back to black

BACK TO BLACK

there you are all

bent backed

crooked fingers

black eyes

paralysed

words make their way across you

you try to capture one, or two

a sentence falters against you

rights itself, carries on

they ask if

they are good enough

you ask

if you are.

the sun pours across to a new hemisphere

your eyes turn to moons


songs

when I would like to lay; in the earth. as a sepulka (sepulchre). i will be instead here in this place.

when my hands would rather curl themselves into bones. i will light candles for you.


mangroves

MANGROVES

the girls’ skin shines in the reflection of the water

it looks grey

under the shade

of scrawny swamp trees

their bellies and thighs marked with long lines

lying on squashed mangroves


grandmothers

JANE AND GRACE

my grandmother jane

emeralds drip on her creamy fingers

nails the colour of a blood orange

i hear stories of flat footed driving and the catesak

my grandmother maria

hands as hard as my father

arms full with bundles of sticks

under her nails

dirt

pieces of worm

juice from a mandarin

peeled, broken, handed to me


Fictional true stories #1

Light breaks the window. Almost; it falters. The green behind it large and voluminous, the dust deliberating its fate between air and earth, gravity paused for a moment and dark suspended in light. Voices fleet and the kettle boils, the button snaps up and tea bags are set in the two brown cups. Chamomile, peppermint, pieces of ginger cut up in the water. Mother’s hands hold little lines. She steadies herself, gives you a cup. The table is bare except for the book you brought for her and your own handbag. She turns it over and feels the covers, opens to a page and reads some, a little smile coming to her as though she already knows what it is about. You try to hold in your disdain for the showiness of the gesture. The house is large and you both make your way through it and spend time in the garden where the plants are and flower buds have begun to open. Mother’s frame is smaller now, or yours is bigger, maybe you’ve put on weight or something. Mother walks carefully and you feel heavy and clumsy around her like she could break one of the pink camellias that bend onto the path. Father is warm and dirty and small as well and quickly resumes the squatted position in a garden bed beneath a vine after he leaves dirt on your back from his hands.

You remember a time when you were so small beneath him and you watched your shadows competing for space in this yard. You want to kneel and gather the dirt around the seedlings and bump his hands, but you must be at work in an hour and this was just supposed to be a short visit. 

On the train on the way back from mother’s house the rain slowly settles in and the glass seems to bend and cave to its growing pressure. Tunnels pass in and out and air is bent out of shape by speed. The train passes a green field with a dam in it filled with purple weeds brimming with lilies. In the field, a girl in a brown dress follows her father across the grass. Time wanders beside them. You gulp, close your eyes, plant flowers with your father. 

sugar

the juice breaks. my tongue

splits the skin

sugar falls through my fingers

all afternoon they are sticky

i like their sweetness

i smell them

the smell of fermenting fruit

now, the sun sets and

i am fermenting

bubbling

bursting with colour

ii

the girls’ skin shines in the reflection of the water

it looks grey

under the shade

of scrawny swamp trees

their bellies and thighs marked with long lines

lying on squashed mangroves

ink

you take a broken pen

ink drips from the top

you wait until a new droplet forms

looks to drip

draw with the clear plastic tube

interior

marks on my belly

you go where the organs are

heart, on heart

lungs

fibre and tissue

like a strong tree

dendrous, your arms

as you line my skin

 

green pool

hold this, you say, and wander haphazardly across the rocks to where the green pool shelters from the heat

i won’t be a minute.

you look at the sun and judge the hour. you tell me it is three.

i don’t care. the afternoon is interminable. i watch you make waves. i watch your body become water.

in the shade you brush me and i shiver.

a water dragon plunges into the pool.

the entire chasm echoes with our silence.

sea-sick

i want to be so sick with salt that my skin shines like pickles

full of brine and breathing through gills

exhale air 

inhale water

let my hair dry like green weed on the rocks

turn my cells to scales

cover the sandy floor with my body and wait 

for the tide to change

sssss

brine has darkened her cells

the fish

mistake her for one of their kind.

she lies in the sand, hair coated with yellow grains turned translucent by the wetness

her nails are clear like the sea without the sky

her skin absorbs light, takes it, darkens

in the sea, she exhales all her air to dive deep

wishes for scales in place of skin, long draping fins where the fingers sweep the underside of waves as they bucket overhead

falls to the sand. the whitewash above a creamy sepulchre.

i want to be a woman so briny.

skin pickled to hardness. hair breaking off in the sun. legs beating green jelly into the night.

the poetic taste of un-words

i

this morning I hung your clothes on the small line in the backyard, with the string that you showed me how to pull so that I can let the line back down alone.

hands cool and damp from the clothes I placed new rinsed into the basket. basket to hip, and into the sun. the sun that is learning ways around us, our shadows in its way. seeping into our skin.

the sun that fell in diagonal patterns across the slatted wood at the side of the house. my toes on cement and brushing against grass that pokes its way through the large tiles. clothes in my hands. fresh-rinsed from sweat.

this morning you hung my clothes on the small line in the backyard, with the basket sat on the porch and clawing through to find the largest pieces to hang first. and on the ground a lizard made its way through the beams of wood on the veranda and into the light to bask in contented solicitude with the sound of passing cars. the way you do.

ii

of all the poem-people

that have touched my skin

you have written —— and unwritten

more words

by speaking silence

than others do in all

their wailing

jubilee

iii

here I am

cooking

the same meal of sauce, garlic, red wine, onions and shallots, over pasta

with oil and the sweet olives my mother taught me to buy.

the same meal I have cooked many a time. for others, too.

this time

there is no transience to the way the pasta curls

the water stays clear. it does not muddy. I pour the oil over it and scoop it into bowls. it is perfect.

iv

when I would like to lay; in the earth. as a sepulka (sepulchre). i will be instead here in this place.

when my hands would rather curl themselves into bones. i will light candles for you.


your father's house

there you go, sitting on the old torn couch, grey and matted and stained with pieces of dead skin so small they make a small matted space by your head. where your father’s head lay back. it has been three months since you occupied his old house and you wonder how to get these stains of his very back and neck off from the chairs and couches. in the kitchen is the smell of sour scales where he would skin and gut and whip the scales from the fish out on the hand-poured concrete in the back that runs down to the river that opens up to the sea. with the jetty and the small boat with oars discarded on the sandy river-beach. where he ate mullet and catfish wrapped in foil and thrown into the grill in the oven with butter stuffed in beside it.

there you are wiping butter onto bread. scouring the oven. hosing down the old fence with grime flicked up on it.

the sink is rusted and filled with knives, carving knives, bread knives and thick scaling knives and the rust has joined them together. you have to pull them to break them apart. the rust somehow ends up on your hands and you sniff the rusty smell, unpleasant in the salty air. salty from the incoming tide and the easterly blowing the spray of waves into the air, whipping them into inscrutable parts, letting them fall around your father’s house.

paint falls off walls. like the dripping sea it tumbles. the walls full with asbestos. the old wooden windows with their stuck-open latches. the sun makes itself into a hundred pieces and stampedes through the windows. skin-dust in the light.

water

condensation was one of the first words that ever fascinated me. held me. for three days straight I sheltered leaves with left over plastic bags

waited for the droplets to form, took the bag and let them run down onto my hands

and the word was there, covering the grey plastic, dripping from my fingers onto the grass below my feet.

the water follows everywhere. it falls as a waterfall down the back of my mind and rushes in concentric circles behind my eyes that build and grow like the tide til I ride them downstream and begin to leave worries behind

they run.

they run ahead of me and lay me out to dry, rinse me until I am ice cold, covered in frost, waiting and panting but so very un-lost

like a quarry filled with the most ecstatic blue and minerals deposited with waste that may or may not be able to drown a person in poison and cover them in sparkling silt at the same time, the words are vengeance and renewal and the breaking down of every large thing into the finest sand.

you can build a mountain from your thoughts. but make no mistake, the water is stronger than the dirt. it will forge paths for you, break down monuments for you, stop traffic for you. take you until all you need to do is keep yourself from drowning.

it is never done with you. like all the lakes rivers and seas on earth you will find yourself connected, circling and re-circling back into the same shallows and gullies, diving deeper with more strength, more assurance, a greater elation.

crashing into rocks in a violent tumble. pieces in the sea. pieces on the land. the steam of your breath.

sea bird

gold the light strikes them. on the white places where the water rests as in a goblet on waxy feathers

crawing against the incoming tide, the setting sun, the abundance of human flesh littering the creamy dunes

human-kind rinses itself in the ocean

the birds caw above, and dive to throw their heads beneath. white into white. pink beaks gulping tiny shimmering scales.

on the beach a man past his prime pulls himself into the surf, against the current. his heart pounds loudly. the waves crash around him and he shivers at their tenacity. his tenacity. to be here, among them. he is afraid of being swept out, so careful to maintain a foothold. but the sand slips. no sooner can he place a foot than the grains rush away beneath it, dust. he is on his back floating. the light seems to tickle him. giggling.

Peaking (poem)

the thoughts were so

swell.

gorgeous.

held together. knowable.

now they blitz apart, simply the sum of a hundred fragmented memories built into your mind

the present mingling with the past, a blur. you reach your hand up twist it into your mind, try to configure - reconfigure - reset

you walk long strides in the evening down glowing summer paths. pacing placing re-placing yourself

building yourself again of the gentle dappled light that breaks through velvet green leaf or the smell of balsamic and garlic in somebody’s pasta sauce

building yourself of the sum of the evening

Friday poetry post: peace

If you stop hating yourself
You can stop hating other people
Your pain will not be illuminating their imperfections all the time



There are enough people out there with a shield across their heart hoping nobody will notice they have one.

Choose the bloody option. The one that leaves you open. And rich with breath.


The truest things are the things people are sick of hearing. Advanced beyond. Have no time for.
That love is the fabric of life. But love is not only an idea, it is a wave that grows and consumes your fear. That kindness will heal your broken heart. That nothing cannot be mended, is too far gone, is not allowed back. That you must allow yourself to be kind first and strong second. That the children hold the secrets we have forgotten in the speed of things.



It's very strange that we want to be okay all the time. Be sane all the time. Be pleased, and jovial, all of the time. Take the deepening of Autumn as a reminder that your body is in fluctuation like the earth. The leaves are a sweetness that browns and bursts and drops and falls, and so are you. The clouds weep like you, before they are frightened by warmth. And sometimes there is a dull stillness about you that cannot be understood. It isn't illness, to desire to hole up from stress, or hide and hibernate. Because still all the time you are a living, gasping, hoping soul, daring to breathe.


Friday poetry post: chaos

There are years of dreams stored up for you. from the years you slept, and did not dream. and woke and did not believe.









Let me tell you, about silence, and how it can be deafening. It can be an army in your ears invading you, can be the ticking of time in the back of your mind or the reminder of crimes you'd left behind, can be the roll of thunder or everything run asunder or remnants of the wonder, can be the sound of light so bright your reaction is to fight or the night so hounding so confounding, life so astounding. Let me tell you about silence, it gives.









Love

like you're exhaling. It isn't anything

but a way of being alive












Security gives you the chance for chaotic, alarming dreams











The point is not to try to ____ .

The point, is to try.

Therein lies significance.












I want to road trip forever. And work full time, so as to be busy, to occupy my mind. I want to work with my hands, hard. I want five children with cotton dresses pulling weeds from the garden with me. I want to drive alone across Russia, live alone on the Mongolian planes for the next fifteen years. Learn the sound of silence. Fill my life with sweet noise. I want truth. I want to watch the sunrise on the Parisian rooftops, and set in my backyard lighting up the roses. To join an all girl rock band and devote my life to yelling politics at politicians, and to remove myself from society so far, so distantly that you'd have to run away too to find me. I want a thousand quiet nights. A hundred sleepless ones to remind me what it is to be alive.

The dichotomy of life is even more unutterably beautiful than this


Ramblings: on mania, and the search for meaning

The sight of words on a page are the only silence my brain may have. Rather than being some kind of ‘outlet’, it is the purest form of existence, to be in the act of creation. The way my brain reacts to conditions, to rules, to control and to the regions that ignite paranoia is evidence, not of insanity, but of what to me seems to be the greatest sanity: the search for meaning.

The idea that there is nothing, no hope, no meaning, in any task provokes in me such total distress that my body and mind revolt. Rather than running away, I am searching for something that I believe exists. This is how the manic brain can function. This is why insanity is a solace to society. Without the desperate merging of our darkest fears with our deepest hopes, our art would be devoid of depth and our attempts to elucidate life deemed irrational. Without insanity, there can be no love.

And so to write, to create, is to become something new. Something outside of ourselves. Rather than being some kind of symptom of higher intelligence, insanity feels like a rushing body of water that sweeps the things underneath its path that are destructive to the end goal: sense. In a world that is commonly nonsensical, there is no use in attempting to justify the frivolity of mental aberrations, and their behaviors. The reckless, chaotic search for meaning is the only search that a person can truly undertake; and to remove the chaos denies the end goal. For there can be no true discovery without turning things over, smashing, re-building, without resurrection and ruin. The life of the un-insane is one marked by solace – satiating behaviours, sense, collation. The manic mind searches for lucidity in exploration and expression, rather than reduction.

So in the night, when my failing mind is absolved in black strokes against a page, don’t deny me the privilege of fragmented clarity that comes with the exoneration of my insanity.

It is the reason that to the insane mind, much of modern philosophy is panic. The decision that life has no meaning is the greatest trigger we can come up against. Charles The Mad of Fourteenth Century France believed that if people touched him he would shatter into a million shards – a reasonable fear, if you are seeking for life in its greatest depth. While the manifestations of these fears seem unreasonable to many of us (spitting, eating strange foods, switching light bulbs on and off or going into periods of extended jubilee or depression), I would ask how a ‘normal’ person would feel given the same forcible insight into their own mortality that those dealing with mental aberrations do.

The level of introspection a mentally ‘ill’ person is capable of is often far beyond the norm, and hugely irrelevant to day to day life. Which is exactly the point – the insane are not concerned with day to day life. Being precisely why they bother people, and why, some of them, can create things of magnitude and importance – the kind of things with ongoing significance that is discovered years after they finally succumb to their greatest fear – death. Is it any wonder why we kill ourselves? Is not the human spirit destined to find and confront its greatest fears?

Princess Alexandra of Bavaria convinced herself that she swallowed a glass piano as a child, and would wear nothing but white. A reasonable assertion for somebody who has never seen their own insides torn asunder. A reasonable colour, for somebody who wants to be clean and whole, who is so wary of the darkness that exists within her that she cannot bear to have it manifest on her body. And the sexual fascination – the masturbatory stories from centres for the mentally insane (or the mentally obstinate). The sexualisation of insanity in pop culture, films, books – a depiction of society’s obsession with the way it exhibits. But the sexuality of the insane is another arena in the great play, another avenue to pine and long and search for meaning. Sex is the greatest motivator, the greatest proof that we are alive and kicking. Sexual frustration and exploration is the greatest evidence of life in force, the orgasm the greatest evidence that there is everything magic, and nothing at all insane and wonderful about the way we are.

The glass horse exists within us all, but seems more evident to the insane. The desire to examine ourselves from the inside out, and the understanding that beneath our skin is something hollow and easily broken. The glass horse is a metaphor for the easily persecuted self – and a depiction of the self as a mirror, both transient and reflective. The glass horse can also represent the precarious position of the mind, safe when stagnant, reigned, but when it is unleashed it can break into irretrievable pieces.

Consider the glass house life of Zelda Fitzgerald, muse of the infamous “F” Scott Fitzgerald, whose passionate reckless love inspired his glamorous prose. Zelda fell into a life of alcoholism spurred by schizophrenia; the voices in her head were fabulous in their dictatoriums against conventionalism, distressing in their insistency on a path leading to a glorious future. The cruel joke, of course, is that death is imminent and all of our worst suspicions are founded. The meaning we are searching for is here, in the now, and that is why we are so insistent.

Then there is the devil we know. The fear of the unknown that is greater than any known fear. Al Capone died knowingly from Syphilis, rejecting medical care due to his deathly fear of needles, instead choosing to survive to die another day with the disease he knew he had rather than deal with the thing that could kill him.

A book I read on mentality used the metaphor of fear as an imminent tsunami that nobody knows about except for you. All around you people tell you that you are crying wolf, but you can see it tower, you can feel the change in the air. You know that death is looming. And to distract yourself you abandon structure, drink yourself silly, touch people, run razor blades down your arms to feel the veins of life pulse beneath your skin. You are the sane one in this scenario. The only one who can see the tsunami of impediment denaturing human existence, the banalities drawing our attention away from the waves crashing around us. You can see the light behind it, just. And with every scrap of mental energy you have you are drawing yourself towards it.