The Tale of the Two Flowers

A gardener once planted

Two seeds of the same kind

Under a bush, side by side.

 

But he planted one in a spot

Shaded by the leaves,

While the other, an inch away,

Stood free under the sky.

 

So the selfsame sun

Lavished one with golden rays

While the other received nought

But a few stray beams

 

When spring came,

Two flowers sprang up from the seeds

But the one favoured by the sun

Grew tall and bright.

While the other became weak

And faint in the shade.

 

When their time came to release their seeds,

The tall flower was aided by the wind

And its seeds landed on fertile soil,

While the seeds of the smaller flower

Only encountered a feeble breeze

And fell on barren ground.

 

So one flower, admired by all,

Blooms in glory to this day,

While the other is but the prey of decay.

 

What is the moral of this tale?

Do not blame a flower

If it’s not tall enough,

For a flower cannot grow

If it’s hindered by circumstance.

Love (My Newest Painting)

This is my newest painting, entitled ‘Love’. It is a simple concept that has a lot of deeper meaning behind it. I chose a human heart instead of the typical heart shape as a representation of love because it expresses how love really is, as opposed to the fairy tale illusions that many of us have about it. Love is messy, not always beautiful, physical, always in motion, intense, and, despite all of this, vital for life.

 

LOVE

 

The Lily

I watch the lily on my desk

Lying silently in a plain glass vase.

I gently touch the striped petals,

Their whiteness stained by a hint of red,

And their redness paled by shades of white.

Not quite pure enough, not too passionate.

And lo, a streak of green is creeping up.

I marvel at the robust stem

As it floats just below the water’s edge,

Bending to no earthly force,

But broken by any hand.

I sniff into the air,

Lured by the faint perfume

At first so charming in humility,

And yet guarding poison at the core.

I watch the lily on my desk,

And the more I watch,

The more I recognise myself.

Somewhere/Someone Else

Tortured by tedium,
I oft long to be somewhere else.

In a place where work is pleasure

And not Sisyphean labour

In a place of smiling skies

And caressing sea-waves

Where the wind doesn’t chase me,

And the rain never assaults.

In a city where love is king

And indifference is extinct.

In the midst of luxury

Instead of an unheated attic.

Or just sheltered from the world
And free to cry in my own room.

Seized by sorrow,

I oft long to be someone else.
Someone who talks without inhibitions
Someone radiating confidence
Someone for whom food is a friend
And not a cruel enemy.
Someone who flies to the mountaintops
And makes her dwelling there.
Someone who never blushes,
Never blunders,
Never despairs
And never falters.
Someone of resilience
And resolve
And a solution
To every problem.
Someone taller
Blonder,
Prettier
And smarter.
Or I just wish to be
Someone who can love me
Because that person must be
A saint or an angel.

I sometimes wonder
if people ever long to be me.
Then I wonder why it is
That I can embrace an enemy
And forgive a criminal
But I can never learn
To love myself.

I Have a Question (a poem)

God,
Mirror Mirror,
Sweetheart,
Mother,
I have a question.
Who am I?
And what am I?
And where am I?
And where’s the way?
And can I turn back?
Why did you,
And how could he?
For how long?
And why not me?
Where were you then?
And where are you now?
Will you come back?
Or are you too far?
What have I done?
Can you forgive?
Why do you ask
What I can’t give?
What’s your purpose?
What’s the reason?
When will it end?
Or will it ever?
God,
Mirror Mirror,
Sweetheart,
Mother,
I have a question.
But each question
Breeds another question
And there’s no time to ask
All I want to know.
So to condense every question
Into one that covers all,
I just ask:
What the fuck?

Goodbye 2014/What I Seek to Be

On last New Year’s Eve, I said farewell to 2013 with a poem that documented my wishes for the coming year. Interestingly, most of these wishes came true in some form or another. But there were some things missing from my life. Read this poem to find out what they are, and to see how I summed up 2014. And let me use this occasion to wish all of you a wonderful new year filled with joy, laughter and dreams come true! May 2015 be the best year ever!

I look back on the year

And put each moment on a scale

I omit nothing, I face all:

Happy minutes

And tear-soaked hours.

I cannot deny that there was joy

In the air of distant lands,

The smiles of friends,

And the steps that led me

Further towards my goals.

But these moments, immortalised in a puzzle piece,

Cannot make up a happy image.

I had much, comforts aplenty,

But I was never loved, nor carefree.

Money flowed freely, like a waterfall.

One day there was wealth, the next a bare cupboard.

Ghosts danced around me

While I cried for mercy.

A few happy days passed

Between each month of agony.

I lived in the shadow

Of a sword hanging above me

With one foot slipping into the abyss.

The trumpet of doom woke me every night,

As I slept by a flickering light.

Even when spring bloomed in full glory

Or summer reigned with an easy touch,

I was afraid of the day,

Haunted by the past

And frightened of the future.

I was surrounded by friends

But my soul was alone.

In the warmth of a blanket, or a week-long heatwave,

I was always freezing,

Forever longing for a man’s embrace,

The only force to melt a frozen heart.

My fire was oft extinguished

By hasty rejection.

My naive heart crushed

By scorn and alienation.

It’s time to turn the page

On the chapter entitled 2014.

I guarded every happy time

To recreate in the new year.

But I bid farewell to all bitterness

Never to experience it again.

In 2015, I wish to travel the world

And make myriad friends,

And live in comfort and luxury.

But above all, I seek to be

Loved and carefree.

The Miracle of Love

I hope you’ll enjoy this short story, my little gift to you. I would like to wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter, joy, love… and lots of chocolate!

 

~ Paris, 1887 ~

Old Marcel Rollande, once the respected professor of history at the Sorbonne, was sitting in the salon of his draughty flat, and watched the world rush by under his window. Christmas was already lurking behind the corner, the air was filled with the hints of cinnamon, chocolate and hazelnut. Snowflakes danced merrily in the piercing wind, and the million festive lights of the balustrades put the moon to shame. But the excitement didn’t reach up to Monsieur Rollande’s flat. He didn’t celebrate Christmas since the death of his beloved wife, Hortense. Five years have passed since she became a forever beautiful, forever warm memory, but time has stood frozen ever since for Monsieur Rollande. His whole life took up the habit of mourning, and from that moment on, all light, warmth, joy, the soft ring of laughter were absent from the little apartment on the Boulevard Saint Marcel. Old Rollande passed his days sitting in an armchair, reminiscing about the happy days that fled him, and his night-time dreams brought dear Hortense back to him, young and vivid as she once was, the orange blossoms of her bridal veil still sitting on her dark hair. He needed no companion besides his memories, the ghosts of beloved souls visiting him from time to time. After 55 years of celebrating with his dearest, Christmas became a celebration of love and family ties, and now that these ties were irreparably broken and love robbed from him, Rollande needed no Christmas either.

But this year all was different. One day an old colleague, the eminent Professor Lefebvre wrote to him and recounted the tale of a bright but impoverished student of law, who was in desperate need of cheap lodgings after his landlady increased his rent on the room he inhabited in the slums of the Montmartre. Lefebvre knew very well that his retired colleague lived on a modest pension from the university, and that he had an unoccupied bedroom in his flat. Taking his student as a lodger would, Lefebvre argued, bring benefits to both. Rollande hesitated a great deal. He has grown accustomed to a solitary life. He was content with his memories, and did not wish to be disturbed by a lodger. But he often worried that his pension would not suffice for his living costs. Therefore, he consented at last.

The arrangements did indeed prove beneficial to both parties. Rollande realised that he very much enjoyed having a fellow human by his side. And Paul Leclair was worthy of living with the excellent professor. He was modest, dutiful, hardworking and full of promise, and gave the respect that Rollande deserved. Buried in his heavy books during the day, he let the professor reminisce on the glory of the past. But when the evening came, the old teacher and the young student sat together in the salon, and kept each other company. Sometimes, Rollande told stories of his life, while at other times he let the student talk, and he listened with real interest. This is how he learnt that Leclair had tender feelings for the local grocer’s daughter, a pretty red-haired girl. Leclair’s passionate declarations of love brought this long-gone emotion back to the little flat.

Still, Rollande had no intentions whatsoever to celebrate Christmas. He may have liked Leclair, but he could never feel the sentiments that he once felt for Hortense. Long, long ago Christmas was the time when heated embraces protected the two lovers against the cruel cold. This year, the winter that raged outside and which crept slowly inside through the windowsills was vicious and merciless as ever, but the promise of an all-conquering warmth strayed far from the professor’s house. He expected Leclair to spent the holidays with his beloved, and he was perfectly content in his armchair, surrounded by his memories.
But Rollande was wrong. However much he lived in the shadowland of the past, even he couldn’t help noticing that his young companion’s lively red cheeks were covered by the sickly, greyish mask of sorrow, and the wrinkes of worry gathered on his smooth forehead. His soft, gentle smile that greeted every morning with enthusiasm, faded into a barely concealed frown. One evening as they conversed over a stimulating glass of port, the professor ventured to ask:
“How are your studies going? I assume you are quite overloaded with coursework.”
“Oh, on the contrary. My studies are going well, and I am enjoying my rest over the winter break.”
“Why, then, this gloomy mood? A young soul such as yourself should rejoice and celebrate in this season of festivities.”
Leclair emitted a sigh so pathetic that Rollande unwittingly found himself in the grip of melancholy.
“I have no reason to rejoice this Christmas. I am a great deal unhappy.”
Rollande recalled the passionate days of his youth, and nodded in understanding.
“By my experience, it has to be a person of the fairer sex to make one so unhappy as you seem to be.”
Leclair buried his head behind his trembling hands to hide his nascent tears.
“It’s not the fairer sex, but the wretchedness of impossible love.” he exclaimed in agitation.
“And why would that love be impossible? You have always spoken hopefully about Mademoiselle Delacoeur’s interest in you.”
“Oh yes, I still believe that she also fancies me at least a little. I wished to ask for her hand in marriage at Christmas. But I have heard rumours that a fellow student, the son of a baron, also intends marry her. What chances have I got against someone who can satisfy all her desires? I can’t even give her a ring as a token of my love! But if she doesn’t become mine, I will have nothing to live for. I shall die of sorrow.”
Rollande shook his head with all the vigour left in him.
“Do not speak thus, my young friend. True love is the greatest treasure a man can give and a woman can desire. Do not be rash in dismissing yourself. Christmas is a miraculous time, you may well be surprised!”
“Oh, I cannot celebrate this year. I’m too miserable.”
Rollande, all of a sudden, felt his lonely heart enlarge and fill with the warmth of sympathy. He himself was far beyond the light-hearted pleasures of life, but he couldn’t bear to see a young boy already given up and resigned to the cruel turns of fate. He couldn’t give material assistance to Paul, because the student was proud in his poverty and would never accept something that he didn’t work for. And what valuables could he give? He was poor himself!
But he couldn’t accept to see Leclair have a joyless Christmas.
“Oh, let us not subject ourselves to foolish talk! Christmas is a rare occasion when joy is permitted even to the most miserable. We ought to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with all our heart, because through him there is hope for all of us.” he declared with the tone of someone who would not accept opposition.
Leclair consented, though more to show his gratitude to the old professor than out of real conviction. But the spirit of celebration soon seized him. They joined what little means they possessed to prepare for the festive day. On the afternoon of the 23rd, Leclair was to go out in pursuit of a handsome piece of turkey, while Rollande, suddenly regaining some of his youthful vigour, dressed the house in festive ornaments he once used abundantly in happier times.
Leclair dutifully arrived, with the desired meat in one hand and a finely wrapped Christmas present in the other.
“On my way home, I couldn’t help stopping at the celebrations on the Champs Elysées. By my faith, they were delightful! A choir sang carols while children danced around a giant Christmas tree. There were gift boxes under the tree, and the people picked them up rapidly. However, I succeeded in rescuing one for ourselves. I say, if we cannot have gifts, let us have a gift box to deceive us under the tree!
“Very well, very well.” Rollande nodded approvingly, but he seemed to be miles away and lost deep in thought.
A cruel gust of wind blew in through the window left ajar, and a shiver ran through Rollande. Leclair leapt to the window and closed it promptly.
“Would you like a cup of hot milk to warm you up?” he asked with genuine concern.
Hot milk was the favourite beverage of Monsieur Rollande, and he was grateful for the proposition. Leclair walked out to the kitchen, and when he returned to the salon a few minutes later, he found Rollande in the same pensive position, almost becoming part of his favourite armchair. Leclair gave him his cup. Rollande was silent for a minute, while he sipped his milk with delight. Leclair busied himself with the decorations. He presently took hold of the gift box. As he lifted it up, he stopped and gave a confused look before he shook the box tentatively.
“By my faith, it seems that there is something in this box.”
“Now that is an interesting idea. Why would there be anything in a decorative object?”
“Maybe it is a game set up by the government to reward the lucky ones who pick the right box.” Leclair replied, refusing to let the disbelief of the professor destroy his enthusiasm. “It can’t hurt if I take a look inside…”
He removed the thick layers of paper with care, until a plain cardboard box became visible. He shook it. There came a rattling sound that was hitherto muted by the rattling of the wrapping paper. With awakened curiosity, he lifted the lid and peeked inside.
He froze as he reached in and pulled out a small object that lit up the dim room.
“What have you found?” asked Rollande eagerly, leaning forward in excitement.
“Oh heavens, this is… this is a ring!”
And there it was, a ring with a heart-shaped amethyst stone. Rollande leaped to his feet.
“A miracle! You can see that the old saying about Christmas miracles is true!”
Leclair stood still in confusion, then, overcome with sentiments, rushed to Rollande, and gave him a warm embrace.
“Thank you!” he exclaimed.
“Thank the Lord, not me!” Rollande replied, himself full of emotions and not wishing to give in to them. “And now, go to her and ask for her hand.”
“But… what will you…”
“Do not worry about me. I will be perfectly at peace with my milk. But you must hurry and ask her before someone else does!”
It didn’t take long to persuade the young student. The magical fire of love heated him, and he couldn’t bear to stay still. He almost forgot to take a coat as he rushed away like a puppy bewildered by a ball.
Rollande watched him from his window and thought about his wife. He did have a lot to give: a happy marriage filled with love and joy. And he hoped that the ring, the token of their unbreakable love would pass on its magic to anyone who possessed it.
~ In memoriam Roland Guillaumel ~