Hey Doll

Take it off.

Take it all off and show your skin.

Peeling dried

smooth cheeked

sun-bleached fringes of dull jaded fern

You hate it, I know,

You hate the limits that your skin has an end

That air touches you and makes you real

That you watch so many things from a window

Orb of yellow, pool of spite

Light in your eyes

distorted with layers of temperature and current

You are not real you are a vapour trying to keep its form

What form will the spaces give your face now

Will you be pious?

Good little girl, brave face

Sliding down in beads of water

Hardly seen

Coming up again in a cloud

Hardly seen

You have no touch you are painted over

Hello, doll.

Trauerblumen 1917 Painting by Paul Klee; Trauerblumen 1917 Art Print for sale

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.

 

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

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.

 

drinkingbardrunkillustrationpubillustratortomerhanuka-bc0247b9654217c73bd3d700c417d33f_h

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

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.

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