Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Silent Weaver

Silent Weaver

This is something stupid, but when I saw that old bike, the one that’s going to sell for more than the entire contents of my house are worth, I thought it was made of straw.  I thought maybe it was a piece by Angus MacPhee that I wasn’t aware of.  And I got stupidly excited until I remembered that all of his stuff is decomposing anyway.  And even if the bike was one of his, it would more than likely be little more than a memory within the next ten years.  And then it reminded me of that thing houses do when they believe no-one is looking, when they wear themselves without a disguise and they become heads again.  And how when I told you that, you thought it was hilarious. And when I started having those recurring nightmares about just being this creature that was living in the very skull of something else and I started going out and sleeping under the alders by the beck’s edge, you were the only one able to convince me to come back indoors even though I can still sometimes feel the house as it blinks and turns its gaze back towards the north even though it was built to only ever be in love the west.
 

Of course, that was when all the ghosts decided to start visiting me, when I was co-habiting with the alders.  And I was okay with that until the ghost of my mother showed up even though she is still alive.  Isn’t that typical though, of me?  Being haunted by someone that isn’t even dead.  I look at her lately and I see that MacPhee effect creeping all over her skin, that slow disappearing.  And I don’t know why this isn’t something that gets talked about, the time afterwards, the years of our lives when our parents are gone.  I asked my cousin once, just after my mother’s heart started failing, how does someone manage without a mam.  And she had to pull the car over on that back road over the Higgledy-Piggildies where the farmer that likes to murder his wives still tries to train his cows how to remain calm before they go to have their horns hacked off even though he’s never succeeded yet.  And between the sobs she said you don’t.  She said you never really manage without them, you just pretend the way bairns do when they get to fighting those imaginary dragons at the bottom of gardens.
 

And that’s where it gets messy for me.  I once told my seventeen year old niece that unicorns are real, and just like you, she laughed.  There’s emotional blind spots I think, in our timelines.  Teens to early twenties, that was when I found my thoughts turned so myopic I could barely see the outline of myself in the life I was pretending to live.  I was swimming the dark lakes every day back then of course which didn’t help.  And it isn’t like we can just casually drop into the local opticians and go, ‘oh, by the way, I can barely accept anything as real these days, so will you sort me out with a decent pair of spectacles so I don’t impale myself on a unicorn while I’m walking to advanced physics, ta’.  It just doesn’t work like that, it can’t.  And we both know plenty of people stumbling through their forties who still claim unicorns and being able to love others is utterly imaginary.  And it isn’t necessarily that some people are able to see and some people are not, it’s more to do with how our genes learn to tie themselves in knots as we grow.  And how fast we had to run through the cornfields as bairns and whether the person we were running to save is someone that still matters to us.  Mine is disappearing with everyday that passes now, just like MacPhee’s art.
 

Yeah, but that bike, the one that isn’t made of straw.  That could be a blind spot as well, seeing things that aren’t there or dressing them as something else.  The same way feeling things that aren’t there can be too.  But just because I feel them and you don’t, does that automatically make them an illusion or some kind of absurd costume?  Who knows.  I just know, when I saw that bike I thought it was made of straw.  And for a moment in my periphery thoughts, Angus MacPhee was alive again and speaking to the landscape with his polyglottal hands.  I could feel the very skin of him pulling up tufts of grass to stuff into his pockets.  Could sense his gaze turning to the barbed wire fence where a little cloud of wool had let itself be tethered.  Could see the bridle building itself real inside the crofter’s cottage of his mind as he brushed the strands over his cheek.  Could feel the pull of muscles in his face sculpting a smile along the beck of his mouth as his fingers began that first twisting, that first dreaming.  And another unicorn got to weaving itself into the world, for real. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Night Swimming

Night Swimming

The sky is saturated.
In the next village, a girl
puts a puddle of pond in her pocket.
My heart is a goldfish dream. It leaks.

Last night as the hoarfrost left,
an owl died - not yours, thank god.
One of those born from a barn
behind the pylon of peculiarity.

The one that electrifies these fins
that wriggle underneath my skin.
The ones always swimming
and flipping, for you.

Someone's nanna once said that Elvis wasn't dead.
That the King of Rock & Roll had abandoned Graceland
for a glass bowl on a table in a kitchen with too many cups.

That he discarded his quiff for the circling, watery bliss
of back-finning through a place where sound swims slower;
hooks in deeper. Penetrates scales like buoys.

We laugh. Go home that night and fuck.
Imagine whales singing from jam jars on dusty shelves
belonging to some matronly deity adept at bread-making.

And if we eventually visit her, we'll watch 'Love Me Tender'
bubble through water that always turns cloudy on tuesdays.
And because of that slowness, how sound swims through water;

memories of long-gone fathers
crooning little things never said
or done from storm-wracked rooms
in far-out-to-sea houses where love

learns to drown inside nets of broken songs
singing from hinges of wardrobe doors
in corners full of darkness and air.
Until shoals of fish wearing skins

of little lost girls, learn how to paddle
through shadows without fear of lit fuses
reeled from fangs of dynamite monsters
that explode the soft ponds of living to pieces.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Keraunophilia’s Song

Keraunophilia’s Song

It's the lightning, the way it dances through the field.
The way it tickles the leverets until they are dead.
The way it hollows all the molehills into furrows.
Even hooks a cow inside the bellybutton of the mast,
becomes the creature's first and last jaunt beneath
a pylon's peculiar tummy. Now she's no longer in a hurry.
But her bones will know, and her volcanic marrow.
The way the ache in the landscape is kinetic, is kindling.

And the three bairns with their jam jars full of things
with wings that cannot sting, they will know too.
Skin is such a delicate thing; soft as moss on the throat
of an ancient oak, soft as breath as it abandoned its path.

There will be stories about the dogs; wolf hounds
behaving like stoats. All skittery and wary and tired.
The way they have now of existing inside their fur.
Haunting two homes smelling of ghosts, of storms.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ghosts on the Bridge

Ghosts on the Bridge

There's a certain place on the bridge where, if you stop for long enough, you can see the whole world turning on the strands of a jellyfish wind chime in an abandoned bedroom's window.  The chimneys watch it, and the clouds.  Decades pass, pull thunderstorms and deathstorms in, then away.

He stood here, once, in the dark, listening to the ghosts caught along the cobwebs strung out between the flags of peeling iron.  Felt the whisper of the river as it passed below him, emptying itself into the sea, endlessly.  He remembered that woman, turned into a shell, the way she fit the curve of his palm as he lifted her to his ear.  How he tried ever so hard not to swallow her.

Somewhere in the belly of the city, the gallery sleeps.  Day spectres gather in the brushstrokes of centuries, snag their spelks into the souls of children wearing the skin of grown-ups as badly fitting finger puppets.  It's the silence that unsettles the most, how it slips from the frames, pads along the walls.  In the snoring cafe, a moth murmurs between the coffee machine and two lovers carved from a block of Frosterley marble.

I watched another woman kiss him once, in the kitchen.  Saw her fingers transform into tentacles, swim themselves onto the diving board of his skin.  The hacky microwave shuddered.  The peach pip in the ashtray turned away, embarrassed.  The photographs of his family blu-tacked onto the cupboards fluttered, closed their eyes.  I tied knots in my tear ducts, begged every dripping god of water not to betray me as that woman sighed through her octopus ways.

Lips are peculiar. Soft, like the pages of diaries conjuring faraway memories.  Hooked, like the briars on pathways abandoned by dreams.  On the outside of the library’s door, someone has taken a piece of the fallen cathedral and scratched initials into the wood.  It must have taken hours, this dedication to scars.  The was a bathroom once, in a derelict house, where the men from the mines used to go to fight.  Pieces of broken mirror lived in the sink with a family of bluebottles.  In the dark, they shimmered, imagined themselves fairies for a moment when the moon tumbled its light through the missing pieces of the window.

I’m tired of living my life in reflected things.  Puddles pursue me, the constant gaze of the neighbourhood cats throw back the image of myself, all bent and misplaced.  Rain on leaves has become an enemy, the metal on the hinges of gates laughs straight into my distorted face.  I am thinner than tracing paper these days, on the inside at least - see through and whispery.  Half-woman, half dandelion seed on the wind.

He wished once, on a passport and a ticket.  Tried to promise to relearn the forgotten ways of being a signpost, of becoming rooted.  There was no tree in his ancestry though, no lighthouse.  How can a whirligig bird convince itself it can be content without its wings?  Sometimes though, I feel the memory of him on the bridge.  How he stilled himself for a moment, folded his feathers in for once.  Allowed the zebra part of his DNA to bend in close, sniff the lass inside the shell as she spring-tided herself riverwards.  A finger puppet of undertow that swirled itself landlocked, became me.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Snow Globe

The Snow Globe
 
The room stinks of sweat. Years and years of it. I bet if I peeled the yellowing wallpaper back from the walls, it would be sweat underneath that’s keeping it stuck, keeping the sagging paper and crumbling brickwork connected together. There’s such a stench of desperation here, I bet if I closed my eyes and opened them fast when no-one’s expecting it, I bet I’d see it in a noose, swinging useless from the tired lampshade. Swinging as it hangs there, its dead tongue pointing at the closed door mouthing ‘Run! Run!’ Not that any of us would. Because we’re like the wallpaper here, we’re stuck. Not with sweat though, with something worse. We’re stuck with some sense of obligation. I can’t believe he’s made me come. More than that, I can’t believe I’m actually playing along. He expects me to sit with these people, these strangers, and pour out my problems. Problems only he thinks I have. I hate my husband right now. And myself.

‘…look, I don’t really see what the issue is. Yes, we’re here. And we’re all supposed to sit and pretend we think this is a safe environment and nod and share and be so fucking grateful that we have family that care, but…’

I zone out the whiny drone of his voice. Concentrate on watching his face instead. Every time he says something sarcastic, his upper lip curls. Not like a piece of paper freshly ripped from a jotter though, not that kind of curling, not soft. This is more the curl of a middle finger as it rises itself erect towards an up yours, determined and hard. Whenever his lips mouth the word ‘family’, the curl is accompanied by a baring of teeth and gums. It transforms the curl into a snarl.

A woman starts speaking. She’s wearing a jumper with a fluffy kitten crocheted on the front. It’s pink. I think it’s supposed to be sweet. But the woman inside it, she keeps grabbing at the cuffs. Then she’s grabbing at the kitten, and she’s pulling it out of shape.

‘…I’d like to go home, please…’
.
Her voice, it’s so quiet. The sound though, it clicks. It’s like balloons, rubbed on hair, all static and fast tuts. As I watch her fingers contorting the bindings of the wool on the jumper, pulling the kitten’s whiskers until they begin to mimic the rising of Cthulhu from its ancient slumber, I realise she’s dialoguing to herself in Morse. The pauses in her words, the insistent pecks from her desperate fingers against herself, she’s screaming out her anguish. But all that’s taken in, all that makes its way out into the room is her quiet. And no-one is listening. Definitely not the counsellor leading the meeting who just sits nodding his stupid head, nodding and nodding, as if that’s all we need.

I want to smash his face. I want to pick up one of the water coolers from the corner and smash it right into his face. Not because he’s evil. Not even because he’s further down the path of recovery than the rest of us, but because he’s trying to care. Trying and failing. We’re all freaks here, rejects. How can we invoke compassion in other people when we can’t even muster up enough verve to give a shit about ourselves? Then the typical shame rises through me. Reaches from my stomach, creeps towards my throat. Sits beneath the roof of my mouth, wanting to warble. A bird of self pity, caged behind the bars of society imitating my teeth. Because I’m not supposed to want to hurt anything, especially when that anything isn’t myself. It’s hard sometimes though, stuck in this angry world. I rub my eyes, count backwards from ten in my head, abandon the thought of water coolers and faces broken beneath them. My fingers know just where to push, just where to linger, how to rub. I reach the magic stillness of number four, sink down around it, become calm.

My eyes want to close, shut down. I wonder sometimes, about butterflies. Whether they ever dream of retreating, furling their wings back into cocoons. Become a crawling thing again, become young. So much expectation, all that flying. And it never leaves, not once it’s here. I think maybe that’s why the snow globe called so loud. All of this, it’s the snow globe’s fault. That’s what they want me to admit anyway, but I’m not sure I can. Not if they want me to mean it, when I say it.

It’s such a comforting thing. Even its surface invites my spine to bend, to relax. There’s the potential for shaking, of course there is, but I’m happy to lean for hours, just staring in. I thought once, near the beginning of our relationship, that I saw the angel that sits beneath the dome, take off its face. I thought I saw it flitter to the bottom of the globe, settle there for a moment, contented. And then it tried to whisper. I watched as its mouth cracked open. I thought I saw the universe there, sitting between the chipped plaster of its miniscule lips. I wanted to close my eyes then too. And my ears. I wasn’t ready for the salutations or tribulations the plaster mouth would want to share with me. I was more self-absorbed at the beginning, more blind. An egotist of the Me! Me! Me! obsessed kind. It’s painful to admit that, but true. Like any good relationship, any long lasting relationship, it took us time, the snow globe and I, to begin to trust each other, to properly love each other.

That’s why I’m here, why all of these other weirdos are here, in this therapy group. We’re not right they say, we’re unnatural. We’re addicts of the worst kind, we’re addicts high on love. We have something to prove as well, that’s the diagnosis they throw out at all of us. Like we’re birds, in need of intervention crumbs. Goes against their theory though, if all we’re searching for is love. If we all believe we’ve found it, what else is left to prove?

‘…you know what I’m in love with, I spoke of it last week. I cried, remember?’

It’s Lip Curler again. The counsellor just nods faster. Nods and waits.

‘She isn’t just concrete, despite what the analysis says. Yeah, didn’t share that last week did I? My family,’ he pauses long enough for another lip curl, another snarl, ‘my family had a piece of her chipped off. Sent her away with a man in a white coat, in a sealed plastic bag. Off to some fucking lab to be tested, to see if she had some poison or drug in her composition. Something chemical that compels me to kiss her, compels me to love her…’

Jumper Clicker’s pecking at her face now. Like her skin’s become nettles instead of flesh. Dot, dot, dot. Dash, dash, dash. That’s what the tips of her fingers whisper as they nip their quiet screams out. Dot, dot, dot.

‘…of course the report got it wrong. Just concrete? Prejudiced arseholes.’

Nodder rotates his yeses through a sidestroke, until they become nos. It’s subtle though, and he stops himself before the negative takes over. Stops himself by opening his mouth and clearing his throat. Three times.

‘Urgh huh. Urgh huh…’

Like we’re too absorbed in our own misery to recognise something if it happens only once.

‘…urgh. Huh.’

Three times. Like the repetition bestows on him some religious resonance, some divine purpose. Three times. He even has us sit in a circle, the twelve of us. But he betrays himself with a chair. ‘I Am Special’, that chair says. Even has a cushion at the back, stuck on. A red thing, the colour of a weeping stigmata. Proof of his messiah complex. Now he’s preparing to preach.

‘Sephone, would you like to share with the group, why you’re here?’

Actually no. No, Mr. Nodder Messiah, I wouldn’t, thanks very much. There’s an agitation in the air around me, like it’s bending, shaping itself into something that isn’t just air. Like the angel in my snow globe has broken free to rescue me. Save me from this fa├žade, this pretence of fitting in. I wait and hope for huge wings to engulf me, carry me off, out of the room, before I feel obliged to reply.

But they don’t.

Instead, rapture comes in the form of a confession.

‘It’s his right foot. I’m in love with it. No other parts of him, just his foot. And that’s a horrible thing to admit because he’s my dad and I should love all of him, but it’s true. I’m obsessed with his right foot.’

The Confessor is beautiful. He’s Waterhouse's 'Saint Eulalia', made flesh. I bet if I squinted, I’d see flocks of birds floating around the dangerous brilliance of his long, auburn hair. He’s not dead though, but I get this strange feeling he’s just about to martyr himself.

‘He’s dying too. When he dies, if I don’t act fast, he’ll take that foot and I’ll be alone! I’ll lose the love of my life, to death! Oh God, I can see it you see, in his skin. Skin stretches as it readies itself, to let the soul out. Becomes like paper, like gossamer. Like yours…’

The Confessor grabs at Jumper Clicker’s fingers. She’s sitting next to him, cowering next to him actually. He cradles her fingers in his, looks down at them intently, swaddles them sacred in the baptism of his gaze.

‘I’ve prepared the instruments, I’ve bought a brand new saw you know. Its teeth are as sharp as sharks, just not as many. Why has no-one invented a multi-bladed saw?’

He lets go of Jumper Clicker’s fingers, and they fly.

‘I could have that leg off in seconds, even while he’s still alive, if someone would just invent a multi-bladed saw!’

His words are infectious, and they’re soaring, fast. Faster than Jumper Clicker’s fingers as they tempest themselves into her hair, ripping out bits of root and tiny flaps of flesh. Faster than Lip Curler’s tears, tears that are fair pouring down his face now. Faster than I can decide if I might be able to love The Confessor one day, more than I love my snow globe. Faster than Nodder Messiah can reach for his phone. Even faster than the circle starts turning and turning, each weirdo’s face melting into one another, melting and becoming a storm.

‘Oh God! They’re out there, right now! Out there, walking on her, stamping on her!’

It’s Lip Curler. He’s standing now, not even trying to wipe the tears that keep pouring down his face, pouring down his face and erasing it. Erasing the anger there, the sneer.

‘She’s just a pavement stone, for God’s sake, how can she defend herself from all of those soles! Dirty ones, spiked ones, ones covered in shit! Ones that don’t even know what they’re stomping on, the love of my life!’

The Confessor jumps up too, starts wailing.

‘I want to cut off his foot! I want to cut it off while he sleeps! I want to marry it, be happy! Why can’t I be happy? Why?’

Jumper Clicker’s gone Geiger. She’s sitting clicking and tutting, in her quiet way, but fast. It’s no longer Morse she’s dialoguing, but radiation levels.

‘I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to be done.’

Her fingers are still in her hair, dots of blood and skin confetti the tips, marry themselves onto her brow. She’s rocking. Backwards, forwards, backwards. The rhythm begs the room to register she’s nuclear, register she’s finally ready to go…

BOOM!

She stands, and out it comes.

‘Shut up! I’m in love with Silence and your constant whining makes her run away!’

The room inhales, fast. All the spinning stops. Then Silence pirouettes in.

And she’s beautiful. I can appreciate why Jumper Clicker’s in love with her. She’s all curves and breath, all dandelion seeds and summer breezes, all floaty and unreal. Jumper Clicker sighs. It’s a wondrous sound, I envy it.

Then there’s foot falls out in the hall. A squeak of rubber against rubber, accompanied by insensitive whistling. And of course I recognise it. Every last annoying pollution of noise that reaches us, that pushes Silence away, I recognise it. And I want to punch it, along with him.

‘Hi, here to pick up my wife. Yeah, she’s with the love addicts.’ A pause. ‘Oh, we just want her cured, back to normal, you know?’ A laugh. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t go that far, she’ll learn again soon, I’m sure.’ The foot falls come closer.

That’s when the light goes out. I think desperation’s tired of hanging from the shade, and wants down. And because only we can get ourselves out of holes or nooses or miserable existences, desperation gets proactive and unknots. Walks itself off, off into some mythical sunset, where happiness lives. A part of me wants to applaud.

There’s rustling from the circle, a soft fumbling. All the addicts are reaching for something, craving connections in the dark. Craving connections from it. I follow, allow my fingers to delve into my pocket, the secret one I tuck into the space between my left hipbone and my hope. I pull out the snow globe. Something’s wrong though, because it moves. It shudders in my fingers, drops onto the floor. I hear it roll away from me, further into the dark. My husband’s squeaks are moments from the door.

Then something happens, something so ordinary that it’s beatified into profound. Nodder Messiah’s phone starts ringing, and in the darkness it flips to the floor, its screen illuminated.

And there’s my snow globe. In the small halo of light, there’s my snow globe, and it’s cracked. Tiny pools of water are forming on the floor between the phone and the snow globe. They’re all sparkly from the glitter that’s in there too, in there but making its way out. But that’s not the wonder, that’s not the joy. On the wall in front of me, the wall that has to tolerate the door my husband’s squeaky soles are reaching ever closer towards, there’s a silhouette of my snow globe. And it’s huge, it’s bigger than my arms at full stretch, in all directions. And in the middle of the silhouette, the angel sits. And it’s smiling, smiling and beckoning.

The circle starts to whisper, all the weirdos together, whispering and encouraging.

‘Go on, Sephone, go on. Go to your heart’s desire, go on!’

I’m on my feet, and I’m skipping. I’m skipping past the weirdos and I love them, every last one. They start clapping, start cheering. As the door opens and in walks that man, that husband thing, the angel reaches down and pulls me up. Up into the silhouette, down into the snow globe. And nothing else matters any more. Not the universe streaming out of its mouth and into mine, not the surprise on the faces of the circle or my husband, not the sound of the glass smashing as The Confessor stamps down on the snow globe with his right foot. Not even the sound of Silence, kissing all the cuts and bits of broken skin on Jumper Clicker’s loved-up head, adoring her whole-heartedly even though she’s three-quarters of the way towards dead.

All that matters is this; the sun and the stars in the snow globe, the fabric of feathers untethering me as they tie, the silencing of questions, the shattering of glass. Shards of me bleeding love without boundaries. My mind becoming water, becoming snow. Because finally, because properly, I find myself shaken beyond particles. Shaken until I’m broken, shaken until I’m whole.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Snowmelt

The boy with beetle feelers for fingers
says the sky is a spectre that haunts the land.
He claims in another era they were best friends
that used to kiss whenever the universe slumbered.

Then something invented grown-ups and kisses
had to stop. And the horizon got sad and snagged
itself in the mouth of a polar bear bigger than Earth.
Now, when the creature coughs, blizzards gust out.

Beetle feelers fingers boy also has a volcano tongue.
When he whispers stories to the listening gloaming,
my gaze flakes into orbit, flurries around the bright tip
of muscle as it burns. The snowball in my chest softens.

Dissolves into a tarn full of thought-fishes that waken;
swim themselves fabulous among the estuaries of a body.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Driftwood

The waves whisper, wend her forwards. Somewhere behind her, the harbour wall holds her parents together before the disintegration can tide, crest as screams.

“It’s a mermaid, a humpback whale. No, it’s Neverland, under the waves!” 

She says the words aloud to the slinkying gulls that try to tumble through the strands of her hair, imagine her treasure. 

In the estuary, ghosts of monks ankle about, ignore the girl and her going away. 

The sea tastes like memory on her tongue. In her lungs it lays itself out, becomes a moat of Barbie dolls that swaddle a castle of Lego. The drowning doesn’t disturb her, it welcomes her. Raises itself like a grandmother, a rocking chair surety of water that nuzzles her closer. 

On the horizon, silhouettes of oil rigs puncture black holes into undeciding clouds. The seabirds wail, on and on. 

Then hands nets her. Fingers of foam hook her limbs, hold her flesh like a balloon string. Water succumbs to air, retreats, and she’s back on the beach. Her chest heaves, her tummy loosens. She pants as her mother dances over, all smiles as she swings the girl’s yellow bucket higher than a Ferris wheel. 

“Look, Melia, look what one of the gulls just dropped into your bucket! It’s a starfish!” 

“Second star to the right…” she whispers softly as she takes the handle in her left hand, lets herself gaze in at the five fingered creature immersed in its bucket overbrimming with water. Sighs.