- Vol. 04
- Chapter 04
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
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 >
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.
perspective is everything:
from the shoulders “down,”
a woman with her head upon a pillow,
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 >
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
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.
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
without closing them,
that a soft sheet of rain falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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,
I am your flower.
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
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
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
hangs in the balance.
Will it ever be the right way up
again, I wonder.
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!
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.
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,
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,
quietly get on, as they do –
while my head on the ground,
ungagged and naked-faced,
wonders what is so beautiful
about little feet.
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.
I am not in pain
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
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.
practiced in a corner
of my existence
behind the brief and thin
promise of a flower's
shadow, but I am not
The petals afford me
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.
with sore cheek.
I'll fuze you to the ground,
in grass that's sticky,
topsy turvy baby.
petals in your ear
and up your nose -
its a relationship made more interesting
Does it matter
that the grass here
and everything is paper,
into sepia tones -
the disappearing flowers
like the light behind my eyes,
beneath a murky sun.
Read more >
stiff brocade, eroticized by
steatopygia or epicanthic folds;
on the obvious rug wrinkle,
on divots easily avoided;
smug, even, twisted into
impossible knots, gravity-
defying, yet not sweating;
aloof, hiding our truths
behind elaborate screens
of lacquer and smoke;
blank-faced, all warmth
impressionable, the one
who surely would have
understood, if only…
I’ve had it up
so heads up:
You’d think this was a
with the full head between the knees
and kiss all those asses
the full head in the clouds,
legs through the sky
and back down to feet on the ground
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,
of this warm floor;
that’s what got me here.
Read more >
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?
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?
are you measuring your fragility
and density in petals?
In short, dear fellow woman,
are you already becoming
your own man?
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
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.
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.”
It was foggy
But one thing stood out and kept me still throughout
I knew there was something special
Something deeper than a smile
And when it came
My world was turned up
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
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
“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.
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. . . .
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.*
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.
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 >
When you think
of the materiality of the thing,
really it’s smush. Mulch, that bonds
together in sticky mess b'tween thumb
A pasty clog, that you
feel will cast your hands solid, coating
the underside of
finger-nails, and cuticles.
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
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
with the tapestry
inside the sun's hair
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.
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.
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 >
'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.
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.
her surroundings, she
lifts her body to its fullest
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
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.
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.
Head turning translation, aware
Perhaps of the apparent
Heart breaking cage rattling
Love of a taut situation
Soul searching obsession
Entertaining an endless
Turning of self-deprecation
Is the abstraction contradiction
Placating the Stupefaction
That comes from
Achieving slide rule
Fulfilment justification brazen
Balance is the key
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
an Imperial carp…
So here I am,
sometime before dawn,
on cheek and arms,
trying to maintain
a ‘sinuous’ curve.
in front of your exquisite
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
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.
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.
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.
Did she escape the wooden frame only to be caught in the frame of the cameraman's gaze?
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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 . . . .’
‘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.'
Read more >
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.
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.
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."
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.
out of the
seeming this camellia
silk up swims
there to a
the difficulty of
folded damask shawl
pose. Her straight
/ you stare
into a trick
fingers she is figured
in reverse: in balance
our eyes to hers.
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 >
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 >
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
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.
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.
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.
by sun and absence,
a map to the home
so often forgot,
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.
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
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.
Patterns habitual – Hierarcharies Bloom.
Inchoate petals pressed. Tested.
Limitless – Permissive obscenity.
Youth flowers forever.
Fierce. Imaginary. Amaranthine.
Discounted postcards. Pristine egos.
Suck through the last straw.
Click Save Send Amend Repeat.
Capitalist discourse enslaves.
Pretence cushions The Real.
Figures blotted. Driven inside out.
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.
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?
“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 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.
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.
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 >
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.
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
forgets its dreaming past,
nor in its fractioned state
does it possess
aggregated moments of invented
From here my
comfort is more so for you to rearrange how the hand holds ideas,
ideological fathoms of uninventive