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.
It is for grey days, when you feel disembodied. I made a song. It’s for you to listen to when alone. Winds, birds, greys, and the sound of the sea in the back. Voices hidden in warm, crackling static.
- 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)
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.
This is the most horrible thing in the world. Everyone will agree. “Badum pam pam” far worse than a song stuck in your head because this is a person. The only thing you can do to somehow gather yourself from the puddle of whatever liquid you’ve melted into is to read and watch and listen. Immerse yourself in the suffering of others to alleviate your own because that’s what other people are there for (you’ve finally realised their importance). You can either convince yourself that they had a worse time than you (eating buckets of ice cream and pining away in bed for several days while slowly vegetating) or you can make yourself into a martyr and believe that absolutely NO ONE in this world and in history has suffered as much as you. Not Dido, not Norma, but you with your velvet scrunchie.
Us with our glass hearts.
Kidney pie you see the world in black and white.
And you at the centre of that vast tragic swirling vortex of monochrome.
Although far from monochromatic, Turner has captured so much more than nature in this painting he has captured the storm within us all and it is rushing into every crevice on and on in a seemingly unrelenting endless flow overwhelming everything everywhere and engulfing you in its colours overpowering invasive acute
“I know you *liiiilt* you’re the one I’ve waited for…”
You listen to this Jon Brion song from Synechdoche, New York and write a blog. All the while eating ice cream of course. Mint chocolate chip.
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.