Saturday, 7 May 2011

Base Camp

Extract from 'Panic Camp'. Abridged for course submission.

The phone call comes unexpectedly, the question itself being as much a surprise.  The ready answer will make perfect sense to me within second of the dial tone.
“Come camping with us.  This city is getting under my skin, trying to fuse with me and it’s giving me cabin fever.  I know you feel it too.  Meet us at our flat in half an hour.” I recognise the voices.
“Alright. See you in a bit.” The last thing I see through the double glazing as I leave is a thin line of trees that border the garden where a forest used to be.
The city centre is dead in the lull before the Sunday storm, never failing to get busy any night of the week. The tents, guitars and duvets bulging from plastic bags set us easily apart from the briefcases, laptops and lunchtime shopping being carried homewards by suits. The street lamps had flickered on along the riverside path some time ago, the number of dog walkers clearly dwindling the nearer they got towards the darkness beyond the back streets. Bantering idly back and forth, they only fell silent with concentration as the path became in indent in the dirt fringed with nettles. Trailing straps and the loose threads of a duvet snagged and snapped on branches along the way.
“I don’t know about either of you but there is absolutely no way I could have found this place on my own.” They had had to go deeper into the trees, picking an unsteady footing over and around the exposed roots of the terrain unfamiliar to most of them before suddenly stumbling into the clearing.
We had camped, for lack of elsewhere, in the woods just beyond the park. This seemed the only way to escape the artificiality of the sprawling city, the orange glow of which still pollutes the horizon; lending it the illusion of a town ablaze with the massive fire we wish we could start to raise it to the ground. Once in a while the blaring sirens are carried towards us on the wind to serve as discordant reminders of the world we are leaving behind. Above us a construction dust sheet billows and helps to keep trapped the rising heat.
In the darkness we silently set about out duties and are soon crouched in tent doorways facing fire-wards. That first night camp filled with welcome visitors who, braving the nettles and gorse, felt all the better for it and in our fir-lit circle we remain unthreatened by the people who inevitably pass by and inexorably never think to look.
Lilting guitar fills the air before dissipating between the trees. Cheep vodka and good conversation stave off the cold well into the night with more effect than any manufactured fibres seem capable. Empty cans keep a hollow vigil beside full ones running with condensation. Clustered in a sprawling circle, the faces around the flames were all sparkling eyes and teeth as the fire light came and went on the breeze. Cigarette cherries speckled the thick darkness as brittle twigs snapped beneath the weight of the wind in the shadows, their clean snaps punctuating their conversation. The stars, spewed across the near cloudless sky, glint through the canopy like polished pennies in a wishing well.
It seems so suddenly that the break of dawn claws its way over the mossy ground into the clearing towards us. The light reveals tired eyes surrounded by empty bottles and upturned glasses, layers donned to mask the cold now hung from trees, unzipped by the climbing heat of day. A strung out skein of geese fly across the fading moon, seemingly screaming escape to the earth-bound bellow.
Crawling around in the dew-wet dawn looking for long ears and white tails through the focus of a scope, stalking rabbits with more prowess yet less success than the drunk men chasing heels and skirts down the cobbled streets if the inner city. Shooting rifles was fun but we did not manage to kill anything, as though our pellets were misguided by the remnants of our city sensibilities. Then it dawns on me how easy it is to lose sight of the bigger picture when you focus too closely on the finer details.
Our chairs are chunks of railway sleeper that we carried across our shoulders over the wasteland under the moon.  A chair sat out in the open topped with empty, pellet-punched cans, it's splintered wood pocked all over with metal.  We are lucky to be so close to the river.  The froth in it reminds me of sea foam but there is no real beauty in the resulting contamination from a bleach leakage at a detergent firm upstream.  The discarded cans that give the weir its angles will be covered with algae within a year but there will be more ring pull pebbles, plastic bag pond weed, old boot reefs, traffic cone herons and car battery stepping stones.  On the other side there were dilapidated sheds at the far, forgotten ends of gardens where doors on fridges sit stand open with the vague promise that - despite the moss - they might still work.
Savouring our turns, the shower feels too good for us to worry about putting dirty clothes back on afterwards. We lounge around waiting for each other to finish gradually filling the room with fruit and mint and aloe vera. The sofa cushions are comfortable but it is not long before I feel like I’m being swallowed and it turns time to leave. The mood is shared, the suggestion is made, we are zipped up, tucked in and stood beyond a closed door still deciding where to go.
Arriving back at camp we make a broom from live branches, necessity breeding creation when we are still house-proud without a home. The bristles drag lines through the dirt, collecting bottle tops and shards of glass. It is not long before we have piles of wood – stacked beneath tarpaulin sheets – drying on rotation. We have tents and fire, water and wood. We find a shovel head beneath a bush by the lake and marvel at this testament to how the universe provides. It is only two days, maybe three before the full effects are felt, the same way that, if left long enough to its own devices, nature will slowly reclaim abandoned buildings, we are beginning to feel restored. Moss will settle on the cracked and crumbling bricks, sapling will emerge from long-hidden seeds that have taken root in the floorboards of our thoughts and birds will return through pane-less open eyes to roost in every eve.
No clocks, no phones, no internet.  The sun rouses us early, giving us the gift of time.  We are eased back into town: the path turns to concrete as you are poured over the river bridge, into the park and towards the traffic lights feeling somehow weaker for needling to tumble through the darkness into the fluorescent lights of the nearest shop on a mission for tobacco.
In the early morning we pool our coppers and mull over the true meaning of necessity. The embers still glow in the backdrop of our Custard Cream and cigarette breakfast, the blaring horns of morning rush hour heralding another working day.
I watch dirt cling to soapy water that runs down the drain in the electric light of the pub toilet. Beneath my hat and unwashed hair I blink, willing my eyes not to adjust in the hope I will soon escape. Someone buys us drinks and we sip appreciatively as they probe about camp but all we can say is to come and see for themselves, that way they might begin to understand.
Words were scrawled on scraps of paper barely visible in the blind darkness. The shreds were soon crumpled beneath twigs to start a fire and soon the flames, tinged blue by ink, consumed the words that were lost forever. We are all method actors in the dramas of our own lives. Unable to prove the existence of anything beyond ourselves, free and capable of changing at will into anyone and anything we want or can conceive of. For the time being we have rediscovered the nature of existence. Crossing the scrubland and bushes off into the rising sun, we are returned with a restored conviction to a society that will inevitably eventually grind us down and drive us back out again for trying to tear down the constraints we were raised to think would last forever.
Now I have my books and cigarettes stowed beneath a roof I did not know the week before.
Until next time.

Kissing Underwater

To my best friend for everything she's done for me.

Her piercing first brushed and then pressed against my parted lips. There had been a long pause between the first kiss and the next as we stared through batting lashes at one another. Her warm breath mixed with mine as we struggled for shallow breaths next to our reflection in the mirror. My fingers were tangled deep within her hair as the other hand ran the curve of her waist. The waves of weakness in my knees were all the better for my back being firmly pressed against the wall. I became suddenly aware of her hand at the bottom of my back and wondered, but only for a second, how long it had been pressed there. Taking my hand from her waist, with an altogether unexpected boldness, she pinned it to the cool, smooth wall tiles above me. I drew our clasped hands down behind my head and could feel her palm pushing my tongue deeper towards hers. I opened my eyes for only a moment, a split second later she opened her and I caught a glimpse of that azure soul. She quickly closed them again and I grasped the opportunity to steal a closer glance as her near-flawless complexion; closing my eyes after noticing her eyelashes twitch in beat with my tongue. It seemed all too soon before she pulled away leaving us stood apart breathlessly staring and surrounded by people to the soundtrack of a loose tap shaking to the bass from the next room. I found myself thinking how amazed I was that she had kissed me back. It was not until she demurely smiled “Neither can I really”, that I realised I had said anything aloud.


I would see her name in the coffee foam that slid down the cup into a creamy pool on the saucer. I would trace her name across my stomach in the shower for lack of her touch. The clouds would score her face into the sky in front of every setting sun. I would imagine her voice whispering softly to me through the warm summer rain. I would feel the soft lightness of her touch beneath my sheets at night. Her eyes would glimmer back at me from the quickly flowing waterfall. Wine would fill my head with her aspect. I would imagine romantic sentiments to whisper yet see her and be lost for words.


She is it. Everything evaporates except those eyes; i burn the image of those irises into the back of my eyelids with every blink. Her hand on my knee robs me of breath and each time she leans in to kiss me I lose a bit more of my mind. My eyes follow her knees – interlocked with mine – upwards to her thighs. Those thighs. Still so unaccustomed t o being allowed to touch her, she spies my hesitance and places my hand far higher than I would have dared. As she whispers into my ear I feel the heat between us, our cheeks press, instinctively I nudge her nose so that our lips meet, she kisses me back. How could I ever take that for granted? Not so much lost for words now as before, there is a questioning inside me, which speak to me of her, that I feel ill-equipped to answer. Tripping homewards – arms around one another – I only partially joke about not having the confidence to do so in the sobriety of tomorrow. At the front door she fumbled behind her for the door handle as I press myself against her, doing my best to keep her within my fleeting myself. Tumbling through the doorway into the dark front room (and in a last-ditch attempt to touch her while brazen) I pushed her gently and playfully onto the sofa. Her giggles slowed to heavy breaths and she looked at me before clasping my hands and pulling me down on top of her. She smelled amazing, she was funny, she made me feel like the centre of the universe just by looking at me and she was the most beautiful think I had ever seen. Her voice was sweet and lilting, each time she laughed I became overwhelmed by affection and achievement.


Tormenting myself with the thoughts of her that I can’t escape, I spend hours agonising over the meaning I convince myself are hidden in her hugs and conversation. I linger over furtive glances that I am entirely sure she is unaware she makes. Those beautiful eyes that have me and so often everyone else in a room completely captivated. I listen intently to every single word she says and try to fight the urge to reach across and touch her painfully deep and cool irises. Crossing and recrossing her legs drives me wild, making me sometimes worry that she can hear my heart as loudly as I can, getting stronger and faster. My hand quivers as I reach for the spoon to stir my coffee, it doesn’t need to be stirred but I find it impossible to sit there doing nothing at all. In the absence of being allowed to touch her I stir coffee, fold napkins, tear paper, chip off nail varnish and roll cigarettes. I worry that someday soon I might run out of distractions for my hands and just reach out and touch her, when it’s so hard not to. As we sit talking, drinking and smoking outside the coffee should I people watch and can only remark on the ugliness that seems to fill the world beyond her. She has destroyed everyone and everything else for me and I love her for it: she has sucked up the lustre and sparkle from the whole world and as she breathes it spills out of her. Three days without seeing her drives me insane as I hint for reasons to call her but never find one.
The flowers I give her all wither and die, their petals turning crisp before drifting to the floor by her feet. I ensure I am stood ready with a new one to offer her for fear she will forget me. If only she had some vague notion as to how much I would give to belong to her. She is my Delilah, the answer I was looking for to a question I had not know to ask and in remembering her I forget myself. She drips with a perfect sweetness that seeps in through my finger tips and stitches my lips shut: as the moments pass I crave speaking to her long before breathing for myself.


We sit chatting over gin, the boys vying for her attention had become all too much. The lounge was warm and her eyes sparkled from hours whiled away at the pub. For days I have thought of little else than having her all to myself. We sit close, talking flirtatiously. I have her undivided attention and, despite all the things I thought, I have little idea what to do with it. She edges closer, angling her knees inwards towards mine, and tucks a flyaway hair behind my ear. Everything goes dark except for the feeling of her sweet lips pressed against mine. Pulling away for breath but keeping our heads pressed together she licks her lips, I feel the cool wetness as we kiss again and am disembodied. The magazine and ash tray between us are pushed to the floor because I just want to be on her. I can feel ever contour of her thighs through her thin tights as my hand runs up to the small of her back. I can taste the beer on her breath mingling with the gin on mine, my tongue never able to reach deep enough.


I staggered up the stairs behind her trying to keep my fingers knotted with hers, watching the ladders running the length of her tights. The hallway was dark and the wall felt cool against my arms as I stumble unsteadily and single-mindedly after her. I close the door with a foot and look us to see her perched coyly on the lip of the bathtub.
“Can I have a kiss?”
“Of course.” I slip on hand to her neck and can feel the muscles tensing as we touch, the hand she had slipped to my leg gripping tighter. I saw dancing speckles behind my closed eyelids. I just want to sink my teeth into her and devour everything, pulling her closer so that I can revel in the feeling of her between my legs. The satin petals of her lips plant kisses like landing butterflies all over my mouth. I can feel her fluttering eyelashes against my blushing skin. Hungering as I do for her, every second spent not tearing off her clothes and running my tongue down her body seems wasted.

Tentatrice Inconscients

(for you, as promised.)

She struts through the pub between clusters of people and I clock the odd glance but it amazes me that she can pass by anyone unnoticed. She runs a hand through her long, blonde hair and I melt, every time. I want to be the glass she sips her whiskey and coke from just to press against her lips. I imagine I can see reflected in her eyes all the times we are yet to kiss. I cannot help but fixate upon her exquisite curves beneath tight cotton and jean. Her eyes, those blue eyes, those deep jade eyes like the stone only with flecks of arsenic. She is divine in the way that only the seemingly unattainable can be. I convince myself easily that every one of my infatuations is so different from the last and this is the only way in which she is unexceptional.
I have no idea exactly where in southern France Lyon is and I could not care less, but it is not out of rudeness that I stare fixatedly as her tongue manipulated the accented English. Her sculpted eyebrows punctuate the words I struggle to hear when she returns me gaze. How did I live yesterday when I did not know her? Her silver fingers curl around her glass of wine far more elegantly than mine and her silver rings clink against its frosted stem. We are sat side-by-side in the booth, if she had sat down first I would not have had the courage to sit next to slid in along side her. I lean into the arms rest in over-compensation for my fear of invading her personal space but she then takes me utterly by surprise. As she takes a long, slow sip of wine she looks me in the eye, slides closer until our knees are touching and then lays her hand on my knee.

In Protest

Slipping through their mesh of provocation methods and/
Dissolved of our oneness beneath circling helicopters,/
It looked, tasted, felt, sounded and smelt like a revolt./
The pools of street light everywhere looked like fires/
As light slowly died behind the usual skyline suspects./
Enjoying our fill of suspended disbelief/
Reminding ourselves to push further beyond,/
Fighting back against the rose-tint of nostalgia/
Committing to surviving this existential turbulence./
We stare up through twisted overhead power lines/
Armed only with a paper plate rainbow finder./

With fingers crossed we all find the right destination,/
A throng of heartbeats, all dark eyes turned skyward,/
Billboards pulsate into these awaiting dilating pupils./
Paint drips down a window drying on its broken glass/
Below balconies of balaclavas trudging roofs in boots./
Stating claim on each monumental vestige;/
Surviving evidence; old hat in their tricornes./
Air filling all our lungs in time with every drum/
We pace in unison beneath our stenciled canopy/
Because persistence in belief lends it meaning/
Unrelentingly calling for their attention to linger./

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Dust In Orbit (w.t.)





Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Suspended Animation

(A metafiction exercise from class)
As I sit here conjuring this story, with the events unfolding around me, I am overcome by the feeling that I am rotoscoping life, moment-by-moment, with every word. These assorted letters are the sketchy, twitching lines that construct and animate his face. If I had been familiar with the shade I would have accurately called his eyes Persian blue. Not knowing it however, I instead settle for cerulean and in doing so do them little justice.
His eyes were cerulean. He begins to walk from the gated park entrance to my left but, for no reason other than my neck hurts, I blink and find him now waltzing from my right. I stare at him as he makes his way unknowingly before me and cannot help but marvel at his sweetness and the way youth glows from him as though he is filled with plutonium. I notice his hands looking purposelessly empty which raises the question: what object or activity might adequately occupy them? The balloon that suddenly appears dissolves into a lollipop of a similar colour before fading to a nothingness that ends up as a painted wooden horse. It was the same one my younger cousin received one Christmas.
His name is Ely Epstein, you can see it spelled out in his gait and in the name labels stitched into everything from his socks to his boater. His shorts are long but not nearly long enough and he absent-mindedly bends to scratch the itch just below his knee instigated by the added fibres of my description. The bland burnt sienna of his boater ribbon fades through a slow spectrum of colours until it becomes a rich maroon because I will it to. As I stare at the world around me my pen documents that which I choose to acknowledge or alter.
The shrubs grow and shrink with the undulating fluidity of my dreams and I have complete control. In my minds eyes I can watch myself writing without looking.
Alex was tapped on the shoulder by what had begun and a genderless shadow. As the varying shades of darkness are drained from the figure and float through that air towards my bench and I, the shadows leak down into my pen and turn into the ink I use to describe him. The Persian blue irises of the angular man of thirty-four looked down into themselves. Alex’s older doppelganger is visiting from the future, from the moment he dies. Travelling chronologically through events and memories from his life in that single future second that drags on into eternity.
My kettle has boiled. I need to make tea.

I have returned with tea.
It takes a moment for vitality to be breathed back into my scene. It is as though a breeze washes over everything, bringing it all back to life as I quickly read back through what I have written.
Intrigued to see quite how far I can take this I drawer a line through Ely Epstein’s name. A gaping rip scars everything behind him as my world turns two dimensional. The nameless character shimmers like a mirage before being sucked away from me though. He is lost to the nothingness beyond this page on which my words have drawn.
The image that is left blurs into pixilation. What have I done?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Brick City

“You should have seen all of this before the fire”,/
Another experience shut off and lost forever./
The lift shaft is empty but for rusty dangling cables,/
Trailing from the ceiling like the last hairs on a head./
Carpet curls its way up the stairs with melted edges,/
Doors - wedged half open - expanded in curves by heat./
Moss maps the floor where it’s not slick with oil/
And bent shelves are flecked with paint like octopus ink./
Diaries dated ‘72.  His name was Peter.  He was sad./
Hard to believe this summer beneath blue skies./
Someone has dragged an ancient sofa outside/
To do nothing but grow mould on the slate mound./
A fire safety notice sticks ironically to cracked plaster./
Creepers edge in hesitant fingers up window panes,/
Sneaking through new gaps to get at the sun./
A monitor dropped from a window is spread 2D on the floor/
And from the fourth floor you have an all round view,/
Tile and beams have caved in to free up the sky./
Now walls lie like carpet in this place, Brick City./