Stephen Marshall. Writer, illustrator, layabout. Find him on Amazon, maybe. He has paperback and kindle books listed there. He also writes Supernatural Romance under the name S.C. Foster (because his fiancee pushed him to do so). He seems to have a knack for the Romance genre, much to his chagrin. Having pursued Children's literature he is particularly proud of his Children's novel series "Lost And Found", which begins with "Chloe Among The Clover", continues recently with "Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch" and may, in some future potentiality, culminate with "Candice Through The Picket Fence". These are novels for children (including his insistent nephew), but they are also written for adults who are children at heart. His short story collection, "The Eldritch Diaries", centers primarily upon Cosmic Horror and Body Horror, combining Lovecraft's mythos with the motifs of Sigmund Freud. His largest poetry collection, "Broken Crown Kings", contains over two hundred poems and two short novellas concerning the fleeting nature of the world and Man's place within it. Recently he has published a smaller book of poetry concerning Kentucky, Moonshine, and Ghosts called "Moonshine And Spirit Chasers". A much larger collection, entitled '"Nevermore" 99 Rhymes For $0.99' is also available. For those seeking supernatural and folklore, his collection "Weeping Cherry" is available also.
The attire of ideals ill-fit in times of turmoil, times of want, when hunger loosens a belt till it slips to the ground, and we are gaunt, nought but haggard skin, brittle bones, starved from famines unbeholden to kings sitting on their grand thrones or prayer books long grown olden. No, we waste thinner and clothing slips off—robes, uniforms, and suits, each badge, medal, and just-so thing once honored by waxed marching boots to give the semblance of order, of hierarchy, place, power, enforcing each make-believe border between so-and-so in his tower. The cufflinks slip off the narrowed wrist like overlarge shackles from a beast and the noblest scion cannot resist the promise of the scantiest feast. He springs, shedding old pretenses like a Winter pelt cumbering his hunt in Summer, his senses overwhelmed after slumbering. Even ladies doff their dresses, their waists too small for bodices as they prowl, twigs in their tresses, wild-eyed like pagan goddesses, seeking the next morsel to eat to sate the pit between their ribs, etiquette lost, thinking of meat rather than wedding rings and cribs. And children—children become ghouls perching over impromptu graves, soiled, feral, clutching bloody tools while sheltering in charnel caves to lick at cleaved skulls long bereft of sustenance, the gray matter drained, sucked to dry dust, nothing left, though the children grow no fatter. And so the ideals are piled high like clothing for the End-Times pyre, burning, smoke blackening the sky as the starved and the cold aspire to make a feast of their brethren— naked, emaciated, stripped by the hunger pangs and the ken bestowed by the maw of the crypt.
Gautama sits in his golden cloister, mouth shut like a tight, complacent oyster, silent, his shiny pearls clamped in himself like a greedy man hoarding his vast wealth. But what does the Buddha know, anyway? He was nigh-thirty on that fateful day when he rode forth into his father’s realm on a grand chariot, a crown his helm. He saw suffering thitherto denied unto him while he long sheltered inside amidst the opulence of his palace, his life a draught from the golden chalice. The bitter dregs were apparent, at last, though he was still blinded by his high caste. He saw an old man, a sick man, the dead, and an ascetic, and though highborn-bred he still worried about himself, of course, (not others), and he wondered if the source for removing such pains was self-denial. So he sat under a tree for a while, forty-nine days, they claim, though I do doubt he sat that long, for he was bound to spout about how great he was, how he alone would discover Moksha, all on his own, and he had to expel his piss and poo so his bowels could be enlightened, too. Be that as it may, his lotus soon gaped and he saw Nirvana when he escaped from the world’s pains, yet returning to preach to any poor peasant within his reach, saying, “You, too, can escape rebirth’s wheel if you would only submit, bow, and kneel and deny yourself less than what you now own, which is already little, and on loan, but as a prince I can tell you the worth of such possessions on this fickle earth. Life is suffering! The world is a trap! Deny yourself—drink the bodhi tree’s sap!” Most people shrugged, or only rolled their eyes, and continued their work, already wise to the ways of the world, to the hard truths the prince could not learn from beneath the roofs of his palace, his birthright, his clam shell, that privileged heaven devoid of hell. And then he began to raise his temples, spreading his message like pox-born pimples, no doubt using his princely position to thwart other ascetics, his mission privileged by connections to the courts throughout the land, favors, toady cohorts, his franchise spreading like a fast-food chain or death-cult concerned with its earthly reign. But he let go of some earthly trifles, like his wife and child, that which oft stifles a cult leader when he wants a fresh start, free from the past—pure in his holy heart. But Gautama could not shake his wife loose, for earthly bonds are stronger than the noose and will follow a man into his grave, yet he was, if anything, a shrewd knave, and said that women could not be allowed, and, thus, his wife was lost among the crowd. But after many complaints from his aunt, Siddhartha did, eventually, recant, saying, “Women can be nuns, I suppose, but you are lesser than monks, because bros come before hoes, and so you must obey the lowliest monk, and do what they say.” Then Gautama’s cousin rose against him, saying Gaut was corrupt, given to whim, and partook of meat, despite Buddhist laws stating beasts could not be slain just because monks and nuns hankered for pork or for fowl, but only incidentally, somehow. (What a roundabout loophole to ensure you could eat sentient life and remain pure!) But this would be your undoing, buddha, not unlike Nagas and the Garuda as the bird stamps claws downward to pin them as fangs bite upward to sting with venom. For you, too, hankered for non-vegan food and though you forbid harm to beasts, your mood was for pork, which was brought to you forthwith— you ate it without so much as a sniff and thereafter fell quite ill, your belly sloshing and tossing, your bowels smelly, taken to the grave by a bit of pig, which is ironic for someone so big in the world’s pantheon of myths and gods, your shadow looming large, against the odds, since you were not meant to be a being at all, nor ego, nor soul, but fleeing matter, space, and time, freed from such rebirth that continues to populate the earth.
But speak, buddha, and let us hear the clink of the pearls, of what you happen to think is best for us peasants beneath your throne— tell us what you think, what you alone discovered after leaving your shelter and saw, at long last, the helter-skelter of Life, of the world at large, and its woes; tell us what it is, naif prince, you suppose is the source of our suffering, tell us what we already know, be not jealous of your unique viewpoint, your perspective on Life, the existential elective. I should like to hear the clink of your pearls when you speak and your lacquered tongue unfurls.
The snail shell glows, amber at dusk, a small helix on the hot road— was it dropped here, this inert husk, forgotten by a passing toad? Silent, unmoving, a snail shell spirals inward, outward, a gyre tracing Nature’s secrets, the Braille of tornadoes, whirlpools, desire. The helix shows what we know as the whorl spins without motion: what is above, too, is below, the vortex an innate notion. It is a spiral galaxy, a paradox of space and form, of rise and fall, a fallacy of the exception, and the norm.
Entropy nibbles at the shell like a toad fond of gastropod, but no amount of life can quell the hunger of that endless god.