Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Suit

Posted: April 7, 2019 in Chat
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Chatting with the agent about that suit,
the finest linen shot through with silk,
how I just had to, my pocket stuffed
with mortgage money, and the subscript
Downpayment, Downpayment – how only that suit
could save me from mediocrity
and steer us both into the future
we dreamed as rightfully ours, but denied –
your coming-out ball, faux-debutante,
and my place in that new society, reserved,
wanting only that suit, the final tie,
the puzzle of our existence solved.

Obsessive, passionate, fixed,
and conniving –
the more words I splashed in its honour
the less I was me, it was as if
I was sold even before I’d bought myself

 

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from Gone South

It happens as soon as you step off the train. Everyone savours it, a look of pleasure lighting up chinks of harried business faces, care-worn mothers trawling lines of squabbling children. Gil couldn’t make it out. That smell. What on earth…? He topped the road outside the train station and was hit by a gleaming brightness; it shifted, twinkled, blinded.
The sea.
He had often heard about it. This was the smell.
The sea.
It drew him on, hungry as he was, drew him down those extra miles, to its gleaming wonder. He stood on the promenade holding the rail in the cooling inshore wind. He breathed deeply.
It was high tide, and crested waves lapped and licked at the sea wall a yard below him. He stood, mesmerised.

He clutched the steel rail tightly, but still the suck and surge below him pulled; it was as though the solid concrete of the promenade was almost liquid.
He looked at the green of the sea; it shone like a lizard’s back. But the smell that came from it, when it belched on the sea wall – something ancient and beyond musty, beyond rotten, something older than any of it.
The City and its concerns were not even a dot in its memory.

He looked into it, and it looked back, into him, found a kinship there somewhere.
Then it released him.
He was doused in a cold sweat, mouth and throat dry as sand, muscles taut. It released him, and he sagged, still holding the rail.
He could turn away at last; he turned and never came back again.

This was Eridu, city by the sea.

Opening of first chapter of my new unpublished novel, Gil

FLYING LESSON

FIRST THINGS 

‘First thing they did. I mean I was already pretty freaked by then,’ he was saying. It was a warm, calm night in The City, and they were sat on the old river wall, a part not closed off, a part not structurally unsafe. ‘They took me up the Tower. You know…’ he nodded towards it in the distance, black on black in the night, its two upper floors dimly lit; watchful.

‘I’d been running wild, getting into bother, just the usual sort of things. You’d know. Only, I kept getting told, I always took it too far. Then the Men in Suits called round. It was at my ma’s. I was trying to squeeze home nosh out of her, ok, but I was in. Knock at the door. Shapes outside the back door too. I was ready for shinning up the loft ladder, skylight onto the roof, and over. I had this all planned out. Just in case. Then a lamp post and down. And I had on my Angry Antonys; I was good. It was quite a jump; not sure I’d make it.’ He looked down at the river, watching slick after foamy slick coasting past.

‘The daft… opens the door. And they were in. One grabbed my ankle on the loft ladder. He was a strong monkey, that one; built like an office block too. Yanked me clean off to his manly bosom.’ He paused, grinned, his teeth a sudden flash in the dim light from the street lamp below. ‘What was the point in struggling? Let him hold me.’

‘Boss wanted me.’ He looked across at his friend, his cheek, the line of his jaw, the slightly crooked nose,

‘They gave my ma a funny look – and she stared them out.’

‘Let him see the lad.’ she said. ‘Then he’ll believe.’

‘What the…? What was all that about? I was thinking.’ He laughed.

 

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.

 

Earlier this year we went to a funeral for which the deceased’s family could not afford to pay. Payment for the funeral, interment, service, devolved to the local Council. It was, in fact, a pauper’s funeral.
The service was led by the undertakers, no priest was present. It was a good, dignified service, but there was no religious aspect, the focus was on the sense of loss, and our common bond. A plain coffin, a plain service.

How many funerals, though, have no mourners at all? No attendees, other than officials?

*

In 2001, the Dutch writer, Bart FM Droog, the city poet for Groningen, conceived of a scheme where writers could give readings at such ‘lonely funerals’.
The scheme took off; Amsterdam took it up, the rest of The Netherlands, then Belgium.

It is estimated that around 60% of Dutch households have a Funeral Plan.
Sounds good, doesn’t it – but that’s only just over half: a good 40% do not.
Poverty is always with us, and in our economic climate it is a close cousin of many. We do not hear of those who die alone. Those whose remaining family cannot be traced. Those with no assets at death.

This scheme, to me, seemed such a touching and wonderful achievement, and for it to get official backing and financing would suggest many felt so as well.

But then other things happen, once a thing becomes financed – a competition was started for the ‘best’ commemorative poem.
With winners.
So, those who didn’t win… are their commemorations… not valued?
Does the competition cause ‘better’ pieces to be written?

Or is another way of drawing people’s attention to the scheme? Better coverage=greater support?

It is still a moving and an excellent scheme, despite all that.

https://www.rnw.org/archive/lonely-funeral

http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/the-dutch-city-poets-who-memorialize-the-lonely-dead/

http://blog.sevenponds.com/lending-insight/%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8lonely-funerals-remembering-those-who-everyone-forgot

https://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_low001200001_01/_low001200001_01_0006.php

I still cannot understand why the Christian minister did not take the funeral service at the funeral I attended. Where was the vaunted Christian charity?
It could be that the family of the deceased  did not ask for a specifically Christian funeral. I hope that was it – if they had so much as a choice.

We knew the deceased person, and were able to give our own short commemorative speech. She was young still, bright, intelligent, caring, a mother of two children
Without our words there would have been none.

Support the Lonely Funerals scheme.

INSOMNIA

Posted: October 23, 2018 in Chat
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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.

Upside Down Song

Posted: September 30, 2018 in Chat
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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.

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

As black-on-black of stellar crows
chase by eyrie earth,
they leave it reeling.
Their monstrous battles
are star deaths, sunbursts.

When they mate times tense,
pressured;
the incubation of the egg
our doldrums.
The hatching
moves time on a notch.

Feeding the newborn,
our periods of acquisition;
when the fledgling flies
we feel its wrench, absence
like the loss of a god.

There is no knowing
they will ever fly here again.

BRUTALISM

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Chat
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He walked out of there into a mechanical world. It should have been a new world, the old world new again. But it was a mechanical world.

The hearing aids were the new part; they were calibrated to the loss of the higher frequencies, and so upped the treble for him. The simple laws of materials and their resonances meant those upper frequencies had the tinny sound of some ipod ear pieces.

He walked out of there expecting to hear the world as he had known it; it was not that world. What he heard was a mechanised version: a bird flew by, flapping its wings for take-off and height-gain. There was instant visual and environmental recognition, here was an urban pigeon entering onto a length of flight, the road to the next junction, maybe. It was too built-up for wood pigeons, though they had the same flapping-slap of flight. But this time it sounded like a rustling newspaper, a large broadsheet. This was not that familiar sound to vision connect he knew so well.

His cotton trousers brushed soft cotton socks; it was a rasping sound. That was wrong. He was so intent on this hearing phenomena, these anomalies, the car just missed him. The slightly off-centre focus of his hearing, a little further to the back of his head, skewed his balance; he felt he was lurching around. By the side of a road this was not good.

He came to that junction in the road and turned, off the curb again, on then off.

‘Did you see that fool, then?’

‘Drink. Or drugs.’

‘Shouldn’t be out.’

‘What a tosser.’

He walked away quickly. This is what he got the aids for, to hear conversations again. But this…. All those times outside of conversations, anything not one-to-one, anything with background music, or just sounds blanking out all finer sounds…. And this is what he needed them for? To hear this kind of thing? Everything has its plus, and its minus.

He was in the shopping precinct now; all around were conversations. He was no longer shut out, separated by a blurred barrier of sound, now he could hear. And what did he hear? Conversation as social glue, as recognition codes among women, and among men; the youths uttered a kind of blank-faced vowel-heavy monosyllabic talk. Back with their girlfriends they were animated and fully vocal again. This was bonding, rather than intercourse: all had come outdoors to re-register themselves as social beings of a certain type, place, age, social level.

That hiss. What was it? It was the hair over his ears, the ear pieces. Whenever his ears moved, and it was surprising how often, or his scalp moved – that too – whenever all the continual physiological responses of his head occurred it gave a hissing sound, like a simmering. It should be a lower sound, a rustle of hair on plastic, on packed plastic, not hollow; but a rustle.

It was then he began to notice the changes in the new sounds, a mismatch of known sound from recognised stimuli, and this altered sound. His sense of balance, ok, that was expected and explainable: his mind listened to these new sounds despite himself. His mind was so taken up with this that it left his vision to fend for itself. And so, that object glimpsed for a second, and which he had glimpsed so many times and knew to be a faded flower head over his high garden wall, now gave him a sudden alert.

He was home, and brushing up the soil he had just walked in with a hand brush. What was that? A crow cawing somewhere close. It was his shirt brushing the flock wall paper as he moved. Nothing was matching with anything else. His mind supplied the correct explanations, but the cause was not the right one. Although vision was always king, sound was the council of ministers, the underlying sense and explanation to everything seen.

Now every sound had borders again. Things you are not aware of, things taken for granted, things slowly accustomed to, building up, accumulating, as your own sense of self grows. And now how very untidy this house – everything overspilling. My god, he thought, Where’ve I been?

The week was taken up with tidying, only, the clarity was like a razor. He became ruthless; everything went. His comfortable apartment became… stark, sharp edged, with high-lumin light bulbs that gave no mercy.

A part of him found he could not stay indoors longer than needed. He interpreted this as being focused, energized. This mismatch set up a sense of restless energy that frequently tipped into acts of anger, sudden bursts, that made no sense to him. He’d leave whoever he had hurt, and walk away amazed at himself, appalled at himself, and thrilled.

He searched out the cleaner parts of the city. The Business sectors? No; vacant buildings accumulated there, closed-downs. It became a tumbleweed centre. No, the places he gravitated to were the financial sectors. Behind their black windows they generated as much energy as they had before. This time, they did it clandestinely. Their offices were… sharp-edged, minimalist, with high-lumin light bulbs. This was his new home.

But even there, a part of him shrank away from full commitment.

The straight abrupt angles of the building in front of him was the promotion of common sense and business confidence, of four-square achievement; solid, dependable. This was the crown of the great city.

Now, however, it and many of the ones in this style, especially in close proximity like this, their own financial sector, now radiated to all an overbearing feeling of dullness, of deadness of spirit and enterprise. They had come represent the hubris and failure of an economic system that was flawed at heart.

His hearing was now like that; it dictated to sight a different, diminished repertoire of sounds to meaning.