"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time." (T S Eliot)
"A dark and chanted verse is what I am." (
Forough Farrokhzad)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

VILLAGE

The following paragraphs are taken from early drafts of one of David Morisset's current projects - a dystopian fiction novel set in the second-half of the twenty-first century.

At first they drove west on the main highway.  The road was a series of long straight stretches located less than a kilometer in most instances from the bays and lagoons of the coast.  With the vehicle on automatic guidance – as were all the other cars – Hushang was free to point out locations and explain some of the history of the region.  Mai listened attentively and asked questions.
It was their third outing and they had become more relaxed in each other’s presence.  As well as learning about the country and its people Mai was able to improve her knowledge of their language, although the couple mostly spoke English together.  Mai also taught Hushang some of her own dialect.  He faltered with its tonal variations and struggled with its polite particles and gender variations.  With sadness Mai explained that the dialect was no longer taught in schools under the policies of the Greater Asian Nation but small groups were dedicated to its preservation and had established libraries to protect its literary heritage.  Hushang was reminded of the linguistic history of his homeland and the battle over hundreds of years to shield it from Arabic corruption, particularly in the sphere of religion.
A great deal of the coastline had been given over to walled townships of luxurious villas that blocked out the travellers’ views from the highway.  However, as they went further west, the density of development lessened and tiny villages of old buildings began to predominate.  Soon they were beyond the reach of the guided driving network and Hushang relished the opportunity to take control of his car.  They skirted around a major metropolis, which dominated the horizon for half an hour or so.  Its outline became even more clear when Hushang steered on to a narrow rising road that twisted between farms and orchards.
“Most of our government departments are located in that old city.”  Hushang gave a little chuckle.
“Why do you laugh?” Mai asked.
“In the old days many jokes were told about the people of this city.  The men were supposed to slow-witted and the women were supposed to be promiscuous.”
“An interesting combination.”
“Yes, and an ideal place from which to source government employees.”  Hushang laughed at his own joke.
“So why is your agency not there?”
“The king prefers to live in the neighbouring province – a combination of historical associations and security considerations.  So we are ay his side.”
By now the road had tapered and it had become little more than a rough trail identifiable only by the bare ground traced by previous sets of mechanised wheels.  After negotiating several hairpin bends with no guardrails to interrupt a careless tumble into the deep valleys below, Hushang came to an abrupt stop.  His destination was only few hundred metres away and it took Mai’s breath away.
Instead of steeply sloped hills there were several terraces carved into part of the landscape.  In the middle of the panorama was a village, its clay structures starkly different to their surrounding greenery.  The homes and shops were literally stacked on top of each other with countless layers of residences and businesses ascending the hillside as if a gifted child playing with blocks had set them in place.  At the front of each house was a small courtyard, which also seemed to be a street of sorts.  On closer inspection Mai realised that the yard and thoroughfare were also the roof of the dwelling below.
“We cannot drive the car through the village.  The streets are made from adobe and wooden rods and are only strong enough to serve as footpaths.  Anyway, it’s best to appreciate it from a distance.”  Hushang had been here only once before and the place fascinated him.  It seemed, to Hushang, enchanted and, possibly, full of tales of simpler, happier times.  Of course, he had no evidence for these suppositions other than their presence in his imagination.
“Oh.  It’s marvelous.  Really, truly.  Thank you for bringing me here.”
Without thinking about the consequences Mai leaned to kiss Hushang on the cheek.  He froze with the impact as if ice had been dropped down the back of his shirt.  She withdrew.
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”  Mai refocused on the magnificent view.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

BY THE SEA



Walking beaches,
A wreck of someone gone,
Who ceased to be,
Apart from by the sea.
Condemned to cold shade
Where once the sun shone;
Never seen, never heard,
Blank and ghostly.
Not even a silhouette is present,
Wet sands are never stirred,
And yet it seems
The ocean talks
Loud enough to torment
With maudlin verse
And false - forsaken - dreams.


Friday, August 28, 2015

OLD RAGE

There was a realm
Of gold and bright turquoise
That flamed like fire,
Burning, but not burning
Where we once played
Like children with new toys.
We saw it fade,
Yearning and still yearning.

There was a time
Our wishes were granted.
We spent our days
Dreaming, but not dreaming
Of the harvest
From the seeds we planted,
Or its meaning,
Though it had no meaning.

No more sweet times,
No grand places remain.
We've ended up
Ageing, but not ageing
One of us in ruin,
The other in shame,
Both beyond raging,
And yet still raging.


Note: the picture is a section of a Persian miniature by Vahid Rahmanian.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

SURVIVAL

The following paragraphs are taken from early drafts of one of David Morisset's current projects - a dystopian fiction novel set in the second-half of the twenty-first century.

“Tell me, do you really want to continue wearing your tent?”  Keshvad gave a wave of his hand to signal the direction in which he wanted to walk while they talked.  “You see, we regard it as a garment of subjugation.”
Zohreh did not at first know how to respond.  It was not a subject she had expected to discuss with such a powerful figure.  She worried whether an ill-considered answer might count against her.
“All through my life it has been a source of security.  It is, if you like, a sign of some sort of respectability.  I am reluctant, I suppose, to let go of it.”  Zohreh hesitated, wondering if a more lengthy justification of her custom was required.  She looked past Keshvad at the rolling waves of the sea.  Maritime scenery was an engrossing novelty for her.
“Do you know that the modern view is somewhat different?”  Keshvad was looking straight ahead.  His face was slightly dipped so that the brim of his hat shaded his eyes from the sun, which was high in the western sky.
“Oh, yes.  I know you see it as a symbol of oppression.  In fact, you are wrong.  It gives me freedom to walk the street and to avoid harassment.”
“The modern view goes beyond that.  Tell me, do you know the historical background of your source of such constrained notions of freedom?”
Zohreh did not answer.  She knew she was ignorant.  The policies of the government of her homeland ensured that centres of learning were closed to her gender.
“The scriptures, the writings of ancient times that were the inspiration for your messenger’s so-called final revelation, record that the tent – or clothing much like it – signified that its wearers were prostitutes.”  Keshvad paused for moment, awaiting a reaction.
“I know you think I am a whore.  But the holy book approves of my marriages.  When my husbands invited their friends to enjoy me I was obliged to obey them.”
“No.  I think you were a whore.  But only out of necessity.  Only because the alternative was starvation and utter degradation beyond my imagination.  In some ways, we are all prostitutes.  Few are truly free when it comes to matters of survival.”
Keshvad’s last few sentences surprised Zohreh.  Again, she walked on in silence.
“We also see the tent as foreign.  It was imposed on our women by another culture.  It was never part of our history until the barbarians and their thieving mercenaries came.  As much as anything else, rejecting the tent is an act of nationalism.  A patriotic duty.  A gesture of defiance.  An escape from an alien prison.  An assertion of the authenticity of our unique culture.”  Keshvad stopped walking and turned to look at her.
Zohreh, however, walked on a few paces.  Keshvad watched her body give a little momentary shudder under the folds of her tent.  Then, slowly, she removed the top of the costume, letting it drop to her shoulders so that her hair was showing.  After loosening a ribbon or two, Zohreh shook her head and her long black locks fell, sparkling in the sun.  As if it was reacting to a command by an all-knowing deity, a gusty breeze sprang up out of nowhere and toyed with her glossy tresses.  It was, she thought immediately, simply magical.  Zohreh turned and grinned at Keshvad, who removed his fedora and nodded his head once by way of a generous genuflection acknowledging her splendour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DELIRIA

The following paragraphs are taken from early drafts of one of David Morisset's current projects - a dystopian fiction novel set in the second-half of the twenty-first century.


Sohrab’s journey back was rough.  He slipped in and out of fitful sleeps full of dreams that verged on the precipice of nightmares.  To ease his situation, a medical officer administered doses of sedatives but the effect of the drugs seemed to vary as Sohrab’s mind and body chose unconsciousness as the best mean with which to rid him of trauma.  At times it was as if he was suffering from a fever.  His mind gave way to short but intense periods of deliria.  At first his fantasies ranged from monstrously lethal to almost delightful.  But then repeated hallucinations of severe beatings and grotesquely overweight women shouting demented instructions would wake him with such a jolt that he would sit upright screaming unintelligible protests and tearing at his sweat-ridden clothes.
Four days of therapy in hospital and a tearful reunion with his mother soon had Sohrab fit enough to attend the hearings of the committee seeking to apportion blame for the unfortunate events of the past few weeks.  Most of the questions he faced were put to him by Keshvad, who was eager to establish his recruit’s innocence of even minor mistakes of omission or neglect.  Sohrab left the meeting room confident in his immunity to both genuine and spurious accusations.  He was, however, puzzled by the presence of Hushang at the conference table and it set him thinking about how powerful his old friend had become at such a young age.
A day later Sohrab was summoned to Hushang’s office.  The two men embraced – a perfunctory hug lasting only a moment – and shook hands in a manly but mechanical manner.  As usual, Sohrab found Hushang’s propensity to adopt a surly official coldness, when it suited him, disturbingly false and somewhat disingenuous.  They then exchanged the usual pleasantries about health and well-being in a way that seemed merely formal despite the trials both had endured.  Hushang had recovered quickly from his minor concussion and vicious thrashing at the hands of Reiby and it seemed that he failed to understand the more varied and much more prolonged mistreatment meted out to Sohrab.
“And your mother is also well?”  For once Hushang dropped his guard and there was a far away look in his eyes, as if he was trapped in thought about his late mother, Behnaz.  Then, in an instant, he was back in his frozen state, gesturing towards a chair beside a low table adorned with a silver tea service.
“Yes.”  Sohrab was seated.
“I am glad to able to inform you that we have rescued Zohreh from the new settlement.”  Hushang paced back and forth like an ancient soldier guarding a vulnerable battlement.  “I can arrange for you to see her if that’s what you would like to do.”
“Thank you.  Is she all right?”
“I’ll let her answer that question, if you don’t mind.”  Hushang suddenly stood still as his eyes peered through the biggest window of his office and fixed on two figures walking towards each other on the beach below.  One was a man wearing a grey fedora and an oilskin coat.  He was approaching an anonymous woman clutching a black tent so that it cloaked her body and shrouded her hair.