From Space to Nothingness

Open that green door into the house

 

A flutter, and my heart with its visceral beat

Blackbirds and fowls running amok

Between the walls like antler velvet

Old oak beams groaning in time to the cobwebs’ string

singing black glossy feathers like comfort and warmth.

 

Come through the battered door, if only I could

I have everything to give, everything shaped

By you, unknown you.

 

The trees are silent in a gnarly golden wood

Floating above a beaten silver water’s edge

melting to sky,

 

And the blue paint chipped pots

Wait on the wooden table

pockmarked with soft red circles in a smoky whitewashed kitchen

I have dreamed of places to fill

And to be

 

It must be nice, it must be nice

To have a landscape loved pooling around

It reminded me of the burgundy shawl flapping

 

Bat like, bad omen, the moon rising steep,

Smoke rising, Vaughan Williams in grey skies, a false note on the river Dee

I see you, Haven.

 

I see myself, too.

If only I could

come home, finally, to pitted wood and

Sweet walnut gravy with caramelised onions

burnt in warm voodoo fires and old ersatz friends

 

The nut filled aroma of pleasant dusk and spat-out violet sparks

And light shining through the foggy day

Into unreal domesticity

It must be nice to have a thing loved,

For I will love you well, even the dead.

 

I have everything now

And all I am is waiting.

 

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Flight

There was a shape on the grass

A tree rising over it like the skin line of smoke

Smooth gloss rub and

Nacre black feathers

With vanes like blades of water

lying by the tar soaked edge of a beach.

The eyes were of shifting metal,

Melting and dropping and reforming,

What or if they saw

They saw madness

I put my hand on the crow

Not crow, not alive, not beak, not black

But mine.

Faint webbed skin lying against sleek feather

kneeling curved over small crumpled body

Dotted black on a flat spread line of green,

A strand of feather against the billowing blue sky.

And the grass russet against the head,

Rushed away from the body

It rolled green towards the edges

Ran into stalks of gold swaying warily

And then down, down into the brown earth sinking into purple.

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Day

The street by the house is a frame straight line,

riddled with gaps and fixes filled with water

between now and then and now and when

these puddles lie reflecting rainbow sheen.

I forget nearly always, I forget how it felt

In the spiral of it all, the close coupling of routine,

I forget the lines beneath the skin and the flash of deep sea

The blue lines lying underneath with red

And I find it infinitely easier to remember

them as buildings and objects,

that silver foil stuck to that bench, for instance, that’s you

That red bucket upturned over prickly grass is you.

As darkness falls a memory of suspended water and light

I begin to chase the fog, down the street past the restaurant,

I chase the fog, I run

holding head above water hoping I see clearly

I run through the sky winding flutes, I don’t know where or when

Perhaps happiness breathes its breath in a lifelong meal,

strands dissected and held together over pockmarked breath

But somewhere a burning sun

now, then and when,

surely somewhere a perpetual red burning sun.

tilia_film_4

Augury

Donald Trump is a great man.

He has been elected, so he must be a great man.

We believe in Democracy. We believe in electing our leaders and building strong governments. We believe that, ultimately, the popular vote will be the right vote. We believe in things so long as they aren’t inconvenient to us, we believe in truth, so long as it is our truth, and we believe in the Other. Imagine Susan B. Anthony dreaming of a day when women could vote, imagine the first African-American President humbly looking back on the gaping wound of America’s history from where he is now, and imagine raising children in a world where kindness, accountability and conscience have been deemed unimportant. We shall no longer be nations of minorities, we shall no longer be nations of many meanings, and we shall no longer be ‘weak’ and politically correct. We shall be tough, we will build walls, we will bring swift justice upon people who are different, whose only crime is to disagree.

But Donald Trump is a great and wise man.

Globalisation has brought everything forward in jarring detail, and our ability to comprehend all the conflicting different realities is limited. We are frightened because we do not know. Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong, but we do not know why or how. So we react in archaic ways in a frantic effort to go back to a world where everything was simpler. We cannot go back. You cannot make America great again. There is no ‘great’; we are but a collection of mistakes and we live our lives and push our civilisation forward by muddling through. We do not know anything. Confronting that fact and recognising that diversity and the need to respect other opinions and other humans is not weak, but bravery indeed.

We have been exposed too soon to the whole world, we don’t know where to look or what to believe because the world is not an easy place to live in. Life is not easy. It is convoluted, complicated and obeys no rules. We feel as if we are losing our place in the world, we feel as if all those heroes of our pasts, those bastions of the norm, have been lost. But there are heroes among the seaweed and diamonds in the dark, and the ‘other’ is no longer the other, they are one of us. Throughout the history of the world the Other, the women, the LGBT community, and people of other races have struggled for their rights; the right to vote, the right to work, the right to love and marry, and now, with the Black Lives Matter movement, the right to breathe. The temptation to turn towards an out-dated brand of fire and brimstone populism for answers is shockingly powerful, as we have just witnessed, but this kind of change backed by hateful rhetoric has always been the dark augury of horrific authoritarian regimes. We are capable of great and remarkable feats of bravery and sacrifice, we are an extraordinary race which builds its own realities. We have fought, over and over, for what is right and fair. Why have we suddenly forgotten the lessons of history? We have sunk through the rifts of partisanship so that we no longer know anything to be true, and the only things visible are fierce and irreconcilable divisions. Our anger and discontent has seeped out of us in a black, foul smelling mass and has erected a steel tipped icon of populist anger and rage.

The uncertainty and fear caused by the shock of this American election will have unprecedented and far-reaching changes, the disregard for facts portended by the Brexit has culminated into embracing a reactionary charlatan who cares only to win, and who has demonstrated his contempt for everyone, from the LGBT community to women to the disabled.  This election has been a repulsive feat which has disowned the Presidency of the nation’s first African-American and all the efforts of the women and men of whatever race or sexuality who helped build the country for everyone. That Secretary Clinton, the most qualified candidate for President in the history of the election, should lose to a man who boasts about evading taxes is despicable and has confirmed a worrying undercurrent of misogyny and deep distrust of women and minorities in American society.

This is us. This is the mirror. This is the spectacle of politics. This is show business, and this is sensationalism – facts and truth are fast becoming subjective and easily discarded. This is the age of the internet where people hurl racial and sexist abuses at each other under the garb of anonymity, where common decency is laughed at, and where opinions are increasingly divided and retreat further and further into extreme corners. Now is the test of our times, and we have a responsibility to uphold equality and tolerance and everything that the voiceless and the underrepresented deserve. That a man who so blatantly espouses the misogyny, racism, xenophobia and hatred practiced by dogmatic bigots should be elected is a shameful and resounding warning.  We were supposed to be smart about this, but we like being right too much. We like putting the other side down too much. They’re backward bigots, they’re weak liberals – we love disdain and feeling superior.  This is the cruel, contradictory truth – that even as we despise President Trump, we have helped create him.

This is happening, and we will not give in to it, however strong our divisions we must bridge them now and stand united. We must uphold the things we stand for, we must ready ourselves to be unafraid, and we must stand by our beliefs. Be ready to be principled, be ready to be virtuous, and be ready to be everything Donald Trump is not.

Paddling

It strikes me that we will never be great

Like those grey dots separated by nothingness

On a flickering screen brighter towards the center.

The world is a tapestry woven




For each of us, to forever hold

Sacred and watch

And watch

And watch




Watch with these frightened eyes,

Frightened of what, we do not yet know.

Watch through tears running down our cheeks

Arising from the crest of the undertow.




This silk drops from a great height,

Travelling through time

Through dust born by gimlet eyed carriers

As the path leads we know not where



And the ripples scatter like ducks over a pond

Even as we cry and hope and laugh and rage,

We raise a gun, and take aim.

 

saskatchewan_duck_hunting

 

I really like the bleakness of cold mornings when people go hunting. I don’t know why. It seems very arborial and antiquated to me – hunter gatherers of the present.

I don’t have a lot to say about this poem, I wrote it just now, so it’s quite clear, I think. The picture is from somewhere in Canada, I wanted a very cold and foggy one of the lake district but I couldn’t find any. It’s a very cinematic shot, it’s so organic and beautiful, and those are geese curving their wings, not ducks.

The more primeval parts of the lake district make me think of Seigfried and the dragon and it’s all very medieval Germany for some reason. Or is it Saxon? I don’t know.

Bide

They make the roads very straight here.

Men pour cement and purple black gravel and flecks of sticky tar,

And these roads, they run into cities under burgeoning black skies on golden

Rollers and golden lights, shining paved and strong.




By the road, by the silver night, the shore of a river

Lies belly-up; brown slick mud exposed like innards

And beyond that on both sides is the dark.

The trees rise rustling black, gaping against the




Light purple edges of the sky

Enclosing a blackness so deep that I have become a seer.

I see pale gold leaves just beginning to bud in the half light

I see dried blue cornflowers glowing faintly




I see pale faces looking out from between the trees.

The gorge falls to me on the other side

In facets of lavender and sapphire and wisps of smoky rock

I smell the lavender as it falls down and it smells sharp and old.




The tears roll down those mute faces.

Did your blue-eyed girl go away? Or was it father, enemy, or friend?

Does it hurt like glass forcing its way through your veins?

The world would be a better place if we bore each other’s pain.




We don’t. 

Do you cry, my invisible friend?

Do you feel?

Do I make you laugh? Do I make you cry?




Lives flash green and sparkling in the dark, running with childlike glee.

On and on they spin, without questions or answers, ensconced in

just a low domestic roar of conversation and cutlery and glasses clinking-

Where is that red warm hand that we all seek?




The horizon lights up in a white heat

as strokes of lightning cut the pale glittering dust of the sky

The ground rolls and shakes like a green wave

And the roads crack.

 

peder_balke-nordlys

 

The illustration I’ve chosen for this piece is by Peder Balke, a 19th century Norwegian painter. He is vastly underrated. He painted the aurora many times, but this is the one painting that I find absolutely mesmerising. It’s in black and white, taking the colours away from a phenomenon that is famously colourful, and because of that it is so true.  They are like curtains of light forming mirages of worlds in the night sky.

There is no aurora borealis in my poem, but it also features a mirage conjured up by the actor of the poem. I had the inspiration for it while on a bridge at night; the bridge looks out to the city on one side and a huge mass of untamed, hilly woodland on the other. A river flows silently underneath. I usually stand on the side of the woodland. As I looked out into the night, I saw colours. It was very dark and it should have been too dark to see anything, but I saw  colours in the trees. They weren’t bright, you understand, just subtle shifts in greens and blues so slight that it’s entirely possible that I imagined them. But they were there, and it was like a fourth dimension, it felt nearly miraculous. It was wonderful.

But I don’t know.

Drunk

My stars come down to my cheeks.
I paint my face,
darkness in my eyes and hope in my ears.
Blood dripping slowly from the world.

I know you. 
I know you through these restless vapours
I know you through the paint
the smell of people, the stink of them.

Did you think they smelled like magnolias?
No, darling, they smell like vomit
They didn't tell you that did they, at school
Or even at your deathbed.

I hear those beads.
I hear turqouise beads clashing like snow
setting off sparks of blue
I never forgot them, I didn't.

I am sorry I did, your beautiful pale face
trying to be polite, trying so hard
but I hate it when you are polite.

Be terrible. Be like a fifty foot
tall wave that destroys. I don't 
love you. No one does. 
Love doesn't exist. But nature does.

 

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I have written this while drunk. I went out to a party. And I felt what I always feel after getting drunk – rage. I was ‘snarked’ to by a person. While trying to help another person who was ill. In that moment I wished all the dogs of hell after her, I wished for storm and rage and the black, black seas to drown her. We become so narcissistic when drunk. The only smell I really associate with being drunk is a sour smell of dried vomit. And sweat.

And now I’m writing this the morning after. To be fair, I don’t think I was being very helpful to the ill person, I was busy being engaging, funny, and interesting in my ‘quirk 5000’ disguise. I don’t like myself when I am drunk, I become the  worst caricature of every girl who has ever been drunk in a mainstream film. I’m having fun in the moment, but it acts as a false bridge to other people. And once it fizzles out, all the goodwill and the good-natured part of me that bursts to life on drops of gin, I feel very angry.

Which is when I wrote the things above. They’re not very good. They’re shit. I think because I was consciously trying to be poetic. Also because it wasn’t a very good night. It didn’t provide much for dramatic or poetic potential. It was just dull. A little depressing. But then all things of the night seem depressing in daylight.

I’ve written loads of stuff while drunk, though nothing good enough to turn me into an alcoholic. I find that drunk writing is propped rather heavily by one feeling, usually sentimentality. I find that strain running through all of my drunk writing. Even through the one, and only, drunk text I have ever sent. Thankfully it wasn’t too embarrassing objectively, but to me it was intensely so. Sentimentality is something I cannot abide. Revealing things, unless intentionally and directly, is distasteful to me. I feel a real disgust for it, really. And I think that’s the point, drunkenness takes the fine point away from intentions and emotions and leaves them lying in broad, mingling, primitive pools of slime.

Here’s something I wrote in a club last year in October. I was astonishingly out of it, I think, standing in the midst of people, typing away at my phone.

 

I was with some people in a club standing next to them texting and when I looked up I was with a completely different set of people. People replace people so fast. Everyone I’ve ever know is mediocre, with normal houses and families and normal aspirations. I become a more gregarious person when I drink. What I really am I is melancholy. You feel as if you can do anything. You feel sad, desperate. All these people around you to forget. We shouldn’t have to forget. Heady heady feeling rushing to our heads we should rush each other. Rush to do the extraordinary. Rush to become what we are not. Every sinew will scream against it but do it, darling. Do the chit chat and do the impossible. Because you can. Because it doesn’t  matter. Because the auto correct on your phone works. Because despite being barely able to stand you are typing this down. Because I love you, this other part of me that transcends things. That cries for me. Never let me go because you keep me and you make me sane. Oh darling I feel you beside me in the cold. Please stay with me forever.
Red light on their faces and everyone is so happy. I wish they would remain like this forever. I apologise. These faces frozen in that red light. Would that be how they want to be immortalised? Distant voices saying drunken things. That’s all that’s left. I can’t do this anymore, it makes my head hurt. I cannot pretend. Singing high and pure, alone, that is how I want to be remembered. A strain of voice unafraid and pure, transcending us all. Something bigger than us keeping us stable. My voice in time. Frozen in the red like theirs.

 

Now this is, I don’t know what this is. It has some soaring rhetoric edged with a kind of ecstatic, almost religious, pleading. It’s terrible because it’s so clumsy in what it does, it knows that it’s clumsy and it’s pretending to be good writing when it’s not. It’s actually trying to be the kind of writing it thinks people might read and might be moved by. It’s an imposter. It clings and draws away, runs through sentences headlong and arrives in a clumsily executed skid. The tense is also strange, it starts off as if I’m relating an experience, and then it becomes into the experience, so the writing an active part of the situation and the writer turned into something very similar to a documentary filmmaker.

And yet. Even though it makes me cringe, even though it’s terrible – and believe me, I am not one to quibble over writing styles and format, to each their own – there is something in there. I do feel it. There, in that prose that I am ashamed of and proud of, is my drunkenness. I have written a thousand words trying to explain my drunk feelings, but that is it. It’s a snapshot, everything is there.

Illustration by Tomar Hanuka, find him at thanuka.com