She lay awake. Flickers of bright ideas in the dark hours; hot enough to melt the rest of her thoughts, as candle wax, out the ears. She was restlessly focused – vocally restless, she sat bolt upright with an uninvited gasp.
“Crucial to finding the way is this – there is no beginning or end!”
The words fell from her tongue, as gold bullion in her lap. Sheets lifting airborne, as ghostly whispers in the opaque room, frozen in the moons glare, as she slipped on tip toes to the cranky floorboards, which marked her arrival with a groan.
Unpinning her paper map, with all the continents of the world, she tore it in two, clinically, down the middle. Rearranging their order, she placed the two halves side by side.
“My word! There’s no East and West, and we aren’t the centre of the universe!”
The divisions which define us, are only as powerful as you let them become. We made them; harboured and grew them, becoming embedded in our culture and history. Identity defines us, but, it doesn’t have to.
There’s no geographical East or West, and, once we look passed the boundaries that we have created – once we invert the map, open our minds, and abandon our tribal mindset, we can see the only thing which divides us, is us. Theres two halves of the brain, which work in synchronicity, for the healthy function of the body.
So, after more than two years, the time has finally come – I’m going home.
Home being, to no home… well, not entirely true; to my parents home, actually – gratefully – but not really my home, not anymore, and it hasn’t been for some time.
That said, “home” will always be home.
But, what does home mean?
Sure, it’s where we live, however, when, where you live is transient, where is home – my home?
Is it where I was born – Los Angeles, far from my upbringing, in London’s periphery, or just that, where I was brought up?
Perhaps, it’s the walls in which laughter echoed, as a child; a sentimental space – a place, in memory.
Is it where a family resides?
Does home need to be familiar, or, is it as simple as where you lay your head?
Do you need to feel connected?
What if you lay your head on cardboard boxes, build a cardboard castle – sure you’re “homeless”, they may say, argument muted, but, there must be a moment those four walls become home, unless, home is defined by utilities – then, are you ever a washing machine or a toaster away from a proper home?
Maybe, it’s where mail gets sent? Imagine cosy dinners around a P.O. Box.
Aha! The age old saying; home is where the heart is. We’ve beat the game! Ba bum bum b…ut
…what if you’re an organ recipient and your heart has been sent to pathology..?
For five years, my partner and I have called many manner of places “home”. For longer, we’ve been separated from the family cell – in some aspects, not all, of course – having mutually shared our first home (an apartment) in the U.K, prior to starting our free footed journeys, beyond the bounds and bounty of imagination.
My old bedroom, in the family home – my parents home – is filled with boxes; boxes upon boxes, of “stuff”, which has utterly overrun it, piled high atop my bed, and everywhere else. The bed itself, floats as a cargo ship, transporting miscellaneous relics, keepsakes, crossing a sea of memories, they collide in waves of nostalgia, manifesting into an aura almost tangible, frozen in time, as icebergs bobbing, off the coast of my youth.
Bizarrely, surreally, despite my gleeful excitement to see my family, I can’t help harbour a feeling of displacement. My home, has become so far removed from any earth and brick, that I find in the parting of my van and I, I am lamenting fully its fast approaching drive into the sunset as a loss greater than its weight in steel, gain in virtual digits in a bank account, or, in the comfort of its shelter. I am mourning the farewell to the nomadic lifestyle it represents, at least for a time.
What am I going back to – really?
My home, is/has, and I suppose always will be, exactly where I am – where I’m meant to be. Except I’m not meant to be anywhere, am I? I was meant be in Canada right now, before the pandemic hit, so, turns out I was meant to travel Australia, a little longer. Are we honestly meant to be anywhere? I don’t think so. I don’t believe in fate. We just are. And I mean that.
Although, infinitely grateful to have a supportive family, who is able to accommodate for my partner and I – our lives, mine, and that of my parents, have moved on significantly from the parent/child conventions of yesteryear, as it does, and venturing back, will likely prove to be as much new territory, as it is old.
I feel somewhat like an invading army, overrunning the walls of their castle with our bags and ransacking voices, bellowing stories of conquest and expansion. I just hope the purity, in the heartache of our time apart, and the long awaited, imminent reunion, will mitigate any emboldened feelings of intrusion, prodded as spear tip in their sides.
In writing all this, I should probably acknowledge both parties, to the best of my knowledge, are indeed counting down the days with excitement. Writing for myself, I feel joyous and warm with expectation. Our planned stay is to be relatively brief, and transitionary, in its facilitation of our next step, yet, with the state of the world, its limiting options, you just never know how long “brief” is anymore. Through the rosy visions of sunbeam lambent toward the wildflowers, in the cling of open bottles of bubble and hop; there is a guilty distillation in my soul, in which I feel kneecapped of my independence. Kneecapped, with a double edged sword.
But, then again, hasn’t everyone forfeited in ways which make my turbulence seem borne of paper planes; fragile and crude?
I am burdened by the knowledge of my overwhelming privilege, to have spent this tumultuous time, in the sanctity of Australia, where I have been free to, if not wholly condoned in the scripture imposed by the higher powers that be, at least in practice; shake hands with strangers, scratch my nose without barriers, loiter in public without imposition, and tongue kiss traffic crossing buttons, at my discretion.
Australia has suffered in pockets, anyone who has lost a loved one can attest to that, but no where close to the degree of many of its closest neighbours in the East, or its political allies, in the West. It has, for all intents and purposes, at least in my experience, been a beacon of normality. I’m sure most will agree. Especially all the Hollywood stars, who have flocked here in droves. The U.K is the great unknown, where policy can change with socks.
I’m stepping out into the road before the crossing lights have gone green.
I’ll be riding a waves of emotion, back to the shores of white cliff – my family, my country, and my home.
I know, I know, it’s the question which keeps you up at night.
Oh, it’s not?
I wish you told me that earlier.
To those who have never experienced the van life, they may imagine a scraggly type, in boho genie pants, ornate with Thai motif, sharing spoonfuls of cold baked beans, between themselves and a windswept mutt, which shares its owners features. Now, whilst that may be true often, there is an alternate universe where a venturesome few reside.
A lot of backpackers kit their van out with a gas stove and refillable cylinder – portable, practical and relatively cheap – but in my opinion, messy, greasy and often smelly, when fitted in as a permanent fixture (especially at the head of your bed!).
However, those without the space for this set up, like myself, who opt for a smaller, more under-the-radar vehicle, might be left wondering of alternatives. 220g canister compatible portable butane cookers, let me tell you for nothing, suck! The canisters are expensive, short lasting, and foiled ingloriously by a light breeze.
If you’re lucky enough to tour the popular backpacker destination of Australia (fuck yea, Straya, cunt! – get used to it), then there is an alternative.
Two years in this larger than life country, and I’ve managed to get around… a bit – it’s big place, if you didn’t know.
The hot plate ‘barbecues’ are all over mainland Australia, and the quaint (and mighty) Tasmania. These barbecues, are provided free, and kept well maintained (often) in the majority of parks around the country.
It’s quite exceptional, actually.
I don’t think we’re trusted to have nice things in the U.K – that’s understandable.
After realising it’s just a glorified frying pan, I became quite experimental.
Far from just the humble burger, I managed to knock up Spag Bols, all manner of omelettes, crispy potato’s, sweet-sticky Chinese dishes, complete with fried rice, and so on – you name it, I tried it – often met by raised eyebrows from the locals, behind their sausage sizzle (sausage and a single slice of white bread, an Aussie staple).
Here’s an idea for all those interested, with more to come!
I use ‘sea to summit 360 furno’ camping burner for boiling. They are cheap to buy at around AUD$30, and as good as the pricey stuff. Gas canisters are $14-17. I love my gas burner, it’s perfect for a quick tea, rice, pasta, or, anything else!
Teriyaki Turkey Mince and Rice
• Turkey mince • Red onion • Red or green capsicum • Spring onion • Rice • Teriyaki Sauce • + Add peanuts for extra crunch
Super easy this one; just chop the capsicum and onion, and fry with a little oil. Whilst the veggies soften, start the rice – boiled or fried. Top time saving tip, get the microwaveable packet rice, for quick and simple fried riced. Add the Turkey mince to the veggies and break it down with the spatula, frying it off until cooked, keeping the rice separate from the other ingredients. Add the teriyaki sauce and heat through for a minute or so, making sure not to burn. Garnish with chopped spring onion and optional peanuts.
We build our castle in the sand, standing proud, upright and pristine, buckets of expectation, become the mould, shaped according to its vessel, its straight edges can’t defy the breeze,
the winds of change
Grains lifted, airborne, one here, one there, but it holds its form, threatened with nothing of substance, light basking it in a radiant sheen, vigorous incandescence, now time to live inside, to watch the waves,
the changing tide
It breathes evanescently, fluid salutations, never quite hello, never quite goodbye, transience lapping up the shore, grain by grain, the foundations of your castle, wash out the sea, till it tumbles back into the beach,
I sit, my women by my side, with legs dangling – as the moon in the sky – out the back doors of the van, facing out across the Bass Strait, to the mainland of Australia, from my coastal cradle in Tasmania, rocked by a chilling wind which tightens the air.
Numbing sea of dusk,
Black waves lap over the rocks –
Steal and shape their form.
The “Blood Supermoon”, flying through the sky – pumped and swollen – battles the darkness, in a fray which has spanned the ages, destined, ultimately, to be lost, in a distant flow – of what we call time – beyond mortal bounds.
May she bathe in blood –
Our moons hoary complexion,
Flushed in her frenzy.
We are here at the epoch of her supreme power, draped in the red of her own cape, or; perhaps refracted sunlight in Earths atmosphere – it is up for debate. A trail of Infinite energy, sourced from across the universe, scattered in starlight – a fallout of the tumultuous tussle of time, space and all the things which crash about in the cosmos, silent to earthly ears.
Twirling in the sky,
She dips into the umbra -
Flowers in her hair.
Tonight, she celebrates her victory, for the sky is lit, for all to wander in the would-be-darkness, and share in her spoils. The Flowers of May, still hold their scent, as she prepares her outfit for the Strawberry moon of June. Our hero’s job is never done – her schedule ever busy – as she prepares to Clark Kent her super powers, until their time of need.
A knock in three, I rise for thee, but, barely see,
through the cigarettes, which went down for breakfast,
two more worries at the door; I’ve been dreading this day, the Grandchildren come to play,
One more second of peace before…
Shrieking! uninvited joy, through the musty corridors, and into the high walled garden, the plants suffer, where attentions do not tread,
These little mites, bearing their cuddles and need for comfort, behind snot and dribble, unappealing as burnt toast, I spread myself thinly between, as to not come across too sweet, a sugarless spread, try marmite instead, on your unsophisticated palates,
Don’t call me Gramps, best call me Grumps,
Wee devils, who question my dishevelled manner, and everything else, infernal curiosity, which need be shelved, yet turn a blind eye, to the paintings which loom, as their heirlooms, in my doom,
In timely strokes, I poked away, dabbing and brushing, as aging hands sway,
Or, to my poems, which litter the table, where the ashtray climbs, as the highlands in winter, where I spent my youth, bonnie and in bloom,
the little tykes pounce on my lap, laddie, and the lassie too, spirited hair attempting to escape in all directions, in blonde tuffs, that grew, as kicked up lawn, and flap as dying canaries,
– I do mind if you mine my beard, not that you asked, but leave anything which you might find, for its mine, crumbs and other oddities, all things weird, drops of ash, a hidden rash, stash of cash, its mine –
Whilst the ashen mounds, are beaten from their crystal cut bounds, to float down again, as snow on rolling hillside, where I used to glide, on planks, in the Cairngorms flanks,
I thank you, for that momentary reminisce, a time of bliss, where my dear lady lives, behind the glass, of the café, I pushed scran down the pipe, As she’d unload rounds of banter, into my ready hide, tough as leather, But, already sore from the Scottish ice, we warmed our fingers, as we blether, around tea brewed black, in porcelain, not paper,
like it used to be served, when things were right,
there’s not a night, I don’t rest my hand, on your pillow, to a hollow, as in my heart, and trace the dents your body followed,
not a day goes by, I don’t wipe my eyes, of your presence,
aye, I miss you so, I wish you dinnae go, but, I also miss my brew, and that’s one thing I can change,
Duality; life and death, A new journey beckons me from the Duat, The strength to inhale each breath becomes onerous, The Kingdom of Osiris awaits,
Judgement awaits. Who dictates my life, But for my own heart,
Balanced against the feather of Ma’at, Judge away, For I am free of sin, Ready to address my assessors, A simple man, Who split papyrus to make bread, I tore in parts, My wealth, To be divided between my two surviving sons, All I ask, Is a fair decree, When Anubis stares me down, Formidable fur, Black, Rich as the soil of the Nile, Lit by his just perceptions, I trust, Ive lived as a good man, Yet, my fingers, Cleaned of my last reeds, Which residue determinedly lines its cracks, Carrying my labours into immortality, Or restlessness, Shake with the thought – My reflection in the jackal’s austere eyes, As he prepares my fate, Heart in hand.
The dark centres of her eyes call to me as sirens, across savage oceans of bubbling seafoam – green and brown heterochromatic whirlpools – that suck men under. I would be foolish, a foolish man, to think there was any salvation to be found inside, yet this voyage has thrashed any resilience I might have had. I lean in, take her lips between mine, knead them softly, delicately, with purpose, as if working clay, which would be presented to an Emperor. She was sculpted by higher beings. I work my fingers into her supple thighs, breaking her down, releasing her to me. My blood pumps hot inside me – inside her. A heat to make the waters rise and flood the land, crashing on the shores where fireflies dance, at night around the fire. All things which make men different from animals, washed out to sea.
When I wake up, she is gone. I am alone, again. This cursed island, echoes laughter in the buzzing of insects. Sandflies ravage my skin into a reddened map of islands, which offer me no bearing. The urge to tear flesh with my nails is consuming – as do minute residents, to my flesh. The carcass of my ship, still half buried in the beach, as whale bones, a rotting skeletal wreck, disappearing and resurfacing with the tidal forces, haunting me, the ghost of my ruin. I think of her – the lady of the island, who has made her home in the hours of my dark recess. She taunts and tortures me, with her wicked seductions, and promises of deliverance.
I cannot stretch my mind to find the cure, In as far, As I cannot stretch enough my muscles, I can’t even carry my own weight, Lest attempt the burden and trouble, That I drag on my heels, These sinews are strained, Uncooperative, stubborn, fickle, Beaten up and corrupted from years of abuse, For excess, or success, Battling hurdles in life’s race, Toppling cones of some description, Through the hazy morning smoke clouds, Too jaded to escape, Pale and sickly green, Flinching at the thought, Of trying to be normal, A pain beyond tears, That falls as locusts in the heart, A plague to purge any sense of self, That might have existed, To the ripples of Phoenix wings, Beating, but not beaten, Fire dances from the void, To see the door, Through fight and focus, Climbing out through the screen, To the rolling hills and mist, Beyond the limits of the past, Maybe, of the future… Certainly, of the future… one day, From ash piles, to snow capped summits, Where the air is clear and nourishing, The crackle of ice beneath surer feet, The numbing of fingers, which draws you to their existence, The ever present, ever quiet, Working away for your benefit, Crystalline kisses from the sky, Which melt away in spring, To celebrations, Of rushing rivers, Circular, Ashen skin, and back to ashes, On the wind, We drift on unobtainable vapours, Disappearing in the air, As breath, free from the lung, Grasping the moment, To snatch space with empty hands, Jumping for dreams, To land on legs which give way, Wounds below the surface, Muscle, tendon, bone, Throbbing thoughts process, Through the beating heart, Of the drummers tempo, Counting down time, Mere mortals cannot live in the clouds, The crack of thunder, The flash of reality, From mountain peaks, to peaking early, Let down by fibres of being, Being of fibres, torn and tender, Is my body a prison? – For that boy, Who cartwheeled atop joy and laughter, The cheek to think he could rebel against, That which catches us all; The fall.
I’ve decided to try something different and include a reading of ‘The Fall’.
I felt quite emotional reading this aloud, and that may present in my voice.
Once I had finished, my partner asked me if I was feeling sensitive, seeing my eyes glossed and watery.
I said, I’m fine, of course, the chlorine from the pool got in my eyes, since I had my morning swim without goggles.
An Ode to Wilfred Owenin the style of ‘Dulce et decorum est’
Knives carve off limbs, flesh torn, dangling, serrated, As skin mangled from claws on Christmas Turkey, In war cries, angry men’s lives are narrated, The line between liberation and invasion is ever murky, Boys with blood sullied hands grip hair on severed heads, Those that could have painted portraits, Coloured from a pallet of the slaughtered instead, Fed on fables; a prophesied paradise awaits,
We grow fat, in our ivory towers, Safe from the stranger that bubbles fat and skin, Like butter in a pan, from drone showers, In war, does anybody win? Greed dances between missiles of falling tears, Precision strikes in the heart of our society,
What have we learned in one hundred years? Wilfreds woes live on in propriety,
Eyes rattle and roll, jaws hang without screams, Bodies rot, go putrid in a stupefied sun, Pierced and hung, displayed with no head to dream, In ancient squares, where civilisation begun,
Babylon had fallen - long before Saddam in Firdos Square, Lines drawn on maps separate nations in the sand, To say we have not learnt one thing, would be unfair, We’ve learnt of it, how to better wash our hands, Politicians bleed lies through crooked lips, Contorted through years of kissing corrupt feet, The only thing which is true, is found in deaths cold grip, But, for distant sounds of innocence echoed on the ruined streets, Still, children’s lives are worth less than ammo, The old lie: which never dies, the same old story, May only foreign babies be born to know; Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
Ten toes twitching with taut tremors like feeling tentacles. This is not poetry; this is hell. He collapsed backward, a laboured wilting of limbs and lifeforce, drew him to the earth. My eyes lined up with the soles of his feet, where his muscles spasmed with a last display of virility.
“Coba lari sekarang, jalang Amerika!”
I gasped into the cup of my quivering hand, pressed against my mouth forcefully, with requisite urgency. I levered into my heels, shuffled and scathed my butt through the jutting sharp rocks, and soddening mud, to bury myself deeper into the undergrowth, beneath the fractured canopy leaves.
I could hear the gunman’s lead-footed boots snap branches on the high ground above my hiding hollow.
“Come out little piggy.” The man’s shrill voice sullied the Jungle air, in broken English.
I am not a target to take porcine pot shots. Fuck this, I’m not going down without a fight. Fight or flight, come on, make your mind up! Shut up! Sit still, you idiot, keep quiet. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.
My mind raced, like a doped-up thoroughbred on a diet of anabolic steroids, injected through the iris into my brain – I’m stuck in the starting blocks tearing every sinew of my mangled mind. My short desperate breaths, jagged as razorblades through my fingers, my vison, twinkling like pipe bombs denotating shrapnel through my sights, adrenaline flushing logic from my system – I was going into shock.
It is my fault, I did this, I should have just paid them the fucking money. Held hostage in this sweaty jungle pit for 3 days. If I gave them the money they wanted when they held us up at the ATM, then they may have just let us go. There was nothing but goddamn mosquitoes and monkey shit in that cage they beat me into. In the end I crawled in like an obedient dog, on my hands and knees, yelping and sobbing – battered in with a pulpy muddle of facial features. That ATM, there I was, oblivious, in his arms, already hot on the throb of each other’s hearts, with the oppressive humidity, the sweltering heat leading me by the hand into erratic choices – all I had to do was give them something, when those two thugs pulled up with their sticks and machete. I thought it was just ‘hot air’. As usual, I had to run my mouth, like a rebellious kid – that fucking label everyone always stamped all over me.
That’s why I wanted to get away in the first place – pack my bag and get out of that nowhere town. I was having so much fun here. I should have stayed in Bali – beaches, booze, the boys. Too many cheap vodkas and one night of average sandy sex, and that is all it took to get, beyond regrettable thigh chaffing, Simon following me around, like an undernourished, heart thieving, crab-eating macaque. It was his idea to travel to Jakarta. “Hell yeah!”, I said. He looked so happy. Now look at him, dead in his own piss and shit, with a bullet put through his fucking knee, before they blew the beautiful blonde hair out the back of his skull.
Annie, you need to pull yourself together!
Mum, I am so sorry, I should have known better. I wished I called more. I wish I told you I loved you more. I wish I did not leave so abruptly, after Mark moved in. Mark seemed nice enough – I could tell he loved you – I Just never understood why you left Dad, and then, when he passed away so suddenly, I blamed you. I did not know he was a smack addict. I get it now; you were trying to protect me. It was not your fault. It never was. Why was I so cruel? Why am I so shit? I promise, if I make it out of this, I am coming home, to hug you, hold you – I will make this right.
Simons body was still, naked, but for his fluids and those grisly holes in his defiled face and knee. BoBo, the gunman – I think that’s what they called him – slipped down the mossy outcrop, right in front of my squalid den. I felt sure he would be able to feel my fear penetrating the air between us, on the back of his neck. He was the one who pummelled me into that cage. He was supposed to be watching us when Simon managed to pry out one of the jaunty wooden stakes from his incarcerated hell. Bobo – his hands have Simons blood on them – that bastard, he was asleep in his chair, neck back, ballooning in and out as he snored, like a bleeding toad, whilst Simon slid across the damp hut on his belly, to me. If only we ran a bit quicker… Simon… I’m so sorry.
Bobo struck his lifeless body, with a ceremonial kick to the shins, spat some of his disgusting salvia at the pocket in Simons sweet head, as cool and calm as if he was shooting pool. I watched as he tucked his gun into the coarse leather belt, at his back. It was strange, an out of body experience – I burst recklessly from the undergrowth like a hidden predator, leaped ferociously right up onto Bobos back, attaching myself around his waist, with legs that curled like a boa constrictor. My right arm slipped with ease, lubricated with the stagnant mud, beneath his chin, as the force of my tackle tumbled us both over into Simon, and off again, to roll on the dense jungle floor. I used my left arm to anchor my right as I squeezed into him with all the strength of a desperate women, staring death in its haunting sterile eyes. He struggled with a hardy resilience. Who wanted to live more? He was thrusting into rolls, and making anguishing kicks airborne with his legs, his arms flailing at his belt, fingernails lacerating my sides as he wrestled for his gun. I felt the disagreeable rigid steel pressed into my groin, cutting off his access, as I stressed every fibre of my inconsolable being, crushing his windpipe with spartan determination.
I held him long after he stopped moving, tears ejecting down my flushed cheeks, despondent, as the abject terrors began to thrash about in my hippocampus – a flood of shaking rattled my limbs from BoBos slumped corpse. I curled into a shell, hollow, letting the silent jungle fill slowly with noise and movement again. I sat up, looked around, vomited, twice, then, shuddered onto my weakened legs, to no avail, crumpling into a disturbed void in the earth.
I did not realise how close I was to civilisation. The rain was pattering on the side of my skull, as I lay prone in the vegetation, when two farmers trailed through the treeline.
On the outskirts of Jakarta, the rain was still falling diagonally, as unsought lingering mementos on the window panes of the police station – the phone dialled up that numbing tone for an international call.
It’s been four years since my childhood companion passed away. I would like to share this poem I wrote for her.
She deserves to be celebrated.
Imperfectly perfect, Wrong, but just right, Long snout, bow legs, a nervous disposition, To shake without cause for fright, 'Runt of the litter', An easy observation to say, But, if I could create you again, from scratch, I would make you the same way
The endless pester for food, 'No Ruby, no beggar beggar', Hiding bones you would not re-find, We would like to say you weren't too clever, Yet, not to conform unto the phrase; 'You cannot teach an old dog new tricks?' For I had you rolling over, In dog years of sixty sixty.
In your comic mannerisms, Hours of laughter you would give, All the greater to your charm, An endearing 16 long years that you have lived, Encouraging your naughtiness, Now that was my part to play, Down 'The End' with my friends, All those teenage days, And don't tell her now, But when my Mothers back was turned, I would feed you ham straight from the fridge, For as 'my' Ruby, indulgences you earned
Alas, you were but a dog, These, words I force, to convince myself I'm fine, Unjust, you weren't just any dog, You were special, you were mine, Underneath the tree of lilac flower, A modest piece of earth, And back to it, whence you came, To a time of quiet, before birth.
I jostled for a pocket of airspace to observe - pried between shoulders of my ignoble peers, on tips of toes, peaking past plebeians. On tongues, the congested cobble stones roared with a frenzy at the culmination of the longest trial in the Shires history.
The gallows stood stoically, silent, raised above the hysteria of the crowd, the town square frothing in a red mist. The noose swung with wicked calm on the delicate lips of the wind.
The song of a doomed man. His final words, as his neck slipped through the knot, to be left unrecorded, unheard but to the ear of the hangman. The condemned – my beautiful son.
The cruelest revelments murdered the air. Be silent! I cried his name. Nothing. Only mouths are we.
The distant heart which safely exists in the centre of all things.
Written for dVerse’s Prosery, a short prose, in 144 words, incorporating the line;
“Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart which safely exists in the center of all things?”
Mum, said I, can I fly, with the birds in the sky?
Yes, you can, before sleep, flap your thoughts, take a leap...
Dreamt of wings, woke in bed, feathers dense, guilt in lead.
Mum, said I, when birds die, do they fall from the sky?
Mum, said I, as I began to ask her “why...?” See stopped me and said, “Son,
Here’s your head start, You best get on and depart, Because I’m busy, Doing paperwork and stuff, And this ******* computer is playing up, You’re about to learn some new words, I don’t have time to answer banal questions, Or put lines into trivial rhyme, You got one out of me, I’ll give you two, but not three,
Go and ask your Dad, Out, out, out!
Shut the door.”
I muttered beneath my breath; “Fine... but, I’ll make one more.”
My take on a Palinode, a poem in which the poet retracts a view or sentiment expressed in a former poem, for the prompt by dVerse.
In Reality Hits, I imagined an alternate outcome to a mother – child interaction.
Like the mother “character”, I’ve had a busy day today; and in attempting to fit a poem (or two) in, my inspiration will undoubtedly come through in the words. Thanks for reading.
She is at home in words not spoken, The silence comes with a cute pout, Her wrath is a morning star, Hot, fast, and short to last, Flickered from the past, Those twinkling eyes, Shine on me, Burning, Wrath,
Short look + read photograph collections from places I’ve loved enough to capture.
Rottnest Island, WA, Australia
Rottnest Island is a popular tourist destination located 18km from the Australia mainland via a short ferry ride from Fremantle, Perth.
The island has over 22km of cycling tracks, which link spectacular pristine beaches – kick back and soak up the sun, or check out the vibrant marine life with a snorkel. Of its abundant wildlife – birds, colonies of sea lions and fur seals, by far the most famous (and adorable), is the quokka. Let’s face it, if you’re coming to Rottnest, it’s likely for a chance to see these rare, charming dough faced marsupials!
I thought he hated me because I was different, because the weeping, the laughter, the silence, of my three wretched faces, frightened him - appalled him - I was wrong. It was not that, it was how I so perfectly mirrored my mothers face, shifting, metamorphosing itself from the dark recesses of my thought onto the mortal vessel of my body, every time I would turn them to her. There was not a mirror, nor a window, to caste a reflection of my curious condition, in that dank, sorry cabin – the pitiful tomb he had built for himself – and I. The laughter and the weeping, the prying of my fingers, and the wickedness of my father’s tongue was the only thing which let me know I was a monster. With nothing to confirm or deny its truth, like my God, I threw my faith at the darkness. But, I had never, ever seen, or imagined in my wildest dreams, now exposed with such clarity, such desolating honesty, the abhorrent aberration in the altering state of my affliction.
That day, by the stream, with my mother’s ghost watching me through the cold water, I had no idea where it would take me, how I would use it – but I would, in time. It did not start easy. I rolled back onto my bottom, numb. The squawk of frenzied birds snaring my attention, I looked upstream, with horror, the rotting carcass of a deer bobbed, caught between two rocks, its body starting to decompose, bloated, the puncture marks of ravenous birds riddling its exposed hind quarters. I spat the remnants of its watery captive from my mouth, that I had been lapping up like a thirsty cat, moments before. I had to get moving, I didn’t know where… but I had to, before I ended up like that forsaken deer.
I walked naively, following my nose most of the day, my short legs making hard work of the brush and thicket, sure that I passed the same crooked trees, bent toward me as if taunting, multiple times, lost and desperate, before finally vomiting up the contents of my stomach on my chin and knock knees, pathetically, as I hunched over, clutching my guts. I dropped down, writhing. I was sure this was the end for me. Albeit a short life, it was a miserable one. I said to myself, there, as I lay on my back, staring into the twilight of the day, there is no God, no good God, who would create a child like I, and damn him to not even but one day of joy.
There was a snuffling at my head, I tucked my face into my knees timidly, sobbed, forgetting the soft features I had inherited at daybreak.
“My God, are you ok? What’s a young girl doing out here?...”
Came a voice above me, through the shield I fashioned with my arms. ‘Young girl’? I puzzled at the word – but, I’m a boy. My face? My mother’s face – was it real? Do they see me – or her?
“Where’s your parents?”
I uncoiled like a beaten kitten, looked up with petrified eyes that begged mercy.
A man stood there, eyes widening and narrowing to focus, hairy dark finger holding tightly the scruff of a canines loose neck, as the hound sniffed and huffed with agitated enthusiasm, big floppy ears falling over the side of its head like a clothe over the sides of a table.
“Are you ok? Oh, you’re… older than you first look…”
I glared at him, willingly, but there was no voice, nothing. He repeated his questioning. I tried so hard, I wanted to answer him, I screamed desperate pleas from the pit of my being, but I made no sounds, not even a grunt or moan, thus was the suffering of my affliction.
“Must be simple.”
The man said, possibly to his dog.
He took my hand in his, I followed gratefully, the hound too. A rust coloured horse stood restlessly, aged in the rain, tethered by rope attached to a tree, in front of a shoddy cart. He helped me onto the wagon, where I lay amongst the dead animals - rabbits, and a pheasant. The cart bumped on the uneven ground, the wheels squeaking on each rotation. I imagined there were mice living inside. The moon flickered behind the treeline as if the oil were running out in its lamp, till the trees gave way to open skies of stars and moon. Voices - cackles, hollering, hooting – there were people here. I sat up and peeked over the wooden side. There weredefinitely people here, wandering the streets, all sorts of strange shapes and sizes, some small like me, some big, wearing funny clothes. Houses here were odd too, built of brick and stone, with smoke spiralling in the air, from little shoots. Now, of course, much has changed in the world, and there is little, bar the lining of a man’s skin, which can surprise me, but back then, I could hardly believe my young eyes.
The cart trundled to a stop outside a modest grey stone building, with real glass windows and a door with a heavy handle. The man picked me out the wagon, led me inside, the dog hurried in, dropped into a straw cushion in the corner, as the door thud shut. He removed his earth encrusted boots, on one, a handle of a short blade poking from a self-stitched in sheathe. He placed them by the door, hung up a filth laden pig-hide overcoat beside. The man tore some bread, by his hairy ham fingers, darkened with the spoils of the hunt, dropped the stale morsel onto the table. I devoured it unthinkingly, as he worked up a small fire in the hearth. He poured some water into a stubby, crudely crafted pottery mug, gently placed it into my dainty fingers – took some more, poured and heated it in a metal tanker over the fire. When the tanker bubbled and steam wafted on the draft, about the room, making windows look like it had caught the fog of morning, he lifted it back out with blackened iron tongs, and tipped it into a modest bronze tub. He laid out a white linen tunic beside, as I watched excitedly, before brushing back his feathery silver eyebrows.
“Wash yourself down.”
I began to remove the burlap garments, first my shirt, over my head, then, dropping my lower half, I turned away to hide my body, and the feminine vail, which had gained me sanctuary. He sat into a homemade wooden chair. I lifted one leg over, then the other, and slipped down the inside of the wall, into the warm water. Sploshing, bathing blithely, for the first time in weeks, I ran my fingers through my hair, dark as slate, thickened by dirt, which dangled in matted strands, at my shoulders. The grime let go of my skin and scalp, whirling in the current of my puissance, gathering and sitting on the surface of the water like a vegetable broth. The man’s shadow sulked around the room. I heard his footsteps on the stone floor before I felt his forceful fingers on my head. He began to brush out the clumps of hair with his busy probing hands. I sat there, unmoving, body frozen with a crippling consternation. He took his time, getting out all the knots.
“Now, we won’t tell anyone about this, will we?” I felt his hot, putrid breath on my neck, close.
I tried, to say no, no I wont tell… no, no please don’t do this, I don’t want to - something, anything, but there was no voice. He placed his hand on the barren space at my chest. The dog whined behind, panting, and growling beneath the heavy handle of the door. The mans grip relaxed, laid-off, for a moment.
“Go and lie down!” He hammered at the hound, which sunk down, and whimpered, but resigned to stay.
I hesitated, a moment passed, every second felt monumental, as stars falling to earth, around me, with clout. I did not move, I could not.
A star landed in my lap. A sudden burst of preservation overrode passivity. I leapt from the tub, water followed me into the air with an explosive spray, as gunpower in a barrel. I caught hold of the linen tunic and took it up in my arms, holding it to my body.
The man recoiled in shock, almost tumbling back, but too soon for respite, composed himself, and instead started to make steps toward me. He jolted to an abrasive holt, stared me up and down with savagery in his eyes.
“A boy? What sort of witchcraft is this? Face of a women, body of a child boy. First, you are a simpleton, now you’re a trickster. You take me for a fool, witch?”
The over alert canine prowled back and forth the room behind him, back arched anxiously, barking into the panic. The man withdrew, snapping shut the latch above the heavy door handle, to damn me, took up a sluggish iron poker from the hearth, and in throwing himself across the room with unwieldy anger, struck the wall behind my head. I dived across the room, discarding the tunic for the short blade prized from his boot. The hound lunged at me, snapping with frenzied determination. I kicked at it, with the defenceless soles of my feet, its teeth snatched my fleshy calves and thighs. The man’s burly steps, made light work of the room, as he lumbered with raised bar. I pointed the knife outward, clasped tight at my chest. Closed my eyes, pictured my true face, my malformed faces, laughing at my misfortune, crying at the tragic shame.
A shriek. Opening my eyes, the dog cowered, tracking back with snarling fright. A clunk, as the weighty poker hit the stone floor. The man staggered back, eyes threatening to drop from their sockets.
The weeping, the laughter, it misted the room with an immobilising fear. I hurtled out of the brace position I had shrunk into and thrust frenetically with the short blade. The man, had frantically dropped to an knee, with unstretched hand toward the iron poker, bringing him conveniently inline with the blade. It pierced the neck with an impulsive spray of warm blood. I gauged at him twice more, severing small pulpy snacks for the hound. He fell away to his back, as I continued to make lunges. A gory foam filled his mouth, as he gargled on his last forgotten words.
I stood up, kicked a chunk to the whining hound, which took it up in its mouth and scarpered back to the corner. The room was fuzzy, flashes and specks of white. Adrenaline coursed my system with an overwhelming pulse. I wilted to my knees, crawled to the hearth, contemplated climbing inside it’s cleansing inferno. I took up the mantle with my hands, used it to clamber up and pull down a tarnished mirror, which rested next to an old book of lies, and a silver snuff box, above the hearth. I sat at the mirror, naked but for the blood of my captive, my image flickered with the flame. I watched, watched as the weeping, the incessant weeping, and the laughing, the perpetual laughing, hummed a joyless anaesthetising tune. I wish all three faces would weep, so I could be free of it.
Six autonomous eyes, three independent noses, two self-serving mouths - in between, an empty stretch of skin, membrane for the canvas of unspeaking words, the eyes above, restful, emotionless. My face. My faces. An ugly son.
I took the blade, and with it sliced a jagged crescent into the barren breadth of skin. A shrill shriek was let free in the room, and for the first time, I had a voice.