UltraViolets

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The sea has a glassy stillness as I walk along the path.  The horizon joins the sky in a dark band of incoming rain, the sandwich filling between the pale water and the massed cloud, and the wind murmurs and brushes around me with delicate paint strokes.  Nothing moves out there, the white horses sleeping under the surface, the birds gathered in pockmarked lesions of white and grey against the dull landscape, nestling and bracing for another winter storm.

To my left, the ground seethes and writhes in deep scoops of old quarries now overgrown with trees and scrub as though the land itself is embarrassed by the scar tissue.  These are dim places remembered only by the long dead, whose bones gained the ultimate revenge on the bourgeois by tumbling from the clifftop graveyard during a storm into the back gardens of the horrified middle classes in their seaside villas.

Ahead of me I can see the deep green V carved out of the hillside ahead.  The old railway ran through here; coming the other way you would emerge out of The Tunnel, into this narrow valley with its sharp sides until it gradually fell back to reveal the sea, the town and the dreams of escapism – all those coal miners on their week holiday, their tired eyes now allowed to stretch as far as the sea will allow.  How many of them left the pits where the rock pressed against their noses and the dust hacked their lungs, saw the ocean and cried?  Not many, probably, but maybe a few.

I enter the valley and I can see The Tunnel ahead, bricked up except for a single rusting padlocked door.  The air smells bland as I leave sunlight and the sea behind.  All sound is dimmed except for the low hum of a generator.  Dead ivy hangs down over the arch like long talons.  I approach the door, remove the padlock and walk inside.

Two spotlights illuminate an iron lung.  Inside, a man with long grey hair nearly touching the floor.  He leans his head over to me and smiles, two beads of bright blue crinkling in his face.  I drop my rucksack to the floor and remove a foil-wrapped piece of cake, and a bottle of mineral water.  He nods to me and quietly says yea yea yea.  Brushing loose hairs from his cheeks and mouth I feed him the cake, stroking his scalp as he chews and mulches the sponge into a paste that dribbles down one corner of his face.  A sip of water here, another small piece there.  I kiss his forehead – it tastes like old vinegar – and listen to the muffled clattering of the machinery.

When he’s finished I wipe the spit and crumbs from his face and he goes back to staring up at the ceiling, smacking his lips content.  I sit down on a nearby crate and open a bottle of cider.  Getting drunk in an old tunnel is codeine for the senses – every drip of water, every little piece of brickwork crumbling, the dank smell of cold air through musk and plants who exist without light.  I think about masturbating but it doesn’t seem appropriate given the circumstances.  Maybe I’ll climb into the bathtub later when it is empty and try then.

I stand up and walk further into The Tunnel, away from the safety of the spotlights.  As I move further away his every noise becomes louder.  I can hear his nose whistling as he breathes, I can hear every little movement that makes the iron lung creak.  The generator, keeping everything alive, now buzzes in my ears like mosquitos after a monsoon.  Looking back I see the beams of white illuminating this weird distorted shape, like a tomb but without the solemnity of cold marble.

I finish the cider and throw the bottle into the black void.  I walk back towards the old man and rest my head on his metal chest.  He looks anxiously at peace, the jaw clenched, still tonguing a piece of cake jammed into a cavity.  He never really says anything except to agree or disagree with things.  He knows yes and no, yea and nurrrrr, a weird little growl he does when he’s unhappy or when I accidentally hurt him when combing his long tangled hair.

It’s been a special day and he knows it, those little blue marbles twinkling away, a smile flicking at the corners of his mouth.  Cake and a little water and a cider for me.  The iron lung sighs and rattles as his breathing begins to increase.  I give the tomb another cuddle and, reaching underneath, I unplug it from the generator.  Electricity freed, the spotlights now glare and hiss as the old man’s face blanches bright white, the mouth open and agape filled with a red tongue.  I stroke his hair one last time as he begins to make a strange new noise; a primeval grunt of indignation, desperation and terror.

I can’t imagine he will be too long, but nevertheless I don’t want to stick around.  Turning my back to the rhythmic flailing of someone almost buried alive, the gnugh gnugh gnugh getting louder, I open the door to the real world and get a blast of cool air.  The rain pats and taps against the old brick, and I can smell renewal, rebirth; something to cleanse us all.  I close the door behind me, lock it securely, and begin the walk home.  A piece of cake.

When We Were Tigers – Free Verse Revolution

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Under a piece of tarpaulin, draped inelegantly over a pair of upturned shopping trolleys, we listen to the patter of the rain above us, a pool developing over our shoulders.  The damp seeps into our shoes and clothes, our hair is lank and clotted with wet dust. She pops another codeine between chapped white lips as we watch a pointless landscape disappearing into the murk.

As kids we played as a pair alone, long days and evenings, not pausing for breath until we were profusely bleeding into each other.  We scrambled over barbed wire fences, took out security cameras with fishing slingshots and lobbed aerosols into the fire, holding our nerve to stand still and feel the white hot ice of glowing shrapnel slicing through our shins and thighs.  We pissed in doorways, cuddled under hailstorms and licked each other’s muddy arms until we looked like a pair of half-starved and shaved tiger cubs.

I look across to her now; twenty years older and forty years wiser.  The cheekbones are hollow, casting deep pools of shadow like bruises on a fallen apple, but I still see those fresh razors just concealed by puppy fat.  The most beautiful faces and bodies are the most lived in – just as the most cosy house has dust in the corners and the smell of old dinners. I put my hand on her bony knee and give it a squeeze.  She smiles at me, but I can see the first waves of codeine are assembling with the tails of the previous hit, creating the chaotic confusion of a torrential river flowing out to sea and meeting the incoming tide.  I could be a sack of potatoes with a face drawn on them now, so I reflect on our first meeting.

It started with a fight and ended with a sprint.  I hadn’t slept in three days, and decided to walk down an alleyway I knew was dangerous.  The air was always heavy with musk and rotten things – dead wood, dead plants, dead tarmac; disintegrating animals with ribs protruding outwards like awful flowers.  I could feel myself nodding as I drew in the thick miasmic skunk, clinging to my nose hairs and eyelashes when I saw her casually leaning against a lamppost talking to a guy.  She was having an argument and had been called a cunt, and her response was inspired; you wish you had a cunt.  Cunt’s crush dicks like paper covers stone.  Moving her hand from behind her back, I saw a triangle of glass jammed between her middle two fingers.  She smiled, cocking her head to one side and said, fist bump?  A few seconds later the boy had the glass embedded in his cheek, the silent scream only serving to tear the flesh further apart as bright red juice spilled down his jawline.

As we ran together, I tried to introduce myself but I could only make breathless noises.  So from that day on, my name was ‘Tah’, said as though suffering from an asthma attack. We ran past the point of his muffled yelps, beyond the visual sight of the alley, beyond that tree-lined avenue until it was a moment that had never happened.  We rested until the stars came out, when the night was dark enough that we didn’t have to retrace our steps and see the trail the boy left as he staggered home.

Reminiscing does none of us any favours though.  There’s a reason I tend not to dwell on how we met, and as I look back to that face now finally settling into an agreeably numb groove, the chemicals aligning to form a comfortable compound, it’s hard to imagine what those eyes have seen.  I look down at her hand and she’s idly flicking a triangle of broken glass between the gaps in her fingers, back and forth. It’s a dreary day, but she seems happy enough. I pop a pill, wash it down with a polystyrene cup full of cheap vodka, and settle down for an evening of sensory drumming as the rain sprinkles down on our pathetic little tent.

 

Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution

Quarry – Free Verse Revolution

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I’ve been sitting on this icy stone for half an hour watching her swill the endless whisky miniatures, produced from her pocket, around her ulcer pocked mouth.  She hisses at the weak sun, and in the cold our breath mingles like clouds colliding before a storm. The sky is barely lit; just a candle covered in dehydrated piss and viewed through a filthy window, but the grass and the sheet metal buildings and the broken down flat fences all feel alive.  Even the dead trees kick and stomp under the soil, trying to work their dry roots into the moist holes under the soil.

We’d spent the morning in a burned out car, trying to find the places where our arse bones didn’t pinch on the exposed seat springs, making all the appropriate vrooming noises and twisting wheels both real and imagined.  I hadn’t slept in sixteen hours and I’ve seen it all – news footage of melting women, dudes in crystal armour striding through sand, Disney characters sodomising each other with musical notes and treble clefts drifting out of their oversized gaping mouths.  Acid is a hell of a drug but it is no substitute for insomnia, carbon monoxide and desperation.

I turn back to those two pinpricks of sheer light, as though God is pacing around inside that beautiful thin cavity flanked by tissue, skin and hair.  She smiles something beatific and I don’t care that this burned out husk is staining everything I own and giving me severe asthma. Looking down the patchwork bonnet I see the sun struggling to gain traction, scrabbling to rise and to push through the haze.  But I still feel the warmth on my cheekbones. I close my eyes and I see those rays travelling millions of miles to turn my eyelids pink. I feel it on my teeth, as they click and clatter to the cosmic metronome of a chaotic Universe.

When I open my eyes, I come to some fucking hippy realisation about the ongoing transient nature of being  – of how there are no endings or beginnings but just the constant force of worlds and stars and comets and particles that cannot stop moving, even when they appear to be standing still.  This is not even drug talk, or sleeplessness talk, but an apotheosis. Flanked by rust, dust and ash, and sat next to a drunk angel, I begin to stamp my feet into the ruined carpets pretending that I can still drive this tyreless wreck into the heart of the Sun, where we can disassemble ourselves in the heat and become one single entity, atoms joining in a nuclear fusion where no science can drive us apart.

We leave the car, because I begin to stop breathing.  When I tell her she laughs… “You’re beginning to stop doing something?”  She helps to carry me across the field to the remains of an old building, now just disfigured lumps of masonry poking out of the grass like broken fingers.  It takes me a few moments to collect myself, and I can taste fire and smoke in my throat.

The Sun climbs halfway up the sky, gives up and begins to retreat again.  Around us, the thin mist gathers and clings, grabs and devours, and the atoms in my flesh tremble without heat.  I lean over and I can smell the whisky on her breath. She’s staring at me dispassionately, her eyelids heavy with drink.

I tell her;

“You are the most important thing to me.”  

She sighs, rolls her eyes and responds;

“You always have to ruin things, don’t you…?”

 

 

Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution

The Cost Of Endings Is Sunlight

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She keeps me safe in the terrible places.  Partly because of her spirit and partly because of the knife jammed into the belt of her jeans; the same cold blade that keeps her grouchy for the first half hour of every meeting until it has met her skin temperature.

We walk down sloganed spray-painted alleyways where rapists fear to prowl, and we stand at the apex between modernity and decay, bordered by a mist that permanently laps across this town like dying tides.  On her haunches, wild hair flecked by raindrops and dust, she kisses the nettles flinging themselves desperately out of the concrete until her tongue is blistered white like mould on bread.  Planting a triumphant foot on the burned out remains of an old car, we stare down this brick tunnel towards a fetid beige light that hides the brown blood seeping from the disused and dead structures beyond.  The only life around here are the black specks that dance around the sickly yellow of streetlights, and the shine in her eyes when there is mischief to be had.

She kisses me, and as her ruined tongue laps around mine I feel the stings still planted in her own.  Even as I think about releasing, the warmth around my hips, my chest and my legs draws me in, and just in case I have second thoughts she clamps a hand in the small of my back and presses me closer.  As we kiss the tapping grows louder, and soon heavy drops of iron rain, moving on the shoulders of the perpetual miasma, are pounding down on our eyelids.

I want her and I am having her, but I know that I can’t.  This is not a chapter reading but a glance at the cover.  Releasing herself from me she takes steps backwards, her arms raised out.  I feel something warm on my skin and then a sharp itch – she’s slid the knife inside my jeans and left a thin laceration down one buttock.  I look left and then right down the alley – empty except for the loud nothingness – as she presses her back against the wall.

The rain gets heavier and behind me, through a chain link fence and a tangle of confused dead trees, the town steams and broils in protest.  There are no colours except yellows and browns – even the blackest night skies are coloured in a film of grime.  I can smell sulphur and feel the heat through my shoes, as I lick the corners of my mouth and taste the poisons.

She’s against the wall, spread like a crucifix, her fingers splayed out and head thrown back.  I go in for another kiss but she plants a firm boot into my groin and pushes me backwards.  The graffiti covering the wall is bleeding into her fingers, the faded reds blues and greens now growing bold in the tiny veins under her skin, past her wrist and into her sinewy forearms.  Her hair crawls up the bricks, infesting itself like ivy and taking on all the colours around it.  She is bleeding the wall dry of its art, of messages and memories.  I look her in the eye and I see that they change colour as though flickering through a prism.

I sit down on the floor and cup my hands around the back of my head, because my neck is burning from the deluge above.  Her feet are no longer touching the ground but pointed and poised like a ballerina, hovering a few inches above the gnarled path.  Colours sap from the wall and bleed through her, processing themselves, and I realise that parts of her are growing fainter.  The razor cheekbones are dulling, those shapely thighs less distinct, the hips that shook Paris are now translucent and warp when I move my head.  Worst of all, I see that face fading away, the light in those eyes dying out like a pair of lightbulbs coughing and spluttering towards their eventual end.  And far from fear or regret, I see contentment in her.  I see a person becoming a ghost, becoming a memory, that disintergrates like ancient papyrus exposed to oxygen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inverted

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I walk unsteadily through a tunnel of trees, the ground squelching under my feet.  On either side, like the pillars of a cold cathedral, I see those white shapes waiting patiently.  They are eyeless and alone; I stare one of them down and the pair of black voids in their heads pulses and throbs like bags of agitated worms.  I look away.  My arms have disappeared and I’m scared to walk faster lest I fall and cannot catch myself.

Fetid streetlamps scrape through like dull razors on skin.  As the shapes lean in closer, I pass through some of them and I am hit by smells from my past – grandmother’s perfume, the dead grass that I lay in after losing my first fight, the musky iron odour of my high school sweetheart.  My fingers shrivel and slime, squirming into tentacles that claw at my shirt and force themselves up my chest and towards my neck.  Feeling the first grooved tips poking at the corners of my mouth I put my head down and run for the grey in a tube of utter black.

The Playground is invisible in the night, so I walk towards a black mass.  Everything is silent, as though the entire world is judging my current performance.  Vaulting the gate, I pause to take a bow.  As if lit by spotlights, I can suddenly see everything within the fence and nothing else beyond.  I lose my coat and shirt and make my way towards the zipline.

Climbing to the top of the launch point I clamp my thighs around the old car tyre and grip the cable.  Leaning back, I throw myself off the platform.  The tyre bucks and spins like distressed horses, and my feet are suddenly skywards as my cheeks skim the surface of the chipped bark floor.  Feeling the splinters grazing my skin but not entering, the wire slowly peters out and fades until I am left dangling, upside down and twirling faintly in the dead air.  I let go and unceremoniously clatter to the soft floor and begin to eat the dirt.

I have three more goes at this, and every time it ends the same way.  Feet up, head down, I skate across the thin veneer and see the churned up ground rushing past my mouth.  On the final go the brakes fail and I hit the end point at maximum force, trebucheting me weightless for a brief few seconds until I crash down on the damp grass.  I lay there for minutes, maybe hours, letting the midnight dew soak into my clothes and hair.

When I finally get up off the floor, The Playground is surrounded on all four sides of the fence by the white shapes; loose bedsheets of various widths and heights all formless except for two black, pulsing holes in their heads.  They watch me silently, with judgement but without words or actions, until I have spun around six times and tried to find an exit from all this.  I look up towards the sky but God is empty, and the stars all shun or hide from my terrible behaviour.

I feel my heart trying to escape through skin and my fingers seizing up; writhing maggots turning into broken fences.  I wrench the belt off my waist and claw out the pin in the buckle.  Raising it up to my face for a symbolic moment I hook it inside my eyesocket and begin to hook out the jelly within.

*

Eyeless and alone.

I am on my hands and knees, feeling the wet grass under my fingers and soaking into my jeans.  Salty fluids run hot down my cheeks and into the corners of my mouth.  I cannot stop shivering.

Kneeling against the black, I look around for white shapes but I cannot see anything.  I cannot feel anything.  The wet grass dulls into sand, and the wind dies into a vacuum.  But I know they are still there.  As I grasp handfuls of the earth it fades from my fingertips, and I cannot tell if I am being lifted away or disappearing entirely.

 

 

WRONG TWIN’S LULLABY

Basilike Pappa is a magician

Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

by Basilike Pappa

It said sleep / the voice said / slide into / me / like a fish / in water the voice said / dreamless / I’ll catch you / just sleep it said / you’re tired and / it’s time to / sleep.

Like this / it said / the voice said / close your eyes / slide / let go / see? it said / like this / come to me / easy / you’re tired / just sleep.

That time / it said / remember? / that time in the sea / the water closed over / so close to the shore / but that current / that sneaky tricky current / it said let go / the voice said / like fish / you’re tired / sleep / easy like this / don’t blink.

And you thought / why not / easy / the…

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For The Love Of The System – Jimmi Campkin

My latest piece at FVR, with thanks to Kristiana

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

Displaying Graffiti III.JPGIt only takes the sound of glass breaking to remind me of the taste; wet concrete and burned rust.  Last week I sat in a bar facing a drizzly street and stared at my own reflection for hours as humanity shuffled by.  The gangly barman, who’d been hopelessly flirting with his co-worker, dropped 125mls of cheap Merlot onto the floor and his cheap shoes, and I snapped out of the polished glass and tasted her again.  Felt the crunch under my teeth, the cherry blossom breath and chipped nails.

*

Walking side by side amid the slush and dirty snow our words are just a duel – fencing stabs and slashes as we prod and poke and look for the weak spots.  In boxing terms I am the slugger, throwing out haymakers and uppercuts with all the subtlety of the Las Vegas strip. She was always the cruiserweight, picking her…

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