prosetry

The Dream House

I should’ve realised that we weren’t going to make it on that sunny June afternoon when we were wandering around that big empty house in Essendon. Your eyes, those topaz stones I could never get sick of studying, were watching our future children playing in the garden (a boy first, you’d insisted, then a daughter). Your own face was childlike that day, so full of excitement and hope. You were babbling, saying things like, “Can you see yourself cooking me dinner in this kitchen?” You were envisioning a future that I couldn’t imagine, let alone see.

I tried. I wanted to want it too. All I really wanted was you but if having a kid or two was what I needed to do to keep you then that’s exactly what I’d do. But I was terrified. I was terrified of a tiny version of us growing inside me. Panicking over my sudden assumed role as “wife and mother” with no time to write, no room to breathe, no space to be. Internally screaming at the prospect of relentless mortgage payments. Fearing that our babies would inherit my sadness or my madness or both. Worrying about hypothetical meals not being served on time, accidentally murdering my orchids, forgetting to pick the children up from school and never getting used to the absence of silence. Frightened that I would be forever stuck in a life that isn’t truly mine, but reasoning that it’d be fine because I’d be stuck to you. Did I even really want you forever, or had I tricked myself into wanting what I was supposed to want? Had I merely deluded myself by dreaming someone else’s dream?

As I wandered around the house alone, I quietly considered which room I could end my life in if I chose to, assessing which fixtures I could hang from and wondering what the freestanding bathtub would look like with red water spilling over its edges. At least the crimson flood would complement the nursery which we are going to paint lemon yellow.


‘The Dream House’ is a rewrite of an earlier work.

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poetry, prosetry

She, in September

In all of her dreams
you are in trouble.

There is something about being in hospitals that makes her feel disgusting. The dirty handprints on the wall. The bloody cannula on the floor. The sticky plastic mattress. The smell of piss. The torn up tissues. The stranger’s identification wristband. The words WHY and HELP scratched onto the unopenable opaque window. The cameras in the corners with their blinking red lights. The stupid electronic calendar above the heavy locked door that said THURSDAY EVENING 18:12 PM 26TH SEPTEMBER 2019 26/09/19. She watched it change from morning to evening, and believed it was 2020. Also, the soap dispenser in the toilet was broken, but she couldn’t pee anyway because they were there at the window, watching her.

Who the fuck wants to live forever???

“I’m seizing up over here, I need my meds.”
“Okay I’ll call the doctor now, he’ll be with you in a moment.”
The doctor never came, the medication went untaken,
the seizures seized in her until she seized no more.
She woke up on the dirty floor.

She was fighting the men for 7 hours.
Apparently, it only lasted 40 minutes.

“What a strangely designed chair…”
“Yeah, it’s called a Rhino chair,”
“Why?”
“Well, it’s filled with sand so it’s extremely heavy,” says Claire or Cat or Clara or Cathy as she struggles to drag the chair into the cell, “it’s supposed to make the chairs harder to throw.”
“Oh,”
“People still manage to throw these chairs around though. You’d be surprised,”
“No, I really wouldn’t.”

Her town: all snakes, no ladders.

He brought her paper and a pen, knowing she’d want to write.
It was the single nicest thing he had ever done for her.
These items were not allowed anywhere near her.
He tried. She cried.

“So it says here you took 16 tablets, is that right?”
“Sixty.”
“Sixteen…”
“No, sixty.”
“Sixty?”
“Yes, sixty.”
“Sixteen?”
“SIXTY.”
“Look, if you’re not going to cooperate with us…”

Lightning on the left strikes the garden shed thunder above her head rattles in her bones purple toenails in puddles perfect rage enveloped she is cold and afraid and this doesn’t feel like home this doesn’t feel right this doesn’t feel safe but where else can she go?

Please just tell her that she’s gonna be alright.

She has never been so relieved to stand at the bottom of Highgate Hill, a sobbing Sisyphus with holes in her socks and shakes in her veins. She feels fizzy. When she was 18 she burnt her fingertips off. Her body is fizzing under its skin. On her 21st birthday she set her hair on fire. She spilled everything and she’s still not empty. She wore black to your wedding and will wear red to your funeral. Psht <<< that’s the sound of a can opening. North London has never looked so ______________. She thinks of you often and she hopes you are okay because you are not okay in her dreams. She feels fizzy and she is outside. She is outside and she is free.

She opens her notebook. The last entry says, “I lied. Apparently.” Then it’s just empty pages, a crushed Mayfair cigarette and a police memo with a phone number on it.

She is out. She writes:

I no longer have any faith in anyone, in the human race.
I need to leave, to escape, to find goodness again,
somewhere, in someone, anywhere but here.

She keeps doing things that are “out of character.”
She is too many characters.
She is full of villains and disasters.
She’s forgotten how to play the role of her self.
She’s lost the script.
She can’t be bothered to look for it.
(She is not even sure that such a script exists, because apparently, she lied).

They were there. They were real. She saw them with her own eyes.

She lied, apparently.

She didn’t lie. She saw them she saw them she saw them with her eyes.

She’s finally doing it, finally doing something for herself. She’s going to Mexico. Somebody said that she is “running away” to Mexico. She knows that her problems will wait for her in London, but she hopes the trip will make her soul feel better, stronger, less broken. She doesn’t recognise her self these days—she didn’t recognise any of them.

Death is a disappearing act. She thinks she will come back but she also thinks that nothing is ever certain until it is. And even when you are so fucking certain about something, like you’ve never been more certain about something in all your life, somebody will call you a liar and tell you that you’re mad.

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life

Death of a Star

At around half past 3 in the morning I decided that I would go for a crafty cigarette. I was at my grandfather’s house – he didn’t (and hopefully still doesn’t) know that I smoke and I didn’t want to wake him by going downstairs and outside, so I thought it best to hang out of the bedroom window and smother the smell with perfume afterwards.

I opened the window, jumped up on the sill, dangled my pyjama-ed legs out over the edge and, before I could spark up, my attention was diverted to the meteor shower that was performing its drama in the space above me. I’d seen such sights before but never this clearly. These fizzling stars seemed so close, as if I could reach out and catch them. I half expected a piece of hot rock to land in my lap and burn through my shorts.

A voice shocked me back to Earth.

“Are you gonna light that or what?” my father whispered, a little too loudly.

“JESUS CHRIST, DAD, YOU SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!”

He chuckled until his chuckle turned into a cough, which he tried to stifle. He was also hiding his habit from granddad (his father) – he had promised him a year before that he had quit. But here he was, also hanging out of his bedroom window, a few metres across from mine, smoking a joint and watching the shower.

He put his finger to his lips and said, “Shhh,” and then pointed at the sky.

“I know,” I whispered back.

We stayed that way for a few minutes, together but apart, smoking in the silence of the night, watching the meteorites falling so effortlessly from the heavens, knowing that they look pretty from here but up there the scene is one of violence and destruction. We were quite content to revel in the magic of the display, ignoring the science and calculations and unfathomable numbers behind it and the reality of our insignificance (although these things did cross our minds).

“You know how stars die, don’t you?” he whispered to me, again a little too loudly.

“Erm… supernova, is it?”

“Nah. Overdose, usually.”

I giggled into my hand, before whispering, “For fuck’s sake, Dad,” in his general direction. We didn’t know that Amy Winehouse would die from a suspected overdose the next day.

We spent another minute or so watching the sky. I looked over at my Dad, his face illuminated only by the stars. His smile had gone. He looked wistful, possibly even sad. Then I felt sad, knowing we’d be back in London soon and unable to see magic like this through the pollution. Back to London, to depression and money problems and bad decisions and drug dealing and dangerous dalliances and trouble trouble trouble.

“Dad,” I said, quietly. “Am I going to be okay?”

He looked over at me from his window and smiled, and said with such certainty,

“Yes. Yes you are, babes.”

In that moment, I believed him. I locked that exchange in my heart, archived, for future reference. Then I stubbed out my roll-up underneath the window ledge and buried it among the leaves in the guttering. Then I replied to my Dad,

“Are you?”

But his window was shut and he was gone.

 

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fiction

EDIFICE

chris-r-0922 Image by Christine Renney

Dalton was not the first to arrive and if he hadn’t noticed the others (a handful of men standing at the edge of the road gazing out across the field) he wouldn’t have slowed, wouldn’t have pulled off and up onto the verge. Only then did he turn and see the smoke rising in the distance, a grey and dense column.
Dalton climbed from his car and, as he walked across to where the others stood, he looked toward the burning building. A mansion in flames, it was most certainly something that he wanted to see.
Joining the group he asked, ‘What happened?’
He regretted this instantly, wished that he could take the question back, realised just how inane it must have sounded but at last one of the men mumbled, ‘Don’t know.’
And Dalton was able to breathe again and along with these men he stood in silence watching the house burn and watching the fire fighters who from so far away appeared small and inadequate. They scurried about in front of the blaze and quite clearly weren’t up to the task at hand. They couldn’t get close enough, couldn’t touch it and attempting to contain it they set up cannons and fired water into the air. But it couldn’t be controlled and they hadn’t any choice but to let it run its course. All they could really do was stand back and wait for the fire to burn itself out.
Dalton was pleased by this, excited even, and furtively he glanced at the men standing beside him. They were all of them quietly engrossed and he quickly turned his attention back toward the burning edifice.
Behind him others had begun to arrive, he listened to them talk. They were questioning and speculative and Dalton realised that if he had arrived just a little later he would be in this group. But now he was part of something else entirely, something much more intense.
The man in front of him, the ‘don’t know’ man, stepped onto the grass verge and pushed through a gap in the hedge. Dalton followed and so did one of the others. Together all three of them then moved out onto the open field and away from the noisy, gathering rabble.
Dalton glanced back and was surprised to find the rest of the original group were still standing on the other side of the hedge, had decided not to follow and were already turning and, gesticulating, they joined the throng.
Dalton tried to concentrate on the fire but couldn’t, the moment was getting away from him. Awkward and uncomfortable, he wondered if they were talking about him, if they, the three who had foolishly and pointlessly ventured a little closer, were now a topic of conversation.
It struck Dalton, but just momentarily, that it was like watching a scene from a film but it was far too real and much too big and the camera didn’t cut away in order to reveal something else.
He looked up and watched the smoke spiralling into the sky. Looking down Dalton noticed, for the first time, the ambulances parked off to the far right. It was an enclave of activity, the paramedics moving purposefully back and forth and the dazed survivors wandering aimlessly.
Dalton realised that they couldn’t see, not from the road and he suddenly felt less self-conscious, was in fact decidedly buoyant and able to watch again.

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art

osmose

i’m walking around in that same old rain
each tired drop splats a fresh cliché
i’ve been so scared for the longest time
but, really, can i shrink any more?
when i’m hung out to dry, how small will i be?

isn’t this all just a bad dream?
this can’t be the world we live in
breathe it in, boy, the sun at your back
sun kisses, you fool, sun kisses for you
the sun kisses her shoulders too

i’m a stranger burning beneath a fake sky
where there’s smoke there’s chimneys
she’s got a severe case of the chiminy changas
and i’m not supposed to notice that, but…
so help me, i do

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prosetry

Le Macabre

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Le Macabre – 23 Meard Street, London W1. A popular cafe during the 60s which used coffins as tables, bakelite skulls for ashtrays, skull-shaped milk jugs, murals of skeletons and graveyards, and a jukebox that featured the Funeral March. (source)


 

I am eating the oxygen of the 30-something man sitting next to me. One day he’ll be dead. I do not know his name, I have never seen him before, I will probably never see him again. I imagine him decomposing under the soil. When he smiles at me I see that he has worms in his teeth and grit on his gums. I think he may outlive me.

The sleeping baby, the Brazilian barista, the old boys smoking in the doorway, the schoolgirls in the corner, the young lady on crutches, the suits discussing business, the man washing the windows: you are all going to be dead one day. Nothing but dead.

I wonder who will die first, I wonder how soon it will be.

I wonder who will be buried, I wonder who will be cremated.

I wonder who will die surrounded by family and friends, I wonder who will die alone.

I wonder who will die happy and content, I wonder who will die sad, angry, bitter, unfulfilled.

I wonder if anyone in this cafe will die by their own hand, I wonder if anyone in this cafe will be murdered.

I wonder who will be next, I wonder who will be last.

Out of all the twenty-odd people in this cafe, I don’t want to be the first to die. I don’t want to be the last to die either. Someone in this room will outlive every human who was in this cafe, in this town, on this day, at this time. I look around. It will not be me. It will not be me.

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