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thoughts on forest fires and progenies

Flanders,

Here in the south: the smell of burning forest no longer keeps me up at night. It has been replaced by the sea— how loud it is some nights, as it throws itself against the rocks— and the vigorous conversations of what must be a million cicadas. I haven’t written because first we were busy packing to go on the road and then we were on the road.

The plantations back home in the north are gone and burnt. The ground is black and the sky is a dark grey haze. One morning I had to use the garden hose to keep the fires at bay while we waited for the fire truck— I don’t exaggerate. Weeks I spent fuming at old-fashioned (this is the kindest word to use and possibly least accurate) farming practices.

But we digress— a son!

All news pales before this: you have created your replacement. Did you know that we are meant not to have a litter but a child to replace each parent? So as not to overburden? We have two so that labels us as progressive, liberal thinkers. Hurrah!

But a son! Have you noticed how this changes you? How your creativity goes down the toilet and your writing sucks because that poison that you draw from has been child-proofed! We can’t have them ingesting it by accident. We put a lock on the lid and store it in the basement or loft. But don’t despair, I discovered that you can take the bottle down from the shelf when they are older. How old? Hahaha! That depends on what you’ve got. Potent stuff seeps out.

But what I hate most, more than not being able to write for years and years, is how paralysed you are by the love you feel for them. Suddenly you understand terror.

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REEE

Babe,

Ok I’m beginning to understand your running now. I suppose it’s smart to remember that we are not disembodied intellects.

I enjoyed pretending to run by reading your last message, but say what are Alice’s dog-pants?

I’ve never had a TV, but when I made the move to the country my relatives warmed the house with black mirrors and now when my wife tries to turn on Netflix the damn TV defaults to the news first. So I always hear a little cacophony to use your word and it’s always about Trump anyway. I claim as much of these politics as I claim of my whiteness. Hell only has 9 circles.

Now that I have a son, the place where thoughts come from sends me dreams about the future. The place where thoughts come sends me hopelessness enough to quell those dreams. Today if my son and I don’t die in a car accident or some other common occurrence, we’ll sand rust off of my dead grandfather’s old model train without PPE and give the kid tetanus or tuberculosis and we’ll listen to Bach and Fela and God willing we’ll sleep like the dead all night.

Enjoy the run. I hope your family is well.

-G

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re Gordon’s email

Flanders,

On my run tonight, a cacophony: dried leaves crunching underfoot, the rustle of plants as I brush past, screeching cicadas, Alice’s dog-pants, my own breathing, rocks tumbling down the hill, dogs howling at my approach, and, still! the sound of people, penetrating the woods.

I think to myself, I need to go deeper. When I return from the south, when the woods no longer burn. I don’t care much about speed. I want to run on trail, for hours on end, across multiple days, making no sound and leaving no trace. A wild woman running. Ha!

I know we said no politics, but, mate, it is brilliant not to wake to news about Trump. I know, I know it could still all go south, but we have to hope that the liberals don’t botch this up. Because if the extreme of the Republican party returns, it will be with a vengeance. Your politics would be entertaining, if the rest of the world didn’t get tossed around in its wake.

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re: Email

Babe,

You’re still running?

We with back yards or apartments may be happy to pay the price that the wild extracts. Maybe like how we might be willing to pay 6 USD for a coffee in Brooklyn. The same coffee could cost a dollar in Mississippi or cost a season’s work in Ethiopia.

Do you think you will finish your book? Bookstores are exactly what you describe. I guess you have to write for your own evolution and not for the store. I don’t know. There’s a reason no one’s asked me what they should write for.

Since I last heard from you I’ve done very little other than spend or earn money. I paid someone 200 USD to clean my car today. It was nice. I wonder what else people will clean for money. I asked a priest but didn’t get a straight answer

Send me the manuscript before you destroy it or bury it, if you do. Otherwise send a link.

-G

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email to Gordon 03/01/21

Flanders,

I was going to tell you I bought ribbon for my Olympia, but I couldn’t remember the word “ribbon”. A typewriter is such an incongruous concept.

I began a writing project in late December. Perhaps you will come across it one day and say, the author is a friend of mine. Or it will be a book someone will leave behind in a hotel room. Or a public toilet. Do you feel depressed and exhilarated in bookstores like I do? What arrogance it is to write and expect to be published.

I am back up north. There are trails behind my house that lead straight into the woods and up the hills. It has not rained in months. The ground is dry and loose. Dust has settled on the trees. When I step out for a run, I wonder if I’ll see ash instead of green. If the farmers torched their plantations in the night— and consumed the surrounding woods in the process. They used to clear the fields in February, but now they begin as early as December.

Yesterday I ran fast. My feet intimate with the rocky terrain. I was a wolf scampering up and down the hills. When I got home, I noticed the cuts on my feet. The trail has all things that bite. But what gets me most often are thorns and roots.

The wild exacts a price. And we’re happy to pay, aren’t we?

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fiction, photography

FESTER

Chris R-1-224 Image by Christine Renney

This story has been published previously in the journal ‘Yellow Mama’ – my thanks to Editor, Cindy Rosmus.

A chain link fence runs along the back of the terraced houses and the posts have been pulled across the path. Taking giant steps, the boy walks on the green plastic mesh. Avoiding garden refuse and a rusty bicycle frame, he reaches the gap between the garages on his right. He leaps clear of the web and stumbles onto the ground. Flies rise in his face but he stays down and, collecting himself, he crawls forward on all fours.
Keeping to the centre of the narrow cut, he pushes an old Coke can in front of him. A little of the drink spills onto the dirt. Flies buzz around the sweet and sticky droplets and he notices now the swarm, a little to his left, close to the wall. He stands and peers down but it is impossible to see through the flies. He unzips and urinates, clearing them with his stream. It is a finger. He steps back, splashing onto his trainers. A severed finger.
He sees how it was done. Where the hand was held against the wall and where the blade has scarred the bricks. He notices too the gouged area, where the flies are concentrated, and that the congealed blood tapers until it is just a stain on the wall where it has run.
He knows that he really should leave, get away. It seems like the sensible thing to do, the only thing to do. But he doesn’t move. He stays put. He is rooted to the spot. He looks down but the ground under his feet tells nothing of what has happened here. There are no footprints, no scuff marks and no trampled grass.
The flies are working on the blood, it won’t last long. It will soon be just a stain and then not even that. He glances again at the finger. It seems to him like something you could buy in a joke shop, like something he would buy.
Head down, he scans the rubbish gathered at the edges on either side of the cut but he doesn’t find what he is looking for. He needs a cigarette packet, an empty packet, a discarded packet and it seems to him unfeasible that there isn’t one.
He reaches the end but isn’t ready to step out into the open, not yet. And so he starts back, slowly now, kicking through the cans and the sweet wrappers. He must use something from here or try somewhere else.
He grasps a red and green shiny paper sheath and the stick from an ice lolly. He uses this to coax the finger into the bag, folds to seal and carefully tucks the package into his pocket.

He hasn’t looked at it yet, hasn’t even so much as taken a peek. It is still wrapped in the waxy paper and stowed in his pocket. Resisting the urge to run, he walks away from the cut and once clear wanders aimlessly. For hours he meanders back and forth, eventually making his way home where he slips unseen into the garage and then buries the package in the chest freezer under the pizzas and the pies.

He still hasn’t found the ideal container for the severed finger which is slightly shorter than a cigarette and certainly shorter than the brand his mum smokes and he scans the ground for empty king size packets, any of which will do. He will pull out the silver foil and it will easily slot into place, he is sure of this.

When he removed the finger from the freezer it had been almost perfect. He had been able to feel it through its tiny sheath, tracing with his own fingers, from the nail to the knuckle and a little lower where the knife had hacked its way through flesh and bone. Now he can feel it melting, the wet patch spreading and he can feel it pressing against his thigh. He doesn’t have much time – he needs to find a box, a container, something and make the transfer.

There is a bus stop ahead and he can see quite clearly that the bin beside the shelter is overstuffed. Reaching it he begins to rifle through it, the litter spilling over the sides. A woman who is waiting at the stop is about to say something but the boy glares at her and she changes her mind. Shaking her head she turns away. At last he has it, a king size packet and it is his mum’s brand. Chuckling, he kicks at the trash, spreading it all over the pavement. Head down he walks past the others standing in the shelter. He can hear them grumbling but he doesn’t look back. Thrusting his hand into his pocket he pokes at the finger and it feels weirdly soft and almost spongy. He now needs to find a place where, unhindered, he can peel away the paper and take a proper look at it.

Dragging his hand along the brick wall he studies the pavement but, at regular intervals, he jerks his head upward and glares at the sky. He sees some kids from his school up ahead and he hops up and over the wall on his right and slides down the bank. He runs on the level grass in front of the boarded windows to the ground floor flats and he wonders if the block is empty, uninhabited. He pulls at the entrance door but it doesn’t give. He tries the trade button but still no luck. Pressing his face against the wired glass he peers in – it is dark, a murky little scene. Someone has scrawled on the walls with a black marker but he can’t read it, not from where he is standing in the glaring sunlight.

Stepping back he hears the kids from school again on the road above. He ducks down at the side of the communal waste bin and sitting he leans back against the hot metal. He could do it here but the boy can’t help but crave for the cool of the foyer where he could huddle under the stairs and take his time. At last he hears the main door open and as he leaps up an old woman appears. She pushes the door and, taking hold of it, he waits for her. She stands on the threshold, uncertain and seemingly unaware that he is there. He could step around her but doesn’t. He leans back against the heavy aluminium door and at last she slowly makes her way up the steps, toward the road.
He fishes the finger from his pocket, peels away the soggy paper, dropping the cigarette packet, and there it is, in the palm of his hand. Like a metal cylinder, it is corroding. Already, it is much the worse for wear.
The old woman is stalled again, at the pavement’s edge. He watches her as she manages not to topple and closes his hand, holding decay in the hollow of his fist.

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life, poetry

The Last Post

Dear Readers,

After 4 years and 150+ posts I’ve decided, with a heavy, tar-clogged heart, to end my run as a regular contributor for Hijacked Amygdala.

Recently I’ve had some big changes in my life and I’ve had to redirect my (already limited) energies, which sadly means giving up my Friday spot here at HA.

Thank you all so much for reading my work (the good, the bad, and the ugly) – whether you were here from the beginning or have recently discovered Hijacked Amygdala, I’m forever grateful for your time and support. You’re the best.

Thank you to the HA family, my amazing co-contributors, for allowing me to share this platform with you – you are all bloody brilliant and it’s been an honour to work alongside you. And last but not least, thank you to Babe for taking me on at the start and giving me the freedom to create and post my writing here.

I’ll still be posting at Treacle Heart, and I’m working on some new projects – if you’re interested in what I’m up to you can follow me on Twitter @treacleheartx

For my last post at HA, I’ve chosen a poem that wasn’t actually written by me, but by my late Dad (whom I’ve posted lots about over the years). Yes it’s a cop out, posting something I didn’t write, but he says it better than me.

Cheers, all. It’s been emotional!

HLR

♥♥♥


 

A Birthday Poem
by B K Rollason

There comes a time
for taking stock
of what one’s had
and what one’s got,

of where one’s going
and where one’s been,
of what one’s heard
and what one’s seen.

You know the games,
you’ve learnt the rules,
you can tell the wisemen
from the fools,

you’ve learned that all’s
not as it seems,
that life is both
reality and dreams,

and like the tides
that ebb and flow,
life’s sometimes fast
and oft’ times slow.

To survive the storm
a tree must bend,
and a new day starts
where this one ends.

(Treliske, Cornwall – February 1982)

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Children of temptation & sticky fingers

woman playing piano

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

 

Relinquish

your proud ways

it behoves no one

to hang tall on faded principle

when last we considered ourselves

it was before life swallowed us whole

too busy for contemplation

we walked off cliffs and wondered

why our broken legs didn’t work

you are not a puppet

but you have grown docile in your strings

when splintered people stuff their suffering

in nameless boxes and march to the kink

we don’t ask why

are we here, what should we do? why do we feel

as we are feeling, what ache inside us?

how do we find, authenticity?

when everything surrounding us

propels toward docile determination

we forget we were once

children of temptation and sticky fingers

unable to resist

opening jam jars, letting flies

coat themselves in satiate bliss

touching with reddened fingers

clean walls in pleasure

where did our curiosity

our hunger

go?

did we really become

stalagmites on sugar

and forget to

make forts in trees

and dams in streams

to catch the next shoal

of silver fish?

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Unfolding

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Time unfolding, holds

emblems, signatures

as hair caught in

boar brush

smells still of her

the nape of her long neck

bearing sound

tugging through until end

before light has pushed itself

past dim cloud line

warming her hands a little

just enough

just enough.

Where she was

there are now white washed walls

clean and no longer redolent

of those hours, those years spent

would they know if they touched?

The plaster, holding some memory

or reverberating solace

how her wrists looked

playing piano in silent day

with open windows to bird call

hushed by her haunt.

Would they know, if turning

in sleep they saw through half opened eyes

a murmur of her, crossing the room

one black pearl resting against

her warm throbbing neck

how much of us remains

when we are gone? How to

evoke, conjur, return to

remain, stay just one moment more

by her side before

vanishing and eddying across

cold river with the sound only

of onyx oars spent into depths

her hair trailing, thick mist

veiling before long lost

only the sound occasional

a splash or dip into darkness

and then the ache sets in

like a hole unable to be covered up

or crime undone

everywhere she was

now absent in terrible

emptiness, we keen to recall

in desperate hour, when moon

is hidden behind glowering cloud

she walks the earth and is no longer

traces of ourselves built into effigies

I reach and I reach out and still

she is always further

the smell of her in my mouth and nose

the taste of her against my

broken arms

feeling like she were whole

even as she is ether and starlight

I sense her against me in gloaming dusk

moving with agitation, mocking life

forcing a cry

beseeching time and tall trees

hidden faces in darkness

their green heights impossible

as her return

she is gone and still

the clock ticks

orange cat whiskering through high grass

outside, watching with yellow

eyes, birds overhead, out of

reach

out of reach.

Within me a glassed place of a place

cast in silver, in bronze, in clay

the shape of her

a flute, a goblet carrying fresh

spring water as benediction on

hot day, her voice stroking me

from the marbled abyss

she cannot stay, I pull on the

scarlet thread it comes loose

and unraveling her skirts, her

soft blouses, the perk of her breasts

against my mouth, urging, reddening

nipples swallowed by cries

our hands interlinked

blankets and sheets disarrayed

by motion, moisture, light and dark

her candle throat thrown back

devouring a sanctuary of

secrets and thirst

she opens for me again and again

my fingers breathing her need

we are leaves fallen from trees

made into earth and grown

against the cherry tree staining

our lips sweet and bitter

for love is found in mercy

and grace, her sinew and

hunger, baptizing memory

I hold her locket with a slice

of her dark hair growing old

in want, a touch no more

as if she never painted these

walls or grew round cheeked

beneath me, her laughter

caressing the corners with

silver, we sleep our hands

linked beneath thick covers to

keep out Winter and by

Spring I am watching

crocus urge upward

through northern dark

soil, their fragile mouths

opening to sun as once

she took me into her

one by one

til all of me

was found

and

now

without her weight

against me, shy

smile coming from

beneath long dresses unbuttoned

shining hair, falling on

wrinkled sheets

the smell of her still in

my center a thorn

as I stand by the

window its metal latch

open and cold

to my

skin.

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