• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 04

The Cuttlebone

She is standing on her face.
Her face is an endearing animal,
drawn with two dots and half

a circle. Her feet are in the air.
Her cheek is pressed to the carpet.
Her breasts hover as if weightless.

Her stomach is a frilled extension
undulating like a Stingray. Pink
trickles down folds into her palms.

Her arms are two flaps. Hair balances
on her head. She takes a big breath
and sucks her shell inside, a small

human-wide revolt. She hears the
crackle of her Sellotape skin, clicks
of her joints, breath dragging over

toneless tissue as if something on
the outside is taking a solo, riffing
on the tunes of bleeding and crying.

She stores her mother in the carpet
with the dust mites and silverfish,
she visits daily. With her feet flexed

in the air and her cheek against her
childhood she has a neutral kind of
buoyancy. She forgets that minutes

Read more >
1

warau hana

Perhaps, if I stay still like this, I can absorb all your disquiet. However, a screen between us. Thin, papery. Your fingers move over it: gently at first, then with a grave ambition, and finally, at a pace that measures out your sorrow. When your fingers stop moving, there is more than a screen between us. Pale flowers, grey leaves. Perhaps, if the stems weren’t still, I would be able to absorb some of your disquiet. Perhaps, if you were closer. Outside, a group of workers breaking stones until dusk to build a better road. Later at dawn, wood on wood, water over fire, and something simmering. What is it like, inside? You watch steam condense on stone, and after the droplets form a pool at your feet, you decide to get some sleep. Was it night if it was not black. You sleep with your window open, seeing it closed tonight, I try to get to you, but my feet are wet. A blank dream could be a gift. White on white. Puddle by the fire. My socks absorb the water which you saw evaporating. Perhaps if I used a strainer, you would drink some tea. I wait for the leaves to settle down on copper, but you have already left. Something moves outside. Something else has moved you to leave these rooms and I will drink my tea alone. You come back with your face folded. You wanted to talk to them, but could not understand their words. You are saying, but I am remembering. Will they be gone after machines take over? Later, a thing exchanged for coins. Much later, some warmth. You have been burying. As have I. Seeds into soil. Leaves into mulch. Perhaps, if you stay like this, I can still absorb your disquiet. Sedimentation. Decantation. Close to my brain, a mellow flower grows. Therefore, if I could, I would steal all your disquiet. Or borrow, and never return. Always, the world grows and tangles up outside. What distance is not real. Would you believe me if I said: I will not weep when you die.
2

Darkness Here

Once upon a time, I met an English professor. This man, a renowned and illustrious professor, had written a book about my country. The book was a short, well-paced adventure. It involved a stolen vase, an acrimonious frog, and a ship of merchants. I was anxious to meet him and discuss his book.

When I knocked on his door, he answered in a deep, low voice, telling me to come inside. I entered and he got up from his chair and walked towards me to shake my hand and then turned and walked back to his chair. I immediately noticed his eyes – small and shrewd – they darted from side to side, like he was a rat scanning a kitchen floor for food before running back inside his hole. He gestured towards a chair and I sat down. The office was long and narrow, shelves of books on either side. He sat at the far end of the room. A few photographs and postcards were stuck to the wall behind him.

As soon as I sat down, he began to talk, telling a story about the time he had spent in my country. I couldn’t focus on the story. A photograph on the wall behind him had mesmerized me. It depicted a woman resting her head on the floor with her legs raised vertically above her. She was upside down. A screen of flowers framed her. I wondered why the woman had adopted that peculiar pose. Was she an acrobat? Was she comfortable? Was she trying to impress the photographer, the audience? The photograph was sepia-toned. It reminded me of nineteenth-century archives: photographs of people from my country, contorted, categorized, and assembled for photographers from the country of my professor. The professor continued to talk about my country, pausing intermittently, perhaps waiting for me to respond, but I felt incapable of saying anything. I kept staring at the photograph. Suddenly, I was incensed. The photograph awakened a deep rage inside me. Read more >

3

This is the upside down world

My face, jackknifed to the floor,
feet soles-up to heaven.
It’s another way to look
at this world of painted flowers,
of screens at windows.
The mat will leave its weave
upon my cheek. Maybe this means
that I am strong. My angled neck
can lift the whole of me in
a headstand – I am not precarious.
My arms are lightning rods,
my back a brace, hips a bridge.
I am every yoga class you wish you did,
every stick of bone I own
trained to keep my poise. I see
the tiny bunnies of dust,
soft as scrumpled moths.
While I am turvy thus,
I blow them to the skirting boards
with measures of counted breath,
hold, hold myself stiff.
The more I stretch, the tougher
I form my muscle threads,
the nearer I get
to the clouds.
4

Perspective

Head down, feet up—
perspective is everything:

from the shoulders “down,”
a woman with her head upon a pillow,
eyes bedroom-glazed,
arms shrouded by a shawl,
her hidden limbs disjointed
to hold the pose;

from the waist “up,”
rough red trousers hide
an acrobat’s boyish legs;
She’s been twisted
into a Moebius in the middle,
and looking at him
I cannot tell down from up,
male from female,
and perhaps he or she
simply likes it that way,

or they found a tear in space-time
through which they could
reach the person they might have been
had their genes danced a different step,
and can only reach out that other self,
by standing upside-down
at a quarter-turn to reality . . . .
Read more >

5

In Origami Folds

In origami folds, she lies tranquil
Her serene gaze languorous
Against a backdrop of blossom

Delicate buds blanket her world
The only creases, the mark of man
Her skin, soft parchment uninked by time
Mathematical angles balance supple limbs
Her barefoot curves curling back
To walk lightly on a tissue sky

In time she will unbend and reform
Stand as a white-faced willow
A silken flower to grace the karyukai

6

OH BUDDHA

Somehow I know it will always be like this-
Neck cricked in audience to someone else's rubbish.
Needless to say, I take up my postures
to alleviate the stress but I know
Deep in my bones that it will always be like this.

I'm quite an expert at self-parody
But, keyed up into a shoulder stand,
Legs triumphantly held in the air,
Shoulders covered in a warm redeeming blanket,
that it will always be like this.

There is some comfort in the fact
That I can relax in my yoga postures-
But people, being people will always hassle me for time and skills and every other excuse for their idiocy.

You will find me flabbergasted, stretching my body just to recover and restore depleted batteries.
Someday you might wish
To join me- why not.

7

Between an Image

Her feet are where her head usually is
The soles are sunny side up for a change
While her head digs around in gravity
Her toes think to themselves - this is easy
Look at me, look at us, what should we see?
The legs forget about what walking means
An inner delirium occurs within the blood
All this happens in an instant and a long time

There is the impossible dance

8

You Are Welcome Here

It is only when I close my eyes,
without closing them,
that a soft sheet of rain falls
before me.
There is a seeing through
to the other side of things,
from the hazy, out of focus lens
of the mind’s eye.
I tend to the aperture with
soft, cotton gloves.

Without denying the outer turmoil,
I balance my heart
from this cushioned position,
so that I may eat and not be sick –
so that I may sleep
and not race comets with my thoughts.

This secret garden –
this inner well I return to
to fill up, to mend decaying bricks –
this is not me shutting out the world,
but rather, it is allowing a love
to rise so fiercely,
that the sky cannot possibly fall.

Read more >

9

Unfortunate Events

Things aren’t always the way they’re supposed to be. I lost my job, my apartment, and my life is upside down. I’m back living with my parents and searching the web for work. I don’t pity myself, and I shouldn’t. There are worse off than me. War in other countries, homeless; I’m fortunate to have parents who took me in at thirty-five-years-old.

I spend day in and day out going on interviews and waiting for the phone to ring or an e-mail to pop up on my computer with a job offer. So far nothing. But I can’t complain. My life is not the way I intended, but I have a roof over my head and parents who care.

10

After our quarrel about Rubin’s two faces

she unlaced the ribbons of her shoes,
knelt before the Shoji screen as if to pray,
drew a handkerchief from her wrap
on which she gently placed her cheek.

The shawl’s wide sleeves disguised
the finer placement of her arms,
though one hand, the left, peeped out,
fingers curled in invitation to draw close.

I settled by her side and watched
as she raised her glorious legs above her head
and held them steady there, though tears
poured from half-closed eyes.

Why do you hurt yourself so? I asked.
I barely heard her reply, she spoke so softly
through the silk petals of her lips. To see the vase,
as you do, she said, from here I see the vase.

11

Life in Sepia

The layers of tones,
wrinkling and falling,
fighting for position,
yet, so very much against the law of gravity.
A gravity so harsh, indeed, one may say a grave situation indeed.

Did he take heed?
Why no, madam, how very silly of you to even think that he may.
And er madam, would you mind if I ask, um, what the devil are you doing?
Well sir, the world seems so misaligned,
a spinning top out of control,
no juxtaposition of merit.
The colour has drained,
fading to shades of mushroom and beige and tasteless coffee,
of urban soil and grime so thick.
The hatred written through to the very core, a core of brown where colour runs out.
So sir, I've slumped before I'm Trumped
Before my life of colour finally becomes a life lived in sepia
And just because I can, my aligning the misalignment may just bring the tones of hope back,
back where they belong.
For you see sir, life without colour, is definitely no life at all.

12

A life stays stashed

A life stays stashed now upside down in file
which lies supine on dusty shelves long lost
inside archival room beyond the stile.

Ink washed hibiscus in the mid air tost
standing somber against tatami mat
stay stranger specter staring at old ghost.

A white rose in full bloom had much long sat
upon the head of still contortionist
adorning her who's now but ancient bat.

She stays a stray display for hedonist
in pain yet luring of a sight her smile
stays black and white nightmare of exorcist:

A robust moment caught on page fragile
A life stays stashed now upside down in file.

13

Level Head

Mary worked as an elevator operator in 1950 at Marshall fields in Chicago. She'd often see extremely wealthy people with bags in their hands with expensive items as they got on an off the elevator. Mary loved seeing the kids all dressed up. One little girl gave her a quarter and said thanks. Mary was so surprised that the little girl gave her a quarter which was enough for a load of bread in 1950. Mary knew her mother would be excited to have some nice bread for dinner. 30 minutes passed by and Mary's day was over. She went to the break room and clocked out. Running to catch the bus, all of a sudden she fell. Her boss noticed what had happened and said, Mary you must keep a level head and remain on your two feet.
14

Tell them not everything is illuminated

I could have disappeared sooner, walked out the front door – the dishes still gleaning from their washing, the sun slanting but not yet shuttered. Tell them not to look for me, I left in my best dress, blue and ending below my knees – it’s summer where I am. When I move, I spin gold. If they wonder how I am, say I am on a swing, feet reaching into the night sky – what can they offer that will compare?
15

Stress

We worried about her, the way she contorted her body into shapes when she was stressed. She said it took her mind off the everyday stuff. It needed all her will power and ingenuity to get her body into ever more demanding positions that all the bad things evaporated. One time I found her hanging from a tree branch in the garden – feet first, like a bat. I do remember she used to like climbing into boxes and small spaces as a child. For a whole year she even slept in a box, and if I tried to take it away she would cry and tear it from my hands. But things have got out of hand now. She spends hours in headstands, not yoga-like, more leaning on her face, head turned, eyes staring into space. I once had to discourage a neighbour from coming in because Lara was hanging with her legs over the top of the kitchen door, her back to the wood, arms straight as if reaching to the floor.

I cried when I found her curled up in the vanity unit in the bathroom. This isn’t normal I said looking at all the bottles she’d pushed out of the cupboard to squeeze herself in. She just pulled the door shut on me and said to leave her alone while she crunched out all the days stresses.

The spaces she climbed into got smaller, the positions she wound her body into looked more and more impossible and uncomfortable. It became a challenge she must win. I even began to check the washing machine and the oven – just in case.

I said to her, go see a doctor, get something, find another way to deal with stress. Counselling, talk therapy, they are supposed to be good. I’m not mad, she said. And then I caught her trying to slide into the dishwasher. I yelled at her so loud that she jumped and fell on all the crockery she’d taken out and left on the floor. White mingled with red as the broken china shot into her flesh. Rivers of blood ran down her arms and legs but when I looked at her face Lara was smiling. Look, she said, all the stress is bleeding away. It feels so good!

16

‘Dan-Dan! Dan-Dan!’

I know this looks difficult but you could do it too, however infirm you may think you are. The secret to all things is sleight of hand, redirecting attention, hiding in plain sight, prestidigitation (add your own word here __________), isn't it? It’s about the steps a person takes to show what she wishes to show and hide what she wishes to hide. You don’t know what I’ve got under my shibori-wave silk, you photographer-person you, but I know you know how long an exposure takes so you’ll know I held this pose for at least a minute, although you said that was because the seventeen seconds it should have taken was lengthened by the fact that my husband kept shouting ‘Dan-Dan! Dan-Dan!’ from behind the screen. You didn’t stay long enough to discover what he meant and he wasn’t shouting it when you came back with the photograph. He didn't need to.

I can stay like this all day. But yes, of course, it is a trick. There’s a trick to everything, isn’t there? Underneath my silk is a pair of steps, a step-ladder if you prefer. It stretches down from the hole in the floor between my elbows (see how wide apart they are: NOW you’re looking!) to the basement. On the top step is balanced the dummy’s torso, propped up with a stick through the trouser-leg closest to the screen (which you didn’t even guess at because you couldn’t bear to stand close to my husband and his ‘Dan-Dan! Dan-Dan!’) I’m standing on the preantepenultimate step (yes, I really do call it that) so the angle of my head isn’t in the least uncomfortable. It’s simply turned sideways and supported by my standing body. If you’d stayed longer you’d have heard my husband shouting in your language: ‘Level-by-Level! Stairstep-by-Stairstep!’ But then you wouldn’t have taken my photograph, would you?

17

Aquarium

I hear the fish fly.
My face is a bowl, quiet vessel
full of fleeting words, swallowed
as I dive. See how I leave you here
watching silk gardens ripple in my
wake. Hands, bound birds, escape.

I hear the fish fly.
My hidden breasts, pale water-lilies
float, your baited eyes cast on pleated
kimono or peony are caught. I drift
in tatamis. See, these feet can swim the sky,
their porcelain, that flush of falling sun.

18

SEDUCTRESS

Daguerreotype perched on tripod,
photographer holds customized pan aloft
and carefully ignites the Blitzlicht,
as he removes the lens cap
for the required period.

He replaces it,
but still she remains,
her inverse shoulderstand perplexing him,
her arched spine and trousered legs
aping the floral pattern
on the modesty-screen behind her:
plucked bloom in her hair
and painted face
merging with inked nature.

He smiles at her calm regard.
What is the symbolism?
he asks in poor Mandarin.

Voice unaffected by exotic pose,
she whispers:
I am your flower.

19

In The Balance

Again, I wonder,
Is this a dream
that I am here with my feet in the air
and my head down below,
maybe getting ready to bury it
in the sand.
If it's not a dream, I can't explain
this terrifying topsy turvy world
where everything
hangs in the balance.
Will I ever be the right way up
again, I wonder.
I don't want to have my head
in the clouds,
just five feet four inches
above my feet,
which used to be the norm
for me.
Now I'm like a fly without wings.
And with no suckers
I'm ready to fall
off the ceiling
in this upside down world
where everything
hangs in the balance.
Will it ever be the right way up
again, I wonder.
20

Sit Nicely!

He used to have his legs on the back of the sofa, his feet halfway up the wall. He used to have the top of his head touching lightly the sitting room carpet, imagining the ceiling was the floor. He used to think of marching about the whiteness, only in his socks because his shoes would leave black marks. He used to think of having to step over the section of wall where the ceiling rose to the top of the door.

His mother used to say, “Sit nicely! You’re putting dirt on the wall!” She used to warn of all the blood rushing to his head and how it was bad for the brain and the sinuses. She used to say, “Sit nicely!” and they’d watch tv together the right way up. The news. Serious people speaking seriously about serious things, trapped in a horizontal rectangle.

She used to go to do all the things nobody else was doing and he’d turn over to a cartoon and put his feet halfway up the wall and watch funny talking animals run about streets that were now in the sky. He wasn’t the wrong way up, they were. He used to think how the flex of the light was standing although he’d discovered when hitting it accidentally with a pillow one day that, despite appearances, there’s no strength in a length of flex. It would have to stand as he marched about the white ceiling because if it relaxed back on what was now the ground so too would drop the newspaper and all of his toys. The flex must stand so the tv didn’t fall. But if he was to defy gravity so too must the world, so he discovered it must be with suction shoes that he’d accomplish these things. Shoes would leave black marks on the ceiling. He’d invent Suction Socks!

Read more >

21

Somersaults

She is happy
morning has greeted her
with good news, or her sleep
was halcyon. Fresh as dewdrop
she does head stand as, practised
in school, during gymnastics.
Maybe its her her martial art
expression of pristine happiness.
Colours melt her, touch her;
she knows that bland settings
should otherwise be metamorphosed
into living expression.
Somersaults.
22

Little Feet

My little feet, unbound,
explore the head space
and wiggle around –
ten little men
with polished faces
are sock jostling;
Big, who takes the brunt,
the lean, the weight,
who makes the point,
and moves the speck,
mounts camaraderie
on his brother,
explores new territory;
the phalanx splays
and closes rank,
pulling in Small, the friend
who keeps them balanced;
and the unassuming middlemen,
the supporters,
quietly get on, as they do –
while my head on the ground,
ungagged and naked-faced,
wonders what is so beautiful
about little feet.
23

GIRL, UNINTERRUPTED

How long can she pose for the camera
in that position? The blood runs
into my head just thinking about it.

Sometimes the blood runs up,
sometimes the blood runs down.

Prior to the vasectomy
the doctor advised me:
"Seems like all the wrong
people are having children..."

The world's turned upside down--
but that's a cliche I won't use.
Didn't we once have Original Sin
as an excuse? But we made
a cliche of that, too.

This girl who so complacently stands
not on her head exactly, more on its side
so she can gaze contemplatively at us
through the photographic lens--
the lotus gracing her hair blossoming
onto the screen behind her, into the wildflowers
of a mysterious, vanishing landscape---
this girl sees the world...how?
At a right angle, perhaps--
not exactly upside down,
but close enough to remind us
of a vasectomy and Original Sin.

Read more >

24

Japanese Torture

I must obey my master
I am not in pain
much.
I show my willingness to serve by
contorting my body so.
The longer I can stay in this position the more respect
I gain from him.
My stomach, shoulders and arm muscles are rigid.
I keep my legs upright.
It becomes a natural position for me.
I sometimes fall asleep and still stay upright.
My feet are pulled upwards by an
imaginary force.
I worship my master.
He will visit me soon, I believe.
He will lay me down and
give my body rest.
He will massage soothing oils into my stiff muscles.
My back is breaking yet
I banish pain.
He will come.
I will be his favourite Geisha.
That will be my reward.
Until then I wait.
25

Accordion

Now I unfold
practiced in a corner
of my existence
behind the brief and thin
promise of a flower's
shadow, but I am not
hidden.
The petals afford me
no privacy.
Smile, the camera winks,
but I won't smile.
This is an uncomfortable
position, but I will try
to hold it until I fold
back up and make
my music again.
Somewhere else.
Folding, unfolding,
traveling voice,
with sore cheek.
26

Disappearing Flowers

Grazing in fields of butter
not flowers;
I'll fuze you to the ground,
in grass that's sticky,
wet -
topsy turvy baby.
Blue jeans
brown stains,
petals in your ear
and up your nose -
its a relationship made more interesting
flipped upside-down.
Does it matter
that the grass here
isn't real,
and everything is paper,
fleeting,
slowly fading
into sepia tones -
the disappearing flowers
like the light behind my eyes,
vanishing,
beneath a murky sun.
Read more >
27

To others, don’t we always look

exotic, costumed by melanin and
stiff brocade, eroticized by
steatopygia or epicanthic folds;

or

pathetic, ever-tripping
on the obvious rug wrinkle,
on divots easily avoided;

or

smug, even, twisted into
impossible knots, gravity-
defying, yet not sweating;

or

aloof, hiding our truths
behind elaborate screens
of lacquer and smoke;

or

threatening, slate-eyed,
blank-faced, all warmth
stone-curtained;

or

impressionable, the one
who surely would have
understood, if only…

28

Grounded

Look me in the eye.
I’ve had it up
to here,
so heads up:
You’d think this was a
crash-landing,
with the full head between the knees
and kiss all those asses
goodbye time?
Or worse,
the full head in the clouds,
legs through the sky
and back down to feet on the ground
caboodle,
but between you and me
and those screens,
I said NO THANKS
to the lot.
I’m well shot of it.
I’m out of that game;
it’s up and I’m better off
out of it.
I’m taking the time to smell the scent
of the Kissaten,
the breath of petrichor,
the apricity
of this warm floor;
that’s what got me here.
Read more >
29

Dear woman

Dear woman
are you spreading yourself
out on the floor
as a play mat
for the 5 year old
long silenced girl in you
to spring out, play, and be
the fountain head of your joy
splashing and purging you off
all you don't need?

Dear woman
are you planting your feet
in the forest of your dreams
stretching arms for your fingers to alchemise into fire flies
for fire enough to illumine
and burn the unwanted?

Dear woman
are you measuring your fragility
in stone
and density in petals?
In short, dear fellow woman,
are you already becoming
your own man?

30

Shirsaasana

Nights separate the days,
but when days are devoured
by the nights distinction
disappears and darkness
descends. The days are
now darker than the nights.

In the seat of civilisation
that once thrived on
both side of Tigris
death looms.

In the name of Jihad
Man kills Man.

Will the darkness end?

Will the world turned
upside down stand tall
and straight once again?

Your questions echo
in the dark halls of hell
and fetch no answers.

Read more >

31

THE WPK

The captain sat behind his desk, ergonomic swivel chair squeaking a little as he laid back, hand supporting the back of his head. He released a great sigh, his lips fluttering a weak raspberry.

Dean tried to get comfortable in the basic static chair opposite. It was moulded plastic and a little too small for an adult of reasonable dimensions. Dean was bigger.

The captain flicked a case file in his direction, sending a couple of envelopes to the ground. Following an eyebrow-cue from his superior officer, he lifted the stationery back onto the desk and opened the file. The latest crime scene photo was front and centre – not where he had filed it.

“Your own work?”

Dean liked sepia prints. They were easier on the eye when poring through the files over and over in an effort to find something missed: the minuscule details which helped solve crimes. A peripheral observation suggested that the chair he now occupied had been picked specifically to make those seated deliberately uncomfortable to give the captain an edge.

“You know my reasoning on this captain. There’s a back-up plain black and white print in the enclosed plastic envelope.”

The captain leaned forward and scratched his left cheek with his three middle fingers before resting his elbows on the desk. Using his fists to support his jaw, the man stared impassively at Dean.

“I’ve gotten used to that, Junior.”

Read more >

32

Head First

It wasn't so clear
At first
It was foggy
But one thing stood out and kept me still throughout
I knew there was something special
Something deeper than a smile
Beyond understanding
And when it came
I went
Full fledged
Head first
My world was turned up
Sidedown

I'd have come quicker if I knew
Truth was in front of my eyes
Behind my lens I sat
Looking for something else
If I'd known I was upside
Down

The picture is clearer now
Our love is blossoming from behind
I will come now
That your wisdom has flowered
I can imagine it
It's not up side down

33

Pretzel Art

“listen’ the world seemed to say. She tried to ignore it. She had errands to run.
“listen” she heard as she walked through the city.
The voice was incessant, insistent, effective.
She slowed, stopped, and stooped, put her ear to the pavement.
First she heard nothing.
Her legs moved, as if on their own, to a more comfortable position.
Still she listened.
Soon she heard voices vibrate through the concrete.

       

“look at that crazy woman”
                “someone should call the cops”
        “Maybe she is acting out from being tortured”
                “It’s a new kind of exercise”
        “I feel like that sometimes. . . like the world is all upside down and twisted”
                She’s hungry for attention”
        ‘She is calling attention to the suffering in the world”
        “seems like posing by those flowers she is acting as a living memorial”
                “she is atoning for sin”
“I bet the store is paying her to attract people”
        “she has emotional issues”
                “She is trying to keep her unique personality and                                                                                         not be like everyone else”
                        “It’s a spiritual practice”
                        “I bet that hurts”

She didn’t respond, but learned as she listened.
Then she got up and went to auditions at the circus.

34

Poser

1
I’ll win this round as only winners can.
First, from the shed I fetch the folding screen;
Then on go the lilac cotton trousers.
I pin up the ostentatious flower
And do my stretching exercises while
You tilt the camera on the window sill.
We’re good to go. Positioning my face
Against the modest handkerchief, I brace
My elbows and adjust my striped shoulders.
*Click*! You’ve set me up for a long exposure. . . .

2
Inverted moments pass. The air bleeds golden.
The light-impatient shutter snaps to a closure
At last and, smoothly, down she folds, the same
Serene expression masking her true face.
(Only certain friends and rivals can tell:
Beneath the calm it’s always volatile.)
And in the darkroom, equally audacious,
There she is again, between a glower
And a simper, free of blurring – vain.
Beat *that*, she seems to say. *As if you can.*

35

The Act of Shedding

The lights winked out suddenly, a hundred tiny stars swallowed in the blink of an eye. Lila wiped her hands on her bubblegum-pink trousers and tried to ignore the butterfly flutter of her heart. A hand, perfectly smooth, almost waxen, pushed the small of her back, and a distant voice whispered, 'You're up.'
A sea of onyx greeted her, the room faceless, absent of life, and all she remembered was the serpentine voice hissing in her ear like pure poison. Lila shuddered.
‘So, what can you do?’
A voice like a flare igniting the raven wing darkness came out of nowhere. Lila looked around but the speaker remained concealed in shadow. The room seemed to pulse around her, acquiring a heartbeat of its own, a constant rhythm drumming into her racing thoughts. A ribbon of light streamed its way across the centre of the stage, a milky beam encouraging her to step forward.
Her palms were clammy as she stepped into the creamy light, lying face down on the floor. Here, time slowed; memories from past years entered her head like a carousel, around and around they went: schoolchildren pointing and calling her names, parents whispering, her own family locking her out in the back garden, her sister screaming if she ever came near her.
‘I'm waiting.’
The invisible voice was impatient now, urging her to hurry up and get on with it. Lila inhaled deeply, pressing her cheek to the floor, pushing with all of her might as her feet slowly lifted off the ground. She was a balloon, light, weightless, defying the laws of gravity; she was free, floating now, her legs, hips and torso in the air, only her cheek stuck to the floor.
Please turn the lights on, she thought. Please accept me.
Read more >
36

Movement & the making of paper:

i. craft

                When you think
of the materiality of the thing,
really it’s smush. Mulch, that bonds
together in sticky mess b'tween thumb
and forefinger.
                A pasty clog, that you
feel will cast your hands solid, coating
the underside of
finger-nails, and cuticles.

                ii. orientation

Crackin- paper is as good as its fold

The body - too
- works as good
as its fold.
                Tough at the
edges, a shadow falling in
line along the crease. We
can’t quite tell
        today, what shapes

Read more >

37

Acrobat

Acrobat of high standing
antique structure
morning paper whispers
light in the photograph
flowers in your halo
creation is abundant
sparkle of time
exchange my rhyme
within the daylights beauty
of words so truly
so divine
so worthy
of pretty
with the tapestry
of breeze
inside the sun's hair
swings.
38

Failure

I thought it would be easy.
I had studied the subject thoroughly.
The endless tomes of Carlos Casteneda, Erik Van Danikan and Zechariah Sitchin.
The impossible made real by pattern, association and belief.
I spent years researching, theorising and making connection after connection, until I was sure, certain that I had it correct.
Now was the time, I set up my automatic timer on my camera to capture the moment.
That amazing moment when I would levitate.
39

My brain is hanging upside down

It took me less than a month for my brain to go: "What the fuck have you done," on me.
Ah, Australia. Sandy beaches, hot weather, great pay and skin so tanned it actually looks like I don't want to die when I get out of bed.
And yet I'm not happy.
My morning workout is a run on Coogee Beach followed by a swim in the Pacific.
I post pictures on Facebook to show everybody how far I've come from my miserable morning runs from Spitalfields to Clerkenwell to Hackney and back, always a bit too cold, with that lingering cold in your bones that gets you down but keeps you real.
I told myself: "Turn your world upside down, fight your fears, escape the monsters. Leave."
So I left.
I left and now I have no excuse to drink. I have no excuse to cry.
The disappointments come from goals I could achieve but was too lazy to work for, not from lovers who didn't deserve me.
The knots in my stomach on the bus home come from the air con below zero, not from fear of a man or of myself. The bruises on my legs come from going upside down on the pole, not from an argument followed by degrading sex. I walk upside down, a day ahead of everyone I love and everything I am scared of.
Upside down I can heal.
Upright I don't work.
But as I wake up bruised, toned, with a to-do list longer than a book I slowly stop thinking what I was running away from and slowly begin hoping to see the finish line.
Maybe upside down is where the answers are.
40

EXERCISE ON TATAMI

is as toning
as on any other surface
sepia tone with tint beguiles
in the same way as the pose
though a faint smile alarms
more than reassures
like the handkerchief your head
is placed upon in some delicate
desire for more comfort
for a moment it appears you have
no arms or hands
then I see the arms emerge
from the sleeves of your silk jacket
like a conjuring trick
convinces me this is deliberate
your image opportune
preserves who you once were
and might not be anymore
where the world was viewed upside down
makes me think your position is symbolic
has the semblance of a tree of life
where your torso is the trunk
legs in loose lilac pants are branches
white socked feet the leaves
head and arms roots from where
Read more >
41

UNIQUE

At first we thought it was a bravura performance to attract the growing audience with an unusual contortion display. I stood silently watching, trying to imagine how the lady's face must feel; squashed as it were to one side. Joseph whispered to me. 'How does she keep her balance? She's not even standing on her head. Her limbs look so curved, awkward, as though her trousers have been pulled into place by another person'.
        'Also her hands', I whispered in return. 'how does she keep them in position?'
There were murmurs from the crowd. they seemed perplexed too. One elderly lady was led away in tears.
        The backdrop to the tableau was a silkscreen of muted flowers. Somehow, the extraordinary female blended into the colour scheme, with her arms covered in folded stripes of nondescript material. Only her dusky pink legwear was slightly different, with a sliver of tummy flesh showing.
If she had been placed in position she showed no discomfort, made no noise, simply laying on a piece of cloth. I wanted to know her thoughts, inscrutable and private, they surely were.
        There was no donation point and nobody moved towards her, almost a feeling of reverence or respect, I felt.Joseph squeezed my hand.'Let's go', he muttered, 'this is unnerving. I want to understand, but I don't. The situation is strange. She has been here too long'.
Reluctantly, I left the mysterious woman, with the white feet and face and flower in her hair and we walked home in mutual bewilderment.
42

Inside Out

Are you here for the guided Lacroix tour? Is this everyone? Fine. I’ll begin. Welcome to the National Museum of Photography.

Let’s begin with this photograph. This has to be one of the most significant photos you’ll find in this collection. Taken by Henri Lacroix when he was only 24 years old. The Japanese woman in the image, has been known for years as The Upside Down Girl.

In fact this girl with the penetrating gaze you see now, became his muse and within this collection you will see her face in dozens of photos by Lacroix, in various positions, some even bordering on the explicit. But this one, with her peculiar pose and commanding stare became iconic of Lacroix’s work.

We were only recently able to identify the model as Daiki Ito, a young book maker’s apprentice from Nagoya, thanks to newly discovered letters exchanged between Lacroix and the model.

These letters have completely exploded our thinking around Lacroix’s work.

Originally famous for his use of light and his quirky and compelling portraiture, his whole career it transpires, was incredibly subversive.

Read more >

43

Backended

carefully, in sync with
her surroundings, she
lifts her body to its fullest
extent.
hovering around her is time,
essence, love, misunderstanding,
and glum faces.

"who wants to be a circus act?"
she thought. it was all too
weird for her, but comforting too.
her bones, they have a mind of
their own.
she wills her body into placements
unknown to lovers and
passersby, but the shift
in it can be intoxicating.

one glance at her enchanting
contortion and the world
is lulled within seconds.
"back-ended," the title
of her performance attracted
thousands willing to pay $10.00
for a single entry.

what's the cost of
losing oneself at
the expense of entertainment?
no one knows.

44

Behind the Screen

I fold myself into an origami flower,
slip myself, a bookmark, between
ruled lines on foxed pages.

I am the postcard you never sent,
the stranger’s photograph, face down
beneath the Bible in a hotel drawer,

I am coarse cotton stuck to your thigh,
pollen scratching your eye, sweat
drying in an airless, darkened room.

I flatten myself, fine as regret,
a Klimt embrace, a twisted kiss,
an after-image you wish you could forget.

45

The contortionist

She's upside down because some twisted photographer hired the contortionist for a photo. There's the aesthetic he's loved, that has prevailed for centuries - the female in full submission, on her back, on her side, kneeling, ready to give herself to her lover no matter the circumstance. It still prevails today, otherwise why hire this woman in such a nonsensical pose? arms down, shoes off, torso on the ground, defying physics. How twisted. Truly. Ever since the photographer's lover died tragically in the middle of an orgasm, asphyxiated by her own scarf, the photographer has travelled around the country in search of pieces of his lover. In the countryside, he hires young girls to expose parts of themselves for his photos - capturing a young missus before her body matures and she loses that innocence. In the city, he hires sex workers, young and old, to pose for him, their arms against the wall, torso backwards, eyes staring directly at the camera or eyes closed, head down, neck bent. The one thing he doesn't do is consummate his desires with these women - that he donates through his art, generous philanthropist he is - for his audience to ravish these bodies fully in their own sick fantasies. For the photographer gets an erection out of seeing his work distributed in galleries worldwide, thinking of all the power he has over these men and women who are his audience, who celebrate his sexual prowess in dominating these subjects without direct domination - all through the lens of his gifted camera.
46

Floors Have Ears

Illusion, soothes and inflates
Head turning translation, aware
Perhaps of the apparent
Heart breaking cage rattling
Love of a taut situation
Soul searching obsession
Apprehension laden,
Entertaining an endless
Turning of self-deprecation
Is the abstraction contradiction
Placating the Stupefaction
That comes from
Achieving slide rule
Fulfilment justification brazen
Obsessive addiction?

Balance is the key

47

Muse, unamused

When he woke me,
just after midnight,
I thought I knew
what he wanted.
But no, he’d seen,
in a dream,
his ‘great masterpiece’
which he ‘had’ to paint
right now…

an Imperial carp…

So here I am,
sometime before dawn,
balanced
on cheek and arms,
trying to maintain
a ‘sinuous’ curve.

48

Can You See Me Now?

Upside down in pink pajamas
in front of your exquisite
painted screen
I’ll smile for you
and wear that silly flower
in my hair
but I’m not moving.
I won’t concede
this new perspective
head down to the ground
legs in the air
like an exclamation point
defying gravity
and all the usual conclusions.
From this angle
I can see the roots of things
beneath the fog
like bones beneath the skin,
framework and foundation
for all your fleshy
lies and disguises.
And I’m smiling
as you struggle
to get used to it,
this new disturbance
in the balance
you thought forever set.
49

Narcissus

Her shadow is a mist of fragrance
Bunched in a cluster of Narcissus
Her sighs are impressionist of pale memories
Wilted under an eternal sunshine

She slightly lays
With creaking sound of her curving sublimity
And strokes my vision with pale florals

The flames of her celestial gaze
Illumine in bloom of sepia spring
Her musings in listening to rhythm of soul of earth
Is trail of quiescent dreams

Slipped in nooks of her cracked soul,
Course of dreams bends
On edges of her smoky shores
And dries behind in receding rays
In midst of a crimson sunset
In clouds that her eyes behold.

50

Framed

The Japanese folding screen in the background speaks of regulated restraint. Each brushstroke on the silk made to look deceptively easy. The composite landscape screens the skilled hand that wielded the brush.

The upside down-woman's Kimono is ruffled. Creases visible. Her graceless posture suggests a Geisha in revolt. Despite the bodily contortions, her face bares no sign of strain. No lines.

This breaks the illusion.

Kimono sleeves positioned to make her appear more awkward. Hiding the strong arms that balance her entire body.

The same controlled artistry we see in the screen.

It is clear. She has fallen out of the screen. The blank space was her home for a 1,000 years.

Sensing her restlessness, he waited.

Watched.

Waited.

Did she escape the wooden frame only to be caught in the frame of the cameraman's gaze?

51

Anais

At the point of landing she was quite surprised
it was a tightrope walk along the rail
for no good reason but her sister laughed
and mummy’s face unclouded for a bit
so she was all the acrobats just then
in pants her nana made the week before.
Such grace! How baby clapped her pudgy hands
that when she slipped she was completely sure
she’d land like triumph two full floors below
her hanky (she’d been waving like a flag)
silked down before her – useless trampoline
she hit it square – the angle of her cheek
-bone resting flat. Ta daa! That’s that! She trilled.
52

The Contortionist’s Lament

Contorted chest
Resting on the concrete; a pause
In movement like a stop in a verse.
Twisted soul slipping through the cracks;
The fiery depths beckoning in cackling candence.
Bent torso on a mat begging a coin
To tinkle your cup and ease your questing
Intestines twisting your stomach wall.
Cracked visage spitting venom;
Forked tongue hissing curses after curses
At the cartooned caricature of you
Doing your best to twist your very self
Into a better being.
A contortionist's lament playing
In the dark foreground of the enactment
Of the lost plays.

Let it play on and on;
Proper sound to delve the well of pain
And water the ravaged claey cheeks
Of the aging beauty contorted in misery.

53

Practice

It is a warm enough morning for her to practice outside today.

Taking her gaze upwards, she is reminded of a beautiful Van Gogh painting she saw once in Paris, or was it Spain? Maybe it was in London. She can’t recall exactly where, and anyway, that part of the memory is not so important after all.

The terrace has a dark chestnut stained pergola that in the summer months she used to cover with sailcloth to provide respite from summer sun, but now the grapevine has claimed it for its own, weaving in and out of the timbers. She put the sailcloth away somewhere or other, now it sits in the back of her mind, along with other memories.

The grapevine is a maze of gnarly grey scrawny fingers at the moment, they look like witches fingers, and are without bud as far as she can see, (well, it is only February after all) and she’s not certain it will flourish again after the two metres of snow that fell suddenly, and from nowhere, last month.

Her husband has a postcard of the Van Gogh somewhere. She thinks it was a cherry, or perhaps an apple tree, with pink blossom set against the bluest of sky, quite Japanese in a way, and quite beautiful. It may not even been a Van Gogh, she muses.

Sometimes one in-breath can seem to last for ever.

Read more >

54

Prisoner of The Mind

Her skin shimmered like the twilight sky that covered her father’s land. Her hair resembled the her mother’s. The hair that made her mother swoon any man that came across her path. The combination of which set her down a path of sadness and suffering. She may have been the richest, most beautiful and intelligent but her pain would run deeper than anyone in the reach of the horizon. She was an idol in her land but a prisoner in her mind. A god in her village but the devil in her eyes. She wasn’t the master of her own mind.
55

Wallflower

Now now dear, don't hide away
No use in these theatrics
I will dance with you all night
Don't look so wilty wallflower
I'll try no wit in you
Just stand up straight - stop pouting
Love is in bloom
Or some shit like that
Unplug from the filthy floor
Take my hand.
56

When Living In The World Has Such An Effect On A Human

‘In my dream, I saw this Japanese lady. She was in a strange position.’ David’s therapy session was going well; not once did he feel like sticking a pin in her. He couldn't see his therapist from where he was, but he could feel her absence-often she would withdraw only to return. A show of power. She could switch him off when she wanted to - he felt they had similar powers-from day one-that's why he tolerated her questioning him.
‘Go on.’
‘OK, it was as if she was in the past, she was faded like an old photograph.’ Silence.
‘She seemed happy. I didn't want to ask her why she was-like that-why she had her legs in the air . . . .’
‘Why didn't you want to ask her?’
‘She seemed happy, what right did I have to question it?’ David could hear the rise and fall of her breath, the only physicality; a foot swinging, wedge shoes with one pink nail visible. The same colour as his dream. She left a space for him to fill.
‘I didn't ask her because I thought I would wake up. It was so peaceful-in-there. She was just . . . .’
‘What?’
‘In the dream.’ David felt a small rise in anxiety. ‘I could tell that she had been reborn.’
‘How?’ The analyst’s foot swung wildly, like a pendulum.
‘It’s simple, I decided she was tipped out of somewhere. That’s what I felt. People are always happy when they’re reborn.’ He continued.
‘I never meant to upset things, I don’t have control you see.'
‘Go on.’
Read more >
57

RIGHTSIDE WRONG

You may turn me inside out, outside in, pull me topsy-turvy, or hurl me up and above, down and below. But you can never prove my right side wrong and your wrong side right. I may look malleable, adaptable, flexible and gullible, but when it comes to my desires and the rights to those desires, I am unmovable. I will bend and fold to slip through a fissure, and widen it into an open alley for more like me. The more you twist my arm and pin it behind my back, the more I know of the cold wind that I can brave upon my open exposed chest. The whip that crushes my spirit and the fist that crunches my wrist, do not know that my hand can also turn around to smack the face, but I choose to smother instead. You may holler at me in the kitchen, cuss me on the bed, warn me in the shop or shout at me on the cross-roads, but my whisper of mutiny, of redemption, will roar the loudest. My curves are not made of delicacy, but carved out of strenuous activity. They are not for your eyes to slip on them, but for my efforts to rise up on them, and make me a string wound around a guitar, taut to play the music, to dictate the notes to the world. The shine in my eyes is from hot fumes of molten perseverance that gushes through my veins, while I look like a waterfall rolling down a gleeful dale. Do not be fooled by the elevation of my lip-ends, it is not a smile of innocence but a smirk mocking your wise ignorance. You may banish me, but I shall thrive to challenge every restriction and defy every ratification.
        But if you decide to cherish me, nurture me and make space for me, I won’t be forced into a hand-stand to create my own identity. Our life will be a melodious symphony- a sweet melisma to follow a meend, a hand to link another hatheli - and humanity to uphold sanctity.
58

Personal Renaissance

I want to thank you
for a beautiful evening.
I did not expect to find
my voice again after
all these many years.
True you stand in strange
ways and haven't fed me
in years, practicing your
upside down views.
We will never agree on
everything, but I love
your perspective, whispered
from the floor.
59

Dolls

It was a masterpiece, the boy preened as he skipped around the room. "Oh, it's going to be the prettiest of them all!" He threw his hands up in a twirl. "Daddy's be so proud. I'd done it all by myself, and no one else."

He clapped his hands together with glee, ignoring the chemical as it slowly suffocates his victim. The flexible polymer inches its way throughout the body. Slowly, it turns the organs to stone, filling the lungs, gradually stopping the heart.

No one, not even the boy, had noticed exactly when the chemical froze her horror stricken look, etched onto her face forevermore.

A door was kicked open. The sounds of thundering feet raced down the stairs to the basement but they were too late. They found him grinning, eerily so, at the masterpiece he had accomplished. Someone vomited, but he didn't care as long as it wasn't anywhere near his greatest work. They'll all become his dolls in the end.

"Look Daddy, see it's so pretty. Isn't Mommy pretty? Now, Mommy'll never leave us!" The boy reached over to tug on his daddy's shirt but he FLINCHED away. DADDY FLINCHED BACK!! HEFLINCHED. Daddy's going to leave! Daddy's leave me just like Mommy tried to. He can't. HE CAN'T. HE CAN'T.

The boy walked over and picked up the mallet next to mommy, that mommy was watching for him and turned to stride towards his daddy and daddy's mean friends who always, always take daddy away from him.

"Don't worry daddy, it won't hurt a bit," he brought the mallet up and swung, "Now we'll always be together."

60

Head Stand

I don’t stand on my head.
My feet are planted so firmly
above the roots of a cedar.
I can touch the bark, the dead
skin a buttress to my need.

I don’t stand on my head
or turn cartwheels
or bounce on a pogo stick,
not anymore, not since
I saw how hard it is

to turn the world back up right.
Not upright. Up right.
I dig in my heels, hold out
my hands to applaud the righteous
and hold off the wicked.

I don’t stand on my head anymore.
I let it do the work of up right.

61

out of the stream of silver nitrate seeming

Up righted
out of the
stream of

silver nitrate
seeming this camellia
once incarnadine

silk up swims
spilt desire
there to a

muse, east
looking west;
the difficulty of

holding a
folded damask shawl
pose. Her straight

gaze
/ you stare
into a trick

of light
slipping between
time lost

fingers she is figured
in reverse: in balance
our eyes to hers.

62

Tilted Axis

There was a single photo on her fridge surrounded by a kitschy set of fridge magnets. There was a rubbery marijuana leaf from Amsterdam, a tiny plasticy bottle of wine from Bordeaux, and a rectangular plastic coated photo of Heroes Square in Budapest. She didn’t like to think of herself as a tourist but she enjoyed the way they triggered memories of tangible moments in time, particular geographies of the heart.
*
From the telephone box, through the cards advertising bodies and services of pleasure, she could look out across the canal to a bar on fire with neon. The coins clinked into the slot with three clink clink clinks and the dial tone pealed in her ear before a cough broke the trill and threw her, she lost her place. Hello? She said in a stoned drawl. A distant static came down the line and a distant sound of feet pacing across a floor. It’s me, I’m waiting she added. The feet came to a sudden rest.
*
The café spilled out into the muggy heat of the night. She had been signaling to the waitress from the wrong café for half an hour, the two recently empty wine glasses heavy in her hand as she waved them fruitlessly in the air. The woman at the next table was flicking through a brochure for luxury flats in the city, and after seeing her flailing, the woman put the brochure down and leaned over to her, he’s not coming back honey.
*
Read more >
63

I, Upside Down

am elusive in leafy roofed
big, mature, stout, oaks,
hornbeam, beeches.

I make caves,
plaster mud or dung
round nest holes.

Happiest when hung
in a reversed world
headfirst walk down bark.
Tree roots and greengrass sky,
blue, cloud roamed ground.

A different perspective.
A world reversed.
Seen from ground up.

64

The Photograph

I never knew my Grandmother was an acrobat. Mother never said a word. She thought it shameful, something to keep hidden. Grandmother still did her exercises every day; the gentle controlled rhythm of Tai Chi kept her body supple and full of grace. Mother would watch, her lips folded small, her arms hidden in her sleeves.

Other times Grandmother would sit quietly in the corner, the flower painted screen behind her to keep out the draughts and the glances of strangers. Mother would not allow me to talk to Grandmother; she said Grandmother lived in the past and the past must be forgotten now we were in this new land. Grandmother’s eyes gazed backwards. Her hands, her muscly pink hands were kept hidden under a striped silk shawl. Mother said a lady’s hands should be whiter than almond petals.

When I travel I take in my heart a picture of my Grandmother, calm as milk in her corner, saying nothing. I am an expert in the techniques of early photography. My hands smell of dust and fading developing chemicals. The past is my life’s work.

I have been invited to the National Museum of Denmark to catalogue their collection. Today I have been shown this photograph, tentatively labelled “Chinese Acrobat, early 20th century.” My Grandmother in front of the flower painted screen, her hands almost covered by the striped fabric. The sepia print is hand tinted, pink as cherry blossom waiting to fall.

65

Parlour Games in the Dark

Do you remember winter in Bloomsbury, when we played parlour games in the dark? Games of words and cleverness we thought marked us as intellectuals. Then you brought your new beau, all rough-hewn granite among the polished-marble men of our set.

He mocked our games, said they were for children, and introduced his own. He called for a bowl, brandy and raisins.

“A drinking game?”

He shook his head and struck a match.

We stepped back as the flames danced across the liquor, accenting our fear in blue. He showed us how the game was played: with finch-beak fingers he plucked a sweet treat from the bowl and placed it, still burning, on his tongue.

How proud you were when you took his hand and played nurse, stroking and sucking his fingers. You should have watched his eyes, burning with a fire of their own as he looked in a different direction.

66

The Girl with the Cherry Blossom Trousers

I and my friends do think, discuss and protest.
Our ideas and opinions are fluid – not hard wired.

But we are insultingly called ‘Generation Snowflake’.
Because we think with our hearts and are empathetic

I will tell you a haiku from the tender soles of my feet.

                   We are the snowflakes
             not the crystallised hailstones
                       raining viciously.

Onto our heads – hard cruel pellets of disdain.

             Piercing my pavement pillow
                     with shivers of ice.

And sending my friends running for cover – from you!

67

Contortion

Why do we contort so?

Our lives
Our feelings
Our very souls

To fit in
To feed society's need for conformity
Even when being “individualistic”.

If we don’t do it just so
It won’t be widely accepted

If we don’t look just a certain way
If we don’t act as expected

Shame
Isolation

Contortion

68

Beautiful (for M.O.)

My friend is petite, intelligent, energetic, beautiful,
with glowing skin and sparkling brown eyes.
She is an artist, a painter, a maker of beautiful
and sometimes peaceful, sometimes menacing,
or variously sad, happy, symbolic or personal
paintings and installations, which have been shown
in solo or group exhibitions in Australia, Japan, Spain –
and yet because of the spite of one teacher, carelessness
of another, and perhaps the good old Australian custom
of jobs for the boys, she did not win the scholarship
she needed to practise art full-time. So she works.
Hard jobs, where perhaps she’s worked 14 hours,
travelled 2 hours, had only 4 hours sleep before
starting again, and nevertheless must always smile.
Or does hard study, gets another hard job, bullied by a boss,
while she’s caring for others. And who will care for her?
She doesn’t complain. She hides her pain, behind a beautiful
screen of smiles and politeness, gardens and paintings
she will continue to do whenever she can, when
she’s not too exhausted from spending her life
standing on her head with a beautiful smile.

69

Malleable

Can't put me where you please
arrange me as you like

I am a whirlwind
an angry soul that won't
sit still

I will tear to shreds
your plastic vision of me

I will rip away your
tyranny as you try to rip
away my freedoms

I will stand up straight
unconditionally and find
comfort in my womanhood.

70

Topsy Turvy

Why should I be remembered just as one of three?
A school girl simpering and singing with false glee,
A divertissement to delight the gentlemen of the audience,
Not a true geisha, but a figment of Mr Gilbert’s and Mr Sullivan’s minds,
A terpsichorean turn on the English stage,
A summer breeze from the Orient,
The fragrant, fragile scent of cherry blossom wafting frivolous fun and cheerful chuckles all around,
An antidote to London’s smog and choking fog,
My legacy was surely a memorable one,
After all I turned their humdrum lives completely upside down.

71

Women and Hipflasks

The woman was slumped against the ground with her feet in the air.

Oddly this is not the strangest thing I've seen in 27 or so years of life. I sip from a silver hip flask on which is engraved in flowing text:

Happy Birthday Theo, love from Ellie.

Ellie would probably laugh at the woman against the wall, I thought as I pocketed the hip flask ... yeah she would.

The woman give me a small smile as I began to walk away from her, whistling a tune as I did.

72

Tripping on Daisies

If I can’t have the heart
beating within your chest,
I’ll have to eat my own instead.

Bloody from the inside out.
Burning from the war you waged.

Rare is the moment
when I lose focus
and stumble,
but if I do
happen to slip,
trip, and tumble
over this carnage
and chaos
you’ve placed in my path,
I swear it won’t
be head over heels
toward you
that I fall
in the end.

73

How to Train a Budgie

This time, she would not fall
for that old trick. Would not give
in to the gentle forces that goad
and guide. It’s the subtle turns
that hurt the most. On this
she was clear. Let them have
their domestic scene, so practiced
and precise. After all, she had
also, in the intervening years, learned
a thing or two.
74

How to Rid Stress

The girl was stressed.

Oh, how frustrated she was with her life. The cleaning, the cooking, helping her mother in the kitchen, running errands with her grandmother and balancing school along with it. She needed to rest. She sat on the floor and stared at the wall, hoping it would bring her peace. Instead, she found herself to be just plain bored. She stared at photos on the wall and began talking to the people in them, imagining they were responding back. She giggled at her uncle's jokes and danced with her mother's sisters. When she got bored with talking with the imaginary figures, she tried doing yoga poses to help release her stress. She remembers when she was a little girl and she would watch her mother do yoga poses and other activities in their living room. Sometimes, the girl would even join her mother in her strange interests. Her mother could do poses she'd never seen anyone do, and she would never fall nor lose balance over them. The girl learned from watching her mother that the more she stretched and flexed her body, the better she would feel. The girl decided she would do the same and give one of them a try. As she laid her head on a small white towel with her legs flying above her shoulders, she let out a puff of air in frustration. She still couldn't get all the stressful thoughts out of her head. Worst of it was, she was stuck, in more than just a mental manner. She was afraid to come down from the stance and she could already feel the strain on her neck as her body held itself in the air. She finally let her body drop down to the ground and bent her knees to her chest so she didn't knock down any furniture around her. Read more >

75

THE INVERTED BODY POLITICS

When nothing seems to go in the right direction
It is time for thy body to change its position

With the inverted body comes the reversal of roles
The new responsibility handled by the new poles

Head down south, feet upto the north
Lies the body swaying back and forth

Bypassing the intoxicating fumes
The eyes search for safer rooms

The hands hold tight as balance becomes cumbersome
The sinews of feet struggle, yet this feeling feels wowsome

With the blood gushing towards the mind
With the face flushed, reason and emotions get twined

With a new world, from a new view, it seems so worth
As the body keeps swaying back and forth

76

Morality seeking Solidarity

Marching boots pound the earth
the drum of my ear marks the beat
my cheek nudges my lips to a tremble.

I am standing up with the pink
as long as it takes.
My way for 'not my way'
in an honourable and dignified way.

My belly is fed full on hope, waiting
for the call, the banners and the boots

when I will plant my feet, bathed in first light,
in the soil of the dissenters.

77

The Cliffs of Moher

                I am Japanese,
although my mother came from Ireland
On the other side of the world,
a place by the sea
at the edge of the other great ocean,
and before she died she told me
if I put my ear to the ground
I will hear waves crashing
against the Cliffs of Moher
and remember the beating of her heart.
78

Exertion

I ran my index finger along the top of the chest, it left a path, kind of like the way a river does through a valley of mountains. I rubbed my fingertip against my thumb and watched the dust fall slowly to the floor, almost hearing the faint patter as it dispersed amongst the floorboards. I placed both hands on the side of the lid and pushed, my shoulders and the hinges groaned with the effort as if we had pushed a boat out into the water, our muscles relaxed when the boat had left our grasp. The disturbance had made the dust rise into the air, weightless, unaffected by the laws of gravity. The lid elegantly rose to the air, piercing the atmosphere.
79

Divine Pollen

First I prayed for mediation from Amenominakanushi. Humbly I begged him to intercede, to couple me. To make Izanagi-no-Mikoto invite me. To make him feast in my youth. To make him forget Izanami’s primal beauty now she’s rotting in Yomi-no-kuni. To make him bring into me the fecund energy that begot, in the midst of this ocean, the magnificent island where I was born. To make me be his modest recipient.

But I also appealed, just in case, to other male kami. I prayed to Siddhartha Gautama and Miroku Bosatsu, the 5th Buddha, who is yet to come. I adorned the altar for my stolen figure of Daikokuten, avatar of destructive Shiva, whose goodwill I implored. I begged that Yesu Kirisuto rose again from the dead, just like the phallus once rose on Osiris’s green corpse in the sailing sarcophagus, and I pleaded that Magdalene’s resurrected lover would wait for me, as if I was Isis flying to him in the guise of a hawk to become his wife.

And so on.

So I am overjoyed that my prayers were heard. I was touched by the gods. And I got a lot more than I bargained for. Flowers grew from wood. This is ecstasy. Now that all the winged tenshi are gone, my body barely touches the ground, stunned in the knowledge that I’m holding, inside me, the virile seed of the Heavenly Ancestral God of the Originating Heart of the Universe, Amenominakanushi, the absolute.

80

I See

our faded carpet crossed
by sun and absence,
a map to the home
so often forgot,
flowerless, grassless,
you say, don't turn don't speak,
seeing is what you want
to capture. But the shelfless room
cannot hold my gaze,
my thoughts leak
from the rim of your lens
as you wait, mute
cyclops, turned on
your head and look to me
for a new perspective.
81

MIKO’S SECRET

My ambition was to be a shop assistant, selling fashionable clothes to modern women, but my parents had other ideas and I couldn’t disappoint them. They were so proud when I was accepted into the geisha school. Now, instead of a smart uniform, I wear these traditional clothes to work. It takes hours to get dressed, and this elaborate hairstyle is a nightmare in the slightest breeze. Luckily my own face is hidden behind the painted mask, so none of my old school friends recognise me when I click-clack along the street under a paper parasol. Despite hating it I am good at my job, but I have a secret – beneath my kimono I am wearing pink jeans. As soon as the clients leave, I drop my geisha rôle to practise yoga, although I can’t do a proper headstand without messing up this stupid hair.
82

Delineation

I’m an Indian Mother, I just saw you.
I wish I could wring my back like that,
pick up my Dimples of Venus' muscles and lie
upside down on the mat surefooted, stretch
to conquer the memories of the past life, life passed
like ashes of butterfly wings incinerated
in a forest fire. But I’ve submissions to make.

Your face has surrendered to calm or
even if a makeshift one, you remind me
of my children when they were babies, they would
make Vs of their bodies and sleep like that.

The three circles of what appears to be a shawl
have managed to keep me seeing you for long.
The top one among them seems to be laughing at me.
My hands too are curtained behind the reigns,
but of abstinence, order, patriarchy, and choices made
for me, like I was the origami’s twisting flying flower,
flown at will by the twist of others, parched by
washing clothes, utensils, cooking food, scorched
by drunken beatings, submitted to signs of the fire

Read more >

83

Amaranthine Juice

Concentrate. No pips. Pure current.
An unnatural, undiluted, electric ‘Ohm’.
Nothing to strain. No pulp.
Perfectly full of artificial substance.
Squash or jam.

Three point plug, ground and flex.
Charged. Wired. Floored.
Switch on. Twist, unwind, serve.
Yogic-wholes alight.
Aberrated poise.

Patterns habitual – Hierarcharies Bloom.
Inchoate petals pressed. Tested.
Limitless – Permissive obscenity.
Never leaves.
Youth flowers forever.

Compliance. Contortion.
Fierce. Imaginary. Amaranthine.
Discounted postcards. Pristine egos.
Suck through the last straw.
Click Save Send Amend Repeat.

Capitalist discourse enslaves.
Commodities Trumped.
Pretence cushions The Real.
Figures blotted. Driven inside out.
Addiction's Satisfiction.

84

Inversion

Your studio is cold, haunted by the snow that is falling outside. I see your breath cloud the air. As usual, you do not speak when I enter the room.

Today you approach me with the obi, and wrap it around my shoulders, not my waist where I would usually wear it. You bind it round so my arms are concealed.

I exhale when you touch me. I watch as you try to inhale the breath that has left my mouth. You catch me watching and look away, placing a small square of cloth on the tatami in front of the screen.

You motion for me to stand beside the cloth and then you stand very close to me. Your hand, such cold, cold flesh, reaches up and cups the back of my neck and then you are pushing my head down, down, down so that I am forced to stoop and then kneel on the floor and you keep pushing on the back of my neck until my cheek is touching the cloth. I felt your desire to run your hands through my hair vibrating on your fingertips. But you will have read that girls like me sleep with our heads raised on supports, not pillows, to keep the shimada perfect. You would not want to return me damaged.

But I do know you will touch the cloth later. I know you will caress the stain left by my rouge, the marks from my foundation. I know you will breathe in the scent of my discomfort.

And now it is clear what you want me to do.

Bend for you? I will bend for you.

Curve my spine for you? I will curve my spine for you.

Read more >

85

Maybe Just

But if you can’t love all of me, then maybe
just a part?
Could you not harbour tenderness for one limb
in your heart?

Or caress a single earlobe with your thumb,
inside your pocket;
Gaze at a single eyeball, staring from
a single socket?

Take one hand. If you love it
my wrist-stump will punch the air!
Take one finger, and adore it-
I’ll just tie a chopstick there.

Take one lip, and if you kiss it,
watch the other grinning broadly;
take one cheek, and if you stroke it
hear my jealous hands applauding!

For if you can’t love all of me, then maybe
just a part?
Could you not harbour tenderness for one limb
in your heart?

Read more >

86

Mum

“Surely that can’t be her,” I mumble, holding the sepia photograph in my hand.
“Can’t be who?” my aunt asks.
“This picture, this can’t be Mum?” The last word chokes me, right in the back of the throat. My heart beats erratically as I force myself to swallow the wave of grief rising up inside of me.

Aunt Cathy laughs, accepting the photo from my shaking hand. “Oh that’s Mai alright,” she smiles, “when she was part of the circus.”
“The what?”
“The circus. Didn’t Mai, your Mum, ever tell you about it?”
I shake my head, cursing my tears.

I begin to search through all the images stored in my head, the ones related to Mum. The ones that mean she’s still alive even though her mortal body is gone. She could be kind, she could be stern. She always worked hard, took great care of me and my Dad. Mentioned once when pressed how hard it was to come to a new country. To be both a physical and a mental alien. She had loved my father too much to refuse his offer. Everyone called her his ‘porcelain doll.’ A fisherman from the West, who went East, and caught something unexpected in his net. These are the things I find, nothing else. I try sifting through it all again, a little slower. We told each other everything, so why can I not remember anything about it? My grief twists itself into a ball of anger. Indignation rises at my sense of betrayal, of my being excluded.

“No, she never mentioned it,” I manage to say.

87

The Second

"Look at that", she points.
Her voice tells me that I'm not supposed to look,
only concur with her and say "I know, that's so embarrassing for her."

My head swivels towards you like a cat's eyes
following a fishhead arcing through the air.
You smile and it is like an open palm -
Tender, infinitely understanding.
I hurry to keep up with her,
My head thudding in my chest and my flesh pimpling
From the unexpected caress of your gaze.

Everyone steps around the Pedestrian Subway Acrobat
Minds averted by force of habit from her alien suggestiveness
I'm very new.

At night, I return in my sleep.
You're still there, only not smiling anymore.
Varicose veins and lumps in your arms
Red eyes from a rush of blood to the head.
You are dying of exceptionalism,
But you ask me to sit, and drink some tea in the flask hidden behind the screen.
We are silent, except for your involuntary groans of pain,
And I wonder why you do it,
Why does any saint answer the call, really?

I wake to find myself swinging from the fan feet first.
Everything is ringing with the klaxon of destiny,
I got to the Pedestrian Subway
And take the empty spot before the screen.

88

This is a Ghost Story

This is a ghost story.
There is silence in the room as they all breathe in the smell of brewed tea that is set in the middle of the circle.
        There is no sound beyond that of the creaking wind trying to enter the cracks of the wooden house.
        This is a ghost story-- they all quietly huddle closer as one of them begin to speak in a low hush voice.
        “There was once a beautiful girl. Too beautiful for her own good.”
        This is accepted as fat and half the circle nods in agreement.
        The storyteller nods sagely back before continuing.
        “When she was of age, her parents gave her hand in marriage to a man who promised to give her all happiness.”
        And of course, some already guessed what the outcome was for there were slight murmurs rippling through the warm group even as the wind hisses softly in their ears.
        This is a ghost story and one of them shudders. The wind has whispered something but he didn’t quite catch it and settles down further in his seat.
        “But happiness is a gift that the man could not give. What he gave instead were empty corridors, large drafty rooms, and a lonely bed. Is this what happiness to a man?”
        A few in the circle shake their heads as the wind curl up to cool their feet.
        “The beautiful girl cried. She wept to her absent husband, distant parents, and unforgiving gods. She got no answer. So she took matters into her own hands.”
Read more >
89

Madhouse

It's a madhouse tipsy
topsy-turvey kind of life
where all bound elements
set free in random aspects
of motion bounce then
collide. Now, just what the hell
does that mean? It means we
stand on our head when we
should stand straight. Means
what should make sense just
plain doesn't. But be sure, I
have been there too.
90

Why

Why
    stare from perspectives of abnormalities? Adjust
                the fictions inventing paradigms
        within the fulcrums of limited mobility…

        From my vantage point,
    each angle of what passes by me
        exhibits strengthened structures of isolated
                philosophies:

       

nothing whole
      forgets its dreaming past,
        nor in its fractioned state
      does it possess

aggregated moments of invented
    misrepresentations.

                From here my

comfort is more so for you to rearrange how the hand holds ideas,
ideological fathoms of uninventive
language         s

91