Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Belonging

Belonging.

They say the carrying of bones in your pockets helps. If there's no pockets, unthread your hems and curl them there instead. Or do both. If you're a vegetarian, don't think of the flesh, don't think of the bolt. It's over quickly, they say, anyway.

Once upon a time, hair grew to moonlight. Stretching upwards, fronds of feelings rooted to a skull, but dancing to the nightsky regardless. Pinpricks encouraged them, and meteors. And the way cattle used to sing when the moon was fat and rolling. Sound can do that too, to a belonging.

Gates know the secrets of severings sharper than knives. It's the swinging supposedly, and the hinges. Not the latch though. Being a clinging thing, a thing forever wanting the fitting, latches diminish themselves too easily. Probably why so many of them go rusty in the end.

And that's another thing. Endings. They're supposed to be loud. Loud like dragonflies glaring over fences. Loud like soot scarpering up chimneys. Loud like giants under hills. Loud the way angels can be sometimes when they're ill. If there's silence, you've become a comma, so dust your knees off, continue on.

Of course, everything they tell you, it's wrong. The way clouds in a tearduct are wrong. The way distance whitening a doorstep is wrong. The way dandelions in December can be too, if they're swimming with whales. Decembers are for beaching, for the boiling of things until they're cold.

They say the carrying of bones in your pocket helps. And dancing sometimes through the wearing of your vixen teeth, after dark. And howling through the trees. Unthread those hems of yours, dear desolate one. It's over quickly, they say, anyway. So discard your fraying piece by piece - watch each shard of stitching as it soars.

Then watch as your belonging is decided and unravelled among the ossein shrieks of the winds.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Always Going Home

Always Going Home.

It's the geese departing at midnight, I think;
the way the stars have learned to tiptoe.
The way a sky can be a farmyard full of mud
because all the best things need to be clarty.

Like your laugh in the dark, and your knees.
And those beliefs in your pocket, tucked under
a fingernail of forever bitten from the breath
of a memory no-one’s thought to remember.

For clarts, they need the rains, need the storms. 

And a dust that's not for settling, like us.
Like those geese in the dark, necking northwards.
Gobbling wind like it's chocolate. Like it’s love.

All the soaring and tumbling, stripping attachments down to bone.

Because the distance doesn't matter. Just the always going home.

Friday, 4 December 2015

They Just Can't

They Just Can't.

Her voice rang out and startled the birds in their nests. She was calling for Peter again over the drystone dyke where the ghosts of forgotten soldiers kept her granddaddy occupied on starless nights. A pair of jackdaws squawked. The screech of their anger flew from the space they were preparing for their younguns. Before the sound could reach her ears and redden them, it faded away as the birds settled themselves inside their feather and twig pretense of not being scared.

She envied them. Her fear was as big as Farmer Jeck’s shaggy coo, the one that was twice the size of the barn when she looked at the beast with her eyes squinting. Her granddaddy said the eye squinting stuff was daft. A blurring of boundaries like that, a cake-mix of confusion, that’s what he said it would bake up. But Peter, he’d gone again, and the ghosts were about tonight.

She could feel them breathing in the damp that hugged the moss on the bottom of the dyke. Smell them too, on the wind. Like bagpipe music dipped in horseradish sauce, that was the smell. Dark it was, and Peter, he was still gone.

“Ain’t gonna do ye much good, lass, standing about in this cald. Ya’ll nither yer fingers and I ain’t putting an extra boil on the kettle to do ye a bottle. Get thee yem, bairn…”

She knew he was right, but she wasn’t supposed to talk to him, not since he’d went and died. Mammy said it wasn’t good to be talking with people that weren’t there any more, even if ye loved them a bit more than yer favourite Tamagotchi. But how do ye ignore yer granddaddy without getting a good belt around the lugs for being an ignorant whelp? She was still trying to work that out, work out how to stop seeing him, and how to stop talking to him, especially when she was lonely and scared.

“It’s Peter’s fault, Auld Pa. He’s ran off again. Said he wanted to see the world, but really he just wanted to gan and look for frogspawn in the tarn, the one where auld Shep fell in that time he thought he’d heard that lost Selkie calling his name again even though he weren’t at sea …”

She squinted her eyes, not because of the shaggy coo this time, but because she thought if she didn’t look at her granddaddy, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much if she spoke to him. Because she knew when she got yem and her Mammy asked her, she wouldn’t be able to fib. Fibs were like dandelions. When ye broke off their heads to try and make them small enough to fit in yer pockets, they left stains. And Mammy always checked her hands. And fibs, they stained her voice just like dandelions stained her hands. And Mammy always knew.

“That lad, he’ll be the death of every bugger that knows him, he will. I’ve a right mind to go and drag him back yem, and hang him over the end of the bath and whip his arse…”

Granddaddy didn’t know he was dead yet. And she didn’t have the heart to tell him. Or even the words. How do ye tell an old man that one night when he wanted that last bit of fruit cake, that when he got up out of his favourite chair, that his auld body just decided not to follow him? Just decided to sit there, mouth open, drooling allsorts of spit and uncaught hope over his stubbly chin, all the way down to the gap at the top of his shirt where his auld badger-headed carved pipe waited to never be smoked again?

It was bad enough watching Mammy screaming and screaming and pulling at her hair like it was full of wasps, pulling at her own cheeks like they were made from nettles instead of flesh. Then watching her fall, and it going on for ever and ever even though it was moments. And all she wanted to do herself was climb up on granddaddy’s knee and bury her head under his chin that was covered in drool, and already it was properly dead because his false teeth fell out and he never bent to pick them up. Aye, she couldn’t tell him, not without sitting on his knee first and he never sat down nowadays, not to even form a lap.

“Auld Pa, he’ll be back. Silly Peter always comes back, ye know that…”

But granddaddy had gone. His ghost never stayed around for long.

She thought maybe it was too difficult for new dead people to be ghosts, too tough. Like trying to reach the end of Tomb Raider with just a pair of pistols. Not impossible, but tough. And Peter, he was still gone. And although she’d just told a little fib to granddaddy about him always coming back, she hoped it didn’t matter enough for a belting.

Because some things, some things that ye think ye know and can understand, sometimes they try to get up for that last piece of cake, and they just can’t. They just can't.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Why God Made Moths

Why God Made Moths.

She used to say that God made moths so that polar bears could have snow to bathe their fiery tempers through on a solstice. But what God hadn't thought about was how much the bears would fall in love with the feeling of the cold flakes sliding through their anger, melting over their hurt. So then God made moths, to make sure there was always snow.

I never understood it, the connection. But I knew she had to be halfway right because her knitting needles had concocted woollen skirts for every single one of my special peg dolls. Only someone that knew stuff would be able to do that, be able to take pieces of wool that were more used to holding peapods to their canes so they couldn't escape to run off with the full moon and somehow force that wool to form into patterns and become skirts.

She'd once had a pet fox. It had tried to chew its own paw off when a trap next to an oak decided it was tired of lying around in the damp grass, and wanted to let the world know how annoyed it was about being out there getting wet. Only the fox heard its whining though, so only the fox understood. But whenever the bairns saw it limping past with its not-quite-a-paw-anymore, a lesson was learned. That's what she told me anyway, before I knew about the moths.

She said that was why moths flew the way they did, because they knew what they were for. She said it made them sad. She said God was never as hard on the butterflies because God was swayed like that too, by pretty things. I think she'd had a falling out with Them once and they'd never properly made up. She was stubborn like that, my Aunt. Stubborn and magic. Most witches are.

When they took her Gingerbread house and sold it on as a curiosity to the posh shop in the middle of the city, all the jackdaws flew off and blackened the sun. The news said it was just an almost eclipse, and not to watch because you'd go blind, but all of the village really knew. It was because of the birds and how they cried as they flew and flew and flew. Some of them died. Just fell out of the sky and became rainclouds because that's what some birds do sometimes when they lose something like my Aunt.

I still have one of her moths. It sits on my shoulder and sighs when the sun falls over the western horizon and the landscape pulls on its blanket to keep warm. I still don't know its name. I just know its not meant to become snow, not this one. I worry about the polar bears of course, I worry quite a bit. But the moths she gave to those she loved, they're not meant for a life of cold. They're not meant for falling and trampling and ice forts and glasses of coke. They're meant for sunsets and dancing and memories of witches that defy the temptation of fading.