• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 03
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The White Cover

Translation by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis

My mother's parents lived in a region that was out of touch, countrified and deliciously backward. The roads that led to their house were all packed earth, dusty furrows in the summer, soon lined with amber posts to guide the snow-ploughs. My father, who had grown up in a wide-open floodplain, open to cars and to the future, where news from the capital rippled in, had gone to join my mother in this place apart, high above France, where my grandparents doted on ewes wrapped in a swaddle of greasy wool. Up on the plateau he felt as though he’d travelled back in time, travelled into memories: the memories of the people from up there, the keepers of the flock, the guardians of the land my father used to say. Then he and my mother had moved down into a valley that was more temperate and modern.

In that comfortable valley I’d go to sleep every night with a book of stories given to me by my grandmother, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, which I never read. It was my mother – long after I learned to read, in fact – who would read aloud to me every evening til we reached the end of the story, and the following day we’d begin again, always with the same story, my favourite fairy tale, ‘The Ice Queen’. Really it was called ‘The Snow Queen’ but my mother had transformed it just for me. Sure as ice I believed that my grandmother ruled this realm, the kingdom of the cold, the fairy kingdom.

The cover of the book was blue, with, still clinging to it here and there, the white tissue paper that my grandmother had wrapped it in and I'd never wanted to remove: I’d just torn it enough to open the book. Time and our long evenings of reading had worn it away so all that remained were a few wisps of the soft paper, stuck there by the grease from my hands endlessly turning the pages.    Read more >

1

The Heart

These are the things we cast off.
A wedding dress
spreadeagled on the shore
limp as a body bag.
Inside: a still-beating heart
that flutters with the wave pulse. 

The sky is blue as a dart frog.
Poisonous blue.

The wedding dress is a plastic bag
to wrap around the pale beak of a gannet. 

White sea-foam
is pressed on the beach like baby’s breath
between the pages of an old book
while jellyfish splay themselves;
tiny glaciers melting in the sun. 

The heart keeps rhythm with the tide. 

Above, a lacework of clouds
lift their flimsy petticoats
as sailing ships weigh anchor
and drift like something
risen from, or returning to, the sea.

2

Su-25

By the time the children emerged from their shelter the plane had already ceased to be a plane, a technological marvel transformed into debris the moment the rocket hit.

It was the first time that the girls could remember any of the many projectiles fired off their fathers’ shoulders actually finding a target.

The bravest of the girls rushed out as soon as they heard the explosion (a sound, it turned out, that was different from the ones they heard regularly, when it was the planes that inflicted damage), in time to see bits of flaming detritus still falling from the skies, a spectacle put on for them. A tree was on fire, its leaves shimmering like a hundred small mirages. Pieces of fabric and sheets of papers were still feathering down from the sky long after the first children reached the wreckage.

The pioneers motioned for the remaining children to come out, there was nothing to fear. They scurried out to the wide plains beneath the mountains and began dancing amidst the metal, holding hands and running in circles. Some picked up small pieces of debris to keep as souvenirs, others slalomed between the flames with their arms out pretending to be planes themselves. If the pilot had gone down with the aircraft, none of the girls saw him.

Soon the men would come down from the mountain -- their jubilant voices could already be heard approaching -- fathers would immediately shoo away the girls to take victorious photographs atop the wreckage, hunters before their slain prey. They would preen for the cameras, making faces that their daughters would never otherwise see. Behind the fathers the boys would rush, the rifles clumsy and far too big for their shoulders but carried with such seriousness that few girls ever dared tease them.

Read more >
3

Transforming Hal

freeze  shall all  dreams  after
skull       fractured by impact
of               another head once
in        shadow play my lights
around        head totally spin
splutter                and shakes
the  water  around  the  brain
can                    take so much
dribbles          out of the nose
of the concussed like vinegar
hearing      under water now
what                          you say
charging elephant in profile
charging        across the field

                 out of the blue
                 hit me
                 in the head
                 with a head

now I like to feel the dent
of the hairline gently
when we the fizz
of tender bone
nerves remember
slept for about a week
before staging some regal
perpendicular to any a former
though still attached from the front
this new person

leave the mound to drown

4

Far

Like a discarded wedding veil
it lies away
from where it began

ghost - like, a shadow
of a silent jelly fish -
or is it simply the outline

of an unkempt promise?

Clumsy, almost invisible,
like some of us: Lost
until found,

picked up and placed
where it belongs
(now that is far, far away

from where it began).

5

Alone

Parachute like it stings
The dress
Wispy and visual blue
Parachute skeins cloth
I wonder it was accident
No human being as the dress
And parachute entangled amorously
Where are the wearers
As if leaving the scar of something
Unwholesome
Pain perhaps
But blue blue like sky
And not a sign
Not a soul
Only blue
And love left all alone.
6

What Is New

You see, beloved, as it falls
it twists, and, beloved, what is
blue is not always
what we feel, and what is

new is every shape it makes
as it slips, see the face, see
the eyes and watch
as the wind
you were not
expecting, lifts

it and everything,
beloved, is refreshed.

7

Whisper

It`s only in the blue that I can hear you,
tissue thin, harmonic chords, angels wings,
It`s only in the blue that white can breathe,
like pushing the sail boat out for the first time
on the lake, we all know those whispers.

It`s only on a backdrop of blue that it can float,
forming and un-forming itself, the white fluff of thought,
as if blue the actual colour has nothing to say
about the ethereal existence of something so very soft.

It`s blue and white, or is it white and blue,
ghosts would know, would feel the substance
the creases so impermanent, would you hear them
each whisper of the coming, the aliveness of it all.

8

Wan Under Wolnan

sceaduhelma gesceapu scridan
cwóman wan under wolnan

    Beowulf ll

642 -51

it happens every time

              

waters swell

        recede

swans - absurd and sentimental-
slow down winter water’s mirk
splashed   flecked
black-legged spirals of light with well-oiled sails
like the mind’s intended space they find new water

through the pulp of twilight
i saw them
a sprinkling of salt

the white had made them

9

Butterfly

Wrapped in ashen clouds
pale shrouds of sadness.

Constantly I retrace each
dimension of my heart
yet find no refuge.

Wanting to find one thing
to fill the big emptiness.

Within that deep quiet
small awakenings begin.

A fragile butterfly
bright blue flame taking
flight . . . winging up up.

10

How to measure the ocean

It was an urge, no, a yearning, to be more like Humboldt – or at least a hope to be even an infinitesimal fraction as well known as him; or perhaps to really stick it to those Mountain View boys and show them that he could actually crack, win their digital parlour games, their snide sheep/goat sorting algorithm made tangible in the sweat that gathered on his forehead in the interview as he tried to think and the only thing he thought was I can’t think right now. He sat staring at his agony aunt and asked, “How do I measure you then?” Later he swore that, within the breathy surf, Neptune chuckled and said, “First brother, you need to listen.”
11

Blue

New Year's Day and this is how you feel.
Part smoke, part silk, liquid and solid.
A hint of underwear and tissue?

At odds with the dull euphonium
blurting raspberries through ticker tape
behind your left eyeball. Or your right?

You can't tell one side from the other
until you know which way up you are.
Perhaps you'll just lie here and remain

pinned into the blue sheets, the blue bed
the blue absence of someone you hurt?
Love, fragile as spider film in rain.

The midday world outside is wild and blue.
The band retreats. You open one eye. Move.

12

The Recusant

Spiked arms reach up to catch or pierce
The remnants of my being, of who I was
Blue-rinsed ladies, blue berets
Snag at the sac which carries me
Chattering classes and weaponed warriors
Tear every message apart
Denying me my right to be
And I am lost in translation

This is the Fall

Trampled by the blue-rinsed ladies, the blue berets
In their march of unacceptable unacceptance
Pallbearers to the shrouded voice
Suffocated with plastic platitudes
As the incensed censer swings
Purging belief, thought and the Word
Wrapping it in cotton wool
Swaddled, infantised

Until then …

No-platform you say
And you stitch my mouth
With your needle of intolerance
Your thread of conformity
Forgetting I can speak with my body
Reshaping the world in pen and ink

I am the recusant

13

At the Altar

The crowd's breath is powder blue
It waits
It crumples
Falls into sand with each tick

There is a butterfly down
Torn face
Angel face
Her voice is a wrapper floating to earth
It leaks
Fails to contain
The post desertion
Ripping sound

Fingers on mobiles
Tap code into the ocean blank

As she stands there
Her ankles weaken
One straight line points outward
All other directions dissolve

She exits fast
Through the arched doorway
Leaves only a tissue
Behind

14

Arrival

We had thought they would arrive in something metallic, something saucer-shaped or triangular. None of us suspected that the tattered shred of a wispy white parachute floating down from a cerulean sky would harbor any threat. It seemed harmless as a cobweb.

low tide—
a colony of jellyfish stranded
on the dunes

But when it settled down in the town square; when we rushed up to touch it, they detached themselves from its cloak, translucent as ghosts, and drifted out among us. And when they moved toward the mountains, all the children followed.

No music, no Pied Piper playing or Orpheus strumming his lute, yet our children left us, obedient to the cadence of their shimmering dance.

winter night—
from house to house
the rising wind

15

Blue Jealousy

Oh no! they'll see me up here! Up here on the lighting gantry, staring down the front of the blue flowing curtain to the stage below. That part should be mine, the Mermaid in a Shakespearean setting. But no, they gave it to the cool blonde. All I know is that I was so distressed I climbed up here to somehow cause a furore and spoil it for her. Except her performance, her beautiful performance of a mermaid caught by a fisherman's hook, the fisherman whom she adores from far below in the blue shaded depths. The strong and silent fisherman she wanted to leave her tail behind for, callously hooked that tail and began to haul her ever upwards, her piteous wails unheard by him. Her crystal tears mingling with the endless sea, gently mixing a new blue hue as the curtain bled.
The saddest thing, the desperate tearing of her heart and tail.
I listened in awe, desperately shredding my tissue.....and dropped it.....
16

Blue

In the dark, raw month of January,
All colour has been stripped away -
Everything is paused.

In hedgerows, brittle stems
Of nettles, dill and cow parsley
Tangle like umbrellas in a porch.

We are resigned to long days of rain
And welcome a sudden change to snow
When, in the morning, the bowl
Of sky is china blue and almost clear again.

17

Fragment of a Wedding Dress

She thought it was a carrier bag at first; there were plenty of them about. The locals complained that they destroyed the fish; but after the 5p carrier bag charge came in there were fewer of them, at least according to the evening paper. But something about the way it moved didn't look right. She stopped with the noise of slot machines behind her and peered closer. The thing moved more fluidly than a plastic bag - and it came to her that this could be a fragment torn from a dress. She hunkered down to get a better look as the waves danced with it, moving it further towards the underside of the pier where it would probably get caught on one of the rusted iron pillars. They were always talking about renovating the thing; but when push came to shove there was never enough money. You'd have thought the slot machines could pay for a new pier - people seemed to tip enough cash in them every year to pay for a small country.
The fragment of silk - she'd decided it was silk - had moved away from the pier now and was heading out into the water. She decided it was part of a wedding dress. Perhaps the bride had drowned herself; perhaps the groom had taken her sailing and thrown her overboard.
Her mother always did say she had a vivid imagination.
There was a seam in the fabric and she found herself wondering who had sewn it. It looked professional - as far as you could judge - not something made by hand like her sister's wedding dress. That marriage hadn't lasted - and now her own was in trouble. Not that she'd worn white: blue had been her colour of choice; blue silk, a dress made in India and costing a grand total of £40. She could still get into it - just. There was a shout of triumph from behind, followed by a clattering of coins; someone had obviously won on the slot machines. 'Bet they feed it all back in,' she thought grumpily. When she turned back to look at the sea, the fragment had gone. Drowned perhaps. After all, nothing stayed afloat for ever. She turned and walked back to the shore, back to where home lay waiting.
18

Wisp

Metaphors for life:

A tattered cloth to pass around,
barely a shadow wisp
scattered across a blue wall,
a veil over which to argue

Not to see through, mind you,
not a lens
a garment for more useless
arguments at inconvenient
and unexpected hours

A trace outline
(what might have been,
what was supposed to be)
superimposed over what is.

19

Fragment

It's all that's left. A gossamer fragment. The headband still attached but nothing left to cover the face. I wonder, what happened to the rest of the veil. I wonder, if it went the way of the marriage. The way of the faces hidden behind the net curtains. It's all that's left now. A gossamer fragment floating like a cobweb in a dusty room. Ready to be swept away with the rest.
20

Before We Part Ways

Dear Faithful Womb,

We are saying goodbye in 2 weeks,
but I want you to know
that this letting go –
is not my giving up.
I am celebrating your half-moon shape,
your vastness,
and your delicate demeanor.
I praise your ability to expand and contract –
your blessing of two healthy sons.
Just between you and me,
you do know what a miracle you are, right?

This long road has been circuitous.
We have traveled a painful path,
and now that there is nothing left for us to weather –
nothing left to fill,
it is time to go.

I feel like I should give you a proper send off.
A proper outing?
You will be out soon enough.
Maybe we will just sit with each other
and ponder the universe within.
We have been to war with our cells,
with tissue, veins, and masses –
with cysts, fibroids, Endometriosis,
IVF egg harvesting, and embryo transfers.

Read more >

21

Thin Film

So little stands between
        this world and the next.
Between life and death.

We are all born
with a sheer caul of nature.
Wispy, it clings to our faces,
        holding us together.
Clean, clear, light, and undemanding.

As we age, the wispy folds
        begin to gray.
The tissue thins
    and slowly deteriorates.
We step into the next level
        of existence.

Or more harshly, a sudden
accident or quickly moving disease
    rips the caul from our face.
Torn abruptly from this world,
        we cross to the next.

        Oh caul,
    keep me safe.
Be strong and fibrous yet
    for many a year.

22

Biodegradable

one of those pull-from-the-roll bags
by the vegetables        thin    filmy
polymer gossamer
ghosting by

a better class of ectoplasm
for the 21st century medium
who is mistaken about the haunting
she is faking

he inhabits the curtain
blue as the sea he swam in
blue as his open eye
wide under the water

blue as the drowning
floating soul that rose        flew
much like the motion
of the bag in the wind

much like its slow shredding
fading             until all that is left
is the blue        this blue
blue

23

We Showered Together

We showered together

Once
Unplanned
Naked at the ankles
Rain caught us

Melted pressed words
Cotton-soft
Perfume and cologne

We touched each other’s elbow

Felt the other out
Tested the waters
Searched for connections
Over gooseflesh lines
Too long hugs
Can-crushed words

Stuck like cohesive super glue
Pinpointed to balloon-pop

24

Plastic Bag

The first time I watched American Beauty
the thing that wouldn’t escape my mind
was that plastic bag
filmed blowing in the wind.

Only a nihilist
could think it’s the most beautiful thing
that they’ve ever seen.

Because a polymer that can’t decompose.
It isn’t half as beautiful
as the rocky, bumpy, bloody, heart-breaking,
organic mess that is life.

Everything is born, everything grows,
and everything dies in life.
But plastic doesn’t live,
and plastic doesn’t love,
so unless everything means nothing,
the dance of a plastic bag
is not the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen.

25

Holiday Romance

In winter you remember that thin breeze,
sails cutting lines through postcard blue,

sandcastles swallowed by the shuffling tide,
starfish bleached in shallow pools,

ice creams melting on a boardwalk bench,
jingling silver in the penny arcade,

hand in hand, sand in shoes,
seaweed kisses in the pier’s shade,

the livid V on your pale throat,
prosecco lips, insincere avowals,

smoke rings looping through paper sky,
fumbled undressing in a tent of towels.

26

INDEPENDENT EXISTENCE

“In the corner Chinese whispers
Lighting candles of illusion
Add to words decay”

The most spiteful role
Stigmata inked in darkness
Paperweight heavy, the Poets soul
Identifies, with sadness
Nothing at all
Worth writing about

Defying self- explanation
While goodness graces
Posthumous appraisal
Without a prayer
The white sheet covers
Critical neglect

27

Uses of tissue paper

Tissue paper is perfect for making collages, creating epidermis junctions of past, present and future, forming unexpected layers and transparencies, seen and unseen elements. It can be folded, torn, sliced with a Stanley knife, twisted into curves, or angled into straight lines. The best adhesive product to use is spray glue from a can, but you must be careful, it creates toxic fumes. I often forget to open the window. Tissue paper can be overlaid, and conceals yesterday, but reveals the promising ridge of a tomorrow. If you take an old paintbrush, you can cover the paper in a film made from strokes of white glue (the kind of glue that dries transparent), and the paper will be rendered like an Orthodox relic, given an egg-white Byzantine shine. However, tissue paper is a delicate matter, thin as a newly-rolled pastry, if you pull too hard it rips, and you are left with a frightening hole, complete with an uncomfortable, shrivelled edge. It is lovely to take a whole sheet and roll it into a neat ball, a paper egg light in the palm of your hand. Afterwards, you can unroll the paper, and it will resemble an autumn leaf, or an old woman’s hand, clutched at a dusky bedside in the last days of life. Tissue paper can also serve for packing a baby’s layette, neat, shrunken woollen garments, hope bound tightly in white. Or, tissue paper could cover and enclose things for what they used to call the “bottom drawer”, a collection composed for the day a woman got married, and made a new home. Fresh tablecloths and napkins to coat in crumbs, or sheets to roll in in a sweat entwined tangle, bedding to bloody and to soil, to wash and render perfect. Tissue paper is like skin, or a gentle fog, a sea mist. If you stick it over a photo you can make it blurred, opaque, with a subtle vintage touch. Finally, you can also use tissue paper to wrap a present, to cover a trinket, a book, a bijou or a picture frame. The receiver can rip the paper into shreds. It can be the outer coating of a gift, a pathway to open.
28

Bird in Blue

It’s not one of Brâncuși’s
with their weighted brass

bases rising curved into space.
Polished to a kind of intimate

invitation that speaks
to the smooth-skinned

among us: surely
that surface would suit

the palm of your hand.
No. This bird is flimsy, flat

with the suggestion
of wrinkles, illusion of wind

pushing it northward, off course,
but not—we’ll concede—unpleasantly so.

29

Starch

I watched her scrape tears from your cheeks. Lie over your body as blotting paper. I saw no imprint. She unfurled rage from her hands as if to blowtorch you to smithereens that could be kept in a jar of crunched seashells. Mineral casings repeatedly, forcefully walked over, her soles thickened by the jags of your weeping. For her. For you. Not for me. She wiped your outline with remnants of your goodbye. She held the tears as blocks of ice in her fists. She rolled the blue surf under and over her feet. She walked around you. Circled you. Plunged into the traces she drew. She knew you. Did not need to know me. She scrunched your tears underfoot. Hid them from the light, until the swell was too much and she was once more thrown around the room. I counted her steps. I worked out the exact fade of blue as if each droplet and footfall were a human abacus. I watched her love you and then I picked up the sodden pieces of you and left.
30

Extinction

After seven years, three months and ten days I finally found the last plastic bag.

Caught in a barbed wire fence in a Kentish field edge, it flapped itself to my attention. Locals had been mysterious, cagey even, about it. They sent me in wrong directions, told me it was all rumours, said, ‘why would the last plastic bag in the world be here?’

They had been protecting it, I swear. Shielding their secret from hunters like me. Many had come here before me, hearing the same stories; sightings of a plastic bag in the wild, glimpses of something white and rare while driving down the A2 to Dover. They had come but no one had found it. Until now. I have camped in the nearby Covette Woods for six days, systematically covering every acre of land in a two mile radius from my camp. I was about to give up, but then I saw it, flittering in the wind, a beautiful splish of white on a synthesized green canvas.

People always asked me what I would do if I ever found it. Would I take it home to the lab for analysis, risking government intervention and the weird form of fame that comes with plastic pursuing? Would I leave it in the wild knowing that I knew where it was, but no wishing to interfere with nature’s course? Would I trade it privately on eBay for millions of pounds?
Read more >

31

Floating

Rarer than you were?
Almost a sky in sea
or a skin lifted on breath,
tracing-paper-thin,
coaxed by a current.

Carrier, no more virgin.
A grand breach renders you art;
embryonic folds untwist
like white flames, luminous,
suspended in clear blue.

Sheer as chiffon, merest gauze,
floating for long decades,
breaking down in silt, or soil.
A scrap, briefly dancing,
washed in cerulean.

32

The moon and river

Blue and white and so peaceful; that’s how I imagined it. I came to France with such expectations. That’s always the way, isn’t it: however hard you try to picture the way something will be, it will always be completely different. And yet we keep imagining, and we keep thinking we’ll be right, however old and wise we get.

I heard the words “Rhone”, “mountains” and “autumn” and of course I thought blue. I thought it would be a blue world, shiny and cool, the sky a stretch of aquamarine, the water soft. I imagined everything would revolve around the river, that you would be able to see it, or smell or hear it, in every corner of the town, in every sweet shop or bakery or church. Something that big, that impressive – something that showed up on maps, a thin blue cut – must be the centre of work and leisure, must be where lovers walked and kids played and fish swam and birds swooped.

But as the taxi carried me from the airport to the centre, through flowery streets and past old walls – I saw no water. I was parched and aching. It was hot, hotter than an autumn had a right to be. Hotter even than the summer I spent in a different part of France, where lizards and caterpillars crowded the baking roads. This should be different, I thought. We are further north, and it is September. But the ground was bone dry and burnt my fingertips when I crouched and touched it. I straightened up. This time would be different. The world was older and wiser. Things would be calm.

Read more >

33

Floating on a breeze

Weightless in an azure blue sky
Caught up and captured by a current of air.
Floating with abandon.
Ripped apart and torn.
A fragment of your former existence.
How does it feel
To have no control?
Swept along
Drifting
Waiting for the next breeze
to capture you
and whisk you off somewhere.
Where will you end up?
The uncertainty of not knowing
And maybe not caring.
34

ASTRAL TRAVELLER

As you lay your head upon the feathered down
eyes close within the dark and dappled ground
A breath is taken and justly slowed
As a heartbeat gentles within your soul
A soft silence begins to enfold
As the soul begins the astral travel
upon the gentled plain
Swirls of light wraps around your limbs
lightening the heavy load
that weighs you to the ground
As your raise your soul to the higher plain
The astral traveller of the soul
Gentle words come floating in
Encouraging sounds ..... rushing in
Music filters through the strings
On the consciousness of Astral Travellers
That returns to the feathered down
Heartbeat returns to normal pace
eyes awaken to sights unseen
Words given, pride of place
From the Astral traveller upon the plain
35

No One Hears Us

unhinged, even a bag screams,
   handle-jaw aghast at the way life
        can flatten us.

the seam is not where we split, but a place
    wholly unexpected, everything spilling,
        skin pleating into ghosts,

a shadow puppet or blastocyst,
    an elegant crane or an African mask,
        ripped from context.

gusted, we butterfly open, soles
    arching to shoulder blades,
        contortionists under kliegs.

breaking in tenterhook silence, we wait
    for applause that doesn’t come,
        aghast, our handle-jaws unhinged.

36

White Silk

A silk tapestry
awakes the blue sky of dreams
a new year
a new sun in the clear sky
of wonder
of dance
a Victorian song
playing
a white piano
dreams inside the halo
of the morning prayer
a miracle of time standing still
within the paintings will
in 2017.
37

AQUA BLUE

The river was green, not blue.
I too was green, a child,
in the green of summertime,
wading into the limpid element,
seeing clear to the sand,
bare feet nudging empty oyster shells.

I'm blue now, dreaming of you, gazing up
at the towering aquarium tank,
sea nettles undulating through time--
O Death where is thy sting?
Where are thy tentacles?

I am not a child anymore.
I may not be born anymore.
I may go on drifting like you, like you,
feeding on nothing but empty blue.

Where is that summer, those sea nettle stings,
the welts on my legs, my tears and whimpers?
Where is that school book's photograph,
that Man O'War devouring me
like time, old age, decay?

I'm harmless now, no more women adore me,
nor I them; I adore what they are not,
they adore what they have dreamed.
Soon I won't see them, they won't see me.

Read more >

38

The Excess of Me

Watching as my imperfections floated to the bottom of the sea.
Swirling about like a tumbleweed.

My misgivings,
that I wanted no one to see,
now transparently free.
Shame floating beneath me,
Submerged and hidden,
beautiful and worn,
the excess of me.

The light filters up and it releases me.
Parting ways and now I can breathe.
I’ll float away, as you drown me.

39

Scarf

A silky white scarf sits on the hope chest,
a gift from her mother resurfacing memories.

The laughter of family and friends filling the room,
the sounds of voices singing “Happy Birthday,”
and the gifts. The most precious one, the scarf.

She’s back to the present reality and then a terrible memory.
With her body trembling, she sees it so clearly in her mind.
Her mother missed one step and tumbled down the stairs, still and lifeless.

The scarf a constant reminder.
She finds herself with scissors cutting it up into tiny pieces.
Horrible memories fade with the scarf.

40

Blue

The nerve of me, to profess love for a hue!
When I was twenty-two, I saw through
the dramatic orange crackling of everything
and I just wanted to go into the fire, to meet you.

I don’t look to you for rescue, oh no –
I want to arrive at your brush like a blank canvas.
At thirty-three I rattled my white bones
and danced with the spirit of blackness

like a cat of nine lives. I wanted no lies nor spring.
How could I be happy with this green,
the loudest of them all, the irritating simpleton.
I cracked open into redness at the age of thirteen

like an impatient watermelon, and I reaped a scarecrow
and soft buttercups. Still I am without your touch.
But how do I get out of dawdling in this yellow
without your touch. The years stack up like brown bricks. At last

when I find you, not beneath the ocean nor above the sky,
but sleeping in the cornflower field of my palm, these veins
near the heart line – an atlas, a knowledge, an untouchable presence,
I’d smile, and know you have always been mine.

41

Planktonic

Already the edges
had tattered into
microplastic: ragged,
eternal, eaten
by plankton.

It hung, suspended
in water, like jelly
from a wrecked medusa,
the bag handle gathered
like nerves in living tissue.

The blind ocean seemed to give it mind,
drifting with a purpose:
there forever, and
gradually choking everything.

42

IMPULSE

Tattered remnant of decorative splurge
plastic apron clung to the shower curtain,
testament to bathroom passion,
as sweaty bodies
smeared with peridot
strove for breath
on the tiled floor.

Her eyes quartered
the small space,
noting the throe-strewn tin and tray
cowering in opposite corners:
paint-trail indicating
that the brush was in the toilet.

In retrospect, she commented inwardly –
while revelling in the afterglow –
it might have been more productive
to tackle the ceiling clothed.

43

So, Dear Reader …

The Church Warden said we couldn’t have confetti because it’s so difficult to unstick from the stones, afterwards. ‘Weaker people slip on it,’ he said. ‘If it’s wet. Which isn’t to be encouraged. Is it?’ I’d never imagined people dying as a direct result of my wedding.

But it set me thinking.

Why a veil? I wasn’t going to wear one for the old reason, my hymen being long gone, so I told my husband-to-be I'd decided not to. He got upset. He said it was traditional.

And that set me thinking some more.

I said we should ask people not to wrap up the presents they might give us, either. All that paper. Such a waste. But he got even more upset. He’d been looking forward to doing things with those Black-and-Decker wotsits he’d asked his brothers to give him (he’s got six) but he didn’t want anyone else knowing he’d asked for them. ‘It’s a wedding, after all,’ he said. ‘Not a do-it-yourself convention.’

Precisely.

So, dear reader ... in the end, I didn't.

44

Polar Bear, Redacted

she is a light        a grief
a frail candescent wound

a spreading melt
opening and opening

a hole for a throat she is
silent as blue

a fraying bone
a white dissolve

lost as sea ice
an ache light as lace

she drifts        a bright shadow
her breath being water

45

Caught in Time

A ghost's tunic
floats gossamer in the air.
Shivering cold, the form
has evaporated into ether.

Captured in a frenzy
of disembodied frankness
she lifts her head and arms
towards the one she loves.

Her body, so light, breathes
frozen wishes of immortality.
Her dress is captured, suspended
in an inconsequential discussion of anxious eternity.

46

UNDER THE SURFACE

a woman who looks away
who has a story as everybody has
her history a long one

of how she became a white shadow here
imitates a former self
a pale negative who will never speak

who will now never turn back
and look you in the face
at least she has become that transparent

has now reached the verge of non-existence
no bodily form
and a vestigial portrait that expresses disdain

she will not revive and continues on this course
a voyage only she can fathom
through a filament of blue

there is no substance in what she would never say
under the surface
as she fade fade fades

47

Soft

Soft,
    what we see when the eye
        believes its purpose. Strange,
                these shapes’
                        articulation of devoted
                happenstance
        arranging within air, a
    silence    unaware its voice
                 squares itself
       off/
          then against the tongue’s

                 ornamental



                                  gratitude

48

Adrift

When the wind picked you up,
it defeated basic physics and took
my breath, to see you floating,
diaphanous, tenderly pulled by fingers
best associated with ghosts and gods
and stories made to droop the eyes
of children in warm beds soon to dream
of tenuous things, like your spirit,
just freed from its body to drift among
the jealous clouds and birds beating
their wings in rigorous, time-honored rhythm.
49

Enough

It's not enough, she said, I am more triangle than that. I am orange and yellow, more apple than that. Tulips grow wise in the dark. Polythene lets in the sunlight.
Shh! Look! Is that the sky or drowning? It is x - y = (2), she said. It is 'loves me and loves me not', she said ... Then... Let's just go, she said, let's be lost, she said, let's be circular, blue, like snow is.
50

Spiritual Kite

Gentle spirit,
Calling one home
"This is where you will find peace"
The weight of it all
too much, sometimes, to bear
Pulling
downward spiraling
sins upon the wings
then
and upward draft
Lifting
as if tethered
not to the earth
but to a loftier source of calm
Perhaps one can soar
with help
even with the weight of the world
pulling
earthbound
pain
desires
troubles
Lift me
51

Guess Who

Well it's me again,
Your gloating floating
Ghost conscience
Hell no I am not a cricket
I'm as loopy as a ring hung
On Saturn
Hot as the sun, cool as this
Studio backdrop
Photograph me before I evaporate
See if you can trace my jellyfish
Arms and halo life
Quiet me like a nurse maid.
52

Adrift

Nameless, adrift,
A plastic jelly fish,
I take my tidal chances. Close to France,
In a ship’s wake,
I dance some empty dance –
And chance to catch the current shape of an old debate,

Concerning those
Who lose all there is to lose,
If not at home, then deep in the desperate sea.
If not behind the wire,
Then lost expensively,
Far from home and border, in dubious boats for hire.

A strange matter
To warp me, treading water . . .
But then: I touch upon that congregated
Welter where I
Belong. Swell populated,
A nation needing neither when nor why,

Manmade, tide-shaped,
Without purpose or end-date:
Asylum welcomes me into its sightless empire.
Surely those who flee
In kindly boats for hire
Likewise are welcomed by those with eyes to see?

53

Free

The murky water, slightly tepid, washes over my feet. I watch it swirl in tiny whirlpools around sticks and branches sucking in the garbage. The sun beats down relentlessly on my almost bare back. The torn vest not much cover against the heat. My feet are filthy and calloused from walking barefoot. The dirty water struggles to wash them clean. I don't mind the stench, it's something which is familiar and clings to me too. My trousers are rolled up to mid-calf so they don't get wet. The older boys wouldn't consider finding me here. I'm safe for now.
I watch the little puffs of clouds ripple in the water, the dirty blue of the sky stretched on its shivering surface. They blur suddenly as the first tear rolls down my cheek. I should never have stood up to the bullies, I am not a superhero.
My fingers curl over a little rock lying beside me. I fling it across the water, it lands on the other side of the broad drain then bounces back and drops into the water. The plonking sound has a domino effect. Anger gathers and spills into my belly like an ache. I grab a handful of stones and start flinging them with all my might. Some land on the other side while some plonk into the water. Tears and sweat blind me and I wipe my eyes with the back of my hands. I can't hide here forever.
There's a white plastic bag caught on a stick on the other side. The current is tugging at it trying to set it free. I watch fascinated by the little tug o' war. I find myself rooting for the plastic bag to set itself free and flow away. I try to will it free as though my wish is a force that can help. It bobs about for a while and I'm more worked up than I know. It is like me getting freedom and floating away. I throw stones in its direction falling short or off target.
Read more >
54

trace

there is nothing empty, ever. various iterations of filled. of being finished. or waiting.
yet, i too profess often.
i am empty. very. but often, lifted by a false hope. one that becomes all too real. like mother's eyes. father's fear. often, an old house in a decrepit alley, where i want to live again. only to leave. leaving behind squirming scorpions with shiny claws. hungry.
again i am sad, too. often, believing and then rejecting you, as in you saying you are empty as well. i distrust words more than i trust them. but then also, i get happy that there is nothing to find. finally, respite from finding. and from losing. and then this: happiness and fulfillment do not need to meet always. what revelation. they do not need to sit side by side on the cold metal chairs, drink coffee, eat strange fruit, and watch the last sun set on the river that has changed course often than we think rivers should.
and then this: what a relieving pathology, that may not produce disease but will cause pain?
55

the white goddess – a tripple quintain

you taunt
me all my hours
white goddess of the night
my fate lies in the lines that you
unveil

in that
the clear blue light
of the morning after
the evidence lies in those lines
contrail

there and
slowly fading
those telltale dragon signs
begetters of my paper moon's
travail

56

The Veil

The city slept below, except for two small boys who waited until all of the lights were turned off before they tiptoed across the cold linoleum floor, crept down the stairs, pulling their shoes and scarves on, and emerged into the frost bitten night time.
The youngest boy, with flaxen hair and autumnal eyes, shivered and huddled beside his brother for warmth.
‘Perhaps we should leave it tonight,’ he said, stuffing his star-like hands into his pockets. ‘There’s always tomorrow.’
His brother snorted; the boy with copper hair and seaweed-green eyes, the boy who was three years older and should know better.
‘I knew you’d wimp out. You always do.’
He turned and moved away from his younger sibling, leaving him exposed to the harsh winter elements.
‘What are you still standing there for? Run back to Mom and Dad and blame me for everything.’
A ribbon of embarrassment streaked itself across the younger brother’s face and the boy clenched his fists.
‘The veil doesn’t exist anyway. You’re making it up.’
The older boy sneered, an ugly grin snaking across his mouth.
‘Oh really?’
The younger boy nodded.
‘Well, if you’re not too much of a scaredy cat, you’ll follow me and I’ll show you that the veil does exist. But if you’d rather run home to Mommy–’
‘I’ll come,’ he said. ‘But you better not be lying.’
*
Read more >
57

God is Up in the Sky and Everywhere Else Too

A cloud
is such an obvious thing,
everywhere and especially here.

To understand the concept
of ‘blue’,
I need to look at artworks,
illustrated children’s books,
the screensaver of a friend’s laptop.

The sky is full
of bags and broken insects
being blown around
by invisible gods.

When there is a break,
an angel comes down on a sunbeam
and plays on the grass.

But angels are such
obvious things
for one looking upwards.

You have to wait until night-time
for a demon to arrive,
with a mouth of red and revelation,
eating up all your prayers.

58

Fractured Sail

Don’t tell me you want to go sailing again.
I am sick of the wind
(really, I am sick of my hair
and how the sea disagrees
with my conditioner).

Don’t think of me as a mermaid
(I am really washed up?)
ready to fall in love with
the first sailor I see,
all crisp blue and shining white,
tailored to navy standards
and lacking any real military experience.

Don’t think I won’t fight you
and hoist the ropes away from your grip,
turn the mainstay around
(I’m seen it in the movies, I know how)
and find my over little desert island
to cry on.

I’m not crying. I’m just blue.
Don’t think of me
as like you.

59

Beyond degradation

Filled with the promise
of friendly utility
with an easy acceptance
insidiously
you crept into our lives

Unaware you would long outlive us
and our progeny
you tripped us up
with your
convenient allure

How could we be
so oblivious
to your devious nature
the ingeniousness
of your takeover plot?

Serial killer
in a shiny suit
apparently inert
laying your traps
to strangle and subdue

Read more >

60

The pearl earring

She is facing away.

She is not an old bag despite what he told her. Her chin points to the depths, sinking to peace. No longer will its point move in speech, displaying the dimple beside her lip curl.

No longer will I watch her defiantly argue against the odds, against the system...against him.

Water; blue yet warm washes her. She is devoid of everything but one pearl earring and the legacy she left behind. I raise myself from my chair and head to the march to ensure her voice lives on. He will be there, watching me, hearing me. In his wallet, hidden is her second pearl earring.

61

The Plastic Men

We have left our mark
in the gouged earth
in the scoured reef
on the slicked beach
in the tunnelled earth

in the ragged breath of townsfolk

but they will pass.

Earth will reclaim, refill, cleanse
change utterly
but eons will pass
before the plasticmen
will relinquish their hold.

The drift and pull of moon-tide
will roil and tangle their flimsy grip
but not escape

they smother
they twine and twist
their granules lodge in secret places
poisoned
by their presence.

On and on
the long-dead plastic men
will grin
and cling.

62

How I’ll wait for you

By pitch, my tanned thighs
tensed for your touch
velvet in the dark

by star in a silk slip
crushed and rippling
on the pink breeze

by streetlight as I
glow my lips
and nipples with gloss

by crescent moon, dressed
only in a bracelet
a snake with its silver tail

in its silver mouth
or, in nothing at all
save a splash of scent.

63

Soul Whispers

I watched in awe as the breath left my mouth floating upwards like a piece of gossamer.
“It’s so beautiful,” I whispered not wanting to break the perfect silence that surrounded us.
“Not as beautiful as you,” Evan replied pulling me closer to him.
“How high up are we?” I asked watching my breath float upwards. I wasn’t cold, how could I be with Evan by my side.
“High enough to almost touch heaven,” he smiled.
I took in my surroundings. Stars brighter than I could ever have imagined. Close enough that I could almost touch them.
“How am I breathing?” I asked realizing I was suspended in space.
“You’re not,” Evan whispered running his fingers down my arms as I watched the world below.
“But my breath, I can see it,” I said motioning to the white mist floating upwards.
“That’s not your breath, that’s your soul speaking to heaven.”
“My soul?”
“Yes Cassie, your soul. It knows where we are. It remembers the home that awaits it.”
I couldn’t speak, I had no words to answer Evan. I sighed and wrapped my arms tighter around his waist. I needed to be close to him, to feel his warmth. I’d never get enough of him.
Read more >
64

A special acquisition

The thing about collecting that Kay always liked was that no one ever asked her what she was doing. Her reputation as a collector of odds and ends meant that she if she was seen rootling in cupboards or half in and out of hedgerows, people generally shook their heads at the child’s eccentricity. She knew that she was both pitied and ridiculed. She didn’t care. Whatever she found – bird’s eggs, snags of greasy sheep’s wool in thornbushes, a broken shoe – went to her ‘gallery’ in the garden, the shed her father had made over to her once the shoe boxes and tea chests overflowed.

Kay cleaned, labelled and stored her treasures, with the most unusual on display for those who chose to make their way past the raised beds of carrots and frames of sweetpeas. Special acquisitions merited invitations to a new display, most recently the cat skeleton turned up by the gardener next door. She had laid out the fragile bones on a pale green cushion made, her sister saw with some dismay, from an old dress of which she had been particularly fond.

Kay preferred natural treasures. So at first she ignored the flimsy white fabric fluttering like a failing moth next to the style on Bayham Hill. But as a breeze took hold, an edge caught against a branch of hawthorn and seemed to unfurl and set sail. She unravelled the torn fragment to find herself with a flag of fine lace, the edges looped in scalloped embroidery, the net set with pale sewn flowers up to a harsh and violent rip. Kay ran her fingers along the edge and shivered. There was no one there but she felt as though even the trees were watching her. She folded the piece carefully and ran home all the way back down the field.

Read more >

65

UPENDED

The beauty of a slash,
and consequent fold in the fabric
you left behind,
now rendered translucent by
time’s obvious workings.

It’s best that way--that it’s obvious:
the rusty planer in the corner,
the plastic bag we perhaps used to carry milk
for coffee and cereal
consumed during the mornings
we still endured our fragile
silences.
The bag now inhabiting the wind, left to swoop and dive
with exuberant abandon.

We’re told to tidy up,
but the tidier we are the more we notice
what slips.

The ragged gauze
used for concealment
that always tore from overuse.

Read more >

66

Being watched

her chemise
lands in a whisper
        of silk on slate

clear shadows slant on the wall
where afternoon sun finds
       gaps in blinds

       she knows he watches
       so she spins

turns in a whirl
       of sun and shadows

dust motes drift
        her skirts swirl
              and fall

her hands snake in a rhythm
only she can feel

heat pricks her neck
       the blush of her knowing
       shows in her face

and sweat cools
       making a dampness
               on her back

67

Lake

What I... owed you, what I did not owe you, what I saw, what I could not see, what I thought and could not think – for there was nothing left, only a cold black line, leaden in the back of my throat, or a twist of white, curled into my palm
(nothing to grasp at, teetering, riding along the precipice)

I dreamt of moving through crystals, shafts of them, beams of light reaching out radiant: and the two of us were climbing through windows and windows – you boosted me up, I grasped and pulled – my body was fleshy and not at all light.

the swell and the recession: gone, pulling, rippling below,
And then left behind, a hole in the air: the emptiness. the grief. the dust, maybe, or a dry lake, warm and dead.

68

Dropsonde

I am a dropsonde in the fullest air
I have known since the start of stars.
I’m coming in fresh from the Kármán Line;
falling through the fingerprint of isobars.
Whatever I capture in my Marsden square
I will broadcast back; record the dry punch.
My message reflects my medium.
I crossed the lines of the Marfa front.
I have taken what I can from what I found.
Get ready for the the fall out from this
after the coming of the loudest sound.
This is all mined, it’s what I do, what I must.
I’ll whistle my way in for you.
Let’s not forget the blue waiting for us.
69

Melodrama

An alluring mess,
of wayward fantasies,
beguiles
lures
entangles you,
into its wild incongruity.

A beautiful web,
thrills
stimulates
violates…
It is but, a dreamlessness, of sorts.

I can sense,
the delicious fanaticism,
of a haphazard mind,
that fires shots
jolts you alive,
into the present.

Like the pretty expanse
Of the massive sea,
and the deep blue skies,
the wilderness spreads its wings,
refuging you,
from the beautiful blizzardness.

They label it as 'melodrama'.

70

Lost Peace

I cannot make you a season
and I cannot call my love
to be a generous blue.

Someone slits its throat everyday,
and I am love's favorite fool
believing life flies away
only to return.

I never notice the change.

How can I risk the sky
separating from its own
remnant?

separating from its peace.

71

Parachute

When turbulence upsets the balance of your life,
Clouds creep in to obscure and restrict your vision,
Choice never simply,
Hemmed in by anxiety, loss, responsibility or hopelessness,
Escape is not an easy option,
With your frail and flimsy dreams in tatters,
Close your eyes,
Smile,
Free fall,
Be wafted on the healing winds of destiny,
To a brighter, lighter and enchanting place,
Illuminated by the dawn of a New Year.
72

Afloat

The tissue held her tears,
memories turned liquid.
Once held in blue veined hands
it floated in the sea,
fragile, curling inward.

Shoulders drooped, eyes cast down
she swayed mimetically
with the ebb and flow.
Watched translucent shifting shapes
in currents beyond control.

Energy spent, time disappeared
as air turned from warm to cold.
Darkness overcame her grief
and she stared, eyes mesmerized,
into a rippled dark abyss.

73

A Hawthorn Blossom Scents Air

bats flicker as light dims
bluebell deluge

moss green wood warblers
effuse beneath leafy

hands that unfurl
pied flycatchers flit

redstarts flick fiery tails
breathlessness and restraint

in nightingale pauses

earlier creamy cow parsley
licked hedgerow edges

as whitethroat songs incised blue sky
unseen contrails

hurried fret against fall
of effortful feathers

eyelids swoop then lift
accept light again.

74

Sky Death

Stealth garrote, diaphanous B-1 of
demon past, wings supersonic at the

mental defense encircling my brain.
I startle from my Rorschach dream

under the filigree super scrim upon
me. It supersedes my deep dream

with a stark, clear reality undreamt.
Faute de mieux, I drowsily reflect in a

phrase I learned in college French that
now comes unbidden to mourn me.

75

AH ! THOU WHITE

Soiled and left out after a funeral
The plain white sheet sends a plain white signal

Torn and worn out after a purchase
The plain white bag comes with a message

Tired and weary after a long journey
The plain white bird soothes a lonely

Written and revised after a lengthy lecture
The plain white paper stores knowledge for future

Ah! the prism of life, the kaleidoscope of montage lights
Ultimately shrinks within stiff single sheet of whites

76

Postcard

Bright storks spill down like water
pleating white between the palms of Menara.
Blue words, an ochre stamp, a city liquid
with harissaed light,' we have to meet
will Wednesday do? ' Your writing floats.

I can almost hear hibiscus fall like silk,
my night disrobing in some Moroccan room.
That slipping stitch of alleys, a long obscure.
Walking wordless, mouth of sand and stone.
Air has no weight, you left back then, before.

There's this whimper of grey on my river,
as if water feels the rawness of moving on.
Snow outside now, breaking quiet like bread.
How the tissue of us drifts. How blue becomes
some distant sky and you further than the moon.

77

Big Fuss

Are you a whisper?
Are you a whimper
of sweet relief
released
back
to the white light
of
sacrificial dreams?

Am I a cloth to cover?
Am I a map
of your hair
that falls
gently
to the shoulder of God?

Is this a blue sun melting?
Is this the final brush
of your finger,
sharpened,
striking up
a flood?

78

Phase

Asphalt, patched black and white, offered acceleration through a loss of                                                                                                           friction.
I demanded nothing less than collapsing distance.
Surfaces can resist you too.
I inverted from the roots upwards.
The lowest bone split in force and fissure.
I reverted from the roots upwards.
The bone cannot be separated, only encased in air.
Pressure columns condensed, pending decision.
Miles and miles from bonding.
I will spread like water on a threshold.
Limbs sinking through lower surface.
Blades in decay and crystals.
Floating till my blood is thin.
79

above and below

castaway bag parachutes through cyan sky,
snags on towers, iron girders, arms of cranes
loaded with cargo from wild white horses.

Jellyfish bloom on the sea, cobalt, amber, shocking
pink pulses of light, swarm of tentacles beneath.
The swag and sway of plastic deceives the eye,

the heart, a placenta adrift in strong currents.
Waves broke and the city drowned,
flint tools that struck fire, unfathomable dark.

80

Bag

Cottony white,
see-through
set against blue,
a haze, sun-lit,
ice tipped, a daze
passing on the breeze
like a parachute
floating, snap-chatting
plastic folds, grounded
by a single knot
carrying paper thin
skin through air,
heaving lungfuls
into a gaping mouth,
and like a jellyfish pulsating
it journeys endlessly on into the blue.
81

The general synopsis [at 20.17]

Germans bite [Bight] Am I hearing this correctly? Rockal and Fastnet, gale warnings have been issued Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties [ Fifties] Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger and Fisher. The general synopsis and sea area forecasting - we should expect a big white tissue of a cloud to disrupt all sea travel and air travel won't be any better [the white tissue may contain lies]
Apparently visability will be good [ really??!] There will be occasional blue sky thinking [so very last year] all heading north to Fitzroy increasing six at times, variable three to four.
In a YK blue kind of way We were preparing ourselves for something different, forecasting a little rough weather ahead.
82

The Soul Survives

The soul is free
of its imperfect life

without beginning
or end

without a shape
or name

guided by the wind
and stars

like a butterfly
perfect in its flight

through space
and time

and in-between
its prayers

where souls outlive
the lives they led

bound and tethered
to their flesh.

83

The New Beginnings Party

The hosts bought flash paper,
that curious mix of cellulose
and nitric acid. On it, we wrote
our to-leave-behinds in pencil.
Some erased, some traced cryptics.
Then ignite! and fire flared and fell
ashless into a terrine decorated
with leaping fish. We wished
to finish what last year
wrought, look forward.
Two people chuckled.
Another drank to his burst.

The widow’s scrap escaped,
one more tissue of her blank grief
chose flight over flame. A furnace
whoosh, an opened door and a scoot
to the will of arctic blizzard winds.
Heaven-bent, fate-sent we knew
whose it was, why her grief
fled rituals of pyrotechnics
and chose the freezing open air.

84

Traced figure

A detached leaf
Settles down on the
blue- denim cloth

lying under the sun
in the backyard
un-cleared for
months.

The veined leaf
leaves a pattern
faintly visible
on that rough surface
for a keen eye;

a discarded canvas
for someone itching
for a quick art-work

then, swiftly---
a restless hand
outlines
a mathematical
form, delicate

Read more >

85

THE BLAHS

Under the pergola we stood one last time.
In a flash our scent and secret froze. Blue
matches my mood, boa leaves me blank. I
know, noon will register another nightmare.
Percipience is a pain, there is ache in augural hungers. A yeasayer is in an erroneous mode. To not be in touch with the truth is a faulty construct. But if it works for you, who am I to stall your sessions?
86

The Colour of a Theft

The theft was a subtle art of the heart.You seem to have exonerated yourself over time, sporting the same blue as a bedspread, a curtain, a wallpaper and your profile cover but for the robbed, the blue is a tear, a gash over the darker midnight hues which at times resembles a defeated umbrella ripped by the elements and at others, a head bent in prayer, palms clasping something that they are loathe to let go of. A garden at sunset, a music that waits up, for a cycle bell trill, to flow into a wild dance unseen, unheard but then the blue was a delicate cloud over a sunset. A clash of colors, they were destined to be mismatched and one scorched. but inside the veil, the view is still delicious. Nothing disturbs the bird with its soft, white train. It sits with its gaze fixed on the moon for the same moon looks at the other side too, a little more pensive, a little more enamored. It looks at you as you go about humming in that dark blue tee unaware that the ocean just blocks away, is humming with you. The sky positions its clouds to bounce off your thoughts reflecting them through a pattering of rain. What you thought were two kites is actually just one, in love with the wind that tore it into two. Caged within itself, the blue is a butterfly remembering a net, closing its eyes to the savage rents in it. Not wishing to leave. Not willing to fly.
87

Pieces

Light hit the edges
Smooth enough to
Build safety on
The corners of their
Past.
He never meant to hurt her,
Fragile as she was,
His words were swords,
Arrows, daggers...

She did not have time to
Prepare for the blow.
She sheltered her heart
Beneath the crevices of
Blue, waiting for it to
Be whole again.
He watched her every move--
Eager to collect
The shattered pieces
Of the pumping muscle.

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88

Knitting Souls

Knitting a soul
isn’t as easy as it sounds;
you start with a patch of sky,
spinning clouds out of it,
more ephemeral than any gauze,
a tissue fine as flesh,
heavier than stone.

But here’s the real trick;
you aren’t allowed to unravel;
drop a stitch, miss a row,
let the skein tangle,
and the soul crumples in on itself,
misshapen, malformed.

Sometimes the thread fights you,
as if it’s trying to shape itself.
I’ve never had the heart
to throw out my failures,
though I know I should.

In each of them, I see
what I meant to make,
the pattern I meant to shape,
and the thousand reasons
each became a tangled mess.
And yet, there’s beauty in each.

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89

Bridal Dressmaker

She asked me to make her a veil,
to shape yards of lace, of gauze'
to provide a final bit of mystery
of ceremony on her wedding day.
I clipped and cut, twisted and sewed
until at last the finished piece
was ready for her to try.
She walked into my workroom
at the appointed time.
I held up the veil.
In a slow, clipped voice she
announced, "There will be no wedding."
She grabbed the veil from me
Held it high for one moment,
then proceeded to
rend it into tiny pieces.
Gauzey bits floated about
my atelier, sad remnants
of a happy plan.
I did not want to ask her why—
she told me anyway.
"He had a secret life—another wife!"
She flung herself into my arms
bits of veiling clinging to
her blue dress. She had no need
of demure, ceremony, mystery.
I held her until she cried out
all her tears and pain.
90

Cyanic Vanitas

We are always called to choose between a story of sensory communion or explanatory speculation.

***

[I can attempt figurative interpretation]

Titles:

1. Sky surface with crinkled rolling paper.
2. Sea cross-section with intrusive plastic bag, or marine impression with abstract jellyfish.
3. Abandoned half-used baby-wipe on blue toilet changing bench.

***

[I can proceed to free association]

Drama:

“And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
(Richard III, Act I, scene 1)

History:

Texas. 1865. General Edmund Kirby Smith reluctantly (?) waved the flag of surrender in the early summer sky.

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91

Morning, Again

The veil of sleep,
tissue-thin and weightless,
rises like fog
lifted by the morning sun.
So fragile, it tears
when I try to catch an edge
and pull it back
down around me.
Soft as a whisper,
words from an old song
only dreams remember,
fading as I wake.

Not much will be recovered.
The raptor’s shadow passes
and I wonder what small lives
feel its chill.

92

Notizie Portando

We were in Rome, sitting on the banks of the famous River Tiber. A couple started smooching, and we watched them briefly, half embarrassed at their display.
‘Isn't this romantic?’ he said, taking my hand. I noticed a piece of toilet paper had glued itself to a tree; seems the river that runs through Rome always brings news. I was thinking about mentioning that I was breaking up with him; but it never seemed the right time—the sun was too exultant, the place reeked of melodrama—I needed to tell him from behind the stoic Vatican Wall, then he couldn't get to me, couldn't change my mind, couldn't make a scene. We visited endless houses of religion, where all conversation became confession—but it didn't seem appropriate to tell him in a place where people believed in something higher, something heavenly. The Vatican museum, and all its ancient possessions made my feet ache. He told me I looked glum—how could I not when standing in front of Michaelangelo’s Pietà? It was the only way to feel around such an expression of sadness. I knew I should tell him soon; put him out of my misery. The only time I smiled was standing in St.Peter’s square when the bells were rung. He said, at that moment, I was most happy and child-like. This was only because bells bring good news, and I imagined men in dresses leaping like fleas—that's got to be worth a small, brief moment of mirth.

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93

Blue is my colour

Blue is my colour.

I've been blue for longer than I care to remember.
I've dealt with others' blues more than I ever wanted to.

Blue is my sky, my ocean, the air I breathe.

You tried, darling,
to bring some white in my horizon.

The whites you bring shred away
even before I can touch them.
They fly,
they evaporate,
they dissolve,
they vanish.

Darling,
don't worry.
I know my blues and
I love them.

94

To Breathe Easy

She often wonders if there is an afterlife or is this all we get?
When it rains, it rains all day long, she's tired of getting wet
She's tired of those heavy clouds that seem to stay for hours
She longs to settle down and be among the flowers
And to breathe easy.

She often wonders if there is a plan or is it all made up?
Most of us live day to day, fill once more her coffee cup
She's tired of these surroundings and longs for somewhere new
Green meadows, peace and quiet, where the skies are blue
To breathe easy.

She often wonders where love lies in the heart or in the head
Maybe it gets lost somehow once you’ve been to bed
Doe eyed looks quickly turn to ‘why am I with you?’
And when the desire is gone, then you are both through
To breathe easy.

95

Floating versus Falling

There is a clickbait article about whether the object is floating or falling. Hotly debated between two sides that cannot meet in a place of fluidity but shout as quickly as words form –
“Floating!”                “Falling!”
at each other, louder, and louder, and progressively louder. We are told a history of the object, but it does not contain our names, or the names of our ancestors. We do not even know it is lost until we are pressed under the cacophony of –
“Floating!”                “Falling!”
We have not been given tools to reclaim it from the water, but we attempt it, still. Silly, brave, inscrutable us. We strive and struggle, water sluicing up our arms and covering our necks until we give meaning to the object that we have lost, we place words around it –
“Floating!”                “Falling!”
and it becomes sensible to us. But we cannot touch it, we cannot smell or hear. We do not feel its beating heart or see its violent light. So, we do the best we can do. We light a votive candle, we fast in its name, we whisper a prayer, we burn incense, we cast its name into the darkness. Hope is our ignition.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
–James Baldwin

96

THE BEST GIFTS ARE FREE

Sorcha woke to two broken legs, a fractured septum, and a collection of lacerations and abrasions. Her blurry vision focused upon what looked like a plastic bag splayed across the outside of her privacy curtain at about shoulder-height … if she’d been able to stand.
       Of course she was no more aware of the specifics of her injuries than she was of the significance of the incongruous tatter of plastic. All she knew was that she hurt all over and was connected up to all sorts of contraptions; scary enough by themselves.
       She remembered from somewhere that the thing hanging above the hospital bed, looking like a water-bomb, was a ‘drip’. Maybe the plastic remnant which intrigued her was a used one of those? Her head ached even with that much thinking. She drifted back into sleep.

       The second Sunday of Advent had passed. Sorcha stared at the walls of the bleak ICU, imagining heavy raindrops battering at the non-existent windows. The doctor with the really dark eyes and nice smile had told her she was in a tractor or something. In the haze of painkillers, this had seemed perfectly reasonable - so she had just grinned at him, giggling in agony for a bit, thinking they would never be able to get her wellies over the casts.
Read more >

97

Happy Neues

Suns kept passing over me, pausing in some expectant equilibrium while I ripped through espressos. I asked the dog, What if I go bald? and she nodded and I just kept crying.

We sat under the baobab tree for a few years, willing away worries by not doing anything—I mean, by translating Kafka into Pulaar for the kiddies. When I grow up, said Samba, I want to be a bug, a teeny little thing, maybe small forever and with lots of legs. Or, I said, perhaps a vermin, a cockroach, an enormous bane on your sister and mother and your father will murder you. Then the dog made me leave for being so goddamn depressing. What I mean is, I left the village happily because I am a happy person.

Speaking of espressos, Johann and I decided to rob a bank one morning. He mouthed something to me, but I was groggy from breakfast and lost it in the thick air. Besides, I never knew German. For his part, Johann was arrested and hanged for double parking. Then, last Monday, Samba and I opened a third wave coffee shop. We start early, defying daylight by working from dawn until I shrivel and collapse, at which point Samba will presumably just go home. Anyway, you should come by sometime.

98

THE UPPER LIMITS OF REALIZED ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY

It was a Tuesday evening when he lost his mind. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, he tried thinking back to the last place he'd seen it as the city's soundtrack washed over him in waves.
               A few hours before, he had been sipping burnt coffee and trying to ignore the discomfort of his bottom on the hard plastic seat while focusing on the presenter onstage. “The challenge of addressing Marxist feminism's internal inconsistencies once and for all,” she said, “is no longer simply a political imperative, but also an existential one...”
        He knew he shouldn't have come tonight. Not with work tomorrow and still fighting off a headache, a wracking wave of pain that he always associated with flames. The cliché had made him even angrier. His body's inconsistencies were more of an obstacle lately to any kind of real action, although it could still be counted on for the usual fascinations.
       Ergo, while he had struggled to follow the visiting speaker's rambling train of thought, his mind's eye greedily recorded the beautiful inconsistencies of her finely coiffed dreadlocks, her flowing blue dress. The speaker exited the stage amidst a politely brief burst of applause before the audience rushed to the refreshments table. He remembered pushing through the milling anarchists and socialists, making a note to update his Tinder profile when he got home.
       And yet when he opened the doors and recoiled from the scent of the fish market a few blocks down, he realized he no longer knew where home was. And not in some metaphorical sense—he was immobilized by a complete absence of direction, one that neither his acquired experience nor his muscle memory could resolve.
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99

Rented Apartment

The face on the wall upsets you
More than the place, more than the blue
walls or the fading curtains, more
than the taste of others on your pillowcase.

The face.

Is it the eye, I wonder, that stays
with you or the triangular nose --
the base quite one with the lip,
or the scar or the one-eyed gaze?

Why the face?

Does it trace you my dear,
does it take your scream as part
of its scream? Your face
as part of its face?

100

Is this, This is

A map of Utah
Baby's breath on glass, plate 1
Your hopes and dreams
Lost wedding veil
A representation of how you feel
at social gatherings
Artist's rendering on an angel
Jellyfish orgy
View into a smoker's lung
Aerial shot of a school of albino
mermaids frolicking
Definition of vague
Expression of hope
View of another planet
Long lost relative returned as a ghost
Waste paper refurbished.
101

A Silken Splendor

What is this silk-like cloth
that falls from another dimension?
A silken glistening splendor brushing up against the most adamant of places.
My eyes, the stubborn judge,
My mouth, the blind dragon carelessly spewing flames in every direction.
My heart, the garden of gargantuan serpents.

A silken splendor falls brushing up against the most adamant of places like a whisper from heaven descending into tangible space,
Lighting the candle that scares the night away.
The fabric of the cloth sown with tears,
As I lay alone in a room prostrate
like the prey of a panther,
Hoping for answers to my prayers.
The calmness descends,
The peace crumbles ego.
Yet my brokenness remains
like the scars of Christ.
Faith will taper the madness in the temple,
The adamence will lead me to answers,
Pulling me into Eden's orb as the fabric descends.

102

The Fisherman

It was 9.15am and, just as he did every Friday morning, Ernesto Brown stood in his shed at the bottom of the garden at number 16 Braxton Way.

He was admiring his collection of gumboots. To say that Ernesto had a “thing” for gumboots was a slight understatement. He had exactly 55 pairs of gumboots all lined up on shelves. Some pairs, shiny and new, had never been worn, while others were old and faded from use.

Most of the gumboots were sizes that would fit Ernesto’s size 10 feet—all except for two pair. A little bright pink, baby-size pair and another giant-size 14 pair.

Ernesto could barely believe his luck when he came across them in the second-hand store. Sometimes he would sit the baby pair beside the giant pair, just for fun, and be so amused that he’d take photos on his phone.

He flicked his cloth across the gumboots swiping away imaginary dust. Ernesto loved to see his reflection in the smooth, glossy black rubber and try as he might he just couldn’t get the old pairs to shine the same. He would tell himself that it didn’t matter much because he really did like the contrast of the muted, worn rubber alongside the new.

Ernesto cast his gaze across his collection considering which pair to choose. He was the self-appointed stream rubbish collector in his village. A fisherman of sorts.

Over time he’d fished out a wide range of trash from the little stream that ran behind the rows of 300-year-old attached cottages before winding its way under the bookshop until it popped out again near the village cemetery.

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103

Parachute

we ran.
plastic bags
in hand, caught
wind.

billowed
like sails, parachutes
and our feet skimmed
the hard ground –
silhouettes seemed to
take flight

if for only moments
each. short seconds timed.

silhouettes of
plastic bags that passed
for parachutes, sails – with
each clear sky we prayed
for gales, prayed for storm
winds that would grant
us flight, leave us
airborne

to see the stars close up,
reach the treetops,
observe the earth like birds
as dawn broke.

Read more >

104

Duty Calls

Every time I see a wad of toilet paper slowly disintegrating in a pool of leaky bathroom water, all I can think of is wasted potential. You had one job and apparently this shit ain’t for you.

Discarded and stuck to blue tile, below the numbers of people that are truly going nowhere. People like Shauna, who scribbled “Shauna was here” like it was a reminder, like she forgot that she was going somewhere and didn’t want to forget the journey along the way, leaving little bread crumb notes in gas station bathrooms next to numbers I’m too afraid to call, even out of curiosity just to see who would pick up.

I give Shauna a back story. Every year her family takes a trip from Boone, N.C. to Atlantic Beach, N.C., mountains to coast, through the capital, Raleigh, just to see the state end to end and visit her maternal grandmother in Morehead City. It’s a long, stupid drive and each time the family stops their Prius, she wanders up through the gas station aisles, fondling candy bars to kill the time between fill-ups. She keeps a Sharpie in her back pocket to tag public spaces. She’s really sticking it to the man. So rebellious. Nothing says I hate the establishment like “Shauna was here” in a public restroom. Don’t worry, she’s married to a Wal-Mart greeter with four kids, six grandkids and two great-grandbabies on the way. Even anarchists fall in love.

I mop up the mess and unfold a “slippery when wet” caution sign. Shit always works itself out in the end. Especially here.

105

Hubba Bubba

We all travel in time, an obvious super power. Zipping from then to now in an encyclopaedic flight from birth to death. Recall every fact you know: those hundred words for snow. Taste each flake of flavour on your tongue. Love's aches and labour's lost ‘n won. Eyes melt in love's euphoric sorrow: sift, filter, steal, borrow! Only memory can say it all and make up more to face tomorrow. Overwritten year by year, autobiographies are so sincere but who bares witness to make truth clear?

First crush, her teenage sighs, in dreams she'd seen his face a hundred times. Across the years in tricks of light, minty chewing gum chat-up line. Silhouette standing, cigarette sucked. He'd changed SO much, hair receded, gaunt, still fit. Weathered skin leather, aged by clever charm and wit. Feathered nests, neither disgust nor embraced, just want pursued, whilst staying chaste.

Not too furrowed in the social race, he turns. His eyes pierce through her face. Fixed gaze, past erased. His own awareness now a-flame. Time slows their action’s frame. "Heeey! Julia? Hubba-Bubba!? Wow! It IS you. Good God you're well preserved." No longer unnerved her smile purred - nine lives inferred. Reduced to childhood they stood, stepping back into their neighbourhood.

All summer heat and emptiness. Every teenage blue-sky-day she'd lain - staring outward, upward to absorb the golden sun's lit orb. Scudded trails of wisp, dispelled by aeroplane’s criss-crossing, cracking heaven’s vast blue reign. Yet her thoughts were not up there with dreams of cirrus-cloud, but down, deep inside herself. Every blue obscene, could be anywhere and is anywhere you choose to be. Year on year she'd lie and stare, sometimes re-living her school-girl hair.

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106

Exhale

You took a moment, a pause
with eyes half-closed
to study the face before you.
A sly grin, sardonic,
crept across your lips
to disappear
into the dimple
at the corner of
your mouth.
The cigarette briefly flared,
left ash in its wake,
the smoke from the tip
ribboned its way to
the ceiling as you exhaled.
And ordered another
martini.
107

A CAT’S TALE

Purring on my padded throne
                (a cushion squidgy soft).
               Oh, yes I have a lovely home
                I wave my paws aloft.
               Because I am a Persian Blue
               the outside world is banned.
               Mistress holds me in great esteem
               But does she understand
                to run and play is just my dream?

                Content with windows for my eyes
                I see things that others missed
                also I feel surprise
                when floating snowflakes
                white and crystal kissed
                melt into tiny lakes.
                A tissue here; newspaper there
                Blown by seasons weather.
                Sometimes I spot an angel's tear-
                a curling whirling feather.
                Life is good, I must impart
                I'm pampered, fed and warm.
                Yet there's a yearning in my heart
                - to race across the lawn!

108

Cooler Tones

Coping today, with the pile up of Japanese prints in the corner.
Layered up as high as the desk, it was a surprise they hadn't toppled already. Li. stood, at midday on a Monday, with a shoulder rested on the cool metal window frame, and the view they'd gotten used to; the extravagant size of the double glazing meant the sun bathed the square room easily, leaving everything clean, bright and matte. The overall affect was a heightening of the ears - the noise of a scratchy pen, typing, the fumbling-clunking of ice cubes against the thick glasses he drank out of; they all cut through the room.
Walking over to the pile (as said, he was coping today, with a pile of paper) he knelt on both knees. Bare-footed, his toenails caught on the thin wires of the carpet; he set the glass down on its bristle surface, with a quick thought of their conflicting textures, before reaching to feel the ruffled fibres of the paper edges.
They seemed to fit into the room, and at the same time they didn’t fit at all. He’d brought them from home, along with the plant, which had died from not enough light. He’d puzzled for ages, usually before falling asleep: how could there not be enough light when the sun was around for most of the day time? Then he remembered, yes - it was there, but he spent a lot of time with the blind pulled down to just the right angle to shield his laptop screen; the same angle, by coincidence, had shielded the plant as well.
Well, at least the paper sat in the corner couldn’t die. He supposed he must be better at dealing with plants in their later stages, glad that the pressed bark and plant roughage were stiff, and no longer reliant on the sun or light; and the prints required nothing more from it than for the revealing of their colour lines and drawings.
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109

The misery of Infinity

Trapped in a warped hedonism,
weeping for a winter of discontent.

Floating on a flood of blue
through plastic tomorrows
with no palpable form.

Give me days to count,
let time be my companion
that I might feel

the rip of pain, the slow falling
away at the edges, know
the sweet smell of decay.

110

Ordinary Blues

It might be called “rockpool” or “speedwell” or “sailing boat”, but it’s always the same blue, and it’s always for the same thing. A million damp bathrooms containing dust-scented candles, cream ceramic lettering spelling out the words “dream” or “love” or “breathe” (if you’re going to spell out things you need or like, why not “bumhole” or just “chips”?) and a blotchy woman crying in the bath.
Get over it, love. He wasn’t worth it, and you’ve got your kids to think about. That’s what she imagines people saying. If a small crowd burst into the bathroom right now, knocking the fluffy dressing gown and novelty sleep mask off the hook, that’s what would happen. They’d stand around or perch on the toilet, judging her. And she’d just sit there, naked, stretchmarked and crying, agreeing with them. Why wouldn’t she? They’re her people that she made up out of her own head.
The trouble with her, they tell her, is that she’s ordinary. Ordinary bathroom, ordinary life, ordinary little tragedy. Look at the state the kids have left this place in. Look at your cheap bubble bath, your pound shop indulgence. When was the last time you cleaned the floor tile under the scales? She reaches through them for the spare toilet roll so she can blow her nose. As she leans over she lets out a fart. No wonder he left her.
Read more >
111

Butterfly or moth

The sky’s crayon blue. This whole place is painted from a palette of primary colours. The electric wheat fields, the snow capped mountain shards, the gem stone shapes of the clothes hanging out to dry. And the sky, the sky is crayon blue. There is space up here on this flat roof for everyone. There’s space up here that’s enough for even me. The view goes on for miles, interrupted only by the railway track and the train which rattles north-south with its soundtrack “Never stand still, never stand still, never stand still”. The sun ticks its way across the landscape. I watch the silhouettes of veiled women walking, of children playing, of a frail shepherd moving his animals from field to field.
        Sound is absorbed into the emptiness. The beep-beep horn of a moped, the wail of an unhappy child, the thin, snatched phrase of a song as a car speeds by. There is a rope bed covered with a clean white sheet on the other side of the roof. I walk over and lie down, sinking into its strange comfort. It’s been positioned perfectly in partial shade.
        I look up and see the sky even more clearly. A bright white kite floats high across my rectangle of blue. I close my eyes. When I open them again, another kite is floating nearer, translucent and backlit against the sun. Black spots mark its two wing tips. Butterfly or moth? Butterfly or moth? I fall asleep trying to remember.
112

Frame

I slide my fingers
through the vertebrae of fixated air
Conceive a frame and fall through
Chalk white flakes spill, rush in and out
Salt and lather, shrubs and orchards,
sprinkled over muddy knees and calcium ankles
They hang, my paper boat thighs
they hang in mid-air paralysis

A powder cake with vanilla breasts,
I find myself, berries and lingering mountains,
layered and crumpling, moist and weathered,
Memories clap and echo, boxes of voices
round and around
I can hear
I can hear it now
The oldest song
a submarine melody

Read more >

113

Bad Presidents Lie

The tissue was left on his cheek, a forgotten ode to the blown flower of his nose, the white of it stark against brown. When he blows, he blows. Whale of a boy, breath a steam engine, each puff a ball hit into left field. When I pump up his blue balloon, he tries to take the air into his mouth, tries so hard to expand himself, inflate up the wall to be as big, as tall as his mom. You are perfect? he asks. I hear it as a statement. My size has always been something to carve away at, no matter how thin. He loves my bare thighs, comes to wrap himself in them. He is perfect. His body has not come from mine. I have trouble, many people say, not staring. They mean that he is that beautiful. It is true. And here on his cheek is the imprint of a cold he caught when the weather warmed, the snowmelt something of a heartbreak for him. He who wants trains in snow permanently; to read of shucking the skirt, to want again to see the caterpillar rescue Thomas. When I peel the tissue from his cheek, what's that he wants to know, there is no trace left of its fleeting kiss. No brittle wing to care not to smear, just paper in my palm to show him. He was once so light, so delicate, so paper thin, his cries so sharp. I folded airplanes for him, the needle-nose, the maniac, the superfly. I made up names and he shot them straight into the floor. Bombers, all of them. When we walk down the icy alley in the early morning, my son always comments on the army vehicles that sit permanently, out cold under blue, torn tarps. They are angry cars, my son says. He has a memory of such vehicles from a time before he was my son. Read more >
114

Disembodied Paradoxes

Today I evoke my plastic eyes
to see the universe painted in gossamer blue.
I curve promiscuously, bending in impossibilities
of Möbius strips; folding onto myself
to nth dimensional
space of human experiences.

Disembodied, yet expanding to fill
every corner of your ether
with my sinuous flutters.
Will you find me in your heart
with all my unholy paradoxes?

Your color has infinite eyes,
to keep watching my countless faces;
folding and unfolding in an undivine play.

115

Tidal Surge – 13th January 2017

I now abjectly surrender – my dodgy piece of plastic
is no protector or champion of sandbags.
Its wispiness and vacuous translucency
bookmarks my day in hopelessness.

My large possessions glance heavenward.
My small possessions gather in my arms.
And I carry them child-like, so tenderly upstairs.

The wind arrives - virginal snow falls from a merciless sky.
And insidious worries shrouds my desolate heart.
Outside children are ecstatic as the elements frolic.
I wait and wait with dark abiding fatalism.

My large possessions scream for attention.
My small possessions weep at the separation.
They feel lost and disconnected in my spare bedroom.

Neighbours discuss – instant climate aficionados
All the time crossing shaking fingers behind their backs.
It does no good to give in now or plead for deliverance.
Nature takes no prisoners and mocks a cowardy-custard.

My large possessions are terrified at the left behind space.
My small possessions sweetly hunker down together.
Family pictures console – their ghostly familiarity is tangible.

The fatal tide has arrived and the surge has pitched up..
But the capricious wind changes its mind and direction.
And my home greets me with I told you so delight.
I have not gone down with my house after all – not this time.

116

The Storytellers

The storytellers have taken to the streets, wandering and whispering.

They mutter in the ears of unsuspecting passers-by. Blow nebulous words into hard set minds.

Where they take hold.

People on the streets stop to scratch behind their lobes, but they cannot get to the source of the prickle, which seems to squirm freely, somewhere inside.

Some just stand and stare, as if noticing the world anew.

Like this woman here, laden with shopping bags, struck by something which swooped down upon her from a clear blue sky. She stands in the street and watches a plastic bag flutter in the breeze, rising higher and higher like the ghost of a bird. And watching it, a strange forgotten feeling jitters through her.

And she thinks, ‘I am happy.’

Or take this man over there. He was on his way someplace. He had things to do, important things. At least, he thinks he did. For now, all he sees is a yellow balloon bobbing down the street, held by a tiny hand. The child obscured by the crowds around her, though he catches a glimpse of her as the bodies part to let her through. Her upturned face illuminated by the sun, her smile.

He watches the balloon disappear down the street and imagines her laughter. Feels a jump of something somersault in his belly.

And he thinks, ‘joy.’

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117

Shades of Blue

If she closes her eyes at just the right angle, the phosphenes that fire against the backs of her eyelids remind her of the sort of blue that always calls her home. She tilts her head back to rest against the trunk of the tree she’s sitting under and counts the polyethylene shadows in the branches above her, gently rippling ghosts of what carelessness can do. He isn't as quiet as he thinks he is, but she’s not ready for this conversation, so she pretends not to hear his approach. She can give him that. Eyes open, she believes in a kind of stillness that she never knew possible.

"Do you miss it?"

In the haze of nostalgia, she thinks that maybe she does. Measured in the frequency of the waves of homesickness and an indeterminate number of bad days, there is so much honesty in an affirmative. But she knows the phosphenes aren’t a good enough reason to stay.

"Not really."

She answers him steadily, eyes never leaving the jagged edges of the bag caught against the branch beside the eagle's nest she's been watching for the last hour. She knows how long it takes for the polymers to break down, to multiply as they degrade to become several million toxic molecules to breed mutations and change everything forever. There is a morbid comfort in that absolute.

"I don't believe you."

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118

Conversation with Kiran

Walking and thinking happen together. Movement can be in my room. Table’s in the middle of my mind. Many conversations grow here. An enterprise of pottery was registered. In the hills a mother paints a win with colourful ink. Soldiers fought in white on blue baked earth. The soil is wet with red blood, baked blood. In a conversation across the table, blue ink can sweep the red away. But sirens had to come. People huddled the shouts of anger. Flags had to kiss the blue sky with a red smoke. No hand went to the forehead. Crush and pain drown the well-being. Walking and thinking can happen together. Let the rust eat the powder. While the baked earth reaches distant shores. Mother’s hand gets tainted money. Kiran is unafraid of the blue ink that sweeps the paper. An enterprise of pottery grows here. They said we conspired for drinks and merry-making. Kiran wanted to add zeroes in her balance. I wanted her crease to crinkle. They marveled at the images in distant shores. Polite remarks were insufficient to drown the sirens. The greens bills could not colour the red earth, baked blood, red smoke in blue sky, white on blue baked earth. Survival teaches acceptance and adaptation. Blue ink was stacked in a threat, contempt waited at corners. An enterprise of pottery hardened by heat. Conversations brew in a pot of blue baked earth. Table is in the middle of my soul. Red lips quivered and crease crinkled. Merry-making was shared in a steaming cup. A small flag fluttered joyously in a red sky. A wet crinkle ended a gap of three years. A wet crinkle embarked upon another separation.
119

Written on Inauguration Day

Even winter comes as a relief:
the blue sky, the tissue cloud
after months of rain, clouds
stained blue black, not cold enough
for snow.

Until then you believe that white
is only a memory, the sky
cannot be blue, and the yard
will always be sodden, green, streaked
with mud.

One day you will look out.
The sky will be painfully blue,
one cloud, flat, empty, floating free,
far from you or the sun. Drying
out, you will walk, just around
the block, wearing your fur-lined gloves
and sunglasses.

120

Mary’s Night Out

“Mary, what’s on your skirt?”

Mary blinked. She hadn’t been listening to her father as he read, but he didn’t seem to notice. He still held the book too close to his face, but his narrow eyes peaked out over the top of its cover, staring straight at Mary’s sister.

“Elizabeth.” Their father’s voice was strained. “What have I told you about interrupting our daily reading?”

Elizabeth bounced in her seat, making her white prayer cap come loose. She was at that age where she was still oblivious to their father’s severity. Mary envied her.

“But look, Papa!” Elizabeth said. “There’s something sticking to Mary’s skirt!”

Now he was looking at Mary. “Well?” he said.

Mary looked. Clinging to the side of her long blue skirt was a torn piece of a plastic bag with the handle still attached. She touched it gingerly before she peeled it off.

“What is it?” Elizabeth asked again, because she truly didn’t know. How could she? Their father was a staunch environmentalist. No plastic, no visits to stores with electricity, barely any paper except in books or when required for school. Even in a town full of Amish, their father looked extreme.

He snapped the book shut, narrowly missing his nose.

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121

Aurelia aurita

Moon jelly adrift
from ocean to ocean
I have seen you only in a Kreisel tank
fascinated by your transparency
wondering how you grow younger
as we age…
but now with what
we throw overboard
you are but the last one
just a veil of transparent white, afloat
in a murky deep blue sea.
122

I, Chivalrous

She wafts wafer thin. Her frame makes me consider the substance within. It’s winter in this part of town, everywhere frowns and shivers. There’s ice in the rivers. She must be cold in her diaphanous cloak. She whispers like smoke down the lanes that butt in and poke from more meaty streets where cinemas are found. She makes not a sound. She must be chilled to the bone. I do not wish my cover blown. Should it rain her clothes will be a window pane of polyurethane.

She meets her soul mate at twenty to eight. He is broad as a smear on the right hemisphere and he bloats in his thick winter coat as they kiss, more of a peck, they miss. She gets his fat neck. I will him to wrap her deep into his fleece though their proximity disturbs my peace and I wish him dead. Some bullet in the head would be ace. It’s that sort of place. He does not and connects with her instead at the thinnest point, her wrist. She does not resist and I watch them together like a tank with a feather as they reach the cinema doors.

A poster hangs behind glass. Doris Day in a blue dress showing some skin and Jimmy Cagney trying a grin. They don’t look at the poster, don’t read it. It just hangs there as background, they probably don’t need it, but I look and it makes me consider what a girl like that sees in some dirty rat. They talk for a while, gentle at first, then heated, I think somebody cheated. They join in raised voices, maybe enough for her to question her choices and he leaves her there, in cold weather, this wafer thin feather. He’s more primate than soul mate I think to myself and it feels like I wait for a year. There’s no-one to hold her up, to hold her dear. Wafer thin with thoughts unclear.

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123

Redundant Things

Evan carried all his belongings in a white carrier bag with him into the hotel lobby, and smiled at the young man behind the desk. He felt the glances of guests and staff. He didn't feel welcome.
"Can I help you sir?" the young man asked politely.
"I would like a room for the night please" Evan replied.
The young man's eyes flashed to his colleague before shifting to the computer. It was a brief glance, but still a dagger in Evan's heart. The contempt his ragged appearance incited in others eroded his self-worth, but he wouldn’t let it get to him today.
"That'll be forty nine, ninety" he said.
His eyes dared Evan to back away, but he resisted, producing the exact amount in coins and notes. Evan couldn't remember the last time his fear had consumed him so utterly. He was cold and his joints were stiff, but his heart was thudding hard and fast, and he was sweating all over.
The young man reluctantly accepted the currency. Evan had expected to be treated with the cool aversion that most homeless people were regarded with in civilised society. Unemployment was nothing to be ashamed of, especially for those who fought so hard to return from it. Still, Evan carried the shame nonetheless.
Once upstairs, Evan closed the door of his room and emptied the contents of the bag onto his bed. He placed his trousers into the trouser press, and then called reception for an iron and a board to iron his shirt. He washed his hair and brushed his teeth under a hot shower and started to feel like a human being again.
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124

Flimsy

Substance made flimsy
Whipped by the winds of fate
Crinkled, creased and ripped
Barely there but here
Still here

Transparent
Holey
Transcendent
Holy

All against a backdrop solid as the sky
Untouchable but beckoning fingers that would dare

Can flimsy me be clinging still to true unchanging blue?
Can wind-whipped ether be stitched somehow to immovable Spirit?

Say yes,
Say yes from beyond the blue
I'm praying
say yes

125

TRACE

The water here is crystal blue. Why I chose it. Something about being borne to a better place, the washing away of sins. You think I am inanimate. Yes. You, there, watching me from above, on the rotting wooden bridge. We both couldn’t settle. I know. A shared need to separate from what’s gone before, a stripping back, a wiping away. We are here to face one another again, in the full force of a demand to expunge. I sense the heaviness in your gaze as it tries to focus, blurs, then refocuses for an instant so intense this image, of me, of you, becomes suspended through all of time. My awkward, unreal, and not quite jelly fish form has you hypnotized, is the casting of an unwelcome spell. If you could read my thoughts, you’d learn of the revulsion at what has been my recent burden. This spring fed brook has made invisible all evidence of my last and final purpose. Only if you looked under a microscope, would you be curdled by the trace of what remains… But you, yes, YOU, there, are still searching for an explanation to this floaty, disconnected state you currently inhabit, and why it seems so impossible to shake. Your hand grips tight into the railing, thrusting splinters deep, and induces stigmata. Yet you feel no pain. There is no freeze burning of your bare feet in the snow which blankets them. I reflect light from a low-slung winter sun, but carry no warmth for you. Your eyes fix on me again, and I take us on a little further. But you have not understood. You still think me inanimate, like a wall that absorbs from its surroundings yet must remain forever mute. You don’t appreciate the strong connection that links us - indelibly: Our bond.
I too felt the cold thud that surprised you, that felled you, when your body was still pumped with life. Your unworldly screams rucked the molecules of my synthetic structure. Until very recently, I cradled tight- wrapped bits of you – of torn skin, of smashed bone, of chopped flesh - through all the long hours of one dark night.
Executed from behind with a blunt instrument is what the police report will say; then finished off with a kitchen knife.
126

Just get rid of the axis, they’re as bold as loathing

Blue, just to manage expectations.
Blue, you won't walk on so flagrant.

Blue, lest you stand in the light.
Blue persuades the queen of the night.
Blue, the patriot's saw fit for a fight.
Blue, the sky saw you nascent, in sight.

Blue, was it ever a favorite?
Believing in Blue, would it send out another?
Blue, they always said of the sea,
deeper an abyss than him, you, or she.

Blue, were you ever reasonable?
Or rather, did you endeavor to bludgeon?

Could you season their sense of entitlement?
Blue, I don't think you're the same color as my tears.
Blue, have you ever felt the fear?
Blue, they're not behaving as progressive.
Blue the art because it's not enough that we're all fed up and divested.

And Blue, you say they turned on the light.
But Blue, so much of what is there isn't worth our might.
Blue, let yourself go out of fashion.
Blue, don't paint more pictures, stop writing poems.
Don’t start over Blue, I know you,
we don't behave that way.
I know they're saying, Blue, all our shadow's don't match up.

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127

FAMILY HEIRLOOM

As a child I used to sneak into Mother’s room just to peek at the family heirloom – the dress worn by generations of brides, all lace and pearls with a filmy veil, that would one day be mine.
In my twenties I judged every man I dated by how he held up against my vision of that dress and myself, the traditional virgin bride, wafting down the aisle to meet him, and for years every man was found wanting.
Until I met George – bearded, burly, sexy George. Just watching his hands roll a cigarette made me tremble. Riding astride his Harley with my thighs gripping his hips and my face pressed to his leather-clad shoulders, I couldn’t wait for those muscles to be naked in my arms. The result was inevitable.
Mother was furious, and when the heirloom dress wouldn’t fit over my bump she shrieked that everyone would know what I’d been up to and she’d never be able to hold her head up again.
“So I’ll wear red!” I yelled. “If you think I’m a scarlet woman I’ll dress like one,” and she sobbed over her shattered dreams, absent-mindedly wiping mascara streaks onto the heirloom veil.
128

Recycled Politics

There was a time when I would’ve picked you up, looked after you or put you away, where you belong. Out of sight, out of mind; tidy, the landscape unburdened from waste and humiliation.

But I walked on. I left you behind, because well, what’s the point these days? Ironic, really. A repetitive cycle of the same old shit.

Renewing faults, as if they have causes to live for.

Then, I stopped. I heard something. I turned, looking back over the wind, and there you were, asking for forgiveness. You said you needed help.
I can’t help you, I said.
‘Stop – take me with you. I’m useful and I could help you. I need a place to go. I can’t stay here, like this’
How do I know I can trust you? You could’ve belonged to a fascist right-winger who hates women and gays. And now you’re asking me to help you. Are you loyal? You seem to go wherever the wind blows. Ha ha.
The Bag hesitated for a moment, then dragged itself towards me. ‘If you never throw me away, then you’ll never need to worry about who has me in the future. I won’t betray you. I’ll never leave you’
The Bag’s slogan said THINK! DON’T THROW ME AWAY.

I thought.

I remembered when I was young, my bed being dismantled and thrown out, taken to the recycling tip up the road. No doubt it came back as a desk, a wardrobe, a fence, a bench in a graveyard, or a packet of toothpicks. Part of someone else’s home, when I still needed it to be part of mine.
Alright, come with me, I said. I won’t ever leave you but if you leave me, you’ll break my heart.
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129

Afterthought

Among the waves,
utter lost and oblivious to all.
She swims, to outrun
the encroaching rubbish of men.
As oblivious as we are of her,
somewhere across that blue realm
a spot, we have not been in generations.
Our rubbish thrown as an afterthought,
have manage to trespassed on that realm of fantasy.
130

Thin Ice

There is a kind of blue, blue day you only see in January - cyanotype sky, clear, cold. It is colder than anything you can remember, colder than you think it should be, when the sky is this blue. And against all this colour rubs a scent that reminds you of a stolen day by the sea, oh, long years ago - those student days when you could sit for hours over a cup of tea and two slices of toast in the all-day breakfast caff by the bus station in some forgotten town. But this sort of sky demands a coast path walk. Or at least a walk by a lake, wrapped in scarf and gloves to watch the sailing boats on the long pond, stopping on the bridge where you look down and see coots skating on thin ice.

So often you have worried that the ice might crack. But not today. Today might be fragile as tissue, crimped and folded, but it is finely wrought, with a strength tensile as the tracery of bare branches that frame this blueprint sky. You bunch your hands into your pockets, find a balled up tissue, slightly damp, wrapped around the cold hardness of a key. You close your fingers around its serrated edges, stroke its curves absently, your mind unfocused, letting your thoughts wander from your pocket back to the ice and the water where a duck struggles on the edge of the ice shelf, hefting herself, smashing herself against the ice, unable to gain purchase. The other ducks are comical as they slip and slide and penguin waddle. But this duck is still in the water, she lurches and falls back. You think she has given up, but suddenly she circles, races back and then she is lifting up, out of the icy water, she is over the ice, above her mates, over the trees and into the cyan sky. And you - you don’t hesitate, don’t stop now to think; jerk the key from your pocket, drop it into the water.

131

The Moon, the Wind and the Sea

In my grandma's old house
Next to the stony seashore
The wind speaks to me quietly
Rustling through oleanders
The curious Moon
in the window
Resembling a jar full of fireflies
Listen, honey,
The Moon, sea and me
Three magical powers on the Earth
Young and old at the same time
The Moon which evokes feelings
Sometimes it's on top of the chimney
Just like a Christmas decoration
Sometimes it's in the bucket full of water
Swimming like a goldfish
Sometimes it shines joylessly
Through the veil of lace clouds
Sometimes it sends smiles to the whole world
Sometimes it's red from love
Sometimes it's blue from the cloud.
Insomnia is my magic power
The wind whispers
I never sleep
There are as many days in the year
As my faces
I leave no stone unturned
Sometimes I take the night from the window away
I leave a small frog on the doorstep
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132

Competent Crew

A good watch-keeping rota will
prevent the crew being alone,
tired and cold at night
A good skipper won’t wait until
nightfall when everyone is already tired
They will share out duties to make
sure they have rest, suitable meals
Wear life jackets
Do not overload the boat
Climb in and out with care
Only make a mayday call if
there is grave and imminent danger
Give the name of your vessel
the position in latitude and longitude
the number of people on board
And the nature of your distress.
133

Vold

Where Österlen’s lacy coastline unfurls under the bewitching horizon on the top of Kåseberga ridge, I finally catch sight of Ale’s stones - or Ales stenar as the inhabitants of the Skåne region in Sweden often refer to them. Surrounded by dolmens and graves dating back to the Bronze age, the monument consists of fifty-nine stone slabs placed in a boat-like pattern, constituting the country’s largest remaining ship setting. Nobody really knows if this “vessel” once functioned as an old-school sun calendar but it has been noted that at the time of summer solstices the sun sets at its northwest point and rises at the opposite point at winter solstices.

freshly blown glass boat
the scent of lightning streaks
thickens the June air

Hoping to be able to spot him aboard, my eyes trail the giant-shaped stones, dreaming different characters into each of them. Chatting on the internet, living in distant corners of the world, we have been planning this meeting for countless months. Maroon streaks riddle the sky as velvet scoters and silver-spotted skippers carry the smell of the nearby fishery on their graceful wings. "Midsommar" is now celebrated by dance and bonfires all over the country as maypoles, like flowery masts, bright up the landscape - it should be the very summer solstice of our relationship as well. According to some rumors there once lived a giant in Kåseberga under the name of Vold, it was him who built the stone ship. One day, encircled by enemies, he ran to the edge of the sea to escape and just as the villagers thought they caught him, he took a boat and set sail toward the horizon. Standing upon the ridge, one may catch a glimpse of his vessel, ploughing through the Baltic Sea’s mint waves. He seems to be present in the fading tapestry of the herbs, in the faltering song of the cormorants…
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134

Behind the Curtain

When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department we move slowly, deliberately, and listen for the murmurs or moans coming from behind the curtain. The smells are nothing like the smells of antiseptic that I feared as a child on those times when I accompanied my mother to a doctor or to visit a friend. Hospitals terrified me and at the time so did death. Now, death is routine, part of the dialogue, although I am not dying. At least not today.

My mother feared death, until it stared her in the face and then she stared back with equal ferocity. Nor did she want us to avert our eyes, so she became bold, determined, to die well. But seldom does one die well; one simply dies and death is holding the hand of everyone behind the blue curtain. It may hold gently, a soft reminder of one's mortality, it might grasp with frustration at its inability to succeed or with the grim satisfaction of success.

I have been behind the curtain watching this, and I have been behind the curtain, fearing the smell of death as its breath touched my cheek. Not yet, I am not ready yet--too much to do. Too many to love. My children need me--grown though they are, they have much to tell me before I step off the platform and leave them to contemplate their own mortality.

When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department, nurses and doctors smile, they stoop down to pet him, a small reprieve from the battle against grave illness or injury. They laugh. When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department we peer through the openings of the blue curtains to ask, "would you like a visit," and sometimes the answer will be a quiet "yes," or a family member's eager "of course," or a barely audible, "not today." Read more >

135