On your fifth birthday I decided to dance for some reason
(and I never dance)
it felt like a heady stream of phosphorous lighting
and a woman wearing a clown's red hair.
When we stand next to each other in the doorway
seen against the chirping sunlight
we stand there as equals
little girls in frocks and baked flip-flops
And still, we turn in a half wide arc
and shake off those flowers printed upon our dresses
The hem moves forwards and upwards
as you rock upon the balls of your feet.
The room rose in a square spiral
with eyes waiting and peering down like dyed jewels
into crimson and silk black and tapping shoes
as I twisted a toe and arched a foot.
In a big wide kitchen there and not there
filled with white wood white
You made Gnocchi from scratch
herb green edges to its yellow flesh
It floated in the pot limply as we stared down at it
over the top of the silver aluminium pot
A tinge of garlic floating upwards
and wafting away in a ghostly pale.
When we ate it it stuck to the tops of our mouths
How is it, you asked, crossing lacquered nails and long legs
And everyone hesitated before saying "perfect".
Inside your room, the walls are filled
with defiant postcards printed on a spread of stars
We talk and you laugh but I don't when (or if) you will laugh
As you sit sure with impeccable tone
a burgundy jumper over mustard skirt
When we speak next you stare into leafy distance
cold with a casual disposition
I have to go now, you say with too many hearts and exclamation marks
and all I can write into the glow is 'okat, i lobe do'
Flint sequins flash as I turn furious tapping
Then there is a breath, a new spiral of silence
as I stop and before people clap, when I catch your eye
in your golden card birthday crown you look at me blankly
And I wish that I had said then,
we grow old and it doesn't matter,
you become beautiful and I remain small
But I can't and I look at you
and all I can manage is 'i lobe do'.
I suppose it’s good to write something new on the first day of the month. I’ve been waiting for about two days for September to start because I didn’t know that August had thirty one days, I guess I forgot to do the month-knuckle thing we used to do as kids.
I’ve been thinking about the image I want to use for this piece and I’ve drawn up a blank. So, instead of an image, I made up a song and recorded it. The recording is terrible, and I’m very sorry for that, but I’ve put warmth and scratchiness into that sound for you this Autumn day.
This poem, as you probably noticed, features auto-correct. Technology is quite difficult to depict and represent in prose, and more so in poetry. It can be quite jarring because writing is a thing that has carried on over thousands of years and we collectively still have a rough, but particular, sense of the ‘proper’ tone and aesthetic of written things which is somewhat removed from our present circumstances of quick swiping. I’ve tried to do that here without it being overly awkward, and I don’t know if it has worked. It grates on me slightly, and I don’t know if I’ve managed to capture the human nuance and balanced the two things together, but here you go anyway.
A few dry olive leaves would frequently float on the water
Balanced at an angle in a pucker on the elastic surface
The bottom of the pool was a light green blue
made up of millions of tiles a centimeter wide
No one could see the bottom of the deep end
Even with bulbous thick glassed goggles
it was a deep, deep turquoise
a solid curled stone instead of fluid
Thick white lines stretched into the turquoise with a sigh
surface and curves bending sinuously over each other
absorbent and velvet like, rippling with sheen
like the back of a large, smooth fish
Not like the sharp shapes of the Cheddar I ate
after the swim.
We used to toss smooth pebbles into the pool
and dive down to see who was fastest
in an endless, mindless cycle with a tunneling focus
seconds, rolling on, adding up
a slow voice measuring time calmly
and then emergence, and a quick roiling piercing of sound.
Never quite touching, those lines
muffled sounds from each other like crackling fabric
collecting into poison like her paints
while he sits there and stares.
One day a woman came to the edge of the pool
Clutching a thin purple robe to her neck, flapping about the legs
she took it off painfully exposing goosepimpled flesh
and stepped into the water gingerly
And there was a huge storm that night
the next day the pool was wild
when I dove in the water swirled around in my ears
And I felt four eyes sliding over my wet back
Avoiding eyes inside four walls with elongated lines
sitting for silent meals except for an insistent bark
They sat next to each other with a thick,
sticky tar accumulating in the space.
Floating on the water held up by a warm pressure
with slivers of wind like thin muslin
The sky never seemed wider or so big.
But less than a mile away
in a quiet house on an ivory day
the black tar slowly poured, and enveloped them
with a wet sound heard over several years
They waited for it, and stood still and pristine,
frozen, but with still warm breaths.
You all were so kind about my last poem that I got very excited and wrote another one. I know, am I rushing into things? Is this too soon? No one can tell, I’ll have to talk to my therapist about it. The image I have used here was created by the french illustrator, Belhoula Amir.
Anyway, this poem is about many things, as poems are wont to be, and among other things (my parents’ relationship), it is obviously about a pool. I used to go swimming in a big, outdoor swimming pool when I was a kid, and it had these mosaic like thick tiles all around it and curving into it. They were a cloudy celadon and would occasionally pop out, which is when my friends and I would use them for our diving game described above. The deep end was 19 feet deep, and I once dove into it the wrong way from the highest diving board and landed flat on my stomach with a big clap. I floated underwater for a few moments, stunned by the impact and the violent smarting on my stomach before managing to somehow paddle to the side, where I clung to the edge and floated gasping, dazed. I think the lifeguard at the pool was not very good, he mostly just used to lounge around and show middle-aged women how to move their arms and legs in a breast stroke. The ground around the pool was covered with brown, terracotta like tiles which were rough with a sandpaper like texture and grew darker when water fell on them. They would always be warm, even when it was cloudy, they would somehow soak up whatever heat they could and give off a lazy warmth. The feeling of them after getting out of the water is the most earthy feeling I have ever experienced.
The cottage was long, settled in the grass with a pleasant grunt
The whole world compressed
And gently shaped
We spent a summer there
My room was mint green
with rocks everywhere
And a mirror in a green frame
encrusted with cheap, faded rhinestones.
My bed was near the window
with copper rocks on the white sill
dull hay lines running through their sides
And the ceiling sloped down towards the other night
The living room was downstairs
with big windows looking out to glowing tin roof sea
The kitchen cupboards were full of labelled jars
We loved cinnamon so much the whole cottage smelt of it
No one could decide if the smell was sweet or savoury
We weighed everything down with sun warmed rocks
That's what rocks are for.
Books, paper, plates, doors,
and folded up clothes.
The books in the house were all unknown
thrillers and love stories and Reader's Digests
and I remember I mocked them
We wrote things on the beach with sticks and rocks
they wrote 'happy birthday' in the sand
And I wrote on paper 'promise me don't cry'
After noon when it began to get dark
he would get jittery for food
stomach cramping sweat breaking
We would all twist our wrists
Faster & faster & faster & faster
till the clicks were not clicks
And I cut sandwiches, white and clean,
horseradish paste - strangely pink
And crispy leaf
But we never ate in the dining room
A long room with a long oak table
shiny and dark and polished
With a filigree turquoise lamp hanging overhead.
She lay next to the dull, glowing lights of the car
green grass and grey tarmac in pale yellow light
And breathed in the smoke & smiled
her hands stopped roving
As if caught momentarily on pale string
The steps were so small that only my feet fit
We ate Italian sausage
and buzzing, static rocket
with juice running down our chins
The sun fell again in golden olive lines
inside an amber dome
through tall leafy trees and their rust shade
And we went about our business,
sneakers crunching on purple gravel.
We sat near the window & flies
and couldn't fly out
And we swatted them for being lost.
I haven’t posted anything new in a while, but this is a fairly long poem I wrote this morning. I’ve been developing it for a few weeks now, and the idea first came to me when I was on a train on a very sunny day.
This was the result of spending a few days in a cottage that we rented somewhere in New York a few years ago, so of course the sea mentioned above
isn’t really a sea, it’s lake Erie. I remember that the cottage was both fresh and musty, and my feelings for it ranged from an overwhelming infatuation to a vague disquiet. The atmosphere of the holiday was electric, to say the least, and the ruralness of the setting was not something everyone was necessarily used to. The quiet was nebulous and threatening, unfamiliar American countryside.
I think I take so long to post things because I am very reluctant about my writing, I don’t think much of it is good, and I struggle to come up with things that I feel will be worthy of sharing with people. That has never happened, I think, and when I do post I post in a quick haze of writerly occasions when I type things right onto the blank screen and click post. And then I think ‘oh God, this is really not very good.’ But I leave it there.
I’ve been feeling strange recently. It’s summer so I’m home for a bit. My dog has started acting hostile towards me. My head hurts all the time and I feel crushed with some massive invisible weight. I think it’s the weight of all the future. It’s just so daunting, that way, that trek to reach the threshold you’ve set for yourself and I just can’t stop thinking about how much time it’ll take me, how hard it will be, all the horrid, grimy little details.
My mind wanders off in strange unsettling directions. Violence. Xenophobia. I suddenly no longer recognise the world I live in. It changes like the weather, and why do we develop feelings of trust if human beings, collectively, change like the weather?
Sideways and onward, hitting walls and splitting bones
we move like a juggernaut crushing
ether, nails, and fists that make cornerstones
everything the air the sides of the invisible
with hands grasping climbing choking blocking
thousands and each other and grasping their own throats
everywhere and nowhere
we sink and we rise
though fit to be despised
Everything I write seems to be of a sour colour and I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my head above everything.
Who I want to be
Underlined and no longer inside