Google+ A Tangled Rope: 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009



To untangle the knots you need to find the end of the thread, and then follow it through. If you have patience enough, it can be done.

Through the rain-streaked window, I saw her sitting cross-legged on the damp grass eating an apple.

Now I know her name.

But then, I know everything.

Now, I have seen it all.

At daybreak, I stood at the window. I saw the first arrivals: joggers, people walking dogs. I saw the young woman with tangled hair, dazed in a party dress, carrying her high-heeled shoes, walking barefoot around the lake. I saw the tramp struggle to wake then stumble off to his toilet in the trees.

I do not believe I will be surprised again. Now I have seen it all.

I saw the couple lie down together and the brief flash of her pale skin. I have seen all I want to see. The boy with the cider bottle, bent sick as his mates laugh then turn to look away.

I have seen enough. I turn from the window. I walk away.

The summer will soon be over. I will see the leaves fall and the overcoats emerge. Always the faithful dog-walkers, and an occasional fumbling couple.

And… then, the kites* will fly.

[See here for an explanation of these posts labelled as Fragments]

* Even today, many cultures see the kite as an emblem of transcendence and its flight is considered to bring the flier closer to the heavens. Still, after many hundreds of years, the ‘Festival of Ascending on High’ is celebrated in China by flying kites on the ninth day of the ninth month.

Wednesday Story: The Barn


The Barn

Robert sat on top of the garden wall, looking over at the field. The old barn looked dark and forbidding alone at the edge of the field, next to the wall. He could see a large black bird strutting along the roof of the barn. He guessed it was either a rook or a crow. But he was not even sure whether rooks and crows were different birds or different names for the same bird.

Just as Robert was beginning to get bored with just sitting on the wall, Susan, the girl from next-door, climbed the wall at the rear of their garden. She stepped over the top of the fence and sat down beside Robert. Susan was thirteen, a year younger than Robert, but - somehow - Robert always felt that she was the wiser of the two of them, if not the elder.

"What shall we do today?"

"I... I dunno really." Robert couldn't really make sense of why she wanted to be with him. It had not been that long since he had started noticing girls. There had been a period in his life when girls just seem to have disappeared from the world around him. But now they suddenly seemed to be appearing everywhere.

"What about those tunnels in the barn you were talking about yesterday? I think I'd like to see them."

Robert shifted uncomfortably. Something about being with Susan in the dark claustrophobic tunnels seemed to make him feel unusually warm. He could feel the heat spreading up the sides of his neck.

Earlier in the summer holiday, Robert and his friend John had sat on the same wall watching the barn as it was filled with bales of hay. It had taken two lorry loads to fill the barn. The boys had hidden in the long grass at the base of the wall as the farm hands returned to the farmhouse, rubbing straw from their hands. When it seemed as though the men would not be returning to the barn, the two boys crept around to the back of the barn and squeezed in through a broken window.

For several days, the two boys secretly constructed a tunnel through into the centre of the mound of hay bales, shifting and rearranging the bales to make a large room deep in the middle. They made a roof for the room by using old abandoned fence posts as rafters to hold the bales above it.

Robert and John had sat silently close together in the pitch-black room they had created, listening fearfully to the rough bantering voices of the farm hands as they walked and climbed over the hay bales above the boy's heads. The boys shared a great deal of relief and excitement when the men left. The roof had held and they had remained undetected. The elation had spurred another frantic bout of tunnel making, with secret exits all around the barn. If the farm hands did return, and if they did find the tunnels, the two boys believed they could be out anywhere around the barn in a few seconds and away safe over the garden wall in less than a minute.

John was away with his parents for the last two weeks of the summer holiday and Robert had been lonely for a while. He spent most of the first few days just sitting there on the garden wall watching the sheep and waiting for time to pass.

"Okay. Let's go then." He jumped down into the field, before Susan could notice the reddening of his neck and cheeks. He was shocked to find that he was holding out his hand to help her down from the wall, but Susan overlooked his gaffe and jumped down beside him as he pretended to continue with his stretching exercises.

"It gets very dark, cramped in there," Robert said as they walked across the field.

"It's all right I'm not scared of the dark. She turned to face him. "Are you?"

"No, 'course not." Robert swung at some nettles with a stick, decapitating them. "I just thought I'd better warn you, 'cos there's no turning back once you're in there." They arrived at the barn. The old wooden walls were grey with age, warped and broken in places. Susan pointed at the locked doors. Robert shook his head and led the way around to the side of the barn farthest away from the other farm buildings.

Halfway along that wall there was a window frame that had fallen out. It six small panes had all been broken. Using the frame as a ladder, Robert climbed up through what used to be the window and onto the hay bales that were stacked up inside level with the window ledge. He sat down on a bale and watched as Susan struggled through the window. This time he did not attempt to help her.

Once she had hauled herself in, she lay on the straw, looking up at him. She spat straw out of her mouth and smiled at him before sitting up. "Where are these tunnels then?"

Robert smiled "The entrance is secret, hidden. Can you see it?"

Susan looked around. "No."

Robert's smile widened in triumph. He stood up and pulled the bale he was sitting on to one side. "Look."

"It's very dark down there." For the first time there was a hint of uncertainty in Susan's voice. She looked up at Robert and saw something in his face that spurred her into action. She jumped forward and turned to clamber down into the hole.

"When you get to the bottom, move over that way...." Robert pointed to the left. "There's a space over that side." As Robert clambered down, he could just see Susan as a darker mass in the darkness. He reached up and pulled the bale back over the entrance. There was silence, and stillness, for a while.

Susan's voice was barely above a whisper. "I've never known anything this dark, this is really dark." She laughed nervously. "I really can't see my hand in front of my face!"

Robert put out his hand, reaching for her. His fingers touched something soft. "The tunnel is over here," he said.


"Give me your hand, here." He touched the softness again.

"Is that your hand that keeps touching me?"

"Yes... sorry, I can't..." He felt the cool soft skin of her hand brush against his and then fold around it. He was sure he could smell something beyond the dense smell of the straw dust, something like the soft perfume of soap. "It's... it's here," he said finally, taking her hand towards the tunnel entrance and letting her feel around its edges.

"All right. I think I know where it is now," she said.

Robert felt her brush past him and the rustle of straw as she began to crawl forward. He counted to thirty and then followed her. He noticed again how the whole notion of time passing seemed to become meaningless. Once inside the tunnels, time and space seemed to disappear. If it wasn't for the sharp pressure of the spiky straw on his hands and knees, the soft rustle of their clothes brushing the straw and the sound of their breathing then, Robert felt, he could have been floating free in space, or in a black hole; some place where up, down, time, space, today, tomorrow, school, home no longer existed.

He bumped into Susan's back. "Sorry."

"It's a dead end," There was a hint of panic in Susan's voice.

Robert began to creep past her legs. "What? Let me through, the roof has probably just colla... sssh." He lay still, halfway past Susan. He could feel her breath in his hair as she whispered.

"What's wrong?"

"There's someone coming, up above." He felt himself pointing and smiled at the absurdity of the gesture, then felt foolish for smiling in the darkness. "Keep quiet, and still."

The muffled voices sounded slightly clearer as they moved closer. Robert could hear at least two voices and the rustle of feet on the straw above them. There were a few thumps and bumps, the last of which seemed to pour down a shower of straw and dust all over his face. He could hear Susan trying not to cough. He held his nose tightly, trying to muffle his sneeze.

The voices faded away into the distance. A few moments later Robert sneezed, this time not bothering to muffle it. Susan coughed, almost in reply.

"I think they've gone." Robert moved on up, he caught a hint of a toothpaste-like smell as his face drew level with Susan's. He was suddenly very aware of how narrow, how tight, the tunnel was. They were pressed tight together, closer than he had ever been to a girl before.

"The roof has collapsed," he managed to say after easing his arms up past Susan. "All I need to do is to push this one part of the bale out of our way. Yes, I can feel the string all loose where the straw has slipped out. I've almost done it, no.... Shit!"

The tumbling bales above them sounded muted and distant at first, but the rumbles grew louder and straw dust began to poor down all over Robert's face. He could feel a sharp grittiness in his eyes and mouth. There was a loud thump and then silence. The loose straw seemed to hiss by him as it fell.

"I... I can't move," Susan said quietly, sounding almost calm. Robert put out his hand to where he thought she was. He could feel only straw. Panicking, he grabbed handfuls of straw, tearing at them. He could feel blood on his palms where the sharp straw cut into them. His left hand reached out for more straw and he touched Susan's hair. Carefully, with both hands, he cleared the straw from around her face, feeling carefully with tentative fingers; hair, nose, lips, eyes.

"Are you all right?" Robert could hardly form the words, his mouth felt thick and choked with dust.

"I... I think so, but I still can't move my legs."

"Hang on, don't worry." Robert was surprised by how calm he sounded. His heart was thumping wildly in his chest, but - somehow - he seemed to know what to do. "Can you move at all?"

"I can move my top half, twist around... and my feet, up and down a bit, but that's all."

Slowly Robert eased himself back down the tunnel next to Susan. He could smell the warmth of her body. The soapy smell was mixed with a faint sour trace of fresh sweat. His hand touched bare skin, it shivered under his touch and he felt the slight trace of a rib under the skin.

His feet hit a blockage in the tunnel and he curled up on himself trying to reach down between his knees and feet to find it. He felt down the jeans on Susan's legs until he touched the hard corner of the hay bale lying across the backs of her legs, pinning them. There was something else there as well, he discovered, as he managed to lift the bale slightly. But he could only brush it with his fingertips. He pressed down farther and managed to wrap a couple of fingers around it. It felt cold - metallic - and slightly knobbly with rust. He tried to move it.


"What? what's the matter, Susan?"

"Whatever you did then, it hurt. Sorry."

"Sorry." Robert could feel the panic rising again. He knew what it was - rusty barbed wire and the old wooden fence-post it was attached to. John and Robert had used the old fence posts to support the roof of the tunnel in a few places.

Gingerly he felt down her trousers again. There was a place, just below her knee where the material was ripped. He touched her bare skin and she jerked the leg, it felt damp and sticky, but luckily - he thought - there was no sign that the barbed wire was actually cutting her. It was, he discovered, all tangled up with the material of her jeans. He could not hold up the hay bale and disentangle the jeans at the same time though.

"What's... what's the matter?" Susan sounded almost on the edge of panic.

"It's all right, not that bad at all really," Robert said. "Some wire has scratched your leg, that's all. We can get you out, if you crawl forward while I hold the fallen bale up off your legs. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Right, go on then, crawl as fast as you can... Now!" Robert grunted as he lifted the bale up as high as he could. Susan kneed him hard in the thigh as she tried to squirm out from under the bale. There was room. He could feel her legs scrabbling for purchase on the floor of the tunnel.

"It's no good. I... I can't move, something has caught my trousers."

"I'm going to have to drop the bale. I can't hold it anymore." Robert let it go with a sigh and laid his head down on the straw, breathing hard. He could feel his hands throbbing where they had been cut by the straw. He wanted to be out of there, back home, lying in bed with crisp clean sheets. The bright sun streaming in through an open window where the curtains were trembling in the breeze. He closed his eyes, opened them, closed them again.

There was no difference.

"Hang on. I know what to do," Susan said. Robert opened his eyes, or at least he thought he did. Susan was squirming next to him, he felt her hands and arms brush against him a couple of times.  "When I say, lift the bale again," she said.

"Okay." Robert got into position and waited.


There was the same amount of scrabbling, but this time Robert felt Susan's legs move past him.

"Hang on," Susan said. "All right. You can let it go." He heard her sigh of relief and let the bale go. He could hear Susan scrambling through the tunnel in front of him. He began to crawl. His hand touched something, almost jerking away before he realised it was her jeans, abandoned half under where he had let the bale fall. He tried pulling them out, but they were still stuck fast.

He caught up with Susan a few feet up the tunnel. She was frantically pulling handfuls of straw from a blockage in front of her, frantically hurling them behind her. One handful hit Robert in the face. He could hear her heavy breathing.

"Calm down," he said softly, easing his way up to lie next to her. She was still tugging at the straw with frenzied hands. Fistfuls flew around Robert and into his face. Eventually he managed to grab both of her wrists.

"I can't... I can't find a way through!" It sounded as though she was very close to tears.

"Calm down. This is - I think - where the tunnel changes direction. Turn around. It is behind you."
Eventually, he felt her arms relax slightly and Robert let go of her wrists as she turned. He listened to her crawling into the new tunnel. While he waited there he realised just how much his body ached. He wondered if he would ever be able to stand upright ever again. Sighing, he changed position and crawled up the new tunnel.

"Wait," he said as he felt the tunnel widen out in front of him. He reached out and touched Susan's leg. "You can sit up in this bit, just here. It's like a room. Sit here with your back against these bales." He pulled her towards the side of the room. "Just wait there a second."

Robert scrambled over to the other side of the room-like structure and felt along the side for the two crossed fence-posts. Finding them, he pulled hard.

"Shit!" The light was blindingly bright. He screwed up his eyes and turned away. After a few tentative blinks he managed to open his eyes and keep them open. It was not really that bright, the old window was thick with grime, but it was still glaringly bright after so long in the darkness. He could see Susan sitting a foot or so away. She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs and her knees brought up close so her face rested on her thighs. He could see the long red scratch down the side of her calf and the red blot of blood on her sock. He touched her arm gently with his fingertips.


She looked up at him, her eyes blinking rapidly, sending fresh tears down the dirty tracks on her cheeks. "I can see you." Her voice was fragile, tentative. "Can we get out? Come on. I want to
get out of here."

"We can't get out here. That window faces the farm house. We have to go over the other side, and anyway...." Robert glanced down at her bare thighs.

Susan's face reddened and she seemed to draw her legs tighter against her body.

"I tried to get the jeans free, but I couldn't. They were caught on the barbed wire."

"What are we going to do then," she said. "We can't just stay here. I don't want to go back through any more of the tunnels either."

Robert nodded and crawled over to the opposite corner of the room. "Just up here there is a way up to the top of the hay. We can go up over the top and out the other side. Come on."

He scrambled up through the narrow opening until he could stand up. He paused for a moment, letting the knotted muscles slowly straighten themselves out, before pushing the bale off the top of the hole. He could see the grey wooden beams and planks of the roof. A powerful beam of sunlight shone like a laser through a knothole. He was almost laughing as he pulled himself out of the hole and lay back on the top of the straw. The air up there tasted cleaner too, almost no dust. He rolled over and looked down the hole. Susan's filthy tear-streaked face looked up at him. He held out his hand to her. He pulled her up and they rolled together over the packed bales away from the hole.

They lay on their backs, looking up at the peak of the roof, the thick grey beams a few feet above them. Robert turned to look at Susan.

She stared up at the roof, unblinking. "I - for a while - didn't think we would ever get out of there," she said. "I didn't think I'd ever see anything ever again."

As Robert watched, a single tear created a new track down the side of her face. He put his finger out and stopped it. Susan turned to face him. She smiled.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Maybe these tunnels weren't such a good idea after all. Before you came over this morning I was wondering why we had made them. They seemed a bit childish really. But now.... Now, they seem so scary. Perhaps a grown-up, an adult, would have more sense. We could have died."

"We would have just disappeared," Susan said. "No-one would come to rescue us - they wouldn't know where to look. We could have died, slowly, suffocating in that pitch darkness and no-one would have thought of searching for us in here." She turned and wrapped her arms around Robert, resting her head on his shoulder. Robert could still smell the slight scent of perfume and soap. She held him tightly and he wrapped his arms around her as she began to shiver.

"It's all right," he said. "We are out now, safe." He closed his eyes, but the darkness was too frightening, almost a weight bearing down, thick, choking, suffocating. He felt himself shiver and held Susan tighter.

He felt her head lift and he turned to look at her, she nibbled her bottom lip as she stared back at him. Their heads moved together slightly, almost. Time really did seem to stand still for him as he stared into her unblinking eyes. Susan blinked and looked away. Robert felt some tension fall out of his body as she lay back down.

"Will you be all right, going home like that?" Robert said eventually. "I mean... your trousers...?"

"What time is it?" Susan looked at Robert's watch. "If I go now, I should be able to get inside before my mum comes back from work." Susan was suddenly on her feet and walking over to where the bales were stacked around the broken window. Robert stood up and followed her out, his legs still feeling unsure of how to walk. She strode across the field and climbed her garden wall almost without breaking stride.

On the top of the wall, she turned briefly as Robert caught up with her. "I have to go, or else mum'll..." She glanced down at her bare legs.

Robert noticed her knickers had small red roses on a white background that was stained dusty grey in places, one of the seams was ripped. "Yes, right." Robert didn't know what to do. It seemed, after all they had just been through, that a simple good-bye could not be enough.

"Bye." Susan was halfway down her garden, turning back away from him and limping towards her house.

"Bye," Robert dropped his hand from the half-wave he was giving to her retreating back and turned. Between the houses he caught a glimpse of the street and Susan's mother coming slowly around the bend. He ran back to his own garden and jumped off the wall.


"Robert! Come and see this!"

Robert sighed and walked out of his bedroom, still clutching the book he had been attempting to read. His mother was standing at the foot of the stairs.

"Come on! Quickly!" She led him by the hand into the kitchen. The whole night sky outside seemed to glow red. "Look!"

Robert walked out into the garden after his mother. The whole barn was on fire. Huge red and yellow flames leaping up out of the windows. Thick smoke was blowing across the garden. He could hear the shouts of the farm hands and the clank of buckets. Off in the distance he could hear the urgent siren as the fire engine made its way through the village.

He looked away from the barn and saw Susan's family in their garden. Her father held her mother close as he shouted something into her ear. Susan saw Robert and she limped over towards the garden wall. Robert went over to meet her.

"What about that?" He said.

Susan nodded. "Every time I closed my eyes I could feel myself back in those tunnels. Sorry, but I had no choice." She glanced up at the barn once more, smiled briefly at Robert, then slowly limped back into the house and shut the door.



[This, and other stories can also be found here as well]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Head Full Of Songs And Promises


Sometimes the days seem to fall over themselves in their hurry to pass. You look up and notice a week has gone by whilst you were otherwise engaged. You never expected your life to disappear this fast. It seems only moments since you shrugged off that loathed school uniform for the last time and prepared for all your dreams to come true.

Now you watch your own child shrugging off her old uniform too as she prepares to walk down the road of her own life, away from you. You want to warn her to be careful; of her dreams, how they shatter all too easily on the hard surface of that road. You want to tell her to hold on to them so tight and not to let go of a single one.

You know though that she is not listening, just as you weren’t listening either when you were that age. You too had a head full of songs just like the ones she is singing as she walks away from you. You too were walking towards a world full of promise and many new bright dawns, without a thought for all you left behind.

You sigh and realise that maybe she is right, after all. Walking away with a head full of songs and promises is far better than looking back to see you standing amongst all your ruins of what could have been.

[See here for an explanation of these posts labelled as Fragments]

Monday, September 28, 2009

The End


A moment is a moment. A time is a time. A place is a place. Your touch is delicate, soft as though you do still care.

You turn.

You walk away.

I stand, seeing you go as the wind spirals golden leaves down from the trees to heap them at my feet.

Each step I expect you to turn back, hesitate and then come running back. If this were a film or a book, that is what you would do, just before the words THE END on page or screen, as though something had been resolved.

You do not even pause; just walk on and out of sight. I wait until waiting becomes absurd and then too I turn and walk away without looking back. 

Monday Poem: A Gift


[Klimt – The Kiss]

A Gift

This is a gift I hold in my hand,
feeling its warm heartbeat,
soft within its fur coating,
hiding secrets between folds
and offering promise.

I receive with a thankfulness
that may seem overdone;
especially when the only gift
I receive in return
is your acceptance and satisfaction
with all I offered to you.

I shall turn away now
and go back to my dreams.
There is nothing here left
for me to accept from you,
now that you are satisfied,
satiated and sleeping.

Although, it can be easy enough
just to watch your dreams
tremble through your body
as your eyes chase their elusiveness.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sparkling Through


The time we remember is the time that is taken out of the stream like something found sparkling through the water, something like a special or precious stone, something kept and held in that special keepsake place we turn to when the world is turning against us.

Here the day grows up around us as we wait for all our lives to become something we can feel inside of, rather than something that goes on around us.

A stone in the path makes us stop and bend down, but it turns out to be nothing of significance.

We walk on to the bridge that crosses the stream, an old stone bridge, green with age and shadow under the tall trees all around it. Beneath it, the stream moves on shallow and lazy. Clear enough to hold no secrets. Still, the water has a hold upon us that makes us watch, and wait for nothing to happen.

I have been here before waiting for that moment when you turn to face me, pressing close so I can feel your heat through your thin clothes. You will - I know – take me by the hand to a place where you can leave those clothes behind and walk on down into the water. 

Friday Poem: Devotions



Hands reach out in supplication.
Yearning, a desire to take hold
of this significant moment
and to keep it, holding it here.
Pressing it between the flattened
palms of both your hands, and raising
it up, meeting parted lips that
will bestow a kiss of welcome
and desire, here, on this vessel.

We would kiss these holy symbols
as though they're almost as sacred
as the genitals of lovers.
Take a drink from this deep goblet,
then you'll learn - and know - the calming
centre of a true devotion.

Prostrate yourself for this god, here.
Offer yourself as the altar
for desires of your own body.
Now, let yourself go, and come feel
your own powers of creation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pulse


Each day holds itself ready, and we walk through its morning out into these fields and woodlands, feeling the pulse of the day as it throbs through each moment, building up this world around us into a green heartbeat of living. Every day holds the promise of a turning world growing around us and through us. We are part of all of this, even though we like to stand apart, and try to look down. We imagine gods and we imagine ourselves as gods too, but we only walk through this world, we do not own it.

We can reach out to touch it, but each moment of touching passes; and each leaf will turn from green to brown and fall into the past as the world turns away from it. Even memory will forget us, long before we turn into dust we will be gone from the memory of the world as it turns and turns and each day grows then falls and fades into the long past that lies behind everything we see.

Still, though, we walk on into the centre of this day, feeling its pulse around and within us, for as long as we have these times we will hold on to then, stretch them as far as we can before – inevitably – we will have to let go. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Always There


There are times we wait for when we do not know what will happen, or if anything could ever happen again. The days go by, one after another, but we cannot expect anything to be any different.

These things never change, except that they change all the time. The river is always there, but it is never still, always moving; always changing its shape like some slow snake as it coils around our lives.

The days too are always the same one after the other, but always different too. No day is like another, even though they are all the same. Each one has its own name and its own characteristics and idiosyncrasies, even though it is no different to the days that have gone before, and will – probably – resemble all the days that come after it, right down to the last one. 

Wednesday Story: If I Show You A Flower


If I Show You A Flower

"If I take your hand, and lead you away from here," she said, looking up at his face. "If we walk together through shady, sun-dappled places, talking easily of things that matter to us, will you come willingly?"

"I think I will have to," Mike said.

Rosemary nodded once, as a smile flickered for a moment on her lips. She reached out for Mike's hand.

He looked at her as his hand moved, seemingly of its own accord, towards hers. She was smaller than he was; about five foot-eight, he guessed. Her hair was all the colours of autumn leaves, golden where the sun caught it, fading to a deep dark rusty brown in the tangle of thick curls around her neck and shoulders. She wore a short, black velvet jacket over a black scoop-necked T-shirt and an ankle-length black dress with large red roses printed on it. Just visible, at the bottom of her skirt, was a pair of battered, mud-stained motorcycle boots.

Mike put his hand into Rosemary's hand.

She turned to walk beside him. "Those trees over there," she said, nodding towards a small copse, about twenty feet from the riverbank.

Mike could see a few cows in the field beyond the copse. They began to walk towards the trees.

"If I show you a flower...." Rosemary stopped to kneel down beside a flower. "If I show you a flower, petals open, damp, moist, waiting for a kiss," she looked up at Mike, "will you show me a bird? You do understand, don't you? I'm not being too elliptical, am I?"

"No, I do understand. It is just that... just that I feel I don't belong. Not here, not with you… this is not my world."

Rosemary stood up and took both his hands in hers. "It is your world. It is your world just as much as it is mine… just as much as it is anybody's. You just have to be willing to take a few steps in a new direction, that's all."

"But why me?" Mike said. "I don't think I am your type at all. I mean, I only ever wear jeans on weekends and holidays. I live my life in suits and by the clock."

"You're not happy though, are you?"

"I... I don't know. I thought I was."

"Well, come on then," Rosemary said. She turned, taking his hand and led him to the trees.

Rosemary's hair looked dark, almost black, in the shade of the trees. She gently placed the palms of her hands on Mike's cheeks and kissed him. 

"Don't you think people should be naked in the countryside?" she said. "I think it seems right, somehow." She sat down with her back against a tree and pulled off her boots. Underneath she was wearing a pair of multi-coloured, knee-length woollen socks. She laughed when she noticed Mike staring at them. "I made them myself, do you like them?"

"Oh, yes, very nice."

"Nice? Can't you think of anything better than that?" She pulled up the socks and smoothed them over her feet. "That's the only trouble with them. They keep falling down." She put her boots back on, and stood up. "Are you ready to carry on?"

Mike nodded uncertainly. He had been almost on the point of taking his shirt off when she spoke of being naked in the countryside. But now Rosemary seemed as though she was about to continue with their walk.

"What's the matter?" Rosemary said, looking up at him. "Oh, did you expect...?"

"Well, no, sort of... yes."

"Oh...." Rosemary said. She looked around, as if seeing the copse for the first time. "Do you want to fuck then?" She stared straight at Mike, raising one eyebrow.

"Well, I...." Mike said. "Oh shit, I don't know what to say. Are you trying to wind me up, confuse me or something?"

"Yes… and no." Rosemary laughed.

She lifted her skirt up slowly. She was not wearing any underwear. Mike tried not to stare at her rust-coloured pubic triangle.

"Well, what do you think?" Rosemary said. "Shall we fuck or not?"

"You're not being very elliptical now, are you?" Mike said, smiling hesitantly.

"No, I don't want us to misunderstand each other again." Rosemary took Mike's hand. She pressed it between her thighs, letting the skirt fall over his arm. "Is that unambiguous enough for you?" She kissed the tip of his nose.

"Yes, I can almost believe you now."

Rosemary took her coat off and dropped it to the ground, giving a slight shiver as Mike's fingers slowly began to move. She removed the black T-shirt and dropped it on the ground. Putting one hand behind Mike's head, she pulled him down towards her breasts. Mike sucked a nipple into his mouth.

"I think we are beginning to understand each other, at last," Rosemary said softly. She began to unfasten the buttons of Mike's shirt. He brought his face up, level with hers and they kissed again.

Rosemary unfastened her skirt. She let it fall around her ankles as Mike took his clothes off. She stepped out of her skirt. "I'm going to leave my boots on. We must have something that is a little perverse, don't you think?"

Mike looked around, through the trees, feeling slightly nervous at being naked out in the open air. He could see no-one, only the cows that ignored what was happening in the copse.

"Lie down, I want to go on top," Rosemary said.

Mike nodded and did as he was asked. Rosemary stood astride him and looked down.

"Are you going to show me a flower I can kiss?" Mike said.

"Yes." Rosemary crouched down above Mike. She smiled down at him as she pressed down on his mouth. "I want to see the bird," she said, giggling, and rose up to turn around before crouching down again.


Some time later, Rosemary lay down beside Mike. He stroked her damp hair from her face.

She looked across at him. "Did you enjoy that?" she said, suddenly lifting herself up. She lay on her side, resting her head on her hand as she looked into his eyes.

"Yes," Mike said feeling as disconcerted by her directness as he had been earlier by her circumlocution.

"Well, how do you feel about it? Surprised? Disgusted? Grateful? What?"

"I... I don't know. Should I feel anything?"

"I should bloody well hope so!"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean...."

"That is just your trouble. You don't know what you feel, or what you mean when you try to say what you feel."

"It's just that I'm not sure of what you want, what you expect from me. I'm sorry."

"You could stop fucking apologising all the time." Rosemary picked up her coat. She pulled a packet of cigarettes and a lighter from the pocket. She lit a cigarette and lay back down on her side, supporting her head with one hand as she smoked. She looked down at Mike's face. Putting the cigarette in her mouth and screwing up one eye in the smoke, she smiled at him and winked. She sighed and lay down on her back again.

A few seconds later, she suddenly sat up and grabbed at his arm, twisting it so that she could see the face of his watch. "Oh shit, shit. Look at the time. We have to get back to the campus. I'm supposed to be giving a seminar on The Female as a Muse."

"I know. You're supposed to be giving it to my group."

Rosemary lit another cigarette as she pulled her clothes, on and then stood impatiently watching Mike as he tied his shoelaces. "Come on, let's go."

They walked back rapidly across the field, towards the university campus. He eyed the cows nervously as they passed the herd, but the cows seemed indifferent to anything that was not grass.

Mike looked from the cows across to Rosemary as she walked beside him. "Why? Why me? I don't understand."

She shrugged. "Because you're different. You are not one of the typical Middle-class culture junkies I usually encounter at these Summer Schools. I get so pissed off with them and their earnestness." She stopped walking and turned to face him. "Last night, in the bar when you told me why you came here… the thing about finding that Yeats poem. How surprised you were by how profoundly it affected you. Your desire to know and understand more, which - eventually - bought you to this course. It really got to me. It reminded me so much of when I was younger, before it all became routine, a chore. Sometimes, I wish I could see it all again with innocent eyes, but still knowing what I know."

Mike felt himself redden slightly as he thought of the previous night. "I was a bit pissed last night. I came out with a whole load of rubbish."

"Oh, don't be silly. You said it and you meant it, every word of it. You weren't that pissed, anyway. I would say we fucked a flame into being last night."

"What? There you go again." Mike stopped this time. "Sometimes I think you are using me, playing some sort of game with me. Laughing at me."

"No, no. It was just a quotation that's all, from Lady Chatterley's Lover actually."

"You see, you know all this, and I don't. I feel excluded. Like I said, we are from different worlds."

They had arrived back at the campus. Mike glanced up at the buildings in front of them: the usual modern concrete and glass towers that could be anything from a prison to a hospital. It was not what he had expected. He sat down on a low wall in front of the library, taking her hand and pulling her down to sit by him.

"Literature is just a mode of discourse though - like fucking really." Rosemary laughed. "I'm sure that if you talked to me about computers I'd be just as baffled." She stood up, taking his arm once more to look at his watch. "I've got to fetch my notes for the seminar. I'll see you there, in five minutes."

"But there is a difference, isn't there, between literature and ...and all the other stuff?" Mike seemed eager for Rosemary to answer his question. "Isn't there?"

Rosemary turned, a few yards down the path. "What do you think?" She laughed, before turning back and walking on.


[This, and other stories can also be found here as well]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Moment


This time we see how the shape of things comes to form around us. The world begins at the edge of what we can touch.

Here we are together on the inside of everything; nothing can touch us if we touch nothing but each other. Now is all the time there is, we can live outside of time allowing the world to creep on outside of us.

Here there is no past, and we know there will be no future. Here is only now. Outside of this moment, there is nothing. We cannot allow ourselves to consider what could be, what could become of this time. Outside the skies grow dark, hiding what lies beyond this moment.

History no longer matters when there is only now, and the future is lost to us, except that now can last forever, but it is over always far too soon.

We will have to step outside this moment and go about our separate lives, once more out into the world, out into time, out into the future and out into the unknown where we may never touch again. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reason Enough


Once there were reasons enough for all those stories and tales we wanted to be true. Now, though, we are starting to know, and those stories are no longer answers to the questions we need to ask.

Yet, still here amongst us are those that sit, staring deep into the flames that still will not let go of that comforting hand. Despite everything we have learnt, they prefer to watch the dancing shadows, the illusion thrown on the ground, claiming it is still always true, even though its own hollowness shatters the veneer of its lies.

So long ago, so long ago, and still they gather the shattered shards together, claiming the vessel is still whole. Unwilling to believe their own eyes, they close them and trust to guides, just as lost and scared as they, who are still lost and wandering in the wilderness of superstition. 

Monday Poem: Fogbound



The years fall behind me
And  I grow too old to hope
For dreams that are not regrets.
I invent new memories
Of what life ought to have been.
I should have been someone else
I should've had a worthwhile life
That created real memories.
I lived a forgettable life.

I arrived here, at nowhere,
A passenger left stranded
On some bare nameless station,
Left staring helplessly out
To where the track curls, like smoke,
Rising on up out towards
The unreachable horizon.
I could have been a traveller,
I could have been… if only….

If only I'd had the courage
To say goodbye, walk away
Instead of just standing there
On a stark winter morning
As she walked away, slowly
Across the park, lost inside
A February morning fog
Like some invented memory
Of a heart-breaking moment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday Poem: Dark Shadows

[The Friday Poem… on a Saturday]


Dark Shadows

Dreams are far more dangerous than this.

All I have is a small moment still
in the quiet heart of the night,

woken suddenly by something strange
that takes shape out of a dream
and crawls deep into the shadows

to wait and watch, watch and wait
for all to grow still, quiet again.

Before creeping out, then crawl up
into the bed. To crouch there
on my sleeping, breathing chest.

To watch and wait, to wait and watch,
licking its paws, washing its pelt
until it feels the time is right
to take me inside itself, deep down.

To swallow all I have to offer,
then licking me clean again
with its harsh rough tongue
before it fades away with the night.

Dissolving like the dark shadows
until nothing remains
but the dream of a memory
and the memory of a dream
of some darker darkness deeper
within the darkest shadow.

And a feeling of being taken
into a dream world and left there
like a child in the black forest
of all the myths and fairy stories.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Lesser Great Spotted Night Hens


At the turn of the 20th Century there were less than seventeen Lesser Great Spotted Night Hens left in the whole of the UK. Nowadays great flocks of Night Hens plague our late night town centres, causing massive damage to these fragile ecosystems, and severe damage to the shy retiring late-night kebab shop owners and curry emporia staff, who make their nests in these urban sanctuaries.

Many urban naturalists are puzzled as to why there are so many of these Night Hen flocks in our city centres during the hours of darkness. Some believe they are – like moths – attracted to the bright lights. Or, maybe, they are like urban foxes to the easy pickings set out for them by the owners of bars and clubs who try to attract as many of the flocks of Night Hens to their businesses by way of special promotions, believing the old folk tale that attracting a flocks of Night Hens brings with it profitable business.

The bright, sometimes garish plumage that covers so little of the body of the Night Hens giving them the appearance of being already semi-plucked (and by the end of the night many of them hope to have had a damn good plucking). This makes other experts believe the Night Hens are mimicking the Night Stags who also herd into city centres at night for rutting rituals over who can fight the best or produce the most copious amounts of vomit.

However, contrary to this theory, is the strange end of the night where both the Night Stags and the Night Hens go into sudden immediate hibernation often where they were just standing moments before without going through any of the usual mating rituals.

These mating rituals usually involve the Hens dancing around their handbags whilst the Stags cower near the bar until they become incoherent enough to engage in the ‘Chatting Up’ ritual until they discover a hen prepared to put up with them. This mating ritual continues until the process gets as close to consummation as both partners can manage, depending on the amount of alcohol they’ve each consumed that evening.

Celebrity Trigonometry


This is the place, right here on this exact very spot, where a young Mallard Splendidtush first decided that she was going to be a star. However, she eschewed the more traditional routes usually taken towards media stardom by those who are as attractively-featured, large-breasted and mellow-thighed as Splendidtush herself, of model, actress, footballer's fashion appendage or rock star's better half. Not for Splendidtush either was the route into full celebrity status through the - if not morally dubious - questionably-entertaining morass of the over-contrived 'reality' show.

No, Splendidtush decided, that for her the most noble route to fame lay through allying her natural beauty to her almost supernatural talent, and deep passionate love, for trigonometry. At first the TV execs were doubtful, not since the heyday of HP Nicedoggy and Magnitude Pikestaff in the - more innocent but more intelligent - 70s had someone with a true understanding of their subject been allowed anywhere near a primetime slot, even on the supposedly more 'intellectually-demanding' channels. However, the execs did admit that the camera did love Splendidtush's face, and her habit of wearing as few clothes (mostly unbuttoned) as possible was also seen as a plus. To their surprise however, 'How Obtuse Is My Triangle' was an instant ratings success and went on to become not only that summer's ratings winner but also to top the bestselling DVD charts for over a year.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The EU Legislative Process

Here we are standing at the donkey pogo-stick recycling centre, set up under the new EU regulations that requires all domesticated and semi-domesticated animals to have their toys, playthings and other accessories all made fully recyclable.

No, I don’t know why either.


The recent law outlawing the keeping of budgies in Wales that are not fully bi-lingual inn English and Welsh, the Scottish law protecting wild Haggi from being discriminated against when they apply for jobs as assistant lighthouse keepers, and other such strange ‘Equality’ Legislation has been emerging from the EU at an ever-increasing rate. This turn of events, it has always been assumed, is due to the commissioners, civil servants and MEPS in the European parliament spending a little too much time making laws in the afternoons after some long, and mainly liquid-based, lunches.

However, some have begun to question this theory, especially since the recent laws forcing Spanish badgers to sit mandatory accounting qualifications and the rule that makes all Germans not engaged in essential trout diversity-awareness training to learn to whistle Abba’s Greatest Hits whilst engaged in any act of sexual self-stimulation. Some commentators have decided a more plausible

Explanation is what they call the Release Brian Effect. As one political journalist covering the European Parliament explained:

Making laws is actually a very dull job and politicians, especially in the European Parliament, soon get very bored with it all. As we have seen with the Labour government in Britain if you give people the power to make laws then they will make laws, no matter how stupid, pointless, absurd or contradictory. The problem in the case of the UK is those in the Labour party spent far too long in opposition theorising about how to make the world a better place to fit their prejudices. Hence, the swift descent into authoritarianism and tight social control when the world in reality does not fit their pre-conceived theories and outright prejudices.

Here in the EU, though, it is different. For most of the politicians here, it is a bit like a holiday; they are away from home and have loads of spending money through lavish expenses which they only have to turn up to claim. Inevitably, after a bit though even that starts to wear a bit thin. So we think that, like the crowd haranguing the Roman governor in the Life of Brian film, coming up with even more names for him to make himself look foolish, these politicians are coming up with more and more absurd laws, just… well, basically, just to see what happens, see what they can get away with. And then the British government and its agencies, all full of people who pride themselves on having no imagination, sense of humour, or even common sense, have a sort of orgasmic delight in enforcing laws, the more absurd the law the more they enjoy enforcing it. So, in a way it becomes a bit of a contest, with the EU coming up with more absurd laws, daring the bureaucracies to enforce them and the bureaucracies, topping that by enforcing these stupid laws. Eventually, we hope one side will give up when they realise a law is just too stupid or absurd to be enforced, even by the British jobsworths. Although, admittedly, that could take some time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



The words will grow again, one day, from the seeds planted here. It will take time for these words to grow. Some words grow like weeds around us, scattered here and scattered there by those who do not know how to tend for them. They grow haphazard around us, choking every other word’s meaning, and stunting each other’s growth.

Sometimes it is hard to find the way through the tangled mass of words run wild, hard to find our way into the clearing of meaning. The place where the word paragraphs soar high into the sky, seeking the sun of understanding, almost high enough to touch the clouds, sheltering us and giving us the shade of contemplation under their spreading leaves. 

Wednesday Story: Mermaid



There is a beach, the sand almost white, colourless. The sky is bright, early morning blue. The sea is lazy, calm, whispering its secrets to the beach. The woman walks slowly along the beach, right at the edge of the sea. The waves trickle over her bare feet, tickling and sucking the sand from beneath her soles. She wears a long white dress, which falls to an inch or so above her ankles. It flutters - slightly - in the breeze. She has long golden blonde hair that falls in loose crinkled curls that she pushes from her face as she stares up at the seagulls circling above her. A few yards in front of her are more gulls; strutting and fighting over what scraps the tide has left behind.

Occasionally, she stops and looks down around her feet. Sometimes, she stoops and picks up a shell, or a pebble, but she always drops them before moving on. A little further along the beach, she stops and bends down, crouching in front of a piece of driftwood still lapped by the waves. A tiny crab falls from it and scuttles off, back into the waves. The woman watches the crab go, almost smiling.

She turns back to the driftwood. It is a branch from a tree, worn smooth from a long time in the sea. She traces along the length of the wood with a fingertip, as though that fingertip can read it, as if, through touch, she can reveal, and re-live, the history of that branch. She can see it: growing on the tree, from a shoot, to a twig, to a stem, to a branch. She can see the birds that perched on it, and feel the insects as they crawled along it. She can feel the sap flowing, pulled by the leaves as they bask in the warm sunlight. She can feel its tight shudders as the tree stands solid against the wind, against the rain, against the snow.

Then there is the storm. She feels the wood scream as the gale rips it, amputates it, the long fall and the rough ride, helpless in the swollen river. And then there are the days, nights, months and years of floating, passing like a fevered dream; tossing and turning, backwards and forwards, never at rest until now.

The woman blinks twice, rapidly, her finger still resting on the curve of the driftwood. She looks down at her finger as though it could belong to someone else.

She stands up and looks around uncertainly, as though she is lost. She stands for a moment watching the waves. She glances down at the driftwood and touches it gently with her bare toe, stroking it. Eventually, she turns away and continues walking.

The woman walks to the rocks at the edge of the beach, under the headland. She walks with easy familiarity as though she has been here several times before, which she has. She goes straight to a long flat-topped rock that lies at a slight angle, as though presenting its top surface to the sea.

The woman sits on the rock, feeling in the pocket of her dress. She takes out an elastic band and ties her hair up in a ponytail. Sitting up slightly, she pulls off her dress. Naked, she folds up her dress. Using the folded dress as a pillow, she lies back on the rock, spreading herself as though she is a willing sacrifice to the power of the sun.

The woman lies unmoving, as the time passes. She lies with her eyes open. Sometimes, her eyes will follow the flight of a seabird or the languid movement of a rare cloud. Occasionally, her hand will move to flick away an insect, or to remove a grain of sand blown on to her by the breeze.

After exactly one hour, although she wears no watch, the woman gets to her feet. Leaving the dress on the rock, she walks carefully over the rocks and pebbles to the sea. Slowly, she enters the water, pausing for a moment each time a wave pushes into her, when the water reaches mid-thigh, the woman stops.

A large wave flows towards her, and although she rises up onto tiptoe, the wave washes over her pale pubic hair. The woman hugs herself and shivers, but she smiles at the same time. As if the wave has made her decision for her, the woman dives forward into the next wave.

She swims slowly, deliberately. At one point, she stops and treads water. She looks from one headland to the other, as though she is measuring distance. Seemingly satisfied, she turns back to face the shore and swims back towards the beach.

As the white foam waves begin to wash over her, she stands, letting the water drain off her. She wrings the water from her ponytail and removes the band, letting the sodden curls fall over her shoulders. She walks out of the water.

Between where she stands, and the rock where she left her dress, she sees the old man. He stands still, staring at her, a bag hanging from his shoulder and his rods and keep net in his hand. The woman walks up to him.

"Good morning Jack," she says, smiling.

"Morning Miss," the old man says. He looks around at the headlands, the sea, the beach.

The woman smiles to herself, as the old man looks everywhere else but at her. It has been the same every morning since they began acknowledging each other. Before then, she would see him, through half-closed eyes as she lay on her rock, passing slowly by.

"I used to think you were a mermaid," Jack says suddenly. His eyes flick towards her and away again, "Sitting up on that rock, with your hair blowing in the breeze."

The woman laughs. "Perhaps I am, Jack. Perhaps I am a mermaid."

The man looks down at his hands, at the rods and net, as if he has to remind himself of why he is there; on a beach talking to a naked woman who is young enough to be his daughter, his granddaughter. He rubs his chin with the back of his hand, feeling the rasp of his white bristles. She knows he feels ashamed of his unkempt appearance, his lined and creased face, his unshaven bristles and the fact they are white. His faded and worn jacket with the ragged cuff and ripped pocket embarrasses him.

The woman knows he wants to stay, wants to look, but can find no reason to stay, no words he can say which will keep her in front of him. She knows as well, without knowing how she knows, that she is his secret. She knows he never mentions her, or their meetings, to his old fisherman friends as they sit in the smoky bar with pints of dark ale in front of them. He does not mention her even when the talk turns to dark stormy nights; strange sights, strange disappearances and strange appearances at sea and in the dark twisted roads and lanes. He does not talk of her even when the talk turns to mermaids.

The old man shrugs his bag higher onto his shoulder and tightens his grip on his rods; his gaze lost on the horizon as though he was still out at sea.

"Anyway, miss," he says, and turns towards the rocks where he will spend his morning looking out to sea, as his rods lie forgotten, and wishing he was still out there, somewhere beyond the horizon, and what he would do if a mermaid ever sang to him.

"Yes, good-bye Jack," the woman says, the smile in her voice equal to that on her face. The old man turns towards the headland and walks away. For once, he looks down at his feet instead of the distant horizon.

The woman stands at the edge of the sea; the waves trickling over her feet, watching him walk away. At one point, he stops to rest, sitting down on a rock and wiping his brow with a handkerchief. He looks up, back towards her. She waves. Jack waves back with his handkerchief.

"Yes, Jack, perhaps I am a mermaid," the woman says softly before turning to walk to her rock.

This time, the woman lies on her stomach, shifting a few times before she is comfortable. She lies with her hair fanned out over her shoulders and over the rock, her arms straight by her sides with the palms turned upwards. She lies with her cheek against the white dress and her eyes closed.

Jack sits on a distant rock. Occasionally, he turns his head and sees the woman spread naked on the rock. He tries not to watch her, tries not to look too often. He believes that if he stares she will not come again. He believes the power of his eyes will drive her away. He knows she will be going soon, but he hopes that, by taking only the occasional glance, he will be able to see her again tomorrow and for all the days of the summer after that.

He knows he has few summers left. He knows he should let his eyes drink freely in the short time he has remaining, but he is afraid she will no longer return to her rock if he does stare too much. The thought of days without her on her rock, no matter how few he has left to him, is too much for him to bear. So he tries to ration his glances, turning back to look out at the sea, at the horizon. He hopes, sometimes even prays, that she will not leave the rock forever, not in the days he has left to come. He hopes that she will not leave the rock until he is long gone.

He finds the idea of her returning to the rock long after he has gone, long after he has died, a strange comfort. The same comfort he feels when he stares into the eyes of his grandchildren.

Exactly one hour after lying down, the woman rises again. She looks out across the beach, shading her eyes with her hand. She sees movement and colour. The town is slowly waking up, and the holidaymakers are beginning to appear on the sand. She can hear the shouts of children, carried on the breeze. She sighs, stands and slips the white dress over her head. She shakes her long curls and combs her fingers through the salt-stiffened tangles.

Slowly, the woman walks back along the beach. The tide has moved farther back, but the sand is still moist under her bare feet. She looks down and sees the piece of driftwood in front of her. She looks at it for a moment, indecisively. The wood seems to call out to her to take it, to take it home with her. She can see it, in her mind, resting on the heavy old sideboard in her cottage.

She shakes her head and turns to go. She stops and turns. She pauses and takes a single step, then another, back towards the driftwood. She looks down and touches the wood with her toes. She crouches down and tries to touch it, but she cannot force her finger to make contact. She bites her bottom lip, glancing around at the beach. The crowds are coming closer, small family encampments spreading out along the sand, fortified by chairs and windbreaks. Scouting parties of shouting, eager children rushing out to claim shells, pebbles, seaweed.

The woman sighs and stands up, wiping non-existent sand from her hands. She walks away from the driftwood, back to the small cottage. She does not look back.


[This, and other stories can also be found here as well]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Shifting Pile


Each small moment adds up, piles up, behind us. Eventually the pile gets too high and falls. Sometimes this shifting of the pile reveals a moment that was buried, sometimes forgotten completely, a long time ago. A small moment that you can pluck out, dust off and hold up to the light, see the glow of memory deep within it.

Other times though, are too big to be buried, no matter how much the sands of time heap up around them; they lie there, always with some part exposed to us. These are the memories we cannot pick up and hold up to the light. They lie, boulders in the path of memory, the sands wash around them but they are always there to remind us.

I remember that time when you shrugged off the weight of your clothes to step into that river under the waterfall to swim away into the depths. I recall, how - when you swam back to me - I could taste mountains and the memory of snow on your still damp thighs.

Memories like that are the ones worth returning to, as light as a moment they lie between the boulders of things we wish we could forget. Being light as they are, though, makes them easy to carry with us when we turn to walk away from these rocks and boulders and on out into the light of the new day. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

She Found The Morning Waiting


She found the morning waiting for her when she awoke. From the way the sunlight spilled around the edges of the ill-fitting curtains in the bedroom, it seemed to be quite late; it could even have been around midday.

By habit, she turned to look for the clock on her bedside table. This was not her bedroom, though, and there was no clock there. The quilt had slipped off her in the night. She had a vague half-dream memory of the heat of the night and hot, sweaty dreams that had twisted her about on the bed until her fingers had bought her enough relief for her to slip away into sleep.

The air was pleasantly cool on her skin as she rose out of the bed and headed off towards the bathroom.

She came back into the bedroom about half an hour later, her long black hair wrapped up in a towel. Another large towel was draped loosely over her shoulders and she dried parts of herself absently with a corner of the towel as she strolled over to the window and pulled back the curtains.

The sun was up high in the sky, well above the tops of the trees in the small wood that merged into the cottage’s garden. She could hear birdsong from the wood. She did not know enough about birds to recognise their songs, only that there seemed to be several different songs competing with each other.

Where she had grown up and lived – deep in the heart of big cities – the only bird noise that she had ever really noticed was the sound of pigeons coughing in the traffic fumes on her high window ledges. 

Monday Poem: Breathe a Name


Breathe a Name

The world becomes familiar
an inventory of possibilities
hovers near your open lips.

You take each delicate moment
into cupped hands to breathe
a name over what you can hold.

Just one word and all this
becomes real enough
for you to walk through.

As if this is the only world
and the rest are mere dreams
made for lonely nights.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forests and Pages


All those years fall back between us like chapters in a book, like trees in a dense forest, so far back now I can hardly even remember those paths I took which got me here, lost and alone.

I can hear your voice calling out to me across the years, from that long lost part of the woods, back when our stories had hardly begun. Could we have stayed on that path together, would we now be singing different songs to protect us against these dark nights we spend under the thick over-arching canopy that hides so many of the guiding stars from us?

Still, I am here, and you are so far out of reach. Perhaps we should go on, carry on down our separate paths, perhaps one day, not too far away, we will chose paths that bring us closer together.

Or maybe we will take diverging paths, once again, which mean I cannot even hear the fading echoes of your song of lost loneliness, as another chapter or two of our separate stories grow us apart, and this forest thickens between us. 

Friday Poem: A Flame into Being


A Flame into Being

A languid sigh and the luxury of motion
as you rise up from stillness and silence
shrugging off your redundant clothes
all at once, like a cat
washes off winter by a warming fire.

Your eyes are raked back into flame
by the touch of air on your waiting skin.
Flesh comes alive feeling the heat
of a real need ember into flame.
And you are eager now, to live again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Waiting For The Future

Now is the time for hesitance to end. Still we wait, though, as if unsure of what shape our worlds will take from this moment onwards. We are on the verge of something new for both of us, a moment that could turn both our lives from their current paths, twisting us off down some new unexplored road together. We both know it could be a dead end, that it could all end suddenly around that first bend where the future lies hidden. It could be a ancient heavy tree trunk fallen across the path, a few steps past that unknown turning, or it could lead out into that valley of all that we ever promised ourselves and had, now, resigned ourselves to seeing only in dreams of what might have been.

The weight of all our possible futures hangs over this moment, where we stand poised on the edge of what could always be a mistake, or that one moment that turns that corner in both our lives. It could even just turn out to be nothing more than a memory of a moment that might have been, leaving only a fond smile of regret. It could just be another one of those events that leaves no consequence, beyond a few ripples over the surface of the river of our lives as they make their way down to the endless sea.

We do not know, so we wait here on the verge of the moment waiting for the future to decide itself for us. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Distant Morning


Sometimes it seems as though the day will never begin. The night holds on, clutching its blankets close to itself, covering up the sky and not letting the dawn take hold of the horizon and drag the day up from where it waits, ready to begin.

You wait for the day, not with expectation or dread, just wishing the night was over, and that time can begin again. The clock waits for an eternity between each second, letting whole ages pass before bestowing another minute upon you. Hours take too long to measure. Yesterday was more than a lifetime ago.

There were times, which seem such a long time ago now, when the night held promises for you, when – indeed – midnight could have been the magical witching hour. A time when you danced through the darkness and strode down those dangerous streets safe in the knowledge that you were young and immortal and the night belonged to you, full of meetings and the possibility of someone’s warm flesh against yours as you ignored the irrelevant dawn.

Now, though, those times are long ago, sometimes even to far for memory to reach, they seem no more substantial than the strange dream that dragged you out of sleep and left you here on the shore of morning waiting for the tide of daybreak to wash you into motion. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Here Stands Solitude


Here stands solitude, high on the headland, the wind blowing back her hair, tangling it across her face. Her hands though, remain in the pockets of her coat. She does not reach up to stroke the hair away from her face with either impatience or resignation. She just stares out over the sea towards the horizon.

She sees without looking, watches without seeing. What she searches for is not out there riding those rough white capped waves home to her. The passing she mourns was not lost at sea. He walked out of her door and drove away back inland and away from here.

She does not, not now, even regret his going. She has found within her solitude something she did not realise she lacked until one morning, back in the summer that seemed a lifetime ago, she climbed up here, the highest point for miles around, to just stare out at the sea.

Eventually, as though the sea has answered her unspoken question, she nods towards the sea as though taking her leave of a friend and turns to walk down the slippery path back down to the cottage that sits alone, halfway up this hillside.

She glances down at the rest of the village that sits like a collection of bright stones in the cupped hand of the bay and smiles to herself, a smile like that of one coming home from a long journey. 

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Chain


Sometimes it seems the words hide there, waiting for us to come out to find them. The world waits too, behind the words, ready for us to use those words to describe it. It waits there for us to make up stories about it, fitting the words together around the world, making a chain of words to link us to the ground we walk upon.

We call those chains stories and some of them are true and some of them are not, but we have a tendency to believe stories as if they are true, as if despite what we see they do describe a world around us.

The closer we look at the world the more we should see that those ancient stories do not describe the world we live in. That does not matter, though, as long as we know those stories are just stories and no longer are about the world we live in.

The danger of stories is that we grow to believe in them, despite the fact that they no longer tell us about the world they are meant to describe. Their chain linking us to the world has been broken, some links shown to be poorly-made have rusted and snapped as they’ve grown older, breaking that link between us and the world. That does not matter, for we have found stronger chains that really do bind us to the world we live in. Therefore, we have no need any longer for those old rusted and broken chains, except to keep as story chains and admire the craftsmanship that created them. 

Monday Poem: Promises



I do not want to search the night's dark skies
just for the possibility of stars
when I can watch as you undress again
at this, another ending weary day.

The dreams we held in younger hands are gone
like dying flowers left to rot in bins
by dusty paths between the oldest graves
with headstones falling lost in deep long grass.

We walked together down that path one day
to find a cooler shaded shadowed spot
underneath an ancient horse chestnut tree,
but we were younger then and summer skies
held promises forever blue and ours.

Now we have crowded beaches, sitting here
to watch our children play in sand and build
these castles, knowing how the sea destroys
by creeping waves, and wipes it clean again
like promises once made, but never kept.



PUBLISHED: Recursive Angel (09/2001)

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Friday, September 04, 2009


[Walter Crane - The Masque of the Four Seasons]

Every season comes around to meet us out of the fading of the previous one. Sometimes we are taken by surprise by the first bright day of spring, or the taste of winter’s first snowflake on our lips, but mostly we are ready for the change, sometimes waiting for the colours of autumn after the long heavy heat of the summer has turned everything brittle and dusty. We are always ready for spring after February, the longest, slowest, month that holds tight to winter and refuses to let go, even while the plants are bursting to get into bloom and to feel the sun’s strength growing with each lengthening day.