Friday, June 21, 2013

sweet dreams on stony ground

She gives me many things including the name of our creeping wood sorrel (oxalis corniculata).  We have the regular sort too – but it’s this one I really love.  And now I know its name I love it even more.  Knowing the name and a bit about the nature of something allows you to know it more - you’d hardly call someone a friend if you didn’t call them by their name?  Now I know them I feel I can visit our creeping wood sorrel and see how it is doing, how it feels each day. 

Congregating along the edges and breaks in our paths it acts like a reddish green cushion.  It softens our environment – it hides our cracks by filling them.  It wants to help us forget where we are broken, to soothe our jagged places.  And to punctuate its curves with tiny perfect flowers.  Like air holes punched in a cardboard box – a way to let us breathe in our confinement.  To offer us bright ideas on dull days.  I notice that these flowers close up when there’s no sun.  Tight pinpricks of yellow across the path – just enough colour for us to believe their promise to return. 

A little reading tells me it’s an Old World plant now mostly considered a weed.  It can be eaten and bears the flavour of lemons but can be problematic in large doses.  Low-growing, it appears delicate but is known to be explosive when trying to further its cause.  All this reinforces why we get along - and that it’s sometimes known as Sleeping Beauty is even better.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

unlikely origami

I’ve spent a few recent Mondays drinking cheap tea and making notes in a slightly sticky seafront cafĂ©.  There are windows to my left and right.  I can look out to sea - and see a tide that is heaving and groaning, and like me seems to still be chewing over a recent conversation.  I can look to my right and notice one yellowed globe among all the lights.  I can look further inland and see a blue scaffolding net chopping in the wind.  I can get lost for a while in the archipelago of rust on the serviette holder and realise a phrase like that will always have far too many syllables to work in haiku!  

And then I can be surprised when a character from a haiku I wrote ten years ago walks through the door.  

you fold my face in half
and slide me under the leg
of your wobbly chair

There she is – the folded woman from my photo.  A scar stretched taut across her cheek – smoothed with flesh-coloured filler – but clear from ear to chin.  One third of her portrait tucked back on itself.  Once used to give a millimetre boost to someone who needed it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

circles in the sand

Sharing creative space has more benefits than drawbacks.  It allows for unexpected eddies of idea to flow back and forth across a table, across a room.  While I hold pen she holds hook or needle.  Sentences tangle across my page while woollen circles come to life in her hands.

I see the things she has made in ways other than she intended.  My writer’s eye turns them into creatures from beneath the sea - sponges and anemones.  Unlikely lichens crusting strange trees.  

I see pieces that draw in on themselves and others that sprawl, refusing to have a uniform outline.  I see ones that are dense and others that are wiling to let light through.  I realise that all of these accusations can be levelled at my writing.  The  company of her crocheted clouds keeps me warm.

Before too long my first word doily is taking shape on my page.  I turn the paper as I work.  My letters are stitches, my phrases chains.  I start off neater than I finish.  My written hand loses meaning – the words become mere wiggled lines of ink.  And in this form even my errors start to appeal.  A wonky letter or a word repeated where it shouldn’t be – my equivalent of a dropped stitch, a loose section. 

From a distance, like an overheard conversation, only the pattern vaguely recognisable – but as you draw closer, words and perhaps meaning start to take shape.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

postcards from the edge

Approaching the end of a long winter, this seaside town creaks into life.  The promenade train is running again. 

Black-head gulls walk parallel to the ripples, all heading eastwards.  Large ladies in bulky coats squeeze onto a sheltered bench.

A gull watches pigeon shadows skim across the stones.  Amid scooters and screams a boy tells his mother he has found half a mermaid’s purse.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

still life spring

She brings them with her, and while she is here their little bundle lays on top of the fridge and shivers from time to time, as do I.  Later we put them in the perfect vase.  Each stem falls into a fold – splayed like a gentle explosion.  They lean like they would in the wind if the wind could blow in all directions at the same time.  And today, at times, it felt like it did.

* * *

The daffodils she gave us are nearly spent.  Over the last few evenings they have started to give off a floral scent.  A faint premonition of imminent decay.  As if to remind us not to forget them before they are gone.  In all that’s going on it’s easy to overlook mere daffodils.

* * *

A week after she gave them to us her daffodils died.  On the same day she met her first child.  We replaced them with a second bunch – how quickly we grow to depend on their presence.  And these ones saw us through the snow, standing firm while our one wild one fell at the first fall.  They looked like the ones we made when we were young, when painting sections of an egg box was considered fun. 

* * *

We welcome our third one-pound bunch – twenty stems bound together like yellow-tipped green pencils.  They will be ready in a day or two to draw a small picture of spring.  We stand them in the wide-necked vase and let go.  Like a game of pick-up-sticks stalled at the start.   Like this spring, repeatedly halted by winter’s freeze-frame.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

rope tricks

She says ‘There are so many ways to hold the rope’ and I cannot help but agree. 

Despite the fact that we’ve never been to sea even though we live at the edge of the land and count the English Channel as one of our closest friends.  Although I do remember a time I folded a paper boat and set it to sail in our birdbath.  But that’s hardly taking to the high seas. 

We’ve never flown together either – but we have sat side by side and watched a thin twig turn into a tree – we’ve done crosswords in the shade and gazed forever upwards into her leaves and let them lift us closer to the sky.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

requiem for a stationer’s dream

I’m an addict.  Post-it notes are my drug of choice (this is not the first time I’ve had to admit to a paper-based dependence).  They feather the inside covers of every notebook.  But like most intoxicants I wonder if they are finally getting the better of me.  I wonder if the thrill of usage is being undercut by the comedown.  The realisation grows that while I clearly had a great time while using I have no recollection of the high.  Instead I am left with tattered squares covered with scribbles that strive to remind me of the ride.

I make these notes to let my pen catch up with my thoughts.  But I wonder if my notation is letting me down.   I’m starting to struggle to decode myself.  I’m finding initials and scratches of phrase that mean nothing.  I knew I had a problem when the other day  I found a stern command in bold capitals to ‘WRITE ABOUT D & G’ with no idea who or what this refers to, but I’m fairly sure it’s not Dolce & Gabbana.  Maybe this is how it looks when a writer loses their mind.

And while they are of little use if they don’t remind me of what I wanted to remember at least they form a strange poetry of their own.  And if my jottings were intended to be a sprinkled line of breadcrumbs to lead me home that has clearly failed - but at least I’ve fed the birds.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

snow diary two

(marking the melting more than the fall)

day one

First snow fall.  A messy affair – the snow has fallen with prejudice, favouring leaves and the narrow edges of fences and walls – avoiding large areas of tarmac and concrete.  The effect is uneven and not the completion we know this beast is capable of.  On her back windscreen the layer of snow is melting and slipping – opening like a lazy eye.

day five

Second fall.  What wasn’t there when we woke now is.  This Friday disappears, one settled centimetre after the other.  Upturned hanging baskets become snow crusted cages protecting bulb sprouts beneath.  The deep huff of snow collapsing beneath her boot steps. 

day six

There is a beach of bare path around our door.  There are footprints coming close to the house – some look long-pawed, perhaps belonging to the fox I saw in the road last night.  I have little left to say about this snow but more maybe on it’s way – the forecasts are vague – perhaps if it comes it will bring my words with it.

day seven

She retreads her track to the birdbath and back.  The snow falls in fine flakes that make me feel like I’m looking at old photographs of our garden – grown speckled and pale from the drift of memory.

day eight

A perfect dome of snow still covers our chosen marker stone.  There are other blobs and bumps of snow on the paths and I wish I could learn a frozen form of Braille – to read them and learn the story of what lies beneath.

day nine

Surrounded by the drippings of thaw as my word count grows.  The snow becomes glassy and darker at it’s base – it starts to let go, surrender this temporary state – it prepares to slide away.

day eleven

Third fall.  An unexpected visitor over night.  Cars pass with ruffling toppings – as if someone has pushed back a tablecloth once the meal is over.  The tops of fences like the edges of ripped paper – abandon another bad idea.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

friend of a friend

Every new year I struggle to throw away last year’s calendar, to abandon the colours that have kept me company each month.  So this year I truly recycled – snipping free little replicas of 18th century birds.  These are the ones that got away – the ones that want to tell their stories before they go.

When I search online to find any details of that calendar I find nothing but dead links – to all intents and purposes those birds of 2012 are extinct.  But I remember them, larger and sharper than these clippings suggest – hung on a hook above the study radiator.  Pages lifting and falling and curling slightly in the updraught - even in two dimensions they longed to fly.

I am the bird above the blue bird.  You don’t need to know my name or anything much about me.  My feathers come in a handful of colours so I fit well in most social situations and adapt easily to everyday avian requirements.  Not so my friend below.

He is a bird of a discontented hue.  Every time he perches nearby his pips and trills are filled with how he has spent much of his morning flying cloud-high only to close his wings and free-fall, eyes closed – pretending to be a raindrop. 

He tells me too how tomorrow he plans to fly two miles out over the sea, then will his feathers to turn to scales, his wings to fins so he can dive right in.

Some birds weren’t meant to be hatched blue.