- Vol. 02
- Chapter 12
as I am driving Ana to school, she says: “Mummy, I do not want you to be old.” I glance at her in the back seat. She doesn’t look at me. Her eyes are on the world running past the window. She looks perfect. I know she isn’t perfect but in that moment, to me, she is the sight of perfection. Me and her, right now. Me: not old. She: not grown up.
the tone of dark inside the houses in my grandparents village. My great-grandmother, from whom I’ve inherited my first name, lived in a typical ground-floor house. There were only two small windows. As a child, I liked visiting the old lady, despite her being so old and us having nothing to talk about. She would give me a biscuit, but I think that what I really enjoyed was the darkness there. I would do nothing and wait for nothing.
This morning, still,
after I drop Ana at school, I notice a young woman passing by, pushing a cart. Though plainly dressed, she is beautiful. When she walks past me I can see that she is carrying dozens of copies of religious books and leaflets. There are more and more people (more young people, it seems) warning about the end of the world or perhaps I just notice them more. In the local park, lately, there is always an old man standing by the entrance door, talking about salvation. “Do you know that Jesus is light, a father and love? Do you know which of the three is more important?” He never waits for other people to answer: “Light, because without light you can’t see the father and without seeing the father you can’t enjoy his love.”
What is it the gone want us to do and see?
He rose to disrobe in debris - torn
from the bone of memory. Her hands
on his eyes. Lost in light, without weight.
With what ease she was dragged away.
She found a trunk in the outhouse dairy.
Fingers unhinging fragments of cloth,
a worn bolster hiding her banned book.
Each sinful word, her mother had erased -
sacrifice to the censor-hearted deity.
He found a suitcase in the attic room
where his father slept; an empty bed clean.
Opening to years of porn that no longer shocks,
though the women’s frocks his Dad also kept
he now holds to his face - breathing the seams.
This is what we find in our clearances.
This is what they choose not to sweep away.
The drag. The swell. The hidden. The smell.
The flaring. The unforgiving legacy.
You found copper-plate traces of letters -
incendiaries retained in envelopes where
it no longer matters. Unanswered mystery:
Dear Son. This comes to you in lamentation.
This may be my last letter home. Write to me.
to the mines and
my grandfather carried
a canary in a small cage.
When the bird expired he
chose to stay as the others
rushed to air.
At his funeral Mass in
the church he never
entered, a choir sang
Danny Boy that was his
drinking song. No one
understood his choice
to lay beside his pick
and sleep; but I had
spent a night in his home
when I was small and called
down for his company.
He lay beside me
and explained how
the light that reflects
through a prism is a true
division of a miracle and
this was joyous to him to
know and he described
the tracks of carts carrying coal
and the flashing lamps of fellow
gods and he recounted, touching
Read more >
golden house after
her husband’s death,
she remarried death
and he took away
everything she owned--
“Are you OK?” He asks. His voice is distant as if it has travelled a million miles to reach her; perforated by digital belches. She forms a circle with her index finger and thumb. Mission control winks and drops what’s left of his cigarette into an empty beer bottle.
When the thrusters kick in, the noise seems loud enough to wake the whole town. Vibrations run through her spine and dance around her teeth. She feels the ground fall away; first slowly, then so fast she knows turning back is no longer an option.The view from her within her eyelids turns blue, violet, then black.
Gravity reaches out for her but she slips through its fingers. She floats, disconnected from everything around her. At this sensation, she stretches out her arms and legs and, for a moment, she joins the infinite number of stars that prick at the darkness. If this were death, she thinks, there’s nothing left to fear.
Before she can let go and join the universe, physics kicks in. The ground rushes up to meet her. The curve of the horizon straightens out and the blur of colours transforms into a montage: a terrain of rubble; rays of dirty light; the face of a child she never knew. Splashdown.
He arrives on the scene as fast as he can. Her legs are weak and he helps her lurch towards to the empty chair beside him.
Without touching her, he traces the fresh tattoo on her neck with his index finger. He welcomes her to his planet.
There must be an echo – still reverberating out, out into the neighbourhood. I must have broadcast way out beyond the stratosphere, to the edges of the galaxy at the absolute least. Fear, terror, tears, pain, heartache. My Mayday, my SOS. The degeneration of my young, strong body, for what? I never knew.
I never found the frequency that could be heard.
Then, he stopped coming and gradually the house stopped working too. Still, I sat shackled in the attic.
The house has been on the market for seven years; never sold. Instead, it began to cave: at first a few slates, a cracked window, children playing big and throwing stones. A small fire rumoured to have been set by squatters was extinguished promptly by the local fire brigade, that’s when they found me.
The house endured, until now. Demolition day: by order of the local authority.
The street, the neighbourhood, the local authority, all of whom sanctioned this cleaning up, the erasing of an eyesore in their community. They had all been deaf to my existence, then outraged and mystified when they found me. Even if it had not been too late, I would not have been able to tell them why.
So, here I sit, as the walls come down, in this old chair in this attic, where I had been bound so tightly in life that I remain forever thereafter.
I went to pick up the phone, and the cord came away in my hand, and the hall stand it was on collapsed with the sudden movement. No words for me. I laughed until my throat burned. The sound of pigeons fluttering like pinwheels drew me up into the attic. I knew before looking that there was no glass in the windows, or in any of the windows on the street. It is funny how much you laugh when you know you are doomed, but the manner of your damnation turns out to be so calm, so precisely your own. I stood on a rusty nail, and pulled it out just as easily.
What they would tell me later is that I had slept. They would try to tell me more of it, and every time I'd put my hand up, laughing, until they stopped talking, and listened to me. Their dirty, thin, modern faces turned up to mine. I was the old world and its disgraces. I was the thing to be seen and marvelled at, to project my understanding of what was lost. No more recording every moment now - all cameras broken, all blood red batteries leached to spitting shells.
I had no reason to feel ashamed. I carried my ruination out of that house as I had brought it, primly indoors. Each day I left the sleepers to their rest - I never would again - and sat light and watchful over camp and the now distant blue-shadowed city stuffed with leathered bones and rust, and searched until I saw my old house, an eyeless mirror, set just so.
pull from the depths
across the ebb
only to remember
what one always forgets
flowing – fleetingly seen
below the tempest where
eternal depths despair
fragmenting memories remain
forgotten to forget
"As comfortable as a donkeys knell, and indubitably as morose." Edith Whitcliff, 'On Borrowed Time'
"Kinda like Trump meets Tracy Emin..." Solstice News
"A Masterpiece, a cut above Jeff Otto O'Brien's 'Untidy Room'" Punch and Judy Times
"People will muse on it for hours, oh the stories it will tell..." George Timbly, 'Shoken Down'
"Beautiful, disturbing, post-solar piece." Wyatt Gallery, London
"Determined, arched light - the lone bear in the dilapidated zoo." Seamus O'Murphy, 'Tundra on the Rocks'
"Apex of observance that's trusted more than politics..." Lionel Fromsver, great, great, great, great cousin of the late E. Chambré Hardman.
“Superb! Superb! His vision of post solar is ravaged in truth and bare honesty, the chair as brutal as a hangman’s noose.” Los Angeles Times
An undiscovered 'Inns' was found at the back of a wardrobe of a house in Hunters Lane, (a known place where Alastair Inns, the last man to see sunlight, known to photograph and paint light among wreckage) took his holidays after the 2nd World War.
The photograph has been donated to the South London Gallery. Many are calling it a tribute to ‘global’ humanity - a title once reserved for Humphrey Bell’s shocking masterpiece ‘Silicon Leylines’. It will be on display for three weeks alongside Samuel Tnindo’s Collection (200 years on) and Lucy Belmonte’s Third Collection (Lies). *First Floor Galleries, Free Admission.
To water wind
Once strong and sturdy.
Built to last generations,
as dreamt by its maker
made with care and love
like a parent to their child.
But now it grows old, Left
Its body slowly withers and rot away
holes and breakage appear all over.
Its pipes and wooden skeleton
weaken from rusts and moss.
Its former beauty slowly loss to the passage of time.
A strange beauty emerges
From its skeletal and broken formed.
The touched of human life
but it remains.
To help mother natures young seeds
have been once one of many
but now with its purpose gone.
Read more >
cluttered, our first garments
crafted for us in the bodies
of our mothers are of clay,
and these we keep
for the duration of our
stay upon this planet, and must
learn to treat them kindly,
balance gently, sweep and dust
and scrub and polish where
and when its needed
only then, when we have
learned this discipline will we
be able to consider other garments,
furniture and drapes to make our
personal space more pleasing
to the heart and eye
choose the next layers we put
on with thoughtfulness and care,
decide what roles are meaningful
and resonate with passion, value
beyond our own egos, create
a welcoming impression
Let in the light.
Let in everything, please...
Before the fire I could see
over the horizon to St. Ives,
the farm was as clear as ice.
Now the daylight pricks my conscience,
sitting in this armchair. Why did I do it?
- light a cigarette in my sepia hand,
when too tired to put it out?
The bagging and crabbing are done.
The actors leave.
Through an open window:
One moon and three stars.
The forth: an Airbus A380.
The curtains smell creamy lemon and cabbage.
On a mantle above the fireplace: an atomiser made of fired saliva and scrotum containing the essence of a man from a suburb on the edge of London.
He was warned but did not listen and now it’s too late.
On a milking stool in a corner: a bowl containing eyeballs contracting into pellets.
To moisten they must roll. Unfortunately, their rolling days are done.
On the wall: a sailboat thrust up toward sky.
You can't always be THAT guy, the sky seems to say.
From light to dark
And back again
Past windows that do not reflect
The shredded souls left behind
Where the dust of centuries
Marches amongst ruins
A coverlet hiding dark scurryings
That brought down
A burnt-out throne
Cast aside the martyr’s cross
Piled humanity high
And sold it cheap
when she becomes the room; the coconut
filaments of hollow snakes — folding and unfolding
onto themselves — the fumbling arrogance,
so elegant and unrefined, the iron and wine
of confusing adrenaline for fear — the missing
apothecary table full of serengeti tea — neurosity
is the biconvex marrow of burnt sienna.
neurosity is not sleep, but the estranged mother
of death, not deep in the nook of each crescendo,
not the peripheral demand for flesh or pancakes,
but the difficulty of manipulating domestic objects —
the thread spool or the ladle or the can of oranges
and sardines, scalloping them into the sharp
pin-wheel-kaleidoscope, a bobbin full of yolk.
neurosity is the sweltering state of hospitality,
the epochs of counting backwards, an entire
civilization made of ants, rats, and roaches,
the chiffon goiters of thought, it is the Vietnamese
immigrant tailor isolated on stage — blinded
by the empty audience — bathing in their restless
laughter and currents of lissome pencil shavings.
gutted, busted open,
ripped apart, dilapidated,
dosed in destruction,
drained of vitality,
prepared for the vultures,
descended upon by the angel of death,
made ready for apocalyptic revelations…
and yet, still,
at least there remains a spot to sit
and let the light shine in…
“Clara, I have something of your mother’s in my house that she wanted me to give to you. She told me before she died that she put it in her gold jewelry box in the attic next to the old wooden chair. I promised her I would give it to you on the day of your wedding, but we both know that’s not possible.”
Before I could find out what it was, my grandmother’s eyes closed and the machine flat lined. I kissed her cold lifeless hand and wished her peace.
A week went by and the funeral was over. I missed my grandmother Mae, but I was glad her suffering was done. To be frank, the burden was too much. It was disheartening and exhausting watching her go through chemotherapy, her constant nausea and vomiting. What was it all for? In the end the chemotherapy didn’t kill the cancer, the cancer killed her.
After things settled down, I went to my grandmother’s house to clear out. I spoke with a prominent real estate to put her house on the market. One thing I had to do first was go upstairs to the attic. Once I pulled down the attic ladder it smelled musty. Upon my ascent up the old rickety stairs, the dust clogged my nose and I sneezed. The floor boards were dirty and the windows covered with cob webs. I saw the old wooden chair. On top was a dusty brown blanket. Next to it was a bin which I assumed had the jewelry box my grandmother spoke of. I opened the bin and dust filled the air. Inside were several items; an old pink baby blanket, a few toy dolls, and even a picture of my father. He was a young handsome man. Read more >
through the days when we stayed in
and we weighed on its polyester shell
with forgotten words, the lost change
tucked away, by the side of the seat
there it is, one arm to hold on to
while the other is missing...
I waited for him to
get up and go. I waited for him
to tell me 'go out and live!'
I waited until Life's inevitable tides
carried me across, out of that room
Still, he was left there
behind the dark shades he wore -
It was always a tinted sunset he saw -
I waved, but no longer waited
I waved to tell him I made it
I don't think he's seen me -
those damn shades!
(wasted away, tears left unsaid
He's now tucked right under
and a tattered chair outstays
with only one arm to hold on to
while the other...)
We could hear her coming down the stairs, the wooden crutches clattering one-two, the squeak-squeak of her feet. Father met her at the door and helped her into the flat. I went upstairs to fetch the teacup and saucer. I looked out the window at the leafy ocean: swaying, swaying. The indentation of my mother’s body lay impressed upon the chair. I sat down and imagined what she thought in the long afternoons she spent up here. And this is what I saw:
Long slender legs, tipped with toes made of feathers, feet fluttering across the treetops;
A gnarled hand reaching out to brush back her hair, obscuring the sun for a moment before the sandy fingertips alight on her forehead;
A baby, swaddled tight, held in the crook of her arm, its lips parted as it sleeps;
My mother lowering herself into a pool of water as my father strips off his clothing, their young bodies moving in laughter;
branches pared and planed
all arranged skyward
Our necks craned toward
heat warped mirrors
set against a steely sky
Disease always settles like dust
Always in the places
we just cannot reach.
the chair will be my seat
the window will be my world
the floor will be sweet to my foot
as I gaze
on the low-down world
from the only bit of sky
I can pay for.
tales born of the pub, off small country roads
where you took no heed for the season’s clothes,
out walking as grey-filled heaven unloads.
‘I need to get wet to get wet,’ you’d say,
knowing it wasn’t rain that fell into
your cup: the beer: the whisky: sour bouquet
of hops and dregs, of congealed Irish stew.
When I was a crutch back to your doorstep,
the four walls told me how you had suffered,
but I was too young and too mute to help,
your red face shut me up: nothing offered.
We never talked together, never drank,
now I hear nothing, this old room a blank.
I looked out of the window over our creaking neighbourhood and considered how neat and tidy it used to be.
I played that toy guitar she gave me. The sham sound from its synthetic strings finally made sense.
I eavesdropped on the birds. They talk differently at this height. They speak of future plans. They moan about the worms at Number 12.
I listened to my heart slow down. From a clobbering throb that started in the kitchen when you threw that knife at me, it descended to an even pace that let me breath again.
The sunset helped.
I tasted freedom. It always faded from my tongue when your car pulled in to the driveway.
I touched the wooden beams as if they were still alive, feeling for the running sap, feeling for connection.
I liked it when you thought it was just storage up here. You thought it was just a place to dump things.
You climbed up the ladder so quietly I didn't notice. You normally stomp around the house making your presence felt with every step. You saw me looking out over the other side of our repetitive streets towards the haze of the city.
when we rented
the ground floor of his
He was 70 something
but was up early
in the garden where I
looked for magic eggs.
He picked lilies in a basket,
I dug with my toes.
He picked, I looked.
Then with pencils, scalpels
near roots that didn’t go in.
Sure enough after a few days
there were dusty dark
red eggs I carried everywhere.
The kind that fit between
my fingers, never fell.
One morning when he didn’t
make it to the garden, my
father pronounced him dead,
washed his body clean, put
him in an ice box
where I left his eggs.
Divorced from our grasp, our closed corpuscles to what lay on the floor
To the worlds above and beyond.
As the sunlight clawed its way through the bones of the windows
We stood, paralyzed;
Unable to define the outside world that lay, now furled
Like a luxurious carpet beckoning forth.
Framed by the dust and hatching
Brushstrokes of our realities longing for a palette
To carve and recreate the world with
Our own signature.
For so long she had been patching the home,
DIY'ed the damaged inside of all we had known
As we sat, holding hands,
As the storm settled
Before our eyes.
You’re a clean child from a clean home, my mother would say, Never forget that!
I never did. Yet wondered why I needed to be informed of this fact, since I had no notion of there being any other kind of home. I assumed all children’s soft bare feet scurried over kitchen floors that were washed every other day, swept every day. Clean enough to eat off! my mother would boast. Thought all clothes on small backs, on wriggling raring to go feet, on more-or-less clean bottoms, were clothes that had been washed to worn out cleanliness, to blinding whiteness. Thought the world of grown ups was as pure and simple as that. Thought dirt belonged outside in the garden.
My own knowledge of the world was confined to our scrubbed clean house, our dilapidated barn, my soon to be absent father, my mother and a baby I was told was my sister. Though I was having none of it – and in that I was half right.
For I was a Kafkaesque creature then, half child, half beetle, a child who liked nothing better than to grub about looking for grubs.
I would dig for them as assiduously as a jackdaw, ecstatic should I come upon a chafer grub – not that I knew its name. Convinced I was saving them from a violent death, I would store them in matchboxes, feeding them with crumbs from the about to be scrubbed kitchen table; thus preventing the birth of the bewinged creature that would have emerged had I not interfered with its life cycle.
I was a few years short of knowing the word entomology – or etymology, come to that. I knew the word spider, but not arachnoid, knew caterpillar and butterfly were one and the same, but knew nothing of larva, pupa, chrysalis or imago. All these pleasures were to come – as was the pain of knowing the true meaning of words. Read more >
position of identifying death—
:: each hand that has
placed intuition here (or, life in the fathom of expecting options)
is a product of night’s elongated
promise to forget inanimate existence
within the fingerprinted nuances
of disparate function—
to ascertain the body once
sitting on this broken comfort, centered
a fresh explanation of home
in the function of pivoting ease—
to see this loft of degraded
posture, now, filled with absence
of the warmth once penetrating body—
:: acclimation informs through syllables’
infatuation with contextual pronunciation
He shows me around. He tells me that he doesn’t spend a lot of time up here; he prefers an abandoned shed nearby behind the old factory that no one else seems to know about. He only came up here occasionally to take some firewood. Yet he shows me around like an old curator, pointing out objects of interest. I want to ask him if there is anything of here still here. I want to ask him if he knows of anything she might have left behind. I don’t tell him about the plastic bag full of rubbish they gave me in the mortuary, all that the emergency crews had left of her when they’d finished trying.
He tries to tell me another story, a story he knows better. He tries to tell me a story about a fight, years ago, between two men over a woman, right over there, he says, but I’m not looking. I only care about her story. I want to find something of her. I tell myself that somewhere, somewhere here amidst the ash and the dirt and the old tiles I’ll find something of the her that I knew. I kid myself thinking that somewhere she hid an old photograph or a piece of jewellery, something from her old life, from the life I knew. Read more >
Looking for you
Waiting for you to come for me
The window pane held the stain of my heavy breath
Longer than you ever did
I could always depend on my misty breath to hold me
I traced notes with my fingers
x's and o's
Long stories left on dewy glass
That you'd never read
I wonder if the window in grandma's room
still holds traces of the oily longing I left behind
drawn on the window so long ago
as I waited for the mother who never returned.
we’ve been told is true
The hurricane dervishing
up the coast won’t stop here
The morning balloon with
its leaf-peeping cargo
Won’t anchor in the valley
to exchange passengers
The fog you mistook for
a cloud won’t settle on
Your heart the son on
the operating table
Won’t stay asleep the
grandfather you barely
Knew who could peel
an apple in a single
won’t rise from his
Chair and fall with the
pulse of his own blood
The motes in the sunlight
won’t settle things
A shabby old chair basked in the warm rays and reflected on days gone by.
Never to be a comfort to anyone again. It was sad, it was ashamed of it's appearance and glad it could hide up here in the attic.
It felt comfort from it's memories . Happy days in the boossom of a family. Children playing and jumping on him. A tired mother sinking down into his well sprung upholstery and resting against his plush material.
Where were they all now?
A mouse popped it's head out from behind a pile of rubble nearby. Scurried over to the chair, ran up it's leg and snuggled down into what was left of its upholstery. Soon there would be babies.
The chair felt somehow comforted. It was needed again.
The sun's rays had brought new life.
As I slink up the spiral staircase, my hand gliding along the wood, that warm, surprisingly warm wood, I feel the trembling begin. Love and fear. Not both. It. Love is a synonym for fear; I learnt that. Focus on the feeling. It's the same. The same fluttering, swallowing. The same wanting to scream and sob and throw yourself down. Identical. When I learnt that love and fear are the same it made my life a lot easier. But also, I guess, a lot harder.
I'd see her sometimes, in her shawl, the same amber as the draping on her chair. She would smile, and you could really believe that in her life of sadness she was, in that instant, happy. Maybe she felt the love-fear too. Maybe I wasn't alone. We spoke little, but I can remember most words we said. Not every word, that would be clichéd and ridiculous, but most. I remember her eyes: light blue, like a winter sky - winter is the best time. You can breathe, then - and her laugh, so croaky from smoking. And full of love-fear, like her soul had been scratched and this was her bleeding.
She didn't die in the hurricane. For her to die though something natural, something unavoidable, would almost have been bearable. But no. They found her days before, lying, smiling. Full of pills. I always wondered. Not why. More, was it me. Did I make any difference in her life, either way. I have no idea. As I said, her words to me were few.
I remember walking from the nice, lit museum room of the Clerecía into the skinny, dusty tower. Up the steps, my hand clenching that banister, so cold. Up and up, alone, the only person in the world, the only person left - and I felt it. Not some holy rush of wind and flame. Read more >
One by one and then leave the nest for cities
Unknown and strange in life journeys replicated
Across the world, time and again, by fellow men.
Now unused, silent and dusty, it is in ruins
That was never imagined by anyone then!
The expanded town below can be glimpsed
From its glass windows, mere phantom
Shimmering in the haze outside, mere jagged
Outlines, rugged shapes, sketched against a white sky!
Inside the attic the years crawl in the dust deposited
By the passing tempests, rains, summers and winters bitter;
Gleeful laughter can be heard like the rolling thunder
Of the violent storms in the enclosed space that was
Hideout for the siblings, distant echoes reverberate
But hardly anybody listens to the voices rising up from the past.
A living home---the attic in every family is a mute witness
To brawls, bickering, tears and then bear- hugs; some old books
And chairs discarded in the halls and then moved up to the room half
Suspended in air!
Now, that half-room sits hunched, like the hulk of a rusted ship abandoned
In a choppy sea and buffeted by the strong waves and winds.
Debris of the decades lies thick there on its unswept floor
Without any footprints zigzagging, crisscrossing it, in a fervent
Quest for bits and pieces of childhood forever gone;
Blankets, sagging chairs, wooden sheets and other items
Testify to histories and secrets mutually shared with inmates
Over sandwiches and coffee mugs, tones conspiratorial, faces grim
Read more >
Scent of old mould, mice and memories.
It wasn’t like this long ago,
Sat here at midnight, sipping coffee, talking.
Light flickers through old rafters
Holding up nothing.
Beams that structured the old life
Hold only dusty cobwebs now.
Even the spiders have abandoned them.
Crouching on the remains of the chair,
My arse falls through holes in the stuffing.
I pull the ragged throw of memories around me.
Tears sluice my eyes of the life I live
Leaving them clear and washed,
Open to the past, the old days.
Life still holds me close
Like the ragged rug about my shoulders.
Where am I now?
The old armchair of comfort
Waits with worn creases;
Alone in time.
The last visitor was a lame pigeon -
A warbling feathered sightseer,
Not a loyal sitter;
Escaping life’s rhythm.
Since human warmth had left the home,
The chair had no purpose
But to wait,
An abandoned throne.
Five months later he moved in, marvelling at the luxury and sheer splendour of the place, how beautiful everything was – just like the owner.
Of course I had heard all this before but when you don’t have a mouth, how can you voice your concerns?
So I watched instead as his things multiplied, reclaiming me, her space, and invading her life.
They would spend most evenings staring at the star-encrusted sky, losing themselves in endless possibilities. They seemed peaceful, content, comfortable in each other’s arms, and my doubts began to subside.
Six months later – a year to the day to be precise, he asked her to marry him, and of all the places he could have chosen, he chose here, inside me. She raised a hand to her mouth and cried, two glistening tracks streaming down her cheeks. Of course she said yes, he was “the one”, the one she had been waiting her whole life for. And he was hers.
But then one day everything changed.
I heard them arguing early one morning, their bedroom below me and slightly to the right, flinging insults at each other like it was no-one’s business.
I thought it was a lovers’ tiff, that’s all they usually are; except this was the start of something bitter and nasty like a cursed lemon. The frequency of these exchanges increased from twice a week to once a day, sometimes more; him slamming doors and bounding up the stairs while she smashed plates and ran to the bathroom in floods of tears.
Read more >
A weak sun shone through the exposed eaves on to a chaos of debris, home only to spiders and vermin. Like a bomb site, it was hard to imagine the airy and elegant attic room it had once been, although, bizarrely, the roof tiles been piled neatly under the window, as if awaiting re-use.
Vladimir breathed an almost inaudible sigh. He smiled: it was still their room, the room in which they had lived, had laughed, had loved.
He went to the window and beckoned. Immediately a shaft of sunlight burst more strongly into the room, picking out the brass corners of a small box embedded in the depths of the ruined chair. Nodding in satisfaction, Vladimir reached out delicate and translucent fingers towards it. In answer to his gesture, the box gently rose into the air, floating upwards on a myriad of sparkling dust motes. The lid opened, to reveal the small figurine of a young woman, spiralling gently to the tinkling chimes of the musical box. The room was filled with warmth and the subtle perfume of violets. Tatiana had come home.
Tatiana, her eyes blue as the winter sky, her laughter like troika bells. Tatiana in her favourite gown, the swish of white lace a glissando, a rhythmic accompaniment to the endlessly circulating strains of ‘Plaisir D’Amour’. Music that cleansed the air.
Vladimir smiled his ghostly smile. Now love had returned to this broken place.
This ‘returning to’.
“Oh yes, let’s go back there some day.”
This coming back to.
Meant to be a 'repeat' really
I can tell now, by the longing in my heart.
I did not want to revisit.
In truth I wanted to relive.
To relive or rather refeel the love that was.
For it is the love I longed for.
It just staged itself as sofa, walls, windows.
“Oh yes, let’s go back there some day.”
I remember the frame within which love was held.
Ever rip in wallpaper, ever uneven tile that
“Oh yes, let’s go back there some day.”
But now that you are gone.
Now that you no longer reside here
neither does love.
I see that now.
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of all things loved. Grandma's
favorite chair was seated
perfectly in the middle, surrounded
by years of family belongings
and gifts we never opened.
it was still sturdy in its presence;
strong, yet defeated. she noticed
it as soon as we walked through
what used to be the door to
our attic. I could hear my Mom's
tears drowning out the
solid winds leftover from
this morning's vicious storm.
I looked to my left,
my Father was calculating
the damage in his distorted mind,
silently weeping for decades of
debris. I am the eldest. I was
the only child home at the time.
We all hid in our basement,
thankful to have had shelter
from God's wrathful hand.
when the storm passed,
is where i stood at twilight
hesitant to approach
because the paint was old
and faded past any color
the path overgrown
with grasses and flowers
that would not be contained
no matter the energy applied
to keep them down
but the windows were all clean
they spoke of gentle care
of quiet preparation
and patient waiting
for company that would come
a movement caught my eye
a flicker of white lace
as the porch light sprang to life
wind-chimes sang a poem of welcome
and i was at that moment
no more a stranger,
but a friend to be fed
for the first time at your table
So evenly it sheds
skin, love -
a gentle slip
to betray a leather
its new & true jacket,
in fresh venom.
I arch the path
of the latest asp
in hot ash,
along cinders of
our nebulous friends;
kidneys, liver, lovers -
those fallen organs
shape neurotic beds
for a living dead.
Laura glared as best she could. Things had happened which faded her customary expression of displeasure to a mere shadow of what they had been.
“Oh I’m sure you can work that out if you think about it, love. Look, I’ll tidy this to a veritable palace.”
“Veritable palace, eh?” She laughed and felt the more solid for it. She’d felt she’d been fading away since…since when? A confused frown furrowed her pale brow.
He noticed and engulfed her. “None of that now, and sure we’ll only be here for a while until we get sorted for the new home.” He surveyed the wreckage and surreptitiously turned her away from the charred remains of a cradle.
After a while, he carried her to the chassis of his favourite chair and did a fair impression of sitting on it, clasping her to his insubstantial chest as sobs indicated her returning memory, temporarily dashed against the cliffs of trauma.
“What about our baby?” she wept into him.
Read more >
at the degree of deterioration, Eddy eats renaissance.
Liberal amounts of cheese and dressing prior later
than public option. D. Eddy is the one who knocks.
The death instinct of survival overeats these sugar
relatives. D. Eddy never had milkshakes and cokes.
The landlord must give the tenant at least three days
to correct the problem. If the tenant has lived in the
premises for more than one year, the landlord must
provide at least 60 days’ notice to vacate. Buffoons
empty the vessel. They are the chosen. The breach
of anywhere but here conjures ghosts in machines.
When will the gods of caseloads concede? Groins
of a tear syncopate. Eddy dies before omniscience.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the light was still good. The sky was the same even if we weren't. My image was cut into sections in the almost uncracked mirror I'd found and propped against piles of your life. I looked as if a ladder was superimposed on me, an escape route for me to take myself out of the situation. This unnerved me so I moved to the left and had only rungs on my calves. I was naked so the effect of the light shining through the window slats was unavoidable to my eye, I had no clothes to absorb it and cover me then in darkness. That was the point of today. I'd waited a long time for this moment.
Maybe you'd been biding time too, finding stasis a comfort rather than a sign of neglect, cocooning yourself in the disintegration of the fibres of your being. I could taste the years of dust rolling around you and feel the mustard cloth of your special chair softening and breaking down in my mouth. This damp room was your diary and filled me with spores of your every halted thought and action. I was here to change that. To give you life again. Make me alive.
As I took out the surgical marker I was in that gallery with you again arguing about plastic surgery and female beauty. You scorned the slashes of surgery markings as not being real art but feminist propaganda. I loved her work so fought with you just enough to make you think I didn't love you. Then we started to believe it. Began to act like it more often. You asked to paint me, I said I was too busy to create pointless memories for you and that was pretty much that. We never spoke again but I heard you and felt you even if I never saw you. Today you would see everything you'd wanted then.
Read more >
yet the damage of love can still survive.
If you make your own chair carved out of pain,
from heartbroken sighs and love twisted rain.
You can cluster your feelings and set them anew
like a finely thatched roof with a fireproof flue.
As night slides down the rafters, hauls stars from above,
hope’s bound to find you antimacassed in love.
Ghosts are friends
I talk to them
But in silence
As long as I desire
Like an intimate hangover
Oh friendly chair
You will hold my arse forever
Way out beyond the television and across the city
I can see
Where it is still day
In Gethsemane you tell me we will meet at this place. You will bring your horn and I my ancestor’s bone. Instead, you give me offerings. Small, metallic people lovingly crafted with numbed fingers that we insert into new openings I’ve acquired in my body since we last met. Whose mouths thin, then morph into the sounds of injuries travelling through planes. We will crawl from opposite ends of the room carrying bits of a ceiling beneath our tongues, howling a language we’ve inherited at the window in exchange for reduced scenes of a bright morning. We will collect receipts for resurrections, tiny white flags strewn on the ground stained by rubble. After our dance of blindness, of ashes becoming gold at an angle, there is stillness.
You tell me we will meet at this place. You will call me by my name.
We will come naked. I will remember cold wood, debris, a dilapidated throne. And the small army you built for me dispatched around cities, blinking away blood in revolving doors.
(inspired by Laura M. Kaminski's 'Personal Space')
well within the hour of a dusted
line of slates, I had the painting
especially matched to the gild
glint of grates on the frame rims
only because, all this trouble, for he
sent word on a sparrow's wings
of his visit tonight; the lights had to
be perfected dim, a bright as high
as the far away glow that falls off
of the moon's wall onto the shades
on my ceiling; and it had to match
the frame - all else just an optical
allusion - to the way his eyes would
see and tell, approve, appropriate,
appraise. Let the door bell herald
his larger than life steps, let him see
of the way I stayed unchanged, meet
here, all I ask is for you not to pull
your rank on me, stay over a while -
the (complete) night, go blind
and let just the chime bear eyes.
You can’t conflate hobble down rafters life with us: the climbing ones, the left behind. That is for the masters to do, not us, and we live and breathe these sunlit splinters, end of the dust breached day all you’re looking for is a place to lay your head. Flat. We miss our knees our scratch in the dark kisses you will long back for this one day I tell you, glue head face in the mist and what are all our reachings for if not for this?
Golden thread sag of the arched morning the slip when you realise the task is done. We met your acquaintance by the singing space the flag raised your mother there, my mother there and what are we for if not for this?
Dew dances slowly you know, not fast - that was the racket of the clattering birds the clambering and shitting drips us down smooth into crumbled crown-ground the Subutteo pitch mismanaged, the players left for dead. I saw a lion once in a golden throne ascending and descending from a Christmas pantomime and I cried my crisp little heart out called in Mama, Mama, take me away, Mama, why do we have home if not for this?
Misused daylight is why I come here for the stop start motion of the calling, the hands and knees route of the strips of forgotten. Why tell me I ask or when for the cat who visits his hair his territory his advisory stroke. I have missed too many places I come for the not missing for the blank for the filter of evening through broken for the time you might look up and see. Why do I lean out if not for this?
I have a talent for joining sinking ships,
setting fire to first-class lifeboats,
the forests I planted in the attic,
imperial green zones of our hopes
that we needed to raze so we could
pretend to begin again, because nothing
says fresh start like fresh ashes.
I’m walking in the gutter to feel higher
than something, anything, craving
autonomy like those pines demanded
the sun when they were young. Now
I’m left with spars I can throw so well
I’ll hit all the motes in your eye; you’ll
believe me when I say I feel your pain.
Halfway down the bottle on a Friday night, I stand in front of the tall bookcases and know already that I’m bored. You’ve called to tell me you won’t be home for hours and I’ve re-read everything here twice. What I’m looking for is something new. Tell me something I don't know. That sentence has made me smile since I was a schoolgirl.
I decide to pick something from your study shelves but turn too quickly and spill cold wine from my glass. I feel it trickling through my toes onto the wooden floor. Damn. I walk back to the kitchen and pick up a tea towel and the bottle that’s even emptier than I thought.
Photographs on the wall smile out at me and I nod to them, running through the details of who and when and where in the junctions of our lives. Tonight my recall rate is high. Tick-tock to the old grey cells. It might be my reflection but I think I see disapproval in your eyes in our wedding portrait. Tell me something that I don’t know, I think before bumping my elbow painfully on the door to your study.
I don’t switch on the light. The book I want shines down – a white spine with thick black letters holding page after glossy page of the extravagant palaces we visited on our honeymoon. The book almost falls from my grasp as I pull it down, it’s heavier than I remember. A scrap of paper, a photo falls to the floor and I wonder when I put it there but of course, I didn’t. The picture shows the burned out interior of a huge, ornate building similar to the ones we saw. Hollow window frames look out onto treetops. The rafters make an almost pattern against the sky. Ruined tiles sit neatly stacked to one side, already coated deeply in dust. Broken glass and falling beams criss-cross the site. The rich fabrics are shredded by flame or perhaps by the effort to put out the fire. The devastation is complete.
It has been too long. We stare at the chair in the middle of the room as if you are coming back.
"She’s not coming back."
"She’s coming back," I say, and Laney leaves it at that.
I think about the dripping candle in your hands as you leave and the look of surprise on your face as we let you. It’ll be okay, we said, and you said it right back to us, nodding. It’ll be okay.
Judging by the light in the window it has been at least a day since you’ve gone. One of us had to leave, I’d said, and that one of us had to be you. The rest of the girls were too young, but you had steely hands – mum’s hands – and you could run, you could hide. The Men would not be able to catch up with you; your legs tough like oak, grown from years of riding our bikes up and down the road – me alongside you, sometimes letting you follow, sometimes following you.
It has been two weeks since the Women disappeared. We suspect the Men but we don’t really know anything at all. The seasons have changed. Days are cold or hot or nothing at all. On the first day we woke to TVs and radios and mobiles in black and white: Men talking about Men, our parents gone. We found each other on the same road – young girls hiding from something, we just didn’t know what.
The chair is the colour of unripe pears. I think of you sitting there, toying with a pack of candles we had swiped from a looted shop days ago. I think of autumn and try to remember the nip in the air and the small sun fighting for space on our skin. I think of leaving, running after you, but I look at the rest of the girls and know I can't.
Read more >
This mill shut years ago when cloth went north.
In the 80s smaller businesses cleared
off too – a tennis ball manufacturer,
foundry for cast-iron manhole covers,
a print works – in advance of conversion
to apartments. Nothing happened, of course,
so the site enjoyed unplanned renaissance
as a playground for trainee arsonists,
curious boys, glue sniffers, damp lock-ups
for shady antique dealers. Now we loom
from the mill's brick-smashed office dormer,
gaze through holes in the weft of purlin and warp
of grey sky and listen as a blackbird's
thin bright thread of song works loose in the breeze.
Thrice removed from reality
It was the debris
Of the ideal chair in the ideal world
And the shreds of my hankering
Into broken mirrors
Split into many
I was not a mess.
The crumbling walls in me
Were not real
They withstood my tears
With a residue
In my subdued talk.
Here is the place I sit
smelling of age and wondering
what I should pick up first
The movers are outside
to take me away, but I left
a long time ago, and just
Grandmother made me
this fringed blanket and I
watched it fray over the years
along with my mind
When they open the door, I
will escape down the stairs
I know better than they do,
and I will join this light that
Invades my small resting place.
The day I advertised my furniture on Freecycle, a woman arrived within the hour and filleted the leather sofa.
‘What’ll you do with the stuffing?’ I asked.
She showed me a picture of an attic room, roof tiles piled next to a sloping wall of windows; in the centre, a ruined chair draped with a threadbare shawl the colour of lichen.
‘The chair’s a classic,’ she said. ‘I’m reupholstering it. We’re renovating everything.’
She slid her Stanley knife back into the tool pouch that hung from the waistband of her shorts and gathered up the cushion pads ready to go.
I could tell that chair in the picture would be a work of art when she’d finished with it. She fizzed with can-do energy; her hands were blunt-fingered and strong. Outside, a man wearing a black pork pie hat and a narrow beard revved the engine of their VW van. Long planks of burnished wood were strapped to the top.
‘They’re from Freecycle too,’ she said when she saw me looking through the window. ‘From the floor of an old school. We’re picking up some Mexican wall tiles later.’
Their whole building project screamed Grand Designs. I could picture the two of them working in harmony – hammering, sanding, painting, tiling. In a few months, that attic would be transformed. I wanted them to stay, sit down with me and drink the rest of the wine, make a toast to their future success but he sounded the horn for her to hurry.
Read more >
I loved the attic. A large chunk of school hols were spent prying into forgotten treasures and lounging in the saggy old armchair, reading, sleeping and sucking sweets ('not healthy, darling').
Mother couldn't understand the urge to climb flights of stairs to disappear in a dusty old storeroom. Father overruled her by saying,
'A lad needs time to reflect on his day and plan his next'.
Mother would nod, sagely.
My pals, Tom and Ted, were occasionally allowed in my sanctum. We were accustomed to sounds of mice scampering and giggled like girls if we saw hairy spiders threading across the beams. The only fly in the proverbial ointment was my sister, Cora, the thumb sucking girl with the sturdy legs.
'When I'm big I shall go up there,' she stated defiantly many times. Our parents insisted that it was out of bounds to her.
One indelible-stamped-on-memory day I had 4 secrets in my pocket; 5 if you included the matches. Ted and Tom had 3 secrets each because they reasoned the extra one should be mine as it was technically my retreat.
Mother was busy in the laundry room and we stealthily climbed the 'Stairway to Heaven'. We settled down on the saggy old armchair squashed together. Ted had pompously announced that this was our initiation into manhood. I lit the first cigarette and inhaled, coughing, but proud. My pals followed suit and tried not to splutter. I remember being very nervous and keeping my eyes on the door. Tom held a saucer for the ash. We were so engrossed that we missed the sound of footsteps. Somehow Cora The Defiant had followed us and panting, stood accusingly in the Sanctum.
Read more >
This is the one that kills me. As soon as I saw the charred attic door I knew it was going to be bad but there is nothing left! Tiles, some canister lids, an empty petrol can and that’s it. Some dust, some dirt, some footprints. All the reels of celluloid are gone, piled high in a corner they were and incinerated, each frame evaporating all the way up to the clouds. That’s what we could smell all over town: burning movies. For the older titles these were the sole copies, everyone knows that. It had been more of a museum than a local cinema. My family came here every week when it was popular. It had large fans that kept us cool on hot days. All my best memories were born here. The corny comedies that made me roar when I was little, the musicals that went on forever but got my father tapping his foot anyway and my mother dancing in her seat, the documentaries about our people, and about other people too and about the wars. The love stories I brought my dates to. The science fiction escapes. The monster movies. The more I reminisce, the more I see I’ve lost.
You say I need to look at all this defiantly, and I say Yes, yes, what of theirs can we attack, where are their childhood memories kept? What art do they hold dear? We’ll burn it all! You have that confused look on your face again and your nose scrunches and you laugh that I’ve misunderstood. Not defiantly, you said I need to look at this differently. I blame your accent and you blame my hearing.
There is a chair. The centre of the seat has been hacked out by something sharp but enough of the edge has survived for me to sit on and try to take all this in. There is just about room on the corner of the seat for you to perch on too and you do, our hips pressing hard together. You say something strange then, that Art is always the experience, never the thing itself. Read more >
I shuffle into the abandoned building, to an upper room, half-drunk, but not from my homeless habit this time. My friend, John L, said to look after his place. I stare without a word (I always mumble words). Sunlight filters through the panes of glass cathedraling the walls and illumines the dust and mould that gossamer the attic air. Silvered fragments of cobwebs sift the sun and drape over the rust-orange sofa-chair in the middle of the room.
There’s something about that chair, the way it stands firm despite its spindly legs and tattered cushion… the weight it had endured. It appears strangely regal in the light.
On special occasions, and on bitter nights, John L would invite me and a couple others to share his place; he’d sit in that chair and tell us about the war. We all were there, too. Every time he’d get to the part about yanking his buddies out of a tank that took a mortar round, he’d stop and wipe his eyes. He couldn’t get them all out before it blew.
On the floor, a white paper bag lies crumpled. I recognize it from the last time I was here. John L would treat us to day-old bread that he got from the bakery a few blocks down the street. It wasn’t any of that soft tasteless store bread. It was good and crusty Moranto’s bread. (Though it might have been a little tough to jaw off a hunk with bad teeth.) He took care of us that way, and nobody in the neighborhood would dare steal his stuff.
An old A&P grocery cart with partly rusted rungs is still parked in the room’s corner. He’d tether that cart with a rope and pulley and haul it up a couple floors to this dilapidated joint. It baskets an old Army coat that the moths hadn’t completely eaten, and a few egg-sized rocks blackened from soot in a fire he’d use to heat them up in. He’d warm his socks, and ours, on those really cold nights. This is no mansion, but it was home.
Read more >
forgotten, dank possibilities
industrial rot regurgitates
through light-bearing ladders.
Decay, floor-bound detritus
is given new hope in mildew mood
- shutters of brilliance eradicate
betrayals, neglect of fabric.
From amongst treasure depreciated
into mouldy green filth, fertile dirt finds
so much still worth praying for.
The care to try is a prize in itself. Worthy effort rewarded
The cycles of furbishing, renovating bringing about turnarounds.
Delivering devotion to where the pious, fresh-fingered new converts and established old-hands pay homage.
Reclamation is religion.
I was sent to close the skylight
on a chilly night.
Sure enough, there she was;
the girl in the loft,
pale and soundless,
of white and blue, glowing truly.
A child like me but with a face so sharp,
misty eyes agog with a tiny shadow for lips.
Theresa was the name that ticked in my head
when I gazed up at her from the landing.
This was her territory.
She told me she liked to look at the stars.
So out of respect, not fear,
the skylight was left open.
Oh what an unholy mess.
The roof on my world has fallen in.
Without warning and I am left
with the desolate husk of this flat.
Where did it all go wrong?
I am surrounded by debris and rubbish.
The window panes mirror my pain.
The interior trashed, tarnished and torn.
I made my money honestly within the
draconian taxes inflicted on the rich.
Salted away where the sun does shine
beamingly on the plutocrats of this world.
This flat is my security against Armageddon.
When the people rise up and assault
my privilege – my inherent right to exist.
They say I am driving them out
with excessive rents from their City.
They are lucky that I am allowing
their small existence in my City.
I will sit in this chair draped in its
cloth of gold and listen to the chants.
RACHMAN OUT – FAIR RENTS FOR ALL
And shut my ears to their cries of revolution.
I have a tree taller than my house
my neighbour has a fish pond
but my mother has a loft.
Home to tin trains and a dead puppet,
text books markered with unpaid bills
and glitter that cut my throat.
Home to signed footballs, Beetles vinyl
and a nicked vintage chair.
My mother has a loft, ripe for conversion.
I have many words growing on my tall tree,
time now to lay them out in the right order.
I rarely go up there anymore.
Too many shards and tatters jutted out,
like an obtusely ill-grown tooth
scraping the membrane
of my tender memories.
Those afternoons were soft
like an unbroken promise, we used sit up there,
in a great chair that could fit two,
with a book of short fables,
squinting in July's sunlight.
She was made of ringlets of laughters,
made of the scent of an apple orchard.
She was made of all good things
that slipped through my fingers.
Quiet ripples of endless summer nights,
and her dress was drenched in sweet wine.
I rarely go up there anymore.
Why would I?
To sit in that empty chair,
and gather pots of dirty daffodils?
To read those moth-eaten letters,
and utter sentences with no arrival?
To be drowned yet again
in the immense and darkening silence?
Or to be scolded by that cranky old piano,
desperately out of tune,
and desperately missing her touch?
Read more >
thus close death comes to nature
even as unpicked grapes rot on the vine
but hardly infer a rhyme for wine
and I should decline it too
and yet the apothecary sinks deeper in doom
I speak now of Keats and tremulous TB
the dread that makes him think
of the Southern beaker and the drink
that embosoms the fatal fall
from that great tree (of life some say)
a chestnut or merely a cliche:
but blood dripping from the barber's pole
does nothing for the fading metropole
and soon he shrinks from sight
and still the thought remains of fruitfulness
the poem as palimpsest fills the air
even the mal aria, a death in Venice
where we might play some tennis
but after the fall and not with Dennis.
upholstery in shreds, stuffing exposed. Attic-mind
piled with detritus stacked askew in shadowy corners,
splintered edges that jut and catch. Rubble-strewn floor.
Fine dust of fallen plaster coats lips and tongue,
chokes lungs, irritates eyes that blink and burn.
Nowhere safe to tread, each step a flinch
for tender soles.
A little maintenance would have gone a long way.
Sweep, sort, fix, toss.
Maybe a slipcover for her heart. Or at least a rule
about not jumping on the furniture.
Now it looks like a bomb has gone off.
There’s been no big explosion, no sirens,
no flashing lights. Slow neglect over time
can have the same effect.
But do you see? The bones are still strong.
Sturdy wooden beams vault skyward.
Sunlight streams in through window-eyes.
Illuminate the mess. Invite repair.
from the rest of the world.
Some people choose a stream
with fish barely gliding by.
Some people choose the crusted
cheese smell of their cars.
Others just huddle in corners.
I have come to find the pieces
of a past long ago, my mother's
Bible that would not catch fire,
pressed leaves inside, old glamour
shots of deceased actresses, photos
of people I don't know. A restless
life settled in rubble and memory.
On sunny days, the light floods in but I never open the windows during my incarceration. The air is stagnant; it barely shifts around the broken sections where the roof tiles cracked in the blaze before they slipped and fell into next door's field.
I'd invite you back in but it's not a space where others feel comfortable. They say it stinks of ash and mould. I'm told to renovate, or better still, start somewhere else.
You should come and take a look; after all it was your place too.
But when I see you, I never find the courage to approach. And you look as if you'd not recognise it anymore.
For you, the stuff of us is a garden where the lawn suffers from neglect. But the wind never wrecks the apple blossom, and the sky is blue, and blue. The wall is high, so very high, and without a single brick disturbed.
Trodden under foot-
their shards Sharp
round the ground.
But if you flip its’
view - or stare
ceiling, nestled even
Higher in high
or let night engulf;
that when moon-
light falls through
in charted pathways.
Then stars illumine
for dust to lay an image
Dad held our family together. He rescued my brother George from a spiraling decline into drugs. He pulled me off the streets when I ran away and turned to prostitution. He growled at Mom’s blue hair and tattoos. Mom, sitting in "her" orange chair, yelled at him that she had a right to do whatever she wanted. He yelled that she was no decent, God-fearing woman, and it was Mom’s fault George was an addict and I a whore. The argument ended when Mom slapped Dad, a hard, vicious slap that I heard upstairs. She walked out. We never saw her again.
That hideous chair was like a living beast. No one dared touch it after Mom left. It sat square in front of the TV and we’d sit on the couch, angled off to the right. When George and I moved away to live our own lives, he a narc, me an EMT, neither of us married, the chair still sat there, dominating the room.
Then Dad got sick. He forgot things. He called me Sharon (my name is Sarah, Mom was Sharon). He’d leave keys in the freezer and ice trays in the drier. He’d wander out and forget where he lived. I returned home. The chair was still there. A gray layer of dust muted the awful orange and Dad avoided it like he might avoid a rabid dog.
One morning, about a month after I had returned home, I found Dad sitting in “Mom’s” chair. Read more >
I went along – the prospect of being outside the gang was far more disquieting than running the risks that came along with playing in the old burned out house.
The risks did not come from the dilapidation of the property alone. They stemmed more immediately from the small, very powerful girl who was the troubled and unpredictable core of the band. She was capricious and alarming, and no-one was able to break her grasp over the world that we inhabited during the weekends and holidays.
She was never interested in getting us to do anything outside the old house – we committed no acts of vandalism, didn’t steal anything – she wasn’t interested in the world beyond.
In the parallel universe that children occupy, the one before we grow up and six weeks becomes such a tiny proportion of our lives that it passes without us noticing - in that twin land, she was supreme. She tormented and manipulated, directing relationships, withdrawing her favours without warning. We were kept in thrall for all those long weeks at a time.
I usually aimed to slip out of her sight, into the shadows that dusted the far corners of the attic– away from the rotting chair that she always occupied. She stood on it, squatted on it –sitting was too ordinary, and nothing she did seemed ordinary. There was a mop head draped over the chair, somehow managing to disguise the tatty foam insides. The brightness of the yellow hangings seemed to contain the power in the room, and she knew to follow it and assume its position as her own.
I had visited a stately home once with the school, and there was a chair hung all about with fantastic, lustrous embroidered panels; they had been made especially in gold to celebrate the power of the owner. Read more >
We were roommates in college. He was shy and reclusive even then, and given to bouts of insomnia. Still, we became friends, a friendship that continued when I became an assistant editor at Haunted House, specializing in works of fantasy and the macabre. I was the first to recommend his work. He wrote his stories. I became his editor.
A generous inheritance afforded him creative freedom, and he lived a quiet life in the old family house in the country. In his extensive correspondence with me (always by written letter; he had no use for email or mobile phone) he often described his evenings in the attic, sitting in his favorite chair, surrounded by cats and piles of books.
I regret now I did not take up his invitation to visit sooner. My editorial commitments kept me busy, and he did not like to come into the city, but he insisted that he wanted to see me. He appealed to our college days, our long conversations about the nature of reality and imagination. His letters grew more insistent, as he wrote at length about his dreams, the shadows in the basement, the monster on the stairs.
In what turns out to be his final letter, he mentions a gathering darkness, the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. When I arrived, I found he had been gone for some time. The autumn wind blew through the open windows and the cats prowled the vacant rooms. In the attic, the golden light of the afternoon fell on the empty chair.
My name is Jeanne. I had never visited this room of dreams before, but forced myself to before the building was raised to the ground.
My mother would have sat here drinking absinthe with my father’s Bohemian friends. Did they laugh together, or were they too serious? I’ll never know. Does some trace of their love linger on in this room? Was my mother mad with grief or simply a young woman having a Modigliani moment? My father, artist, lover of life was a striking man if the photos do him justice. The mask like face of my mother in his portraits is passive; inscrutable like the Mona Lisa and no one will ever know what bound her to him.
My eyes rest on the empty armchair and my heart longs to see my mother sitting there waiting to embrace and cuddle me, but I at least now the difference between reality and dreams.
He was gone. He had escaped his illness through the window of death into a new life. I could not live without my beloved; his hair smelling of oil paint, linseed mixed with tobacco smoke. Our child moved within me. Jeanne’s little brother or sister would join me on my pilgrimage of love. I would leave Jeanne with my parents to carry on the Hébutenne line, but we would join him. I would fly through the window, holding the memories of our love tightly and then we would be together forever.
oh, how it falls as the butterfly floats
a mistake of nature, of the divine
that some so joyous,
some so joyous,
are to be counterfeit - by that which is dead.
We would sit on a chair that once was a chair and she’d sit on my lap, laughing as the rain soaked the bottom of my jeans, a cigarette in her mouth. Each giggle puffed out smoke that covered her face and left her invisible for a second before returning, her eyes seemingly knowing where to look as they glared deep into my head. I’d stay silent, feeling the water soak through my clothes and give me goosebumps, allowing her to take control of the moment. I was the paper and she was the pen.
What kept that place close to us was the gravity of it. Empty and alone, it related to how we felt to the world. Each day came and went and dissolved into history. But that combination of dust, puddles and splinters always stood there, growing as we did. With each new plant or broken piece of timber, it adapted to life, just the way our hair grew or our skin burnt. But like all things, we knew that one day this place would end but we knew we would also. So we questioned, what was so different to our place to ourselves? What separated us from the physical, emotional or imaginative?
Everything ends and so did the seasons. But with that it gave birth to something new. The ending of snow gave to green, red and blue. The ending of growth went into heat. The ending of heat went to death. The ending of death lead to long nights and days of fantastic cold. And then what? It all happened again and we witnessed it all on our chair that was once a chair.
We never said goodbye to that place, even when we found it be a pile of rubble, separated from the ordinary with something as timid as tape. Read more >
Place this chair I said in such a house
and the chair will be
an established chair
chair of wisdom and insight and of counsel
chair with a future and a hope
but while I was speaking
the carpet eloped with the cupola
the crockery and cutlery ran away together
all the rugs were raptured but one and the roof tiles
fell and stacked themselves in piles around my chair.
Now until the house crumbles there will be
gleams of each day’s morning noon and night
lightly looking into the abandoned room
through the empty spaces.
off shelves, it may
that sits so solidly atop
the bookcase of humanity,
complete with the
knowledge of our ancestry,
time, could hold the clues
to stop the world from
crashing down around us.
Oblivious of lives you'll take
Or homes to destroy
And make hearts in fear quake.
When will you die
And leave mankind in peace
You've shattered hopes
Just leave us please.
I know you can't control it
Your rage and hunger
But you're killing us
I'm your fit and anger.
Don't you have emotions?
And consider the young
I beg you Tsunami
Don't let us sing a sorrowful song.
That love was a path with twists and turns,
Hidden, or half-formed.
There were times love came to a halt,
Times it came to nought:
A journey wasted,
Nothing shared, nothing gained.
There were times, she counselled, when love would crush,
Would leave you desolated,
Isolated like a lone house on a vast empty plain.
And there were times love lifted you,
Drifting you along,
Feeling heady, feeling like you could love and live forever.
Love, she said, moulded memories
Stored away, waiting to be dusted down,
Cherished once more.
But sometimes, she told me, those memories crumbled,
Or rotted away.
Or were abandoned, like forgotten heirlooms.
The heart can also forget, she cautioned.
Though it does beat on.
I loved, she said.
But afterwards, I told myself, never again.
Drying their tears at shore
With ladles of womanhood,
She tore apart the Heavens
And awoken the slate of her worms
She too was accompanied with
the trumpet of tears
For her womb, the earth had promised
Must sleep inside her mouth...
Days and days and minutes and I am unconvinced. I feel you, I hear you - although what you say to me is that you've gone, is that I'm an idiot, I'm wasting time. And you don't look at me the way you did.
I check everything again, pick up tiles and cushions, let light in, light out, clean the floor, and then I bend. Perhaps you're right, I say out loud. But we both know, and together we sit, with moons and caterpillars, beams and cross-beams, neutrinos spinning through and through and through.
The fight goes on below. Red and dim and red.
Wounds pull you here, to the sweet musk of decay. Spiderwebs may be used as dressings.
These, she said, once were shelves. And held and held. All mouse-eaten now, or stove-fed. Stories go last but the codex form? It’s a toolbox, an emergency kit. To keep the wolf from the door.
It’s a child’s fantasy of a hideaway. A child scrunched fetal in a bomb shelter dreaming through her teeth of the sky.
Tonight the fire. Arms are linked, draped; distinct, the one coal ashed with scars; the other wood on the edge of burn. We spill words, and words. Furious luxury
The Margravine of the Marsh they call her (who they?). The name known in our heads, bell strike. She eats the mice, roasted.
destroyed. This is a house that is yet
being built somewhere in the past.
From the ashes of the future
to the foundations that stand
even now. From the air
that is eventually pure to the air
that was, full of the fumes
that kill you, they say,
before the fire does – all is
Even this chair, the charcoal
in its future yet to distil
anything, was once a pure idea,
a question, something Plato asked
one night, out walking around tired,
wondering what to think of that house
that burned to the ground. Is it
the same house when rebuilt, when
after the fire the foundations are cleared
and a new dwelling squats on the plot?
Are the new residents the same
people as the family who died
in the blaze?
besides the voodoo priest
you met in Port-au-Prince
now that you have shards
everywhere in your body
and the doctor has
no idea what they are.
Lab results say metal
found in Haiti only.
He asks did you go there?
You say years ago to study
voodoo for your degree
and met Frantz the priest
who helped you do
your research taking
you to incantations
then asking you to stay
but you said no and he
wrote letters to the school
disparaging your dissertation.
Now he chants in creole
on your phone every Easter.
Authorities can’t find the man.
Google says he died years ago.
Tom was here long ago
A steering wheel from a classic car
Hangs above a cabinet from across the bar
Worn leather seats of a red design
Painted floorboards with a worn out look
A pantry, a throw back from a time
Where food would be taken from to cook
Now full of junk and an electric meter
Where it once housed meat cured in saltpeter
More than just a cubby hole space
Where silverfish exist but leave no trace.
The chair was the sun, around which my
family orbited for centuries.
My mother’s home for the last five winters,
she died July just gone, god rest her soul.
She bottle-fed me, read me stories and
taught me all about life there.
Curled in it’s arms grandmother survived
the war hunkered within the hand built
air raid shelter in the garden of their terraced
house in Plymouth.
The chair almost drifted away in the flood of
Great-grandmother tears after her eldest
perished on a small South African hill in the
Battle of Spion Kop.
My great-great grandparents crossed the Atlantic
in that chair to start to start new lives in England,
after the defeat of the American South in
the Civil War.
My great-great-great- grandfather sat in her and
chewed tobacco with Davy Crockett, or maybe
it was Davy. We’re a bit hazy on the details, but
it was before the Alamo.
I just love the way you've backlit the whole thing, and the haze in the air just enough to show the hint of the beams coming through these slats.
Genius, the chair, by the way, so distressed looking It's adorable. Wherever did you get it?
What is that, a 5 kilowatt flood behind and a parcan or two from the one side? But it's also beautifully balanced with keylights and everything.
Oh my, the filter makes it look just gorgeous - what did you use?
Now, ok, I want to see this camera, sweetheart, because it is just the business. I assume it's a L__ lens, is it?
I need to know everything about this, darling; aperture, speed,...everything.
However did you set it all up just so, I mean it's an incredible amount of work, darling, I know.
Even just finding the bits and bobs and the people to build it - wonderful!
Look at that scorching effect on the wood there, it's just so realistic. I must have the number for your art director, darling.
Oh, it's all just so fantastic. And so BRAVE! I mean what courage to think of something like this and then actually put it out there. Such a tragic image and touching too. One can almost feel the despair in it, the sanctity of life.
Staggering beauty of desolation. - Brilliant!
This is where my grandma died, you ignorant arsehole!
It was no accident our hero, Preens the poet, ended up in this stinking village on a fine morning. Word has it that, imprisoned since birth, a stunningly beautiful maiden resides on the uppermost storey of the prominent wooden tower after having been accused by her father, Lord Kannan of House Zurrl, of killing her own mother during childbirth. Poor Repan. She barely knew how to breathe let alone kill her own mother. Her father's rash decision stood through time and on the eighteenth year, word got out that Lord Kannan was opening his tower's doors for suitors. Hundreds of men from all walks of life travelled far to reach Dharmsel for the sole reason of having a go at winning her heart. But none was successful at bearing fruit.
Then came Preens. The thirty-year-old poet with his brown locks swaying in the breeze as he removed his musty sandhat. Unsure of what had to be said, he sought guidance from a passing jester who was in-the-zone of juggling five scythes concurrently.
Did you hear about those cathedral ruins in Mexico that suddenly re-appeared when the water level in a lake severely dropped due to drought? You didn’t, of course you didn’t. You had been long gone by then. But this attic is like that cathedral for me. Every time I come up here, it rises up with ghosts of you, circling around me like a pack of hungry wolves, instilling terror in my bones so I can’t move, frozen in this spot of the past.
The photos of the cathedral show two arched windows and the top part of the vaulted entrance and it looks, truly it does, like an alarmed face. Munch’s The scream. Helpless mouths gulping down the ubiquitous water, voiceless. I remember that feeling of quiet dread, of hope getting stuck in my throat, wedged on my silent vocal chords. What comes first: the silence or the fear? Premonition or threat? Comprehension or the dying of hope?
Bartolomé de las Casas was the name of the friar who built that cathedral. Casas means homes. Like this home that you gave me only to take it away. This home that is merely a house now and that I let fall to pieces because this is my only revenge. What pains me is not that I had gotten strong enough to oppose you too late, but that I am not strong at all. This is no victory, just self-pity. I crumble and decay along with it.
Dazzling sky in the night and sunshine in the noon.
Flowers and petals,
Trees and leaves,
Ready to swirl and play and wave,
I climbed on them and became so brave!
The green grass beneath
And that pretty lass in the corner
Devoured in sunbath
Mellowed with her book,
Snooped from the corner of her eye
Caught my eye sight and locked it there!
She knew then and there
About my mundane glare!
All she did was smile at me
And in an iffy, she heard my heart’s plea!
I moved around the city and enjoyed its sight
The hustle and the bustle gave me a fright!
The rattling sound of engine, the chattering of children
The voice of the vendor, and the music so loud
Exploring the routes full of crowd,
I reached my house and entered the room
From the narrow window, I savored the beautiful view!
Looking from a height so above,
It’s terrifying and thrilling to see things I love.
Read more >
I want to write you down
like a broken chair
in our broken house, where
have been replaced
by bricks, our ladder
to the attic
stolen in the riot -
good wood failed
to keep me sane.
In this broken house,
I want to write you down, nowhere
where sunlight pours in,
not in cascades,
through cracked windows
we turn into ashes
on the floor.
Men have thrown themselves cheerily into the midst of paralysing horrors for the buttons in their pockets, then languished in the gloomy certainty of a painful and precipitous end when those pockets were empty.
Such peculiarities of character are common in soldiers proximate to the killing instruments and attitudes of war. Those with the advantage of distance feel their private world-weariness magnify less acutely to the acceptance that people will be people when provoked and that little faith should be placed in the preventative power of buttons.
There was once a well-respected mayor of a particular town in a particular country at war. Prior to hostilities, he had been an energetic and even-handed community pillar whose actions spoke of a deep commitment to the welfare of his people and whose counsel on all matters public and private was widely sought.
But the war being waged on distant borders cast a soldierly pall over the industrious mayor and the longer it continued, the more convinced he became it would somehow find a way to reach back from its fiercest point of disputation to eviscerate him in a luckless moment of fire and iron.
This mortifying fixation was not entirely without grounds - the cenotaph in the town square was a disquieting record of industrious officialdom cut off in similarly combative times - but it filled him with a horror so absolute, it could not be suppressed. Speculation was rife that sickness or exhaustion was the cause of his increasing disinterest in local affairs and he harnessed the gossip of the town to excuse the retreat he'd been quietly preparing since the first call to arms. Read more >
said the old chap,
who stopped, with his terrier,
to watch the scaffolding go up.
‘Think some grand family
lived there, back in the day,
but I can’t rightly remember…’
and he, and his terrier,
shuffled on their way,
as the workmen began
picking off slates
like pieces of scab,
a mouse-nested chair
in the centre of the attic
the last wraiths of memories
into dust motes.
"You cleaned all day?"
"You don't believe me?"
"Of course I believe you. This place... this place is the... uhm."
"The place for kings and queens. I mean look at that throne there. That's where the famous Queen Jizabella sat."
"Right. So anyway I'm on my way downstairs and-"
"Wait! Who was Queen Jizabella?"
"Oh... You don't know?"
"Well, rumor has it, she was the most hideous queen there ever was. Warts moved away from her face - that's how hideous she was."
"I know! That's why toads have so many warts now."
"Because of Queen Jizabella."
"That's right. So Queen Jizabella outlawed mirrors."
"Oh no! She was evil."
" Yea, but she meant well. You see, no one cared about how they looked anymore."
"Everyone became just as ugly as her?"
"Yup. Or everyone became just as pretty as her."
"But the warts?"
"She didn't have any warts. They moved to the toads, remember? No, actually it turned out that Queen Jizabella wasn't so hideous after all. It was just people's perception of her."
"People's perfection of her?"
Read more >
a sheet of paper, some history lesson
written -composed in curious names of
those who won- no children considered
these are the things you will remember
flashes of light: not the direct impact of the curtains shaking
but the sofa yellow and puckered
a little hand stuck in its folds, hiding a phone
keeping your head attached to your body
is a must, you stuff the phone inside the sofa
ask your little sister to sit still on top of the cushions
when she trembles at the sound of his footsteps, you whisper: it’s going to be ok
you hear them, the muddy feet mingle with the white marble floors
trudging, dragging. Soldiers do not walk in pride
until the battle is over- before that they must
keep their color and march where commanded: into your house,
walk over your dreams. There will be light,
coming out from the windows, bright-
there will be loud sounds but no music
nightmares do not need extra dramatization
you were twelve and smart then,
today your nightmares are different-
men, yours bare-chested and bleeding in your arms
you, teary holding on to the saying: the sky doesn't mull over
what earth has to receive, so you rock in your chair
'An exciting new development in the heart of the city,' shouted at her in large letters while images of sickly-sweet couples and featureless apartments spanned the rest of its length. No gaps were visible; no way in. Just as she had hoped.
Above the advert, the upper most windows of the building protruded, their empty and broken panes illuminated from within by holes in the roof. Anna smiled as she thought of what lay inside; the rotting furniture, rusted machine parts and used spraycans were all like friends to her. She had spent time in their presence, appreciating their silent existence and melancholic decay. But more than that, they shared a secret with her that had been kept hidden beneath the detritus.
It was just a matter of time before the building came down, just like the rest of the factories. 100 years of industrial history reduced to rubble and a piece of her own would be buried amongst it.
Anna wondered briefly if she should have given him a second chance, but the sentiment didn’t last. Besides, she thought, boys should know better than to follow bad girls into dark places.
My English teacher asked me once why you didn’t carry on to do your A Levels, like me. She said you had a way with words, even if it wasn’t the way with them you should have had. I think she was talking about the effusive swearing and imaginative name calling. You, so full of rebellion and cheek.
My little sister asked me last year if I knew where you were these days. I think you knew she had a crush on you. She couldn’t believe that we were only friends, that I wasn’t going out with you. I guess at that age some things are so much one way or another. Now my world is full of so many different shades, in that middle ground.
My dad was in the search party that went looking. It wasn’t him that found you, thankfully, but he was the one who let me know. Three days it took them. To be fair, he did a good job of sitting me down. I don’t think he expected the lack of reaction, I have to say. But it was all such a long time ago, and to be honest, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings here, but I can’t really remember you. I mean, I remember, but it’s more the feelings? Do you get that? How you made me feel, effortlessly, excited and free. I can picture your face, your smile, but I can’t hear your voice. I can remember the feeling of your hands around my waist, lifting me over walls, but I can’t remember how you smelt.
Read more >
Across from the walkway at the river, just before it was properly built, and just after that time the army helicopter searched for the boy who went in. What was his name?
The smell got to me, I could never be in it long, but life was strung together with dares.
I don't recall much, just rafters liberated from any second floor
and all the birds nesting in scrums along the beams.
You used the bones of the house to reach the nests and stole an egg to keep.
On the way home, down near the river, we passed the older ones with the egos and the drink. Too busy firing back slaggings, neither of us were bothered by the football they kicked at you, until you heaved.
I'd forgotten all about it but won't again:
the embryo and gloop you threw from your pocket.
I told my ma about it a few days later - just that you'd touched an egg. She shouted about the house and warned me: if we disturb the nest, the pigeon hen won't go back to it, and it will never hatch.
It made us both feel worse. I still do.
Had I known that you'd moved back to that same street
to your mother's home to die, I would have asked you if you remembered.
Everyday he had made the slow climb up the final steep set of stairs to sit there. It was quiet then, even the air refused to move. Now with half the roof gone it still holds on grimly to the rough bare rafters. Here he had always sat in the only chair left in the room. Each day slowly easing himself into the rotten familiar frame, the smell of its damp fibers a comforting welcome. He would sit and watch down and across the life passing below. His eye-line drawn outwards to the green, this was once uninterrupted and only dimmed on a bad weather day.
As time passed the view changed. Eventually he could only see the traffic on the high street through the remaining gaps in the buildings and where the road his house sat on split onto the high street. Everyday he would watch, seeing the cars and lorries splash through the rain, in his mind he continually re-ran how it had changed. He remembered warmer, broader, sunnier days, with fewer cars and less houses to sit in the way. He could hardly see the village green now, and had no view to the pub he used to go to each evening. A swathe of hard red-brown now blotting out most of the horizon he had once been able to watch. Familiar cherished broad leaf trees and field edges had now vanished from view.
A quirk of life had left the chair sitting where he had last left it. This the only reminder, a tattered, rent and broken memory. Even the builders refused to sit in it. And none wanted to touch it yet to remove it from the room. Not until they absolutely had to.
The view from the room is now restricted to just the gap where the two roads meet and the roofers hardly look out as they work, the horizon being cluttered and singular in colour so that it doesn't draw the eye outward. If they stood and stopped, and took a deep breath they would just about be able to make out the edge of a great broad leaf tree that still sits on the green. Just one small part of an old mighty arm sticking out from behind a building. If they stood and stopped. And took a deep breath.
is gone to ash.
And although memory’s a moth, and does its best,
all is not lost.
Stars, frost, fire, time, can do their worst.
Though the sky breathes oxygen,
my childhood’s hidden in this ruin
and will not burn.
I know you are looking through the white window
It was a howling
A wind from nowhere
A belch from a giants cheeks
And we were gone to dust
Under the rocker, the chenille rug,
Substance stripped from our home
A shell of comfort, we are here of course
Just a notion in the rafters
But I doubt if you can see us
After the howling, the magic wand
Has turned this theatre over to ruin.
I am a painter and a beautician and
You tell me to paint you
To paint you as you are
With your exact shape and being
You said not to miss anything
And you said I should make you fine
Even when you’re not good a model
You want me to soak my brush in paint
And draw you smiling
Of course – I must paint you
The way you are
That is my art
Before we start let me get these ready
We need an old chewing stick
Rugged and crooked
We need also a rough board for our canvas
The one picked from the desert
Deposited there by the wind
And refused to be picked by passers by
We need leaves, rocks, chalk, charcoal,
Red and black earth
Dug out from the desolate land
That never bore anything living
A land devastated by arsenals
And bathed in blood
Ages ago and long forgotten in history
Read more >
In its metastatic years
I’d press my ears against its walls
And listen out of fear
You see, there was a certain–
Constant rattle of the pipes:
A sesquicentennial cancer with a
Wheezing much austere
It whistled of a cloistered heart
In some cocooned locale
Where a clock had paused between its pumps
Of moth and muffled air
Alarmed, I’d pace the hallways through
Where in the attic room
A scuttle pursued dry-wall and board
The thumping belvedere
For every once a remissive day
A pupa– forgone repose
Bursts the silence with its moult
And breaks— an imago
Jessica drums her fingers against the window. Ring, ring, ring.
‘Lovely to talk to you, too. So, the Lafontaine mansion burnt down last night? You on duty?’
Her brother grunts.
‘Take that as a yes. Is it salvageable? Will Alison sell this time?’
‘Come on, Stu. Revenge. Now’s your chance.’
First the Lafontaine house, seeing Aly for the first time since. Course he knew she’d inherited the old pile. He hadn’t been back since her father’d threatened him, though. Break it off, or else. He did. Broke both their hearts, too. Aly still doesn’t know.
And now Jess with her property schemes. The house holds memories for her, too. He’s angry she even proposed it.
Aly needs to know. About threats past and present. Can’t be worse than walking into a blaze, can it?