Uncategorized

The seeking fingers of tomorrow

When we were young we thought
just as the saying goes or the first line of every youthful book
we had all the time in the world
time does not speed up as you age
it simply reveals itself, standing unclothed in dawn, still wet with dew
the sundial of life moving slowly in circle
once you believed yourself invulnerable, not because you were young
but the blister in your heart that said
i will never stay here and take this crap!
so you urged yourself to sprout and using every strength
sometimes in the form of what you did not yet know
flew into the reddened sun and burned there a good long while….

later when shade gave salve
it seemed foolhardy to have done battle
but that was the ire of twenty and five
seen differently when scope is set ten years advancing
through all the steps you will take, from there to now
maybe a family, maybe alone, maybe reaching out, maybe closing down
is it possible you think, to change?
so unutterably, as to forget imprint of first edition?
so completely, the way you felt then, now strange and unfamiliar
as if a stranger shucked your skin and walked away
leaving you to puzzle over how you lived as someone else, for so long
the girl who drank herself to the bottom of the bottle
lifting her skirts for her ravages and lowering her eyelids on truth
the boy who snorted off backs of others and
seeing the harm he did, carried on digging the wet way to the pacific
where he hoped to find a green stone and turn himself into a forest
they slipped and skidded, as children with weapons will
damaging better than any terror could have reigned
we know the sharpness of our own ache

and now that time has reflected and returned another summer, another slow
turn of water wheel
sending ducks garbling and spooked across uneven lawn
into waiting foxes jaw
we see the hem of life, peaking from beneath rubharb
as it pillars its redolence among plain earth
declaring a magnificience
we see how the young bathe in their moment, only to rue
that cigarette, that set of choices, laid out Majong and glossy
alongside the diaphram, the emptied promise, drying on cotton sheets
it could be a dinner table set for eight, or just for me
when you have flown, along with the last ears of corn
having lost their golden, turning back spots of age
if we reach now, we reach too late to see
the circumfrance of inevaitable fate and so
one day, will be the last seat, left to fill
nobody remaining behind, to open windows to
the seeking fingers of tomorrow

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fiction

DESCENT

Chris R-0315 Image by Christine Renney

I am attempting to forge a route that takes in all of my haunts, all the places where I have taken shelter after dark. The doorways where I have pushed back and stretched out and where I have slept. But there are too many and as I move between them, making my way back and forth, I feel disoriented and this sudden compulsion is now pulling me from the Centre or at least from the part of the City I have accepted as the Centre, a place where I have loitered and lingered. But my reluctance to leave seems to have deserted me and I am fleeing, but to where?
I am pushing against the City and it is dense and difficult to navigate. I look because I must but I can’t focus and I can’t see my way through. The idea of a Centre here, that it could exist, is inconceivable and yet I have conceived of it and somehow I have found my way. But how?
It must have been slow, my descent. So gradual that the progress I have made is all but impossible to detect.

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poetry

The Swim

Immersing myself in the blues
that would usually make me sink
usually make me drown
I dive in, unafraid, brave
leaving depression in locker 8E
heartbreak standing naked and shivering
on the concrete edge, grief wrapped up in a towel
washing paranoia out of my hair and misery off my skin
with every stroke I am light and almost carefree
in this controlled, contained, waveless sea
pulsating frog legs
counting
breathing
in, two, three, out, two, three
it doesn’t matter who is faster
than me and my dwindling lung capacity
I am so very nearly free
inhaling chemicals in a legal way
tears made of chlorine not melancholy
in, two, three, out, two, three
no time to think, only to breathe
and push on, further, stronger
the girl sits upon her throne in the sky
the guy patrols the perimeter
with their matching red t-shirts
matching whistles
matching sports watches
they watch me
in, two, three
and guard my life
out, two, three
these strangers who exist solely to save me
they are employed to ensure
that I am safe
that I do not die:
I think that I need them everywhere
all of the time.

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Uncategorized

Charlie, you had it right

Insurance

is a Big Mac scam

poisoning the well

LOOK

there is a good intention

befouled by corrupt system

ecnarusni, spelt backward an incurable malady

ennui

macadamia

strawman

forger of meaning finds none, in frosted window

double glazed against both noise and cold

the office where they work is stifling

it engenders more blood thirsty intolerance

You are denied a purpose

stamp, thump, goes the proverbial red ink

now replaced by click of key

to the isle of denied claims where

headless cast offs watch themselves

turn to oriental soup

without air conditioning

 

You want to be covered by healthcare?

but what about my bottom line? My margin

of deniable error

if I’m okay then why aren’t you?

who said we should be charitable?

Jesus didn’t have a new sack cloth

I prefer the prosperity preacher

when his kids are sick he sends them private

on the tithe of his butt-lifted worshippers

 

Hear the bell toll

it tolls for thee

we have no mercy to ladle

as you breathe in

Round-Up and years later, lose sensation in your legs

dust to dust, pesticide to fungicide

a new Mercedes for her quinceanera

sweet sixteen at the preachers house

a coffin is being built for the backs you bent

in building your prospering you lost

that trace of humanity or

it was corruption installed under

APP – GREED

when one believes themselves

worthiest of all

 

Charlie are you listening?

you had it right all along

within the downy fur of your giant peach

roll starchild, roll

universal truths nod and blink

squash one beneath gain and gamble

futures and shambles alongside pork bellies

dancing without their heads

served cold with a side of boom n bust

just when you thought the choke couldn’t get tighter

they advertise it as S&M

but we know what we know

beneath illusions, seen the blinkers obscuring

in favor of artificial afterglow

guaranteed to make your piss red

a fine poisoned vintage

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poetry, prosetry

Sometimes

Sometimes, things come back.
Things come back to me sometimes.
Not things, as such, but rather memories.
Memories come back to me sometimes.
Only sometimes, though.
Like that fancy bra poking out from my blood-stained white blouse,
running down the hill at 3 o’clock on Christmas morning.
Prison Break, Breaking Bad, breaking up.
Yellow flowers, always yellow flowers.
Lighting my cigarettes with a blowtorch.
Bike rides along the sea wall.
Inhalers and cat allergies.
Cheese and cucumber sandwiches at cricket.
Teaching me to drive the van.
Micky Flanagan and the £8 slice of pizza.
Never drinking the final third of your Peroni.
“Babyface” and squeezing the pus out of your knee.
Spain, swordfish, sunset.
Bunk up on the bunk beds under Manchester United duvet covers.
Me throwing up in Wayne Bridge’s toilet while you fixed his cooker.
The Best Nachos in the World.
Henry VIII and Henrietta.
Freezing under floodlights.
A firework display because I wanted one.
The realisation that you’re going to prison.
Apple crumble and custard.
The decision that I’d wait for you while you were inside.
Cutting 40 onions.
The jubilation when you were found not guilty.
Glass table-top on the roof.
Coaxing the gerbils out from under the wardrobe.
Sex in a hot tub in Sherwood Forest in the middle of December.
The diamond ring and fancy watch that I can’t bring myself to sell.
Your face when the test was negative.
Your face when the test was negative again.
Your face.
Your fucking face,
the face I know off-by-heart,
the face I can still feel beneath my fingertips,
the face that I know better than my own.
Your fucking face.
Sometimes, things come back.
You didn’t.


[Featured image source here]
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art, poetry

It’s Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

I fell in love with a girl named Alice
We loved each other
As one bulimic cannibal
Might love another
(Bulimics are like mailmen
but with food
Cannibals are like mailmen
Who eat other mailmen)
We did all the things
You can only do
When you’re in love
Like read each other poems
And dance in the middle of the street
To no music

Then
When the music stopped
We’d tear holes in each other
With everything
But bullets

Our conversations
Were a cacophony
Of passionate poetic lines
Like “I love her with
A red hot madness”
Or “He fell heavy on my chest
And whispered me the world”
We salted each other
With enough Bukowski-isms
To drown a class
Of teenage girls
In one biblical flood
Of angst filled love

Yet this great tower
Of poetic babel
Was brought down
In a single verse

“Why aren’t you hard?”

A question that
If turned into a weapon
Could slaughter the known universe.
Then came the storm
“Am I not hot enough for you?”
“Don’t you want to fuck me?”
“Get off me, I am going to sleep.”
Then in the morning
Like a paraplegic
Preparing for a walk
I held her close
And kissed her neck
She reached down
And grabbed my penis and balls
All at once
And mashed them together
She laughed
“That’s what I thought”

After a week
She showed me an article
On her phone
It said
“Food for harder erections”
It had a picture of a banana
(A thing that looks like a penis
but you eat it, unless you’re a cannibal
then you eat both)
Half peeled
And said
“A hard man needs a healthy heart.”

“Your heart is weak”
she told me
and that was that
oh well.

 

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life, poetry, prosetry

Take you in

After the fight

ear buds wet with wax

blood mixed with water

hair in torn bouquet

or nothing

no knife

no marks on her neck

the wound

is sleeping

undisturbed

sitting opposite chaos and destruction

wanting to climb into bed

and absorb

all the regret

two people

in their unspoken fists

will gather

like long reedbed lavender

proud like swept hands

point to sky

I’m a breakable cause

came by way of love

and a brush tip of blood

crossing ochre cloud

with seeking hawk

neither of us imprint

this room

curled against each other

in fitful disorder

and the soft sound of wind

leaching through window pane

sounds like our whispers

of why and when and wherefore

you within myself

I within your consolation

no more noise just

stillness

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poetry

DON’T EVER

Chris R-0115 Image by Christine Renney

Don’t ever think that we are
So far gone and too far down
And that it doesn’t matter
That their voices, the others’ voices
Are louder and have more clout
That we are just a clamour
And that they are the clarion
And that only they can shout
That they have the megaphone
And all of the music
And are able to drown out our lyrics
Or that the street corner isn’t
A stage or the blank page
Or that the pen, a biro, isn’t enough
Or that they are a fact
And we are merely fiction

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life

What’s Yours Is Mine

I’m on the Northern line reading Angela Carter. This book used to be yours; I remember the strange cover. You lent me this book years ago in exchange for my copy of The Bloody Chamber. Now I have all of your books. They live alongside mine in shaky stacks, perilously piled around my flat, propping doors open and lining windowsills.

I am so impressed by Carter’s writing, as I always am, that I stop reading and take my phone out of my handbag to send you a particular sentence of hers that I know you would love and to express how gutted I am that she’d died when she still had so many words left in her. Then I remember that you’re dead too and put my phone away.

I am trying not to make a habit of crying on public transport so I turn the page over to the next story and find a flattened Rizla packet wedged into the spine. On the packet, in your handwriting, is a note reminding you to remind me about an upcoming reading of Joyce’s Ulysses on BBC Radio 4. The title of the story where I find this note is ‘The Executioner’s Beautiful Daughter.’ I wonder if this is coincidental and I miss you more than ever.

I always feel especially close to you when I’m reading your books. I like the fidelity of my thumb pausing in the same spot where your thumb once rested while you absorbed the page, how your thumbprints on the cover or bottom right corner are slowly being replaced by mine, smaller but nonetheless comfortable.

I remember exactly how you’d read, how you turned the pages, how you used your finger to guide you down the lines, how you would straighten the book out on the table when you stopped to roll a cigarette, putting it perfectly in its place until the next devouring.

I like the idea of my brain ingesting these words in the same order that you did, of my heart processing all of the unwritten words and underlying slivers of brilliance that exist between the lines just like yours did. I cannot live the stories of your life just as you could not live mine, but we could live the tales told by master storytellers together.

I also like the things that I find inside your books, and I’ve found allsorts. Some of your books were gifted to you by girlfriends past, and sometimes they had written an adoring note to you inside the front cover. (We personally believe writing in books to be a sin but I suppose these decades-old sentiments have survived longer than you have).

I’ve found plenty of bookmarks: a beer mat lodged at page 341 of The Glass Bead Game, a shopping list hiding in between pages 226 and 227 of One Hundred Years Of Solitude, an appointment card to see your vascular consultant lurking towards the end of The Master and Margarita. Scraps of newspaper, napkins and cigarette papers hibernating in many more.

We don’t believe in dog-earing books and you would scold others when they borrowed a book from you and returned it with folded corners. I found a couple of “real” bookmarks, one made of leather with your initials on it and a metal one in a Celtic cross design. I like the beer mats more.

You’ve given me tens of thousands of pages, all smoke-stained to a degree. In fact, I can work out when you first procured a book based on the level of smoke-staining. Your books from the 60s and 70s are tar brown and smell like stale incense and damp fireplaces. Your books from the 80s and 90s are entirely yellowed, the edges of the pages are darker than mustard. Your books from this century are less ‘smoked’ but all smell like Golden Virginia tobacco, a smell that will always remind me of you for as long or short as I live.

I also like looking at the prices of books and how they’ve increased over the decades. Some of your books are priced as costing a florin (two-bob), four and thruppence, and 4/6, all shillings and half-crowns and other ancient values. Then there are the books costing 25p, 40p, 60p, 75p: classic novels that would now cost me around £8 paperback in Waterstones. And the prices go up from there.

Your books present all kinds of other matter, too: cigarette ash, sand, the odd blade of grass, a flattened bug, biscuit crumbs, sticky tea rings on the back cover, strands of your silver hair caught in the spine, a smudge of blood from a paper-cut, train tickets, a pressed flower, general grit from your manual labour days, splashes of paint where you’d been reading on your lunch break, post-it notes, business cards, phone numbers written on the back of receipts, prescriptions, an unwritten postcard from Milan, a cartoon strip cut out of a newspaper, a £50 note… last week when I opened up The Rebel I found a couple of tiny rocks of hash stuck in the valley between pages 14 and 15.

It was decided about 15 years ago, when you first faced death, that I would get all of your books and my brother would get all of your music. I am lucky and grateful to have all of your books. You didn’t start reading serious literature until your late 20s/early 30s, and I am so glad you instilled a love of literature in me from day one.

And I am really enjoying making my way through your books, your favourites, page by page, word by word, and finding odd little notes from you. Like in The Snow Goose, you wrote (against your own rules) on the title page, “To my darling girl, A book as precious as you are. Oodles of love, Dad.” You wrote that in 2002. I just found it a few weeks ago.

These books were yours, you held them in your hands, you learnt from them, you formed opinions from them, you had your own ideas from them, these books informed your personality, your thoughts, your attitudes, these books inspired your own writing, your own poetry and art, determined how you treat yourself and all human beings, enabled you to grow and improve and teach others. Now these books are mine, and through these books you are giving me the opportunity to become great, just as you were great.

You are still here with me. You still exist every day: through your words, through my words, and through the words of all of these incredible authors who continue to teach me even though you no longer can.

You were gifted a collection of Emerson essays in 1978 by a girlfriend, we will call her H. I just found this smoke-stained note inside it, handwritten in blue biro, saying, “Don’t think anything of me giving you this book, but DO read it, right? (You know it’s very inexpensive to sit in the garden and quietly read a book– you can even afford an occasional ‘special’ cigarette, for example).” This little note perfectly captures you as a reader, and is how I will always remember you.


[Featured image source here]
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