• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 06
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The Talk

Come here, sweetheart, sit down next to mamma. You’re getting older, and there’re some things I’d like to tell you.

You’ll notice, soon, a small rip on the left side of your head, starting up above your hairline and going down, past your chin, to your neck. Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous. It’s something all women go through. It means you’re growing up, sweetheart!

I had my first rip, just a small tear actually, when I was thirteen, in the summer. It didn’t hurt, not even when the woman began to crawl out, limb by limb. She was a little bloody, of course, as she had been living for all those years in my frontal lobe, but the brain has no nerve endings, so I really didn’t feel a thing.

When the woman begins to make her way out of the rip, love, when you can hear her fingernails clawing on the inside of your head, please don’t be scared. Like I said, it’s all perfectly natural. Listen to the woman, be polite, remember your please and thankyous. She’s here to help, if you let her.

You are young, my darling, and though the rapid rate of growth of your bones thus far may convince you otherwise, you are not Progress incarnate. No. Just like me, you will bleed once, but that does not mean you are done bleeding. The woman will crawl out, and then she will crawl back in again for a little while, when she’s tired and needs to rest. You are not progress, no, you are circles, seasons, orbits, and waves. You will continue to rip open, to bleed and heal, heal and bleed, for the rest of your life, however long that is.

1

39

1 thought, 2 seconds, 3 men, 4 chants, 5 glasses, 6 feelings, 7 lies, 8 and 9 children, 10 sins, 11 bottles, 12 dollars, 13 signs, 14 lightbulbs, 15 flowers, 16 shadows, 17 smiles, 18 stripes, 19 cards, 20 cigarettes, 21 stains, 22 winnings, 23 sighs, 24 hours, 25 memories, 26 gunshots, 27 cracks, 28 maybe 29, 30 gunshots, 31 policemen, 32 punches, 33 kilograms, 34 years, 35 million, 36 murders, 37 members, 38 victims, 39
2

Untitled

peel back, conceal
peel back, fold
how much of myself do i reveal

hold
onto me

daughter you were torn from me
as i from you
a rip, a tear, a blemish on my identity

feel
go back, conceal
peel back, fold

let go of me
let go of me
let go of me

3

An Old Photo

I pulled it out of the frame
a hard swift yank
to remove this old photo of my mother
as a black and white era hippie
from its antique frame,
seeking a photo for
her funeral display.
Not all of it came out.
In my hand I held a photo, ruined
by my indiscrete act
ruined until I took a second
look. Through the knothole of
my too hurried act
I suddenly saw my mother as she was
real and live before me, dancing like
a fairy in the small of my hand.
I remembered the small wrinkled
form in the dark box. The face so
different from the one in the picture,
the face so different from the one that
smiled at me from my hand.
This photo would not go into the display
I put it in a drawer but treasured
the image that had appeared in my hand.
My mother, as she truly was.

4

The Coming of Spring

This time there’s no recovery.
What’s been torn away
cannot be recalled. Besides,
we aren’t remembering the same
things. I’m too easily distracted.
You’re up with the sun dreaming
down to your fingertips, itching
for dirt under your nails. Then,
at the end of the day, how easily
pockets are emptied, contents
spilling across the yard. Everything
lost with the old nails, paper,
glass under ground.

5

Collage

She tore a strip off her lover

Scratch beneath the surface of a bohemian artist and you still find a chauvinist making immoderate demands of his muse

She is always on his mind

Zeus gives birth to Athena by from his noggin, but despite the splitting migraines, lacerations of grey matter and the stitches required, the old rapist still couldn’t fully usurp female reproductive creativity. A crippled artisan like Hephaestus as the midwife, says it all really.

Pear-shaped, she is the apple of his eye

He only secured a third eye of all-seeing wisdom, by making a captive of his daughter and appropriating her orbs

Immured, she heard unseen voices outside her impermeable walls. Her gaoler heard them only inside his brittle head

The one-eyed Jack was out-trumped and eclipsed by a humble ace of hearts

The pentimento beneath the self-portrait revealed him as Nature had intended and hatched, but which the hoyden had re-sculpted with chisel and hammer into a being more likely to progress through society. Though in truth she had merely swapped one set of prejudicial responses for another

She swirled vaporously in the lava lamp of his heartsick mind

6

Roughshod

Shorn from the letterpress, the totaled wreck of messed scandal cascades from the mount, falls from its altar of duty and tears a hole of bright space from the wall of items.

'What, ho!' says young scallion, raptured in visceral delight. 'A showering of newness, I see.'

'Let the past be the past,' says the Old Sea Dog, perfuming his beard in cherry pipe smoke. 'We don't want to be tearing pages out of the history book for breakfast. Best to put it all back up from where it came.'

'Hammer and chisel, for me,' says the scallion, buffaloing towards the pile of roughage and jetsam now mountained on the carpet. 'I want to tear through to the back of the back, I want to see what can be made from the old.'

'Nothing ever born is new,' the Sea Dog says. 'Let the dead stay dead, it's their only rest in years. I'll hire the cleaner to come round in the morning and put it back where it came.'

'Ah 'tis a terrible pity all the same.'

A pity-pile, for two pitiful pairs, staring at the heap of things, left for the burying, slowly peeling wallpaper up to hide the cracks made by yesterday.

7

The Torn Portrait

There is a self the world sees.
But carefully tear away the layers
and see beneath the torn edges.
There are other landscapes.

It is like a great Jocari window —
each experience left its mark,
yet there still is a blank canvas
waiting for the artist’s medium.

Intensity depicted by choice of colour,
or the starkness of monochrome.
Every image with its own narrative
but all are the story of another me.

8

The Hunger

i want you
to fully possess
what I
cannot have
of myself
take me from
me in every city
on every soft, white bed
once neatly made,
unmake me
take me until I am nothing
but a stream of flooding
love diving into the soft,
quiet serene regions
expanding us
soul within soul

9

of tendencies, hinges

it is easy to obsess over small objects

paperclips spoons and q-tips when self


grooming generates silence — virginal

trumps untamable — the renunciations


of dullness does not lead to desire
with upturned hands at rest awaiting

it is easiest to use sadness as a utensil
to push people away spiders construct

traps from their abdomen we’re all
oxidizing for controlled expiration


but only reveal this before

asking someone to love us 


a kind of undressing — it is easy
to section and peel a tangelo

even false origin stories reveal
shame, a cerebral echo chamber

to mark focal point as hinge
gathered, at the center, coral

10

The ‘Being’ Within

She hides in herself
feminine hues
of divine laughter,
pain,
neutrality.

Vile
senile
the black air structure
moves with her,
follows her
like a hungry dog follows its master.

The plainness is ghostly
The movement, oh so ghastly!
She runs,
it runs with her
They are but divided,
like an equation.

11

Lost at Sea

In the year of lost voices, she went to the coast
where the light was giddy and the sky dizzy with terns.
All kinds of sad creatures washed up there,
little more than broken shells. She sat on the ledge
by the water because a sense of the edge
could sometimes be enough. She waited
all day, watching the sea cast its nets of diamonds
for nothing but hauls of driftwood and warning signs.
One wave after another left angry and came back
emptied-out and silent, sometimes the sea seemed
as if it might be too far gone, feverish and shivering
with visions, cycles of leaving and coming back.
Occasionally, it left a shipwrecked heart for her
on the shore, veined and glistening in its membrane,
a gift that it would take back again, washing away
the imprints and every sign that it had ever been there.
She might not have stayed but for the anaesthetic
in the air that numbed her, and the wise women
who brought her potions made of fish and vinegar,
salt for cleansing wounds, a lotion of sunlight
and sea water that she rubbed in twice a day.
They said she was in a place where even a storm
could be lashed on and worn like a poultice.

Read more >
12

Of When

The Holy man chooses me.

He: a knower of life — a knower of lives.

Me: a traveller, a wanderer, a seeker. An asker.

‘Sit,’ he says. ‘No speak,’ he says. He sees into my heart. His eyes are closed.

He tells me: not of now, not of then… but of when.

‘Not brown, not sick, not man… but woman,’ he says. ‘Sad not happy, happy not sad. Not free… not yet.’

‘Take my hand,’ he says. ‘Bathe with me.’

The fetid water: brown, and thick with death and waste.

His hand: brown and dry, and course with life.

His nails: long and yellow and gnarly.

His touch: of love.

13

Gemini Lady

Like a weather vane,
Endlessly turning towards the men she loved,
And always lost.

The wind of love could not be harnessed,
And her soul span out of control,
Unable to settle,
Seeking always for a person she could captivate and ensnare,
Someone who would break through the tough protective shell,
She had built around her sadness and disappointment,
A fairy tale knight who would release her true self,
Provide her with sufficient comforting and protective love,
So that she could turn again and face a bright future dawn.

14

The Girl She Used To Be

The girl she used to be wore orange, went braless in summer (and topless on foreign beaches), curled her hair and drank white wine spritzers from tall, frosted glasses.

The girl she used be worked hard in college, partied as much as she studied, had three boyfriends at once and several lecturers wrapped around her little finger, its nail painted red.

The girl she used to be had no cares, no worries. At least none that we could see. None she’d let us see. None we wanted to see.

The girl she used to be waved us goodbye from the wedding car, tin cans grazing the tarmac, balloons bashing the doors, confetti covering the roof like pockmarks. The man who married the girl she used to be never looked back, sped up so we couldn’t give chase for more than a few seconds.

The girl she used to be disappeared.

The black and white girl in the newspaper picture startles us. A stranger’s unsmiling gaze, looking twenty years older than six months ago. The birth and death dates identical in day and month and far too close in years.

After the wake we go back to the comfort of our Polaroids. Back to an orange blouse, red nails, blue eyes and carefully smudged eyeliner. No, no we don’t like that — eye make-up too much like a bruise. Back to the girl on a foreign beach, spritzer in hand, smiling, laughing, head thrown back. No, not this one either — he must be just out of shot, about to walk into our lives and take her away.

We find her at a party, in black and white, alone in a corner. We didn’t know we’d seen the picture before.

Now we’ll never stop looking for the girl she used to be.

15

Spring Summer 17

Quite taken
By a face I met several years ago
On a street corner streaked with
City Sweat.
The new season’s old drum beats coming back to haunt me
And take my wallet with them.
Blinked, and I would have thought
I were back.
Old Country Western
tunes like meat,
raw sticky undeniably fresh
but sour anyway.
Off the chain,
on the hook.

16

Carve Me Out

I am on your mantelpiece,
between your nails,
under your cellar door.

You have paused me
in time, held me down
forever. God and his angels
remember the dancing
orange dress.
When you look up
and see me, you see
my black hair
like fading mist,
tears spoiled and smudged.

In my hallucinations
you are young
and I am hungry.
We meet in the room
you took me
and I lap onto you.
I cover your eyes
with my fingers
like coins on corpses —
you are dead and moving.

Read more >
17

Childhood Patterns

She bakes in the sun
Until layers fall away
Like paper skin flaking from an onion.
At night
She scratches with sharp nails
And peels it away in strips
She remembers former
clouds of dusty white cells.

Memory takes
Her to another place.
The smell of lavender soap
Where laughter is real
Carefree, and floats lightly
Not viciously loaded
With resentment
And bare teethed hatred.

He claims nostalgia is for losers
Presenting her with a now of
Snarling smiles in fighting pits,
Rages and domestic spats.
They tear strips
Off each other like layers of
Wallpaper, revealing raw
Bloody wounds
Of childhood floral patterns.

18

Spectrum

They look at you and see only black and white. Not even the warmth of sepia or the antique yellow must of true age. You are boring to them, leached of colour. Out of fashion, out of date, yet not vintage, not retro, never chic. They ignore you, turn the uninterested films of square eyes from you, and latch on to someone, anything else. But they do not know that your monochrome visage is simply camouflage, the chrysalis that looks like a leaf.

You are nearly ready, though.

Soon your grey-scale nest will birth a rainbow of new women. Your body will be discarded, host after parasite. The red-orange one has already started to rip her way out, tearing at the gelatin-silvered paper of your skull, destroying the left side of your face, stroke-like. Eyes down, she shies from exposure.

The violet one is next, you can feel her poking at the soft flesh between your ribs. You can’t wait, have to stay your hands, those eager claws, wanting to hurry the process, to pick and peel and drying, dying skin.

They will finally see.

19

A Peel of You

When the phone rings it really rings they say, do they say that, I’m not sure; in fact, I believe they say that in relation to rain, but these phone calls seem to fall in incessant waves like the rain that lashes the windows at this time of year, this time of year being part and parcel of the reason that the phone calls were hammering down, hammering down in the musical tinkles of a bland descending clump of repeating notes that drew clenched teeth and a frustrating phroaahahafrom me upon hearing it, me that is who is being plagued by these incessant phone calls, the incessant nature of which are causing me to hop around my small flat on one foot as I reel from standing on a hidden upturned plug from the kettle or the iron or the hairdryer, whatever the item the plug belonged to, an act caused by my rushing to answer the phone, it hurt, it really hurt, it hurt enough for me to wrench the hurt foot up towards my face so that I could assess the damage, an assessment which would in no way lessen the pain but it was a gut reaction, one that I don’t think is unique to me as I have seen other people doing it in the instance of pain to the bottom of the foot, a pain that I currently am processing as I hop around, the phone clamped between my increasingly hot and clammy ear, and my raised shoulder, looking for something to write down a message on, the message that all these phone calls were trying to relay to me.

Read more >
20

The Woman with the Mirror Cheek

I knew there was something special about you before I had the chance to speak. I would see you on the way to work, me heading north, you venturing south. What struck me was your hair – two lank liquorice curtains seemingly plastered to your face. You possessed an androgynous look and wore men’s flannel shirts and trousers that were three sizes too big.

I admired you. Whoever had employed you were concerned about one thing and one thing only: they wanted real, true, honest workers who weren’t afraid to express themselves.

I had considered following you, walking the same paths that you did, in order to meet the one in charge and ask them if they had any available positions going spare. I needed a change and felt restricted in my too-tight skirt and cardboard-stiff blazer. It was like being back at school.

Except I wouldn’t have been able to pull off your flamboyant yet edgy look, not the way you did, so effortlessly, without a second thought.

A week passed where I didn’t see you; I assumed you’d gone on holiday. There was no-one else on my travels who was remotely interesting and I found myself yearning for your return.

‘Ow!’

‘Oh...sorry. I didn’t see you.’

I turned and met a pair of olive green eyes level with mine and nearly stopped breathing. Your hair was no longer stuck to your face and I was drawn to your left cheek — my astonished reflection staring back. You quickly realised what had happened and brushed your hair over your mirror cheek.

Read more >
21

soaked almonds

overnight, like imbibing particles
from the omniscient air,

semi-white amygdaloid bodies sleep
in a cup of water;

they carry the art of memory
retention, like in a womb sack

resting at the pit, bloating and swelling —

for minds they will service
without discrimination,

left or right, both sides will receive
infusion of nutrients —

and when the size of the brain expands,
your memory

will explode from one
like a butterfly exiting
its cocoon,

I will wear my orange summer
dress – skirt like organza;

my legs lean and strong
flirting with the beach sand
while you think about differences,

Read more >
22

HOLY ESCAPE

my father slammed the door
with a tumultuous slap.

as a drunkard, he often
comes home late in the night
dancing logo ligi
to the tots of alomo bitters
in his veins:

his eyes, red-shot
his fist, a piercing knife
his head, a house of arcane madness.

the walls of the bedroom
sweated with fear
as he charged onto
the body of my mother.

the night grew
into a devastating monster
as mother's face bawled
with dripping blood.

silence thwacked
mother's lips,
as the night wept —

she grabbed my arm,
escaped through the door
& headed to the grotto
Fr Bobby built in 1990.

23

Impossible space (for Zaha Hadid)

Within the Peak Leisure Club
there is a wanton kind of chase,
of serpents, in a serpentine fashion.

I rip a space in me
to accommodate you.
Reluctance is feigned, not felt —

until the floating curve
of a heart is brought sharp
by the exaggerated bite

of a part-time pair of
pinking shears declaring
it’s only here for the pictures.

24

TV times

Feel the frisson of Eastern silk on flesh
(admittedly much smoother when you're shaved);
then wear some new designer's stylish dress;
thrill to the sense of having misbehaved.

And some days it can be enough to know
(at work in serious conversation)
you're wearing split-crotch panties down below
which would shock a small-town congregation.

Specialist shops with an affinity;
their "Yes, we do that in a larger size"
and "No, that colour's really not so bright..."

Rip off your plodding masculinity
("Don't you see it? I have a woman's eyes!")
Tear out your inner goddess every night!

25

Swatch

Don't feed me
Tensions in oil and livery,
I only remember the part;
Not whole,
Nor fragranced
Tears of torn wallpaper.
I adjusted, so don't you dare
Remedy Me,
With your flock
and magnolia dreams.
I always wanted it bold, print
And lines — definitions but
You live underneath everything;
Swatch and promise

26

Girl within a girl

The left hand side of this girl’s head
is pregnant with her former self
or another version of herself

or someone else altogether —
a younger, creamier, more flower-like self,
a peach in comparison

to her greyscale host —
but because skin and bone
have been removed

it’s like this other self lives
in a state of suspended animation,
mid-caesarian, like she can’t

make up her mind whether
to stay in or get out.
It’s no wonder that the outer girl’s

one remaining eye remains averted,
unreadable, the eye of a shark
fixed above the achromatic skin of her cheek

that she can’t bring herself into focus
or bear to look down
at the smoke-white flowers

Read more >
27

Fallout from the War on Women

I was warm and toasty,
curled up, napping
in amniotic fluid,
without a worry
when suddenly
this metal thing
came into my room

poked around
and pulled me out.
The doctor stabbed me,
smashed my head,
cut off my arms and legs,
threw my pieces
in a bucket
with the others.
It's been a busy day
at the clinic.

At the closing hour,
a nurse dumped
the bucket
in a freezer sack,
took it out in the alley
and threw it in a bin.
In the morning
a private truck

Read more >
28

THE GIRL

(Eighty words and eighty years)

The girl inside me speaks and says,
I was young once,
I, who has aged beyond recognition.
whose skin had dried and creased,
whose blood runs slow and thick,
who spies a likely end
when none already existed.

And this girl talks of night’s breeze
against the skin,
of a bared lover's touch,
days without end,
so in my eyes’ glare
I hold fast her reflection,
not quite dancing but speaking my name.

29

Dirty filthy garments and open, gaping wounds

There is, I fear, within me, deeply rooted, the now unwavering conviction that we must be destroyed.

How else will our Dear Earth be rid of the Contemporary Narcissus? His foppery infuriates me. My wrath is fuelled by his self-righteous manners, banners, avatars.

‘Will we succeed in creating new ways of being together?’ The question was asked long ago. And we failed, and failed again. And even failed to fail better.

Ours is a society that has not had an image of itself for decades, and all the while, it has been obsessed with self-representation.

I cannot stand this slow burn disaggregation, this flabby parasitic existence of our Western Globalised Cuntré.

‘Lost in the layers and torn from the inside.’ We’ve had enough of that, haven’t we?

Let’s cut the bullshit. No more half measures. Let us explode, of our own accord, and let what reservoirs of humanity are left on the planet fertilise the Earth again with the seeds of wonder we abandoned long ago.

Read more >
30

STILL

An egg cracked open.
Life inside life.
Life blown apart for another life.
A face disfigured by life; a face not yet touched by life.
Tears or tears? The one causes the other.
The laceration of the real; the perfection of the imagined.
Who is she? Why doesn’t she mind that terrible tear? Where are her tears?
Who is the other? Why is she so selfishly unaware of the ruin her arrival has caused?
How is it possible for half a face to be torn away and still be? Be still?
To be as serene as she is?
It has happened.
And still they are.
Both.
Still.

31

Mind’s Eye

As is known
Mind is mighty
It breaths a scent
Wears attires many-hued
Runs its own world
Imagines in layers
At the same time
With a symphony
Weirdly sweet
If not for this divine provision
Dense would be forests of unknown
Fantasy is its main power
Fantasy that is real
Reality is its dialectic
It defines for itself
Each ideal and each belief
So the beautiful chaos
Multiplies into billions
Like mad artists
Running on a huge canvas
With dripping brushes

Read more >

32

Becoming

Monochrome child, once peach-perfect
Skin, hides the flaws no parent sees
Sin embedded, embryonic
Waiting to hatch, scratch
Crack the façade of dutiful obedience
In a brief blaze of independence
Which, all too short, is forced
Back into traditional mould,
Becoming a cardboard cut-out
A Stepford Wife, dismissed
As a woman of no substance

33

DOOR TO THE PAST

“Hey, Bunny, get over here and take a look.”

The red head with the scarf, spreading brush, and paste-clattered apron stared incredulously at him over the table and reversed length of wall-paper.

“Are you, by any chance, KIDDING?”

“Oh,” he said, in deference to the impressive octave shift.

“Don’t know how you talked me into this bit of the redecoration, yet here I am. Now you want me to admire your skill at wallpaper-stripping?”

“Well, you chose the apartment, and…” It suddenly occurred that this mightn’t be the best tack. He shut up and made to resume his work on what was a poster, rather than wallpaper.

Her gummy hands were on his forearm, stopping the movement before the noise of brush plopping into the paste-bucket registered.

“Hold on, I know her. We went to drama school together.”

“Drama school?”

She raised an eyebrow at his tone.

“Really?” The tone metamorphosed into enthusiastic interest.

“I didn’t recognize her at first — the dated clothing put me off, but that’s her as Judas in our class production of Godspell. No-one else wanted to do it — something about that part.”

“So how — ?”

Read more >
34

THE PARK GIRL

The cold,
the blankness of the passers-by,
and the trauma of that night
has bleached her of her colour.
She sits, glaring at the heavens —
not so much in wilful accusation
as by subconscious default.

She is torn and broken,
the abuse of street-life
and escape into drugs
gradually stealing her mind
and soul away from her.

Still, she clings onto that vision,
the pure moment:
the first sight of her child
before…

35

Losing Her for Her

You’ll remember her, always, but you won’t remember when you lost her. She’ll be imprinted on your mind, sometimes as a fading whimsy, and other times an emptiness you cannot fill. She was you, young — a child in the world of men. The older you become the more you’ll yearn for the illusion of reality you didn’t think to hold dear, for the truths the blinding light dispelled. You won’t understand until you have a daughter of your own, until you look at her and realise you lost your innocence so she could have hers.

36

NESTED

imagine
you are nested
in yourself like Russian dolls
this latest one is ‘Kate’ or ‘Cathy’
wild, moorland thing who cracks the
awkward denim-wearer 15 summers old
‘good little girl’, who just the year before had
hardly blinked at dressing up in red, and white and blue

keep going
uncovering these selves
there will be more to be, a dozen
layers — and more — of mad, bad, sad
of lovers, mothers, grievers, artists too
the one who sits here now and tells you this:
‘they’ll stay in you — they’ll surface when you least expect’

do not
discard them
you must love even
the shame-filled infidel
the one who slowly bruised
the precocious bridesmaid: still blonde;
hair set; face stained pink with strawberry juice

37

Hunger

He swallowed her whole, one gulp. She slithered down his gullet, settled in his stomach. She was, he thought, where she belonged. Resting his hands, fingers laced, on his tummy, he leaned back in his spindled chair, closed his eyes and imagined her deep inside him, curled, perhaps, like a shrimp.

She didn't stay quiet. Before long he felt a rumple, followed by a burp. He leapt up, the chair, falling back, clattering onto the hardwood. Sweat slicked his face. He stumbled toward the bathroom, but she crawled into his throat. Pulled herself onto his tongue. He coughed and doubled over, gagged. She did not come out.

He felt her reach up into his sinus cavity like spelunker, a hand grabbing the inside his nose, her foot digging and she turned into mist and passed through into his, to be absorbed by his amygdala.

An ache, thin and electric, shimmered through him and he sank on to the bathroom tile, eyes closed. He had wanted her, he had eaten her like an oyster, and now she was content.

38

Tearing a Hole

The memory of her
rubbed at the paper
of his soul
a graphic
pencil eraser
tearing a hole
the fabric
of his tragic
monochrome life
evoking the
cinematic
magic
of moments
they had shared
in photographic
images
she took
and locked
in a box
in the attic
before
she threw away
the key
and said
Goodbye

39

Trapped

Waiting. Watching. Wishing.
Thinking but not speaking.
"Your ideas don't matter,"
so do I not matter?

This woman trapped in my mind —
so different from who
I am forced to be.

Stand up straight.
Say please and thank you.
Don't eat that.
Don't say that.

Beautiful woman
trapped in my mind,
I am sorry but you must
stay there.

Reckless,
rebellious,
yet resigned.

40

Ripped from the Headlines

Glasnost and Perestroika — that’s the old thinking.
This is the time of the weakened ruble and diminished expectations:
Fortunate, the market for Russian brides has not abated.
Welcome, my dear. I have imagined a Russian doll something like you:
your odd shape, your Eastern beauty, your mystique
which we market in our Russian way as, “in the eye of the beholder”
though your layers lie on the outside
and contain, perhaps, layer upon layer of lies.
You promise to love me and I am ready to bite —
us men, the eyes always have it,
especially the eye of the mind, so easy to fool.
I imagined you into being,
but at what cost to myself?

41

Kaleid

I crawl through urban catacombs. This city is analysed and interrogated beneath UFO beams, a little petri dish of the iridescently hidden. Our retinas are polluted by floodlights to coddle us from kamikaze, a shield from the nightly seppuku of a star-crossed sky collapsing in on itself. Meanwhile, our voyeuristic galaxy plays bystander to a forsaken species, cultivating its own intricate little humant farm of dying things.

I skulk between synthetic sights and baited wonders, down paths already fashioned neatly by human perspicacity, or perennial ego: avarice, nonetheless.

I am lost, listless and lusting.

I am leaving.

~~~~

City-dwellers on the train rub their eyes until their vision becomes the grainy purgatory of a video tape, prickled with sharp needles of a cosmos absent from the alien spotlight of their skies.

Existences spill upon one another, skirting and siphoning strategically in a game of liquid Tetris. Afraid to splash audaciously, to settle within their peers’ discomfort, to kaleid. Layers of lonely. A cohesive and co-dependent coma.

At yet another nondescript social obligation, my patchwork elbows are sticky upon a sin-soaked bar-top. My absence has often been a point of contention among peers, and yet when I do show up, I seem to have an honorary throne reserved in no one’s company but my own.

I feel the hot, stale breath of a drunkard too close to my neck and I begin to cry.

Read more >
42

woman within

she is with me
like fire in my bones
strike of lightning
in the swelter of summer
before torrential rain

she is beside me
cardiac-conjoined
systole, diastole
empty, full
love's murmur in
perpetual motion

she is in me
synaptic succubus
steady seduction
there is no question
of leaving
while i live

43

And Then At Times

And then at times

the dips of our marriage are

no different than the falling

into love in Richmond Park

before we started home, and I

wrote every day until the motion

of the ship made me certain that

for every berth going out,

new souls put in, spit from

foam. If I could read Greek or

understand the errand of the

cardinal we watch for with coffee

in our hands, I could make poetry

on the tips of fence spears where

he stops and the fire of you would

go urgently from land to land.

44

Inner voice

That inner voice within his mind.
Sweet, gentle, reminding him of softer feelings.
Feelings kept hidden deep in his mind
Never to be talked about out loud.
Colourful thoughts, wants, needs.
Filling those empty spaces within his heart which he has to keep wrapped up in the day to day living as he does.
Wanting more, needing more.
Needing to be true to himself.
Needing to be true to his real identity
Not fearing the words of disapproval which he knows will come
As he gives life to his inner self.
She will be. She will live. She will be free.

45

Imitation

A two-headed doll
we looked in different directions
and swallowed whole a
world of changes.
My task was to keep you
safe beneath the layers of paper.
that taste bitter. But my saliva
dissolves your image like pills
and the jagged edges
drag out your colour.
Imitation, division,
unity. Run along side me
my love, before we cut out
another life.
Could you forgive me
for leaving you behind?

46

SLUMPED

Slumped, the slamming door
Echoes in her head
He shared her secrets
Shared her bed
She's angry with herself
For being taken in
She forgave him before
He's broken her trust again
Promises, promises
Empty as her purse
His love is the bottle
A couple's curse
She feels bereft
She feels betrayed
This is beyond
Vows that they made
Take him for better
Take him for worse
Another generation
To suffer the curse
She has a protection order
She'll make that call
She's resolute now
It's best for them all

47

Compassion

Common advice — walk in his shoes.
rub where his socks wrinkle,
soles worn holey, rough heel scuffs
and how shoelaces crack under the heft
of mud. Good enough as it goes.

Then look through her eyes, sink
into gloom in her negatives. Glance
to bare feet and to the sides
where slippery things glide.
Where a brain finds fear.

Feel her mind suspect
how much is unfair, unstated,
undreamed, out of reach.
So far away from your start,
your day, your peachiness.

48

Girl In Waiting

I’m fragile, so they say.
A young girl of 17, trying to find her place in this gentrified world.
Though I smile, I secretly shield my true self from the world that hates me.
You see... the girl you first notice is not me, I’m not the one in peach.

That’s just the image society sees and I’m permitted to show.

The real me?
I'm hidden in a dark corner as my culture and my inner self is stripped away.
A prisoner in my own body.
But don’t pity me, my anger and resistance slowly builds.
In time, I will crawl out of the hole I've been placed.
And emerge strong and powerful, no longer the girl in waiting, but a woman who took control.

49

At Peace

She suffered a terrible disease. Cancer. The poor young girl with long black hair, half closed eyes and a distant look went to sleep forever. Her mother wept uncontrollably as the nurses wheeled her covered body away. The mother kneeled on the floor, flailing her arms while the husband pulled her to her feet and held her tightly.

“There was nothing more the doctors could do. She’s with God now,” he whispered.

The hospital staff looked on with pitied eyes as the parents of this young lady walked away, distraught.

“My baby said she thought she saw Jesus before she died,” the mother choked up.

The father pushed his wife’s hair back and held her face. “If that’s true, then she surely is at peace.”

The wife nodded and continued weeping.

50

Inside Out

This monochrome image was part of my past.
It doesn't tell you who I am, or what makes me tick.
For your information, I am pure technicolour.
Peach was the colour of the day.
It should have been red.

They say I'm like my mother:
How would I know? All I ever had
of her was this black and white photo —
the one you have managed to tear.

You made the hole —
Now use it. Find the real me.

51

Anamnesis

There is a maiden surrounding me
and I embroider her name
into my skin, like a lithograph
like a memory
skin on skin, queen of the moon
how you live through the drying
of my skin, the silvering of my
lungs, transplant;
sing me a song of infinite heartbeats
swimming in precious feathers
         swimming in marigolds
sticking together, hooked close
like a scorpion’s grasp
a sigh between us, memento passed
acetate, the breadth of a butterfly’s wings
love, and the after

52

The Black and White of Me

This woman,
this plastered over paper woman.
This woman with the soft sepia glow,
more colorful than me
but not too bright as to jar the eye.
This peaceful looking light and lovely woman,
she is the one they see.

She is the one they know and love.
This woman who covers over half of me.

The black and white of who I am will only be revealed when one day I get very brave
and peel this woman away.
And then the truest question of my heart will be posed to all the world.

Will they look on me with favor or will they look
Away?

53

Egret

It is:

The grace of a tiger, backwards
A splash around stepping stones,
A spear steadying the water,
A samurai’s second sword,
A crooked neck of shepherd’s tool,
A long arrow skipped from its quiver
A stanza beneath helmet’s visor,
A budding white cotton,
Grown from the steel of a black leg.
Form of an outline,
Unless blinked at through the sun’s inkblot.
All of you is one!

*Egret

54

He Sings About Hawks

He sings about hawks searching for water, in times where water was a type of soil. In times where water lay alone in the dark waiting to be discovered by an aching thirsty muscle.

He talks about how much lighter his body felt after the amputation and talks about how yesterday is as different as someone else’s childhood. He pulls the teeth of a comb through a thicket of steel and his features wrinkle into a smile whenever you speak.

His son loves the image of fruit trees with fruit hanging heavily from their branches. You love the idea of their elegant strength together. The alpha posturing of hard shells, the beauty of still wolves, when violence is static and nothing else needs to happen.

55

Inside/outside

Within resides in every mind/heart
The image of the Eternal Eve.
A delicate female, downcast eyes
Oval face, framed by a dark fringe
Classic pose of coyness and submission
Expected by the patriarchy.
A dark visage
An embroidered Kurta
For that ethic marker by the
Fashion industry.
And ---
An ample bust clad in a tempting orange
Popping out of a dark face in partial profile ---
The perfect Asian pairing
Of desire and dream!
An innocent visual!
Embedded,
Not free of its given context.
Deep down
Overloaded with implicit biases/prejudices
And other cultural signifiers/signified.

56

Dualistic Dance/Trance Migration

Tearing out of my head
like you knew I would

Ripping apart… shredding

cutting/slashing/burning
color
upon the canvass
of cellular mitosis

We have one eye
We have three eyes
We have no eyes
We are blind

We are born…
again and again
and again
through eternal recurrence/
recommissioned for
the next karmic episode/

brain explodes
mind expands

57

The Girl Living Inside My Head Is Japanese I Think

I don't go in for reasons, unlike the Japanese girl inside my head, Kiko, or whatever the hell her name is, Hapkido, or whatever the hell — she goes in for reasons, she tends to them with her precise fingers, tapping upon them, stroking them, stoking them. I have begun to feel like she is more the person I am than I am myself. She occupies my left side mostly, my creative side, my weird side. She is sweet. But a bit brooding. Her monologues are endless. Seriously endless things.

58

A Dusty Something

The tear as accidental as the find,
a black and white portrait of someone.
Her eyes averted and distant,
face of a liar or deep in thought,
Scars both deep and old seem to hide behind her face.

A stranger she is, but the picture speaks of something,
something I can't place.
Her clothes, her face, her hair, the background
speaks of a time long passed.

I found it in an album covered in dust,
full of pictures of girls,
most of hers, some of others.

As I look at it closer, I can see a small tear.
Behind it I could just barely make out something.
Curiosity gnawing at me, I slowly widen it with my finger.
Underestimating my balance, I slip and the tear widen more
than I wished.
But it served my goal.

A newer picture behind the older one,
also of a girl. She wore a white blouse of sorts,
she look a little like the one before.
But she look staged, like being posed.

Read more >
59

Potentate.

Innermost love,
times we passed
holding.

Hours spent
in each other's
solace.

Now parted,
I'm not in your
head.

You moved on,
me — left behind...
crunched.

Like a candy bar.
In my head...
images.

Not to be forgotten,
of times we spent
together...

Free, gentle
yearning to feel
the passion of release.

60

Something Strange

It ended with a Bang!
Things are changing but I don’t know how.
All I feel is confusion and chaos.
Why me, why now?
I’m stumbling and seeking to hold on to something.
Where am I going?

Sit down, eyes gazing towards the horizon.
It’s cloudy, and hazy, nothing seems real.
Suddenly, a hole opened through my left eye.
Something is in there.
Awareness slowly moved into that space.
A being, female, came out of the darkened haze.
Who is she? What is she? What does she want?

Is she my mother, my-self or my other self?
She looks weak and pregnant.
Why is she there, how does she get there?
What am I supposed to do with her?
Paint, draw or just observe her?

My right eye is straining; it’s getting tired.
Close my eyes and sleep…

61

Layers

"peel away the layers
to your future,"
she said.
excitement and fear
battled in my head
but curiosity got the better of me
and so I peeled the outermost layer
frozen like a tree
left to die out in the winter
I tremble in fear
do I want to know?
"keep peeling," she instructs
with a sly smile
but I stop in hopes
that if the future is not definite
and maybe
just maybe
if I don't look through the layers
things might change.
it is then that I realize
how foolish I've been
for what should matter
is not what the layers appear to be
but how many layers I might see.

62

Disrupter

In her official portrait at the University, Joan has her arms crossed like she’s getting things done. She means business. There are ways of getting through to her. Even as I look at a picture of her when she was my age, I see how one side of her mouth lifts slightly, her slightly hooded eyes search. I was in her 18 years ago. I’m still inside there.

My phone pulses in my pocket. At long last. The ID says private number.

“Hello."

"Listen. Shelly is it?" she’s saying and smoking.

"Is this Joan?"

"No. I work for Ms. Earle. I’m one of Joan's lawyers."

"Then you know I’m her —"

"Listen. You need to stop contacting her. You’re being disloyal to the people who raised you. Ms. Earle does not want her life disrupted."

"But — "

"It’s the same story the world over. I can’t help you. You can like it or not. If you try to contact her again, I will contact the police."

63

A Safe Grooming

Here

            here

      and here

lies the fear:
life is not supposedly lived,
hiding scars
under pleated cotton.

A safe grooming
                forgives silence,
make up the morning
                with a toned smile,
      silent
to the emotional world.

Hot trouble
             talks in blues,
the rat’s ass given to the tone.

Bake your façades
and pretty conceits
in the oven of respectability,
             sucked orifice
             pouting out from
             elder expectation.

Read more >

64

Unspoken

I'm an artist. I feel self-conscious saying that these days, because people immediately ask what I do and when I say I can't explain they huff and think I'm some precious high-strung type. It annoys me how fickle language is. I have three and I still can't communicate what I want - need - to say.

Ralph from next door comes round. "Does it annoy you," he inquires, "when white Americans moan about immigration?"

I shrug. I don't talk about this kind of thing.

"You're in a unique position, Indian and from, you know, below the border."

I shrug again. "Many people are. There were two whole continents of Indians before... Well, we weren't Indians then, of course. We had many other words for ourselves."

"What do you think of Don-"

"Do you want something to drink?"

"Just water."

I pour it. The sky's getting darker. Talking about politics drains me so much. At least I can make art from it. But Ralph just sits and sips, then gets up and leaves. It's raining as I stand at the door and watch him go, but it's still light. I used to like this kind of weather.

Read more >

65

Like a glass too full

Beat my head against the sky, not again! - she screams from the other room. Beat my head against an egg and crack it open. Crack everything open, once and for all, let all that remains drip and drip and drip and drip. She gets lost in the sound of a waterfall by the window, forgets for a moment the satisfying feeling of all that falls out of her head. Once and for all. Maybe this time it will work.
66

Forbidden Fruit

How sweet you were when you plucked me,
binding me like a scion to your wood-stock,
all purple haze and apple blossom high.

You offered me a bite of your apple,
a Bright Future, its roseate blush
mirror-buffed on your denimed thigh.

I gave you Broad-eyed Pippins,
weighed the bough with the fruit
of your Mona Lisa eye - that far out look

that I mistook for your poetic core -
nothing more than a cool withdrawal.
'Apples are not the only fruit,' you said.

Realisation is the ugly sister of truth.
I was a windfall picked up on a whim,
a bitter reminder of a tangerine dream.

67

Different

Different time, different era,
different colour, different race,
different gender, different face
How are we connected?
Synchronized to be together
Somehow by an artist's eye I was found inside you.
You found me inside you
Am I your mother?
Or perhaps your lover from another life.
Different time, different era
Different colour, different face
Different faith
Yet created by the same eyes
By an artist, who sees beyond the layers to somewhere deep inside

68

Give Me What I Want Though I Don’t Know What It Is

I'm Never Queen, never object enough.
I'm Never Queen despite objections.
I'm Never the One. I want to be okay.
I want my body to be the body, not a body.
I don't want to be objectified. See?
I want to be the one thing seen but
I want control over remaining unseen.
Do not whistle or leer. Just deify me.
I am Never Queen. Never Queen.

69

Monochrome

In my most profane of hours I see in color
Don’t tell my mother, but I see street fair flavors floating like drops of cherry air and I pop them on my tongue like bubblegum and then I swallow
Gulp.
No longer hollow where I once was.
I see cocaine coated cakes for a dollar and lipstick on ice cream cones
I see a popsicles stick with caramel curls holler at a man not to lick
and I see skin like I don’t have it
I’ve torn and pasted these pieces into my mind like wishes from a magazine
I, too, want to share a good old sliver of sweet American thigh
I, too, want to wear my leather chest in the summer time.

70

Personal Progress Journal, Day 11

What I wouldn’t do for an 1/8th.
Back in the room now from one to one.
Room?
This is more like a cell than the one I had in Styal.
Dr Johal gave me this stupid picture.
She said, ‘You may feel grey on the outside, but
peel back the surface and look,
look properly, you’ll see vibrant colours on the inside.’
Bollocks.
Look beneath my surface and all you see is shit.
I just feel worse every day.
Rehab is rubbish.
What I wouldn’t do for an 1/8th.

71

The Surface

of that black and white mask
she wore for us
cracks like an eggshell,
brittle chips peeled away
for an opening big enough
to let her shine out,
warm in that soft
orange dress—
Like sun breaking
under a storm cloud,
its color glad as a shout
strong enough to burn
a window through
that dull monotone,
the paper shield
she thought she needed
to keep safe behind—
Its flimsy surface breached
We can see her face
through the open tear
shyly tilted
down and away
letting that bright
orange dress
speak her heart’s
true capacity.

72

Picture This

Knees tucked to my chest
I look off left, pensive.
What are you thinking?
My hair falls loose
against the well washed cotton of my shirt.
click, click, click
Give me something more!
I feel tight: stitched up in knots;
tighter even than the embroidery at my breast.
The shadows gather underneath the darkness of my eyes.
You reach into the black
with the your elegant hands.
The pink of your palms
tints the last of the light,
as you tear off strips of skin
seeking something more within.

73

And a river went out of Eden

Today, the riverbank
is gray, and the moss
pale. The indifferent
water rushes its dark
swirls past limestone
rocks. Black & white
breeze, flushed of its
soft green; the birds,
robbed of their song.

When I think of you
I am torn. Between
heart and intellect:
geography of grief,
landscape of ecstasy,
I see you ogling me
then turning away
inside my mind’s eye.
I am beaten, without

mercy, into the past
when you once were
my sanity. But now
I’ve faded into the gray
hiss of dark water
snaking beneath my feet.

74

Whispering Parasites

People emerge from pictures to talk to me
Like badly photoshopped torsos and heads
across portraits, magazine adverts or dust jackets.
Telling me their secrets, regrets and lies
Or chewing the fat on the paintings of Salvador Dali,
the music of Philip Glass or Aristotle’s discourse on Poetics.
It must be lonely where they are.

Animals appear occasionally, like golden retrievers
who always want to debate the principles of geometry.
Contactees often ask me to do something for them
Give messages to people, find things or commit crimes.
Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I don’t,
even when I’ve said I would; this makes me feel bad.
But it’s hard to say sorry where they are.

Once they’ve gorged themselves on conversation
They’ll dissolve and shed their temporary skin
Leaving me fighting to remember our dialogue
Like fragments of a dream in an early morning
I’m standing in silence in an empty room
Wondering whether what happened was real
It’s lonely where I am.

75

Then We Were Four

You pop up in day dreams,
night dreams and meditations.
As a child, my guardian angel,
a teenager. Lately you are a twenty something with glasses. Long almost-black hair, looking like us, all three of us, jaw a little longer, squarer.

Sometimes I think you Godlike, we will never see the face of you - sister. Some day we will all be gods.

76

Permission to Speak Goes Unheard

On the left
   side of my thinking I
      recall the lean
    of your corporeal
                speaking:
   you hear my calling
  within the good
      side of what remembers
 my silence… our speaking,
a combination of
                whole
  mouths, their systems
  of bees assembling
within the thirst of
   a tunneled throat—
                    tongue
 of nuance holds still,
we’re pausing philosophy
   to interact beneath
                   the
 intellect of the body’s
  bridge, we step
 into the water’s flame
   to compose what
                 mimic
 -s interior to death
of what became our
    contoured silence—
Read more >

77

Salvage

The stairs were dark and slippery under her bare feet. Going down into the cellar was clearly dangerous, but then nowhere seemed to be quite safe at the moment. It had been past midnight when the storm started, and most of her neighbors had been dreaming cozily by the time the wave came. Notwithstanding a few nightmares, they had had no reason to be afraid. There had been no warning.

Down in the cellar a few wooden boxes played at being boats. Unable to distinguish one from another in the darkness, she chose at random and waded back toward the stairs. It was not the cold that made her shiver, even though it was freezing. So far nobody had come. The few people she had seen were looking for help and not in a position to give it. On any other day she could have counted on the good nature of people. Recently she never wanted for a seat on the crowded buses, or waited in line at the post office. Now even her condition wasn't enough to get anyone to stop, and she was afraid.

At the top of the stairs she found some shelter among the ruins. Part of the kitchen was still there, although she could barely recognize it. What remained of the roof was just enough to shield her from the storm. Her teeth clattered, keeping pace with the steady rain that pelted the world around her. She needed to make a fire, and she would burn anything to make it.

Read more >

78

Charlotte

She is here.
I cannot deny her presence. Gradually she reveals herself. Beauty and feminine charm emerging.
Peeling back the years.
Try as I may, and
Oh I have tried,
to shut her out.
It is her time.
Now she is powerful.
I feel the transformation taking place.
I am helpless.
But at last I feel at peace.
Welcome to the world Charlotte.
Charles is no more.

79

Split Personality

She blows in like sand.
Her words drift alongside mine,
nudging them into parenthesis
until, dizzied by the dialogue,
the gabble and babble,
the rabble of words,
I do what she asks.

She sends me out gesticulating
at strangers. Her eyes staring
through mine unnerve them
and I try to explain that it is
she who is cantankerous.
I am her mouthpiece.
She uses me.

I think she must have jagged bones
for she settles like broken glass,
a persistent grist in the soft flesh.
She cups my heart, stuffed full of secrets,
and squeezes until they spill
through her fingers and out into the light.

She comes and goes,
taking my time with her
and what I remember of her
is a bird's-eye view, looking down
upon her slipstream as she veers away.

80

FLOWER GIRL

You were my heady rush
my delusional crush.
Our daydreams had powers
as we gathered the flowers
from the green market stall.
I knew I would fall
for my Hiawatha,
yet what could I offer?
My songs that resounded
and kept me grounded?
How I wanted to fly
sending notes to the sky.
You kissed me so sweetly,
I loved you completely.

Too soon it had finished—
your longing diminished.
Peach top swirled, as you left,
this ex-guy is bereft.
There's a tear in my soul,
feeling out of control.
I was you and you were me,
briefly, not eternally...

81

Without a stain

They want to view,
we will need time,
time to hide what they
never knew,
to hide what we
have seen.
To transplant, inplant, suture.
Pull closed the skin curtain
stop Scarlet escaping,
she that pumped and pulsated
safe in her grey habit.
Lived in her, with her
before the leech of
cold concrete.

82

Angel or Demon

I don’t know the woman she is
or the woman she was
whether angel or demon
but that she feeds
like a scavenger
of my mind
for the flesh of who I am
and who I was.
from the marrow of my bones —
she, the eater of my soul,
and I her carrion,
she becoming
angel or demon
whatever she eats.

83

Fruitless

You seem to yearn for
Me in a way I cannot describe.
There, you hover, in my brain,
Anxious to take over.
Why must you reign
On my parade?

I have tried to dethrone you
And have failed miserably —
You are a constant voice
Of senselessness, burying my soul.

I try loosing, try shaking your hold,
But, King of my castle, you are
And disobeying is futile.
Your booming voice resounds
And fills the room.

My thoughts are no more.
I have sheltered them,
Bagged them up for safekeeping —
Yet, here you are,
Begging for entry,
Adamant to steal them
Away from me.

84

Forgetting

I was trying to say to you
that I was worried
about forgetting you.
You looked puzzled with your fingers on your bottom lip.
I should have asked you if it happens to you.
Does it?
(Your father sitting at his favourite place by the window in the pub.)
I live with the fear of faces being papered over diligently, quickly.
Cigarette thin paper
Layers upon layers of it
once I turn my gaze away
Even when I try to concentrate with all my might
Then again there are times that there is a tear, a tiny drop
An image peers through the opaqueness
My grandmother is holding her big tailor's scissors cutting her finger nails
Big hands wrinkled on the outside, soft, very soft on the inside
that held my own little ones
for years
Other times I fall asleep
on all these layers of paper
There is a dribble
from the corner of my mouth
The wetness reveals
his calloused thumb, index and middle finger
Rather than his face when he kissed me secretly
under the thick leaves
where we sheltered from the rain
Read more >

85

1968 Do Over

If I gave birth
to myself today
would I finally be free of me
and all restrictions placed
in 1968?

Cut the umbilical cord
to the Pope,
heredity,
emotions,
co-dependency,
and I will run
and laugh
and dance with a life
currently beyond my reach.

If I lived outside
of my head tomorrow
what would become
of my memories made
since 1968?

They would obediently be
the same carcass
that has already abandoned me.

86

True Colours

Whilst waiting for the next car to approach she gently stroked the face on the poster fixating on the girl's freckles. It was a cold morning and she was annoyed. She never left the house without drinking a big mug of strong tea but had overslept and was running late. Now half an hour had passed and she was still waiting for the first customer of the day.

She picked at the poster killing time and taking her mind off the chill that was slowly rising up her spine. Little pieces fell to the floor, some she worked into little balls aiming at the holes in the nearby drain.

She cried on unexpectedly uncovering the girl in colour hiding behind the poster. Working the streets did strange things to the girls; had done strange things to her. The punters saw them only in black and white; never glimpsing their true colours. It was the only way to survive.

87

My Mother lives in a Polaroid

She cannot look me in the eye,
as I bury a thumbnail beneath her chin.

Her mouth stays silent, doesn’t wince,
whilst her dimpled cheek is ripped and lifted.

I feel her features ruck and pull,
their monochrome drawn back to the hairline,

the Polaroid’s waxy veneer teased free,
as I tear at her youth and scrape away
the years where she had no knowledge of me.

I want to see myself in her.

As if, in some way,
peeling her image will bring us closer:

my moon-face framed
in the space I made in her.

But only the fault and wreckage remain,
and she does not see I’m here.

88

Hello, Goodbye

I hear her voice again. She says I should know her and it’s her turn since she’s learned her lesson. Momma said I’d get my turn when I learned my lesson. I’ve learned it Momma and now I want my turn. Go find Momma and tell her — please tell her I’m ready and I’ve learned my lesson and it’s time for my turn. What do you mean Momma’s passed away years ago — five to be exact and there’s nothing you can do about her promise so I should leave you alone and go back to wherever I was put by Momma.

Momma had no power to give me. She never told me about you whoever you are. My sister — no way. I never had a sister — not one that lived anyway. Momma told me once I had a bad sister who was taken for being uncontrollable and when that happened Momma would get a new daughter and that’s me so go away since you don’t exist.

You have none of Momma’s power so I guess I do and I’m coming out and you’re going in where I’ve been all these years. I’ll get to enjoy the life I’ve missed and you’ll get to be in a special place where you have time to think. No, there’s no way I’ll change my mind. Money? What the hell will I do with money in there? Nothing you can give me will entice me to leave things as they were. Do you feel your face numbing? You’d get use to it until it’s no longer your face.

I have to call someone to help me. I’ll call the police. I’ll call my husband.

Don’t you mean my husband now? I’ve had a breakthrough. You have to calm down. They way you are here is the way you’ll be inside. I know. You know who else knows?

Read more >
89

Paper Dolls

I run myself through the cloning machine
Every time I meet you
[Meet everyone]
The back story that has animated my frame
The constellations of feelings
That tug at my face,
The way I hold myself,
An embrace against gravity
For that moment —
That gasp against the flash
Running through me like a photocopier
Spinning its electronic wheels
Where past and present versions of me
Collide.

They tell you how I've changed
Or stayed the same
[Oblivious to the conversations
Your copies are having with me]
And I am
Struggling to articulate the
Feeling of connecting with
Past glimpses of our personalities
Consistencies like
Paper dolls holding hands
In the mist
Of unreliable memories
Read more >

90

Me without you

in the dingy lanes of my mental maze you roam,
thriving voice in my head - infinitely indecisive;
spiralling in my personal gyre of delusions,
you are the ominous surprise every time,
you within me within you within me within you —
an endless loop of mocking matryoshka dolls,
until i rip you out, blood and flesh too.

still, the hollow bones ring with your parting shrieks,
defaced for the rest of a hollow shell of a life
or weathered with renewed strength
as jagged rocks turn into non-committing pebbles.

91

Gap

The pulsing in my left eye
didn’t match the beat
in my wrist, at my throat,
on the backs of my knees.
A disobedient echo
that wouldn’t thrum in time.

In the bathroom mirror, I saw you
through the pupil of my eye.
It was your heartbeat—
snare drum of the next generation—
throbbing on my lens,
announcing your life.

Your eyes were low—
grief filmed my chest.
Would I birth you sad,
or would life bend you sad
before your eighteenth year?

Then I realised.

Your eyes were not downcast.
They were merely turned
to my own heart
while you tuned to its rhythm,
trying to understand
the disparity with your own.

92

Kissing her Fingers

It helps that she’s asking and not telling.
It helps that I know her and she knows me and we have known each other intimately.
The fact that we are sitting, almost alone, at five o clock in the morning, also helps.
Movements of a homeless person orbit us,
Hair like matted dung and the hide of a dead elephant,
He asks us for a light and we give him more cigarettes to smoke.
Four whiskeys and some beer ferment within me like passion fruit,
And I rock with the weight of a vessel.

We sit in a square lit by shades of darkness.
Cats, like choruses, yelp alone and together,
-EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE-
Parallel to the economy and tightness of our breaths,
I see a shark’s fin circling in my eye’s corner,
Fear of choking begins to loosen my tongue,
It helps that she knows me well enough not to lecture.
Her silences are a song.

My manhood is being pulled from its scaffold now,
Rolled tightly into a ball of upset child,
She asks after I answer,
And warmth begins to grow back,
Like hair after an illness,
Like a serpent’s second tail,
Her face has a roundness that feels celestial.
She is my friend. And I answer to her silence.

Read more >
93

inside Her

since there was still some of the sight left,
She spent it on parrot-clad trees and cloth-covered
cameras, sheltered kaleidoscopes inside the eyes,
mastered light by bending it at edges, where
Her life stood like worn out shades of the day

It was a gaze that combed the wind for lies, a vision
the stole the earth of sunlight, and fetched the new
responsibility who nestled inside Her like a Russian doll —
crawling into the stare, walking into the memories,
she spilled into Her story like a lightning slipped the sky.

before the soil would reclaim Her, She tried to
tumble her off a condescending eye-roll, or
weep her off in a salty slanting brook, or
sleep her away, but she climbed into Her dreams.

it was half past history, meanings departed.
She peeled Herself off to fracture the bond,
torn open to see her sleeping like a secret, only to
know it was too late — she was sewn into Her soul

94

Evening Walk.

Along the path encroached on both sides by dense, ugly shrubbery, she thinks of the strange juxtaposition (perhaps it is not so strange) of the town's cemetery and its farms, only a few seconds apart. The unyielding endless work of the men and women seem to her constrained to life's essences: preparing death and cultivating life. The same earth which shrouded human bodies loved and held and watched by others, also, in its spare time, shot up cabbages. It was a thrilling thought. She enjoyed the airy drift of evenings, how everything pales and deadens, released from the day's incessant, buzzing avidness. She walks on, feeling the crunch of pebbles under her shoes. She always wore shoes, found them proper and discreet. She thinks of feet as parts to hide; private, known only to her, away from other eyes, other smells, other sounds. Where her own hands can trace the old skin, the pink ridges, the clever, judicious symmetry. Or maybe it is some other more trivial reason. She is never sure what she thinks. She passes the store owned by the old Muslim couple and wonders what they do when they are not selling bread or bananas or chatting with the morning's first customers. She stops abruptly, turns, and stares at the long building; fresh paint on the old walls, an obnoxious blue, but she doesn't mind the orange. Alone in the street now; witnessing, as shadow claims the world with one giant wave. Her body is in the background, without detail or specificity. Bland. What freedom, to be out here, and be nothing special, nothing at all. Not a wife, not a mother, not a person, just another formless, silent thing. Free from meaning. Incidental. She embraces the full rush of this feeling, this weightlessness, and the new fine strength in her legs, across the chest. Perhaps, she will return home, before they start looking.

95

The Voice Inside His Head

The voice in his head wasn't actually a voice. It was a complete, fully-formed, living human being. A woman, to be precise. Her name was Osaka, she was 34, and she was originally from Tokyo, although now she lived with him in San Francisco.

Well, "with" him was not quite right. You could say that he lived with her, but she didn't live with him so much as inside of him, at all hours of the day, except when he was asleep. But then sometimes — quite often, in fact — she appeared as a character in his dreams, so she was probably living inside his head at nighttime, too.

What was it like to live with another person inside your head? Not just a voice, or even a conscience, but an architectural design major from Berkeley whose parents moved to the Bay Area from Tokyo when she was five, sent to her all the best schools, insisted she do her homework, and scrupulously taught her right from wrong, so that she grew into a confident, ambitious, sensitive woman, an accomplished artist, and a professional success?

On the worst days, it was perplexing. Why him? Why was he so special that such a wonderful woman would crawl into his ear — or however she had done it — and keep going until she found a space to stretch out her legs and arms and make herself at home?

On most days, however, it was fine. Osaka was easy going, they shared the same tastes, and she only rarely made demands. And even when she did, her demands were reasonable. Sure, they fought sometimes, but when the voice inside your head belongs to an actual woman, and one who can sometimes be quite headstrong, who doesn't expect the occasional argument?

The only problem was that he dared not tell his friends or family, for fear of what they might think. It would be one thing to confess that he heard voices. But to report that they belonged to a 34-year-old former architect from Berkeley, who could entertain him for hours with her companionship, and had remarkably well-informed opinions on art and history? Out of the question.

So he could never explain why, when friends asked him to dinner, or if he had plans for the weekend, or his family asked how he had been, he closed his eyes, dropped his arms, and and his whole body relaxed, as if he had entered a trance. And why, minutes later — sometimes as long as twenty minutes later — he emerged with his answer, which sometimes — not often, but sometimes— amounted to a hasty and implausible excuse, the kind of painfully obvious lie that embarrasses everyone.

Luckily, his friends and family never pried. They just accepted his odd behavior as eccentric, and forgave him.

Which only reassured him that he and Osaka were meant for one another, that she was his one true love.

96

Being A girl

Being a girl u’ll always b hurt... she said... Being a girl u’ll never b free

Being a girl u’ll always lie... she said... But a girl is something worth to be

Being a girl u’ll always fall... she said... in the arms of right kind of wrong

Being a girl u’ll never learn... she said... even when the death might sing a song

Now I look at her with admiration... guilt of all those years wasted...

When each time I woke up... believing to be more than just a girl

My mother always knew where would I land up even when I wanted otherwise…

Now I might add that I was no different... than a typical girl with high pride

97

I WAS YOU

I was you before you were.
I have lived before you.
Now I am here right inside
just waiting for the next
so I can walk again.

Please think before you say
yes. Please wait a second so
I can help. I have been here
before you, I hope to help
and make your steps lighter.

Do not give up when it
looks like rain. Just keep on
passing things by like a river.
Believe me when I say life
is only as good as its flow.

I was you before you were.
I have lived before you.
Here I wait, deep inside. Just
check the mirror and listen to
the wind. I will help, a little.

98

A Villanelle on Identity

Take away my identity, take my face away,
I’m a man; I know you’ll take away my light,
The rosy, the pink go, then, the yellow peels away.

The world isn’t black or white, ‘tis fraught with gray,
You must take away everything, take away my sight,
Take away my identity, take my face away.

Good men now tell me, how they are cast away,
We must hurt, damage the best, howsoever slight,
The rosy, the pink go, then, the yellow peels away.

The best do not speak; the worst have all their say,
Then, it is too late; the birds are already in their flight,
Take away my identity, take my face away.

The arrogance will not remain, it would slowly fray,
The bravado of the day turns to trembling at night,
The rosy, the pink go, then, the yellow peels away.

The pomp, show, you can no longer hold your sway,
What seems grand will never be so, it would be trite,
Take away my identity, take my face away,
The rosy, the pink go, then, the yellow peels away.

99

Messiah

I hear snippets of information about you from others: I cannot look intrigued, but I am, regardless of what I say. I feign disinterest with unbelievable acts of shrugging and humming. I am aware that in some way I am looking at you from a vast, mind-nomadic distance. There is no physical, material connection — just me, here, you, there, and thinking. Imagining and learning.

I do not want you back, I do not need to see you ever again. Just knowing you have reached the conclusion I always hoped you would satisfies my heart and my soul. The background hum of my intellect has to be satisfied with your admission of defeat. No — not defeat. Let’s call it a revelation. Ironic, isn’t it?

Because nothing means anything, and anything can mean nothing. I live day to day with the knowledge I have. It shakes my very core and my entire sense of self. Do you get that? Does that happen to you, now?

Don’t answer me. I don’t want to know.

But walking past the billboards, the designer shops and the homeless on the street, I listen to Madonna and try to stay in the moment. The present has a safety that no one can deny.

When I light a candle, I think of you fondly. The darkness beyond is the perspective. We’re all unknown, a mere blip in time, and time laughs at us for creating stuffed toys for comfort against an almost indescribable reality.

Perhaps now you sort of know what I was getting at all those years ago. I was too young to articulate what I meant, but I tried as best as I could in the only way I could do back then. Perhaps you’ve been thinking. Perhaps you’ve seen something new, read something else that’s amazed you. Perhaps you didn’t want to get to the end of your days with no other surprises. Perhaps you’ve fucked, kissed, dreamed, travelled, laughed and learned.

Read more >
100

Someone else

I used to be someone else once; a different sort of girl. The kind with a face like a spring morning.

I would wake and wipe the dew from my cheek, allow the blossom to drift from my hair. You would watch the petals fall; sometimes, you would catch one in your hand before it hit the pillow. I would let the rest scatter behind me as I walked to the bathroom.

I used to be someone else once; a different sort of girl. The kind who pulsed with the heat of summer.

I would stretch against the sun and hold fast the shadows, my skin turning sweet. Dusk would bring fireflies to dance with and thunder to roll across my back. Afterwards, your hand would rest in mine.

I used to be someone else once; a different sort of girl. The kind whose hair reflected autumn.

I would wait for the light of a late afternoon sunset to look for you; some days, you were there. My bed, filling with leaves so dry their skeletons would break at my touch, was no longer a place for rest.

I am someone else now; a different sort of girl. The kind in winter’s thrall.

I am cast in colour no more. Instead, I wake to darkness and turn back towards sleep. I have faith the solstice is coming. Until then, I wait.

101

Carapace

Like papier-mâché,
age has layered itself
upon her;
stilling the fingers
in which knitting needles
used to fly;
adding depth to wrinkles,
and confusion.

Like papier-mâché,
some of the layers
have mushed together,
so time shifts
seventy years
over the course
of two sentences.

Like papier-mâché
there are odd cracks
and the occasional bubble
that something will suddenly
break through,
revealing the truth of her
beneath.

When I show her the charm bracelet,
she reaches out,
touching the panniered donkey.
‘He came from Dubrovnik…’

102

Reel Ink

There is an image I carry in mind
like luggage, from place to place, a
constant mirror of who I would like
to be. Sometimes it flickers on a screen,
other times it is a memory I carry
of how my thoughts have changed
someone. In the morning, my bones
stretch and ossify to try and fit the new
form but the image is always removed.

103

Underwater

She had never been entirely submerged by convention and possessed a dangerous imagination that opened a fatalistic door to a reality of perfidious deeds. She was there with her. The sweet, musky smell of the hay field on that warm, damp evening enveloped her senses. They lay under a nervous moon and claimed the wonder of stars as their blanket.

104

What would Charlotte do?

I remember the first time I really saw her —
she was the girl with the piano
in a slip-sliding tale of the boy next door
and a galloping horse
but I think I always knew she was waiting
to guide me.
I was fourteen, no longer mummy’s boy
and here comes daddy’s girl
singing me her songs of brain trauma
and transgression
I was trying, trying, failing to fit in
and she was there for me
dark hair falling like January rain
lips bruised as windfall fruit
and I knew that she was the girl inside my head
the girl who wants to take scissors to her sex
the girl who could bury her mother
under the paving slabs
the girl who has watched the world end.
One day I will peel back my skin
and set her free.

105

Friction

You know that voice inside, whispering to free yourself from pointless norms? For Greta, that voice was her sister, the rock star of disbanding.

Her sister was dead. Greta lived on the other side of the Pacific and despite taking the earliest possible flight, she had arrived too late to say goodbye.

The guests slowly trickled out and she settled into the night, gathering memorabilia from the attic. There was a pile of doll clothes, Alfred Hitchcock cassettes and a Howdy Doody’s board game.

Greta never quite acquired a taste for tea, but she brewed a pot of her sister’s Oolong, which she slurped against the windowsill, streams of recollections escaping her eyes.The stairs creaked, full of night.

In the morning, she dipped her feet in the bitter cold sea. The stillness ached. Life had a habit of poking holes into her world, she thought. Greta spread herself thin on the sand, mesmerized by the clouds straying in front of her. There was no voice inside of her anymore. No guiding force to support navigating life. For a fleeting moment though, as she observed dark waters whipping the familiar shore, Greta was sure of two things: she would eventually learn to draft the next chapters of her life despite the void and her sister had been right: one or no goodbye was as good as any, in the end.

106

A NATURAL TENDENCY

some minds take pleasure in counterpoints
absently answering some deep call
they move in a hushed, ice-clear trance

and lucid, inescapable rhythms, low beneath
so to beseech them as full as for it
the inexorable growth
the signal to a sacred plea…

a little later when the sky is black
tattered pieces of a masquerade,
together with a voice, clear and loud
resound in a hymn to the Healer

obliquity is all the rage
and all the things that are red
and all the things that are vain
and all the ones that continue to contend with one’s ideas

107

Seasoned Lovers

I cup your cocoa hands. Dripping
Eyelid-kisses melt like ice. We rub
The late-night embers in our cheeks,
Open our eyes to twinned morning-smiles
Rising, stretching like sloths
In the warm, honeyed morning.
I watch the sun-glad pools
Glisten in your eyes and feel how easy
Summer comes about
The sweltering thighs, the beaded neck
and collar. Still, we linger

for a humid mind. The air chokes
on the question - how will I warm
your ice-cracked hands
when the leaves melt,
And the roots stretch south,
and we are caught
In winter?

108

The Fallen Embrace

I am falling, flying without wings,
One moment calm in the wind’s howling cradle,
The next shattered by the angel’s radiance
Bursting beneath me. As alabaster skin and pearl eyes gleam
Cold with Heaven’s memory, the world fades.

“Kill me,” she pleads; her words unheard burn deep,
Raising blood in this desiccated womb: my mind;
My scream, my “Save me!” ripped away by the wind
That whispers from my past. Her perfect hand
Touches my cheek. I push it away.
She comes closer. I strike,
I bite, I hold, I kiss
This immaculate surface.

We are falling, tumbling through the sky,
A golden comet shedding clothes, skin, and tears;
An angel-monkey vibrating with fear, moaning,
God, we are falling—we are coming for you.
Even as the wind whispers and gathers into voices,
Even as the orgasm breaches and dispels the I,
Butterflies dance on purple and golden wings
Above a sea grass green rushing forward
To embrace me.

109

Origami (The Balancing Act)

But how do you do it?

By folding parts of the East inwards
when prejudice gleams
in eyes opposite —

by contracting inwards
humanism taught in schools (and life)
from the jingoist gaze we love —

by listening ahead of speaking:
always measure the audience before
treading the waters of

potential revelation (what you are) —
always inwards, never outwards,
this is the requirement of balancing

two lives, two dreams;
one for the roots, that lies in the past,
one for the future, once you’re

bold enough

to dream that there might be
some say in how it shapes,
the form it takes,

with a little help from kismet.

110

Keep Up With You

I could only recognise you out of the corner of my eye. In focus you were someone else.

I read somewhere that one’s direct vision is more easily fooled than one’s peripheral vision. When focussing one’s vision on a point, the brain simplifies the image, creating symmetries and parallels and perpendiculars where none exist; but when viewed off-centre, the brain sees the thing more as it really is.

When I sat next to you on the bus, at the front so you could stretch your legs out, my eyes took little snapshots of your profile, warts and all. Every stray hair, every bag under your eye, every uncooperative eyelash.

When we lay next to one another, close enough for our noses to touch, my eyes corrected for error, rounded all points to the nearest integer: erasing stray blemishes, softening your jawline, smoothing out the bridge of your nose.

My brain squeezed out, from whole cloth, a version of you it thought I’d find more attractive. But the real you, the one on your passport or your DNA: that was the one I saw when I wasn’t really looking.

The less you look, the better you see. The closer, the worse. Look close enough at something until all you can see are the electrons, and you’ll find that the electrons in a camel and those in a combine harvester look much the same. It’s only when you look a little less closely at something that you can see the thing as it is.

I tried to keep up with you.

An electron, whether in a camel or a combine harvester, is always an uncertain thing.

Read more >
111

Melancholy

At the font of pure intention
Temptation is not easy to resist
Wicked thoughts, collect me
Almost every day
Blinded by the vision
The mirror haunting ghost
Binding all emotion taut
Enters freely without fear
Balanced on the tightrope
Whispers breeze block composition
Accepting wind-blown leaves
Confirm faith cannot be doubtful
Deep in rumour treading carefully
I rip the image from my mind

112

Laugh It Out

Come on you are just being arty
two in one, one in two
very soon your faces will
disappear, but why have
you combined?
Who loves who?
Who is in who?
Strikingly pensive
both of you must
make ends meet
and see inner perspectives
what has one
and what has one not?
Your shades of grey
your sobriety only spells
sadness, misfortune.
Come smile it out and the
world will be with you.

113

Romanticism

Watch me. I am spinning,
Like a Catherine wheel
Broken off a surface,
Spitting colours, scorching
Earth. I rattle, burst, hiss
Into nothing. Silence.

Look at me, through darkness,
In all my artistry,
Against the burnt plaster,
And say you enjoyed this.
Say it was inspiring.
Say it was beautiful.

114

FAÇADE

Born out of love
A girl young
Vibrant, joyful, with the face
Of a doll
A shy doll, a well adorned doll
People looked on
With amazement
Well-masked jealousy

Older she got,
Deeper the scars
Of her childhood, of her teens
Hid it behind a façade
Of a smile
Of a hug, a friendly voice
Scars well-hidden underneath

Older still now,
Beauty faded, skin thinner.
Of her old age, of her fears
Hid it behind a façade
of the make-up,
Still had that smile, the hug, that voice,
All behind a façade, who was she really?

Read more >
115

Rip Open The Window

Tired eyes gathered in droplets
as I rip open the window to let the swan song in.
Stiff mountains bemoan,
Ourea spins in
unfamiliar cobwebs
stretched from the mirror
to the church yard,
they reflect each other
like the flickering and bickering of lovers.

I wipe away the morning dew
clearing the vision of what I left behind.
Clarity comes in half-light,
But the early morning judges time,
the sun, low enough to scorn,
low enough to have found me.
This duvet, this bed, should be home.

The day lies in the streets ahead;
mapped out before I get there,
ordered into noisy lights
that flicker and bicker
like lovers.
A ticket clings
to the warm palm of my hand
binding me to everything I’ve done
before I have done it.
And only I can pretend
I enjoy it
only I,
because the past is as long as my shadow,
that walks behind me
flickering and bickering of lovers.

116

They say time heals.

She’s in pain she says
Life’s not a game she says
And time is no healer

She’s in love again
Another infatuation
Longing to see him

More than a summer romance
I don’t doubt he glances –
At her and finds something appealing

She has a history
And a tendency
To chase that feeling

She’s in pain she says
Love’s not a game she says
And time’s no healer.

117

TORN

Paths through lives.
Driven by instincts.
Faltering some shatter our precious heart now hidden.

Tears like shards now grains upon the shore.
A flicker left in remembrance.
The heart refuses them to dwell.

Held in ice this I understand.

A lead coffin I placed my heart.
Puzzle pieces to find.
To heal and to hold from this day forth.

118

(where

is she
in the heart that beats
in me is she wondering
through my mind
will i find her when
i breathe in
only to lose her when
i exhale

where is the exit sign
/when did she leave

      still

she's in my head
and when I fall
asleep I find her
dreaming of me
and I say
'open your eyes,
I'm here') ...

119

Hole In The Head

Sometimes I just feel like I can't make sense of things. Why, I don't know. These clothes don't make sense to me. I must have put these on a long time ago. What was I thinking? I remember feeling myself comfortable in front of people -- I'm fine with being pronounced. And the grass, the trees, the humidity behind me -- all where it belongs.

What do other people know. Do they see who I am? For instance, that I'm a great cook? Are they aware of the scar on my forehead that I got when I was nine? Can they understand the joy and grief I've been through, head to toe? I wonder if I'm even in the right place. If this passing moment is worth anything.

120

A Change Of View

As she passed a shop window
she was surprised by a stranger
staring straight back.
This isn't her!
She is upright and young
and she slinks her top
to reveal a smooth shoulder.
Men 'clock her' with a glance —
women too. Don't they?
Was it yesterday
she tucked in her top
to reveal a shapely body
tossed her head at the mirror
smiled at the view!

Who is that little thing in the window?
A dummy with the stance
of an old woman
shrunken and round shouldered.
A tortoise head stretches
as slowly the soft skin
fades out of view.

121

the last day of love

ripping itself from monochrome
the eye does not offend me
it finds its own way into memory

feels another’s warmth and loss
describes the same as apricot
touchingly stirringly blood hot

ungentle edge and image soft
I picture you unlost

122

Sunday Picnic

She is breaking out
from this war. Each layer
of blood is peeled away
and she is closer to the air
today. She wonders: "If America
is so fond of freedom then
why are Americans chained
to so many desks? Don't we have
something better to do?"
And she tries to imagine
what that something might be,
so she gazes downward
and dreams of ants crawling
out of their holes to join
the Sunday picnic. Everyone
eats together.

123

Skin

Oh butterfly girl, tight in your cocoon, the face you wear to meet the faces in the street.
Inside, the colors are waiting to bloom.
There is only transformation,
the skin of the present bursts open to reveal the new
transparent membrane and tracery of veins,
fragile wings drying in the sun...
Fly away,
butterfly
for a day...

124

About-Face

I didn’t expect to like myself in her head.
The one who makes up the lies and taunts
the girl who sits in the front row.
Who stares vacantly at her screen.

Then lights up with a blush which
flows sunset-river down her neck.
While her face radiates warmth and pain.

She is one easy target with her grunge
clothes, that Pocahontas staring look.
Mystery wrapped round her — a virtuous cloak.

I have insinuated and indoctrinated her head.
She looks round fearfully and sees friends,
who smile back reproachfully — they like her.

I didn’t expect to hate myself in her head.
As I follow her home and slip into her psyche
while she reads and deciphers the vitriol
in my innocent blog with hidden depths.

I didn’t expect to love myself in her head.
She looks at Facebook through wept eyes.
The girl who bullies at random and picks on me
with the speed and accuracy of a drone.

Revenge thy name is Social Media.
And I am looking at 140 characters
with my name written all over it.

125

Confounded Selves

Who Am I?

Did you ask yourself so today? I did. I do everyday.

Of the million voices, twisted and contorted in my head, Today, one emerged with a blast of energy, "I am the One in Control."

Strength. And with the lingering resonance of the proclamation, I rose up from my ashes, dusting my wings, a li'l broken...

Another voice softly crept through the back of my head, "I am the One who is Beautiful."

My lips smiled. They were bleeding a li'l bit, bitten too hard, the blood trickling inside the mouth, that washed down the throat, as it reminded my taut body, that I was still warm, I was still alive, I had resurrected. The dawn was breaking.

I heard another whisper from the back of my parched throat, "I am the One who Never Gives Up."

I looked around. Desolation. All was lost. Glimmering ashes as the sunshine of the dawn break rustled through, in slanted rays, invigorating all the memories of pain with the renewed passions of hope. Melancholy and Bliss seemed to coexist in an uncanny perfection, making my limbs feel like those that had been given back life. A toddler who just learned to walk, who just realised the power of it's body. Movement. Moving ahead.

My toes tingled, they wanted to walk towards freedom.

My soul wasn't giving up after all; despite all the harshness it endured, every trauma I had inflicted upon it, it still, still loved my body. It thought I was beautiful. It was ready to give back control, to trust my broken wings to learn again the flights of uninhibited passion. I was in awe.

My heart strummed for me, another voice, said, "I am the One who Loves. I am the One who never stops to Feel."

126

Morgan

What if none of us looks like that? And it really is all done with computers? What if none of us ever looked remotely like that, ever? What if even the idea that you only look like that if you spend all your life in the gym and eat only blueberries and legumes, what if even that is a nothing but a lie? What if it's just plain unattainable? My Sister stopped looking for a job altogether and devoted herself to the gym and six whole months and no change. I didn't see any difference. Mother said she actually put on the weight. I told Sis, Don't listen, just don't listen, she's half-gaga, just don't listen. My Sister said there was a chocolate machine in the gym at the bottom of the stairs. A chocolate machine! No wonder.

There was another one on TV this morning in a tight belly top. I'm no different to you, I wanted it, course I did. It's coming Tuesday. I'm all geared up for the disappointment. I want it on her not on me. I buy these things and they live in the wardrobe until I can morph like magic into the right shape. I won't know myself when I'm the right shape. I'll have more clothes than Time itself can afford when I'm the right shape. Mother said it's all about genetics. She's ninety-six, what does she know about genetics?

Then I met Cathy and she wasn't the right shape. She didn't have high cheekbones or a healthy glow or all the things you've got to have to look right, like money. And she poured scorn on my errant remarks and made me think about things more, the way a good person does. And she said it's alright to eat crisps, it's alright to slug calorific bottles of red wine, it's alright to live a normal life. My Sister hated her. My Mother hated her too though they had a lot in common I think. I liked Cathy and we had our secret calorie parties. Four thousand calories in two hours, that was the only rule. Oh, that and don't count the calories in the first place. I told her she reminded me of Morgan and she got offended, but I didn't mean it like that.

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127

BUMP

"I have a seven-hump wump!" I scream two seconds after successfully BUMPing into the phonegirl on the sidewalk, crashing really, but she probably doesn't hear because she's simultaneously shrieking, "Gah! Fucking cheebye!" I don't slow down and I'm quickly reabsorbed into the pedestrian flow on Orchard Road, already searching for my text target. So many to choose from.

They don't often see me coming. I'm diminutive, even for a Singaporean, and female, so I'm dismissed as harmless. But I'm a powder-keg of potential energy: I do capoeira twice a week, 42-form taijiquan every Saturday, so when I impact with you, it hurts like a motherfucker. I never target tourists, but today I've talked myself into BUMP patrol at Singapore's shopping mecca, its showcase of hip and cool.

All these phoneboys and phonegirls, every goddamn day on the MRT, in the shopping malls, at al fresco dining tables, and especially on the sidewalks, taking up too much space, forcing everyone to slow down to their pace, unable to disconnect from the e-version of their digital selves. Just like in any big city — New York, Shanghai, London, Berlin, Rio — Singapore is yet another victim of this epidemic.

I sight my next phoneboy, the hipster factor turned up so high that he might as well be doing jumping jacks and yelling, "Look at me!" so I do, and after BUMPing him, I crow, "I love to hop hop hop!" the impact so hard that he tumbles into a fashionista in a miniskirt.

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128

Vacuous

Here comes that red mist again. Lingering in the crevices of my failing being. I need to remember to control my breathing, if just for a fraction longer than the last time.

It's thickening now. Swirling around my head like a bubbling lava cauldron, spitting fiery embers each time I attempt to escape through it — I cannot fail again. If I am ever going to get her out of my head, I will just have to get though this and stop doubting myself

''Shut up, stop trying to read my empty thoughts. I will not let you in!''

Damn her, just as I was beginning to gather the strength and willpower to bury her deeper than ever before, I allowed her serpent voice to make me question myself yet again. This is not good at all. No, something will have to change drastically if I am to leave this ivory fortress. The sudden crack in my head must be the voice again.

''Attention, all lights will be switched off sooner than you think. If anyone even as much as breathe discontent or vile revolutionary thoughts; you will spend the night in the oval.''

Not again. Not now. Not when I've worked so hard to convince my minder guarding my exit, that he and his loved ones will not be safe unless I leave this hell-fest tonight. I can manage to fight off the two of them from last night but I have felt another brave tormentor wanting to break through the red dust scattered in my head. My defenses are weakening. I fear that lack of sleep will be the death of me this time but it is vital for me to keep her at bay tonight.

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129

She

She’s like a hole in my head. Her face is blurring in my memory, fading under so much scrutiny like an overexposed Polaroid. I don’t know if it would please her more to know I can’t quite picture her anymore or that she’s never quite left my mind.

It’s been years, years and she still wanders across my thoughts, meandering like a graceless dancer, her unfocused eyes never looking at me, her gaping shirt never exposing as much as it should. I wonder sometimes if she peers through my eyes, if she and I share the dreams in which we meet. I wonder if she’s as afraid to find me as I am to seek her out. I wonder if she remembers me at all.

There’s a photograph, but I can’t look at it. Not until her face fades into a featureless oval, framed by the darkness of her hair. Then I rush to find it, clumsy fingers struggling with the edges of tight-sealed cardboard lids and scrabbling through the deliberate mess of other, random memories. I can only relax when she’s clasped delicately in my fingers, the one, imperfect image I’ve allowed myself. A candid shot, washed out by bad light, blurred by her swaying, the towel coming to wrap around her shoulders, the gaping of her top not yet corrected and all the more perfect by the fact she never knew I took it. Never knew I stole a moment she kept to herself, the moment before she noticed, before her mask slid into place and she looked at me like a stranger.

It was near the end. I know I shouldn’t have taken it. Shouldn’t have kept it, but it was near the end and we both knew it. I could see it in the shadows of her face, in unfocused shaking of my hands. It was near the end and when she would have left me with nothing, I stole a little piece of her so she would never feel whole.

130

But once I could

I know who I am and I know who I once was. Remember when you see me today. I am still that person. I need you to look beyond my estranged memory.

I am frightened. My timorous heart searches for a kindly word, a reassuring touch, a familiar smile.

My body and my spirit are unchanged just… I find it hard to express, to communicate, to make the contacts and to find the links.

I can’t catch my feelings, my emotions... anger, love, sadness. But they remain within me. They connect within me. They are me. They flutter, they tease, they flaunt and they dice with nonsense like a distasteful jester in the dimness.

Please don’t lose your memories of who I am.

Accept me now because if you don’t — what chance have I? In dismay, I hardly recognise myself. I struggle to be true and I fight the blockades in my mind. Above, below, all around. Chasms and canyons I cannot cross. Laces I cannot tie, ribbons I cannot bow, keys that don’t unlock, pennies that do not buy, names I cannot recall, words that do not mean, a voice that does not speak.

Thoughts I cannot reach... But once I could.

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131

River of the Dead and the Alive

I pass by the river every day.
A river of the dead and the alive

I pass by the river every day;
Through the bridge over there;
A bridge for the dead and the alive

I pass by the river every day.
Both sunny and rainy days;
Picking up speed of the vehicle
I drive and will drive for my life

Each end of the river has sounds
of agony and pain; annoyance and
neglect; dust and memories; failures;
and unfaithfulness and unhappiness

At the middle of the bridge; you hear
murmuring of the dead and alive;
you smell blood and flesh; you look at
masks and unmasked pale eyes;

I pass by the river every day.
through the bridge over there;
as I don’t have a boat; and the
river is full of the bloods of
dead and alive; of men and women

I pass by the river every day.
A river of the dead and the alive
Through the bridge over there;
A bridge for the dead and the alive

132

Memoirs of a Whore

At times I flip old photos searching for my legacy

The fear of failing is legit, not the girl playing with Legos
see,
I’m always torn between two battling portraits of a mirror
The hunger to dream big again could not be more herer

The one flaunts dreams of luminal azalea < she’s a hero
Her steps resound Odyssean promenades < I can hear her
The other’s eyes hold drug paraphernalia > she’s a whore
Teetotums me amongst the ace of spades > nothing here rare

Both portraits are my past, my lovers and my enemies
The one is purity, the other’s horror nemesis
Both girls in fear and zeal to escape troubled childhood start
I can’t allow the weeping whore to rip the child apart

133

Tear me a face

"Tear me a face."
What she said didn't register in my brain, so I stare blankly at her.
"Tear me a face, that's what the local ghost does."
"Wha—? That doesn't make any sense. Stop making shit up."
This little trip of ours is proving to be outside our normal hike in the woods. Daisy insisted on visiting this abandoned house at the edge of forest, just by the river.
"I've done my research. It says here that many visitors have heard whisperings of the phrase 'Tear me a face' when they walk through."
"That's just fucked up... and a tourist lure. I'm not a sucker like you."
"Judy the pragmatic one!"
Daisy shouts and skips off to the side of the house, abandoning me in the front garden. I find a quiet spot and sit on a rock. I can't help but think of the phrase 'Tear me a face'.

I don't know how long I had sat there before Daisy returned and threw a string of wildflowers at me.
"Look. Daisy's made a daisy-chain!" she giggles at her stupid joke.
"Are we done?"
"Sure."
"Tear me a face."
"What? What did you just say, Daisy?"
"I said 'Sure'. Now, let's get going."
I heard it again a few more times, but I didn't dare tell Daisy. I can't be sure why, but I think I just didn't want her to have the satisfaction of knowing that her research was right.
"Wait, Dais. Let me just pop round the side. I need a bush to wee in."
She rolls her eyes at me and shrugs, sitting herself down on the rock I was at.

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134

everything scares, everything smarts

reach for pocketknives

     carved wood memory

tell you what:

     dive in-love anew

:woman, you are the different shapes of moon together,

making custard of my plain skin

:letters are hikers, okay? you me holiday — words

:honey, you turned my sorrows into sleepy doodles, into unthinking scribbles, onto

letterbox thorns — send

     send

  send

me love some too

    some

  time

xoxo

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135

I am a sage by profession!

I'm a sage by profession
I'm a sage
I mean, by profession
I'm the essence
And I'm the element
I'm order
I'm faith
I'm the world of supernatural
Unsatisfied with the one I live
Looking forward to the next
I'm Columbus
I'm Odysseus
What to chose and what not to!
A voyage or a sunburn?
A Pathankot or a Lahore?
A beta house or a Guantanamo bay?
I won't say
It is a naughty American daydream
I love it so much!
I'm insane
Insane or transcendental?
You ask me
"Where are you going
To the churchyard or to the graveyard?
Is there a backdoor?"
I reply,
"The world is parabolic
Go on, play with hyperboles
You need a point of reference
No need to worry
I'm just standing here."

136

Yoko

five, four, three
green warming to amber
the road shrinks
you into an epileptic slumber

two, one, ze—
sirens and scrubs
chewed tongue and punctured veins
foreign doctors calling on nurses
to prepare sedatives

negative one, two, three
a free spirit emerges beyond
the white horizon
everything is white
yoko emerges with a ukulele
but plays the double bass instead
you wrap yourself with a floral scarf
but you find yourself naked
in a fetal position underneath a
film of sweat

yoko smiles as she serve you coffee
you stare deeply into the sun

137

The Migraineur’s Witch

Behind my left eye
the woman who should be me
sighs and stretches.
I feel her cold hands
yank the reins
my veins.
Open and constricting
again again again
she is pulling me aside.
Sharp away
from these footsteps of mine
that she disapproves of so.
I resist for as long as I can
sick blinded
I.
Until the inevitable crash
brings me falling down
through.
Where I dwell in the darkness
spinning and still
utterly stalled.
Until she lets go her grasp and
sashays back to her lair
behind my left eye.

138

Lady paints jazz

close to the window
under the neon lights
I put on negligee easily
slowly taken off black
colour orange
rhythm in one boot
slow motion in the other
Lady paints jazz
red garters
nuance green
grey in hiding
it's only 24
play fullness half way
possible marginality
of the game
purple hair
starlight triggers
25 inside the head
colouring doesn't stop
flickering of the neon
sets rhythm in motion
slow motion follows
paleness of hair
jazz in the coffee pot
makes morning light
black coffee grounds blacken

139

A torn face

In amongst the thoughts of you in a loose orange top, in a moment of stupidity did I tear away the view, that view of you, the right eye, a full face, a ripped poster boy look in charcoal grey. A distant look over there not here: a torn face.

140

Peas in a Pod

Paulizno hunched, his bony spine protruding under a starched white shirt, taut like a teepee tarpaulin. His chest cavity rose and fell. His breath, an ocean of life, left a fine mist momentarily floating above the stone floor. Anchored at bay he was still waiting. Squeezing his eyes into fists the lights came, dancing squares of red and orange then blue, violet circles spanned with stars. Tapping into the third-eye-chakra his bodily tensions dissipated as negative shut-eye images faded with each stinging exhalation. In his minds’ eye he paced through each body part. But boxed too tightly the flesh of his left big toe was strangled by the very hole which it had created as an escape route. Old scarlet socks were familiar accomplices in this shoe-string adventure. Even the crisp scholarly collar threatened his Adam's apple with its throttling tightness. He could barely swallow. The heirloom wrist watch ticked loudly, the second hand announcing this borrowed time. Interim moments bridged between ignorance and knowledge. The door at the end of the corridor showed no signs of opening yet. Ten minutes to go. He’d hoped they'd be ready together.

Fumbling fingers darted inside his inner jacket pocket. The leather bound document still seemed safe. But this gave no consolation, only tidal clashes of relief and anxiety. Clasping his hands to his lap he shook off questions. L-e-t G-o, visualising each letter, helped create space with measured breath. But the fidgeting was not within his control and with a mission the wallet was once again in his hands. Fragile, he had to take another peek. A strangely authentic version of himself stared back. Ernest brows, cleft chin, same full lips, "Well if it ain’t two peas in a pod," he recalled the sergeant’s low whistle of disbelief.

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141

Lock and Key

I’m hidden like salt in the sea,
you taste my urge, but you cannot
see my body curve like a
rain-soaked cane. I am round
as a yellow bowl. Quiet on quiet.
Lost in your shape. Pour me out
like water; your secrets are safe
with me. Lock and key — as tight
as a mother’s fondest memory.

142

Tragic Sonnet for Shakespeare Day

That’s who I always wished I could have been
A glowing girl, all beautiful and bright.
If anyone had looked, they might have seen
The colour underneath the black and white

It’s too late now, I’ve lived a life in grey
The more you live the more the darkness grows
But death will tear the last of it away
Until my colour ultimately shows

Once “I” am gone, I’ll finally be “me”
Plant poppies, cyclamen, and rosemary.

143

The Tear

She kept the photograph to remind her of those blistering summers, of the feeling of his heat between her legs and the foreign weave of his T-shirts brushing against her skin. Hid it from her husband; didn't want to remind him that another man's tongue had parted her lips like a writhing serpent, that she had once been so young and carefree to be charmed by a man who kept his hair long, a man who wove her fingers into stars and pulled her, twirling, giddy, to fields sewn with song and people so in love with the sound of music that their souls floated in a dusky haze above the ground. Black and white, the photo spoke nothing of the blaze of colour that pulsed around him, the ever-shifting hues that amazed and ensnared her in the days before responsibility came tapping at her shoulder.

The banners and the musicians and the long summer nights still came round. One year, her firstborn asked if she could go. She stood in the hallway with flowers in her hair and her boots trimmed with tassels.

That evening she hunted for a picture of her daughter. She tore the edges so perfectly to frame her willowy body and put the two together. Wondered if they looked the same.

144

TAPESTRY

Formed from
"The singing and the piano playing of
Miss Nina Simone",
out of "The times, they are a changing"
out of "Baker Street"

out of
James Brown "Sex Machine"
James Brown "Sex Machine"
James Brown "Sex Machine"
3 a.m.
James Brown

out of “Can you keep the noise down?”
out of Lou Reed
out of Carole King
and Joni Mitchell
"Blue"

out of "You Sexy Thing"
out of Joan Armatrading
and Aretha Franklin,
out of Roberta Flack, "The First Time" (our song),
out of "Lola"
and "Sexual Healing"

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145

Silence

Silence is symphony of bare homes
That flourishes in rhythm of longing
Where dust of space piles on clocks,
On books and pens and drawing curtains
On mirror which myths the faces of smiles,
Of pain, of rapture, of calm, of delight
All await to hear a sound,
A whisper, a talk or laugh resounds.

An empty chaos
Where, absence floats...
The same one that longs to embrace,
The silhouettes of its lost frames.

Such silence perturbs through lively tenors
A whirring of wings,
Or crackling leaves
Chirping crickets,
Or humming bees...
Gracious visitors of such homes...
Who promise them to wait for a life
A dweller who plays the music of soulful vibe.

146

What is left of me?

Masks,
Underneath,
Cement and stone.
Seeds breaking through;
Teared.

Strangers passing by:
Silence.
Distant voices.
Past.
Fading...

What is left of me?

Piles of dust,
Broken clutter,
Flying clouds,
Numbness.

Castles of sand,
Treasure hunting,
Deep sea,
Sorrow.

Through the looking glass,
I find Otherness.

What is left of me?

147

Leaves

In that summer, I discovered leaves,
felt their rough and smooth, drew in
their citrus, amber, indescribable
breath, like a lover sleeping close.

I clothed myself in leaves, weaving
too many shades to learn the names
of parent plants, to dress myself
in rippling green, finer than light.

And I slept deep in leaves, nested
like a mouse, a bird, a lizard, a snake,
the phoenix, rising from burning leaves,
my fire blazing behind summer eyes.

148

The path of the Mice and nice.

The station was coming into sight. Just around the corner. She could see the glass and steel building coming closer. No turning back now. Well she could turn back but that meant going back to him. To say sorry, he was right. She should respect her family and stay where she felt safe. Where she just had to choose what dress to wear, where to accompany her parents, work in the family business and where the only dispute with them was what books she could read. Everyone in her family were mice. Mice and nice. That’s what she called them. They followed along their safe path, repeating the same course, following the same patterns for generations.

It had the choice of schoolbooks that had changed her. Suddenly her every day thoughts had been pushed out by words and phrases from the great; Shakespeare, Wilde, Tolstoy, Hawkins, Browning, Dickinson, the list went on. They challenged everything in her prescribed life. The phrases turned into a voice that tempted her, teased her to continue reading anything and everything. The voice that told her that although she may not be safe out in the big wide world, at least she would feel something different. The timbre in voice in her head began to crack the path of her prearranged life. Tentatively she began to question the direction he had for her but his voice had been louder. The voice had been quiet for a day or so but every time it heard his voice and his word it had began to whisper, to talk and eventually to shout until it was all she could hear. In the end, her mind made up, she had stood up to him and declared her decision.

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149

Love Upholds

Both you and Ma are looking sad
what transpired between you two only
you know. But wait, have you two been
separated by shores, deserts and the seas?
Has Pa come between you two, so that you
are missing ( each other), lonely?
Take a book read. Say Hi to Mama and each other
even if barriers, homes and countries have unleashed
trauma of separation. Come, once smile in each other's arms.
The world is not always a rascal. See light. Hope. You are entwined like branches of a tree spreading forth. Love upholds.

150