Bunker (via FreeVerseRevolution)

jesus-is-an-ok-guy

(Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution)

*

I watch as her fingers dance across the yellow keys.  Greasy silver hair down to her waist, a tattered and frayed dress dancing around her knees and a pair of filthy ballet pumps pushing down at the ruined pedals below.  When the notes emerge from underneath the rotting wood of the old Joanna, I want to wrap my arms around this strange creationtoo messed up to live and too strong to die.  

 

She flings her pale arms out and announces to myself and most of the oxygen that surrounds us; I will now play the Glorious 9th!  I pick up a piece of crumbling stone and hold it up to the Sun.  I scream into the sky – BYE THIS STONE, I HEAR THE NINTH – but we’ve both had far too many chemicals and yet not enough.  Above us, the sky faintly hums with amber, and the clouds now rush past as though they have places they need to be, people they need to see… that are not us.  

 

It troubles us not.  

 

It troubles us, never.  

 

*

 

Later that evening, on the hill overlooking the machinery, we recline and shiver in the cold blanket of progress.  The ruined piano slumbers peacefully nearby as we point our legs towards the bright lights below.  From up here we can see a sickly neon reflecting from the silver towers, the arc of the orange streets forming like the lank petals of a dying flower, dark smells of sticky macadam drifting up over the dead thistles and dandelions that lay around and under us.  

 

I pass over the bottle of Lumberjack; a lethal, plain label affair with the colour and smell of dehydrated piss.  She gulps, taking it like a shotgun blast to the chin and pulling her lips back to reveal red and puffed gums.  I can almost see her hairs standing on end, like in those cartoons we used to love.  She lies back down, softly counting the faintest stars ahead.  

 

“…fifteensixteenseventeeneighteen…”

A scrunched nose

“…nineteen?”

‘My feet are going numb.’

“twenty…. twenty…one?  No?  Fuck.”  She hisses like a cat.  Pulling her fingers into claws, swiping at the air…  hisssssss!  Hissssssssss!

I’m serious… where are they?’

“What happened to all the stars?  Are they dying or are we just drifting away?  Floating away from some kind of wonderful nirvana… where…”  

She takes another swig and kicks her feet into the ground

“…we might live inside our dreams.  Imagine that…”  Tickling my stomach.  “Inside a dream.”

 

I roll on top of her but she plants a knee upwards into my groin.  We tumble a few yards down the hill and stop in a heap of tangled limbs and clothes, the bottle bobbling along pathetically after us.  

 

*

 

What is the point of progress when it sends us not forwards but sideways, to a new reality but without going anywhere?  We look down on the metallic tentacles sprouting from the ground, slumbering peacefully under a dead moon, cables and girders all anchoring to the old town like a seething blackhead.  I rest my head on her shoulder and point towards the gleaming new glass covered office block, covered in Opening Soon banners like bloodstained bandages on a headwound.  When I close my eyes I can see the fingerprint of the record shop that stood inside it.  All around the glaring lights act like sacrificial bonfires as one by one a meaningful edifice is torn down in the name of…

 

Progress…”

The word dribbles out of her mouth like pus from a septic wound, shit from a diuretic arsehole.  

“That’s all this place wants… progress.”

I nod.  ‘Just trying to be impressive, like hiding behind the school bully and threatening the weak kids.’

She shakes her head.  

“No, it’s not even that.  It’s more than that.  It’s a denial of… I dunno… history I guess, and a denial of an attainable future?  They want to pretend that culture never happened.  It’s a scorched earth policy y’know?”  

 

She gesticulates, flinging her hands out.

 

“Burn the books, shred the music… extinguish anything that might give you a dream and give you an oversized glass coffin to march inside every day for the rest of your waking life until you are buried alive underneath MDF, paperwork and shit coffee.  Wear a trouser suit, do your nails, cover your little plastic idiot box with pictures of the kids you wish you hadn’t squeezed out of your useless cunt.  Fuck the milkman, fuck the nanny, swing your limp dick on the golf course… push it deep inside a cow’s arse and pretend you are still vegetarian…”

 

I sit up, resting on my elbows.

 

“Pull down the bookstores and the libraries… knock down the schools and build another supermarket… wait til the kids can walk and get the little bastards stacking the lowest shelves.”

I stare at her.  She stops and looks back at me.  

“What?”

I take the bottle out of her hands and gently replace a shoe that has slipped from her dainty, blackened foot.  

“Don’t you stop me when I’m in full flow, fucker.”

I hold my fingers up in a crucifix.  ‘May the Lord Jesus compel you towards forgiveness’

“Fuck Jesus!”

‘You can’t, he’s dead’

She fights the grin that spreads across her face.  “I reject all deities!  I am a fucking woman and I outlive everything!”

‘He Died For Your Sins!’

“Then Why Do I Keep Doing It!”

 

She laughs and pounces on top of me.  We roll through the dry grass, kicking out legs, our hair knotting together.  

 

“Every time I try and say something you bring God into it.”

I tilt my head and put on my best angelic pout.

‘But God is everywhere…’

She takes a deep swig of Lumberjack and belches loudly into the ether.  

“Not everywhere… just in here.”  Her black nails tap against the bottle.  

 

 

*

 

‘In all seriousness, what do you think it all means?’

“You’re asking me?”

I sit up and look across to her.  We can hear the first tweeting of early birds and the black sky is turning a sickly mauve in anticipation of the rising sun.  

‘Why wouldn’t I?’

“I ‘unno… I don’t have answers any more than you do.”

I look towards the town as the streetlights blink off one by one.  

‘New beginnings… Prosperity, commerce, opportunity… it has to be a good thing, right?  We’re a couple of wasters, but we aren’t the future.’ 

‘This…’  I gesture to the town, covered in cranes and construction.  ‘This is reality.  We… we’re just stuck… in here.’  I hold up the empty bottle and tap my forehead.  

She looks at me for a moment, then leans in to kiss my cheek.  

Oh bless you.  Three lovely words.  Prosperity, commerce, opportunity.  As if they have any relation to each other…”

She stands up, very unsteadily, and opens her arms out to the weak heartbeat of the town below.  I get up as well, despite my head pounding with every intake of breath.  

 

“This…” she begins.  “This shiny optimism is not a new beginning.  This is an ending.  An end to culture.  An end to the hope of escape.  An end to an alternative way of being.  See the old record store… gone.  See the old bookshop… now just a pile of bricks.  See the old school… now a 24hr mart.  See the people… they don’t look up anymore, they look at their own shoes.  See this sky that once blazed orange, now fluttering in lilac like a dying butterfly.”

 

“There is hope.  We just need to recognise it.”

She cups her hands together, as though protecting a bumblebee, and offers them to me.  I look inside, but there is nothing except her cracked palms.  

 

“Can you see it?” she says, hopefully.  I look deep into her bloodshot eyes, past the pockmarked cheeks and the yellowing eyelids, over her shoulder into the shiny metal town being assembled beneath us.  A breath of wind rattles the dead weeds at our feet and rolls the empty bottle of Lumberjack down into the thistles below.  

 

‘Yes’ I lie.  ‘I can see it.’

 

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.)

Raven

Sky XXXIV

I lean back against the rotten wooden stump of a dead friend and scan the parked cars nearby.  Ever since I saw my first crush getting into her mum’s car after school, I’ve been able to memorise plates and make patterns with the letters and numbers.  If I saw that car driving along the street, I would push out my shoulders, straighten my posture and do everything I could to look enigmatic – jawline clenched and profiled – in the off chance that she was sat in the back seat gazing out of the window at the multitudes of shufflers and caught a glimpse of this god.  The plates around me look like fun, or as close to fun as I get these days.  Those add up to 20.  That one kind of spells twat.  That car, in that shade of red, reminds me of Jessamin and her chocolate eyes, and her new surname, and the child she bounces on her knee that isn’t mine and I never wanted anyway.   

* 

Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.’”  

– Chris Marker Sans Soleil 

* 

I am halfway down my first bottle of beer, and I can feel the buzz as the disease winds around my arteries, laminating my cells in that familiar melancholy stupor which will leave me reckless and blind later on this evening.  When I am into my third or fourth my mind becomes sufficiently lubricated as to give me a glimpse of my former self – when life was as simple as a 16bit jump over an instant kill pit, before morality sat me on a fence for eternity, before I knew anything about the future and how influential it will be.  By the seventh, I will listen to the ravens as they sing their songs about death hunting us through the long grass.  I will remember the stuff that never happened, and I will fantasise about things that did happen and happened beyond my remit.  It is easy to live inside a bubble until it becomes opaque and hard, and before you can escape you are trapped inside a marble and condemned to be lost in a gutter or under a child’s bed.   

The last time I sat here I made a bit of a fool of myself.  I begged an old woman for a trampoline because she looked like my grandma and we never had a garden growing up.  I cried over her old dusty tights and vomited maroon over her inexpensive shoes.  That night, in the police cell, I felt too embarrassed to shit on the exposed toilet and too wired to sleep on the mattress.  Instead I added my name to the others carved into the wall, taking care not to overlap ‘Johnny Sumner’ who (from the number of notches underneath) had spent sixteen nights here.   

I look up to a cloudless black sky.  It is just past noon, but the blues and greens and reds have drained out of my eyes of late.  I see everything in a saturated monochrome now – trees, lakes and birds just vague shadows in my mind depending on the strength of the incandescent Sun.  All the cars now look the same, except – of course – for the plates.  I neck the last of this warm first bottle, placing it carefully next to me, and look over my shoulder.  That one is the same make and model of Jessamin’s.  That one adds up to 17.  That one spells Mist.   

Interzone — Sudden Denouement Literary Collective

I remember she once told me; the funny thing about endings is that they never happen. By the time you reach it, you’re already past it. Likewise we can never experience tomorrow, it is always just out of arms reach. She was always saying stuff like this; it sounded profound but then […]

via Interzone — Sudden Denouement Literary Collective