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.

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.