Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Time as a measured entity.

A prohibited crayon is the greatest accomplishment I have made here. Whenever they strip me down and inspect my pockets, my hair, my mouth and the waistband of my drawstring trousers, they somehow miss the tiny stub of pink wax tangled in the wool of my left sock.
I use it to mark the days off in the far corner of my cell, underneath the broken wreck of a bed they have lent me. So far there are eighteen little lines. When there are thirty they will let me go, this is the deal we struck. Until those thirty days are up I could beg or cry or sit quietly pulling clumps of hair from my scalp by their bloody roots and it would make no difference. Thirty is the magic number and I only have that because of my youth and possibly because of my gender. We made a deal.
Three times a day the slot in the door opens and a tray of food is shoved in. I collect the food, they slam the shutter and then I eat the food. It is similar to airline food in both quantity and appearance, the only real difference is that unlike an airline this place makes no pretence of careful catering. Two types of vegetable and  one type of meat. One small bread roll. One tub of sweet. One cup of water or heavily diluted juice. All of it chucked onto the same tray, vaguely separated by the minuscule raised partitions in the faded blue plastic.
The vegetables are always pale. Once I told the guard I was a vegetarian and she advised me to leave my portion of meat. I had then asked her if it would be possible for me to have an extra helping of vegetables instead of the meat in future and the only response I got was the coarse sound of air being squeezed up between her gums and teeth. The next day my tray was covered in meat juice, even the bread roll was bobbing in it almost forlornly. Of course, that was day four and now on day eighteen I have redeemed myself back to regular meals.
Every other day I am lead with other women to the shower block. We file down the grey hall and keep our eyes locked either dead ahead or on our feet. It is the safest way. We are not allowed to mingle and thus do not know what the others are capable off. I could tell the girl who is always ushered in beside me that I didn't do the crime they say I did, that the evidence was circumspect and that I agreed to it because of my special deal, but she probably wouldn't believe me and they nasty scar that was once her eye makes me think it best not to try. I always  shower and dress again quickly. My legs are spiky and my pubic region is a tangled black forest of hair, as are my armpits. There is no real shampoo and the stuff they do have makes my scalp itch fiercely, it always has.      
At night I sleep but do not dream. During my time here I have revised my ideas on the death penalty in this country. I now  believe, with all my being, that it should be an offered option for people condemned to life imprisonment. Humans are not meant to live like this, it is soul destroying in a way that a needle in a vein could never be. The monotony of the day and the night. Not something to be decided by any judge or jury, it should be an individual choice for those who will never be allowed to walk down a street again, or step into a cafe for a drink. For those who will never be able to go and get food when they are hungry or who cannot lie in bed at night without a voice dictating "lights out!" like an inflexible parent who will never allow their child to grow up. Those people should have the choice to end it all and maybe no one would choose to do so but at least the option would be there. I will campaign for this when I get out. I will sit in cafes and rage to anyone who comes close enough about the stupidity and cruelty of caging humans this way. I will fly home and write un-censored letters to this country's government. I will fly, walk and sail all over the world with my opinions... The guards bang on the door with their sticks and tell me to keep it down.
Day Thirty! I sit expectantly on the edge of my bed watching the first rays of light chase the darkness away from the crack beneath my door. They do not come for me at dawn as I had hoped. A little later meal number one is delivered: grey porridge, a sachet of brown sugar and a cup of swampy tea. I tell the guard I am leaving today. He is new, I have not heard his voice before and he sounds uncertain as he tells me he will check.
Meal number two comes, it is the woman, the meat juice guard, who brings it. Two spuds, a heap if tinned spinach, a scraggy bit of chicken neck or something. She sounds bored as she agrees with me that it is day thirty.
Meal number three is a muddy looking pork chop, watery carrots and yellow broccoli. The hatch opens but the door remains closed. My head throbs with disappointment and when they collect my untouched pork chop I scream at them to let me out. I scream at them until blood gurgles raw in my throat and my pyjama-like trousers are streaked brown from wiping my torn and broken hands down them. It is day thirty, I am not meant to be here.


Sharon hated her job. She hated the hours and she hated the scum she was paid to watch over. She had wanted to be a dancer but a broken ankle sustained walking home in the snow after a night of heavy drinking finished that dream and now here she was, caring for the filth of society. She had twenty of the bitches on her block and rather than learn their real names she merely gave them all nicknames to check off mentally as she checked their rooms at night. Peering through the grimey food slots to save unlocking the doors she ticked them off: Milk-Fart, Scar face, Fat Sue, Inky, Vegetarian...... SHIT!


Thomas Green shuddered. He was only contracted to deal with this one cell so it was the only one he had seen but imagining all the poor creatures living in identical squalor made him feel distinctly melancholy and he wondered how it came to be that this sort of thing happened so rarely. Raised Catholic he had not practised any form of organised religion since he was a teenager but as he removed both archaic metal hooks from either side of the disused light fixture, the dust on one only recently disturbed, he crossed himself on impulse and wished he had not given his mothers old rosary beads to his niece.


Peter Revilo had left the eastern wall as long as possible, but now with the other three walls gleaming at him in a pleasantly calming sage green under the clear new light bulb, he knew he had no choice.
Sighing heavily, he began his work and within moments his brush had obliterated any sign of the hundreds of little lines and scores that covered the wall from corner to corner, each painstakingly etched out in pale pink crayon.                

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bastard Bus Broke Down

It began with a sigh
then a shudder and finally a delicate cough
and the audible sound of tires squelching through shit.
The bus had broken down.
An easy silence climbed out of the engine,
slithering between the oil slick pipes
and settling on the passengers,
who had nothing to say to each other.
A baby started to cry,
it was a bald baby with a bald mother.
I felt a little bit sick and almost wished
the pale flopping breast she used to stem the squalling
could have been hairy, just to balance things out.
I turned away from them, I needed to phone work
"The bastard bus has broken down."
[a pause]
"That conflicts with the needs of the business."
Accusing and harsh, I can almost smell her cigarette smoke
curling down the line to choke me.
"I don't know how to fix the bus."
"The needs of the business haven't got time for buses."
Smug and self-assured, I want to cry.
"I'll be there as soon as I can."
I hang up and notice the bus driver is sweating,
the poor man!
He is humiliated, his chariot is crippled.
It is like a failed erection for him and each passenger,
is a cruel and impatient mistress, fingering herself and waiting,
Waiting for him to fix it.
He pulls and stomps at its mechanisms
and where I am sat above the rear-left wheel
my seat vibrates desperately.
The bus and its driver are trying so hard to please us
I become vaguely aroused and clench my buttocks on the seat.
It groans and heaves, my teeth rattle together,
this bus means business!
Bastard business for a bastard broken bus!
The driver is still sweating, slicking back his hair.
The bald baby burps up sick over its chin.
Its bald mother coos sweetly.
The engine finally, triumphantly ejaculates a puff of smoke
and roars to life.
Our exhausted driver collapses back into his seat.
We're on our way again.

Women are from Venus

I have some money.
A little, never a lot. Seldom enough.
I work for my money, long hours.
I spend it mostly on strong coffee, fruity wine,
t-shirts, books and medicine.
Sometimes I buy food or books for my lover.
"You just want to spend money don't you?"
A small, understanding smile.
"No, not really."
      I just haven't been shown how else to spend my time.

Sales Assistant

A busy hive formed of elegant brick,
with chewing gum riddled carpets
and empty coffee cups
       and juice bottles
discarded around over-flowing plastic swamps of waste,
       and excited children screaming for their dues
- these miniature beings understand it as their birth right!
And impatient bread winners loiter, hefting so much more than bread
 in bags and boxes of all sizes and colours
and bearded clerks in un-ironed shirts scowl,
and self-important supervisors scurry
       (jealously guarding their extra fifty-seven pence an hour)
and there are lost bags and jewellery
       and greedy parking meters
              and smiling faces of those who have spent
                     and money! So much money!
Always money. Do they smell it? Do they even see it?
Do you need any help at all?
Did you find everything you were looking for today?
Can I help you?
Can you help me?
Somebody, please. Fucking help me.


A purple blotch upon my throat,
from lips that teased blood
to kiss the skin
as stubble rasped against naked flesh,
causing breasts to swell and blush.
In fluorescent light
I trace it now,
reflected back at me
from silver-white tiles
and though a blemish is irredeemable
of merit in its own right,
none-the-less I smile and stroke
my temporary tattoo.
My gentle reminder of a moment spent in love.
This is a moment.
A speck of time amongst the multitudes.
It has no limits nor boundaries,
It is most likely nothing.
It could be a beginning.
Right now we cannot know what this moment is for,
by the time we realise
it will be gone.
An orgasm of time,
beautiful and fleeting,
all the sweeter for its brevity.
Maybe if you are lucky,
through eyes of pale jade,
you will see its formation,
    you will track its progress,
            you will witness its close.
                  Open yourself to it.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A short story

It all unravelled because of a bag of apples. I imploded because of a bag of apples. A bag of apples was the catalyst which tipped me over the edge. Whichever way one says it, it still sounds ridiculous. However it is what it is and I can no more change the fact now than I could then. Until that point I had held myself (and by ‘myself’ I of course mean my mental state which is what anyone really means when they say ‘myself‘) in a tight grip of rigid self-discipline, so rigid was my grasp on my mind that other aspects of my life spiralled somewhat. It was important you see, to go to college and make my mother proud and uphold all the promise I had shown in childhood. I tried to kill two birds with one stone and also honour my grandfathers memory by studying politics but eventually conceded defeat and switched to a degree in English. I wrote good essays, rarely excellent but always passable and if ever I caught myself loitering in cubicles or hallways staring into space or snivelling like a lost toddler in a supermarket I would take control and move along. But that day in September, at the same market I had walked through every day for years, above the roving soil and beneath the whispering trees, I crumbled.
A lady had just purchased six apples, two green and four red, from a stall beside me. Maybe I will never see her again or maybe I have seen her everyday, I don’t know. She was the sort of woman who smudges sweetly across peoples visions like sticky marzipan on a child’s lips, making an impression that can only last as long as the moment she is actually there, but I do know that day she was wearing a blue beret and brown calf-high boots. As she stepped toward me someone bumped into her and the brown paper bag split down its crinkly spine sending the apples skittering across the ground. It was something about those sweet smelling orbs of fruit lying bruised and speckled with filth, ignored by all except me as the woman gasped and jumped back, and her lover skipped across the square to buy her fresh apples in a fresh paper bag and it was something in the way she turned toward him smiling, happily walking away from her fallen bounty, that made the whole thing seem so incredibly pointless and callous … the tiny fragile bind of reason I had held tightly inside me snapped, shrivelling into the my stomach and then expanding through my chest and images of so many horrors filled my mind … I don’t remember what happened next but I am told that I fell and then lay on the ground with my forehead grinding into the moist earth, howling into the darkness of my folded hair and did not stop even as the doctors pulled me to my feet and their soft sponges smothered my cuts in vicious iodine kisses. Then one of them stabbed something cold into my arm and I slept, my vision tilting down and down and down as I lost control of my neck, my poor head lolling forward onto my chest like a fleshy puppet with broken strings and just before the grey clouds slipped behind my eyes, I saw a young horse step on one of the fallen apples as its furry lips caressed another.
It was all just the luck of the draw.
When I woke up I saw the familiar cloud-print curtains of my bedroom and sighed. My scalp hurt and the scabs felt rough beneath my finger tips when I ventured to run a hand through my hair. My eyes felt worse even than my head; light is a friend to no one in those few seconds between sleeping and waking worlds but that day in particular it poked at me from behind my veil of exhaustion and beckoned to me with persistent nagging tendrils that danced behind my eyes even after I tried to blot them out with the back of my hand.
I could hear people downstairs and strained to listen to their conversation.
“…her mothers dutiful clay hooray. I peed on the door but really the play is mine.…”Either they were taunting me or my hearing had been damaged and I didn’t know which was more likely. I couldn’t imagine anyone my mother associated with peeing on the door for a play and decided to test out my hearing before leaping to conclusions.
There was a sort of ringing silence in the wake of my poetic outburst then footsteps up the stairs and my door opened revealing my mothers anxious face.
“You’re awake dear.”
“I must be.”
“What did you just shout?”
“Get yourself some teeth Lil. It’s from ‘The Wasteland.’ I was making sure I wasn’t deaf.”
My mother crinkled her brow and for a moment I thought she would be angry but the moment passed and she smiled broadly at me.
“Well I’m glad you’re not!”
“As am I.”
Already I was regretting my outburst and the attention it had forced upon me. Her smile was stretched too tightly, too eagerly. It wasn’t real. I wanted to go back to sleep but even as I began to sink back into my pillows I knew that the light had too strong a grip on me and I would not sleep for many hours. The doctors medication had worn off and my body was choosing life and action and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“Are you hungry? I have toast and can make some eggs if you like? Or coffee? Orange juice?”
She was getting happier with every second that passed. Happy that I was alive. Happy that I was awake. Happy that I was not deaf. Happy that I remembered poetry.
“No thank you.”
Again her brow crinkles. She was doubting me. Doubting that I was fully alive. Doubting that I was well rested. Doubting that I had even heard all her offers of food. Doubting that ‘The Wasteland’ is a suitable poem.
“Nothing? You have to eat, love. You had a horrible turn and now you need to rebuild your strength.”
“I feel very strong.”
“But you aren’t! If you eat right and take care of yourself, if you let me take care of you, you will be!”
She was determined. I would live. I would get sufficient rest. I would learn to listen to people. I would read more positive poetry.
I sit up, carefully avoiding putting weight on my scraped palms.
“Maybe some coffee would be good.”
“Coffee! Yes, and a little toast? Just one slice and then we’ll see.”
“I‘m not hungry.”
“Just one slice…”
“No toast.”
“…I’ll only put a little scraping of butter on it.”
“No toast.”
“…Just you wait here and I’ll bring it to you…”
She shuts the door and I fall back onto the bed. My hands are shaking and I am crying without tears. My face contorts but no sound escapes my lips, no moisture escapes my eyes. I am crying but not as such that anyone would notice. For the first time in my life, at twenty-two years old, I am crying like an adult.
When my mother returns I pretend to be asleep. She sighs and puts my coffee and unwanted toast beside the bed. I hear her telling my step-father that she doesn’t know what to do. I don’t know that to do either. Get yourself some courage Lil.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Spy - (an excerpt)

         A tall and quiet fellow
of the build to play cello,
with dark hair thinly coating
from heavy knuckle to elbow,
          Eased into a booth
his limbs broken of youth,
and beneath the Maitre d's doting
affected the air of a sleuth.
         He had a serious face
where neither pride nor disgrace
were absent nor gloating
when he saw the briefcase.
         It had been left on the floor
by a wine drenched whore,
the noise of fading footsteps floating
crossed the line between civilisation and war.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Floods of Words.

Some days on the promenade
Leaning against rails flecked paint and salt
The churning water beneath my stand is clear and clean
- I am able to pick out the pebbles and pause to reflect!

Yet other days, similar to these
I stand the same, flicking at rust,
but the water flows a confused myriad of greys
while still beneath the froth pebbles play.

Appearance then, set in motion
equalled by temporal scene
must hold true to my efforts,
the essence remains what it has always been.