Milo puckers up. Sucks a Valium, grinds his teeth on the mass of a nation. Destiny tips in on silk pigeon toes.
Milo hunts for love. On a quest for a soul, to mate. Sweet talks his way into a deep ramble.
Falling for destiny. No holds barred, kit off.
Milo takes on the world. Obumbrates matryoshka, together numerous they top and tail. Conceive an immaculate fit. Destiny feels numinous, out of reach. Love bares all.
Milo falls, out of it. His solipsism for thrift and tiny dolls bothersome. Destiny erumpent, projectile flagitious. Love bites back.
Milo smokes. Wipes bunkum from his groin. Winks at destiny, puckers up again and spits it out. Love pouts, second-hand sex sulks.
Milo takes it on the chin, like an open wound.
Recited and final
Milo drifts pandemonium. Loafing on typhoon clouds. Lost notes of the last laugh of destiny decant his expression, peppering ash on his candour. He appreciates the lamp light and clambers down from his hallucinations.
Milo wobbles with astonishment. Manicures the mane of his merry-go-round high horse. Destiny stifles a visceral yawn, before jumping into a reimbursement gone south. Anarchy and mayhem guard the pearly gates to the next dimension, see pretty illuminations and ask “what’s in a name?”
Milo declines the summons. Goes down. Mangled. Angels jack up, destiny jacks off.
Milo watches everything eventually emanate. Together.
Que será, será
Milo wears blim-burn fashion, no longer sports the garments of a conquistador. He failed to bottle his qualities, and now timidly consumes his faults. He lounges on the shore of tomorrow expecting to launder pegs and pay the price.
It’s all been a bit of a wind-up
Milo reminisces. Enthralled in a life fliting before his observation. Captures tadpole days, dams and knee scrapes. Destiny merely a twinkle in blue boyhood eyes.
Milo transports self-reproach tither. Sees himself Lilliputian and reeking. Recites requiescat for second chance childhood.
Milo acknowledges blunders with aplomb. Comprehends the mechanism. Appreciates it was all in the turn of the highway, naïve, too trusting in tarmacadam. He pitches one last look. Rephrases a lullaby. Period.
Milo ultimately admits it was destiny.
he is falling at the speed of millennia reaches out in the blink of a snake’s eye and catches starlight wishes exhausted broken like his locked down heart low level life accosted stymied
His mind a gadget for nonsense his soul a gewgaw existence a blemished bauble his departure degenerates bang on
Clyde walked a stairway to a precarious consciousness where decorative amoebas pulsed unknown words. His waking dreams were like this, a flow of emotions searching for shapes. Letters formed from previous incarnations in far away galaxies which Clyde could never figure out.
“No matter,” he said, his eyes partially closed like a badly punctuated paragraph. “Shared meaning is as imaginary as my decorative amoebas. All of our hearts are lonely jesters.”
Message From Ancestral Bird
Clyde meditated on the number of heartbeats the average human has over a lifetime. “Two to three billion, what a stunning thought,” he mused. He felt a reverberation—a murmuration—in his palms as a vision grew from his heartbeat. Ancestral Bird blew into his aura, trailing script he couldn’t comprehend.
Bird spoke, “Every person has an Ancestral Bird of Paradise. Our wings beat with your heart. Our wisdom is the accumulated joy of lifetimes.”
Clyde understood. “This is why birds make us happy.”
He danced for bird, his heartbeat quickening.
Clyde’s Cloak Of Paradise
When the world was a fractured platitude, negative energy slaying any semblance of Yin and Yang, Clyde would don his Cloak Of Paradise. Within its folds, banal emotion fell away and he was transported to a realm of Source and Spirit Animals. All that was magical in existence became realer than reality.
Clyde soared, “I embrace infinite possibilities, I embrace all that is Other.”
When it was time to hang the cloak back up in the closet of his imagination Clyde felt as clean as a tree after a torrential rain.
Patron Saint of people pleasers Sister of instability she walks across eggshells like hot coals does as she’s told by the voice engrained in her, which paces her brain tells her that she is the calm in the storm tells her to keep calm, carry on, to keep a smile on her face, after all, there’s no need for the neighbours to know no need to bring everybody else down with you.
You’re the life of the party, girl: if you fold, we all die.
Fake ‘it til you make it and if you can’t fake it — fight it — if you can’t fight it flee retreat to a washroom (to the woods) to an idyllic retreat where you can put flowers in your hair and dance like everyone’s watching.
You’re the life of the party, you’re the dancing queen; You’re the life of the party, girl — if you fall, so do we all.
Walk with me along cemetery way where one day we may rest securely locked away and topped with white marble (white like orchids, white like bone) lest we stir in our sleep and seek to claw our way towards the sun is so lovely today as we walk along cemetery way where we may rest for a moment, on the wrought-iron bench erected in honour of a fine local citizen long lost what bliss is this your hand so warm in mine your eyes shine like marble (like funeral orchids, like bone) “darling,” you say “your hand” (in yours) “it’s so cold” (like marble) like bone
Wolf Grove Road
They say the girl loved the wolf; She wouldn’t be the first.
They say it was she who made him turn from man to beast, but that’s just high school gossip; he was a monster when they met.
They say all teen romances are mad but few end so badly and with such bloodshed.
Some say she had a death wish But they don’t know what the wolf was like under a waning crescent, waxing empathetic at the edge of the black lake, beneath the silver light of the stars, howling.
And she was smart she never crept into his mobile home when the moon was out, and his temper flared; Until the night in question. She didn’t know it was a full moon – a harvest moon madness, madness, summer madness; snarling, shoves her back, rattling the aluminum wall of the trailer a photo of his father (who was mauled) falls, cracks; “You like me mad? Am I not dangerous enough for you, bitch?” Teeth; a whimper; “Get out of here before something bad happens.”
And she did but she doubled back when she heard the hunting party was out.
What the gossips won’t discuss is what happened in the woods that night and the silver pelt that used to sit on old One-Eye Ed’s bench; the young man who went missing; or the hunter, found dead, a month later; And they certainly won’t talk about the girl with the wolfskin rug
The Cave in the Sky
A window opens in the night sky lighthouse eye
I am looking out your window at the base of a black -stone mountain that begins in black air.
I dream you as a guard tower your bulb revolves as the earth on its axis and entraps me.
I awake to dew and void.
You are not a lookout spot your searchlight is your own A hermit lives within you and flicks the light off when the sun comes up.
Sipped my hangover in the blue-grey fog (that was a lie – it was grey a beautiful pure grey, horror movie October grey, cemetery grey, a good old fashioned skulking through the moors fog – and in summer at that, late summer, although the leaves have already started to turn – to die
my dearly beloved late summer) on the front porch, the trees wax paper outlines to trace, my cat’s fur dampening from exposure to the air; tea chilled in the mug, cream congealed into white swamp gunk on top – algae; my skin breaks out in a cold sweat no red-orange silver lining in the sky; no sunrise today.
Shadow Rae eats nachos for breakfast Nom noms a hunk of hijacked birthday cake for lunch Speaks in third person, uses words like “nom nom”
Shadow Rae talks too loudly, drinks too much, slurs her words to make new animals
Shadow Rae stays up too late, Sleeps too long, steals the last breath mint, lies about it to her cats
Shadow Rae is smoke and mirrors and onion tears, too much I’m here and queer but mostly sweaty palms, the stench of fear
Shadow Rae knows everything, has been everywhere, watched the movie, but more importantly, read the book
Tells everyone she saw Led Zep back in the day, forgets to say it was in 1985 at Live Aid after John Bonham had died
Shadow Rae is all fun or no fun, depending on your mood or how much alcohol you have consumed
She is all hot, no sauce A bomb but no shelter Neither party nor hat
Shadow Rae has penned twenty-two memoirs and counting, bedazzles self-portraits on the sides of historic buildings
She is one part weasel, two parts booze, can only be purchased in the pride aisle at Spencer’s Gifts
Shadow Rae is mostly black light and gag gift, hot pepper gum, a can of exploding snakes
I will always
Drink too much at an open bar Give a friend the benefit of doubt Worry too much Sleep too little Say something stupid when I meet a famous author I will always try my best Until I don’t Then I will try again Once my dad told me he was proud of how I had turned my life around and risen from the ashes of my past like a fiery phoenix What choice did I have? I asked I will always hold the door for old ladies who say I look like their grandsons I will always smile and tip my cap Messengers come in many forms Sometimes I am an overeager cub scout Sometimes I am a joker Sometimes I am a carton and a half of eggs, more than you bargained for I will always try to see the good in others but not always in myself It is hard to see things the way they are when you are too close I will always write my story I will always give my life three thousand different endings
In middle school after you move one more time, you lose your voice in the bottom of a U-haul box.
It’s not that you can’t speak but that you’re unsure of everything you thought you knew.
In high school, you eat lunch in the library because books speak the only words you believe.
When you try to express your thoughts, no one hears what you’re saying.
When you’re alone, you pinch yourself to prove you’re real and not some ethereal being.
People think you’re stuck up and odd because you’re smart and quiet.
You wonder if that’s what they said about Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.
John Yaglenski, a boy in your grade who lives down the street, has his mother call your mother to say you should be more
outgoing. This is the first time but not the last time a boy will try to mold you into who
he wants you to be. At your first real job a co-worker gifts you and some others mugs
with drawings of famous authors on them. You think you’re one of the gang until
you overhear him say he paired you with Emily Dickinson because you’re both so weird.
There’s another editor who always walks down the hall facing the wall like he’s reading a story hidden inside.
You look at your mug and wonder who should be crowned King of the Office Weirdos.
No one can wound you by calling you what you are. You’re strange magic. You’re a fantastic beast.
Your heart is a shooting star, your tears holy water, your brain a dream-weaving machine.
You are one in a snaking line of millions of mystical living things. Did you know
ghost crabs growl using teeth in their stomachs? There’s a kind of ant that only lives in Manhattan.
A snail can sleep for three entire years. Giraffes have no vocal cords
but tell tales by twisting and turning their delicate elongated necks.
If people don’t understand your silence they will never understand your words.
They will always paint self-portraits in the spaces in between. Oh, and that mug
will become one of your prized possessions. The moral is anyone can walk down a hallway in a conventional way,
but you, shy, queer wonderful you, are going to choose to live your life against the grain.
Because let’s be real, you’ve always known that fairytales hidden behind walls are the only ones worth hearing.
In your quiet not-quiet life, you’re going to transform libraries into sanctuaries, poems into bibles.
You’re going to build a house with your favorite words, take it on the road so you can always be home.
You’re going to love women so hard you’ll leave a trail of light for other lovers to gaze upon on starry nights.
You’re going to crown yourself queen of your own heart.
They’re going to say you need to speak up to be heard. They’re going to hand you a copy of Dale Carnegie.
You’re going to tell your story with only the curve of your body.
An insider’s guide on how to stop liking girls
Ignore the sweet curve of her hip, the way it has more dip than any pitch Nolan Ryan ever hurled.
Disregard the seductive curve of her lip, the sacred swell of her breast, the way she’s all rose petals and Roman vase.
Just to be safe, ignore all of her curves. Don’t compare her azure eyes to a summer sky or her celestial skin to the forever shine of the moon.
Call the fire department to shut off your hydrant heart. Tell them it’s a public safety emergency. Pretend you like boys.
Their short hair, curt ways, sandpaper roughness that grinds you down into someone you were never
meant to be. Make believe her lips weren’t painted by Van Gogh in a shade you like to call Bowl of Cherries red.
Try not to get lost climbing her long leg song. Draw a map so you can always find your way back
not home but someplace else where you can erect a fence and call this away place Home for Now.
Pretend she isn’t electric. Blame the buzzing in your body to your own faulty wiring. Pretend she smells like wet dog
and not licorice whips and lilac blooms. Immerse yourself in the study of other beautiful creatures: white tigers, leafy sea dragons, mandarin fish.
Predict the heaviness of your parents’ shame. An adult heart weighs about 10 ounces. Decide it’s a fair trade.
Marry your high school boyfriend. Make “I don’t like girls” your new mantra. Build a cage with your secret silver desires.
Remove the word “girl” from your favorite songs so “Cinnamon Girl” is just a spice “Uptown Girl,” a place you go at night
and “Girls, Girls, Girls” is nothing but a hive of bees humming in your chest.
After the funeral it strikes Doreen, for the first time in her life, that she has choices. And they are hers and hers alone.
So, after the endless sherry and sausage rolls, she locks the door, peels off her black dress, climbs in the car and drives.
And now she finds herself miles from where she started.
In a guest house.
Somewhere by the sea.
She lies in the narrow too-soft bed and indulges herself by rolling around words that are forming, one after the other, in her brain. She hears them tumble and chink together like the pebbles on the beach.
The walls of the guest house are suddenly dancing and alive with the wonderful, kaleidoscopic words of freedom.
For up until now, Doreen’s life has been spun for her like a web. Made up of things she has been obliged to open.
Eyes. Mind. Doors. Arms. Legs. Heart.
From now on, Doreen decides, she is closed.
Cold Hard Cash
Have you ever run coins through your fingers? Felt their greasy surface pass momentarily against your skin?
That’s their past, you know? Their life story, resting right there, trapped in every molecule, in every layer of accumulated filth.
And if you choose to listen, it will spill its secrets and tell you exactly where that coin has been. Tell you who has held it in their cold or clammy hands and what terrors or treasures they might have seen.
Working in the amusements means I have handled more coins in my life than most. Every day I tip them, pour them, stack them, roll them.
Sometimes I drop them.
Like hot bricks straight on the counter, I watch them spin. Watch their secrets flicker like a film, a life story fractured by pain and spite.
Sometimes the feel of them makes me want to vomit, to scrub my skin until it flays.
Sometimes these coins they shine, in a way that most of you can’t see. Virginal, fresh from the perfect transaction; an innocent spending just for love. I want to keep them then. Slide them under the counter and tell them in a whisper that they will never feel this way again.
Sometimes they bring me sadness. A grief so strong it sears my palm, sends shock waves through my veins and coursing round my heart. Someone will simply tip a coin into my palm and in an instant, I can see their truth.
And when the connection is that strong, the image can be blinding.
Gift or curse? You decide. But which ever, its mine to carry. My own private window to the souls of men.
Everyone has a story. And every coin I have ever held always has a tale to tell.
Hooded, tall, with eyes that burned with black beneath.
He handed me his coin.
And I drew in a breath, ready to absorb the hit.
But I felt nothing.
Just the empty chill of space signalling an end.
Stone Tales 1 – The Afternoon
Shona and her boy head straight to the kiosk. Not for ice cream but for stones. The special stones that Marco keeps there for Ben; behind the counter in an old calico bag. The stones that make school fall away.
Shona watches as Marco hands them to Ben, and Ben takes them, solemn, unsmiling. A ceremony of simple trust. He steps back and starts to turn towards the sea.
‘Ben. What do you say?’
He frowns at her, his dark brows knitted and looking to the left of Marco, over his shoulder, Ben slowly brings his hand to his lips and dips it quickly down.
Marco smiles, bends and does the same.
That’s their interaction for the day over.
Moving with awkward jerking speed, Ben hurries down to the beach, to his spot; the one with the low flat rock. As Marco hands her the daily coffee, Shona hears the familiar clink of stone on rock. Followed by the singsong rise and fall of counting, lifting on the breeze.
Every day Shona offers Marco cash and every day he waves her hand away.
‘When he’s finished leave the bag in the usual place.’
Then Marco pulls down the shutters. In the winter they are always his last customers, but he always waits for them. Ready to hand over the treasure, ready to take his place in Ben’s day.
Not for the first time she wonders what would happen if Marco were ill. Or if someone else found that bag, saw it stuffed behind the back wheel of the kiosk, and took it.
Shona stops and shakes the thoughts aside. There is no use dwelling on what ifs. Better to focus on Ben and what happens today, like every day.
She can see him, head down, moving along the row of stones. Working his way rhythmically to the end of his line. And when he gets there he jumps, flaps his hands and calls out. Repetitive excited sounds that compete with waves and send the sea birds circling up into the sky, drifting far away.
Then he starts it all again. Realigning, positioning and counting the rocks that are his hope. His safety, his joy and his control.
The nearest thing he has to friends
Shona wishes she could make him as happy as they do, but she won’t let herself fall down that hole. Instead she tells herself that she makes this possible; by bringing him here and finding this space. She guards the air around him, staring down the curious and openly hostile looks of dog walkers and passers-by.
Shona is the one who finds and clings to the people who understand, like Marco and her neighbour Jean; who never complains when her garden is littered with the things Ben has thrown; who always hands them back with a smile and sometimes a tin of flapjack.
Shona is Ben’s gatekeeper; it is up to her to build his team.
Up to her to keep the undeserving away. Like the cashier with the pencilled in eyebrows who mutters and tuts every time she has to scan the wrapper of the bread Ben’s chewed.
Or the PTA mums who ask her to bake cakes or fill rotas. And huddle together when she makes excuses yet again.
She leans against the wall and thinks perhaps she should make more of an effort with those women. Maybe then Ben would be invited to picnics and parties, bonfires and trick or treat.
Maybe then Ben would make Hayden happy. Give him some of the lad and dad time he so desperately craves.
The thought of Hayden makes her reach for her phone. Tapping the screen and seeing no message she automatically slides it to silent.
Ben starts another round of counting. Shona sips her coffee. And together they keep the world away.
The Written Word.
We have been planning this for weeks. Booking the B&B. Buying the sashes, and the headbands that flash. Karen said the L plates were a step too far, but we all said they weren’t.
We have done our research and planned a route. Through the old town pubs, down the high street and then into the clubs along the front.
All twelve of us. Gemma’s hens clucking along the prom.
And here we are in the last club of the night.
Just Gem and me, in the ladies. The two of us, fixing our make-up.
I am really pissed.
Gem is pissed too. Or at least I think she is.
Something in the way she stands, the tilt of her head. The way her eyes fix on to mine.
Makes me wonder.
Then she leans forward and breathes. Clouding the huge round mirror.
And with a tentative, trembling finger writes just one word.