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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prosetry

Keep Before You The Swift Onset Of Oblivion

The grass is patchy with indecision, or so I project, but the morning doves don’t seem to mind, pecking away with perfect indifference to the fact that the house smells of old painted-over plaster because that’s what it’s made of on the inside, but with new appliances like transplanted organs that haven’t yet taken to their host, much like me.

I struggle to write a poem. The neighbors are glad to have the day off, simply, making breakfast and coffee and planning cookouts for miles around, existing out of sight and half out of mind till a window is opened across the street by a pair of hands and diminishing arms. Partial existence is too easy of an analogy for beauty in this the golden age of rhetoric and armchair expertise, so I slap myself on the wrist and offer some superfluous indentations instead, privileging form over function and hoping no one will notice.

Everything we do, we do as an unnecessary consequence of something done before. A man in a white tank top smoking a cigarette at the foot of his front stoop says “there’s got to be something better than this, got to be something better than this going on somewhere.” I take it personally. The hateful sound of the ticking clock. I don’t want it to be impartial, but I understand.

 

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art, poetry

Bouquets

I keep on trying to say
goodbye
but flowers
won’t stop blooming between
my teeth,

So I’ve found myself
a florist
who carries no pieces
of you.

Now
I don’t need the bars
across my bedroom
windows,

Nor take care
not to step on
shattered ego.

And she
doesn’t hold her broken heart
to my throat

Or
chase happiness
down freeways.

Instead,
she dances to jazz
and braids my flowers
into her hair,
believing
that they grew
for her.

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fiction

PALE IMITATIONS

Chris R--7 Illustration by Christine Renney

‘Did you ever notice the cartoons in those old American TV Shows?’ he asks.
‘Which shows?’ she glances up, a little perplexed.
‘I don’t know which ones, it doesn’t matter, but there is always a scene where the kids are watching cartoons. Sometimes, actually no, most of the time it’s just one little kid, boy or girl, sitting on the floor right up close to the screen whilst the real action is happening elsewhere. The parents are arguing in the background or quietly making plans in the kitchen. Those cartoons – did you ever notice them?’
‘Not really. Why?’
‘Because they are bad. I mean really depressingly bad. The colours have faded and the action and animation are so stilted, even the music is uninspiring.’
He stutters to a halt.
‘And your point is?’
‘I don’t know what my point is but why aren’t these kids ever watching Scooby Doo or Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry or Roadrunner or any of those great cartoons we watched when we were growing up? Deputy Dawg or Wacky Races? Top Cat?’ flailing his arms he motions toward the television sat in the corner.
‘Hell, if you switched on the TV now and Bugs Bunny was playing I’d sit down and watch it.’
‘Yeah, so would I.’
‘Of course you would, who wouldn’t? But those kids aren’t watching Bugs Bunny. Why is that?’
‘I don’t know,’ she ponders, ‘maybe it’s because of copyright. Perhaps those old shows weren’t able to show the great stuff, the classics and they hadn’t any choice other than to drag out the bad cartoons, the poor and pale imitations.’
‘Yeah, possibly or were those cartoons made especially for those shows? Put together quickly, cheaply, because they didn’t think anyone would notice them anyway?’
‘Maybe.’ she pauses, thinking. ‘But no, I don’t think so. There are already enough bad cartoons out there but nobody wants them or cares that they are bad. They are the cartoons that should have been forgotten.’

 

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art, poetry, prosetry

On Art

[Free-written at the Tate Modern, London, 2015]

ONE

Art is about shaking things up,
subverting everything that is safe and familiar.
Art sends you a link to a video
of your cosy little norms cheating on you,
in your own bed, with a handsome amalgamation
of everything you loathe
and then when you cry about it, Art just shrugs.

Art is about,
“Shaking up the still”
“Art as an extension of the body”
“Describing without describing it”
“Disrupting the settled”
I write these things down as I wander through the collections.
I am not settled, I will never be settled.
I am disrupted, severely, unfortunately.
Settled. I do not know the meaning of the word:
this truth makes me feel unsettled.

TWO

I’ve been told before that I’m a work of art –
each person who has said this meant it in a different way –
it doesn’t matter how, not really –
subjective, objective, neither.
But if art is about disrupting everything that is settled,
what am I? How am I? How do you disrupt the already disrupted?
Can you break the broken?
Maybe it would be real, true, genuine artistry to settle the unsettled.
Perhaps to rectify the disturbed would mean to
uncover the masterpiece underneath.

But no. This canvas may look pretty
but still been stretched and abused and exploited,
stared at, gawped at, criticised.
The framework in the centre of this sculpture
has crumbled; I fold in on myself
because I can’t hold this brain up anymore
with of all of its heavy thoughts and mind-fuckery.
But as long as my outermost layer stays easy on the eye
it’s fine for me to be ugly inside.

THREE

Art may well be about disrupting the disrupted
a test, an experiment,
to see how much disruption the disrupted can take
before they break
another layer of paint
let the cracks show
gloss over it all
keep piling on the paint
like the pressure that we’re so used to…
am I talking about art or psychiatry?
You can’t hang me on a wall
if I’m hanging from a tree.

We are disrupted daily hourly
subconsciously subliminally
tirelessly
effortlessly
cruelly
above all, wholly.
We are entirely disturbed.
If art is about shaking things up,
I am the pre-packaged subject.
Life has rattled me, and
I am still shaking
recoiling from the things I’ve seen
with eyes, in dreams
running from my archive of deleted scenes
shuddering in my pathetic tent where I live
wedged
reluctantly
between the edges of some temperamental tectonic plates;
the tremors, the tremors, the never-ending tremors,
they are like noisy neighbours, disrupting me at all hours.
It is possible to disrupt those who are unsettled,
it’s just a little less easy.

FOUR

Nobody pays to see me anymore.
I am no longer part of the collection
although I am still on display
in a lesser, unassuming way:
I have morphed into a nameless metal figure on a toilet door
I am bald, I have a triangle dress
and all of my scars have been polished off –
plus, I have no eyes or ears,
so no more lies and no more tears.
No longer the exhibitionist I was before
when I was a whore
when I was adored
when I was unconscious on the ballroom floor.
Things are quieter now.
But I’ll never be settled.
No, never settled.
Forever rattled, never settled.

FIVE

If someone hears that I’m settled
they might decide to disrupt me
to shake me up
to make me into art.
My coffin in the ground
will be the grand finale
The cemetery will be the gallery
and people will come to see me again
not as a life form, but as an art form, immortalised.
A masterpiece that’ll take the art world by storm
see here, one who was ultimately unsettled who now lies settled!
My body in the ground
six feet under
a cheapo headstone bearing the official details
of one of my various personalities
some yellow roses, a pack of JPS and a vodka miniature
perhaps some rain
My most disrupted self, finally settled
The opposite of art
This final installation is named
“Girl, died
in pain,
in vain,
in sane.”

Maybe then
Art will seek to settle the disrupted
before it’s too late.

SIX

It is probably the case
that art saves more lives than psychiatry.
But when you’re standing graveside saying
what a waste, what a waste,
you won’t think of my soul at all
you’ll just think of my pretty face.

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prosetry

Put Your Heart in the Hands of a Cynic

You’re a marvelous being, he says to her, eyes squinting for a better view behind the smudgy rose-colored lenses of his spectacles, common sense folded neatly on the white linen tablecloth beside the sweating half-empty/full water carafe as he reclines in a slight wicker chair on a warm, impressionistic day outside the café he’s only just imagined could be the setting of a turning point in a life story called I Missed the Good Stuff.

Possibility isn’t just enough, it’s all.

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