Flux – via FreeVerseRevolution

Golden Canal York

We wait patiently in a hot summer evening haze, expectant of some event or apotheosis.  Everything ripples before us; the horizon, landscape and the cold shells of the old furnaces undulating in this new heat, leaving us drowsy as though languidly awaiting the Rapture.  We’re reclined in a pair of old car seats dumped in the midst of a daisy and buttercup sea as all around us, yellows, whites and dainty pinks, Louis XVth greens and platinum silver rays flow like the tides, sweeping and retreating in disorganised order.  

She rolls up her skirt, pointing a toe into the heart of the Sun and plunges a small penknife deep into her calf.  Blood begins to trickle out from the slit, and I can hear hissing – perhaps from her in pain or from her fluids hitting the hungry vegetation around us.  I don’t ask questions though.  I just try not to stare too hard at the blossoming crimson below her knee, spreading over her ankle.  If I make this a Big Deal, I’ll probably be next.  

So I pass her another rolled smoke as she reclines again, allowing one bloody leg to cross the other.  I lay back into the creaking old leather instinctively fumbling for a seat beat.

The wind whips around us, eager to join, and I feel her smoke burning my eyes and tongue.  Around us everything has taken a day off – birds stand silently in trees, the few clouds remaining stationary in a rich blue sky like ocean liners.  She holds up a clawed hand, in the vague shape of F# and tells me, as only someone under the influence of powerful narcotics can, the importance of the chord progressions in Tonight’s The Night by Neil Young.  Strumming her hip and making gestures at the air.  And then you go dnng dnng dnng ng.  Ng nng nnnnnng.  

I point out the shadows creeping across our feet like burst oil across a clear sea.  The old factories and cooling towers loom over us now, once gleaming bright but now turning orange as the Sun sinks lower.  All I hear, other than her words and the wind, is the deep ringing of silence.  The buildings around us barely emit a hum, and I can hear every languid flick of her air, every crack of her spine and every crackle of burning cigarette paper.  

The evening sets in, deep terracotta, the little black silhouettes of birds now gathering on the ripe saplings dotted here and there.  She takes a deep breath and asks me; do you remember your finest moment?  I shrug.  Beating a one-legged kid at tennis in three sets of 6 love in half an hour?  Building a home-made parachute out of old sheets and leaping out of a tree?  Scaling the fence into the old factory and finding the cupboard full of glue and pornography that kept us awake and alive for an entire autumn?  She waves her hand dismissively away. 

“I remember… ages ago… you put on a pair of stupid glasses, jammed some flowers into your jeans and then hid in the toilets of a nightclub for an hour.

Until they played a track by The Smiths and you… just… fucking… emerged, dressed like a Poundland Morrissey, in the middle of the dancefloor, twirling daffodils about like a deranged helicopter, until the bouncers dragged you out and kicked the shit out of you.”

I laughed.  

‘Yeah… I was a dickhead back then…’

“Yeah, you were” she smiles.  “But you were also brave.”

*

On misty evenings even machines leave ghosts and echoes.  As I sit, surrounded by a damp curtain, I can hear clanks and grinding from mechanisms long since rusted beyond repair.  Nothing makes sense in this cold.  My fingers and legs stretch out before me, pale grey and barely emitting any light.  I perch uncomfortably on brown springs – the leather long since torn or rotted away.  Around me dead yellow stalks hiss and scream uncomfortably, whilst at my feet a wide circle of burned black punctures the earth like a missing eye.

I’m on my fourth can.  Once upon a time I put a hand on a shoulder, and felt the warmth evaporate my fingerprints, absorbing them into her constellations of freckles.  I looked into deep eyes and floated – always floated – even for someone who could never swim.  

I look up at the sky these days and it doesn’t feel empty, just overwhelmingly crowded and noisy.  I remember the days when I could eloquently scream and cut through the white noise with ease, setting my target for the heart of the Core and exploding with confidence, sparks dancing from my shoulders as my emotions brought down mountains.  Now I fumble over broken words that bounce pointlessly away like airgun pellets against a Battleship.    

 

The noises don’t intimidate me anymore.  If I hear the grumbling of a ‘78 Rolling Stock Diesel vibrating under these rusted springs, if I see its shape rolling past in the fog, I can pretend that it is meaningless.  Just the ridiculous echoes of an old time bouncing off the walls for perceptive ears.  Except everything feels so numb now.  Nothing is rich anymore.  Nothing burns, nothing hurts, nothing excites.  When a forgotten past bleeds into a forgettable present, where can one exist? 

I finish the fourth can but it won’t be the last.  I am too cold to stop now and the dawn is at least another couple of years away.  As my feet stamp and crunch into the black soil I have a vague memory of auburn hair smelling faintly of cigar smoke and pollen.  One leg raised against the dying sun, blood streaming from a single wound and forming a pool at our feet, as all those whites and yellows, Louis XVth greens and platinum silvers were slowly drenched and drowned in her deep, oppressive red.  

*

Eventually she began to lose consciousness.  Even as the smoke rasped my lungs I could tell that she was in a bad way.  Her eyelids ashen, her sockets sunken, her flesh pale and old.  The blood that once streamed now patted rhythmically on the stubborn head of a Buttercup, determined not to be deterred, unflinching.  A deep pool of red formed a circle at her feet.  The ground beneath us gargled like a drowning swimmer.

She told me; when I was a kid I was obsessed with Space Oddity by Bowie.  I used to listen to that song over and over and over and over again on my little kiddie cassette player.  And then, when my parents got pissed off and wanted to sleep, they’d hide my tape player.  But it didn’t matter to me.  I knew that song.  I knew the lyrics.  I could feel every vibration of every note in my ears.  So I would creep out of my bed when everything was quiet, go to my bedroom window and stare into the night sky imagining that Major Tom was real… that he was actually floating out there in his old tin can, just a dead man perfectly preserved in a vacuum, endlessly orbiting the planet.  

I wonder what happened to that girl who didn’t look at the floor but looked up to the sky.  

She took another deep drag and lifted her toe up to cover the sun.

What happened to the girl who believed in Major Tom?

*

I wonder that as well.  I wonder what happened to the boy who believed in the girl who believed in Major Tom.  There is no wind now, but I still hear the hiss of the dead stalks around me.  I remember, only just, when this meadow sang with colour.  

I cannot keep the flowers alive with memory alone.

(Originally posted on freeverserevolution, with thanks.)

Bee Jams – Jimmi Campkin — FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

Sitting uneasily on the remains of an old washer-dryer, I look up to the sky and toast the world. At my feet, dead yellow grass paws pathetically at my shoes. I light another cigarette and blow smoke into the day. It is nice to feel involved in some small way with this wider conscious, even […]

via Bee Jams – Jimmi Campkin — FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

The School For The Dying – Free Verse Revolution

Flower Steps

When I wake up, my room is a deep pink from the sunlight passing through the cherry blossoms that cover this place.  It never fails to give me a warm feeling inside, as though the rays are diluted through the petals and into the cells on my bare arms and legs.  It takes me back to a colder memory I often have from five years ago of a windy dock and a rotten jetty poking forlornly into the harbour, reinforced by a finger of steel pointing towards this pink dandelion island nestling in the middle of the bay.  I took the boat with other kids all looking at each other with the curious mix of shyness and knowing – that our sunken eyes and strong brows gave us all something in common we all knew too much about. As we sailed towards the island where my new school was apparently located, we began to see that this beautiful marshmallow floating in the rough ocean concealed bright white buildings, whose small towers seemed to furtively whisper to each other at the latest intake.

It took me a few days to realise why I was here.  Sitting through an easy math’s exam to determine our respective abilities, I finished early and glanced over my shoulder.  I was the second of five rows with a sixth row of kids all attached to trolley drips – thin hoses to noses and arms. After the exam finished I took a wrong turn down a corridor looking for a bathroom and saw another exam hall filled with beds and machines all bleeping in unison, the participants propped up and scribbling frantically on trays attached to the sides, with far more invigilators than we’d had in our hall, dressed in brilliant white.

I was now a permanent resident at The School For The Dying, an institution that allowed kids with incurable ‘situations’, as the staff euphemistically called it, to see out their education.  Anyone who couldn’t realistically continue their studies and who wouldn’t make it past graduation could be considered. Inhabitants stayed on the island in rooms of varying degrees of intricacy – mine was just a bed with a desk, drawers and a small sink and wardrobe – but others were the size of operating theatres with machines and instruments that meant we couldn’t have the lights on after 9pm every day.

I got up and stretched my thin limbs, shivering in the warmth from the window.  Today is a good day – double History followed by double Art and a single English Lit lesson that will probably be silent reading.  It took a while but now the rhythmic hissing of ventilators helps me to concentrate during the quiet reading periods. I also get used to seeing our single desks slowly become more and more empty as the school year progresses.  We all make friends as quickly as we can, because we know that our lives exist on fast forward.

I dress quickly, wash my face and prepare my books.  My classroom is just across the courtyard from this dorm block, but I take the longer way around so I can get a glimpse of the sea.  From the outside the cherry blossoms seem impossibly beautiful, until you are inside them and you realise they are blocking the outside world.  But standing on the right bench, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can see through the canopy and get a sniff of that salty air or, if there is a storm, maybe a splash of real, unfiltered water.

As I leave, I see Prof Maguire talking to a group of young girls.  I sneak away to the outer path, knowing that walking too close to the sea is technically forbidden – not that anything is really forbidden here.  Maguire is well known for scolding the girls who hide in the bathrooms to smoke, telling them it is bad for their health, but the arguments always end in laughter.  There are no real punishments here because no one ever really misbehaves. Life is too short, it seems, to spend it being a cunt.

The outer path is cut by curious feet to wind between the mass of trees that separate the school from the sea defences.  I tiptoe through the mud of a recent rainfall so my shoes don’t give away my location. The air is still today so all I can see is a noisy curtain of pink, but I can hear the roar of the ocean as it breaks on the rocks that guard us from storms.  I stand for a moment and try to remember a landscape that I haven’t already seen every day. I see the paths between buildings and I try to remember a street. I see puddles forming after rain and I try to remember seeing a lake, for real, not as a picture in a book.

Eventually I make my way to the classroom and take my seat.  There are not many of us left who are so close to the end of their teen years.  I have already repeated the final year once, so when questions pop up I keep quiet because I know the answers and I know the way to the answers.  A couple of the seats have been filled with new faces this past week, and the other empty desks sit sadly like dogs tied up outside a shop waiting for their owners to come back.

I lift up my desk lid, now covered in deep little carved marks, and add another one to the gathering army.  I wasn’t supposed to see my 15th birthday, so after I had passed that milestone I started carving little notches to mark my ongoing, bewildering march towards irrelevance and a little headstone on the mainland – my marble ticket home.  I have to carve them deep, the sawdust falling over my wrists, to distinguish them from the other lesions and scratches left by previous students who also marked their time, however fleeting or lingering, but it gets harder every day to have the strength.

I am 17 years, two months and six days old… and I am running out of desk.

freeverserevolution.wordpress.com

 

 

When We Were Tigers – Free Verse Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution

Quarry – Free Verse Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

I tell her;

“You are the most important thing to me.”  

She sighs, rolls her eyes and responds;

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

 

 

Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution