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.

Forgotten

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I numb my mind and retreat into the safe places, because it is easier to live a happy life backwards than a disappointing one forwards.  I tell her this, but then I fall asleep in her navel, and when I wake up the world is full of plans again.  She would’ve made a great war general, but there are no wars big enough for her mind these days… no grand epics where sixty thousand people stand in lines in a field and cleave each other’s arms and legs from their sockets.

She told me; I don’t dream anymore, I just lie through pieces of sleep where I know I cannot be harmed. 

The problem as I see it is this; too many people, with whom she forms intimate connections with, end up dead.  And it isn’t always her fault.  I see her in fields of failing wheat trying to outglare sunsets.  I see her up to her knees in water trying to change the course of waterfalls, trying to open curtains to other realms.  I sit as a passenger in her car as she blasts two grooves into the tarmac, naked and gruesome as birth, hurling abuse at anything unlucky enough to be enjoying an evening stroll on our route.

I tell her to stop drinking.  She replies; I will stop drinking when you can present me with a better alternative to sobriety.  And it is hard to disagree with that.  We share the same brown bottles.  We share oblivion.

Grove

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Walking across a dark, rainy bridge of suicides, I can feel her tender hands around mine keeping me from the edge.  Around us, drifts of snow are piled and dirty like dead sheep, but there’s gold in those eyes and silver glinting in those teeth.

We will always walk this path, even now… even thirty years after the fact when your face is covered by the mist of a few broken hearts, a few hundred whiskeys and a few thousand dull days staring into faces as bland as dinner plates.  I sit on the floor, surrounded by a week’s worth of TV dinners buzzing with insects, and I clench my hand into a fist… and as the nails dig into my skin I feel the warmth of yours.  Wherever you are now – happy, no doubt – you will never know how often you save me.

On rainy evenings, I throw on a rucksack and trudge out into the mire.  Ignoring the hiss of passing cars in the spray, and the glare of headlights, I stare down at the soft colours – all those sunflower yellows from reflected streetlights, dark purples and blues from the oily puddles under my feet, and the black mass of the old bridge as solid as a marble tomb.

I don’t sleep anymore, I just shut my eyes and think of the nice things I want to have.  I wiggle my toes under the blanket and imagine cool grass and innocence, before I burned myself on finite desire.

Abhor

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We always tried to be angels, but her smile made me want to spit in the face of God.  We tore along the street like lava, consuming everything in our wake.  When she grabbed my hand and told me to stop, I watched her vault into the open top of a sports car and wink at me – one hand on the wheel, one arm propped on the door.  As I stared, waiting for the punchline, I heard it… the steady hiss of piss as she wet herself and the leather interior before vaulting away.

Sure, we smashed a few windows, and sure, we upset a few natives.  We ran to the churchyard and pulled down as many slabs as we could before mounting each other on the cold slab of a former vicar.  She rode me, legs splayed wide across my hips, jeans still hanging off one ankle and dripping yellow, t-shirt knotted up and arms out to receive the sun.  We came in unison and rolled off, landing with a winding thud in a pile of autumn leaves.  Kissing my nose, she bit her lip and for a moment I saw true love… true companionship…lying in the hundred scents of a thousand dry brown leaves.

Lying under the stars later that evening, she points at one and says ‘Mary Linskill.’ Then another, ‘Alfred Broe’.  When I ask she tells me; these are the names of the people whose tombs we upset….and the stars are their spirits in the dark.

Dead Boxes

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I look across and you are asleep already.  You look so angelic my eyes flood and I blink away the tears that tumble from my eyelashes.  The moonlight illuminates your skin, hiding the dark circles around your eyes and your chewed lips.  In this light you aren’t slumped anymore, but elegant and wise, your jawline casting deep shadow over the nape of a pale, spotted neck.  I feel like an astronaut, peering out of the capsule window over a foreign landscape, looking for a safe place to touch down.

Carefully, I pull the needle from your arm.  In front of me is a chain link fence and, picking a hexagon, I aim the syringe perfectly through… it lands with a faint puff of dust on the other side.  It can’t hurt you now… hurt us now.  I stretch out my boots and click my knees.  My jeans are caked in oil and grime so they creak when they bend.  Running my tongue through my mouth, my feet are as furry as my three year beard.  I wish I could sleep, but my heart keeps beating.  Thump thump thump, it pounds away, the only healthy thing I still own.

We’re resting in the alley, because it’s too warm to sleep.  Even outdoors, the air is heavy and dismal with pollution.  Buildings sweat, trees die, people go away.  From here, between my legs, I can see the churned turmoil of a diseased Earth covered in the detritus and mistakes of Man.  Chimneys and rigs, steel and sulphur, lit artificially and haphazardly and now abandoned, to be reclaimed by a mutated Nature that does not grow so much as manifest and pulse, tentacles of thorns grasping everything it can.  This is Gaia on life-support, her bed left unattended as her flesh rots into weeping sores.

I look over to you again.  Your head has shifted towards me, so I can see the jagged parting in the top of your greasy head.  A single trickle of blood is making its way between the hairs on your arm, so I lick my finger and gently mop it up.  I have dreams of us leaving this place.  Daydreams and night dreams where I get it all together, get a real job, rent a flat, buy a dog, do recycling and go to the funfair to win teddy bears for you.  But I know you can’t do these things.  The umbilical didn’t sever, it just clung on and became septic.  You can’t leave this place and I cannot leave you.  So this is now our life – mossy alleyways covered in graffiti, the rusting monuments of industry, old shacks covered in ivy and stinking of piss that we sleep in when the snow falls from November to March.

We play in the wreckage of those that failed.  But as we get older those paints don’t fade but become bolder.  Old ruins glint sharp.

As long as we still breathe, we still have time.

We don’t have to fail.

Crimson Lips

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I took her to the disused railway line.  The trees form a green tunnel, with patchwork sunlight dappling through the leaves.  Looking eastbound, I see a circle of green pierced by light and flanked by the twin brown lines running to meet in the distance.  In dim shade, there are grey walls coated in faded paint, covered in the icons of those who no longer walk here.  In the long grass burned spoons and aerosol cans, all the pathetic detritus of a people that have failed their home.

When I told her where we were going, she rolled her eyes… must we?  Haven’t we done this already? 

She told me once; I have fantasies about being tied to the tracks, bound at the wrists and ankles, as a train is approaching. 

She told me; I feel the vibration from the rails on my skin and in my bones and I’m writhing to get away, pushing my chest out, and I can’t… I just can’t.

And I have to walk away.  I can’t abide the thought of her in peril, but I can’t explain the bulge in my jeans either, or my dry mouth, or my breathlessness, or that I’m trembling like I’m cold under this midsummer sun.

So I bring her back here out of confusion.  I’d never tie her to these rusty old girders, and no train has run down here in sixty years.  I just want to hear her story again.  I want to hear her desire something.

Driplets

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I inhale the smoke and gasp under the lights in this jet black room.  Sweating bodies and dead flesh grind and bump around me, so much cadaverous globules.  The first pill hasn’t kicked in yet – I can still taste dry ice and hairspray – so I pop another and dream of my future.

Above me on the stage, the party is just getting started.  But I don’t party.  I’m looking for sensation, real feeling.  I see empty men and indifferent women, just so many appendages and openings, no more atuned to love as the assembly instructions for furniture.  I’ve already seen a Princess, but the low bass throb is reacting badly with my shoes and I’m struggling to move more than five yards a minute.

It doesn’t matter.  She comes over to me, just as the second pill kicks in, and her eyes turn into a pair of gold coins ringed with black.  Leaning on a table, my opening line isn’t brilliant.  Are you blind?  Can you see?  It’s fine if you can’t…. I’m not prejudiced.  She’s sympathetic but confused.  I’m confused but sympathetic.  With firm hands and long nails pinching under my armpits, she hauls me out of the bonfire before the strobe dilutes my memory.

Dragged across the floor, I can see the artifice of this place.  No ceilings, just vents.  No lights, just effects.  My trousers are sticky with beer and other questionable things.  I have a flashback memory; fourteen years old, first time getting loaded on beer stolen from my parent’s fridge, listening to music on my headphones whilst lying on my bed and feeling as though I were floating into the song… like melody could be fluid, and something one could swim around.  I felt my immature quilt cover melting around my arms and legs, the pillow swallowing my head, falling into the rabbit hole of a greater sensation of feeling.  I’ve never felt better than that teenage drunk.

She drags me into the Gents and rams two fingers down my throat, her long nails lacerating the roof of my mouth.  I instantly throw up foam and blood, as a concerned man with aftershave and soaps for sale looks on.  She rubs my back, tells me Everything Will Be Okay, and buys some wipes from the dude.  He won’t accept her money, but she has a way of making things happen.

What’s that Smiths lyric?  Under the iron bridge, we kissed.  This isn’t an iron bridge and we don’t kiss.  She drags me outside and we meander, supporting me as best she can, until we sit under the ruined arch of an ancient church.  The fresh air ploughs into my senses and I feel like I am drowning.  Even the stars in a cloudless sky move too fast.  She sits with me, holding my hand, and asks me questions.  I try and answer them all flirtatiously, but she just laughts.  She wants to know who I am.  When I sit still the echoes of the bass still pinball around my head and send me off-balance.  Her arm around my shoulder isn’t affection… it’s protection.

At some point, I ask her for her number and she hands me a card with a wink.  I go for a kiss, and she darts away from my lips and plants a wet one on my cheek, grabbing a handful of my expanding groin in the process.  I look up and mumble something about the moonlight.  I can barely focus on the damn thing, glowing and bulbous above us.  She looks up and points, tells me about footprints that will never be erased and flags that will never stop fluttering, if we can just believe in the impossible…. something something.  Something something?  Why can’t I remember….?  Fucking hell.  Why can’t I remember?

I woke up in the gardens, not far from the arch.  I opened my eyes to a dogwalker, crouching nearby to pick up some shit and eyeing me pathologically, trying to assess whether I was still alive.  Underneath the crook of a low shrub, dry from the morning dew and still wrapped in her denim jacket, I rolled out from my little grave and surveyed the morning with a thumping headache and slime on my lips.  I felt something sharp in my pocket and I remembered, the card she’d given me.

It was blank except for a lipstick kiss and words scrawled in biro; TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.