fiction

THE KNIGHT PERHAPS

chris r-1-56 Illustration by Christine Renney

Cocooned in my parka, head down, I walk. I keep to the edges of the pavement and I follow the cracks between the slabs and in this way I cover my patch. I tug at my hood just to be sure; a habit I can’t, or won’t, break, and I scan the ground at my feet. When I spot a cigarette butt, a good one, I reach down and snatch it and place it in my pocket along with the others.
I must appear erratic, resemble a chess piece, the rook, or the knight perhaps, my movements awkward and jerky. Any progress I make is difficult to determine as I trek the board, seeming to endlessly fail at making my way across.
But I don’t raise my head and I don’t know if anyone is watching. I suspect that when I am noticed it is fleetingly and that they steer clear. I am just somebody scuffling, a scavenger.
There are plenty of cigarette butts but I only collect the good ones. The best are those that have been pinched or stubbed out before being dropped and not stamped upon. But I’ll take any that might still contain a little tobacco rather than just dry dust and ash. And I have become adept at spotting these and I know when to reach down and which ones to gather. Throughout the day I fill my pockets and when they are full I leave, I abandon the board.
I never stray far from the Centre now and I settle behind the bins at the back of Pound Saver. I empty my pockets and set to work, rubbing with my thumb and forefinger I remove the burnt tips. Stripping the paper away, I pull out all the good tobacco and without wasting a single stringy strand I drop it, one pinch at a time, into the tin. When it is full and the tobacco is tightly packed, as I roll the first cigarette, just fleetingly I am content.

Advertisements
Standard
prosetry

The Immaculate Depression

The girl often wondered where it had come from. Why was her life so much darker than yours? than his? than hers? than most? She grew up too quickly: she knew that for certain. The girl had seen more pain and experienced more suffering in her short life than, it seemed, others would expect to bear in their entire lifetimes.

She wondered if she was being punished – for a sin committed in a past life, because she did not sin in her current life. She asked God for answers and was met with silence. Books did the opposite: they shouted a thousand possible answers at her.

Perhaps she was born with a broken brain. Perhaps society made her that way. Perhaps she was gifted bad genes from her parents. Perhaps she had invented the pain, invited the darkness.

Perhaps if she had been born a boy, she wouldn’t feel everything so very much; perhaps she would have learned to compartmentalise, to care less, to worry less, to feel less, to just get on with it. Perhaps she would grow out of it. Perhaps she was just a “normal, hormonal, moody teenager.”

Maybe the moon was to blame for her mercuriality. Maybe she was like this because she was poor. Maybe it was because of the school she went to. Maybe it was because her parents didn’t love each other. Maybe she had hit her head when she was small. Maybe she had drunk poisoned breast-milk. Maybe she didn’t eat enough vegetables.

Perhaps she was cursed. Perhaps she needed Jesus, or an exorcism, or a month in the Siberian wilderness, or to join the army. Perhaps she needed someone to shake her, slap her across the face and shout, “STOP IT.”

Maybe there was nobody else on the planet like her; maybe she fit into no category; maybe there was no textbook written about her and there never would be, for she would die before being discovered. Maybe she had been born in the wrong generation. Maybe she was on the wrong medication. Maybe she was simply not made for this world. Maybe maybe maybe.

The doctors didn’t know. They just shrugged and gave her green sheets of paper on which were printed the names of medicines containing x’s and z’s and numbers like 375 and 2.5 and 600 and 40 and 3 times a day. The specialists, the experts, the professors: they did brain scans and shined lights in her eyes and interviewed and assessed and pretended to listen and made notes and watched her do jigsaw puzzles and analyse inkblots and build towers out of wooden bricks and studied her through a two-way mirror and locked her in a padded room and, once they realised that the girl was smarter than they were, they gave vague explanations but no real answers, and disappeared off the case.

Why was she like this? How? What happened? She needed to know.

*

When the girl had survived adolescence and school and the moon and the curse and the whole business of being a girl, she became a young woman. She read more books and met more experts and became even more uncertain about the life that she had been forced to live.

Her father was the same but different. He had a black cloud too, but he dealt with it differently. He dealt with it well, not badly like she did. Perhaps it’s because he was born a boy. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

One afternoon the young woman was making her father a cup of tea. While she was waiting for the kettle to boil, she stared at the spice rack and thought about her Immaculate Depression. She couldn’t remember an angel ever turning up in her room and bestowing this life-changing thing upon her. Like Mary, no one had asked for her permission. There was no contract signed. No terms, no conditions. It was just put on her. But not by an angel. No, she would’ve remembered meeting an angel. It must have been a devil.

Perhaps when she was a baby, a devil had swept into her room and watched her sleeping in the fruit bowl (no crib) and said, “Here! A gift for you. The Immaculate Depression. To be experienced for the rest of your life. With compliments, from Hell,” and thus she was resigned to spending the rest of her life feeling everything too much, perpetually on the brink of tears and obsessed with damage, destruction and death. Yes, that had to be it: it was an explanation just as likely as all the others that she had been offered in all her years of searching.

The young woman was distracted thinking about this. She was stirring and stirring and stirring the tea in the mug, around and around. She added milk and then realised that the teabag had split. Its contents spun around the cup, like an upturned snowglobe but inverted: black grit twisting amid a blizzard. She had stirred too much. She burst into tears. She felt too much.

Her father asked the young woman what was wrong. She sobbed, “Dad, why am I like this?” He threw the ruined tea into the sink and hugged her. “Was I always like this?” she asked, talking into the shoulder of his old denim shirt. “Was I sad as a baby, as a little girl? Did you know I was always going to be this sad?”

The young woman and her father sat down on the dusty pleather sofa.

“I knew,” he said. She was too stunned, feeling too many feelings, to say anything. He told her a story.

*

When the young woman was a little girl, barely 4 years of age, she left her bed in the middle of the night and went down the dark staircase to find her father. She had tears streaming down her face but she was not crying. She was holding a tiny clenched fist up to her chest.

“Daddy?”
“Hey, what are you doing out of bed?! It’s way past your bedtime,” he said, scooping her up.
“It hurts.”
“What hurts, darling?”
“My heart, in here,” she said, pounding her sternum.
“How does it hurt?”
“It’s too loud. I don’t want it.”
“But everyone has to have a heart, darling, it’s very important.”
“But it’s too loud. It moves too much. It moves all the time! I want to take it out.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Please can I have it taken out, Daddy, please? I don’t want it. I don’t like it.”
“You have to keep it, darling, you need it. Everyone needs a heart.”
“I don’t want it. Please, take it out. Please please please,” the girl begged, clawing at her chest, trying to rip her heart out.

The girl cried for a long, long time until she was all cried out. Her father carried her up the dark stairs and tucked her into her bed. Then he cried, quietly, barely: he rarely cried but the tears were there. He cried because he knew. The Immaculate Depression had befallen her when he’d had his back turned, when he wasn’t looking, when he was asleep. He cried because he knew that she would always feel everything too much. He wrote in his notebook that night, “Must teach daughter (when she’s old enough) that it’s better to feel everything too much than to feel nothing at all.”

*

He found that old notebook a few days after the tea-stirring incident, tore the page out and posted it to his daughter, along with another note:

To the girl with the biggest, loudest heart,
To the teenager who was too special, too smart,
To the young woman who must turn her gift of feeling into art.

Standard
life, poetry, prosetry

Morning after

A few years ago I used to get off on

drinking from the bottle

torn fish nets

bar flies who told me

little baby you look so young

then the apocalypse came

we ran out of liquor

bare legs grew chaffed

I felt every year

sometimes it takes a storm

to see through your own bullshit

and coming out the other side

look around for those who

held on

attracted to a pinch of sleeze

nothing too clean

if you couldn’t understand me

what was the point?

I’d rather you had lines around your eyes

showing trace of unbearable moments

than a smooth face

acknowledgement of our plunge into pain and its returned baptism

I’d rather a portion of sickness in your blood

than clean without trace

we smoked ourselves until we were ash

stayed up all night breaking beds with rocking pelvises

my nipples the color of damson wine and indigo bites

you hurt me in ways holding rapture of delight

your tattoos stung my eyes with the fierceness of needles

pushed too deep

don’t hold me to promises I can’t keep

you whisper in your sleep

and I was told I’d die at 50 once

so time is ticking down

Fat Tuesday for the sober

a turquoise kitchen clock

in some distant home

where people make their beds and leave their

dirt beneath the surface

Standard
art, fiction, life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Pure & broken

Emily-DiDonato-Nude-Narcisse-Magazine-Spring-Summer-2017-Cover-Editorial03Lie in bed

Child

Lest what stands beyond threshold

Threatens calm

Waking to the sound of winter silence

Clutching at inanimate objects

The seen friends who do not reply

Delve deeper into the mind

Where disturbance is held away

By merciful imagination

How long can a child

Pretend

And make-believe?

The sounds of fighting through the walls

Even the deaf hear

The crack in plaster grows wider

Each day carpet higher

Till jungle swallows child

Alone

Her own words ingrowing

Dance when no one is looking

For nobody did

Turned faces absentees

Hunger for attention

At first an annoying shame-faced thing

Then the end of longing

Acceptance

You placed me in a room of my own and said

Thrive

I did not

Instead

Half of me turned into plaster and chipboard and carpet fibers

And half climbed out windows and got lost

Letting her feathers be plucked early

By stranger fondling hands and false words

Prophet’s without prophecy

Girls born without reason

Growing in one ache

The silence their lover and their torment

Sliced in half

One, a creature straining to survive herself

One the albatross of finely dressed humans

Absenting themselves from responsibility

She says

You damned me

You shut me up

You expected me to thrive and grow in darkness and coal

As you closed the door and said entertain yourself

She switched the camera on and let them come one by one

Watch her fall beneath the lights

Mayhap dancer, mayhap pornographer

No words escape her

She moves her pain

Above you like light streaming down

Pure and broken into prisms

Standard
life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Wordless & Spoken

1516979922624549-Helmut-newton-8

I looked for you

as my eyes squinted into fog

I saw your luminescence

a beacon lighting way forward

unwittingly becoming life raft

I tried not to cling to the wreckage

but swim deeply through water unafraid

did it matter what direction or where

I would end up?

without you there is a drowned map of the world

made of hide and slick with oil

if you look carefully you can see the outline

of where you drew your location

like a red circle with closed eyes I can

feel the pulse

drawing us ever closer and ever apart

a wave upon wave in an ocean of sadness

there was a time when I believed

we were separated only by

our will

and if we so desired

nothing could really keep us separate

a chain of silver running through water

linking us irrevocably

it helped to feel less alone with you at the end of myself

as if we were bound and raffiaed like Viennese masks

waiting for wearing to bring them alive

you possessed the key to my firmament

you lit beneath my intransigence a fire

through your eyes I was alive

my skin burning for your touch

driving fast down empty roads

your fingers playing splendor beneath my skirts

the bruise of hours

ellipsing sense

you my patchouli girl

rendering me senseless with your unexpected strength

painting our together with shades of unfolding passion

as if we were Bedouin and all we have is the tent of us and our journey

deeper into the delta of the other

where secret streams convey a woman’s urge

wordless and spoken

lying beneath the way to heaven

Standard
Uncategorized

On the chapped lips of lovers

Somewhere

Forgotten over time

A place that hurt

So terribly an ache

Felt like a fresh burn

Has been badly covered over

With paving stones uneven

Moss and lichen veiling crime

If someone deserning of pain

Saw

They’d immediately recognize

A broken, disturbed surface

Jagged and ill repaired

Lake without mirror

Time, a sad blessing

Where grief is concerned

What you thought you’d never recover from

Cut like totem in marrow’s deep

Doesn’t cease to be devastating

You simply forget the intensity

In order to not fall dead

The lessening is like laying a road, or putting up wallpaper

Layers and layers

You think it’s insulation

In many ways it works

Til something unexpected

Reminds you of how you really are

Behind all those layers

In all those crocheted boxes

Stored in denials, fickle womb

That pain you thought, softened

Is as strong as the day you first felt it

Love

Does not

Just whither up

And die

It twists blade upward

Unwilling, yet deftly

Cannibalizing those morsels

You thought most delicious

Til they become tormentor

Even licking fire, preferable

Than one minute more

The scathing and seal

Of pacts

Made in silent war

Where nothing is said

Hate and love, inside out versions

Of the same, mad drum

Beating relentless

Till one falls, one stays standing

Panting in flickering light

Of damage, desult and sate

On the chapped lips of lovers

Wicked in their apportioned

Vengeance

Standard