life

Insane? Contain, Restrain, Detain

Knock Knock Knock Knock

*male voices*

Is this the one?

Yeah.

Knock Knock Knock

*opens door a fraction*

Yeah? What do you want?

We’ve received a call from a member of the public and a call from one of your neighbours expressing concerns about your welfare, can we come in?

What? No. You fucking can’t.

Come on. It’s just me and my colleague Jerry, we want a little chat.

No thanks, you’re alright.

Right, come on, open up now, there’s a good girl.

I’m fine, seriously, piss off.

*sighs*

We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

You got a warrant?

No, but we have reason to believe that your safety and the safety of others may be compromised. We can either chat to you here or down at the station, it’s entirely up to you.

I’m a smart girl, I’d never be stupid enough to invite filth into my own home.

Fine, get some shoes on and we’ll take this down the nick.

Wankers. You’re never there when we actually need you yet you’re always there when you’re not welcome.

Yep. Could you also bring with you a list of any medication you’re taking.

Nope, because that would suggest that I’ll be in your company overnight, which is definitely not happening.

We’ll see about that.

Bastards.

Right, get your coat.

I’ve pulled?!

*Jerry laughs*

*Pig #1 does not laugh*

Hang on, what the hell’s happened here? What’s all this?

Hair dye.

Hair dye?

Hair dye.

Hair dye, Sir?

Jerry, go down and get the first aid kit will ya?

Sir.

If that’s hair dye then I’m the Queen of England.

Don’t flatter yourself.

Right, I’m gonna need you step outside of the property please. I’ve had enough of your lip.

Oi, don’t you fucking touch me. My father always told me never to go off with strange men.

*death stare*

I need to get changed, you can wait outside in the corridor, I’ll be 2 minutes.

Nope. Don’t think so.

I haven’t even done anything wrong, just go away!

I’m not letting you out of my sight, sweetheart.

CAN YOU PLEASE JUST FUCKING FUCK OFF. I NEED TO GET CHANGED AND I NEED THE TOILET. UNLESS YOU WANT TO WATCH ME CHANGE MY TAMPON, YOU SICK FUCK! GOD, you people really are the fucking worst. Just back the fuck up and I’ll be out in a minute, alright?

First aid kit, Sir.

Ah, Jerry. Right. Tell me. How did you hurt yourself? What did you use?

I didn’t. Nothing. And I’m no-one’s fucking sweetheart, by the way.

Have you taken anything today?

Why, what have you got? Anything good?

Are you currently in possession of any offensive weapons?

My mouth.

Are you currently in possession of any item or items which you could use to harm yourself or others?

Wait. Yeah.

What is it?

My wit. It’s pretty sharp.

*Jerry stifles a laugh*

Jesus wept. If you don’t tell me right now I’m going to have to cuff you for your own safety and for mine. Hands out.

This is ridiculous.

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT LOCKING THAT BATHROOM DOOR, GODDAMMIT.

I’LL BE ONE FUCKING MINUTE, MY GOD.

Right, I’m going to count down from 10, if you’re not out here by the time I reach 0 I am going to break the door in, right?

Sure.

10

9

8

Jerry, radio 6423 and see if they’re local.

Sir.

5

4

Tell ’em we’ve got a live one.

3

LAST CHANCE MISSY.

2, 1!!!!

Jeeeeesus, keep your wig on!

Right, let’s go.

But why?

Follow Jerry. Go on. Watch your step.

Wait, please tell me we’re not driving… your Cop Shop is 150 yards across the road, surely your motor would be more useful out patrolling the streets catching genuine threats to society?

Get in the car.

Wow. Met Police, saving the planet, one unnecessary detainment at a time.

Mind your head.

This is getting silly. I haven’t actually done anything wrong.

But you will, which is why we’re intervening now before you do any major damage.

That is utter bollocks. And I’m supposed to be the insane one, hahahahahaha, you mad, mad bastards.

Sir, is there any point of taking her to the station? Can’t we go straight to the hospital, let them deal with her?

Errrrrrrrm, yeah actually, I’ve had enough of nutters for one day: good thinking, Batman.

Sir. What do I tell Chief?

Uhhhh, pfffffft, the usual spiel: too many injuries to accurately document, urgent medical attention required, high risk psych, station’s too busy and understaffed to deal with her, blah blah blah.

Okie dokie, thanks Sir, got it, Sir.

Hey, can I go for a fag while you do your paperwork?

No.

Why not?

Because I said so.

Please?

Nope.

Bastard.

Have you got your meds list?

I’ll write you a full meds list and list of my diagnoses, plus the names and numbers of my uncaring care workers and unsupportive support staff if you let me go for a fag. How’s about that?

No.

Andddd I’ll give you the correct phone number of my next of kin?

No chance.

Hmph. Hey, has anyone ever bled to death in the back of your fancy little cop car before? “Urgent medical attention required” and yet we’re just sitting here in the car park doing jack shit.

Put pressure on it.

Er, I’m pissing blood back here!

You’ll live.

Yeah. Sadly.

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poetry

Auto pilot

Zdzislaw_Beksinski_56_1600x1200

The day your father died

the day the towers burned

the day she found out she had a tumor

I was doing something irrelevant

caught on auto pilot

like the time the door bell rang and

the pizza man handed over a bag

how did you think a small bag could contain a large box?

you said as you ran after him shouting

you gave us the wrong order!

but he sped away on his little red bike

because he too was on auto pilot

and we dreamers who

find reality too hard

yet strive to know

we are often and regrettably lost

choosing puzzles over clarification

wandering the halls of the VA

in search of meaning

watching ruinous faces lose their facades

and close down

like unwound clocks tired

of ticking

 

when you had your first seizure

in the toilets and everyone began

to scream

I recalled my cousin seizing in the field

full of pollen and dragon flies

and held your head firm like a babe

baptized in a steam

in that moment I was not

a child of pretend and play

but an adult seeing the heart monitors of the world

bleeping to wake

the sleeper in me

who does not pretend to know

the journey in you

 

when I lift my head from

distraction and sound

clear my mind and look around

then in the reflecting glass of true response

I can be as much as possible

the owner of my walk

thinking not of purchase and power

but the small mercies

we often over look

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fiction

SUSPENDED

Chris R-0317.jpg Image by Christine Renney

Three or so hours ago it seemed like a good idea. Set off this evening and drive through the night, arrive home in the early hours and sleep until late. Manage to snatch back some time for myself. But it is only just midnight and already I am beginning to flag. The road ahead is bleached by the hard light from above. It has the jarring urgency of film and I have grown weary from its unspooling. I squint through the windshield, watching, because I must.

Motorway services aren’t ever entirely deserted, not even at two o’clock in the morning. There are a handful of motorists sitting as far away from each other as possible. The service area is cavernous and my every movement is amplified. The scraping of my chair as I stand and my footsteps as I walk back up to the counter for a second cup of coffee. As I wait I notice an image printed on a sheet of paper. It is laying just beyond the till alongside the napkins. I move along the counter and reach for it.

It is the reflection of a man in one of the windows here at the services. He is sitting hunched over his coffee. The motorway fills the frame and the image is blurred. The quality of the print is poor and the paper is thin. It has the look and feel of a photocopy. But the man is much more clearly defined because someone, possibly the photographer, has taken the time to draw around him with a blue pen. And not only the man but also the space he is occupying; the chair and the table and of course the all important coffee cup. Head down, his face hidden, he is sitting amidst the glare of the headlights. I hold up the photo so that the young woman behind the counter can see it.
‘Who took this?’ I ask.
‘Don’t know.’
‘No?’
‘No, no idea,’ she shrugs and I go to put it back.
‘It’s been there for a while,’ she says, ‘surprised it’s not been binned.’
‘Do you mind if I keep it?’ I ask. ‘Save it from the trash?’
‘Yeah, take it if you want.’

I move along the walkway which divides the service area on this side of the motorway from that on the other. The man was sitting out here when the photograph was taken. I’m not sure exactly where but it was at one of the tables closest to the glass. I settle down with my coffee and I fold the image, stow it in my wallet and I gaze beyond my own reflection and down at the road below.

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art, fiction

Outside my Window 7:26 – 7:59 P.M.

hijben

A man is standing by the cars outside my window, smoking. He is not a man, really, younger. A boy. But he is wearing a suit like a man. I don’t think it is his car, it is nice. Something with an animal for an emblem. But then again, it is a nice suit.

Turns out it is his car. It seems he didn’t want to smoke in his nice car. He must be a man.

A boy in an orange shirt; bright orange. Oranger than orange, the orange of a blind, elderly fashionista. He is standing in front of the market across. There is no telling what he will look like when he is older. He is wearing glasses, his hair is a mess. One day, he will see, I won’t. Oh well, he went inside.

A woman pushes her daughter on a silly looking carriage. It is shaped like a bike, with a fat seat. She is eating ice cream, the little girl. The mom has a small boy in the other hand; jealous of his sister, probably. I would be.

A whole group. A messily clothed slog of meat walk by. A disturbing amount of floral shirts are among them, despite age. They’ve passed.

A woman in heels heads into the market. I can hear them click from here. I am on the second floor, across.

Two twenty-somethings and a girl in a gray dress stand outside the middle eastern restaurant beside the market. She is smoking, they aren’t. One of the men has his hair up in a bun. I don’t like that, I don’t know why.

The young man in the nice suit and nice car has been sitting a while outside. In the air-conditioning, most likely. It is a decent day. A woman just got in. I only just noticed his scarf, it is floral, too. They are driving away now. It his nice car with an animal emblem, like a leopard, but without spots. They are gone, off somewhere nice, I suppose.

A man walks with his girlfriend in one hand. Not his whole girlfriend, of course, just her hand. In the other he holds a skateboard. It is bright orange, but, at least he is wearing sunglasses.

A girl in an orange scarf passes with her friend. It is a sensible orange, more sluggish. She is talking with her hands outstretched, holding an invisible ball. I can only imagine.

An Asian looking an with blue streaks through his hair passes, drinking Gatorade. It is blue, too.

A man in lime green shoes, violent green, sour–a sour, sour green–he walks by. I can’t see the rest of hm.

A truck just went by. It was dirty, so dirty. The men in the front look dirty; in a good way, an almost-dangerous sort of way.

A woman, carrying her blanket walks by. The blanket is checkered. Black and orange; soft. Two boys, one bigger, one smaller, chase her on bikes. I don’t think she realizes the chase is on. She finds the right song.

A woman walks out of the market. I didn’t see her go in. She isn’t a woman–really, few are. She has a fat face. I wonder why that is all I can see, I hope she sees more.

A girl, maybe three, or four, just ran by, calling for something, or someone.

A man–I think it’s a man–walks by holding a painting. I can’t see the painting. His hair is frizz. He turns. It isn’t a man.

The man I buy coffee from in the morning walks on by. He has very long hair, messy. Off he goes, in the wrong direction of where I’d expect him to be.

The girl, the one who might be four, has found her mother. She is quiet now.

A younger man, a less well dressed one, stands across, he is on the phone. He looks like the boy in the orange shirt. It turns out he won’t be all that handsome after all.

Standard
poetry

L’appel du vide dit

Sympathy

Remains for burial

Zipped in black

Who comes to vouch then

Our misdeeds

Finally earn their napkin passage

I want to tell you

Open yourself 

Let me back

But you are bolted down

Empty of patience

Knowing when to leave

You are covered in oleander petals

Like a bride awaiting the fissure of her maidenhead

Bon voyage little girl

Leave behind your childhood room

All the china dolls you despised with their elegant haunted painted eyes

Under a yellow light attracting flies

Trying to catch up on diary entries half filled

The confessor wears a wagging chin, the judge is a mute 

And this rope will not be strong enough for two

We sit by sea spray electric in timber and soon 

There is no division

Between waiting and being

I can’t cry on demand or be happy, because you need me to be

You bought a faulty part

With your drive-through iced tea

Blessings over family dinner,  ash the crease between my eyes 

Eggshell blue walls

Symbols on concave plates

Sorrow out-stayed her welcome 

Take your wet bills and muddled sums

Away to the sheltering water

Overhead hawks cool in slipstream

Marveling the fresh note of deep current

Deceptively calm on jade surface

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prosetry

Soup

I had spent the week in the same way, lying in bed, flat on my back, arms straight by my sides, staring out of the window, watching the ash trees slow-dancing and the gangs of birds loitering with intent and the city skyline lurching woozily in the heat, listening to the rattle of spray cans from the garage downstairs and the mistakes made by the bell-ringers during their weekly practise peal.

On the third day, West London was on fire and the smoke was rolling in vertical waves: I didn’t think it would ever cease. And still, I lay in bed, useless, like a wildly unconvincing Frida impersonator, spitting words about inside my head, words that have already been said, already been read, counting magpies and missing dragonflies, thinking of names for the children that I’ll never have, tearing the skin around my fingernails, peeling ’til they’re bleeding, and waiting, just waiting.

In the mornings I lay waiting for nightfall. In the evenings I lay waiting for the sun. I lay waiting for sleep, for help, for silence, for affirmation, for you, for life, for a sign, for God, for answers, for revolution, for the tide to turn, for Godot, for death, for change, for justice, for love, for me, for reprieve, for miracles, for time, for everything, for anything, for nothing in particular.

Five days into my self-imposed bed rest, he phoned me up to talk about nothing in particular. He checked if I was still alive. I said that I was, that I am. I heard him smile down the phone but could not mirror the sentiment.

He told me about his brother receiving a big compo cheque for his motorbike crash. He asked me if I wanted to go to Dublin with him for a few days next month and I said “I’d love to but don’t think I could manage it.” He said that he’d picked up his neighbour’s cat off their garden wall and taken it indoors with him because it was a nice cat and he wanted to hang out with it for a while, but he wasn’t sure if that was called “kidnapping” or “catnapping” and what did I think? I said “borrowing.” He invited me to a party on Sunday night, I said, “Absolutely not.”

He told me about how Islington Council are chasing him for library fines. He said he’s lost the book somewhere in his house before he’s even read it, and that the overdue charges fine is now so huge that he could’ve bought the book brand new four times over and still have enough money left over for a bag of chips.

I asked what book it was and he said, “It was Book 5 of My Struggle, I can’t even remember what it’s fucking called.” He asked me what I was reading and I said Fireworks – short stories are easier for my broken brain to comprehend. Then he said, “I’m coming round to your place soon, I need you to I Ching me,” to which I replied, “Ooh, kinky.” He reminded me to eat and to pay my rent and to stay alive.

One day before Bed Rest I had made a huge vat of my special tramadol, tequila and tomato soup. It means that when I’m tired of being conscious I can drink some and quickly go to sleep for a few hours: when it’s cold it’s just a More Bloody Mary but is equally knockout. If I could sell this soup at the Farmer’s Market I would be a millionaire. The Grenfell death toll was creeping up and I was ready to go back to unconsciousness.

As I was crawling along the floor from my bed to the kitchen I spotted it in one of the stacks of books that line every wall of my flat. “Some Rain Must Fall: My Struggle Book 5 by Karl Ove Knausgaard.” I only ever bought Books 1 + 2. I grabbed it and opened it. Sure enough, inside there was a stamp from Islington Central Library and a few sticky barcodes on the back.

“Fuck,” I thought. “That man will do anything to get me out of bed.”

Standard
poetry

Pearl

When I think of all the hours I stared

at the carvings of a wardrobe making faces in dusk

or listened intently to the sound of monsters unfurling

beyond my bedroom window

and the dust settling on objects belonging to me

sleeping away another day

the sense of time passing

and what we own versus what we only purchase

for this short journey

a pearl within shell

fleeting like a play where all characters

are insubstantial and hardly formed

like voices calling from a great distance

with fog separating their meaning

what do we know of another’s journey

or the grief they store within their silence

what of the godless and their cleave

to make terms with empty skies and

when you lay your head on my lap

in my dark room with no windows

and you whisper all the swallowed hurt

you folded and re-folded within your heart

I cannot say I know where to place such pain

it lingers

like the ghosts of my childhood

and the specters I created

tapping at window panes

snarling beneath the bed

they are only kept at bay by our reason

and I have less and less

but you

you demand notice as the crying child will urge

even weary mothers to unclothe their milk

and my chest burns for wanting to soothe

but nothing comes

not succor

not words

for who can say

it will be all right

when outside the world hefts its mighty sword

and hacks down with seeming impunity

those tender links we make

during our dusty walk

it feels sometimes as if we ought

to cease to observe

and become feral once more

only responding to the urge within us

to outsprint our demise

who wants to witness, to consciously realize

as they diminish toward frailty

and what can the child who has no child

say to her loved ones when they

clamor for her wisdom?

this reversal of roles sits like new flowers

drinking in early sun

knowing less of themselves than the past

I feel my grandmother’s hand

she is somewhere in the light

just a step beyond where I can follow

she tells me to be brave and strong

hold on child, the waves will be high

and you must find purchase

it is the break of my sandals on boulders

the scrabble of my fingers climbing wetly

all the chains of our fears

biting our attempt to defeat

it is harder to do this as you reach

the summit of yourself

where looking out at a drowning world

there are days you wish

not to understand what it is to love

or the pain this will bequeath

when those dear pass beyond

your reach

I can only strike out

one sure step, one uncertain

leaving footprints for myself

in virgin sand

there is no forward, no return

only a circle within a circle

ancestors on one cusp

perhaps a forest between us

for it is not just the heart

but the sound of birds coming home

and the boon of life as it bursts

anew with each day

we cast our nets deep

we gather our grief

and set sail our hope

for one more

one more moment

kept safe against

the crystal wall of waves

sure as day will close

they gather

like women beneath

the moon glow

opalescent

Standard
fiction

CAGED

Chris R-2-20 Image by Christine Renney

The bird had fallen down into their chimney. They had missed this, hadn’t heard its descent. Trapped and stalled but still attempting to fly, the bird bounced against the bricks.

They could hear the wings beating, its head and body bashing against the thin board that had been tacked in front of the fireplace.
‘We have to do something,’ she said.
‘Like what?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean, ‘like what’?’ she glared at him, incredulous. ‘We need to get it out of there, to set it free.’
‘How?’ From where he stood he studied the board. He couldn’t see any screws or fixings and suspected it had simply been glued into place and that removing it wouldn’t be difficult or particularly disruptive.
‘If we’re going to remove the board we need to get in touch with the landlord,’ he said. ‘It’ll pull the plaster away with it and could cause some damage.’
‘I don’t care!’ she stepped closer and, reaching out, placed her hand at the centre and the board wobbled slightly. The bird had quietened a little but now began to thrash and flail more violently.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ she said to it. She moved back.
‘We have to help it,’ she pleaded.
‘It’s a wild bird,’ he said. ‘If we let it out it’ll be disorientated. How will we deal with it? It’ll be covered in soot and I don’t know what else.’
She crossed to the window and, drawing back the net curtain, she flung it open.
‘It’ll find its own way out,’ she said defiantly.
‘I’m not so sure, why don’t we go out and when we get back it will have gone.’
‘No,’ she shook her head, ‘it won’t be gone, it will be dead.’ She moved to the kitchen.
‘I don’t care,’ she shouted back at him, ‘about the damage or the consequences.’
He listened to her rummaging in the junk drawer until at last she came back brandishing a paint stripper.
‘If you won’t do it then I will.’
He had been annoyed by just how indignant she had become and at how quickly. But the indignation had now turned to something else, something less fleeting, more settled. He took the paint stripper from her.
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it.‘
The board was indeed flimsy and, pulling away from the wall, it started to bend. The bird was bashing against it and then it wasn’t. He was shocked by how small it was.
He released the board and, letting it flap back into place, he stood and together they watched the little bird fluttering in front of the open window.

Standard
poetry

Mugshot

Babes,
I think that,
from now on,
whenever I get so sad
that you don’t know what to do
with me you should
gently
remind me
of the fact
that in my police mugshot
I have bright green hair
and the specific type of smirk
that may only be worn by those
who are entirely fearless.
Remind me
of the existence of that mugshot:
the hilarity of the image itself,
the absurdity of the surrounding events,
the possibility of seeing it printed in the newspapers
and the memory of a time when I was free
will always cheer me up
(or at least distract me
for a moment
while you hide all the knives
and pour tranqs into my cup).

Standard
art, fiction

The Hung-Man’s Bottle Cap

She sat there, social as a dead butterfly, bending beer bottle caps in half.

“Why are you doing that?” I asked.

She paused, ruminated over the words “Miller High Life,” then responded.

“When I can’t do this anymore, I will hang myself.”

“What if you break your fingers?” I said, smirking.

“Then, it will be a loose knot,” she replied, without humor.

I laughed–tried to. I picked up a cap; gave it a squeeze.

“Ouch.” It dropped. We both looked at it, she looked up at me.

I frowned. “I’m not going to hang myself!”

She shrugged, looking rather disappointed.

 

 

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