poetry

Fight Night

After too much truth serum,
I was after a fight.
“It will all come out in the wash,”
the wise man used to say,
but those words of mine won’t,
the ones I spat all over you last night,
vodka- and saliva-laced
blood on your white shirt,
and your handsome face,
pale, bewildered and afraid.

Claret on cotton and hearts on sleeves;
words that hurt and eyes that bleed.

You weren’t expecting that venomous spray
and you should’ve washed up straight away
but those stains are stuck now, ingrained,
tainted fibre, they’ll barely fade,
merely to a lighter shade of pain
but it’s still pain, pain all the same.

Claret on cotton and hearts on sleeves;
words that hurt and eyes that bleed.

Blind rage, I disengaged
and, the next day, I don’t
remember the details
of my cruel tirade,
but can tell that it was harsh
by the look on your face,
your face that says,
“I know you’re sick, you didn’t mean it,”
your face that won’t admit
that I say what I mean and mean what I say,
your face that says,
“I will always forgive but I can never forget.”
Can’t you see that I’m trying to make you love me less?
That I want you to come out best?
I’m trying to make you leave me
before you get left.

Claret on cotton and hearts on sleeves;
words that hurt and eyes that bleed.

And you can just buy a new shirt anyway,
one that’s pretty and pure
and free of pain and free of stains,
easy to iron out the kinks,
easy to maintain,
better quality than me,
longer lasting than us.
She’ll fit you just right.
And, in time, you will forget
the unwarranted malice, cruelty, spite
in the words that I spat all over you
during a nasty drunken fight
we had, late one October night.

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poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Seeking us

ix_russian_ballet-1495132891m

Some prefer before it happens

that exquisite wait

predating intimacy

a languor of instincts

long nights imagining

how you will taste

can reality ever compare?

with the violent longing of what is imagined

a teasing elongation of want, unfolding

into one outstretched blossom.

I had closed down that part of me

craving clawing keening wanting

put a ‘for rent’ sign on my dancing shoes

hung up the coat of neglect where it belonged

still damp with tinge of youth

you told me it was that way too

with you

when the calendar said – you’re now beyond the hour

to feel, to need, the touch of age too close

resigning yourself to occupations of the mind

swimming in your stifle

then

we found each other

you were the girl I’d been seeing when I closed my eyes

I had this pendant about my neck called fate

it seemed to be firing blanks

there was no chance a lily pond girl with shining cheeks

would step my way

but I have dreamed of everyone I have ever taken to my bed

that night as the bluebird stayed wakeful, clacking into sepia

I dreamed of you, sitting on the mattress in my mind

turning your perfectly shaped neck

and in that turn I saw my beginning

again

as if you were waiting in many forms and only one

for me to pluck up my instruments of courage

fortune favors the bold

your blood already coursed in me

I knew your lips, your eyes, your shoulders

as if intimately

we had begun that deep warbled song of desire

I heard the sound of your violin mouth

closing and opening on warm rushing air

perhaps I was watching from afar

perhaps I stood behind you, our senses enveloping

the proximity of chemistry

kissing without touching the pulse in your wrist

in time you would start to look my way

stay the true course of our wandering

I heard your voice calling, I ran as fast as I could

as if all my life I had been training on needles

for this very moment to come around

languid and slow motion half dream like

before it happened I was already seeking us

in the needs I had, told to no one but

my imagination

who painted at night

the shape of you

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fiction, Uncategorized

Never Forget the Whore

I wanted to learn more about a Russian’s perspective on World War II, The Great Patriotic War, or according to some, simply THE WAR. Since paper turned out to be even more revisionist than memory, I asked around for those who may have lived through it. My friend Ivan’s grandmother spoke a bit of English and he arranged for me to meet her at her house on Tuesday. Her face was a mashing of slate and limestone, she had a button for one eye. She might have had hair, but it was hidden under a musty-green bonnet.

Her apartment was an antique apocalypse, strewn about were books, kettles, chair legs, mummified jars of pickled mysteries, numerous floral patterns creating an eclectic field of colorful dust-bunnies. Great booming closets and mirrored shelves lined every wall, housing dead photographs of even deader relatives. She navigated it well. In the kitchen she sat me in a chair with a flat piece of plywood nailed to two of the broken legs. I gingerly sat and took out my notebook.

“Tea?” she asked.

“With milk and sugar, please.”

She bustled about the dusty sink, taking tea from a tin and setting on an old kettle.

“So, how old were you during the war?” I said.

She didn’t turn. “Wait,” she said.

I waited, looking out the window through a mess of dead plants at the people walking past. It was summer in Saint Petersburg, finally. Outside people wore T-shirts and shorts with a desperateness that only comes in a place where summer is born a dead-leaf. The old woman came and sat across from me, placing a mug of plain black tea on my notebook.

“So, I am collecting stories from the war, from people who were alive and—”

“Bread?”

“Uh—no thank you,” I said, nervously. “So, I thought maybe we could start with the Siege of Leningrad, Ivan said you were a child when it happened?”

She looked out the window, then down at my notebook and untouched tea.

“You want to talk about the siege, but you don’t want bread?” she asked. She stood up and took a half-load of bread from a squirrely spot in a dirty cabinet. She cut a chunk and put it on a plate with some butter and a slice of cheese. I waited.

“Thank you,” I told her after she placed it beside my tea.

I took a bite.

“I remember going with my mother to bring bread to her sister,” she waved in a direction out of the window. “She lived not far from here. My mother would bring me with bread–we were more fortunate. She lived on the top floor of her building and people used to sleep in her stairwell, sleep until they died and there was no one to take them away, so they moved them into the windows. They put them there one on top of the other until there was no light in her building. Her children had died. I didn’t know them very well, but they died. My aunt too, one day. In her building she died because she wouldn’t eat, and they put her in one of the windows, too. I remember the darkness in the stairwell and I remember my mother didn’t cry.”

I didn’t write anything down as she spoke. She looked out of her window through the plants and sunshine. Her face suddenly went dark and she scowled at a woman passing.

“Her,” she said.

I looked. It was a young woman, she was wearing a light summer dress and she looked happy.

“She is a whore,” the she said. “She has been sleeping with the Jew who lives just there.” She pointed at a window, two floors up and across.

“He’s married,” she said ominously.

“Oh,” I managed, and with nothing else to say, I took a bite of my bread.

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poetry

The Pleasure Of Perpetual Communication

No matter the number by which you decide
to split
the dividend of times I lied
to myself
you’d still have a quotient I wouldn’t know how
to pronounce.

Good sides are derivative and I know mine
suggests communication equals a judicious need
to see
the language of my circumscription—that, in other words, needing
to write
means needing
to outstrip
my speech, leaving only immodest thought to bare.

Once upon an otherwise ordinary
evening, I found I didn’t have
to seek
out and retrieve the telltale slant that, with (despite)
everything, alive is so simply good a thing
to be
no matter the manner of calculations
behind what I may feel or find
to say
or do, blithely adding myself up
to you.

 


Originally published on Art & Insolence.

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fiction, photography

THE BURDEN

Chris R-0329 Image by Christine Renney

As a boy I would daydream about having special powers. Super strength or x-ray vision, the ability to shift shape and form at will or to stretch my limbs and torso in order to reach far into the distance. Of them all it was the last that I would eventually find myself capable of. Not the coolest nor, as I discovered, the most practical and, over the years, I have contemplated long and hard as to why, of the special powers I conjured and pondered in my youth, this one was to be my gift, my burden.

I have always been tall and thin, freakishly so. I was bullied at school and had to endure a barrage of embarrassingly unoriginal taunts. Name calling mostly. Olive – that was the one that stuck – after Olive Oyl. I learned to live with it. I had to, but even after so long it still manages, on occasion, to cut me. Despite the fact that I excelled at all sports and was chosen for the football team and represented the school in the long jump and cross country, I dreaded Physical Education and having to undress in front of the others. They would gather around me, flicking with their towels, poking and prodding at my skinny frame, pinching and pulling at my skin.

In spite of my unnatural ability and incredible agility, after leaving school I never again participated in a team event or took part in competitive sport of any kind. I did continue to run, mostly keeping to the city. I pounded the pavements before and after work but at the weekends I would drive out into the countryside, taking to the footpaths and bridleways. I could push myself harder there, running for longer and further but I couldn’t counter the restlessness that, as a young man, I carried like an empty wallet.

When running I felt as if I were fleeing and I didn’t for a second feel that I was awkward and ungainly. In the city I held back, I had to, but at weekends I could let myself go although it wasn’t enough.

In hindsight I realise that something extraordinary was happening and that I had squandered my youth and all of my twenties. For more than a decade, clumsy and shy, I tried my best to hide away when in all probability I had been the fastest man on the planet. In middle age I brooded far too deeply on this but by then my life couldn’t have been more complicated and I had long since dispensed with any delusions as to whether running could ever be enough. But I am getting ahead of myself and need to backup a little.

After leaving school without the relevant qualifications to continue with a formal education I set out to find my way in the world. I didn’t have any trouble finding a job in the accounts department of a company which manufactured cardboard boxes. I had a propensity for numbers and became indispensable. I was a cog in their machine and best of all I was left alone. I found a corner in which to hide and I had a desk with a window above which looked out across the roof of the adjoining warehouse. I worked diligently with my back toward the world or at least to the rest of the office. I spoke when spoken to or not at all.

Then, miraculously, I was noticed by a woman, one of the many who over the years worked fleetingly in the office before moving on for pastures new. Remarkably, this young woman set out to ensnare me and happily I allowed myself to be snared. Suddenly my life turned around and I had it all. A loving wife and a happy home, the suburban dream, domestic bliss and then I started to stretch.

It happened without fanfare. We were having breakfast and I couldn’t reach something on the other side of the table. I don’t remember what it was but I didn’t ask my wife to pass it to me or push it closer. Instead I extended my arm the extra distance necessary and, after taking hold of it, let my arm slip back to its usual length, its normal length. My wife didn’t notice. I had been much too fast but I could have held my arm there or I could have extended it further still. I could have sent her screaming into the street in her nightgown.
I didn’t stretch again until I was alone. First one arm and then the other. Likewise my legs. I lay on my back, stretching both arms and legs together but when I felt my torso beginning to flex I restrained myself. The room wasn’t big enough. I needed more space.

Finding that space wasn’t ever an issue. There was the warehouse at work. I had the keys and it was deserted in the evenings and on Sundays and there was space aplenty but I delayed. Although I needed to stretch I was terrified of what I might find myself capable. At first I kept to the house and its cluttered rooms and for a while that was where I nursed my secret.

I did continue stretching in front of my wife in order to reach or kick something aside. As I have already explained I was fast and I was becoming ever more adept at cloaking it. Nevertheless, I limited myself to no more than doubling my arms’ length and it wasn’t long before I was stretching like this in front of my colleagues at the office, then the supermarket, in the streets, everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, in the end I hadn’t any choice and it was out of necessity that on a cold and blustery Sunday morning I let myself into the warehouse. The rain pelted against the roof, all encompassing and discordant it rang in the grimy half light as I stripped off my clothes and prepared to stretch myself fully for the first time.

I was in pain, had been for months, my every muscle and sinew aching, my body screaming for mercy and so raising my arms I stretched toward the roof. Thereafter, I visited the warehouse once a week without fail. Although I was always stealthy and swift those fifteen minutes each week were unceasingly traumatic for me and I was constantly concerned that I might be discovered hanging from the rafters. But I survived. I made it through undiscovered and unscathed. In fact, I have outlived them all, everyone I once, knew including my wife. Of course I am alone again, have been for more years than I now care to contemplate.

Whatever my circumstances at any given time, somehow I have always succeeded in finding a way but it was never as simple as it is here, in this rest home. At this place for the elderly I need only to step outside the door to my room and into the narrow and lengthy corridor beyond.

I have taken to laying out here after dark. On the plush carpet I can lose myself at last. Although I am long since past my prime, I am sure if I live just a little longer I will manage to reach and touch the doors at either end.

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Uncategorized

Live again

The day I stopped feeling

It wasn’t a tap turned all the way to halt any drip

or wet socks left on radiator until cardboard stiff

through muslin sheet I felt a wistfulness

like poignant ending of a film

or sad story of someone else’s life

but you did not feel part of me anymore

when I touched your hand, it was flesh and blood

not a girl I was connected to

neither stranger, but some

distance stood solid like forging tree limbs

seeking electric charge from rain after storm has passed

I had moved beyond you without

marking the spot, I put down my heartache

this is surely the most human thing about us

our ability to keep going, not fall down and wither

knowing we are finite and fallen

watch a child lose a friend on Friday

gain another come Monday

grief is a litmus test

a sorrow we shrug on and eventually off

I convinced myself of devastation

when Tuesday brings change even as we don’t seek

it comes drawing out like elongated stretch

I never thought

I’d feel nothing

looking into your eyes

but you closed yourself off

In time, I began to look away

Into the distance

where the unknown glistened

like a mirage

of things bidden

by places within us

that say

O please

live again

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fiction, Uncategorized

The Fruit Thief

Once upon a time there was a man who intended to build a fence around his small country home. He forgot. So, once upon a time there was a girl lost in the woods. She didn’t know she was lost, yet.

As she came across different things, she picked them up, looked them over and left them where they were. It was dark by the time she realized she was lost, and she said it aloud.

“Oh, I am lost.”

To her surprise, the forest answered, “I will help you,” it said. The girl looked around, suspicious that the voice of the forest would be so small. And there she found a caterpillar. She picked it up.

“You will help me get home?” she asked. The caterpillar smiled.

“Of course, I know the way well,” it said, “but you must wait for me. Place me in that tree over there and wait for three days, but whatever you do, do not eat the fruit of the tree.”

The girl, already hungry, looked up at the fruit.

“Why not?” she asked.

The caterpillar latched itself to a low branch and replied, “when I come back, I will need to eat, if you take it, I will surely starve.”

The little girl nodded and waited for the caterpillar to cover itself in a thin white cocoon. Then, she slept. When morning came, she picked the tree clean of fruit and began her walk home. As she went, she found the things she’d observed along her path and soon, she was home. Her father was outside building a fence.

She went inside to her room and tucked away the fruit in a cupboard. Three days later, a butterfly perched on her windowsill. She went over to tickle its wings as she often did with butterflies. This butterfly however, shied away, angry.

“You stole all of my fruit!” it accused her. At this she went to her cupboard and produced the fruit for the butterfly, untouched. The butterfly looked from her to the fruit, confused.

“Why?” it asked.

At this the girl shrugged. “You said you knew the way, so either you were lying and then I would have a whole bundle of fruit to myself, or you were telling the truth and you’d find your way to me, at which point–” the girl held the fruit out to the butterfly. The butterfly took it, grateful and began to eat.

“But you were lost.”

The little girl watched out the window as her father sat next to a half-finished fence.

“Things are often lost before they are found, if they can help it,” she said. The butterfly thanked the girl once more and flew off, leaving behind a couple pieces of fruit.

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