Make It Rain

The screech was ear splitting. The anguished scream of the goddess. It tore the sky into ragged black shreds of woe. Isis had thrown back her white hair, her naked breasts heaving with exertion. She shuddered in sobbing gasps of breath. The remnants of her shredded clothes hung like carrion on her body. Mad with grief and frustration she turned to Nephthys/Aleesha. Her eyes dangerous vivid emeralds.
“Make it rain” she demanded. “I know you can do it”
Her skin glowed as her power regathered.
“Make it rain!” she roared. “Now!”
The demand came as a piercing spear. Aleesha felt the sting as it struck.

Nephthys raised her hands to the sky. She focused her thoughts on her mother. Called the clouds to them. Projecting her spirit among them, she felt the dampness in the air high above.
Slowly, steadily, she curled her fingers into fists. The temperature dropped as ice crystals formed overhead. With the same slow method she opened her fingers until her hands were flat.
“Yes!” hissed Isis as the first drops fell. The clouds burst into life, delivering in a torrent.
Isis looked down at him. Her eyes blazed with anticipation. This would work. It must work. This was all she had left to try.
Around her body, a ripple of blue static began to build. It crackled like a fire all over her. Aleesha could feel it’s’ intensity building. Pulsing. Growing.
And through Nephthys she knew what Isis was attempting. It may have been a mystical spell with an appropriately romantic name but it simply came to Aleesha as two words. Lightning rod.
With an enormous crack, a massive single bolt struck.
Isis and Osiris vanished in a blinding sheet of white. Nephthys was knocked off her feet by the blast, landing twenty feet from where she stood. The vegetation all around was dead and blackened by the heat.
Picking herself up from the ground, Nephthys ran to where Osiris lay. As she approached there was no sign of Isis. The blast had thrown her clear of the area. Nephthys put her hand to her mouth at the stench of burnt hair and flesh. But the sight of him was almost too much to bear.
The king of all men lay on the mud soaked ground. His severed limbs had been meticulously reattached. Amongst the sutures, written incantations protected the wounds from further detrition. Around his throat, spells proclaimed his desire to see again. To look upon his love and know her. On his legs, to come to her. On his arms, to hold her. And on his penis, to consummate their love.
But there was also more. Parts of his face and body were charred from the lightning strike. Flesh had bubbled and sagged. Steam rose from his fiery wounds as the rain cooled them.
And on his thigh.
Oh dear sister.
Dozens of slits, many overlapping into crosses and stars. Fresh and raw. Part of no ritual for his resurrection. In her insane rage she had used her small jewelled dagger. The one he had given her.
She had stabbed until the knife had disintegrated. The broken blade was still in his leg.
Nephthys tried to pull it out but the fury of the blow made it impossible.

Despite his condition, she could not contain her desperate love for Osiris. This beautiful man had opened her heart. And taken it forever captive. As her tears spilt the rain intensified.
She leant over his face, handsome despite everything.
And longed to see him open his eyes.
To look upon his love and know her.

For love.

Once for love.

She spoke the name of Ra.
And held her breath.

“Get away from him!” screamed Isis. She conjured a blast of energy which thundered into Nephthys’ body. Her right arm took the brunt of it, the bones splintering into fragments. Most of her ribs broke, puncturing both lungs as she flew twisting like rag through the air. She landed contorted and broken. Her eyes filled red with blood.
“Stay away from him!” Isis stood over his body as a lioness over its kill.
“Not you” she cried.
“Not you” she waned.

She knew.

Nephthys tried to breathe, gurgling blood and mud and wet air.

Then Isis gasped.

“It worked!” she shrieked. “Dear Ra it worked. His eyes are open!” She pecked him with kisses, muttering thanks and praising her forefathers.
Through a crimson veil Nephthys watched their dark silhouette against the magenta sky. Her sisters’ hand grasped his penis, working him to arousal. Isis mounted him quickly, holding him in place as she rose and fell. Osiris moaned as her pace increased furiously.
Nephthys shut her eyes and prayed for an end to everything.

Finally the sounds stopped. The downpour drew to an end. Several minutes passed.
Nephthys opened her painful eyes to see Isis above her. Her face a raging mask of hatred. The panther of black magic. Her hair rippling deep purple.

“He thought it was you” she seethed.

She pressed her foot into her sister’s stomach. Blood bubbled out of her nose and mouth.

“He called me by your name”

She held up the head of Osiris. The magical stitches had held. No knife.
She had torn it off.

With a thud she dropped it onto Nephthys’s chest.
And walked away.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Morton Street, eight years earlier…

She felt conspicuous in her St.Bernadette uniform. But within her, right from the start, she knew she could have been wearing a potato sack and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. He was looking at her face. Mainly. Trying not to stare in the clumsy way of boys. He kept stride with her from the other side of the road. A quick glance revealed enough information for her to work with. She recognised the drab grey of the state school uniform. She hadn’t seen him before. Tall. Fair haired. Non threatening. Not creepy but annoying. Was he lost? He stood out amongst the dispersing tide of St Bernie’s kids in their royal blue. As she crossed another side street he did too.
Why me? Lucy Bower was walking with the pretty girls ahead of her. Everyone looked at Juicy Lucy. She had a career in T.V. or modelling ahead of her. And the others in her well groomed pack Amanda, Rachel and Carina. They plumped and preened and chewed up boyfriends like crazy. Aleesha didn’t consider herself attractive in the slightest. She tried not to be. But her peripheral vision picked up the line of his eyes. As she was walking on her own (as always) it was her in his sights. She felt exposed, her anonymity taken.
Increasing her pace, Aleesha used Lucy’s group for cover as she ducked into the mini mart. Prising a hand basket from the stack, she rummaged a pocket for the brief list of supplies Ruth had asked her to pick up on her way home.
She’d been in the store a full five minutes when the door chime signalled a new customer. Though several people had come and gone since her entry, Aleesha knew it was him. She wore no makeup or jewellery, which most of the other girls did despite school policy. Her skirt was a modest length, at least four inches longer than Lucy’s. Aleesha chided herself for suddenly caring. It was just a boy, damn it.
His sun bleached hair contrasted like a new mop on top of the slate grey shirt and pants. State school haircut to match the uniform. Straight fringe and shapeless cut. Done by his mum, possibly while having a beer, she thought. His sleeves were folded back to the bottom of his biceps. Nice arms, she conceded.
Picking up a magazine, he pretended to read while scanning for her over the top. Found her adding a packet of pasta shells to her basket. The small amount of his face she could see around his roaming green eyes was blushing.
She smiled an “oh brother” which he interpreted as a “come here baby” and was there before she had got past the rows of spaghetti sauce.
Up close he was cute-ish. Kind of.
He stammered through an introduction with a voice struggling with nerves and adolescence. His name was David and he was two years older than her. His unease transferred to her but she kept a lid on it. Ruth had told her men took a lot longer than women to mature. This guy seemed light years away. Aleesha cursed herself again for being aware of her plain appearance. And for seeing something in his eyes which brushed ever so lightly at her soul. For feeling something. It felt uncomfortably nice. Double damn.
David appeared genuinely shocked when she knocked back his offer of a movie date.
“But you smiled at me” he reasoned, leading her to a second grin.
For a moment he just stood there, and she saw a brief flash of something she would never forget. As though she could read his very thoughts, she knew what he was going through. I’m losing her. I can’t lose her. I’ve only just found her.
After just a few moments of meeting, he already valued her. It scared her to realise this. And it scared her how much.
His brain, obviously in tunnel vision- hunter mode, struggled to work it out. He raised the magazine he still held.
“Was I holding this upside down?”
Aleesha shook her head as he realised which publication he had grabbed. Cleo. The sexually transmitted diseases special. His face went from awkward pink to traffic light red. He glanced down, then back at the magazine, serious as though checking his symptoms.
Aleesha couldn’t hold back a snort.
He broke into a laugh that was contagious. She laughed along, something she did far too little of.
“Find a guy that makes you smile.” Ruth.
The words escaped her lips before she could reel them back in.
“Would you like to walk me home?”
He looked almost ridiculously happy. Oh lord.
Aleesha paid for her items. The cashier returned her change and a sturdy brown paper bag. David reached for it with eager chivalry but Aleesha wrestled it back. She was independent and wanted to show him that right away. It would have been weird to let him carry it, despite his wounded look.
He crammed his hands into his pockets as they exited the store. They walked side by side along Morton Street with little conversation. He seemed content enough to just be with her, which confused her. The awkwardness made her wonder if this was a mistake.
But along the way their hands slipped together. She wasn’t really aware of it happening. Her small hand felt right in his warm grip.
And for the first time in a long while she felt special.
Safe.
She belonged.

She hoped his hand would always be there.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Kintsukuroi (Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of precious metal-thus creating “imperfect perfection”)

Together
We chase the fruit of the sun
To the end of the world
A numinous and talon torn sky
Shredded strips of red rag
Sadistically smashed jaffa and gems
Which clot and cloy in floured glue
Elongated curds
Fallen ladders

A stubborn actor that
Pompous
Ungotten
Sullen
Parts the stage unhurried

The carob cordial horizon
Already
Dark and drunk with light
Finds a stoner’s appetite
To swallow an exhausted sun

The old king bows
Losing his crown as always
Leaving distant diamonds on wave caps
Glittering in the open carpetbag of dying day

Free and curious
And beautiful as her soul

The sea waits
Pregnant
Patient
For the last guests to leave

Sinews and snorts of cappuccino foam spat
Across the blurred and broken kaleidoscope
Of tortoiseshell shallows
Here a stegosaurus grazes just below the surface
His rocky plates curl out to the point
In the black and bold of ancient shadow

We are older now
The rocks far apart
But in my mind I jump them with ease
Even with her on my back

We land on the shore
Leaving cookie cutter footfalls
On brittle broken candy
Our adventure soon
Crumbs swept under the tongue of the moon

Memories caressed by the husky cinnamon breath of dusk
Brash and bluesy
Words unsaid bite bitter on the breeze
Salt stuck to my lips

Ironic gulls suspended on wires
Hang in regal vermillion
Their barbed and sulphur calls mock my silence

Punk plants murmur behind us
Mohawks shake in doubt and empathy
Atop lumbering, slumbering
Sleep talking dunes
Whose flesh we puncture
To warm our thin toes

She looks up at me
Emerald silk satin eyes
As always and ever my heart skips
It cannot be her
But it must be
For here I am
Everything I ever wanted to be

Wet
Dark
Chocolate hair
In chaos cascades
Kintsukuroi
Over peach brandy shoulders

The beauty within
Always escaping her
Spilling out
Mango and musk

Ambrosia
Under the sticky sweet and sour sky
In this
Our lonely, only freedom

She offers her hand
Our fingers don’t quite fit
They never have
Our knuckles knobble and knurl
And disagree
In ironic almost

But our hearts hold and hammer
In bonds beyond touch
Seams of gold poured through the cracks and frailty
Humbling and hungry its glow
Sealing the share of our dreams
Binding the strings of our souls
Holding back our snakes and spiders

I pat the blanket down around her feet
She wriggles her toes under the sand
And smiles as they pop out
The lines at her eyes
Remind me how many times she has
She laughs at the noise I make
The growl
That is really a sigh

There is a whisper not wind
The breeze drops to dapple
The ocean dulls
It is time
As always and ever
My heart sinks with the drowning day

I softly slip my arm from behind her
Immediately
Urgently
It pleads to return
The feeling brand new
And forever
But the bulb begins to blink and blacken
Time sends the hounds
And beats the bushes

Our lonely
Only
Waning light
Illumination yet

As always and ever
I kiss her hand
Those fingers that do not fit
Humble me
An ache
No one else can understand

I lift her from the sand
Feather light we fall
Tumbleweed to the shore
Silverfish of seventeen and seventy
Breathless and brave
Brilliant
Laughing aloud at the universe
At everyone but us

We run
Timeless
In rags and riches
Horrible and beautiful
In honest love beyond the scope of measure
Nothing more
Nothing less
Than us

On weary and wind peppered legs we fly
Away from what might have beens
And should have dones

Towards hell yeahs and everywhere
As always
Ever

Towards the never setting sun

For Kerrie

Leaf Raker

Liam didn’t like offices so he raked leaves at St. Magdalene. He did other things as well; mowing, clipping, watering. But raking seemed to occupy most of his time during his school holiday job, tending to the shedding of indifferent elms. He nodded over his rake to the stoic locals, and the steady visitors who included the historic church in their itinerary of Nottinghamshire. They trickled past throughout the day, in ones, in twos, in lines and in groups.
Liam swept the last pile together next to the open sackcloth bale. The public had gone now, and he dropped to his haunches behind an elm for a quick cigarette. He’d returned to St. Magdalene to avoid his father’s generous offer to join him for five weeks at his city accountancy firm. Both parents had frowned when he declined once again, apparently clinging to the hope that Liam would become the third generation of McAllisters at the firm. Why, it would be such a sad waste of his school results if he didn’t plunge headlong into accountancy, crunching numbers and filing tax returns until he was a hundred and thirty.
Liam lit up a Marlboro, drawing slowly before sending a plume of silver smoke over the neat grass towards Nottingham. There his father; an overweight caricature and mother; a flittering socialite, ran their daily schemes and schedules. Oblivious both of course, to their troubled son’s love of only two things; his guitar and Geraldine Harker. Neither of whom seemed to love him back quite as much. Liam was in a holding pattern, neither content nor not. He teetered on the edge of introversion and he knew it. His job here is not just in opposition to his parent’s wishes. It’s almost like hiding out. He sent another trail of smoke crawling away into the setting sun, stubbing the cigarette into the soil. The wispy tendrils snaked and intertwined before breaking apart again, like the promise of a revelation snatched away. These are the best years of your life, people told him enviously. Liam seriously wondered if he would look back on them that way. The scourge of acne seemed a mountain in itself, let alone his dissatisfaction with his music or shyness around Geraldine. He bunched some grass in his fist, angry at the gods of adolescence and frustrated in that ongoing, yet unexplainable way of the young.
Liam sighed, stood up to bale the last of the leaves, and noticed him.
A man came down the long path towards him with a quiet gliding walk. Through a narrow gap in the tree Liam took in his strange appearance; a flamboyant felt hat pulled low in the front: a plume of feather crowning the purple brim. Out of place atop a long brown and ragged overcoat. A homeless prince.
The man stopped where thousands do, at a carved black stone book set in the lawn. Liam had looked at it a hundred times and still couldn’t remember exactly what it said besides the name and years. In fact, he only knew one quote from the poet by heart.
The man glanced up at the tree, catching Liam off guard. Not knowing if he could be seen or not from the other side, he simply remained still as the man looked away again. That choice now hastily made, Liam froze and waited for the man to move on.
A tall woman was now following the same path. Her laced boots clicked softly on the stones, under a full, deep green skirt. Her long hair, dark cocoa locks spilling over a white blouse buttoned at neck and sleeves. Illuminated by the low gold of the sun, Liam could see the dull powdered pallor of her face and bright painted lips. She clicked to a stop next to the man, peering as well at the marble pages.
“But I have lived, and not lived in vain;
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain,”
her voice is steady and sincere.

Liam recognises the words from the memorial as the man recites:
“But there is that within me which shall tire,
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire.”
The man’s tone is quiet and flat.

It is a ritual, to mumble the verse on the black book while standing there.

The felt hat tips toward the woman. The man’s voice is a little louder, more genuine.
“Her glossy hair was clustered oe’r a brow
Bright with intelligence and fair, and smooth.”

“Thank you sir, that was lovely. I see you too are an admirer of the great Lord Byron.”
“Not at all.”
“Really? Yet you stand at his stone and quote from Don Juan?”
“Many know his words” replied the man coldly, “Not all fall at his feet.”
The woman frowned, lightly shaking her head.
“He was a brilliant man. Unique.”

“He was a spoilt pretender. A fake.”

“Though every scribe, in some slight of diction,
Will hint allusions never meant
Ne’er doubt This when I speak,
I don’t hint but speak out.”

She looked at the man as though pitying him.
“Doesn’t sound like pretence to me. He expressed himself freely and openly. Provoked thought and debate. He was no fake!”

“Self important and full of wind then.”

“I may stand alone
But would not change my free thoughts for a throne.”

She shook her head at the man in the coat beside her.
“I cannot agree with you sir. He fought for the freedom of Greece. The home of democracy.”

“No. He was bled dry by the Greeks in exchange for their worship. It was a futile quest.”

“At his funeral, the coffin was followed by forty seven black carriages representing the great houses of Britain.”
“The carriages were empty” the man snarled. “They showed their appreciation and disgust at the same time. Women left parties because of him. Men refused to speak to him. He was an animal. The passage of time does not change that.”

“But he was always going to be different. Handsome, but handicapped. Philandering deviant father. Wealthy and titled at ten? Sexually abused. I forgive him plenty.
Joy’s recollection is no longer joy,
While Sorrow’s memory is Sorrow still.”

“Do you have to keep quoting him?”
The woman turned away, her blush kept safe under the matte of her makeup.

“You speak of him as a forward thinker, but he didn’t move with progress. He wasn’t a forward thinker. He sought to encapsulate the moment, oblivious to, or at the expense of all around him. His only legitimate child was taken from him as a baby. Her mother feared his influence on the girl would be nothing but detrimental.”

“She wasn’t even allowed to see a picture of him until she was twenty years old” said the woman quietly.

The felt hat turned sharply from her countenance just as she looked over at him. Liam saw her troubled face, as though she’d been denied as much as the poet’s daughter. The woman’s long hair dropped just as the man glanced over again, this time his voice held the discomfort.
“Ada was force fed mathematics. Discouraged from literature, particularly poetry. Especially his poetry. Her imagination curbed, she still somehow managed to foresee the future of the modern computer. Her work with Charles Babbage pioneered the way the whole world now communicates. In the eighteen forties! She was ahead of her time. A century ahead.”

“And look at where computers have got us. What they have made us:
Society is now one polished horde,
Form’d of the two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.”

“Those tribes have always existed” admonished the man. “Byron was speaking of himself as well no doubt.”

The woman sighed.
“Now, by my foul, tis most delight
To view each other panting, dying.
In love’s extatic posture lying
Grateful to feeling, as to sight.
He was fourteen when he wrote that. Not many fourteen year olds speak with that kind of passion. Neither bored or a bore.”

“Perhaps not many fourteen year olds know that kind of passion.”

“Oh, I’m sure plenty do. But the writing is the thing. The bold cadence of the words. The rawness.”

“The raving of the insane.”

“Did you come here just to mock him at my shoulder?”

“I come to pay my respect to none of the Lord Byrons buried here. I’m only here because of Ada.”
“His daughter is in the family vault beneath the church” the woman said as if to direct him there.
The man looked over at the pretty church, clad in late afternoon shadow. “I don’t feel that welcome in churches.” He turned his head a little to look at her profile.
“Ada used logic. Incredible reasoning and foresight.”
“But the analytical engine they devised was never built. Her program never tested.”
“It was built. But it took another hundred years. Even then they only built what Babbage foresaw; a super calculator, not the vision of Ada. She predicted uses far beyond maths and simple problem solving. Ada envisaged computers fed more than numbers, machines analysing and creating music. No one else thought that way. Spared the impurities of her father, she changed the world!”
“But she wrote algorithms, the poetry of mathematics. She dreamt and doubted. Preened and struggled. Ripped and tore at her life. Tried to elope at sixteen. Confessed adultery to her husband on her death bed. Perhaps her father had more influence on her than he ever realised.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to influence her. Not in that way. He didn’t fight for her you know, no matter what his heart may have told him.”
“If he thought her life would be better without him, then doesn’t that make his decision quite noble?”
“None of his decisions were for others.”

Again she defended Byron.
“I am the very slave of circumstance
And impulse-borne away with every breath.”

“Yes, the impulses of a pig.”

“Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes
Sin is a pleasure.”

This time a thin smile played upon her lips.

“You don’t have to keep quoting him.” He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. “I know them all.”

“Of course you do.”

They looked at each other, actually face to face for the first time. The woman reached out, tilting back the felt hat. She traced a finger over his cheek. Across the nose so like hers. Like a baby daughter might, on her troubled father’s face.”
“So you knew it was me all along Ada?”

“Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.

God dad, look at that hat!”
Liam could see the glistening of her eyes. “Why, after all these years do you still hate yourself so much?

“To fold thee in a faint embrace,
Uphold thy drooping head;
And show that love, however vain,
Nor thou nor I can feel again.”

He smiled weakly at her. He covered her hand with his own.
Liam caught the chill of the moment. The cold certainty of confession and all its consequences. Like a statue, like part of the tree itself he was drawn to the pair at the black book. The sun had sunk to the horizon. The woman seemed so fragile in the last dying rays.
“I’ve only ever sought one thing. The approval of my father. This day I finally have it.” Her voice broke a little, the crystal chipping. “To know you think so much of my work means everything to me.”
The man swallows hard. Not as if he’d never given a compliment, but as though he’d waited so long to give this one.
“You are amazing Ada.”
“Thank you” she whispers as though the words hurt her throat.
Liam thinks they will embrace. They both flinch as if they will. But the man holds back so she does too.
“I seek a single thing as well. In this life or any other.” And now his eyes are wet. “The forgiveness of my daughter.”
She shakes her head softly. As daughters do to silly things their fathers say. She opens her arms and he fills them, weeping like a child. The ugly felt hat falls away. She strokes his wavy hair as he sobs and sobs.
“Then both of us have had our wish fulfilled.”

Liam is crying as well. Weeping at something he has seen in the light and overheard from the shadows. Knowing against all the things he does, that these two are no actors. No fans. That their performance is genuine. Their feelings raw and tears cathartic and oh too real. Liam has never believed in ghosts. He’s still not convinced even now. But what he’s witnessed cannot be explained. Neither can the feeling inside him, as though he’d been laid bare in the twilight and forever changed. He recalls the only lines of Byron he knows by heart. And as seems to be the way, it fits just right.
“Tis strange but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction.”

The two continue to hold each other, meshing into one. And Liam sees the most amazing sight he will see until he holds his own daughter in his arms five years later at Geraldine’s bedside.
The ragged coat turned to moths. Grey and brown and white they take flight, magical in the last rays of the sun. The brown hair, the white blouse, the green skirt explode as though a giant Christmas cracker has been pulled. They erupt into thousands of butterflies, intertwining with the moths. The flying creatures form a spiral, drawing the leaves from the open bale next to Liam. They join the fluttering wings, dancing on the air as they follow them towards the moon.
Liam laughs after them. He will never rake leaves again. Those or any others. Warmth washes across him. The swirling breeze of words and numbers and magic assaults him. It mixes with the honesty and simplicity of his love for Geraldine. He shuts his eyes as the music fills him. An orchestra of madness and emotion in a wave of simple beauty. He rocks back, nearly falling. It is beyond wonderful.

Under the confetti moon the leaves fall like snow.

This revelation doesn’t dissolve like cigarette smoke. It soaks him. Shakes him. Fills him.

He picks up the rake, humming the tune as he carries it back to the shed.
Then he’ll ride home to get his guitar.

He’s going to see Geraldine, the girl he knows he’ll marry. Who he’ll share everything with. He’ll show her first.

After all the song is about her.

(from the short story collection “nine”)

EPILOGUE

History provides great literary characters; it’s the angle that is the key, the fire to the coals. Sometimes the premise for a story reaches out and slaps your face, demanding you take action, as this one did for me.
The figure we know simply as “Lord Byron” was in fact the sixth Baron Byron, George. His father Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron, squandered his mother’s family inheritance, then acquired enough debt to force him to leave England. Byron saw little of his father, who died in France aged just thirty six. Coincidentally, Byron died at the same age. And remarkably, so did Ada.
I knew Ada, famed for her mathematical contribution to computer programming, was Byron’s daughter. But that’s all.
I knew nothing of her, or even her father’s life, really. I was pretty sure Byron was the poet who wrote Don Juan (but didn’t know a word of it) and that he was a controversial figure in his time. Oh, and one other dinner table snippet of trivia: that Byron and some house guests once spent a stormy weekend swapping ghost stories. From that gathering came John Poldini’s inspiration for the novel Vampyre, and Mary Shelly’s for Frankenstein.
It interested me that father and daughter excelled in such different areas. I decided to do some research.
The incidents mentioned in my story are all reportedly true, both about Byron and his daughter. The poetry Ada quotes is of course all his. Byron was born with a club foot, an infirmity he apparently hid with the “gliding” stride he walked with. He became Lord Byron at the age of ten upon the death of his great uncle, inheriting a title and a rundown estate. Not quite the spoilt rich kid I’d imagined. His first published volume of poetry was recalled and censored. Some of his work was considered immoral, especially considering he was fourteen when he wrote them. In “The Leaf Raker”, Ada quotes from “To Mary”, one of the poems omitted at the time. Byron came to real prominence due to his use of satire, firstly targeted at not only critics, but other poets.
As his literary successes escalated, so did his excessive lifestyle. Byron accumulated a reputation with a debt to match. He was the prototype of the modern celebrity, revered and despised simultaneously. His sexual misadventures created the most scandal. Openly bisexual, adulterous, possibly incestuous, his passionate affairs consumed and inspired him. He spoke dramatically in parliament, kept a mind boggling cornucopia of animals and sailed warships at the powerful Ottoman Empire. People went to extraordinary lengths just to catch a glimpse of him. Upper class women would bribe and dress as hotel chambermaids to get close. His wife Annabella coined the term “Byronmania” to refer to the public’s fascination with him.
She also took her infant daughter Augusta Ada, and of course herself, away from him in fear of his self destructive lifestyle. Annabella, gifted in mathematics, kept “Ada” as separate from her father’s influence as possible, not even allowing her to look at his portrait. From this far removed household Ada followed a career in numbers instead of words, in time becoming one of the most famous mathematicians in history. Her revolutionary work with algorithms superseded the machines which would use them by a century. When she too died at thirty-six, it’s interesting that her body was placed next to her father’s in the Byron family vault. It seems Annabella could only trust him with her in death.
Having daughters of my own, I couldn’t imagine a lifetime of separation from them. How much did this affect Byron and Ada? How much genetic influence did he have upon her, for her private life too held a shadow of impropriety? Did they secretly communicate without Annabella’s knowledge? Presuming dangerously that history is giving us the truth here, and that their lives never intersected, father and daughter could only meet in the afterlife.
Unencumbered, they could talk freely. Argue, laugh, apologise, console. Because for all the scandal and stories, the fact that Byron and his daughter never spoke together has the most impact on me. And what magic would come from their meeting?
That’s the face slap. And that’s where “The Leaf Raker” comes from.

The inscription on the “black book” is from Canto IV of Childe Harolde. He quotes Don Juan to her. Byron’s work that Ada quotes to him from are in order: Don Juan, Don Juan, Marino Faliero, Don Juan, To Mary, Sardanapalus, Don Juan, Don Juan. When Ada asks Byron why he still hates himself, he quotes from And Thou Art Dead As Young As Fair. The line Liam remembers is from Don Juan.

And yes, Byron did keep a tame bear at school.

Y Rite?

Not what it reads but how it tells
Whether warmth holds us close
Or shiver snatches at our hand
Leering and murderous from cloying dark

None sacred but all

Eggshell and bulb glass under your feet
The mirror calling you to take a step
Those shells, that glass
Are they just petals and feathers on snowfall?
To be certain we must fall among them
Dragging a dreamer behind
(Or shoving them in the back)

A comic, cosmic truth?
Or hornet’s tail to mock the hive itself

A beast set free to pillage and plunder and challenge
A youthful careless monster
Who seeks no more
Than a dry roof for a night or three

And by lamplight’s release
Its secrets spilt
Soul laid bare, lashed raw before the hagtooth crow
Your voice beseeching pocked and pitted stars

The loudest cry within

That cry
That scream
That whisper

The purple whisper of midnight

The smell of a baby

Watermelon’s crunch

The ocean’s call

The voice in your head when she smiles

Laughs
Touches your arm

The voice you will your pen to use
But never it can

That scream, that whisper

That’s why.

(from the book “nine”-available on Amazon)