Friday, May 28, 2010

where the wild things are

spotted last sunday. baby birds times two. the collared dove not yet smooth, and darker than it will become. like brewed tea taken less milky. the sparrow still fluffed with down the colour of ash. a little phoenix. both hopeless against the wind, content to go wherever it takes them.


at the corner point of the roof next door is a strip of metal that forms a curl. a roofer’s flourish it looks like it should support a hanging basket although that would float far to high for belief, watering or enjoyment. this afternoon, one foot on the tile, another on the curl, stands a crow. looking to each cardinal direction in turn. sparkling in the sun. if black can be said to sparkle.


this morning. a small green beetle-bug comes through the door. perhaps wind blown, perhaps self propelled. it lands on my hand. I try to shake it off, I am reading. it weaves between my fingers, round the back and in between. it has a long body, not a round one. I flick it off and it skids across my page. I grab it and feel it rattling slightly in my fist. like a word you can’t quite remember. I cast it out the door, badly. it sails towards the little bleached fir that we plan to plant round the front to replace the one that we uprooted at the end of last year. the one that had grown too big for us and for itself. but beetle-bug falls short, and lands in a web. I hope it gets free. I am reading but I would rather it was still stuck to me than to that web.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

101 ways to write about rain

Sometimes it seems like there’s a lot of it about. So, in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ I aim to get to know each and every drop.
the rain started like a rumour. a whisper at the back of the classroom. a secret passed on under the breath. a hastily scribbled note on folded scrap paper. she knew what was happening behind her back. she knew it was coming for her. yet again she’d be caught in a cloudburst.
your eyes are like rainclouds. filling. filling the sky. no wind. no movement. some light. not much. blankety and grey. comforting in their familiarity but largely unwelcome on a summer day. all day they linger. they stay. but drop not a drop. they glower but never shower. you threaten to rain. but don’t.
false alarm rain. a few spots that linger in the air but don’t drop. that hang there to create the impression of rain. like a raindrop mobile above a baby that never breathes. enough to get you up off the sofa, out of your book. to bring you to the window. out the back door to bring in the washing. while the drops hang still.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

what a difference a day makes

today is all I have to do. brown blankets to the power of two. strawberry tea brewed strong with one heaped sweet. listen to short CDs, boys with guitars and easy accents. finger nails tap in time on the rim of this mug. net curtains parted slightly, hooked by a thread on a thorn on a pot plant. the street outside, a dagger shape slicing into view. a scrappy bookmark of the place I left off, that I’m meant to pick up again. but not today.

* * * * *

the garden grew indistinct. she thought she was falling asleep with her eyes open. but it was just a sea mist creeping through. not rolling in the way they usually do, steering round corners and piping between trees. this one seemed to form in the air itself. in every place between here and the distance the air grew thicker and the view thinner. as if something was turning down the volume on this tuesday afternoon.

Monday, March 01, 2010

patchwork prose

I’ve always been drawn to mosaics, jigsaws and patchwork. Anything that aims to make a whole out of small somethings. I also regularly need to revisit the question of why I write. It feels reckless to do it without understanding my motivation. I’m not the type of person who would climb a mountain simply because it’s there. And the answer I’ve often come to is that I write to keep record. Noting the daily in an effort to distinguish the uniqueness of each. I think that’s a major reason why haiku suits me. Each is a little patch, and seen together they suggest some kind of record of experience. A patchwork of my days. Of course I like my flights of fancy too, my wild imaginings. Perhaps these are my play, where I fling the patched cape around my shoulders and pretend to be a kaleidoscopic witch for the day.

I’ve dabbled with reading diaries before, but never fully embraced them. Plath’s big green volume has been bowing my bookshelf for years. But recently I’ve dipped my toe into May Sarton’s coastal account shared in The House by the Sea. And I’m astounded at how much I’m finding there, how much relevance to my todays considering Sarton’s todays were almost forty years ago. I admire a diary keeper - their bravery as they allow me to hear their confession. The way they aren’t ashamed to be so indulgent as to write about themselves day after day. Perhaps we all hope to create something that will outlive and outlast us. Some people bear children to meet this need, while some of us prefer to make something we can burn if we change our minds.

Today I shall start to read the first entry in the fictional diary of Ruth which runs through Thaw, the third novel from Fiona Robyn. I’m interested to see how Ruth uses her diary, and if you are too you can read along for the next three months at Thaw.

Friday, February 19, 2010

unrecognisable truths

I always enjoy spending time browsing through the posts at One Million Footnotes, not least because the most interesting text recognition scrambles appear when I comment there. And perhaps influenced by the mood of the place, sometimes I can’t help but make up sentences to nest these unexpected words.

A recent dubious flock hatched the following -

  • He said he admired my fulogo and I admitted I had waited years for it to bloom that profusely.

  • As they lifted the deadverd stones from their mahogany chest and laid them into a perfect circle they knew that tonight was the night it would happen.

  • How ever much her grandmother combed or wetted them with spittle, she could never calm those unruly efrai that danced around her ears.

  • The seeds of the pandea were bitter between his teeth. But they made his dreams taste sweet.

  • The odabil was lost overboard, just as they rounded the lighthouse. It sunk slowly to the seabed and sometime later was appropriated by a shy hermit crab.

  • It wasn’t the first case of outterea they had recorded, but it was the worst. It didn’t quite kill the villagers, but they were left distinctly altered, unaware that they’d made it into the record books.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

a 3-ply valentine

This is the tissue that carried two drops of oil of eucalyptus. That lay folded beneath your pillow. That let you sleep and dream away the fever. That helped you be a hummingbird.

This is the tissue that you fashioned into a soft envelope. To treasure the eyelash. That you found between the pages of a second hand paperback. The day you fell in love with a stranger.

This is the tissue you clutched. That midnight we shared secrets. The ones you’d stood on for years. The ones that started to eat you from the feet up.

This is the tissue that caught your hayfever tears. Walking through the fields. Swigging cherry wine from the bottle. Looking down at the village we’d outgrown.

This is the tissue that blew overboard. Out on deck. Cross Channel ferry. Smiling and watching the others look seasick.

This is the tissue you found stuffed down the back of the sofa. As you sat with your coffee cooling. On the first Valentine’s day without a card.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

suburban myths

I don’t believe in these snowflakes. The sky is laughing and running with scissors. It’s breaking the rules and snipping the corners off clouds, and dropping the litter in my garden. The trees and the shrubs are dancing with agitation. The wind is getting on their nerves as they try to make plans for spring.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

shower the people with love

If I had the time I’d tell you a story about the girl who could speak to the rain.

I’d tell you how she would sit in a quiet room and let it patter at her window. Few people know that raindrops speak a language distantly related to Morse code. She would listen to their hopes, their everyday worries and their weekend heartaches. She was usually content to listen, a well mannered eavesdropper, and they didn’t seem to mind. But occasionally she’d reply, tapping on the glass with her fingernails. And then the raindrops would gather on the other side, in eager clumps and clusters. She’d share little matters of little interest – what she’d had for lunch or a snippet from a magazine. And they’d be thrilled. Few people care enough to learn fluent raindrop. Sometimes she’d wish a raindrop ‘Happy Birthday’ and tonnes of others would arrive in a flurry to cheer and toss the birthday drop around. Passersby would frown and pull their collar tighter to their neck. Sometimes she’d go to other houses and overhear other people’s raindrops. They were never as friendly as hers. To long ignored they’d hurl themselves cursing against the window pane – threatening to break in and drown the householders. Other houses had sad raindrops sliding slowly towards the sill, crying and muttering how no-one loved them.

I’d like to learn to speak raindrop. If I could I think we might forge a better relationship. We could learn not to mess with each others plans.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

hate crimes (part 2)

Once upon a time I built her a house of cards. To keep her happy, to lock her away.

For her second coming I’m constructing a life-size cinema made from spent matchsticks. I’m laying an orange carpet, and tearing out the flame retardant seats. I’m painting the walls the colour of London street corners, edged with waiting for taxis at 2 a.m. The air-conditioning silently circulates the smell of the bottom of a strangers shoe, of spat out chewing gum that tastes of your kiss.

And she’ll get a front row seat. To watch the show. To see how quickly we all fall down. One huff, two puffs, three’s company and four’s a cloud.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

snow diary

day one
The white one has come. It used to be a rare bird, but here it is, in our garden, the second visit in a month. We must adjust to the blank landscapes that fill every window frame. And the silence. The snow is all we talk about, comparing flake size and coverage. It’s all I write about - all day until my paragraphs shrink to bullet points and your bootprints fill with fresh fall.
I know a warm hearted man who believes that snowflakes are made of spite, with a little water and sky thrown into the mix, just to help them to fly.
day two
So much for central heating. She brings a fallen icicle indoors. She places it in a glass and takes photos. Sometime later I look and it’s only millimetres shorter than it was before.
day three
The man with the white car hasn’t left his house in days. Today he emerges, and chips away at the ice and snow with a scraper and a brush. He wears a brown cardigan and works till his hands look undercooked. He runs his engine till the snow on the bonnet has thawed. He clears the headlights, then goes back indoors.
day four
The white tide is lapping at our door. No longer the slim beach of bare concrete. Today, the frozen waves are cresting the double-glazing.
Sparrows kick up small flurries with their feet. Woodpigeons no longer leave neat impression of their footsteps. Instead they are sunk to their feathered undersides and drag themselves along with their grey mood in tow.
day five
I wake and check Tommy’s roof. Eyeing tiles as if they were distant hills. Today they are red. All morning a steady dripping. The new snow melts first, uncovering old footprints. It doesn’t melt so much as fade. Concrete burning its way back through.
She walks the garden path with a jug. Filled with water for the birds. And on her return, with sprigs of rosemary for our dinner.
day six
The neighbour’s over-hang drips steadily. The postman delivers five days of mail with a guilty look. And the redwings come no closer than the far tree.
day seven
She wears different boots today. The marks they leave are proper footprint shapes – the kind you draw or doodle in the margin and can only watch as they snake their way across your blank page.
People have claimed the road as their own. An old man pulling a trolleybag and a young woman pushing a buggy. Walking in the tracks of the cars that went before. Trudging the black lines carved through old snow to tarmac below.
day eight
He said they’d gone, that the worst was over. The fieldfares back to the fields and the redwings on the wing. I dreamed busy dreams. I slept with my left foot sticking out the right side of the duvet. I woke to more snow.
these things fall silently
tears and snowflakes
beautiful and bearable
only in ones and twos

[with thanks to dandelion for the above image]