- Vol. 01
- Chapter 07
The Edge of You
the edge of you –
where the edge of you meets the slip of the sheet meeting your skin
not pink, not white or grey, but mottled, many-coloured,
tinged almost yellow here, almost brown there and painted too
painted with the colour of my lips, there and there and there
where my lips have touched your skin, are touching your skin
where I leave a trace of me on you, the tiny shade of a kiss
where my breath touches your skin.
the edge of you, turned away from me, angry, cold,
words pouring furious from a scornful mouth.
the edge of you, turning to me, into me, on to me
turning me, me into you and back again.
the edge of you is me and you, and that edge is refined, refound, defined –
the edge of you is me, here.
the edge of you
you at the edge
the end of you
the sheet, pulled up, pulled over –
not yet, not just yet, one more kiss on your skin, shading your skin
my kiss shading your graying skin, your cooling skin –
the edge of the end of you.
The Lie of the Land
I learned to draw the sky by tracing the line of solid shapes from one side of the page to the other. Separate things became joined, as if earthquakes never happened and cities came ready built. Years ago I remember sitting in a park, somewhere in China, tracing the zigzag line of mountains against the pearled clouds of dawn.
We weren’t speaking – the hike up the mountain had drained you; you did not bring water, and you refused mine.
You looked over my shoulder and said, ‘What’s that?’
‘The skyline. You know, where the solid meets the air. Who defines what.’
You said, ‘Negative space. How do you know about that?’
‘I did A’Level Art. Kinetics.’
‘I just learned that in architecture,’ you said, as if it were my fault you had not been taught this until your second university year.
You went to sit on a rock a little a way from me, contemplating the red earth at your feet.
The sky was changing, more mountains appeared and I had to keep redrawing the line. The sky’s blush spilled over the jagged edges and onto my face, I remember wanting to pull the clouds over my head. I was cold. I became aware you had gone.
The rock you had been sitting on was flat, stratified as if compressed with the weight of you. I was interested in the scars it carried, impressions of the elements. Can bodies leave such marks?
I made a rubbing with my red crayon. Rock like bark like skin. I thought I would show it to you when you came back. I sat on your rock, and waited. Some Chinese ladies in quilted jackets and sensible shoes appeared, and climbed past me to sit in the pergola-covered viewpoint. Read more >
Could it be
a folie à deux? You inspire
chapter and verse
then – back-turned and teary,
claim it was me – oh dear –
who first made you feel
like an actual writer;
that our mission was real.
What a to do!
You lean on me and I on you:
of a great passion,
or a familiar delusion?
But these days it’s fine;
if the bean-counters and ignorant
won’t see us in print
I could always self-publish
– you review me on Amazon.
Why not stick
your story on Facebook,
and I’ll click to like?
This is It
White sheets and a shoulder brown as an egg.
Last night they left the curtains open so they could lie in bed and watch the moon rising through the dark heavens as the earth turned away from it, like a sleeper rolling over in bed.
Now it’s six. The birds have been up for hours. A thin mist, like smoke, creeps away through the fields and into the hedgerows.
There is a game they have been playing lately.
‘I’m in a kitchen,’ she’ll say. ‘There was a wood fire last night, and the coffee is on. I’m standing at the window cutting up limes. There’s mint in the window box and the farmer in the field next door is hay-making.’
‘Go on, go on.’
‘Okay, you’re starching and ironing cotton sheets.’
‘It’s a nice smell. Or you can be waxing an old leather saddle if you like.’
When they did touch, he included the hollow of her collarbone. His lips were there; he was popping bubble-wrap with one hand, stroking a spaniel puppy’s ears with the other.
Glee, schadenfreude, terror. She started on disappointment, but he stopped her with a look.
Two hours until breakfast. The lady who runs the B&B has promised them a fry.
Read more >
Hid it wellHid it well, you did, with
that smile never cold
and showers, I'm guessing,
Hid it well, you did, with
eye drops that kept the sparkle
and fizzy in-jokes for me and
Hid it well, you did, with
a little kissing and stroking and
never too tired for me, never
Until you turned your back
and I saw you'd turned your back
on me way back when, last week,
I know your back, love, I know
your moles and my scratches and
where your fingers fit and my lips
and that wasn’t me. Not my teeth
not my mouth, not my suck and pull
and bite. Your back's turned, and
You hid it well, you did.
to the end of us
lay my thin frame
on the edge of the world
praying for axis to tip
as shoulder grazes lip
the sting of you
skim rimmed by tired
eyes pinned into salt smudge black
stapled to the sky
we can never return
Pressing PetalsI’d showered seven times that evening. Seven times scoring my skin with a loofah, and yet this was still seven times too little. Nothing would shake the smell that lingered.
Earlier that day, you twirled my hair with your fingers, dragging strands from behind my ears. I remember how they’d itched furiously as your skin made contact with mine. The hairs on my back stood erect and my body tightened.
“Take that frown off your face, poppet,” you’d said, “it doesn’t suit you.”
You then blew against my freckles, and the sickly sweet smell of fennel and mint echoed invisible rings around my face.
You patted the bed linen with your hand, and your wedding ring glinted. I glanced at it for a moment, and as I did you grasped my knee with one hand and my face with the other. I winced as you forced your thumb into my skin, blood rushing to the surface and bruising magenta and mauve. Your stamp, your territory.
When it was over, you left, and I didn’t say a word. I showered, and cleaned, and scrubbed, and sniffed, and sprayed the room with canned lavender.
And still your stale fennel and mint clung in the fibres of the room, in the follicles of my skin, and it wasn’t until I stripped down to my underwear and looked at myself in the mirror that I stared at the bruising on my leg.
It seemed to bloom like a wild rose and I shut my eyes and imagined you pressing petals into me, vines climbing and latticing like lovers.
Suddenly, my bruise was beautiful, and all I could smell was sweet, sweet fennel and taste your fresh mint on my tongue.
DespedidaThat night we slept in the ocean. Your same bed I’d grown to know so well turned into a storm of waves, the sheets became drenched in salt water, a chaos of sweat and tears.
When the water had calmed and the room had quietened so that all we could hear was the street five floors below I asked you to please not fall asleep, not just yet. “Ok, I won’t,” you breathed onto my back as your arms tightened around me and your lips left a slow, tired kiss on the back of my shoulder.
I hated the inevitability of morning, the cruelty of the promise of goodbye I knew I couldn’t run away from. I hated it so much it made my heart race and my stomach burn, I held your hand tighter. You did fall asleep, I felt your breathing slow on my neck and your muscles unclenching as your body sunk heavier into the bed. The imminence of tomorrow kept me up longer.
I stared at your room, your posters, bookshelf, the pile of our clothes on your couch as a sequence of images played in my head like a roll of film. I saw you on your knees, eyes closed and kissing me while I breathed in your hair and remembered how I had wanted nothing more than to stop time right there. I saw you take my hands in yours as our elbows rested on the table at the restaurant as you brought them to your face gently rubbing your lips on them, how I had to take deep breaths not to cry. I saw you pulling my hand as we ran across the street laughing, what a strange happy haze we were, it seemed we existed in another dimension from the people walking on the street, from the kids in pyjamas with their parents in convenience stores.
Read more >
HindsightYes, I remember Paris 1979.
We visited Notre Dame.
It had been raining
and the steps were slippery.
I fell and grazed my shoulder.
That night in bed you kissed
it better a hundred times,
rubbed on soothing cream.
My body trembled beneath your soft touch.
We made love and fell asleep
in each other’s arms, cocooned
in the clean white sheets.
In the morning you bought
me coffee and croissants,
and filled the room with roses.
You were full of charm.
If only I’d known how soon
your touch would do me harm.
I dreamtI dreamt I lay beside your rose
and touched a chord that brought a whisper
from your lips. I dreamt I slipped
inside and felt a firmament and motioned now
with you, ablaze. I dreamt of petals
holding me in the magic of the dark,
and the incense of a flower.
faint.It's already morning
but the pillow remains crescent.
Along the surface outlined,
daylight cuts a reposing figure.
Between two whites lies a cadence
of reds and a faint smear across
the skin leaves another trail
from the night outlived.
The head, went into hiding
somewhere before dawn,
as the heart crossed another frontier
- taking over.
NightblindAs long as we don't see each other, you said. So we did it in the dark, a single candle dancing by the mirror as we lifted the duvet, watching itself burn out as we lay on the hard mattress.
I thought you beautiful though I had not seen your face. Can beauty be felt, or tasted? Can it be divined from the softness of skin? Can it be heard? I heard your beauty. It was in the soft whimpering of your voice as you pressed into me, as my hands searched for you like moles desperate for the dark.
Though it was not quite dark enough.
From time to time the moon caught the edge of your nose. Before it had burned away, the candle revealed the curve of your eyelid. Small details that couldn't be put together, but that told a story of their own.
Will you let me? I asked. When we've finished?
You didn't answer.
I moved you onto your back, leaned over you, and let my hand hover above your face. You must have felt the warmth of it, the sudden change in air pressure perhaps; soon your own hand was on my wrist, pushing me back. I could have felt your face. For a moment, in the dark, I could have been blind. If you had been stronger, I might have pushed harder.
You can't see, you said. Nobody can see.
You turned away and let me spoon you.
You've got to go, you murmured. Was it all right?
I would wait until you were asleep, until your breaths had settled, and then I would not turn the light on, but would draw back the curtain instead.
T & Oh! MapI hear, I remember the poet's words: “Beauty and the Illiterate”. Words uttered in my childhood, learned in my adolescence, before love was sung and memories were shared.
The cicadas were my beauty. The sun was my skin. You felt the warm sand of my hair between your fingers and tasted the sea salt on our lived-in bed sheets.
Then the tables turned. I was another. I changed again. And again. Until it was impossible for you to tell if in the morning, you'd seen the dawn of humanity in Africa, the rape of Europa, or if the previous night we'd been some exalted male and female deities of Asian creation. In short: you've seen too many backs in your life. These marks that you leave, they fade away so quickly... They are not meant to last.
And now, because you've erred on the wrong side of me and because you've wandered, and never gave enough of yourself away, you're lost. You cannot navigate. My face is hidden from you. As a good traveler, in perennial transit, you want to read beauty on a map. You ask for my help. “Where should I look for you?”
I'd rather remain anonymous than be baptised again by your blasphemous toponymy. I usually can't draw a map, but I can map the geography of stupidity following the meanderings of your insatiable lust. “And this, here?” you ask. “What is it ?”
This? Tis a “T & Oh! Map”: the new comprehensive illiterate cartography of beauty, you fool.
LoversYou are naked: me too:
tonight there has been nothing
between our two souls but a white heat.
Like Juliet, I wanted to cut you out in little stars,
conceal each fragment under my skin,
to be cherished for ever. I am so made
that I would sooner be unhappy with you
than happy with someone else.
But now already you are turning.
Let me not be a memory;
I am here: I am real. We loved.
RestlessYou may not remember, but you said I had the boniest little elbows you'd ever felt dig into your chest.
I had never thought of myself as angular, mostly because my collarbone swept in along my shoulders instead of jutting out, defiant and dancer-like, from my frame.
But my elbows - I suppose they are bony. You had to roll me away from you to prevent bruising.
You may not remember, but you cringed with crazed delight as I drew circles in your palms.
My hands were impatient, you see, always working, kneading, tracing, as if a charge had concentrated at my fingertips and sought to realize a circuit.
But my fingers - I suppose they drove you mad. You had to move my hands away to prevent connection.
You may not remember, but you whispered into my hair the things that I wanted to hear.
I listened, because I could hear your voice over the rain, the wind, the rustling leaves, the television next door, and the echoes of footsteps in the hall.
But my ears - I suppose I should not have trusted them. You had to avoid my eyes to prevent truth.
I could be happier now.
My mattress never complains of bony elbows.
My pillow never mocks my moving fingers.
My silent room never keeps me awake.
But how I hate sleeping alone.
Last ordersI can see it now -
this is the point where the noise dies down
and the constellation spreads across our retinas.
The sky splits open like an automated door -
we should be growing new hands
on the top of our skulls.
Another silly idea
but in this way it will be
easier for us to climb the walls
now that the world is ending.
That NightThat night, when your team won
and you ran at me, half hug,
half fight and I couldn't hold you.
Crashing together to the floor,
chairs flailing, curtains torn in our wake,
I could have stayed there forever -
Shoulder to ShoulderShoulder the pain,
they said to her face.
Put your back into it
and the agony will lessen.
Wrap the miscreant in a white linen sheet.
Washed and pressed a thousand
times in clear cold streams.
Rubbed and worked on rough stones
by ancient biblical women
who knew a thing or two about pain.
Shoulder your burdens,
they said to her face.
It is not seemly to place
cares on another’s shoulders.
Take up the slack and fold
your exposed body in a shroud
that will cover you in life.
Any more importantly
wrap your body in death.
So she carried the pain,
in a knapsack tightly closed.
And put her shoulder to the wheel
of her heart and they were right.
The pain drifted away
on a bed of white clouds.
BINARYYes to the living flesh
No to the shroud
Yes to the NHS
and yes to the living wage
Yes to the Himalayas
Yes to shoulders,
to life, its bruise
and White Dress days
Yes to Public Services
to flowers, age
to kids, to Ska
to free GPs
Yes to the night
Yes to the other-wise
“It's a Yes” to Sciences,
the Arts, Rachmaninoff
to food, to love
Here's to it, to us,
to damaged goods
The CartographerMapping out your body is futile.
Yet I tried -
Oxytocin blistering through fingers
Playing by ear in the twilight.
This journey where
I mould into you -
Do I want my own special map;
Contours that link your life to mine
And not a trail from another continuum
Rising to mock me and my lack of authorship
And I'm just a footnote, an acknowledgement,
A captioned constellation in an
Utopia is not a place but a progression,
But I need that shelter, tangible, as
These feathery lifeboats drift past
A sweaty, cold sea.
whitewhen they took me to the mad house and stuffed me in a chair
now listen - you get it straight
like a baked capsicum my insides buzzed
my wrists taped with ribbons, my ankles with bows
their gowns not for dressing but undressing the wildly personal dusk of I know
your daffodil and dandelion jokes of reason are not what they seem
we will make you see
so I looked straight at them and said 'do what you dare'
turn in on yourself and you'll end up looking up your arse my friends
my puzzle is broke
and you are nervously unaware
with your electric shock uniformed stares
Absolute IntersectionHe only realised the bruise was there after the first phase of preparation was complete. It sat diagonally in from the shoulder and he couldn’t quite tell what it was from. While he didn’t like imperfections he wasn’t a complete obsessive. Small moles and so forth were fine. However a bruise was something else. It was evidence of an external agency and so unacceptable. He stared at it for thirty seconds or so, wasting precious time.
Finally his genius showed him the way forward. He could not ignore the bruise and covering it would defy the point, so he would make it the focal point. This resolved, he went to the bathroom, retrieved the blue basin, hot water and towels, and began the second phase of preparation.
As always he wanted to immediately cleanse the area he would be photographing. However he dutifully forced himself to first clean the mess, then the legs, torso and arms, before slowly removing any makeup and finally washing the hair. At one point a bead of sweat broke his brow. He stepped back and wiped it away with a handkerchief.
He would use a sheet as background and the room’s lamp as a light source. Everything should be white in the picture apart from the skin and the bruise. He would arrange the subject on the bed so the line of light and shadow cast by the lamp would fall exactly on the bruise. The level of his artistry still shocked him.
The composition decided, he unpacked the camera and tripod. Next he painstakingly washed himself and changed into a soft white shirt and Armani jeans. Time was running short.
Good nightsgoodnights say your name
closed eyes hold you
good mornings can only blame
the sun that must've stole you
TurnYour back is an empty place
the hard cover of a finished book
your flecked shoulder waiting
for a hand's turn, an imagined smile.
Remembering the day I stood
and watched the hunch of my father's
I reach out to turn.
ABOUT THOUGHTS AND SKINIn the end
after many hours, many days, many months
after many tears, many raisings, many falls
I've realized what I really wanted and still want.
In the end
there is just one skin, one body, one touch
one smile, one heart, one back to take care of.
In the end
after many clouds, many thunders, many snows
after many tears, many raisings, many falls
I've realized that you can not always get what you want.
In the end
I will be another wandering soul
looking for another skin to fall back on
crawling in and out of beds
forgetting that there was just his skin, his body, his touch
and that these were what I really wanted to take care of.
Don’t Look BackSays, he’s sorry
It will never happen again.
Again. And. Again.
And yet you know. It will.
Deep down, in your blood and your guts
But your heart is deaf to you.
And all ears to promises,
Head-in-hands desperation… supplication
Pricking the innocent party, with guilt.
A pretty plea for forgiveness, dressed in white linen...
One fine day
He won’t leave the bruise of a melancholy artist.
It will be
Your nose exploding
Into your skinned head
Your ears pounding
With the good kicking
As you crawl
Across the floor
That’s what it will be, spooling forward. Quickly.
Pull on your shirt baby,
And don’t look back.
ThreeThe Pyramid Constellation.
Though that one's the North Star,
Guiding me to you.
Let me join the dots with my fingers,
An idle trace from one to the next and the next.
But I daren't touch that:
The smudge of your past.
You never say.
The imprint of the number three,
Farrow & Ball Bruised Red.
Three's a crowd,
Third time lucky,
Three is the magic number.
No magic, no conjuring, no rabbit pulled out of a hat.
Luck turned and so did he.
What was it?
The weather vane spinning 180 degrees,
The East wind drifting over the ocean, tipped with poison,
Blowing a storm of words then violence.
The mark that meant you belonged to him,
Possessed by a man possessed.
You touch it, I've seen you. Is it to remember?
Never return, my dearest heart,
My Constellation of Three.
Shared awakeningIt's a sight I never see:
my other half shouldering dawn,
skin touching, pillow worn
Others do: for granted each one's he or she,
sharing breath, touching skin,
separate, yet more than kin:
Togetherness is key...
the daily norm, the tiny things;
the kitten's news, the shower sing...
I do not wake to see another's knee.
I'm the statistic;
There is no "we" for me.
When His Back Is TurnedI covered you
In snow white sheets
Watched the fall and rise of your mountainous peaks
And felt the vapour of your breath
A soft breeze across Egyptian cotton
I converted you
To sleep in skin
Removed your clothes, limb, by limb
And tossed them on the oak wood floor
Where they fell
like conquered kingdoms
I coveted you
The girl in green
Smooth, pale shoulders at the bar, unseen
A stranger with a wedding band
It’s just a loop of gold
The Space Between'There's a blemish,' he said, 'here on your back.' He touched her gently. 'I wonder what you've done.'
What does it matter? she thought. She blew a breath out through her nose, once, harsh.
'I wasn't thinking,' he said.
She had shown him. When everything had healed. He had asked her to, and she had undressed in front of him.
'It's still you,' he said, surprised. 'I don't feel any different.'
She had been surprised too by this. She had processed her own feelings, not expecting him to have reached the same place she had. Still, she hadn't wanted to show him again. She slept with her back to him, though it was not the way they had positioned themselves before. Even now, dozing in the afternoon, she undressed and turned away from him.
She knew she was not making it easy, but it was all she could do.
He got into bed. She could feel the space between them as if it were a physical thing.
He cuddled up to her then. She felt him fit himself against her. His hand came around and held the place her breast used to be. She flinched, not through shame, or unease, but simply at the magnitude of the moment.
COME TO BEDCome to bed and come very close,
my flop-apart knees belie
the woman in me-
Approach me like a lover
not a Doctor,
wear your scents like a werewolf.
Waken me like you used to
in kinder days when we had time
to clinch honestly, openly, fairly, Love.
In a landscape with many hills there is a flat part
that has a small hillock by the road.
Two olive trees and four flat boulders arranged like
furniture in a living room and a carpet of soft grass.
Is it an abandoned movie set where the moon is
a balloon? How many takes did the scene take?
In life there is no retake we are expected to get it right
reading from a script not yet written
When building the road they put stones in a heap,
dust and bird droppings made it into a small knoll.
That´s the way it goes.
A Love LostI long to wake with you each day.
To see your naked form, rising and falling with each breath.
A voluptuous pillow hides your head
I yearn for a glimpse of chestnut beauty.
Your breath, light and sweet, soundtracks my waking moments.
And I smile, for this is what makes life worthwhile.
My alarm sounds and I get out of bed to start my day.
I put your picture away
This was what made life worthwhile.
No longer. No more.
InsecurityI did not think much about it at first, I just thought you were madly in love with me. It hurt every time you made love to me, yet I let your passion take over. I tried to hide the scratches and bites, under my makeup. Yet you did not stop. I told you about my pain, yet you did not stop.
I decided to stop it myself, when I realized that you were actually marking your territory on me. The insecurity hidden beneath your passion was now exposed.
The bruises remain, but, the good bye didn't hurt.
PillowsDents of past dreamers leave small valleys between cotton peaks. The soapy scent of fresh linen blends with that of earthy, weary heads. A strand of black hair: coiling and curling. A little weight left behind.
A pillow -flattened by the load of a front-faced sleeper collapsing, fully clothed, having longed all day for soft support. Face and body sinks into the welcoming oblong, snoring muffled to a warm echo in the ribcage; which rises and falls like the night tide.
So beganIn bed this morning,
Soft breathing, young birds and rustle through Autumn's leaves.
I like to walk my bare feet along the forest floor,
to stop and look at a young tree or a creature unknown to me,
to marvel at them,
not for structure of stem or brightly colored wings,
but simply because they exist,
and so do I,
and so does she.
Her naked shoulder.
A thought flashes
like lightning in the night,
The ardent crack of some celestial whip,
blazing live neon-purple, clear across my mind.
In an instant
Ablaze and blackened.
"There's a word, you know."
Only just slightly she turns, cheek on collar.
(Bones, such strong things, also fragile though.)
"A thought?" she asks
(Often splashing in rock pools,
forgetting the ocean beside.)
"The word. There's a word. It's in a different language."
Oh, The FameYou, facing away from us all, from the world and the fame. With your eyes elsewhere preoccupied, ours are busy and we scrutinise.
‘You know, they really don’t seem to have great complexions.’
‘I know, you would have thought they’d be able to afford good skin care.’
‘They’re probably wasting all their money on cigarettes, I hear they smoke you know? Are they not aware that it’s such a dirty habit?’
You, facing away from us all, from the world and fame are left vulnerable, jaded and scathed. They pick up on your blemishes and you wish you could paint over them and become a figurine, but you’re not.
‘I, I just don’t really know where to take my life.’ Who are you saying this to?
You, facing away from us all, from the world and the fame are left vulnerable, jaded and scathed; you lie awake for days on end rotting in your underwear, waiting for a saviour who will never be there. The fame. Oh, the fame.
nurse on the plastics wardOnce the operation was complete the trolley was wheeled to the recovery bay. I had one job to do. Watch the blood transfusion, check that it continued to replenish this body for the next three hours.
This body. This child of eighteen months and six days. A boy who had been too close, too noisy, too easy to hurt the week before.
His legs were wrapped in old fashioned crepe bandage. Bulky sleeves protecting the donor sites for the skin grafts. Chest, face and scalp covered with special gauze stained pinks and deep yellow.
Goose bumps and bruises filled gaps in the story of lighter fluid ignited by a man named Dad.
Prepared I began the task. Nursery rhymes and simple songs delivered by a body reliving an inadequacy of sunburn on skin.
hethe night shined on our eyes as it filled us with desire
as i saw you across the room i felt in me an internal fire
it didn't took long for us to consume our passion
we didn't care for tomorrow, no care for our actions
how innocent of me to think there could be something
just another stranger that left me with a longing
you were more interested in my nights than my days
now im left here with the bruises that never seem to fade
her hearthead on her pillow
her heart on her sleeve
she cries. the world doesn't
work quite the way she thought.
christmas eves and picnics no more
just a girl out of love and answers, lost in
a dream, pinching herself awake, again and again.