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 uncomfortable. Revealing things is distasteful. 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, 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.

But you don’t really hate what you end up writing. Even though it makes one 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. There is something I am ashamed and proud of, there is the unabashed inebriation. I have written a thousand words trying to explain my drunk feelings, but that paragraph is it.

Illustration by Tomar Hanuka, find him at thanuka.com

 

Lobe do

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.

Holiday

The cottage was long, settled in the grass with a pleasant grunt
Everything fit
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
flew in
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

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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.

Inside

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

crusting over

with hands grasping climbing choking blocking

thousands and each other and grasping their own throats

circle

circle

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

Room

 

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When she woke up there were strands of hair everywhere. There was a moment of wild panic as she straightened things out in her mind, and then collapsed back into bed. Her eyes stared up listlessly, coated with a dull film.

There were times when I read books about adventure, when I explored forests on my bike.

Her room was a jumble of things that frightened her. She would count the number of boxes it would take to sort everything out, to pack everything in and it would number in thousands. Small boxes for the rocks and shells and a giant one for her bed. Sometimes before she fell into a restless sleep she would see the lid come down neatly over her in her bed. A rubber hot water bottle lay next to her bed within arm’s reach. It was a wobbly and fleshy pink, like the inside of some innocent young animal. There were no pictures of people in her room, only lonely and bleak landscapes. Hope to her was forever a forbidden drug, and hope to her was a deep and encompassing sorrow. It wasn’t truly sorrow, it was sorrow and anger and a cruel pleasure all mixed up together.

I shaved my head when I was seventeen and my mother said what if it never grows back?

A stuffed pig lay next to her. She called it Maurice. She had stopped answering texts, emails, calls, letters. Everything had been stopped months ago. The front door was battered but silent as she lay in a nest of glossy hair. The wardrobe was shut but there were sounds coming from inside it – like slow, deep breathing.

Father is in the wardrobe, curled and powerless. He speaks in Morse and he cannot understand anything. He gets violent and bangs on the walls around him sometimes, but they are too strong. He screams, less and less frequently. He mostly runs on the spot inside the wardrobe now. There is a yellow lamp in the corner which he gazes at and croons to.

She watched him with regret sometimes, connected to him by some primal thread. They looked into each other’s eyes and saw other lives reflected back.

A girl I knew told me once that if you tore a little bit off a butterfly’s wings it would fly faster.

She had never known pain, she just thought she had. The things she created shone dully, peering through black cobwebs.

 

The Hidden Beauty and Usefulness of Inanimation

I am sitting by the large window in my kitchen and sunlight is streaming into the room. The dining table has a gammy leg; it wobbles and one has to be careful not to disturb it. It is usually quiet in the kitchen because it is in the back of the house, away from the street, and so this is where I like to sit and think. Maybe write. I feel very happy with my neatly arranged tools – my laptop, a pencil, a book (in case I get bored), and a notebook. But let’s move on.

It is very difficult to find your own voice in the increasingly loud clamour of voices that want to be heard. This is droll but still relevant, I think. If I can’t hear my own voice how will I know if it’s my voice and not someone else’s? Life has become very tiring suddenly and it is much more difficult to find an unsaturated space of your own. I can always feel the presence of some great oppressive weight, like a carcass I have to carry with me constantly. But there has always been a kernel of, an identification with, the solitary woman. I can remember her for as long as I can remember. She has always been there, in the books I read or the films I saw or the people I read about. These were usually old books, written in the 19th century – like Jane Eyre and Jo, most obviously – and some in the 1950s. The women in these books did usually get married, though, and did not remain solitary women, but her spectre was there. If times had permitted I am certain that many literary characters and actual women would have gone on to lead solitary lives. People such as Dora Carrington, Susan Sontag, Patti Smith are examples of solitary women in my mind, despite having being deeply involved in many relationships. They are the new solitary women. They seem unfettered and fully-formed in the way that they are accepting of whatever flaws they might have which enables them to transcend their ‘women-ness’. They are not slaves to norms. Not just those of gender, but normal societal norms as well. People have to bind themselves with so many chains to please others. To be solitary is a relief and a joy. To be able to be solitary. Art cannot exist in a vacuum, that is true, but neither does it exist whilst being trampled upon by a herd of wildebeests.

Inanimate objects are the best friends for the solitary person. They are comforting and familiar and frequently take on a life of their own. Everyone’s kettle has a unique personality and a unique face for them. I know we are told repeatedly of the worthlessness of the material world but there is nothing as comforting as the safe and solid feel of an old wooden table. Or a book. Or your favourite blanket. When I weep my people may not weep with me, but the walls weep, with great tears rolling down their faces in the rain. My inanimate objects are loyal creatures – or objects, that is.

I have decided to try and cast off the need, the craving that makes us debase ourselves and grovel to other people and the simpering person I am sometimes reduced to while pursuing these ends. It will be hard because these are habits that are ingrained in me and I will have to learn to listen to my own voice as opposed to theirs. I have decided to become a solitary woman because I have a feeling that this might be the age to be one.

Jon, Michael, Maria

Carry

Trail

Drag

Blood in the sand behind you there is blood in the sand

Are you dragging it or is it dragging you?

Over rocks and jagged stones

Under water and through hot, molten stones

A severed head you carry, a severed head

To rival your own, so pale, so proud

(so ugly, so wracked with lies and deceit)

Eyes rolled up within yellow sclera

Set in waxy skin

A sick tongue protrudes from its shrunken mouth

Whose words does it say, tell me whose words does it say

Does it say what you mean it to say

Or do you say what it means you to say

Oh dearie dear my dear you have fallen into such a trap

One such as will never release you (no, never)

Snapped up, you have been snapped up

By ghosts and devils

By lunches and revels

By hearts

By people

By perfect stones and betting kneelers

The World’s First Deaf Astronaut

The first time I saw him he was walking away from me. We were in a grassy park surrounded by dense pockets of trees. It was like a golf course, but wilder. I gazed at his back and traced its outline with my eyes; mapping where the dark burgundy of his shirt stopped and the blue of the sky started. He was a big man but he had a way of thrusting his neck forwards when he was being particularly passionate about something. I saw his arms rise and fall and draw confident arcs in the air. I thought he was one of those ignorant people who had no idea – or pretended to have none – that they behaved in outrageously self-aggrandising ways and I prepared myself to dislike him. My father heard me coming and turned around. He quickly turned around as well. My father smiled. “Charlie, this is Aksel.” He had the most extraordinary face; it seemed to shift from one emotion to another effortlessly like the motion of waves. It was so alive. I wanted to record every one of its movements with my hands like a blind woman. Only to see if it really would feel like the soft ripplings of water. Right then his face broke into a smile as he brought his hands up to make a sign. My father laughed. “He’s very happy to finally meet you and not very happy with me to have kept him waiting.” I smiled awkwardly. This warmth was unexpected and I didn’t quite know how to react to it yet. Also, I knew who he was now. I recognised him. He was the first deaf astronaut.

This is as widely known as can be. Becoming an astronaut is hard. I would have thought it was impossible for a deaf person. But he was there, in photographs, videos, floating against the pallor of the inside of the ISS with his hands constantly moving beside him. He was undeniably there. And I hated my father in that moment for having us meet. I had failed my training. I had not gone up. I had not become an astronaut. And he had. Despite my almost fanatic passion and exertion I had not passed the training. And he had. Therefore he was better than me, he was everything I was not, and he did all that I couldn’t do while deaf. His presence felt like a terrible pain, as if someone had carved a part of me away and had whittled me down to a stump; barely able to walk or talk. I tagged along behind them miserably for the rest of the evening. My father would occasionally translate some of his comments; usually funny ones. I would smile tightly. When it was time for us to go he turned to me and gestured.

I would like to see you again.

He was looking at me, no longer smiling, his face still and alert. I smiled and nodded.

“I’m not going to see him again. Why are you doing this?” I turned to my father angrily as we walked towards our respective cars. “It won’t do you any harm, Charlie. Talking to him might feel better.” “No, it felt worse. I don’t want to think about it, dad. That’s how I cope with things and it’s healthy for me. Don’t give me any psycho-bullshit about how I need to experience the pain. It’s just a rejection.” My father shrugged and patted my arm before walking off to his car.

I drove myself mad. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I would forget what his face looked like and then suddenly remember it and examine it in my mind. Despite all my conversations with my father I thought, I hoped, that he would make me feel better. I thought this guiltily, as if the mere thought of it would chase away all possibility of it really happening. I hadn’t slept properly for weeks, and now night-time became even more chaotic and worrying. Everything is different at night, you become a different person. A neurotic, paranoid version of yourself. I tortured myself by alternately hoping, and then ridiculing myself for hoping, that he would change everything and change me. I found his letter outside my door on a crisp day. It was bright and clean outside and the green of the trees was fresh and dark in the clear silence. I imagined him lying curled on the grass lit up by the golden light of the sun. I imagined his body fluttering with small movements while the grass grew and withered, grew and withered; and diminish till it became part of the earth.

He asked me to meet him by the banks of a river. I recognised it. I used to go there often and it was a quiet place. We lay on the banks and stared at the sky. The water lay lifeless at our feet and the sky stretched lazily overhead. Everything was calm. Tame. He began to speak and I couldn’t understand him at first but that didn’t seem to matter. And then I slowly began to see, in flashes at first and then more and more; his hands moved confidently and surely. They drew pictures and bright movements, leaving traces of colours in the air behind them. I could smell the wet smell of the earth. He seemed to be telling me about everything. His hands were dancers in themselves and his face moved with them, letting out noises which became the howling of wind and the sounds of showers of meteors.

It began to get dark. He sat up and looked at the water and the night sky reflected in it. The water was silky and soft against my back and blacker than anything I had known. I moved in it, curving like a fish. It was so dark that the sky seemed to descend and curve itself around me and I was no longer separate from it. I looked into the black, bottomless waters and felt a sense of wonder. They hadn’t made him to speak. They had made him to see stars and speak to them. They had made him like the air and the sea and the galaxies. The water splashed and became alive as his hands rose and fell in it.

 

 

The grass began to sprout. The earth changed and a shape could be seen in it. It grew and fluctuated, filled out and soft hair sprang up. It changed colours like the sky and eyelashes brushed the cheeks.

He opened his eyes.