prosetry

Headway

Winter, and a thickness like fog, but crisp and clear. “Shroud” isn’t the word but “envelop” glances. The clothes, the layers, the coat, the hat, the scarf, the gloves, the etcetera and etcetera, add-ons and throw-aways, hyphenable. They’re in with me, though, shrouding. While the thickness envelops whole, in sickness and in peace and in violence and in health and in words.

Winter, and reading Hilton Als on art and childhood in bed wrapped in blankets made me warmer. Well, warm, and on top of blankets. No, less cold, let’s be truthful. Cold is the beginning of The Idiot, not this. I imagine that kind of cold is like talent, knowing it’s out there. Here is just passable thickness and the far-off beauty of others. The comfort in that, is that.

Winter, and the new year approaches, which means pontificate or eulogize. To fill the space, naturally, and pass the time. The clever do both, usually at once, as social imperatives, more spatial than temporal, oblivious to duality and hyphens. Oh, the things we receive.

Winter, and when the new year arrives, this year will undergo a tense shift. That could be clever but then I’d be one of them and I decided years ago I’d never. Years ago I dreamt of the nineteenth century when things were simpler and more complex. November, you were it, years ago. I’ll neither pontificate nor eulogize.

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poetry

Memento mori

We’re not calling them ‘scars’ anymore. They are
a memorial to my many misadventures,
a memento of misguided madness,
a souvenir of suicidal slumbers,
a relic from rock bottom:
a shrine to survival.

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fiction, photography

CARRION

Chris R-0080 Image by Christine Renney

As the man walks he is reassured by the line of traffic on his right, by its constancy. He doesn’t look directly at it but instead focuses on the road ahead and it is a blur and harmless, a childish scrawl of smudged crayon.
The man has become fascinated by the things he finds alongside the road – fast food cartons and cans of course but also other discarded items. Perhaps objects would be a better description, even artefacts. Most are useless and many are unrecognisable; pieces, puzzles in hard plastic and now not-so shiny metal.
Carrion. This is how the man refers to the debris. In his head it is always the carrion, because the birds, the crows, swoop down and peck at it. But it isn’t.
Up ahead the man spots a blown out tyre and he steps from the grass bank onto the hard shoulder. The tyre is shredded and ripped but otherwise complete. He kicks at it. At least he knows what this is and where it came from.

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prosetry

Fumar mata

It’s ten minutes to 7 and mordant sunlight is pissing through the gaps in the broken curtains. I can feel the gold light on my face and understand the meaning of the term ‘sun-drenched.’ I keep my eyes closed, letting my eyelids burn under the weight of the fulgent flood. I don’t want to be alive just yet. I am somewhere else.

I am back in Spain, at the villa, with you.

The sun woke us up every day, mid-morning, dancing through the net curtains, creeping up from the bottom of the bed in which we lay tangled and naked under white sheets, dozing, until I’d get up to smoke. I’d pull on your nearest t-shirt and go out onto the balcony, stretching like a cat, inhaling, exhaling, watching the ash fall slowly to the barren valley below, spotting lizards, gauging the temperature, watching the birds fly east towards the Med.

Then I’d sneak indoors, leaving you to sleep and start on breakfast. Cereal and a cooked full-English for you plus a mug of builder’s tea and fresh juice. Black coffee and a cigarette for me. We’d take breakfast outside on the veranda by the pool. I don’t know if it was apparent then that I had bigger dreams than you, but you were hungrier.

I had exams waiting for me back home so I tried to revise. I read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and The Italian, you watched ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and European football. We ate fresh swordfish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen.

We shared our first bubble bath, complete with champagne on ice. We’d only been together for 8 months and I’d been away at university for 7 of them, so this holiday cemented a lot of things for us. You and I, proving everybody wrong. The Dream Team. Us against the world. You probably don’t even remember it now.

We drove for miles along the coast following the contours of Spain’s face and everything around us was unbelievably perfect, the tiny white chapels shining against the orange cliffs and the deep aquamarine skipping alongside us. Windows down, music up, we wore smiles and suntan lotion and our faces ached.

We stopped in Benidorm, which is essentially a caricature of Britain abroad, but as we walked in the surf I was thrilled at the prospect of walking the same beach and seeing the same stretch of horizon that Sylvia did so many years ago. I told you that Plath and Hughes honeymooned in Benidorm. You didn’t know who they were. These things were warning signs at the time, for when things seem too good to be true they usually are, but I was blind to omens and had vetoed rational thought; I was young and in love and blinkered, all I could see was you and our perfect surroundings and our perfect love.

Before we left Spain I bought 200 Benson silvers as they were a quarter of the price that they were in the UK. The sign on all the packets said ‘Fumar mata.’ Smoking kills. But so does love. Love kills. God knows you almost killed me. And sadness kills, too, perhaps more often than smoking, more often than love. Falling in love should come with a government health warning. There are no billboards or pamphlets to warn us of the impending pain, the inevitable tears. Instead of printing photos of rotting lungs they should print a graphic image of a broken heart. Love kills. You always hated me smoking. You’ll kill me long before the cigarettes do, of that I am sure.

When I open my eyes I am not in Spain, at the villa, with you. I am sad, scared and alone. I hear sirens, a train, the builders working downstairs. A door slams. I am not in Spain. I realise that we were there exactly 4 years ago to the day. You won’t remember it, I’m sure. You have new important dates to carve on the walls of your skull now anyway.

But how lucky I was to be loved by you. I don’t know if the sun smothered me this morning in an attempt to mock me or save me but, wherever you are, at least we are both slaves to the same golden star. Fumar mata. Smoking kills. El amor mata. Love kills. And how lucky I was to have been loved by you, to have loved you and been loved by you in return. How lucky I was. How lucky…

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poetry

Flow

Esmeralda, how much of what we do is out of fear of humiliation?
I fill people up with my secrets like little pools and walk away
when I can no longer stand to see what they reflect.

All I ever wanted was to make it out of Texas out of that dream
like Texas vast and hopeless where I dropped my last two pills
in a sink full of dirty dishes and couldn’t fish them out.

Make it to the land of sea and sand and sunshine, to paradise,
where you dance like in the stories. So I can remember my name
and all the nights from all my past lives will have been worth it.


Originally published on my personal blog, Art & Insolence, back in May. Sorry to be a self-recycler (again) but I don’t have any new bits done today and I like this one.

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poetry

Effigy

When asked

Why did you burn the candle so hard?

She could have said

Running from myself

Sprinting from emptiness

Falling into a comfortable void

Embacing the unwashed boys and heroin eyed girls

Their empty bellies and mouths of hurt

Rolling her razor hips to electronica

Slack red mouth and mocca skin

Racetracks in silver running like rivers along her wrists

She inhabited sound as a moonstone glows brightest in darkness

Teaching me to welcome letting go

Whispering, stop the neglect eating you 

Slip into me

This injection of freedom

Two red lipped matches rubbing against skin

Taste the sulphur, inhale till you can catch dragons tail

She liked to dip her toes in fridgid water

Mastering length of endurance like a tightrope walker

Her strength wound tight like tigers breath

How can you emerge from such a world?

Returning to normalcy as a virgin loses blood

Forever changed

I still glance up, a little too fast

When I hear fast footsteps run across my heart

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life

The Assessment

“We’re nearly done.”
“Fine.”
“Okay. Next question… Do you react to unseen stimuli?”
“Yes.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Erm, well, if I hear a stupid opinion on a radio show I’ll probably say, ‘What a stupid opinion.’
“Go on…”
“What is there to elaborate on? I can react to something I can’t see, I can’t see the idiot on the radio.”
“Right. But does the radio exist, is the radio real, is the radio show real?”
“Does anything exist? Are you real? Am I?”

Dr T breathes out through his nose, long and hard, like an exasperated horse.

“I also react to music. I might tap my foot, or dance, or sing along, or say ‘Leonard would be turning in his grave’ in response to a particularly abysmal set of lyrics. I can’t see music. Can you? Because, if you can, then maybe I should be assessing you.”
“I think you’re missing the point.”
“No, I’m not. Not at all. I’m just answering your poorly-devised psychiatric questionnaire the best I can.”

At this point I look over Dr T’s shoulder, through the window behind him and begin to wave frantically, smiling, then giving a thumbs up and a wink. I regain composure.

“Sorry about that, doc. You were saying?”

Dr T turns and looks through the window. He stands up to get a better look, craning his neck to see who I was so happy to see. There is nobody there.

“Who were you waving at?”
“John,” I say, physically trying to wipe the smile from my mouth with the sleeve of my jumper.

Dr T stares at me blankly.

“John. The groundskeeper. Lovely bloke, have you not met him? I went to school with his daughter. I guess Spring must be here since he’s mowing the lawn. I really love the smell of freshly cut grass, don’t you?”

He looks at me for a moment too long before writing some things down.

“Do you hear voices?”
“Pardon?”
“Do you hea-”
“Just kidding, doc. Of course I hear voices.”
“What kind of voices?”
“Gosh, how long have you got?”
“Take your time. Tell me about the voices you hear.”
“Loads of different types.”
“Such as?”
“Well, firstly, if someone is talking directly to me, I can definitely hear them. Also if I’m watching tv or a movie I can hear those voices too. Same with music, lyrics, radio. I’ve told you this already, doc. Oh, but I must admit I do eavesdrop whenever possible. I know it’s impolite, but I love listening to stranger’s conversations on the Tube or in a shop. Although if the train is noisy then sometimes it’s hard for me to hear everything. But I’m not deaf in the slightest, I have perfect hearing so yes, I do hear voices.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Ohhh, sorry, of course, I hear your voice just fine, doc, despite the lawnmower outside. Crystal.”

Dr T closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose while I pick at the skin around my fingernails and wonder if he’s ever had a romantic relationship with any of his patients.

“Any other voices that you hear that may be worth mentioning?”
“Nah,” I reply, while he glances at the clock.
“Ohhhh, hang on!”
“Here we go,” I watch him think.

“Wait, are you referring to the little Lego man who lives inside my head who is telling me to strangle you with your charming paisley tie until your eyes pop out of their sockets, and then use those blue-handled scissors in that pot on that desk there to sever your optic nerves, take your eyeballs home, varnish them, turn them into earrings and sell them on Etsy? Apart from that, no, I can’t think of anything. We’ve covered conversations, music, tv and film, haven’t we? Oh, and theatre!! I rarely go to the theatre but when I do I make sure to have good seats so that I can see the actors and hear their voices.”

Dr T forgets how to blink.

“Do I need to call security?”
“I don’t know what you need, doc, that’s something you really have to work out for yourself.”
“Is the little Lego man talking to you now?”
“Yeah but I’ve put him on mute for a minute. It’s hard enough to hear your voice while John’s outside mowing and singing Elvis! I love Suspicious Minds.”

Doc looks outside at the vacant, unmown lawn, then back to me. I am smiling broadly.

“Is that it? Can I go now?”
“I suppose so.”
“Great.”
“I’ll send you a copy of the report for this assessment sometime next week.”
“Smashing. Looking forward to it.”

I wink at him and slip out the door.

When I receive the report in the post a week later it makes for interesting reading. He described me as “obviously highly intelligent” “pedantic” “charming” “manipulative” “unhelpful.” This was my favourite line, “Patient is detached but her presence is imposing.” He said that I had threatened him with grievous bodily harm. He said I need to be reassessed some other time by someone else because he couldn’t be certain which of my answers were true and which were “jokey fabrications.” But still, he was happy to release me because he has decided that I do not suffer from schizophrenia.

And with that, the little Lego man piped up and said, “Well played, girl, very well played,” and I smiled and said, “Thank you.

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