As the days go by
He finds her attempts to cling to him
Becoming pathetic
And he is trying to love her
Without being spiteful.

He has left before,
but this time
he takes nothing,
the world is exactly as it was,
missing only a body,
and the note pinned to the fridge says
‘replace me’.


Am I moving forward, or stepping over the edge?

Life is strange with its little twists and turns. If I had stayed in medical school, I would probably be a doctor somewhere in England now, most likely married to another doctor with whom I went to school. But then I would never have met C and done so many other things I’ve done in my life.

We just got back from Disney world, which aside from being a great vacation I think brought us somewhat closer. Perhaps one reason C has not wanted our relationship to go anywhere recently is that she feels she spends most of her time being shouted at by her mother and doing chores, and having a relationship would only worsen things in that regard (she would have less time for those things). But being on holiday together may have made her realize that being around me is pleasant, and perhaps living together would be enjoyable.

Although she is very careful about what she says (which is funny in someone so genuine and perhaps slightly gullible, in the nicest possible way), we did hold hands quite a bit, and she slept on my shoulder several times during our trip. It reminded me of when we were very close friends years and years ago. She also said some sweet things about me. On Friday she said she wished I didn’t have to leave to go back to my house for the evening, which was really lovely. It being a vacation, I had the opportunity to do something a little romantic, so I had flowers delivered to our room on the last night of our stay. Not very original I know, but there aren’t too many options for romantic things you can do with a child around and have delivered to your hotel room…

Anyway, I think she is careful because she knows I love her and she doesn’t want to lead me on. So either she doesn’t think that holding hands is significant, or she is enjoying that closeness on some level or other.

We have actually discussed living together starting in November. Or should I say living together again, since we actually did so in 2006/2007 for a brief period until she moved here. Her mother would be moving out and we would share the house she is living in together. It would be a big change for me, but also a big risk because I would not have any legal or renters rights (I wouldn’t be on the mortgage or have any official rental agreement) so if her mother decided to move back in, I wouldn’t have anywhere to live. And I know at least one of my friends thinks it’s a bad idea, but the thought of being closer to her and maybe seeing her every day is wonderful.

Longer term, C has said she wants us to live together somewhere else. I suggested that we could get a three bedroom place and have one bedroom as a study/homework room, which would mean she and I would have to share a bedroom. And no, this isn’t some devious plot. Most of my current living room is my work space, since I work from home, and most houses simply don’t have enough space for a living room to be half work space.

And yes, sharing a bed with someone you love who doesn’t want to touch you can be heartbreaking, but I think it might be worth it. So, my life may be moving forward again shortly…

The girl with the brown eyes

One of my friends recently advised me that it’s time to get over C and move on with my life. I don’t agree, but I appreciate where she’s coming from. I think she doesn’t want me to spend all my life waiting for something that will never happen. But it led me to the following quotation from Hermann Hesse:

One must continue to go forward if one wants to fathom the world. And you have already had what is best and finest from the girl with the brown eyes, and the farther you are from her the better and finer it will be

Single and looking… for a book

It’s Monday night and I’m at home watching QI and writing blog posts. There should be no better indicator that I am indeed a single person. It has now been well over two years since I was in one of those things… I forget the word… they can be glorious emotional and physical enterprises, but at their worst can be a sort of terrible confinement, like prison but without the free food. What are they called? Phone boxes? No… nobody I know has been in a phone box (monogamous or otherwise) in many years. Ah, a relationship. This gives you some idea of how long it’s been: my last girlfriend has had a fairly long term relationship start, end and start all over again in the time since I dated her. Several of my friends have had children who are now in their teens. No no I must stop with the hyperbole lest I be threatened with sanctions by the UN.

It is odd how, despite the ever-increasing amount of cumulative life experience in the world (now that we can write things down, blog them and so forth) people seem to mature in the same ways. To put it another way, there is no website that assists people in skipping ahead to being mentally in their 20s or 30s while they are still teenagers (although there are plenty that can assist with anyone desirous of moving in the opposite direction). I suppose immaturity is imposed by the growing brain, and there are no possible shortcuts. It’s rather a distressing thought that all teenagers will still have to go through the agony of that period despite the great advances of our age. The point of this is that as a teenager, I remember being desperate to have a girlfriend. In fact, when I was about 15 (I think) I had an imaginary girlfriend (feel free to insert whatever joke you feel appropriate here). I don’t think I have shared that with many people (and I suppose I am still not doing so), but it was vaguely comforting at the time. I think her name was Celine, and she was French. I used to go on holiday to France with my family at least once a year, and so this was at least a little plausible. I think I claimed to have met her on the beach, which for anyone that knows me is rather more unlikely (me being on a beach and talking to a stranger).

To invent an entire person to have a relationship with is surely a sign of desperation, or perhaps merely a rather pathetic kind of loneliness. Many children have imaginary friends, but that seems rather more endearing than pathetic (as children are designed to). And in most cases they grow out of it. Eventually of course, I acquired a human girlfriend who existed and was real (with boobs and everything)[1]. From the time when I was 16 until a couple of years ago I never went more than a few months without a relationship and/or sex. That is not any kind of boast, merely a statement of fact (bear with me, it’s relevant). In fact, had I been denied either or both of these things for a longer period in my teens or twenties, I would probably have matured a good deal faster…

My first girlfriend was a sort of structural device (this sounds like some sort of odd joke about sex toys and semicolons, but it isn’t), in that having a girlfriend allowed me to attend social events without having to worry about what I was going to do or who I was going to talk to when I was there. If you’ve ever planned a party for a bunch of couples, you’ve probably thought about this phenomenon as well. A partner is a sort of pre-made conversational sounding board. Unless you have a wonderful relationship, they will likely have to stay around you for at least the beginning of a party, even if you’re talking absolute tosh. So you can warm up your conversation on them, and passers-by can intrude or listen as they choose. But when you add a single person to a bunch of couples, suddenly it gets a bit awkward, especially if they don’t know other people that well. It’s probably worse as a teenager, because you don’t have the same social or conversational skills. Being able to stand in the corner at a party holding hands with someone was, if not actually enjoyable, certainly less stressful than holding hands with nobody (which looks quite odd if you’ve ever tried it).

My second (or possibly third, I was never clear on how one counted relationships in the years pre-facebook [2]
) girlfriend was more of a psychological necessity. She prevented me from going absolutely insane when I was about 18, and I think moderated my tendencies to write poems about killing myself (all of which contained the word ‘black’ at least once, and none of which were very good) by being generally wonderful and exposing me to her equally wonderful and dysfunctional family.

Both of these relationships were fairly short-lived (months rather than years), but I think I approached both in the wrong way. I barely considered what I might be able to give to someone else, just that I needed someone to stabilize me through a difficult period of my life. A relationship was a necessity. I suppose it was what I relied on before I had medication.

By the time I hit my 20s, I was already married (although not to either of the girls mentioned above). I moved to Canada in 2001 and was married in December that year to a girl I had first met some 5 months previously. Ah the impetuosity of youth! I do have a tendency to approach life backwards, and I think there was some sort of thinking that being married through university would somehow help focus me. I was still mired in mental health troubles, lonely and unsure about the direction my life should take. I had bounced around from fling to fling over the past few years, including a hedonistic time in Israel over new year 2001, and I felt like some kind of structure was needed. Having a relationship was a way of reassuring myself that I was normal and could do normal things. See, I’m married, just like a normal person. I live in a house with my wife and we do normal things like having rubbish sex. Again though, I was really approaching things from the wrong way. A relationship was still something that I needed: I felt lonely, and I needed someone whose job it was to make me less lonely.

And it worked, after a fashion. I had few mental problems for about three or four years. I stopped writing completely, and instead started doing things like cooking, playing baseball outside with my nephews, and getting obscenely high marks in university (by virtue of the fact that I never went out with my classmates and spent every evening studying). But it couldn’t last. Something never felt quite right, and as I started to meet and talk to more people that seemed to be like me, it felt more and more wrong.

By the time I was 25, I was divorced (aren’t I precocious?). This was probably the first moment of real maturity in my relationship life. I had to break it to my then wife that I was not in love with her, and that I did not want to live together any more. It meant the end of a five year marriage, but for me it also meant putting myself, for the first time ever really, in a situation where I might be single for a while. Now if I’m honest, there was never really much risk of that. C, the girl I still love now, was there waiting for me, although neither of us were at that point prepared to admit that’s what we were doing. It led to one of the most confusing, painful, heartbreaking and unbearably joyful periods of my life. And it was a new development. For the first time, I felt like I was the strong one in a relationship. I was the one who was able to stand up and lead someone through the storm. I felt like I had something to offer. It was the first relationship I had where there was what I would call emotional equality. We were both fairly messed up, and we relied on each other. Progress!

I will not go through every relationship I have had since C and I were first together, partly because there have been a lot, and partly because I don’t remember them all (or, as I mentioned above, really know what constitutes a relationship). I have checked facebook and I don’t recall having a single relationship that was ‘facebook official’. But really, even my last relationship was still something that was emotionally necessary for me. To be honest, I have never before thought myself capable of facing the world alone, and therefore I have needed help at every step of the way.

But now, as I approach the final paragraph, things are different. For the first time I feel that I have made some progress in understanding myself. For the first time, I am ok with being single. A relationship is not something I need to maintain my own stability any longer. And I am increasingly concerned, when I think of relationships, with what I could potentially offer to the relationshippee (which is a real word). I think I am finally ready to contribute to a relationship, rather than simply ‘having’ one like a balloon or a hamster. And I know who I want to be in a relationship with. Even weirder, I am actually going to be patient about it. If she is not interested, I shall continue to grow, to think about myself and attempt (if possible) to strive for self-improvement while I wait. And in the meantime, I think I shall devote my time to finding more worthwhile books to read.

Incidentally, I have never been comfortable with the phrase ‘got a girlfriend/boyfriend’. It makes it sound as if you went to some sort of market or ordered them online… now I am being Stewart Lee and making you finish the joke for yourself.

If it has done nothing else (which I’m fairly sure is the case), Facebook has at least given people a way of officially declaring that they are in a relationship without having to go through the ridiculous process of getting engaged or married.

Seamus Heaney Tribute (possibly part 1)


Seamus Heaney wrote a lot about the past, which is one reason that it’s sort of appropriate that he translated Beowulf. For those who don’t know, Beowulf is an Old English epic poem, possibly the earliest work of literature in English (although Old English doesn’t bear much resemblance to modern English). His version begins with what is possibly the greatest start to an epic, as well as the best single word sentence ever: ‘So.’ I have used this a few times, and you can be sure every time I use the word ‘so’ to start off something, I am thinking of Heaney’s Beowulf. Here are several examples.

As a rare… thingy I will give some notes on the pieces. The first is about San Francisco. The line ‘shredded you to a whimper’ owes something to T.S. Eliot. Kerouac, as some may know, spent a good deal of time in SF, and in fact there is a street named for him. While I was there I drank in the bar that he used to frequent (although I forget the name and I shall not guess at it). The line ‘somewhere under the rainbow’ is a sort of reference to SF’s thriving gay population; and of course the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from the Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland being something of a gay icon (by which I mean an icon in the gay community).

The second is a piece about writing, and what poetry is or is seen as today. I shall also give away that the quotations in the piece are entirely made up by me… part of the point is that a common trope in poetry is quotations from unheard of, or at least obscure, people.

The third is about love (from Nanowrimo day 20). It is basically about how I met someone I loved, and still love. It contains a few little references that I will share with you. Taiheiyoh is the Japanese for Pacific Ocean. Little Fluffy Clouds is a song by The Orb. Most of the rest is specifics, real or not, of a now long past relationship. Sighs.

Sadly I forget what I was thinking when I wrote the fourth one. My apologies. But you are free to read into it whatever you wish. Let me know your thoughts and I’m sure I shall recognize it if you’re thinking what I was thinking.

After the Spear-Danes
And shields
And myths have passed
This is how it ends
After the city has shredded you to a whimper
Twin peaks slope everything down
Through smog to the idle of the bay
Kerouac clatter down alleys
Lettered in gold
Living here
That sharp smell of impatient words
Burnt coffee
The twitching eyelid muscles
Leach out the beauty under the eyes
You become more tourniquet than tangerine
The only happiness you can grasp
Is the happiness of knowing
That you can survive
Totally alone
Somewhere under
The rainbow

shuffle the words
a fan of cards
spread hand
five and fifty
it is almost
the lengths we stretch
spin money away
flatten our dread
into stocky equaliser lines
maybe I shall
begin with a single word. So.
A fragment: surely that
will course up the ire and itch
of prescriptivists
incite a war in the margins
or perchance
a dictionary definition
the delicious skill of
copy and paste
is our lunge and riposte
[it will save time if
you declare your ignorance
in the prologue]
Franz Gruber said
‘we fall back on the classics
we are too lazy to improve’
I shall begin with quotation – in latin for preference
[it will save time if
you declare the reader’s ignorance
in the prologue]
history is a puzzle that is mostly sky
Perhaps I should bring out
a squat blue fragment
at random; magnify it until
it fills the frame of reference
until everyone can see
yes this is a piece of sky
‘Is it gold flecked, imbued with
the sweat and suds of promise,
with crystallized language?’
no, no, it is after all, only sky
George Wolfram said
‘If I name all shades of blue
in a towering column, that must
be poetry’
It certainly cannot be science
You are
the discarded parings and dregs
of history and philology
perhaps we should move
away from the 800

The sharp points
In days gone by
All pointed at me
And I said ‘Look at me’
Whereas now I would say the opposite
And by saying it I met you
Always sitting at the front of the class
(I always sat at the back)
You wore that skirt I loved
And clutched your books in slender fingers
And we crashed together like two waves bound for the same shore
And we held hands under the table
And I caught you when you jumped off the steps
In a puff of rosin
And we read together, our fingers entwined with the lines
You touched me like punctuation
We skimmed stones over the tai hei yõ
And I felt my present drift away
Like little fluffy clouds
There was an ocean of you
I could dive into

Sure, sometimes there were storms
And the waves would crash against the beach huts
And the rain would run down the buildings like tears
But, until the day I poured away the ocean
You always had your piano-slim hand in mine
And your smile brushed against me
Like light shining off the water

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
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

I am not ready for heroin

This piece was a sort of revelation for me on a couple of levels. Firstly, it has an actual title, a title that I quite like. Secondly, it really just came out without any effort. I know that  writers hate it when people say things like that, but I sort of casually wrote it while watching a movie about Kerouac.

No, I do not think I am ready for heroin yet
I do not think I am ready to read Swann’s Way
To own a television or a couch
To travel across America in a broken-down sedan
To take a week-long train ride from coast to coast

I do not think I have suffered enough
To sing the blues
To return to those things I carelessly discarded
Those people I broke like guitar strings
I do not think I have played enough minor chords

I do not think I am ready to open the music box
To hear that tinkling of angelic notes, prophesying nothing
I do not think I am ready to pretend
Or to fuck somewhere we might get caught

I do not think I am ready to rhyme
To read poetry in front of a crowd
Wave my words like a loaded sestina
To finalize the divorce
I do not have room for a coffee maker

I do not think I am ready to lose control
To drink until higher functions all shut down
Until I can no longer hold a pen
Until I am a penumbra of infirmity

I do not think I am ready to leave Oregon
To breast the mountains like a board on the waves
To throw away those old CD singles
To give up on my dreams of the stage

I do not think I am ready
To appreciate abstract art
To kiss you and not mean it
To scream as long and loud as the highway
To pick up the good times like litter when the bad times are falling ashes

I cannot cry at nothing any more
I cannot watch you grow up
I cannot stop wishing I was a girl
I am not willing to buy a new toothbrush

And I do not think I will write you a love song
I am not ready to throw a plate in anger
Or carry a loaded gun
To kick those old, white habits

I do not think I am ready
To abandon hope of you
To use the word ‘broken’
To throw out those t-shirts that no longer fit
To finish