life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Low Flame

Sisters+-+SliderYou damned me with your penchant for

betrayal

only the smooth hollow of a quiet buttoned up body

resting now, untouched chalk and mortar

lain still so long, breath has left

I did not want to wake up

get dressed

pretend to function at the end of tugging string

there was a place in my head that dissolved living

a spindle that gathered all my yarn and knitted something else

not me

back into a shape I did not recognize

she went on without

this clockwork version of myself

whilst I followed the bath water down the drain

hearing your serpentine taunt

what was it you said?

you would feed me?

I don’t need food

I don’t need air

I am existing on memories

of being fearless and before erosion

the wonderlust of the young and close to flame

possessing no sticky cleavage, no rub of thigh

or need to sup

the fealty of those who have not yet

watched their bones dissolve into chalk

this theatre is cold

like love when it is left

on a low flame

catching and diminishing

as most will rest

and one dances

mad arms flung

like sticks of liquorice

beneath restraint

have you ever known what someone was like?

but somewhere along the journey, without any good reason, forgotten

gone on forgetting until all the things they are capable of

are lost and you see them with fresh eyes

just as wrecked and pulled to pieces the next time, they tear your fucking heart out

is that forgiveness God? When you forgive and you don’t forget?

except the very act of forgiving means you do forget

the extremity of pain and its after effects

how can you walk next to someone capable of pinching off

all their emotions as if you were snuff

turning out the light on you

just. like. that.

harm stains the mattress a livid hue

as if I were given a blood transfusion of pain

tell me please

who do I have to hurt to stop?

myself, or all the years

I wasn’t myself?

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prosetry

An Education

Once upon a time, my odd behaviour, strange way of thinking, and outrageous antics were endearing. Everyone loved me and my wild ways, perhaps even because of my wild ways. But now that most people have a greater awareness and understanding of mental illness, my behaviours are appalling, tragic, pitiful, dangerous, distressing. “Such a shame.

Once upon a time, it was funny when I climbed into a chest freezer in a supermarket because I was so tired and wanted to sleep and the shop was too noisy and I needed to be cold because I honestly thought my blood was on fire. “Omg you’re sooo crazy hahaha!” “What a nutter, you’re so funny!” “Lmfao I fucking love you, you crazy bitch!” “You are SUCH a legend!” If I did that today, you’d call 999, failing to hide the embarrassment on your face. You’d scuttle away from the “scene”, but not before telling the crowd of onlookers that I’ve “been like that for years.

The idiosyncrasies of mine that were once adorable are now utterly deplorable.

It’s funny how things change. Unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m still as sick as ever. But at least you’re educated about mental health now, right?


Originally published on The Magic Black Book as 010218.

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prosetry

Gnossienne

Maxine Groffsky talks too much and I hear too little from any of you, but the kettle’s on. In my head one time we made a career of it like Jean-Paul & Simone everyone had weathervane opinions on the winds of influence but I still only knew either of us like I know her: through words, choice. She edited her own interview, for chrissake. The limits of imagination are four words that could title a book it’d take an eye blink to read, but most poetry would say a lifetime, and take it. Lifetime, you decide.

Take words out of your stories, you’d say, and stop trying to write yourself away. Stop trying to hide something and pretend it’s essence, stop trying to say what it’s all about. I’d know what you meant, having recently finished a little something by di Benedetto I felt I was supposed to appreciate but didn’t, partly because it was just too austere. Laferrière said “there’s nothing more false than real life” and it’s convenient for me to agree right now. Imagine how much freer we’d be in speech if we weren’t so compelled to riddle. I wonder if the pictures taken by strangers contain some message to me. What might they be trying to say?

I fill in the blanks, because I have a way of thinking I tend to say too little and a corresponding way of making up for it. On my own, ironically. When I was younger I called this “research” and spent time at prestigious institutions full of people I could keep away from, filling my head with others’ ideas of how to appropriately tangle with this great mad web of overfunctioning desires, dreaming of wholeness like it was a bill a real person might fit but everywhere seeing only pieces to emulate, and excelling at making lists, but having a hard time knowing what to redact.

Some things never change. Dreams, speech, others, and what of reality. Imagine the simple joy of dreaming without hope, in spite of what you know, finding meaning in letting meaning be, longing, but no longer longing to escape the in-betweens, no longer conflating satisfaction with complacency the way we often mix authenticity with originality. Borges called originality a modern superstition. Of course he would, and when I read that it felt like Satie’s No. 1, if you can imagine, easy and free, comfortable with distances. And I had nothing more to add, no answers, no replies, no noise. What would you say to that, anyone?

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fiction

Seasons’ Spell 1

This is the first of a four-part storyish kind of thing. Trying something a little new here—well, the story’s old, or the idea for it anyway, but I’m sharing it anew.


It is morning, spring, and he sits by the open window at the small, square table covered in a light linen tablecloth with trim of crocheted lace. The window is hung with aphotic green curtains, almost black, like the undersides of the trees at the forest’s edge a stone’s throw or so beyond, pulled back and fastened with cream tassel to taupe walls. A white-flowered oxalis in a rust red pot is perched on the broad, thick-painted sill, its jittery leaves fluttering each time a gust of forenoon breeze picks up and joins them, and he thinks nothing of it, next to nothing of any of it, nearly nothing at all, just goes on reading his newspaper, absorbing words because they’re there. His long, grey wool-trousered legs are casually crossed, angled from the table so his back is partly to the window, mostly to the wall, the sleeves of his white cotton shirt are rolled to the elbows, top three buttons unbuttoned, and his high-arched feet are bare, the left one firm and assured on the worn wood floor.

From time to time the breeze agitates the corners of the newspaper and teasingly threatens to tousle his curly brown hair, hanging mid-length and in need of pruning. But he does not care—he rather likes it this way, letting it be, all as it may. The tablecloth dances lightly, softly with the breeze too, softer than the newspaper and lighter than the oxalis and things make sense.

The tablecloth is one of the First Things they—he and she—got for the house, this small hundred-something-year-old two-storey of timber and stone masonry set back against the rolling foothills by Settlers from Who Knows When, out and away in their very own wonderland, or so they liked to romance, wild and full, surrounded by enchanted things for young-hearted dreamers, nestled and deep-rooted in a bucolic vastness that they’d imagine like starry-eyed children was—is—the center of a great, wide, mysterious galaxy comprised of two fundamental elements: In Here and Out There, with their two souls warm and singularly glowing together like a sun.

That was both Yesterday and Now, and today there is a chair across from him, on the other side of the small, square table. It matches the one in which he now sits—hand-finished oak, finished by her hand—but is empty and pulled out from the table as if its sitter has just absented. The day is still waking outside, still unformed and possible and he breathes it in deeply, listening only to the vernal ensemble of sun and clouds and sky and air and wilderness and dream and memory playing something soft and discordant, a slowly coalescing prelude to the day’s coming harmonics, rising as easily as the steam which gently ascends from black coffee in a white mug near his right elbow and is occasionally stirred and dissipated by the window breaths.

He can hear her in the next room, then in the kitchen, then back again, rustling and bustling and shuffling briskly about, light and nimble and with purpose, easily deliberate, and it makes him feel good, thoughtlessly good, the best good, busy as she is with morning, as he is with it too. All is warm and warming, and they’re serene in their uncertainties.

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prosetry

Flights

Rode the elevator up to the 20th floor from somewhere in the middle, the doors parted and I stepped out into a field of eyes and a sea of sound, a small podium before me like a restaurant check in, and they looked at me and I knew it was wrong, knew the 20th wasn’t the top, afraid it might be where I belong.

The black-suited man at the podium informed me of where I was before I made my fifth step forward and I heard the doors roll softly closed behind me, dreading the around turn coming that’d leave my back alone by itself to hold their stares, their thoughts thinking “here is yet another” in cacophonic unison like some discombobulated orchestra.

But I did, I turned toward the brass walls of the elevator bank, shimmering, reflecting that distorted roomful of eyes and I did my best Houdini and closed mine and pressed the bottom button like it dispensed nonchalance but all it did was illuminate.

A few silent toe-tapping seconds later the carriage came down and the walls consumed its doors and inside stood a man, generically older, and two women, younger than he but not springly and who I realized were not together as I got on and pressed the round plastic “1” button with greater firmness than I felt, glancing at him, glancing at them, thinking what accidents do befall us in elevators when the doors close.

And in I step and close they do and down the elevator starts and the down start turns to what feels like a fall, smooth and gliding, and I wonder when we’ll hit and what will break first and why they seemed so distracted, so consumed, continuing their piecemeal stranger exchange of looks and slight eyebrow shrugs and effortful non-engagement as he said

“men are more romantic than women, I know it” and he looks at me for confirmation like I knew he would before he did and the she against the back wall of the falling box forces out an “I don’t know about that” in the most non-committal manner imaginable, like a kid put on the spot by other kids she likes about something she doesn’t, or like a grown woman cornered in an elevator and uncertain about an older man’s burgeoning chauvinism, feeling for shreds of history or experience in his sentiment, abstaining from anything further or firmer and he smiles with only lips, cheeks, and

eyes and says “oh I do, I know, right?” and back at me. Right? but no, I shrug, joining the pensive chorus, smiling a little, saying nothing, releasing his gaze. No, I don’t know what you’re getting at, sir, or where this came from or what you mean or why but I do wonder,

I just got on this elevator, just got in here with you three strangers, just joined this fall, and I can see she wishes that the doors will soon open and we can all get out and go our separate ways and I know somewhere inside me despite everything, despite rises and falls and soul and spirit and passing strangers and idle fancies and prejudgments I know I do love the world and this life and

even those eyes back upstairs and these strangers and this awkward moment and this drop, this too-fast but nevertheless controlled descent, a few kilos of friction and resistance short of perfect freefall, and we finally decelerate like some mischievous deity hit the brakes and I cringe instinctively and brace myself out of

well-practiced fear of long drops and the dark things at the bottom as the elevator slows hard and stops soft and the doors open and I see that I’m in fact alive, still alive, again alive, and here, more alive in some unknown way than I ever thought I knew before.

We’ve stopped unevenly, though, confirming all my suspicions of transcendence, stopped a step or so above the ground floor and he gets out without offering a hand or a farewell to anyone and I look at them and say, relieved by all this fallibility, all this imperfection, “If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the drop to the bottom is lined with misperceptions”

and they smile and shrug a little less uncomfortably, knowing I mean no harm though I want to shake them by the shoulders and point and say “there’s light outside it’s bright outside!” but all I do is help them down to pick up the slack he left behind and after helping walk away on my way to nowhere, maybe everywhere, for that matter, I imagine, in this city,

and head through the brass- and mirror-lined marble and tile foyer and push through the revolving doors and step out into the rest of life and the first distinct sound I hear amid the din once I’ve maneuvered through traffic to the wide busy anonymizing sidewalk across the street there beside the lush garden park and short stone colonnade wall is one man saying to another that the fish has no knowledge of the water, none whatsoever.

If they only knew, I thought, shaking my head, and walked on, thinking I did, emboldened by this newfound semblance of freedom, imagining who’d drown first.

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fiction

Skinny Girl

Silently crying on the morning train she was, all arms and legs and despair half-heaped and sliding like a pile of melting Dalí clocks over the blue vinyl seat-back beside her and I thought she might finally pour off onto the floor in a puddle of person if not for that crooked arm all crooked for cupping her buried face, crooked and hooked and holding her in place, I saw, snagged as if on a broken branch like the one that cut the inside of my thigh when I was seven, it seemed, and I wondered if I should do the thing and go unhook her.

It was just us we two, me and she perched up above on high on inward-facing foldouts on the car’s second level, windows at our backs, the always-empty aluminum luggage rack overhanging the first-level aisle in front like some kind of gang plank running from the front end of the car to the back, complete and perfect strangers separated by unknown degrees and about four empty seats.

I watched her without watching; lingering peripheral scans and a few quick eye darts enough to catch piecemeal sights of her face once it had risen from its hiding hanging place upon hearing the conductor rapping, gently rapping, rapping on the metal bar by her feet with his shiny silver hole-puncher from the floor below, requesting her ticket.

Miss, ticket. Tap tap. Ticket miss. Miss. Ticket please.

She looked at him with liquid eyes from deep underwater and I peered into the pool as best I clandestinely could from my angle and saw hair matted to moist cheeks streaked with eyeliner like two river deltas viewed from airborne heights before she broke the surface and leaned forward to extend a mechanical hand at the end of a mechanical arm to pass the kindly mr. blue-capped conductor fella her paper rectangle ticket just like mine and I thought he should’ve just left her alone this time, should’ve just let her be.

Maybe he thought so too once he saw, because his expression changed slightly just barely for a split of a split second as he reached up to receive the offering. Just for a split, I saw it seemed, before his sedately aloof workdayman-like placidity washed it away and without a word or gesture he resumed his business of minding his own, punching her ticket with three rapid clicks like they were a single motion and handing the maimed marker of mostly guaranteed safe passage back without his eyes landing anywhere near that teary face of hers again, handing it back with the subtle, arm’s length cordiality we learn to show to strangers with the sads, and I wondered where we get it.

She cried quietly, quietly draped, hooked, and sliding, from the moment I noticed her till we got off. Yes, we. Seven stops, and the last the same as mine. Then off the train and half-hurriedly with obstinate resignation into the small crowd of bobbing mannequin heads she went with my eyes a few degrees shy of squarely watching, off into an undulating stream of hair and coats and bags so thick I could hardly tell her from the rest. But I caught glimpses, and down the platform she went till around the back of the train and across the tracks at the crossing and gone and I walked myself along to work like nothing happened but inside my insides were stumbling back and forth between relief and apprehension and I can only imagine what my face said about all that.

*

It wasn’t the first sighting, or the last, just the end of that one. I’d spot her often, almost every day twice and both ways in quiet reverence for the benefits of solitude, from and to the city, morning out and evening back, as a matter of fact. She wasn’t unpretty, as far as people go, but I don’t remember what she looked like, only how she seemed, and how she seemed was not unpretty if I had to put a silly watcher’s word on.

But details… those are another story, one I’m in no position to tell. I surely couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of tall, skinny, crying girls of indeterminate age with light brown hair and colorless coats and bags, and long, almost cartoonish limbs like she’d been pulled and stretched to fit almost any situation and eyes of some other shade of brown or maybe blue or hazel, the kind of girl with a nose and mouth and ears and all that, a being of unreal, deceptively shifting proportions and implicit indistinction whose movements conveyed a middling grace that suggested she could be some things and not others and I often wondered all the things anyone would, like why does she feel familiar. And she was so something that day that it hurt to look at her, and hurt more to look away.

Then I lost her, and here’s the beginning of the twist. Because one day, not long after that tearful morn when I wanted so badly to go sit beside her and quietly absorb the pain my own often in those days un-dry eyes were already soaking up, kind silent dumb companion of the moment, she wasn’t on the train, not in the morning, not in the evening, not at all, as far as my perception could concede. And I didn’t even notice she was gone till that one day became a bushel or a slew or a jumble or whatever a bunch of days become—the day after and the one after that and after that and that and that and after, absences adding up to an almost perfect almost nonexistence held together in frayed scraps of recollection and splintering cross-sections of feeling and I began to wonder what kind of real she’d been in the first place, if that whole crying melting mechanical arm thing had even happened. Or if I had.

And after a while I even forgot to look for her, the alluring mystery of objectified miseries fading into a distant-seeming moment and that moment into a span and that span into just time, plain old time, sights and senses diminished from the hopeless, ditch-dug perpetuity it seemed to be when I finally climbed up the slippery, muddy banks and out, my coiled insides finally unwound and on to bluer skies and greener stretched out open pastures, gleefully naïve in ceasing to think about how we feel and think and act in cycles.

But I never forgot that day of the tears and quiet agony and matted hair and spiritless reach. In thinking about it now, I wonder how much more beguiling she became when she was suffering and I was looking on like watching my very own self suffering too, that true and honest and irrepressible disclosure of person in the midst of a traincar full of regular empty day-blank faces that so utterly seemed not to see, not even to be. And how much clearer, stronger—how emblematic, say—this little big memory came to be once its object was no longer around in the rough-regular outline flesh to impede my ever so impressionable impressions.

I think about it now, today, on the same train, gliding west, and thought runs like this, speeding, slowing, stopping, opening up: An essence not so much hers as ours, hers and mine, very much mine, it seems, I saw, in fact, I think, now, thinking—a still-life living composition of sadness on the morning train, that’s what she was, unbound by time, disentangled and abstracted from me and my own sad days, for once unhidden and picture-perfectly present, not photographed, though, not captured on film or pixel but painted, painted in the thick, soft-textured strokes of another being, being. Bodily-departed and there, comely, delicate she—per the grandiosest corners of my imagination—sitting just out of reach, crumpled in quiet tears, and doused in the merciful gray light of an immemorially cloudy autumn morning blur diffused through big, green-tinted heavy scratched-plastic train windows. Just sadness, another -ness, shining back at me.

And I think about never forgetting how for a while, looking at her there beyond me as the towns rushed by and the stops came and went, I didn’t feel so misplaced, and I loved my sadness like a woman who couldn’t possibly love me back, vaguely distinct and sort of beautiful—for a moment, that is, one drawn out and elevated to beauty by rumination and incomplete forgetfulness, by misplacement and self deep-diving for a long, slow resurface.

That’s what I think, sitting here without thinking, gazing out the window, detached and present, and as I do so the train stops, pauses, opens, people on, people off, closes, starts again, picks up speed, slows, stops, opens, people off, people on, and I look outside and there she is. There she is, standing on the platform alone, same coat, same bag, far as I know, same hair and limbs and expression, same eyes staring straight ahead, apart, straight through the car. She makes no move to board, just stands, waiting for the next train, maybe just waiting. I don’t wonder, though, I only shift my vision to my own faint reflection in the plastic window, the face I see there encircling the figure on the platform and how fitting, mind says, how fitting, all in my head, passing by.

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