prosetry

Soup

I had spent the week in the same way, lying in bed, flat on my back, arms straight by my sides, staring out of the window, watching the ash trees slow-dancing and the gangs of birds loitering with intent and the city skyline lurching woozily in the heat, listening to the rattle of spray cans from the garage downstairs and the mistakes made by the bell-ringers during their weekly practise peal.

On the third day, West London was on fire and the smoke was rolling in vertical waves: I didn’t think it would ever cease. And still, I lay in bed, useless, like a wildly unconvincing Frida impersonator, spitting words about inside my head, words that have already been said, already been read, counting magpies and missing dragonflies, thinking of names for the children that I’ll never have, tearing the skin around my fingernails, peeling ’til they’re bleeding, and waiting, just waiting.

In the mornings I lay waiting for nightfall. In the evenings I lay waiting for the sun. I lay waiting for sleep, for help, for silence, for affirmation, for you, for life, for a sign, for God, for answers, for revolution, for the tide to turn, for Godot, for death, for change, for justice, for love, for me, for reprieve, for miracles, for time, for everything, for anything, for nothing in particular.

Five days into my self-imposed bed rest, he phoned me up to talk about nothing in particular. He checked if I was still alive. I said that I was, that I am. I heard him smile down the phone but could not mirror the sentiment.

He told me about his brother receiving a big compo cheque for his motorbike crash. He asked me if I wanted to go to Dublin with him for a few days next month and I said “I’d love to but don’t think I could manage it.” He said that he’d picked up his neighbour’s cat off their garden wall and taken it indoors with him because it was a nice cat and he wanted to hang out with it for a while, but he wasn’t sure if that was called “kidnapping” or “catnapping” and what did I think? I said “borrowing.” He invited me to a party on Sunday night, I said, “Absolutely not.”

He told me about how Islington Council are chasing him for library fines. He said he’s lost the book somewhere in his house before he’s even read it, and that the overdue charges fine is now so huge that he could’ve bought the book brand new four times over and still have enough money left over for a bag of chips.

I asked what book it was and he said, “It was Book 5 of My Struggle, I can’t even remember what it’s fucking called.” He asked me what I was reading and I said Fireworks – short stories are easier for my broken brain to comprehend. Then he said, “I’m coming round to your place soon, I need you to I Ching me,” to which I replied, “Ooh, kinky.” He reminded me to eat and to pay my rent and to stay alive.

One day before Bed Rest I had made a huge vat of my special tramadol, tequila and tomato soup. It means that when I’m tired of being conscious I can drink some and quickly go to sleep for a few hours: when it’s cold it’s just a More Bloody Mary but is equally knockout. If I could sell this soup at the Farmer’s Market I would be a millionaire. The Grenfell death toll was creeping up and I was ready to go back to unconsciousness.

As I was crawling along the floor from my bed to the kitchen I spotted it in one of the stacks of books that line every wall of my flat. “Some Rain Must Fall: My Struggle Book 5 by Karl Ove Knausgaard.” I only ever bought Books 1 + 2. I grabbed it and opened it. Sure enough, inside there was a stamp from Islington Central Library and a few sticky barcodes on the back.

“Fuck,” I thought. “That man will do anything to get me out of bed.”

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Uncategorized

Pearl

When I think of all the hours I stared

at the carvings of a wardrobe making faces in dusk

or listened intently to the sound of monsters unfurling

beyond my bedroom window

and the dust settling on objects belonging to me

sleeping away another day

the sense of time passing

and what we own versus what we only purchase

for this short journey

a pearl within shell

fleeting like a play where all characters

are insubstantial and hardly formed

like voices calling from a great distance

with fog separating their meaning

what do we know of another’s journey

or the grief they store within their silence

what of the godless and their cleave

to make terms with empty skies and

when you lay your head on my lap

in my dark room with no windows

and you whisper all the swallowed hurt

you folded and re-folded within your heart

I cannot say I know where to place such pain

it lingers

like the ghosts of my childhood

and the specters I created

tapping at window panes

snarling beneath the bed

they are only kept at bay by our reason

and I have less and less

but you

you demand notice as the crying child will urge

even weary mothers to unclothe their milk

and my chest burns for wanting to soothe

but nothing comes

not succor

not words

for who can say

it will be all right

when outside the world hefts its mighty sword

and hacks down with seeming impunity

those tender links we make

during our dusty walk

it feels sometimes as if we ought

to cease to observe

and become feral once more

only responding to the urge within us

to outsprint our demise

who wants to witness, to consciously realize

as they diminish toward frailty

and what can the child who has no child

say to her loved ones when they

clamor for her wisdom?

this reversal of roles sits like new flowers

drinking in early sun

knowing less of themselves than the past

I feel my grandmother’s hand

she is somewhere in the light

just a step beyond where I can follow

she tells me to be brave and strong

hold on child, the waves will be high

and you must find purchase

it is the break of my sandals on boulders

the scrabble of my fingers climbing wetly

all the chains of our fears

biting our attempt to defeat

it is harder to do this as you reach

the summit of yourself

where looking out at a drowning world

there are days you wish

not to understand what it is to love

or the pain this will bequeath

when those dear pass beyond

your reach

I can only strike out

one sure step, one uncertain

leaving footprints for myself

in virgin sand

there is no forward, no return

only a circle within a circle

ancestors on one cusp

perhaps a forest between us

for it is not just the heart

but the sound of birds coming home

and the boon of life as it bursts

anew with each day

we cast our nets deep

we gather our grief

and set sail our hope

for one more

one more moment

kept safe against

the crystal wall of waves

sure as day will close

they gather

like women beneath

the moon glow

opalescent

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poetry

Mugshot

Babes,
I think that,
from now on,
whenever I get so sad
that you don’t know what to do
with me you should
gently
remind me
of the fact
that in my police mugshot
I have bright green hair
and the specific type of smirk
that may only be worn by those
who are entirely fearless.
Remind me
of the existence of that mugshot:
the hilarity of the image itself,
the absurdity of the surrounding events,
the possibility of seeing it printed in the newspapers
and the memory of a time when I was free
will always cheer me up
(or at least distract me
for a moment
while you hide all the knives
and pour tranqs into my cup).

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prosetry

Fall In Two

Ah, what good does it do. Could mine meaning from every last phrase but sometimes it just fills space.

I told you that and you said you like the way(s) I talk and I heard the parentheses. We sat on the big brass bed in the old white house on the hill where so many of my dreams seem set, recurring stage, varying scenes, and I talked about kissing you and you moved closer on instinct, still sitting up, us both.

The comforter was pillowy and soft and I thought the same of your lips, knew it, didn’t that time say so though. I said instead something annoyingly poetic about the inability to imagine a room you weren’t the center of, hazily depersonalized as if it were some first principle, still thinking about a couple somethings you’d recited earlier, memories and a dream, and I forgot the order and quantities and wondered like I usually do what the difference was, is, and what it makes.

But all I said was even the rooms you’re not in revolve around you, your beautiful energy. It sounded almost too good, the feeling almost too easy, too clear, too shallow, too too true, almost, the echo of my own words in my head making me cringe conscious self and I turned it around to get it out—energy, beautiful—and said so and you said “sometimes the truth’s like that” and I started to tell you the whole of it, soft and low.

*

So, we’d been standing at a red light corner in the daytime, I said, another scene, a brand new different setting seen, new city, it was, not ours but could easily one day home become. Who knows about these things. Skies grayish like a storm coming or just past or both and we were of course in between laughing about the story you heard about the former navy man from Florida who was found unconscious in an LA motel room and only spoke Swedish and called himself Johan Ek when he woke up, which I heard as Johann Eck and said that’s some funny ridiculous impossible shit and that made it feel a little more like it. Home, I mean, like home.

The light changed and we crossed the street on a slight decline, short caterpillar string train of stopped cars to our right, cab at the lead with its blinker on in that dim broad daylight, rows of silent empty vessels parked down each side like bowling lane gutter bumpers from where we were doing our us thing hand-in-hand, down each side to vanishing like the sea was out there and I for no apparent reason said from time to time I defect from time and this is the result and you looked at me like it meant something which made me feel good because I wasn’t sure it did, just that it came from somewhere and had been floating around my head for a while. It came from somewhere and a “from somewhere” always to me meant a thing must not be nothing so I’d developed a penchant for bugging people about sources and origins and preceding thoughts and you were the only one who ever really went along, really and truly wondered and knew because you did too.

Midstreet I told you I can’t be anywhere when I’m with you because being with you is everywhere at once and you stopped walking and turned me to you in some unfelt gesture about three paces past mid and I could feel the cabby’s dead eyes on us from behind his bowling ball’s steering wheel, staring down the spare, could hear his blinker out of the corner of my eye and then I came to, came back, went away, woke up, however you’d call it, before I could find out if we’d get knocked down and swept away, drearily mad at my alarm or consciousness or daylight or whatever I could think to blame for the abrupt cessation.

That’s where I started and truly could’ve stayed, where I picked our big brass bed talk up, with that chopped off cliffhanger, telling you about waking up from the sleep that brought it all, still caught on and trying to prattle us away from that dream of yours you’d recounted about seven minutes before, give or take, the one where you came to stay with me and found another woman there as though she were your rival and in the dream I ignored you and kissed her goodbye in front of you (that time I heard the punctuation) as if that was just a regular thing to do and she was skinny and not pretty and you walked with her down the hall to the elevator bank and she was mean and cold and cruel, rubbing your face in what you’d just witnessed like she lived for that.

Then you had a hard time getting back to my apartment because you couldn’t get the elevator to go to the sixteenth floor I don’t live on unless you break that out as six plus one and so you were scrambling around the terrible Vegas hotel-type maze labyrinth mystery dream building and couldn’t get back to where you were supposed to be, lost and upset and you said you weren’t sure even in the dream sure why you were working so hard to get back up to me and that stung a little because the truth is sometimes like that.

But I understood, dream considered, and who wants to get lost in a Vegas hotel with a skinny little nasty bitch rubbing your nose in ugliness where there’d once been pure beauty, vast and open an untarnished by either word or deed. It’s ok, you said, you’re here now, we’re here, together, only for life.

*

When I’d finished my retelling and finished dwelling for a quiet blind minute in yours from before as if I’d done you wrong in sleep I came back again at the thought of those together words, for life, back to a lifetime of desire sitting in front of me at the old white house on the hill in the daytime still.

You got up to take a shower and mix a drink and I laid myself back on that big brass bed to fall back into the soft duvet like it was a fantastic cloaking cloud till monkey mind did again what it does sometimes when you’re away and I’m out of bananas and turned stormy, replaying bits and pieces of what you’d told me about some guy from before who misread all your poetry, trampled your prose, and was more or less deaf to your speaking spokens and heartfelts with eyes always half-elsewhere on nowhere else and nothing much but who knows what besides his vacant self and I thought “figures, typical” and said it breaks my heart to think of you unheard, unseen, unfelt, un-anything and you said he didn’t care enough for it to really matter or harm and in my stormy replay head he started getting mixed on theme with that arrogant, cocky asshole other I too once knew and knowing he more than knew you made me wish him dead while a not small part of me simmered in self-deprecating resentment that either he or the unlistener ever had the chance, their differences made no matter, that anyone ever had anything even remotely like the chance but me, as if the chance was all and only ever mine and they’d stepped in and trampled my you like how I felt coming out of that other dream that other time where I almost had you and then lost you and woke up dazed and thinking in the waking of who am I to own you who am I to own you who am I to own you.

But that was just a song from the night before.

And the monkey wondered mid-scatter if he, the cocky asshole other, was somehow the one I’d been standing beside in my rueful nighttime darktime imagination when you rushed up out of nowhere and hooked his arm and said hey stranger with a big beautiful smile beaming and he turned like I had and you kissed him a friendly hello lip-wise right in front of me and I thought I’d release my insides mouth-wise and later I told you so and got some odd not-you vague dismissive rejoinder about how you noticed my bother but it was a non-issue though we could address it if I thought otherwise and my misreading mind’s eye saw that as “non, issue” in modest Francophilia but all I said was “ok.” Like me. And like me I didn’t at that moment get up and come tell you in the steamy bathroom what I wondered.

But that was just a dream, too, mine, from the night before.

That’s ok, she’s here now, we’re here now, for life, awake. And in a few minutes you came back into the room in that short green robe and towel on head with a fresh sweating glass in one hand for the both of us and shook me from my trance looking like love and stunner-smelling, talking as you entered about one of those shower musings along all the same lines we’d been tracing and clinging to since words broke into day and proceeded to tell me about a time when … that’s ok … his place … she’s here now … back when … we’re here … beside him … here together … unseen unheard unfelt undressed … for life … and it took us both back in the telling, then.

I listened but only heard pieces, went back in parts cut with parts because parts were all I had to go on and more than enough, my parts and pieces cutting in to that remember dance, and a smaller, sicker part of me was sick at my small sick self for being in any way conscious of what I gave as if the giving were only a countermeasure to counterbalance and tarry with some negative and I thought of Žižek and how melancholy obfuscates, how what we never possessed can also never be lost and of Proust on how the immensity of what’s immediately before us leads the rest of the world to assume the insubstantiality of a dream in comparison and I always liked to wonder if it wasn’t the reverse, knowing my chosen refuge, reveling in the irony and the solace of literature and theory.

I listened, though, stubborn and stuck. I heard and kept hearing till you leaned over to me on that big brass bed and lips on mine erased my mind and in my head I knew that nursery-rhymed and didn’t at all for a second care, because we were back to where nothing else mattered like in the middle of the bowling lane and behind closed eyes I saw pieces of us back in that night the one night the real night the great wide waking night in the pool under stars and my hands under your long back so you could float sky parallel and watch the heavens while I should’ve kissed your stomach but didn’t the same way I didn’t tell you I loved you long ago and only looked and missed and then in the water that night holding you I looked up at the pin-prick holes we might fall into and felt the nighttime flight that brought me there under those same sky specks and over the electric ones around us, all the patches and clusters glowing down below between departure and arrival and the relief inside of simplification and silence, the falling away shedding of peripheral pieces, images discarded from a central all-that-truly-matters-whole that’s always been because I was coming home, finally coming home to where a mountain and a desert were waiting for me, hot, arid, clear, glorious, and as infinite as infinity needs for all intents and purposes to seem.

Fall into these pin-pricked holes; just not seeing right; defect from time; sometimes it just fills space. Say something beautifully, ugly. Say something ugly, beautiful. We found each other in dream, you in night and I in day and in the end I can hardly remember where it started anyway, setting down the shovel and the pick-axe and the troubles they unearth and freely choosing instead to find all the meaning there’s ever been in the finger- and tongue-tip tracing of the soft contours of now, falling apart, together, and back again, no thought, no dream, no fear, no house, no room, no robe, no cover, no bed, even, nothing but it all. For starters, for finishes, foreverything in between and again.

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prosetry

Maladapted Modern Martyrs

On the night we first met, you told me that I would be the death of you. I remember we laughed at that even though it wasn’t funny. Lots of people said that, together, we were an accident waiting to happen. We couldn’t have agreed more.

Over the weeks and months we did lots of stupid and brilliant things together. We always had to push it, to exceed the limit, to go one further. We outdid ourselves, just to see what would happen. Anything that previously felt safe or comfortable we inverted, we wanted danger and knowledge and discovery. Everything became an experiment, a question of “How far can we take this?”

For example, we took deliberate drug overdoses for fun to see how much our bodies could take, to see how strong we were, to see how our bodies would recover from abuse, to see if our minds would improve from the experience or deteriorate from the overexposure, so that we could tell everyone,“This is how much Class A you can take and still be a functioning member of society, THIS is how much you can take if you want to get wild for one weekend, and THIS is how much you can take before you permanently forget your own name and believe that the black plastic bag on the floor (which you lovingly pet for hours) is a tabby cat named Greg.”

We’d replicate crimes committed by working-class black males and see how we were treated in comparison, being young white graduates: they’d get 3 years in Scrubs and I’d get a slap on the wrist. We had to commit the crimes to get access to all the people that we wanted to challenge. You try getting a Detective Chief Super on the phone for no real reason other than you want to outsmart him and subvert the corrupt policing system: trust us, you can’t do it. The only way that we could infiltrate CID was to become Criminally Investigable. We had to get in there and create change.

We had to attempt various methods of suicide so that we could tell suicidal people that, “THESE METHODS DON’T WORK! DON’T BOTHER! YOU’LL END UP WITH BROKEN ANKLES AND ONE WORKING KIDNEY! AND THE LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES WON’T HELP YOU AT ALL AND YOUR FRIENDS WILL ABANDON YOU BECAUSE THEY’RE SCARED OF YOU AND YOU’LL LOSE YOUR JOB! DO IT PROPERLY OR DON’T DO IT AT ALL! THESE WAYS THAT WE’VE TOLD YOU ABOUT DO NOT WORK!!!

We wanted to do all of the bad things that nobody really wants to do so that we could teach people about what actually happens if you do these bad things. We saw ourselves as sort of Maladapted Modern Martyrs. We were doing all of you a favour. And anyway, we were in love.


We didn’t have the money to do all the experiments that we wanted to so a lot of our questions about life went unanswered. After years of trying to teach people about being bad we felt that we had nothing more to give. We had one question left that we could answer but it could only be answered by and for ourselves. The answer would not be shared to wider society but we felt like we’d given out enough truths to not feel guilty about keeping this one to ourselves.

We pitched our tent on the darkest corner of Mulholland Drive. We drank silken brandy straight from that fancy crystal glass decanter, laughing about how silly “bungled burglary” sounds (say it 10 times, fast). The tent felt neither safe nor comfortable and we were happy, cackling as the cars whizzed by, their tires growing ever closer to us, trying to catch the flying grit in our mouths.

We were sat almost on top of each other, existing as one skin, one being, so that we would find out the answer to our big question at exactly the same time. “Foolproof,” you said. “Perfect for two fools like us, then,” I replied. Then your nose started bleeding, trickling down over your lips and dripping off your chin and I have never seen you look so beautiful. I kissed you and wore your blood as lipstick; it tasted like the final stanza of that poem about Lolita.

“We are all waiting to die,” you said.
“Yes,” I said, “we’re simply more enthusiastic than others.”
“More excited than most.”

Then you burnt holes in the roof of the tent with the end of your lit cigar, “So you can see where we’re going,” you said. But there wasn’t time to see the stars, only smiles and cars and imperfection and sparks, our sparks, the last ones that’d ever fly between us.

Spoiler alert: one of us got out alive.

You discovered the answer to our most important question, the answer that only deadmen know. I am still picking shards of warm crystal glass out of my hair all these years later and I can’t drink brandy anymore. And we’re all still waiting to die.

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poetry, Uncategorized

Lost though glimpsed

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If I had the power

I might do no more than this

sitting watching dust captured by light

as drowsy it drifts

or I may

do far more

dependant upon the hour of birth

runic stones thrown

alignment of planets

decisions ours and not our own

would it make sense to you?

that I found your burning sage madness truth?

only pausing when I could not follow the maze

for my pocked arms were ablaze

holding no feathers

if I had the power

I would ask you subsume the hour last

you felt a need to reveal and trust

and becoming green-tipped bird

I’d fly you into the mouth of your past

and becoming shivering fire bird

I’d conquer the elements of volition

causing you to shrug me off

as unwanted skin without use

I am slower than your torturer and you

If I had the power

though I have no way of encouraging magic

not even a fistful of lightning to raise our sum

stamping like forsaken giants roar

declaring; no you shall not

claim us

I am

too old by days and hours

by too many stared-at empty houses

with boarded windows rubbed dark

nobody is home to light the way

for either of us

don’t you see that’s why I always strained to hear?

my ear to the flat of your prison and mine

flaying xylophone chords with missing fingers

If you’d sat next to me when no-one looked we’d have merged into one

instrument

taken out of ourselves and the backward clock

a poison for some, is a cure for us

If I had the fusion

to dwell in your rage directed my way

I’d walk through maelstrom seeking reverse of fate

where, by watchful limb

we sit shoeless

wringing our bruised legs over yawning edge

one, two, three

let go of holding hands

If I had the power not to be me

and you had the power not to be you

both of us damaged and saved at differing points in history

overlapping star travelers

burning up the universe to reach through

this hijacked soul

lost though glimpsed

in warm breath on

cold step

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prosetry

Other Girls

Once, during the summer of our confusion, you told me that you loved me because I wasn’t like other girls. I found that phrase to be repulsively hackneyed then, and still think it’s insultingly trite when men say it now, but because it was you I let you say so. I would’ve let you say anything.

I did ask you what made me different, though. And I remember you said, “You’re the kind of girl that would return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want you to know what kind of girl I actually was. Then you said in a cloud of smoke, “Through brazen curiosity, though, not stupidity,” and I still didn’t say anything and you didn’t expand on your thought any more, even though now I wish more than anything that you had, that you’d told me who I was, that you’d explained me to me.

That one thought that you almost certainly don’t remember now could have defined me. Perhaps it did, because here I am, standing at the scene of the crime and thinking about your thought while you don’t think of me at all anymore.

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