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.

 

 

Yellow Marzipan

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She sits, legs dangling, on the remains of the stairs.  Her feet are bare and sticky with blood from three or four nails that plunged into her flesh as we scrambled inside the Old Hotel.  It doesn’t concern her though, except when she winces and complains of itching, and the little bloody holes are opened again running maroon and smelling faintly of rust.

Around us are the words of the lost, layers of dissatisfaction under the many slices of wallpaper, all jarringly hideous and rotting.  Some from the usual crowd of junkies, squatters and winos, but also from those who stayed here before it died – not with the bang of a closed door but a gradual bleeding until the last cleaner gave up the keys with a rusty hypo at her eyelid and never returned.  Now, as the shiny high rises climb to meet the sun like daises, our little cancer refuses to be moved.  So ruinous as to be impossible to safely demolish it stays, growing cracks across the walls like lines on an old face.

I look across to those kicking feet, and then I glide my eyes upwards along bruised legs, skinny arms, welts on the shoulderblades from a guy she’d judo-thrown when he lunged for her arse, and a timeless face – somewhere around 15 or 50 with many other lifetimes squeezed in.  I’ve seen her deranged, happy, and melancholic.  I’ve seen her laugh, cry and spit in the eye – in the eye socket – of failures.  I’ve never seen her tired before.

I get up and stand between her ankles; those feet radiate warmth which could be her internal furnace or the first seething infection.  She looks down at me and a sad, involuntary smile curls one side of her mouth.  Veins run bulging and purple up her calves as though she is soon to be assimilated by tree roots.  I kiss the ankles that I love so much and the kicking stops.  Blood drips with an audible pat on my shoes as I kiss the heels, the arches, the wet toes and my chin glistens and begins to clot.

She ushers me away and jumps down, landing with a firm splat and leaving two perfect red footprints on the old floorboards.  I have a box of matches in one pocket, some lighter fuel in the other and a ton of ideas.  She walks past me and shakes her head, ambling gently towards an old mattress in the corner of the old dining room, walking like a ballerina with broken toes trying to finish the dance.  She flickers in the rectangular slabs of open light in this dank and oppressive space, curling up on the blackened fabric remains and turns her back away from me to face the wall.

Over six days I leave her in peace and return to see that she is okay.  Never moving from the position, I listen out for gentle snoring – I’ve never seen her sleep and I’ve never heard her breathing before.  The blood flakes off to reveal skin that turns pink, to gray, to a mottled purple and green.  On the seventh evening the mattress is still there but she has gone.  I search the entire place, slicing my palms on broken glass whilst climbing to the first storey, almost shattering my kneecap when I step through a rotten board and lose my leg inside an old chimney stack.

I make it to the top floor, the ceiling gone, the roof pockmarked with holes, and find a dry corner to sit down.  Taking off my shirt, I rip it in two and wrap both rags around my hands to stem the blood.  My knee won’t flex properly.  Feeling faint, I rest against cold stone, and look up for a glimpse of the first stars, for a breath of air.  It’s now that I see her again, peering down through one of the holes; a silhouette blacker than the night, one pale dangling bare foot, and a pair of unreadable, watchful eyes.

Lines In The Sand (Part III) – Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin

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You are my glorious disease and I have been fighting the cure ever since. I long for emptiness these days. No more cigarettes, no more drink, no more love. Just morose boredom and a meaningless fuck in dust. But still I think about wide hips and burgundy lips, thigh high stockings and your foot gently pressing on my groin like the gas pedal in a car. I remember your breath before you came in for the kill, and I remember the light dancing off the contours of your arched back. I remember wet, horrible sin.

I’ve tried to find alternatives but I only end up staring at the backwards writing on the base of the bottle. I go to a different store every day so the vendors don’t pity me. You drift into my mind like smoke under a door, and I never know whether to open it and try to escape or to stay and hope I pass out before I burn.

I walk into the bathroom and wash my face in the filthy sink, trying not to look at my own reflection and the betrayal of my dilated pupils. I tell myself I am done, that we are two cogs turning the opposite way, destroying each other.

But then I think,

one more time…

One more taste of red salt…

*

The poets of sweetness that made us cringe tell of a place where lovers live ever after in castles made of perfumed mists, saying to each other things like ‘forever’, ‘I swear’ and ‘always more’. We are too smart to swallow this, and yet here we are, all stars, fires and poetic license.

I claim to wish for your silence but, when I see you aren’t done, my heart races over the seas. You pull me back, tear me apart between lust and fear, doubt and trust, fire and ash. Controlling my sequences of movement, ordering contraction and release with the tapping of your fingertips, you make me lie in bed aching, holding on to the memory of you pinning me down with your body, with your brutal mouth, sinking so deeply inside me not even smoke can drift between us. It’s still you who drives me into the dance; memory becomes flesh as I squeeze my thighs together and think of flowing into you in gasping motions – wet, exalted.

The kill is on both of us. Pierced by the same blade we fall.

Here’s the truth: I can’t go on. I’ll bring you my tongue on a platter, my song out of tune, my sanity, my senses, all my silver jewels. I’ll even do the stupid stuff, like say ‘forever’, ‘I swear’ and ‘always more’. I’ll pass you the salt. And if we become material for the poets of shit, we’ll blame it on the weather or a collapsing bridge.

The words you wanted to hear were always there when I said bite / fuck / hard / eat / suck me, kávla – at the last one you’d say ‘what?’ and I’d say ‘guess.’ Always there when I was carnal.

Let’s take it from the start.

Say again: ‘Tell me something you’ve told no one else.’

This time I’ll say yes.

***

© Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin, 2018

Photography by Jimmi Campkin

Part I

Part II

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 mostly night.

There is a window in Silent Hour’s room. A blue neon light appears from time to time across the street. It comes from a recording studio, whose owner seems to also prefer the night. Silent Hour misses the light when it’s not on.

Silent Hour is a bookmonger and a wordcubine. It reads, writes, watches.

It is thread wrapped around a spinning wheel.

It howls with the wolves with whom it wants to be.

Silent Hour is Basilike Pappa.

Lines In The Sand (Part II) – Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin

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I tremble too much these days. I can barely light this cigarette without burning my fingers. Perhaps it is the drink. Perhaps it is memory, weighing on my soul like a lump of lead stretching the fibers of my arms.

I look up to the stars and the constellations spell your name, or the ripples of your laugh, or the contours and folds of your glorious sex. I am a weak man, which is simply to say I Am A Man… there is no strength emotionally, just the naked and vulgar grabs of power from that which we all fear the most. I stand on spiders because I fear them – you place a glass over spiders and release them because you fear them.

Your little black dress drove me crazy. Ever wonder what happened to it? So do I. It didn’t burn as I intended, but evaporated and, caught by an autumn breeze, drifted out of my desperate hands to be made anew elsewhere. That dress, those eyes, that smile, that mind… the endless churning of impenetrable cogs and gears, like a pocket watch.

All that I could be; carnal. All that you could be; my everything.

I still shiver, or tremble, or perhaps my body is rejecting memory, shaking it loose in self-preservation, like a wet dog. I just know I still wish to smell your early morning breath. When I go to the store I look for your footsteps. When I walk into the sea I look for your sand-ridden panties in a little pile next to the lapping tide. When I wake up, I wait for the pinch on the bridge of my nose to tell me it is time to rise.

My song is finished.

Your song is only just beginning.

*

You made me cry.

The wings that spread over seas, the wheels that turn on roads like these, have lights that can be taken for stars from a distance.

I have new dresses now. I am in them when I drink and dance and laugh at something someone said. The magazines are right about little black dresses. I can almost hear the cogs and gears behind erections, so I laugh a lot on days like these.

You speak of weakness. I’ll tell you what it is:

Weakness is a phone ringing with no one to hear it.

Mind covered in rust, shaking hands, what makes this body move among cardboard props is a mystery to this person in the mirror, eyes open wide, these walls know each other, this person inside them a stranger, attack it, heat it up, shorten its breath. Hand holds a cell phone, quasi real, at last an idea almost tangible, digits are the smallest grammatical units in this type of communication and you don’t even have to remember them because a device like this claims to have a memory better than anyone’s.

Weakness is a phone ringing ringing ringing with no one to hear it – where are you, fuck your god? You suck the air out of me and keep it in your lungs when we kiss, bring it back, bring me your voice, your skin to touch, it must be real or nothing is.

A face melting behind hands that come away wet, water on fingertips tastes like the sea. And where were you, fuck everything you’ve got, where was your voice, the smell of home, where were you laughing at something someone said?

You made me cry.

I swore you’d pay for it.

As I turned myself into a little light propelled by an engine across the sky, you were not looking at the stars. You were opening the package I’d left at your door, a gift that was terminal, reading the note that said ‘talk to this’.

I know my hands now and they are steady as I hold my glass. One cigarette dies and another is born – even cigarettes can look like stars from a distance. I have new dresses now, I drink, dance, laugh at something someone said when I’m inside them. But sometimes I dream of us deep in the orange grove, so no kiss is as terrible as yours, no body as warm as yours, and I have no song the way I had with you, singing out of tune to make you laugh.

Memory is weakness and I’ll burn it on a day like this, the way you burned the dress, just wait, you’ll see.

You did burn it, didn’t you? Unless ‘evaporated to be made anew elsewhere’ is your poetry of saying you gave it to someone else.

Take a deep breath, exhale and hate me, don’t make me cry, don’t drink and drive, eat your food. Then I may get my song back.

Could end this ‘with love’ – I’d rather sprain my hand.

*

Words by Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin

Photography by Jimmi Campkin

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 mostly night.

There is a window in Silent Hour’s room. A blue neon light appears from time to time across the street. It comes from a recording studio, whose owner seems to also prefer the night. Silent Hour misses the light when it’s not on.

Silent Hour is a bookmonger and a wordcubine. It reads, writes, watches.  It is thread wrapped around a spinning wheel.  It howls with the wolves with whom it wants to be.

Silent Hour is Basilike Pappa.

Diesel

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Pitter patter on my head, standing on a corner of this piece of the world, spat from a cancerous jaw.  Closing my eyes I taste the acid and corruption, as the ground and leaves hiss around me.  Inhaling the stale scents of chemicals and chalk, melting and bubbling under my useless feet, the sky turns brown and attempts to end our lives again.

When the rain sweeps in I can’t see beyond the end of the road.  I look towards my escape route guarded by a white mist and unknowable shapes, voices, actions… gestures I cannot recognise.  I turn away and look back at those dull, disinterested buildings, knowing that I’ll never leave their lethargy.

Under a little fort of rusted oil drums, I lie face down on the cold concrete floor until the dust sticks to my skin.  As green fades to grey, our memories are built upon and ‘modernised’.  My fingernails are raw and chipped from clawing at the ground, trying to find our dreams and footprints.  Some dim echo of old laughter or a lost conversation still softly bouncing around in the deep places of the Earth, unmolested by experience.  I have to find them before they stop bouncing, and simply pop like a soap bubble in a field of brambles.

When the Sun breaks through the miasma I stretch my muscles, pulling all my cells apart to allow as much heat and light in as possible.  In this dank, ruined iron shelter, I live for colours.

Saturdays

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I remember those Saturday nights, sitting cross legged on our old maroon carpet.  I have the apartment to myself, as I often did, and there’s wrestling on TV.  WCW Nitro on TNT, beamed all the way from the US to this little boy in England.  The picture quality is terrible, but it adds to the outlaw feel, the sense of watching something I shouldn’t.  I never confess my wrestling love to anyone except one or two, and I’d turn the TV off as quickly as if I were watching some soft-core erotic thriller, frantically trying to beat off during the two minutes of low lighting and sighing.

I get up from the couch and pad over to the smaller living room window that looks out across town.  We’re on the top floor and below, the lights twinkle and pulse, running like a field of neon wheat towards the black mass of the distant hills.  In the background, Goldberg spears another jobber or maybe Rey Mysterio leaps from the top rope and splashes everyone.  I turn the TV off and grab my coat.

The front door is always heavy and I’m not technically allowed out.  I know the neighbours all have ears so I pad down the cold steps carefully, lit like a mortuary slab.  Each apartment block has a different smell – the one next to ours smells weird and I get panic attacks even going past the door – but this smells like home.  Carefully, I open the main door and quickly slip down the path before the curtains start twitching.

I quickly walk to the end of my road.  I can hear the hum of a drunk town, interjected by random shrieks and laughter.  Sometimes I stay up until dawn looking out for lost stragglers who shamble through the estate, keeping an eye on them, making sure they aren’t causing trouble.  I feel cold and strange, standing as though waiting for a bus, and I’m aware of time ticking away.

Walking back through my road, I pass the small hill where we build our dens under the shadow of a warehouse.  In the distance I can see the jagged silhouette of the old factories long since closed down, where the old railway line runs.  I won’t go near that area at night.  As I walk back, I realise everything feels different; not just the lack of light, but as though I’m drowning in clean oxygen.  I can walk a lot faster and run like a sprinter.

I’m back home when my parents get in.  After they sleep I creep back into the living room, open a couple of cans of beer and watch MTV until dawn.  Banned music videos and Jackass.  I sink into the cigar-smelling chair of my father and wiggle my toes at the horror and the juvenile – everything I can get behind, the feeling of living off-grid and without rules.  Hiding the cans at the bottom of the trash, I dream of a future I haven’t had.