Sunday, December 31, 2006

memento mori

As the final hours of the year slip through my fingers my thoughts turn to the way we mark our days.

I recall that I first started keeping a diary around easter 1993. At that time I would catalogue all my highs and lows, dips and disappointments in a series of A6 notebooks. I used a rainbow of whatever pens came to reach and my handwriting was as erratic as my mood. I wrote every day without fail. I never had nothing to say.

Sometime since I graduated to A5 notebooks, my handwriting has stabilised and I only write in black ball point. Currently my days are trapped between the pages of a book with cold corrugated metal covers. But with every progressive year I write less and less often. In 2003 I made 23 entries. In 2004 only four. In 2005 I wrote on 3 days. And in this past year I have not visited that paper palace even once.

Which leads me to wonder…

Where do they go when a poet loses her words? Where does it end up when a philosopher loses his train of thought? Are my diaries getting larger even as I have less to say? and where will this ultimately lead? Will I spend 2007 spray painting a slogan on a brick wall? and the year after scrawling silence across the sky?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

breadcrumbs in a line

out-takes on a seasonal theme

-- the postman approaches, cloudy and vague through my condensation
-- browsing virtual shops, done up in the glory of festive fonts
-- whittling down the Christmas card list
-- eating ice-cream at bedtime - sweet to smooth away a bitter day
-- as winter grips my lemons surrender and fall from their tree
-- mail order frenzy, day by day, more of our Christmas arrives
-- wrapping with ease - grateful for small square gifts
-- once a year sentiments, scrawled and sent to distant friends
-- seven days between now and then - eight letters between you and me
-- I trap the hours in the holes formed by letters - each loop just large enough to hold a drop of blood
-- wood grain always lays in one direction - knowing itself and where its heading - I look at the spiralled confusion of my thumb print
-- the hazy sense of sleep approaches, anytime, anywhere unannounced - middle of the day, middle of the room
-- an excuse to try to smile and to eat iced gingerbread reindeer
-- frozen morning and you hold up a perfect replica of the inside of the bird bath bowl
-- we smile despite our false best wishes
-- baubles on the tree and cocktail cherries at the ready
-- wondering what you will wear on Christmas day, wherever you are
-- a years worth of news - good and bad - squeezed beneath the printed greetings

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I know the mortar in the wall breaks

Back to the walls (of October 2005). I was wrong. I can see that now. I focused on the holes at the expense of the bricks.

Its not that we need more bricks. We are inundated with them. They fall from the sky. A never-ending tetris monsoon. Chucked down by the gaming gods. We can dodge them all we like, but the pieces will just pile up at our feet, and trip us with their technicoloured edges.

We need to stand still and take the time to slot them into place. But we must break the rules of the game. We must leave gaps. Gaps to breathe, gaps to look out and see our fellow builders coping with their own walls. And if we spy anyone too good at the game - blocked in solid behind their wall - we must fling a brick in their direction, hoping to break a window in their rainbowed frame. As within those walls there is only darkness and suffocation.

I remind myself, we must not fix our holes. We must not plug our gaps. We must play but we must play badly.

Friday, December 08, 2006

beginning of a great adventure

I prefer anticipation to instant gratification. I like to catch the scent of my dinner cooking for a while before I eat it. I like to get lost in lengthy introductions to favourite songs. I like to see daylight calling through my curtains before I open them.

I like to be teased. To have the moment of pleasure suspended rather than immediately granted. The real treat is in those extra few moments that allow the mind the chance to prepare itself for delight.

And so advent is always welcome. Its one of the few things we choose to hold onto from all the childhood pastimes that we willingly discard as our years advance. We give it our own trademark - less commercial, less tacky. We share pictures and sentiments and little gifts each day. Twenty four packages of homemade love.

And its not so much about a countdown to Christmas. Its not about opening a numbered window to a glittery picture each day. Its more about remaining aware of the inevitable passage of time. One day at a time for one month of the year. About finding ways to make each day a little more individual and unique.

Friday, December 01, 2006

divine retribution

For the record this is the sum total of my amber collection. Two bracelets restrung from beads that originally hung as one necklace - I prefer to shackle my wrists with colour these days. One silver set ring smuggled home from when I sailed to Copenhagen. I had another amber ring, given by a friend, but I seem to have lost it - the friend or the ring, I’m not sure which.

And a fake plastic impostor. As if it wasn’t obvious from its pale comparison to its surroundings - you only have to put it between your teeth and touch it with the tip of your tongue to know. It lacks the bittersweet treat of genuine amber. The flavour of its heritage.

Because we all know how amber is formed - the slow solidifying of sunflower honey, with a little of the garden always left behind. And we know that the pieces we receive are nothing more than the boiled sweets spat out by the gods. Ejected from their mighty mouths once they have sucked away all the pleasure. Discarded just before they reach the insects or seeds trapped within. Just like you or I might refrain a second before we reach the worm lurking beneath the tequila.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

fade to grey

Almost as an undertone she drops them into conversation. But when we are done, when all is said and done and long forgotten, they linger and beg me to speak for them.

The second generation shadows. The ones that have broken free from their owners. Sometimes through struggle. Or when someone outgrew their shape and wanted to assume a new dimension that they couldn’t stretch to. Sometimes through neglect that left them hanging at home on a hook on the back of a bedroom door.

And then the ones cast aside by those rare individuals too slippery to hold a shadow close for long. People who move too fast, burn too bright, sitting thinking through the night. People with no need for a grey definition tagging behind them as they walk. So their shadows seek out other dark outcasts where they gather together and reminisce their long lost owners.

And its not just people - its plants and building and birds and chairs. So next time you see a shadow - take a moment to notice what its doing - to make sure its still tied to a form of roughly the same shape and size. Or if its one of those indistinct orphans, who may be eager to become your friend.

Friday, November 03, 2006

chain reaction

Its only when I stand you side by side, under certain light, that it shows. You are the ghosts of one another. Shadows cut out and folded over. If one is the paper torn from the whole and the other is the hole, then which are you?

I remember those paper doll chains we made when we were small. Outlines of boys and girls holding hands. I never tore in the right places. With anticipation, I always went to unfold and they fell apart and tumbled to the floor. Forever separated from one another. A cut that could never be corrected.

I remember the ghosts of the second sentence. Urging me to tell you the truth two days too late for halloween. That ghosts are not somethings to avoid and fear. They are only cold because we run from them. The breeze we feel is the draught from our hurried escape. Step within and they are warm and welcoming, like tea or coffee steam but faintly herbal.

So don’t forget them. They wait patiently for you. Carpets of ghosts cover this land. Although we only see them when we wear a hole through the floor boards or the pavements that we have overlaid.

Ghosts walk forever hand in hand - unlike us and our broken paper dolls. Hand in hand through walls and floors, they can stand in adjacent rooms but still be connected. Disconnected in space and time, reality and fiction, here and hereafter, but still strung smokily together.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

do it yourself

beyond reasonable doubt
(or how to make sense from confusion)

First, take the last book left on the lowest shelf. Tear out a blank page from the beginning or more likely the end. Find a pen - one of the ones hidden in the place you would least expect to find a pen.

Write down the riddles that fiddle their insidious tunes at the back of your mind. Write them in code. Write them back to front and upside down and inside out - any way so that no-one but you can know them.

Write them boldly in black ink that always smells faintly like the stains left behind by spilled white wine. Then fold the page in half and half and half again - then go one fold beyond what the paper is willing to allow you.

Tear out lots of little pieces - if desired using your fingers and teeth. Let the newborn confetti gather around your bare feet. Unfold the page, now grown a hundred fold by the elasticity of your words. Wrap the paper lace around you, thin against your naked skin, and see only little pieces of you showing through in erratic patterns.

Walk outside and stand still. Wait for the weather to notice you - don’t worry, it might take a while but it always will. When it comes, don’t forget to greet the rain by name. Then stand and be bathed in her gentle blame.

As the paper dissolves, the riddles resolve and the words and the thoughts wash free from your skin. They pool at your feet which slowly sink into the welcoming ground. Until all you are is a ripple on the surface of an uneven puddle on a cloudless day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

easy way out

[All week I have been trying to write a piece about something that struck me as vitally important last Sunday morning. About a someone who had been overlooked. And only now I realise I am writing a story. Dreaming a fiction of your reality. And that is as bad as forgetting you altogether. I realise this is a familiar pattern I fall into. Filling the holes of unknown with imaginary detail. This is wrong. I have no right to claim any story but my own. So no cohesive piece today. Just the random threads pulled apart from my attempt to weave a blanket to keep you warm.]

I see you. Sitting. Legs folded. Thin carpet beneath you. Light enters the room, and falls as empty angles across furniture. You don’t notice the light. Similarly it ignores you, but does not choose to leave. It lingers. Like time. Like breath held too long. A thought grown too strong. The thought that your feet could be anyones but your hands are all mine. And they fiddle with each other. Ever restless. Ever impatient.

They called you the one with the quiet voice. They say you lived on the periphery, whispering thin secrets that we could only catch by the edges. They say you lived a quiet death. A silent puncture, and a gentle deflation. They say you died in a place named after echoes. They say that’s all we hear - the cyclical repetitions of the things you shared with us.

I never sent a postcard. From nowhere. For no reason. I never answered the phone, before you’d even dialled. I never held my breath to hear you speak. I never kept your letters between the pages of my books. I never made you sigh. I never saw the way your hair fell in the morning. I never reached for your hand in the middle of the night. I never laid flowers on your grave. I never knew you enough to forget you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

unlikely treasures

Sick of complaining that I have words to spare with nothing to pin them to, I remind myself to look everywhere for inspiration, leaving no nook or cranny unexplored. And so I lead you to an overlooked. A place seldom glanced. Just spun a few revolutions each day on the quest for a clean sheet.

And I find a butterfly inside our toilet roll tube. Or at least the shadow of a butterfly. A black stamped symbol with four fold wings. There is a number printed next to it. Inky digits laid there for a reason.

Things like this preoccupy me and make me wonder what it means. Perhaps that toilet paper is made from butterflies. Or that butterflies are made from toilet paper. And that exactly one thousand one hundred and seventy six go into the making of each.

Bear this in mind the next time you sit in contemplation in your bathroom or your garden. Take care that your toilet rolls don’t take to the sky, or that your butterflies don’t dissolve in the rain.

Friday, October 13, 2006

a gift from the earth

Like the jeweller loves his precious stones. The thrill of a treasure found hidden within compressed centuries. Chipped it out from its surroundings and dragged to the surface. Measured. Cut. Polished. Held up to the light - all perfect angles and magic surface. All colour and light contained within - secrets of the underworld.

I’m dazzled by words. I prise them out from their paper chains. Barricades of ruled lines. I let them dance on the tip of my tongue and wonder at the partners they choose. I spin them through my fingers - a literate card trick.

Today the sparkle comes from the partnership between -

One letter to divide and differentiate. One letter to mark between the sharp novelty of a pulled cracker - and the breathy warning of the snake in the grass.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

under a full moon

[an anniversary message from me and my blog]

Its a year to the day since I sank to this unclaimed stretch of the abyssal plain. Since I planted my flag and claimed this barren patch as my own. When I accepted my mission I suspected I was the only one foolish enough to plunge to such depths. But now I grow accustomed to my home alone on the sea bed.

There is no sound under my ocean. And only limited colours. But unlimited wonder if you are willing to hold your breath and squint. If I am willing to learn to listen to the sound of my own voice. My. Own. Voice.

Since landing I have let 71 bubbles float to the surface. Some large, some small. Some brittle, some bold. Some have never made it - forever adrift on erratic currents. But I am sure I have heard one or two burst as they break for freedom.

Schools of precious creatures pass this way - growing a little more numerous and bolder by the day. Among them the strangest fish. Species I am taking my time to identify. Labelling each - predator or prey.

I’ve weathered underwater storms and the changing temperatures of the deep. I’ve sent cables of communication to other oceanic explorers. I hear their steady bleeps and see their occasional flashes of light. And I know they see mine.

Tonight the moon is full, but its light is unlikely to reach me here. Where I sit still dreaming the infinite dream of impossibility.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

the ghost in you

white cat
squeezes through black railings
quiet as a ghost

A welcome return to blanket road. Where this time the shouting has stopped. All is calm, all is still. Nothing speaks, nothing breathes - but something moves. A whiteness - that eases its way between parallel lines of isolation.

A cat departs the cemetery. It rolls in the road. It licks itself. It seems to like itself. Content within its skin. Happy with its cat-self. It licks the tarmac. Comparing extremes on the tip of its tongue. Hard and soft take turns in the taste game.

It glances up the road. Chances a few more minutes in the middle. It seems more reckless than most. As if it has gathered extra lives from its padding across the gravestones. From where it loitered among resting spaces, savouring the scent of forgotten names and remembered weeds. Collecting horizontal and vertical thoughts into its furred bag. Nine multiplied by nine always leaves some spare.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

brittle thinking

Some might say television is the opiate of the masses. I believe that used selectively and critically it can be educational, valid, and inspiring.

On Monday I watched people frozen to save their lives. Particularly striking was the woman trapped under ice - feet up through a hole, held tight as her last link to the surface world. Head half submerged in freezing water. Slowly slowing down. Thoughts, blood, heartbeats. Losing heat, losing life. Till nothing - silence, stillness, stasis. Hours while she is dug out, held, handled, carried and flown to the most northerly hospital in the world. Then peered at, poked and monitored. Slowly warmed - welcomed back into softness and movement. Breath revisits - movement remembered - life returned.

I watch and then I turn from the screen and I think.

Only the cold saved her. We mammals need warmth to survive, but she needed cold. A step outside of the rules of nature. An inversion of how things should be. I think of the relationship between heat and cold. How one can feel like the other. How ice can burn. They are opposites. Like life to death. In one always the other.

I think of all those mottos - what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, kill or be killed, no pain no gain. I think about what is being killed. Kill the senses, kill the desires, kill the instinct to cling to the thinning thread.

And then I think about myself, and how sometimes I know how she feels. I call them my everyday winters. I have to invert myself to a reversed 45 degrees. I have to freeze out consciousness, freeze myself in. Hibernation of the mind. I have to hold my breath and close my eyes. I have to play dead. You might not notice - the signs are subtle but there. A crispness to my tone and occasional visible breath. Suspended - just till the tides of time carry me beyond today. To a place more welcoming, a place with smoother edges. A place where I begin to thaw.

Friday, September 22, 2006

writing to reach you

This is the plant that stands to my left. My witness when I come here to write. She always cries exactly one day after I water her. And I always wonder why.

Perhaps she cries in gratitude - that I have now remembered her, when for weeks I have passed by without a glance in her direction. Perhaps she cries for being nameless - all because I carelessly lost her label soon after we met. Her closest neighbour is a lemon tree - so perhaps she cries tears of inferiority because she lacks a vivid scent.

Maybe she cries because she is looking in when she should be looking out. Longing to break the glass that keeps the sky at bay. Maybe she misses for the smell of the damp soil in the evening or the midnight whispers of a passing snail.

I think she cries at the memory of the sounds of standing in the rain, the sensation of the sky as it falls and collects on her leaves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

memories form a disorderly queue

You’ve left the towels on the line again. One grey one. One blue one. Two hand towels. You’ve only got two hand towels. You’ve only got two hands. Our line - a green metal contraption strung with yellow plastic string. Also sporting a plastic peg basket full of plastic pegs.

I remember when we had wooden ones that darkened when wet. That squeaked when I snapped them open and closed. Making crocodile smiles. Despite warnings I couldn’t resist clipping them to my lips or the tip of my tongue. Speechless. The surprise greeting of pain. Always sharper and more lingering than you think.

I remember fetes with stalls where people broke those wooden pegs apart and reassembled them into new things. I had a rocking chair made of pegs - a miniature one, of course. Something used to sit in it. A doll, or more likely a bear, or more likely a duck. I forget the inhabitant but I remember the chair. So often the way.

You’ve left the towels on the line again. Drenched each night by summer storms, they begin each day a little heavier than the last. Don’t we all. Through the day they doze a dream of evaporation, casting off a haze of concern. Their only lingering worry - that they may be left there till winter to freeze stiff and snap. Don’t we all. Eventually.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

reflect what you are

Last Monday I found a place that never took the time to find me. I saw seas of green and leaves that choose to linger. And I saw these shining fragments of infinity, raised a quarter way to the sky.

Ever intrigued, I pulled on my disguise to mingle with the locals as they perched on their branches and their backs of benches. And they explained this monument - this tribute to their abandonment of vanity.

For birds have no need for reflection - enough that they appear in each others eyes. They have no desire to admire their images. Why would you if you could fly?

Monday, August 28, 2006

impossible paleontology

Like city streets I’m a one way system. I can read or I can write. Things come in and things go out. Never both at the same time.

If I splay myself wide and walk with one foot on each side of the street - one in the sun and one in the shade I can waddle along for a while. But its tough and progress is slow, and neither side gets full attention.

At the moment the reading side of the street has caught my eye. I am looking in all the windows and buying the wares (all in the name of my Booker 2006 experience).

But the shady side suffers. Largely unwalked, my pages curl from sunlight rather than heavily laid words. Poised, my pen gathers frustrated ink at its tip.

Thoughts arrive and depart un-netted. I look up from a book at an unfamiliar howl or hoot. A funny looking face beckons me closer. I write a hasty note-to-self. A reminder to come back later and catch this crazy beast - to pin and mount him and lay him on display in this maudlin museum of freakery.

But when I return, a few days later - follow the scanty signpost I left myself - I find nothing but dust and bones of the rarest kind.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

all the streets are crammed with things eager to be held

This is yesterday. I am being chased away from a place I don’t belong. Raced home from a quick trip to collect some books from the library. Dodging occasional raindrops that threaten to re-punctuate my sentences. Evading normalitys glance as it threatens to dull my senses.

This town is not mine. It is too full of people cleaning their cars. Husbands with sponges and a shine on their mind. Wives feet sticking out of back doors as they Hoover up conjugal crumbs. Too many people carry shopping bags bulging with Saturday routine. Too many people are holding hands, clinging together for safety, like children crossing a road.

As I speed away from today I see that I am feather racing. A small whiteness is dragged along in my slipstream - pulled on by the weight, speed and intensity of me. Or is it the other way round? Does it draw me on, forever tied by forgotten ancestry. Shared avian pasts - forgotten by everyone but the leaves.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

one shade more, one ray less

She walks in blue. Barefoot and true. Her clothes nothing more than fibres laid between herself and her sky. Toes that could turn the tide if they chose to.

All the seagulls move aside - only to watch her. To watch her continue on her way. White and grey. Skin tanned to breakwater brown. Soundlessly, endlessly on.

Around the edges of this island. Never questioning why. Her commitment keeps us safe. It breaks a space for us to sit high and dry - observing her progress.

She walks because she knows. Knowing enough to know. That sometimes the tide is high, sometimes low.

[I see her but she is not mine to watch. My walker walks at night - when my eyes are closed and I cant see her. My walker walks on rainy days - when I am buried indoors under papers and dirty looks.]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I aint got time for the game

From either side of the screen people smile or scream and demand we consider the meaning of life. But don’t they realise I have spent my time doing little else? And I am getting closer to an answer.

And the answer is looking a lot like the puzzle known as the Towers of Hanoi.

When I was little, my Dad and I subscribed to a computer magazine. Each issue had lines and lines of BASIC code. We would type it in, letter by number, line by line and then hit ‘RUN’. We programmed this puzzle. Ever since it has fascinated me. You can play it here.

Did you enjoy it? did it drive you crazy?

It’s a lot like life. Its all about making little moves, one step at a time to get closer to where you want to be. Even though that place is only a few steps from where you started. You have to learn early on never to put a heavy load onto a foundation that cant hold it up. You have to keep a tight hold on your patience. You always have to think one or more steps ahead. You have to be prepared to accept that sometimes you will feel like you are moving backwards.

And just like life - its best played calmly, with all the time in the world, a cup of tea, and a quiet room all to yourself.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the road to nowhere

I am on a path of ideas. I have to keep walking. There is further to travel to reach my destination. Continue with me if you will.

Do we use methods of capture to keep a safe distance between ourselves and our reality, ourselves and our experiences, ourselves and our former selves? Do we seek to put a frame around moments so they are contained and cannot leak beyond the boundaries we allow them. Does this extend beyond the stasis of photography. Is it at play in films trapped on celluloid and wound onto concealed reels? words inked into bottom-drawer diaries? conversations ended with knowing silence?

‘maybe I shot the video tape so I wouldn’t have to remember it myself’ David Freidman

I wonder if all things look better from a distance? Up close we are microscopes to every imperfection. With time and distance the serrated edges of emotion grow blunt - so we can press against them with little fear to our paper thin skin. In their time smoothed surfaces we see a little of ourselves, but mostly just them.

‘you pass through boredom into fascination’
Adam Phillips

Writing becomes universal and somehow more profound when read at a time when the acute meaning has dimmed. Like large works of impressionist art. Up close we see blocks and dots of colour and paint - take a few steps back and a masterpiece greets us.

As I retreat from this room I look at the far wall, and ask… is it leaving me - am I leaving it - or is the parting mutual?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

paper poses

This island melts to soft focus - my eyes threaten to drip from their sockets to the page. Thought shifts to photographs. To faces frozen in time - expressions locked for lifetimes to come. People inkpinned to paper.

Some of my favourite photos of my favoured friends are those they probably like the least. Images where their mind has left the building that is the body. Vacant possession. They are sham castles - all flashy front but nothing to inhabit.

Their eyes are empty of meaning, thought, life. They have been bled dry by madness, misery, or distracting thought. They hold two dimensional poses - as if they painted themselves that way that day because they knew the only thing they would be fit for is a quick dip in a chemical bath and an early burial between the pages of an unread book.

Friday, July 07, 2006

angels with silver wings

Its not for me to mourn something I never knew, to cry over someone I never lost. I don’t want to pick over the ashes of the remains of the day. Its not right for me to keep my silence for two minutes just because the papers tell me to. Silence cant stitch together the holes we tear in time.

I don’t want to be told when to remember any more than when to forget. Within my mind all knowledge is mine - to play, rewind and erase as I see fit. I don’t want mourning marked on my calendar like the chalk lines around cartoon murder victims.

I want to be surprised. I want to be scared. I want to be caught unawares and grabbed by the throat by a memory best left forgotten. I want to be made to remember something that didn’t happen rather than something that did.

On Sunday 4th June memory paid an unexpected visit. A chance call to remind me that she guides my hand more than I care to admit. A year to the day and she called my name - turned my head from rain to flame. She is the messenger - the bright burning angel who speaks for the silenced. Singing songs of echoes of echoes of echoes.

And to take myself back to where I began, I tell you that what she told me is not yours to know. But I’ll give you a precious fragment of what she gave me, that -

The truest promises are those that never come to pass.

On Sunday 4th June, in a place not made for your eyes I wrote -

‘This is a blank space. A series of backspaces to erase what was previously laid. To pick it up in its delicate entirety - and carry it to another place, another day.’

This is that place. And today is that day.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I pad through the dark

You are the bonfire burning four or more gardens away. I never left the house but I’m sure I lit the fire. Sleepwalking with nothing on my feet but a spark between my teeth. Sleepwalking sweet pyromaniac dreams. I whispered you into ignition.

Embers flutter through the air. Black moths of memories lost. Twisting like discarded letters - spelling out the secrets we tried to burn. I wait and watch as they fall to where I lay. To where I came to rest at last. Ever grey on white skin. F
ading into my pores - they spell your name.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

all those sweet conspiracies

It seems like I am forever writing sentences that spin around the pivot of one or both of these words.

I write them back to front, upside down, even in a mirror, but they never make sense. One sounds long - a murmur, a rumble, an echo. The other is a soundproof door - closing me out or closing you in - I’m not yet sure which.

Then tonight I notice something new. Something previously hidden within these words. In remember there is ember. In forget there is forge. And so their eternal reliance on each other become clear. The forge where our cast iron tomorrows are wrought - fed by embers, those glowing fragments of dying yesterdays. Words within words should never be ignored.

Knowing this I tie these words to ribbons and let them hang above me while I sleep - an unlikely mobile that permeates my dreams. Everyday I wake up asking - is there something I need to remember, or something I’d best forget?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

glowing bronze, steering on

There is one particular road, on the way between here and there. A road I use on the few days when I turn my back on the sea and head inland.

A road where the music in my head comes alive. It trebles in volume, clarity, intensity. It lifts me from the pavement and carries me along. Low to the ground but gliding.

A road of harmonious oppositions. On one side those houses that all look the same. You can hear their shouting from the outside - even with the windows closed. On the other a graveyard. Deep and crisp and even. I don’t feel fear or sadness when I look through the railings - I’ve always felt comfortably alone in a crowded place.

Maybe it’s the lack of traffic. Maybe it’s the size of the trees. But suddenly I see where I am - fifteen odd years on and I am back where I began. I think the trees were smaller then, or maybe I was taller. Before I grew up. I was a little thought, on a little bus, from a big school.

And even then I was wrapped safe within my world of sound, muffled by blankets of necessary noise. And I realise so little has changed. And so much. I glide on, bittersweet in the familiarity of being me.

The proverbs claim - ‘It is not the destination that is important, but the journey there’. I disagree.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

random symmetry

I’m walking up a road named after distant royalty. It could be any road - it could be any name, on any day. Any day is any day until you name it today.

When I walk I don’t look ahead - that’s too predictable for me. Sometimes I look behind, but that’s risky, especially on a sunny day or a Sunday. Instead I look down at what’s beneath my feet. You’d be surprised at the things I see.

Today it’s a smattering of puzzle pieces. Bright blue against pavement grey. Abandoned jigsaw logic. All eager protrusions and holes. Begging to be fitted together - to combine into sense amid nonsense. Scattered outside a churchyard - but that’s beside the point.

It means nothing to me. Absurdity amid antipathy. But to someone somewhere this is everything that they search for. Perhaps the missing pieces are those that will complete and reveal them.

Or perhaps, more likely, these are the bits that had to be lost. To leave a window to look through the picture we build up piece upon piece, layer upon layer, day upon day. Now that these pieces are gone - from her frame to mine - she can look through the blue to what lies beneath.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

listening to the silences

‘The words stick in my throat.
They gag me and make me choke.
They starve me of all breath
and leave me no strength to name them.’

Or so I said on 21st July 1997. And they have lingered there ineloquently for nine years - until this week, when they start to riot and rumble.

This is their time. Time to chew through the vines of compromise, the seaweeds of politeness that bind them up and tie them down. They sway in unison so the tide rises within and I swallow back against the force of the oceans they crawl from.

They strike up a chorus of protest that echoes and reverberates through my chambers and tubes, and emerges through my lips as a gurgle, a burble a bleat. The time is right. They are ripe. They are free. Spring is in the air and its time to flee the nest that was me.

Sick of huddling in the shady cave at the back of my throat, they run out and dart to the tip of my tongue - taut and primed like a spring board. I am strong, I am high, I am elastic. Take a deep breath - prepare to jump.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

reap just what you sow

Prompted by a particularly bountiful harvest I thought I would share my quote taking habits with you.

When I read I amble along the lines, step by step, word after word. Sometimes I run and sometimes I jump over gaps, large and small, paragraph to paragraph. Always ready for the tricky manoeuvre of climbing from one page to the next - I keep moving onwards in my travels.

But sometimes I stop. I stand still and gaze at the lines I have just traversed. There is something about them that makes me linger. Makes me take out my pencil and paper camera and capture them for my album.

Maybe its just a handful of words that together spell beauty and wonder - that hold my breath. These I will save to return to at those times when I need to steady my exhalations.

Or maybe it’s a creature with little hooks, that has gripped me, and sticks to me - begging to be carried onwards, demanding my attention to return to him, to talk to him, to answer and ask more of him. These I will save as questions to return to, to think more of - to perhaps guide me inward, backward, onward.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

even the rain bows down

The word meniscus doesn’t sound like its meaning.

It sounds like an oath - a dedication to cruelty or revenge. It sounds like the late night whisper of a young girl with evil eyes and sharp fingers. A girl who will tear a gap in the night sky - an everpresent white reminder that will burn until you are old.

A promise served up with ground glass, cloaked in innocence and strawberry scent. But a promise that the dark fairies cheer to hear. A pledge to have her revenge against the tooth fairy.

Never forgiven for collecting her first teeth. Her pure diamond edged incisors. No milk white meekness for her - hers were the teeth of the past. The bite of the primitive inside everyone.

She will wait. And one day, as sure as the moon hangs high, that hand will slide beneath her pillow - and she will reclaim what is hers, and yours, and more besides. And she will dance away, dressed in enamel and clattering and chattering and forever ready to bite.

Friday, May 05, 2006

gravity always wins

I am sitting with Hanif Kureishi. Its Wednesday. I am facing the sea, backlit by the first true sun of the year. Together we consider what it is to write - the whys as much as the hows. We currently ponder the difference between literature and philosophy - and Mr Kureishi points out -

‘Reading a novel was like being with a fascinating person who was showing you their world. For me, philosophy was another kind of concentration. Theories seemed ways of creating apprehension. I found that it is not always answers you find here, but better questions.’

Suddenly this delicious thought is interrupted by a hand forcing a small leaflet into my smaller hand. A leaflet printed on poor quality paper and emblazoned with a Hollywood technicolour vision of hell.

A handout from everyones favourite door-to-door seller of redemption. As I study the people who look like they have been lobotomized by an overeager dentist, or drugged by radioactive fruit - I even begin to distrust the moose - is there not something overly knowing in that velvet smile?

And then I realize I recognise this paradise. Its Oz. Resplendent fakery. Somewhere there is a little man behind a curtain manically pressing buttons to manufacture this grand illusion of peace and harmony. And like Dorothy I feel a little sick, I want to go home, back to the black and white of Kansas. Back to my free-thinking meander through these monochrome pages.

If thinking of better questions is suffering then damn me to an eternity of philosophy.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

liquid diamonds

When she cries she pays back her debt to the waves. She lets little fishes swim across her face. She calls the seagulls to dive and soar. Theres drumrolls in the thunder and the angels start to roar.

When she cries she drops out questions. Whats in a tear? - a rainbow, a kiss, another year? When she cries she falls apart like broken glass - crystal clear for those held tight, held near or dear.

When she cries shes the spiral in your eye. A wonderland, a nightmare and nothing in between. I've seen the blind form a queue and pay with their eyes just to listen to her cry.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

love letters

She told me to eliminate words. So I did. When she starts to speak I draw in my breath - a suck of a whoop and I have swallowed a couple of phrases and she is left mouthing like a mute on a street corner. No-one listens. No-one notices.

When she writes I follow along a line behind and lick the page where she has laid her thoughts. My rough tongue laps up the little letters and she is left all gappy, incoherent and blank. No-one understands. No-one cares.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

the constant gardeners

This is the light garden. The day and night garden. The place we toil and tend. This is the garden of the sky. This is the tree of days. This is the place where we feed and water and breathe with laughter.

We are the gardeners - growing thin. Growing answers that are growing dim. Choked by weeds that curl around our ankles with their constant questions.

And here is the girl who sits in this garden - on a bench repainted many times - with a piece of blue wool tied to the armrest - to remind her of things best left forgotten. She doesnt like surprises - she doesnt like shocks. So we tend to keep the seasons in check. To give her somewhere safe to sit by herself. Inside herself. On a bench repainted many times.