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.

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

 

 

 

 

Bernard Is Close

(Originally published February 2016.)

 

Do you remember the first time?

The first kiss in a nearly empty cinema.  She had Greek blood, warm brown eyes and exquisite curls.  She was dressed entirely in black, even down to her immature knee-high boots.  You wore whatever you could lay your hands on that looked vaguely fashionable in a wardrobe of market knock-offs and stuff that, literally, fell off the back of a lorry.  So you roll up on your first date in slightly too big jeans that are still damp from the previous night’s wash, and a football shirt that still smells musty around the armpits because you wear it all the time.  When you arrive she looks you up and down and laughs, but after that she confidently takes your hand and leads to you the screen.  By the end of the film your mouth is dry from the taste of a cool mint mouth.  You’ve lapped your tongue around hers and felt the peculiar texture of millions of tiny buds.  Your cock is sore from unrequited attention, trying to stand up but pressed down by the tight hem of a stitched zip fly.  You can’t remember the film but who cares?  Fifteen years later, drunk and depressed, you’ll be channel hopping at two in the morning and watch the film again.  Properly this time; no kissing, no warm brown eyes.  Just alone, with a swimming head and the first creeping tentacles of a monster hangover.

Do you remember the first time?

When you sat in a guitar shop and breathlessly held an instrument across your lap under the sympathetic gaze of the shop manager and the confused but smiling faces of your parents.  You look down at the strings as though someone looking at the Rosetta Stone; infinite, untranslatable possibilities.  You twang your way through a few notes that sound nice together, and even perform the whisper of a famous riff completely by accident.  You like it simply for its shape and it goes on to be a good friend – albeit not a long term one.  Years later, with damp eyes, you’ll hawk it to a pawn shop when desperate for cash.  Even worse than the act of selling such a prized possession, every time you return to the pawn shop you notice that your guitar is still there – still with the notch in the neck from when it slid off your bed and crashed against your desk.  Still with the scratches from your studded belt when you posed and preened, still with the faint outlines of glue from the stickers you placed on it.  After a year, you stop going into the shop because you cannot bear to see your cherished memory hanging pathetically from its gibbet with a price tag that you still cannot afford.

Do you remember?

The first fuck, crashing against a bed that was on the verge of collapse, barely glued together in a moment of parental crisis.  A grinding toil of mere minutes, perhaps even seconds, as you looked confused at her eyes rolling back and her mouth agape and you thought back to the brief glimpses of pornography that you’d viewed and wondered why this seemed so different.  But then, in the porno’s, the woman never cradled your shoulders and softly sang ‘Silent Night’ into your ear in German.

The first time you felt scared and thrilled at the same time, you stood on top of an extinct volcano and dangled your legs over the shelf of a 600ft sheer drop.  In that moment you felt, in your stomach, a celestial hook that lifted you above such nonsense as gravity.  You knew that, should you fall, you would be instantly yanked cloudwards into a cold sun.  You looked down at your mud-encrusted boots and you could still feel the warmth of your first taste of whiskey dancing on the rungs of your oesaphagus, numbing your bones.  When you think no one is looking, you place your palms either side of your hips and lift yourself off the ground, just an inch or so.  When it is time to go, time to descend the zig zag path from whence we came, your old teacher gives you a lingering look.  It may be a smile or it may just be a thought passing behind his eyes but nevertheless he squeezes your shoulder and pats the top of your back.  Later that evening you read a magazine about Indian men who have held their arms up for decades or grown their nails to be as long as buses whilst he tells you about your former art teacher who disappeared one morning to be replaced by a carnival of eager substitutes; sectioned for being a potential danger to herself or her students.

Do you remember the narrow road, where you spent hours with that Coke can scoring every World Cup Final goal ever scored?  It still glows and hums now with the vibrations you left behind.  Like a perspex ruler bent over a desk, the molecules continue long after it appears to be silent.  Certain places envelope you in an eternal sunset, perched agonisingly on the precipice of endings without a solution.  I find more comfort in the optimism of a sunrise than the reflection of a sunset.  Sunsets are always too late.  Tomorrow is always too late.

Growing up I seemed, quite by accident, to surround myself with creative people.  All these individuals had their individual dreams – writers, painters, sketchers, musicians, poets, wits, vagabonds and delinquents.  I find it disturbing now how many of these people – friends and acquaintances (whose only crime of distinction is distance multiplyed by time and divided by memory) – have fallen away from their original dreams and decided to passively sit and observe the fruition of others.  I talk to them now, abstracted by distance time and memory, and when I enquire as to their past passions they tell me apologetically that it is all in the past now.  Haven’t done it in years.  Too old for that shit.  Time to start having a real life.

I know they still cling to those teenage dreams so hard to beat.  I know that the wannabe artists still crawl the galleries, the wannabe musicians stare forlornly at the stage during gigs, the wannabe writers still plough through their libraries spitting bile at the trash in hardback.  I’ve met so many middle aged and elderly people who have lamented the passing of a hobby for the sake of A Normal Life, and it scares me to see so many people that I’ve grown up with, whom I honestly thought would make it – and probably still could – falling like so many jumbled race horses over the fences.  Most of them I was convinced would make it well over and above my feeble creative efforts.  And yet, in many ways, I cannot blame them.  Who wants genuine heartfelt music in an iPod generation of auto-tuning?  Who wants penetrating writing in an age of ghost-written celebrity lifewank and E.L James’ prose that would fail a GCSE exam with only the laughing tears of an invigilator smearing the D-?

Which leaves myself and a decreasingly few other horses frantically hammering the turf, approaching every new fence with fear.  One of my worst fears, and I’ve always been a habitual worrier, is being so disillusioned with creativity as to abandon it altogether.  The thought of never creating anything ever again, whether it be a pleasant riff or a piece of Artwank, is anathema to my purpose of being here.

I’ve always felt different.  Partly this is because I’ve always been made to feel different and it is something that I struggled with during my teen years but which then blossomed after leaving the sociopathic viper’s pit that is school.  Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse, in the sublime Before Sunrise theorises that, because he was an accidental pregnancy and was never meant to be born, he’s gatecrashing a party to which he has not been invited and thus doesn’t have to abide by any rules and can govern his life as he sees fit. I’ve always suspected I was something of an unwelcome surprise, piecing together the fragments of my early childhood.  My parents were not exactly wealthy and my biological father took off when I was not even two years old.  Years later I found a note, signed by my biological father, waiving all his rights to my upbringing and care – basically the opposite of a father fighting for custody of his son.  And although this event has never cast a long shadow over me – my mother soon remarried to the man I would call, and always call Father – Jesse’s little theory does provide a succinct blurb to my thirty-two-and-counting years alive.  I like the idea that I am not supposed to be here.

I hope my fears are never realised.  Today, my one day off from a week and a half of Hotel Hell; I burned a lot of incense, did two small abstract paintings experimenting with oils on canvas, finished one ink sketch and drew another pastel piece, played some guitar and wrote this entry.  Aside from good friends, sex and long walks it was about as perfect a day as my mind can conjure.  It was not an effort, it was easy.  I woke up and I realised that I had a day to do whatever I wanted and I did just that.  I hope it continues.  I need for it to continue.

 

 

Tinker Hill

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Such extraordinary outfits and cackling, smiles and flaking heels, beer and freshly lost knickers, the stale smells of a lived in bed.  Walking carefully over the rust, listening for the creaks and snaps, the ship is planted precarious in the mud, watched over with wildlife by day and echoes at night.  A cracked smile, a moment of euphoria when the music lifts.  The hugs, the squeezes, the fingerprints left on your back, scars from nails indented, perfume stains on your discoloured chest.

Looking for home fruitlessly, twisting on the same spot under your feet.  She bounces down the stairs with yellow and green hair declaring that she’s feeling “all Aquarius today”, and then expects us to understand.  Strange girl.  Everyone nods, but doesn’t make eye contact.  Looks at their shoes.  I used to recognise people by their shoes, a legacy of always keeping my head down.  Now I see over their shoulders.  I recognise the straggles of hair or the patch of missed whiskers pressed against the skin by a dull razor.  Or I see them from behind and examine their mood by their walk, looking at the shoulder blades and imagining the fixed stare from a stone head.

Mezzanines and pot pourris and other things that vaguely rhyme just to kickstart another sentence.  It’s not my job to be content – not anymore.  So many people I know are now settling down.  Making the best of what they have.  Allowing the dust to settle.  They seek the pockets of magic and are content to explore them like advent calendar windows.  A weekend here.  A day there.  Paddling in memories of freedom they regress, dry themselves off and then snap back.  A keyhole existence.  I’m not sure if I feel pity or envy.  I can’t do that.  I want magic every day.  I want freedom.  Poetry.  Sin.

Putting on my old boots, ignoring the clouds.  Rain does what rain does.  I’m smiling as I stand on a high place and observe a sea reflecting the retreating sun back like so much seething, boiling liquid mercury.

 

(Originally published 2015)

White Path

Sky XIV

We burst through the ruined doors and run into the church, cackling and whooping and damning all gods – all idols are false to us – and we lift the wine bottles inches from our mouths so the liquid tumbles carefree over our lips, our teeth, our jaws and necks.  Sprinting down the nave, I smash one over the pews and slash at an itch on my thigh.  The leg spasms and tries to collapse.  I feel warm gloves creeping down past my knee.

She leaps onto the altar and skids on the cloth, sending a golden crucifix flying, her ankle poised millimetres from disaster.  I’m hobbling along, even as the pain is beginning to creep.  She leaps down and finds the spiral staircase to the organ keys, whilst I lay myself prostrate on the cold stone altar like a living tomb.

L____ hammers the keys in a sing-song symphony.  All the turrets and columns around me are trembling to this cacophony of deep burbles and rasps.  I squint in the darkness and can see them dancing, pogoing in unison.

We knew there were hours left.  Then we heard it was minutes.  Everyone chose their way to die.  We smashed up a shop and stole a crate of wine.  The church grows darker.  She rushes to my side, kisses my forehead and gasps you’re bleeding!  Laughing.  We embrace.

The bomb has already been dropped.  Above us, the organs pipes begin to groan in unison as the shockwave rushes through them.

 

I love….