fiction

SCUM*

They are cooking a roast dinner. She is rifling through the drawers, searching for her favourite knife, and he is behind her, smashing some meat with a mallet.

“Carrot,” she says, to no one in particular.
“What?” he shouts over the thuds of hammer on flesh.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking aloud,”
“About what?”
“About these carrots,”

He stops.

“What about them?”

She has been good today. No outbursts, no tears, no troubling comments, no injuries, no nastiness. She has washed her hair, and brushed it. She has been writing a lot. She has had a glass of wine. Hopeful of her good mood, he anticipates an observation about the carrots’ phallic nature; perhaps even a dick-size joke, a cheeky comparison, the carrots being tiny, himself being too big.

“Carrot,” she says again, picking one out of the bag and inspecting it.
“Yeah?”
“Carr-ot.”
“Why are you pronouncing it weird?”
“Car-rot.”
“Is that how they say it in France?”
Ca-rrot.”
“Why are you saying it like that?”

He stares blankly at the back of her head, mallet in hand.

As she turns to face him, her knife catches the light.

“Carrot,” she says, slowly, “sounds like a blend of ‘garrote’ and ‘carotid.’”

Potential For Violence enters the room and stands between them. The three of them share a long, tense twenty-seconds together in the tiny kitchen.

“Oh gosh,” she says, suddenly, “I think I’ve been watching too many true crime documentaries lately!”

She laughs, eyes down, embarrassed. She replaces the knife with a glass of wine and sips with a wide smile.

“Yep!” he says, relieved, remembering why he loves her, “sounds like you’re right, babe,” he quietly places the mallet down on the counter, “so let’s watch some comedy on the box tonight then, shall we?”

Potential For Violence leaves the room as quickly as he arrived.

“Sure,” she replies cheerfully, and goes back to skinning the bright orange cocks.


*Society for Cutting Up Men

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poetry, prosetry

Not A Mother

“You can’t say anything It’s not your problem Don’t get involved”

Sometimes I want to knock on your door
and grab you by the shoulders and shake you
and look into your eyes and say:

Listen to me I know it’s hard I know you’re tired but you’re doing it wrong

I’m not allowed to because I am not a mother

I can only watch (silently) and worry (secretly)
and I do every day because although it’s none of my business
although I’m not a parent although I shouldn’t care at all
although the crying always stops eventually
I was a child once

“You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors”
“Well, I do I can hear it Through the walls All day long”

And I wish someone had shaken my mother and told her
warned her of the type of future
that she was forging for her daughter
through her maternal ambivalence:

a future fraught with fear fear fear so much fucking fear
a future of pain and anxiety and confusion and doubt and misery and rejection
a future in which her daughter decides so adamantly so young
that she will never ever become a mother:

a future promising no future at all
promising nothing but fear

“Who are you to question someone’s parenting?”
“You’re right I’ve got no right I’m not a mother and I never will be”

I can only smile and wave and worry and pray that one day
your kid finds the tools from somewhere
learns the skills from someone
to nurture her own future
to forge her own way

“You can’t say anything”
“But—”

“Promise me Promise me that you won’t get involved?”
“Fine”

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life, prosetry

Hard To Explain

I called him to say that I was just about to leave home, but that I needed to buy some smokes first and then I would meet him outside the £1 pizza shop in fifteen minutes, that I’m putting pineapple on my half of the pizza and that I didn’t give a shit about his fruit-can’t-be-a-topping argument because tomato.

I texted him to say that I wasn’t feeling too clever, that I really wasn’t feeling good at all, that I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t walk anymore, I couldn’t walk anywhere anymore, that I needed to sit down, that I wasn’t on this planet, that I wasn’t in my body, that I wasn’t anywhere, that I was nowhere.

He found me lying on the floor underneath the bus stop bench. He put his face parallel to mine on the ground. He said my name over and over and over again, each name feeling like a piece of gravel falling on me, all these little stones with my name on them crashing all about us, raining grains of grit, not hurting much but still hurting a little bit. He was there and I was there, and we were here but I’m not sure where.

My outer body was convulsing violently, my hair, my teeth, my nails, shaking, but inside I was still, I was dead still, but he couldn’t see that, he could only see that I was shaking worse than usual and that my eyes were full of cloudy tears and then we both heard my voice crack as I whispered, “I don’t know where I am.”

I was terrified but he was terrified-er. He scooped me up and carried me to his car, wherever it was, wherever we were, whoever we were. I remember that he put my seatbelt on for me and I told him not to bother: I think I said it out loud but it may have been a whisper and it may have never left my mouth. He double-checked it was secure and locked the doors. He said, “It’s my job to keep you safe.” I remember driving down roads I’d never seen before while tears fell without me moving, without me asking them to. I remember that I couldn’t move my legs, that I had set concrete in my veins instead of blood, that my shoes were anchors. I remember that I couldn’t speak, but that was fine because I didn’t know any words.

Some hours later I realised that I was at his house, tucked up on the sofa in my usual corner, wearing his big comfy clothes, with Only Fools and Horses on telly and a pint of water and my meds next to me. He was cooking Sunday dinner. I could hear him stirring gravy in the glass jug.

I dragged myself to the kitchen and stood in the doorway. He was startled when he turned around and saw me there. I quietly asked him what had happened. He said he didn’t know. I started to panic. We sat down and he told me:

that I was supposed to meet him at the £1 pizza place, that I didn’t show up, that I sent him weird texts about feeling unwell, that I wasn’t answering my phone, that he went to the shop where I buy my fags and Bossman told him that I was there earlier but that I looked drunk and that I walked down the road,

that he walked around the area looking for me, found me at the bus stop, the bus stop by my house, by Bossman’s shop, by my secondary school, by the station,

that I was really frightened because I didn’t know where I was or who I was or what was happening, that I was screaming into my wrists and couldn’t move, that it took 15 minutes for himself, two passersby and an off-duty nurse to get me to trust him enough to let him grab me from under the bench and pick me up,

that the girl under the bus stop bench wasn’t me, that it was someone else entirely, that I was like an orphaned child waking up alone in a foreign land, like a ghost of an infant, that my eyes were dead and didn’t recognise his face at all, that I didn’t seem to understand how people were existing around me, that I didn’t understand how I was existing, that I had no idea where I was,

that it was as if I was seeing for the first time the area that I walk through multiple times a day and have known like the back of my hand for 20 years, that I was scared of the buses and the people and the cars and the air and the pavement and the sounds and my heartbeat and my skin and my voice,

that he’d never seen anything like it in his entire life, that he thought I’d taken a meth overdose, that he thought I’d been smoking crack, that he thought I was possessed, that he thought I was going to die, that he thought I might kill someone, that he thought I might kill him,

that he thought he should phone an ambulance but he knew that being in hospital would terrify me more and make me even worse, that he will never forget the state he’d found me in, and that he’s quite frankly terrified of me but would do anything to get me to return to being the girl that he knows and loves.

I didn’t remember a single thing, apart from a minute in a car. I didn’t know what was real or right or wrong or true. I just didn’t know.

He said, “Look,” and pulled my sleeves up. Bloody great bite marks on my wrists, the back of my right hand, my forearms. All red and purple and violent and frantic, punctures in my flesh where my teeth fit.

I looked up at him and his eyes were soft and safe, like golden syrup. I knew then that I would always be able to find a safe place in the irides of his eyes.

“I’m scared of me too,” I said.

He hugged me, being careful not to hurt me, and then mumbled into my hair, “Do you want one Yorkshire pudding or two?” and I laughed and cried into his chest, unable and unwilling to make sense of anything in that moment, other than that one question.

“One and a half, please,” I said.


Original version of ‘Hard To Explain’ posted on 13/07/17 at The Magic Black Book. Revised version above for Hijacked Amygdala.

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prosetry

And We Return To The Earlier Discord

When was the last time I just watched rain fall without feeling the need to be understood on others’ terms? In youth I learned to notice and, like you, I learned silence from the talkative, flipping back and forth between metaphors and delusion leaving snowdrifts of sawdust in my head because nothing is traceless. Nothing is traceless—I say it twice for double meaning, leaving less to the imagination, sickened as I am by our constant struggles over goodness, as ridiculous as the time I traipsed through NYC in flip-flops feeling perfectly alien and all in.

Not wishing ill but feeling it, Styron feared feeding the evil person within and therefore starved himself by swallowing his perceived failures and eschewing the sustenance of his success at touching people, for better or worse. There’s such a thing as writing to prove your sanity, I confess. I was the one who killed them, he and she, the two of us, perhaps, but it was only a dream and in the dream I stood hesitating in a small room of a three-steps-down-from-the-street garden flat with my finger on the trigger of a gun that belonged to someone, a gun which had just a moment before put a bullet in her. I pointed the gun at him as if to say here please take this before there is no going back to prove anything, counterfactualizing the past before it happened and that loathsome duality was rendered single, killing me.

We left the bodies in the bathtub and I left by the back door, plunging into the dark, blue-green water of the small harbor there, alone. Submerged, I opened my eyes to navigate the subaqueous opacity, white boat hulls floating above, a forest of black dock pilings all around, and green seaweed rising from below slowing the going as I swam through the underwater labyrinth of my final moments of freedom without coming up for air or needing to. Now, I wondered with resigned disillusion, how to negotiate the terms of my latest armistice: wonderment, fear, and awe, all in the same held breath—that’s the future, gray, my second favorite color, though more so from familiarity than appeal. Gray is cover and blend, possibility and lack, the native hue of indecision and liberation. Give me blue or absence, all in or all out, I thought, kicking my foot flippers to keep from sinking deeper into darkness and pulling myself forward with cupped hands, anything but this in between, clutching both and going nowhere, on the run from the ghosts of us.

This, here beneath, is both my refuge and my pulpit, where I float and drift through embryonic muteness, where my voice bubbles and rises to the surface, giving me away, a blessing and a curse. Soon, my body will follow, ill-made as it is for such environs, and I will rise while there’s still time, still time, time still to believe in the strange virtues of freedom and evasion within the context of an undetermined certainty that our days are toe-tagged and body-bagged and on those tags are the names of our teachers and the volume of our ingratitude, right down to the last gasp of asking why we can’t stay.

It’s windy tonight, and fateful. The trees sound glad. If they were more consistent, they’d sound like the sea, I think, and I feel it: be happy, choose to be, choose rare, true, and free.

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poetry, prosetry

Pinned Like A Note On A Hospital Gown

Wednesday at 8pm on the back of a plain white business card, the address below. 4256 N Ravenswood, the ominous Brothers Grimm-ness of which is not lost on me though any sense of numerology very much quite most certainly is.

That’s today’s first certainly is, and it’s after 7:00. The next two are that the street is split by train tracks, and it’s the west side I want, southbound, quite certainly, because south is down and west is away from my shadow. Dial intercom 242. 2-4-2 on the intercom upon arrival, that is, more properly. Meet 3rd floor, less so.

Well at this rate I’ll be there by 7:50 and the sun will still be up over this the great shared world and isn’t it just beautiful and don’t you just want to smile? You better, because each and every single last fucking one of us is hurled nightly into a sleeping world all our own though I bet you didn’t know I just stole from S. Ocampo to say it so who’s to say whose is whose.

In transit, I consider language and liberation, considering that language may in fact be liberation and yet all I can seem to think to scribble are stories of how we’re living and obscure directions to other destinations.

That’s the problem with seeming to think. Better to just go on and do it, and leave all that seeming to the wanting, particularly the wanting each and every thing to be the thing, because we only get one shot before the next transmogrification.

So, taking mine, I push the envelope into another envelope and insist this time I will be delivered, now that I know the address. The sun has been fierce today and I wipe the fear from my brow with a no less fearful forearm, an act which merely smears the beads into streaks of misfortune.

How absurd it is to try so hard to be so tame when every single very last pore pronounces total freedom.

Standard
life, poetry, prosetry

The hands of the lost

Sometimes

You pick the sinking ship

Recognizing within

Carousel parts of

Your own visit on earth

There is much wrong

In repeating mistakes or

Returning to well worn habit

When outcomes have proven they are

Dead roads and broken boats

It is not that you are

A martyr

Or even a fool

You do not wish

To bring yourself lower

But if you imagine life

As a well worn stoop

And whom you should feel

Most comfortable sitting there with

Then you will fathom

The type who finds themselves

Supporting the broken-down and

The fractured

For the sheer honesty of their response

And that well earned familiar

That you have known over and over

In the apologetic eyes of your own

And that trembling hand teaching through time

Asking you to

Be patient with my mistakes

There is something

Comforting and real

In a flaw

When all the city lights try to attain pearly perfection

Something you’ve never related to

Another language for

Early risers without grime stains behind their ears

The kinds who are punctual and routine

And do not make shoddy excuses for

Why they cannot lift the weight of the world

From their shoulders

People who may

Go on to take office whilst you seek

To survive and advance by understanding

What keeps the world turning

Which

Can be discovered

In equal amount

From the hands of the lost

As those who are found

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poetry

Flow

Esmeralda, how much of what we do is out of fear of humiliation?
I fill people up with my secrets like little pools and walk away
when I can no longer stand to see what they reflect.

All I ever wanted was to make it out of Texas out of that dream
like Texas vast and hopeless where I dropped my last two pills
in a sink full of dirty dishes and couldn’t fish them out.

Make it to the land of sea and sand and sunshine, to paradise,
where you dance like in the stories. So I can remember my name
and all the nights from all my past lives will have been worth it.


Originally published on my personal blog, Art & Insolence, back in May. Sorry to be a self-recycler (again) but I don’t have any new bits done today and I like this one.

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