Friday, July 25, 2014

Sketch by Sketch

This fantasy prose poem (or vignette) was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Rose Red Review. It's about a fairy who wishes to become human, but is regretful when it actually happens.

Sketch by Sketch
by Jason Sturner

These I have drawn: a hillside of moonlit clover; creeks cradled by swaying heather; a forest beyond the crumbling stone walls of a pasture. And all just to get home; I’ve been gone so very long.

You might find me in the green layers beyond the sunless core of town, sidestepping the coiled corpses of men’s dreams, crossing industrial rivers where mechanical beasts gnaw on adolescent hearts.

For here dwell the kith of my childhood: the salamander, fox, jackdaw and deer; even the sheep—his dull eyes forever sliding along my heels. Old friends are the mosses and ferns, the spirits of pollen, the ghosts of tree rings. All under the watchful eye of Pan.

As a youth I was enamored with mortals, would sketch them on peeled birch bark and hardened flows of sap. I read book after book about their adventures, dreamt of their heroes and maidens, envisioned hordes of treasure behind castle walls. To me, the human soul mirrored endless romance and wonder. Man dared dream of anything; it dared dream of us.

O how I longed to dance and love and sketch wildly among them! To escape the confines of Pan’s wild domain—to posses a soul!

Such desires led to secrecy, to a thousand sketches wrought in the abandoned swamps where not even the banshee will go. Over time, and at the pace of a snail’s whisper, the leaves of my face turned autumn and blew away. My wings shriveled and fell. I had somehow willed myself, sketch by sketch, into the abrasive, mortal light of Man.

Alas, the humans were not as I had expected. Romance played almost no role in courtship or marriage. Foreign to me was hunger, pain, deep sadness. Strange and worrisome were science and religion. Hardship overcame me, and I reached out to the snickering god of apathy.

Soon my eyes turned the colour of winter. I broke apart as a flower petal in a storm. I do not know if I ever gained a soul.

But despite my disappointment, one simple comfort remained: my ability to sketch. Yet now I refuse to draw anything related to man or his dead dreams. Instead I lose myself in the mossy wood and wild heath, desperate to reveal the music and landscapes of my youth. Always I am trying my best to get the details just right. It is all I can do. I am at the mercy of human imagination.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Neutral Ground

Neutral Ground
(In memory of the Western Black Rhino)

If I woke outside a dream, then at the dream’s shimmering edge I must have been. Nothing else could explain the rhinoceros at my bedside, its massive form displacing all sense of proportion, the moon giving it a ghastly glow.

We remained silent, beast and man, though I could hear its thumping, tribal heartbeat deep inside my chest. I shut my eyes, switched on the lamp. In response its head drooped slowly, dark blood spilling from a severed horn.

The gates of my childhood swung wide open: rhinos were an early fascination. I had drawn them, collected books about them, shushed everyone in the room when they appeared on TV. I had rhino toys, posters and cookies. And like dinosaurs, they wandered innocently through my dreams, though never quite like this. Not like now.

The images were horrific: an article in a recent issue of National Geographic; the uncensored reality of poachers, the sick demands of the medicinal black market—things childhood had never exposed me to. Proof, perhaps, that the ground in a child’s heart is always neutral.

Now I linger at the edge of some Kafkaesque dream. I’m well into adulthood—all my shapes in their corresponding holes; my coloring kept within established lines. A model of conformity.

The rhino continues to bleed, its eyes fluttering on the verge of some primeval truth I cannot uncover. I want to sit with it, to feed it handfuls of green leaves until its horn regrows, until the African sun blazes high overhead and reveals an unbroken stretch of grassland.

But the rhino fades, and I come to realize that a new horn will never be enough; the human race keeps growing, keeps demanding of nature. And I think, if only the child inside me would rise up, turn warrior, shed his neutrality. He could break from this apathy, take a stand against the encroaching world—really fight! He could do all that. And wouldn’t it be something? That would really be something.

(From the book Wilderness & Love)