Saturday, 27 June 2009

"We walk north"

Just for a change, we decided to meet in the morning to go swimming in the Lido. Hector kept on about losing weight – said he’d try anything – so we spoke long about the theoretical practise of regular exercise as we walked through the broken up fields near the back of his house. We bumped up against the offer when his mum came home from work. She stood by the kitchen door, picking paint chips off the wall, and suggested it casually. He was surly, warm and closed when his yesses got terser and terser and my enthusiasm faltered. I had my eyes half-shut when I stood up to leave.

His silence when we were walking was built on preoccupation. It wasn’t strained but hung still, unafraid but awkward between us as we slowly swung our things on the long walk up. “Pretty weird, swimming outside in the middle of London”, I said at one point, one eye on an arguing couple on the other side of the road. His irritation was surprising, though mute and wavering. “Mmmm”, was all he had said, but it was pursed and blank and distant and I blanched inwardly, accepted, forgot.

My unease had dampened considerably by the time we got there and I danced into the changing rooms with the funny awkwardness of regular irregularity. We came out of our respective changing rooms at the same time and I caught sight of him standing with his shoulders poised fierce and upright. The rubber realness of his body…..I saw him and felt all of it. The socket punch to our love and closeness, his excruciating self-awareness, the drops of rainfall on his hotdog mouth and on my frizzy hair.

Friday, 26 June 2009

"To Set a Place for the Muse"

He was always obvious about it. I couldn't tell if he was trying to make a point or if he didn't even think to conceal his affairs. Some bold friends asked me if I minded, but most stayed quiet and joined me in looking the other way. I could never explain to those that asked anyway, not really. Maybe I changed my mind every day, or maybe I just expressed myself differently each time I was asked, but I never did give the same explanation twice. I know that the truth was somehow all of the answers at once, even though they ranged from me crying with anger to me laughing with the joy of it all - that he had me to tend the needs of his home life and his muses for his art. I didn't want to be that other woman, the one who had to be distant and diaphanous, who floated like Ophelia for hours on end until he had captured the perfect light. I prefered to wrinkle my fingers on more important things - my own expansive watercolours that threatened to drown me as they drew me in too close.

When the light faded each day, we curled our paint-spatter bodies together and fed our love in the dark. I was his vampire wife, he joked. I was his night-time, and that was enough for me. It was exactly enough. That all ended suddenly, in just the space of a sentence. It happened one evening, in the candle-lit dusk, as I was putting dinner on the table, he said to me: "Set a place for the muse."

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Write of being flung up to the sky

The squinting stars, my exclamation marks and the cold air of dead kisses. We’re far like you wouldn’t believe and there’s no tongue here that will ever bat against my whirlwind heart. You think that’s not a shame? It’s a shame! Our aches span continents, for there is no time like timelessness.
My sense for you exists over every which way and I don’t splutter anymore, there are no dead weights to carry home or small steps to overcome.
No croaking love to choke on, no eyefuls to blink away. You see
yr face yr face yr face

I’m floating loveless and restless, forever warring against your crazed golden gleam and cursing the bitter taste of all this blue., ink., nothing.,.

"Sometimes I get a great notion/ to jump in the river and drown"

I'd fly from my house and break clean into the great outdoors with my hair down my back. And if so the dull horsey colour of childhood, then if so ! - but i'd braid it so its tail would curl at the lowest part. It would gather up its momentum in drumroll surprise, with stuckered flowers and a swishing headlong breeze.

I'd be barefoot always because my shoes were too tight and they gleamed in the sunlight, crowding my head with the wrong picture of church &quiet &held hands. So instead I build my imagination with upraised hands and apple cross eyes, put lotion on my feet to better feel that sunshine suspension like a push. Takes me to the riverside where
i don't know about you but i

could look only ever down. Way into the watery blue of the upturned sky, that shell shock world of lifetimes which exist just because everything does. They continue so silent and apart from all this conscious breeze and the damp smell of the air, the nuances of browns twined together in the mud and the ground

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

"Brush your hair, brush your teeth"

He sleeps with a gun under his pillow. When I first noticed that, I tried to do the same. It seemed sensible and somehow heroic. As though even in his sleep he was thinking about protecting us. It made me picture him as an old-fashioned cowboy - sleeping with one eye open, always on watch.

My gun is smaller that his - it's a ladies' gun, he says. As first I was unsettled that there was such a thing as a ladies' gun - as though it could have its place on the women's floor of a department store. I tried to imagine that - next to small shoes and slim clotheres there was a shelf of lightweight guns. I laughed the image off - the laugh was a little nervous and forced, but it blew those thoughts away for a while all the same.

Guns are normal now, and the kids, who've never known it any different, spin the cold metal casually on their fingers when it's their turn to sit watch.

He never told me to sleep with my gun under my pillow. But when I saw that he did it, and I thought about how it made sense, I did it myself the next night.

My pillow was old and worn flat and I always had to fold it over just to get it to prop up my head. But still, through that, I could feel the metal digging into the bones of my skull. I wriggled a little to see if I could get it to fit into the hollows of my cheeks or under my jaw. But there was no way to be comfortable, and the more I moved around, the more I became convinced that I'd knock the safety off and somehow shoot a hole clean through my shoulder and into my heart.

I lay awake all that night, thinking I'd get used ot it, or that the part of my head being prodded with the gun would just get numb. I thought I had to try for at least one whole night. Maybe it just took a little getting used to. But when the sun came up, I was still cursing the hard edges of the gun and my sensitive skull.

I climbed out of bed right then, even though I didn't really have to be up for hours. I slipped the hated gun into the fraying waistband of my underwear. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my crazed, sleep-starved eyes. I watched them as I brushed my teeth and brushed my hair. Then I was clean and fresh and I had brushed the awful night off me. It was a new day.

Monday, 22 June 2009

"Air, wet with humidity"

Winter’s torrential take on summer; the aftermath of a storm in July. We stepped gingerly in puddles, soaking the canvas skin of our trainers and holding onto the thickest tree branches we could find. They wavered slightly in the barely-there movements of a breeze, throwing up a warm, earthy scent which cooled our brows but made us sweat.

From across the way I heard Tom call out my name. “Rachel, come here!”

I watched him motion with one hand, then stop and look down. He made a face as he lifted his foot free from the mud. It rose upwards, looming and gloomy but with the delicious pace of Summer and its accompanying flash of red. I laughed with delight, feeling a reckless, tumbling sensation of thankfulness.

I picked my way over to him, edging close to the trees to avoid the worst of the mud. My own shoes were already wrecked, their yellow hue now a sullen grey colour that recalled the exact texture and shape of a sadness that has been wrung out and left mute in the cold light of day.

"Write about ripe fruit"

The mangoes hung like conkers on strings. They swung lazily in the breeze that I brought with me into town. I reached a hand up into the tangle of heavy fruit as they swayed on strong green vines. They bumped against my knuckles. I stretched up onto my toes to get at the highest fruit. I squeezed their waxy skins – feeling for the difference between the green bitterness of unripe flesh and the soft golden give that would mean sweetness and sticky juices on my chin. Finally, I felt the push of my fingertips sink into the pulpy mango meat. It was so soft that I knew would be little more than syrupy lumps strung together within a thin rosy rind. I tugged it down and bit it open right there in the street, spitting the mouthful of sour skin onto the dusty ground. Juice trickled out of the hole and over my hands as they gently cupped the mango. I brought it to my mouth and sucked. I tore shreds from the soft skin to get at more of the bright yellow fruit. I swallowed it down and sucked at the almost bitter stone till it was little more than a dry and stringy husk.

"Write about the geometries of fading light"

I guess that mathematics laid claim to symmetry first, citing geometric shapes and absolute design as proof of all theoretical truth. And so philosophy, the sweet&numberless path to knowledge, was left to search among the wasteland; picking at figures&angles and holding them steady even in the fading of the light, in that back-turned glare of never knowing. Those men whose studies were marred by science yelled of ecstasy whilst bathing in religious triumph; Descrartes’ claims at definity, Spinoza heading promises of God with mathematical certainty

"Write about a picture you tore up"

I thrust my fingers down into the bottom of my pockets. I really pushed my hands hard into them till the denim mouths bit deep red lines into the backs of my wrists. I wanted to whistle and step with overlong strides. I wanted to do a little soft-shoe shuffle at the bus-stop. I wanted the world to see that I was easy-going, that it was summertime and the living was easy.

My pockets were empty and I was footloose and fancy free. I was a fresh face in town and ready for a new start. My fingertips brushed casually along the seams of my pockets. I felt sand and furry lint trapped there. The sand was Mexican sand - little tiny rocks I'd carried with me from the life I was trying to escape. I didn't want that. I gripped at the rough cotton seams of the pockets and tugged them inside out. The sand scattered around me on the pavement. The dust escaped on the breeze - off to stick to something freshly cleaned. It was that sort of dust, I could tell. It had chased me across the ocean and it wouldn't stop there.

I gave my inverted pockets a shake to make sure I'd got rid of all that old life that I was dragging around. Then out flew a little ragged bit of a picture that told me I'd never leave Mexico behind. I let the torn scrap of photograph blow away - I didn't have to see it to know the eye or chin or cheek it showed. I knew it in my sleep. I'd shredded it into tiny pieces that couldn't be split any further and I'd scattered them like confetti to celebrate my escape. But somehow one bit had worked its way into a crevice and chased me to let me know I'd never get away.