Deathmask

Perhaps unsurprisingly given that this piece was sort of inspired by the movie ‘Mishima’, the line ‘this decaying angel’ is based on the title of one of Yukio Mishima’s books as its usually translated into English ‘The Decay of the Angel’.

 

When Egypt buried kings
,Pharaohs, they called them,
(dwellers in the great house
of the body
)
they crafted death masks
unearthly beauty
they could wear over the fabric
and decay
:to show the Gods how perfectly
to craft replacements
like Mishima
I will try to carve my body
from the death mask
this decaying angel
mould brass muscle
over disobedient flesh
burn and file
the excess of years
the failure on failure built
recast pose and sweat
in supple forge
i will polish the skin with whetstones
smooth as the mask
smooth as marble
bleak and lifeless
lead painted face

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Birdwatching

So.

I was the sparrow

Skipping like a child

Branch to branch

I caught butterflies

On every twig

Snapped them from the air

Like dying stars

But in me now something has changed

The heart of a sparrow is gone

And in its place

The slow beat of a hawk

Rises

All terrible hovering adumbration

I can nearly see the blood pumping

In something small

As a shrew

Such a pretense of innocence

That will not save it

Day 10 – Loss

The milk goes bad in the carton

The cereal is stale

There are too many chairs around this breakfast table

The newspaper is left unread

The crossword half finished

 

Every time a car rushes by

Those flowers at the roadside

I wonder where you are

Sometimes I imagine you peering down

More often you are just a presence

Gone when I turn around

Looking over my shoulder

You used to when I was reading

 

When I jump into the water

You are there

Behind my closed eyes

In the rush of the waves closing over my head

You are watching me

To make sure I don’t hold my breath too long

Or let my heart drag me down

 

When I sit at the piano

Where you would play the bass hands

Or lie on the bed

Undressed for the heat

Of that East-coast summer

You are there

As you used to be

Crossing your hands with mine

Walking the scales

Repeating until the sound

Is lost in the distance

 

Day 9 – Thriller

Thud!

The sound of metal meeting meat a lifeline sliced through entity terminated you had better wake up

That nightmare that ends when bullet finds flesh when we are all soaked sweat adrenal gland rush twitch and sharp point you had better wake up

Arcing off the bed into the apex of this imagined thriller intersecting us like lasers crossing in smoke you had better wake up

Clutching at the sheets as the knife twists in beautiful spiral blood runs out dark ribbon you had better wake up

It all ends with that vibrato heartbeat that manic trill now now now you are dying

you had better wake up

you had better wake up

I just can’t wake up

 

 

Editing poetry: Dead boys

This piece has vacillated between being a poem and a very short story. The only reason that I’d keep it in this form is for the repetition in the second section.  This is inspired partly by the excellent Patrick Wolf song ‘To the Lighthouse’. The lines ‘a candle with a broken wick… I have been’ come from Saul Williams’ ‘Release’.

He falls from the train
An elevator from the 28th floor
To the spikes of the railings.
The notebook swallow-dives
With him, lands.
The red
of the cover leaking into the pages,
The white
of the pages leaking out to the cover.

You are star-eyed, windows on a centrifuge,
Black sparsely flecked with life,
Your eyes in black orbits,
Skin flushed deep red and the palm
Of your hand
Red smacks down on the wooden desk
Red!
Red!
Red!

This is much better, anger for tears,
Papercuts and salt water.
You have realized
Like a dark dream unfolding
That he never gave you anything
Real enough
For them,
No locket, inscribed metal,
Acid-etched glass. Your name, his name,
A vestigial pleasure in access after the fact.
All you have is his words
A candle with a broken wick
A puddle that reflects the sun
A piece of paper with my name on it

All that I am I have been

Eventually you get a ride, red palm stinging in the back seat,
To his apartment,
All the appliances still holding their breath,
The dishes stretching and yawning in the sink
Like black cats, their fur damp,
Not quite understanding.

As you enter, the silence clutches you,
Constricts,
Forces all oxygen from your body
You sit heavily
The furniture should be covered
With dust,
Plastic,
Yellow police tape,
Not just the same like it’s still waiting.
You slowly open the bedroom door,
The present you left for him is still
Sitting on the pillow,
Neatly folded,
Blue.
The floor falls away,
The black sheets curve, spiral like a galaxy,
Collapse into infinite gravity.
You are compressed into a singularity.

Months later you have taken to carving his name
Into everything,
But you don’t remember why.
At first it was just flesh,
Arms, legs, chest (while standing in front of
The mirror,
You cried for almost an hour when you realized one letter
Was backwards).
Now in the margins of books,
Scratched in wood and metal,
Idly traced in bath water.
The compact lettering is somehow
Unsatisfying.

Once you had covered a
Whole journal page with his name,
And the next page
‘it’s not my fault’.
The word ‘my’ lines
Up in a sloping line across the page
Like a scar.

What I’m thinking about changing:

I would like to present this piece another way. Perhaps with the journal page as a background and the words over the top. Or maybe as a short flash fiction piece with some unusual spacing to allow that red/red/red repetition to stand out more.

via Editing poetry: Dead boys.

Quotations about death

‘Is it morbid to think about death all the time?’ Someone once asked. It may have been me. Here are some quotations about death that you may find enlightening, interesting or depressing. No other emotions are permitted!

“Seems like the only kind of job an American can get these days is committing suicide in some way.”
– Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut
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The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.
– The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

A heart that’s full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won’t heal
– No Surprises – OK Computer Radiohead
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‘Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.’
– The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
*********************

German: The machine is mankind’s madness and disfigurement. Industry castrates art. The only honesty is in suicide.
Jack: I can’t watch any more of these German sitcoms!
– 30 Rock – Tina Fey
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Read that for men under 34 the biggest killer is car accidents. Second is suicides. Spent a while wondering what the third was. Hit my head against the wall a few times.
– Household Worms – Stanley Donwood
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I’m not living I’m just killing time
– True Love Waits –  Radiohead
*********************

Suicide is what everyone young thinks they’ll do before they get old. But they hardly ever get round to it.
– Other People – Martin Amis
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Short fiction: Dust to Dust

I wrote this story, semi-based on a couple of true events, for my creative writing class. Since I did very well, I thought I’d share it with the rest of you.

 

Dust to dust

    She sat leaning forwards, almost perched on the front half of her seat, leaving a gap between herself and the ugly-patterned seat back. Through the gap I could see the sprawling homogeneity of the prairies speed by outside the window, the wheat blurring into a yellow pap that covered half the country. Nothing but fields and fields and fields.  
    I had been watching her since Regina, where she’d either got on the bus or moved back to the seat across from mine. As soon as the bus pulled away she’d attracted my attention. Her hair was so ginger-red it might have been dyed , but her skin was that porcelain pale white that redheaded people often have, which forces them to wear wide-brimmed hats if there is even a threat of sunshine. She was wearing a round silver watch, which she kept glancing at just as I glanced at her: sometimes a quick look, sometimes staring for a few seconds at a time. Her clothing was simple: blue jeans and a striped sweater of the one-shoulder type that girls seem to forever be hitching back up into its place, only to have it fall down again a few seconds later. She left hers unhitched.  
In fact, other than her frequent but understated movements to look at the watch, she sat perfectly still, becoming almost background to the landscape rushing past the window. Her energy was all contained, all stored. Her stillness was not the lazy stillness of some of the sweaty passengers at the back, dozing with sweaters like tiny tents over their heads to keep out the daylight. It was the stillness of potential energy, movement that was waiting.
    Since crossing the Rockies on the way out of BC, there had been little of interest passing by outside. The mountains loomed, but gave a curious vibrancy to that part of the journey. They were an ever-changing landscape, growing all the time; full of crags and precipices, nature and geography commingled, and eventually nature bowing out at the tree-line and leaving the peak standing alone. As we entered the prairies though, everything except farming appeared to give up; even the signposts were few and far between. Unlike the mountains, whose sheer size oppressed with the deafening silence of a million tons of rock, down here it was dust. Dust, yellow as corn, covered everything, silenced everything. Dust and wind, eroding life down to its component atoms. Destroying, but in a way that was flat and lifeless. Dust to dust. The dust that was the death of rocks, the death of mountains. The bus itself hurtled past too quickly to ever be worn down. But each time we stopped, it looked old and sickly, a film of dust coating the bright metal.  
I was curious about the girl, perhaps a little more because she was strikingly beautiful. It is always easy to be curious about a beautiful girl. She never looked out of the window, which was a little odd, even though there wasn’t much to see. I leaned over and asked her name. For a moment, she seemed to ignore me, then slowly turned around. She held my gaze for a moment, as if trying to ask a question with her eyes.
    ‘Claire,’ she replied. The word was crisply and perfunctorily delivered, with no hint of further information spilling over out of it . No hint of what else she might be thinking about. I wasn’t sure if she was interested in talking further, but it was a long journey and I felt prepared to risk a metaphorical slap in the face.
    ‘Where are you headed?’ I asked politely.
    ‘Ottawa… and you?’ the words seemed still to be dragged out, or coming from a long way away, but yet they had that same solidity as the mountains: once said they seemed immovable in my memory.  
    ‘I’m going to Montreal. Just for a while.’
    ‘Why Montreal?’
    I smiled and shrugged. ‘Why not? I just wanted to visit.’ She bit her lip and half-smiled. Glanced at her watch. Went back to staring ahead. There was a long pause. A wind whipped the dust into brief flapping sheets of yellow outside the window.
    ‘Why Ottawa?’ As soon as I said it, I could see her face darken. She hunched her shoulders up slightly, just for a moment pulling her body even further forwards on the seat.
    ‘To visit my dad’
    ‘That must be nice’ I said, slowing down towards the end of the sentence as I felt the precipitous edge of the mountain road looming up in conversation .
    ‘He has liver cancer.’
    ‘Oh,’ was all I could reply. I didn’t really see the point in saying I was sorry, and the pause was now too long to add it as an afterthought. What would the apology of a stranger mean? ‘I hope he gets better’ I added firmly.
    ‘I’m going to say goodbye.’ Her words were still clipped, not cold exactly but precise . Her mind seemed to be focused like a migrating bird on the destination. ‘I … might not get there in time.’ Around us, other passengers dozed in the mid-afternoon warmth, or watched the treadmill of wind-swept prairies roll by. For Claire, this was a race. It was almost as if she was conserving all her energy to will the bus along faster, leaving none to move her own body. The whine of the engine seemed suddenly to grow louder, too loud to talk at the level we’d been talking. We sat in silence for a few minutes.  
She seemed to look tired now, worn-down like the old farming equipment I could see as we passed by deserted farms. ‘We’re going to scatter his ashes from the top of a hill close to where he lived.’ She didn’t seem to notice the past tense creeping in. Perhaps she’d been preparing for this moment in her head for months, or even years.
Her phone rang. She stiffened again, and then answered it. She spoke into it very quietly for several minutes. I couldn’t hear what transpired, and I didn’t ask her. Her face was fixed, slightly stiff but unreadable. After the call was over, she went back to sitting perched on her seat, and didn’t say anything to me. Later in the day I dozed off like most of the passengers, and when I woke up she was gone. Perhaps she’d taken a quicker bus to rush there that much sooner. Perhaps she’d had bad news and decided to stop somewhere, or even head back towards the mountains. It was something I wondered about for years afterwards, this girl who was so full of life and energy, and yet so contained . This girl who seemed so out of place in the bleak dustbowl of the prairies.
I wondered if she ever managed to scatter her father’s ashes as he wished. I pictured them catching in the wind, sweeping down from Ontario, North and West over the great lakes, and eventually back to the prairies. Mingling with the dust of mountains, of worn away bone, wood and metal. Grouping and whirling in clouds, ready to wear down whatever tried to move across the prairies. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.