fiction, life, poetry, prosetry

Magic trick

There is something wrong with the post man

he forgets my house

drives away in that flimsy cart

humming to himself, oblivious of

my need, he be wrong

return and fill

the emptiness with

some approximation.

There is something wrong with the phone

it lays silent and sleeping

unlit and needful of

nothing rung or called

I shake it and stare

in the absurd notion

by doing so will cause

something done, to be undo

a knot we can pick

with stiff fingers and

urging pretend

all is well when

it is broken and lost

to the gravity of

changing seasons

flickering, mirrored, illusionist light

turning fear into something golden and bright

then just as fast, back again

taking away certainty

with deft slight of hand.

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poetry, prosetry

Oh, Man

I don’t need you to kill any spiders. I can buy my own flowers.
I prefer to sleep alone. I have books for company.
No, you can’t read my poetry. No, I don’t write about you.

I am hard work and the end result may or may not be worth the effort but that’s down to your inflated expectations, not mine (I have enough of my own to deal with, thanks). / Rather than my favourite yellow roses, that I sit and watch die over a period of less than 72 hours, The One For Me would buy me a cactus: indestructible, quiet, steadfast, pretty ugly, unkillable. / The only thing that takes my breath away is a panic attack. / I cry over spilt milk and have a phobia of tomato seeds: concluding that I have issues with my mother, shoving coke up your nose and trying to get me to lie down on your sofa does not make you Freud.

I can’t afford to cook for two.
I will never be eating for two.
You will never know who I really am or what I really do.
I only bother to shave my legs for you.
I will break one or more of the following: Your…
a) heart b) nose c) bank d) spirit.

I wear my father’s old clothes: it’s too easy to conjure up his ghost, because I am him and he is me: I am dead to me: I refuse to live for you. / The Man of My Dreams is a man who reads: books, not The Racing Post. / I don’t agree when you call me pretty – luckily you say that rarely. / If you’re going to catcall, do it properly: your weak whistle succeeds only in eliciting further pity from me. / I can play Wonderwall on the guitar better than you can, even with my impractically long, elaborately decorated false nails. / Fancy cars will never impress me: walking is free.

I am wasting your time, just as you are wasting mine.
All these years and you still don’t know how I take my tea.
I dread every aspect of sex, though I talk about it frankly and frequently.
I never actually gave you permission to touch me.
Stop pestering me – needy isn’t sexy.
If you cared about me, you’d leave me be.

I’ve smoked JPS Silver for a decade. / John Player Special: John = what I call every man because a lot of the time, that’s his name, and because they always respond, because they’re all the same: / Player – Special = what every man thinks he is: / Jean-Paul Sartre = the man, the thinker, who I actually think about. / Silver, because it’s the only time a man ever comes second.

You think, by meeting me, you’ve won the lottery
but soon, all you’ll have left are rusty pennies (…you’ll see).
I will always have Bukowski.
I am happier by the sea but you won’t take me.
I don’t want your money.
I didn’t ask you to love me.
You are not a necessity:
I can turn you into a memory.

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Unaided by light

I was not born for loving

doctor said; It’s a girl

nurse thought; What a shame, life is harder on them

psychiatrist thought; She doesn’t want to be a mother, but let’s not tell her

grandfather thought; Another generation to abuse, watch her grow, but not too much

grandmother thought; Turn your face away. Do not witness, then it never happens

mother thought; I never wanted you.

when I carried you

you reminded me of a rock

I wanted us both to drown

except I would lie and float above

whilst you gulped salty brine

and free of your clutch, hail a boat

take myself somewhere, far from children

I never wanted

trapped by circumstances

anything to escape the confines of my day

but how?

I told this story many years later

by then I was

much older than my mother had been

when she gave birth

and in that jaundice saw

her lot

and shook it off

as any woman escaping shackle would

I do not blame her a bit

nor for her inability to love

me

though others she loves quite well

like folding napkins can be

an art

I do not feel anger toward her

even when she turned her voice from

human to machine

told me to go hang myself when I was ill

“you are too dramatic and I am not

going to take any of your soap opera anymore”

I should have tattooed those words and others

that cut deep and left a permanance

all over my body

because I hear them in my sleep

but the needle was blunt and my favorite song

played in someone else’s room

and the breeze was fresh and I wanted to

like my mother

run away from pain

so I did not hate her because

she is as much survivor as I

just doing what she has to

to maintain some semblance of

denial

it is not the fault of the broken

they cannot perform on cue or

find ways to put back together

shattered trust

though why she picked me of all the people in the world

to loathe

that I shall never understand

I can imagine she would respond, given the chance

oh but darling it’s because you are not worth loving

you are a disappointment and a liar and all things foul

she thinks I don’t know

she is wrong for once or twice or always

such is the calamity of overestimating intelligence

I did no such thing; keeping my mistakes out like a flag

when she left me to drown I only partly did

then and now

just as others have also taken their leave

it is a bloodied procession of grief

she would say it is evidence of

my UN-likability and a pattern is a sign

I’m the issue, I’m the cause, common denominator

does she think I don’t hear those thoughts?

especially from myself

though in truth and without the need

for shrinks to proclaim

I know it’s neither

but some kind of family recipe

repeating itself in clumsy tragedy

I tried to stop it

but some things were in place before I got there

lucky really for bad luck

I wanted a baby of my own

she lays now in formaldehyde

along with my womb

the scar shines in the sun when I

walk to the kitchen in my turquoise panties

I think then of you my darling

the contrast of death and life

your flawless skin against mine

mottled with shorter time and longer

suffering

we were like two cats

let out to search for cream

except I fell in love

even as the rule book dictated

haven’t you learned anything?

I was not born for loving

though love was all I sought

it is the whimsy of the neglected and unwanted

such a cliché, such a burning shame

to follow a trajectory set before you knew

this is the path for idiots, follow carefully until

you too, fulfill the prophecy of fools

I think too often still

of the past, though it will never

save me and only devour

any compunction for peace

I dream of her telling me, she hates me

it feels like petals upon my rotten cheeks

I see her dark eyes retreat and in sleep

reach for her, like somehow

all the scars can be healed, though

nothing I say will ever make her believe

the truth she insists, is a lie

in fact she says;

I am one giant lie

from my name to my ethnicity and birthright

and maybe she is telling the truth

for I have lost myself in make-believe

and catching butterflies

since very young retreating to

what I could pretend and not what was

real and crawling toward me

with the unwavering tenacity of

cruelty

if I could I’d rewrite the future

as I know what it portends

one or other of us shall die

the rest will grieve eternal in fractured silence

such as its always been

generation after generation

losing before truly lost

nothing repairs a pattern sewn

before you were born

and I, as I’ve told you

was not born for loving

though it consumes me still

especially when I am weak

which is often as

the sunlight will predispose me

to fantasy

thinking I see you reaching for me

taking all the pain back

returning your heart to where

as a child I placed it

high and gleaming

the greatest illusion of all

warding off my fear that

reality was

real

so

whitewash the sky my love

paint the steps

polish the lamps

this evening we will watch

the night flowers perfume

and bloom

unaided by

light

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prosetry

Pablo 2.0

For context, read ‘Pablo’ here.

*

I went to McDonalds at Waterloo to buy a cup of Fanta to pour my vodka into. As I was doing so, an announcement sounded over the tannoy:

Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY.

A modern air-raid siren began wailing, echoing through the suddenly silent station. Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at each other, unsure what to do. Whispers of “terror attack” rolled through the concourse first in rivulets, then intensifying in power, tsunami-like, as it gathered more fear, more panic. Most people up and left, scrambling for the nearest exit, pushing each other out of the way. The staff behind the counter slowly disappeared into back-rooms. The guy next to me took his headphones off and watched me unscrew the vodka bottle while listening to the announcement:

Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY

and then:

OFFICER *crackling noises* DOWN.

The guy looked up at me and asked, “Is this for real?” “Sounds like it, but who knows,” I replied, mixing my drink with a straw, half-anticipating the sound of gunshots. “Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough, init,” he said, biting into his hamburger and putting his headphones back on. Then the tannoy shouted:

REPEAT, OFFICER SANDS, STAND DOWN.

I shrugged at the guy and he laughed, shoving fries into his mouth.

Outside, Southwark smelled of burnt rubber and sour milk. It turned my stomach.

*

I’d last seen her fourteen months ago. In fact, that was the first and only time I’d met her. I saw her every day in the postcard tacked to my mirror, but I hadn’t expected to see her in the flesh ever again. I was frightened of her because she looked like me and I am frightened of myself. I had assumed that she’d have been moved on, moved to a different city, to be pored over by fresh, foreign eyes. I was shocked when I entered the room and she was there, in the corner, right where I’d left her.

She was bigger than I remembered, which was a pleasant surprise. I watched the people looking at her. Well, they weren’t really looking at her, they were taking photos of her on their smartphones, looking at a version of her on a 5 x 3in illuminated screen. Nobody actually looked at her, even though I could hear her screaming, “LOOK AT ME! FUCKING LOOK AT ME!” from behind the glass. I was scared to get close because I had a feeling that she’d reach out and grab me and keep me and refuse to let me go. But as soon as I was in front of her, I found myself a nose away from her nose. So close that I could see a rogue hair from Picasso’s paintbrush stuck in the oil.

At one point, she and I were the only true living things in the room. Dali et al were dying around us, fading into insignificance before disappearing from the walls entirely. I found myself smiling because we share a secret. She knows what I know. I felt the presence of a security guard hovering on the periphery. I stepped away from her, turned my back and began to walk away. Dali had returned to the opposite wall. I thought, and genuinely believed, for some reason, that she was no longer on the wall behind me. I quickly turned around, expecting there to be a blank space where she once had lived. I was relieved that she was still there. I felt so bad for turning my back on her, for abandoning her. She looked to be in more pain than she was before. I felt that I’d betrayed her. I went back to her and stood close.

Lost in our shared grief, my focus blurred and I found myself looking instead at my own reflection in her glass cover. I was struck by how unwell I looked. My eyes, usually kind, soft, approachable, were glazed and full of terror, like a rabid fox. I looked wild. “Help,” I whispered, reverting my gaze from my own eyes to hers. I didn’t realise I was crying until a teenaged boy in a group of Spanish schoolchildren pointed at me and said, “Look! The Weeping Woman!” and they all laughed, then started taking selfies with the only other weeping woman in the room, the one on the wall in the corner, trapped behind glass.

*

Back at Waterloo, it was business as usual. A false alarm, it seemed. Exhausted, I got on the Tube and promptly put my sunglasses on despite it being late in the evening. Eyes are too powerful. I didn’t want to look at anyone’s eyes or have anyone see mine. I’d seen enough eyes for one day. Suddenly, an announcement crackled over the system:

Ladies and gentlemen, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment due to a person on the track. I repeat, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment because there is currently a person on the track. The next station will be Charing Cross, next station Charing Cross. Mind the doors.

A woman down the carriage tutted too loudly, and the drunk man opposite me slurred, “Fuckin’ people on tracks, man, f’fer’fucksake.” I closed my eyes and filed the day away with all the others in my brain, in the folder marked: Another Sad and Strange Saturday Night in the Greatest City in the World.

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life, 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

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, photography

THE BOOKS IN THE BASEMENT

Chris R-1-63 Image by Christine Renney

The bookshop is busy and bright. Pushing against the throng Daniel moves toward the back of the store and down the rickety wooden staircase. Once below, he is able to breath again and, taking in the stale and musty but familiar aroma, he begins to relax. He finds making the short trip from the plate glass doors at the front of the shop to the basement so stressful. Daniel worries that he will be apprehended by one of the sales assistants, that they will demand to know what he is doing, why does he keep coming back and why does he spend so long down below?
Daniel has been coming to the bookshop every day for months now and he must have been noticed. But he hasn’t been stopped yet and no-one seems to care. And why should they? After all, the books in the basement have been forgotten and abandoned, left to molder and fade. And so why should he warrant more than a cursory glance and a fleeting thought.
Daniel is thankful for this. It means he is left alone to his own devices and he can read. It also means that at least some of the lost books will be rediscovered.

Daniel doesn’t have to worry about making the return trip for hours. He has a flask of coffee and sandwiches in his backpack and, if he wants, he can stay down here all day and quite often he does. Once settled on the old and cracked leather sofa in the far corner he loses track of time.

There are a lot of books in the basement. The shelving units run its entire length and the walkways are narrow, just wide enough for two people to pass each other sideways. But Daniel suspects that this has never been necessary, or at least not in years.
The shelves are tightly packed, mostly paperbacks and all have been read at least once. Most more than this judging by the creased spines and the dog-eared pages between the covers.
There are so many stories stored down here, so many ideas. It is an archive, an accidental one maybe, but an archive nonetheless.
Daniel wishes that he could reach all of the books but even if he were gifted an extra lifetime he knows he could not achieve it. But Daniel is determined to keep reading for as long as he is able, he is convinced that, eventually, someone will notice him, that someone will decide to care. After all, this is a bookshop and not a library and he is breaking the rules.

Occasionally others do venture into the basement and whenever Daniel hears someone on the creaking staircase he jumps up from the sofa. Although he is entirely hidden from view he tries to act nonchalantly, as if he is just another customer, casually browsing.
It is dank down here and poorly lit. No-one ever seems to venture more than a few metres into the basement. This time, however, he hears someone moving purposefully along one of the passages. Daniel is intrigued and, emboldened, he moves across until he sees her.
She is searching for a certain writer, maybe even a particular book but it isn’t there and Daniel sees the disappointment on her face.
Still she lingers, scanning the titles and occasionally reaching out and touching the books. Daniel moves closer but she doesn’t seem to be aware he is there and, turning, the woman stares right through him. And he realises that she doesn’t see him, that as far as she is concerned he isn’t there.
Staying with her, Daniel glides along the aisle until at last she works one of the books free and pulls it down. She studies the cover and flicks through it and, turning again, she doesn’t put it back. Daniel realises the woman is going to take it, that she is going to keep the book.

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