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thoughts on forest fires and progenies

Flanders,

Here in the south: the smell of burning forest no longer keeps me up at night. It has been replaced by the sea— how loud it is some nights, as it throws itself against the rocks— and the vigorous conversations of what must be a million cicadas. I haven’t written because first we were busy packing to go on the road and then we were on the road.

The plantations back home in the north are gone and burnt. The ground is black and the sky is a dark grey haze. One morning I had to use the garden hose to keep the fires at bay while we waited for the fire truck— I don’t exaggerate. Weeks I spent fuming at old-fashioned (this is the kindest word to use and possibly least accurate) farming practices.

But we digress— a son!

All news pales before this: you have created your replacement. Did you know that we are meant not to have a litter but a child to replace each parent? So as not to overburden? We have two so that labels us as progressive, liberal thinkers. Hurrah!

But a son! Have you noticed how this changes you? How your creativity goes down the toilet and your writing sucks because that poison that you draw from has been child-proofed! We can’t have them ingesting it by accident. We put a lock on the lid and store it in the basement or loft. But don’t despair, I discovered that you can take the bottle down from the shelf when they are older. How old? Hahaha! That depends on what you’ve got. Potent stuff seeps out.

But what I hate most, more than not being able to write for years and years, is how paralysed you are by the love you feel for them. Suddenly you understand terror.

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re Gordon’s email

Flanders,

On my run tonight, a cacophony: dried leaves crunching underfoot, the rustle of plants as I brush past, screeching cicadas, Alice’s dog-pants, my own breathing, rocks tumbling down the hill, dogs howling at my approach, and, still! the sound of people, penetrating the woods.

I think to myself, I need to go deeper. When I return from the south, when the woods no longer burn. I don’t care much about speed. I want to run on trail, for hours on end, across multiple days, making no sound and leaving no trace. A wild woman running. Ha!

I know we said no politics, but, mate, it is brilliant not to wake to news about Trump. I know, I know it could still all go south, but we have to hope that the liberals don’t botch this up. Because if the extreme of the Republican party returns, it will be with a vengeance. Your politics would be entertaining, if the rest of the world didn’t get tossed around in its wake.

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email to Gordon 03/01/21

Flanders,

I was going to tell you I bought ribbon for my Olympia, but I couldn’t remember the word “ribbon”. A typewriter is such an incongruous concept.

I began a writing project in late December. Perhaps you will come across it one day and say, the author is a friend of mine. Or it will be a book someone will leave behind in a hotel room. Or a public toilet. Do you feel depressed and exhilarated in bookstores like I do? What arrogance it is to write and expect to be published.

I am back up north. There are trails behind my house that lead straight into the woods and up the hills. It has not rained in months. The ground is dry and loose. Dust has settled on the trees. When I step out for a run, I wonder if I’ll see ash instead of green. If the farmers torched their plantations in the night— and consumed the surrounding woods in the process. They used to clear the fields in February, but now they begin as early as December.

Yesterday I ran fast. My feet intimate with the rocky terrain. I was a wolf scampering up and down the hills. When I got home, I noticed the cuts on my feet. The trail has all things that bite. But what gets me most often are thorns and roots.

The wild exacts a price. And we’re happy to pay, aren’t we?

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epistolary

Your likes are tucked away inside a music box with the dancing ballerina

Our writing collective recently turned 29 months old. When we started this we just wanted to write for ourselves and each other. We didn’t think we’d get more than a handful following us.

We have had writers come and go but that’s sort of what I pictured happening. A virtual cafe where we meet every week, and sometimes people cancel, say they’re on the road and can’t make it, and sometimes a new face pops up and wants to be part of this thing. This informal, lovely writer thing where we do what we love and love what others do too.

To all Hijacked Amygdala’s authors, thank you for writing. And staying.

To all of Hijacked Amygdala’s readers, you are oh so precious.

B.

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art, fiction

all that remains is the smell of orange 

Untitled

art by geoff mcfetridge

She counts the chairs in our dining room, one, two, three, four, five, six. She points to each chair as if unconvinced, her brow furrowed in concern. She circles the dining table and counts the chairs again and again. One, two, three, four, five, six. I lose track of her revolutions. My leg begins to cramp, where I sit on the staircase, crouched in the shadows. I feel cold. It is later than I thought. But she is almost done. She touches the backrest of each chair. She grows weary now. When she collapses in a chair, I will bring her tea. She will take it and I will wonder as I always have if she ever thinks about where the tea comes from

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fiction

drinking and other acts with Charles Bukowski

Inspired by Mark Renney’s poem, Any Orders Before Time, here’s a story about Bukowski I wrote a while back…

 

He let me hang around after the poetry reading when I promised to pick up his tab. We’re at an outdoor bar, sitting on unsteady stools or I’m drunk. I tried to match him whiskey for whiskey. Patpong Love Bar: and he’s reciting an old poem about prostitutes ‘that make you want to tear up paintings and break albums of Beethoven across the back of the john’.

‘Women of such significance, such beauty,’ he calls out to the emaciated whores on the steps of the bar next door, who are giggling, wondering whether they ought to try their luck, knowing I’ve already laid claim to him, this ugly man, but cash is cash. ‘Society should realise the value of the whore,’ he says ‘those who make it almost an art form…you feel liberated and human again for a mere $3.’ He raises his arm to make a point and knocks my whiskey off the table.

‘How much do they pay you, my beautiful pussies? How much would it cost me to feel like a man again,’ he asks the tallest of the three, the one whose eyes slant upward, eyeliner thick and precise. But she’s not a she, though that no longer matters. Not to Charles, not tonight.

He mumbles about the drudgery of everyday life, its pathos a familiar refrain in his poetry and stories. ‘The problem was you had to keep choosing,’ Charles says, ‘between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little bit more off you.’ He leans in close, I think he will kiss me; I open my mouth slightly, and he says, ‘The truth is: the free soul is rare.’

As he drinks, the cracks between his monologues widen and I fear that one of us will slip through. And what if gravity disappears? Charles will hang on to the flame tree above us and spy my purple knickers under my black dress as I ascend, swallowed by space. He will move on to the women quick-witted enough to grab hold of something rooted to the earth.

Then he asks if I’d like to fuck and I’m embarrassed even when it’s ridiculous to play coy now. I drop the pretext of drinking and stare at him. I want to trace his face with my tongue.

3am, my phone says, and in three and a half hours, dark will give way. I tell Charles I want to leave now. I hate seeing these streets gutted by light. We walk over to a cab on the corner and shake the driver awake. An extra 100 baht and he’s keen to take us back to my flat.

In my room, Charles is suddenly tentative; while I shed my clothes, he escapes to the kitchen for a bottle of beer. We are both swaying and I wonder how we’ll get through this without hurting each other.

I sit on the bed naked, there’s no reason to feel awkward in the presence of a man who worships women. When he comes to stand in front of me, he caresses my cheek then gently pushes me down on the bed. We kiss and I smell booze and famine. He pinches my nipples hard with his fingers, cups my breasts, and sucks cries out of a mouth that has long been mute. A gentleman, he kneels on the rug, and covers my cunt with his mouth.

He enters me. I feel him lose control. I cross my legs around his back and grip his thighs, urging him deeper. His cock has gone crazy. I scream but the sound is muffled. It erupts from deep inside my belly. He comes then, shuddering violently on top of me. He raises his fist and I think he will smash my face, but at the last moment he brings it to his mouth to smother a moan or a cry. He has been away too long and still too close to death.

Later, he lights a cigarette and out the side of his mouth, ‘Did you fuck the poet or the man?’

‘Does it matter?’

‘Yes, it matters because if I fall in love with you, I want to know how it started. You might be one of the knives that stick me,’ he says as he rolls over to sleep on his side. ‘There’s an old one stuck into me in 1955, you can take its place.’

Lying next to him, I bite off the chipped end of a nail as a question carousels in my mind. In his last novel, Pulp, written as Charles was dying of leukemia, he wrote about a gigantic, glowing bird that had come to claim him. Death approached and he didn’t blink:

Then, as I watched, the Sparrow
slowly opened its beak.
A huge void appeared. And within the beak
was a vast yellow vortex,
more dynamic than the sun,
unbelievable.

– Pulp

I stare at the back of his head.

He knows what’s on the other side, what happens to the soul when it’s evicted from its body. If there’s such a thing as a soul. I shake him awake and my ferocity disturbs his slumber. ‘I need to know,’ I say, ‘I need to know what happens to you after. Is there something or nothing?’

Bukowski turns over and looks at me with such understanding I have to suppress the urge to punch him in the face.

‘Oh, Babe–’

 

art by Christine Wu

Bukowski quotes taken from his novels Ham on Rye, Women, and Pulp. Also from his poetry collections, The Pleasures of the Damned and Love is a Dog from Hell.

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fiction

what did the maid think when she found broken glass in the rubbish?

xxneptune

photo by xxfromneptune

What was she thinking when she came in this morning to find the knives gone? Did she notice they were not in their usual spot on the marble kitchen counter next to the coffee maker? She probably came across them as she dusted the top shelf, where he stashed them last night, to keep me from carving my wrists, a clean cut down my arm, a thin cut across the chicken’s neck and grandma held the squawking thing over a plate of rice and bled it dry. When I couldn’t find the knives I turned to wine, bottle half empty and forgotten in the crisper, it tasted like vinegar. I emptied the wine in the sink and then elation! I smashed the glass against steel, cradled a shard in my palm, and foetus-form fell to sleep.

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