life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Maelstrom

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The betrayal is deep. Maybe made more so by the stupidity of trust I possessed. It was as if he severed that last remaining piece of trust I had after all the other stuff had happened in my childhood and without that last piece I became a maelstrom.

So you are a maelstrom because you are me. Right now. Sitting in your bedroom listening to Aria with the windows flung open and the scent of jasmine in the air – you are a wild untamed fool who is a maelstrom.

You wanted to be special to someone. It was that simple.

You knew you didn’t have much chance of that because the girls who grew taller than you and had darker skin and more fawn like gait, were far more likely to be the objects of love than you. You were ordinary. You hated that about yourself and when anyone told you otherwise you hated them for lying.

Nevertheless even ordinary girls have dreams. When he told you about his girlfriend and how much he felt for her, you listened to his words and you inserted yourself in her place. But she wasn’t you. She was and still is, a beautiful, tall, glowing golden girl who brought her cello to school every day in a big leather case and walked with the wide stride of a confident and yet demure girl-woman. She had lips like the film you’d just seen and skin that seemed to drench itself in sunlight and you were a flake of dried skin in comparison.

But golden girl didn’t like him overmuch. In fact if memory serves, golden girl soon got together with son of an important man and they were a couple for eons. Golden girl was slumming it with boy with the nice eyes and she knew it and cut it short before anything irretrievable was done. But you didn’t ‘get’ that then, you didn’t really understand much. I wonder at that, because if nothing else you were smart, so how couldn’t you see the writing on the wall? Still you didn’t, you only used those malformed equations to equal your own chance with him, lapping up her left-overs like the fool you were.

He didn’t have an interest in you at all but you remembered something your father had said many times. That since you didn’t have the looks or the pretty little ballerina shoulders with the tawny skin, that you’d have to hook em with your winsome personality. And that was something you could do. You could crack jokes like a sailor, you climbed trees better than any other boy, and knew all the rules of soccer. Hell you’d even bet you could kiss well based on all the films you watched and that unreal world you inhabited when the vagaries of this world disappointed. Armed with those tools you set to world, the one and only time you set out to possess someone.

And he fell for it because he was 15 and he wanted to get his rocks off. It didn’t matter that you weren’t her, when you kissed in the park in the rain and your dark hair dye ran down your faces and turned you both grey, it didn’t matter when he rooted around in your bra and found little of interest, it didn’t matter when you weren’t her and you didn’t have her pillow lips or the sunlight in your huge brown eyes. He’d have taken anything and you convinced yourself that the little lies boys will tell girls was the truth.

Of course it wasn’t. He didn’t think those things about you. He was still talking about her. When he touched your hair and muttered how soft it was, he was reminiscing, when he traced your clavicle it wasn’t you he shared the sofa with, it was her, she was there all along. But you denied that, as you denied that you had gotten him by default, on a plastic rebound from a young goddess to the flats of his disappointment, only ameliorated by your willingness.

And you were willing. Less so than most teenage girls with low-self-esteem perhaps, but only because you didn’t really like his string-bean legs and his concave chest nor the length of his fingers nor the hard knot in his neck. You probably already wanted her, though you didn’t know it, you only knew it didn’t feel good being unwanted and you’d do anything to grasp for yourself a morsel of attention. But his attention wandered almost the moment you began, his eyes always lifting over your head and into the distance. For a time you tried not to notice that but as the false promises and the cheap silver ring on your finger attested, you couldn’t pretend forever.

One night, not hungry for you but hungry for the act, he pushed you down onto the narrow bed in his unmade room and filled himself with your giving. He took without notice, he wasn’t even there, it was the rise and fall of a moment, branded in your psyche eternally. To this day you can see him, giving less of a damn than if he’d been asked to act like he didn’t, a fine performance, a knock-out example of two people and one emotion, dividing them like a snake.

He didn’t like your breasts, he didn’t like the color of your skin or the breadth of your shoulders, he didn’t like the color of your hair, the size of your lips, the way you felt inside, there was nothing, literally nothing, that did it for him that you possessed. If it had been the most important thing in the world to claim him for your own, you would have failed, you did fail, you were a humiliation to yourself and you hadn’t even seen it yet.

So when he told you things they weren’t true and he knew it and anyone with a brain would have too but you had given up on truth, you’d decided you were going to buy it, hook line and sinker and I’m sure that only made him despise you a little more. Because he did you now, despise you, in the way that young boys do, when they don’t get their fantasy and they have to make do with the girl next door. You tried every art in your collection and they all fell flat, but just the calves of a dark-skinned girl with curls down her back could have driven him to his knees and you didn’t own a thing he wanted, not then and not ever.

Giving up that precious space within you for the insertion of trust and another’s soul, is no easy feat, and when you let him inside, he fouled the future with his lies and your acceptance of them. What was worse? That you’d been such a fool or that he’d felt it was acceptable to let you act the part? It was obvious he got less than he wanted but more than he’d get with himself and his hand. You could have been a hole in the wall. You could have been a blancmange or a hooker, maybe you were, maybe you were worse, a happy hooker who falls for her client. What a little idiot you were.

The self-hate only grew like a mask behind you as you strived without success to garner some interest. He found it hard to climax with you, he said it was from drinking but you knew, there was nothing about you that excited him, he may as well have been dry humping the sofa for all the investment he had, you were a living, breathing creature who wanted to be loved, to be special to one person in this world, you’d lived with that need all of your life, you didn’t see why you’d be denied it and then he showed you the horror of how it really was, that no matter how much you may want something, sometimes the absolute underbelly of life will show you the reverse.

Alcohol can loosen the tongue and it did that night he told the truth. It was a strange witching hour, you wanted the truth more than anything and you couldnt’ stand the truth, you couldn’t stand to hear what he really thought even though it made so much sense. He spilt it gladly, relieved presumably from hiding it so long, all those nights he fucked you he’d probably have preferred his own hand or the hand of a stranger. You were less than that, less than anything he could want, he’d only stayed out of pity, or apathy, he couldn’t be bothered to do anything to change circumstance, he knew he was young and time would shift everything without him even trying.

And it did, the night he went to a party without you and a girl with a long neck turned toward him and he felt that absence he’d been searching for all those months, a longing, a quickening for her. They had made love in the garden, he had whispered things to her that he meant and he had been disgusted at himself for wasting that time on you, on your pallid complexion and your wan face and your unimpressive body. He probably found his own sister more attractive than you, he hadn’t thought of the rules that guide us subconsciously and cause us to direct our gaze toward opposites, incase we should get bored with those who resemble ourselves and our beige unsatisfying childhood.

The long-necked girl, she laughed at the desperation in your eyes. She never had such emotions, she could control a boy with the switch of her eyes, the tilt of her body, the smallness of her hands. She was an Audrey Hepburn in a sea of milk, she beckoned him with her tiny wrists and he came, suppliant and hungry with gold in his eyes. And you? You didn’t hear about it for a day or so, and then the whole ugly story came spilling out, a bag of steaming, foul guts, polluting your nice little fantasy that was ludicrous and childish and absurd and shameful, branding you with a ‘I told you so’ a hundred times over.

I told you so. I told you the specter of her father said, if a father thinks a daughter is ugly, that’s like a test of the rest of the world. What were you thinking? Why did you think you could be loved? Cherished? Adored? What dared you believe this was a destiny you could penetrate? You were only ever going to be a neighborhood shag for the bored boys who hung desperately like weeds on the road side and took anything that happened to be passing.

The first night you slept alone you saw it clearest of all and after that you began your lies again, the delusions you told yourself, the ability to forgive the unforgivable and soon you were going back on every promise you had made yourself, you were standing there crying, beseeching him, a part of you screaming at yourself for the sickness of being the one to do that, and the other part urging him not to leave. But he had never been so he couldn’t leave, he just wasn’t there in the first place, he was a face, a glance, a dismissal, that stung to the very marrow of your being.

And years later as you sit in your chair and watch the lustful gaze of men traverse your body and take in your face, you still feel that sting. You still remember with a lurching sickness the way he dismissed you. It would never be enough that nobody since had done that, it would never be enough that all you ever heard now was the opposite. You could be the most beautiful woman in the world or the least, and it just wouldn’t matter because it was no longer about such superficiality as it had been at 15, it wasn’t even then but you didn’t know it.

It was about being special. And you hadn’t been then. And it was the very end of a slow road of rejections and reminders, beginning with your earliest memories and ending with him, his flat eyes and his uninterested hands, pushing you out the door, a garbage bag of your belongings in one hand, and you were walking down the street unable to see for the tears that spilled out of you, tears for yourself, tears of hate, tears of permanency because ever since you had been that girl, the one who unimpressed, the one who didn’t matter, the girl who was overlooked and chosen last if at all.

You could climb a hundred mountains, be made love to and told everything you’d ever desired, and it would sit like a lie in your stomach. Poisoning any chance you had to change. You were wired this way now, wedded to the idea of your inadequacy, an altered picture, a dysmorphic version of yourself that was more real to you than anything echoed by anyone else. When they said wonderful you saw awful, when they said gorgeous you saw hideous, when they laughed at your jokes, you believed it pity. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing was ever believable again.

Except the truth of that first time. The honesty and brokenness of the moment when he infested you and you let him, with a life long supply of inadequacy and shame. When you closed your eyes you could see the look in his eyes when he took in your body and tried hard to orgasm. Failing. Failing. Failing. And that truth was the only truth, nothing that came afterward had the same degree of hideous accuracy and no matter how often you were told you delighted, you were still, underneath all the sham, the pretense, the bolster, the fraud, you were the same 15-year-old girl killed by apathy. No longer believing yourself capable of being special to a single soul in this world.

She needs to grow a thick skin and not give a damn about what others think and when she is old enough it won’t matter at all, none of it will, she will no longer be that fated creature who denies herself the pleasure of living because of one boy so very long ago. I hope you read this. I really hope you do. As you stare at yourself in your darkened mirror and wonder why nobody looks that way at you. I hope you realize, as good as it is to try for what we want, there are some things we should never want and one of them is to be the bed fellow of a disinterested boy who without even knowing, robs us of any potential to be something more. If he read this, he wouldn’t even know who I was referring to, I am absolutely sure he has forgotten you, and forgotten me, he is probably married to someone who made his eyes glitter and you, you will never even see the possibility of such things, because you are still there, 15 years old, feeling his uncaring imprint on your flesh, wanting to wash until you dissolve with the water.

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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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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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life

Green Lanes

​I was standing on Green Lanes when it began to rain. It always rains on Green Lanes apart from when it doesn’t. Once I walked 6 miles of it because I lost my bus pass and that was during a heatwave. I remember it because the added heat and smoke from the bakeries and kebab houses and the Saturday afternoon crowd made the trek almost unbearable to the point where I wanted to cry but I had no tears to shed because I was so dehydrated, and never will I ever be so happy to see the Palmers Green triangle as I was when I finally made it home on that day. When I met my friend she said I smelled like I’ve been charcoal grilled. I felt like I had been charcoal grilled. 

Anyway, this time it was raining. Big, heavy raindrops, the ones that almost hurt when they hit your skin. I was early for the meeting with my solicitor so I loitered about, opting to murder my finite minutes outside a Turkish bakery a few doors down from his office. Inside the bakery I could see a group of women making baklava and some men congregating near the counter, drinking tea. I could hear the men’s animated debate and the subdued chatter of the women through the open door though I did not understand a word.

I lit a cigarette, holding it within my cupped hand in such a way as to shield it from the rain, and watched the women work. It was mesmerising, truly, seeing them expertly arrange layers upon layers of filo pastry, the filo so thin it was almost transparent, delicate and satisfying in one perfect sheet like when you peel off sunburnt skin, lifting up a huge sheet of it with such care but seemingly such little thought, a technique honed through the decades, passed down through generations. They were wielding rolling pins that were probably longer than the women were tall, never tearing the pastry, never once coughing or spluttering from inhaling the continuous cloud of starch powder that engulfed them, toned arms made strong from years of lifting vats of honey hidden under old cotton dresses, the patterns and colours of their aprons faded with age but their hair as white as sugar and their eyes as green as the pistachios that they crush in the giant pestle and mortar. Traditional, routine, precise, step-by-step, live art.

The women didn’t notice me but the men had their eyes all over me and they beckoned me in. I shook my head and held up my cigarette to say “I can’t come in right now even if I wanted to.” They insisted, but again I shook my head. The women glared at me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, and certain that they were bitching about me in Turkish. The men are probably their husbands. Then, just as I was feeling unsafe, someone came up behind me and grabbed me, digging their fingers in my ribs with an almighty grip. Without a thought I twisted my upper body around and elbowed the person in the face. He immediately let go of me and his hands rushed to his face. He was doubled over and blood dripped onto the wet concrete.

Fucking hell!!” he said, into his hands. “Why’d you do that?!” He stood up and took his bloody hands away from his face. “Oh my God, GEORGE! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was you, you scared me, I thought you were a robber or a pervert or something!” “No, it’s just me. Fucking hell, you’ve broken my fucking nose!” “No I haven’t, come on, let’s have a look at it,” I said, searching for a tampon in my handbag. “It’s not proper broken. You’re still handsome, don’t worry,” I promised, as I unwrapped the tampon and shoved it up his nose. “Fucking hell, I only came over to say hello and invite you out to this thing tonight!” he winced. “Oh, Georgie, I’m really sorry, let me kiss it better,” I said, before I kissed his nose and he laughed. “You’re a nutter, you are,” he said as he wiped his bloody hands on his jeans.

We went into the bakery, George cleaned up and we had tea and baklava. One of the men in there paid for me. George said, “If you weren’t so pretty you wouldn’t get away with half the shit you do.” I concurred that that is probably, sadly true. My solicitor called to say he was ready for me, so we hugged goodbye and arranged to meet at Frank’s in Peckham at 10 that night. I promised to buy him a drink to say “sorry about the whole elbow in the face thing” and he promised that we would catch up properly later on and that he had some exciting news.

He never turned up at Frank’s that night. Nobody had heard from him. His phone was dead when we tried to reach him, and it’s still dead 4 years later. I ring it from time to time, just in case it might be switched on.

Where did you go, Gorgeous George? You just disappeared. No social media clues, no sightings, no ideas. The grapevine mentioned you running away to Thailand but then it also mentioned you in prison, and it was even suggested that you were living under witness protection and your true identity had been compromised. I don’t think you topped yourself. I just don’t know where you are. No one does. I wonder if I was the last person to see you: I hope I was, so that you didn’t meet a fate worse than a bloody nose and free baklava. And I will always look for you on Green Lanes, especially when it rains.

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life

All That Appeared Was a Blind Obstinate Impulse Expressing Itself in Bursts of Foolishness

Canceled my New Yorker subscription some months ago, as if that would help me feel less scatterbrained, once the basement bargain on the first year of issues expired and I was back to not being special anymore and just like everyone else again. All too trite and elitist, I thought, silently excusing myself from participation in some indefinable currency, realizing the feebleness of this withdrawal as that snarky manikin leered over my shoulder and snarkily suggested I’d have been more of a pseudo-sophisticate if I’d spelled realizing with an s.

There is simply too much to think about. I imagine turning to the man next to me at the nearly empty bar I’m not sitting in and saying “so what’s it like for you out there” and his obscure eyes turn to meet me with a look of total cancelation surpassing even the negation I supposed I’d find. “Bellow,” I’d say, and he’d hear it as a verb and turn away. “But this was his city, too,” I’d protest, “twice.” That has to mean something, though it’s a lifelong effort to understand that not everything does, and how. Four years on the seventh floor was a form of sanctuary but not as transcendental as I supposed.

Here, the wind blows this way and that, often in the same breath. There’s surely a meteorological explanation for this, I think, remembering the local tv news weather report showing large currents of blue and purple computer-generated atmosphere above a matte gray-brown map and how those currents seemed—always—to converge directly above this city. On the ground down where I now live I watch little plastic flags on clotheshanger-thin wire poles stuck in the muck and mud of lived experience to mark gas lines nervelessly flutter back and forth, but I tend toward the figurative and a certain desultory envy of inanimate stoicism, supposing for convenience’s sake that that’s not a contradiction in terms, nor is the struggle to perfect oneself in the symbolic discipline of an art.

Have you ever loved living so much you were afraid to let it out of your sight? Did you cling to it, even in despair, despite its flutters and turns, despite the partisan, balkanized categorizations that we adopt as identities? That’s all I want to know, I *promise* that’s all I’ll ever ask.

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life

Death of a Star

At around half past 3 in the morning I decided that I would go for a crafty cigarette. I was at my grandfather’s house – he didn’t (and hopefully still doesn’t) know that I smoke and I didn’t want to wake him by going downstairs and outside, so I thought it best to hang out of the bedroom window and smother the smell with perfume afterwards.

I opened the window, jumped up on the sill, dangled my pyjama-ed legs out over the edge and, before I could spark up, my attention was diverted to the meteor shower that was performing its drama in the space above me. I’d seen such sights before but never this clearly. These fizzling stars seemed so close, as if I could reach out and catch them. I half expected a piece of hot rock to land in my lap and burn through my shorts.

A voice shocked me back to Earth.

“Are you gonna light that or what?” my father whispered, a little too loudly.

“JESUS CHRIST, DAD, YOU SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!”

He chuckled until his chuckle turned into a cough, which he tried to stifle. He was also hiding his habit from granddad (his father) – he had promised him a year before that he had quit. But here he was, also hanging out of his bedroom window, a few metres across from mine, smoking a joint and watching the shower.

He put his finger to his lips and said, “Shhh,” and then pointed at the sky.

“I know,” I whispered back.

We stayed that way for a few minutes, together but apart, smoking in the silence of the night, watching the meteorites falling so effortlessly from the heavens, knowing that they look pretty from here but up there the scene is one of violence and destruction. We were quite content to revel in the magic of the display, ignoring the science and calculations and unfathomable numbers behind it and the reality of our insignificance (although these things did cross our minds).

“You know how stars die, don’t you?” he whispered to me, again a little too loudly.

“Erm… supernova, is it?”

“Nah. Overdose, usually.”

I giggled into my hand, before whispering, “For fuck’s sake, Dad,” in his general direction. We didn’t know that Amy Winehouse would die from a suspected overdose the next day.

We spent another minute or so watching the sky. I looked over at my Dad, his face illuminated only by the stars. His smile had gone. He looked wistful, possibly even sad. Then I felt sad, knowing we’d be back in London soon and unable to see magic like this through the pollution. Back to London, to depression and money problems and bad decisions and drug dealing and dangerous dalliances and trouble trouble trouble.

“Dad,” I said, quietly. “Am I going to be okay?”

He looked over at me from his window and smiled, and said with such certainty,

“Yes. Yes you are, babes.”

In that moment, I believed him. I locked that exchange in my heart, archived, for future reference. Then I stubbed out my roll-up underneath the window ledge and buried it among the leaves in the guttering. Then I replied to my Dad,

“Are you?”

But his window was shut and he was gone.

 

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