words and stuff

Sunday, May 15, 2011

auto-cannibalistic surrealist feast with familial tension and arachnids

Hieronymus Bosch, detail from Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. 1485, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Ana brushed away the silk scarf that had drifted down from the canopy above the dining table to stroke at her cheek. A carriage clanked past, jangling her nerves even though the red velvet drapes served to muffle the outside world. She picked at a scab on her arm.

‘Don’t pick, Ana,’ berated Nataliya.

‘But it itches.

The third course was being brought out – great palaces sculpted from potato mash, a flock of quails spiked in mid-air on skewers, their wings fixed into place so they swooped over the table, platters of richly coloured vegetables arrayed in kaleidoscopic patterns. Ana went to tuck a lock of hair away from her face, and a large clump came out in her fingers. The feasting family fell to, destroying entire civilisations of potato with their forks, spearing birds straight from the sky into their mouths. Ana had built a nest of potato and breadsticks bound together with hair for her quail. She watched as the others ploughed their way through the feast. She shuffled in her seat. Her skin felt tight, drawn back over her skull.


Mama screeched from her seat at one end of the table, red wine and breadcrumbs spattered down her front.

‘Stop playing with your food! Eat it you ungrateful wench, there are starving children in this city that would rip off their own legs to have a scrap of bread! And get that spider off your collar!’

Ana looked down to see a large black spider was sitting on her shoulder, lazily spinning a web from her earlobe to the edge of her lace collar. She picked it up and took a few bites, tearing off the legs with her teeth. She didn’t notice the plate-size spiders on her back and legs that had begun to bind her to the chair with their thick, silky threads.

The next course was brought out – an entire reindeer, roasted and glistening, standing erect in a field of artichokes and zucchini flowers. Ana’s skin had become dry and flaky, and as she went to peel off a ribbon of dead skin, a whole chunk of her forearm came up with it. She nibbled at it.

‘Nataliya, you have to try this, it’s ever so much better than the reindeer,’ she said, tearing off some more of her forearm for her sister to try.

Nataliya took a bite and her eyes lit up.

‘Mama! Mama! Come and try some of this, it’s simply delicious!’

Mama and Papa and Dmitri and Aleksandr dropped their food and turned to Ana’s tender flesh. All that was left when they were done were her bare bones, bound up with spider webs. The spiders, happy with their work, had draped some webs between her ribs and set up residence there. Her neck was snapped, her skull hanging over the back of her chair. Her tongue, too tough to eat, lolled out of her gaping jaw, and someone had stuck a sputtering candle into one of her empty eye sockets. She did not touch her dessert, and Mama yelled at her again.

As the serving-women cleared the table, one of them swept up Ana’s bones with all the scraps that littered the table.

Papa leant back with a belch and lit his pipe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Cold Drip of Dawn

The following is a piece of flash fiction that has been published in Verity La. Verity La is one of the best online creative arts journals that I've come across, and it's definitely worth clicking on the link above to check it out.

For a while, nothing. And then it comes. Fast, like atoms in a particle collider, atoms of green smashing into your atoms and then you are green as well. Your skin is hot and prickly. You don’t have a rash but you think about raised red dots and they begin to pop, and your green atoms flow out, burning and bubbling. Don’t look down, don’t address it, or you will make it real. Your skin is like bubbling green slime, and it burns you. You are boiling away into nothing but steam. Don’t look. Think about other things and it will disappear. Things do not exist unless you look at them.
You taste the metallic tang of foil.
Time is shuddering. It does not flow. It jumps out at you in bursts and when you don’t pay attention it just stops. There is nothing keeping time going if you’re not there to watch it.
Time is shuddering. Your eyes roll back in your skull and when they flick back and you can see, time has jumped forward. A face is looming in close to yours – flick! – fire is spinning and bursting into leaves in the air. Leaves are falling around you and drift across your naked breasts, leaves stroke your back, leaves tickle your lips. Leaves tug your skirt up.
A hand slips along your thigh – flick! – the moon is swinging endlessly across the sky, centuries passing passing passing without your permission. You follow the moon with your fingers and they stream behind it like comets. The comets crash to earth and beat against your thighs like…
- flick! – you hold a cigarette. You look down at the burning end, and it looks like the innards of a star, boiling and churning. It is big enough to swallow you—your feet your legs your stomach your shoulders your head—your fingers held high are the last to go into the maw of the star. Like slipping into a hot bath. How far from Earth are you? A lump of grief in your gut. A pull in your navel – umbilical cord. Fat black. Tugging you back to Earth. Light years. Dragged through space and time. Back to Earth millions of millions of millions of years. It crushes you and millennia pass and then you are back on Earth again and time has waited for you because time does not pass when you are not looking at it.
Your cigarette has not burnt down at all.
The sickness releases its grip on your gut and your blood slows and your skin is smooth and soft and all is as it should be. The cigarette glows between your fingers and you sink back. Above you the grain-of-sand stars, and beside you a warm body. Night settles on your eyes and time sleeps…
You wake to the stale taste of your dreams – dust, mucus, ash and someone else’s tongue. Your sweat is cold, that sticky sort of cold that, instead of cooling you, only makes your crawling blood seem hotter. Your sweat stinks. Swallowing scrapes skin off the inside of your throat.
The darkness dissolves and you find that you are slumped against a log by a dying bonfire. It has collapsed in on itself and become a pulsating pile of embers. You feel heavy and light at the same time. If you stand, your outsides will sink and your insides will float away. You cannot move. You are exhilarated but exhausted. It is like the feeling you get after intense sex, when you have satisfied an unbounded desire and you are left panting and covered in skin that smells like another’s sweat, when you have given away a vital thing, and then it has been pushed back into you. Your blood has been drained, and then returned to you, drop by drop.
It is a long time before all the blood seems to be back in your body. It is a long time after that before you can bring yourself to stand.
You look around and see the cold drip of dawn.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the temptress

She rattles at my window

with the damndest of [c]old [k]nights.

I tell her not just now my love –
the pale wolf, he bites.

She patters me with misery,
she wracks my bones with cold;

she knows not how she wearies me –
a rest, my sweet, I’m old.

Monday, May 2, 2011

writing = fucking

Some call it writer's block. I call it a momentary lack of lust for life.

I'm all stone-cold with dust in my mouth; the guy who goes limp with a nipple on his tongue, or the wife with a perpetual headache.

Mr. Hemingway tells me, all you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.
Problem is, I need a transfusion and I don’t have any viable candidates.

 I pick up The Angel's Game and flick through it. In that gilded oyster shell of a novel I found a little pearl of wisdom.

‘Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table, your bottom on the chair and you start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea, and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That's called inspiration.’

And so I meekly set bottom on seat and elbows on table, take a firm grip of my brain and wring it. I'm sitting here, bleeding onto the screen, smearing my brain-juice all over it, full of grit and the odd blod clot, and you're lapping it up like a pup at its mother's teat.
Can you taste it? The metallic fullness of the blood as it seeps through your lips and blossoms out over your tongue;the  sickening crunch as your teeth grind over a piece of bone and the strangling feeling as my hair slides down your throat, making you gag once, twice and then swallow it whole?

It is now that I think of how I would describe the art of writing.

Writing is fucking.
As I type this, I drag my fingers over your lips, run my tongue along the ridges of your teeth and whisper breathily into you ear. Your eyes, as they scan over these letters, are dusting across the undulations of my skin and exploring every crevice. You are kissing my eyelids as I claw at your back -- you take my throat in your teeth and tear it out with the voracity of a lion lunging at its prey. My blood spurts in to your mouth as you pump your juices  - saliva, blood, pus, cum, everything - into me.
Writing is an exchange of bodily fluids, of breath and of fire, of skintoskin and mouthtomouth; I breathe my words into your mouth and you spit them back out at me.
 As we roll over, bleeding and exhausted from our rollicking romp, I glance at the clock and realise it's time to go.
You were amazing. I can hardly talk, I'm so out of breath, baby.

Promise you'll come back soon? I want you again already.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Landscapes (a response to Dalí).

"Then the American insect, the phyloxera, came and devastated them, contributing by its ravages to make the structure of the soil emerge again even more clearly, with the lines formed by the retaining walls that terraced the vines accentuating and shading it, having esthetically the function of geodetic lines marking, giving emphasis and architectonic compass to the splendor of that shore, which seems to descend in multiple and irregular stairways adapted to the soil; serpentine or rectilinear tiers, hard and structural reflections of the splendor of the soul of the earth itself; tiers of civilisation encrusted on the back of the landscape; tiers now smiling, now taciturn, now excited by Dionysian sentiments on the bruised summits of divine nostalgias; raphael-esque or chivalric tiers which, descending from the warm and silvery Olympuses of slate, burst into bloom on the water's fringe in the svelte and classic song of stone, of every kind of stone down to the granite of the last retaining walls of that unfertilized and solitary earth (its teeming vines have long since disappeared) and on whose dry and elegiac roughness, even today, rest the two bare colossal feet of that grandiose phantom, silent, serene, vertical and pungent, which incarnates and personifies all the different bloods and all the absent wines of antiquity."
-      Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, 1942 [p. 128].

This is one of my favourite sentences, not merely because of its proudly absurd length, but because of its richness and lyrical completeness. It is poetry that allows for only one deep breath at the beginning because, semicolons or not, there is no time to be distracted by breathing whilst reading it. Here, Dalí is describing the landscape of the beloved holiday destination of his childhood, Cadaqués. 

Landscapes grow from our minds. We colour them and chip away at their bedrock . A landscape is not a physical place, but our experience of it. The one place becomes a different landscape each time we return, literally or metaphorically, in memory or in dreams.

That empty schoolroom we broke into as kids sprouts into a hulking old boarding house, haunted by the ghosts of tortured children, the demonic writing of the murderous headmaster still scribbled across the chalkboards. When we walked past the old mines and felt the dank air coming out, it was like a spectre breathing down our necks. The terror seeps out of it and leaks into the forest around it, turning that fallen tree we climbed across into a gnarled and lonely escape across the creek - or was it a steep ravine? 

And when we stayed in that very same place years later on a school camp, we had almost forgotten the time we nearly shit ourselves when the door slammed shut and the wind screamed through the pines. We didn't even realise that we were giggling and talking about cute boys on the same bunk beds that we had decided the ghost children had been strapped to. The pines made us sneeze and the wind made us cold. We threw mud at each other and washed it off in the boring little creek (it was really just a creek). We ran up to the old cemetery and laughed at the funny old names, and we jumped over the cursed grave knowing (hoping?) we wouldn't really fall to our deaths. We sang around a campfire and when the door slammed shut it was because we were locking out the boys that kept throwing fake spiders at us. I wanted to go home. The echoes of our laughter in the hills made me feel strange and lonely.

When I returned years later again, I climbed into the creek and waded the vein of mother earth. I was at peace ofter the clamour of the city and I meditated next to the trickling waterfall. The pines, growing back after the last bushfire, were grand sentinels lining the slopes. I was stilled by the beauty and the smell of smoking campfire. The silence bound me up and slowed me down, and when I walked along the tracks, past the old mine entrances, it made me sad to see the hills so full of holes. 

 The busy hands of memory edit and rewrite the landscape; change the hue of even the most vivid colour; build mountains out of hillocks; shift things around, splice and dice and meld many places into one. Every revisiting is a tale retold.

Salvador Dalí, Olive Trees. Landscape at Cadaqués, ca.1922. Private collection.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


If I could put in a bag all the hours I've spent waiting for you
I'd have time in my pocket to write a letter
and tell you why I don't want to wait any more.

If I could keep all the minutes spent
waiting for coffee and words to percolate
I'd tell you why I can't tell you why I can't sleep any more.

If I had a second for every song that made me cry
I'd put them on your tape and leave it by your bed
so that you'd know why I won't listen to you any more.

But time is like soap
and effort is like dope -
it springs from my hands;
it makes me someone else.

You know that I'll sit and let it slip.