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

IMG_6823

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.

Room

 

014-daisuke-yokota-theredlist

 

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.

 

25 Candles (of Mind Numbing Disappointment) Playlist

  1. High and Dry – Radiohead

 

This is how I start my day. Well this is how I start the enjoyable part of my day. My day actually started at 6AM when I was woken up by people who sounded mad with enthusiasm and happiness and wished me a happy birthday. Listening to them talk made me want to slowly disappear into my duvet and preferably die by becoming one with it. So I am now lying in bed in the pose made famous by murdered people with chalk outlines in a defiant protest against life and birthdays.

2. Fake Plastic Trees…and also Fade Out – Radiohead

High and Dry has done the trick. I feel a little pumped. The Bends is a great album and I go on to Fake Plastic Trees, which is soaring and enveloping despite its disconsolate content. But luckily I love extremely sad music. Sometimes I listen to the sound of tears streaming down people’s cheeks. Fade Out and we are moving into bleak – but beautiful – territory. Great birthday material – except, obviously, for all the beauty of the song. That’s the very opposite of what birthdays are made of and represent.

3. Crown of Love – Arcade Fire

Sad. Sad. Sad. But really grand sadness. I would like my sadness to be announced by orchestras and guitars. I imagine a camera overhead gently turning and slowly zooming down to my body. Corpse attitude indie shot. They will probably put that on a motivational poster for hipsters now.

4. Disco 2000 – Pulp

Because I recently saw a list it was on along with the Arcade Fire song above. I wonder what life means and why he couldn’t be with Deborah.

5. Blue Monday – New Order

80s electronic music is the best. I felt this was the logical move after Pulp.

6. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division

Joy Division. I love them. If you think that this song is heartbreakingly sad then you should not listen to any more Joy Division. This is actually medically verified. This song is a unicorn jumping through a rainbow while a child caresses a buttercup on the other side compared to the rest of their songs. I have reached an impasse now which will result in one of two ways – either I will survive the end of this playlist or I will end up killing myself. Do I listen to more Joy Division today? Do I risk the Russian roulette of the effects it will have, coupled with birthday blues? Or do I back down and listen to some Smiths and gently move on to Suede or something?

I put on some Lemonhead.

Oh, did you think this was going to be a playlist containing 25 songs? No. I wanted to selfishly pass on my disappointment to my readers. Now we are miserable together (say that in a drawn out-children speaking in unison voice)

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.

 

Transcendent and Shining Grief

When I heard today that David Bowie had died I got out of bed and went into the kitchen. I boiled some water and looked at how peaceful it was outside and thought, like so many others before me, like any person who has experienced loss ever, why nothing had changed and how there could be no sign of him not being there anymore. I loved him. I loved whatever I knew of him. He was my friend who sang to me. He was my inspiration because he could be so many things. He was never boring, darting from one thing to another, a glittering, burning arc. I poured out the water and held the cup because it was warm and comforting. And I traced his name gently with the tip of my nail over and over again on the rim of the cup. Being a ‘fan’ – I think it’s such a disdainful term, isn’t it – is so hard. You have to mourn for people you never truly know. You never spoke to them, you never laughed with them. They are already phantoms.

You never knew them.

And it seems so strange, so unbelievable that a person you’re aware of almost all your life is unknown

Because you’re so close in your head

And then they are gone. Without knowing your name, without knowing that your heart beat and blood flowed through your body and whorls arranged themselves on your fingers while they stopped one day and left you.

It was a comfort just knowing that he was always there. Somewhere. And now he’s gone.

There are so many uncertainties. Are you supposed to feel so much, so deeply? Surely these feelings belong to people who really knew them, surely only they are the ones entitled to them.

How are you not here anymore? How do I find you after you’re gone, through all the pictures and articles and songs?

I thought we would meet one day.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything. I’m sorry.

 

 

I thought he would live forever.

City Glow

This is one of the best music videos I’ve seen all year (watch it here) and that still, in my opinion, captures the spirit of the music so fluently and completely. I generally don’t like watching music videos because they tend to spoil my experience of the music with colours different from the ones that I see but this was perfect. I thought I didn’t like the confetti at the end at first, but then I caught a glimpse of her twirling through it with a curtain of hair swinging with the motion and I felt my mouth slowly curve into a smile. I loved the whole atmosphere of the city at night when its nearly, but not quite, deserted and it’s something that has always attracted me.

I’ve read, fleetingly, reviews of the song that praise its successful combination of different elements but this was what made the biggest impression on me:

“Romy and I grew up skateboarding together. It was such a big part of our friendship, even before we started playing music.
We would spend every weekend from early in the morning till late at night, skating and exploring the streets of London. We wanted the video for Loud Places to show us skating and going to the places we used to go to.”

That’s Jamie talking about the song and its video and you can immediately see what he is talking about, it’s like he suddenly made a tiny bit of it clearer but all the other bits are your own experiences and hopes and dreams and they are familiarly and comfortably murky.

That’s another one of my favourite scenes. Like a wave. I love watching people skateboard, they have such an elegantly gentle curve to their straight lines.

Look at that. So clear yet muted.

The song itself is one you can sink into and let it pool around you and engulf you. It has unexpected depths of nostalgia and a fond disconnectedness that resonate, not powerfully, but in a dreamy way that fits in with the song.

I have never reached such heights.

The Teardrop

I watched Closer for the first time when I was eleven years old. I realise now that it wasn’t an entirely appropriate film for an eleven year old to watch, but I watched it when it was playing on TV and that was a time when I thought that observing characters in books, films and other media would help me understand them better. I still do that but I understand that that isn’t really reliable. I remember being fascinated and frightened by all the complex, often dark drama that was happening in Closer and how nobody seemed to be ‘good’ in the traditional sense. Except Natalie Portman’s character. But I didn’t really interpret her as ‘good’, I saw her as someone caught up in these things, someone innocent. I ignored the ambiguity of her later scenes in the film and the uneasiness they caused at the time. This photograph of her taken by another character was one of my favourite scenes in the film. I remember being struck by how beautiful the potential of that photograph was. A single, pure teardrop running down her cheek.

But I’m looking at it now and I don’t see the teardrop. That disappointed me. To me the poignancy of that scene and of her character depended on the presence of an imaginary tear that I created. That’s so strange. I wonder what that says about me.