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

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To call you love would twist my tongue.

I never sing love songs with eyes shut; and neither would I share junk food behind the Hilton with you –exhaust fumes, saucy lips, a light breeze through our hair– before we kiss and go to bed as animals turned pets, our biggest sin forgetting to floss.

But from the moment you said my name, sanity performed a pagan dance, silver jewels gleaming naked.

So why not conspire against the national demand for ironed sheets, and go riding drunk under the moon? Sneaking into each other, we will exchange bass lines, starry eyes, blinding treasures and the secrets to a perfect kill. And if we turn each other into poems in the flesh, we can always blame the weather or a collapsing bridge.

From the moment you said my name, my senses did a pagan dance, spitting out neon, perfumes, smearing lipstick on it all.

So why not kiss all the way down a perfect fall?

But I’d never call you love – I’d rather bite my tongue.

*

My earliest memory of you; on a trampoline, your hair backlit by a radioactive green sun, and one hand reaching for the pale blue above.

Another early memory; a crowd of no-one, pointless under-formed bodies and ill-fitting clothes, and a pair of eyes that parted them like the red sea, like a blowtorch through ice. Your eyes weren’t shimmering, or beautiful like those described by the shit poets you detested so much. You carried harpoons with hooked blades that penetrated my flesh and locked into my ribcage.

The first fuck; freezing cold behind the bowling alley, knocking over beer bottles with our feet. Your jeans down to your Chuck Taylors, my boxers locking my knees together, our breath mingling, my cock fighting to stay alive between you and the frost.

You are my nightmare, and I cry to hear the words I want.

But you always look away, and those dangerous eyes dull and fade like the end of a candle.

When we kiss, I suck the air out of you and keep it in my lungs. You tell me I’m a terrible kisser, that I devour you. And I say nothing, but think the same words…. and your point would be what?

*

Our first fuck be damned.

We went deep into the orange grove, where the trees wear climber thorns for hair and our feet sink in the undergrowth. I showed you the house of stone and ivy. Snakes, I said; spiders and rats; these weeds feed on dead oranges. Insects, dust, maybe someone forever hanging from the ceiling, or someone mad and hungry. Still you wanted to go in. I waited for you outside, waited until the night thickened and my skin began to peel off. I thought to come find you, get you out of there, take you away from the grove and back into the streets of lamplight and Saturday best. One shin-tangled step towards the door, two in shoes of lead. You said my name, your voice a whisper in my ear, but you were not next to me. I saw you standing at the window, behind shards of glass hanging on to the blistered sash. The grove was still as I watched your lips stretch back from your teeth to shape a smile mad and hungry. All around us fallen oranges leaving their last rotten breaths on the ground, soft green flesh feeding the weeds.

The ceiling, I thought; the chair I left my clothes on. But the smell lingered in the room and I couldn’t blink it away. I kicked off the covers, sat up and started sniffing at my skin. There, on my thighs and knees, I found the smell of oranges and dark earth – where our bodies came together in spasmody, that frostbitten fuck be damned.

You smell like home.

You smell like me.

 

*

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.

Debris

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On a stale summer evening, balancing on a single rail, I light a cigarette and let my eyes water over filthy cheeks as the smoke washes over me.  I feel the dirt when I smile, and I feel the tears dancing through the grime when I cry, so I do neither.  Kicking through the litter and detritus, I listen for the sharp warning blasts from the freight trains that steam and rumble past dragging waggons full of sulphur, or rattling past carrying nothing but dead air and waste.

I dream of climbing the trees I sometimes see on torn billboards, and on the faded juice bottle labels.  Sometimes I’ll steal a fresh one from Frankie’s Shop – I go in with a piece of glass melted into a toothbrush handle and threaten his one remaining eye.  The poor old bastard just nods and holds up money as I go for the broken freezer cabinet and brace for the flies that buzz around the milk.  I run as fast as my panic will let me, even though I know he’ll never tell.

Around the corner, across the car park, behind the burger van and through the fence onto the railway that severs the town into two rotten apple halves, I sit on the floor and stare at the label.  I dream of trees, and I dream of the day I can climb one just to be closer to the sky – the hazy blue I see beyond the veil of ochre.  There are no real trees here; just cold lifeless and slippery searchlights, and the harsh pylons who guard like diseased and underfed sentinels, wrapped in sharp wire and frying all but the few coughing birds who pass through.

I’ve never wished for anything – just more colours than grey and the oxidised brown rust that gets under my fingernails and stains my hair.

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As the amber evening turns into a dark brown night, I climb the disintergrating wooden steps up to the old signal box.  The mattress is finally dry and the room is quiet and warm.  I feel the glow from the remains of the day through the broken window panes and I know tonight I will sleep better than I have done in three months.

I go to a corner of the room and remove a pile of rags – inside is a box of dumped fireworks.  I light one and send it up through the hole in the roof above my bed.  With a whistle it flies, followed by blue lines like thin leaves, a loud pop, and then the dull purples as the colour mingles with the air, and the sparks descend like doomed paratroopers.  I hope she has seen my signal, and I hope she will return soon.

I need my girl, and for those octopus arms to entwine me safe.

 

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.

A Love Letter To An Autumn Thunderstorm

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It doesn’t help to overly romanticise The Girl; a Manic Pixie Nightmare smelling faintly of green meat with greasy hair and black under her fingernails.  Every morning she drew teardrops under those auburn oval windows in eyeliner, in memory of those who didn’t and couldn’t pass the tests.  Every morning she pressed those dirty angelic feet into the same toeless, ripped heels.  Those feet, the soles hardened and yellow, once kicked the life and death out of her own father, and left a streak of explosive blood across the wall; she compared it to a peacock feather.  She was not romantic, but she appreciated actions…. not gestures but actions.  When I took a beating from a gang of ten with pool cues for commenting on her tits she looked down on me like undersole filth and played on with them, as the barkeep swept me into a bucket and threw me outside.  When I pressed a sock filled with chloroform over the mouth of her best friend, and watched as she was strung up by her wrists over a bonfire to dance, The Girl rode me until my pubes were torn from my skin.

Whenever we drove anywhere, no matter the weather, she opened the window and rested her head outside and fell asleep.  In those quiet moments, where I felt safe from knife blades and cigarette burns, her hair flapped like the banners of two ancient armies on the battlefield.

*

I know I can never touch her again, so I touch the things that she once grasped.  I find the pieces of graffiti that fascinated her and I run my fingers over the same lines of paint.  I search in the weeds for the same bottles of glue to huff; they lay empty with the labels slowly fading like memory itself.  I squeeze nettles and thistles and stare down adoringly as the little white bumps form in my palm.  I cut myself on the same pieces of rusted barbed wire in the hope of capturing a few cells of her blood.  In town, stumbling and confused with yellow bandages over my fists, I flick to The Beatles and put on She Loves You and I remember when I had dreams.  Genuine dreams.  Before the transfusions, before they were drained to preserve the lives of many others, who squandered them with pointless admonishes and meaningless children.  She escaped, blasting past the indecision and weakness into the vacuum of non-knowledge, where every eventuality became a natural progression.

I know the songs we both loved have been extinguished from her mind and it terrifies me, so I keep them alive in my own mind.  As memory exists as a lifeforce I wallow in the increasingly diluted and faded colours, see the heartbeat grow faint, and I feel it in my own chest.

*

But I see the echoes every day.  I see three men standing against the sun like curiously shaped monoliths and, in a moment of self righteous frenzy, I pretend they’ve all fucked her and left her for dead.  So, headphones still throbbing into my brain, I launch over a fence with a blade already locked.  I’m all ready to own the ears and lungs of these three bastards when the song changes.  The memory changes.  I’m not standing in front of her, facing up to a certain beating with only a rusty knife, as she disinterestedly smokes a cigarette and puts it out on my shoulder.  I’m thinking of the time she ate a piece of my hair and clutched her stomach telling me she’s now pregnant.  I knew she was messing with me, but in that smile I wanted it to be real.

So now, I’m left standing in a field in front of three men eyeing me with both fear and confusion.  As The Sun sinks behind them I click the blade away in embarrassment, and I swear I can see her eyes swimming around, bumping like tadpoles, in the black spots that cloud my own.