poetry, prosetry

To Be All Eye And Eye Alone

I have four windows open around me this morning, a sigh on every side—everything I am is a commingling of question and answer. How to live. Life’s worthiness is a matter of constant consternation. Oh, to see where it might lead, unambiguously.

These would-be pundit people and their long-winded self-flattery through the ostensible virtue of openness, though—everything I am seems at uncertain times to exist on some one-step-removed meta level. How tiresome. But what else is there? Setting out to create something—great—I find myself filling the air with the same species of noise and hoping, selfishly, that some number of those same people and an unknown sum of others will notice all the hyphenations and language-ardor and call it art, for my sake.

One night not long ago I had one of those nighttime darkness world-muted realizations and this one said you’re more into something when you’re half out of it anyway but I was too tired from being so daytime-busy “earning” a paycheck to do anything more than jot it down for later—everything I am says every mistake I’ve made began with a concession. I really should take it down a notch. I’d been reading Moravia’s Boredom, just starting, in fact, with my thumb stuck in the intro after a brief spat of indecision over where to begin, marking the page as though I might jump back out of the text at any moment and spoil it with background and situation, a hovering intermediariness which, to my astonishment, held my attention firm and strong, unburdened by any here-I-am.

 


Originally published on Art & Insolence.

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poetry, prosetry

Remember, Remember

Fireworks over Ally Pally
A child cries, afraid of the noise
We flock to these annual events
Paying £8 for the privilege
Unconsciously celebrating an evil scheme
Finding entertainment in the destruction
Romance in the smell of gunpowder
Joy in the spit of crackling flames
Beauty in the violence in the sky.
Adding to the mix a stabbing, some muggings
A bottle of acid in a stranger’s face.
No such thing as ‘nice’ anymore.
Much to complain about:
Too muddy, too loud, no parking, long queues, overpriced beer.
We feel like we have to ruin everything.
Fun for all the fucked-up family.
“This city has gone to shit,”
“Yes, and we did that to ourselves,”
“All by ourselves!”
Bombs into Aleppo
A child cries, afraid of the noise
Or perhaps the child does not cry at all
So used to the shelling, the sound of terror
That they barely flinch
Actions of a different kind of rebel than ours
Imposed upon them, without having asked
Only ever daring to breathe when the sky was empty
When there was prolonged silence
When their house still stood
When family and friends had pulses
Knowing that celebration is pointless
Because there will soon be a repeat
Knowing that it’s out of their hands
They didn’t ask for this
None of them did
And still they harboured hope in their hearts
And dreamt of living somewhere safe like we do.
(Or should I say, like we once did
Before kids starting killing kids?)

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life, poetry, prosetry

Easy is the slip to nothing

Some have too little love

Like hunger they scrape and search

Pealing the skin from their fingers in want

Looking until emptiness becomes full

For just a glimmer of compassion

The thing marking human

Quick to turn to hate

Like a fickle madness

Or held diving breath

So alive and quickening

A carefully guarded amber flame

Proof of life

For if cold, we are surely dead

Dormant to feeling

Impervious and keening

Easy is the greased slip to nothing

Feelings a weary bead counter

Chanted prayers, wishes forging hope

Touch, warmth, caressing tangible

Not remote

We were not made to stand alone

Though if you set your mind

On climbing chalky cliff side

Be sure there is purpose

For some are made of granite

They release radium

And the unmoving possession of their heart

Is surely worse than never knowing

The hot dulcent murmur

Of poison with purpose

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Going home

Old and new

Play

Like friends who never liked each other

Standing here, I could be there

Laughing, lolling about Route 66

Your hair wax stained cowboy hat on the table

The clink of sweating beer bottles

I always did better striving than living

Being a pretend person, now . . don’t knock it

Has some draw

We laughed out of fear and the fear felt good

Like real life and grabbing things by beaded throat

We roared our mirth like tigers, at the absurdity and the sorrowful

It reminded me of my grandmother’s funeral

My dad and I weeping with hot besmerched giggles

She would have understood, she would have joined in

that Katherine Hepburn smile, and the outline of something sad

That’s just how this family rolls

We laugh when tragedy feels crushing and put reality on hold

A frozen picture on TV, static and unspoken

When the wake is over and everyone has left their condolences

In a nice row

Searching for your people

Coming up empty handed

Just as I thought I couldn’t give more away

You call me out of the blue

A stranger sharing my last name

Funny how life takes and takes

And then it gives

Like a hand on your shoulder

When you’re thinking of jumping

The both of you grew thin

I put on all your weight, inherited the space

Given away by years and wrinkles

You said; Now heed me young lady

You’re standing in for us now

Do a fine job and I saw in the line and curve of your jaw

The man you were, the man you were not anymore

Strangers and bloodlines, all running together

Now you’re both gone

I’m relieved and itchy under the skin with the lie

Pretended so long

I don’t know how to be, whatever I am

We were a tribe the three of us

Now I’m starting over

In my own land again

A stranger

Of familiar, unknown places wearing unreadable clothes

Sharing my bed with regrets and hope

Like nothing and everything has changed

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life, poetry

Thoughts @ 5 p.m.

[Written 12 days after my dad died]

cigarette
window
matches
snap the first one
drop the second
fire
half-moon
sirens
lungs
orange sunset
another sunset without dad
shard to the left
church to the right
college to the right
black smoke coming from the chimney on the college
smoke from the roof
smoke from the cigarette
smoke from the chimney
smoke from the gas chambers
Auschwitz
Sylvia
“Daddy”
Dad?
“Daddy, Daddy you bastard, I’m through”
no
no no no no no
i don’t want to
i don’t want to be through
i want my dad
where’s my dad?
look over towards hospital
the silver shed of the morgue

once upon a time in the 70s:
dad had a job painting a hospital morgue
they stole lots of drugs from the hospital pharmacy
the ex-cons he worked with stole jewellery
straight off the fingers of the frozen bodies

dad in that morgue
dad in this morgue
dad in a morgue
dad?
dad on a slab
dad in a bag
dad in a bag on a slab
tears
dad?
half-moon
tears
fuck this

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Exhaling grief

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

If you made a sound

This is the sound you would make

exhaling grief

Mauve in color

Straining to speak

What do you say?

Sitting at the family table

All my ghosts

In carried repose

And the new

Who replaces you

Has no power to stake

Your claim

On me

Because I am

Watered by indifference and throwaway cruelty

Fed on your critique

It is your bed – I like in to sleep

Integrating nightmares

Your brand of survival

So sore and foreign to mine

If you made a sound

Would it be a crow

Or a blackbird

At night when birds used to sleep

And now

Wary of rasping day

They call out

To their unseen maker

As I suppose

I call out to you

As I suppose

You hear and

Disregard

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life, poetry, prosetry

Broken Mirrors

I’ve broken 4 mirrors this year.
If superstition is to be honoured
I will still be reaping bad luck long after I am dead.
All these broken reflections,
what is the universe trying to tell me?
The obvious: ugly, imperfect, Picassoed girl,
from a broken home, with broken bones,
who breaks bottles and spirits and noses and promises.
But too obvious.

The first humans thought that their reflection
was their actual soul, their other self.
I know that mine is damaged:
I went to a spiritual healing centre
and it was just like an AA meeting, everyone sitting
in a circle, talking quietly and drinking shit coffee,
except when I walked in, everyone stopped talking and stared
like I was Satan in a mini-skirt.
A lady quickly ushered me out, without touching me.
“Oh dear,” she said. “Your aura is dark, a dark, dark mess, a real mess.
You’re in trouble.”
She made me sign a contract,
promising not to release my negative energy
onto anybody else in the building,
not to break anyone else’s spirit,
like my badness was contagious
and could ruin others.
I asked if the others had signed a contract
promising not to break mine.
She laughed and said, “No, dear.
You can’t break something that is already broken.”
I said under my breath, “That’s not strictly true,”
and we walked down a dark corridor and she said,
“Hurry. We have a lot of work to do.”

The Romans believed that it took 7 years for life to renew.
I was disappointed on my 21st birthday when I didn’t feel like a new person.
I don’t believe I’ll see my 28th. I don’t want to.

I read a story once about a girl like me
who was at the end of her metaphorical tether
wishing her neck was choked by an actual tether
when she accidentally broke a mirror
and that was it:
the straw that broke the camel’s back,
the mirror that shattered the girl’s last shard of hope.
She was petrified at the prospect
of 7 more years of badness
so she succumbed to the tether
and hanged herself from the back of the bathroom door,
the shards of her other self, her soul, the mirror, scattered all about.
I can’t remember where I read this story.
Oh, I do remember: I read it after I had written it.

Of the mirrors I’ve smashed this year
I’ve kept the best shard of each,
hoarding them, hiding them
around the flat, my secret accidentally-formed knives.
My favourite one is a menacing hook shape,
long and sharp and fits right in my palm with plenty to spare
so I can make controlled slashes, if I want to,
like if there was an intruder say, I could give him a perfect Chelsea smile
and be pleased with my work.
These secret shards are not my weapon of choice
but it’s nice to know that they’re there
and sometimes I take them out and hold them and stare
into a piece of my soul, a section of my face,
and become anxious (because the image is always one I don’t recognise)
but pretend not to be (because this “reality” tells me that the face is just me).

If I use them for damage, before I hurt myself
I look into my eyes and marvel at how wild and unfamiliar they are
and I can sometimes talk myself out of it, but it’s hard
when I can see that my eyes are, for once, so clear of fear.
It’s like snorting a line off a mirror.
You see yourself with a note up your nose
and look into your own eyes
and say inside, “What the fuck are you doing, girl?”
but then you blink and sniff and do it off a DVD case for the rest of the night
because you don’t want to face your self ever again.

Seeing yourself in that moment before you do something bad:
that’s the real you.
And only you will ever be able to see the real you,
through your own eyes, into your own eyes, with your own eyes.

I went to buy a new mirror.
At the counter I asked the guy,
“Would you mind just opening the box for me and checking that it’s not broken, please?”
“Sure,” he said, struggling to open the taped edge with his bitten nails.
“Thanks, I appreciate that. Imagine if I got home and it was broken, hahaha,” I laughed,
painfully, because I’m British.
“Yeah, imagine! Hahaha,” he laughed, because it’s his job.
“That would be just my luck,” I said.
“Yeah, the start of your 7 years of bad luck!”
My face must have changed because his did too.
“Look, it’s not broken,” he said, marking the perfect surface with his greasy fingertips.
“Amazing, thank you so much,” I said, wishing I could swap it for an unmarked one, but it was too late and that would be too awkward and I was already sick of this man and his fingers and he hadn’t even touched me.
I told him to save the trees and not print a receipt.
I walked home and took the mirror out of the box.
It was cracked. The 5th broken mirror of 2018.

And thus began my 35 years of bad luck.
I shan’t complete 7 on this earth,
and don’t intend on bringing the outstanding with me,
but it would be just my luck if it transpires that even the dead can be unlucky.

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