Words That Change

The Sailor and the Flower

In Uncategorized on 28 August, 2011 at 00:00




This story was originally written in January and posted but then a good friend painted this beautiful painting to go along with it. So here it is again, meaning fortified and intact.




There was a man. There used not always to be men, but this was at a time when it could be said that there was a man.

A sailor who, when his ship came to shore, left the town, the crowds, the market place. The hoardes of salesmen and grey windows where behind spinsters thrived sewing and curing ham, sending sons off to war and daughters to be whores {click below to continue}

Our sailor was not a friend of the town. His monthly binge when the ship stopped at port would be spent with his friends and they would roar in taverns til groins became restless and they would retire to the whores for those that could afford, to the maids for those who could regale them with enough stories they had lived through but still not lost their looks. Others, though more storied bore the sadness of these lines and would relieve itchy groins in the comfort of a colleagues bunk. It served. No more need be said.

Our sailor would depart as attentions turned southward and find a boarding house on the edge of town, sleep in a simple bed and rise with a satchel full of bread.

He wanted to leave the town.

The ship would not leave for another day. He wanted to see how far he would get. He wanted to leave it behind. Only for a day.

It was not hard.

He followed the trail of a river as it left and the townhouses thinned to cottages and these became huts and hayricks and the river passed through woods, meandered round a dam and became lost in its own civilisation. Further away from man, but closer, for our man, to a civilisation he wanted to be.

His head was a mangle of unedited thoughts, reminiscing scenes, wise quips uncracked, lovers lost revolving and resampling in matrimony of confusion until finally they ran thin.

He stopped to rest.

He was serene. His head had calmed, his body was a murmur of symphonic vibrations – blood in feet, breath in chest, heart beating its way. He must have walked a long way. He could tell less about distance than time as the sun had just begun into its decline towards the North, but would not make it as far as West.

He lay by the river and saw – all on its own and well clear of trees, safely back from the bank, but nodding to it…

a flower…

and the rhythms of his body stilled. His blood became calm, even his breath saw fit not to breathe – such was the beauty of the flower.

He reached out a hand to her stem but

What made him think he had the right to pick her?

Was it her environment he wanted to take with him?

No. It was her. Blooming perfectly.

He sat for some time. She did not move, or say anything, except retracted her petals a little.

It was not a wish that he should go away but that he might do something unpleasing.

He kept on waiting.

The river ran. It was not unpleasant.

He slept a night at her side, the flower’s. Watched the sun’s rise play over her petals. See her unfold a little. She needed to flatter the man into staying.

By midday, the forest at either side grinned at his intention.

“You’ll need a lot of patience for this one,” pleaded the trees “You’ll need more than a calm day. Why don’t you try a trick? Give her a positive impression, rather than being so passive.”

“No.” said the man “I could sour her with water which she has already, and then she needs just the sun. I am not sure she needs anything from me. Except perhaps to be here. I don’t know what it is that tells me that.”

“She’ll destroy you.” said the trees.

The sun was going down, as his friends several hours walk away sat down to another night of mead and serried revelry. Hoping their relief would not be found in a sailor’s bunk but between the thighs of an Emily or a Rose. That would be more than relief, but a sweaty pleasurable heaven. To the bottom of each glass they could drink and dream.

The next day, another day, back at our sailor’s side, the crows swayed in the skies casting down aspersions as to why, a young man like him would waste solid hours. Were there not more productive tasks to do?’

“There were,” said he.

“Do those tasks not need you?”

“I am not sure they do.” as several hours walk away a ship left the harbour. “But they place no demands on me now. And neither here. I am quite content to lie and listen. Your company included by the way.”

“Thanks, but you are a fool” said the birds “We have seen millions like you. Not with this one but with others and she has nothing to improve you, nothing to give, nothing to receive from you. You’ll be a waste.”

“I think that’s why I’m here. Not to demand or be demanded. You really never saw anyone this way?”

“Never. You are weird.” They cawed and wheeled away.

Our sailor sat.

The flower nodded a little in the breeze.

Night came.

Dawn rose with sprinkles of light rain, folding horizons and worlds around her stamen. They were the sights of the horizon, but she expressed them manifolded so he need only stay to see so many. She was beckoning him to come closer and laid a drop on his nose. He fell back amazed.

That was the only discernible experience of this day.

The next day the trees rose in force.

“How about a song?” spoke the collective voice, humoured at stumbling an animal into an ill-thought plan. “They really have no need to think” they would often chatter in their leaves but had taken to deceiving and promoting ideas that would cause them more hilarity. They had long given up hope that the humans would learn. The humans had long forgotten how to listen. Though this one was different, it did not mean they would not try. “To test him” said their roots in conference.

“Songs are love ” they continued on the chosen theme ” and you have such a lovely voice, why don’t you twiddle her DNA with a phrase of Galway Shawl.”

“No.” said the man

“We think you ought to reconsider” said trees “We know a lot about plant life and we’ve seen this one – it’s prone to a good and honest voice.”

He listened intently but no voice rose.

“It’s nice of you to say, but really I’m fine. I’ve nothing to sing to this one. She’s perfect.”

“Then why don’t you leave her alone?”

“No. That would also not be right.”

So he settled down for another day. A longing gaze and the faintest of interactions.

She was not responding but waiting til he was in tune. Then we she would open for a further bloom and he knew her whole world could be his. It was enough to sit. There was no reaction he could give that would empower her to flower more.

“She was, and is, my reason to be” he reflected years later, sadly.

  1. […] will be telling the Sailor and the Flower at the Mezrab’s storytelling tonight. It really is a gem of an evening and will be fascinating […]

  2. Reblogged this on Diary of an Unborn Writer and commented:

    I’m enjoying this story again

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