life, prosetry

Strippers

1 / This whole “life” thing would’ve been a lot easier, for me and everyone else, if only my parents had kept a bottle of turpentine under the kitchen sink instead of premium Polish vodka. At least that’s what I tell myself I was looking for all those years ago.

1.5 / Rooting around in the cupboards, my hands covered in oil paint, a brush between my teeth, searching for paint stripper I discovered vodka instead. Art was long and difficult, and my desire to achieve perfection led to much frustration (ripping canvases to shreds, setting drawings on fire, etc). Alcohol was fun and easy and made me feel better: a revelation! Very quickly, drinking replaced painting. The painting went unfinished and the easel was dismantled (and then eventually exchanged for a £10 bag of weed).

2 / Vodka is a stripper in it’s own right. Here are some things that vodka strips me of: inhibitions / morals (some, or all) / worries / layers of my liver / senses (one, or all) / this fucking albatross (very temporarily) / memories / appetite / clothes (some, or all) / shoes (one, or both) / insecurity / fear.

3 / Drinking is affecting my work. Negatively. I feel that I’ve lost too many brain cells lately. I don’t know. But luckily for me, writer’s are “supposed to” have a drink problem so “it’s fine.” With every truth I write, every line I assemble, every poem I publish, I feel a little more naked. It’s like every story is a piece of clothing that I’ve been wearing for years and I’m boiling to death under all this fabric so I tell I story, I shed a layer, I get closer to the pure core of myself, to what’s underneath, to what’s inside. It’s frightening but liberating.

4 / Instead of stripping down, people today seem to be adding more and more layers to themselves, living further and further outside of themselves, silencing their naked truths, suffocating their reality with the strength of other people’s expectations. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we shed all the shit, stripped everything down, went back to basics, straight to the core.

5 / Your truth is all you have. Let it breathe.

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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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fiction, Uncategorized

The Time Travel Artist

I love my job.

Someone managed to change something. They shouldn’t have been able to. But, that is the company’s problem. Someone needed to die, again.

Killing someone is not an easy thing. Killing them again is even harder. Killing them the same way as before.

That is art.

Her name was Mary Harris. Nineteen years old. Strangled.

19:23 exactly. My hands are already around her neck. Not too soft. With passion, as before.

19:24 she is dead.

On the dot. Man, I’m good. I stand up and look around. The room hadn’t been wrecked. That is always an annoyance. A simple strangulation. I look down at her. Turning blue.

“Sorry, darling,” I lie.

I would feel sorry for her, really. Her savior is in jail. Her killer is still unknown. But, I don’t. I feel hungry. I’m a professional. Only professionals know when they are hungry.

I study the room. I study the body.

One of her eye-lids is shut. I bend down and open it wide, just like in the picture. Sadness and terror, it says. I smile.

“Now, that is art.”

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fiction, Uncategorized

some butterflies

It is late, the dark has started weaving nests into crannies. I’m drunk. We’ve only known each other a few weeks.

“I don’t want this,” I told her, a few minutes ago.

And so, she paces.

She stops.

“What are you?” she asks, her arms limp from nail biting.

I frown at her, drinking something–a beer, probably. “I’m a man?”

She frowns, “No–no! You are arms–yes, legs, eyes–yes, three hundred pages of verse, maybe–but you are not a man.”

She goes back to pacing.

I roll my eyes. “Why are you being so dramatic?”

“I’m not being dramatic,” she tells the other side of the balcony, “I’m being poetic.”

She walks back and stands over me.

She looks down, into me–about to cry or kill me, I don’t know.

“Some butterflies are beautiful for only a day and then they die,” she whispers. She kneels down, places her face on my leg. I put my fingers in her hair.

“Am I supposed to be a butterfly?” I ask, finishing what certainly seems to be a beer.

She shakes her head. “No–you are not so lovely a thing. You are a stomach ache, you linger–you do not die, not beautiful enough to die.”

She sits back on her haunches, she laughs. I laugh too, not understanding.

Like a blind man clapping at a magic show.

My laugh goes on much longer than hers. She kisses my hand.

“You poor boy,” she tells me.

She stands up and goes inside.

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art, life, prosetry

On Writing & Suffering

Pain depends on me to be its host:
suffering is the needy child,
and I’m the parent who never says no.

*

As long I write, the pain is necessary. If I stop, the pain becomes unnecessary, pointless, all for nothing apart from what it is, which is inherently bad. I am a hostage, and if I stop transforming the pain into something better I will essentially be throwing away all chance of survival: I will not make it out alive, merely allowing myself to become another casualty of a sinister, seemingly unstoppable higher power who tortures me daily even though I have nothing to reveal, nothing it wants, nothing it needs. The pain becomes sheer cruelty with no objective other than to destroy me. As long as I write, I stave it off, I delay my death day. The narcissist in me likes to think that my torturer is secretly looking forward to reading what I write next.

*

I don’t invite the badness but once the pain decides to stay, it becomes hard to turn it away. The pain of unhooking it from my skin is enough of a deterrent. Easier to let it stay: less bloody that way. So I turn it into something else – something creative, perhaps even something beautiful, or helpful. I try to, anyway.

*

I’ve been given a life sentence.
I’ve been punished, blacklisted, labelled evil.
But it’s not me. It’s not me.
I’m not the villain.
It’s my mind!
My mind is the guilty one.
I’m not the evil one, my brain is!

My decisions are not mine to make.
My actions are not mine to take.

Everyone called it “attempted suicide” but it wasn’t,
it was attempted murder, my mind tried to kill me,
it was my mind, it was my mind, not me!
My mind is the one that did it!
Why can’t you see?
Don’t you believe me?
I have proof.

*

And the evil things that it does to me, all that badness, I try desperately to turn it into something creative, into words on a page. All of these filled notebooks, all of these poems, all of these scraps of paper: the proof. The proof. The proof that I have suffered for two decades, against my will.

*

Writing feels to me like an attempt to prove my innocence. They all have me down as guilty and I’m stuck on death row. My execution date is drawing ever nearer and writing is my last ditch attempt to prove my innocence. It feels like gathering evidence from the confines of my cell and presenting it to my unsympathetic lawyer:

Look.
Look at how I’ve been tortured and beaten and terrorised.
See?
Look at all these years of misery.
You’ve got to listen to me.
I deserve to be free.
I’ve done nothing wrong.
My mind made me do it, made me do all of it, and all of the stuff that I didn’t do, too. They’ve got it all wrong.
Look at all this pain.
Look at it.
LOOK AT IT.

But it’s too late. I myself have been forgotten, and only ever remembered as mad, sad, bad. I stay locked in my cell, sharing a skull with the real danger, a bed with the real monster. I swallow my pills and eat my greens and am polite to those unfortunate souls whose jobs have led them to encounter me, the ones that are always unable or unwilling to help me, the ones who have written me off as mad, sad, bad, bad, bad. I play sudoku and collect smiles of pity. I keep writing and suffering, collecting my evidence. I suffer and I write, night after night after merciless night.

*

I dream of my grave and always smile when I see it. You dream of your name in lights, I dream of mine engraved on a marble headstone. Sometimes it says I died in 2008, sometimes 2015. It varies. The stone is always clean, polished. Someone’s been looking after it. Lush green grass has always grown over me perfectly, evenly, even beautifully; the first true natural equilibrium that has ever befallen me. The world is a better place. I smile until it hurts my face.

Upon waking from my latest grave dream, I reach for the box of evidence that is stowed under my bed. I unlock the box for the first time in a long time, so long in fact that I almost forget where I’d hidden the keys. Starting in 2003, I begin to read. Even though it is my own story, I am shocked at what I read. Look at all this pain. Look at all this trauma. Look at all this sadness. Look at all this writing. Look at all this suffering. Look at it. “Look,” I say to no one. “LOOK.”

*

My biggest regret is taking myself for granted. Appreciate your intelligence, your personality, your abilities, your beauty. You may wake up one day and find that your own brain has decided to take all of your goodness away.

 

 

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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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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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poetry

Ocean

I have the timbre of
the ocean
in my bones,

And,

As she consumes me,
my lover says
that she can still taste
the salt on my skin.

I leap into the sea
to escape –
her,
life,
the phantom weight
of old lovers,

And the echoes
beneath the surface
are almost loud enough,
to block out

Her voice,
so full of the big city –
a shrill treble,
backed by synth-pop and alleyway screams.

I watch as she,
my albatross,
dives
squawking for me to stay,

But the sea’s hum
has me chasing rogue waves
into the deep,

And I
don’t drown,
because,

I

Have the timbre
of the ocean
in my bones.

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