Thursday, 1 March 2018
This is the biggest snow storm in recent memory here in Ireland.
I can't go anywhere so I'm going into 'shinning' mode. Like Jack Nicholson typing away while the white-out the other side of the window illuminates the way.
I've been through some profound life changes in the last two years and my blog has been neglected but... No more! I can reveal that there is a work in progress nearing completion and that I'm back in writing form again. If anyone is listening out there, I thank you.
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
As soon as I began promoting my first novel: ‘ORB,’ people began asking about the writing process.
'How did you go about writing it?' people have asked.
See the thing is that I'm not at all trained as a writer.
I began writing ideas down whenever and wherever they came to me. A few words outlining the general idea, just as it came to me.
And I do mean that the ideas came to me, as in: I'd be just looking out the window and two elements of plot would become visible, a character’s features would enter my mind, the name of a place would ring out in my head.
I'm completely sure that if I hadn't written those ideas down there and then, I would have forgotten them.
WATCH YOUR ALPHA
On more than one occasion, I was falling asleep (probably going through alpha state,) when I would see or realise something about the story, I would then force myself to wake up and grab my phone from the nightstand so I could make a note of it, then go back to sleep.
WORKING ‘12 to 3’
The other side of the coin is ~of course~ hard work; lots of it.
I sat at the computer and worked on those raw ideas until there was something of substance: a scene, a dialogue, a chapter. Most of the hard work took place between the hours of midnight and 3am; when the house is finally quiet, and the body struggles to stay awake.
CUT THE GRASS
After the hard work, I'd leave the words on the hard-drive and go back to living a life having moved the story forward.
I went and cut grass, cooked, walked the dogs, gave my son his bath, went to work, did my taxes, whatever. By the time I came back to writing again, I’d find that my subconscious had been working on things because new ideas just flowed.
Scenes, dialogue and twists came as I continued writing from where I’d left things before.
Over the 3 years it took me to write ORB, there were times w
hen I didn't write a single word for weeks at a time: when I injured myself, when my mother died, or just at any time life was extra-demanding.
At those times I didn't worry about the book. If an idea came I took it down, and remained confident that my subconscious was still working in the background.
AND THE RESULT…
As I nervously wait for my readers to begin rating ORB on the usual platforms, I hope that my efforts will have produced a book that will entertain, connect, and ~in some way~ help someone.
Writing it sure helped me.
I’ve put in a truckload of work but I must say: I have thoroughly enjoyed the process, perhaps thanks to my workaholic subconscious.
Wednesday, 10 June 2015
Thursday, 4 June 2015
Spent, still leaking love,
naked prayer for new child joy.
I succumb pillow-deep, though I try…
Freefall opens my third eye.
Like fireworks, birds fly.
Starlings burst into darting flowers,
capillaries flood out,
like lit ashes from a pyre.
to burn slow;
to warm up some;
share tiny flame.
Finally learn your name.
Towering over my ant’s viewpoint,
trees, branches and little bone joints.
We are small, so small…
I internalise… the wonder.
blood pounds artery-bound,
the base of my skull shakes
with hammering cannonball sound.
Wishing to stay,
I wake… instead,
back in bed.
Copyright © Francisco Rebollo 2015
Saturday, 16 May 2015
An Aeronautical Love Story from an Altered World
Spiritual Sci-Fi / Techno-Mystical Thriller
‘A pilot longing to be a father…
A child with a gift…
An irresistible intruder…
An encounter with the unknown…
the Orb nears.’
Wednesday, 6 May 2015
Drawing based on photo by José Rosas Cano
Note: Written within the context of the Irish referendum on marriage equality May 2015.
(The following is a conversation which may or may not have taken place, inside a wooden barn, at the fort of Loreto; in Puebla, Mexico; on the eve of the 5th day of May of 1862.)
‘What has been agreed my dear teacher?’
‘The same as was mentioned by the republican messenger who visited our foggy village: Our blades will win a place at the table for our people, my dear Coyi.’
‘Master Washi, I would follow you anywhere, so would the rest; but our people have been duped before… are you confident that this new government will keep their word?’
‘Brave Coyi, I tell you this: If we do not act as equals we will never be treated as such. Tomorrow, we will be first to repel the French assault; it’s an honour… If any of us survive, we will hold the government to their word, if we all perish, our women and elders will do it, if they should be chained or slain as in the past… then our people’s children will avenge us all someday.’
A sense of foreboding clouded young Coyi’s brow, he glanced at his machete, left standing against the barn door, the carvings of a cross and the symbol which his teacher told him was an ‘M,’ freshly cut into its wooden handle.
“Protection…” his teacher had said; “…our saviour and mother Tonatzin will walk with us.”
The late afternoon thunderstorms began to roar high up in the sierra. Coyi looked out through a crack in the door, there was just about enough daylight left to make out the contour of the volcanoes to the west, they stood purple and bruised against the gushing red dusk.
Fire in the clouds wrapped itself around snowy peaks; bottled up tempest in the mid-spring evening of bloodletting.
‘I will fight by your side any day my teacher. I know very little of this world. I haven’t been able to learn the Spanish alphabet though you’ve tried. I’m thankful for the medicine through which you have shown me the twilight world of which others can only dream… Teacher, if you think being here is a good idea, I shall ask no more.’
Washi moved closer to his disciple and landed a warm hand on his shoulder.
‘Coyi, this is the time to think of this world and not of the other. You are a man, you have already fought enough battles in your life, you are free to go, many happy years await you and there are many lessons which I cannot teach.’
‘Let me learn the lesson of why we must be here and defend this fort.’ Coyi said.
‘Very well,’ Washi said pausing only long enough to smile, ‘When I was your age, no one would have believed that a Zapotec indian could ever become president; and yet, it happened… This is a time of great change my dear one. President Juarez will not betray his own blood; he will make good on the republic’s promise to us. On the other hand; there are many in this world who hate the kind of change that is taking place… They don’t want indians as presidents, they want Indians under the yoke, ploughing the fields or cutting down straw until they die.’
Coyi turned to look at his teacher’s face, his lips hurting to say something.
‘Speak, after tonight you may not get another chance, my brave Coyi.’
‘My teacher… what if we, what if we lose?’
Washi slowly crouched down and began dragging his finger on the ground. He remained quiet for a while. The mules in the barn stirred as the far away thunder began to rumble.
Coyi looked down at his teacher’s drawings and recognised the sacred geometry outlined by his fingertip -their people’s motif on the dirt; it brought a sort of calmness to his heart.
Washi stopped drawing and caressed one of the bales of straw at arm’s length. He ran his dark fingers along the surface, as if trying to count the individual strands by touch.
‘If we fight and lose, we will be ruled by foreigners, yet again.’ He finally said.
Coyi listened to the distant thunder; he began to guess the expression in his teacher’s eyes as the twilight dyed itself black.
‘My teacher, what can a few dozen Zacapoaxtlan warriors do here, that thousands of well-armed republican troops cannot do?’
Washi smiled lovingly at his student, recognising rightful questioning as if blossoming in the dark like a Tlitlitzin moonflower.
‘Dearest Coyi, by showing our Zacapoaxtlan faces at the battlefield tomorrow, we will show this Napoleon III over in Paris, and his generals here in Mexico, that they are not just fighting president Juarez, they’re not just fighting the second Mexican republic… Our blunt machetes, our huarache-sandaled feet, our cotton clothes, our straw hats… our very own copper faces… we will show them that they are fighting Mexico itself.’
A lull in the thunder coincided with a coyote’s distant call, which for a second distracted Coyi from the lesson at hand.
‘I see,’ Coyi sighed and nodded as he leaned back against the straw, ‘and besides us, the Xochialpulcans and our other neighbours, are there more Indians waiting to defend this fort tomorrow, teacher?’
‘I was the only indian face at that table my Coyi, but in so many other faces there, I could see the blood of our ancestors even if somewhat mixed with the Spaniard’s own, like in Porfirio Diaz’s -the military man from Oaxaca.’
‘And what of this General Zaragoza who is to lead us tomorrow? Some of our men heard that he is not even from around here.’
‘He’s from Texas.’
‘Forgive me teacher, but are Texans… Mexican?’
‘They used to be, Zaragoza still is.’
‘What of the old man we met on the way here? Oswaldo, the black man? The one who says he fought alongside Riley back in 47?’
‘He was at the meeting also. Oswaldo is well-known to Texans like Zaragoza; many years ago -before he ever met Riley- Oswaldo fled the plantation, as there was a price on his head.
The wind outside began to pick up and made a draft of dust fly around inside the barn; wood boards creaked, Washi and Coyi squinted to keep their eyes clean.
‘A warrior who runs away?’ Asked Coyi, as the wind howled.
‘Those who once dared chase Oswaldo across the border, called him a “runaway slave.” He calls himself a “free man”.’
‘Teacher, why would a man choose to fight with us against the French rather than return up north to fight his would-be masters?’
The rain opened up, and began hitting the barn’s roof. It sounded like a thousand lashes, like a thousand drums.
‘Young Coyi,’ teacher made his voice louder than the deluge, ‘Why a man choses to stay in Mexico is often the fault of a woman; Oswaldo fights for his family. As for the French… Their Emperor wishes to set up shop in Mexico and help the confederates who fight Lincoln up north… so that when they win their so called “civil war” up there, they can make us all into slaves.’
Coyi remained quiet listening to the thinning rain and contemplating all of the things his teacher had told him.
Only the darkness would witness Coyi and Washi’s embrace.
Soon enough, the rain stopped and Coyi fell asleep with his head on the straw.
Coyi dreamed of the mountains of Zacapoaxtla, of his mother’s cheekbones, of the cuts in his hands after long days working the fields and of a waterfall, the one he saw reflected in his teacher’s eyes.
When he woke, Coyi found Washi sitting calmly, looking at him, dressed in the cold twilight.
A bugle broke the peaceful awakening as the sun’s rays snaked in through the gaps in the wood.
‘It’s time.’ Washi whispered, preparing to stand up.
‘Perhaps… one more question teacher?’ Coyi rubbed his eyes as his nerves choked his voice.
Washi smiled and sat back down.
‘If this new republic survives, will we all be equal?’
‘Indians, blacks, the women too? No more second-class people?’
Coyi nodded scratching the thick black hair on top of his young head.
‘What about people like us teacher? We, who choose each other but must hide it because of the laws that say we can’t be together? Will we be equal in the new republic also?’
Coyi dived deep into his teacher’s black eyes, waiting for the answer.
‘Coyi, my dear, my equal: If not in this new republic, it will be so in another republic; but I think that you and I will not ever see it, even if we live a hundred years after this day –the Cinco de Mayo of 1862.’
Copyright © Francisco Rebollo 2015
Saturday, 28 March 2015
So many questions…
What does it take for a man to kill?
What does it take for a man to kill himself?
To kill others?
To kill his passengers?
What does it take to make a pilot destroy his aircraft, kill his passengers?
What does it take?
Can it really be called suicide though he died while committing mass-murder?
But he was only a man, he was alone and he was only human… right?
What makes a pilot human?
What makes a man, a pilot?
What makes a man depressed?
What does it take to become depressed?
What did it take for him?
What does it take?
What was that pilot taking?
What was that man taking?
What was he taking?
What was he ON?
Now, he’s on TV.
TV says he was a sick man.
As if, just another victim.
He was a European, man.
Perhaps even a Christian, man.
What if he had been a Muslim?
What if he, had been a woman?
What was he taking?
The day he took it all away from so many.
Copyright © Francisco Rebollo 2015
Friday, 20 February 2015
humans on another plane;
not just pilots getting high.
Islands in the clouds.
peeking through shrouds.
Above the sheepskin rug
of eternal icecap
we drift above a cotton wool map.
On a clear night
I become a space-age kite.
I look down on your cities
where locks on bridges
and a myriad of flicked-on switches
make light of the facts…
One day you might
want to fish the key out.
crossing black skies like ours
year after year
over tens of thousands of hours.
At home, with us or alone
preparing for the next time he’s due home.
2 in total
one grounded and content
another shares my view of stars
3 time-zones earlier,
over a different continent.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
There’s been some ‘complications;’
so I’m shown into a room
where they tell me:
‘It’s like a deep sleep.’
Then they bring me in and
I see you
and I see what they mean.
And I swear
I’ll never close my eyes again
‘til you open yours.
days and nights,
the world’s suspended,
the end: open-ended;
so I pray to any (and every)
god, angel; demon.
That you open your eyes again;
I dream on.
of beeping life-support machines
walls stained with ‘Intensive Care Unit’
I beg for one more chance to say:
‘I love you’
‘I see you;’
and not this cut-up body
covered-up, tubed-in and wire-laden
inside the ICU.
Wish I could show you we’re still together
even though you’re gone.
‘She’s on full support,’ they say,
arms out, palms up,
nurses look blurry
through eyes fogged up.
We both live a slow death
inside the final ward,
where respirator’s violent blows
blast your chest as if from below
and every passing second crawls
and yet hours, days -and a lifetime- draws
closer and closer
to a stall.
‘Perfusion,’ ‘infection,’ ‘analysis,’ ‘dialysis,’ new disease;
My heart breaks again, and again
then it tears long and deep it bleeds
with every new term.
‘Have you got kids?’
I murmur with deep regret.
is their insane reply;
but I know they’re right
-at least our kids won’t watch you die.
‘One ventricle is showing signs of strain.’
they tell me, yet again.
‘She’s a collapsed lung,’
and I wonder how long
And I talk to you.
And I wait for you.
I do what I can,
and I’ll accept anything,
except what’s actually happening.
In the movies, patients just wake up;
but real life is real death,
and you just hang by a thread
while other ‘coma’s’ in nearby beds
beep-out daily instead.
At night, outside,
a Siva moon
shines her spotlight
on my doom.
I curse our stars and wait
for our turn,
but it doesn’t come…
And one day,
-as if remarking on the weather-
‘Yeah; she’s responding to the treatment,’
and somehow, I escape bereavement.
I get to see you
open your eyes and leave the I.C.U.
Copyright © Francisco Rebollo 2014
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
In Mexico, on the ‘Dia de Muertos’ or ‘the Day of the Dead,’ Cempasuchitl flowers can be found everywhere.
Bright orange glow spills out of their petals on to large paper-Mache skeletons, they adorn candy skulls made form cast-sugar and chocolate, and they frame ‘Dead Man’s Bread’ on the family table.
The Cempasuchitl are tied into flower-chains, displayed in large pots or laid on the ground alongside lit candles like a golden rug around ‘ofrendas’ (altars to the dead.)
The native Mexican word for the Marygold hides an important meaning: ‘Cempasuchitl,’ or: ‘Cempoal-Xochitl;’ means ‘Flower of Twenty’ -some say it’s because of its 20 petals.
The flower was the ideogram for the number twenty; and twenty was a special number to the Mexica -known in Europe as ‘Aztecs.’ Twenty was the base of their arithmetic and calendar systems.
‘20’ was to them, what ‘10’ is to us today.
The Mexican ‘Flower of Twenty’ or ‘Cempasuchitl’ was believed to contain the very heat and light of the sun inside each crown of orange and yellow petals. The light inside the Cempasuchitl was believed to be visible to the departed, and -on the Day of the Dead- it would illuminate the way back to their former earthly abode. Once there, the deceased would find her (or his) picture alongside images of dancing skeletons all dressed up for the ball.
Some say that: “Mexicans like to mock death.”
Well, we certainly choose to laugh at life, especially when the only other option is to cry; and even when things are good, it sometimes seems that earthly existence is but a long awkward moment.
Like that clumsy, bump on the forehead as you try to look out at a beautiful sunset through a greasy window.
Sometimes I think that life after death could be just as messy and awkward as this life.
I may have my indigenous ancestors to thank for this.
Aztecs had not only one, but two ‘gods of the dead,’ ‘Mictlantecuhtli,’ and his wife; ‘Mictecacíhuatl’ who –like any other married couple- kept themselves company by doing each other’s heads in, while barely staying together throughout an eternity down in the underworld.
After being welcomed by the lovely couple, the souls of the recently-expired found out their fate. Those who died of natural causes could make themselves at home in the underworld, those who drowned became part of an eternal ‘Waterworld,’ and lastly; a temporary heaven inside the sun awaited men who died in battle and women who died while giving birth.
These dead men and women could then return to earth in the shape of the flower-drinking hummingbird, a sacred animal.
The Spanish had never seen a hummingbird until they came to the ‘New World.’ They marvelled at the bird and called it: ‘the flying jewel.’ They captured as many as they could, and sent their colourful feathered skins to Europe, creating an unsustainable demand for more skins and causing the death of many millions of these birds.
So, it was back to square-one for the brave reincarnated souls.
It seems in Mexico, life is always spilling into death and death is always splashing back onto life.
On the Day of the Dead, this thin boundary between life and death becomes even fainter, as the departed souls of relatives are thought to be closer to the living than on any other day of the year.
Even though the Cempasuchitl will light the way for the visiting spirits, some families are eager to save the deceased the trouble of the journey back, and so they venture into the ‘Panteones’ (Graveyards) not only with Cempasuchitl flowers and candles, but with food, guitars and even Tequila.
Mexicans could easily use the modern Spanish word ‘cementerios’ for graveyards; but they choose to use the older word: ‘Panteones,’ maybe it’s because in its Greek root the word means: ‘all the gods’ as in: ‘the more the merrier’–but to keep things Catholic: ‘Diosito’ (the God,) his son Jesus, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the lesser saints are also invited to the Day of the Dead party.
During this eclectic graveyard picnic, people will lovingly decorate their dead relatives’ graves and then sit down to chat to them or amongst themselves for hours on end. As night sets, they’ll light up a small constellation of candles and listen to the sounds of rosary prayers blend in with the chords and singing of Mariachi music. A bottle might get passed around while children eat candy and play on the burial ground of relatives they never met.
The sugar skulls children bite into are decorated with common first-names like ‘Maria’ or ‘Francisco;’ or popular sayings like: “Como te ves, me vi, y como me ves, te verás…” (The way you look now, I once did; and as I look now, so will you.)
This is supposed to be Mexicans ‘laughing at death’ as the cliché goes. As a Mexican, I’m not so sure that’s meant to be funny; this saying is certainly a cute and welcome reminder of our own impermanence; but the question it has always raised in my mind is… ‘When?’
When, will I look like you? Oh, sugar skull with my name on it? (With my name on it minus the chocolate letters because they’re the tastier ones and I always eat them first.)
I hope I don’t look like you too soon –to be honest.
Maybe we’re trying to hide the fact that in Mexico death has never really been a laughing matter.
In distant times the appalling practice of human sacrifice helped an elitist Aztec theocracy keep millions of souls under control and was of such a scale that it horrified even the blood-soaked, iron-hearted conquistadores from across the sea.
Since those days, them and others have continued the mass sacrifice, disguised as ‘Conquista,’ ‘Colonia,’ ‘Independencia,’ ‘Manifest Destiny,’ ‘Revolución,’ and mass emigration.
Present-day Mexico is still no place to laugh at death. In the grip of a drug war imposed upon the people by local drug cartels, the Mexican government and the international demand for drugs; life is cheap… crazy cheap; but death is always expensive; and no one laughs at the price.
In the country of sugar skulls and sun-containing flowers, it makes sense that death be life’s shackled shadow, as near to it as night is to day; and so when you can taste the sunset just around the corner, you can only pray for sweet dreams and a free hummingbird’s paradise.
On the Day of the Dead we remind ourselves not only that death is not the end, but also that being crazy and care-free right now is essential to maintaining sanity; because we’re all headed towards that candle-lit night; when children will play above ground asking about who we were, making our surviving relatives airbrush our frowns and growls out of anecdotes and stories about us, and our days on earth.
In a typically Mexican circular way, the Day of the Dead also suggests a forgotten life before birth. Because life in Mexico is desperately and comically flawed- but it’s also mysterious and constantly renewing itself.
As I ponder on the meaning of the Cempasuchil flower, it’s sad that while growing up over there I didn’t actually know the true meaning of its name.
In everyday life in Mexico City, the only remnants of the native language of the Aztecs survive in the names of neighbourhoods and of the surrounding mountains, or as a part of a wider ‘Mexican history’ class in schools.
Growing up in Mexico, the ‘Nahuatl’ language was almost a foreign language to my generation; even more so than the English that has opened doors for me throughout my life.
Things are changing, and that’s why, the ‘Day of the Dead’ itself is having to fight off its own death these days.
A mighty rival illegally crossed the border southbound a few decades ago. Armed with spider-man costumes, sneaker’s mini-chocolate bars and carved pumpkins, Halloween ‘trick or treating’ is always gaining ground against the traditions of displaying the Cempasuchitl, of eating sugar skulls and of leaving ‘Dead Man’s Bread’ crumbs on the great-grandparents’ plot.
How interesting it seems that Halloween comes from the Irish ‘Samhain,’ the autumnal festival during which the doors into the world of the dead were considered to be open for a while.
How just it seems also, that the pumpkin, the sugar candy and the chocolate of Halloween are as native to Mexico as the humble Cempasuchitl ‘flower of twenty.’
So, ‘Failte’ Halloween, mi casa es tu casa.