- Vol. 04
- Chapter 06
It is almost time for his meeting with the woman from the council. ‘Just a chat,’ she’d said. ‘Nothing to worry about.’ But he is not so easy to fool. He’s had the date marked on his calendar for weeks, the sight of it whenever he stepped out back to make a cup of tea, never failing to lend a fresh layer of gloom to the ever-quiet town museum.
This afternoon, he has hung the closed sign on the door, knowing it will make little difference to the number of visitors. He’s set up a table and chairs in the main exhibition space, although he knows this Claudia, the woman from the council, will not approve. She has made it abundantly clear that she’d have preferred to meet at her office. But no, he’d insisted, if they were getting together to talk about the museum’s future, oughtn’t they to do so here, among the treasures of the town – or what she evidently sees, although she’s never quite said so, as a motley collection of curiosities.
According to Claudia, his museum needs to move with the times, to work towards receiving official accreditation. This means following national guidelines, telling the story of the town, being ready to pare back the objects on display, objects left to his care for over half a lifetime.
The deer skeleton is a case in point. On Claudia’s first visit, not long after she moved to the town, she’d taken the opportunity to come down and wander about, making not a word of comment on the shine of the brass plaques or the cabinets’ smear-free glass. She’d stopped when she came to the deer, displayed in its usual more conventional grazing pose, and suggested that a better place for it would be dismantled in a box in the basement.Read more >
No one wants to be in this position,
deep cuts to the fat, then the flesh,
now down to the bone.
We never wanted to be in these positions,
growths branching from our hips, through our ribs,
now up to the brain.
Still, in the shadows, I stand tall, belly ripening once more.
In a clearing we found him, after walking for hours in the forest. Some had strayed early, their mission forgotten, others gave up to return to the comfort of the village hotel. But I kept up with my fellow seekers, finally reaching the dark clearing where we saw the Stickman - ancient and rickety, terrifying in his otherworldly frailty, jauntily poised on the rock that the villagers claimed was life-giving.
“Now listen,” he said as we gathered before him.
His voice was a sigh, a wind calling through caverns, a rush of tiny pebbles down a steep gulley.
“I know you are searching for answers, for miracles, but what you see - that lone tree is my garden; the other, my love; and the child - they are all I have.”
We stood transfixed by his breathy incantation, our gaze level with the tangle of roots, veins, ganglions sprouting, a shriek of pain at his centre, a girdle of anguish. But the rock held up his stick-bone frame of smooth-rubbed branches, like baked clay filaments, hard and easy to shatter.
“Tell us what to do, should we leave our towns?” a woman asked.
“Should we live in the forest?” another pleaded.
“Tend your garden,” the Stickman said. “And tend to your children. Find your rock and be seated.”
Then he stood and walked away, those disconnected fragments of bone-china limbs cohering to make movement, the core of pain a furred silhouette. He leaned into the tree of his child and disappeared.Read more >
For a long time I groped in darkness. The iron-rock upon which I sat anchored me and would not let me leave. Neverthess it was a place of wonder, this rock, a place of multitudes. Naturally – of humiliation also. My first discovery however was a delight. Tapping with sickle fingers, delving about, I found that the sags and wattles of my old body – what I like to call my field, forest, and town body – had fallen away, leaving fine enamelled bone. My arms were double-sticked; likewise my lower legs. No longer was I to be troubled by mutinous bowels or wretched sexual organs. What difficulties they had caused...
Eating presented a twofold problem, having neither guts or digestive juices, nor any actual food. I was surprised, at first, that it was necessary at all. The periods of starvation were long and painful and certain images assailed me over and over. I was a man of great importance, a leader, a sorceror. Figures approached hourly to consult me, having travelled far and wide to hear my wisdom and seek my justice. Later, some informed me that I had committed a crime; others that I was the victim of crime. The details are unimportant: I had merely indulged my privileges to the full. Among my treasured possessions I counted certain individuals; their earthly bodies were mine to dispose of as I saw fit.
Hunger brought me to other shores. Here I approached the divinity, glimpsing him on distant mountains, in obscure vales, wading in rivers. With training and discipline I learned how to make the tantalising flashes last entire seconds. One inch above the divinity's head floats the great parabola of the infinite, which is the last of all numbers and no number at all. And from the parabola some few pieces of knowledge percolated down to me.Read more >
Every tree is different. Sometimes it can be a container for an embryonic form, Perhaps a parasite yet to grow branches to match its parent. Maybe it never will be a match, but always an alien form. Or maybe a new tree will branch out from the belly of another alien form. We must wait and see. Every tree is different.
where you should be where you ought to be
your tongue tastes thighs speaks to the dead
sinewed spirit belongs where your bone belongs
where your lips are home where I expect you to be
where your heart flops breath snuggles, bones rest
with me not someone else somewhere else somewhen
at this breath's end at end of the line.
There I am; a blink, a birth, a wish to be the one across eons. Fading like the others into dust, scared of what body holds for me. Love as a reminiscence, powerless, lacking rebellion. Here we are: looking at each other, wondering if there is still a passage behind the glass, confessing that we are stuck together, regardless of the perspective.
Let me tell you jokers there is no trump card. Not from heaven, hell Nor the universe exists a reason why you might believe me
But believe me, you will.
In my bones lies the truth In the moment between galaxies, In antelope's breath, In birch silver In buzz bee dances.
You will Laugh off your bones Till the death's head rattles off.
And you will learn to love In freedom.
In what is believed to be Da Vinci's final painting, a "disturbingly erotic" John the Baptist points upward toward Heaven with the index finger of his right hand. He seems to emerge from the darkness around him, and at the same time seems to be returning to it. Perhaps more enigmatic than the Mona Lisa's, his smile is more intense, his eyes are piercing— unlike eyes that are missing from empty bone sockets, much more like eyes that see into your heart's desire— a desire you fear, and fear that he can control.
As sure as I'm sitting here, trying to write a poem about things I can't understand— as sure as you're born (at least I assume that's you, curled up inside the uterus of that writhing tree), I can't stop thinking about Young Goodman Brown: Seems that everyone in town sold their souls to the chiaroscuro, just to have a part in the Great American Short Story.
Georgia O'Keefe's in my head— or rather has replaced it on my meatless shoulders with a deer's skull—oh, dear! And John the Baptist points to the sky in such a way that you can't really tell if he points the way to salvation or damnation— or even if both are the same thing.Read more >
At last here is a screen capture of the Tulgey Wood so fully described by Mr. Carroll.
Home of the Jabberwocky, as well as a miscellany of other creatures that have the capacity to both bite and devour.
The greeting exercise in taxidermy wields his stern warning, but we are too curious about the strange pollination habits of the flora here to heed a rebuke.
Wave your finger, dear deer, I can see all of you.
This is the nudest a creature can get.
If you were carrying a pocket watch, it would slip right on through.
I can imagine just a little bit of blush at your bleached cheeks.
I can imagine we might be friends, but you seem a little standoffish about this whole thing.
holds a bundle of twigs, wound like a mass of veins round a heart. He points to the moon – to the scratches the stars have left in the dark sky. The tree nurses life to her heartwood, stays calm, stays quiet. She remembers how once, in the madness of March she made love to a hare, handsome and leaping, dancing and long-ear mad. His paws played the tune of the moon on her just-buried roots. He slept in his scrape at the base of her bole, curled into her bark – she loved the shock of his soft. They said such a match could never turn to fruit yet a leveret grew inside her, magic as night. When her time comes, she will nurse him on acorns she makes.
Stay with me now. Are you sitting? Your comfort isn’t really of any odds to me. Have you not seen me? My pelvis acts as the fulcrum on this menhir I Sit upon. I’ll hold my court while you grasp your tongues. I’m sat fully in front of the unborn children in the trees. Their whispering of these pines is payback for my time with the hunt in the search for some such thing as I never knew could be found. Look around this land— and I want this to land with you— the eyes will have it every which way but loose. It’s up to you to look in them, watch for the swell of my pupils. Watch out behind you; these trees grow through us all. Questions, you must have questions…! I’m sorry, I’m stopping you here.
Flowering hawthorn bursts the solar plexus, and is wintered by the light's decline into a seething mass of sticks, a brittle-veined unknown.
A glimpse beyond that tangled wood and bone into the seductive truth of artifice, the body's wildly ramifying sign now becomes nexus
of self-consumption, like a stag with its antlers absorbing the whole forest, structure gnawed to dysfunction,
hounds slavering at the rupture, the inside out, the expanding reign of the spaces where flesh refrains and falters.
The truth is that the earth is a powerful living being Like one of those cells you studied in biology A giant circular version, complete with a membrane and life vibration.
Man is the only animal stupid enough To destroy the eco-system it depends on For more luxury, more leisure time, and to accumulate more things That gather dust in and out of cupboards – while encased in a man-made cage indoors.
Only man has sold his soul and that of the earth and now stares blinking with short-sightedness Believing the world is contained in a mobile phone.
Video games have replaced playing with friends outdoors Likes have replaced congenial hugs and pats on the back Virtual reality is slowly replacing living while Adult life is a rat race from waking to bed Rushing from breakfast to work. Working through lunch Multi-tasking through your kid’s lives and your own.
Modern life is a bubble Disconnected from reality. Stop.
Happiness is found in nature In quiet time with family and friends.
Stop rushing to the grave And killing everything in your wake.
Listen, listen carefully Hidden in the bark-womb of the bellied tree Is the story unborn and this is my not telling My unsaying of those not yet and those to be The skeleton of words disintegrating, distorting The message, as I speak ambiguously
Listen, listen carefully Listen to its bones break as I rip it apart See the skin of the tale flayed and draped Curtains to my stage, splayed prose Wrapped around an audience Forested by spiked-rib trees and tree-spiked ribs
Listen, listen carefully Listen to the ending I give, its silent finality I am the Crowned Deceiver Unwriting my book with truthful lies As I sit on my cold stone throne, the Horned One Master of Ceremonies on this underworld night
Stalkers and death crawlers, we know they wait in the dark woods where a womb folds inside a tree trunk to hold the tomorrow’s birth in bark.
We ignore them, move past when a forest cracks its knuckles and bony twigs hold up a finger of warning betides, what was learned in the arch-silences of winters
when their mouths watered, their eyes salted in wind, feet gone stiff with wandering, skeleton fused to stone after longtime seeking
the grace of grazers, spry and fleet footprints on earth hard from trampling.
The darkness that invaded Rob’s soul, left a world of hate inside him. The late-night drinking binges ripped his marriage apart and he spent his nights at the grounds of the cemetery wondering why it wasn’t him instead of Jimmy. Though sober now, Rob had lost everything. His best friend, his wife, his job, what did he have left? A lonely life of regret and the image of Jimmy’s skeletal remains when he was found three months after his disappearance.
Rob was the one that owed the money, not Jimmy. Jimmy paid the price for protecting his friend. Jimmy gave them the money, but they killed him as a warning. Rob knew who did it, but they covered their tracks and the killers would never pay, all because Rob gambled and drank his life into a stupor.
Rob had to learn to live with the guilt. But could he?
The night is still alive with bones of time seeing a dance a sculpture symbolizing black as dark white as light soul the tribe of a poem brings a desert with prayers lighted pages black and white lamplight mysterious but genius wild words of the beast that streams inside dreams.
The man said global warming was fake news, a conspiracy, a feeble attempt to screw a thriving economy.
The man said it was fine to own a rifle or handgun, as long as it was just for fun, to carry on hunting without a care.
The man said he needed more electricity, forget turbines, solar panels and the sea, go nuclear.
The following year, my garden withered, trees died, animals starved and shivered in monochrome winter.
Now bleached bark and bone in my garden are a tribute to Armageddon, a sad reminder.
Your dry bones, stark, stripped bare of supple flesh. Your arrogant antlers, curved, poised to tangle trespassers. Your ever-pointing finger, insisting I had got it wrong. You, perched on a stone throne, for extra height, to elevate your ego, desiccated, proud. You, doomed to miss the spirit of the forest, the tree of life. You did not see the trunk holding me safe, enwombed. You did not know I grew, ready to kill your wife.
‘Now let me tell you,’ said the deer-headed man, with twigs like dyspepsia radiating from his stomach.
‘Let me say that in my time here, with nothing for my naked pelvis but these termite mounds,
I have found it not as bad as it appears. There is that willow behind, just waiting for April
and the other tree, species still a mystery, now a full nine months in gestation.
I wonder when the birth will be; I believe it may be soon, may be a time for joy, may have colour in it.'
nothing grows there nothing glows there nothing goes
in the answer phone a voice abandoned by her own loneliness
I don’t want to describe it I don’t want to dwell in it I am healing
Some don’t know what is like to be a rainbow child in the land of dust
where nothing nothing nothing
grows glows goes back to stay to say to play It was never their heyday
in the 80s
curious and small all the while the Carnival paraded on the TV
In my clenched fist a handful of confetti in my tireless heart, a door
and the road that lead to every dreamRead more >
He wonders just how many times he has cheated death, Knows there's a price to eventually pay for dancing this dance
Midnight rattle bones play a crimson song, overtones are ominous, an invitation to disaster written in jagged defacing letters
Come on sweetly, the skeletal figure sings, we have an appointment vastly overdue.
share a sloppy kiss below bone branches tickled all the way into your sternum looking longingly desperately into empty eyes
this is the place my note said to meet but now you seem nervous
look at all these haunting figures I've painted for you a gesture of love, if only rendered in a dark palette.
before reason, arms, sheep-thought, follow the leader, count sleep, jump fence, border, horizon. before reason, line up, look sharp, sprout stones, aim right for the hurt. before reason, before thought, just say hate, in monochrome steel hearts.
how did we come where we have come? were we here before, are we here yet? what did we believe was greener grass for our future? fodder stiff, we chewed chewed, chewed, forgetting to talk. tenderness fled a long time ago. now trees, now soil, a doze of ozone, but do you have the pass? all dystopias will be the dystopia of birth.
who will be the first now, to raise fist, or finger, say forever: I told you so?
"Come let me tell you a secret," it whispered; Seated on the anthill, a sage, a spiritual guide. "The earth is the womb of the universe, She has carried it on the lips of her fingers, Sucking at the stars, the moons and the numerous suns... No! Do not look at the tree. Turn your gaze away. She is pregnant with truth; verisimilitude. She births at noon to the tweeting cries of summer birds."
"You see," it raises a finger at a thought, It's pelvic girdle girding the anthill, balanced by forces unknown, "This throne is the door to night." It cocked its antlered skull and peered... "Will you tell this secret to the roaches, bestriding your kitchen sink?" It stared at its spindly legs, barely touching the monochrome soil. "No you won't."
"I have a heart, you know, a life, a beating heart." It nodded its horse face, The monochrome night breeze fleeing its chest cavity, Cracked rib columns cackling in silent moan. "Come, do you know where it is? It's inside the throne, yes it is."
"You tell a good tale, yes you do. I must leave you, mother calls. It rubs its stomach and turns, "You should go, my friend."
That was one hell of a night. Only the terrible time Nicky acquired tattoos, Waking at five to a text Message announcing the sack — No more complacent, obtuse, Dull afternoons at the shop, Watching old movies, for him — That is the only night out Any of us can recall Close to catastrophe like, Anything like, what you’ve done This time around. Would you look, Please, at yourself? You’re a mess. Eyeless, aghast, self-enslaved ... Even old Nicky himself Gawped. He’s impressed. By the whole Damnable absence of flesh Thing. And the headgear. Tell me, What have you done with your left Arm from the elbow on down This time around? That was one Hell of an evening, I know. Evening and morning, I know. Roofs have been raised. Even so, Nobody hankers to see Ribs and the skeletal look Taken to such an extreme. No, this is going too far. Read more >
The improbability means you say nothing. It often happens that way. You’ve seen a ghost, the back end of a stag, As you drive through the night.
Who is chasing you? Red coats or poachers? The same men, different sides of the law.
You remember a story; of a deer offered refuge By a scorned witch; they supped together before dawn. Who will shelter you?
The skeletal creature, half-man half-deer, posed as we took a photo to capture the amazing scene in the woods. It didn't seem to mind. We noticed the finger on its right hand pointing upwards, almost as if it had a message for us. I linked this to a similar sign I'd seen in some of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings. In the background to its left side was a tree with a growth almost foetal. The tree of life but also of death, if the holes surrounding it were representative of ulcers?
Death comes to us all, often with great suffering. We know not why. Perhaps the creature would have liked to tell us if it could, as it pointed heavenward. Alas, we heard nothing and assumed.
Only God Knows.
Death is close, today. At the forefront. In the picture. Present. But life is never far behind.
Look beyond bristling, skeletal, gently warning death to the bulging belly of the tree behind and see the foetal figure waiting to be born. Life grows in the belly of the tree behind death.
Death says, with that raised forefinger and that gently inclined, ‘Listen-to-me’ head, ‘There’ll be life after yours. It will be born. Where there’s life there’s also, necessarily, death. One cannot exist without the other.’
So the day will come when we make room for the ones behind. But until that day, death says, ‘Where there’s life there’s hope.’ He says that because he’s sitting on a termite mound. A place where air winds along tiny termite-built tunnels. A place where there’s oxygen for all levels of life.
So breathe and celebrate, wherever you are, whatever your level, whatever hangs in the balance. Breathe and celebrate until the last day comes.
But even then, know that life, even if not your own, is never far behind.
Famine came crawling on its knees, begging for a home in alms. My roots
dark like the furry hide of a raccoon’s stare. Nobody can know how deep a
human’s desires flow. My ribs sleep in different rooms; sutured to
independent plans. I surf statistics and alternatives. The one thing
that drives towards the gulls is a body of light, emerging like the sign of infinity.
The way my face caves like a lone stone grown taller than the length of an ocean’s
wave, does not wheel precarious boats to any mines of crops. I could sit in a field of
ripe fruits thrusting their bellies through from a lover’s cling of the root goddess,
watch their juices leak out like a stone-earth’s sweat,
yet feel no wind on the nape of my maw, hunger ricocheting
like trapped lilies in bone gardens, ripening on the brink of a lupus moon.
Apple cheeked smiling until that day when he absent-mindedly looked through the other end of the telescope. It was all too much too close. The monotone inner landscape of broken tree covered hillsides, the foetid silent lakes. He took to his heels then 'Here be monsters!' Even a backward glance held fears of gorgons and Lot's salty fate.
She sat. Her hair was perfect and I remember she had her legs crossed, her skirt pinched higher. She had these glittering eyes that I could never forget. They were green. I remember when she stood, elongating her previously crumpled figure to her full 1.7 meter height. Her fingers were long, with different coloured nails at the end of each finger. They wrapped around my shoulder, my hand, I remember how they felt, warm, soft, small calluses before every knuckle. Her laugh tinkled through the air, the most luscious sound to accompany the most luscious music I can remember. The way her hips moved, sashayed, skirt flipping around her thighs, her feet slipping forward and back in a fluid manner. Her arms danced above her head like waves.
And then she sat. And no one ever saw her beauty again. Year after year. She remained. Legs crossed, skirt wrinkled. And I always remembered how she sat.
I am not as frightening as I look, Some people regard me as a warning, A legacy of a world depleted and destroyed by humankind, I am to them a future nightmare, A time when the seas dry up and the land is drained of all its nutrients, They do not look beneath the surface, Their vision is skin deep, For I am just the winter of our world, Spring will follow, My body will no longer be parched and desiccated, Trees will burst into bud, Flowers will push their way upwards and bloom again, The planet will be recycled, rejuvenated, revitalised and recreated.
In place of your pink bag of stomach and the tremor of intestine, a ghost of coral floats, brittle-sharp, bleached; synapse, perhaps, not snapped in the silver gelatin monochrome of a photographic print, but in the zapped spectre of bone on filmy x-ray black; maybe molten tin flung through the sprung trap of your ribs, to slink and settle your fate with a cold, hard splash.
My dreams have been getting heavy again lately. All the cold sweat, the shaking, the dull stares into the darkness in between two nightmares. It is all back, yet again. I never know when this starts and how it ends, it is always like my shadows eventually catch up with me after they got bored of me the last time. Once you learn how fragile all reality is, it never leaves you any more. This notion will never disappear, and will follow you in around like a catchy proverb you've learned in your childhood. It will shape your worldview, it will add that last weird sentence in the banal everyday description of the house you grew up in you were trying to give to that woman on your last date, it will keep you hyped and high after you made that perfect, totally over-optimistic plan. Because reality is so bendable that both nightmares and utopias live side by side in it.
I dreamt of a pregnant tree last night, that gives birth to whole grown men like me. They sit there crouched, hugging their legs, with full body hair and broken teeth, semi-white beards. I could see the others, still sleeping in the thick bark layers, illuminated by the little light available. I was sitting on the ground, all naked, could feel the soil entering in between by butt cheeks. Above me erected on a rock, preaching, was a big archaic skeleton with an animal head. I don't know what it was saying any more, but it gave me great comfort.
I woke up this morning to find only one shirt left, the one that has a button too high that presses right on that place in my throat that is the most gentle. I shaved my face perfectly, and shined my shoes. There was just the right amount of peanut butter to put on my toast. On the way out, I was careless and tripped on her arm. I fell down, turned on the side and grabbed my legs. Waiting to be born again.
Welcome to my garden, my delicious and destitute friend. I've never seen such regretful eyes it gets worse, I won't pretend.
Welcome to my kingdom, there are rules you must obey. But let me tell you a story I'd forgotten 'til this day.
Gentle was her nature, her mind a snowy owl. I wonder if she remembers me or what I'm guarding now.
Magic was her master, loving was her fall. But she did plant one last seed before sacrificing us all.
Cosmic was her landscape, and the ground we walked upon. Until the day she flapped her wings and everything was gone.
Terror was her treatment, desolation and despair. I prayed to join my family instead, her seed is in my care.Read more >
Returning to the earth The bones are all that is ever left Left to blend with ancestral soil Soaked in stories from the past
She was such a dear As gentle as a deer Quick to startle, of nervous disposition The utterance of words, rare Yet stories collected in her sighs
At her stillest when death brushed up beside her We observe the heave of her chest as she struggles for breath And in these final moments of regret We wish we had been brave enough to speak the words that choke us Asked the questions fear stopped us from asking But we never did Mistaking her silence
She was such a dear Tight lipped Yet as gentle as a deer
Now she’ll take her stories to the grave Offering a final sigh to the wind
Lighter times require lighter measures Existential thought by one who treasures Is it an open universe? Will it expand forever or reverse? The garden trees, death they do triumph The spring awakes them from their sleep For the moment the flowers riot For the winter months they have been at peace
Deep thoughts about the years before us And the years that lie ahead Thinking back to twenty years and life before the internet No online occurring FB drama No Instagramatic picture show No tweeting from a forlorn leader And retweets from those in the know
Lighter times and increasing leisure Gardening to some is a pleasure Mud and sticks and old bones Copper coins that lie alone Looking out from a window Wispy white clouds passing by Existential thoughts occur again And what happens when we dieRead more >
A discourse by Herne the hunter: there is a burst
of dry fingered twigs through my pelvis where the
genitals were strung. I raise my finger to point to
you – bone, oak wood in utero forms sculpted from
resin. Sitting on a fabricated rock in a daguerreotype
typified by chiaroscuro. Today the west wind is mercury vapourised and
now there is only a stymied textile
darkness – felt covering this flat vivarium:Read more >
I am your mockery trophy, once preyed upon, no longer hunted, moth-eaten, past its prime, mounted to gloat at. Straddling my boulder egg, I am a doe disguised, morphed into a mighty stag, adorned with useless antlers. I bristle at the trunk behind me, laden with life, while my roots grow inwards, crowding out unspent, fleshless spaces in which bare branches defiantly refuse to bud. I carry wild blackthorn in my belly, a warning to the uninitiated: Enter at your own peril. Roots reach upwards, into my hollow ribcage, waiting with bated breath for my heart to hatch.
this is what the truth teller looks like its bones provide complete transparency — the birth of its successor in the womb of a tree
will come round at last no longer hidden — although its future is immanent nobody can speak of an eminence in the present tense
the head of a stag or a bull has import nods unsteadily in time the bone forefinger that wags with a faster tempo
it all makes time in black and white invades then ignores the narrative throws out the narrative as a bad innovation
scores out words as they approach marks the picture with straight lines — the story of the Minotaur was once told
it was told as a truth the truth teller no longer tells — the result is this last one its frivolity a finality that sits — cannot run
post truth will leak dreams of poems drafted by a moving finger — each poem in turn will put flesh on the bone
I continued to visit Uncle Edgar every day after Mother died. He continued to repulse me. Without her, my old home had taken on a different personality. Somewhere along the line, its soul had flown to somewhere brighter.
At every window, curtains hung listless and weary. Cushions sagged and drooped, as if the very life had been kicked out of them – much like Mother. Silently, they sighed their demise and accepted their lot – much like Mother. Even the efforts of the lightbulbs were half-hearted.
But my mother never was.
He sat in his chair in his splayed tartan dressing gown and stained blue pyjamas, and waited to be served.
‘Here you are, Uncle Edgar. A nice boiled egg and soldiers.’
I laid the cushioned tray across his knees. His eyes flicked in my direction as he stabbed a finger of toast into the yolk and shoved it between his thin lips, chewing noisily as his rubbery face gnashed on the food. I removed the tray when he had finished.
‘Thank you,’ I said pointedly.
I wiped his face. He shoved me away and scowled. Then he pushed himself up and out of the chair. I heard his bedroom door slam.
I let myself out.
Why was I doing this? Stepping into Mother’s shoes? I had always hated the man. Uncle Edgar, the chauvinist. Uncle Edgar, the arrogant. Uncle Edgar, the bully.Read more >
Death watches over all of us From the day we're born. The Devil looks into our eyes And stares at us with scorn. No matter if we beg and plead Death will come our way. All around is evidence That death is here today. Cemeteries are full of bones. People who have gone. Not one will ever come again Not Jane, nor Jill, nor John. So when the Devil laughs at you And says your turn is next No point in getting angry. No point in getting vexed.
The fields are constantly Under attack The lively crops Cannot fight back.
It is under siege The crows and sparrows Destroy the harvest With their beaks sharp as arrows.
It is screaming out For a little salvation It wants to escape The foul suffocation.
The scarecrow can relieve Their pain and suffering A great bit of assistance It can surely bring.
The bone shaped skeleton The scarecrow mannequin With its constant presence The crops will surely win.
There are scratches on the frame where black birds have flown, damp in the hollow beneath your hand, and webs in your hair where spiders’ eggs impel themselves towards birth.
In the split mirror, your reflection mumbles your name backwards and there are letters written in your thick breath. Your eyes are bitten dry of tears, their lids too tight to close.
It’s too late to listen to what your mother always told you, admit your mistake and go back to bed, as spiders spread across your scalp, and the beast demands his nightmares back.
A hybrid of things none good and part mythical with adaptations, appendages where none ought to be all gathered at will an amalgam of wickedness
polluting the light it delights in the night its solemn warning, ossified stay away little girl here's the edge of the world best you run on home to your own tribe
I was tangled in all the wires — Music was stopping — at first wavelength slowing, Try and equivocate the happenstance and turn, whether a stubborn ox, or mule's brittle bones, nothing is pretty anymore then. When only a yule- tide would suffice. Oh is he sweating yet? Or is the drool dripping worse as dried ice. A sweltering sunbeam. A melodramatic escapade. If one can only hope this planet, our planet is but one island beneath, a shared sun. Even if life is bona fide, twenty thousand light years above the sky. But what's beyond that? I'll take Dark Matter for 700, Trebek. That's a daily double, if it isn't too late to pass — The girl from Stanford to my left seems better equipped to tackle; because fate would have it that I'm already committed to a different shackle. It's unique. The future is not bleak, a random tangent could never hold its own against a tandem, ahem, if it is not a word, then — play, pause, rewind preferably something from the 80s.Read more >
Man those floorboards were smooth weren't they? Blonde and beachy. Old, but not so old they crumbled beneath our growing feet or we fell between the cracks. Those tiny faces staring up at us from within their growing memories.
It was real cool down there. Not as humid as above, halfway up the grey room that reminded me of a 1970's two-toned wagon spray painted on a day when indecision stuck up its middle finger at the world, just like you, your favourite expression in a laughter-beat. Who cares? you always said.
The small square window beside the green front door shows us that the world out there goes on. Moans on through wet skies and water washing along the gutters and down the drains. It's true the rain has had its way with us over the last three days. Your wig has come off — an odd thatch of a matted root thing — as your head topples on its neck, a tube of veins word-searching over your throat. And yet. The floorboards where we used to play stay cool, don't they? That's why I've got my skirt hitched high to my thighs, cellulite pressed against them as your swollen yellowwhite bandages bleat against the stinking liquid dripping from your liver and kidneys. They have taken their final bows.
I watch your horns grow as their pink and Prince purple forms wrap the air and all the secret things we always said, smacked on the walls, the furniture and the floor my amazing Best. I wrap. And sit. And wrap your liquidlogged legs as I spit at the gentle breeze blowing from beneath the door.
You are my Best. My four-letter Best. My very Best I tell you. In silence.
My very Best.
As patriarch, I had been shape-shifting through various forms, some to educate the youngsters as to camouflage while hunting, some simply to entertain.
Eventually the younger children were put to bed in the boles of nearby Molave, stunted and twisted by the magic of the sacred glade, and I sat on The Warlock Stone, solemnly gesturing for silence. The laughter subsided, allowing me to begin my tale in the fashion of our kind: telepathy and nuances of the body position.
"I was happy in my original home, content in my primitive existence: hunting, playing and loving with my family and friends in the small community in an island group of unspoiled forest, rivers and beaches.
Then the ‘tourists’ came and though they were an exciting novelty for a while, they brought with them a sense of privilege – as if their mere arrival gave them entitlement to our home. They didn’t like our ways, how we looked, what we ate.
Mere annoyance at first, they arrived in increasing numbers. They heaved like pus on an infected wound, devouring our space, destroying foliage upon which we and our prey depended.
I was all for war when they killed sister-son, but the elders vetoed it, recognizing that it would invite catastrophe. So we maintained our meek appearance and traded for enough of their pump boats to carry us away from the pristine islands the invaders were set on despoiling and headed towards the sun, relying on the fish and rain we caught – ignorant of just how long the journey would be.”Read more >
Cool is the head of the classical sage Who dares chance the Forest of Baryn. Strong is the arm of Protector-cum-Page Who’d spare nosey scholar from harr-mmm.
Black is the air between nefarious boughs With web-mist for undergrowth too, But death is the hollow which Nature allows, Where reigns cryptic Ossacerv, Hugh.
Hear my riddle: It grows in a tree, It grows within me. It grows in the ground, It grows all around.
The great teacher sat upon a rock, the space between his bones giving view to the natural world around him. He scratched his head and belted out a tune, getting about half the words right.
I always knew my father was different, right from a very early age when other kids would play football with theirs in the park, whilst mine looked through telescopes, consulted astronomy charts and marvelled at demigod paintings on his study walls. He did this time and time again. Whatever the weather, my father would immerse himself in the fantastical, the elusive, the unknown.
My mother knew not to disturb him when he was holed away in his study and told me that I should go and play outside. It was such a nice day.
But I waited until she disappeared into the kitchen and pushed open my father’s study door. He stood not more than four feet away peering at one of his creepy paintings. I turned to leave when he called me back.
‘Come in, Stephen. I want you to see this.’
Slowly, I moved to where my father stood and followed his gaze. A ghoulish skeleton of a demigod stared back. It had the head of a stag and the torso and legs of a man. I shuddered and backed away.
‘That creature there, Stephen, is your grandfather, would you believe. Fitzwilliam was his name and he was a man of great character, as you can see.’
‘He’s a monster,’ I blurted out. ‘A demon. He’s not fit to walk amongst men.’
My father sneered. ‘And what would you know about that? You’re just an insignificant little boy.’
Our relationship was strained after that. We rarely exchanged a word at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Years later, when mother died suddenly of a stroke, I had no-one else to turn to. I returned home for a short while and knocked on my father’s study once again, now faded and decrepit.Read more >
Toby said there was something in the forest. ‘There’s always something in the forest,’ I said. I was sitting by the school games hut, a discus in my hand. Toby was leaning against the warped wooden door, the team sashes over his arm. A crash came from inside. Jas was piling the hurdles together. ‘Yeah, but this is different.’ Toby leaned down. ‘Some sort of skeleton, I’ve heard.’ I stood up just as Jas came out of the shed, hair on end like he’d already seen something scary. ‘Jas is coming tonight. Dare you, Ben.’ I threw the discus into the shed. ‘Sure.’ Tonight turned out to be a midnight meet. Another silly idea of Toby’s but actually I was counting on it. The other two were waiting for me by the bin in the car park. ‘Come on,’ Toby said turning into the trees. The night seemed alive with eerie sounds – owls, foxes, things creeping through the forest floor. ‘Not scared are you?’ Toby asked. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or whether Jas was included in this. We walked further into the wood. ‘I’m not sure about this.’ This was Jas. ‘What if we get lost?’ ‘I got badges in this.’ Toby said proudly, but I knew he was lying. He’d been asked to leave cubs but scouts tolerated him despite the incident of the tent fire. Jas walked closer to me. ‘What will your mum say if she finds you’ve been here at night?’ I goaded. Was that a whimper I heard? And then we were in the clearing. Sitting on a stone was a human-like skeleton with a deer’s head. Jas screamed. Toby jumped around in delight until I shone my flashlight over it. I was watching their faces, the horror as they took in the twigs growing out of the middle of the skeleton. I guided the flashlight right of the bones towards a tree with a hole in its trunk. Read more >
You once followed the course of the packs Guided By that smell of furrows Possessed By the dizziness That was spilling Above the crowd You learned to bite And to dismember as the others. The Dawn Tore the veil Diminishing Of the night To offer you a horror Newborn. You killed your own in the dark. You were part Of the weakness that you devoured You were The prey.
Oh you are a skeleton you are neither man nor animal, but you crown heady success why you even look happy in a black forest deadly your visage is smart you look like playing dart you summon awe, bewilderment but the horns are your crown are you coloured brown or simply white as a ghost? Come on, I can't believe that you exist.
A nubile virgin every spring or he’d destroy the kingdom – that was the bargain the Minotaur had made with the King. Parents prayed that the gods would send them sons and wept when their prayers went unheard. Mothers bound their daughters’ breasts, or married them off before puberty. Anka’s parents tried a different ploy, treating her as a boy from the moment of her birth. Her father even taught her to fight until her swordsmanship out-stripped his.
At the winter festival the year Anka turned fourteen, the King’s men quartered the crowds like pickpockets, noting which girls had reached maturity. No-one slept easily until the choice was announced and, despite her parents’ care, they picked Anka.
Guards pushed her into the Minotaur’s maze and retreated but, around the first corner, Anka’s father passed her a sword. “I cannot stay – I must be seen weeping with your mother,” he said, “but remember what I taught you – you can do this.”
Trembling but brave, Anka followed the roar of the hungry beast to its source – a bull’s head armed with fearsome horns, but the body was that of a man – she could kill a man. The creature was not expecting a fight. It was all noise and bluster, and had spent a whole year lying on its bed of virgins’ bones. Anka, young and agile, danced around the lumbering beast, darting in to slash its Achilles tendons and, when it fell, to plunge her sword deep into its black heart.
When all was quiet, the chanting of the priests rose to a crescendo, but over it all Anka heard her mother screaming her name. Like a bee to the hive, she followed that thread of love out of the maze to freedom.
I, dark. A deer. Skinned. Bone and antlers in a ruined wood.
Still a woman I am bearing twigs.
My heart, swung-out is a bird. Flown.
The trees swell. Grief is a foetus. Waiting.
My lost tongue warns you that the flood is soon/the rubbing flood and all its drownings.
Now now … I shall not allow you to weep my death.
24,383,561 killed each day, each one held dear, by none. What is left?
Overconsumption breeds the underexposure of the true reigning massacre
A caustic society, no call and response. No fertilisation, just draining of fluids.
My mouth holds dry and I weep as the particulates pollute the capillaries.
The abnegation of 56 billion.
Now that you’ve got it clean down to the bone teach me how to use that deep explosion of pain at the body’s core to push past the necessities of flesh to stand here bare-boned beside you ash white under the moon not sleeping like the infant grub curled in the tree’s hollow or the full-formed but yet unrealized imago still quiet in its husk but balanced in the space between unready and unopened wearing a crown of horn sharp and bright as a diadem of stars
For the dark gods are many:
They give birth to themselves, metastatic, suckling blood.
They hold court in a gleam of bones,
open to shadows. Wired upright, they cannot fall.
Neither this nor that, they evade catalogue.
They curse with gnarled finger, deepening time-scoured runes.
Leafless, their trees lack season,
lifting monochrome jags, lichen-scale stippled.
Their followers fear and fall prostrate:
Dust, they mouth dust. They irrigate dryness with terror.
The dark gods preside, indifferent,
rasping blade across whetstone, readying stained altars.
It begins with a kindness. A skeletal deer brought in from the snow. She was kind like that, my mum. It kissed our own deer, a brief encounter, nose against nose. In a street of six houses it was my mum who brought in the skeletal stray from the snow but it was me who noticed the spots of bright red on the straw. Glass in the hoof, that’s what we thought. Drip, drip, drip. Blood from the ass, that’s what it was. This disgusting riddled deer, brought inside our barn from the snow, pissing blood from the ass. There are vaccinations for it nowadays but back then it spread like wildfire. Both deer dead in hours. What a word, “Nowadays.” It’s like a broom. Things are better Nowadays.
I remember the University. I don’t know why we went all the way out there. My mum donated the deer I guess. I was too young to be told of autopsies. We would’ve taken the bus that swung by twice a week. Five hours it would’ve been, I don’t remember any of them. I try to fill in bits that are missing but I find it’s getting harder to do. We would’ve sat quietly on the bus. We didn’t have the two dead deer with us in some bag, I’d remember that. We met our vet there. He wasn’t in his white coat. A grey suit, I remember, with a red tie. I don’t know why he was all the way out there and I don’t know why we went to meet him. I was only five. I know this because papa wasn’t gone long.
“This way,” he said. There’s comfort in direction and we followed. Down hallways, past men in shirts double-taking at my mum who was not yet old then. Through a wide courtyard, corrugated plastic for a roof, once clear, darkened with moss and bird shit and cosmic dust.Read more >
“Four gory years ago our anthropologists brought forth, amid incontinence, a new nation, conceived of Liberty – the taxidermist from the village – and dedicated to the proposition that all grave-robbers are equally weird.
Now we are engaged – me and Liberty – in nightly and uncivil conflict, testing whether that nation, or even our union, can long endure.
We are met on the great battle-field of the wardrobe, wherefrom I pounce unto her willing bones –”
“Wow, TMI, dude.”
Bonnie had clapped her hands over the youngest’s ears. “Jimmy’s only five for pity’s sake.”
The father adjusted his posture on the stone and raised a finger.
“We have come to masticate a portion of yon field –” he began again. Just then mother Skinwalker swept into the clearing, blood still dripping from the hide of her latest victim which hadn’t quite fused around her hips. She raised an eyebrow at her husband before nodding to the children.
“Well?” she said.
“He’s been hitting the peyote again, Ma,” Declan offered.
“I only had –”
She gave him a quick stare. The eyebrow fell. She picked it up and slapped it on again.
“Don’t tell me,” Liberty sighed, self-consciously adjusting the wayward lips. “The Gettysburg Undress? Same ol' rubbish he made up for his stag-do?”Read more >
Excuse me, I think you are mistaken, this termite mound was here far longer than I was, its mound a comfortable resting point for my ischial tuberosity ... hmm, oh the bottom of my hip ... I guess ... the plant, oh that well I'm not sure where that came from, perhaps I stored up too many apple seeds in there and they decided to sprout ... No I'm afraid not, no foetuses in here, try that tree behind me, the one that looks like a baobob, yes, of course ... you haven't heard that name before? Oh well, I can't help you with that ... Well ... yes, when the toes started sprouting I was concerned, but then the rest came too so I assumed it was part of the natural order of things and didn't question it ... There is one naked one behind me ... Yes, how embarrassed it must feel!
There's the question of domestication and re-purposing.
Conceivably, this place could provide both food
and shelter. And the unusual manifestations of life
after death may have much to teach us, but I have been wrong
before when I've said such things in my optimism —
when I've seen an upheld hand and assumed a welcome.
In my red, fringed bow ballerinas I can feel surfaces again
hardness unyielding to my toes, each pebble
conglomerated in the stub slabs of the business district
each trip cobble defining my quartier’s streets.
This week the road menders were out fixing winter’s siege
the actions of frost and thaw stones cemented into place
just in case they’re plucked and smashed, a ready arsenal
to launch against false order righteousness against women
and those, oh so many, causes touching us these spring days.
When you walk in the woods, it’s always best to see everything, set your body to rewind, in case you miss something. If you stay too long, you might realise you are nowhere, the footprints you deposit mean little to the tree’s arching body, where nothing is off limits; is this what freedom is?
Held by four directions, form painted with earth and held in its birth suit, the bone stag sees you, every mark, every design, and trees reveal secrets before we know them, the faceless year disappears, like a once trusted friend, stealing away, stuffing ideas into deep dark pockets.
When the sun wakes, you are older, and count on things more, there is a new mother, three flowers to the wind, and black skeleton branches touch out for acceptance. The struck tree sees years come and go like lightning, the bone trumpet sounds the winter’s stretching drum skin, and strips the body raw.
The stag waits in the thicket, knowing the ways of wordless stories, dreaming to break ice again.
That’s what they tell me I am, when I arrive after incautiously saying: I don’t want to be famous to myself any more.
But surely everyone wants to be Marilyn Monroe at least? queried the one-man geopolitical wrecking crew as he
led me to the graphite garden where I am to learn to appreciate the clicking metallic rain of the endless luminous chain
of my ribs, then shake my empty fists at a non-existent god.
S was very happy today. Her five years of hard work had borne fruit. ‘Finding You’ her philanthropist organisation, was hosting a charity auction in the morning to be followed by a dinner at night. Finding You would divert these funds to resettle women who had been victims of abuse and exploitation. It was a triumph and very much her own. Her rich businessman husband’s contacts did undeniably help in opening many doors for her, but she had not taken a dime from him. ‘So S, happy now?’ Her spiritual guru Swami Sarvanand Maharaj was on the phone. ‘Yes guruji! It’s all because of His grace and your blessings.’ ‘Efforts are your own my child. May you continue doing the good deeds and set a good example for others to follow.’ ‘Yes, this is my mission guruji.’ ‘And don’t forget your pauper guru! Donate some money to our organisation too.’ ‘Of course, my privilege guruji.’ She was getting congratulatory calls from everyone including her parents, her sister, her friends and her husband’s family. It was indeed a blissful day!
Getting ready in the morning, S took out the saree woven by the women under her care. She would make a statement with her humble attire at the glitzy event. It was important that others understood the depth of her commitment to resurrecting troubled lives. As she looked into the mirror to check her reflection, an absurd and horrendous figure looked back at her. S quickly turned away. What was it that I saw just now? A human, an animal? She turned to the mirror again and saw the creature mocking at her yet again. It was a human skeleton with the head of a deer. The same kind that was displayed in the lobby of their farmhouse in Bharatpur. Why am I seeing that trophy in my reflection? Read more >
Shaddup, let me think. Hmm. If A results in B then C must D? Or? Hinge behind hinge and then not always hinge ... but henge? Henge – one type of hinge, certainly. Applicable. To the point. Marry, but where's the point? Give me a point and I'll appoint to the point and thus the anointed appointed will not be disappointed. Diss-a-point-ed? Ha! Skewer what they call 'world' like a glistening toffee apple to rot these innocent sucklings liddle toothikins then, diddums then – ooze a diddums now, huh? These great stoopid lummocks. Little do they know. The fulcrum, the fulcrum! Get on with it, dithering old fool. Now. Get-King-in-Castle – get-King-in-Bitch on Heat – wait-nine-months-get-Saviour of Mankind-out. And you're halfway there. Hmmph! Such a laborious, lengthy, messy, mammalian, biological process; give me chemicals anytime. But that's the only way these dolts and scuttlers on earth know how to open the door. Ah ah ah whoopee in bed and it's a new carbon-based life-form! Spirit sent spiral sperm SPROING! … and … that's it: juice in the womb, juice on the face, pop! Out the front door. Signed, sealed, delivered. Does what it says on the can. The can of worms. I'll have 'um! Rise, ruse, roil sap, simp sump, bap bimp … bump – where was I? The hinge, the hinge! Ah but – of the hinge, where is the hinge around which to swing this merry scheme? Henge, unhinge! Am I unhinged? Rent the fabric, fulcrum fabric ripcord thistledown seed; wash the groping hand of sea where formless out of formlessness the mist and dangled carelessness of seabirds shape and swirl the vortices and display an early penchant for … skirt. Uh hu. Skirt. It’ll have to do.
Bled of colour, no birds singing, stacked tenement ribs sucked of innards, bleached open staircases searching for souls.
Empty sockets, eyeball blasted, twisted metal like pelvic cradles, gender blurred
Bony joints, unused to air, fixed in arthritic contortion, some splintered, surviving to point the finger.
Groaning vertebrae struggling still to support the spinal threads lashing and sparking at the burnt smoke sky.
Words of ancestors cosseted in bodies built to teach cratered and collapsed, crushed to dust, concrete mingling with cadaver, knee deep.
Found it seemed so to understand the perverse symmetry so to try was his own free will well then, the ground of fractured and tender.
He tried to hold, he could do beyond grew, weak with deep hollows and shadows a number of known to be honest.
Experience much younger than other lines following the days were holes in the garden filled and folded as if from the dry.
There was no sign of brightness to break the dark over oil his past and present boys, lost boys with magic and headdresses.
The women would smile their condescending smiles, say trite things like You’ll see as if after marriage, I’d change my mind, suddenly desire a swollen belly, distended womb, a litter of monsters sucking my chest. What would be next? An apron. A fainting couch. Powdered formula mixed with Jack Daniels warm on a nurse’s wrist. A generation of half-breed girls, jaws aching, cheeks scorched with shame when their classmates ask about their whiskers, their antlers. I said no and I mean it. A husband, a garden, a job. If those women keep waiting, I’ll be here. Earthly. Skeletal in the high exposure of aftermath, the landscape around me trying to make up for what’s lost.