Following are samples of some things I've written. These are called "The Red Shouldered One", "The River", "November", and also the complete contents of a play I've written called "Encounter in the Park". Karen and I would love to see this play produced on a stage some day.
This story was written to accompany the drawing shown on the right. I tried to imagine the world from the eye of the hawk. I enjoyed writing it immensely, but I'm not sure these magnificent creatures are really as egotistical as I made them out to be.
The Red Shouldered One
The meadow is a glorious world, fat with riches meant for the taking. The sun hovers low, casting long shadows that float between the grasses. The air is clear, still, so there is no superfluous motion to distract me and leave me disappointed. What motion there is commands my attention, but more often than not it is only a bee or grasshopper. Once seen, they are conquered in my eye's mind, and then banished from perception. From here on my hunting perch, one of my favored stanchions in this glade, I seek out quickness below the blanket of flowers, at ground level, where the vole and mouse try to elude their life another day.
The cool thickens the air, yearns for my wings to stretch out and embrace it. The sky calls softly, but I've patience to play my wind song in it's due. My gaze is like the wind over the field, it touches every part of the ground in turn, tickling, probing. There! A shadow has felt my sight! But only the shadow, the mouse does not know it is held in my eye. I see the fur is smooth over sweet plump meat. The mouse knows only the seed it chews. It does not have me in it's mind, or the fur would be raised, in folly hope that my grasp would be short. The sky that is I sees the prey as well, shouts for me to give it force, and I leap upwards, stretching the leading feathers into willing air. I soar downsun, keeping my shadow behind the mouse. The air holds me still, hanging in this glide, only the ground moves slowly by, revealing each undulation in keen relief. Focus around the mouse, map the paths it might take, clear to the left, a rock ahead stumbles it's escape, but the weeds on the right are tall, too tall and stiff. I wheel to the right. Let him run towards my talons if he dares, should he see me before I strike.
Fly slow and easy, smooth as the silent fall, closer, closer. It knows! Half an instant hesitation as the alarm rises in it's body, then a sprint to the left. Just a flick of the wing corrects my path to follow, mixed with a beat down and back to push me faster. Another left, then it reverses, towards the rock. I strain to keep my approach aligned at this speed, and accelerate again. Soon, just a few flaps, and I will give the mouse life in my flesh. A dart right, but the weeds are still too far. Then gone, escaped! A hole! The mouse has ceased to be, has no chance to know the sky today. The world is mine, but I cannot fly below the ground. So I arch upwards, letting my momentum carry me, speed yields to altitude, and the meadow stretches out again. Let me soar for a time, widening circles over the field, looking for another to make it's offering. The sky is happy now that I am in it, and I am happy too. Only the mouse need mourn.
The recent rains have brought right and wrong. The flowers are in seed, which attracts prey and insects, and the insects attract prey too. There is plenty to be had, but the leaves have soaked up the sun and water, and there is much thick cover. The weeds grow too fast; thistles makes places where I will not venture. Later they will dry and become sharper and stiffer, but by then they will be cover for creatures too large for my taste. But if the season is dry, that is worse, for then prey is scarce, and when caught is lean and unsatisfying. To hunt is joy, and would rather have many empty chases than a long perch.
It is beautiful to be so high before the sun sleeps in it's burrow. The light transforms the world from moment to moment, everything is made anew each instant. Tomorrow, even familiar things will be different and unique. We never fly through the same air twice.
What luck! There, in the east, a flock of sparrows is flying towards the sun. They are low, and will have no room to dive away. I can fly right at them and be unseen. One last hunt for the day! Pick out a single target, which one ... that one. It must be young or tired or hurt. It's flapping seems ungainly, out of tune. Head down, fly strong, power dive, speed builds quickly but is exalting, faster, wings tight, feathers held crisp, faster, faster. Talons poised. It sees, but there is no time for it to react. Only a flash of revelation comes to it's eye. The jarring shock of impact! Grasp, and my talon's taste it's flesh, the blood warm and thick. My hold is good. An immaculate kill. Wings out, fly sure, control the air. Now up, to nest and feast. Tomorrow, we fly together, to where the stars have fled from our might. The sparrow has found life at last.
© Robert Cairone 2001
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The following story was written during one particularly difficult autumn day in 1997 during my divorce, when the custody of my children seemed to be in doubt. Fortunately, I did eventually prevail. However, this story reflects my pain and temporary hopelessness of that time.
The air is filled with water, the rain falls. What is more pointless than water falling into water, rain on the river, rain on the sea? A branch breaks off from a steeply leaning tree and splashes into the river, sending out ripples that get hidden in the surface clouded by the rain. Close to the bank, it floats still, unmoving. Another branch further out, in the center of the river floats past, swiftly drifting along and goes out of sight. The indiscriminate rain drips onto my face, mingles with my tears, drops to the ground and flows down to the river, indistinguishable. The river takes every molecule, uncaring of it's history, and washes out to sea. I watch the two branches, one mired in mud, the other drifting away. They are my life, my soul, going nowhere, going away, lost in the water.
The river is an enigma, it is irony, a contradiction beyond comprehending. It is a scar, a canyon in the land. But this is not the river. The sky gives up it's hold, rain and snow falls, and covers the mountains and the plains. The water, freed from the sky, is imprisoned by relentless gravity, and moves always downwards. One drop joins another, and grows into streams, thin sheets of water collide, combine, and give up their own identity. Ever pulled to lower ground, they collect, the torrent that is everywhere becomes a line, deeper but narrower, and is only here, spilling together stream after stream into the gouged ground, growing stronger. The river begins to be formed, becomes an individual landmark. What is this thing we call a river. Is it the ground that contains the water, or is it the water that is never the same? Nothing we can hold, not even anything we can map, the river erases it's path and carves new channels, then becomes bored with it's borders and returns sleeplessly to it's old solitary bed, leaving behind a clogged mass of mud where once it flowed cleanly. It mindlessly redefines itself, forever unsatisfied with the course that has been chosen for it. It breaks down the strongest rock, washes away the richest soil. We like to think of the river as an image of freedom, but it is a border, a divider. It has no choice of it's own way. We might see the river as an icon of destiny, but it has no concern for the future. We fantasize the river is peaceful, but it is never at rest. Or that it is powerful, but it has no strength but to run to exhaustion. We indulge a romance that the river is life, but it only gives the illusion of life; it can nourish other things, but itself is not organic. It is not even a mystery, it does not hide itself. Still, we see only the surface, and that is but a reflection of the sky, nothing genuine.
When the air is clear and calm the river seems a changeless thing. It is as still as the country around it, rooted in place. Of course this is a deceit. The water we see was not there a moment ago, and will not be there a moment hence. Perhaps from a hundred miles away it came, perhaps with a thousand miles to go. The river does not so much caress the rocks and islands within it as avoids them. Might it yearn for surcease of it's journey, to rest in it's shadowy bed and say "Enough now. For weeks I've moved, day and night, without pause. Let me stop for a day, an hour. Hold back my brethren that batter and push against me for just a minute, that I can know peace in this place"? No, before the question could be even asked the current sweeps it along, washes it downstream, remorseless. And if the water could be held back, the river would swell and flood, and be cursed and despised by the land, even by itself. If the water could be free of the laws of nature that enslave it, what could follow but disaster? Is it better to accept the slavery of it's allotment, or to hunt all around it in a hopeless quest for even a moment of freedom and independence?
When the wind blows strong and fierce, the water is whipped into waves, throws off spray and seems angry and cruel. White froth forms as on the muzzle of a rabid beast. The river becomes grey like the skin of a scaled serpent. Danger lurks for anything upon it. The river dashes ships against the rocks, the river buries boats torn to pieces in it's banks. But this is not the river's doing, it is the legacy of the wind. The wind shapes every wave, but no one sees the fingerprint of the wind in the waves. Stand in the cold water in a storm, and it is the water that stings, though the wind chills and propels it. Lose your footing and fall, it is the water that knocked you down, even as the wind pushes you over. Slip beneath the surface and drown, deprived of air. Should lightning strike, it is the water that drew it down, not the sky that hurled it. What is more foolish than to be on the water in a storm? Where on the river, placid and secure in the morning, can be found shelter from the storm at night?
In the winter, the river's ice is thin, waiting to deceive any unwary traveler. The freezing water saps the life out of anyone ignorant enough to embrace it. One misstep, one overlooked crack, and the river claims it's victim, then freezes over again, and hides all traces of it's numb cruelty. Then after all such tragedies, as befits the unfeeling ice, silence prevails. There is no joy in such treachery, only a yearning for more. The river glistens with fresh glass, a beguiling siren's song of shimmering sparkles, calling for another to tempt the frozen veneer.
What is the river? Is it the canyon in the ground, or the water that fills it? Is it the water that is there, or the water that flows? Is it still permanence, or transient impression? Is it the mirrored sky or the dark depths? Is it grace and gentleness, or brutish strength? Is it an integral part of the landscape, or a scar through the plains? Is it organic and dynamic, or simple substance? Is it alive, or does it pass by life untouched? Does it nourish the land, or drain it? Is it what it seems to be, or is it a delusion, only offering up distorted interpretations of what surrounds it, but never allows itself to be known? Is it beautiful ,a deep and profound truth, or merely a pretty lie? Does it desire us, or punish us for our desires?
Standing on the bank, the fallen branch seems to be still, but imperceptibly twists, pulled inexorably away from where it lies, surrendering to the invisible current. I see it move with unfocused eyes, the crying sky obscures my vision, or has the rain stopped? No matter. Before my thoughts collect themselves, the branch is nearly at the bend, gone beyond where it can be seen ever again. The torrent begins anew. I hear the creaking of wood, wondering how many branches can fall before the tree is itself uprooted, and knowing the tree dies with every lost branch, every fallen twig. I can't bear to see another piece of drifting wood, ever alone; I've too little left to know the river goes on, ever outward to be swallowed by the insatiably consuming sea.
© Robert Cairone, 1997
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The following poem was written after my mother died. She used to love to collect all the things I'd written when I was growing up, and had a thick folder of poems and stories. Somehow, these were lost, and that made her sad, but I think she would have appreciated this one.
We are the shadows of smoke
Cast by the light of some distant star,
Waiting for the wind.
Quietly drifting o’er the ground,
Denied direction and destiny,
We search silently for ourselves.
We are transient, immaterial, intangible,
Immortality is inconceivable
When life is but illusion.
We are the shadows of smoke.
Morning hides the stars from our sight
And brings on the wind.
© Robert Cairone, 1987
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"Encounter in the Park" is a play I've written. Click on the preceding link to see the play in its entirity.
Encounter in the Park
Synopsis: Two elderly men, Angelo and Paul, meet by accident in Central Park, and through a series of reminiscences they relive Paul’s first love with Teresa, acted out in flashback scenes. The old men explore the nature of personality through a discussion of art, and discover the power of relationships to change lives for the better or worse. Their conversation provides a framework for the scenes where the tumultuous love of Paul and Teresa flowers and withers. In addition, the older men’s discussion provides revelations that informs the scenes just played and about to be seen, keeping the action moving forward. It is a complete surprise to Paul, but not to the audience, to learn that Angelo is Teresa’s brother. In their turn, the scenes between the young lovers highlight the growing tension between the two men. The play draws to a close with Paul clearly understanding for himself, perhaps for the first time, how the relationship with Teresa transformed his life. After Paul’s exit, a scene between the older Teresa and Angelo has Angelo overcoming his cynicism, and opens the suggestion that Teresa and Paul might now seek the happiness together that was once denied them.
Characters: There are five main characters in this play, Angelo, Paul and Teresa as older people, and Paul and Teresa as a younger couple. In addition two minor characters are Nancy and Andrea, and a few extras are needed.
Angelo is about sixty-five, and has aged well. He is a tall fellow, elegantly dressed in a dark suit. He is a man of some stature. He has a refined, cosmopolitan manner. Widely experienced, his attitude of superiority may be deserved.
Paul as an old man is sixty, and shorter than Angelo. Paul is a native New Yorker. He is more casual in dress and nature. His look is almost rumpled, showing carelessness but not poverty. Life seems to have worn harder on him; he is stiffer and awkward in his movements. He thinks too much, and his thoughts are often sad. Paul always enters and exists stage left. As much as possible, all other characters exit and enter stage right, When Paul and Teresa enter together, it is always from the left.
Teresa as a young woman is a vibrant nineteen, the same age as Paul. She is attractive, but not stunning. She has a natural beauty and an unassuming personality. She is always neat and well tended but comfortable. She also has a clear New York accent. She is warm and energetic, even flirtatious. She has a quick smile, and expresses her emotions readily. She comes across as carefree, and enjoys life and its activities.
Paul as a young man is bright but inhibited. He is not socially adept, but seems happy to go his own way. His clothing isn’t sloppy, but he doesn’t put much effort into his appearance. His personality is reserved, though not aloof. He tries to be friendly, but it is a visibly conscious action. His expressions are sometimes genuine but at other times are bland or contrived.
Teresa as an older woman also shows her age, but she has maintained her innate beauty. She has matured into an assertive and successful businesswoman. Emotionally she is not that secure, and cannot pretend otherwise. She is now more thoughtful and ponderous, no longer carefree.
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