• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 10

Contrary to the intangible grapevine

They call the pain it takes
to feel who you are
necessary — to exhibit and exude what is wholly you;
with the slip-ups,
the mishaps,
the malaprops,
to make a ballet of the mistake,
to paint their censorship void,
they say…
takes harpooning a slippery ghost,
holding the two edged sword at both ends
and feeling the cut like Thomas,
nursing the wound,
healing and falling in love with the process,
sowing your eyes closed
and Candyman repeating yourself away.

What’s with first or second nature
in grossly tandem we broke the womb
untamed
jagged and ogrely
the straight line will beautify and purify us
if only we’d unlearn the jive
quit drunken boxing shadows
for laughter and patterns

Read more >
1

Lapidary

To abide. To sit still. To try not to fidget. To wait.

To abide. To inspect. To squint.

To notice the foot is a plinth for the earth.

To lean back. To like the socks.

To tune into ambient sound, to compose a fugue of rustling leaves.

To gulp a glass of lukewarm water, coughing out a mouthful over your laptop.

To panic.

To swing between them, sneezing.

To swell.

To frame. To spin a yarn.

To decide they are here. To know they are always here: a mole’s eye view.

2

Podkletnov’s Task

At his potter’s wheel/Fancying himself a mythic hero/He throws a clay shield, palms smoothing damp, flattening the dull curve/Spinning a disc/Behind which he will try to hide/From the blind hold of a distant god/like hapless Jonah bellied in a whale

Possessive, infallible
Like the devil, like death
Impossible to evade forever
Dogged like all gods must

And like him most of us will try and try
For the wild joy
That reckless fling, lift and fancy
Splayed limbs, rushing
Flapping
Muscles coiled massed propelling
Bunched squirming against the
Eternal vigilance of force
Like a toddler repulsed by the milky coddle of their mother’s clutch

And the attempt to navigate the bind together
In messy flocks
Forgetting the private relation between the body and the half drag, half embrace that will favour and quicken one over another and yet treat both the same in the end

Will fall anyway,
Will always fall

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3

the photographer

sometimes when you look
do you think it strange

the way the sky drapes
its body round a hill

a hill along a river and
the river counts the toes

on two lovers
canoodling legs

squid tentacles
pressed at the waist

lips and tongues like
fingers around a lens

oh to be young
and fruitful!

there is so much life
in being lifeless in water

don’t you think it strange
how involved they become

the whole world falls
around them

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4

Dance

I shall speak the language
of the aerobics of the air
in exercise of bodily liberty
I shall dance
to the rhythms of silver lining
and the green field
adorned with flexibility as a cloak
devoid of palisade
for there are no ceilings in art
I shall dance and dance
till I can dance no more

5

Freedom is a State of Mind

I'm enclosed in this place
I feel safe in this space
There's life in cyber space
Never disconnected
We're interconnected 
But still I'm protected

Stay socially distant
Virtually persistent
Still me, still here – present
  Free to speak out – create
Document and narrate
Impart ideas and debate

Between four walls, boxed in
But freedom reigns within 
Comfort in my own skin 
I grow and adapt here 
Space and time make things clear
Embrace myself – self-care

Focus my energy 
On creativity 
Helping others I see
Struggling to survive
Willing them to revive 
Resilient, I strive 

For justice, equality 
For respect and dignity 
For love and humanity 
Read more >

6

Spring Waltz

Puffed clouds call me to dance
across cerulean and white ballrooms
Tchaikovsky breaking the spring heat
from my playlist

I pirouette,
twirling faster and faster,
the sky and Tchaikovsky
converging

legs leaping
in clarinets and strings
which converge
I dance with space and air

I think I can fly
clarinets and strings
converging
calling
legs spinning

until the strings snap

7

On Freedom

Freedom tastes of warm blueberry pie and slowed-cooked brisket. Seasoned with pepper, salt. Garlic, too. Carved, sliced, and plated in heaping portions on sagging paper plates. Sides of slaw, crudite, and salads of many lands. Vinegar, oils. Secrets, too. Shared shoulder to shoulder. Patrons of all ages, zip codes, and country IDs rub spices, spark flames, and inhale life. Prepare for flight of individual paths. Safe crossings. Plenty for all. All with plenty.

Freedom smells of freshly cut grass, denim cut offs, and cotton T’s. Unlaced canvas sneakers and calf high crews. High-waisted linen skirts and low-waisted spandex leggings. Silk coverings. String bikinis. Bright floral patterns. Formal plaids. Leather sandals and faux suede loafers. Crimson painted toes. Fabric covered arms. Shoulder to shoulder. Plenty for all. All with plenty.

Freedom rings of cardinals, blue jays, and soaring eagles. Passenger planes, children’s songs, and whispers of wind. Radio tunes of classic, jazz, and hip hop origins. Voices chanting prayer, plays – one, two, three, go – peaceful protests, and playful pursuits. Plenty for all. All with plenty.

Freedom is a vision hand painted in watercolor – rows of tiny circular pots, hand written in ink – red, blue, black – and hand drawn in charcoal – pastels and brights. Reflections that read lips, run without fear, and bow only when bending over calm waters. Plenty for all. All with plenty.

What can one do when tides
turn and skies turn gray other
than find both solace and
Strength in shared whimsy.

Breathe new life into tired
souls as dreams take form
and prepare for flight Read more >

8

Rise

When we fell from the sky
we lost our wings, forgot
stardust and clouds.
When we took our first breath
afloat on wind, we recalled
the pleasure of touch
the savory sweetness of life.

Now between sky and earth, we
trampoline to the pulse
of air and rushing blood.
Bounding over clouds, we
ricochet off fields of loam
redolent with all things alive
rebound from mountainous bluffs
somersault over streams
and dry sun-drenched paving stones.

We dance with gravity and light.
Bodies rising on warm currents, we
vaporize, drift away
only to return
sated, heavy with yearning
as rain
as dew
as cosmic dust
falling again from the sky.

9

Leap Of Faith

We make it look easy,
dancers always do.
Even out here
on the heath
performance is all.
The rest is hidden
behind the scenes
usually in the sweaty studio.
It took a leap of faith to carry on
working alone month after month
with no prospect of performance,
of audience,
of applause
of income.
But we’re out now
out in the sun
jumping for joy
leaping with faith
ready to go again.

10

GOING WHERE THE WIND BLOWS

They own this piece of land, this soil—rich and deep near the river—thankful to the Earth that gives them gravity and crops. They ask us to lay on the ground with them, flutter like the leaves, staring up at the sky.

Last time we wanted to fly, they said, “The wind is so strong you can hardly stand.”

They listened to the howling all day long—like the wailing of lost souls—and shivered, afraid the wind will lift the roof off the house, afraid they might lose their balance and fall.

You and I stayed with the wind, swayed in the wind. Let it uproot us like trees and take us high, higher than the kites, hoping someday it buries us so deep in its pockets no one will ever be able to find us.

11

La dance joyeuse de voyage

So that’s what it’s like
to spring from terra firma,
defeat the pull of gravity,
dance with abandonment?

Who’d have thought
that departing the soil,
shuffling off this mortal coil
could be such fun?

My only hope is that,
when the reaper
comes a rapping,
I’ll be as bloody happy.

12

EARTHLY and HEAVENLY

Met at a coffee shop. Talked for hours.
“One coffee?”
              “Yes please.”
“Shall we have another?”
              “One more?”
All eyed them. Some in amazement whispered
“Oh! But they are so different, aren’t they?”
              She is so EARTHLY and he HEAVENLY.
              Almost mimicking that grass and those clouds.
The last drop sipped, bills paid, chairs moved
Faces turned and looked for their separate ways.
              Another meeting, same place, someday.
              When they will dance their hearts away.

13

Mobile

In the theater as a child I sat immobilized,
knew that I would never be taken again
if I misbehaved, disgraced my grandmother.
When the orchestra’s first notes emerged,
I was hooked—this was my initiation, my own
overture. My body wanted to move, but it could
not. Exuberance flooded every pore, every cell
seemed to dance. Still as I was, still as the child
I had always been, I was whirling—across
the stage with dancers who had just emerged,
across verdant fields fired with Black-eyed Susans,
themselves buoyant in the breeze. There was heat
and cool wind, movement and suspension,
there in that seat, in the St. James Theater,
in 1964, in that still child, unstilled, fully alive.

14

A Very Long Sentence

I saw it first in children as they
broke into the sunlight, scooped

fearless holes in the air, their
small bare feet swiftly padding

on snow-white shingle beaches,
running toward the sea—their

toes foraged in the seaweed,
furrowed through the sand,

and I press against the window,
and hide myself in a cloud,

my will and fortitude stolen by
apprehension I dare not stir,

as crowds find hairsbreadth
passage in the sun’s expanse,

and imperceptible breath
washes in every direction.

This is a very long sentence.

15

July

I walk my dog through the park where children
lie on yoga mats stretching and sighing
when the instructor calls break and football
shirts whizz past me because the captain times
the boys’ laps whilst a family trundle
over the grass, laughing.
                                       You could almost
believe we are free. Narrow alleyway.
Ears flung back in the wind like the white wings
of a plane, my dog races but the lead
pulls taut. Someone is coming. I side-step,
shrink as small as possible, hide and wait.
I watch a party of ants by my feet.
Two butterflies tango. Pink roses poke
their heads out, yearning for warm, yellow touch.

16

those days we walked on water

started with good coffee and a kiss and always one of those skies of blues and lighter than air unravelling balls of cotton wool clouds – and warmth – that type that mellows the bones and blushes the skin without drying lips or eyes – and fresh dustings of snow that you can see all the edges of snowflakes in and watch your breath describe love – and hoarfrost on interestingly pruned bushes and trees in the park – sounds of thunder stirring – a night of Persaid shooting stars – scents of cut grass and honeysuckle and ice-cream and toast and toast and toast – our shoes never chaffed – muscle and bone took us far and kept us near – fens – mountains – canal tow paths – a road between fields of wheat and barley at Sunk Island and those seals on Stone Creek Channel sandbank - what noises – and when we meet x, y or z and hugged and hugged – those days of smiles in shop aisles – and dance – disco – ballet – hip hop – and music – and the thought that strangers can meet and work out what bodies can do together and apart but mainly together – we did that – those days
17

Untethered

And it’s true we unlearned gravity
unhooked our atoms
from the binding earth
and leapt
(because even the clouds fly
when they aren’t weeping).

But look how
we are neither fish nor fowl
but something in between.

And truly I am made of water
longing to swim
but it’s too late
too far.

You’re reaching for the stars
and I’m spewing out ozone.

And it looked like fun to lose the ground
(grounding)
but it isn’t
– fun, I mean –
it’s halfway
not-quite suspension.

Tip me upside down
and see if my yearning falls out.

18

Our Future

Walking mid-air, flying rooted on grass,
let rip at home, dance away restrictions
in moments of social-distanced bliss.
Back gardens, fields behind houses
lure hearts as much as long-haul travel
to picture book destinations.
Bodies curve, swerve, jump and dare,
inhale, exhale, life's all here at home.
Can we centre, be satisfied with local living,
energy fired by juggled conjugations...
surrender contrails in favour of fresh air.

19

The hunt

She's a bow -
all strength and tension -
give her an arrow
and she'll shoot it
straight as a die
bullseye
she's direct, she's punchy

he's a deer
all movement, all delight,
skittering in the margins,
laughing, dancing,
first with a joke, a drink,
falling in love with his own shadow

yes, it's inevitable
she'll fire
he'll fall

20

Lake dancer

Feel the thrill
the miracle of water
how you love to splash
paddle into the coolness
feel it slip between toes

the tinkling rhythms of river and stream
the chimes from waterfalls
you leap for joy
dance   out   up
gravity falls away

you could walk on water
fly like a bird
you are suspended
free of care
smile

21

The Leap

Beyond shadow-dapples
and a rickety gate,
boats nod on a sparkling river,
no longer anchored.
That’s me. I am no longer
anchored to a silent house.
My unsteady enchainment de pas
takes me to the water,
an ugly duckling,
weighty and blinking.
I try to leap,
throw my pandemic body at the sky
in a grand Jeté,
hoping to take off and fly
like a graceful swan.
But Covid has clipped my wings;
I limp back to the garden,
tumbling and croakily cawing,

22

I Found Form

From the reeds of imagination I found form
And water flows on point.
Twist, turn, form and jump into a new reality of this morning.
The contours of movement found in the corridors of confinement
And Music notes oh how they float like fireflies and set them alight.
We shall burn these corridors to the ground
And Water flows on point.
Cool and clear like memories of stage floors creaking under foot.
Freedom of movement within the endless horizon of the mind.
The coolness of grass underfoot.
From the reeds of imagination
I found form
And water flows on point.

23

How to soar above the static

All shut down
held static
in freeze frame
everything stopped
the image of movement
curtailed within
the environment
of nothing doing.

And all around ripples
fixed, flows stilled
trees held their leaves close
nothing stirred

It would be like this now
that moment
remembered
when everything stopped
and the only way to soar
lay in our heads
a place where anything
was possible.

24

Giselle & Albrecht Reborn

Liberated from lockdowns, self-doubt’s
shackles, caution’s curiosity, psychic’s
premonitions, & certainty’s restrictions,
we crawled through pussy willows on
our bellies, indirectly snaking our way
in serpentine fashion to the Bolshoi river.

Damp, nitrogen-rich soil smelled of
decomposing vegetation, a holy fragrance
that permeated the enchanted embankment
like invisible, ghostly incense—yet stimulated
our soft muscles, once puffy as under-eye bags,
precipitously taunt, firm, toned, pumped, primed.

Nature transformed my love into a prima ballerina
in street clothes & PF Flyers—Margot Fonteyn
to my flamboyant Rudolf Nureyev maneuvers—
after I spread my legs, began to jump, performed
double tours, cabrioles, & attitude turns, she
effortlessly countered with picturesque pirouettes.

Along the waterfront, our two free souls defied gravity
& gravitas alike, no longer searching for a quayside,
we just relished the countryside Royal Ballet; uplifted by
auspicious, enigmatic dance steps, an impromptu
tour de force—light, airy, elegant, & buoyant—we
froze time’s trepidation amid moments of endless levity.

25

And yet

She dreams of expansive blue skies
He dreams of fields with grasses waving
She dreams of days of fresh crispy air
He dreams of unrestricted motion
She dreams of space to fully stretch
He dreams of wildly leaping, yet

They are together in this place
This flat with four little rooms
They have to share the bathroom space
They have to share the kitchen
They want to share the bedroom space
This leaves just one room, yet

They can’t imagine not being together
They can’t imagine being apart
They can’t imagine staying in forever
They can’t imagine going out
They can’t imagine how this will end, yet

He dreams of splashing in rivers with her
She dreams of walking miles with him
He dreams of leaping boulders with her
She dreams of skipping stones with him
They dream of days when this is over, yet

Read more >
26

The fire of life

Someone put you there, and maybe it makes you happy that you don't belong there. That there is sun and water you're about to fall splashing into. That you “not belonging there” might be a metaphor for being born, but what the hell, right?

It's not like anyone can do a thing about it. Here we all are. We're all smiling and about to be subject to gravity. At least we have something warm and soft to catch us.

Here we are with a fire in our eyes, but why should it be a fire to revenge ourselves against something so unchanging as what's waiting, not what's down there... but what's waiting for us all.

No, it's nothing arch and nothing awful. We live in the short space between being lifted and crashing below. We live and we have no choice in this, but why be angry when we have the time and the space to be whatever it is we are meant to become. We unfold in the moment, we are mysteries to ourselves, we are wrong over and over and over again and this is the way of life and of being alive.

There is no “business” in living, only the attempt at understanding. So why not smile and take what's being given? It's the fire of life that demands the smile. The fall is just an artifact that has nothing to do with living.

27

BEFORE WE SAY I LOVE YOU

If the clouds felt lower, it was only an illusion. Inside I felt I was leaping toward them, my hair grazing the underbelly of suspended rain. It was because I was with you. You were spread out on the grass, looking at me through dark sunglasses. On your lip, an unlit cigarette. You tried, hard, to emit the same nonchalance as the stars you pressed to your walls with gum—a sombre Marlon Brando, a pouting Elvis, a proud Jimi Hendrix, inhabiting their own images so definitively, each picture as conclusive as a death mask.

Your own image was striking. I wanted to photograph you, post you to social media, tag you, own you, but you didn't like 'the networks' as you called them. This rebellion made me love you more. You were something I had discovered, like a remote island. My private retreat.

"I'm going to be famous," I said.

“You, want to be famous?”

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I just don’t see why you need the validation of strangers."

You said it as though you were unaware of the meticulous way you assembled your appearance, the boots you hunted down on eBay, the vintage finds you trawled charity shops for. The nipple ring you said you forgot you had, unless I happened to kiss you there, my stubble sanding your shaved chest.

"Why do you care what people think of you?" you asked me, a hint of accusation in your voice.

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28

Finding the Horizon

‘This, Daniel,’ I yell, ‘is the best day of my life!’

We bound up a hill, bouncing over boulders, sprung-soled, as groundless as astronauts. Where we end and air begins is a sunlit blur. At the peak, we soar into the streaked blue, gulping mouthfuls of cloud, specks in the chalk dust,
growing,
growing,
growing
as we drift like paper cut-outs
and alight in a meadow of buttercups, drinking the sun.

We are suspended in the now. Every thread which tethered us to before and after has wafted into the grass. Lost.

And then I am deep in the darkness of my body, feeling pressure on my skin, feeling the weight of presence in my space.

The sparkle of the river catches my eye. It is made of the scales of a thousand fish, each a tiny mirror. The long grass whispers at the periphery, and the water flicks and peaks as it laughs.

‘Come on, Daniel!’

As dizzy as drunks, we leap and somersault above it, never once breaking its skin, and it breathes and swallows beneath us.

And then I am deep in the darkness of my body. There is no breeze tickling my skin, no slather of sunshine bathing my limbs, or warming my face. A voice hyphenates, broken into Morse. My own words are buried.

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29