- Vol. 08
- Chapter 10
You think of Luna at the hairdressers. You’re having your hair washed. The air is thick with fragrant chemicals, and the warmth of a nearby hairdryer washes over your feet at intervals. Your neck is resting a bit too high up on the little pad. You’re staring up at the white ceiling with its peppered LED lights, which organise the chaos of stars into linear obedience. It’s not quite Cancún, but it’s enough to bring back the feeling of a bathwater breeze, the sky turned inside out, her hand in yours.
You think of Luna when you scroll through Twitter. You come across an article about abandoned Olympic venues. You see pictures of the rings lying cracked in empty swimming pools and tree roots stretching unhampered across peeling tracks. She’d sprinted for her county when she was a teen and had won a couple of medals that still hung in her childhood bedroom. She’d pretend to be embarrassed about them, but always bring up her wins after a few glasses of wine. You’d seen pictures of the races: her thighs rippling with muscle, hair scraped back from a sunburnt forehead.
You think of Luna in Edinburgh. You walk up Victoria Street, past the shop facades in paintbox colours, the tenement windows like a hundred watching eyes. The cobblestones are uneven under your feet, though you’d barely noticed when you walked here six months ago, with her. She’d clutched a polystyrene carton of chips doused with gravy, dripping it all over the street.
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see, it ends with a girl
one dazed afternoon,
muggy memories & smudged outlines
clutching to clouds as they dissipate.
one dazed afternoon,
glowing golden in pastel pigments
cumulus clouds dissipating
chasing their vapor to forget another.
glowing golden, pastel pigments
supposedly—see the details evade me
chasing vapor, I forget…
bubblegum cheekbones & neon lips
the details evade me, see
it starts with a girl:
bubblegum lips & neon cheekbones.
smudged: like a waning moon in mourning.
It suddenly dawns on you: a long night has been coming.
This is what explains the darkening around the edges of little objects you hold close – that spider plant you were repotting, that book you kept facedown marking a spot for several weeks now, a favourite coffee mug.
The old joys are nestled in eclipse, somewhat hidden, briefly flashing into a neon perspective in your rear-view mirror. You glimpse them only when you look back upon your life, though they are closer, much closer, than they appear.
You squint your eyes, tap the mirror. Take a deep breath. Heed this warning, and you are safe on the empty road. Morning will eventually glisten around some bend.
TW: Sexual Assault; Miscarriages/Abortion
I remember the moon
doing its thing as it does
Belly bubbling I walked through dimly lit streets
middle of the road avoiding jumping strangers.
cool now I wait
for my call to the room
where the woman (I hope)
will preside and decide to proceed
take away this implanted thing
resisted with claws and spitting jaws
kicking out but too weak to fend off
no-one would know.
More and more often now, you find yourself consulting the almanac. What shape is the moon today? What colour are the clouds? Who is King now? What is the Dance of the Day?
The almanac makes things easier. Is today a good day to apply for a job? To plant vegetables? To cancel a date?
At the beginning, you'd unfold the pamphlet once or twice a day, maybe before leaving the house or last thing at night. But now it's open more often than not, because when is it ever not helpful? Its pages can help you determine which boots to wear, how to wear your hair (two little horns today, for the horns of the moon), where to sit, how long to stay there, what to put on the table, and how to arrange it – or whether to simply sweep it all into the bin.
The sign of the month is Leo. Be bold and wear that yellow top.
The element of the week is water. Let things flow over you – swim with the tide – acquiesce.
The rune of the hour is Thurisaz. Breathe deeply and steel yourself.
The scent of the minute is Bulgarian Rose. Cross your legs.
The colour of the second is Violet. Trust in the almanac.
The colour of the second is Goldenrod. Don't put the book down.
The colour of the second is Almond. Keep looking.
The colour of the second is Moccasin. Keep looking.
The colour of the second is...
In the waiting room
I think only good thoughts
in trails of pastel blues and yellows
I read the booklet
homing in on outcomes, the best ones,
ones that will stretch the years
I avoid worse case scenarios,
reading only success rates,
statistics giving the best chances
And I dream of watermelons,
beaches, shimmering stars and years
of new days and new moons.
I am here in pages waiting for you
to excavate, to tear open colours,
peaches, emeralds, burnt gold, marshmallow.
Sweetness oozes from each leaf, soaking skin
to skin, fingers sticky with sugar dust.
Lose yourself in me, eyes filling with rainbows
taken to another world full of hope,
resting ambitions for a while to be
just a girl in love. These stories are full
of promises and I will make them true.
What will you bring to mind, sweet garden pea?
Pastel colours of childhood dreams, flowers
waiting to be picked, blooming on the stem?
Or the fizzing sherbets of Lucky Dip,
staining your tongue, pink, plumping the surface.
Let your mind wander, see what lies ahead-
adventures, escapades, thrills and stories
to tell your children. Follow the drama
of a world waiting for us, beyond books,
full of treasures, waiting for your presence.
While you were away there was a storm, the rain washed the city clean.
I took a personality quiz, it asked: Are you more comfortable before or after you make a decision? Except for some fallen palm tree leaves there were no other signs that the storm had even happened. I answered the quiz “before;” it’s always before, when possibilities are still multiple and the future is wide open, unknown.
The night before the storm there were fire engine sirens, but in the morning there were no signs that anything burned, but something must have, somewhere. The day of the storm there were fire engine sirens again, probably people stuck in flooded basements or elevators when the power went off.
The day before the storm had ended in a pink and golden sunset. The morning after was full of birds singing. We’re only here for a little while, in this world.
While you were gone I did all the laundry and folded everything like on that TV show. In a new journal I wrote, “Future goals: Walking in sunshine.” But the next day the storm came and then I forgot.
Summer will be here soon and we’ll be on the other side of things, the future known, the decisions made. I kept doing laundry until there was nothing left unclean, I listened to the storm come and go and waited for you to come back home.
your eyes turn towards the moon
every time --- some bullshit about how
we reach high just to fall among our dead
I reach for the dead so as to come back up
gasping for air, gaze on the sun instead
yes I’ve hidden myself among many a thing
to remain alive --- like rented dreams
under a butterfly comforter with a light in my hand
afraid to get caught ---
afraid to be seen buried in a world not my own
the window snatched away
a handful of papercuts left behind
a roomful of walls
a moon, full of sugar
helps the medicine go down.
every time --- back on your bullshit
I love that you never return what’s borrowed
let the library fees rack up
that sweet spoonful sticky in your fist
The menu offered hope, before he arrived
the man she couldn’t imagine fully
a man her brother’s best friend’s cousin knew, once.
He was running late.
She’d never had ostrich, but knew it was like a very tender beef
her brother’s best friend’s cousin told her, once.
She thought she’d try it someday. Maybe now.
If he was a vegetarian, she’d lose points she couldn’t afford to lose.
She could try a salad, with beets and goat’s cheese, caramelized pecans
Dressed lightly, perhaps with dressing on the side
and a granary roll with salted butter.
Unless he was a vegan.
She’s not sure why she cares.
She didn’t dress up.
She didn’t dress down.
She sits, with the menu, pondering her choice.
There are worse sins,
but not many,
than failing to slow
used to guide
which starts to savor
each line closer
to the close
of the poem
to let whatever flavor
just a little
as the eye sees
bitter or not—
It could be you
years from now
sitting on a sofa
in the common room
of your college dorm
stories and words remaining
a familiar comfort,
one of the few constants
you could count on
your whole life,
even when the loneliness
circled in around you,
from the pages
like a genie conjured
from your mind—
your only wish:
an escape as steady
and reliable as the moon—
that recognizable pull
tidal and strong, always
there, to keep you
bubble gum girl
serene in a room,
her cotton candy buns
aromatized by the
lulling gaze of a
it follows her trail
of book adventures
words for self,
some pictures are
timeless like rituals:
a vortex of neon clouds,
a gaping crescent
and the paleness
of her lover's sweater,
she escapes the tremors
of her lover's falsetto
every new moon,
"read me," she implores
the palmists staring at
her from the vintage
the lone moonwalker,
she dreams of grass
on moon; fluorescent
thin threads like
It's like the creak of a door when
she opened a book. Its spine
cracking under the weight of her
hand, and she wets her finger,
red haemorrhaging from the page.
Twisted words torqued into detail.
Off with their heads, my mother read.
Grimm tales of the faceless, named,
and epic morals. Mum reads, and
each word is a snap of a camera.
Fairytale nightmares. Too dark
for sweet dreams. Witches and
gingerbread houses. Children
in ovens. Red hooded cloaks, and
crocodiles that tick like a clock.
Pipers and rats. A talking mirror.
Mum saying, Sweet dreams as her
last story eases into my dreams,
into that realm of demon sleep.
And then she'd switch off the light.
And so here I am. My bedtime read.
The Joy of Cooking, the 2nd edition.
How to Make a Gingerbread House.
As she re-reads,
she revisits rainbows,
reacquaints with unicorns
that disappeared when she was 10.
of make-believe open up,
invite her back.
Ask, Where have you been?
We missed you while you explored
non-fiction realms—waited patiently
to re-inspire inquisitive eyes
no matter when, or where.
Now pick up that pencil!
Take our textures—
bend, twist, erase.
Reinvent with your worldview.
She is not the wait,
Nor the waiting room,
Not the knot or the tremor,
The saltwater at the corner
Of the page,
Stuck at a step, dimmed
Not the swooping worried
Each tannoyed name
A ticking fret.
She is not what end
May sit silently inside her,
She is not the disinterested
The anxious homecoming,
The absence of bunting and
Where family collapses in
On itself, themselves
At her leaving
In a shriek from the gut,
She is a rainbow framed night,
She is a trip to the moon.
Have you ever seen whispers become
a cyclone? It’s unerring the way they
gather, all those quarter thoughts,
nibbles of insight that could have
become novels but are instead
impatient to be loosed into the world,
in search of a new ear to call home,
a new eye to tap dance for, a new
synapse to nestle into, put down roots,
light a log fire. Oh now I’m distracted
by which is the better metaphor for love:
the storm or the flame; it was best
when you were both, at once, in note,
on screen, in dust touch, in feather talk.
Oh, you were my cyclone. Still I spin,
breathe, spin, breathe, wait, go again
go again go again on to the weather
walk to wait for the cloud elevator
with you riding it to land again.
Elise was quieter than the rest of us – thoughtful, measured in her responses. With our childish brains, we put that down to her having to sift through two languages to find the right ones. We knew, of course, that our language was the ‘right’ one. My face glows the scarlet of pencil number 103 as I relive our arrogance.
All of the pencils in Elise’s trousse had a number. She never named their colour. She said that colours couldn’t be described in words that would fit onto a pencil. Not in any language. ‘I’m going to put some 128 in here,’ she’d say, picking up a vivid green, the colour of a well-tended lawn after just enough summer rain. Then she’d apply some 297 to the sky, sketching in the pewter-grey clouds, particular to an August afternoon in the North-West of England.
We’d spend six weeks together every summer; James and I lit our grandparent's house with our easy cacophony, while Elise sat and drew. She drew everywhere and on anything. One summer – James and I must have been about fifteen – Grandma gave her an old roll of wallpaper to draw on. I slowly unfurl it now, push my heavy sixty-five-year-old body back from the table and wipe a grubby sleeve across my eyes. Here a study of delphiniums – 149, if I remember rightly; there, a detail of our Grandma’s favourite necklace – 119, pearlescent creamy-pink. An overflowing bowl of strawberries – there’s that 103 again.
And, at the end of the roll, a drawing Elise would never let us see – James and I, standing at either end of a rainbow, with Elise sitting cross-legged beneath, bathing in the sparkling coloured droplets falling from the rainbow. The joy, the love and the colours flood through me. I put on my spectacles and examine the drawing more closely.Read more >
She freefell into a thousand rosy sunsets
stretched over every beach her
bare feet had ever trod upon
and straight into a fit of stargazing.
Is that a planet?
No, it’s a billionaire’s train of satellites
circling the earth like so many
fast-paced marching ants.
When she was a child,
her Papa told her to keep her chin up,
but she’s found that harder lately
She’s missing him and wondering
Why was she so far away for so long?
Another trip around the sun
Feliz Cumple, and all the rest:
20 bucks in a Hallmark envelope
The memories of waiting for
dusk to turn dark, then darker
A camp chair, a lemonade,
a lager for him and two lenses
Refracting the double star in Orion,
Saturn’s rings, the man in the moon
As Cassiopeia lords over the sky,
the bear, the swan, the lion
can my granddaughter read you
into her rainbow moon dreams?
slow to speak, words still unclear—unicorno, popcorno
borno, bus horno, forelorno
she has taught herself to read
to read a recipe, instructions for a board game,
street signs, ads on the sides of a city bus
and books, oh she was slow in entering that world
but it is home now, little one,
of all the world, tri-racial, pigtailed
singing with the little winged birds
flying from the printed page
Memories avian, fleeting
like a psychedelic gas leak
Fluttering inside the bionic
Of a fulcrum of a moment
The simulcast of empty screens
In waiting rooms
Clasped around a vacancy
That fades in and fades out
Tethered to the pages of escaping
And as if I were here to be just a faint
Of a loosely bound sheaf of
Now suddenly finding expression
In the colourful voids of a longing
That traps me in a simulacra of the
That flies away into radioactive multihued
Even if the body is a mere cage
It knows how to escape !
When I was young
in that too crowded world
of tricks and traps and sudden slaps come hard
out of a blue and ordinary sky
I always had somewhere to hide
where I could feel myself dissolve and fade
between the pages of a book –
a magic no one could take away
a world untouched and uninvaded
where no one followed me or waited
just around the corner
to catch me as I passed.
It wasn’t all rainbows and honey
but those paper ogres were not much
next to the ones I knew so well
just an hour or a room away
with their greedy needs
and grasping hands
so much bigger than my own.
She put the phone down a long time ago—it has been a while since anyone called.
She’s chosen birdsong over the doorbell; the sound of the sea from inside a shell.
And when she yearns for the sun on a rainy day she can draw bright yellow circles on a wall.
When she longs to see the moon she can read Sappho’s Midnight Poem.
When things change against our will we might become even more aware of our surroundings.
And for Anna, to be surrounded means to be free; to be surrounded means ‘never alone’.
The night is full of dreams.
It is a long rickety bridge
built on the timber of hope
leading you up to
the land of morning
from the shore of today.
If you jump off and swim this
dark water will you get there
earlier or get caught in
a riptide and never reach?
A dream is a kind of waiting.
You sit under the shaft
of moonlight ruminating,
you sift through the pages
of an old magazine
even read it from cover to cover
until the day arrives.
You bide your time then
you shut the book
hit the other coast
dig your heels in its sand.
Waiting room is a passage
between the wanting
and the getting.
There are clouds in these poems,
not black, quick ones,
but easy, meandering clouds floating
round and pink like closed-eyed babies
ready for birth.
The sky is always there,
as constant as our own skin.
But how often do we look at it?
When it offers noisy brilliance of fireworks,
silent brushstrokes of rainbows,
when something other worldly moves across it,
when ripe with full red or white moon,
then we look.
What if today were our last time
to see the sky?
I wouldn't be sitting inside
reading poems about clouds and skies
I'll never see.
I would be outside, looking up, my eyes working
like dry mouths
drinking in all the free bits of heaven they can get
while there's still time.
I think I'll go out now, point my face
like a ready target at the sky,
beg it to aim a perfect, beatific display
right at me.
But I'll take this book with me.
She's been called many things.
Perhaps she is those things. Perhaps she's just unique in her comfort with herself. The rest of the world seems intent on finding out which it is. To her, it's just her way of being.
She doesn't look special in any way, and yet she does. Her aura reveals her true nature whether she wants it to or not. She usually sits in a corner, seemingly reading a book. Part of the world, yet detached from it. Caught in her own thoughts. A dreamer. If you try to talk to her, there is no response. Why would she bother, lost in herself as she is?
Why hang out with others when her own company is enough? Why spend time among what she sees with her physical eyes when what she sees with her inner eyes is much more interesting?
Her mind is a canvas, her thoughts the brush strokes. A universe takes shape within her, one you will never see. In there she can be anyone she wants. Some days she is the Queen, tended to and responsible for hundreds of servants. Other days she is the stable hand, preparing the horses for Her Majesty's afternoon ride. Such is the power of imagination, and she relishes in it.
It's not only during the day, either. The night is, in fact, the best time for dreaming. Especially during the new moon.
Like tonight.Read more >
Today was the first day that felt like summer, and
here you are, still waiting
on a genie’s kiss - here to make one more wish
a final choice from the list
as you recall the events that brought you to now
from that time you forgot to take your turn,
you laughed, heard an echo
and a long day at school became a ghost train that passed all the stations
and left you here, a lost property
in a place where they only watch TV and pretend to know your thoughts
all tongue tips and elephants, fluffy and pink -
but where are they now?
You are a line of one: stronger alone.
Able to slip your head into the clouds whenever you please
and burst ideas, squeezing drops of stars
into instructions for them to remember you,
left quietly on a small, round table
You are what is being waited for - you know this as you fade
into a corner shadow, created by the light of the third summer moon.
Grandma often talked about the moon. She told me about all the famous poets that had written paeans to the moon, especially the moon that shines a silvery light on lovers and protects them in their trysts.
Then she laughed and said it was all nonsense. Grandma was a witch, and she knew all about the moon. She drew her power from the moon through Hecate; triple bodied, saffron cloaked Hecate. From Hecate she gained all the lore of plants, and the moon guided her secret work. She said that I would be a witch too and I must learn the plant lore. When I asked why mummy wasn’t a witch, grandma just shrugged and said that the gift sometimes skips a generation. She had learned from her mother, but her mother learned from her grandmother.
Grandma began by teaching me to recite the phases of the moon.
First Quarter Half Moon
Third Quarter Half Moon
And so back to the beginning.
Hecate had decreed that each plant had to be picked at the correct phase of the moon, whether from the meadow or the wood. Some were picked and dried for later use. Some plants had to be picked fresh so the potion could only be made on the particular night of the moon.Read more >
That socket – lord, I don't have to worry about adaptors any more,
but I have adapted to adapting, to those foreign, rounded fingers,
the extra stage between me and receiving light and sound. Heat.
I wear my own clothes again, and remember how loose they are
– I wish I had left them with you, and taken yours. It would prove
that I was still a person, if clothes settled, didn’t fall around me.
I read my library book and it does its job quickly: I am in London,
in a cosy tall house. It is Christmas. So strangely, deeply familiar.
It is August, and I have never lived in London. Maybe another life.
Blue is my favourite colour. But it could be green. I don’t know
if I have the innate ability to prefer. Everything is sherbetty to me.
I told you what sherbet is, here, and I think that is a happy memory:
photos of my sweet-sour blue ice-cream from the van in the park,
the tram sliding through scrappy wasteland. Sharing it all with you.
A flotilla of rainbow coloured clouds,
conjured wonders given shape by words.
A letter to a child from a mother she
barely knew - a last loving legacy - a
memoir of how she came to be.
Under a violet hued waning crescent moon -
one stolen star-studded night of passion.
She sits in a barren waiting room and
reads to the end and its precious reveal -
a name never spoken before.
Hidden, Mum's little secret.
Questions answered now from
beyond the divide. She smiles.
Wipes away a solitary tear.
Doctors, useless white-coated 'gods'
delivered the news and left her to grieve, but
they were too late - she said her goodbyes months ago.
When it still mattered or meant something.
This was a blessing - release - an end to the pain.
A last breath fluttering on febrile moth wings
towards the open window, selfish to ask it to stay.
Blessed by new knowledge, the girl reads
of her conception again and smiles.
She whispers a private filial promise.
Outside, a waning crescent moon smiles back.
all the clouds wear rainbow faces.
They bear silent witness - painted by the city lights
by an artist used to working on a grand scale.
I slip through the sliding door
into la salle d’attente
and wait to be called
to be told
one way or another
if I’ve made it out of limbo.
Blue meets yellow
makes heart chakra green.
I read lines from my past life
but set them aside.
They mean nothing here
in the waiting room.
Times becomes fluid.
Thoughts make truth of dust in ether.
The moon has turned away from me tonight.
I compel a conjuring
to steal away through a chink
in the moment’s armour.
Show yourself to me, doorway.
The moment trembles on the brink of unknowing.Read more >
She had the confidence of someone
who could read a book
while the roof collapsed around her,
eat a chocolate biscuit with two hands,
blow her nose in public and not apologise,
approach a stranger and say
‘Your baby is incredibly beautiful.’
She was the kind of person
who admitted to not understanding
what was happening in a work meeting,
who followed recipes but adapted them,
who proudly enjoyed reality TV,
who said ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ when she meant it,
who taught us: when the world looks
like it’s melting into every colour imaginable
and your skin wants to escape, take a moment
to think of five things you can see,
four things you can hear,
three things you can feel,
two things you can smell,
and one thing you can taste
to remember the floor is still beneath you.
As you sit cross legged in your chair I dread
If you remember the bubbles of rainbow colors.
Catching them, running behind and
Letting them sit on the wet grass as the morning was rising.
Counting and watching how big they grew
As they flew with us up the air.
The pink unicorns, green earthworms followed,
The fuzzy tailed red planes lined the blue.
The yellow drew patterns in the skylight
As you sat on my lap and drew moons and nights.
Now blowing the fantasies around you
I live in bubbles trapped memory.
No gadgets charged in those sockets,
nothing buzzed in our pockets
Power plugs lit up TVs and stereos,
we’d listen to records, cassettes, or the radio.
Screens didn’t shield us from boredom,
on the holidays we launched tin foil rockets
into the skies,
built dens, made mud pies.
We’d go off the beaten track in pac-a-macs,
only heading back home
when they switched on the street lamps.
Our memories weren’t stored
on some cloud for posterity,
sideboards displayed our photos and trophies.
Tablets were things
that shifted headaches.
We drained ice cream sundaes
without the need for a selfie,
and Spam was a teatime treat.
If we needed new skates
we saved our pocket money,
we couldn’t choose one-click
with next day delivery.
We couldn’t binge on catch up TV and box sets
we embraced mystery and suspense
dangling from a cliff
‘til the following week… was tense.
is an old friend,
offering the scent
of rainbows past
and the new moon
rising. It waits
with me, a calming
presence, a dream
of what will happen
next, of the possibilities
I, we, might undertake
when you come out
of your office and I
rise to greet you
and we walk out
to reenter the world.
My life is a waiting room.
I am pastel passivity personified.
An object, passing time, hoping
to be noticed just enough, in the right way,
by the right man. Because it must always
be a man in this vanilla narrative.
My power lies deep within.
It is as easy to miss as a pale slice
of moon in the cool draught of daylight.
I am covered, cross-legged, curved
lips closed, eyes lowered. Just a touch
of femininity revealed in the point of a shoe,
an inch of ankle, the nape of a neck.
My self is masked. No suggestion
of my turbulent inner world;
it is as well hidden as the histrionics
of an Austen heroine. Unthreatening,
vapid, my powdery puffs of thought
appear in pallid pinks and violets.
My saviour arrives. I am swept
off my feet, smothered in sickly sweet
romance, my delicate bone structure
admired, fearful trembling soothed.
Book hidden behind frivolous magazine
because no-one likes a heroine with brains,
even in the most modern of fairy tales.
Camera three. A girl with pink hair, high heels.
I check the rota. She’s been in for twenty minutes. Her treatment schedule is an hour a week for six weeks. The book they’ve given her is only short. Presumably she’s not too bad. It’s that book with the moon. I watch it float up to the ceiling of the room on the multicoloured clouds and wonder for the hundredth time why they make them sit on such uncomfortable chairs. Maybe they don’t notice. Maybe the book is enough of a comfort. God knows, these kids need comfort, after all they’ve seen.
In Room Two there’s a boy who can’t stop crying. It’s his third time at the centre this week. They’re trying a book about trains with faces. I watch the trains trundle out of the pages and around the floor, chattering, laughing, but the boy still cries and the trains fade. Terrible cries. The trains don’t stand a chance.
I flick back to Room Three. She’s lucky to be here. There’s a long waiting list for book therapy these days. Dr Jay told me that. She’s nice. She seems to understand the youngsters. It’s all much easier now we can actually see how well it’s working. Does away with the need for brain scans. Sometimes we had to strap the poor kids down to do the scans. Didn’t make sense to me.
I don’t really get how it works, the reading thing. I can’t read. Not like that. I mean, I can read the rota, but making pictures, that’s different. Me and Jim tried it once, when everyone had gone home and we were locking up. I sat and read a book about a man who lived in London a long time ago. I got it, but it was just words. Jim watched me for five minutes. Said there were no pictures. We packed it in and went for a drink.
turn its pages
beneath cotton stars
of lilacs and roses
blots of lightning
will crack open
of words galloping
within your mind's eye
reborn in fantasy
a spine bends
not from the weight of the world but the release of it
Slumbering pages stirred themselves
Their yawn turning paper
Waking eyes to a new chapter
A world unknown
A printed future
Faster they begged
Bleeding their ink
Into her heart
Holding her captive
They pushed her on
Carried her thoughts
Beyond the drab terraces
Of her present
Showed her the possibilities
In its end was her beginning
And this she would write
I must hurry, the sky’s deepening. She’ll be making her debut soon. Log off the computer. Power down, power down. Forget the execrable teaching evaluations, the papers I’ve half-graded in purple, blue, anything but that ghastly red. Forget the discussions of metrics and tenures, the door that stays shut all the time.
Try to walk faster.
There she is, rising across the expanse of campus with its cold square 60s buildings with precise rectangular windows. There she is round and beautiful.
It smells of pot and stale feet and pizza, probably from the food court at the student union. That’s no matter. There she is, rising between the naked labyrinthine branches of winter, rising over the pink and purple clouds that wash the sky.
There she is. Clair De Lune.
Clair De Lune. The love of my nights. My steady friend through increasingly empty apartments, bloated debts, and dispersed friends. My friend, whether full, crescent, or half.
And tonight, she’s full. A pale wintery white, as if she’s cried, but tried to cover up those tears. How I know that feeling. I wish I looked that good after spilling so much.
So much light. Eyes on her, that beautiful Clair De Lune, my weary feet settle into a contented clickety-clack into the concrete jungles. Yes, even the parking lot takes on an ethereal quality, sleek lines and all. The odd bursts of laughter in the distance are mere blips. She shimmers over the library roof, the English building, the long sidewalks that lead out to the west entrance to campus.Read more >
“Now, now,” I said. “Don’t move that much, or else you’ll fall out.”
“I’m sorry, darling,” he replied. “It’s just that I’m seeing the outside world after such a long time, I don’t know what else to do!”
He turned and looked up at me, his blue eyes shining in the dim twilight as I pushed his wheelchair, with my brown locks bouncing on the back of my knees with each step. I turned back to see the doctor standing near the entrance of the hospital rooftop garden, the scrawny nurse at her side, anxiety leaving no space for other facial expressions on their faces. I remembered the doctor’s words from an hour ago.
“Please,” she said. “Have your last meetings. We cannot guarantee that he will still be breathing tomorrow.”
My mother and sisters had broken down that very instant, my brother dropped the vase of flowers he was holding, eyes welling up with tears. I remained rooted to my position, still and unmoving, my heart shattered like the vase, my eyes as dry as a desert.
“M-may I-'' I stuttered. “May I take him outside? Father h-hates being cooped up.”
“Please, feel free to.”
So here I was right now, just father and I, walking towards our favorite place.
I helped him up from the wheelchair and sat him down on the large, iron swing. He rested his back heavily against the swing with a grunt, and I took my seat beside him; my long ponytail swept onto my shoulder, away from Father’s face where it might have bothered him. I took Father’s hand into mine; still large and warm like before, except it was more wrinkled. He let his frail head drop to my shoulder, a long, loud sigh escaping him.
I remember my grandmother's room,
the thick walls with their shuttered windows,
the fireplace so deep and wide
that you could step onto the hearth,
look up and see the sky.
The roll top desk, the deep padded sofa,
the bookshelves that lined the walls
from floor to ceiling.
That was where I learned to read.
I could make out words before that,
string together a sentence,
understand the thread of a story.
Of course I could, my parents taught me.
But real reading - falling in love with words,
with the magic of words, the weight of a book
spread across my open palms - that came later.
In my grandmother's room stories swirled
around my head, weaving their way into the air I breathed.
I discovered that even the plainest room can become a jungle,
even the darkest corner can become a moonlit sky.
A cottage on a hillside can become a busy city bar,
a highrise flat can become a beach hut.
Between the pages of a book I can be teacher or taught,
chef or diner, criminal or detective.
I can be wolf, or bird, or whale.
Between the pages of a book I can be loved.
yellow pullover blue bellbottoms boots
I still remember her fingers surveying
a magazine my gynaecologist‘s waiting
lounge was empty except for the two
of us she didn’t even notice when I entered
I was nervous because the lump was growing
it’s amazing how anxiety sharpens
our observation skills how the mind
counterattacks our thoughts distracts
how a stranger becomes interesting
the magazine on her lap lay unopened while
her hand ran over the glossy cover she just
sat there staring at the opposite wall like
she was memorising the picture
I watched her thought bubble expand
in a v-shape opening up the ceiling spinning
stars tumbled with cloud waves the corner where
we all keep a bit of hope hosted a rainbow my lump
was growing I named her lily
lily which wasn’t her name got up
when the nurse called out to her put aside
the magazine fiddled with something
by her side unfolded a white cane and tapped
her way to the doctor’s room the ceiling closed up
again the room went back to its sterile former self
every line I read
to take me
away in another direction
an image drifts past
every second reflection’s framed
now a scent
which hasn’t touched my nose
licks across my sight
but my mind knows the flower?
sounds echo in my head
my ears undisturbed
thunder crosses my dreams
every image, noise, smell
gaps between words
spaces between lines
blank pages at chapter's end.
each unwritten part of the story
A wound, deep, scarred
not mended, fever, aches,
blurry eyed, my mind spools
sepia images, a laceration of pain
social distanced from my love
a longing to hug and kiss
her soft lips, cuddle her.
A silence, glancing at her photo
through the glass, yearning.
Solitude, would I die alone?
open to the purple skies as
bright stars twinkle mocking my hurt.
The ancient dust covers me
in a serape of memories
of our life together, halcyon days
sunshine, love, teen- glow
of childhood love and passion
under the magical moon
and time waits like sand.
engulfs the air with images―
pastels sailing like boats
drifting far out on the sea―
needing no harbor
to contain beginning or end
the past waxes and wanes
with the orbits of the moon,
recalling and recombining
in different proportions
the darkness and the light―
together they cover all
the distances worth knowing
all that was now continues
as is and to be, changing
states, like water―vaporizing
and then soaking into
the earth, seeding the seasons
to both flourish and die—
all the clouds lined in silver
rise into the far above and turn
suddenly into thundering fire
that fills every corner
with echo and reverberation―
now the light slants gentle
and rainbowdrops sparkle
She knows where she is
going. She's been gone
there for awhile.
Mind a magician, the Houdini
of daydreaming, maybe
you know her, maybe
you are her
now. Was it decades ago,
or are you all grown up?
One story after another, picklocked
to let you in, a refuge,
a last gasp for air.
Do you remember? Then
you've seen her,
seat to stage. Maybe
a hand raised. Maybe
you helped tie the rope,
wrap the chains.
Maybe you held the axe,
to salvage her, should the worst come
to pass. You know where
this is going, palms pressed
against the glass. That last gasp
for air is calling.
The envelope has coasted from the mail slot a little way across the floor, and when Sam picks it up the paper is cool. Alana said she mailed it on Thursday, but today is Wednesday, and Sam can’t think why it would take so long, given the distance between them. She grimaces at the absurd little pang of suspicion, tries to ignore the faint ringing in her ears.
On Monday, Alana asked if it was there yet, and Sam stopped on the pavement to reply, halfway over a bridge. She wanted to throw her phone over, or her whole backpack. Maybe she would leap right in, it was only the canal, and she had jumped from higher. Sam remembered pushing off of wooden slats as a child, into a river ambling through a copse of firs somewhere east of the city. All the parents watched from a distance, talked about carpools, money, everything Sam didn’t understand, as she bellowed, plunging into the water. Was Alana there that day, or with some other, older friends?
Alana is razor sharp and lime green, her surfaces electric, neon. When Sam looks around her sitting room, everything she sees is there because of Alana, either moulded to something she once said, or placed there in spite of her, for Sam to show herself that she is different.
Disembowelling the envelope too fiercely, Sam glances at the floral image on the front of the card before opening it. The Alana she finds in the words, in black ballpoint pen, is all blue, midnight with lavender around the margins. Where is the green of her, the daylight?Read more >
The moon vanished and peeked through
the thin colorful blanket
of clouds and fog
the very illuminations of reflections
that dazzled the eyes of the wanderers
losing their paths in the wild.
At home had none of the sky that could contain
the light and reign of moonshine.
The wanderer was me
holding the mystic world of one gallon glitters
of thoughts and times
that hold the path and junction
where the mind and soul meet
to discuss the well-being of the heart
and to justify the actions made.
The pages turned and reached the end
and the moon fell to sleep.
All it used to take to imagine the woman you'd become was a coffee shop window to let your eyes wander out of, and a hot mug to hold in your long-sleeved hands.
You'd colour your hair at home. You'd wear stripes, pointed boots, things you never knew would agree with you. You'd hop on a train to somewhere four, five hours away, to meet someone you'd felt ready for before you even had a chance to learn what ready truly meant. They would meet you on the platform, take your suitcase from your hands, walk you to a home you'd only ever seen in pictures. You'd marvel at how easily your jagged edges fit together, and live in awe of each other, never quite believing your luck.
How old would that woman have been? Twenty-two, twenty-four. You're farther from that now than you were then. Your hair is still the same colour, a washed-out blond that doesn't shock like purple or green, that you kept to remind yourself how you've accepted not all things must change. In the morning, the face you stare at in the mirror looks nothing like the age progressions in your head, and yet there's no one you'd rather see.
You still look out of windows, but very quickly, scanning for plant pots knocked over by the wind, or signs that the grass needs cutting. You have your tea and coffee at home, where you can make them just the way you want. You still don't know why it takes so long for the steam from your cup to settle. You'd been taught to be impatient, thirsty, eager to drink, but when you look back at your best days, you see that for you it was always all about the wait.
Reality is so fraught with disaster, yet there is no abundance of escape routes.
There is no easy way to shut the mind off from roaming anxieties, and painful sights.
The flood waters are almost reaching our kneecaps, the flames in the forest are racing towards the front door.
Even if I could shut my eyes to this, would it really be wise?
But to take a moment, to feel my heart beat within my chest and to know my breath is still warm, is necessary for what is ahead.
To let peace wash over me, to take what privileged time I posses and focus my mind and body before both are exasperated.
To truly escape within one's self for long enough to let the repair begin.
Because time will march forward, and the chances for escape will lessen.
Time will be a commodity that you or I can ill afford to waste.
As once the breathing quickens and wide eyes spring open, action must be taken.
Give me an aqua moment
To sit suspended on the
Coral reefs’ finest point
Prick my finger on the sharpness
Wonder at the clarity of
Tear-like in water.
Lend me a sunset minute
To lie in earth’s embrace
Quartz kisses my spine
I feel the crystals hold
Purple, twilight blue, crimson, pink
Life colors pure at my femurs.
Dare to show me a midnight hour
Alive with the soft touch of
A million night lights
Explode to dust around me
Fairy wings responsible for the breeze.
I take my moments
Yellowed and perfumed delicate with years
Faded, torn edges
Notes in the margins
Where lives before me
Have melded with the words.
Life oozes out
From the edges of
Line breaks –
Seeps out like blood beneath my fingers.
Love, war, hatred, death, joy –
in knotted letters
The rhythm of my inner voice.
Lingering at the tip of my tongue –
A divine burst of colours
Onto a colourless sheet of paper.
Making love, soothing
Thumping my heart
Inside my ribcage.
Words, metaphors, metonymies
Passion, disgust –
My cure for eternal isolation
For death and for life itself.
The astronomy class was in the alleys of the shopping district. It stood yellow under the blue sky with cobwebs of thunderclouds that cleared out every night. That was the summer after fifth grade – full of the intrigue and mysteries of the skies. The constellations shone like the rare colorless arils in a pomegranate and not the familiar pink crystals.
That was the summer of lunar eclipses and the transit of Venus. I helped build a telescope and a dream that year of becoming an astronaut. I spent the next couple of years coaxing rivers of names, Europa, Io, and Centauri, into the mind. The party in the head was a lavish banquet unto knowledge. But, like wayward tomatoes and melons that fall of vegetable wagons, I soon started forgetting the names during the dramedy of adolescence.
I forgot that I wanted to be an astronaut. The yearning for spacesuits was replaced by a longing for fancy boots after Mother’s passing. I wore two buns in my hair, symbolic of my dilemma: the excitement to touch the moon and my desire to trace the Earth with my fingers, traveling to deserts and cold mountains.
The sky today is draped with layers of cumulonimbus clouds and swathes of thick cloth-like smog.
My telescope’s dusty now.
I feel the stars ignoring me like the sun ignores the needs of melting ice cream. I think the stars have changed their coordinates to escape being seen – it is as if they are more displeased with me than Mother for reneging on my promised dream.
There must be some simple trick
on one of these glossy pages,
a batch of fast-and-fit recipes,
Moon and Stars
I’ll find it—
if given enough time.
Please, don’t call me in.
I watch her turn the pages
she’s so engrossed, it prompts
me to pick a novel at random.
I polish my glasses. Once
I could read unaided. I used
to be drawn into so many books
from their first sentence
becoming oblivious to time
and surroundings –
The dingiest house, ratty nets, 40 watt bulbs
without shades that’s where Jack lived.
But no longer. I glance up
she reads greedily.
I remember that feeling
eager for an outcome
but not wanting the story
to end. I flick to the back
of my choice
It was Eileen.
That’s abrupt. Have I the patience
for all the fiction that lies in between?
The hilltop town seemed a worthwhile destination. Constructed in blond sandstone, it stood several hundred metres above the surrounding plain.
After making my way up a spiral path, I entered the town through a narrow archway. Wooden shutters concealed shop and restaurant windows. Nothing indicated the times these establishments opened.
A door stood ajar. Feeling an uncharacteristic self-assurance, I crossed the threshold and entered a spartan room. A pair of loudspeakers on a wall hissed into life.
‘You are in the “The Gallery”,’ a voice declared. ‘Close the door.’
I pushed the door into its frame.
‘Defy everything,’ the voice continued. ‘Reject the art that the culturati expect you to appreciate; throw to one side the books that publishers and critics urge you to read; and, above all, treat technology with disdain. Instead, create your own corner of the world. The requirements are simple: unadorned walls, a bench and table, and a sheet of paper.’
The loudspeakers made a snapping sound. Some component inside each of them appeared to have broken. In the silence, I turned and saw a bench in a corner. I sat and noticed a blank A4 sheet lying on a table. As my fingers brushed against the paper, I imagined myself standing on a continent of cloud, beneath a sliver of moon.
When I left the gallery, the shutters no longer covered the windows of the shops and restaurants. Yet I neither saw nor heard anyone.Read more >
I heard your voice
Technicolour tones on a grey day
Ringing through my body
I’d only been browsing
Picking up the third book I was drawn to
Fingers tracing the letters on the cover
That was when it happened
I knew it was you on the page
You were smiling
Telling me that I could keep going
I felt your hand on my shoulder
A midsummer moon glowing above me
Pushing the clouds aside
When my tears blurred the words
I knew it was you
I’d only been browsing
I heard your voice
A majestic silver moon in Rio,
Escorted by two pale gentlemen,
To the vastness of one enchanted night sky,
Whilst the untamed rustle of Amazonia,
Creates the long-awaited serenade of the melancholic lover…
A solitary gentle breeze wakes up the splendid sleeping beast,
My heart starts beating faster,
At the sight of the bright claws,
Heading savagely towards my quivering shape,
This could be the end of me…
A strong arm surrounds my waist,
"Oh darling, you can never be replaced."
She chooses the best magazine from the pile
of lifestyle gurus, gossips sheets, digests.
She opens it randomly, a way to while
away the waiting time reading is best.
The jinn appears as a slice of moon.
Introduces itself as three wishes.
A gift given from above, opportune.
Should it be diagnosis, riches?
Remembers "If it's too good to be true,
it probably is." Closes magazine.
The jinn disappears. She's next in the queue,
she enters doctor's, only seventeen.
We search for a clue to our own future.
It stubbornly awaits your new nurture
Try and picture yourself in your Happy Place, that’s what they always say isn’t it. My Happy Place? Oh, but that’s tough. I’m thinking mountains and lakes and a moonrise and…and rainbows. No hang on that’s not possible. Whose Happy Place is that? It’s no place I’ve ever been. This is supposed to be about me. Where and when was I happy? In that attic room with Shannon? When we were just fooling around and then…and then it wasn’t foolish at all. Well yes, in the moment I was happy, of course. But then later when it turned out it was just a moment not so much. The opposite in fact. So I can’t go there.
At the funfair maybe? Sitting on my dad’s shoulders, getting candyfloss in his hair. Laughing. Then trying to catch a plastic duck with a stick to win a goldfish. With the flashing and crashing and shrieking of the dodgems and the Wurlitzer all around. And they always give you the goldfish in the end anyway. That was happiness then but that isn’t what I need now. Not that commotion and all those other people.
Happy Place? A smiling face in a joyful space. You’re a disgrace to the human race. Wait, where did that come from? Jesus, this is making things worse. Calm down. Focus on your breathing. What, so I can’t even breathe normally now? The most natural and essential thing in the world. The one thing you should never need to think about. Try again.
Happy Place? All right so I’m floating in the sea, the sun ricocheting off the surface. Seagulls overhead and salt-spray on my face. I turn my head towards the shore and they’re all waving to me and I feel a sense of lightness and peace. Yes, this is better. What next? Well, they’re still waving but they seem so far away now. And the sun is so bright and I feel so free and then. And then? Oh, never mind that will do for now. For a Happy Place. I wonder how much longer it will be. How long has it been already? I’m sure it will be my turn soon. For whatever it is. Happy Place? That’s just a daft name for a fish ‘n’ chip shop, isn’t it ?
I collect scents embedded in strings of memories,
Memories that were etched in corners long forgotten,
Forgotten, until remembrance strikes like a deadly fragrance,
Fragrance weaves visuals, happy face, galore smiles,
Smiles that now rigidly shrink to uncontrollable tears that roll,
Roll like a cascade that fails to stop,
Stopped by wisps of smoke that spiralled the life out of you,
You, who was taken through dimensions far away from my hold,
Hold I now, to memories through pyres of separation,
Separation, would I be reunited with you ever again,
Again through aurora light.
Questions for the moon
Do you also get tired?
of always adapting
of constantly changing
of never being able to show your true self
except in dreams
where you shine like the sun
twinkle like the stars
and float away like the clouds?
And so, do you,
the crescent moon,
tired as you may be
still shine on
faux sourire firmly in place?
When even the house becomes estranged / when the roof gives way to itself / when the moon is just a floating spy in a tropical sea
you know you are already too old for this / your colours are softening / and all your pictures have been taken down
you are last to leave / but there is no hurry
all the words have already gone / what’s left to say is in the card
soon they will be here / so you open it and read the clouds / sending good wishes and instructions for the next life
I gave you the book that had our dreams in,
You took it and promised it would be safe.
You took it and said, One day I'll be back.
The sky was clear when you went, and you smiled,
You opened the book on a blank new page
And said, Let’s add tonight’s bright crescent moon.
I could not move, but I think I smiled, too,
I looked at the book, at the moon, at you.
You seemed to offer the book to the moon,
Looking up, whispering words I couldn’t hear,
Then you went, and you did not say goodbye.
You had our dreams in that book when you left,
I wonder—can I still call them our dreams?
You took them and said one day you’d be back.
You finally find time
to cease toiling
You finally find time
to just kick back
You finally find time
to open that paperback
you’ve long longed
You finally find time
to savour words
You finally find time.
I am one and we are thee. Not a stranger to the colours that make us one to be.
Metamorphosed from the same carbon atoms, so we act like stars on earth. Our existence for a space in time but the driving force behind our egos. We create and manifest chaos around us, never wanting our feet to touch the ground. Feed the distance between our true selves, and the dark matter that floats beneath our surface.
We reflect through reading, hypothesising and imagining. Strain to re-build the fabrics that make us feel whole. We reach for a rainbow, that only appears between the light and dark, in hope of feeling some joy in our world.
I am one and we are thee. Not a stranger to the colours that make us one to be.
We become masters of our stage, professionals at flipping our personalities. We switch our masks regularly and so often, that we forget the essence of our former being. We imagine desperately, the sun hitting our skin in the perfect way and the moon taking away the shadows that haunt us. All the while never considering the weight of living outside of our inner peace.
I am one and we are thee. Not a stranger to the colours that make us one to be.
We disconnect ourselves from the world. Unplug our social existence. A simple flip of a switch and we are nobody but who we are to ourselves. We want to see through the mediocracy of our own drama and reconnect with the grandeur of our universe. We are in the middle of our own dream and we want to see colour in the way we can be.Read more >
If I wrote my heart down
so that you could read it
it would show you the skies at dusk,
spread open above our heads in shades
that I try to describe to you as you drive.
You would find my perspective
nestled in between the words
and in the spaces after full stops and commas,
where I am just narrator and you are the star
that illuminates the clouds from below
I hope that it would be a flattering portrait,
one that you would be pleased with,
that you would recognise in the mirror,
composed and curated
in our shared space and time.
If I wrote my heart down
so that you could read it
I hope that you would want to keep reading
and that maybe you would
write me yours.
She refused to come home. She said she would be ringing in her 18th birthday in the delicious silence of the overnight library.
(Reading Kafka does that to certain women who read him over the night & away from home. I know from fact of dream.)
I asked her if she wasn't billowing in her balloon yellow sweatshirt and shrinking into her skin-tight bells bottoms.
She said clothes didn't matter while reading. That one could even be in the nude, dressed only in god-given humanity as Gregor had been.
I didn't know what she was talking about so I thought of the noise a violin makes in the soul of man.
I shuddered as she proceeded to terminate the conversation and bid her wait. The trial before birthday wasn't yet over.
I asked her to describe the loneliness of the room (keeping that of the Kafkaesque away).
She said to the contrary. That far from being alone, she said the moon was reading over her shoulder. That as gratitude for allowing it to wax (or wane, she wasn't sure) without the usual melancholy, it floated down cumulus clouds nimbused in pastel pink and balmy blue.
So many hues of the moon, we both said in silence.
I asked her about the hardness of her bed, if her back wasn't already sore. She said both were better than Kafka's punishing prose.Read more >
She loses herself in books
dreams up the sun the moon
and the stars
She floats in clouds
and on rainbows
feels soft rain on her hair
In the morning dew
she runs with the deer
she hunts with the owl
She stands at the edge of cliffs
watching the gulls circle below
the froth and foam
of the sea
crashing on rocks
Then she closes her book
leaves the train
and walks home
Sixty years back
Alice spoke to me.
I have been traveling
that rabbit hole ever since
The White Rabbit just out of reach,
dared me to conjure a world
outside yet inside my own.
I leaned out my window
to watch my Wonderland.
Below and across
on the street and in windows
Mad Hatters, Red Queens, dormouse,
hedgehogs, and flamingos raced.
All night and all day
“Eat me” “Drink me” “Who are you?”
In the smoky twilight I wondered,
“Who am I?” chasing the rabbit
its shining stare daring me on.
Reading is not writing. And inspiration takes its own time.
It is elusive – resists the gaze. It shies from the obvious, refuses
to be forced. Money cannot buy it. Comfort makes it weak.
Inspiration has left the building. It is taking a holiday. Seeks moonlight.
Searches for rainbows. It rests under pastel skies. Inspiration will return
when it is ready. But for now, it has a book to read.
I am ushered into a sterile space, planted on nominated plastic
and left with an empty leaflet, the walls begin to weep.
They severed the bad branch in this place but I can hear the
groan and drag of my English Oak as he navigates the corridor
on his severed stump.
I feel the filament's frantic scratching beneath my laminated feet and watch as the tea-stained table is flung aside.
They cannot cleave the roots.
I am waiting, he cannot be silenced, he clings to his bark.
Left here, I will wait while he sets down new roots, then his new branches will hold me while I climb to pluck down a rainbow from the canopy for I am heavy with his flowers.
My timeline is blurry
it sits on my shoulder like
a rescue parrot, gaping,
screeching between one
year and another. Surprise!
It cannot leave; it doesn't want
to let my fingers find its silky
feathers and stroke them
and pamper and pet until
I make tonight bearable
The room is leaving me
kidnapped by the moonlight
the walls are escaping, frantically
grasping at the clouds, oh, how
full of colours they are, full of life!
If only they could take me
with them… I'd smile more
than ever. But my timeline
is gone, my head is too heavy
And the paper in my hands –
I think it's shaking.
I hear a voice
and it keeps asking
whyRead more >
There are walls all around me
The ones you can see
but also there are walls inside
that are invisible to the eye
and also hidden from the mind
It is these walls that I want
to break down
the Kool-Aid Man
That is someone that
knows what they want
and isn't afraid to get it
If I were made of glass
I would never smash
through brick walls
much to the delight of
Instead I sit here
in this prison of
my own design
afraid of too much
brave about too little.
Always there were words, conjuring their magic. Always there was a somewhere else, phrases like unicorn tracks leading the way. Where words led the colours were softer, safer. Where they led there was silk and dandelion fluff, there were sunsets and warm seas and the scent of vanilla and jasmine. All this time you sat in the waiting room of life, letting language make things better, sentences forming rescue ladders, a way out of every dark valley.
But this year you have been silent as snow. You have opened pages and found them blank, left them blank. You have opened books and print has swarmed in black on white dance then fluttered away. You are left being you, sitting where you are, longing for some dream to hold on to. Wishing wordlessly for some story to come and fill you up. Like this one has. Like this one will.
They didn’t understand. They had never understood. They locked her in this dismal room with its rickety table and the hard box bed, no window, no comfort, the electric socket mocking her with its emptiness (they thought). And they let her keep her book.
It didn’t have any words in it so they didn’t see it as a danger and so they left it with her.
And then they were puzzled. Why wasn’t she distraught? Why wasn’t she curled up, rocking from side to side like these people usually did when the words were taken away? Why was she sitting there straight-backed, relaxed?
She was not there. The straight-backed, relaxed body was just a shell.
The spirit was standing under a starlit sky, the new moon bringing with it the promise of new beginnings and new adventures.
If they were expecting sport when they came back to her cell they would be disappointed, she was not there, her mind had already escaped over the rainbow.
Her sitting, patient,
waiting, for a chance to shine among stars
Has dismissal beckoned,
A cold-eyed fish, judging
Her, superfluous, unnecessary,
Is her life to be cast, adrift,
Her stretch, to lift
Cursive scripts, hold her
Transporting, distracting, delighting,
Windows thrown open reveal wondrous worlds,
Her heart warms, glowing softly golden,
Back the moons love for the sun,
Healing, warming, contentment rising,
Steals, through body and soul,
Blushing, pinks advance where once cold lilac stood,
and there you have it – the proportion
of a life spent dreaming, relative
to the trappings and externalism
of poised perfection. you could cut
it out, her inner life, and discard
the wedge of moonbeams, rainbows
roll up the remains of a life
and peer at her, down a funnel,
like the wrong end of a telescope,
seeing an alienated surface.
You're off again.
Jumped the page,
swinging from the spaghetti tails of
giggling yellow yo-yo
sheltering under rainbows.
Cheeky chimps in chairs
who should, you thought,
shush rather than chip your ears.
Rustling seas not leaves
stretching ee's into an uphill breeze.
But your smile with that
confusing 'e' remains undeterred.
untwining violets from lavenders from lilacs
which I couldn't begin to distinguish.
And yet you bind them
with stray frays of unicorn skirt
healing 'bad' words, 'dab'-ing
their wounding insults
in a balm of mirrored unity.
You read hearts.
Excelling any academic ladder,
inferring characters who climbed stifled
from lacklustre exam papers
yearning for actual comprehension.
I once dreamed my life in bubble-gum colours. While waiting for the train, while doing laundry, while plunging into short texts during lunch break, while staring into an indigo sky, moon kissed. Now I roam tight rooms without windows and walls painted in pastel colours. I walk through boxes, collecting dirt from too many shoes and lives in transit, where memories mix and match. These already forgotten dreams, these shattered hopes and shy longings embrace each other more merrily, lovingly than their creators ever did, before they are too dissipating in smoky clouds out of exhaust vents, sky walking. Up and ever upwards where, in clouds and storms, some of them unravel from tight embraces to rain down on grey, on grey. They are met with no sigh of relief, only by busy hands briskly brushing away any sign of rainbows forming on their sleeves.
I started chewing gum again. I go into stores to buy the brightest brands in bulk with promises of big bubbles and loud pops. My jaw muscles have become sore. I chew them zealously, trying to squeeze and pull out any trace of colour but their bubbles die before passing my lips, their colours never show for me. I spit them out, grey on grey.
The poem is the worlds you build in me. When I catch
wind of the sweet buildup in No Problems I'm somehow
transcended back to the day we listened. It was summer '16,
months before Trump became pr*sident in a stuffy apartment.
I don't know how a choir singing louder as the bass
crawls up to the 8-count can reverse me into a time you were
breathing. I hear your critique loud & clear. "He'll never
make something good as Acid Rap", you say
as passionately as a broken boy from the hood looking
for a mother's love in a cup full of cheap vodka & tahitian treat could,
not even knowing the next album would actually be the flop.
I want my days back where rap could just be that,
non-lethal gunshots in the background of a single.
Bladders shaky while preaching about the origins of rap
with white boys & niggas still working on mixtapes
that would never see past the 5-mile radius. I want
my journals back, T. I'm tired of the tenor & vehicle
somehow always leading to you. I sit in coffee shops
where outlets look too much like your face & get pre-weary
about archivists finding all the notes I've left behind for you.
As I listen to a brother named 2 Chainz tell me
Summer scented dreams,
Of leaving school,
Exam positive results, ticked off the list,
Anxiety of pass or fail suspended,
Eager anticipation and unreserved optimism,
No shadow of disappointment to darken your horizon,
Student debts an unknown spectre,
Your future shines majestic and glorious,
Sweet fantasies of your story still to be told.
You wait with longing,
To finish the chapter of your life that you are on,
To turn the page and discover a happy ending to your youthful desires,
Words of love, adventures of the body and soul,
Unread paragraphs to bookmark in the diary of your life.
When I was a six-year-old kid, I used to play a lot with my friends and cute little pups in my neighbourhood, ride my cycle by monkey pedals with the side wheels to balance my ride, and return home after so many hours with dirt and sometimes hurt. I never sat in a place and my mom had to keep running around me, so that I don’t run out of home. She used to tell me, everything would be in balance, if I had all that I do in limits.
I used to wonder a lot those days: why does the day-night cycle exist? Why is it dark in the night? Why isn't the moon as bright as the sun? Why can I watch the moon with bare eyes but not the sun?
I wondered, wondered and wondered, but never asked anyone for answers. I never knew about space and the solar system. Even when people around me discussed about it, I tried to listen, but understood nothing.
One fine day, I chose to feed my curiosity by asking my mom for an explanation. Who else can make a child understand better? So, when I asked her, she giggled and said, think that your friends and those cute little pups are the sun. They make you look bright and happy. You spend a lot of time with them, don't you? I replied, yes. Then she continued, now assume yourself to be the earth. I interrupted, “Ma, what is earth?” She replied, the place where you, me, Dad, your friends, those pups and all others live is called earth. I gasped in surprise and eagerly asked her to continue. She then said, “Me and Dad are the moon, who come around you all the time. We are easily accessible to your eyes. We make you sleep and take care of you. Your friends and us can’t exist in your view together for a long time. It is a cycle where either us or your friends are there in your vision.”
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"Granted, Marie, I haven't been the best of fathers," I whisper and smile as if it was the greatest joke ever said.
I have been intrigued about this envelope ever since mom left it on my small metal table. Even Mrs Hail knew something was up with me during our brief talk over Zoom. My English teacher, though observant, knows nothing more about my private life than any random stranger on the streets.
I pick up the scissors and very carefully cut the top of the envelope. The small patch of paper falls on the floor.
It's a birthday card.
I am not sure if I should laugh or cry, so I do both at the same time while desperately holding onto the card. It's too nice. I don't want to tear it apart, as much as it is exactly what I want to do. Dad sent me a card. A birthday card. After all this time? Who sends cards anymore? Mail is more trouble than it's worth. You cannot delete it. You can't call the mailman and say, "Sir, I'm afraid I'd like to unsend." The card is here, in my hands, and it smells of warm July nights back at home. For a moment I let myself think that he doesn't regret what he wrote.
In the center – printed wishes.
At the bottom: "Dad."
I can't help but wonder how long it took for him to admit that.
Little girl reading
Escaping her plight
Lost in hope and dream
Safe where no man can touch her
In another world
What is she reading?
Mystery or nonfiction?
An adventure tale?
It does not matter
She is building up muscle –
The most precious one
This magic carpet
Will let her soar far beyond
Little does she know
That this will one day help her
Maybe save her life
The french windows laughed
at the tree crawling into the sky's anger.
My father came with his pruning scissors
to where all the azaleas kept their alleluias
& I was tasked to rake the sea
back into the ravine.
It was a season of thirst
when salt prices were felt in the pot
& my mother kept licking her tears.
Yesterday, my body was covered
with chalk like a seer journeying
into two old wrappers & a smoking ewe;
& under the bridge, I did salutations
to the boats rusting in the shade.
I suspect that if I walked on water,
it won't be called a miracle.
I suspect that if I raised the dead,
I'll be sacrificed
to the nearest peal of absent thunder.
The monkeys are happy
when my father tells his folktales
but in my mother's mouth
all everyone has is invention.
She sits by the fire.
eager and bold
reading Poe after Poe
wondering who in the world
is a friend and who is a foe.
she knows it too well
the pretentious world around her
will sneer, ridicule and quell
hopes, dreams and sometimes, fear.
And so she …
stashes away her dreams,
throws a thin veil on her hopes,
but fiercely guards her fears,
and displays them sans worries.
the glorious world in all its beauty
with all its problems and perils
renders them flimsy, so very empty
and quashes the demons and the devils.
Then she proclaims:
Wear your fear in your sleeve
Watch the world make it leave!
Next one comes, paint it green
Wait for it to be wiped out clean!
has always been
is the moon.
and i am too.
the moon would write about me-
the moon would spill
and it would never look like blood.
the moon shifts
am never the same-
almost always sun-stained.
Reading your sentiments,
I can imagine the places you visit,
And it is like we are
Both there, seeing them together,
The crescent moon waning
Like time itself,
Sand of the shore
Pulled away by the ocean tide.
Leaves trail from their hammock of trees,
Coming to rest on the grass.
How powerful a card, a note is,
Looking at your handwriting,
How you labored over each letter,
Caring for each word
Bundled into this parcel,
Like a sailboat crossing the sea
With its precious cargo,
Bringing such wonders from afar.
Before long, the paper may tatter
From all the times I’ve reread this letter,
Holding onto your belief in me,
But even if the pages of ink fray,
I’ve memorized each line,
Visualizing every word
As though they were fallen leaves
Floating on the surface of a pond,
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Ever since she’d seen those chevron roofs poking
into the brick chimney that puffed out smoke
which sky turned into clouds fracturing off the evening light
into terracotta pieces of a cluttered garden that smelled
sweetly of rotting apples lavender dew soaked cocoons
little Li had dreamt of being an engineer An adult now
her own house designed by her architect husband
had only succulent plants in a jungle of polished concrete
brushed steel glass tops thick as a first aid box
smelling of cool and no secrets Any of her discreet
manoeuvrers to leave a long ginger hair beneath the heavy leather sofa
or a sesame seed from the lunch bagel in a corner of the knife drawer
a microscopic drop of blood beneath the bathroom sink
were wiped away by the cleaner who came Mondays
Wednesdays Fridays at 7:55am Li suspected if she’d stay in
on one of those days her soul would come away spotless
sharp as the 3 carat diamond in her wedding ring
The day she was made redundant with a substantial payoff
she enrolled in a postgrad art class without telling her husband
who barely noticed because he was important now
thought her city trips an inevitable part of her thriving career
She was spending days in cheap hostels perfecting designs
evenings looking for the most striking concrete buildings
her last night spraying murals of clouds broken up by longing
The last that was seen of her a ginger coloured crescent moon
in the sky above her husband’s house everyone else noticed
There are wasps in the wall. I hear their angry buzzing behind the power socket. I am never angry, which is why you chose me; also for what you call my wasp waist; and because my eyes are lowered at all times.
I have not told you about the wasps. They increase in number and volume every day. You do not hear them. I hear them all the time.
I sense your approach. I continue to read my meditation book, silently practising its guiding imagery.
Now you are in the room.
The day is darkening. I ask you to plug in the lamp for me. The wasps emerge in a swarm, descend on you, and you fall to the floor.
It is the hour for tea. I move calmly and slowly to perform the ceremony. I measure out the tea with the scoop, hear the rhythmic scratch of the bamboo tea whisk as the hot water is mixed in. The whisks do not last long. They become worn and damaged with use, as do many things.
I carry your tea bowl carefully, place it beside you on the floor. The day dwindles into darkness.
Seated in my chair, I rejoice in the peace and harmony that the tea ceremony has instilled in my heart.
I’ve been sitting here for ages, trying to figure out how the new moon finds its bearing; how its poetry has decided to rise in the east and settle down in the west to mark day from night. The page flutters and I shudder, knowing books won’t ever make me a poet, no matter how cleverly I try. I pretend I’ve grasped its accent, but murmuration murmuring, it simply disappears into reticence.
Belatedly I feel I’m plagiarising myself, despite finding a darkness with no cave paintings, and Genesis has nowhere to begin. The hope for Lascaux is vain, if bold. The new moon still hangs in the empty sky, like a story no one cares to tell, and I can’t get round to the other side to discover the meaning behind. It seems I’ve been living in a two-dimensional world: no depth, no history, no solidity. It’s not only that poetry doesn’t arise, it's experience that’s painfully contrived.
I sit and wait. Fearful. In the end all is mere pastel.
We’ll Both Forget The Breeze Emma was lying in the park between my dorm and mid-afternoon lecture and if it hadn’t been for the fact she was feeding birds with the grin of the manic and magnificent I may have continued my stride With her bare toes all a-wiggle, her short blonde bob, a white summer dress that ended just shy of the crevice of her knees, she was someone barely approachable and yet fate shined momentarily as she caught my glance and gave an almost imperceptible wink I smiled and struggled and sat and stared She gave me a handful of seed and with that I was complicit I took my flask from my pocket and offered but she declined with just a hint of a shake of the head “I have some water … and some molly if you’re so inclined ” Someone who carries a flask during sunlight hours is not in a position to look awry and so I nodded as she told me to open my mouth, popped a pill and offered me her water Emma was on an English Lit Scholarship and obsessed with Sylvia Plath I introduced myself as ‘Elly Higginbottom’ as I lay, which drew a lopsided grin and a measure of respect Free spirits are often maligned, a draw on others energies, a beast with no respect for boundary … Emma managed to most masterfully dwell in the best of abandon and leave the worst to others less resolute This would only become apparent years later but for now there was a definite hint of the numinous that made her orbit something of the irresistible “A sparrow will approach with a rare weave of the bold and the wary, give a chirp, find comfort in numbers and then commence to feast ” Emma explained “It’s why I so adore sparrows … they encapsulate the best of all of us, their decadence is most contagious ” “I am heartily in favor of hedonism,” I offered Emma turned, her eyes alight “Life is simple when you get to the heart of the matter … simple moderation in all things, including moderation ” With this she leaned in, turned her head just a touch and met my lips with hers # Read more >
My face is there as I once was,
with book in hand,
a life defined by soft colors
each element blending into the other.
Sherbet shades speak of a life that slips easily
sweetly onto the tongue,
thoughts, words, deeds of confidence
performed with the ease and
agility of the young.
As she looks beyond her everyday,
opening the sky
her mind creates new pastel worlds
she will leap into and master.
Although I am no longer
drawn with pastels,
although my world’s
borne the brunt of darkness,
of days when despair
drained all color,
although my body is
no longer lean and agile,
when I read,
when I think,
when I pick up my pen,
I can conjure a world of pastel
offering hope that pastel deeds
will once more flow.
As a keen child,
she was all I wanted to be –
bristling curls bundled, tight lips of focus,
and mountainous cheekbones;
ash-swirled eyes glinting gentle
as she sat, not friendless,
on indigo nights
in still dive bars,
reading a bent spine’s
far from this forlorn town –
adventure, crisp companion greets,
silent sky forests –
nothing like here, instead,
a bloom of possibility.