Rust never sleeps - Vignette  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I miss you today. It wasn't a conscious decision. I didn't wake up underneath the cool blankets of opportunity, and think "I'd better spare a thought for Billie."

It just happened that way.

I heard the day start before I saw it. Like microwave popcorn, sporadic and untimely, rain spattered on the metal ledge beneath my window and stirred me from staggered sleep.

Sometimes days, weeks even, pass and I'll not think of you at all. And others the rusty nicotine stains gnarling at my fingertips will nag my mind. Or the freckles on the shopkeeper's arm. Or the blaze of deteriorating metal atop her weary head. Or a turbid tea-stain singed into Formica.

In times like this I try and excavate my mind, recall what was there before. It seems like I've hit an obfuscation; an oubliette and there's no other colour but the persistent rust that taints the edges of everything I look at.

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a slice of life  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My love for words is starting to change tack somewhat, and I've decided to try and make them earn their keep. They course through my veins, wake me at night and demand attention. Some nights, it'll be the call of the thick dictionary that wakes me; beckoning me into its world and distorting diphthongs into, and sometimes out again, of decorum.

I've decided to start a copy-writing business, which is likely to be a long and drawn out procedure. I've sought guidance online. You can get anything there these days (!)

As part of the process, I'm meandering through old posts, and previous publications, and came across a very early researched creative piece I wrote, following a shooting in Iraq. Through it, I found Khalid Jarrar's blog, and began to discuss our similar views on political movements during that time.

I wrote Circles for Khalid a while ago, after we discussed the breakdown of my relationship. We lost touch, since he got married a year or so ago, but I'll always be grateful for his permission to quote him, when I wrote this story:

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

One of the themes I visit throughout the poem is an image of integrity sinking in the mud. Integrity was the name of a trawler who met her ends sinking into the river mud in Penryn. In her day she was an impressive mistress. I was taken with the metaphor of someone losing their integrity as the poem unfolds.

I am swimming
making circles in the water
Watching splinters of wood wash downstream
in the moonlight
making trails like
through a
rippling sky

I see their source
poking through the mud.
Battered, stinking

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Moon is glinting.
Her fuzzy power
lighting spokes under cobwebs.
Several saddles scattered across worktops
where the weary man's worn hands
s l o w l y.
His fingertips experts
but not in the villagers' eyes.

“Old Man Sid the Cycle -
Psycho more like.
I heard he took another one.”
“Young Betty's been a-walkin' lately,
Sid's had her ol' bike away.”

He works into the night. Gnarled fingers
creaking like
the shed door in a
Arms speckled with rust.
A rugged face with crags
you could climb up
shields the grim toy of
his smile;
aged and crackled
like the veneer
painted on the table top.
He's happy in his work.
At night he dreams of a harbour
filled with bicycles. Each child
pays ten pence
to throw one in.
A rusting graveyard of spokes and tyres
the colour of the river
he inhabits.

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I've realised that the way I'm working this poem means it'll come out backwards. Although it was never intended to be strictly linear, but rather a confluence of voices. The quote about the orbit of stars comes from a Lavinia Greenlaw poem, although it also reminds me of a physicist I lost my heart to.

Woke up; found my love gone.
Left in its place words
falling from the seams.
Many's the night I've walked this
land. I was trying to remember.
It felt like my mind
was being cast
to sea. Tiny
bits of brain nibbled
by phosphorescence. Are they
the darkness or
is it
Like the sunken
shell of integrity I
sit and wait.
I rise
with the tide so
I have to fall.
He left stains on the carpet where
he'd dropped his consonants.
All achin', shakin' and breakin'.
His hollow cheeks gulping down
apologies. Tired lies
and vinegar flies
carve mermaids on his eyes,
which look to  the sky.
He said he knew science;
told me
how you get pairs
of stars that pull
into orbit
forever unable  to touch
or part
like how grains of sand
won't just dissolve into water.
Some words I collect
and I have stars in my heart.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

I am revisiting an old project, in order to try and get my writing muscles working again. Section by section, I am finally editing Voices; my poem collecting stories from in around the River Fal, where I live. If I could be so bold as to claim that the work is loosely based on Dart by Alice Oswald, I would. Although consider this a cheap pastiche, an oblique homage, a surreptitious nod.

I was looking for new ways to talk about old things.
Is that not the job of the poet, like the magician,
as Wordsworth says;
to present ordinary situations about low and rustic life
in a language familiar to all?
But to present them in a way that makes them extraordinary.
I want to script a journey around Falmouth, taking us
through its stages and ours within and without it.
I want to describe everything in detail.

So you could even smell the florists displays
and see the fragments of shredded love notes
the school-girl trickled from her pockets on the journey home.
Like a modern day Gretel,
 whose pebbles are words and whose gingerbread
 is the sweet taste of nicotine
 inhaled at the bus stop.

And feel the acrid blade of urine hit your throat when you walk
beside the old man who sifts the ground
to perpetrate his respiratory problems
with the used ends of anything he can;
and Lambert and Butler.
and thick papers, thin papers, tobacco from around the world.

Breathe the singed skin smell of the tattoo parlour .
Cough now as the tar mix hits the back of your throat and your head
rattles with the pneumatic drill in all its
erratic and

Listen to the sepulchral organ;
grinding out of tune and into the streets.
Its deadening chords in synch with the relentless
sighing chime
of time
of the bell.

Past the secret doorways, favoured by thieves;
each echoing times now changed.
Glimpses between houses;
like picture postcards showing snapshots
of seascapes,
sliding into the sea with its rattling flotilla
gently tugging on the water of one of the deepest natural harbours in the world. 
Caustic waves
of vinegar from a thousand fish suppers
under the bunting.
And feel the tiny droplets of rain moisten your cracked and dried lips 
as you see the colours lighting the sky
and in the rain and the storm;
the war ships stand grey and cumbersome
while the peace dove roosts on the rooftops
and coo-coos under
the sound of thunder.

This is the town where nothing happens.

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I can sing a rainbow...  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blue is the colour of the deep sea, of high skies and of cracking ice in Antarctica; a place of bleak austerity where nothing grows and hardly anything lives. Blue overrides everything, blue is nothing, and blue fades into blue when we try to locate the horizon. Blue is the colour of the curling tendrils of smoke that dance from a thousand cigarettes, the colour of body bags and the colour of the dark veins that run along the hands of those who hold you. Blue is the eyes that haunt me.

Black is oil pouring from crevices in the ocean, black is the bottom of a mine, the back of a cave and the hollow centre of an eyeball. Black is death and cancer. Black is engulfing, endless and enduring, and like its counterpart, black is at once both empty and full, nothing and ceaseless possibility.

Green is the colour of newness, freshness, of jungles and fruit trees and the glowing guardian of springtime. Green glistens on giddy waters and ripples through riparian banks. Green is also duplicitous; it stains rooftops of decaying copper and mottles branches with lichen. It is the rising stench of baked seaweed, but simultaneously the zing of freshly cut grass: decay and

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Scriptwriting WIP  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My eyes scan amongst the reeds and scattered leaves. From this angle, if I strain my sockets, your reflection comes into my peripheral. A version of you in monochrome with projection of cine-film layered into my concentration. My heart skips a palpitation and I can’t help but wonder if you see me too.

Your return was like a movie. I’d been working on the soundtrack for months. Building up a collection of carefully selected chords and blending hand-picked, eclectic harmonies. Weather shot: the lighting was how I’d ordered it: low, broad clouds with deeply furrowed silver linings and smaller ominous shapes stretching as far as our lost horizons. Everything was in place for this dramatic opening scene. I wanted my world to perform to receive you. Perhaps it would be enough to persuade you to stay.

Very wide shot, cutting to wide shot: A unsought figure saunters on to the set, causing a surge of agitation. Things are getting out of my control. Like the long suffering words from a writer’s fingertips, the imposter is tortured into relocation, almost as a figure oozing from a quill. Sunlight filters a convincing spotlight on her dramatic exit as the orchestral opening to All is Full of Love begins echoing; the haunting harpsichord rising from the pit of a chasm.

Close Up: My face - an exaggerated mess of exaltation, exhaustion and excitement contorts in pain as, like a thief, my shifty eyes move side to side expecting to extract answers, exacting upon you; extra-diegetic in a thought bubble.

Your return was like a familiar movie. I’d played it in my head countless times from the music to the weather, and each cleverly orchestrated shot in between. Our faces twisted in misery until we saw each other and the pain of the last two years melted away. Like excited school children we chattered nervously over each other and flouted all the conventions of normal speech. Our film was 'gritty', unpretentious and emotional.

As it went, your return was like a movie: that passed me by. Another day bled into the next, and I’d listened to stories about 'your return' from people who'd seen it first. My arranged music faded to hoof and horn until eventually there was nothing.

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A Univocalism  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lara sad and flat-pack
grasps hand.
Abstract attack ransacks by slap back
at flats. Whack, clack n crack at that;
hack asthma as rhythm,
Lara - a nymph - stands back, aghast.
And as far as far can grabs masala.
Swaps parts, transplants hands as flashy
balls fly.
My hand smacks an almanac.
Lara gasps.
Stacks maps at dawn and
Has fatal attack...

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Monday, April 25, 2011

This poem is made from my tweets, which are fed into the tweet cruncher and spat out into recycled poetry.

My sad picture had a cry
that perpetuates the right.
We're 25 hours in across the cycle of emotions
needn't matter...
is pleased to see a divine set change as a question.
I listened to dusk.
Candles lit,
getting bitter-er...
would still dreams of emotions this time!
Shall we walk with words,
sibilance expression,
He deserves his happiness, without dirt,
our psychogeography is hope
after I've bet.
You keep.

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Earth Hour  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Earth Hour came again last night, and due to sharing my living space with other people, I asked politely if everyone minded observing the time, which was met with respectful candles in the kitchen. I like to think of the earth as breathing a little sigh of relief when such things occur and hope that in this case observing the hour also raised awareness of how my housemates could contribute more. I used the time to disconnect from electricity and technology. As a teacher, it's rare that I am able to do this for extended periods of time at the moment. And during the hour I wrote, by hand, about a pebble.

I'd been to the beach early on Friday morning on my way into school and gathered a selection of pebbles and shells to use as my lesson for the afternoon. When I presented each child with a pebble and announced that I wanted them to write for 20 minutes, non-stop, about it, I was met with some brilliant Harry Enfield impressions. "Huh! Miss! As IF you could write about that for 20 minutes." "I could write a novel, just about a pebble..." was my reply, which was, predictably received with sniggers and lots of eyebrow activity.

Needless to say, 20 minutes later, half of the class had written over half a page and wanted to carry on, whilst the other half had had great fun throwing pebbles around, conducting 'research' into onomatopoeia.

A novel I have not yet had time to write, but during the blackout, this WIP is what I have so far on pebbles

Its porous surface contains black holes,
filled with secrets seen
over centuries.
On the crest of a ferocious wave
its journey
that of a monarch butterfly.
For some time the pebble rested,
like the corpse of Atlantis,
leagues beneath sight.
It silently
swarming schools weaving
their collective thoughts through
oceanic clefts until they
settled into the fissures;
rewrote topography.
The rhyme of tides echo
into chasms,
which blow out chorales,
spiralling to the shore.
Amid the hieroglyphics
the pebble waited
in turbulence
before committing to the sea
the way a thousand shipwrecks did before it.
The paths etched into its surface;
labyrinthine corridors
of broken dreams,
of messages of love
and stamps
of existence snatched
into the swelling stomach of tsunami.
The stench of seaweed baking in the sun
filters through its crevices
carrying olfactory hallucinations
of days
in times past.
Days when light fragments filter through
its counterparts
casting shadows like the mountains.
Dark days
of lying
in wait underground
like lava tunnels deep
beneath the surface,
fostering evolution.

The Guardian published pictures of the blackout around the world. It's lovely to feel a part of something so big.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Buena’ dia', whistled the man through his gapped teeth and ratty moustache. He had a bottle of aguardiente ensconced in his dirty jacket tied on with bailer twine, and took advantage of the first available space to nestle his head into the bristly seat cover. I studied his face. A face you could climb up; its crags and boulders mimicking the Andes; rising in the surrounding pueblos. His left eye was a pastiche of the lake at Cotopaxi – minus the perpetual rainbow thrown into the sky.
Darkness seeped in from the edges turning the sky black and the cityscape into a grid of LEDs framing faster moving lights with the erratic motion of phosphorescence. The surrounding hills disappeared; surrendering the landscape to the imagination and changing the narrative of the city. Quito was a place of secrets. A means to an end. Eagerly, I awaited my chance to escape it.
I arrived on Isla San Cristòbal having flown through clouds piled on top of each other like mashed potato sculptures. If you've never sculpted mashed potato; give it a try. If you mash sweet potato or other root vegetables you can make a variety of colours with which to sculpt. The peaks of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo – Ecuador's two tallest volcanoes – interrupted the windless skyline. All the way from Quito to Guayaquil the clouds made shadow pictures across the hills, which rippled like oceanic clefts and hid Andean stories in the belching belly of the earth. The pacific rolled beneath; a slave of inertia; unfazed by the moon. It buried these volcanic archipelagos under a trampoline of white clouds through which I caught glimpses of randomly placed lumps of rock and thousands of outlines of sea creatures.
This was no tropical island. The cutthroat heat seared the coastline image to my retina; its surface as rugged and windswept as the shore I’d left in Falmouth. Its plant life as ragged and withered as an acrimonious break-up. In the highlands where the sugar cane provides sweet relief from the dusty sun by day; the dawn rolls in across the sky; a divine set change as morning breaks and night's onomatopoeic chorus fades to hoof and horn. I hear his voice on the Southern wind and his face is carved in the lava tunnels which expose time’s secrets and assure me the world will be okay.
I’d read Dillard and listened to Corgan. I’d seen Attenborough and studied Darwin. To me this was the origin of the species. Where it all began. Where things were going to come full circle. To make that circle complete I’d armed myself with a quest: to bring a twenty-first century electro opera to where its first seeds were cracked by those finches with parrot-like beaks. Children walk around mimicking this action, by pressing the tips of the thumb and forefinger together so the fingernails make a seed picker. The finches changed the way people viewed the world and I needed something to change the way I did.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

I've been walking
new lines
to rewrite psychogeography.
Like the memories carved
in a child's
the new ones are discombobulated
by déjà vu.

Let's not pace in fissures
gathering salt for our wounds.

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Boozin' n Bluesin'  

Friday, March 11, 2011

If I'm to believe everything I read on the internet, I haven't blogged yet this year. I'm hoping that can't mean that during this same 2 and a half month period I haven't written anything of interest at all... Although the majority of my words currently tend to focus on 'eliciting vocabulary', 'assessing knowledge' and 'engaging' young minds. Or engaging tutors and teachers alike in academic, middle class language that somehow justifies what I'm doing in the classroom. Yes, rather than spend my time conserving energy, reading and writing and practising what I preach, I am encouraged to document every interaction I have with every pupil, parent, teacher carer and pet snail in order to evidence that I am a good teacher. The fact that I haven't had time to blog, am getting good results and producing creative resources isn't enough, and it's only going to get tougher.

Still, for the purposes of writing to model good writing to my students, I'm still finding some time to be creative albeit turning a Heaney poem into a short story or redrafting old travel vignettes. This is a WIP - Duplicity.


There goes another one; faster than the one before. Monochrome faces pass me by; their expressions a blur. The coarse shriek of the warning bell forces them into high definition and I snap back into focus. “It’s English first, ain’t it?” asked Joe. “Yeah! I think we’re doing creative writing today ‘n all.” We walked to room 31, past the old library, bursting with books and infinite possible combinations of words. I’m always on the lookout for new words. Only yesterday I’d discovered duplicitous: two-faced, dishonest, double crossing. I hope to find a way to use it today...
It was probably near lunchtime when all the heads turned towards the door in un-choreographed synchronicity. Who was it that had granted us reprieve by interrupting our maths class? Mrs. Reeves, the school secretary, whispered quietly to Mr. Glen, as fifty-eight eyes tried to lip-read. Twenty-eight heads turned my way, as I recognised my own name and slowly gathered up my things. I tried to push the uneasiness away by twisting my hands inwards in claws of bitter nausea.
The air was stuffy and disinfectant choked at the back of my throat as I sat in the sick bay. I was waiting for our neighbours to collect me. Apparently. I nervously excavated the ledges around the window frame – graveyards to the tiny bodies of flies, buried and suffocated under dust. I watched the playground from the window. Outside, there was nothing remarkable about today. In here; I sat counting bells to try and measure time.
The car smelled of fags and mould as smoke snaked its tendrils up into the roofing. Mr. O’Leary chain-smoked, desperately, whilst his wife fiddled nervously with the radio controls. Nobody told me why this pair came to pick me up or what was going on, and the silence taunted me with its duplicitous emptiness filled with possibility. Mile upon mile passed by in a blur of images, like watching a film on fast forward, but with no sound.
Arriving back home brought temporary relief in its familiarity. But then I saw them. Ma catatonic on the sofa and Pa crying. I’d never seen Pa cry before. I’d barely seen him display any emotion at all, apart from when they brought Stephen home from the...
And then I understood.
Stephen. Something had happened to Stephen. My eyes scanned the room for answers. Pa strolled over and put his arm round my shoulder. It was one of the only times that man of iron had showed me tenderness, and I warmed to it like molten lead. “It was a car. He just wasn’t looking. It...”
I turned my head to look into eyes like a wild Irish Sea. Jim Evans patted my shoulder, trying to force a smile which added new topography to his face. A face you could climb up. He was so close; I could smell the faint stench of ale upon his breath and feel his threatening shoulders looming in on me as he whispered “It’s a hard blow, son... A hard blow.” I walked over to my Ma, her arm outstretched, but she couldn’t find the words to say. Our hands entwined as roots of an austere tree. Like the sounds of a seagull rummaging through the refuse on rubbish day, I heard mutters and whispers from the faces that stared sympathetically. ‘That’s her eldest boy. The poor lad, the poor wee lad.’ I didn’t know how to act, as another old man, with teeth like tombstones, shook my hand to pass on his condolences. I wanted somebody to hold me and tell me everything was going to be OK, but they wanted me to be grown up about it: be a man.
I looked out into the night; its nothingness mimicking the emptiness of the room, of my heart. Somewhere in the distance I heard the approach of sirens. One thing about boarding school is the way your whole life seems to be driven by a series of bells. I shuddered back to the room, hearing the intrusive gurgles of my youngest broth... My only brother, now; Frankie. He just wasn’t looking became a new mantra in my head. And I fought back the tears that begged “Why?”
The ambulance got louder as it approached our road. In came the corpse; bandaged and hidden. The vultures that stood to the side bowed their heads as they muttered more condolences and finally pushed out into the night. Ballyfermotters feast on a funeral, I mused, and imagined the takings in Fibber McGee’s exceeding most week nights as the procession drink to their good health next to the stinking cemetery of the Liffey.

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