- Vol. 10
- Chapter 10
Totemic metal marked the land
as the graveyard of gods,
a discarded religion, it lay,
as so many others, in ruined temples,
carpeted with the carcasses
of offerings, a rotting mess
from days of ore, mined,
then melded in factories,
cathedrals of engineering
whose doors, too, had closed
on the faithful.
The pangs of labour were felt by many
as the new world was born,
contractions leading to an afterbirth of blue,
a gentle canopy which made no distinction
between those who lived beneath it.
A place of pilgrimage, it drew visitors,
those who cast envious eyes at the ‘haves’,
untouched by hardship, whilst they
were left behind with only memories.
The blue made no distinction
but the divide had been made,
and the totem became a warning
of storm clouds on the horizon
and already they rumble.
We wandered into the poster shop because Mum was taking ages at the kaftan stall.
‘Come on Charlie, let’s wait in some air con,’ Dad said.
We drifted into the store, Dad’s hands clasped behind his back, a habit formed from the time he knocked over a crystal vase in Haines and had to pay for it. His sunburnt calves looked sore against the white shorts Mum had made him wear.
‘I look ridiculous.’
‘We’re abroad. Where else are you going to wear white.’
‘No man over fifty should wear white shorts.’
I was deep into Marvel comics so the posters of fruit and women in hats left me cold.
‘Sir, may I help you?’
A young woman appeared in the aisle, all warmth and brown tan.
Dad’s face flushed the colour of his calves.
‘No thank you. We’re just browsing.’
She smiled deeper, forcing out the dimples in her cheeks.
‘We have a sale today. 30% off. Maybe an extra 10%, for special customers.’
She winked and left us alone.
Dad glanced at me, beetroot faced.
‘Charlie boy, what do you think of that there picture?’Read more >
Passing the monument always reminds me of then.
When the streets were taken by the angry machines. You had to jump out of their path to avoid them. They would honk their loud horns, put you back in line, remind you that they rule the roads. Mankind hid in those machines, emboldened by the power of being encased in the steel frame. Separated from community in this capsule yet angry at being stuck bumper to bumper, bitterness and rage festering when all we all want is freedom.
I tasted the freedom that was promised by the ads. The freedom of long drives to somewhere exciting, somewhere else. Butterflies in my belly and songs escaping my lips, my lungs, desperate to express my soul, my heart. Not realising the yearning to break out and break free. With the steady acceleration beneath my feet, I move away or towards; it didn’t matter. The push/pull of emotions in my guts bubbling away and escaping through my lips into song, reminding me of freedom. Letting happiness, as with the wind, wash over me. Letting the oxygen nourish me.
Now happiness can be easier to find in the city. The air is cleaner. The places where tree roots once fought to break through the concrete jungle have now freed the path for flowers, grasses and reeds. It’s cooler in summer now as you walk or ride through town. The canopy of trees shelters you. Their branches and leaves share the burden of the hottest summer sun, and the grass and shrubs cool you as you travel through. Where once parking spaces were a given, smothering and suffocating everything in hot asphalt cooking the earth, now gardens and edible food forests take their place. The wildflowers and foliage imprint inspiration to draw from, and butterflies and bees dance around us, a reminder of joy in simple moments.Read more >
As I stand tall,
black raisins – red eye
My face is brown and I have elongated arms
to hold you and people around –
waxy structure amongst us
pink, brown, blue – all I have.
I am formed to hold and leak
between the seismic rim of eyes.
What is even this poem?
It gasps and hops –
a feverish mock of life
my face is here – a dream so listless
prowling through blue skies.
My whimper gives birth to many hopes,
colorless this time,
faceless – mahogany smell
to form a verb and to defy it the very next moment.
I carry this narrative to form a conjecture so rigid
watching the street only to see how it watches back at me
mixed colors –
a great anatomy to hold everything in my small palms.
broken down & forgotten,
how did we get to the top
of our ambitions? underneath it all,
a fist that carries all our dead dreams.
No birds to sing the morning song,
this simple humus holds out
its ending towards heaven.
We have gathered everything
in this tiny space so we have no choice
but to pull the tree's sternum
so we can count its rings.
Even this colour doesn't exist here
in these debris growing
out of yellow dreams. This is the progress
we whisper of—a cloud peeping out
of tattered exhausts like clean smoke.
There are more colours than broken
motion beneath all that unnatural pose; more colour than sky.
But first here, the blue.
It was the time that we buried the car
in the backyard: the blood dried a dark
maroon on the front seat, the glass
shattered, pieces still everywhere. The
younger one had hauled it back from
the station. This one deserved a decent
burial. On breezy monsoon afternoons,
he would sit on the grass and play his
guitar. Songs they used to know together.
He only sang his part. Everything else
rustled during the silent verse. Sometimes
it rained, never breaking the rhythm.
Strings and water. And bottle after
bottle. Till it flooded the inside and the
blood was no longer dark and the glass
stopped shattering with that noise like
ancient ice. It was the time the car sprouted,
first a tiny leaf, then stronger, taller,
harder, little smashed-up cars on its
boughs, each one with that blackening
stain, the windows crushed, the rain
leaping from one to the next, one to
the next, never breaking the rhythm.
And bottle after bottle. Till the flood
inside spilt out, an endless deluge,
watering roots and grass and car-seed,
the older one finding a road to heaven.
My brother-in-law hit a deer
down a country lane, writing off
the car I was going to inherit.
My siblings were born
years before me
clutching a taxi driver’s license.
I could walk across roads
to knock down unexpected pins
with bowling balls, watch cars explode
in cinemas, down slices of pizza
like weak beer.
My body lived seconds
away from the boys who taught me
how to fight on a computer game,
hit each other off fake motorbikes.
The number 1 bus took me to girls
who invented music,
wore lip balm I was allergic to
and said I was the perfect passenger.
I learned how to read by the beach,
got paid to invent lies in the Underground,
raised a train-spotter next to the station.
What things did we start accruing
when our birthright of inviolability was dashed?
The first time someone, a passing stranger, suggested
The first time an unknown sat beside you in the cinema,
his hand straying into your lap, you thinking
This must be a mistake,
not knowing what to do,
but to move two rows back.
What things did we begin to accrue?
Our cynicism, our fear,
our need to lessen the pain of
Our shoes to run away,
makeup to mask our disappointments,
our autos over the years,
the roar of engines, the smell of new car
to block out the inbound signals?
Starting small, each car smarter and faster.
piling one on the other
each crushing the last,
on our nature
until even that which should hold it all up,
the pillar of the world,
is barked and worn, axe bites taking their toll.
"And you're sure you've got all of them?"
"Yes, Gran, but do you really want to do this? A bouquet is more traditional."
"It's what he'd have wanted. He never liked flowers anyway."
I helped my grandmother navigate the gravel path to reach Grandpa's memorial. Her walking frame kept catching on the stones, so it was a strange sound, shuffle, step, drag, shuffle, step, drag. I had two carrier bags over the arm that wasn't trying to steady her.
We reached the plot and looked at the crisp gold lettering newly inscribed on the stone. It was strange to see him reduced to a name and a couple of dates. Gran seemed to be holding up well, considering.
"Okay, John, you can set it up now."
I gently let go of her arm and put the two bags on the ground. From the first I took a small block of moulded concrete. It looked like a tree trunk, but it was a manufactured garden ornament taken from my grandmother's house. She'd have to find something else for the bird bath to sit on. The fake stump was slimy with real lichen and moss.
"Move it a little nearer to him, John. You know his eyesight had gone downhill at the end."
It was a pile-up in the midst of surrender. Sometimes, your heart throws open a door when there is no place else to go. Suddenly, it remembers the way. Like it always knew.
We lay like layer cake and understand skin and metal. The hot sun melted you finally. Good. I tried everything. Was ready to leave, then on the pinnacle of the crux of the apex of the turning point, you surrendered, hot damn, finally. Let that be a lesson to you. I have no words left. Though all I have are words.
I smudge the war paint across your cheek. A tiny feather falls in the valley between us. A treasure of chest, a pressing of tattoo beats.
This stillness is optimum movement. Canned heat must go somewhere. Some explosions are invisible. And yet the astral plane is going wild.
Sing the silence back from the brink,
where smashed and useless artifacts
balance in their godliness.
Tell the echoes what to shout,
remind the rocks who made them,
carved their windshapes,
gave them voices.
Write the writing on the wall,
fiery finger pointing,
showing the blind the way.
Never forget the greed
that tore down the green,
hoisted machine over man,
and flung antimatter in the earth’s eye.
Sunday was with Granny. Grandpa lived there too,
but he was as dependable as weather,
a shiftless man, claimed Granny, but I liked him,
and I adored the white rabbits that lived
in old apple crates with chickenwire doors.
I fed them carrots straight from the garden while
Granny had one stewing with veg and tatties
on the stove, ‘though Granny said it was chicken.
There were three old rusty Fords half buried
in the ground behind the chicken coop, and
after dinner, which wasn't chicken, I was
told to go and play outside, and I'd jump
up and down on the roof of those old Fords,
sprung metal sounding like drums of thunder,
much to my utter unsuppressed delight.
the engine roars, so powerful, so great
I envision myself behind the wheel of my own little goblin
at a glance, it steals my gaze, its curves playing tricks on my eyes
this is the car, the one I want and need and
will have, its windows not yet cracked, its leather not yet gluey
the yet not faded steering wheel, fitting perfectly in my hands
one day, just like me, it will age, and decay, and degrade, and
leave behind only its memory in our minds and souls
but for this moment, this first moment, my mind is enslaved
because I need to feel the engine roar, deep to my core, to
hear, like the cracking of my bones, the crisp shift of the gears
so I turn the key, smelling the vigor under the hood, and
I go, because today this ride is cooler than the coolest bands
On 20th March 2062, Sophia Park replicated the teleportation science discovered by Professor Yong Ming of Cambridge University in her bedroom, using just the circuitry available from her hair dryer.
She had live-streamed the entire event, as it was her daily inventions segment, which attracted an average of 5.3 million viewers.
Working with her fan-then-friend @Xandrax, who duplicated the invention in their bedroom, both Sophia and @Xandrax attracted nearly a billion viewers when they successfully tuned their DIY teleporters, beaming easily and surprisingly safely to each other’s homes.
It took another week before their video was approved as Real, but by then, they had appeared on every major network to perform their teleportation to live audiences.
It was rumoured that they had turned down offers from SpaceX, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to buy their technology, which marked the turning point in human history, as they went on to teach everyone how to build the device at home.
Their fame shot through the roof when they started with the poorest communities, stating that they were the communities that needed the technology the most. It took only three months before transportation of all kinds became obsolete. Environmental specialists celebrated as Earth started to heal.
the back of
disc brake blur
one way street
tower of cable
There is a wolf
who stands on my chest
sitting atop a barricade
of stacked metal—
a tower of cars,
each one a journey
to the center of earth.
Heart, lungs, ribs,
all housed by the glory
I feel the sun on my forehead,
touch the contours
of shoulders, hips, feet.
This wailing song, a gift—
Intuition is my tattoo,
a leather cuff reminder
of who I am.
An alignment of light appears,
spinning chakras glowing,
turquoise-blue orb at my throat—
my words echo from
a mountain top.
It starts with a clapped out Fiesta. An exhaust trails behind the plume of 1980’s smoke, barely hanging to this modern world. But it’s a start. A method of transport: movement.
As boyhood turns into manhood, egos arise, prickled, from the shaggy bottom, shinier and less grungy, eyeing eyries just out of reach. In turn, the size, make and expense of the car grows, paralleling masculinity as a train upon a track. Predictably linear. Straightforward pathways.
Midlife crises strike so dreams expand, filling cotton pages with darker scribblings of discontent, inaction. A status symbol is needed: BMW, Audi or Range Rover – something to make its mark when personality wavers as an eclipsing moon.
In old age, showiness dims, regressing to back-room spiders. A metal can will do. Something to transport legs from Point A to Point B. Nothing flashy.
Heaven awaits: car-less.
No mechanics clank here in cushioned tenderness. Only timelessness and the ebbing of seasons.
His hands are stained with automotive grease;
not even brake cleaner will do the job.
He dismantles derelict jalopies
one by one, fumbling for the right socket
as he moves between metric and standard.
The ancient bearded islands are brothers
beset by daily tempests that slander
the islands but that always blow over
quickly. “What can we do to reconcile,”
I ask, “to get along like we used to?”
He looks up at me with a crooked smile
on his face that betrays aggravation.
“What are you yammering on about now?
Forget the wrench; hand me that impact gun.”
On a towering butte somewhere in the American heartland
stands a monument in solitary, poignant splendor
to that great invention of mankind - the automobile.
Someone created this improbable stack of cars -
hoisted by crane, perfectly stable, incredibly heavy,
arranged them as if they hoped to complete a double helix -
the DNA of the motor vehicle standing in for
a nation where time is money, and money is success.
As they endure the elements in their slow journey
from steel gas-guzzling behemoths to rust buckets,
these once-proud triumphs of design and status seem to
mock their inventors as the planet veers toward climate catastrophe.
“Don’t look at us as the root of your problems,” they say.
“We are your brainchild, fueled by plentiful gasoline -
imported irrespective of cost, of coups, of compromise,
sold for cheaper than soda pop, capable of causing riots
and toppling presidents if its price spiraled upward,
regardless of emissions, and smog, and air quality.”
You can hear them whisper, when the wind ceases briefly
in its relentless sweep across the prairie,
“We did what you asked of us - eager to serve
even as horses could not slake your desire for mobility,
mass transit hampered your thirst for independence,
and your awareness of the environmental cost was
blinded by your ability to kick the can down the road,
and let future generations deal with consequences.
Multicolored cars stacked
one on top of another
in an unexpected gathering
of iron, steel, and scrap metal,
chassis as flat as pancakes
oozing oil, spreading grease,
flaking rust, chipping paint;
funeral parlor silence prevails
until westerly winds wail
and relentlessly rustle ripped
convertible cover fabric—
resounding like dirgy bagpipes
haunting the lot night and day.
Towering over bent bumpers
planted in dirt like auto headstones,
the motor car monolith holds
court over residents of a graveyard
where rats scurry though door cracks,
pigeons roost in glove compartments,
and like feathered Cirque du Soleil
acrobats, gulls maneuver overhead
defile the oak pillar hoisting vehicles
as they draw from an arsenal of aerial
tricks like dive bombing hoods,
pooping on dented hoods, rotting tires
tarnished grills, and shattered windshields.
As a little boy you didn't have a care in the world. You taped together broken Hot Wheels tracks handed down from your older brother so the roads twisted and turned. Your mother gave you a loop-de-loop for your fifth birthday and you delighted in pushing the cars with just enough force to send them through but occasionally forgot and watched the cars crash down from the peak of their circle.
In fourth grade, a bully sat beside you, masked as an innocent boy all the teachers loved. He was polite to adults and wore his uniform shirts pressed and buttoned. You were always wrinkled and quiet, often overlooked, but the bully saw you. "Let's be friends," you pleaded, but he stabbed you with pencil lead and left permanent marker dots on your shirt. You shoved them down in the laundry hamper but your mother saw anyway, sighed and scolded you to be more careful because money didn't grow on trees and you had to make these last two more years.
By middle school, you were taller than everyone else. You could see over the heads in the hallway and people cleared a path for you. You pretended your head was so far in the clouds that you couldn't hear their whispers. You perfected the blank stare and carefree shrug, making classmates leave you alone because they couldn't get a rise out of you. But when you tried it at home, your father replied with the back of his hand. Time faded the red bloom on your cheek, but nothing erased that moment from your memory.
No one cheered at your high school graduation. Your mother had left three years ago, your older brother was too drunk to remember the day, and your dad flat-out told you he didn't care. You turned 18 two days before, and he acted like that was the last day he had to parent you—not that he ever had.
I don't know much about the Cuban Revolution. But I know I’ve never believed my parents who said my sister was named Hajdi after one of the rebels. As though the name gave her a mutinous spirit, my older sister was feisty and defiant and beautiful. She was the first girl from her circle of friends who started working for the car factory in the eighties. Other girls worked in the fields or taught in nursery schools. Hajdi wanted none of that.
By the time she was seventeen, she knew how to dismantle the brakes system in a car and then put it back together. Dad wouldn’t let her get a job at the factory so she waited until she was eighteen. When he threatened to beat her with his belt and lock her in the house, she vowed she would throw herself out the window of her second-storey bedroom. Red-faced and fuming, Dad left for the pub. He knew she’d do it.
Hajdi installed the vents in the cars; her strong, slender fingers were a great advantage. She joined the workers’ union and then openly supported the rebel forces when the political situation became unstable. I heard her sneak out late at night on most days. But she didn’t come back with her lipstick smudged and blouse creased. Instead, her hands were dirty and scratched and one morning I glimpsed a large bruise on her right shoulder. When she saw me staring, she slapped me so hard my eyes filled with tears.
“You didn’t see anything,” she hissed, and I nodded with trembling lips. I was ten. She never smiled anymore but that only made her more beautiful.
By the time the Earth revolved one more time around the Sun, no one bought cars any longer. Whispers were heard about people arming themselves to storm the capital and overthrow the corrupt government.Read more >
The first time Dee set a brick on the gas and sent his car flying off the North Rim, he hadn't bothered to scope out potential landings. He went back to the lodge, pounded back a couple beers, then retraced his steps to watch the sunset torch what'd been a Bahama-blue sky. He lined his sneakers up with the crumbly edge, then caught a glint below.
He laughed. His old beater had gone and parked itself on a fossilized stump. Perched like a prize on a pedestal, the car became a monument to miracles. Dee whistled and thought back to the new models on display back home. He thought about springing for something bold. It wasn’t like he had anything to lose.
The second time Dee said goodbye to his car, he brought along an astrophysicist boyfriend.
“Thelma,” he said and pointed to the dusty car below.
Together, they plotted a course for Louise. They spent the night tracing constellations over sky and skin. Come sunrise, Louise stuck the landing with a crunch. They whooped and crushed their mouths together. They talked marriage and drove home in the boyfriend’s sensible sedan. They named it Giovanni Junior, or Gee-Jay for short.
When it was time to send Gee-Jay over the edge, the boyfriend-turned-husband had turned into a tombstone and their daughter had already been accepted to his alma mater.
One blue car
on a black car
—uh-huh, oh yeah
didn’t get far.
One black car
on a pink car
do you like my car?
My pop top
pedal to the medal
don’t look back
driving down the free
way! What would Aretha
Filling in the middle
of a car sandwich
built of melted down
Barry Gordy brass and sass
fuel by Ford
on the factory floor
We Want MORE!
My friend dismissed her siblings
by closing doors in their faces
by refusing to notice the frogs
on the front doorstep and the beetles
in her bedsheets. I would swallow
my uncertainty when asked to gather
Matchbox cars into a hidden heap
to secret them out to the woodpile
where the brothers would see our act
of revenge, the dawn a silent witness
to a sister's petty vengeance.
We flattened flimsy metal with a hammer
from the toolshed, tiny rubber wheels
pressed into uncomfortable angles. She stacked
the compact cars into a mangled tower
both a threat and a promise that no surprise pest
could shake her, that she knew how cruel
a tool could be, how best to make you cry.
Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ Genesis 11:4
Noah woke up, to the world and his senses. Last night he had another nightmare. An abandoned city overcome with raggedness, cracked pavements and smashed windows. He saw visions of a tower made from cars, of red, pink, black, blue and white, stacked high upon one another. A tree made of metal, plastic, rubber and glass, distorting and twisting the realities of man and nature. Reaching too close to the sun, blocking out the light.
‘What do you think it means?’ he asked his neighbour.
‘Oh, I’m sure you don’t want to hear what I think. What use is an old man like me? Pandora was told not to open the jar. Who knows what will come out of my mouth.’
‘Abe, please. I want to understand.’
‘Hmm. Well, I think it’s a sign.’
‘What kind of a sign?’
Abe paused, looking out across his garden, searching for an answer or a way to explain. He looked up towards the dark grey clouds that threatened rain. He looked beyond them.
‘I can hear my wife Sarah calling me. Noah, I must go. Let’s speak again tomorrow.’Read more >
Once upon a time there were
shiny metal boxes in yellow, blue and gray
held up by wheels, burning rubber
traveling at amazing speeds.
Kings and Queens of the road, individual
churches of worship, legs no longer needed.
We were cushioned, air conditioned against
the heat and dust of the road.
Horns to press and blare in traffic jams
in cities or just because it was there.
Puffed up angry drivers wanting space
they claimed was definitely theirs.
The smog’s – were they carbon emissions?
we ignored, hung on with desperation
until the children stood on terra firma
holding hands across the world.
‘Damage this planet no further
we will use our legs our bikes and our scooters
This is a person made disaster and we want
a life before the great hereafter’
Time passed and we made the changes
we made monuments to the past.
Some will mourn till their very last breath
But we know now earth has a future.
E Type Jag
I owned them all
I owned them all when I was young
In my Lesney Matchbox collection
Sleek, curvaceous objects of youthful desire
I owned a Rolls Royce and a Bentley
And some more prosaic models
A Cortina like dad’s
A Vauxhall Victor too
I knew when I grew up, I’d be fabulously rich
I’d own all these cars, and others too
All full size, objects of adult desire
Sleek curves of glass and steel
Real walnut dashboard, a touch of class
I’d drive my gleaming cars
With glamorous companions
To glamorous destinations
I never became fabulously rich
Only owned one car at a time
And of the most prosaic kind
I still desire a glamorous car
But their time is nearly done
Soon they’ll all be scrap
Some crushed into solid cubes
Like the car in Goldfinger
Helter Skelter speed world
neon chrome & rust world
conjure the flash
drive-in pop corn
Chuck Berry Gene Vincent
little bullet fast as nerve fast
as daftness through the night
party beckons overtaking
through the limit
nought to sixty in a scream
under the radar
the vicious dog growl
iron cyan of squealy brakin’
quick feet flash quixotic dash
rat-run ripper in racing green
Zero Red Zero Amber Zero Green
wipeout in a momento
No one knew who did it and how.
It happened just after all the surveillance cameras
broke down during the night.
System failures gave birth to an inverted pyramid of cars
on the tree stump, tall enough to be a monument.
Kids would ask what it was,
as they had never seen cars on the street before,
old folks would talk about how it felt
to drive through cities, the meeting and parting
of things while seated on wheels.
At the beginning, people praised the Safe Zone.
For kids, no school shootings or dangers;
they learned from their homes through screens,
cameras in their homes validated attendance,
for grown-ups, remote work freed them from
the stress of commuting. Everything seemed easy.
Once connected, connection became everything;
it was proof, truth, your intention,
life in the Safe Zone, your walk, face, body
temperature, even the faintest cough was analyzed.
No worries, they’d come, before you could reach for a handkerchief.
All was within walking distance,
each month they evaluated and selected
who could travel, where to go,
after all, what’s the use of wondering,
they knew your needs before you did.
At the tail end of a month on two wheels we stored the bags and set off on a ferry from the mainland to Brac, the first place you went on holiday with your parents, six years old, back when the Dalmatian coast was Yugoslavia on the brink of collapse and the pound went further and further each day.
Without the tent, the clothes, the rest of the gear, we were fast and free up and down the mountainous roads, some paved, others unsealed. Past grazing goats and shepherds huts constructed of dry stones–no mortar–from the same rocks that litter the fields, that make the walls separating plots, fortunes, and herds.
A picnic lunch with a view, we found the most scenic junk yard, scattered with the metallic remains of Yugos, Ficos, and Stojadins in various states of disrepair. We traded our bikes for the rotting interior of a compact silver Volkswagen, a picnic spread: sandwiches, olives, a sleeve of chocolate biscuits and a glimpse of the sea. Neighboring islands rising from the Adriatic, far enough away to feel dark and mysterious under the wide open cloud-streaked sky.
Now we weren’t trespassing per se, there was no fence or gate, this wasn’t a “pull your own” business, there was no office, no buildings; hell we didn’t see another soul. Even so, I still felt guilty. A lifetime of following rules, I still looked over my shoulder climbing in the driver’s side to sit on plastic seats, not quite comfortable yet tolerable enough after so many days in the saddle.
The wind whipped my hair and the cresting waves on the shores far below. I never remember conversations, not verbatim, not in real time. My nerves wore off, you opened the glove box; it was empty. We finished our lunch and packed our trash, our already light load even lighter, carried in our bellies instead of panniers.Read more >
Wallace was brought to the scene. He’d been retired from the force for over five years, so the telephone call came as a surprise. He wasn’t told the details of the case, only that it was related to the mystery that had plagued his career for almost three decades; those poor missing women he never found. The possibility of answers was undeniably alluring.
Beyond a quarry and on a valley floor in a mountainous woodland, it was almost impossible to find. Police officers inspected the pile of cars on the stump; it looked like a public art installation you find in city centres. Odd but provoking.
Wallace looked at the cliff’s edge above. The fall itself was a cruel mistress. Did gigantic eagles swoop beneath the wheels, gliding each of the cars to safety? Even so, how did the drivers know there’d be this steadying hand to hold them? As though Mother Earth reached a finger from her own innards to break their fall.
Hush, old man, rambling about Goddesses and magical birds.
While the young officers hovered around the stump, Wallace took a step back. His eyes scoured the area for clues. Nothing. He was out of practice.
His knees ached so he leant on a short, thick tree, hiding from the others and their pitying eyes. His fingertips felt a careful indent. Symbols. Letters.
“What’s that?” he whispered. Wallace tried to read the cleverly camouflaged scratches on the bark, but it was a blend of pictures, symbols and letters. A language or code he’d never seen before. Maybe even spells.
Senile fool. Stop talking of witchcraft.Read more >
In the hawk-eyed headlights
you told me I was broken.
Like a cacti-strewn back road in a Lynch film
no escaping the wreckage of self.
Nick Cage cannot save you.
Laura Dern will not revive your bloodied torso.
Heaven is a hollow, paved with crushed pink Cadillacs.
Clunk click, vice-gripped, death-charged.
Your mouth – a steaming carburettor.
This heart – an animal engine.
Metal and flesh duet in the dying cigarette stub of August.
Sing Elvis over my final credits –
We never outrun our silly little selves.
She used to steal the cars from toy shops. “We weren’t born with purses in our pockets, so we have to help ourselves,” she’d explain, telling me pirates were at the start of the Enlightenment, sea-worthy thieves battling for liberty. “Cars are destroying the world,” she would lecture me. “We need to stop them taking over! Fight for the trees!” If we wanted to swear sisterly allegiance, she claimed, we needed to let our blood drip on slices of ginger, drink and say an oath. “Freedom to trees forever,” she said. We licked our sanguine lips. “Always” I answered.
Red cars were her favorite, and I liked orange cars. “But you’re younger, so you have to wait,” and she collected the scarlet cars, and the crimson cars. The cars were kept in plastic, in their boxes, on our bedroom shelf. Those days, no one asked us where the cars came from, and we never said. No one really knew who we were or what we were doing. Every day we talked about cars, trees, rhizomatic roots, the connection between us and living things. <em>Trees breath,</em> I read in a book one day.
But I never told anyone about standing outside the toyshop, waiting for her to exit and run. There is nothing quite like running with a big sister as trouble licks at your ankles, when you’re fighting for trees to be free.
Before I went to sleep, I would count the cars, and imagine us as pirates, roaming the roads. The two of us against the mechanical world. My sister had told me the pirate flag was a skull with an hourglass, “We’re running out of time.” We’ll become trees, I thought, and our tangled roots will touch the ether.
But one time, when she came out of the toy shop, she ran into the road, and a big car came and ran her down. There was a hole where she had been,Read more >
When I look up, I see light blue
the monochromatic shades enhance the sky
When I look up, I see stars
the big ones the small ones,
all of them, roads apart
trying to pave their way
relieving the scars, they’ve made.
When I look up, I see dreams
the ones in which we seldom believed
I see fairy tales coming to life,
I see the bright rainbow.
When I look up, I see wishes
I see the way we used to be,
the bitterness of our coffee perceives me
I see pixie-dust thoughts
and all those ‘could’ve beens'.
When I look up, I see you
when you look up you see cars
the cars which signify the time we first met
you see, the swirling of the word ‘goodbye' in and
out the corners of random streets.
When you look up, you see reason
you see the declining probability of us
and the rational approach to stability.
Made it. Got those cars to the top of the greasy pole. I knew I would. So maybe you don’t think it looks greasy. That it looks more like a tree trunk. Well let me let you into a little secret. Appearances can deceive. Hell yeah. Wood is green. Clean. My engines are filthy oil burners so I need all the happy clappy hippy dippy back to nature imagery for my marketing PR I can get. When you’re in the auto business, deceiving the punters means more sales, more business and that means happy shareholders. And happy shareholders mean more to go around. Get it? So you’re thinking, which automobile was mine? Maybe the one on top? Because you’ve worked out I’m a pretty confident kind of guy? OK. Secret number two. All five. Yep, the whole dang shooting match. Top of the pole, heads above the rest, the clear winner. First, second, third, fourth, fifth. Outselling the next manufacturer ten to one. Hell, you’d be thinking this is excessive? Too damn right. Excess is my middle name. You’re only here for a few decades and my motto is burn it up, open the throttle and choke the world to get on top.
What’s that? What you say? That you ain’t able to go anyplace stuck on a pole? Yeah well who cares. Where’s there to go? Hell, you forgetting my slogan? “Bargain autos worth the Earth”. You get them cheap, right? And you didn’t think there’d be more than money to pay? So now you’ve got your junk cars and there’s nowhere to go because you’ll all be sitting in lines of traffic. Miles and miles of it. Watching your life tick away with the handbrake on while you pay off the loan at eight per cent a year. Yes my friend, it is you, not me, stuck on the pole. You won’t find me there, oh no. It’s greasy because that’s the way you get down real fast and away. And I’ve gone, long ago, with all your money. Where I live there ain’t no poles, no cars, no way. But I like this picture. Dead tree, dead cars, stacked. It’s a
“If we just keep our eyes straight ahead,
pretend like these dead things
aren’t dead yet or dying,
we can all get on with our living,”
one sighs to oneself
before viewing the wreck,
then pressing the brake,
craning the neck,
and leaning to look
like all did,
The tree of life, I’ve heard it called.
We all dangle on the same tree, roots
so deep, so common, fed by
the same babbling stream,
babbling like a soundtrack
of a bad B-movie—my film,
the film of my life. As it is,
might be, could be, but isn’t.
My life, a car crash—everyone’s
life has its moments, those
pivotal scenes, a crisis,
a question, a choice,
turn of the road
that sends us, brakes
squealing, tires burning,
slamming through the guardrails,
reeling over the edge,
and shattering down a ravine or
straight ahead, an overcorrection
into a two-hundred-year-old red oak.
My life, one car crash
after another—a wheel lost here,
fractured windshield there,
Sits on top
of a totem pole
source of rain
able to become human
by shedding his mask
and feathered cape
neither a firebird
not a decoration
a totem pole is
so much more
to be respected
rigid, veined, pulp and bulk.
Forest timber, lumber, plunder,
reaching skyward, powerful, strong;
cut for pulp and telegraph poles –
burned for heat and energy,
breathing, soaring, dying, dead
dug from earth by calloused hands,
bent backs and mighty arms;
tempered in fire to make it strong,
melted, smelted, beaten, rolled,
shaped and sheeted, panels formed
soldered, polished, waxed and sealed
tapped from ranging planted trees,
sap rising, latex pouring,
gum, elastic, buoyant, stretching,
treated with sulphur, carbon and oil
blended, moulded, cured,
blackened in fire
Your love is an inverse pyramid:
The pinnacle of it is at the start.
As time stacks on, it flattens
While pressing that first thrill, like an arrow tip,
Into my heart.
But there’s enough space here
To really feel the weight of the sky.
Let go of my heart, love.
Let’s stretch like the horizon,
This is the place where time has come
to perish. Ice covered months, a stereo
quietly playing our Portishead cassette
when I picked you up. And the gentle
weeks of driving through fair Scotland’s
fields, blue skies as thick as spun sugar.
Days when my apple shampoo sharply
invaded the room, exact like the black
cicadas bursting into a porcelain tight
symphony. But also the delicate hours
in the back of my first car, pink mouths
murmuring words which set the night
on fire. Minutes baking red berry tarts,
longing for the seas, my head out first
to breathe your gold body in the foam.
Then wooden seconds, breaking speed
limits and forgetting to pay for parking
and rushing into A&E as the pain grew.
This is the place where time has turned
all our music into silence. Bold broken
bones made dust. And I’ve never been
able to wash your blood out of the seat.
Cars don’t grow
Cars can’t fly
Trees can’t fly
Artists grow and fly
Trees make oxygen
Cars make carbon monoxide
Trees make paper
Cars make scrap metal
Artists make art
Trees offer sanctuary
Cars offer privacy
Trees offer beauty
Cars offer speed
Artists offer meaning
I thought that I would never see
Five cars piled up upon a tree.
But here they are, for our inspection:
those five who misused fuel injection
and sped right by the sign, no doubt
oblivious that the bridge was out,
They flew, then landed with a “thunk”
upon a well-placed large tree trunk.
And four “thunks” later, who would think –
a tree of red, white, blue, gray, pink.
Twenty tires that know no road,
just caught in foolish episode.
They balance, one ton on another,
as human nature mocks the other.
The nearby real trees, leafy wonders,
wonder at these human blunders.
No trees they know will ever wear,
a quintet of sportscars in her hair,
What if you fail? What then?
What if you become
your limitations, a discarded pile
of inert possibilities, a signal
with no frequency, a tangle
of unmoving parts, impossible
to sift through? What if
there will never be a completion
for your beginnings? What if
who you are is now
merely a monument
to broken things, a flattened
silhouette inside a Polaroid photo,
waiting for the elements
to finalize the decay?
Dearly mobile, dearly fleeing, dearly scrambling
away from the seas waving down your streets.
We are gathered here today to pay homage
to the vanquishing of our previous adversaria.
Our daily wayzgoose for the object, its paraphernalia
that freed us, immiserated us in its serpentine way.
A laying-in for a laying-on civilisation, let us
flutter in the shade of bottle-necked chassis,
And worship the wonder of wheels fuelled by
the thick, black goo of the ghosts of shells,
praying for the wisdom to know the difference
between salvation, liberation, magical bounties.
I cannot stop the itching in the spaces where my fingers meet,
and this is all I can think about when a perfect
pastel gradient tries to convince me it’s over.
I know I have come to an end and I welcome it, want it, even,
but I fall deeper into where my skin chips away
like flakes of paint defeated by rust
purely because something is trying to make that decision for me.
Lacklustre birdsong fails
to punctuate the featureless blue because I have
taken it upon myself to pluck the wilting notes from the air
and store them behind my eyes until I can get the radio to work
Long ago I had a purpose, different to the one I have now.
It sits on the peripheral of my memory
under a haze of gasoline fumes and burnt rubber –
it’s there but intangible, so I am resigned to my current state,
a state I haven’t quite figured out beyond forming
an aesthetic for the enjoyment and consumption of others
Pressed against another who has found
the same emptiness spilling from within,
we pull each other too close,
we break and warp our marrowed chassis until they
sew together around each other,
we share the purpose we still don’t fully understand
as we both ignore how the gradient tries to pry us apart
The precision digger had exposed the layers
From the site believed to have been populated by many,
And the archaeologists stood back to postulate
On the meaning of the totemic record stacked before them.
Modes of transport they theorised, a sedimentary stack of metal,
Abandoned when their fuel source was eventually depleted.
But the real puzzle was the plinth on which they reposed
Organic in makeup, but surely too tall to have lived.
“Colleagues, I believe we have discovered the remains of a tree,
That the archive suggests may have once been plentiful.
Such trees were the oxygen generators of the pre-AI age,
That sustained a population we understand to have been in the billions”.
But that’s far too many lungs for the anaemic air of today,
Which barely clings to this forsaken brown planet.
Vacated but for the researchers and historians working,
On this first day of August 2323.
The little fellow couldn’t wait
To show me his balancing act
He had stacked all the cars his sister
He no longer played with
Atop the stump of a tree
That couldn’t bear another cyclone
He let go of my sweaty hand
To point to his installation
“But your favourite red car is at the bottom”
I asked, catching my breath
“Yes, it would be the last to fall
If the wind is too strong”
He spoke with plain belief
That perhaps only seven-year-olds have.
It looks like a scrapyard out front, only there’s not much anyone could salvage from this wreckage. Outgrown bicycles, play equipment, Sam’s old wooden highchair, bags of boots and shoes intermingled with Mitch’s hunting and fishing paraphernalia. Sam’s old cot mattress, splotched with a pattern of green mould, is tumbled on top of a pile of trash ready to be burned. Neither of us has the energy to recycle.
Sam stacks toy cars on the fence posts that border our property. He places them carefully, like balancing rocks by the creek, until they get too high and topple into the long grass. Then he starts over, again and again, stacking and humming to himself while his father and I argue over the furniture, the cutlery, the saucepans and all the other things we accumulated during our marriage.
Mitch claims the five-piece cast iron pan set, a wedding gift from his mother. I can barely lift them and never used them, but I make a show of acting disappointed so he thinks he’s got something over on me. I smile to myself as he loads them into his truck, picturing Sheryl’s face as he unboxes them at her place, asking where she’s supposed to put them.
I split the dinner plates into two equal piles. Four for him, four for me. I guess I’ll have to wash up more often now. The dessert bowls are an odd number. I put the spare one in his pile, can’t have him accusing me of trying to con him out of his rightful share. Funny how he always imagined I was hiding things when he was the one with secrets. Pretty big ones too. Not that he’s admitted Sheryl’s boy is his, but he has that same dead-eyed look, that way of staring just longer than is comfortable. I used to think Mitch was so attentive. Turns out that’s just his manner.
It was Thursday. A sacred day amongst the believers. Fridge Day. Frigit’s Day. The day that Brigit and Freya… talked…
Brigit, the Exalted One, aka Brig, the Deity of wisdom, poetry, healing and protection in pre-Christian Ireland, met and communed with Freya, the Norse Deity of love, beauty, fertility, sex and war.
An uneasy conversation. Brig insisting that love and beauty belong to the realm of healing, and that war has no place in this holy land. Freya, laughing hysterically, grabbing Brig by the waist, pulling Her close and kissing Her. As they breathed in each other's breath, Freya whispered, “You are the Cross, the Wood that penetrates the four elements. I am the Chariot, cast upon Thy Cross, penetrated in an act of violence and war, moderated by love.”
A junkyard sale of desires
A fuel lit by unkempt fires
You look into the storm in my eyes
I seek nothing from your side
Except to crumple and compress
Like a stacked wastage
And look the sinking sun in the eye
From the wastelands of yesteryears
I take this fragility as a favourable disposition
If you so wish
Take my emptiness, as your prize
I know naught, it's 𝘴𝘩𝘶𝘯𝘺𝘢 here.
Even though my brother was littler than me, he was Dad’s number one. His red boy. All fire-engine-loud blaring scarlet ’cos that’s what boys are. Boys shout and run so fast their faces are happy tomatoes and don’t they make their dads proud? But when he got bigger, my little brother, he didn’t want to be red anymore. He began to pick up other colours, yellow, mauve, emerald green. When he turned full rainbow he buried his set of red toy cars in the back garden. Not deep enough. He didn’t let out a sound when Dad thrashed him till his thighs ran with blood.
Then I was Dad’s angel, his pink princess. He painted my room pink, bought pink everything to decorate it until it felt like I was living in a body part turned inside out. I reigned over the whole Barbie kingdom, zig-zagged across it in the tiny pink car. I pretended to enjoy it. I liked being favourite. I liked doing no wrong. Until doing wrong was just too alluring. The day I coordinated thick black eyeliner with tatty t-shirt and ripped jeans, Dad didn’t raise his hand to me. Just glared hard then iced over, moved on. He left me to it, welted by his frown lines and frozen gaze.
Dad went thundercloud black for a while. Door-slamming, heavy-frowning, soul-sucking black. He couldn’t keep it up and so he brought Elise home. Petite Elise teetering on high heels, tittering into cupped hands. She had baby blue eyes and she liked everything to match. Baby blue fluffy cardigans. Baby blue earrings that tangled with her blond perm when she shook her head and laughed at Dad’s unfunny jokes. A baby blue car. Once she realised she’d never get us to match, she drove off fast in her car leaving only baby blue exhaust fumes behind her that made us cough.
The car the jack-knifed lorry landed on when it concertina-ed the life out of Dad was a white sports model with gleaming metal trim like shark fins. Dad wanted to slice through the world in it. He got no further than the A27. My little brother and I tried to be sad at the funeral. We blinked and blinked our eyes so people would think we were crying, but all we could see was the stack of fading colours, the crushing hand, the telescoping walls. All we could feel was a tentative unfurling.
From dream to reality
drove his culture.
drove his identity.
Each stall, each grind,
each scratch, each squeal,
crashed his soul,
carved his soul,
created his journey.
drove his dreams.
reversed his dreams.
That car created him and
drove his reality
♪ [Ting] ♪ some North American city, a supermarket-aisle-chat about popsicles or cooking chicken noodles or voting frauds among super-normal people; statements such as they said they will not come back; a network of computers with suave user interface, preferably teal-blue coloured, displaying
conjugated web patterns, barometers for measuring apocalyptic coefficients, pie charts of regression in optic models retrofitted with an elegant button: a ‘click here to destroy the uploaded virus, deactivate the detonation, save the people of the earth, wipe out the aliens’ type – this is for the lead actor to press at the climax;
an attractive codename, such as Mickey Mouse Jingo Kills or Muffins On Duty For Banana Fare, this is for the baddies to think that the big boys are talking about small toys in the middle of an earth-saving mission (and for the audience to know that the special ops rescue team has taken their task seriously);
aliens – in beige-colored spandex suits with bulgy eyes and inhuman features but with human-levels of stupidity – carrying weapons of pulsion anti-gravity antimatter anti-cyclotorsion-di-atomic-mono programmed particle accelerator; the lead pair making out atop an abandoned oil rig; dialogues such as you are fighting with the wrong species, mofos!
to be mouthed by a soon-to-be-killed character, preferably someone from a prequel released during the ‘90s – this is for the aliens to realize that they have chosen the right species for annihilation; the process of destruction ♪
“Vroom! Vroom!” Rocking in his wheelchair, Jake makes a grabbing motion with his hands.
I smile and pass him two little diecast models.
“Bang! Bang!” he shouts, crushing them heads on.
The motion is on repeat, over and over again, until both vehicles are just a mash of metal and paint. He then drops them onto the floor, into a slowly growing pile of scrap metal cars and looks up at me.
On autopilot, I unbox a new pair and hand it over to him. His high-pitch scream pierces my ears, as I note that one of the cars is an ambulance.
“I’m sorry buddy! I am so sorry.” I reach for a new box.
“Autistic. Non-verbal,” said the doctors.
“It will be alright,” you assured me. “After all, we’re a team.”
And for some time, we were just that – a team. Until one day you’ve decided you’ve had enough, and started taking longer hours at work, just to be out of the house for as long as you could.
“Vroom. Vroom,” Jake would repeat, sitting up late by the bay window, waiting for your car’s headlights to flood the driveway.
“Vroom! Vroom!” he’d scream if I tried to put him to bed before you were back home.
Long hours at work progressed into weekends away, social things, networking or hanging out with your mates, until one day you’ve just packed your things, shoved the suitcase in the boot of your car and slammed the door.
“Vroom! Vroom!” Jake ran after you into the dark street, as you revved the engine and reversed to come out of the driveway.
I only realized this year that
I’ve spent much of my life showing
up in the world the way
I thought I had to.
As a child, I quickly learned
to guess who needed what,
whose mood had shifted,
what was required of me.
To grow smaller but work harder.
To smile bigger but talk quieter.
To nod more but answer less.
It almost worked.
Around the age of 26,
my body had had enough.
If only it had been more obvious,
like the look I flash my best friend
across a crowded room.
“Psicosomática,” said the last doctor
in Spain, coincidentally also the first.
After two years of inexplicable,
insufferable pain, someone finally heard
my brain cry out.
Enough dirt had shifted by 31 that
we finally got to the root of it all.
Sparkling beneath the surface was
ready to be revealed at long last.
All over town people are spilling out of cars. They just get out without looking, step out onto the street, in traffic, they cross roads without looking left or right or any way. All day, all over town, it’s the same: People in cars driving recklessly, parking on sidewalks, speeding in front of schools, not slowing down for speed bumps, flying over the speed bumps and landing with a clunk back on the asphalt. And traffic? Is traffic the same or worse than usual? Who can tell anymore. There are lines, and cars bumper to bumper in all the main streets three or four times a day. A symphony of horns and swears and too loud music. A modern city opera full of drama and pathos and no real resolution. No climax, no final act, just a short nightly reprieve when most people retreat to their houses and then in the morning it all starts up again. And what about the houses? All over town you can see them, the houses with their front yards and the pretty trees and their cute metal gates. The fences not too tall, white and gray and the color of metal. Lemon trees, and palm trees and flowers and jasmine. You can see how once, not too long ago, the yards were used: for sitting, for neighbors’ and family visits, for afternoon coffee and early dinners and kids’ birthday parties, for eating watermelon and halloumi, and souvlakia on summer nights with the TV on the porch, facing outside. But now no one uses them anymore. Now the yards are always empty because of the car traffic. All over town the people are spilling out of cars as if they no longer care enough to protect themselves, as though they are finally so full of poisoned air they can no longer think fully. What are you doing? A woman screams at her husband from the passenger side. Why are you slowing down? Keep driving!
As a kid, I’d count cars as they passed on the highway. Mostly those with wheels that worked. Blue meant money. Beige signified honey. Silver was reserved for dreams of tomorrow. Orange was always sunny. I believed pots of gold were waiting at the base of rainbows – somewhere down the freeway. Everyone sought something. Pedals and petals. Trees and breezes. Surround sound. Given the speed limit, all associations were quick. Also quirked. I’d watch them stack and stock matchbox miniatures, fill dollar store coloring books, and craft stories as I sat on my back porch. The sedan was an oversized marine animal. The yellow Volkswagen Beetle was a baby chicken. The tanker was an eagle with no wings. The house was sold to us at a deep discount. When us still meant three and deuces were reserved for card games at dusk. Friendly games of War. Fierce matches made for open stretches. The asphalt and late-night tours of trucks that roared never bothered us much. The noise was as much a part of our home as my Kmart-brand trucks and Father’s toys. We sought a place for our roots and were routed west. The home was ours in which to feast. “They’ll build a sound barrier,” the real estate agent promised. “One day, one day soon,” her assistant said. Our deposit was their own retirement plan. Forty years later the backyard is now a resting place for hub caps, cigarette butts, and unclaimed wants. Needs are as much seeds as weeds. Speed limits dare as much as they caution. Father moved on. Mother chose cremation. The agent’s one day never came. Yesterday is still counted, consumed, and colored of displaced manatees, premature chicks, and clipped wings. The hedges I planted myself have since grown into a landscape of their own. Both a visor and a vision of the shadows of dreams in perpetual motion. Mostly, one way. Trimmed on regular Sundays. Just after prayers on fumes up and down the rainbow-hued highway.
Closer and not till the end
Hear hunger horns, martyred friends
Dark magic performed in the broadest daylight.
Because someone needs to sleep in pain
with thorny feathers, bloody stains;
Somehow we ended up living for that life.
Don’t bother now with the invitations,
The carpentry, the iteration,
Stationed like a train behind my eyes;
Because May passes with heavy grips,
Mirror society, unwanted trips,
Rust-goers who have yet to pay the price.
We were perhaps broken parts of a totem
Shaped like we were old and numb and molten,
That they’d chosen to atone for opened scars.
But we turned monsters into rotting flesh,
Slaughtered ghosts and silenced death;
We’re destructive beings from forgotten stars.
Yet there’s no doubt hell isn’t beneath our feet
Or heaven being a damning myth;
Alike chalkboard letters we’d be dusted off.
But there’s a winter that’ll freeze
Streams with tears and awoken dreams.
I just cannot tell when the leaves will
These are the colours of hurt,
stacked one upon the other;
a confession of cuts and bruises.
Red is the first sting of contusion,
raw and radiant; wounds needing
cauterisation to stem the damage.
Pink is the pain that bleeds out,
pooling beyond the point of impact;
blending flesh with skin and bones.
Black is the darkest tone of cruelty,
disguising everything in its coal;
digging seams of forever sadness.
Blue is the mood, twilight frailty,
a cool response that never lifts;
just sits there brooding dirty steel.
White is bandages bound tight,
nothing seeping through; clean,
hygienic, sterile like no one cares.
abkhazia / T169 PH
convex snow tears cracked the ice surface
rippling black paper models nailed to the sky
algeria / 00216-88-42
sweet sweet clang skanking over metallic hush
blood orange subwoofers thumping ethio-jazz
burkina faso / 2 0304 EMGN
vivid burn rates in 10,000 watts of licensed fates
popping cassettes drinking rooh afza with rabea begum
tanzania / Z772 FT
a stereo soul refresher threaded in sprinkled dust
shadow beams bounced from satellite mirrors
jammu kashmir / 2370
custom low riders built from osmium — sand & quartz
pimped out rims spinning the universal soundscape
glinting frames wired into illegal cash wars
backseat replacement theory — we there yet?
heavy–like a stack of cars heavy. a stack of cars ready
to plummet down, precariously perched atop one
another heavy. clustering carburetors. solenoids
sway a wind away from crushing chaos. a
stack of cars hitting the ground from
who knows how far up–heavy. a
clusterfuck of “who’s-to-say’s”
and “maybe some day’s” soak
into my spine, leaden and
heavy. encase each
to rubble. this
folds down, pounds into
pavement–prints a self portrait,
crooked gear shift broken in a stack
of cars. simple thing, amongst the heavy.
You forgot to mention trauma. Writing about mental health is not the same as writing about trauma. My heroine spoke about trauma all the time – more than she spoke about poor mental health. She spoke about child abuses in the Catholic church. She spoke about her time in care, in reform, in the Magdalene Laundries. She spoke of the soul-abuse, the imprisonment and emotional torture.
I can relate, I understand. Dark walls lit with candles and crosses, whose glow never quite reaches into the shadows. Shadows where devils and demons and violent proponents of God's Wrath unleash their vengeance on little girls and boys. Where choirs of angels can't penetrate the webbed silence of the confessional box.
We confess and confess. You can scream with rage and cry with guilt, shave your head, tear up a picture of the Pope live on television. You can tell everyone everywhere that you're fighting against the silence of abuse. Perhaps the voice of an angel might sing a prayer so loud that God has no choice but to listen.
But no. The spiders climb the tree of rust, the death of chainsaws and steel, the totemic pedestals you tried to climb down from. They'll resurrect you back where you didn't want to be, and in a litany of your courage they'll praise every single thing you stood for, ever –
Apart from trauma.
It is still being erased, by those too frightened to believe you. It is still phrased as mental illness. Trauma is not mental illness.
Turn love upside down,
you don’t get hate, you get
indifference, or shame;
there’s lingering, a sense of
not wanting to remember, and yet
not daring to forget.
Dreams, having missed the train,
are scattered along the platform,
Turn regret on its head,
you don’t get forgiveness,
you get lethargy, pure absence;
there’s a theology somewhere
in the middle, neither shifting
to the right, nor going straight ahead.
Expectation, having moved
out of focus, is role-playing
as a fugitive,
Turn the totem pole on its back,
you don’t get promises, you get
the dispersion of the tongues of Babel,
a diaspora of metallic corpses, of staggered
announcements, of the magic of prose.
There’s reticence behind every sign,
luring from above, menacing from below.
We look up at the monument and ponder
the state of the nation.
I take a picture of the moving water.
a cargo boat along the horizon.
Another wave that breaks, like the claw
of a wounded animal --
shingles as despair and hope.
Since when have people become numbers,
why one less important than another?
On Wednesday morning sixty more,
trying to reach the safety of these shores.
My first car was tiny and red,
stick shift, crank windows, no AC,
but it got me where I needed
to go. The store, school,
pick up brothers, visit friends.
It was overshadowed by a pink Chevy,
a Granny car. Automatic transmission,
radio, seat covers, and the smell
of pine from the tree hanging
on the mirror. In quick succession
came gray, blue, and white—
gray sold for a song,
blue’s motor blown,
white wasted with rust and time.
I imagine them,
one on top of another
flattened, faded, final.
A metal trophy showing a life.
A tribute to
my carbon footprint.
In the dreams were you and
the docks and
that went over.
The ocean on fire.
Before we broke up.
I sliced peaches and planned meals.
Rising with the sun in the desert.
I wanted a child.
Standing in the dirt in my barefeet.
And God was there.
Smoking a cigarette.
Pointing beyond the mountains.
You came back stoned.
Carrying a pizza.
In my homeland.
Your mouth on my mouth. For many months
I thought was religion.
This is how close I want us to be
I say stepping back, we are alone
in the gallery outside is a contrast
cerulean sky impaled. Impounded.
Imprinted before us. Mechanical ice
cream rust flavoured soft serve
towering, monumental, star shaped
hubcaps light up the sky like fire-
works but there’s no motion. Rooted
in the ache of the past we are only
present by sight. Oh baby if hubcaps
could talk. Oh the tales they would tell.
Miles we covered with the windows
down, dirt flying. My feet on the dash,
you driving. Not knowing we’d end
Up here. Look at this pile up
“The gallery will be closing in 10
minutes time” sounds the alarm
It’s time, you say stepping out
we are alone (on the inside) now
It was first a threat. A threat to the old world and its old people, a pillar of their technology in the desert of the present where we have no use for things like automobiles.
It was a pillar of our hatred. A hatred for the old ways. Because they came in their cars into our deserts and tried to reclaim what was once theirs. But we are no longer with them, and they should've known when the world had first ended.
They say their mines of black gold had run dry, and they knew we had what they lacked. So they came driving in, one by one, and were caught in our sand traps.
Now all that remains is the pillar, the remnants of what they left behind. Remnants till the end of time.
But now it is known as a marker in our great deserts. Pilgrims come and see these ancient vehicles stacked atop one another, a mesa made by man, though to call it a mesa is sacrilegious at best. They look upon it and know: 10 more leagues to Desert Town, the place that survived the End.
Pay witness to our testament. The old world is dead. What you see before you is our hatred, stacked. May it linger and rust while we thrive instead.
Indeed, they come to us in Desert Town and see the marker, unaware it was first a threat.
I am dreaming
Lying on the plush forest floor
Green and yellow soothe my eyes
Olive Green - Sunflower Yellow
Lemon Yellow - Parrot Green
On the bushes and trees
On the foliage gathered under barks
The sun rays slither through the leaves
Fondle my skin
I am dreaming
Tree trunks serve as workbenches
Metallic cars are mounted
In infinite number
There is sky and sun
I look up with love
My skin tingles
I reach frantically for sunscreen
Am I dreaming?
Every now and then you come to mind, out of the blue, without me planning on it or wishing for it, neither as a punch in the gut nor as a sudden stab of inner pain, more like the subtle scent of petrichor slowly caressing my senses while I walk on the street and come across a particularly shaped tree whose form you would have smiled and pointed at, both of us stopping for a moment to gaze at it in spite of the upcoming storm, the chilly winds and darkening clouds breathing down our necks as a perennial reminder of the short-lived peace we were never able to extend beyond some dimly lit afternoons at the movies or the fragile instants of careful sincerity and long midnight phone calls in bed, dancing around our impulses with the grace of a log and the looming trail of confusion and regret, two emotions that still creep up my hands like at that concert when you grabbed my waist giving me both protection and distress, another example of our elastic push-and-pull whose ending I could never tell, weary of the impending explosion that was sometimes replaced with kindness and something else, a discreet spark of affection that would first graze my heart and put its pieces back in place only to be thrown to the void with your unsaid words stacked on its back and making me silently beg for the warmth of your face or one ear of solace, the one and only trail that escapes me whenever I close my eyes and still see you standing in front of me, maybe across the street, or as a shadow at the back of the cinema, both of us projecting our memories from afar to relieve ourselves of this, the accumulated possibilities of an unshared life I walked away from not because of fear or pride, but out of grief and my sudden wish to once again smile.
The side-view mirror turns to the sun demanding enlightenment. I have driven on that road. No one wanted to fix my rusted and stubby car. No one wanted to pump fuel into a car that would never grace the cover of a vintage car magazine. "You're not wine," they said. "You won't get better with age." But numbers are unlike tree rings and more like speedometers dependent on the accelerator and Red and me can still burn rubber. I ended up in jail twice. Let the birds out of the cage. Snakes out of franchised terrariums. I walk up the crane ladder, adjust the seat, slip on a hard hat, pull out the freshly stolen goods and change the world order. Turn the crushers into the crushed before sliding into a long, white police car.
Let there be a sacrifice; let it not be of flesh
but of our trappings, our greed for symbols
of status, of speed, our attempts to outrun
our own mortality with stuff that distracts us
from kindness and care for Mother Earth.
Let there be rituals, let hands be joined,
let voices of many timbres lift to fill the air
with songs of birth, of sex, of anguish, of love,
of pain and death: let us sing songs of life. Let
there be diverse groups, let there be inclusion.
Most of all, let there be acceptance and praise
for every child. Let all have opportunities. Let
our only exclusions be hatred and abuse. Let us
find our ways to walk, to run, to cycle and to swim,
to wheel in chairs: let us breathe fierce and free
in unpolluted air. Let cars become dinosaurs,
let planes be grounded, let trains become cleaner,
let us espouse the madness of clear-eyed sanity.
Let us nurture nature, accept our own transience
and surrender to sacred cycles, to promise to leave
only temporary footprints. Let us pray with wise love,
night and day. We need new hope to discern truths
and learn new articles of faith. Let our world survive.
This totem marks the point when
vision changed from accessible
transportation for all—Average
Joes able to visit distant relations
more often, see more of the world
in one lifetime—to assembly-line
avarice. Workers now have autos
to travel to-and-from mechanical jobs
more plentiful than adequate hospitals.
We can work to afford the planned
obsolescence of what we already own,
make more trips to record
latest ecological disasters, visit
family and friends, witness steady
physical and mental deterioration
from unfulfilling labour reflected
back at us. Take photos of roadside
monuments to oil barons between
junkyards that rival former forests.
“They looked like this,” Joost said, and set another dusty toy car on top of the pile that balanced precariously on the naked stump.
“No, they didn’t,” Brandon shot back, fighting the need to knock the dented, peeling toys into the dirt. “They were green, and soft. That’s what mom said.”
Joost blew hot air through his lips, it made a tiny, high-pitched whine that bounced around the playground. “Yeah, they were green, and not made out of cars,” Joost said, after inhaling slowly, like an adult with stress in his veins. “Don’t be an idiot. But they looked like that. The shape, I mean.”
The sun was beginning to crest the far hills, a sure sign that the kids would be pulled back underground. Even in their carefully constructed dome, where air conditioners clung to metal beams and super-cooled oxygen thundered down on the dozen or so kids who played in the hard dirt below. A few stumps and rocks were arranged in artful ways. There was a playground structure made of UV-resistant plastics, though even that would melt if the air conditioners weren’t carefully turned on and off throughout the heat of the day. A few kids hid underneath it, whispering and darting appraising looks at Joost’s totem of cars.
“I wish I had seen one,” Brandon said finally, looking at Joost through a billow of raggedly home-cut hair. Joost nodded, pulling his little brother into a quiet hug that ended as the other kids began to wander towards the thin edges of the dome, noses pressed against the clear film.
In his passenger seat I turn another page of ‘Crash’, as he ejaculates over himself, his left hand still firmly on my thigh, dropped down after he gave up dully cupping my breast, he hands me my money, I so old fashioned I know, and says thank you, and I blank him for in my mind I am with the He who pays me to sit in his passenger seat as he lets me get off as we hurtle into a tree
And it’s him in his little red fiat panda,
Picks me up from the beach, I in my black bikini still, oversized Metallica t-shirt over me, he asks if that’s for decency, I say, no it’s to stop the chill
That moment before charged with great electricity
He asks if I have a tissue, I reach into my handbag, a motorcycle helmet with an adjustable strap, I ask him why and he tangents onto allergies
As he pulls away I start reading my book and I say to him, ‘drive faster’, and he’s nervous, I can hear him sweat
I had made up that his messages were vaguely mysterious but he is the wrong guy
He ejaculates all over himself, doesn’t touch me once, as I pretend to watch him over the edges of my book
I get home and Julia says to me,
‘Did you know Albert Camus was killed by a tree?’
After a drive in the countryside, it took Graive eleven hours to coax her ancient, beloved car the forty-mile distance back to town.
It would have been quicker to walk, she thought and immediately regretted that her mind should form such a thankless comment.
‘Not your fault,’ she said aloud and patted the steering wheel. ‘You’re of mature years.’
Graive eased the vehicle into the town square and over the cobbles, but the engine stalled. Instinctively, Graive knew that the vehicle’s end had finally arrived.
She glanced at her watch: two-thirty in the morning. With no choice but to leave the car where it had expired, she stepped out and looked at the centre of the square. She intended to nod a greeting at the stylite who had spent an ascetic thirty-seven years living atop the pillar that stood there. Tonight, though, Graive frowned. The stylite had gone.
A noise came from the pillar’s far side. Graive hurried over and saw the stylite climbing down. He moved with extraordinary dexterity for a man who had sat cross-legged for almost four decades and whose muscles must have become very stiff.
The stylite reached the ground, stretched his muscles and marched away.
The situation made Graive anxious. The stylite had become a major tourist attraction and had helped to boost the town’s income. If he left, the
A man called Manu lived on the banks of the most sacred river. One day, when he stepped into the ash-coloured waters after finishing his morning prayers, he found a talking fish.
‘Protect me and you will be protected,’ it said.
Intrigued, Manu cupped his palm and carried the fish home. He filled a tiny glass bowl with clear water and dropped the fish into it.
Within a few minutes, the fish grew to the size of the bowl. Manu transferred the fish into a ceramic jug. The fish, once again, filled the jug. The fish grew bigger each minute. Manu carried the fish to a gurgling stream, but the stream turned out to be a tad small as well.
‘Take me to the ocean,’ the fish said.
And so, Manu got onto his tractor, fixed the giant trailer which he had borrowed from a relative and cut across the country, avoiding the narrow road which led to the congested city and led him straight to the ocean. Villagers stopped by to watch the spectacle. Videos of Manu and the strange fish were shot which soon went viral. A procession gathered and followed Manu all the way till he reached the edge of the ocean.
Before the fish found its way underwater, it whispered to Manu, ‘The world will be destroyed in a month’s time. The waters will inundate every inch of land. Get all living beings in a ship. And because you were kind to me, I will take care of your kind.’
News of the imminent perdition spread like wildfire. The best of engineers and architects were commissioned and the largest boat ever to have been built was constructed in two weeks’ time. Everything that could breathe was accommodated on the ship.Read more >
As the trees died
The Ancients created spiritual totems
to wasted resource
They stand, a symbol that serves as an emblem
A weary warning to those who may come after
“Look!" They say
“Piles of useless metal weighed down the natural world.”
“Crushed the beauteous leaf-boughed forests.”
“Killed nature with noxious fumes.”
“The children all stopped breathing,
waiting for change.”
The Ancients placed the totems with their last breath
Tired of fighting
Tired of waiting for change
As the trees died.
A pile-up for sum petrolhead,
here’s clash of crash, less colour clash,
for pastel paintjob in the sky,
a canopy without the green.
like campanile where bells toll
both steel and steal, stealth killing us.
A nut tree, shells and husks array,
with buries of that paler hue,
this headstone over graver seen,
its trunk, whose memory outlasts
all flow of living xylem, phloem.
But Beetles thrive to rove the land
from rings of growth now sadly capped.
Was this Sequoia, Zephyr stripped,
once haunt of Spider, Hornet nest,
where Robin, Skylark, Tercel preyed
with Rabbit, Ram and Fox displayed?
Here’s trunk topped trunks, storage to boot,
with bonnets, hoods, though poor for rain,
will rain forest reign, pour again?
Hear heavy metal funeral songs,
totemic of that death we face?
What do I think
so far – is it rubbish
I have been taught
one two three four five
once I had a car to drive
six seven eight nine ten
then I let it rot again
why – did I not regret
because I saw no need to fret
until this rubbish threatened me
with rain and storm and warming sea
here today gone tomorrow
an idiom I understand
dead as a Dodo
extinct as the Dinosaurs
born of woman – sons of Gods
all Doomed I tell you
I'm singing the scrapyard
It was the mystery that tantalized everyone's tongues and reverberated in their ears: How on earth did the car tree come to be? Some speculated that it was a prank by some bored youths while others posited that it was the work of a mysterious artistic genius. Whether the result of utter lawlessness or painstaking creativity, everyone agreed that it was a sight to behold.
Proudly erected at the edge of Madison Park, the structure was a thing of curiosity, and it could not be missed from the adjacent Hemsworth Highway. Almost half a dozen sedans were stacked one on top of the other and mounted on what must have been the tallest tree stump that side of the country. The whole project stood like a perfectly laid metallic and rubber club sandwich. How ever were those cars placed there and how did they manage not to fall? These questions boomeranged in the minds of many a driver as the brightly multicolored monument caused them to slow at first to a snail's pace before coming to a complete halt on the six-lane highway, mouths fixed in incredulity.
Of course, it attracted many visitors from far and wide who came to bear witness to the attraction that glittered in the sunlight, casting brilliant beams of light. Perhaps everyone was wrong. Perhaps this was a beacon to someone or something far away. That would have explained so much, yet it also would have created as many, or more, questions as it provided answers.
No one knew the true story – no one that is, except for its creator. The young lad loved tinkering with old cars about as much as he loved trees. He always dreamed of creating something that was as equally unique as it was beautiful. He had spent years in his father's junkyard, collecting cars, picking them down and rebuilding them. Some of the cars were too far beyond repair to be salvaged and that gave birth to his idea.
I sacrificed my body to provide a platform for the mangled
and misplaced. The flash flood has displayed
colour chosen cars.
The balance teeters. Overt opulence, greed and denial
hold a blanket that protects the sun's heat.
Winds blast loud and long stirring, spiralling a hot angry ocean. The sky opens to let fall all it has.
Thousands are displaced but the airport is submerged.
Still they will fly, they will fly like lemmings needing to glance
at where bad things happened to other people.
Cars were always his passion.
That first time she got in his car
she should have known what else
she was getting herself into.
At first he drove her wild,
then he drove her crazy,
and finally he drove her away,
all the way to a stranger’s bed.
On the day he left, he left
his car across the street,
keys in the ignition,
no forwarding address.
She should have guessed –
generosity not being
his strongest suit –
that it was no parting gift,
but she took it anyway,
took it for a spin,
parked it on the drive,
took herself off to bed,
wondering, as she dozed,
what she was supposed to make
of such an unexpected present
of such unrestrained horsepower.
Give me a sign
like a totem
to let me know
if I’m welcome here.
Or if I’m like rubbish
Make it clear.
what you feel.
Confession is such
a balancing act
life and Art.
Putting dreams in driveways, that's what they say.
A flow of steady customers wanting their way.
The motor trade is busy, stressful and bleak,
Sales teams who won't let regulated folk out to speak.
Finance proposals, paperwork and shake.
It kills me how the industry feels so fake.
With nothing more important than getting a deal.
It makes you wonder if people really feel.
Or rather if the sales team even care,
The depths of the modern financial despair.
The desire industry flowing,
Making mountains out of moles.
Like a pile of our stock cars on a totem pole.
I love car shish kebabs. Chrysler Imperials, Lincoln Continentals, Ford Mustangs, Volkswagen Golfs. Some people like their cars with ketchup, but I think that’s ridiculous. Those folks miss the tang of a tinted window, the sharp crispness of door handles. They drown the subtlety of flavor with cheap condiments. Philistines, all of them.
Today, I ordered a meal at my favorite restaurant. They know how I like my automobiles—medium rare with a hint of smokiness. I’ve been going to that place for years, through two changes of ownership. Each new owner picked up where the old one had left off. Perhaps they had divined my preference through mental telepathy. Good restaurant owners can do that.
My plate arrived, and I thanked the server. He scuttled into the kitchen and slammed the door. I picked up my fork and prepared to take a bite. Something was wrong. More than wrong, incomprehensible. The dish had been served to me in a language I couldn’t understand.
A nest of birds had established itself in the top car. They stared at me with resentment, like the plate of food was theirs and not mine. Like I hadn’t come to the table with my American Express card, prepared to drop a small fortune on dinner. Their tiny, dark eyes radiated insolence. One of them shook its beak in my face.
“Waiter!” I screamed. “There’s a nest in my shish kebabs. I did not order this.”
The waiter took his sweet time getting to me. “Sir?” His tone sounded bored, almost contemptuous. “Is there something wrong with your meal?”
It stood as a monument to the past, and a warning of how close we came to the end.
The five desolate cars, piled atop a high wooden post, served as a reminder of how life used to be. Once, the gas-guzzling polluters were owned by near everybody – some people even owned more than one, if you can believe it.
What a relief that society listened to the experts, and governments did everything they could to change the course of humanity.
Now, of course, cars are no more; for those who can’t walk or cycle, the electric public transportation available in every town and city is clean, reliable and, most importantly, free. Trains, buses, and trams make travelling for work or leisure a cinch.
Solar panels sit on every rooftop, the hills are awash with wind farms, and no longer do we have to be careful of traffic every time we cross a road.
The totem pole of cars, the statue of days gone by, stands in the middle of the busiest shopping street in my city, where those very same cars probably drove once, back when the road still existed. Now, it’s all paved and levelled, solely for pedestrians. Cafe and pub tables spill out into the street, and everywhere is the sound of people enjoying their days, the sounds and smells of rush hour nothing but a distant memory.
Above it all, of course, the monument sits, and the driverless cars watch the world in which they are obsolete.
But then I wake up, and the dream is forced to end.
The machine scooping blood,
and letting it pour again
in the museum is nothing now:
but I am a colossal
heap of fractured cars:
no use for my distortion,
no one asks what caused it.
And nobody asks who broke my arms,
what’s on my back, and in my head,
but I stand stacked like a Roman hero,
no use for my debris.
I am spent and eaten,
and sometimes sold --
sometimes burned, sometimes owned,
I endure the violence,
and whatever becomes of me is forgotten,
I love car crash videos
In real life, real people die. I try not to think about this.
You can feel a crash from a mile away, whispering engines
Impatient on the highways, chemical reactions
Make people go lightspeed. Then crash.
I turn like The Excorcist to look at the crumpled metal
Fetish objects splayed out across the road
Rusted underbelly, deserted, metal entrails, vomited awful
Trucks drunk at Texaco, cowboys robbing drugstores
Don't name their rides, they get too attached
Before fucking it off with a brick on the pedal because
Everything has their own ditch to cry in, find yours
And quietly let the world rip you to shreds.
When people die on the internet, they get "rekt"
And when they die in real life, they die
And they are unceremoniously scraped off the asphalt
Where they will be put in a ziploc bag and reunited
Someplace else. Then the carcasses of automobiles are inspected
For dental braces superimposed on glovebox, a wedding ring melted into the cup holder
And a carpool karaoke blitz'd. On the ground, what they called the Ice Blue Nintendo DS Lite
(A Black Friday bundle exclusive)
Is still singing some voice clip, modulated,
I bet it was hilarious at the time.
there is a haven;
a peaceful but clumsy one,
where all unspoken truths lay.
rooted on a fountain of hope that sees no light.
alienated from the rest, in a cascading succession.
Like a ragged beggar at a town's outskirt, here it
lays adorned in garments of success but
reeking of dirty oil from it’s enameled skin.
there is a haven;
one with many echoes of songs unheard.
where all unspoken truths lay.
Glaring to this sight are curious eyes
with whispers of eavesdrop on their lips.
But they can’t be blamed at all. Can they?
For it has become an art of exhibition!
But wait, let me tell you the truth;
when you drive in deep
you’d see nothing but a coat of many colors
outworn and entangled in webs,
drifted into oblivion.
Such a task is daunting!
you wish you could sleep it all away, only to
have it all staring at you in the face again.
“Bloody hell,” says Red “Surely as the smallest I should be on top ” A plaintive query her companions have no care for “What about me ” Grey tries to shift his weary bulk “Merely a filling stuffed in the centre of this ramshackle sandwich ” “Why are we here ” demands Pink Her colour may have dulled, but her voice holds strong “We’re ART” White emphasises the word in his usual proud manner “Art” A chorus of disbelief echoes across the pale blue sky “A monument to Despair and Faded Dreams” White stubbornly clings to a note of self-importance, as if life’s cruel abandonment of hope is worthy of such hubris “Oh,” Blue mutters, as the weight of despondency spasms in her engine A memory hovers How her owner plugged her exhaust pipe The sock is there still “Did someone fart” Red sniffs, attempting to edge away from the odour’s foul reach Despite herself, Blue giggles “Guys, I don’t think my brake is on” Pink rolls forward, and the others struggle to maintain their balance “Settle down” White commands “We’re being watched” A slender woman in jeans assesses the wobbling totem Misery shrouds her stooped frame and sunlight glistens on the sparkling rattle clenched in her hand as she weeps for the wasted life that never played with it Beside her, broken-hearted, a young man squints up at the teetering pile Despite the passage of time, grief’s sharp claws still hold him prisoner Arid dust ripples where people gather, its twist aided by the angry, stomping teenager An elderly grandfather who survived a war but lost nearly everyone he loved bows his head Unable to summon the energy to stand, a self-loathing middle-aged woman mourning her wasted life sits on the ground and brushes a strand of hair from her anguished features Grey begins to leak, unsure whether it’s oil or tears “I’m dizzy,” Pink complains “I’m going to puke,” Red moans “Who’s idea was this” Grey asks, peering around to see if anyone has theRead more >
Can we sit down, boy?
Not here, but somewhere later.
Where the wildflowers grow in the shape of the sun,
and have grown
for the 21 years past (my memory)
as a pocket shrine/island, made so by the homogenous sway
of wheat, despite the ceaseless dirge of time
Knee deep in the nature I sought,
my pocket's depth vibrates with an automated
The crush of cars, from eight distinct generations
has paused the process
of the M80 downstream.
To what extent has the world slowed
in its spin, and in its orbit,
with the temporary empty
of office skyscraper gazes?
With a breath's negligence,
I too let the leash tighten around my wrist.
There it was again. The flash! Did you see? Right between the ads of the woman driving a car down a winding road and a man drinking beer with his friends at the perfect barbecue. Just after one ended and the other began, a flash. No, a wink. Blink and you miss. Most people would miss it, it's designed that way. But I've been looking for a while; I know what I'm looking for.
If you hang around long enough in bridge underpasses, dark alleyways, soup kitchens, all the places where the dregs of society collect, you'll hear stories, myths, legends. Conspiracy theories too. But if you hang around long enough you develop a nose. There might be some hostility, some violence. Once you get past that you become an insider, you're told secrets.
Not much of a secret this one. It's been around for a while, if anyone was interested. You heard of missing people vanished without a trace, presumed dead after a few years? Happens in every country, around the world. Some police officer gets a mark on their record, a ghost on their shoulder. The family want a body — closure — and they never get it. A TV series is made. The person who 'went missing' is chuckling even now, maybe watching the programme on themselves.
Imagine if I told you, you could see the most awe inspiring sights — travel the world, be on yachts, private planes, even space missions. Be at Glastonbury, the Arctic Circle, the most secret of political meetings. And you wouldn't have to do a thing. Not train, work or spend the money. Nor have to know the right people. All of it open to you. The most private experiences in people's lives; sex obviously, but also the kinks — hitting their partner, sticking things in different orifices of their body, eating pet food or their own pet fish.
This is where they are
laid to rest,
redundant after being useful,
replaceable as everyone of us is,
though we think otherwise.
This is where the metal rusts,
after being the vessel of motion.
This is a graveyard of first dreams,
This sacrificial pyre
stacked over each other, jenga like.
The organs harvested,
separated like slag.
This scrapyard is an ore,
an offering to the earth,
The tree that sheds its leaves,
dying to becomes mere wood.
It’s raining cars!
I told mama Cass,
She turned to stare,
Looked into my eyes,
Then back to the sky,
To “go play outside”,
I ran to the outhouse,
The patio smelt like citrus,
Mama Michelle collected her clementines,
She’d believe my stories,
The cars piled up and up,
“It’s raining cars!”
She turned to me with a smile,
No response I waited awhile,
“Run along to fetch me a basket”
I wished she would listen
To hear the traffic brewing,
To get her basket I went,
And skipped along the apples trees,
Jane Birkin I felt I was as I sang,
The basket in hand that hang,
I could see the cars falling,
A storm I could imagine drawing,
We used to live but now we survive, and we focus, focus on staying alive at all cost, for if we fall, we are to blame, and there will always be a success story out there somewhere, but we will not be part of it, we used to shine but now we fade, we go broken, forgotten, like we’re the few casualties of a successful war, we used to live in romantic novels but now we know that everywhere is war and that we’re trapped in disaster movies with falling bridges, burning lands, train crashes and evacuation orders, or we’re stuck in a stupid political thriller with a thick but obvious plot, and also a happy ending except we are but side characters and nobody gives a damn about what happens to us, we used to forget but now we remember the myth of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods and gave it to people but the gods punished him, or how another god sent Adam and Eve out of the heavenly garden after they demanded knowledge, well, thing is the good guys probably lost, or they retreated into another universe and now we’re stuck in hell and evil reigns, making us believe the ruling gods are good instead of hateful monsters who take pleasure in our suffering, because history is written (and is rewritten) by the winners, and those freak deities write fast paced page-turners for a bloodthirsty audience, they step on us, they test us, beat us, kill us, we used to be sure but now we doubt that we are the lucky ones, and we have a drink before the war and sit and wonder, we wonder how on earth we turned from snow whites into the seven dwarfs, from brand new convertibles into a bunch of piled up, unwanted spared parts, from protagonists into supporting characters, we wonder what we did wrong and nobody cares about our side of the story.
No one knew how the cars had gotten up on the dead tree. Mara’s first thought was how pretty they were, these pastel-colored vehicles. She hadn’t seen anything but the light taupe of sand and a sickly green sky all her life. She didn’t know such colors as red and pink and blue could exist.
Her grandmother used to tell her stories about wanting clothes the colors of the sunset. Mara had never seen a sunset, so the old woman described the colors by pointing to the splotches that covered her arms. Mara could only wonder why anyone would want clothes the same color as old, dying skin.
They were heading north. They’d always been heading north, and Mara thought perhaps the cars were a kind of marker. She wanted the cars to mean that they had reached their destination, that they could stop and rest. There were fewer of them now.
When they started, Mara could lose herself in the crowd, hide from her brothers and their resentment that she lived, that they had to care for her. That’s how it was. There were so few women that every woman had to be protected, even one like Mara who had dull stringy hair and was built like a boy. She never worried that anyone would hurt her. All any of them wanted was food, something other than the rough grass that grew in patches along the road, and water, more than the dewy drops they’d lick off the grass.
Her grandmother had told her stories of how people would get so thirsty, they would try to drink the blood of the dead. But it made them sick, so they stopped. And then women stopped being born. Too many men and not enough women led to too many men, she told her.