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Blood Rose

Twitter is a mindfield. You can be as careful as you want; stepping through images and videos of sunrises poured from vessels of gold and smokey greens, and then you go and stumble onto a naked man being stoned and beaten to death on the edge of the world. Bit like memories..? Those which salve, and those which sting.

Scrolling up and down our mindlines. Finding something which agrees with our temperament. Finding something which stokes our anger – or fans the sparks of a new fury. They’re all there, electronic and chemical. The Dragon Dance of our brains. Fetching pleasurable images and voices from magical times. We hit our mental likes, maybe even retweet by telling someone close. But what about that flash of image – the one with the fallen wall? Rubble lying across the road, a concrete-pale shatter of bricks. Makes you hesitate. Draws you in. You pretend to resist, but you want to see what that is in the rubble: the thing that looks like an evil flower. Your mind recognises your interest. Slowly going to a close up. There it is. You see it now. Not a flower, someone’s arm upright. Naked. Slightly bent at the elbow. Streaked red. How does it stand? That stalk of arm. Finger-petaled. Splayed, as if trying to snatch a final fistful of air.

No woven ocean of green canopies here. Well, maybe? There’s an elm tree in the background. Stretching above a hedge. Trying to climb above this wasteland, throw its branches above the reek and ruin. Your eye might try to climb there, too, but the flower beckons. Fingers glistening with nectar. A sanguine of sugars perfuming the air. Coaxing your eye. Coating your mind with its image. Periphery vision narrows through a vase’s neck. Just the flower in view. To hell with the white-marbled blue above. The breeze’s soft murmur against your skin. The flower obscures all, now.

Here, your mindline stills. Maximising. Careful to make sure the image is captured in its lens. Your moving towards it, and the rest of the world collapses into darkness. What’s the flower growing out of? Not tarmac, surely? You’re closer now. Silver briefly catches the light. Silver dulls around one of the petals. Light entwined with metal. A life orbited by metal?

Something shifts under your sole. Just a piece of concrete. Pieces scattered around the base of the flower. Quilted by cloth. Ragged cloth. Blackened and frayed. The flower reaches up from a soil of mottled flesh. An eye regards you from the soil. Unmoving. Mirroring your eye: mirrors within mirrors. Floating in time. Total screen time approaches precariousness. The fatal gaze. Internal. This flower will grow in you. Grow into you. Change you.

If you let it.

If you keep scrolling. Allowing more images to blossom within the bruises of your mind. Up and down that mindline of yours. Minimize. Let the surroundings unfold around the image. See, the flower will begin to shrink. To accelerate away from you. Redshift. Bury the flower amongst the widening lens of light, forms and colour. Only when the flower is given the sustenance of your closeness do you give it power. Oh, those flowers will still lurk in your mindlines, and you will sometimes find yourself hesitate when you see them emerge from the breath of bombs, or bullet-songs. But, you must try and climb like that elm tree; rise above the reek and ruin. Ascend above the decay – the rot of trauma. There is more to savour in the sky than among the thorns that seek only to tighten around your neck, or drive their barbs through your body. You must try. Try to widen your gaze. Smother the flower with its surroundings. Only when you let yourself stand close to the flower will its thorns cut you.

“I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.”
Omar Khayyám, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Blood Rose

Dust –

or something akin?

gives the air skin

rising in coils

a stem upthrust

shaping light tight

-ly clenched flower

watch its petals open

one two three

four knife

eyes slit open wider

staring stumbling

on rubble-red souls

who raise their flowers

from roots of gore

you swore

you choked back acid sour

and now these flowers

have thorned their scars

within your mind

bouquets of bright brilliance

some other’s life

faces caressed by hands

of a chemical sun.

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

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