.

“Yeah.  My late father once told me that many people look to the sky for purpose,” I say with muffled words, the camera still covering my face as I lean back and turn my lens towards the sky’s meridian.  “Maybe I can somehow capture it.”

The man clears his throat. “Meaning is a construct of the mind, my friend, not of a universe that lingers above those trees.”

I shrug my shoulders while looking through the viewfinder, adjusting the focal length on the lens to take in more of the sky. “Where else would you look for purpose?” I ask, noticing the sky growing darker, draining of color. I turn the camera to take a vertical photo.  I capture the shot.

“The search for meaning elsewhere is a madness of the mind,” he says. “I’m Mr. Lem, by the way.”

I suddenly feel my feet leave the ground, and I pull the camera from my face for the first time. I’m now floating high above the trees as Mr. Lem, hands in his coat pockets with a shock of gray hair waving in the breeze, tilts his head back and watches me fall up into a sky that darkens into the color of space.

Mr. Lem continues: “Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”

The Earth falls away beneath me as I float into the vast obsidian cosmos, camera in hand. I watch the sun shrink into the size of a pixel, then disappear into the black backdrop of the universe.

Swimming in this vast void, I try to capture a shot of the immense starscape that surrounds me, but there’s not enough light for the camera’s sensor, even at slower shutter speeds.  I should have grabbed my tripod as I was leaving Earth.

But soon, burning bright against the void among the light of two orbiting stars, a planet bathed half in blue light and half in red light emerges from this sea of liquid black and deep silence.

“It’s called Solaris,” the voice of Mr. Lem tells me. “And it manifests what you think you seek.”

“It’s stunning,” I say as I float down to the surface of this distant planet, a small island in the middle of a vast ocean.  I bring my camera to my eye and capture the shot.

This planet, covered mostly with a liquid I have yet to identify, speaks to me through my lens.  Mr. Lem was clearly wrong, for I have found a bastion, a purpose far from my own planet full of dread and loss and death.

Or perhaps Solaris found me, both of us traveling alone through the vacuity of the universe.

I raise my camera for another shot, but notice someone approaching me.  It’s not Lem.

I narrow my eyes.  “Dad?” I ask, dropping the camera at my feet.  He smiles at me as he gets closer

© Mike Yost

Novel excerpt and creative inspiration from Solaris by Stanisław Lem

A Boy and His Horse

I bought the truck from some guy up in Greeley. Cash in hand. The owner wore a white cowboy hat and held a firm handshake. Mid-sized truck with a toolbox in the bed. Manual transmission. 4X4. Exactly what I wanted. I named the truck Cthulhu.

Cthulhu is a bit old. Over 200,000 miles. The air conditioner doesn’t work. His frame groans when driving over ditches, though he never complains about his aching bones.

Cthulhu is a bit beat up. Massive dents like the surface of the moon. A door handle that broke off long ago. Claw marks along the side from a massive tree on a narrow road that was more rocks than road.

But Cthulhu has heart, grit, and fortitude. He attacks each mountain pass with the loud growl from a rusting muffler. He jerks the steering wheel out of my hand, driving us off onto a dirt road—any dusty path that’s far away from hot asphalt.

I bounce around in the cab of the truck with a broad smile as we ricochet across washboard roads walled by trees and steep cliffs. The windows are cranked all the way down, and I can smell earth. Radio off. Wild wind whirling about the cabin with dust that swirls and burns bright in the sunlight.

We rest inside a thick nest of evergreens, split apart by a babbling stream that rolls down distant hills. Cthulhu sits covered in dust—and he smiles, having escaped the heat and chaos of crowded city streets. I lay down nearby in the shade of aspens that shake in the breeze.

I wonder if those vagabonds who wandered through the Rocky Mountains with only their horse felt the same way. A silly notion perhaps. The fondness of a steed with oil for blood. A steel horse with a heart of fire named Cthulhu.

I close my eyes, and we listen to the serpentine wind glide through the treetops.

© Mike Yost

Loss and Meanness

Loss and meanness

They are what fill
this world

Though, a few beautiful, tender moments do thrive
Though, not all of us bare witness

Moments flung into our path, spinning out sharp colors that cut the eye
Moments flung out as stars, swimming across the deep surface of a yawning midnight sky
burning against all that inky, boundless black that greedily consumes the light

Moments separated by vastness itself
and burning alone—
in sight of one another,
but void of their warmth
Drifting in a black ocean with tongues of fire that lick obsidian waves

All this loss and meanness

They push against the skin
against the shoulders
shove us into the earth

Soil broken apart beneath bare feet
the lungs fill with dust as we breathe in
as we reach out

Fingers stretched wide apart
grasping at a cluster of nearby flowers
palming petals just to smell their profound fragrance

And only a few,
So very few,

Brush with fingertips those blooms that burn bright violet
and shake without concern in the arms of a warm breeze

 

© Mike Yost

 

 

Mere Words

Sometimes these words fail to convey a true experience
And their precision strikes as a blunt blade
Unable to pierce down deeply into that . . .
That which turns beneath his chest
That which pulls at his bones
That which hides in the cornered, obsidian shadows
Cast long by a mind locked tightly inside a fragile skull
With a hidden universe of memories and concepts looking out through a lens
Gazing through glass at . . . something he can’t really describe with mere words

© Mike Yost

A Cavern in the Heart

There’s a cavern in my heart

Carved out by the biting knife of lost loves

Splintered futures

Echoes of nights falling asleep beside him

Sheets and legs tangled in hope and contentment

Those warm moments now fading, ever so slowly

Slinking into the deep corners of my skull

Lost in the company of frozen shadows

 

Yet . . .

 

I breathe, slowly, inside this vast emptiness

The burden of forging hope

Now held tightly in my weary hands

The crack of a hammer against stony walls

Deafens the cold surrounding me

As loud sparks illuminate meaningful experiences forgot:

 

Watching the moon burn a white crater into the night sky

Swimming in the roar and ferocity of a live concert

A hug from a close friend

 

These images painted on rocky, damp surfaces like pictographs

Flash out of the darkness with each crack of the hammer

The sealed entrance now a pile of inert and fractured rocks

 

Faint whispers float on the shoulders of air anew

Beckoning me

Into the blinding sun, or

Into a blinding storm, or

Into a blinding, moonless night

 

My bare, cracked feet stumble over shattered stones

Carrying me forward

I find myself under a boundless canopy of timeless stars

Looking up into the depths of black infinity with a faint smile

I breathe, slowly, inside this vast emptiness

 

© Mike Yost

Pete’s Kitchen

[Old Poem. New Photograph]

Pete’s is a place to warm our hands on a snowy afternoon, to wrap our fingers tightly around a thick mug of hot joe that burns the tongue.

Pete’s is a place to find company among the friendless, to nourish a lonely heart with the unspoken words of weary strangers.

Pete’s is a place for derelict souls, for those Denver denizens who feel endlessly lost—even at home surrounded by those we love.

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Dedicated to the Master Literary Prankster

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Say what, dear boy?” Mark replied, still staring out to sea.

“’Be good and you will be lonesome,’” I said.

Mark blinked his eyes and took a long pull on his cigar. Waves crashed against the side of the haul. The salty sea air almost flung the hat off his head.

“It’s April Fools’ Day, you know.” Mark set his feet on the railing. “As if being a fool only happens to a man once a year.”

Mark looked back out at sea, his gray curls shaking in the wind.  “As if being lonely only happens when you’re alone.”

“You . . . ” I asked pensively.  “You make it sound like every day is April Fools’ Day.”

“Because it is, dear boy,” Mark replied with a wide smile, now looking at me while tugging at his cigar, strings of smoke curling around his mustache.

Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Ancient Observer


This ancient observer
Mute and steadfast
Floating high above the horizon
Circling the firmament
For billions of years

Watching the dinosaurs fall silent beneath a cloud of ash
Watching civilizations spring out of open fields and spill across vast oceans
Watching the bones of those we love sink back into the Earth

Apathetic to our own toils
Indifferent to our own queries
To our universal questions of meaning and purpose
Pulled to the surface under a canopy of distant stars

Questions unanswered by this mute and steadfast witness
This silent companion of our home planet
Suspended in a peaceful tapestry
High above the horizon

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

The Absence of Light

shadow-streams_darker

The absence of light

Branches out

Like streams made of shadows

Carving valleys into the landscape

Alluvial fans forever fixed behind warmth

Hidden from the sun

From its own creator

And as fire dives beneath the surface of the horizon

Streams converge into rivers bleeding into an ocean of darkness

Fathoms of infinity floating high above

Only to  evaporate

By a deluge of blue sky

A mirage of cerulean

Painted by a morning star

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Shadow Cast

wire-lines

A small corner of the sky peeks around concrete walls
While shadows dance along a vertical stage
Their silhouettes flung into existence by a neighboring star
Burning for billions of years
So that this moment

Here

This portrait for the eyes

Here

This experience for the mind

Here

Can be captured
And remembered
And perhaps forgotten

But the narrative abides
Beyond the dying of the day
Beyond the falling of the shadows
Beyond the here

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016

Where Land and Sea Converge

scotland-land-and-sea

I stand on slippery stones
As a brisk breeze cuts across the cove
Seaweed peeking between my toes
Waves crashing against bare ankles

A stranded starfish abandoned in its wake

A salty zephyr forces open my lungs
And I breathe in
Slowly
For the first time
In years

The starfish struggles on slippery rocks

A dangling star warms my naked shoulders
And I breathe out
Slowly
For the first time
In years

I liberate my stranded friend
Now nestled neatly in my palm
Now an orphan of the vast ocean
When something pokes at the skin

I turn my friend onto its back
Very gently
A row of tiny legs curl and swell and vacillate
Like little white needles trying to thread the sky

And I smile at nature’s ingenuity
For the first time
In years

The sand feels cool and coarse against my feet
As I place my orphaned companion
Very gently
Far away from slippery stones

It quickly buries itself beneath the wet sand
Hiding from an indignant sun
Finding respite
Where land and sea converge

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016

Keeping Time Timeless

Painted Sky

“Don’t you see?  We’re the clouds, man.”

“I see you’re stoned.”

“Flung into the sky only to be pushed and bullied around by the wind, eventually burned away by the sun.  Nebulous.  Transitory.”

“And full of moisture.”

“Yeah, man.  Spilling our tears onto the thirsty earth.  Striking the ground with brief bouts of rage that echo for miles and then fade into deafening silence.”

. . .

“Pass the joint, dude.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“So, then what are the mountains?

. . .

“Time, man.”

“Time?”

“And we’re floating just above time, hanging just above those jagged, sawtooth peaks that have been there for centuries.  Fixed.  Steadfast.”

“And full of Quartz.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“Then what?”

. . .

“We glide over the mountains—”

“Over time.”

“Yeah, man.  Glide gracefully, or not so gracefully.  And only for a few, fleeting moments.  That’s all we get before being blown over the horizon, eaten up by the teeth of those mountains.”

“The teeth of time.”

“Exactly, man.”

. . .

“Sounds like a bad band name.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“Then what?”

“What do you mean, man?”

“After we’re gobbled up by the teeth of time, then what?”

. . .

“Nothing, man.  Clouds just evaporate.  Soon forgotten.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“Then why?”

. . .

“Maybe there is no why, man.  We just are, and then we’re not.”

“Like the clouds.”

“Yeah, man.  Like the clouds.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“Or maybe . . .”

. . .

“Maybe what, man?”

“Maybe we’re here to collect experiences, you know?  Like clouds collecting moisture.”

“I follow, man.  Billowing up with experiences.”

“Stretching high into the atmosphere.”

“Exploding into the stratosphere.”

“Until we’re so rich and heavy with experiences that they violently pour out of our lives in sheets of rain and cracks of lightning and gusts of wind.”

“Sheets of experiences cascading from the heavens.”

“Giving life to the trees that cover the mountains below.  Our experiences watering time.”

“Cultivating time, man.”

“Sustaining time.”

. . .

“We’re here to experience experiences, man.”

“And keep time timeless.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

“This is some really good pot.”

“Yeah, man.”

Photograph and prose copyright Mike Yost 2016