Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

APPS

Posted: June 23, 2019 in Chat
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Something is speaking, but you don’t know the language.
Your body does, trips you, its knowledge
coding through into nerves of muscle, to balance.

You will need an app to help you stop, listen.
What is it saying?  It’s saying
you’re stretched beyond your limits, a wire spring
about to buckle. It’s saying
listening is no good, but there’s still time
to save the debilitated, ruined.

Listen, and then act
by stopping doing.

Falling is just the beginning.

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The Waits

Posted: March 31, 2019 in Chat
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Tch-twch on the line and then the express train
bow wave creases air over the platform’s yellow line,
mocking with a hug, then with repulsion lets go.
And all the lights up the line on hold.
Their freighted busy musk bastes our complacence;
we are for their passing a blur of architecture,
a waiting room. They are tubes of furred air.

We have each been where the others are;
there is no division. We are not that, we are
where and what we are. Tomorrow different;
tomorrow we swap roles, sides, minds.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queen-City-Michael-Murray-ebook/dp

 

Tipitia was standing in deep thought by a window on the sixth floor of the university tower, it was by the Archeology Department elevator. She did not notice a shadow behind her, then a gentle voice said,

‘I do believe you have discovered one of my little secrets.’ It was Professor Farnum. The view from the window was across the city, and from their position on the university campus to the south of the centre the view was stunning, especially in sunlight: the white buildings shone in the light. Smoke rose from last night’s fires around the city centre.

‘The queen of the city.’ she murmured.

‘I always come here when I need reminding why we are doing this.’

‘Why? Professor?’

‘All the sacrifices. I have a theory,’ he said as they walked into the department, ‘that there are seven challenges in our profession.’

‘Challenges? Professor?’ she was gradually tuning into the conversation, and away from her private thoughts.

‘Some are just simple, basic things, like just getting through the undergraduate course. It isn’t the workload, not the intellectual struggle, No, that comes later; at undergraduate level it is just the challenge of sticking at it. Of not giving in and… well, you know the drop-out rate at this university as well as I.’

‘You always have seemed so…’ she looked for the word with the right shadings,

‘Committed?’ he offered. No, that was not quite the one.

‘Have you wondered why I do not do field work any more? Surely there have been rumours?’

‘I had thought it was the volume of administration, running a department in these times.’

‘And you have indeed shouldered your part of that,’ he said. ‘I call that challenge number five. No, it isn’t all because of that.’ He was ushering her into his office; the view was into the university quadrangle and the anonymous concrete admin section over the way.

‘You must have heard of the Sudan debacle?’

‘Yes, sir; well, as much as was needed.’

‘It was the tenth day, and we were struggling to fulfill our obligations; findings were few, and low quality. I had co-opted local children who were hanging around, getting in our way, you know the sort of thing. They were carrying baskets of diggings away from the sorting table, when one little girl, she must only have been nine or ten, suddenly collapsed. She died on the spot.’

He was silent for a good while; Tipitia sat quietly.

‘Apparently,’ he continued, ‘she had been up from before dawn, traipsing three miles, with a big… plastic container, to the spring, and then returned with it full and strapped to her back. Another three miles. Every morning. The boys, of course… it was the girl’s job. And our transport standing idle. Our own water supplies….’

He was silent again. ‘Tim Johnson was with us… you’ve heard me talk of Tim, our best field worker. He quit. Didn’t finish the dig, I… don’t know if he blamed me….. I heard about him some years later, he had been working with an Aid company. He had been kidnapped by rebels. They found him, what was left, a month or so later. That was my last dig, too.

They sat for a while avoiding each other’s eyes.

 

‘You never married, sir.’ she said. The tension eased a little.

‘Ah, no. Came near it once; very near. Anthropology research student at St Columb’s. Ah yes.’ He opened a drawer in his desk, brought out a framed photograph. Tipitia caught the colours of an academic gown with Masters cap and collar. Black hair… she peered closer.

‘That’s Professor Hernandez!’ she said. ‘She has always been my role model.’

‘Janis, yes,’ he said, and a surprisingly intimate light came into his face.

‘Challenge number four.’ he said.

‘Why a challenge, sir?’

‘Who knows if either of us would be where we are now, if…’

‘You gave up your marriage.’

‘It may not have come to that.’

‘But she is married now, sir.’

‘I know,’ he said quietly. ‘But her husband is not an academic; there is no… conflict.’

 

Untitled

Posted: January 20, 2019 in Chat
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1
We live our lives like baited traps,
hope to catch ourselves, or someone else there,
partner, politician, stance, or cause,
to validate us, perhaps.

As though our living on longing
reconfigures us
and the thousand compromises life is
are steps back – refusals – away
from our own responsibility.

The longing for authenticity
turning lives stale;
the precincts, parks, streets
we scabbed knees on, worked on,
the cities our lives made,
are provisional,
plaster-board mock-ups.

And to remember is an act of betrayal,
almost:
an action, yes, but not itself
the living moment.

2
Waiting with the patience of trappers in the outback,
on the edge of wildness, for whatever-it-is.

You will not know it until you name it, its features
figured in red in the sounding stomach, cave wall.

Your rites and enticements are enactments,
feints to habituate wonder, excitement.

Anything to keep out the emptiness that chills.
But waiting and arrival are parts of the whole;

it carries these shadows around with it always:
promise, possibility, renewal.

As long as they are near, you say,
if only to yourself, in private, at night.

 

From one window a woman’s voice
an aria from Mozart, a clear cool breeze
in thick night heat.

Another window, a parrot flying,
a tropical storm trapped behind glass;
a noise like heaven tearing.

This window is empty, no one home
or elsewhere: shift workers
before early call. These I have known.

Here a laugh, a conversation;
an insistence of children, rolling banter,
close-woven tones of communion.

Another a blue flicker of a tv
and nothing else; the curtains open,
the night falling in like isolation.

Here the crackle of an argument
already full-throttle, self-feeding;
ending inevitable, origins forgotten.

And in and between each window, holes
gaping in the night’s fabric.
The hot night stalking restless.

 

INSOMNIA

Posted: October 23, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , , ,

All night long it seems planes have been leaving,
squalling their metal and exhaust through cloud banks.
Summer trees’ packed bags are in the loading lanes.
Loud in the lull between take-offs cats squeal.

All night long watchful, hollowing out sleep
until light sifted slow down through air corridors.
To have extended yesterday through the night, my watch
quarrying one long moment; whatever’s to follow
calls for configurations of several unknowns.

To not detect the impact of those ideas
we played with ‘til afterwards, when laughter
brought out their underlying assumptions: inflections
as foreign to us now, as umpteen other moments
when time has moved through us.

And just for those moments it seemed what was felt had
meaning and significance; if we could just step
into undefined selves it could save us: to go
further out between belief and conceit, that edge
between one heartbeat and another.

Out Damned Spot, William Shakespeare Crime-Scene Cleaner , by F J McQueen. Published by Urbane Publications, 2016

https://urbanepublications.com/our-books/
https://urbanepublications.com/authors/?s=F+J+McQueen&book-authors=&order=

This is the most extraordinary work of fiction that I have read in a long, long time.

1

We expect fiction to be set in our known world, where responses to environment are known, our own experience, and as ordinary. In a fantasy work the same applies: they are all recognisable people in recognisable situations, it is the details that are different.
But what if one’s responses to the environment became other than the known? What if the environment became other than our experienced world?

The shift, here, is in cognition: something is different, something is ‘other’, and nothing becomes accessible to the ‘predictive text’ of our inner narration.

The story centres around the nodes of Shakespeare’s main plays. We navigate a world that opens, like the Shakespearean world discovering its America.
Will Shakespeare is on the last day of his work as a hospital doctor. What had gone wrong? We presume that something had. And why was he woken once more at midnight with that terrible sound? One that no one else could hear?
The ordinary of that world, though, was not our ordinary.
He set up next day as a Crime-Scene cleaner. The crimes? The plays are littered with the wrongfully dead.
His cleaning fluid – and here we enter a world truly chilling – is mysteriously provided for him by nine seriously unsettling people. Or are they all emanations of one? And their price? A meal of oneself.

2

There is a short story by Leonora Carrington, Cast Down By Sorrow, where the narrator meets the elderly but coquettish Arabelle Pegase. She speaks of her clothes, and mentions a dress she has that is made from cat’s heads,
What was your reaction to that? Horrified, like mine? And yet I think that her intention with this image is something else – it is a changed aesthetic, even a changed system of ethics, that she is describing.
It is used as an artistic, painter’s, image, visual and tactile, rather than humanistic.
And similarly here, the images in this book have their own wholeness, inner logic, that is not literary in the narrow sense that it is being used more and more at the present time.

There is an incident where a soil boat appears – or is it a grave? It takes you places; it takes you to the river of time where golems struggle to hold back a certain day. Made of clay they crumble constantly as they strain and struggle to keep hold against the flow of time. As they crumble new ones take their place, a constant renewing. But you sense the struggle, the need.
These are not literary images, but visual images – they could work as graphic images in a graphic novel. The visual, this is where the where the book’s Venn-structure overlaps the most.
But, some might say, golems do not appear in The Plays. No, but they are part of the sensibility of the period, of the wider environment of the time. And also of our time.
This is one of the many aspects of the book I especially like, it’s willingness to not stay harnessed to ploughing the narrow furrow of what we now take to be The Plays.

Take MacBeth’s three witches, they make their appearance early on in the tale, transposed as oracles, in a hospital cupboard. And they prophesy… impossible things. But the impossibles become increasingly possible as the tale deepens into itself.

How does it work? One crack in the world-self narrative we spin for ourselves – one crack, and a different take on reality becomes possible.
It is a cognitive shift.

In another’s hand the story could become whimsy – but that does not happen. The images are impactful, the writing of a very high standard, and the overall imagining quite devastating in its range and implications.

 

 

Upside Down Song

Posted: September 30, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , , ,

I put my fist to the sky
and I left it there
I took a fist to the day
wished I wasn’t there
I took a fist to the face
of everything that would break
and everything that would break broke
so I took a fist to me.

I took a course in hatred
and passed top grade
I took a course in mechanics
to unmake the world
I took a course in religion, bigotry
anything that’d further me
and everything that furthered me stranded me
so I took a spanner to me.

I changed the colour of my skin
to learn hating and hatred
I changed gender, attraction
to learn centuries of oppression
I changed everything about me
to learn how to be someone
who has constantly to change to fit in
with someone like me.

I was born hungry like this
I cursed my fate, cursed it
I was born disappointed, unsatisfied
I thought this the worst, this
I was born restless, would never give in
it kept me going when everything failed
I was born with a dynamo
a bad one.

 

 

 

 

Echoland

Posted: September 9, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , , , , ,

In the beginning was silence.
Ok, waves smashed on rocks long ago eroded, and great winds whipped trees out. Avalanches roared.
When the great Silures climbed out of stifling swamps, the hectic seas, they grew up and developed into monstrous beings among the plenty of the lands, and all those sounds around them.
And so, when eventually their small hunting area became scarce of game, they needed wider ranges.
They noticed the sounds around, noticed how it was the louder and more fierce sounds, made them all run, leave empty grounds. And the louder better. And so,
‘Rumble, ruMBLE, CRASH, CRASH!’ they roared.
‘AAARGH! WHOOP-AAAARGH!’
It worked, the others fled. Was that an avalanche? Was there a storm coming?
The new hunting ground was theirs.

Of course, other Silures had developed these tricks long ago, though some were only just catching-on. Was there one progenitor of tactics, trickery? You could say it was the most idle, or arrogant, the most selfish, unpopular, most ignorant, the bullies of the groups, tried this out. All to different degrees of effectiveness.
And so a competitiveness developed between them; each marshalled their weaker siblings and those who hung around for the pickings.

In the beginning was… relative… silence.
It was when the apes came down from the trees…. This happened wherever there was a long period of bad years, of droughts, fires, and the trees died a long way back. It happened everywhere the new weather patterns created from scrub and forest, bare pasture and grasslands.

The apes were crammed into smaller areas – they needed space. And also, they were curious. Their times of plenty, in the distant past, left them hungry, with a hunger they could not recognise, and nothing could assuage. Maybe if they searched in these lands, so antithetical to their natures, they could find the lost things.

And they chittered and chattered as they went, bonding their groups across the distances of the plains, deep in the grasses.

Who was it copied whom? Did the animals pick up on this new noise coming into their lands? And was this how bird calls began, imitating the morning calls of the roving bands, and the evening calls to rest? Or did the upright apes copy the new noises of birds, animals, they found themselves amongst? Then they could lure them to a sense of safety. Catch them.
Or was that for their own protection: the trickery and tactics of the Silures coming down to them in remote genetic patterns? Or was it that if they could imitate those around them, blend in, then maybe they’d be accepted?

But times, climates, terrains, change, and with them, the needs and requirements. Isolated groups sang morning bird calls to each other, becoming broken phrases, snatches of sound. A questioning note took on a certain gesture; an angry growl became a sneer.
– Echo-ing that which was inside themselves, as they clung to each other in their groups, as they passed through the dangerous places.

And cockerels copied the morning songs of the incomers. And when they themselves had long forgotten those songs, or even the state of mind, peace, appreciation, they drew those songs from, the cockerels remembered their own variations.
To try and retain some sense of wonder, some parts in the incomers grew religions from the ashes of those long forgotten camp fires.
Morning songs were now echoed in the calls summoning all to minarets, meetings, sacrifices. And the clicks of language, consonantal songs, were in the tocsin, the curfew sounds of night.

“I have never understood this about parenthood,” he was saying.
She knew the signs, the worn, ragged expression on his young face, the pitch of the voice, thin and insistent, forcing itself beyond its strength. “This need to identify with them, like… like trying to open up some psychic doorway. Become them….” And them mumbling unformed thoughts he cannot quite reach:
“Sink into a general identity.”

She had learned patience; as though that was her doorway to him, them, the world.

“It’s always been my…” struggling for words they both know will not come, “ I’ve spent so much of my life trying to demystify them. Mum. Dad. See them as people. And it’s such a disappointment. Their petty squabbling all my life. Their insistence on hurt. And, you know, sometimes, Sometimes… Maybe I should have left alone. Which is the most disappointing, them, or finding them as that?”

She looked at him again, guarding her expression. “I have to go. You know that.”

“God yes.” He jumped, “The traffick’ll be murder. Do be careful… out there.” Lame smile, the Hill Street Blues thing. Shared things; nothings, things they have somehow given such a value to.

“Look, you get off. And I’ll get the shopping so you can come straight home, and no…”

“Bye, love.”

*

She sat, hands between her knees, all tight, staring at her empty cappuccino. Sammy waited. Something was coming. She caught a yawn peeping out behind her waiting.

“I… ah. Do you think Dave is ok?”

“Ok?”

“I… ah… Twice now… I’ve…  heard him in the shower. Crying.”

“What? Really crying?”

“Kind of quietly. You know… well, it reminded me of a child. In bed, alone at night.”

“God, Lil., that sounds so sad.”

“I know, I know, I…”

“Has he said anything? Have you…?”

“I tried to. That last time. I met him, you know accidently on purpose, coming out of the shower…”

“And?”

“It was the look on his face. I couldn’t read it. I thought a bit of resentment, blame, but it was washed away by something…. I couldn’t, after that. Maybe it’s a man thing!”

“They’re not that different from us.”

“You’d never have said that one time!”

“Ah, well.”

“Look. I know this is going to sound weird. Bad. But…”

“Lil! I don’t know what I can say!”

“Look, I’ve worked it out: we go for a drink, after. Then I make an excuse…”

“Lil!”

“It’s me taking the risks here. With your histories.”

“How do you know Tony won’t want to come too?”

“Because. Because if he did the state he’s in at the mo., one drink’d knock him sideways. He knows that, and I know that.”

*

“Well, Dave, I’ll have to be getting back too.”

“Oh, Sammy, Sammy. I’m getting old, Sammy. Can you imagine! Only, what, five years between us. Feels like a life-time.”

“You’re only…”

“I’m losing my hair, Sammy. Big time. The plug-hole…”

“It could be anything, change of season. Even alopaecia.”

“Not only that, though, is it. Everything droops. I’ve shrunk horribly where it matters, and everything else just hangs.”

“You’re just out of tone.”

“You and me, we had good times. Those evenings in Durham. Romantic evenings. Lovely romantic evenings”

“You certainly have a long memory, Dave.”

“Come on, you must remember that hotel, those nights.”

“It was draughty, the furniture was dusty; fingermarks…”

“Don’t spoil it, Sammy!”

“Well, who had to clean up, afterwards?”

“But they were perfect. Admit it, weren’t they!”

“You have really no idea, do you Dave! What’s so romantic about ending up douching in a grimy bathroom. While you slept the sleep of the dead!”

“Sammy, don’t be… that’s…”

“That’s how it was, Dave. That’s really how it was.”

“I don’t know why you have to be so viscous. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? I can’t even do it anymore! She never comes near me, anyway. What have I got to raise a flag for.”

“And so you’re going to dribble into your drink for the rest of your life. Give it a rest, Dave.”

“So, and what’s your Tony got that I haven’t? From what I hear…”

“Ok, Dave. You’re on your own. Bye. Oh, and, don’t forget to give Lil my best wishes.”

*

Sometimes I catch myself hoping the car won’t start. I’d sit back, at my desk. A good hour before the cleaners come in. Fresh coffee; feet up. Cars chugging and honking five stories below. The quiet it makes.

Just so very sad to see him ill. Five years now. Improving. But now he knows that’s five years lost. Better, maybe, if he knew nothing about them; so hard to realise… We all live in out heads most of the time. So when something comes and… zonks you like that: nothing to remember when memory is our big resource.

 

My niece is doing Criminology; second year, now. God, I’d love to have done something like that. Options on our ACAS forms were post-war rationing.

Kids get all the best deals.