- Vol. 08
- Chapter 03
“Hold your breath,” Teddy says as we drive past the old factory gate.
It’s not much to look at. Overgrown with weeds. A patchwork of wood nailed across the opening and a crown of barbed wire. But back when the factory was open, trucks chugged in and out all day. Hundreds of people toiled inside the tower, morning and night. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.
I was just a baby the night it happened. The deafening boom. Distant flames. Dad was out of town, so Mum trudged up the hill with me in the carrier, Teddy pulling on her hand, to join the other neighbours watching. The factory burned: crimson and orange, even green and blue.
“All the colours of the rainbow,” Ted has told me. “It was beautiful.”
When we reach the bend in the road, Teddy exhales. That’s when the coughing starts: shallow at first, then deep and hacking. He wipes his hand on his jeans. I don’t have to look to know it’s red.
Dad says I’m lucky. I haven’t got the cough and I don’t get as tired as the others. It’s just the headaches. Mostly they’re mild so it’s easy to pretend I feel OK, but sometimes they’re so bad I have to lie in bed. I don’t tell Dad about the pain.
I see Mum in my dreams, not thin and pale like she was in the hospital, but bouncy and smiling like the mothers you see in toothpaste ads. I look like me but I’m also a baby again, nuzzled up against her. She leans down and cups my face and says, Thank god, thank god, you’re my miracle child.
Went for a creepy little walk. Navigating
a global pandemic, we go nowhere.
The future is shiny but who keeps it shiny.
The sun’s not a sphere, it’s a runnel
you get stuck in when you stare straight into it.
My eyes are barcodes. I have one partner,
two daughters, one dog, three debts.
The city’s an organ ablated from the world.
If you place your ear on any concrete or tarmac
under moonlight, daylight, no light,
you can hear the faint and not so joyous
strains of Nick Cave, like the city’s trying to be
Melbourne undergoing a second wave.
Winter falls over everything, even Dutton,
Frydenberg, Cormann, Morrison.
The sinkholes we cast our votes into
using truly autonomous drone-based technology
without the operational complexity and overheads.
Silver, nickel, lithium, lanthanum.
Russian rivers run red, robodebts run rampant,
cementing the position of the private sector.
The sad truth is that people think demons aren’t real.
Neodymium, praseodymium, gold.
Limbo has no start nor finish. Canaries
change colour when fed pepper. Casualisation
is corporate culture’s bread and butter.
White-bred Inner Westies travel to Western Suburb
restaurants like they’re exotic locations.
Read more >
You’re entering dangerous territory.
Ethan emails to confess he bought a medium popcorn at the movies tonight. His ticket was budgeted for, part of his fortnightly extras. The popcorn wasn’t. He’s gone over budget and he knows it.
I fire back an email calling him more worthless than a sack of rat entrails, and telling him the extras from Thursday’s pay are coming to me and I’m cutting the next week’s food budget in half.
It’s coming too easy.
If Ethan had kids, I wouldn’t do it. I state that upfront. I had one guy who lied about it, didn’t anticipate how skilled I am at prying open every aspect of my clients’ lives. He had three kids under five, living with his ex. I blocked him.
Ethan’s an adult, a paunchy, sun-reddened 47-year-old. He says he goes hungry sometimes, to skim a little more for me.
I don’t ask for that. He likes to push his limits. He pushes mine. Within the first month, I found myself calling him a shriveled toad scrotum and demanding he strip to his boxers, coat himself in peanut butter and send me full-body photos.
Ethan’s wife, I don’t know what her story is.
… dangerous …
I used to think I was headed somewhere, working towards some vague but essential future. I should have defined that future for myself. What did I actually want out of this, other than the obvious? The spa days, the holidays in Fiji, the cupboard filled – filled – with Moet & Chandon Esprit du Siecle. Read more >
Those boys are climbing through the gap in the fence again. He calls out to them to cut it out, to go home, to go somewhere else, anywhere, just stay away already. They laugh and keep slipping through, following the leader. One of them flips his middle finger Joe’s way as he swings through. There are four of them. He can see them though the fence, balancing on the edge of the jetty, heading towards the rich people’s boats.
He should get up, should chase them out. They’re clearly up to no good, but what they do when they’re out there, he has no idea. Joe is sick of it; sick of sitting in the deck chair outside the marina office for eight hours a day, staring at the boats as they bob up and down, the only break in the monotony yelling at these teenagers who think it’s funny when he tries to chuck them out. Sure, he can chase them off, but they’ll just come back tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. They know he’s not allowed to lay a hand on them. He’s not a cop. Not even really a security guard. The title on his payslip says he’s a caretaker, but he thinks of himself more as a watcher, because that’s what he does. He watches. Sometimes, he gives directions when people come down looking for whichever boat they’ve hired. Mostly, he thinks he’s just there as a reassuring presence. But he knows he’s a joke. Can’t even keep out a bunch of fourteen-year-olds.
Easiest thing to do would be to just patch up the hole, except he’d have to go and buy some more wire for that, and he’s not supposed to leave the office. Besides, who is going to pay for that? Not Joe. He barely makes enough to cover his bills as it is.
They’d probably just cut a new hole somewhere else anyway.Read more >
The boy considered the gap in the fence,
shaped like a rugby ball, his dad would’ve said
an almond (that was his mum)
it was a sweet shape, he concluded
it made him think of girls, and the
soft curves of girlish things,
this subtle symmetrical slit
widening, relenting to offer a space
beyond which he might be anyone
and lose his limits.
On Christmas Day he’d asked for colours
for his eyes, lips and cheeks,
like the other girls owned, girls he knew,
and some brave boys on YouTube.
He leaned over the fence, took in the view
and glimpsed his pretty future,
neither rugby ball nor almond
but soft, colourful, sweet, new
with space for him to fit through.
There it was.
The hole in the fence.
A hand, its pale skin darkened from dirt, reached for a pebble on the ground. Despite her young years, Nadia knew the truth. The Pit was nothing but smoke and mirrors meant to taunt its inhabitants.
Clothes, appearing clean each morning, were never washed. The odour stung Nadia’s nose every day.
Showers, offered in the evenings before dinner, was nothing but an illusion fed to their brains through the sensory microchip that was inserted by Admissions and synced to the brain. Nadia felt the hot water, felt and smelled the soap the lathered, but she also knew they were nothing but signals directly to their brain.
Meals, rich feasts three times a day, were the simplest of nourishment alternatives; a nutrition porridge that tasted of plaster. The skinny bodies of Nadia’s co-farmers, skinny enough to appear dead, reminded her of pictures she had seen from the concentration camps during World War II.
Beds, appearing comfortable after a hard day’s work, were a death trap. Nadia knew the pillow sent electromagnetic impulses that collaborated with the microchip in your sleep and never used it. For everyone else, every day was the first day at the farm “for an authentic experience of days past” where guests were offered a chance to help with the running of the place.
Nadia’s fingers searched the ground, her eyes looking about for drone scouts. She had made it this far thanks to Uncle Jem. He had explained it all to her when she arrived and added that it was important she did not tell anyone unless she was sure that they already suspected the truth. “Don’t breath a word unless you think it worth the risk to get caught”.
The machines came for him that night.
There.Read more >
My rolls of film from Kodak box –
how often have I half exposed,
been forced to change in open light,
turned final number, tourist site?
Then wait, developed at the lab,
find my focus obliterate,
but yet I keep it, memory,
that flash, the streak, reminiscence.
It causes stare of concentrate,
alure beyond my clippered fence,
to ask why gaps proliferate,
what is this tarmac secret find?
So did some aliens destroy
the evidence, my photo snap –
for is this launch of bedtime tale
from grandpa, who thinks Einstein new?
Perhaps a flash to blot the view,
divert from sabotage attempt,
that Dad indoors must never know?
Chromatic play on monochrome,
this chemistry returned as art,
how do we paint in common sense,
find landing space in concrete place,
our questions, lingua franca posed,
inspire, excite, empirical?
It felt like she had spent her whole life
Staring at fences,
Plotting some escape or another.
First it was the abusive babysitter
Her absentee parents,
Busy at the farm and the factory,
Hired to care for her.
She had recollections of finding
A crystal on a string in the garden
And trying to hypnotize the cows
Just beyond the fence beside the house
To become carnivorous and eat her
Who was wrapped up in soap operas
And daytime talk shows,
Who threw baloney at her
And called it lunch.
Next it was the fencerow
At the back of the projects,
Where they moved to
After her parents divorced,
Trapping her with
Her violent, alcoholic brother,
Fourteen years her senior,
In a tiny apartment.
A vessel drifts
bathed in day’s dying flame and gold
a port bids goodbye
with torchlight parades
across the sea
the sky whispers in lavender
the wandering souls smiling
before lavender surrenders
to a navy blue
and the inevitable blackness
while a vessel slinks
the butter-colored lights of a port
dim and die
The chain fence diamonds
the expanse beyond,
mirroring the horizontal
bars of nature’s material selves.
Breaching the barrier,
my gaze skims the bay,
riding a spectrum
that dyes land and sea,
drenching the liminal
landscape, darkening earth,
greening tides that burn fuchsia,
folding tangerine and orange
over the calm inlet waters,
to flood the far isthmus
in sun’s gilded rays.
Framed by wooden planks,
this side of forbidden,
this side that exiles me,
this wire and wood that blocks
all but the force of my sight,
the planet lies beneath the gilded
crown of a violet and blue sky.
Stunned by beauty, I lace
fingers in cold metal links.
Escape, at last.
I cut my way through and out
with barely the right tool, hacksaw
and cutters sharp as demand words,
not that I could see where I would go,
to what end, a haze that might be
golden sunrise or mustard gas,
either way I cut my way through
as if in-over-there must improve the status
of my hunch to get beyond what held me
in it clenches all this year, the rubble stone
of collapse and loneliness, the dust of
do-overs, the blood-see of loss.
I cannot let it start over.
Out may be as good as it gets.
Women had long been in charge. Men existed on peripheral edges like scavengers wanting titbits of leftovers. They knew this and had accepted their subservient fate. Professions were open only, and exclusively, to women. Women had lost their faith in men's capabilities and concern rose for their lack of talent, particularly amongst men of science, politics and religion. The divide, and overturn of genders in society, had been inherent for decades, but there was a reluctance to buck the status quo. That was 2020. 3001 dawned and offered a wider, more kaleidoscopic view. Indeed, a rainbow filter had been sewn to each of our retinas. State decision.
I arrived to my new post, bedecked with the title of Chief Pilot at Haddington Airfield. My role was to oversee and train new cadets, and to handover “wings” upon graduation. It was a prized and highly sought after position which I had ardently strived for, working my way seamlessly through the ranks of Air Female, having doffed the arbitrary title of Air Force One.
During my second week in charge, I patrolled the permitter of the airfield, checking that no breaches had been made. It was a patrol that was meant to be completed in pairs, however, on this particular evening, my deputy had taken to her bed feverish. So I completed the walk alone, lost in thoughts of my successful changes thus far. I had many new ideas to implement and it was with a quiet excitement that I planned ahead.
Startlingly and unexpectedly, my musing was broken by a rustle. A simple sound probably evoked by the building of a stormy wind. And yet…
Read more >
we're not in light any more
gave it up
moved someplace that looks
less like a cell
all membrane and duplicity
this country isn't safe
now i say to my sister across a screen
fibre and wire bridging and blocking
life can look like an escape
but things look different in the dark
I began as a cut hole practicing
to be free. Like a prisoner released
from her cell, captivated
by half-rainbowed refractions
whose lost sight of any landmark
leading to a place beyond these swatches
of saturated light and twisted metal.
I want to become the blue sky, quietly waiting
and watching my own hypnotic reflections
showing me, I am here in these gilded
vibrating moments of diamond pristine
clearness still trying to figure out
if my words belong to me, or not
when, I’m partly somewhere else
enslaved by the moon, making
last minute holes in the fence.
He licked the tabs, I drank the tea.
Melting onto the airspace we kicked back to interstellar ribbons wrapping spectrum light and listened with our eyes,
to the grass glowin’ blood through the vulvic split in the chain link.
Twisting to hold and control the rise and sink of our pulse, we framed our minds’
ascent to euphoric velocity.
San Francisco skies were burning
occupied by violet to green.
When it was done
we made love,
soaking into the grass to pass from one world to the next through
There’s a patch between the sky and sea, a floating magic carpet sort of place, a layer of dreams that hovers like morning mist but rainbow-coloured like a filter, photo-shopped and doctored, real only as the skim of petrol on puddles, the inside of an oyster shell, but I can taste it, touch it.
I’m a pearl, I say, and I’m going to curl in wreaths of indigo and violet by the shore where the tides slip in and out, singing like sirens, but I won’t listen.
My mother shouts there’s no such place, my father howls from the dark hole where they put him years ago, and my children tug at my hands, my clothes, crying that there is no sea and nothing shines with oyster shell-sheen anymore.
I don’t have to listen to their noise.
There’s a patch of coloured light where I lie motionless as a heron and I watch the world drifting into darkness.
it was free
to be free.
On the run
from no one.
The warmth of the sun,
on its back,
released the knot
in its neck and the clench
from its jaws. Its shoulders
It wept a sea’s worth of tears.
Inhaling fresh air,
it exhaled a smile,
for the first time—
in what felt like
became a river,
who flowed and flowered a forest,
and gave birth
to the ocean
There was a hole in the fence past the DANGER! NO DIVING sign. The three kids clambered through in their swimsuits, and walked towards the edge of the cliff. The sun was setting but there was still time for a swim. A quick one, if they didn't want their parents to find out.
"We shouldn't be here," said one.
"Shut up, Ryan," said another.
Simon and Philip looked out over the edge.
"How far is it?" asked Simon.
"About twenty feet?" said Philip, who really had no idea. Ryan stood back from them, running his fingers across his palms.
"I don't think we–"
"Philip, do you want to go first?" said Simon loudly.
"Yeah..." said Philip. He sounded nervous. "Yeah, I'll go first."
Simon stood to one side. Ryan thought of their teacher Ms. Clarke, who'd spent an afternoon once telling them why they should never go cliff diving.
She'd told them, "You'll land on a rock hidden underwater, and smash all your bones. A current will take you and pull you out to sea. Even the water will hurt you, if you land wrong."
Ryan didn't understand how – wasn't water supposed to be soft? But neither did he want to find out.
Philip started his run up, then stopped. He went back to where he was, started again, and stopped.Read more >
All colours in the spectrum unite here,
a white tower looms, a distant figure,
as we focus on our troubles and fear
the bright light grows blinding, bulging, bigger
Obvious hurts burst out of chain metal
tearing apart carefully woven links;
we can almost hear screams, quietude settles,
seven startling colours paint over chinks
Visible and invisible windows
control what we see and how it’s perceived,
absent colours still exist, knowledge flows
without a clear path being conceived
I see a torn fence beckoning a flight
I see a rainbow full of life and light
From deep sky blue to murky green, while everything between beckons.
Vivid colors mutate from red to yellow shades, taking on a shape seen in the far off path.
As I walk along the fence that separates time from eternity, I wonder, what is it? When will the silhouette reveal itself? I continue my walk.
Walking along, always going forward while looking across to another dimension, the unknown!
Suddenly, I notice an opening. A tear! I see more clearly now, without the obstacle of the linked chain that hindered my vision. I stop and peer through the gap.
Of course, it's a ship, a ship to aid our journey from here to infinity. Looking out over and above my vision of sight, it seems endless—the colors so crystal beyond beautiful. An invitation!
Alas! An invitation to shelve for the present—too busy!
Move along, I tell myself. Perhaps tomorrow!
I see the prism of the universe
from my place atop the cliff
My eyes grow wide in anticipation
as I take hold of this shining moment
when my breath is suspended,
my fear and judgment gone
I stand straight with arms to the sky
and take one final breath of air,
diving deep into the boundless,
into an all-encompassing spirit,
where the beginning meets the end
and my glory christens the sea.
There are so very
few of us left, just
Don, Elice, and the
Baker who will
not tell us his name, just
gestures with rolling
pins, never speaking, the
baker who made the cake that
we ate when we were last
together, it was a hot chocolate
matcha marble cake, we took it
on the end of our forks and
toasted the uncertain future, raising
cake high into the air, where already
the first light of the distant explosion
broke across the horizon like
a searing sawn.
Who says the hunt has begun?
Thank the Lord I stayed awake.
I thought of freedom running in the dark
with no difference of pits and graves,
when the mist of night was my only ally,
a man cannot be destroyed once and for all.
Now I feel the dawn is due to come,
right from your heart, from other side of alone.
I thought of you, how you took a deep breath
and said my name, how you exhaled the sky
from you with every letter of that name,
showing me the meaning of trust,
justification of my own existence,
there was no distance in the dark
when the fears fell away.
January 1, 2021
Peeking through the gates of time and space,
I seek escape from the place I am stuck.
I do not belong to this sentimental ecosystem of hollow chests,
With people that smile to convince their bodies that are happy.
In the place where no one cares,
I water the tree of love,
Pluck its leaves and send them away
To the ones who play the same game.
If there is a wind, there is a way.
They say that romantics make the most unreliable spies,
But this time I made it.
The whole in the fence is the path,
Not slow, but fast,
I bid goodbye to the place that sings everyday happy birthday to the death of souls.
I feel like a citizen of Hades blinded by the sun.
The heart is a small muscle with a tremendous strength,
It got me here, across the fence, back to the place where it all started.
I am an unbound soul smitten with the eternal light,
I sync with the others, across the flying leaves,
Maybe one day we’ll break the fences of all mundane places,
And save the ones that shrug and fade into the dark.
In those days,
when Time held her gaze
in the mirror of long moments,
patiently waiting for awakening;
when the fire in sun bled,
like a glowing coal, dying down to dark;
in the wide expanse of nothing
dust scattering in hazy oblivion
ashes spewing out chaos.
And the earth, holding her breath
lies frozen, in the winter’s slumber.
Then my words, like dying embers,
draw dreams from dust
And reignite the heart of the sun
from spark to flames.
An early morning in March, when
The glare still had to overtake the night sky
Tugging my arms about, I smiled at the serene sketch
It seemed some palette was undone over an empty canvas
Yet, something felt amiss, “Were the colors too bright?”
I asked myself, or could there have been more colors to it?
Negative came the answer.
My sight was caught by the patterns on the concrete below
With cautious toes, I traced the sequence slowly
The design was somehow unusual today, not the regular mesh
I looked hard and finally saw the human size hole in the wire fence!
Our eternal march
through space & time
brought us to a wire fence
this past calendar year.
It soon became apparent
that we couldn’t
simply go over or around.
Then Fiona Apple
dropped her iridescent album
‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’
in the middle of April.
Her title was an apt metaphor
for what we needed to do
to get through
this past calendar year.
As I faced each fresh
losing freedoms due to the rona
settling into a new senior role
losing my beloved young mother
breaking up with my partner—
I kept reminding myself
that I needed to actively persevere
Read more >
We found a gap in the fence.
Someone had made it,
that gaping hole in the wire,
hoping to climb through,
hoping to head towards the light,
to leave the darkness behind,
to escape the madness here,
But now the light has become too bright.
It’s blinding us.
We can see less than in the darkness.
Our mouths open, aghast
with the horror of it all,
through the gap that leads to nowhere.
You escape through the envelope of dawn.
We witness light follow you
as you follow the Light,
that sparked glint of what is to come.
I see whales swimming through
an ancient dark blue.
I see you having this freedom,
to fly through space and time,
no walker or cane to hinder.
Suddenly, your mind has the quick ticking
of a clock,
the ability to remember
what slipped through cracks in synapses.
In this afterworld, you are perfectly whole and aware.
The ocean’s cycle now becomes your rhythm.
You move with grace.
We long to touch that technicolor door
you stepped through.
Try as we might, the handle will not turn yet.
I imagine you reaching, always reaching
with a reassuring hand,
while the other arm is welcomed
by dozens of souls all awaiting this reunion.
I shall just take a moment,
To sit here for a while,
Soak in the honey glazed lavender sunset.
Just a mionaid.
To breath in the salty air and feel the zephyr cooling the back of my neck.
The lace on my dress caresses my calves.
I slip off my shoes and sink my toes into the grass,
Letting the small lush blades tickle my feet.
I feel grounded in this momento.
The weight of the worlds problems that I and many others feel burdened by melt away just as the sun appears to melt into the horizon.
Just a wakati.
To let my mind catch its own thoughts,
Align them, prioritise them.
Decide on a path that i wish to follow, then take it step by step.
Manawa by manawa.
Do i dare crawl through the tempting fence.
Was that hole made for me?
Inhaling a big deep belly breath of sea soaked air,
Curling my toes into the ground once more, i feel the smile creep on my face as this trenutak gives me the answers i so deeply craved.
I’m going to go for it.
Deep down i knew i would,
I just needed a hetki.
A beautiful moment.
After the woman’s water broke, a rainbow
of possibilities appeared. The rupture
awakened the infant’s memory—
“Read Out Your Good Book In Verse.”
It became the child’s mantra, a mnemonic
to navigate her life, an acronym of color
and spectrum, an opening that released
the links, division, and rigidity of the past.
As if this sequence of seven
had set the tone, been grouped in a lucky
arrangement. As if an Arc de Triomphe,
one bestowed with radiant avenues
and an abundance of blessings. Though,
its entryway was a bit haywire; the bands
were displayed in a novel order:
BIVYORG— “Book In Verse Your Out
Life at our side of the exile fence is one of angst. Of not being sure.
The fence, from my childhood, seemed to be great wall. One that fenced us in, within our lot. Here, we would often come, trailing after our mud-caked football, chewing bubble gum and watch them in high boots, driving nails into the fence. Stay away, the crow warns us, cawing from the fence.
Sometimes, I wished, should I climb over? But fear, like a steel bird, hung its large wings over me. Surveillance has many eyes and those float in space.
I dream often, how is life at the other end? I see people packing their bags and leaving. Through barbed wires, jumping over the gaps. For that other side, where they say sun comes up in technicolor hues and the world is not a battered blue…. It’s a relief from destiny.
Another gap, I discovered today. I peeped through it, watching the twilight through my dark side. I wished I could get a little closer, to that bright flame of hope on the other side. The crow cawed again, and my feet fell rooted.
It’s no good, don’t even try
to corral a prismatic sky.
It’s an illusion, there are too
many holes, and the blue
is strong enough to bend
before you can try to mend
the chain link fence. The yellow
is too radiant to mellow
and the red so hot
it could meld you to the spot.
Let the rainbow be,
allow it to be free,
to coruscate and bend—
you’ll never find its end.
Aleppo sunrise fills my skull,
Strokes my face,
Fires the mosque’s bald pate,
Calls me back.
Back to my patients,
Their coughs and tears,
Their clasping hands
And offered gifts.
To the souk
And the rivers of bodies,
Eyes and hands threading the bargain.
Calm as a cloud crossing the sky,
As she shepherds our children
With her smile, her delicate fingers.
And the snapping of snipers,
Roaring of steel birds,
Blam and shudder of bomb
And screams from the blood-thick dust.
Wires are crossed,
Tongues tripped over -
Communications are down.
I need to slip through
The oval gap,
Slap the transmitter,
Untangle the tongue,
Get language up,
Get life running.
I need to close
The crooked word-wound -
a split of the tongue,
A guilty gaping O
One day here a crowd
formed, and all
faced the same
out different vantage
points; people kept changing
And then we watched
as the power
Afterwards, I recall
applause, albeit scattered.
Some, of course, took
Vander and I walked
Then toxins filled
our sky with lilac,
peach and teal.
The cerulean tinge peeking through the barbed wires
a gaping hole, like an open, stretched out calloused palm
seeking empathy in hunger, in pain
color tinged rays making their way
through the mishmash of thick wires
I squint my eyes to even the shades
Even then I can see the mesh obstructing my vision
There is too much restriction these days
the invisible virus boisterously ruling our lives,
Holding lien to our breaths
making us beg for the next one, a novel privilege
I want to rip apart this entrapment
Pry it open the obstructed view of the open skies
Let the fraying ends come loose
Shifting wings like a soaring eagle
in the vast cerulean skies
laced with mellifluous melody,
I want to taste freedom through my squinty eyes
I know this calling,
I can feel the warmth in my bones
the sorrow draining from every iota of my existence;
I take the clamps, cut the wires
one joint at a time
slowly but surely
A heartbeat survives on country side.
Blue, white, yellow,
remnants of coruscant horizon.
This body is a cascade,
a disseminating pool of drenching sweat and madness
of farmers, of countrymen.
Sunlight glows in abundance
Forms a sheath of radiance over the vast fields.
It takes a thought to dream,
a single touch to subdue,
and to fall in lover's arms.
I sleep and wake up and sleep again.
I bow to Sun and kiss Moon all day.
I rise and I fall,
in repetition and routine.
A slow and steady waterfall dwells inside my curvature of skin and flesh,
in my crimson blood and veins,
a fountain of evolution.
I've been working here since my 18th birthday. It was only supposed to be a summer job, but we're open year round and the pay's decent. And hey, there are worse starts to grad life.
don't do much business during winter; it's mostly just a few timid optimists buying ahead. Funnily enough, my biggest-ever sale came shortly before Christmas when a whole family day-tripping on the pier decided to kit themselves out for an upcoming cruise vacation. The dad was already wearing a Hawaiian shirt, his kids trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. I smiled and wished them all a great trip and for the first time in ages thought about plane ticket prices and how cheap it could be to get home.
Another slow day heaves itself into evening, the sky bristles with stars, the sun streaks purple-pink and coral as it straddles the horizon, and I close up. Before heading back to my digs though, I'll make a quick pit stop at the harbour wall.
There's one long tear in its rusty metal fence, and through the schism when the light hits right I'll catch the old sea fort looking like a spaceship ready to launch on the eve of Armageddon. And even though a part of me keeps screaming "Get out, escape now while you still can", something stronger says this isn't the end. Only greater things are to come.
If you can dream in the darkness.
Kiss me: you don’t say so, but you try to tell me. You say other things. You say the afternoon is gorgeous, that the sunshine dispersed over the river reminds you of your childhood, and the world is a beautiful place despite itself. Then in a trice, you are quiet. Daring me not to read your eyes. The traffic on the bridge at a distance, runs on an effete lullaby-ish rhythm. And the screeching seagulls in flight, plummet now and then to the wire railing nearby. I ask you to describe it all in a word. You instantly invent one, one that sounds like ‘cassata’. I give you a whole false look that tells you—you are too simple. In truth, every time I’ll eat that ice cream now, we’ll be kissing in my head.
…that’s the thing, as it makes all the difference
in what you see, when you look, how you see it.
All is and is not as it portrays itself. It depends on how
and when, how badly you want it to be so. Sometimes
a rose is a rose is a rose, other times not so.
Bury you nose in her petals to sniff the scent of
a wished for kiss or disguised as a warm red blanket
on a cold, cold night. The thorny ladder of rejection
leads to unsurpassed beauty that you can’t have.
Hands held in great tenderness unclasp. Love lost,
love rejected, soft love, velvet love undulates,
shape shifts before your very eyes.
So is the hole in the fence just a shortcut
to the secret spot? Does it shorten the time
it takes to get home? Is it entrance or exit,
a way in or a way out, following the path of others
who found a way, with bloody fingers or bolt cutters,
tearing open a hole in the fence so others can follow,
to escape a hardscrabble life, a limiting life, a life
of being hemmed in, trapped in a cycle of harm, or worse—
intolerable repetitive boredom.
The airport stretched just beyond the strip of beach and silver barbed fence with ominous words printed on prismatic hoardings;
Do Not Stand. Danger. Jet Blast.
The warnings deterred nobody. We ran as fast as we were able in flip-flops on the hot sand of Maho to the precarious runway nestled in the shadows of rainforest covered hills. Straight from the Sunset Bar, sticky plastic beakers in hand, frothed pina colada and cranberry-pink rum punch slopping over bare arms as we jostled for a space. Then, knuckles contorted in a hexagonal wire grip, we awaited the KLM Boeing 747 due in from Amsterdam at 15.00.
The beach was univiting compared to Orient Bay with its inclement surf breaks and colourful shipwrecks, or the sloped pale-gold beaches of Grand Case, paths fringed by fragrant lantana and coralita. Tourists only came to Maho to listen to Sweet Home Alabama on the beach terrace and to be close to the behemoths which materialised on the horizon as tiny flies, tracking closer until the full mass of the aluminium fuselage blackened the sky above. They came to experience the evanescent mini-eclipse and transitory chill as it swooped into land. Weeks later, back at home, they would develop Kodak film and flip through the photos which failed utterly to capture the fuel and heat and chaos.
It was exhilarating watching the columns of frozen air streams release, to spot the faces in the windows, blank, foreign, unknown to us. Travellers from Stuttgart or Denmark, Paris or Rotterdam.To imagine their stomachs knotted, clammy hands clasped in laps. We waited for the return flight to fill and the jet to taxi in preparation for the 16.15 departure.Read more >
Our mothers would kiss our foreheads, double-checking our bags for lovingly prepared packed lunches, sending us out into the dark.
At the end of the street, we’d take the right turn towards school and watch them wave, pale hands retreating into the warmth. Then our feet would thunder against the pavement, our hearts keeping time with one another, racing through clouds of our own breath until we reached the edge of the airport.
“I’m choosing one that will take me to a beautiful island. I don’t care where. Just so long as there’s beaches like you see on TV, and they bring you drinks in a coconut.”
Christine changed her mind every morning. Still, each time she told us where she’d decided on, she sounded absolutely certain. Her voice held words better than mine could, and when they fell out of her mouth they were the right shape. They sounded grown up, even when she shouted them against the roars of take offs and landings.
We’d huddle, hoods up against the cold, watching each plane taxi and speed up and float into the sky. Taking it in turns to say where we’d go. Sometimes I let my imagination carry me. More often than not my choice was simple: “Anywhere so long as it’s not here.”
“I’m going next week,” Christine said one morning. We all smiled, but didn’t answer. We pressed our gloved hands into the fence and bounced back and forth in a rippling, giggling row. None of us had any money, let alone the kind of guts to actually follow through with ourselves. But none of us wanted to ruin the game, either.Read more >
The wild, unsettled sound of
these thin, in-between days –
there is no switch to throw the
line back, just a cut, a cut,
a cut again, until the edge
of what you can see starts
to break down. Enter the theologians,
telling you: in these fuzzy
moments is where you discover
the space to dispute, to revel,
to reveal, to party play love,
to link yourself to the best
of yourself, to bask in a band
of a glory you deserve.
The pair in orange jumpsuits works diligently. Upwards of six hours a day and always under the glow of four bright, five-bulb lights. A small, 10 by 4 radio box streams tunes. Mostly Elvis. Sometimes Rush. Bruce and Lennon, too. The lights are tall, much taller than the pair. The wall, too. Of the pair, the one the right is taller. Able to reach the wall’s highest elevations. The one on the left takes the lower portions of the wall. Always. Legs bent, torso straight, the right arm brushes thick, elastic glue while the left places shards of delicate ceramic – one after the other. Each piece different from the one before. Patterns of blue paisley, red plaid, and gold geometric squares soon meet. Side by side, but never one of the same. Raspberry petals lock destinies with sky blue gingham checks. Red pears hide in tiny wood boxes. Cream rectangles shake hands with electric blue triangles. Grey goldfish in turquoise seas swim with purple grapes in orange bowls. Long cream noses brush thick, plum lips. Brows of brown, black, and metallic green hues meet eyes the color of the rainbow. Waterproof markers seal futures. Opposites both distract and attract. Like oil and water. Milk chocolate and horseradish. Slabs of bologna and filet mignon. Full sized pieces – glass bottles, mugs, pitchers, line the wall’s top ledge.
A small, battery-powered clock tracks time. Progress, too. As the hour hand strikes 4, work ceases. Palms open toward the heavens as coins drop. One, two, sometimes three. Quarters on some days. Copper pennies and nickels on others. Fingers speckled of paint poke and prod. Quick mental calculations. Then, without fail, the pair in orange jumpsuits nods and turns. A car is always waiting and always empty. The pair chooses to walk. One foot in front of the other. Laces tied tight. Always. The walk is short, just across the gravel path. The pair lifts their legs, clothed in drapey, industry-grade acrylic, and crosses a fence’s wired base and torn opening. Their bodies squeeze, barely, through the broken wire, yet soon they emerge on its other side. Read more >
even though it is fenced in, tattooed,
stencilled in with metal rumination?
Is the rainbow good enough even though
the child doesn’t talk to you anymore? Even
though you fetched her from the police
station after she and her boyfriend went
on a drunken driving rhapsody.
Being the light through her howling when
the vacuum cleaner turned on, through her
basketballer mania, no sandwiches, no red
meat, her diminishing mass, the cast of
boyfriends, Nirvana, Hole, running off
with the marine stranger from a bar
in the East Village; through the freaking,
the decisions about everything,
to turn left or right.
Mommy, can you help me please?
Is the rainbow good enough,
with patterns stencilled into it now
from her bewildering greed?
You wonder who incarcerated the rainbow.
You inscribe yourself into each cell to bring
Mommy, relax. Just give me everything.Read more >
Piercing into the dark
As it cuts itself apart.
Like a blinding
There is a peremptory
Stoppage of steps
Things stand still
Just in a blink
That were in motion
In the airspace.
There is no escape from
The colours that drop upon
Each follows the other
Keeping a track of our
Having sniffed the ground
That had traces left of us.
We are drenched in ultraviolet
Before it gradually fades into
Read more >
around the barbed hole
was built a fence
forty feet high
coated wire mesh
erected by labour
alongside the border
across the horizon
to restrict words and
to limit messages of
created by those who
saw through smoke
to challenge authority
though how they dare
yet the subtle design
lets sunlight through
according to protocols
of filters engaged
to make it appear
that thought is free
that candid talk
is open and frank
in homes and schools
at play and work
in cafés and diners
on buses and trains
while jails brim full
Read more >
Those that went before us haven't returned. We see vibrant colors with different hues ahead. Should we go in and wade through to the unknown? There are signs of life in the distance. The chain fence had been broken. Our chickens escaped through the hole. You could hear them clucking in the distance. The grass was greener on the other side. The eggs will be missed.
I hide from the sunlight of the world,
trying to find some comfort between the
letters that I memorize.
Words of affirmation.
Words that make me feel normal.
Less strange at the least.
I embrace the sterility of the walls inside.
Sheltering myself from the rainbow of outside.
I tune into the white noise inside,
Having grown tired of their sensationalistic music.
I lay covered by my cold,
hiding from their warmth.
I am struggling to breathe now.
My own air suffocating me.
My own coldness burning me.
My own noise bleeding through my ears.
My own letters mocking me for my strangeness.
I open the doors.
I open my doors.
To the outside.
To their outside.
I have been rejected
I am now their refugee.
They were warned,
Over & over we sent messengers, hints.
All denied, vilified and now
the deep sun-sink comes, the Conjunction.
They will direct Augurers, Numerologists
to spell, calculate and mutter, to no avail.
The veil rips, chains sever as before –
Auschwitz, Kiribati, Mostar.
We stand at the gate, horizons shimmer, dissolve.
The Warmings are complete, the plagues
ignored. Gyres are loosened. Mouths
Too much lost.
It is time.
It was only at night we truly felt free.
Away from our daytime selves,
the ones put together out of too much illusion,
giving unknowing smiles in the supermarket aisles
over fresh heads of broccoli and piles of carrots
even though we'd been laughing together the night before
and evading colleagues' questions
over just why we couldn't stay late that evening,
even though those spreadsheets wouldn't write themselves.
As night pulled its cloak around us,
we were safe in ways we'd never been before,
to run and dance and fight and kiss
in abandoned landscapes reclaimed fiercely
by people in need of protection.
The old water tower with a barely locked door
became the site of a shivered truth-telling;
a disused marina welcomed us to dance
around old beer cans and plastic bags;
a barely accessible beach led to romances
and laughing betrayals that would mean little
in the cold light of morning.
We, the outsiders, born under the light spectrum,
not at ease with ourselves in the sun,
found refuge where the shadows lurked
and where nobody enquired too hard.
mother of birdsong
infest her voice again
with sharp cacti, flowering tumuli
drape your living
of astonished flesh
with eyes slow gaping
at your tired
fold lost frequencies
of sickly sprung
what does it cost
all the colours of the sun?
The moon is not enough for
fish that lose their way
out of water until
it rises within them
When the night does not
leap and spread wide
And the vast sky releases
all the light it could bear
A day is just a day now
A night is just a night now
Rainbow colours break through the grey
Bleed through the grim ghost of the past year
Make a gap in the fence of fixed views
Change hearts and minds with a fleeting taste of hope
This is the palette to paint a rosy future, says the sun,
One of blue skies and golden dawns
If you let it.
Revel in the sight of those two pieces of wood that anchor the fence, friend. They are the only beautiful things in this image, bathed in the natural light of the sun. Don’t be deceived by the rainbow hues. Rainbows signal hopes, pots of gold at the end, and the glorious aftermath of storms, where the sunlight dabbles with raindrop brushstrokes to create artistry on the canvas of sky. This is a rainbow of a different kind – it blinds you, fuses sand into glass, and poisons the earth and its inhabitants. That building in the distance is a pawn in the weapons race that promised world peace. Shimmering in the sands of the desert, it is a M.I. rage. Military colludes with Industry to rage against life, as governments play the schoolyard bully, colluding and conspiring for power overtly and covertly.
You see the hole in the chain link fence? Those sharp, jagged edges that jostle each other to snag and tear at you? That might as well be an image of your DNA – your genetic code twisted and mutated, those neat strands of double helices chopped and jumbled, your chromosomes warped by radioactivity to silently ravage your descendants for generations. The intact chains in the fence mirror the chain reaction that just happened – nuclear fission that self-sustains contentedly, having been given all it needed to wreak havoc. One chain effortlessly weaves into the next interconnected chain, nudging the process along, notching the energy levels higher and higher until critical mass rejoices in its accomplishment, and pushes the whole process off the cliff, into destructive oblivion.
In contravention of natural laws, a cloud mushrooms skyward, and the heavens roil with unleashed heat. It’s as if the earth is obligingly creating an anvil on which the gods can strike their hammer. Before you think those colors are just refraction, know that they all have an eerie significance. Like some horrific surreal benediction, the nuclear rain washes toxins down to singe the skin. That pretty purple? It’s the color of the spots under the skin where blood has pooled. Read more >
The sunset is unapproachable—
only for the wealthy. Those who own
high, west facing patios.
Those wealthy, who can
afford to fence off the bay,
it’s beach, it’s fish, from us—
the workers who keep
their gardens, who keep
their houses clean, who
keep their children from
drowning as they play
in the bay, our bay with
clean sand beaches,
our bay that used
to belong to us.
The sunset is unapproachable
unless you know where
to find the hole in the fence.
And you aren’t caught.
Here is something quite apart
from just a work of Art.
This is no Van Gogh’s
painting of a Starry Night
and you are right it’s not Constable’s
study of the overcrowds of Clouds.
Nor a Turner’s Northumberland
Here it seems there is a sense
of something swirling, whirling, warning.
Here is born at best, a soft
There is a too natural blue sky,
with almost beyond sight
three flickers of white.
Inevitably eyes lower
to a cauldron red,
whose purpose is to contain
the sun’s flowing gold.
Uncontrolled we lower still
and ourselves will
to the normal sea.
A sea that calms all,
how could that be?
As a fence or defence
has been broken.
Read more >
Her third death came on the Sunday after Summer Solstice, just before sunset. There had been word of a breach in the perimeter fence, and she’d volunteered to go. She set off in the hope of slipping into no-man’s land and reaching the factory complex as darkness fell.
Impossible to know if it was just bad luck or whether there was someone responsible for tipping off The Seekers, although she had her suspicions. It was tempting to point a finger at the new recruits, especially those who appeared a little over-eager to please, too vocal in their determination to overthrow the oppressors. But it could just as easily have been one of the old timers, crumbling from the years of intolerable pressure on themselves and those they loved most. And few, in honesty, would blame them. It had been a long and bloody fight, one which drained the mental resources of even the most committed.
She found the gap in the fence quite easily. It looked new, just a few interlocking chain links sliced and pressed back, creating a hole just big enough to squeeze through. A few fibres clung to its edges, as though someone else had tried and become caught. That alone was enough to set her teeth on edge, to alert her to the possibility of betrayal, but it was too late to turn back. If it were a trap, then that was just too bad.
She was quicker and more nimble than most and was almost through by the time The Seekers appeared. She heard the rapid fire almost before she felt it thud into her body.
She cast off her pelt, leaving it draped across the ground, blood seeping into the rough soil. She glanced back as she sped across the fields to safety and saw The Seekers silhouetted against the sunset, gathered around the corpse. Read more >
A cyclone fence severed top to bottom
framed by and attached to spilt rails
provided an exquisite entryway leading
from country pastures to a phantasmagoric
panorama: enthralling, compelling, inviting.
As I pushed my way past bolt cutter remnants—
sharp steel edges—ragged grey wires pierced
my young tanned arms, etched skin with crimson
pencil thin scratches, marked my rites of passage
from a safe environment to a toxic experiment.
Once through the colorful porthole, the rainbow
horizon expanded east to west exerting powerful hues,
a nuclear sunset in a radioactive wonderland,
where capricious clouds spread laterally and fallout
seared my starved soul with earth-shattering substance.
But the sight—the sight brought both hands to my forehead
shielded eyes like a flesh and blood visor. Spellbound I
watched the horrible magnificence until my brain throbbed
and nightfall methodically blackened a flamboyant firmament,
leaving only a shimmering glow in its mercurial wake.
I glanced once behind me, recalled the variegated landscape
and silhouette of Livermore Laboratory hidden by haze,
then wiggled back through wire mesh, snagged my t-shirt,
admired my congealed cuts—badges of courage—future scars,
certain my forbidden zone trek christened me with epic grace.
There is a rainbow on the other side.
The seven colours – glazed with varnish-reflect
The meshed wires and knotted fences.
The rainbow masquerades as a mirror.
It is a mirage –
An impalpable and unreachable destination of equality of opportunity and dignity.
The rainbow is more colourful on the other side.
That is perhaps because the sky is boundless on the other side.
The grass is as green here as it is there, with a scarred earth stretching across without prejudice.
But here is different from there.
There is 'something' yonder. A je ne sais quoi.
And yet I cannot go there to find out what it is.
There is a border – crisscrossing the land separating me from them, mine from theirs.
And yet, if I could just reach through the gaping tear in the border and reach for a fistful of the rainbow…
But I must hasten before the patrolling starts or the ceasefires are violated.
For those in the interiors, borders may not matter.
Borders matter for dreamers,
When they cross over from the predestined to the aspired,
From uniformity to uniqueness,
From being citizens to non-citizens.
They go from belonging to becoming persona non grata/illegal.Read more >
When it slipped through
the sliver in the fence,
I wondered if
gradations of light
in colors too specific to see
would shine into cell blocks
through the skin
of the prisoners and
save them from the worst
of the spectrum.
The closeness of their bunks and sinks,
the shards of soap and spliffs,
the communication, the communicability
that occurs in darkness,
sanctioned by punishment.
There's not much I can do
to save an image
when this happens.
The damage covers so much.
The tower, the sky, the frame.
Nothing is imminent.
Off the horizon.
i snuck into your yard
and redded my mouth
with last spring’s
the seeds came up
after the snow faded
back into the eaves
in the name
(h a d e s)
who knew love
could be like this
a gate into the sea
and ivory) ?
in one thing dying,
The homeowners voted for a wooden gate
secured with a combination lock
to close off the walkway to the beach
between the condos.
Private property – KEEP OUT
the riff-raff – the kids who lived
across the street, the family
renting up the block who drove
twenty hours from Kenosha
to be near the ocean.
Children ran shrieking to greet the sea,
bodies on blankets breathed deep
with peace, but first juggled
lounge chairs and coolers, babies
on hips and fishing gear
to manipulate the gate.
Not satisfied, they locked the ocean side
too. A heart attack on the sand
and the EMTs battered the boards down.
Never been replaced,
although a year later, the same folks
who voted for it refuse to wear masks
around town to keep out
the coronavirus. It infringes
on their freedom.
there is no hole in the rainbow
just the cage
and christmas for my queer.
and did you ever see such a clear sky?
a wooden sea of splinters
ready to rough you up –
kill your bird. kill your flight.
metal doesn’t bleed
but light does –
and did you ever see such bloody water?
a locked sky full of lovers
to forget you
metal doesn’t bend
but light does –
did you know rainbows are circles?
on earth we are limited
to the illusion of
a bridge –
The watchtower shimmered in the distance. Someone had cut the perimeter fence, leaving a jagged hole. Saboteurs, she thought. People who knew how to twiddle the right knobs and flick the right switches so that all broadcasts would be cut off. No more military music on the hour presaging the latest news bulletin, no more patriotic songs that everyone knew by heart, no more uplifting dramas that had by law to include a minimum of one line extolling their Great Leader.
Above, the sky was a vibrant blue. Too blue, the blue of midsummer. She longed for her sunglasses, but the permitted items for each season were strictly delineated and sunglasses were forbidden at this time of year. No matter that accidents went up in the winter months on a bright day. If you were caught wearing another season’s clothing, you were done for.
Growing up, she had liked the predictability. Her parents were staunch supporters of the Great Leader and her early childhood had been secure and safe. Education was good, public transport was efficient and clean, food healthy and affordable. So why did the revolutionaries have to spoil this? She hadn’t been to school for months, vehicles were scarce and illegal markets had sprung up in back alleys. She never felt safe now. “For the good of the people.” That was their slogan. But she was one of the people and she didn’t feel good at all. She was sad and angry and scared, emotions that had been alien to her while the Great Leader was properly in charge.
She squinted at the watchtower, trying to make out if anything had changed. Perhaps the hole in the fence had been made weeks ago and no one had got round to fixing it. That wouldn’t have happened before. What were the revolutionaries trying to achieve? What was the point of tearing down systems and structures that functioned perfectly well, as long as you stuck to the rules?Read more >
As scientific understanding of light advanced,
the spectrum has since been applied by analogy
to topics well outside those understood as 'Optics'.
For instance, I read, "a single left–right
spectrum of political opinion does not capture
the full range of people's political beliefs."
This is what I see – the very definitions
fencing the horizons right in front of us –
we want to cover sunshine with one finger
to break your way through fences & hope
they won't be built again, electrified,
meant to put you & all away from what & who we want.
Our travel documents will need to be replaced
well before their best-before date. We no longer
look the way we did on the first page.
when I was little all I wanted was
to cross the border –
I learned to queue before I could pronounce it &
this day & age others have decided
that to cross the imaginary land should be harder,
impossible for those who dare to dream.
The entry sounds (alas!) definitive:
"there is a unifying theme between the extremes
at either end. This was not always true in older usage."
I found my way back,
knees and elbows marching me through,
a snag of my T-Shirt catching upon the wire,
cotton fray waving me farewell
as I exited the countryside and adulthood
to fill my lungs with the grit and fumes and screeching sirens
I had grieved for.
It embraced me.
Buffing me in beams of yellow
and blushes of pink and mauve
as I splashed through oil glinted puddles
past pub doorways glittered in glass
my feet tapping the rattle of the District line
which chugged its descent through bowed tunnels
adorned in aerosol artwork.
I was just in time,
racing up the path, finding my place beside Granddad
to pick the runner beans
which we sought out,
gently easing them away from their leafy camouflage,
flecked with red flower
through hums of bubbles flying high
under the smudged haze of an East End sky.
I remember Mum always read me
bedtime stories. My favourite was
about teddy bears and a picnic.
But this story isn't about that.
This story is about a boy who'd look
into the sun and see butterfly shapes,
and was fascinated by hell's breathless
inferno at the nuclear power plant. He
wanted nothing in life, except to step
into the chafe and ash, and unmask
colours of hell's heat. One night, when
sleep should've kept him in bed, he cut
right through the plant's chainlink fence.
He found his way to blue fluid pools
and phantom steam, and the furnace
where arterial colours entangled his feet.
The air whipped him with longing, and
he let out such a terrible shriek as his
shadow walked on and over, and all
around him into the endless middle
of his hollowed out places.
Everything about him was thinking –
Is this a place I'm just passing through?
Will my memories die like a tree?
Is this a memory, or is it a dream?
After many hours trudging round the perimeter fence of the Rainbow Factory, I came to a break in the chainlink. I scrambled through. No-one saw me. There were seven enormous buildings like aircraft hangars arranged in a big curve. There were signs over the doors of each of the buildings. The sign on the first one said RINSE, the second said OUT, the third YOUR, the fourth GRANNY’S, the fifth BOOTS, the sixth IN, and the last one said VINEGAR. I peeped through the door of the first building. Teams of men in red boiler suits were pouring red paint into huge tubes which led to the next building. I peeped into the other six buildings and then I wondered if I might find a pot of gold. Sure enough, there it was, guarded by a menacing leprechaun. She (I was pretty sure it was a she) shouted at me so loudly, I woke up. My mother was standing over me saying, “Get up sleepyhead, you must come and see the beautiful rainbow!”
He lights a cigarette and inhales. A lone tendril of smoke rises from its end. He walks from room to room, assessing the damage. The pans and pots in the kitchens are in disarray. A half-eaten burger, with its mayonnaise slathered potato filling and lettuce falling out, lies on the granite countertop. The famished intruder probably did not have time to finish. In the bedroom, the two pillows and the bedspread are strewn. What could anyone have wanted from his stark two-roomed shack.
Like lightning, realisation strikes him. The two-hundred-year-old heirloom in the bedroom. He opens the locker with shivering fingers. It’s gone. The weighty silver dagger with gold motifs of flowers, elephants and Goddess Lakshmi. The only piece of treasure that was handed over to him by his grandfather before death. He ambles to the hall and settles on the bean-bag that is crying out for more beans. He takes a puff of the cigarette. Who could have done it? It was only the new helper boy who knew.
At a distance, the ship hoots a siren. He walks to the window. With a wrinkled palm, he clears a circular patch of dust on the glass pane so he can see clearly. The air is streaked neon and fluorescent pink. The sky is a delicate shade of cobalt blue. Somebody has cut a gaping hole in the wire fence. The hole is wide enough for a small boy to squeeze in. He always thought the fence was barbed, but clearly he was wrong. He stubs out his half-finished cigarette into the brass ashtray.
The ship has set sail on the choppy waters of the Arabian Sea. Something in its wail tells him he won’t see his stolen treasure again.
Today uncharacteristically the sun stopped
cutting a hole in the barricades I had built around myself
freeing me from murky darkness
then promised pieces of rainbow peeped from behind the penumbra
velvet warmth tugged at my sleeve
tender tendrils of hope tentatively unfurled
but the yellow moon watches me I know
waiting for me to slip out of my skin
black stars explode in my chest
I cannot let dreams atrophy on seashells
the lonely earth I cradle in my spindly arms
shielding her from the marauding sky
I must steal the sun's seventh horse
keeping a promise I never made.
It began with a small hole blemishing the chain-link fence surrounding our compound. It appeared one morning, the chains having been pulled apart at the seams with jagged edges remaining. Nobody looked at it too closely, but we were always well aware of sudden changes.
That afternoon, the muffled speakers attached to each building in the commune spoke:
“We would kindly ask that the person responsible for this morning’s vandalism report to the main office for a consultation. Thank you.”
Despite the lack of specificity, everyone knew exactly who they were referring to. Not that we spoke about it.
Nobody did show up to consult, but the next morning, the hole had expanded even more. Now it was big enough for a child’s head to slip through if they wanted. Of course, no child wanted to. Again, the speakers spoke:
“We would kindly ask that the person responsible for this morning’s vandalism report to the main office for a consultation. Thank you.”
Each day the hole got bigger. None of us stopped to examine it or peer through it. We knew better than that. Despite this, I sensed disturbance within our small community. There hadn’t been this much excitement in a long time.
But excitement wasn’t good.
A watch person was posted there day and night. Weeding out the agitator was evidently the objective of those that spoke. Fixing our community took priority over fixing the fence. They didn’t catch anyone, but the hole remained the same size those next few days. A collective disappointment descended. We did not speak of it. Read more >
Delay has seen my sight change into its final phase. Soon I will lose it all and my world will turn into a place where no light lingers and shapes will be lost to walls of black.
Treatment, like education, is not for the likes of me. I am the wrong gender, class, colour, race, but mostly I have no money to bribe the rich. I have no option but to flee. That is why I am here by the wire fence with bolt cutters. Flashes of yellow, violet and gradients of red distort my view of the other side. A building hovers in the haze. A mirage of my future life tantilises.
I hear sounds behind me, human voices and angry dogs. Something whistles past me. It’s now or never. I step through the fence to the other side, a side where I shall have to plead my case. I can only hope that leave to stay is not denied me, and that treatment comes before times slips away and the colours fade to black.
All those pictures I used to take
when I was younger, and on film—
I mean proper, photographic
film, the one that came in a black
plastic box, promised thirty-six
good shots but would give you two more,
if you knew how to mount it best…
The colours were—seemed—so brilliant,
but they have faded now, at least
they are not as I remembered
them. Life fades, and memories fade.
Now everything is digital,
and you can play with images,
add things that were not really there,
but the magic of an old film
was that you might get some surprise
every time you developed it:
flashes of colour, and strange lights,
and even the ordinary,
a view of the sea through a fence,
would turn into a different world
and show you more than you had meant
He put up barriers.
A closed barbed wire smile,
sandpaper frowned eyebrows,
freckled land mine cheek bones,
clenched grenade knuckles,
iceberg sized cold shoulders,
a row of house party sniper put downs,
a brittle six foot skeleton
wrapped in cactus spiked thin skin
and piranha hungry self-esteem.
He put up barriers
desperate for people to burst through.
Out of foul enchantment
Is never easy.
It takes determination
Cold and steady
As the wire cutters you need
To make a hole in the fence
Big enough to crawl through,
Despite the cloud
Of poisons you breathe
Like a toxic rainbow
Of sweet lies and promises
Meant to keep you blind
Helpless and content –
And even if the odds
Are all against you
Each step away
Will clear the air
Until you breathe free
Of those intoxications
Meant to keep you dreaming
In the dark,
Your life no more
Than one long sleepwalk
Around a prison yard.
And isn’t this new freedom
worth the risk
Of all you have to win it?
The space ripped in the fence looks womblike
and maybe I have been ripped open with it –
I feel different now, like a house and a baby
isn't the only future I have been living for.
Maybe, instead, the space in me could flood
pink water, gold sunset and blue calm night
and there could be a whole city there, a port,
a place to create something other than flesh.
Something more than her, more than me even,
to fill up my lungs, move my hand and pen
over every night on the bridge over our canal,
the aching to fasten a padlock, for me and her.
Now, I want just my initials, for me and my life,
to remember I don't need to do anything but stay.
Astonished, we see the levelled rainbow flares,
iced by blue, stretched out there. Spun colours
refract in our greyed-out universe – calling
us back from despair to weave fresh, threaded futures.
Mesmerised, we stare. Belatedly, we notice
diamond-knitted wires, strung taut, caging
us in yesterdays. We halt our dreams, seek
practical solutions – beg our forebears,
fine artisans, to set us free, move us toward
precious lights. A disembodied gnarled hand
proffers wire-cutters. Snip and snap releases us,
new-born risk takers, to find a gaping hole: a chance
to strike out. Today, we head for communal liberty: kaleidoscoped fates, zinging, zany possibilities,
as we exult, walk our paths in unity,
bound together by mutual consent.
The separation between us
there is always a gap, a gash,
a break—I peer at you,
wait for your light,
to bridge the gulf between us.
Above us, the stars.
Now your beacon
rainbows a swath
of night’s dark waters,
glorifies the flimsy
barrier between us:
the light between us.
We Must: Act Quick!
Have you ever seen fish ~ flapping, to death
inches: from their Ocean of salvation
and wondered, if only they’d have acted
when they had the chance?
Well, that’s Humanity in 2021!
I know how unlikely - a reality
we witness when we dare
to rip a sim: in our safety cocoon
of barbed wire indifference.
Please, do not mistake these words
for ‘those’ fear-mongering Tabloid headlines
we - need only Act: as one, intrusting
in that ‘collective good’ that’s never failed.
Reducing Wastage is our immediate avenue
for tangible results, so let’s fight to make
‘Address Our H2O Crisis’
a ‘trending’ message: that no one Dare ignore.
Grapes arrived, seedless, she ate up my thanks.
Big Bro arrived, long time no see, they devoured the news
bouncing across the bed. Mikey, neck stiff from watching, laid
his painted smile back on the pillows.
Rapping heels echoed beneath the bed, a flick of sweat from
caged hormones. Little Sis tugged at her misbehaving hair.
A toddler's chuckle burst from a distant screen and the sniff of
rancid tobacco clung to the ancient tweed stumbling to the toilet.
Screen alert, Big Bro rushes off to leash up the biggest mutt they had and go searching for a park. Little Sis remembered an
appointment with a deserted beach and a large pair of scissors.
She arrives, empties her carrier onto the bed, grapes escape,
she folds her carrier, swing door waves, exit.
The wait, the longing, the siren's rustle of blue, the pad of that
certain shoe, click, clicking of the opioid wheels.
The slight dislodging of my clothing, the slow release into my lusting arm.
Morphine Mary has handed me the bolt cutters. Cut. Step in.
Through the danger zone, rise up, embrace the light until....
Four hours of floating free in the Bliss of the Blue
Never was a ghost this solid.
You can even tap on its brick walls,
disturb its frame a little.
And its eyes are glass
and busted open.
You can scramble through the socket,
take a walk around the dusty cement floors
of its body,
run your hands along its brain's rusty machinery.
What kind of ghost is this
that couldn't scare you in a million years,
that looms so huge in daylight
behind its broken fence,
in a bed of weeds,
pockmarked by ancient loading docks.
Even at night, it's not so scary.
It's dead and it's still with us
so a phantom it must be.
Some folks stare up at it and curse.
Others wipe a tear
on behalf of forty years before.
Many worked there most of their lives.
Many lost their jobs
when the company moved south.
Much as it tries to haunt,
it lacks the spirit.
The year didn’t begin when the cars honked at midnight
and corks popped in home after home, the gentle strike
of each bubble consenting to sparkle,
to hold the notion of hope for a moment,
on the tip of their tongues.
It didn’t end when you padded out on to your balcony
to sing a few bars at the still-dead, still-shining stars.
For me it began two years ago or more,
when I first turned my back on home, began my crossing,
eventually offering my body and borrowed savings
to the sea.
You can’t eat gold, or live on hope alone, but hunger
for loud, soft love carried me to this place
where I wait for the next chapter of my fate.
Look out, today, from whichever harbour
you sit in waiting, and see beyond the mesh of sky and worry
and what to do about money,
the greying concerns of the unquestionably settled
to the unchanging promise
of the sea.
The first one he spoke to was Number 2. He had met her in the corridor, when we were leaving the Lunch Hall for the Telecast Hall with Father, whom we heard first thing after breakfast every morning. His voice was calm, it soothed us. Most of us would forget the dreams that had troubled us the night before. His whispers, slick and sweet, would quiet our brief hauntings, the unrest that broke our sleep.
Everything was beautiful after the White Coats gave us the Magic Pink, elixir they shot in our arms. Then our eyes got used to the white all around. The white of the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the white of the coats, the white that would drown you as you sought to trace the lines, start to wonder where they met each other, ran into each other, traced a plane.
Once that search, that trouble was over, the day was quiet until Waiting. Numbers one to twenty went together to the white beds. Sometimes, as our white-slippered feet rested before lifting up to the bed, a memory shot up in our muscles. A memory of a time when this gesture was not habit yet, still felt new and strange. But when we creased our brows to think, the white would make our thoughts swim once again, and we would float.
Number 2 had told us there was someone who was Not White. He had come out from The Vault with a bag in his hand. The Vault was where the White coats worked all day. The New One had told her he would meet her again in the Once More, but he had called it Tomorrow. He had handed her the pills. “Take them for two nights”, he had said. “You’ll be stronger if you’re two.”Read more >
Behind the fencing,
the children of the projects
fourteen floors over Halsted St.
watch the lines of sunset
playing within the colors
coming from the factories—
large plumes of chemicals,
a rainbow of precipitation—
coke oven gas, naphthalene,
crude light oil, sulfur,
carbon dioxide, particulates,
nitrogen oxides, lead,
until the ozone rusts
and skin and breath glow.
The blue of the sky is as dense
as the throng of bodies
on a packed commuter train.
Sweat pooling in rush hour
armpits, hangovers squatting like toads
in tired heads as we are gently crucified
on the wooden beam of routine.
Flashes of a future glimpsed
through grimy glass, we scrub
at the stain of years past
whilst doing anything to avoid
looking directly into the bright light
of today. Sun blindness soothes retinas.
How can we reach the rainbow?
Climb the web like desperate insects?
Or use tools, like the soft humans we are?
The aftermath of a violent act; wires cut,
padlock smashed. Sea choppy, rescue helicopter
landing just out of shot; dot, dot, dot
dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot.
Purple fades into yellow like an old bruise.
The flamboyant pink of sunrise
is a beckoning siren.
In the distance its jewel colours had enticed, a siren song in technicolour.
As we journeyed its golden heart beat out the pace of our steps.
Now though we stopped, stock still, here at the edge bound behind a rough splinted fence. Our view framed by chicken wire Tudor windows.
In places, holes had been cut, bent by the shapes of those who had gone before, those who’d dared to go. To what we now called The Other Side.
No one had the words to explain this sight. Here in the near view alien space ships hovered, not clouds. The sea and sky framed the unreal, unknowable.
Unable to resist some followed the gone before’s, crawling through the gaps, they swam off and disappeared.
We stared, our memories of them reduced to sand shaped footsteps that all knew would vanish into history at the changing of the tide.
Now came decision time. Did we follow, stay where we were or return?
Back to that devil we had always known.
Did we though always want to know? Our did we want a different future, a different day, different horizons, a different way?
Lost in indecision's maze, we sat for hours, some said days.
Inevitably time divided with each unrelenting slice of its scythe.
When its work was done, three groups stood tall, The Stay Behinds, The Undecided and The Gone Aways.
The light is dangerous
It reveals so much we see nothing.
Our shining city is a tumble of cinderblocks
Our glistening towers broken pine boughs
Jagged at the bloody tip
Where hearts have bled.
Our regal bridge is an overturned boat
It capsized with dreams.
Our flags and banners are
Spiderwebs spun so thick the
Sunlight struggles through the webs.
We are moths hovering at the edge of flame
The life we want
Is at the center of the fire
Dare to be burned.
The life we need is
Hidden in the red shadows
We are afraid to turn back.
At a desecrated barrier we stand
Six feet apart in the smoke
The ash whets our tongues as we call to each other
Each convinced we have found the portal
To the life we lost at the end of childhood.
Late evening on the way home. A woman was walking, dark-hair with parts that used to be bleached; murky orange ends in the evening light. It was cold, but all she wore was ripped jeans and a jacket, bubblegum pink with holes around the sleeves. Dirt gripped the beds of her nails and bits of purple lipstick here and there on her mouth.
Each move wobbled but her eyes held some point on the horizon. For hours now she’d been muttering about the day she’d been having.
Such sore feet now; what train of thought had led her to remove her shoes? One of her moods no doubt.
Funny to think at some point she might put them on again. Tie up clean laces and fasten the bow on a trainer. She imagined putting the clean fabric at the end - the kindest thank you she could think up for a shoe.
How long had she walked now? No way to know. And stupid to ask really. Her thoughts wandered to all the junk she’d picked up on her way, the little dirty objects that she couldn’t bear to leave.
A tiny wooden horse with one leg—not much help on the journey, thank you very much. Who’d heard of anyone taking a one-legged horse on a pilgrimage? People laughed, but she could hardly leave the tiny thing behind. He may be useless now sure, but look!—she'd say—He still has some of his markings left. Red paint faded pink... yes, of course, he’s bare and unvarnished in places.
Then a rope from the sea. Washed up and sandy from a recent storm, torn at both ends and thick, caught between the rocks. She couldn’t help but pick it up like a sailor.Read more >
If I can just get past this hour
If I can just get past this day
If I can just get past this night
If I can just get past this week
If I can just get past this month
If I can just get past this year
If I can just get past this
This brisk walk
This book of short fiction
This homemade thank-you card
These instructions from the dentist
These Five Things You Should Do To Improve Your Chances
This shopping bag that will certainly split but not before I reach the front door
This charmingly inconvenient, red-faced child, squawking in the middle of the pavement
This recipe so obscure that it might as well call for the distilled tears of one hundred virgins
This godforsaken iPhone app posing as a spirit level but, really, does that look even nearly right?
Read more >
I’ll never get used to the sun-licked tremblings
Of landscapes, every time it pours honey-
Cement over my feet and demands love.
Perhaps because we cannot ask it questions –
It is in the awe that peels you loose
That answers drip, like slumming ichor.
Does it listen to the purr and bubble
Of monotony, soaked in crushed minutes,
Bald walls and fickle bedframes blushing
in the evanescent precipice, the kind
I never seem to notice? It is only when
I’m busy dusting my mouth or polishing
Some greased cogitation I’m struck
By its warm knock, by my feet or against
Glass burning in its frame, a tired flame.
(To think the fat triped moon must stomach
The hot white teeth which bite it clean
Every day, and here my stomach rumbles.
Why must it ask for recognition
With its clear emptied face,
the kind we cannot look at?)
Sometimes, I wake with its faille embers
Pressed tight against the empty corners
Of my sedentary days like kindling,
Cracking its knuckles before snapping grey.
I sometimes wonder if it loves me back
Read more >
Roy G. Biv, they said. Look through a prism.
That’s always how the light breaks.
It’s immutable, and it’s beautiful.
Silly people, messing with things
they thought they could control, and
a laughably pathetic fence to keep us out.
But they didn’t bargain for the invisible,
radiation that wouldn’t stay in bounds,
created its own wind, penetrated silently,
climbed over and tunneled under.
Duck and cover, under a desk. It’s a drill.
Protect yourself from the gamma rays,
if the enemy ever does to us
what we so blithely did to others.
Finger pointing and boomerangs
always hold you to account.
I’d been to the market and had stopped for a waterside picnic before returning home. The blue sky had turned to a summer haze, the light looming sleepily as I gazed in to the distance at the ghostly vision of colour. I can still smell the oil. My first encounter with the brushes and canvas, a sketchy memory but I soon mastered what was required. Of course, the original was something else.
As I stood up, I noticed that the hole in my string bag had released the oranges, now rolling and floating into the water. An uncaptured still life. I wonder what ever happened to my painting by numbers picture.
both the way in and the way out
an escape from land or water
a hole in the wire
where everything passes through
no snags during passage
no thread or piece of cloth
to mark any second thoughts
no blood to indicate violence
or haste for an out of body experience
maybe you breathed in
to make sure of a way to go
or maybe it was a way in – to arrive
away from deep cold water
into light already graded for comfort
Fingers curl around woven twists of metal macramé, I face
my face to the light and let it spill over touch-starved skin
my surface fading thinning from the loss of others’ validation.
Into the ragged gap I push, naked against the twisting wires
we meld cold-into-hot soft flesh insisting against the bars
the tang of metal ringing with my rising blood, the colours
calling. Aching, I urge forward, attempt to lick the violet
in the air, to eat the waves of burning peaches, it is coming
for me, at last, and I am fastened tight to this place, locked
in its burning strands. We are one. I will wait for this, it will
come and I will be consumed/desired/absolved once more.
Walls are thin between the rest rooms. Late last night I heard the big boys talking about a special "scissors" they had found on the playground and what they are going to do with it the next night, “Before the guards realize it is gone,” whispered a voice I knew was my cousin Jorje.I struggled to stay awake the next night, stepped over my sleeping friends and on a stepstool meant for the sink, peered out the small window to watch for them. When the moon slipped behind a cloud, I saw the usually locked door to the playground open and the three of them sidled out, dropped down to the ground, and crawled toward the fence like the lizards who come in and out the fence to play with me.
There, one stood up and used this “scissors” to clip clip clip at the wire of this large square cage that kept us in. One by one, they slipped through the hole they had made, the last boy dancing silently when he came through—the others grabbing him quickly by the arms and dragging him along as they headed for the woods on the other side of the sandy expanse that lay around us like a beach with no ocean.
I tried to sleep but could not. When sun glowed through the window, I tiptoed through the hall and found the outside door, still unlocked. I saw the tape the boys had used to fool the lock and stepped outside. As I walked toward the opening, I looked up and smiled at the sun as he transformed the dark of night into blues, ever lighter, brighter, tinged with orange, revealing the white of the sand around us—until I reached the fence and then I saw the red—and once I saw it, red was all I could see. Blood. Life poured out upon the ground. I raised up my hand and felt the sharp place. Saw the “scissors” on the ground outside the fence and a trail of blood leading into toward the woods. I said a quick prayer that the blood was not Jorje’s.Read more >
A sunlight flare obscures the abandoned hazardous waste plant.
The heroine freezes with her tinsnips halfway through a wire.
The beauty of the illusion
makes her question her mission.
Out of sight and mind, the abandoned plant
hasn’t been tested for years.
Since the collapse of democracy,
there is little space for industry and none for
That doesn’t stop some people from
making a buck however.
The crisp dawn air carries a whiff of metallic
smoke. The heroine often sees people coming and going.
She’s smelled the smoke before.
She smelled it last night, and heard the trucks.
It took her most of the night to crawl this far.
When there was a government,
she saw proof that no water left
the hazardous waste nest.
That the wells were deep, the pits lined, and the smoke scrubbed,
no one cared.
As if on cue, she begins to cough.
It is a smoker's hack, but she has never smoked.
She learned a long time ago to lean into the cough,
to fight it.
As she leans toward the fence, her body moves her hand down. Read more >
For mothers with rainbow babies
It is easier to say yes.
To pretend your belly is a summer meadow
your flock is warm and safe.
The truth is
your fence has a hole
big enough for lambs to escape.
Treacherous and jagged.
Your field seems dark and arid.
You are blind
to the extraordinary rainbow