Starlings

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She told me; I want to tell you three things and I want you to shut up whilst I’m talking.  Holding up a hand, she extended a finger as she counted.  There’s a dream… a memory… and a verdict.  They are connected, but I don’t know how. 

The bridge creaked in the wind, bustling through the narrow valley below.  Our bare, dirty feet hung into the abyss, as curious animals peered up to see whether we were a threat or just angels.  I passed the half bottle of warm liquor and she ingested it with the grim determination of someone enduring minor surgery without pain relief.

She told me that she dreams about The Boy.  How he always appears in the background; leaning on a postbox as she walks through 1920’s Berlin, or in the seventh row of a Stones gig she imagined she attended.

She told me about a memory of The Boy hijacking a car to impress her but realising he couldn’t drive.  So she took the wheel and got them far away before the car alarm attracted too much attention.  They dumped the car; to stop him feeling too disappointed she nibbled his ear until he got erect and left him alone to finish the job.

The verdict is… that I should’ve saved him.  I let out a disguised cough; this is anodyne for such a sharp mind.

I tell her; he is a severed portal to a place you want to be.

Where?

Anywhere but here.

Raven

Sky XXXIV

I lean back against the rotten wooden stump of a dead friend and scan the parked cars nearby.  Ever since I saw my first crush getting into her mum’s car after school, I’ve been able to memorise plates and make patterns with the letters and numbers.  If I saw that car driving along the street, I would push out my shoulders, straighten my posture and do everything I could to look enigmatic – jawline clenched and profiled – in the off chance that she was sat in the back seat gazing out of the window at the multitudes of shufflers and caught a glimpse of this god.  The plates around me look like fun, or as close to fun as I get these days.  Those add up to 20.  That one kind of spells twat.  That car, in that shade of red, reminds me of Jessamin and her chocolate eyes, and her new surname, and the child she bounces on her knee that isn’t mine and I never wanted anyway.   

* 

Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.’”  

– Chris Marker Sans Soleil 

* 

I am halfway down my first bottle of beer, and I can feel the buzz as the disease winds around my arteries, laminating my cells in that familiar melancholy stupor which will leave me reckless and blind later on this evening.  When I am into my third or fourth my mind becomes sufficiently lubricated as to give me a glimpse of my former self – when life was as simple as a 16bit jump over an instant kill pit, before morality sat me on a fence for eternity, before I knew anything about the future and how influential it will be.  By the seventh, I will listen to the ravens as they sing their songs about death hunting us through the long grass.  I will remember the stuff that never happened, and I will fantasise about things that did happen and happened beyond my remit.  It is easy to live inside a bubble until it becomes opaque and hard, and before you can escape you are trapped inside a marble and condemned to be lost in a gutter or under a child’s bed.   

The last time I sat here I made a bit of a fool of myself.  I begged an old woman for a trampoline because she looked like my grandma and we never had a garden growing up.  I cried over her old dusty tights and vomited maroon over her inexpensive shoes.  That night, in the police cell, I felt too embarrassed to shit on the exposed toilet and too wired to sleep on the mattress.  Instead I added my name to the others carved into the wall, taking care not to overlap ‘Johnny Sumner’ who (from the number of notches underneath) had spent sixteen nights here.   

I look up to a cloudless black sky.  It is just past noon, but the blues and greens and reds have drained out of my eyes of late.  I see everything in a saturated monochrome now – trees, lakes and birds just vague shadows in my mind depending on the strength of the incandescent Sun.  All the cars now look the same, except – of course – for the plates.  I neck the last of this warm first bottle, placing it carefully next to me, and look over my shoulder.  That one is the same make and model of Jessamin’s.  That one adds up to 17.  That one spells Mist.   

Double Bind – Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin

Windows

I sat down on the remains of an old dream and watched her snort a line of concrete dust. The blood ran thick and maroon from her nose, as I broke the seal on the fourth of the day with the loudest escape of air. My shoes are rotten, as are my legs, but my shoulders still have enough bone and sinew and hope to carry us through the dead plants and vicious eyes. I can smell people; as I walk through the crowds I can hear their prejudice and taste their awful choices in partners and pornography. Everything is sour, and everything leads us to numb our experiences.

The sun is hot enough to melt a bank vault and we recline across the monolith of grey in this wasteland; like a mortuary without the building, like a coroner without the science, as loved ones without the care. The stones sizzle and burn into our weak flesh, and in response we fill those gaps in the tissues and veins with sex and rust and disobedience. I can’t remember the last time I ate food, or smelled a flower, or watched a sunrise. I only remember the darkness, oozing across our shoulders and knees like an oil slick across a coral reef, as we blinded ourselves in a deep blue we will never reach.
I drag a pen over her bare thigh and write all the things I want to do to her. She laughs and grabs my wrist, crossing out the ones that will never happen.
*
I am irritable because I am hungry and I don’t know what I am hungry for. It’s not food, even though I wouldn’t mind, but something else. Maybe I am hungry for the blue of skies past or simply for raw flesh.
When I am like this, he gives me his arm to bite. I sink my teeth and suck at his skin and my own saliva. He shudders, but not from pain. I only bite to leave marks on him, to brand him as mine. He watches them fade with a smile on his face. We kiss, spit merging like rivers sweet and destructive.
In this place of cell blocks, marble gardens, police cars and strangers, we are wraiths playing with explosives, starting a thousand wars against normality.
While people are slaving away somewhere, we break into their apartments. We put on their clothes, wear their slippers, sit in their armchairs and call each other “darling” and “sweetheart.” We treat ourselves to bites of food and shots of liquor. We have some favourites we often go back to, so after fucking on their beds we make sure we leave everything as it was before we sneak out again.
In the beginning, he asked what would we do if someone returns home to find us there. I said they’d better not. I am irritable when I am hungry.
Cuddling each other in half-constructed buildings, monuments to petit-bourgeois ambition forever destined to remain naked brick and concrete, we talk about what our dream castle on a hill will be like. A castle of iridescent stone, with black ebony window frames and everlasting roses climbing its walls, overlooking our realm of flowers and sunrises. In such a place, even life may fit somewhere in our embrace.
As a moon of elf bone rises, hunger grows into a scream. We are the night searching for a meal.
*
Lighting a cigar, I let the tobacco hang in the air before planting the wet end deep inside a ruined candle. I’m wearing someone’s shirt, someone’s shoes, and none of their dreams. When we can find them we use their old bank statements as firelighters; we grind up their old family pictures and snort them up with much hacking and coughing. She tells me; this is memory rejecting against us. I’m not interested in memory anymore. Nostalgia is just an old man with terminal masturbation.
I sit down in an old wicker chair and feel the burn down the back of my throat as another gallop of Old Brandthrick trundles and fusses into my veins, obliterating anything with forward momentum. All points reset to zero, all rails set to the buffers. She walks across me, one foot taking the place of the other, and lifts her autumn dress to let in the air. I am nothing in this and yet I am everything; a flat piece of meat observing the opening of a rare flower.
The Moon rises and cries to a symphony of two legged jackals. I have her courage and she has a knife. She drags her finger through the remains of our most recent bonfire and pushes the tip under my eyelids. With a kiss smeared down my cheeks she runs her tracks over the wet bones, the soot planting deep in my pores. I look into her eyes and she smiles and shakes her head. This is not a night for heroics; this is a night for being the night.
When I breathe out, my ribs rattle like wind-chimes in a spring breeze. My eyes search the swaying yellow grass for any unnatural movement. Behind me she swills an expensive tumbler full of cheap whiskey in a black ball-gown too big for her, hanging like a defiant flag from her shoulder blades. I know what seethes underneath but I need to concentrate now. My veins lift from tissue and bone as she sings a gentle song, rustling in tune to the dead field.
*
It’s time.
I sit on his lap, wrap my arms around his neck and look him in the eyes. Is he ready? He says yes, but not without the face this place has given him.
“The eyes are the windows to the soul,” I say in all seriousness, and we both burst into a mocking laughter that could make the rising moon crack.
“Why so sad?” I ask, and he looks at me as if he’s close to tears.
“Don’t be mad,” I say, and he gives me a scowl worthy of an unworthy parent or a saint.
I want him to be happy, and happy he becomes, a trendy buffoon drinking his favourite soda in a commercial. And when I lift my dress, his eyes open wide in vestal innocence.
I paint his eyes with soot, burying them deep into stinking shadows. See? The windows to this soul are shut. Then I trace my blackened finger over his lips.
“Bring out your dead,” I say.
We’ve been watching her ever since we saw her run over a couple of pigeons. She clapped her hands to congratulate herself, golden rings and dyed blonde hair gleaming in the sun. They had crapped on her car hood once too often – fucking flying rodents. We watched her speed
down the road, leaving a mass of bloodied flesh and dirty feathers on the asphalt.
We buried the birds in the field of scorched grass, digging holes with our hands, saying a prayer for flowers to grow over their grave.
She unlocks the door to find him sprawled on the sofa.
“Darling,” he says, “you’re home.”
Her hands are tied, her mouth is gagged. I can see the back of her shoulders rise and fall with her muffled sobbing. He apologises if his actions caused her any distress and messed up her makeup. In a soft, crooning voice he tells her how anger and bitterness have left tell-tale lines on her face.
“Life is not as the romances promised. All these false ideas you swallowed without question led to disappointment, didn’t they? Now you take it out on those who can’t stand up to you.”
He takes a Swarovski bird miniature from a display cabinet full of refined useless objects. He holds it against the pendant lights, pretending it’s flying across the room, the colours of the rainbow flashing out of its open wings. Then he makes it land on the floor and crushes it under his foot.
“Once you had another face. Do you think you can find it? Promise me you’ll try, and I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again.”
She nodds, furiously, and I expect there are more tears running down her cheeks. If I were her, I’d cry too if he told me I wouldn’t see him again.
“There is a number you mustn’t call after I leave. Promise.”
More nodding, more passion into the gesture. He looks into her eyes.
“I can believe many things,” he says. “But you… sweetheart, this is where I draw the line.”
But it’s me who draws the line. A perfect, straight red line across her throat.
*
Sitting in an old armchair, a new rain thick and glutinously falling through the holes in the roof, I carve slices of apple from a bloodstained razor. The sweet citrus mingles with the dark iron of oxygenated red and I cannot work out if I like this taste or not. I see her washing her hands in the trickle of a paste waterfall, the drizzle coated in dust and ash.
“Bit excessive?”
She dries her hands on her already stained dress and pads over towards me. Backlit, the sun illuminates her hair like a neon Medusa and I stare and I stare because if I cannot live for the blood of others running over my own, I wish to be made of stone. She sits in my lap and flicks my nipple through my t-shirt.
We hole up in the old shack because the sound of sirens is too loud for fragile skulls soft from fetal-alcoholism and a lack of calcium. Downstairs the living room is rotting; upstairs all the walls are just faint traces on the floor and the only monuments are a lonely sink, a single rusting bedframe with the mattress now just a black stain on the floor nearby. Above, a single light fixture hangs sadly, ashamed to still be clinging on despite being powerless.
Ushering her off my lap I stand up. The sudden violence of the situation disturbed me, and now I feel high after the hit, my soul now spinning wildly like a ship caught in a whirlpool, caught up in a flashback of an event that is already in the past. Taking the ribbon out of her hair, I tie her wrists together and fasten them to the ceiling light above us. My heart thuds and echoes around the empty walls around us as I take another slice of bloody apple.
*
A line drawn, a line crossed. A first time for everything.
First time I saw him, standing in this room on the windowsill, shifting his weight back and forth. If he was a painting, he’d be called blackbird on a seesaw. I could have let him fall, because he had intruded on my solitude. I pulled him back. I didn’t save his life, I told him, and the flicker of anger in his eyes died down. I saved his death. It wasn’t a long fall down; no one would carry his broken ass to a hospital. He’d pass some very long last hours on earth, calling himself an idiot. He ought to find a taller building if he was serious about it. And make sure he was alone in there, or another lady might save the gentleman in distress.
He is eating an apple.
That same night I tied the knots for the first time, the rope once around his wrists, twice. His body passive, his eyes urging me on. They blazed like the fire burning where the sirens went, the one that cleansed that place from our presence. He had said “kill me,” but meant “fuck me.” Every time like a better first time, until we performed the ritual to perfection.
This is the first time we part with tradition. A first time may be the last time.
He is eating an apple. Not washing his eyes.
He says I must have been conceived underground; I’m bound to earth and she gives me my strength. As for him, he feels disconnected, only half aware of his surroundings most days. I shook my head the first time he told me what scenes he played behind his closed eyelids to soothe himself into existence.
He is eating an apple. Not washing his eyes. The knife in his hands.
Maybe I should have taken him at his word and killed him, or let him fall. He fed me his hunger seed after seed. It’s an irritating taste burning at the back of the throat, unable to say itself, coming out as a growl or a scream.
Another slice. The windows to this soul are shut.
I cross out the things he wants to do to me. He always writes them back. He isn’t one to forget easily, no matter how he claims he’s not interested in memory anymore. He is good at self-deception. What do you mean does he know it? Of course he does. Of course he doesn’t.
It’s getting hard to think as my wrists go numb. Perhaps it’s getting late too. Late for castles, flowers and sunrises.
I gave him what he wanted. So now what?
*
I place the tip of the blade against her breastbone, but then drive it slowly down opening the dress and revealing those familiar contours. All the violence of late has been so much empty vapour, and I struggle to breathe these days. Here in this fetid shack so rotten as to allow all our dreams to escape through the cracks. I turn my back as she flutters and dangles in the breeze like a flower with some of the petals plucked away and sit down on the floor.
She once told me; there are none more cruel than those who believe themselves to be righteous. I’m not sure if I feel righteous but I feel cruel and I feel the force of it bleeding out of me from my shoulders down to my knees. Once I scrambled in a dark room at night, and now I find myself in a dark room with no windows and no hope of sunlight to one day illuminate everything. I need fire and nothing in this fucking place, this fucking town has the guts and the soul to burn.
Throw a few more bones under the mantelpiece; the dry crackle might just show us what we have left. I stand up, knife in hand, and stride over to her. It would be so easy to end everything now but I can’t bring myself to deprive the world of such depravity. I slice a lock of her hair and place it under my tongue before cutting the ribbon down around her wrists.
If I can’t escape the darkness, at least I’ll have the black.
*
He is drooling. Beaded strings hang from his chin, breaking, falling on his t-shirt. It’s mesmerising; a slow, fluid metamorphosis. Then the smell hits me: something metallic, something burned, like a nervous dog shooting the glands. It seeps through every pore of his body with such force it almost pushes me back. I slide a hand around his waist and pull him closer.
”You are a god now,” I whisper in his ear. “We are. We had nothing else. We’d be gods or nothing. We agreed on gods.”
I catch the beads with my tongue, lick them off his chin. His saliva is a sharp, straight aphrodisiac of apple, blood and doubt, streaming from his mouth to the rythym of his thudding heart.
“Breathe. You were just born.”
I drink; my heart quickens. Finally, he spits that strand of hair on the floor and we kiss like rivers.
“Do you?”
“I do.”
“Fuck me.”
I don’t want to take the knife, but he makes me, squeezing my fingers around the handle. The temptation to push it in his belly is tremendous. I’d hear the sound of his skin tearing; I’d get to see what his disloyal insides are like, while he’d be waiting for me at our castle on a hill, warm and new. The idea almost makes me come.
I shake my head.
“I won’t choose how this ends.”
Bringing his hand to my lips, I sink my teeth in his flesh. He shudders and finds the knife in his hand again.
*
I have a handful of her behind as she straddles me, pounding down into my lap with so many gasps and creaks that I don’t know what is human, animal or just the weak floor underneath us. Her hair cracks around my face as I feel the warmth in my lap, leaking onto my thighs; moans, shrieks and ice deep in my stomach.
When I open my eyes, it is already grey around the edges. She continues to pound away but everything is dying and I am staring at a clenched fist pressed against my own stomach with a knife somewhere inside it all. Her sex mingles with the blood now pouring out of me, but still she maintains those furious eyes on mine, daring me to pass out before she is done.
My vision fades like the ripples of a pond in reverse, contracting and drawing everything in. My hand slides away from her buttock and finally lets go of the blade hilt. With this release I suddenly feel sharp pain, as though the knife has become this destructive object in that moment. She still slams down on me but it is useless, just a pointless slap of flesh on blood. The groans turn to growls, the moans into a seething frustration as I slip away beneath her like winter mist as the sun breaks through.
We’d agreed on gods. I am no god, but neither would I ever want to be mortal. This made sense to me. My eyes narrow to a single circle of fading light; of shiny gritted teeth and piercing white eyes. She’s slapping and punching my shoulders but I can’t feel it anymore. I feel weightless but I’m not flying to the above. Our kind – my kind – we only slide down, just so much water trickling between the gaps in the floor and growing putrid where there is no light.
Time to sleep now. No gods, only monsters. And truly, for a short time, we were monstrously magnificent.

Silent Hour sits with a notebook on its lap or in front of a computer. Its pen is fine-tipped and black, its current notebook is also black and almost finished, and the computer is rather old.

Silent Hour is Basilike Pappa

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

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.