fiction, photography

CHEAP HOTEL

Chris R-0067 Image by Christine Renney

I lay back on the unmade bed and stare up at the ceiling. I trace patterns in the damp, find faces in the decay. Alien and immobile they stare back.
I have lost track of time and am unsure how long I have been here in this room. How many days have I managed to lose, writhing on the thin white sheet, trying and failing to grip the mattress beneath.
My mind is a cavernous blur and in my listlessness I have left no markers. I haven’t been reading and can’t add up the pages or count the stories.
I realise I am hungry, painfully so. I push myself up and, twisting around, I sit on the edge of the bed. I place my feet on the ground and clutching my stomach I gaze down at the carpet. But it is a good thing – this wanting, a need for something other than alcohol. But have I been here too long, for longer than I can afford?
And what will I do if and when my credit card fails.

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life, poetry, prosetry

all i’ve ever known is true

Suppose life is just one big missed connection and post an awkward public notice to the young man inside.

I saw you walking down the uneven sidewalk on Tuesday night with your head hung low and hands in your pockets, exhibiting all the telltale signs of dejection and I wanted to offer something vaguely inspiring like sometimes there’s nothing to say so do what you can and trust your voice. Past action is the best indicator of future behavior, or so I recall when it’s convenient. Mentality is what mentality does and doesn’t that sound armchair rationalist. I know you didn’t ask—you didn’t even see me—but mine’s forever somewhere between gathering and telling and there’s a self-addressed open envelope on the drafting table with an undated note inside that says something Wittgensteinian that you might’ve once written like look, without explanation, without trying to remember the words, and try trusting that you’ll find the feeling and they’ll come together to form meaning that is free of fear or self-approbation. And maybe one day you’ll be lucky and cursed enough to lay like James Wright in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota when he realized he’d wasted his life and you’ll know you’ve wasted yours if this message ceases to reach you.

Post it, and see who responds.

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poetry

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (3 + 3.5)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (1)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (2)

(3)

One day when I walk the Seven Sisters Road
alone, I will see everyone
that I have ever known, and everyone that I
will ever meet in my various little lives
they’ll all combine and line
the street, here, where inertia
grows on trees, where a boy got killed
over a just-shy gram of coke, where the inhabitants
are broke but the system is broker, where I saw my
third dead body in the back of a Vauxhall Nova,
where Papa carried me to the football on his
denim-clad shoulders, my story will be laid out clear
for me here, for this, this is home
and it will always be
but I’ve got a long way to go
to get to where I’m meant to be.

(3.5)

Whenever I went down there
You would always say,
“Try not to get stabbed!”
It had always been a very real possibility
But now it’s no longer funny.

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life, poetry, prosetry

ventilator to the good darkness

And then there were those open spaces of my youth, stretched out between memory and oblivion like a birthmark. The mitochondrial spaces of summer, lush with hazy green vitality releasing isoprene that like magic mixing beauty and pain braided here and there to make the hills blue when you looked like we all did through air thick with sunshine and easy unknowns.

Spaces of forests explored and persistently wild with thick undergrowth cut through by streams and fauna and man, spaces of battlefields where we’d passively imagine finding traces of those who only a simple span of time before emerged from the stoic treelines to fight less for the glossed-over ideals in our second-rate historybooks than for old farm land by the snaking river that for millennia preceded the highway’s bifurcation, still holding claim though not through ancient custom or rite but through the anachronism of thick books with delicate pages that they eagerly yet without intention allowed to limn the past an impossibly remote, ever-present matter of romanesque words from a language other than their original and it’s all still there, still that, but I am not and never was though like those words I’ve been old and other all my life.

And the years advance simply, without us, like the soundscape of those spaces, humming a song that needn’t be as sad as it sounds, as it fades and I keep learning to speak.

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life, poetry

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (2)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (1)

(2)

I will be reborn
several times in my life.
I will be many different people
and wear many different faces
and I will get a thousand chances
to be better:
I will even take some of them —
when I’m being brave, I will pick
my chances like cherries,
roll them between my fingers,
undertake inspection for any imperfections,
and then (once I know that
the chance is a goodun)
urgently devour the possibilities
that dwell within the skin
and try to be better —
better at this business of living.
But other times,
when I am feeling weak
and tired from the fight,
I will gorge on the ugly ones:
I’ll wear the juice of those cherry-chances
like lipstick, let all the wasted opportunities drip
down my chin, and spit
out the pips and, knowing that I’ve
missed a chance to be better,
just try my best
to not to get any worse.

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prosetry

Stack It Up Like Cinnamon

You were pretty like a leopard or a fox and probably just as sharp though you walked with that dead-leg swish like one was longer than the other and I doubted your ability to chase even if you wanted to, keeping it sullen like your name had old-world ties to shoemakers and carts.

We are all just lovers, and all I wanted was to talk but knew better so instead I just watched as your strange limbs carried you down one side of that long, busy street on what must’ve been a weeknight—I’m never quite on the beat, standing still or leaping ahead.

The restaurant host with the dirty blonde hair almost to his shoulders put me up at a table for two and my bags kept slipping off mine, bumping chairs and tables and arms in the narrow space where I tried to belong but knew better.

Upstairs, he said, but you may have to move back down once it gets busy. That’s what I got for being alone and I wanted to blame you but knew better as the false candlelits flickered those faces, giving the impression of flames where there were only batteries.

Why didn’t I hear from you? Surely, you knew better.

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prosetry

Liminality

UNITY in yellow letters on the back of a black hoodie, our differences bring us together. The kid at the table next to ours was head-down on his phone but the message on his sweatshirt said Ellison. In our true health lies division: that’s Hyde Park to me, and we talked not of politics but of the utter absurdity and debased detachment of political rhetoric, enthusiastic and stirred like true dissidents from time immemorial, inspired as the sun went down and the festival consumed the streets outside. I found what I love about this city, and I’ll find what I love about the next.

The things that interest me die on the bleached vines around my house while I’m away earning a paycheck, but yesterday filled me up. We talked for a while when we got home last night and a thunderstorm coalesced outside as if to prove it, inviting a downpour to wash away the solution. I said I seek to soak things up and take them with me, sometimes trying so hard I can’t remember. Those who have learned to write forget, I read in bed this morning. Only the oral tradition remembers, so I write like a gypsy, ready to move on.

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prosetry

Smiles

​I stepped outside and you were right there, ground to a halt at the zebra crossing, left hand gripping the wheel, right arm slung casually out of the open window. Our eyes met for a moth’s wing-beat of a moment and then my legs stopped working. My lungs seized within their ivory cage; my skin recoiled, terrified, clinging on to its muscle beneath, trying desperately to appear less on fire than it actually was. You were so close that I could touch you. You looked the same: as before, as always. I looked unusually good, even better than you’d remembered: this excellent coincidence confirmed my suspicion that God is female.

Instead of speeding off, you stayed put, and everything around me came to a standstill. I looked in every direction apart from yours and yet all I could see was you. Without even looking, your face was all that I could see. I fell in love with you with my eyes closed in the first place, after all. You were smiling at me; you were happy to see me. It wasn’t your old smile though, the one I have chalked on the wall of my skull. This smile was heavy, so fucking heavy, anchored down by heartbreak and regret and shame. For the first time in some months, we were breathing the same air as one another. But this air was hot and stale, saturated with the vicissitudes of nostalgia. The memories that we had so carefully created and curated fell from the open sky and smothered us, a fusillade of love and pain and love and hate and love and loss and love.

You were waiting for me to acknowledge you: with a wave, with a smile, with a middle finger, anything. And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I ignored you but my heart was being fed through a paper shredder and I didn’t want you to see me suffer, or rather, see me still suffering because of you, tragic and dismissible like a half-mangled fox dying by the side of the road. It would’ve been kinder of you to run me over, to put me out of my misery. That would have hurt less than it did to see you smile.

I realise now after all these years that that smile you wore was saying “I’m sorry” but, back then, I didn’t want to hear it so it fell on deaf ears. Now I want to listen to all you have, to all you are, to all you have become without me. We are older but none the wiser. Love is love, no matter the style of our smiles.

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