- Vol. 01
- Chapter 08
VanitasMy time is limited. I am not to be reached by telephone or ouija board. My mind is bubbles and oranges. My death will go unnoticed. Your black tulips are already in my diary and will be attended to in due course. These days are precious, jewels in a perfect watch. You think I am prepared for this? No one is. My vanity contains my mortal remains. Look, it is night. No one returns from places such as this. My books say nothing. My peacock eye is a fabrication. And you haven't even seen inside my trunk yet. Let me flash my calf for you. Open that book now. There's nothing in it but night which has no text. Get reading. Start right here.
Voyage in the Dark
It was as if a curtain had fallen, hiding everything I had
Into this white world I was born full grown, ya
All of my treasures behind me.
The key-key of the parrots in the morning
The chittering of sea-starlings bringing les embruns to my cheeks
In the evening.
The ripe red flowers, bursting on the green vine.
A dragonfly cupped in my palm, and
all that freshness.
‘Black tulip’ they have named me,
And dress my hair with peacock feathers
And now I strut, arse out and naked
Brown-skinned goddess all the way from Exotic!
In the interval, I am served split pieces of orange to suck on to the wrinkled husk.
I am a queen here, perched on an elephant’s back,
A beast I have never been near until now.
‘Like home!’ they say, and slap its wooden hide.
My drink of choice these days
is pure English gin:
when the bottle is empty –
Then come, scatter your pearls before me.
A Fresh SliceYou cut another slice from the orange and drop it into the gin. No vermouth left, no Campari, no ice: you’ve drunk your last negroni. Gin and a slice of orange. You press the orange slice against the glass to squeeze out some juice. The telephone hadn’t stopped ringing for days until you’d taken it off the hook. It seemed that way, anyway. Everybody had to call to tell you something: how they felt about it, how you should feel about it, what the neighbors, friends, cousins, people at church said about it. You regret giving everybody the number. For emergencies you’d said, but really, for loneliness, in case somebody might call. Nobody had called the whole time. But now everybody called and shared their feelings and it was too much. You cut a fresh slice, you pour another gin. It’s almost gone now. Your notebook’s on the floor. You’ve filled it, all but one page, but you’ll leave that last one empty. Most of what you wrote is borderline illegible, not to say unintelligible. None of it is about the peacocks that strut around the yard. They’d seemed novel at first, and beautiful, but now they might as well be pigeons or crows or magpies. The whole place is like that, really: it felt grand when you’d first walked in, and for the first week, and the second, but now the months have gone by and it’s just big and old and you’re sick of it, and the telephone ringing but you solved that, and gin but that’ll soon be solved too, and the peacocks and the notebook and the party’s pretty much over for you, pal. You cut one more slice of that orange and you dump the rest of the gin into your glass. It’s too warm and you’ve been here too long but your trunk is packed and when the gin is gone the long journey back begins. You’ll have to live with them again, and know for the rest of your life that not one word they say to you is the goddamn truth.
In 1975the peacock feather was at the peak of its revival as an accessory for the boudoir and suburban lounge. An Indian man sold them from a sack cloth bag along Oxford Street and in Notting Hill and Camden. Perhaps it was the same man, maybe there were several. At that time a French onion seller used to call from house to house in Hampstead and Belsize Park on a bicycle. Strings of garlic were also available. The onyx telephone did not ring or the man who was supposed to call did not call, or at least he did not call when she was in, at home, within earshot, more than she wanted to be, but this is how things were, and there was no such thing as call waiting either.
Supernatural MenTickling chin, levitating avifauna
Human divine spirit, flying over
the skies. Legs woven with thread
and needle, stitches of divine glory
Fur-furthered wings, smiters of far-
fetched foes; reclaiming:
we are supernatural men.
Bound to this beguiling domain, Kings
and Queens dominion over-subdued,
Raging fire of egalitarianism. In the
light of extramundane armistice. In
the image of the ancient box of words.
Our powers traverse beyond boundaries
Mount Everest the beginning of countable
measurement; from the ageless uncountable
times to our present age, we have a domicile
of origin in the world. Born to have dominion
over every living species, we crave for
expansionism, for powers beyond powers.
We are supernatural men!
We are supernatural men!
Here we world, conquerors of ageing principalities
They may have uncovered the archives of men born
before us, Kings and Queens vanished in times unheard
of, weird though archaeology uncovered the pit-holes
of yester-years, yet our divine supremacy conquers all nature.
As we nurture the things yet to be discovered.
Living DollIf you open my belly beneath my frills you'll find a photo of my other self inside. Be sure not to break the hinge that holds the folds of my porcelain skin with your fine little hands that wowser with those second class citizens in your world of wonder nursery at the top of the long mahogany stair case beyond the landing where only you and nanny go.
Take the little key on the left and turn to hear the words that call from your depths each time she leaves to return with another that is not yours - a woman of beauty has endless possibilites and you've been told fathers are over rated.
Mama, mama, mama, my audio voice will turn, then long jump inside your mind to remind you of the words you once said before the one you loved above all else stopped listening.
Listen to the MadmanListen to the madman, who speaks
at night, for he alone has seen
the wonder beyond the drapes
black. Untangle his chaos that
rings of peacock feathers and
starlight bubbles, and wine black
spilled from roses red. Listen,
listen to the madman who has heard
the distant voice, who has read
the unwritten lines, and seen
inside the empty chest. Listen
to the madman when he cries, "take man
not as he is, but as he could be;
not leaning against hope, but rising
above it, not seated raggedly
but in flight, spirit uncaged."
While you re-cage him, and clear his
mess, listen to the madman; for he
alone speaks with uncensored voice.
A Secret CofferA secret coffer, within my own
I hide you there, with traits unknown
Fallacies; your ecliptic eyes
To fall in love’s a fool’s disguise
Wilted roses, optimistic still
Through summer nights, silence shrill
Candles burn to stalactites
Wafting bubbles through time’s demise
Like citrus fruit embracing mould
Aeons pass, I long your hold
I do not see, but love you blind
Your peacock feathered perplexed mind
The phone unhooked by empty gin
A false attempt to triumph your kin
Trust our fates to intertwine
But just until I claim you mine;
A secret coffer, within my own
I hide you there, with traits unknown
Fallacies; your ecliptic eyes
To fall in love’s a fool’s demise
The Return To HeavenOh the mystery! How long has it pushed him on?
For millennia he has puzzled over it. Saturated his mind with gin and oranges. Created diabolical things. Tulips black as night which drove the world into a frenzy.
He has delighted them, teased them until they giggled. Floated bubbles before their eyes which popped and made them blink; miss the trick.
He has worked his magic and they have stood still, mesmerised but never understanding that the creation of these things, these glistening trinkets that distract and entertain, are pure coincidence.
He pursues dreams beyond all this. But the wonder, the mystery eludes him.
He has imagined he will never draw the curtain back and see once more what lies beyond. The key to the treasure chest lies lost at the bottom of the ocean. It fell to earth alongside him.
And he cannot make the connection. The lines are down, broken and no alchemy or incantation can repair what he has done.
Then in a dream he understands. It is the not knowing of a thing which sets you free.
There is no magic that can return him to heaven.
Only song, only belief can release him from his cage and allow him to soar home, back into the dark abyss.
Mind Over MatterYou want to dissect with hands, steel reinforced creaks
-they look like industrial action-
and I am a happy orange, segmented easy into action and reaction.
Rocking gently on my skin I worry for the separation from the pith,
With flesh removed I must lie flat
capitulate to the extraction of zest and verve.
But this is my motive, as you want to see it, all scattershot like.
I was a gentle space, once,
the empire in me couldn’t help but add an elephant or two
nor could it refuse the treacherous line out, ring ringing
face-tapped at the other end.
All this Rorschach, drawing blanks, makes me think of old bones and books-
the ones straight out of the heart of a savage
as if a heart could have bones. It must
have bones. Or thin, pithy filaments at least. Ignore that small walnut
nesting in my skull, focus on the pumping infidel. Let it be pulled apart
for all its beat poetry and confessions. Swarthy fibres knitted together
like the black white black blots swimming like protests on plaquads.
Go on strike then, give me the sack. Taproot. It’s a jungle in there-
Into the night I opened
the window and its pathway to the moon.
I sought for a second or two - what I wished
to find was rather hard to define,
its name I cannot spell. There it is,
but what is the word to evoke it?
I opened the window into the night and I looked out.
Climbing up from childhood,
over the soap bubbles, dolls and into the perfume bottles,
I climbed back out holding a bouquet.
Reminiscences from the years passed
were not enough to fill a small trunk.
Using blood and ink to spell me and what I wish for -
words as powerful tools to evoke, but what?
So I kept clambering up over the hours
on the phone and the blush on the cheeks -
the things I could not say to his face
as my heart dripped with juvenile wishes.
The window sill, the night in its stillness,
the moon in the wings - wide eyed, as usual, I presume.
Inside the Belly of the ArchitectIt was at the Black Rose Tavern. No, Frankenstein's. Maybe it was Jeckyll & Hyde's. Bugger! I don't know, I don't remember. One of these places. Sorry, they all look the same. Anyway, we met in “Garterland”. That's what I call these pubs, 'cause the girls wear garters, and that's why I go there. I can't stand the music, but I've learned to ignore it. And she was wearing garters. Her stocking had a cute little lace pattern at the end. She had put a lot of money in her outfit altogether. I can tell now: the cheap ones from the fancy ones. The outfits I mean. I've developed quite an eye for this, a pro really. So, when I saw her, I knew she was wearing the fancy stuff. She took me home, and I made the most incredible discovery. I looked around, and there we were, still in “Garterland”! I mean, her room looked like one of these pubs! Then she asked me to do this thing, she wanted me to make soap bubbles; I don't know, we were naked, I was ready, and that almost killed me, I almost left. Then there was this thing that she liked, throwing handfuls of marbles on the parquetry. I never got it. I asked her to pour me another glass of Gin. If that was to go on, I had to drink myself into oblivion. To be fair to the girl, she also did this thing with the feather... That was inspired.
I'm not sure what happened next, but I feel like it wasn't so bad after all. I did wake up to the horrific illusion of still being trapped in the pub. First thing I saw when I opened my eyes, was a dirty porcelain doll, legs wide open, resting on a wooden chest, next to an elephant on wheels.
SPECIAL DELIVERYShe sounded so sleepy on the phone, her voice wilting like flowers, so I have sent her a case full of sleep. I can see her now, rummaging through it with a tired, happy smile: she picks out snoozes and holds them up to the light; she lays carefully polished catnaps across her palm. And I can see her, too, alighting the stairs, clutching a heavy piece of gin-drugged slumber. She has crammed her pockets with an assortment of snores, and she is taking up a few citrus dreams, for good measure.
Memory ChestThere’s a favourite toy,
a gift at age two.
There's ‘Lucy’ doll
she’s now lost a shoe.
There is the food,
the sweet and the sour.
There is the clock
that chimed on the hour.
There are my books
full of the poems I wrote.
There are the pearls,
that once kissed my throat.
There is the gin
we drank until dawn.
There are the feathers
we found on the lawn.
There are the tulips
black as the night.
There are the orbs,
heavenly halos of light.
There is the chest
upon which sits the phone,
there’s nobody home.
For the Sake of KeepsakeEffervescent
Memories are fizzy reels
Translucent ivory keys like human bones
Cells shedding like bubbles
New connections to grow, for the show
Needs fresh organic peels
Laced with vivid clarity
Sparkling amongst an opaque backdrop,
A cliche, like ageing.
Maybe I don't want to pass the baton, she thinks. Maybe I want to be selfish. Maybe I don't want to live out a cliche and spend the rest of my days battling them. I spend my energy building up these walls like they give me a reason to keep up, spinning my wheel, in order to dismantle them. What if I want to be free from youth?
the after partyFor you, love
with all the bottles dry
and the statue cracked
and every rind squeezed out
and the clock, upended, clank
there was a whisper in the dial tone
the cages you'd escaped from gaped, aghast
and wings and flowers sprouted from the empty glass
the room was bright with bubbles round the empty air
and even the dust grew pearls
hang in the balance forever-
for an answer.
I will take a shower,
leave you on hold-
purple prose of my curtains
Sometimes I strut
peacock stuff on stage,
my vaudeville cloakroom.
Trunk overloaded with heavy costume.
When the Runes are right I answer
a role, between vodkas.
The cameras will whirr.
On the boards, stains
left by my ivory feet.
The Weight of MatterTo my dear niece Clementine,
Inside this trunk are the remains of my worldly goods; I could not decide what to keep or discard, so I am sending you everything. Albert says I must hurry, the airport taxi is due; we are leaving for China today.
Strangely, I cannot bear the weight of matter anymore. I always considered myself a nostalgic hoarder, but I now see these objects as artificial limbs, a prosthetic fleshy armour I have built around myself. For eight-eight years, I’ve kept souvenirs, been dropping pebbles, landmarks in time. Today I am retracing my path; like Hansel and Gretel in the darkness of the forest, I am trying to find my way home.
Inside the trunk is my childhood elephant, Grey. I was given him the day they operated on my three year-old eyes. I was terrified. The operation went wrong – that is why I have that wonky eye - Grey was my only consolation. The doll I stole from my younger sister (your mother) one Christmas. She never forgave me and repeated the story of my theft around the table on numerous family occasions. Everyone laughed but I hated it. You see, your mother was younger than me and terribly pretty and I was desperately jealous I can tell you that now.
As for the books, the books were my salvation I read, day and night, (even with my wonky eye) I was the ‘bookworm’, your mother the ‘beauty’ – rather a dull division of tasks. She also loved bicycles and I had a penchant for baking (but no one ever mentioned this!). The telephone was gift from my parents on my wedding day. I heard the news of your birth through that phone and of your marriage and of your mother’s death. I miss her terribly, even now. She died far too young.
Michelangelo’s Advice To An Apprentice.You would be an artist?
Have you worked out the meaning of life
for yourself? It’s no use trying, otherwise;
some things you must discover for yourself.
When you paint, you are a philosopher,
writer, musician, dancer. Fill your mind
with detritus, because, in truth, there can be
nothing insignificant. Lock it in a sealed chest,
to be opened by you alone. Distrust inspiration.
It is a bubble of iridescence, transient,
illusory, shattering before your eyes.
Let not those eyes be peacock vain –
Though you starve, you must know riches,
or how can you make me believe them?
PandoraWell what next?
I might as well
linger in my bath.
may be watching me,
I don’t care–
for all their peacock gleam.
Take that telephone
off the hook.
The God Father
wants to know:
Did I like his gift?
Later, Old Man. I’m sipping
my gin sling.
Loving the glow
of red candles on my skin–
The Sorcerer’s ApprenticeCan you see me?
There by the trunk he found buried by pirates.
The candle is almost burnt out; dripping like blood on the box from the sand.
The stage is all set. I peep round the curtain, audience seated.
I should cry out, but they don’t see me at all.
His power is legend: they all flock to see him.
His show is a sell-out weeks in advance.
Peacocks relinquish their feathers to him, tulips succumb to his black art.
The upturned clock still marks time, but I suspect the hands move just for him.
Mother’s scent bottle (her precious Henrick’s) is sweet and bitter and empty.
He told me she’d left; I wasn’t so sure.
There’s something unnatural about the porcelain doll with soft white hair, sad eyes and mother’s red lips.
They say these South Sea pearls were cursed and then buried.
He found them and took them, before he took me.
I try the telephone; no-one can hear me.
I try to move but I’m drifting away.
My chance to escape; I see the stage door.
I’ve seen him trap souls in bubbles before.
Bitter OrangesAdele was ready to return. Back to the house with three windows and the door that creaked. The house that shook as the train rattled by, spewing out coal smoke that covered the furniture in a layer of soot.
That house was where she returned when the pillow sagged under her cheek at night. The smell and the taste of mould-mottled walls, and the soft-to-the-touch wood that puckered around glass. The sound of adults playing poker in the grubby room downstairs, their drunken laughter floating up through the floorboards, reaching her girlhood dreams. And of course, flame-haired Pucette, a tiny, formidable thing, greeting gents and soldiers and judges at night and letting them in to relieve themselves in that squalid bedroom with the fire burning low, the candle wax spilling over and staining the mantel.
Pucette swore it was the smallest house in Paris. The cage she called it. Adele had never seen anywhere smaller. Even her drab room in Pigalle, the many mirrors made the space look large.
She made the journey by train, the week after she heard the news. Wore her thin velvet gloves and a hat with a peacock feather tucked into the band, strung her paste pearls around her neck and swept a black shawl across her shoulders; an eccentric, on the way to pay homage to another.
When she arrived the sun was low in the sky and the house was even smaller than she remembered. The shutters were gone and the windows were ruined by smoke. The fire had devoured the insides, had choked down the walls and demolished the roof, turning everything to ash.
The keyI see myself opening the eyes. The chaos surrounds me. I find myself in an empty room filled with soap bubbles, fruits and flowers. Like in a Great Gatsby party but without music, drink or fancy people. I feel dizzy. I grab my eyes and try to walk across the room. I can feel the soap bubbles touching my skin, they kind of wake me up. After a few steps, a figure starts to call my attention.
- What is that?
I keep walking until I reach the strange object. Finally I can see it clear, it is a wooden chest. I touch every single corner of it trying to figure out how it could be opened.
- Damn it.
It has a lock. I stand up and start walking again along the room searching something useful to open it. While I'm checking the floor, I look up and see my image reflected in a mirror. My hair is short again and from my neck is hanging a necklace with a small key.
After my surprise, I come back to the wooden chest and take my necklace to open it. Once it is open, I look inside and all I can see is water. And my reflection. Me again, with my actual long hair and a big smile on my face. Then, I put my face inside the chest and I can feel the fresh water on my skin. And I fade.
Suddenly I wake up. At home. I open my eyes, the chaos surrounds me. But this time I know where is the key to reestablish the order. In me.
The TrunkThe catches still work on my trunk
at the bottom of the ocean,
– they have sprung up
waiting to burst open and my clothes
with all the best labels, dresses worked
in lace and silk, jewel encrusted
ready to delight the captain at his table.
It is the best state room,
adorned with the plushiest of velvet,
the blackest of tulips and the choicest
oranges from Seville – juice now dried up.
Along with my tears, one person can only
cry so much and there are many who wail
into the long dark nights – we are forsaken.
My child’s elephant still has wheels
to freely move in its own safari, move heavily
around the theme park – already endangered.
SHAPESOf course the door creaked-it was one badly painted apology for a door. Nevertheless, I was on a mission and I succeeded in opening it by pushing hard, knocking over three or four piles of ancient comic books in the process. The owner of this emporium ruled from another apology-a rattan, splintery chair. My thoughts rewound to childhood, he was surely a character from Grimms' Fairy Tales?
The shop , though full of interest that would gladden a tinkers' eye, passed me in a dusty flash.
'I'm interested, I mean -I would like to buy '. Damn I was nervous! Pointed my trembling finger at the peeling gilt edge. He knew.
'Old money if you please' he muttered. This eccentric piece of information was widespread. Midas rich. He named his price. I parted with a chunk of my inheritance. No need for pleasantries. my rucksack carried the prize.
Home at last. Gazed with an emotional reverence on so much beauty.Thoughts were racing. Artistic envy. Unsullied beauty. Citrus smell? No- this would be too imaginative. Slowly I opened Pandoras' box. Inside I was laughing hysterically NO! It's MY box.
A sliver of peacock feather; whisper of bubbles; gleam of a pearl; a darkness of tulip; roll of marble and green of an old telephone. Colour of cascading curtains and a hint of a gin label. The old trunk with brass catch must be the starting point. Whoops! mustn't cut corners, straight edges first. One thousand pieces of my dream. I was lucky. How many people can have their dream broken and then fix everything together again?
An Ocean of Lost ThingsLucie wished to know where to find lost things.
‘Lost things lie at the bottom of the ocean,’ her father said. ‘They are best left there.’
Lucie had never seen the ocean; did not know how to get there.
She poked about in puddles, finding only spiders, floating forlornly on the surface. She searched in ponds, despite her father's protests (‘you will fall and drown and then you will be lost’). In a neighbour's fish pond she found a firework casing from the previous year.
‘I have found a lost thing,’ she told her father.
‘Yes, well… put it in the bin,’ her father said.
In the aquarium Lucie pressed her face to the glass, looking for the things she had lost. She believed they may have been gathered up with the fish taken from the ocean.
‘Have you seen an elephant?’ she enquired at the ticket counter. ‘It has wheels.’
Lucie’s father watched her. He knew she was searching for more than a lost toy.
He drove her to the ocean. They stood together hand in hand and looked out at its vastness.
‘I had no idea it would be so big,’ Lucie said. She began to cry. ‘How will I ever find anything?’
Her father put his arm around her.
‘Some things we cannot get back,’ he said.
Read more >
Had I KnownHad I known how quickly dreams could rise
and the bittersweet touches, scents and sights
you hid inside. You lied. You kept
those trinket-whispers safe. And so
here I sit, half drunk with hope -
reciting rhymes we read and wrote,
my fingers clutch at scattered tears
which you once laid around my throat.
I tried to catch your dreams but they rose
too fast, so with the last of our waning wax
I will seal it back up and swear
I never opened your trunkful of memories.
Midnight mourningThe clock fell, turning time
bursting pearls from her throat
Forcing the elephant to leave
his trunk and write the words
orange and lemon must dwell apart.
The black bruise of tulip waits on the
candle's bleed, the crimson stain of
curtain hangs on the missing hour.
A tiny ghost sits waiting for morning.
The EscapologistIt had, he decided on reflection, been quite a good day. In spite of recent reports, his reputation remained intact and the tour was well and truly sold out. Arthur would be pleased. He smiled to himself. Now, if only he could work out where he had put the key...
Bittersweetin the end, it was just the way
you left it. haphazard. littered
with care. almost as if you wanted
us to see how far we had come
from that happily-ever-after-dream
that we abandoned barely after
we had begun. i can see it now.
so clearly. what was and all that
we made of it. fresh-as-rose tulips
rival the dark thoughts that pervade
our hearts. our laughter that once
borrowed its mirth the zest of spring,
has but left; just rinds behind.
wine bottles in whose drink we lost
ourselves to each other, hold
the fallen pride of our egos.
the silence in our voices lie dead
like surreal connections from an old
world. when we woke rip-van-winkle
like, it was easier to lock ourselves
away. in the attic where no one cared
to go. not even you or me.
Read more >
WunderkammerDarling, call the financial planner.
I went a bit mad in the Paul Smith sale.
We might have to remortgage the manor.
Darling, do call the financial planner.
It's all necessary for my wunderkammer –
that's the holiest of my grails.
Darling, call the financial planner.
I went a bit mad in the Paul Smith sale.
The Best is Yet to ComeIt’s goodbye. Jewels, glitter
won’t hold me. My mother’s
weary worn suitcase waits,
the one she left on the Orient Express
and found in the left luggage, Paris.
Letter angled against the crystal,
I phone for a taxi,
fingerprint the dust,
sashay barefoot into the starry night,
alone, sober, a pound to my name,
in the clothes I arrived with.
The life you offered me is done;
dream-dust dazzle, hollow.
Nice Try DoyleYou had to admire the man’s commitment to creating a crazy stag night stunt. Of course that didn’t mean Ronnie Sinclair wasn’t going to beat his cousin Mick Doyle senseless for the inane situation he was now in- chained to a lamppost in the middle of Dublin on a clear August night. Ronnie sighed heavily as the stars in the sky above him formed the constellations lazily as though the world knew the soon to be wed Sinclair was heading nowhere so he may as well see the wonders of nature somewhat.
Grinning up at the Big Dipper, Sinclair mused aloud “It may be a beautiful night Doyle but…..I’m still gonna kill ya”. And somewhere in Finglas the decidedly “un-sober” Mick Doyle realised this and laughed heartily.
FeathersIt soon began to grate, her obsession
with putting things in things. Like everything,
it started off innocently enough –
a feather in a bottle on the shelf,
drying that nice bouquet of flowers left
over from a cousin's wedding
and putting it in a vase on the mantlepiece.
I blamed low prices and two-for-one deals
at the supermarket. She drained cheap wine,
gin and champagne just for the bottles. Food
was incidental – an orange here and there
sliced with tonic, perhaps, but nothing more.
And the feathers? I still marvel, years later,
that even in her constant state
of inebriation she was such a bloody good shot.
Replacement Mountain Climbers with Secrets for ServantsI’d like to report a secret, a secret revealed in retreats, always told at the start and end of conversations, a sort of ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ is the best emphasis for such definitions.
They counted the bites in the oranges at 9 years old, remembered those numbers at 21 years old and dialled those into lies at 47 years old.
The eulogy along with the bowl of paint, was kept in the trunk of the emergency elephant for minimal moonlight and that feeling of amateur goldfish within the lungs of the bubble, was sketched and stored on the walls of the trunk.
At 53, a screaming note to all those around bellowed from the upper staircase, ‘I’m crap at dying!’.
A cherub of a child perfected their signature wishing to aspire to the words of that scream.
Years passed and the child went beyond being an adult and forgot that the signature was meant to be a proposal to ring and ring and ring a bicycle bell, with a basket filled with lemons for their hiccup years.
Half a life approaches 68 and the meaning of old with oaky scent, in hope to manifest something Edwardian, is careless but who now cares, it is in fact reminiscent of its false claims of an era which cannot be sourced... Goodbye Georgian.
Cusp of SleepSleep well, my sweetheart. My gorgeous girl.
Let the lullaby drift you away
Into that dreamworld of yours,
The land of everything, where bubbles fleck the sky,
Floating idly while the music box plays
Its never ending tune of everything that's good,
With its fairy princess twirling infinite circles.
Around and around and around and around,
Like my finger on the cushion of your palm.
Whispers of I love you and I love you more,
I'll see you in the morning.
I'm not sleepy you say,
Cherubic fingers rubbing your eyes,
Don't fight it, my dearest. Let yourself fall into sleep.
There's a world full of wonder just waiting to catch you,
To take you on a fantastical trip you'll forget in a heartbeat.
Drink it in while you can, taste its delights,
But don't stray into darkness, stay aware from there.
'Though I'll be here regardless. Always remember that.
So sleep well, my sweetheart.
My gorgeous girl.
thirteen ways of looking at your memory of me1.
I would melt the clocks if
I were you, I would save the candle
for darker days if I were
must you always bring up the roses?
memories of a winter afternoon
and all those roses rotting in
a glass jar and everything is soluble
is cold is velveteen is soft like the folds of a curtain
call me irrational, but there is no
more music in the ring of a telephone
than there is more waiting spiraling in a staircase
a crow walks into my dream
wearing a coat of peacock's feathers
the crow looks familiar, looks dangerous
do you see how easy it is to collect me
without the ivory, without the hunt,
it's all shades of off-white anyway.
DRUNK AGAINI'm forever blowing bubbles
the bathwater getting cold.
The home help never came
I'm getting to blooming old.
The flowers they need changing
the phone is off the hook.
I lost the page I was reading
cause I've dropped the silly book.
The feathers lost the peacock
my necklace it has broke.
The gin bottle it is empty
I'll just lay and have a soak.
OtherIn other earth
These black tulips
Would have another hue
And never wilt
In other air
One after the other
After the other
In another world
I would pour wax
On to the fire
At the flames
In another life
Would be nought
And the keeper
Of the peacocks
Would keep my spirit
I know that you are upset.
You are a decent woman. I know. My dissipation is anathema to you.
Life is short. We are but bubbles in the cosmos.
I offer you immortality. At least – something to look back upon when you are old. When you beauty is a fiction of memory. When your body creaks and sighs like a tree in winter, I will give you the music of the dance.
I will write of you fondly. My words will portray you in beauty as well as any artist with his brush.
I will give you pleasure enough to warm you in your dotage, when your secret smile will puzzle your grandchildren. When a blush will catch the paper of your skin with flame, onlookers will ask if you are quite well. You will tell them that you once danced with peacock feathers in your hair. That you once sailed to New York in the world’s most luxurious ship, but you will say little more than that.
I will show the world who you were, and that you were beautiful.
Call me, whilst you can still claim this tribute.
The ShowgirlThe stage is set but only while the bubbles remain in view. Too soon, they too will rise above to burst in the cold air of normality above. The green stalks are too straight and too dry in their medicinal receptacle to be anything other than a prop of an entertainer. The feathers may be peahen or cock but are wizened like the citrus of the mixed peel in the stale air. This is no time for childish fun or humour. My pearls are broken, so is my voice. All that is left is the empty chest, a relic of an unused life. The phone call was never returned, no sorcery offers time travel.
The Black of BeyondI’d really rather not
be writing with a peacock quill;
give me crow, owl or eagle
and this purple ink
is pungent with juniper berries.
I’m trying to ignore
the upending of time,
the shrouded candle,
the black roses
and the skeletal hand,
which will not let me
make a call.
Searching for citrus pips
I’ve found only pearls;
salt-water ones at that.
The whey-faced girl
hides beside the trunk;
ideally she’d like
to be in it,
but she’s never forgotten
The Mistletoe Bride.
DetritusIt was once joy that drew her to this corner. The gifts you gave her, lovingly laid out on a shrine to you. When you couldn’t be with her she would light her pomegranate scented candle, and let it burn. Every night she would do the same until you returned. She was living in a bubble, a bubble of you.
One night you came back from your latest exotic location and brought her another gift, the gift of a porcelain doll. As she placed it beside the wooden chest alter , she laughed and threw her arms around you and told you that this was a sign that you’d be together forever, even when your hair had turned grey, just like the doll. You knew that this would be a lie. You had loved her enough once, to tell her so.
She wouldn’t hear of it. No Moroccan beauty was going to take her place. The necklace you gave her began to weigh across her neck like a boa constrictor. You’d never seen such rage. The pearls lie there still, frozen in time, along with the detritus of your lives together.
She still has her shrine. Her smile has returned. She knows now that however much you want to leave her, you won’t. You can’t.
The AquariumsWhen we went to the stars, we took our aquariums with us--we took the smell of cut grass, peacock feathers. The aquariums filled with our interior cities, rooms of timeless night. Inside the night rooms, we kept our storage trunks of earth. There were black tulips arranged in a bottle. There were candles and elephants on wheels. We peeled oranges. We scattered pearls like moons.
It was so dark, we couldn't see the stars. We counted snails and fireflies.
In the shells we could hear the sea.
In the night rooms, the books fluttered, opened. Pages covered themselves with words.
The clocks ticked off bruised violet hours, summer afternoons, gin and lemonade on front porches.
The telephones were waiting. They would ring when we arrived.
Time passed outside, and the dreams of earth continued. Bodies submerged in bright fluid, hearts pumping, lungs breathing in and out. No sound in the silent ship but the whisper of efficient machinery. Snails climbed the aquariums, where bubbles speak of air.
The Last ExperimentIn later years, the Philosopher's enquiries become ever more esoteric and, it must be admitted, ever more difficult to defend. This great mind, once the toast of all Europe, was now occupied with theories most of us would consider unlikely if not downright laughable. His early ideas on the concept of time were widely influential, but those ideas had mutated into a perplexing obsession with the idea that time was 'undoubtedly as possessed of agency as so-called animals' and capable 'at least in potential, and probably in actuality, of direct interchange of symbolic content with other agents.'
Commentators differ on whether or not the Philosopher believed that time was literally alive, but what is not in doubt is that he thought it should be possible to communicate with it. The memoirs of the great man's housekeeper Margaret Cullen are as invaluable in this area as in many others, for she recalls his increasingly fraught attempts to get some kind of response from 'aloof, ignorant' time. She writes of his daily habit of suddenly spinning round whilst walking and roaring 'Stop!' at the top of his lungs, before peering around to see if time was proceeding at its usual rate. Invariably he would discover that it was, and Cullen writes movingly of how downhearted he became at these snubs, and how he increasingly came to believe that time held some kind of personal distaste for him, possibly due to 'a lamentable habit of tardiness in his youth.' For a time the sage switched to French in his attempts to communicate, then spent some months learning Serbo-Croat, believing that this might be the key language because of what Rogan called 'a misunderstanding arising from a misprint in his edition of Liebniz' - yet all of these attempts came to nothing.
Infinities of faces make a sphereAs molten planets or a soapy bubble,
spheres float in space or on the empty air,
as small perfections over pointless rubble
compiled artistically with special care.
Whoever or whatever took the trouble
to set the planets or the bubbles there?
THE BUBBLESthe bubbles from that part
of me that remembers
dark sesame street moments of
and perfumes, hey, there is an absent mother
why couldn't i call her just mom
even though she has died
almost thirty years ago.
all of this is not true.
i still call her mom.
but not in front of you
tiny mute thief objects
prickle corny lights
surfaces for fictionthere is an armoury within the cellar, and within the armoury is a quill-stand, a wood binder, a chest and footed arrows. seeking quiet and retribution on paper, she takes the old staircase with the brand new stairs. outside it is paling into blue, and the window sill is uninviting with indentured coffee-cup stains, which she occupies anyway. the kitchen top is laden with ceramic dishes, green and white. elsewhere in the house is a desk.
Life’s TheatreWhen the curtains opened,
Love was waiting in the wings,
It took centre stage,
Bowed to its admirers,
Never to reappear,
Leaving elephantine memories impossible to forget,
The euphoria that rose like iridescent champagne bubbles of hope,
Which even peacock feather of immortality could not preserve,
Red roses turned to black,
Shared passion and moonlight encrusted moments noted in Life's book,
Along with hugs and kisses carefully wrapped in tissue paper,
Stored in a chest,
Only to be taken out, and admired, on Life’s winter nights,
But Love had disconnected itself and abandoned the human puppet that it had,
Once upon a time,
Cast in the role of a romantic heroine.
GWEN’S CARE PLAN IS UNDER CONSTANT REVIEWWould you like a cup of tea
Don't you worry about the clock -
it's all right.
What do you mean, “elephant”?
It's your slipper.
Tell you what, have something to eat -
That's not a trunk. Put down the cup.
Mind your nails . . . My . . . Lovely . . .
You're hurting me.
Black VelvetThe party's over. It was a melee not of Millais's construction, although perhaps John Everett, cool as a cucumber, had been imbibing. Drunk on his own imagination and hung up on the telephone. A pair of pears skulk furtively in the corner. Excommunicated by chance but hoping never to be discovered again and again. Bulbous and bible black bearskin clad like sentries stand guard marking time. Art is a curious bedfellow. Don't let the velvet fool you. It could be a trap.
Atom for atomA man once told me that
the beauty of poetry lay
in the ability — although I
think he called it freedom —
to say simple things in poems.
Afterward, I wanted to tell
you how I loved — you —
in simple words.
I am leaving my heart behind,
placing it in this box,
and putting it beside you.
Do boxes turn to ashes, too?
Darling…You may pine for my husk of a gin shallow voice
my skin so delicate that bubbles bruise it
I don’t care for you today
Don’t call me on a mock alabaster phone
Don’t tickle with peacock tail feathers
I don’t care for you today
Be advised my elephant is fitted with wheels,
fuelled with oranges and lemons,
ready to go and go and go.
But send me more flowers, I like them purple,
more pearls I like them warm and natural,
you might be my treasure tomorrow.
THE SHORT STRANDA friend once joked that our kind could make a war from a spilled drink. Sanctify the spillage, he said. Eulogise it in song. Drum it defiantly through the spiller's streets. Convey the long and tragic story of the spillage to coming generations before they have the means to read about it and question it for themselves. I even think we laughed about it then.
It was the taking sides of it that blew away all that wistful bygone bollocks about unlocked doors and neighbourly communion in the Short Strand. I tried so damned hard to stay out of it back in the day, but people took sides in the old Short Strand and those people obliged me to choose mine.
I worked two jobs to keep a flat and a little over for a better life further on. I saw Bolan at the Empire in Liverpool and hitched all the way down to Aberystwyth with an old school friend to catch him again. I wore high boots because I had the legs for them and enough youthful vanity to enjoy most of the looks they attracted. I stood away from the corner tables in the pubs frequented by menacing types with self-appointed ranks and titles. I stayed away from boys who measured their weekends in bricks and broken bottles. I walked easily around the Short Strand, unconcerned and unregarded. I never put a foot wrong.
Then I fell in love with a boy who'd earned the rank he'd risen to. A boy who measured his weekends by the bricks and broken bottles seen and missed. We were nineteen. Sides never came into it. But someone saw us together outside the Short Strand, somewhere the people on 'our' side said no good girl should be seen. Word spread. The 'indiscretion' archly relayed to my mother by a woman she'd never met was treason by the time she called home in tears to ask me about it herself.