A Dawn Song

Bounteous sun
     Destroyer of fun
Still weak from sleep
        Turns his male gaze
Luridly down upon us.
But I’ve arrived
Just in time.
       My quivering arrows
       Dipped in love
        Ping
        Ring
        Sing
        Through the air
        And release you
        From his stare.

And a moon chalice is passed
From hand to hand
And mouth to mouth
Drunk deep
And we are
Never to sleep
Again.

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Extract

I looked out of the window
and a tower block slid by
windows open
curtains flapping in the breeze
like the lids of empty eye sockets.
All.
Un.
Seeing.
The sky wrapped itself around the city like a great crumpled newspaper
then stared at me
not helping at all.
A distant obelisk flashed continuously in the greyness
signalling that all was well in the economic district of Canary Wharf.
I was sick of this life
that felt like a cold room
Or a bad memory.
Two white dogs arched their backs in the sunlight
like healthy cuticles pointed at the ground.
A man in a tracksuit with what looked like fool’s gold for eyes walked past
a grimace lifting his cheeks into a shiny bulge.
I started making a daisy chain.
Frisbees flew pleasantly through the air.
Toddlers intoned horrible versions of nursery rhymes.
Teenage girls tried out new walks and shocking new makeovers.
Trees listened and protected.
Nobody had to be there
yet they were.
All was as it should be.
Darkness seeped in as slowly and quickly as an ink spill
until there were only a few patches left untouched.
Somewhere far off
or nearby
through its prison of rain
a bird cried out.

In This Age

In this age
Where ex-lovers are friends
In this age where electricity makes intimacy ambiguous and your imagination wild
In this age where running from someone is actually running from yourself
In this age where ex-lovers are family
In this age where amnesia is cultivated
In this age where you find a home in pain so you build it yourself
mounds of it
out of the drizzle
In this age where a minute bends and coils around your commuter train
In this age where a minute flickers and vanishes with your TV set
In this age where the inn sign swings eerily –
a man and woman shake hands eternally –
their faces smiling maniacally –
makes you feel as though you’ve walked onto a set that has gone on for many years and will continue to do so long after you have gone
In this age where movement is important to you
yet your potential to shift becomes increasingly small
In this age where colours take on meaning:
white for man and woman
yellow for wickedness
In this age where your end has been entirely swallowed up by your means
In this age where, like a creature nestled among the fruit, you bring more and more from the outside inside
ready for winter

Out of the window, a red balloon dances in the dust
One arm at a time, you lift yourself from your nest
You peek outside and sniff the air as lights begin to come on
You smile and withdraw
Your frisson fades:
in this age where every feeling has already been felt
every thought already un-thought

Four Vignettes on Time

1. One day, the arrow of time – spinning slowly on its axis – changes direction and the entropy in the house becomes very low. The shards of egg shell tremble and levitate towards the egg box where they meet and enclose the yoke, floating in its translucent albumen. A two pence covered in verdigris becomes good as new. A chaotic pile of papers, blown over by a gust of wind that came in through the open window, now basks in the light, neatly stacked. Out of the window, the sun sets as normal but the stars are no longer there.

2. Many years ago, reclining upon a steep perch (made possible by my youth and good health) I was reading a book (I forget which) and I realised that time had changed. Reading, I found, de-linears time, suspends it, reveals what’s crouching behind it. Even now as I sit here in the dark, or maybe as I walk and read the world around me, I am in the hands of multiple forms of time. 

3. In a breakfast cafe not far from where I live, I watch a man speak very warmly to a woman whom he hardly knows. Although I cannot be sure, I believe his decision to seduce her is a Dionysian man’s desire to affirm a life of loss. Like any other addiction, sex and its climax actualizes loss through a constant cycle and interpenetration of hunger and excess: it imitates the transience of pleasure in a life where it is wedded to pain, deforms beauty as soon as it occurs, yet is in itself corporeal proof that beauty exists. In other words, he is drawn to the abyss even as he runs away from it at top speed.

4. The girl, however, was quite different. One morning (perhaps the very morning she was seduced) she awoke in a haze and quickly ran her fingers down the window frame (a survival instinct) the solid fact of it wrenching her from the tendrils of those floppy thoughts. Looking out, framed in light, she could suddenly see everything, no matter how far. She could see a distant droplet before it fell and focus and unfocus her eyes like a camera lens: a strand of her hair blew softly before them, gleaming impossibly, defined by the nebulous, impressionist backdrop. And every object in the world spoke back to her, elucidating the meaning of things. Unlike her male counterpart, she was a woman who had become one with the endless void of the universe, unafraid of the monumental lack. 

Strange Fruit

‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to not know whether your glass is empty or full? Not as an indicator of whether you’re an optimist or pessimist but because you’re mad? To take a gulp and then look down and find the glass empty – that it had been empty all along? And you get so upset you cry but the tears arrive as sharp drops of blood that splatter all over the table. Crunch! And you cry out for someone to help and they answer you but then you don’t know if you’re imagining them or if they can really hear you, because you’re voice – no, you – are trapped inside your body, or invisible, or dead?’

As Tom thought all this, the menace of night scuttled into the corners of the room and the grey vest of day enveloped him where he lay.

‘It’s like, reality bore so deep into my skull, stretching it to the point of bursting… The clarity of it hurt my eyes – it was dreamlike in its clarity…’ (Pause) ‘So I grew dizzy. And I developed a squint against the increasingly high definition.’

***

In another room, the girl sat by the window trying to have some worthwhile thoughts. But they were all just coming out wrong.

‘Where are the children?’ She asked, vaguely.
‘They’re in there eating orches, ma’am.’
‘Eating what?’
‘Orches. From the orchard.’

The girl’s head turned at a medium speed, a speed that implied she did not care either way whether it turned or not, to look out of the window onto the orchard. The day was bright, taking on an oversaturated quality. It would look unreal if not for the shadows and soft shading in the creases of the bed sheet blowing in the wind. The leaves at the top of the trees looked like birds, constantly taking off, in a loop if you will.

‘Well,’ she mused, ‘I suppose that’s why we all have hair partings…’
The girl suddenly became aware of a male gaze.
‘Girl?’
The girl looked up at Tom, politely bemused.
‘It’s me – Tom.’
‘Oh hello, Tommy!’ She beamed, ‘How wonderful of you to come!’

Although she seemed not to have the faintest idea who he was, Tom smiled too, looking eagerly to her, greedy for her joy.

‘Yes, yes I came – me – Tommy.’
‘Do you know, Tommy, I just had a dream… There was yooou, and meee’ (pointing at their chests) ‘and some others – including a few animals – and we were stranded on this island and then when a helicopter finally came to rescue us, it only managed to grab our outlines! Isn’t that just perfect, Tommy? I can still see it now: mine and this bear’s outlines just dangling helplessly in the sky…’

But then her smile jigged a little and her huge eyes became suddenly fearful. And so it began: a scream that pulled itself from her, like she had never done a scream before, only tapping the white walls at first but then building until it was soaking into them and everyone was holding their ears and wailing or rocking or just being still and quiet but not leaving. Tom became nervous.

‘N-n-nuuuurse!’
A nurse was already walking briskly towards them.
‘I didn’t – I don’t – it wasn’t –’ began Tom, going right into the nurse’s personal space.
‘Sssh, this wasn’t your fault, Tom.’ The nurse was cradling the girl like a human straight jacket and sticking a syringe in her at the same time. ‘She is suffering from severe trauma.’
‘Trauma from what?’ Tom asked, looking up at the nurse who seemed to grow taller with each soothing word.
‘The trauma of the twenty-first century of course. From computers, from news, from poverty, from parties, from porno, from eating, from not eating, from –’
But by this point Tom could no longer make out what the nurse was saying as her face (including the mouth) had slowly started stretching outwards, as though made from putty, and was expanding and distorting the words, also lowering their pitch somehow:
‘…thxrom gars… thxrom mbabies… thxrom vonez…’
‘Riiiight…’, he said. ‘I’m just going to go over here now.’

Tom sidled off, feeling relieved and proud to be out of that mess. Overall, he decided he preferred it in here. It was more peaceful and ordered and generally less insane than the world he had spent his whole life in up until now. These people were spoken to and washed and fed and their health monitored and medicated, where outside you could run down the road screeching or starving or generally dying or enslaving or killing people and nobody would do a thing. Yes, Tom decided. Overall, he was happy here.

Reap

‘TV screen after TV screen drives past and you realise: we’re going to reap just what we sow.’ The young man, eyes peering out curiously, nodded in response to his fellow passenger’s diatribe. Situated at the front of the coach, he stared resolutely ahead whilst the companion fated to him looked darkly through the faded red curtains, like a huddled up Dracula. Rain was beating heavily on the windows, the greyness turning everything outside two-dimensional. This, combined with the glass pane it was viewed through, reduced the pride of trees and the sporadic eruptions of birds and the dainty roadside graves to nothing more than a spectacle – a painting – whilst reflections faded in and out, synechdocic of magic apparitions being interrupted by returns to brightly lit life. 
Why had she put her fingers in my mouth?

‘We’re going to reap just what we sow,’ said the man again, not moving from the window. ‘The hour of vespertide is almost upon us.’
‘Yes,’ agreed the young man. As soon as he said the word, it soaked into the grey background, lost forever before it could ever have meaning. 
17:28
17:29
He tried not to look at the time but the digitally illuminated red light bounded into sight off every reflective surface.
17:30
The coach jumped and farted along whilst the rain’s anger became less easy to ignore.

The grey expanse brightened momentarily, wanting his attention with the blue wave of a ghostly hand: ‘Look here,’ it seemed to say. The hills, like a huge pile of shoulders, encircled sunken villages and jolly puffs of smoke billowed upwards as the old little buildings – knowing each other’s ways – chortled and rasped. And windmills splashed through the air, scattering the clinging droplets upon the dead leaves, only to be trampled by a magpie on his way to pull a juicy worm from the soil – whilst it was still wet. For a moment, the young man felt happy, his mood only disrupted by the shameful fact of its pathetic phallacy. 

But soon the moon was there. Darkness fell and they could only see themselves. By this point, the coach could not be said to be on the road. It had started floating in the floods. A pale figure floated along beside them for a while, her arms trailing in her wake, like ribbons. The vampirical man could not control himself and screeched with maniacal laughter on seeing her, rocking back and forth in his cocoon. The young man turned to see how the rest of the coach had reacted to the corpse. Had they even seen her? A mush of a woman was chattering away in Italian to her squeaking baby; a few people were snoozing uncomfortably; the ageing men continued to age and the young man – well, the young man did nothing.

The water was rising quite steadily now, occasionally lapping up against the coach windows like an amiable seaside swell.
‘Piano, Natalia! Piano,’ cried the mother, shaking the wailing baby. A few people to the rear of the bus had managed to break a window and were now jumping out into the watery depths below. Whether they were trying to die or trying to live the young man could not tell. Still he did nothing. The man next to him had stopped laughing now and had fallen all together silent, preferring to contemplate the scene outside and how extremely it had changed. 

Why had she put her fingers in my mouth? Of all the sunny days in all the world, that had been his favourite – it was sort of violet and diaphanous, like a jellyfish. The ward, usually so noisy and unbearable, had been silent. His mind had felt clear for the first time since he could remember. Colours took on meaning: white for man and woman; yellow for wickedness. The only sounds as he crossed the sloping grounds were those of the birds and the breeze whistling in the trees. He was finally walking out of there – free – when one of them, out of nowhere, had ran at him. He had lifted his knife, still sanguine, and drove it into her. That’s when she had put her fingers in his mouth. Why had she put her fingers in my mouth?

The coach was now entirely submerged in murky red water. Bodies circled him like Great Whites. And still, the young man did nothing.

History’s Tail: A Cautionary Tale

In the beginning, the creator made Earth. But, being quite a fidgety man, he quickly became bored so he created a beautiful woman whom he called Nature.

‘Go now, Nature, and inhabit the Earth with your beauty,’ he told her.

A wonderful artist, she made beautiful plants, animals, oceans and, best of all, humans, who he found extremely amusing. However, the creator soon became bored of Nature too and decided to create a venomous spider that he called Death.

‘Go now, Death, and kill these boring things, so new ones can grow.’

And off went the spider, killing everything in its path. However, tiring of Nature and Death’s repetitive style, the creator decided to create some grains of sand which he called Time.

‘Go now, Time, and make some kind of narrative for this spectacle.’

So off went Time, creating beginnings, middles and ends for all things. However, little did the creator know that making linear Time would give birth to a giant serpent named History. Now, History, being his own master, did not want to follow the creator and decided to lock him up and convince Death that the creator was weak and had rubbish ideas of fun.

‘I have a better idea,’ he said to Death one day. ‘Let’s toy with Nature and Time a bit.’
‘OK,’ said Death, who had been bored as anything for millennia.

Together they chased Time, but found it virtually impossible to catch him – him being made of sand. History was very cunning, however, and produced a glass container that went in at the middle, which he polished and polished until it became invisible.

‘Death, you chase him down that narrow alley and I will trap him in this container at the other end,’ he said.
‘OK,’ said Death, who hadn’t had this much excitement since the beginning of Time. So, the spider chased after the sand, laughing like a maniac, until they reached the alley where History was waiting to pounce.

‘Got you, you little bastard!’

Time jumped around in the glass container, screaming and shouting in his little voice, but he soon grew weary and fell asleep, snoring softly, never to awake again.

‘Now for my final trick, ladies and gents!’ History cried. He turned the container upside down and the sand trickled slowly through the narrow passage to the other side. And when the grains of sand reached the bottom, he turned it over again. Death’s smile faded as the gravity of what they had done slowly dawned on him.
‘You…you’ve made linear Time cyclical!’ He said.
‘Exactly! I, History, shall repeat forever and ever, no matter how many times Nature defeats me, ha ha ha!’

Then something unexpected happened: the serpent’s tail began to twitch, just a little at first but then more and more violently, until he found himself fighting desperately with it. Death looked on in horror as the tail finally prevailed, proceeding to force itself down its owner’s throat: History was doomed to spend the rest of eternity eating his own tail.
Death sighed and scuttled off to bed, destined to be bored for the rest of eternity, his only companions an Ouroboros and an hourglass.