It feels appropriate at this time of year, in my dark Mordorish little corner of the earth, to talk for a while about things other than the joyous and the beautiful. There is much here in life that is ugly and that stings, that hurts the flesh and the soul and when our Northern winter comes, bringing with it long stretches of cold damp weather, illness and isolation, many of us are forced to sit in company with these grim beasts for weeks or months on end. That’s not to say that winter cannot be a blessing, and to many it is, but today I’m going to talk about the issues for those for whom it definitely isn’t.
How we deal with pain depends on many factors – the nature of what pains us, whether it is curable or not, whether rest helps or is detrimental, whether medication or analgesics are available or useful, whether we have free will to choose our own path through pain or whether it is thrust upon us by well-meaning Others…
Pain is usually a signal that something is wrong somewhere and no form of cure can be complete unless it recognises first the cause of the pain it is trying to eliminate.
I live with RA. For me pain is usually a sign I have done too much and need to slow down, in those cases taking analgesics and pushing through only makes things worse. Occasionally, it can be a sign that I have been too inactive and need to do more, in that case painkillers can help.
The stories we tell ourselves and eachother about pain are important because they shape our expectations of ourselves and others. If we only listen to tales like that of Elija under the broom tree, we will labour under the assumption that all and any pain is an indication that we need to rest, indulge in self care and remain passive until the pain is passed. On the other hand if we only listen to stories of tenacity like that of Demeter, for example, we are likely to carry the idea that all pain is something that can be pushed through and overcome by sheer force of will.
Both these extremes are, in my opinion, dangerous. Personally, I prefer stories where the cause of physical or emotional pain is brought to light and examined, where possibilities are left open, where many paths forward and back are visible and viable.
Mythpunk, with its postmodernist roots, can speak into this space effectively, can question and ridicule the notion one a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for dealing with pain; the pain that cries ‘stop! enough!’, the pain that is the sweet release of hidden things, the pain that says ‘move, now, come on, get going,’ the pain that harms, the pain that heals, that births or ends, the pain that needs to be put in its place and told ‘pipe down, this is being dealt with, hush now and let us get on with it’… and all the other types of pain, they each deserve their recognition and their voice.
Here’s an extract from two of my own mythpunk pieces that deal with the subject of pain, both mental and physical, the first is from The Painter’s Daughter, which is currently published in Invisible The Mystery Of Hidden Illness and the other is from Ado which you can find in my own mythpunk collection, Mahrime: Mythpunk for monsters.
The Painter’s Daughter
The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.
Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.
Then slowly, and with the girl in thrall,
He dragged the rainbow colours out
In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.
Here was a dream in flesh.
Here was pointillized pain.
Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper
‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’
So she stepped out.
With the bird quill tucked behind one ear…
Ado : When all is lost
“But look, ” she said, “we are still here.”
“No we aren’t” I said “There is something left that was not destroyed, but it isn’t us.”
“Look,” she said.
I kept my eyes on the sunrise.
For brief seconds there was beauty. The smoke seemed to bleed through the light like the flourish of a dancing hand – a love letter on pink paper.
For the space of a breath, the thousand fragments cart wheeling on the breeze were pale moths journeying to find the moon.
Up and Up.
Catch them, they crumble. They are only the little grey ghosts of all the things we loved. Echoes that stain our fingers and nothing more.
“Don’t tell me this is love,” I said. “Don’t tell me this is the plan.”
Thanks so much for joining me again for another #MythpunkMonday, do feel free to jump aboard and share your own / others work or thoughts using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments below. Big blessings to all who struggle, at this time of year or any, it is tough but together we can support eachother and make space for our voices to be heard.
Happy Mythpunk Monday!
I’ve always been haunted by the story of The Little Match Girl. Clarissa Pinkola Estes compares it to The Red Shoes and I (in my own small humble opinion) agree with her – how easy it is to spend our days staring at false lights, false hopes, striking match after match to gain a few seconds of cold brightness and the illusion of warmth ; a futile ritual of protection against what lurks in the dark both inside and out… when really all we are doing is burning the hope we do have. The girls in stories like this all have things of worth, things they can use to take care of themselves, but they exchange them / discard them / burn them up / let well-meaning others take them away or brand them ‘useless’ or ‘dirty’ … and they end with nothing.
I’ve worked this theme into several of my Mythpunk stories and I’m going to share one of them with you today. It’s called Matchless but I didn’t want the ending to be as hopeless as the original tales always are ; they always end with the girl dying and the reader is left to take the wisdom away with them but at the end of my tale, because I wanted the reader to be drawn right in and become a part of the story from the outset, I also wanted wisdom to call to them at the end from within the story itself. So we have the old woman, the wildish nature, the instinctual self, the soul-grandmother, the quick little bright snake that says ‘eat my fruit, open your eyes, see the truth of the matter.’
Here’s a little snippet for you, if you like it, you can read the rest for free on Vocal.
Strike one. Strike and you will see us. Strike and know you are not alone and glimpse in an eye blink that we are all the same. True our limbs do not twist and gnarl the same way, true there are washes of muted colour in our sunken orbs and those do vary. True the tails, the talons, the scales, the teeth and claws, the hair all are not identical and we are ancient and new born and have seen the world birthed and have lived but not even a day. But strike again and see us, strike, strike two, you know we are just like you. You know that once upon a time each of us fell down and this, this gap between the lives of all the others, this skipped heartbeat, this caught breath, this missing note, this blind spot in the corner of the universal eye is where we all go.
Matchless also features in the Mythpunk collection, Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters
Thankyou for joining me for our third MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Today I’d like to share with you a little extract from one of my own own Mythpunk stories ; this is from The Star Talers – a short poem spun from elements of the original Grimm fairytale.
It was inspired by the historic treatment of Rromani slave dancers during the 13th to 18th centuries and the parallels between this and the modern cycle of poverty and exploitation that I have witnessed in the red light districts of British cities today. As such, it touches on issues of slavery, abuse and recovery, sexuality, identity and self-discovery and ends with the hopeful thought that, ultimately, we can survive and journey on from our past…
THE STAR TALERS
The boy had been hollow rose
Carved out from the hip bones of his mother
Beautiful as a choked out sob against silk pillows
Beautiful as a neck bent back swanlike to display the pulse
Beautiful as an eggshell is to crush and feel the yellow juice spill down
Once. Once he had been that hole
A space to fill with so much Other Blood
Now he stands on the banks of a bright river, Old,
Full, frayed, and spilling out onto the bank
No one comes near
The fear of all the screaming demons, stench and blade sharp thorns that close around him
Holds the world away
But still he will stay
He heard a story once; a whisper, rumour, gossip or snatch of song that clung like a butterfly to his sleeve – there is a land across the river, where you can see the stars fall to earth and in their fierce, full, burning beauty there is peace…
Thankyou for joining me for my second MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
If you enjoyed The Star Talers excerpt, you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: