poetry, prosetry

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move on / lord knows / had it up to here with emotion and tell-all’s / give me some false with my cornflakes and a little fake juice

if you feel sad because nobody is listening, tune in

the record you play is scratched and everyone has upgraded to digital

their headphones drown you out truth-tellers / sorrow-spellers / drowned girls and boys

it’s their whim, their fancy, to inhabit the glory and the cavort

who taught you they wanted to hear about you?

those flashy egos who seek grandure, attention, praise, affirmation

do they place their hot hands on your grief? or pause and seek

anything but you

truth, it is said, doesn’t sell

honesty makes us tired

we want elixir, we need to be uplifted

read to me, tell me a bed time story with a happy ending and lots of pictures

in the news; photos are more popular in social media than words

says it all …

speak, speak no more

and if you do, ensure it’s after you take your pill

for you belong to the tribe of wonderment, nothing less will do

do not rent your heart online

do not display weakness or fear

whatever you do, don’t expose how it is

paint over / disguise / laugh / get pissed

and when you lay there feeling that sliced feeling in your gut

emptiness and her counterparts

when you bring the shards of glass closer

when you realize this is it, there is nobody out there

in this 7 plus billion world

less is more, more is less

how can we be so inhabited and so isolated?

do ghosts walk our lives with empty diaries?

the ones who crumple on their knees in the street

who picks them up and who hurries past?

with scorn written in their jowls

more and more we hang our heavy hearts

in places of silence and neglect

the pegs of our support, thin of reassurance and tenor

more and more we lose our truth in betrayal

and counter attack

until like a game, like a digital effect

we are not real, we are chess without hands

our feelings so siphoned and lost

they exist beyond us

it’s only when we feel the edge of the ledge

staring down into leaden rivers

then we know it’s all a joke

this idea we’re doing anything of worth

and the words you suffocated

trapped in throats like unhawked phlegm 

never to be spat

what would they if they could, say?

please

don’t walk away

please

listen hear me

please

need someone who is not perfect

please

feel

something

the girls who have friends

standing with gymnastic straight backs

smooth waxed hair and plump cheeks

talking over cigarettes, turned on by a switch

everything is different

until a man enters the room

all eyes flash in unison 

he has power

the girls prioritize the phallus

the boys are drinking fluoridated water cutting off their

reproduction

soon sexless frogs will spawn harpies

would it be so wrong if

we stopped now

at the cusp of our cruelty

died out before another era came, crueler still …

dominating fickle lay of shivering wasteland

another creed, another judgement

the Mormons are the largest expanding faith in America

do your research acolyte, then ask yourself

progress? Really?

who progresses when others are held back?

feet on backs of the fallen, that’s the way they roll

with tarnish set on high

we are the crushed on whom aniseed devils inherit kingdoms

sometimes I don’t care anymore

I just want to get into a boat and leave the shore

sail away to something of Huckleberry Finn

I understood him and his penchant for solitude

it wasn’t hate it was necessary isolation

from the wear and tear of jitter-bug humanity

gagging at the hurtling fense

with their sharp and mercilless claws

step down falsehood

let the wild hare, the quick footed fox

take over

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fiction

Stranger

Is this your girlfriend? The guy at the next table asked me loudly in one of those booming broadcast voices, pointing at her, as if she couldn’t answer for herself and was some kind of stranger even though she was clearly sitting with them, clearly sitting and smiling, and clearly smiling at me when I looked at her not so clearly like he’d asked me to identify a set of keys he’d found on the floor. She had blondish hair, soft features, a sweet smile with slightly too-big front teeth, and classic curves, I remember thinking, odd thought, thought it just like that, classic curves, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t mine, but she did look like a girl I saw in a dream one time so I took the bait and told him so.

Ah! Dream girl! AHAHAHA! No no, that’s not what I meant, not at all, but he was too full of toothy guffaws and eyeballs to hear my feeble clarifiers so they got left dangling and I gave up and laughed a little, just some, to mold to the mood a bit, I’d say, a little uncomfortable because he seemed a little like the relentless type and I had no interest in being hung out to dry, friendly-like or otherwise and thought that thinking who knows where this might go was nothing but a weary cynic’s rhetoricism.

It was probably 4-ish in the afternoon on a cold, overcast day, at the big café on the corner there, the one where that diagonal crosses perpendiculars to make six and no one knows when to turn or where to look when they do. And when I say cold I mean not jack frost in your face but old man hiver with the north wind freezing you from the inside out with each breath you take through numb lips and stiff nose. North because it’s cold up there.

Four of us, there were, to go with the time, my friend and I and an acquaintance and the acquaintance’s ladyfriend who was more like an acquaintance squared, if I math’d it—we’d just met her, were meeting her for the first time, maybe the last. She wore a pink coat and smelled like marshmallows, I thought, and I wondered how he found her, then thought maybe by scent because maybe he likes marshmallows. How little I really knew about him, faintly surprised at how little I cared.

We’d paid our bill by the time of mr. loudbusiness, as had he and his, and we sat, lingering, talking small-ly, coats on as if in preparation, and the boisterous one just had to jump in and make us nine with his five—himself, a couple other guys who seemed straight out of a clockwork orange, a girl with pigtails, grown girl with grown girl pigtails, and my “girlfriend,” who was by then engaged in an elaborate process of bundling up to what must’ve been twice her actual size and I wondered if she was Russian. Not because of the bundling, though, just because. Maybe it was the accent in her smile and the clockwork boys.

Thing was, I’d just finished getting mad at my friend and our squared acquaintances, so maybe the mouth had stopped talking long enough to hear me, us, and that was his in, when I flipped out in an animated but uncrazy way in the middle of a conversation my table’d been having about not love (in its magnificence) but relationships (in their banality), and he—my part-known friend—had taken to joking and teasing me about my apparent indifference, my unwillingness to Put Myself Out There, which, yes, I heard as a bad title to an even worse book that I wondered if maybe I should write for purposes of fame and riches, to hell with dignity. And I let go of my stoicism and let them have it, tracing my words out angrily on the table like they’d be etched there for the record.

And so we got up to leave and so did they and so we ended up leaving together, the two groups linked by his simple tease, the common bond of banter, and with the subtraction of our head count we all but cleared the place and I realized on our shuffling departure how empty it had been and how much space he managed to occupy with his booming broadcast relentlessness, and how blind I’d before him been with my first silent then outward aggravation.

We stood out front for a moment by one sixth of the corners to say farewells and chat like strangers do, searching the moment for the unsaid signal from the angel of dispersal before he gave me a congratulatory shoulder slap and “eh?” combo and I wondered what I’d won, with no idea what had just been said before. I smiled and laughed again anyway, more freely this time because we were on the outside then and I could run if I wanted, into traffic if I wanted, in front of a bus if I could find one, so I let him have whatever fun he was having while the magnificent nine shivered and shrugged and rubbed their hands and squinted in the wind and coats ruffled and breaths condensed and vaporised and the mumbled talk that we dragged with us from inside had shrunk even smaller with the influx of weather and strange strangers merging two separate into one single midst was chopped through chattering teeth.

The angel did at last descend and he and his mates and I and my friend (our acquaintances had already gone on their way), began to separate, our brief communion stretching like melted mozzarella, making me wish more than ever for a knife, even just a fork, either of which I felt might then and there serve several purposes. But she and the grown pigtail girl—who appeared to know her better than the clockwork fellas did—came along with us, fiend and I. They just came along. No invitations, no acknowledgement, we simply started to cross the street in our direction and they joined. You kids have fun! AHAHA! the boisterous one called out over his shoulder, and I waved a goodbye that was more of a good riddance, even though I kind of liked him when I was leaving.

The girls walked with us for a couple blocks before I politely took my leave and drifted off the way I tend to drift away and she gave me a wink that I missed. My friend grinned devilish and we exchanged a quick nonverbal in the midst of audibly saying ok see ya later ok yep and he continued on with the two girls ever so predictably, bundled curves and pigtails, while I went back to the old flat we were staying in, sharing, I should say, sharing so he could look for a job and I could look for ways to avoid one, just around the corner on a street that was almost always perfectly empty, and I thought as I walked both away and toward, chilled but not yet frozen, that the whole scene was like something from Dr. Zhivago, kind of around the beginning, and maybe she was Lara which definitely would’ve made her Russian unless she was the actress from the movie who was probably British or something.

He texted me not long after I got back to the creaky coldness of our beat up flat, probably an hour or so, saying some shit about how he was getting on smartly with her and I felt more stupid than jealous because I knew he was telling me I could’ve been in his shoes if I hadn’t been so stupid but what I really felt stupid for was thinking for a second that he was right. Which he was, but not how I mean it.

He came back late that night when I was taking a hot shower because I couldn’t sleep and my feet were iced. I heard the door slam and knew he’d been drinking and would probably barge straight into the bathroom to recount the tale of the past several wasted hours, hours I’d spent in some roiling combination of tossing and turning and trying to write a story, first on paper, then just in my head, then back on paper again, before my feet got me up. He’ll barge right in, I thought, right in, to make me uncomfortable and give himself something to do, which he promptly did, succeeding on both fronts. I told him to shut the door to keep the steam in and he said She gave you a wink when you left. Really? I totally missed it, trying for an unknown reason to sound like I cared, but for a second I must say I did forget how cold my feet still were.

There’s diversity in the mystery, he said, endless and seeming possible; details get tired, and then you do too. This girl is sweet, pretty, and other. Yes. I’m not thinking now on details. They’re really not attractive anyway, and I mean that philosophically. Not listening: You and I both, attracted to preliminaries and basics, then blanks get filled in and we get bored and/or annoyed, as much with ourselves as with them, he said,

and I knew right then and there that that was it for us, me and he and these non-entities, and all I wanted in the great wide world was to be left the hell alone.

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life

Ladybird

COCKNEY

I balled down the frog and toad in my Barack Obamas to nip in the offy.

“Usual please, Bossman.”

He got a box of rags and an aristotle of Oddie off the shelf behind him and a #5 scratchy out the deck.

“And a Jack The Ripper as well, Boss.”

“Which one?”

“Anything that can cook a Jeremiah.”

“I’ll pick a goodun for ya,” he said.

Most of the fighters had starkers puddings or daffy plugs or footy badges on them. I didn’t give a flying fuck what the fighter looked like as long as it Captain Kirk’d.

He goes, “‘Ere we are!” and gave me a green one with a shamrock and a ladybird on it.

“Cheers,” I went, while having a butcher’s for a nugget in the sky rocket of my Hackett.

“I’ve given you that one cos you gotta stay lucky out there and cos you’re a top bird.”

I thought I was gonna pipe my eyes out:

I’ve always been a lady but never a bird. Now I’m a bird. A top bird. A ladybird.


ENGLISH

I walked down the road in my pyjamas to go to the shop.

“The usual please, Sir.”

He got a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of vodka from the shelf behind him, and a number 5 scratch card from the roll.

“Oh and a Clipper please.”

“Which one you want?”

“Any one that is capable of making fire.”

“Ok, ok, I will choose good one for you,” he said.

Most of the lighters had naked women or silly slogans or football crests printed on them. I really wasn’t bothered about the design on the lighter in the slightest as long as it worked.

He said, “Aha!” and gave me a bright green one with a four leaf clover and a cartoon ladybird printed on it.

“Thanks,” I said while searching for a pound coin in the pocket of my jacket.

“I give it to you because I hope your life will be lucky and because you are very nice lady.”

I could’ve cried:

I’ve always been someone’s bird but never someone’s lady. Now I am a lady. A very nice lady. A ladybird.


Inspired by this scene in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73d6h_go7QI

True story:

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poetry

Lost though glimpsed

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If I had the power

I might do no more than this

sitting watching dust captured by light

as drowsy it drifts

or I may

do far more

dependant upon the hour of birth

runic stones thrown

alignment of planets

decisions ours and not our own

would it make sense to you?

that I found your burning sage madness truth?

only pausing when I could not follow the maze

for my pocked arms were ablaze

holding no feathers

if I had the power

I would ask you subsume the hour last

you felt a need to reveal and trust

and becoming green-tipped bird

I’d fly you into the mouth of your past

and becoming shivering fire bird

I’d conquer the elements of volition

causing you to shrug me off

as unwanted skin without use

I am slower than your torturer and you

If I had the power

though I have no way of encouraging magic

not even a fistful of lightning to raise our sum

stamping like forsaken giants roar

declaring; no you shall not

claim us

I am

too old by days and hours

by too many stared-at empty houses

with boarded windows rubbed dark

nobody is home to light the way

for either of us

don’t you see that’s why I always strained to hear?

my ear to the flat of your prison and mine

flaying xylophone chords with missing fingers

If you’d sat next to me when no-one looked we’d have merged into one

instrument

taken out of ourselves and the backward clock

a poison for some, is a cure for us

If I had the fusion

to dwell in your rage directed my way

I’d walk through maelstrom seeking reverse of fate

where, by watchful limb

we sit shoeless

wringing our bruised legs over yawning edge

one, two, three

let go of holding hands

If I had the power not to be me

and you had the power not to be you

both of us damaged and saved at differing points in history

overlapping star travelers

burning up the universe to reach through

this hijacked soul

lost though glimpsed

in warm breath on

cold step

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fiction

Skinny Girl

Silently crying on the morning train she was, all arms and legs and despair half-heaped and sliding like a pile of melting Dalí clocks over the blue vinyl seat-back beside her and I thought she might finally pour off onto the floor in a puddle of person if not for that crooked arm all crooked for cupping her buried face, crooked and hooked and holding her in place, I saw, snagged as if on a broken branch like the one that cut the inside of my thigh when I was seven, it seemed, and I wondered if I should do the thing and go unhook her.

It was just us we two, me and she perched up above on high on inward-facing foldouts on the car’s second level, windows at our backs, the always-empty aluminum luggage rack overhanging the first-level aisle in front like some kind of gang plank running from the front end of the car to the back, complete and perfect strangers separated by unknown degrees and about four empty seats.

I watched her without watching; lingering peripheral scans and a few quick eye darts enough to catch piecemeal sights of her face once it had risen from its hiding hanging place upon hearing the conductor rapping, gently rapping, rapping on the metal bar by her feet with his shiny silver hole-puncher from the floor below, requesting her ticket.

Miss, ticket. Tap tap. Ticket miss. Miss. Ticket please.

She looked at him with liquid eyes from deep underwater and I peered into the pool as best I clandestinely could from my angle and saw hair matted to moist cheeks streaked with eyeliner like two river deltas viewed from airborne heights before she broke the surface and leaned forward to extend a mechanical hand at the end of a mechanical arm to pass the kindly mr. blue-capped conductor fella her paper rectangle ticket just like mine and I thought he should’ve just left her alone this time, should’ve just let her be.

Maybe he thought so too once he saw, because his expression changed slightly just barely for a split of a split second as he reached up to receive the offering. Just for a split, I saw it seemed, before his sedately aloof workdayman-like placidity washed it away and without a word or gesture he resumed his business of minding his own, punching her ticket with three rapid clicks like they were a single motion and handing the maimed marker of mostly guaranteed safe passage back without his eyes landing anywhere near that teary face of hers again, handing it back with the subtle, arm’s length cordiality we learn to show to strangers with the sads, and I wondered where we get it.

She cried quietly, quietly draped, hooked, and sliding, from the moment I noticed her till we got off. Yes, we. Seven stops, and the last the same as mine. Then off the train and half-hurriedly with obstinate resignation into the small crowd of bobbing mannequin heads she went with my eyes a few degrees shy of squarely watching, off into an undulating stream of hair and coats and bags so thick I could hardly tell her from the rest. But I caught glimpses, and down the platform she went till around the back of the train and across the tracks at the crossing and gone and I walked myself along to work like nothing happened but inside my insides were stumbling back and forth between relief and apprehension and I can only imagine what my face said about all that.

*

It wasn’t the first sighting, or the last, just the end of that one. I’d spot her often, almost every day twice and both ways in quiet reverence for the benefits of solitude, from and to the city, morning out and evening back, as a matter of fact. She wasn’t unpretty, as far as people go, but I don’t remember what she looked like, only how she seemed, and how she seemed was not unpretty if I had to put a silly watcher’s word on.

But details… those are another story, one I’m in no position to tell. I surely couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of tall, skinny, crying girls of indeterminate age with light brown hair and colorless coats and bags, and long, almost cartoonish limbs like she’d been pulled and stretched to fit almost any situation and eyes of some other shade of brown or maybe blue or hazel, the kind of girl with a nose and mouth and ears and all that, a being of unreal, deceptively shifting proportions and implicit indistinction whose movements conveyed a middling grace that suggested she could be some things and not others and I often wondered all the things anyone would, like why does she feel familiar. And she was so something that day that it hurt to look at her, and hurt more to look away.

Then I lost her, and here’s the beginning of the twist. Because one day, not long after that tearful morn when I wanted so badly to go sit beside her and quietly absorb the pain my own often in those days un-dry eyes were already soaking up, kind silent dumb companion of the moment, she wasn’t on the train, not in the morning, not in the evening, not at all, as far as my perception could concede. And I didn’t even notice she was gone till that one day became a bushel or a slew or a jumble or whatever a bunch of days become—the day after and the one after that and after that and that and that and after, absences adding up to an almost perfect almost nonexistence held together in frayed scraps of recollection and splintering cross-sections of feeling and I began to wonder what kind of real she’d been in the first place, if that whole crying melting mechanical arm thing had even happened. Or if I had.

And after a while I even forgot to look for her, the alluring mystery of objectified miseries fading into a distant-seeming moment and that moment into a span and that span into just time, plain old time, sights and senses diminished from the hopeless, ditch-dug perpetuity it seemed to be when I finally climbed up the slippery, muddy banks and out, my coiled insides finally unwound and on to bluer skies and greener stretched out open pastures, gleefully naïve in ceasing to think about how we feel and think and act in cycles.

But I never forgot that day of the tears and quiet agony and matted hair and spiritless reach. In thinking about it now, I wonder how much more beguiling she became when she was suffering and I was looking on like watching my very own self suffering too, that true and honest and irrepressible disclosure of person in the midst of a traincar full of regular empty day-blank faces that so utterly seemed not to see, not even to be. And how much clearer, stronger—how emblematic, say—this little big memory came to be once its object was no longer around in the rough-regular outline flesh to impede my ever so impressionable impressions.

I think about it now, today, on the same train, gliding west, and thought runs like this, speeding, slowing, stopping, opening up: An essence not so much hers as ours, hers and mine, very much mine, it seems, I saw, in fact, I think, now, thinking—a still-life living composition of sadness on the morning train, that’s what she was, unbound by time, disentangled and abstracted from me and my own sad days, for once unhidden and picture-perfectly present, not photographed, though, not captured on film or pixel but painted, painted in the thick, soft-textured strokes of another being, being. Bodily-departed and there, comely, delicate she—per the grandiosest corners of my imagination—sitting just out of reach, crumpled in quiet tears, and doused in the merciful gray light of an immemorially cloudy autumn morning blur diffused through big, green-tinted heavy scratched-plastic train windows. Just sadness, another -ness, shining back at me.

And I think about never forgetting how for a while, looking at her there beyond me as the towns rushed by and the stops came and went, I didn’t feel so misplaced, and I loved my sadness like a woman who couldn’t possibly love me back, vaguely distinct and sort of beautiful—for a moment, that is, one drawn out and elevated to beauty by rumination and incomplete forgetfulness, by misplacement and self deep-diving for a long, slow resurface.

That’s what I think, sitting here without thinking, gazing out the window, detached and present, and as I do so the train stops, pauses, opens, people on, people off, closes, starts again, picks up speed, slows, stops, opens, people off, people on, and I look outside and there she is. There she is, standing on the platform alone, same coat, same bag, far as I know, same hair and limbs and expression, same eyes staring straight ahead, apart, straight through the car. She makes no move to board, just stands, waiting for the next train, maybe just waiting. I don’t wonder, though, I only shift my vision to my own faint reflection in the plastic window, the face I see there encircling the figure on the platform and how fitting, mind says, how fitting, all in my head, passing by.

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prosetry

Other Girls

Once, during the summer of our confusion, you told me that you loved me because I wasn’t like other girls. I found that phrase to be repulsively hackneyed then, and still think it’s insultingly trite when men say it now, but because it was you I let you say so. I would’ve let you say anything.

I did ask you what made me different, though. And I remember you said, “You’re the kind of girl that would return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want you to know what kind of girl I actually was. Then you said in a cloud of smoke, “Through brazen curiosity, though, not stupidity,” and I still didn’t say anything and you didn’t expand on your thought any more, even though now I wish more than anything that you had, that you’d told me who I was, that you’d explained me to me.

That one thought that you almost certainly don’t remember now could have defined me. Perhaps it did, because here I am, standing at the scene of the crime and thinking about your thought while you don’t think of me at all anymore.

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