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Written in the air

thoughts through the mirror

Encounter Number 1

 

No. 1  I speak, you rise and turn to me.

“Sorry ! ,” she quickly pulls her umbrella up and away from his face. He, rising to his full height, looks her straight in the eyes. First in her left eye, then in her right. She’s wearing her new spectacles with their dark thin red metal frames. They make her eyes look quite small but they seem to draw people into them. He smiles. Like dawn breaking. “That’s ok. They’re dangerous those things, ” he speaks, nodding towards the umbrella. She blushes slightly and pulls the thing away to the side, folding it deftly down.

“I don’t need it. It’s stopped raining. ” He continues to look at her. Quite brazen really. She gestures to the shop window he’s been squatting in front of before she nearly knocked his eye out ; ” I love this shop. ” She doesn’t really, but it diverts his gaze. It’s a small shop. Charity shop. Its window is always absolutely crammed with the strangest array of things, some of them so tiny and apparently insignificant that she wonders how people would be bothered to collect them up and bring them here. Like that tiny pottery rabbit. So small it wouldn’t even stand up. Such a mysterious little thing to have made and bought and taken the trouble to bring here to be re-sold to someone else. The kind of thing Ella would have been utterly enchanted with as a child and begged her to buy.

“Yeah. He’s a good guy, Dennis. He does some good stuff.” He turns to look in the window also. She looks up at the name of the shop ” People’s friend “. Not very clear what the charity is in aid of from that. She hasn’t noticed before. Looking back at him as he peers in at the vast hoard of knick knacks, boxed games, oddly sized glasses, old shoes, drab dresses, crocheted baby clothes, garish soft toys, china tea set, two vases, one clear glass, one green glazed pottery, and lots and lots of books, she wonders at his interest. There doesn’t seem to be much there for him, except maybe the books. There were sometimes records in there.

” I always pop in when I come to the library.” He nods towards the big seventies composite stone and glass building opposite.   She spent so much time in there when the kids were little.   And before.  She hasn’t been in for a few years now.  It’s a bit noisy and the books didn’t seem to be as well looked after as they used to be.   That last time, she’d been looking for an art book and had found a whole row in complete disarray, crammed in any old how, some pages turned back as they’d been shoved roughly in-between each other. It had really upset her. ” I come once a week to deliver some sample books to Howard. The head librarian. ” He’s staring at her again. She thinks to test her reaction this time.

She thinks she knows what she looks like. She can see a vague reflection of herself in the shop window. Her long black coat, flat black suede boots and the bright blue pashmina scarf that her friend gave her from China, rippled and dim amongst the bric-a-brac. Her hair’s looking slightly unruly today. She hasn’t been able to straighten it so it’s almost triangular shaped. The specs are quite distinctive. A nice shape. She feels demure, quiet, but not too austere. He stands out in his bright red waterproof. The kind you’d wear on a stiff hike. Khaki coloured cargo trousers, stout boots, also as if he was going walking and those black dreads, falling over his shoulders. She isn’t going to ask him why or what his job is. That’s not something she ever does. ” I used to take my kids in there all the time,” she says, in stead. He looks at her left hand, holding the folded umbrella. Is he actually looking to see if she’s married ?! What age is he ? Surely not her age. Although her age is a bit difficult to determine she likes to think, her clothes kind of give it away. ” Oh ! do you have kids ? ” He’s mocking her slightly now. She hasn’t worn a wedding ring since she lost it. She stares blankly at him. Is his eye twinkling as he says ” I’ve got a daughter. She lives with me. She’s going to move out soon though to go to college .” The relief. A safe topic. ” Really ? What’s she going to study ? ” she replies, just a tad too quickly. Again, that look. He has a way of lifting his chin. He’s quite a bit taller than her. His demeanour is proud. His gaze open and direct. ” Sports psychology. She’s very ambitious. And smart.” At a loss, she replies with her standard, clipped, polite ” That’s interesting.” Then, somewhat stupidly; ” she’s into sport then ?”. By now, he’s openly grinning. ” Yes…..” he laughs ” She is into sports. High jump mainly. But she wants to be a sports psychologist and make a lot of money. She’s got her head screwed on the right way.” By now, she thinks she’d like to escape, except not really. “How about yours ?” She searches around in her brain for some words to make some semblance of sense with ; ” I have a daughter too, she’s in sixth form. My son finished his degree last year and came back home. ”   “What did he study ? ”    ” English. English literature. ”  His eyebrows rise and his mouth forms the O of a whistle. ” Heavy. Heavy stuff. What’s he doing now ?”  ” Not a lot. Reading more.  Thinking.  Wondering what to do next. ” He tilts his face a little. Looks her more closely in the eye but from a different angle. She’s hardly blinked since they began their conversation, and now she’s totally locked into his gaze.  ” He wants to get out of his room. Don’t let him stay in his room. It gets harder and harder to get out. I know what it’s like ,”,  he says, suddenly speaking with a distinctly Jamaican lilt. It sounds soothing. Caring. Fatherly. She smiles weakly back at him, the corners of her mouth turning upwards more naturally than they’ve done for months and months. “Yes. You’re absolutely right. He should. ” He extends his hand to her. ” Benjamin Thompson.” She takes it. He folds his fingers around hers with a warm and gentle grasp. Her hand is cool and thin inside it. ” Stella Robinson ” she replies. He pauses a moment to take it in, then; ” Very pleased to meet you Stella Robinson .” Their hands, lingering, part, and, slightly dazed, Stella waves her pale, slender hand vaguely towards the library ” I may see you again sometime “. She can’t say his name. His broad, brightening smile again. ” Oh you will. I know we’ll meet again Stella Robinson”. He raises his hand. She hesitates, thinking he’s going to high five her, but doesn’t make the reciprocal move. Then suddenly he’s off, turning on his heel and striding down the road, hand held up with his back to her.

She turns back to the bus stop, glancing over at the library, then down the road again after him, searching for his red coat amongst the drab crowd.

Encounter Number 3

 

No. 3  Go. Never return, though you will live in my memory forever

Just over thirty years ago to this day, Stella had been happily cooking in their second floor flat. She was alone, listening to loud music, enjoying trying out a new recipe. The banging on the door interrupted her calm. It was dark and she wasn’t expecting anyone and the banging was a bit louder than you’d expect, but she felt relaxed and thought maybe she hadn’t heard them knock the first time over the music. The shadow looked tall through the glass in the door. Who can this be she wondered as she opened the door wide to find his fist poised to knock again. He lowered it slowly as she appeared in front of him. His lingering gaze took her in from her toes to her hair. She drew back slowly, closing the door slightly. ” Can I help you ? ” It was, of course, utterly the wrong thing to say. He looked at her lazily. After a long pause he responded in a deep, heavily accented drawl : ” Is Raoul in ? ” Relieved she can answer; ” No-one of that name lives here. We moved in a few months ago. ” He was still looking her up and down. He was wearing a shabby suit. The kind you’d find in a second hand shop. A bright yellow and red shirt under. His beard extended to his chest and his dreads were thick and slightly grey and caught up high on the back of his head. She couldn’t see his eyes properly behind his thin blue tinted specs. She suddenly wished she wasn’t barefoot for some reason. ” Benny ? ” He tries.  He’s not going to move. ” No, just me and my boyfriend, sorry. ” She closed the door as quickly as would seem polite, but he remained standing there.

As she walked back into the kitchen, he knocked again, quietly this time. She hesitated for some moments, then, drawing herself up, ready to spell it out to him, turned and opened the door, this time only a crack. There was no-one there so she opened it a little wider to check.  He leaned in slowly, his back peeling off the wall, his face looming towards her. He was wearing some kind of top hat now. Startled, she leapt backwards and slammed the door.

She retreated to the back of the hall, watching his shadow through the glass. Her heart beat strongly, but she felt ready. His shadow moved away and she moved into the kitchen, cautiously. She went to the window and drew the blind slowly, watching for his silhouette behind the curtain. It was pitch black outside on account of the light being broken. She went into the front room to turn the music down and then back into the kitchen and started to cook again, cautiously. All her senses were on high alert.

When the thumping started, she began to feel fear rising in her throat. What to do ?  Shaking, she turned the cooker off and the light in the kitchen, then went into the front room. There was no other way out but the front door and she knew it wouldn’t hold if he wanted to break it down. Surely though, he wouldn’t be that mad. It might be that he just didn’t really understand her. His English might not be good. His accent was thick. She knew she was making excuses and picked up the phone. The thumping remained steady and dull. Who should she call ? Her boyfriend was in another city recording and probably unaccessible. She decided to call her friend. For moral support and advice. The ringing sounded as if it was echoing in an empty room and it went on forever. Time stretched. She began to feel dizzy with fear. It sounded as if he was going to try to kick the door in now. Panic stricken, she thumped on the wall to try to get her neighbour’s attention ” Boo ! Boo ! Help me !”. The sound of her own panic-stricken voice shouting help intensified her fear. She shouted again, then decided to try to pull herself together and work out a plan.

She sat down and rang the police. The police station was within sight of the flat. They could send someone quickly. The person at the other end of the phone was maddeningly calm and slow. They wanted detailed information. Was it a boyfriend was the question that struck fear in her heart. By then, she could hear the door juddering in response to each kick. The police think it’s “a domestic”. They’re not going to come. She puts the phone down mid conversation and decides to ring the studio anyway. Her voice is shaking and becoming hysterical as she leaves a message on reception. The girl is concerned, asks her if she’s rung the police. She decides to ring them again, but not before trying to raise Boo again. She wishes they had a phone next door. She gets a pan and hammers loudly with it ” Boo ! Boo! Come round I need your help ! ” Pausing to listen, she realises the banging has stopped. Edging towards the door, she thinks she can hear voices. Plucking up the courage to go and peep at the front door, she sees two shadows behind the glass now and hears the low murmuring of a discussion. Suddenly, the letter flap flips up and Boo’s voice calls through ” It’s ok. I’m here now. Open up ” She nearly cries with relief, but the adrenalin’s still pumping. Still holding the pan, she cautiously opens the door.

He’s stood there, next to Boo, looking seven foot tall in that bizarre top hat thing, grinning at her, maybe maliciously, maybe mockingly. Boo’s girl friend, in her pyjamas, is standing in the doorway of their flat, looking serious. Stella marches past Boo, rage replacing fear now and, brandishing the pan at him, lets loose a tirade that comes from somewhere deep within her and his face takes on a look of astonishment. He may not understand her stream of consciousness diatribe, but her wrath is evident.

After she’s emptied her pit of rage, she looks him directly in the eye. “Go” she commands, pointing in the direction of the stairs. He remains. “Go ! ” I’ve called the police and they’ll be here soon. Suddenly, she doesn’t want him to be here if they do turn up. Boo and his girlfriend are looking at her, bemused, but perhaps also with approval.

Eventually, he saunters off with a nonchalant swagger, pauses at the top of the stairs and turns to raise his hand to her ; ” You one angry lady. Seems like you could kill someone. Look out for yourself “. Then he trots lightly off down the stairs.

Stella slowly drops the arm brandishing the pan. She turns to Boo and says, her voice full of bewilderment ” What the hell was he doing ? What did he want “. Boo is studying her face closely. After some time, he replies ” He wanted you of course. He wants you. “

Being Myself

 

Someone I respect has been encouraging me to just be myself, which is very empowering, to use an over-worked, but nontheless, stimulating phrase.

So, I’ve been kind of exploring this idea in a typically circumlocutory, tentative, exploratory way, because, even after reaching the advanced age of 58, I’m not quite sure who ” myself ” is.

And, I say ” kind of ” because, although I’m not American, I’ve started to use that phrase more and more, partly due to reading American tweets on twitter, but also because I imagine it reflects my uncertainty succinctly.

I’m not sure about anything at all for many reasons.

I know that you will understand this point of view, even if you are more sure.

To be sure means to be fixed and I want to be fluid.

To be sure means that you have an idea of what truth really is and if I have one fundamental belief, it is probably that truth is an ever-shifting notion that we must constantly pursue and never catch up with.

So, I’ve been tentatively trying to be myself, which entails a certain amount of trial and error. And recently, I’ve been thinking about clothes, since our choice of clothes is usually something we tend to think reflects who we might be. Or who we might want to look like.

Clothes are tricky things. I could probably, along with everyone else, write a fat tome about clothes I have worn, clothes I haven’t worn and clothes I wish I’d bought or items of clothing I’ve lost. These would all tell various stories about us, maybe portray little snapshots of us at significant points of our lives, all of which might serve as small building blocks in the picture of what we might be like now, at this point in time.

I’ve bought some new clothes and even tried wearing some of my daughter’s clothes that she put out for the charity bag. Some of these I have kept. I’m beginning to look like my inner bag lady some days, if that’s not too derogatory a phrase for a woman who lives on the street. I have some lovely going-out clothes now and, apart from being a tad too big since I seem to have lost weight recently, I do actually resemble an eighties version of myself sometimes which is nice because I remember feeling quite happy with myself in that era.

I’m a bit of a horder, so although I like to give things away, there are just some odd things I can’t bear to part with.

For example:

Each time I come across my wellies, my heart kind of melts.

I’ve had them since I was 15. They’re black, one size or maybe just a half size too small for me now in my post-child bearing, past mid-life female form, but I still cram my feet into them when I need them and they are still quintessentially me.

I bought these wellies because my boyfriend at the time told me to. He was an interesting person, into  fishing and woodworking and other things I thought were nice when I was 15. I’d been fishing with him a few times. My Dad was an avid fisherman and I think I might have borrowed one of his rods. I didn’t really want to catch a fish. I just liked the romance of the activity. This boyfriend, let’s call him Wyn, was a true outdoorsman. He loved nothing better than to sit, in all weathers, on the bank of our local canal under a huge umbrella and fix his gaze on the float. He also thought it his duty to walk the canal towpath regularly to check for things thrown in the water that might poison the fish. He seemed to love fish. He had a keepnet, but I dont remember him using it. He didn’t catch a fish often, but if he did he would handle it very carefully and skillfully, removing the hook from its mouth gently so as to not damage it, inspect it closely, then plop it back in the water.

When Wyn invited me to go night fishing, I was very excited. He advised me to get some good wellies and even told me where to buy them and so I did. They were expensive and I didn’t have much spare cash at the time. I had a Saturday job at Littlewoods, a department store in Shopping City, but since working there, my Dad had stopped giving me pocket money and most of my wages went on going to see bands in Liverpool and Manchester.

So, I can remember being a little reluctant to spend a lot of money on wellies. They’re made by Dunlop. Black, proper wellies that don’t come up to your knees, and it’s therefore not surprising that 43 years later, their linings are blackened by water and snow coming in over their tops.

I got the wellies and went night fishing. I don’t remember catching fish, but I do remember the moon being bright and lighting the way and the water on the canal. I remember the metallic tang of the cheap beer we brought and drank from the can. I remember the fine rain and the dampening dew of the earliest morning and the smell and shuffling sound of our Belstaffs.

We didn’t talk much at all. I had to listen to instruction because otherwise it would have been either dangerous or fruitless. Canals are potentially hazardous places and fish have good ears apparently.

So we spent the night together sitting near, but not next to each other.

We didn’t think it brought us romantically together. We didn’t talk about our shared experience or passion or communicating without talking if we ever referred to it afterwards. We didn’t even kiss, except, as I remember, a little peck goodbye as our ways home parted and I went down the hill and he went off up another.

It was just night fishing.

We got engaged eventually.

Then we split up.

And I’ve still got the wellies.

Along with a couple of other beautiful things he made in wood.

I sometimes look at them and think, yes, they really do reflect a part of who I was and who I am still.

Perhaps I should just shove my feet into these wellies whenever I’m wondering just who am I.

Not What We Do The Power of No Thing

The what we choose not to do.

The torn up shreds,

Emptied like confetti.

The erased image that leaves a shadow.

The thinking about

And the forgetting

The remembering

Then the putting aside.

The thought                                                                                                            The action

The choosing                                                                                                        The action/non action

The intention                                                                                                        The consequence

The thought                                                                                                         The non-action

Void                                                                                                                     Void

Honey Thoughts Out Loud

Watching a bee lazily drifting today.

It settles on the tiniest lavender flowers,

I read they’re attracted to blue,

though lavender is it’s own colour.

Pondering if the power of its scent

has also drawn the bee to it’s nectar.

Smells are very compelling;

sometimes more than the look of something.

Wonder where its hive is.

Humming the sound of purposeful activity there.

Is there honeycomb within.

Some people don’t like honey.

Its texture and intense sweetness with it’s own

particular flavour underlying it,

depending on where the bees have been,

requires open-minded taste,

like wine, or olive oil, or water.

Come to think;

everything we eat or drink has the essence

of it’s origin within its taste.

Sometimes its more perceptible,

than others.

Sometimes it takes a lot of practice,

to discern it.

Perhaps the produce from the polylectic bees,

has a more complex, delicate taste,

than the intense flavours gathered,

by the oligoleges.

Whatever sort, however beautiful,

and delicious,

Vegans won’t touch it.

Others who think about the way it’s made won’t either.

Coming from an insect’s bottom is possibly

a bit off-putting,

if you let it be.

But the purposeful wandering of the bee,

attracted to flowers,

snuggling into snapdragons,

roaming over the moorland heather,

luxuriating in the masses of red campion

along the hedgerows,

loving the aquilegia;

(if they waken early),

and the buddleias that tower absurdly

high in gardens and out of walls,

gracing wasteland,

alongside the graceful nettles;

butterfly nurseries;

(even they have their flowers)

is a magical thing.

Bees have been revered

even worshipped,

justifiably,

since humans discovered their honey.

Up in the trees,

different types of bees,

drawn to apple and cherry blossom,

alder and blackthorn flowers,

even the hollies,

and the ubiquitous sycamore

hold nectar and pollen,

precious and nutritious

to bees and so, by proxy,

to us.

The honey made from the bees

whose work is to pollinate Manuka trees,

is surely the most prized and expensive honey

of all,

and said to have antibiotic and healing properties.

Slathered on wounds,

it keeps the germs at bay.

Thinking of soldiers,

clutching honey-spread bandages.

Did that ever happen?

Or was honey too fine a thing

to be found on a battlefield.

We watched the Baka people waiting

for the honey gatherer.

Shinning up the tall straight trunk

of an enormous tree to reach

the bees’ nest with his smoking torch.

Such skill and bravery,

to risk one’s life,

in pursuit of the prize of honey.

The others, waiting anxiously,

excitedly at the foot of the tree.

My small daughter, watching

the film with me, gasping

as some bees, not made sleepy

by the smoke,  bombard the gatherer,

who calmly wafts at them with the torch.

How she wanted to live like them.

Me too. Fishing and cultivating plantains,

and singing and waiting for the honey.

Just once a year.

Gorging on the comb.

Beautiful golden treat.

The wealth of bees,

their gathered gold,

how we steal it,

to rectify our ills.

Heal our souls even.

Maybe they make it especially for us.

A body’s heart’s ease,

for time everlasting.

Precipitation

Rain.

Snow.

Dew.

A casting down

(of the evil angels of Heaven).

 

The separation of a solid substance

from a solution

in alchemy.

 

Act of falling

 

headlong

 

unwise haste rash rapidity.

 

 

A Discussion Between Two Cylinders

Close your critical eye,

Listen and use every other faculty.

Disregard the illusion of progress,

Of individuality parading in succession,

As if Duchamp’s nude was in fact

descending into our space.

Look and decide for a moment if,

the image in fact,

remains intact.

 

Consider though that

Maybe she might just join us.

Take a walk,

An extended hike,

If we ask.

 

But where would we come

to rest ?

Even Alan Bennett has

no armchair.

 

Perhaps our perambulations

could take a turn

around the drum and return

to the space within,

Each of us cramming ourselves in,

And altering the original image.

 

Yes! and maybe a diversionary visit

to a boutique could be navigated

en route, the bride redressed,

Returning from the other side

of the large glass.

 

We would make a nice group.

An adjunct

to the original.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poesy

What is a poem ?

A rising confluence ?

A boiling spot where

emotions and ideas

meet and spill

over into imagination’s flood

to form a mesh of words shored

against the backdrop wall

of the mind’s eye.

 

Or possibly

a bunch of gathered thoughts,

scooped up as you walked along

for days and days,

The hedgerows thronging with them.

You come back in to sit,

The quiet of the kitchen pungent

with the abundant bunches which

tumble and scatter in your attempt

to put them down.

 

There they lie,

Itinerant discordants,

Jostling for position,

Bedraggled things,

That you fumble to arrange

in some loose knit way.

 

Write a list before

you write it down;

-Bath mats

(for your grown-up child),

plus other things you’d like

to buy

to prop her up because

you feel she cannot exist upright,

Without you.

 

(How quaint.

How funny.

When she’s wondering how

to make you feel ok

about her absence

on her birthday).

 

Now turn the paper over,

and compose.

This poem;

Some words to prop me up

To make me feel an

adult on the occasion of

my daughter’s 20th birthday.

 

A poem as crutch,

As wondering,

And thinking about,

As proxy,

And love itself.

Words to quell,

To soothe,

To expiate,

To visualise.

A list of things,

A kind of spell,

That makes a posy,

For a birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing Up

You go in and the telly’s on;

but nobody watching.

Go through to the kitchen –

Know you’ll find him there,

Making tea;

Or in the garden through the window.

 

It’s the mess that’s left behind that

causes the most distress,

but it’s not a mess, it’s not a mess

and I don’t mind.

I don’t mind.

 

Someone’s dug your roses up

and the greenhouse has gone.

It’s a lot to keep up;

Things must move on.

But your tomatoes.

And those beautiful melons,

So ripe and suggestive

in their cut off tights to hold

them up they were so heavy.

 

We loved your curly cucumbers.

You tried so hard to keep them straight,

But they were unruly in their

waywardness. A bit like me.

 

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry;

For all the unresolved loveliness,

Such an abundance of beauty

in everything surrounding me

that is here now,

And in dreams and memory.

 

A surfeit, sometimes a doubling,

Nowhere specific for it all

to go; the spaces

we leave behind must

be filled with another thing,

Old things be put aside,

Or they will stuff our cupboards,

Cram our minds,

Fill us up too much.

 

Over time,

places will empty,

And fill again,

A tide of some sort,

washing things up then,

Taking them away again,

But always,

Traces of history,

All of its facets,

Ghosts of experience,

Will remain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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