Digest

Sea XIII

Do you remember the story of the monk at the old church?  We took the bus on an icy evening and waited for hours until the moon was warm on our faces and our feet were wet with melted frost, tromping through long grass.  Don’t you remember?

That old church, where the chicken bones were trussed together into crosses, and that teenage lad fell from the tower and broke himself in half over the stone tomb of the priest who’d died in 1886.  We’d gone up there with torches and we heard a noise above, and you shone yours up at him, and he covered his eyes…

….and he came down screaming like a daemon.  And in the dark I thought he had sixteen arms and legs, and his mouth was wide open as though to consume me, and drag me to hell….

….but then he spun around midair as I dived out of the way.  Crack!  On his back, across the raised triangular stone.  Ribs bursting out, blossoming like flower petals opening.  You remember?  The boy gasping, his eyes wide, as we realised he was both alive and dead, until his two parts gently disconnected with a pop and slithered either side to the flagstone floor.

Anyway, I digress. The old monk.  We took that journey so many times.  We read all the books about the monk who flitted around the grounds.  Why do ghosts always flit?  Why don’t they mince or swagger?  That poor boy though.  That poor boy.

Drench

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She has a voice that shatters memory.  Every time I hear it, I forget another birthday.  Another past crush dies.  Relatives cease to be names or faces.  I cannot bring them back.  I can only focus on hips, knees and shoulders.  A tuft of hair above The Zone that I deliberately nibble on so I get a thread caught in my teeth.  It makes me feel like a teenager again.

I look for her car as I walk the streets; any time I see that model in that colour I push my chest out and lift my chin.  It might be her, and I don’t want to be slouching.  I have nightmares about tripping over my laces and falling at her feet, breaking my nose and bleeding all over her sandals.

She calls me Martin and she calls me a cunt.  I’m neither.  But I give up dignity and identity to cuddle her jacket when she gets too warm.  I rehearse conversations in my spare time, and then try to spring my ‘spontaneous’ one liners on her anecdotes.  They always fail.  I always stumble.

Perhaps I’m too weak to be adored.  Her on-off boyfriend, Taylor, is now off.  He was too weak to see a rival in the short grass when he focused all his attention in the trees.  That’s why he looked the other way when I lost control of my car, breaking his pelvis.

I see her, sitting in the park.  Chest out, chin up.  Hold that thought…

 

 

Merry

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I’m only comfortable when I’m sitting on the floor, pressed against a wall.  I stare into the blemishes of the concrete, my flesh airtight against the cold.  I push my forehead into the stone until it pains and then bleeds, and lukewarm red meanders down my cheeks.  Red rivulets run and saunter over my eyes until I cannot see beyond the scarlet.

I talk into the bricks, quietly but firmly, picking words that make my chest vibrate and my throat wobble.  Words like; melodious – intimidating – destruction – organ – obtuse – magnificent.  Nowhere to go, the vibrations bounce from the walls back into my chest cavity and suddenly I’m swimming with the words, arm-wrestling with them, pulling at their kicking legs and clamping around their waistlines.  I relish each syllable, running them through my cheeks and over my tongue like liquor mouthwash, until they burn my gums and I have to release them.

Meander.  Beautiful.  Uncontrollable.  I place my knee under the chin and allow my voicebox to tremble over my skin.  The vibrations dance over my bones, as though my tendons and ligaments are guitar strings.

Adam.  Brian.  Courtney.  When I leave the house, I threaten people.  Grabbing them by their lapels, I hold a cut-throat shaver to their eyes and ask them the usual.  Money.  Phone.  Unlock codes.  Never cards or pin numbers; it’s too easy to turn them into redundant plastic rectangles.  But I ask for their names.

Later, pressed against the wall, I give them a try.

Marmaduke.  Gary.

 

She Only Kisses On Thursdays

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She hides one eye behind a torrent of thick, globulous, dyed hair.  Teeth like an antique piano, I fantasise about their tune.  Lame, I know.  But then, I’m the guy who hovers around the beans, the peas and the tinned fish; with my squeaky trainers and leather trenchcoat; too big for my shoulders and too hot for a July afternoon.  All for a glimpse, or maybe for nothing.  The security guards follow me, pushing the products forward, making everything neat, making sure the labels match.  I put my hands in my pockets and pretend I am cocking a pistol.  I don’t know how; I just watch too many films, and I’ve practised the noise using the spit on my tongue.

I dream of being fondled inappropriately, because I’m too shy to make the first move, and too male to ever find the experience distressing.  Sweat runs down my arms and tickles my fingers.  The air fills with fresh bread and sweet donuts.  My high-necked roll collar itches against shaving rash.

She always smiles.  Looking down into the glass cabinet, then looking up.  Curling that clotted curtain of hair over one ear.  She’s always happy to see me.

Like today.

The Girl On The Bakery opens a gusher, without any warning.  I stand powerless.  The same smile, the same look, and then a plunge into her own arm with scissors from her pocket.  Two of the staff immediately rush to her aid.  The rest are sprinting to save the daily bread.

Sanctuary II

 

Sanctuary II is here.

As with Sanctuary, it is a combination of my pictures and my writing.  Please click here if you wish to purchase a copy.

Devil’s Whisper

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Her parents once told her she was an accident, and as the years tumbled by she grew into a catastrophe.  She told me; I’m gatecrashing a party here.  I have no rules.  I have no (finger quotes) dress – code.  I exist in a vacuum.  I am in the empty spaces.  I am life.

Or maybe the echo chambers.  I didn’t say that.  It came to me years later whilst going over our conversations again and again and again, trying to find a clue.  I realise now that my one-liner would’ve killed her.  She would’ve laughed, thrown her head back to show me those home-made fillings, those gaps where her brother forced her skull into a doorframe before violently closing it, the tongue chewed into ridges by dreams of murder and foxes eating people alive.  Of course, even if the reply had come to me in the moment, I wouldn’t have said it out loud.  Fuck no.  You don’t walk confidently into a tiger’s enclosure bollock naked, your genitals smeared with meat paste.

She was always a half-step ahead, and me a half-step behind, which created quite a division.  But, crucially, we still walked the same path.  We still tried to reach the same destination, just with different degrees of subtlety.  I drifted with my hands in my pockets, constantly scuffing the front of my shoes because I couldn’t walk with any confidence.  I couldn’t pick up my self esteem and I certainly couldn’t pick up my feet.  I looked down at weeds, dog shit and litter.  I very rarely looked into the sun.

She was a barrel roll of blood, sex and mayhem.  She once attempted to seduce a security guard at the old factory …just fifteen.  When the dirty old bastard finally caved in and planted a kiss on her cheek, as she sat in his lap in a state of disarray, we had him for life.  It was either us or Her Majesty’s Pleasure and he picked us.  We’d turn up at the front gates and leave with whatever we could squeeze into a shopping trolley.  Rugs, pots of glue, tinned beans and joggers.  Meanwhile he got wider, his hair grew thinner, and the bottle of whiskey under his desk got taller.  When she left on a summer holiday for two weeks, he drank an island of liquor and drove his van into the path of a freight train.

One summer, she invented the Firework Crossbow.  I’m not sure I need to explain any further, but I still have the scar on my thigh.  We owned our neighbourhood; a meek infant with plans and a mad bitch with questions.  Tyres got slashed,  houses burned, other people got jail time.  She’d cut the faces out of the local paper; all these confused looking mugshots of guilty men and women who were – for once in their miserable lives – innocent, and paste up a scrapbook.  The Book Of The Damned she smiled.

Wherever she went, they never found a trace.  Just her coat, hanging from a barbed wire fence at the cliff edge.  Her parents spoke, once again and tearfully this time, of ‘accidents’.  As though she had no free will of her own.  She was born a disaster and she lived like a sunrise.  I never visit her empty grave; a mount of earth with nothing in it and a stone with nothing to say.  I run my finger over the white scar on my thigh and I feel it tingle.  I know she is still out there somewhere.

 

Breathe

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Under a single yellow streetlight the hill rises above us, filled with buried treasure, dead leaves and rotten mattresses.  We lie back on the grass uncomfortably – maybe it’s wet or maybe it is just the cold.  One hand on your goosebumped knee, and my little finger teasing the hem of a maroon dress.  As the sun falls and backlights you golden, I see a dark oval where your face used to be, ink blossoming in water into a sudden blindness.  Stumbling and anxious for sensation, I feel the warmth of your breath growing on my cheek.  As the abyss swamps, like a tar tsunami across my pupils, I smell candy milk bottles and Marlboro Lights.  Cracked lips connect with my dry mouth, and a rough tongue sparks between my gums, probing and inquisitive, swimming around behind my teeth looking for a mate… looking for a fight.

Later that evening, I rattle-rattle-rattle my spray can and coat the walls of houses in your name over and over again until it is a mass of red.  I think back to that video you showed me of someone putting a shotgun in his mouth.  The colours, man.  Perhaps I drink too much, perhaps I should lay off the blotter acid, but I dream about red and purple for six months.  I dream about the haunted face, blood pouring from his lips like the saddest clown.  He slumps and breathes involuntary, as his body – confused from having the brain violently removed – falls back on basic instincts, trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to kickstart a car with no engine, no driver, no destination…

Which brings me onto you.  Fucking ghosts.  There’s nothing unreal about you.  I still have the welts and the stings, the burns and the missing teeth.  Ghosts glide through walls, but you hide every day behind walls, and trees and cars, ready to pounce when I am unaware.  And I am always unaware.

I understand now why your hair didn’t smell of shampoo but singe.  I understand why you stole lipstick but never wore it – just decorated the outside of your bedroom mirror with eagles and serpents spilling their intestines in a Promethean loop.  I understand everything now, ten years too late….twenty years too late…. thirty….. I need to stop counting.  Longing is distance times memory minus interaction.  I fight to keep the longing at bay, harder than I ever had to fight against your tight wrist clamps.  I know I’ll only be disappointed when I find out you now have nineteen kids and play squash at the weekend, driving a BMW with the air-con just so; because to me you’ll always be the girl who set my balls on fire whilst I slept.

Our life was a play; just us two unaware of the captive audience.  The third act twist came from a single observation.  We walked hand in hand, our footsteps in perfect sync, down a narrow Walk For Lovers and bordered by the half-demolished shells of old terraced houses looming over us, eyeless with bleached ribs like desert corpses.  No windows, no gardens, no kids or ball games, just burned spoons and lightbulbs, cans of aerosol and empty glue tubes.  We found our old makeout spot, an alleyway connecting the back gardens, and snuck down for an effortless fumble.  Under a dripping oak, leaning against the old wooden fences bleeding black with rot and rainwater, you found our ancient initials miraculously preserved in bold white chalk.  You pushed me away – my fingers still deep in your new lace knickers – to look closely at this fossil.  Tilting your head, you murmered softly; Huh… I didn’t think we’d last this long. 

So now I march to the hill alone, searching the grass like a tracker, trying to find where we lay and left green angels.  When I eventually find the spot I’m dismayed; there’s no memorial here – no pathetic tree with a plaque, no beacon, no illuminated sign with illustrations of our embrace, bookended and bracketed by our years.  Not even a statue of you, head cocked, face cosmically obliterated into total darkness, freckles shining like constellations across your cheekbones.

I sit down, my back to the hill, facing the sky.

And I raise a glass of sunbeams, to the ones that went away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year to you all x