Madeline Ann Stringer has been writing for aeons, be it in a serious or playful way, it has always been a part of her being –she remembers winning a prize from the Puffin Club back in the mists of time.

In 2010 "Rhyme For Reason won a merit certificate for the writing in the Bray One-Act Festival, Rhyme For Reason and Two Wrongs appeared in the ‘All-Ireland Festivals’ in 2009 and 2010. Madeline has also written two novelsDespite the Angels

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BUTTERFLIES HAVE WINGS

By Madeline Ann Stringer

 

They say God never sends a hurt

Unless we have the strength

To see the value through the dirt,

To live life’s bitter length.

 

The lesser only know today

They fly or dive or run

We know that we will have to pay

For every type of fun.

 

The lonely polar on his floe

Is simply trying to fish.

But we are cursed because we know

Life will evade our wish.

 

We know the end will come too fast

We won’t have seen life flee

We watch the future and the past

But most forget to be.

 

Aware of moment, life is long,

Our dogs and cats are free

Of fear or needing to be strong

For when they cease to be.

 

We struggle and we try to cope,

Even the cricket sings

We humans have to live by hope

But butterflies have wings.


The Fall

By Madeline Ann Stringer

It was just a feeling, a scratching at what could have been a mind. Just like an almost remembered word on the tip of the tongue; and a searching, through nothing, for there was nothing to search through, nor any concept of a search.

But yet it scratched.

Insistent, an irritation at the edge of consciousness.

Small, but with a memory of huge.

And then, from the back of what might have been a brain, had there been brains:

I remember!

And it flooded forth, ideas as energy, as patterns, as matter, and filled a space, a space that a moment before had not been a space, when there had been no moments. Energy and matter whirled, and fled, and coalesced, and revolved, and the excitement of it all made heat, and light, and she hugged herself and danced with it, and spread herself wide, and sang.

And now that there was time, she spent it watching, and listening, and enjoying. She saw the energies fold into themselves and have shapes, and when she came near, they awoke, and she sang with them, and wrapped herself around them, and they gloried together in the wonder of being.

She watched as stars cooled, and planets formed, and rains came, and laughed at it all.

Her energy blended through it, and the consciousnesses knew her and moved with her. She travelled in a moment from the edge of what was, to the other, and loved all of it, and it all, unthinking, loved her.

And at last, a part of her found a little planet she had not seen before, had missed in the aeons of dancing with the energies who knew her, and she swooped down to enjoy this new place. She was puzzled, she found solid creatures, with edges, each one separate from the others. “Did these come from me?” she wondered, and then “They must have, for there was nothing before I remembered.”

So she looked, and studied, and watched. But these creatures did not dance their energies with her, did not hum with the ecstasy of being. They communicated slowly, so she studied more, and learnt to understand this new way.

Then she heard them, and they were saying: “Our god, you are most wonderful”, “Oh, Lord, protect us”, “We bow before you”, “You are the most high”. And he heard, and was impressed, and preened himself. He found a place on which to sit, where he could hear the praises, and give commands in return. And the people and their god, which they had made in their own image, forgot her.

But the greater part of her, which stayed away from that tiny planet, watched her Fall with sadness, and waited to reawaken.


THE VILLAGE JOINER

By Madeline Ann Stringer

Today would be a good day, Jim thought, as he drew open the bedroom curtains. He stood and looked at them, the flower pattern faded in the morning sun. He remembered her years ago, making them, feeding the bright cloth through her new machine. He looked over at her side of the bed. Always up early, my Cath, always busy, making things for me often enough. But today I’m making something for you, something really special.

 He opened the workshop door and breathed in. The sharp warm sawdust smell called to him as it did every morning. He lifted a big handful from the pile of dust under the bandsaw, and let it flow softly out through his fingers. It was fresh, only made yesterday, and the resinous scent reminded him of Cath and how she loved to sprinkle sawdust on the fire. Perfumed heat, she called it. Later he would collect some in a bag and bring it indoors. Cath always scolded him if he forgot.

The wood he had cut to size yesterday was waiting on the workbench, and he set to work with his plane, smoothing and shaping. The thin curls forming in front of his careful hands could almost have been Cath’s hair, years ago when it was still brown. Jim held up two long shavings and shook them, suddenly remembering her hair leaping in time to the music at a long ago harvest dance.

But really, he thought, her hair was never this colour. She was more a mahogany girl. These are more like our Lily’s when she was a little thing, her dark blonde curls covering her tiny head. She’ll be glad I’m making this for her Mum. She always asked why Mummy didn’t get a wooden toy when I brought her something in from the workshop. Lily didn’t notice the chairs, the linen box, the bookshelves. He never had made Cath a toy, although she loved the tiger doorstop he had made after their visit to the zoo on their big anniversary trip. But he made that to please himself, really. To see if he could fix the different colours of wood together to make the stripes.

It worked out pretty well, too, Jim mused. And the kids loved scaring each other with him; and the grandkids. He’s well worn, smoothed by so many little hands down the years.

The day passed quickly as Jim worked, almost in a trance as he cut and fixed, dovetailed joints forming under his skilful hands, every detail smooth and perfect, as if it had been there forever. At last his gift was almost finished. He ran his hands gently over the smooth oak. It was warm under his touch, like something alive. He remembered reading that wood never dies, that chopping boards can fight off germs for years. Certainly it can behave like a living thing, he thought, awkward and cussed by times, and at others responding so well, and becoming so beautiful. He gave it another gentle rub with the oiled cloth, and enjoyed its soft sheen, that seemed to glow through the workshop. Only the best was good enough for his Cath, and she would love this. Solid home grown oak, properly seasoned, flat straight boards, none of that twisted quick-dry rubbish. Nor that exotic rubberwood either, whatever the virtues of renewable forests.

Jim went over to the drawers where he kept the cloth, and lifted out a length of white satin. As he did, his mind tumbled back through time, nearly sixty years, and once again Cath was walking towards him up the aisle, her open face laughing in a splendid contrast to the pinched spiritual faces in the row of maiden aunts ensconced in the third pew. Cath was too colourful for them, the poor things. She was nearly too colourful for me at times, Jim grinned to himself, but I got used to her, and what fun we’ve had. As he worked he let his mind freewheel over the years, enjoying again all the special times he and Cath had had together, smiling to himself, and chuckling once or twice, as his hands moved with the skill of long practice.

At last his work was finished, his creation made. He stood straight and stretched. It was a good piece. The best he could make her. There was only one thing missing now. Bill would collect him tomorrow, and they would take it to Cath, at the hospital. Jim looked back from the door of the workshop, and at last, wiped the back of his hand across his eyes as he threw the switch to plunge the room into darkness.

But the moon was up, and Cath’s coffin gleamed in the silky light.