Saturday 12 April 2014


For those bipolar in their affections


We catch eyes like a match to fire,
dish out hands that tingle,
on the smalls of backs.

Seashells open and wetten, 
Driftwood stiffens with blood.

                                                       (do you catch my drift?)

A whole sea
where the slightest ripple 

of a cheek-twitch, a tongue-flick, 
makes waves.


The immersion-
almost damning.

We flebb and ‘oh!’
and grind til slow
in the cradling orange glow,
mischievous in its fleeting hold.

The moment smiles at us like a child burning ants, 

knowing that they look at the light and think it profound.

And finally

It’s like a favourite word backwards. 
Morning dullness
exposes cartoon boxers,
yellowing teeth,

football posters.
We are struck by a stomach-ache,
a bad memory in the groin.
The bed that was once the antithesis of time 

is now mortal
with springs poking out. 


(As if) on the edge of a cliff, reading a love-letter

The paper crackles
as it bends and straightens
as the corners turn in on themselves, 

submit in a violent flow.

My hair covers my face
 -like reeds before a pool- 
obstructing the view.

Wailing gales blow centuries away, 
there is only one present.

And I could be anyone.
I could be grieved with passion 

with heathers scratching my ankles,
crouching down amongst them, 
hearing my chest pump,
pressing my red-cold fingers against the paper
(dirty nails).

Each word stirs me.

I could be...
on the edge of a cliff,
the wild sea beneath,
grey sky above,
gulls like alarms, 

vanilla-smell of yellow gorse.

And I feel the paper 
against my cheek 
as I kiss its texture, 
kiss it into me,
and I think of myself 
as not myself
but as the sea. 

Saturday 22 February 2014

Assorted Poems

Morning lovers (a somonka)

I woke up early,
I watched your face as you slept,
your eyelids flickered
and I wished to dream with you
but I waited patiently.

Warming the darkness,
your heartbeat radiated
to tell me softly,
that if I was to wake up,
I would smile back at your smile.


Laughing it off

I laughed it off when you told me you were dying.

In my smile lay gaps, sticky holes, where I’d eaten too much sugar
where the dentist skimmed over.

I laughed until my stomach convulsed,
it spasmed like the final spin
of a washing machine
and I rumbled.

I laughed until I cried.
You were the one with the tissue.
I tore it up and made it snow 
on to the carpet
and let the snot dribble down
until I sniffed.

I laughed with my hand
covering my mouth.
It echoed- you covered your ears-
I thought of shells.
I started to crunch them
between my teeth
to make sand, a beach,
a saliva-sea.

And all the while
you lay deathly still.


To face the day

The effort it takes
to open the lid-
let light bring its necessity
(its urgency)
So hard to ignore the seeping warnings-
dripping in like drops of dew
spilling on your morning.

The stones you break
as you surrender- to say-
that this is just another blueprint day
Clogged up with aftertaste 
of some shook-up dream
The snow settles at first alarm
and the glass is gone to air.

The effort it takes
to get up
dress yourself
to hide naked truths-
they seer at dawn,
wane with the climbing hours,
disappear at midnight,
when you are stripped again.


Restaurant Dining

I ate too much pork fat.
I felt sick in the taxi, slumped forward,
too full of red wine and roses.
Too rich for one evening-
you treated me like you always do-
I forget the gentle way you care about things
the careful cogs that turn in you.

I mirrored you- uncertain-
showing what cracks look like on a person.
I mustered shy,
whispered in hoarse tones
to turn on the taps.

‘I miss you’ I said
to the future you.

We projected ourselves
onto balconies in Berlin
sky high with the washing line
drinking coffee
yours black, mine white.

I complained,
you bounced back with something soothing.
You attempted to soften me,
smooth the creases,
warm me like an iron.
In essence, in vapour.
In a warm bath sculpted
by our desire to fuck.

When my rawness is cooked through,
tell me,
I can be your restaurant muse.

Greasy Spoon: short story

Greasy Spoon

There she is, my Russian Doll, tearing up a baguette like it’s something her mother baked. She sits on the chrome stool with her legs dangling down- does she know what she’s doing to me? With her brown bob, messed up from the wind outside, from the ancient winds in Siberia.
I want to see her eat meat and get her teeth bloody and dripping. I would catch ten moose for her with my spear. I would lay down the corpses in our kitchen and she would gasp and call me her warrior.
Can we be cold together? Can we warm up by the fire? 
Look at her licking her lips, my rural Russian Doll. She doesn’t suit being lit up by a strip light, it’s too clinical, she deserves the soft light of a fire, not this buzzing wheeze. She looks at me- darts her eyes over- hauls them back in embarrassment. Yes, Doll, I am not as pretty as you. I scare you, don’t I?
But back in your cottage in the snow, where your ancestors passed down their seeds to make this work of art that is you, I would be what you need. I am rough, I am unafraid, I am searing with the desire to tear and gnaw. I would be your warrior and you would love me and lie in your sheepskin bed, keep it warm for my return, and I would show you what a warrior can do.
She is fidgeting, waiting for someone. I want to go over and scratch her neck, lick the crumbs from her lips and do all those things that lovers do. She knows I am looking. I want her to feel it, how it feels to be stuck over here in my corner. Sentenced to rot in this plastic chair, sticking gum underneath it to mark my days. The Robinson Crusoe of the greasy spoon.

I avoid looking at my own reflection, but my Russian Doll is enough of a mirror. She is squirming in her seat, checking her phone.

And here, she is saved by a phone call. It is her grandmother, saying she needs her back home to look after the cattle, be the milkmaid she was always destined to be. Milking udders in the chilled barn, clouds of breath forming as she sings.

I am dancing to your song, my rosy-cheeked Doll.

And now, she is gone like a dream. I see her tighten her coat around her as she takes one last glance in my direction and we lock eyes. Mine tell her everything but she turns away and carries on up the pavement, trailing breadcrumbs behind.

They always leave me, those Russian Dolls. Left to fade like a dying heartbeat, and all twisted around my cup. The coffee’s gone cold.

Something squeaks behind me, I am not alone. It is the Window Cleaner with his sponge. We are inches apart but he doesn’t notice me through the soapy screen. I watch as his arm moves up and down. He is here with his bucket again, cleaning dirt no one can see. With overalls three times too big for his winter-tree frame. You could snap if you’re not careful, Window Cleaner. There are harsh and bitter winds out there who have long forgotten to respect the dying. They’ve existed far longer than you have and will break your bones to grind for snow.

He limps to the bus stop after every shift, reaches into his pack of Old Holborn and breathes in the stale comfort he’s known since childhood. I can see a strand of tobacco now stuck to his bottom lip like a stray pubic hair. 

Poor old Window Cleaner, I’m sure they all say. Huddling by his electric fire with a microwave pie at six o’clock. But no one can smell the dark stories behind old age. Yes, they smell the cabbage and the mothballs, but do they smell the guilt-stench that leaks from his eyes?

I smell it, I see it. I know your type, old man, with all the plastic trust of an uncle. I see you glancing at that young boy there when his mother turns around to reach in her bag. I can see you salivate, I’m sure you’re hungry. No one to feed you since your wife died. Keep on looking, I won’t tell. I will only wish for a happy accident when you cross the road.

Now the window is clean, he has paid for his sins today so he squeezes the sponge dry until his knuckles are white. He pours the bucket and lets the grime flow down the pavement like a lonely river, and I am exposed to the outside once again. He spasms a smile in my direction, I look up from under my eyebrows. 

Your time will come and there will be nothing to clean.

All these people crowding in here to fill up on chips, gorging on beans to forget. No one notices me because I fit; like a plug in a sink, I slot into my corner, look on to another day. Scratch my beard and cradle my cup. Watch the other low lives blend into beige walls. This place puts a plaster on our grazes but it doesn’t take them away.

Here she comes, Fat Waitress with her tight seams and butter-breath. Edging between tables like an arcade game. Watch out for that table- it will cost you ten points!

She stacks the plates that have been there for half an hour, steals a sly piece of bacon. She tosses a quick eye around the room to make sure no one is looking, and dips her finger in a pool of yolk. 

You wear your body like a coat and yet you shiver. Under those creases and folds and handfuls of flesh, what is left? 

One summer years ago, you tasted something sweet and irresistible. For two hot weeks you ate and ate, days of adolescent limbs and grass stains, tangling yourselves in the reeds. He said he loved you, didn’t he. And you blushed back with a sweaty brow, believing it. All those hours amounted to one, where he drove off and left you on a gravelly path. Since his saccharine lips there’s been nothing so sweet. 

She winces as she bends down to pick up a fork. A strand of dust-blonde hair sticks to her forehead and I shudder at the way it clings, so wet and taut.

Fat Waitress and her nail-bitten hands, clutching on to plates of food and eyeing them up as if it was that sweet summer memory being served. Chewing her cheek as the man in leather touches her arm and orders his breakfast. Nodding her chin in to her neck, yes love, of course.

I see her squeeze past my table every day. She always shakes as she hands me my cup. I make a point of looking at her face to make sure she knows that I am watching. That she cannot hide in her suit of flesh; armour padded from long nights in front of the telly, fingers resting in warm pies. I am resting in your stomach, Fat Waitress, mingling with the acid and moving with your slow pulse. I am there to remind you that you are not alone.
In this place, you have company. Each crowded table is a constellation of the same people day to day; they too have summers wrapped up like tissues, kept in a pocket, long worn. 

By now it is late morning and crowds pile in, blocking my corner. I raise my cup in the 
direction of Fat Waitress and turn it upside down to show that I’ve ran out of coffee. Her head hovers behind a large man standing in front of me. She takes one glance at my 
empty cup, me holding it, and turns the other way. Shuffling all the way to the counter at the far end, she tugs on the cashier’s apron strings and whispers in her ear. 

She knows that I see her, that I hear her rasping some nervous complaint. It is time to leave, I have seen enough for one day. I am stuffed to the brim with the white noise of voices, and faces that peer on, mouths full of sausage. I feel under my chair and count: twenty one days and still a castaway. 

Stud vs. Slut: Sexual Double Standards (an article)

Recently, a friend told me that he has decided to remain celibate for two months, the reason being that he ‘gets bored of girls quickly’, and wanted to give his vigorous libido a rest in order to fully appreciate the next pretty young thing that comes along. I wasn’t troubled at his inability to remain monogamous, or his disposable attitude towards women, but rather, the freedom he had to express these things without being deemed a ‘slag’. I asked out of interest, ‘So what would happen if a girl stood up and said the same? That she too got tired of the same men, so was always on the look out for some fresh action?’
My friend confirmed without hesitation, yes, she would seem a bit ‘easy’. This double standard is so subtly ingrained into our culture that people are not even shocked when you point it out.

Obviously, since the rise of the contraceptive pill, women have the chance to be more free with their sex life, eliminating the risk of pregnancy and therefore being able to share their beds with whoever they want, whenever they want. Sex shops such as Ann Summers have become the norm, there is no shame in buying a gadget designed purely for pleasure. Women’s magazines frequently boast ‘the hottest sex tips’, encouraging us all to channel our inner sex goddesses (as well as become great cooks). So no one denies that women like sex. However there seems to be an impression that women’s sexuality is not wild and innate, but submissive, only occasionally simmering into action with an outside male influence.

Everyone knows the cliché that men think about sex every seven seconds, so therefore treat them accordingly. Well of course he’s cheated on that girl, you know what men are like, they think with their dicks! Why do women not get the same excuse of thinking with their vaginas? I am not commending infidelity in any way, but I am highlighting the bias there is towards men when they make reckless decisions based on their horniness. Men get a slap on the wrist and a jovial piss-take, women get cast out of friendship groups and labelled damaged goods. There is an ignorant image of men being totally helpless when faced with the promise of sex, meaning it is in the woman’s hands; does she initiate it? Is she the one acting keen? It is the same issue that is dealt with when rapists say that women are ‘asking for it’ by dressing provocatively. Even that term, ‘provocatively’, insinuates a lack of control on the male side, as if the woman ‘provokes’ a man into a dumb, glazed-over state of arousal. 

The media, as always, is a powerful and insidious influence on social prejudices. Consider the rule about ‘not sleeping with someone on the first date’, drilled-in by numerous rom-coms and teen dramas. OK, if the guy is a total arsehole then he might perceive you as being ‘too easy’, but then he is clearly not worth pursuing. There’s no reason why your captivating personality and sexual confidence can’t entice him into a second meeting. Why can’t women be strong and independent whilst wanting sex? Why is there this idea that a woman ‘let’s’ a man have sex with them, as if it is a chore or a commodity, and more worryingly as if the ability to abstain from a few hours of fun means you are worthy of a relationship? I am not advocating careless, self-destructive flippancy towards who you share your body with, but a clarity and strength towards what you want, and having the courage to act on it.

All of these issues I have encountered through my own personal experience, so what if we look at it from a more scientific angle? I recently read an extract from Daniel Bergner’s new book, ‘What Women Want’ where he describes an experiment investigating sexual arousal in men and women. Participants of both sexes were shown various pornographic videos, of straight couples, gay and lesbian, and bonobos. The blood flow to their genitals were measured at each stage, and they were also asked to rate their level of arousal. What is interesting is that the women were aroused- physiologically speaking- at every clip that was shown, yet denied that they were turned on by them all. The scores for the men on the other hand matched up completely, their bodies and minds were in tune. This suggests that there is much more to female sexuality than we might think. Bergner suggests that this indicates a suppression of desire, stemming from the conviction that women are not as inherently sexual as men. This belief has subordinated women in society for centuries.

Women’s sexuality is not a commodity, it should not be objectified or used as an indication of moral worth. We need to start viewing women as sexual creatures too, not just in the context of male satisfaction, but with deep-rooted desires that deserve to be fulfilled without judgement. 

Family Friend: short story

Family Friend

It was twenty years ago that Jeanette moved in to our family home. It happened slowly and secretively, like when you are outside in winter and suddenly you realise it’s pitch black. The light fades without you even noticing. 

I remember one morning when I was thirteen, getting my breakfast ready before school, I saw Jeanette sitting at the table in one of Mam’s t-shirts.

‘Morning’, she said.

I mumbled a reply and carried on buttering my toast. I tried not to look at her. The t-shirt was so small that I could see a strip of her knickers peeking out at the top of her legs, which were sprawled across one of the chairs. She was reading a newspaper and kept glancing up at me. Although I was used to her coming round for cups of tea with Mam, I still felt uncomfortable in her presence. She was different, not like the other women I had met, which consisted mainly of aunts and teachers. She had short, dark curls and wore loose fitting clothes. As I gathered my school books and got ready to leave she tried to make conversation.

‘Another day in school? Bet you can’t wait to get it over with! I used to have to wear a uniform like that, absolutely hated it. Although you’re lucky, you get to wear trousers, I had to wear this skirt up to here with long socks. Awful. And to make it worse I had the hairiest legs.’ 

She must have been embarrassed because she took a large sip of tea and choked on it. I didn’t know what to say. I thought it was strange that she was there, in the morning, sitting at our dining table. I wondered where Mam was, and whether Jeanette had her own bed. 

On my way to school I was followed by a feeling. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen that morning. There was movement in my belly, like being excited, or sick, but more sludgy and foreign. I passed the houses that I saw every day without really looking, the route was so familiar that my eyes would glaze over in a sort of trance. I was on my own, as usual, so my thoughts dripped uninterrupted, tapping my skull.

When I got home, Dad was in his armchair. Dad worked at the docks shifting parts for the ships which were built there. He was a short, robust man with a bald head and a forehead which made a shelf over his eyes. His skin was like a pig’s; thick and tight with light hairs bristling their way out. He never missed a day of work, so when the shipping company began to cut down his hours he became even more difficult to be around. Whenever I got home from school I would turn the key as slowly as possible so as not to wake him. If I was lucky, he would be asleep in his armchair, snoring in animal bursts. The TV was always on, a tiny window of black and white shadows which never held my attention for long. On that day, he was wide awake wearing a scowl. I noticed he had started smoking again. He had his back to me so I didn’t say hello. Big spirals of smoke seeped like gas from his chair and I held my breath.

‘Paul? Is that you, boy?’

He turned around to face me.

‘You been in school?’

‘Yes, Dad.’

‘Where are your sisters?’

‘I dunno. They walk a different way to me.’

‘They better not be loitering.’

I fiddled with the zip on my coat. I wasn’t often in Dad’s part of the house for long. It was technically the basement, so it was always dark, and smelt stale because he ate his dinner down there. Mam would usually clean it but they had been fighting so the room grew dust and its own particular stench. 

‘Come and tell me when dinner’s ready. And get that bloody woman to shut up, will you. I can hear her from down here, she’s been cackling away all afternoon.’

That meant Jeanette had stayed. Dad always referred to her as ‘that bloody woman’. Once I heard her call him ‘that oaf’, so I figured it was a fair exchange.

As I walked up the stairs I could hear voices in the kitchen merging with the clanging of pans. I never thought of Mam as a talkative woman until Jeanette started coming over. Mam always seemed quite shy, even in front of me and my sisters, but now she would hoot and howl like the women outside The Four Crosses. 

‘Oh, hiya Paul! Do you want a cup of tea? A biscuit? Food’ll be ready soon, mind. Come in and take your coat off.’

I walked into the kitchen which was more like a steam room. Jeanette was at the stove stirring a large pot of soup and Mam was sat at the table opening a bottle of wine. Her face was shiny and red and I felt like I was intruding, they were both smiling at each other. 

‘Hi Paul, how was school? Sorry, what a stupid question, I used to hate it when people asked me that. It was like, duh! Of course school was boring!’

I looked at a spot just above Jeanette’s head and said it was fine, thanks. I could never look in her eyes. At least she was fully dressed now.

‘Paul? I need to tell you something. Jeanette’s going to be staying here for a few days, the builders are doing up her porch. I hope you don’t mind. She’s a much better cook than me, so I’m sure you won’t!’

With this, they erupted into cackles, just like Dad said. They looked like they were floating around the kitchen, they must have been drunk. Jeanette turned the radio on and started moving her head from side to side and stirring to the beat. I got that same feeling I had on the way to school, like my stomach was beating instead of my heart.

After that, things changed. I don’t know what happened to Jeanette’s porch, perhaps it was never fixed. Either way, there was a lot more laughing and wine drinking. Jeanette was always there. I asked Mam whether she had a job, she said yes, she was a writer, although I never saw her write anything. Only read the newspaper and drink cups of tea in the kitchen all day. Mam was a nurse and did a lot of night shifts, so Jeanette would make dinner sometimes. Mam was right, she was a good cook, she would make noodles and curries with foreign vegetables. Dad would always grumble when I took his plate down to him, he’d say, ‘that bloody woman and her spices, she’s in Cardiff not Calcutta.’ 

Slowly, surely, the house became Mam’s and Jeanette’s. Posters began appearing on the walls, of temples in India and sunsets behind mountains. Mam started dressing differently, her clothes became looser and more colourful. Me and my sisters saw less and less of her. I even had to cook for everyone once, while Mam and Jeanette went on a walking trip. Dad refused to do anything, he said he was a working man, and that all I did was sit at a desk all day, so I should make dinner. I said why can’t my sisters do it but I could see his blood simmering in his head so I shut up. I made baked beans and scrambled eggs, all burnt. The whole house smelt charred, and I spent at least half an hour scrubbing the pans. We all sat around the table for a change, me, my sisters and Dad. We didn’t say much. As we chewed in a silence broken only by slurps of tea, we heard something slam outside, and voices, distorted. I had finished my plate so I got up and looked out the window.

There was an eight o’clock film over everything, an opaque blue, obscuring any detail. I could make out two figures directly below, to the left of the streetlight. They were locked together, kissing, stroking, then my chest seized up and I tried to breathe but something was lodged, in my throat, in my mouth, a nauseating panic. I recognised the car, it was Mam’s. Behind me, I heard Dad clear his throat.

‘What you looking at?’

‘Nothing’, I said, closing the curtains, shutting my eyelids.

But it wasn’t nothing. We heard the front door open and footsteps up the stairs. I saw Dad’s defeated expression as he left the room, and for the first time in my life I saw him as a tiny man, tormented and gnarled, riddled with spite and trapped in his basement. He had never looked so helpless to me, and when Mam and Jeanette walked in with their rucksacks and cold-bitten cheeks I could barely stay to say hello. That night I tried all the usual tricks to get to sleep; I hugged my knees and counted to a hundred, but nothing could distract me from those figures in the dark. Images came to me, uninvited, of legs entwined and knickers strewn on the floor, laughing faces, wine stains. I was alone in a house of women. Dad had deserted me, he used to ruffle my hair and coax me into playing football but now he stewed downstairs. All I had were my sisters, who were a year apart and much younger than me, and my Mam, but she had a new friend now. I was so quiet that I could have melted into the wallpaper, I watched life unfurl but there was nothing looking back.

I can’t say for sure whether I was ever happy, but during Jeanette’s stay I sank into a crippling stupor where I could barely speak. Each minute of her presence and each word she spoke became a part of the mud in my stomach, the dirty feeling I had become used to. When she touched Mam I turned away, when Mam said her name, I would tense up. This pattern went on, and down and down, for a whole year. I could not help but think that Mam wished she’d never had kids, then her and Jeanette could move away somewhere and Dad could fester undisturbed.

One day, a Sunday, I walked downstairs and Mam was crying at the kitchen table. She was wearing an old dressing gown, the flannel material looked like moss. Everything seemed to sag, her hair, her posture, and I resisted the urge to go and put my arm around her, it was too late for that sort of thing, she had become contaminated to me. Besides, she never touched me anymore. I stood at the doorway, silent. I watched. After a few minutes of listening to her punctured wails, I turned around and went back to my bedroom. I had fantasised about Jeanette leaving, and the whole family reuniting, Dad would move back upstairs and would start work again, Mam would make us picnics like she used to, we would even go on holiday to Cornwall, maybe in the Summer, I would be nicer to my sisters, we could play together again, I could bring friends home from school and no one would ask who my Mam’s friend was and why she lived with us. In reality, her absence only added to the sense of deflation that spread through the house, through the air vents, out the taps. Things were never the same again.

The last time I saw Jeanette was at Mam’s funeral. She sat directly behind me, her sobs outweighed mine. I still couldn't look in her eyes.

Chasing Tails: short story

Through a crack in the curtains (12:33pm)

She woke up in a sweat. The bedcovers twisted around her in a knot of sleep, like every morning. Every night was an ordeal. Her dreams were bloodied with anxiety; awkward scenes with past lovers, public shame and the losing of keys. Her jaw ached from clenching. It was the drugs, she thought. She had to blame something for ailments which spring up so uninvited; they could not be organic, surely. 

It took her back to childhood, when she dreaded night time ferociously. She would lie in bed with the light on, close her eyes, and wait for it to come. The shutting of eyelids switched on a projector, a slideshow of shadows who chased her into the night, past nine o’clock and all hope of daylight. Every night her eyes would close, heavy as sand, forced to meet the projector and its characters. The dread chimed with each tick of the clock. She had no choice but to creep downstairs and climb into her mother’s bed. Warm arms, maternal armour. When morning came she was saved. Even the weak light of winter granted her freedom, the slight hint of blueness meant there was a whole day ahead, only the world and its own snapshot of reality to observe. There was less fear when daylight came with its transparency. 

There she lay, older now, but still afraid. It was half past twelve, she had overslept. She kicked off the duvet which was heavy and stifling, and tore off her t-shirt, now soggy with sweat. The room was so still and so quiet. She looked down at the cage of her ribbed sternum heaving up and down, rapid with her heart. Closing her eyes, she replayed her dream.

I am in a house and we all live there in the house, familiar people, friends and some that I haven’t seen in ages but it feels like we’re living in a commune sort of thing, communal living, it’s a big house in a marshland with trees all around, it’s the landscape that I always go to in dreams, a vast stark bleak one, there is danger in the air, there is a house opposite ours, an evil man lives there, we are banned from going in there but one day someone needs some sugar so we sneak in and at first it’s fun, we look around the cupboards and giggle, but then there’s a noise and he’s almost back, we escape but the dread---

Paralysed by a danger always slightly out of reach. And now it was time to get up and out of this nest which held her captive. One glance around the room confirmed her suspicions of last night. She was in His room, again. She had said never again but she had lied. Her shoes were by the door, black boots marking where her consciousness had stopped at the threshold, leaving her body to bask in His bed. A slither of her dream remained above her, a wretched halo buzzing with aftertaste. 

The room smelt neglected, she had to leave. She dressed with shaking limbs. Outside, out of the door which creaked with complaint, the air fell sharp on her face, and the ground steadied her like a paperweight. The street was empty, strange, she thought, for a Saturday. Or was it a Saturday? Names of days and windows of time had lost their potency. As she walked, something faint gnawed at her, an appointment, a place to be. She glanced once or twice up at the sky, the sun’s misty glow, and thought of the days she had missed, all the fluctuating light which had slipped past her. She could not remember. 

Remember what?

With a mind far removed from the soles of her feet, she turned left at the crossroads, and walked down a lane which constantly curved to the right, as if you would end up where you began. Gradually the houses became taller, white-washed, more contained. There were bushes and gates outside each one, guarding against curious eyes. After a while, she stopped by a building, huge and square, and peeped in through the cracks of the gate. She could see through the windows only slightly, the dull sunlight had created a gauze. Figures moved, shadows danced, her eyes blinked and she lifted the latch and moved towards the door, crunching the gravel as she walked. How noisy it sounded crackling beneath her, as if the volume had been turned up. 

Sleep- my eyes so tired so restless I must remember to--- before I lie down before I close everything Dr. Sandson Dr. Sandson Dr. Sand---

There she lay, legs spilt in front of her, on the smooth slate porch. Her head bent down into her lap. She had collapsed in front of the building, underneath a plaque which read ‘Sandson Health Centre: We remember when you forget.’ It shone and loomed in the grapefruit sun. The sleeping girl snored and remained unseen. 


From the desk-lamp (2:07pm)

You remembered.

Did I?

Yes, you’re here aren’t you?

Am I?

Yes. Tell me about your dreams.

I can’t remember.

Tell me. Try.

I think I remember one image and I chase its tail but it runs so far.

What image do you have in mind?

A house.

Good. How does this house make you feel?

I feel dread. I don’t want to be here.


There. I don’t want to be there. It’s a bad place. 


The man.

Tell me about him.

I don’t know. It’s the idea of him which scares me, not his body.

Good, good...

I can feel it now- that wrench- in my chest. It must be bad for my heart. Do you think?

We all know psychological ailments manifest themselves physically.

Yes, that’s what I thought.

Did you remember to take your pills?

I don’t know. I can’t remember.

I will up your dose. This is crucial. Notice any unusual side effects?

I don’t know. I can’t tell what’s unusual any more.



The fields dip and dive in the afternoon sun, sheep bleat faintly amongst the curves, and I hold your hand as you squeeze me like a lemon. It’s windy but I don’t mind. My face is numb and my ears ache but suddenly it’s all opened up and I can see again. As something sparkles in the air you come close.

Come, come.
I’m here.
Come with me.
To where?
Somewhere, anywhere.
I’m here.

Your voice sounds static and thick: jam falling in slow motion, sticking. I think of the snail that lives in my ear that I saw in a children’s science book once, and how it vibrates. It’s windy and I shiver. 

We must remember to- must remember-

The sun and clouds intertwine until they bleed into each other, orange and violent, I stick my tongue out to taste it but it shatters into crystals. I try to pick them up and you disappear, and I am left crouched down picking up sherbet. 


Out of a flickering strip light (5.14pm)

You made it then? Didn’t expect you to turn up.

No? Well I did.

Yeah, alright. Sit down then. Shall I get us a coffee?

Yeah. Thanks.

She fiddled with sugar packets as she watched Her walk up to the till. The coffee makers made whirring sounds, like time machines. She would not be surprised. It felt like the 1950s with the radio on in the background, music as audible as an afterthought. At the back of the mind but not solid. It felt like the 1950s inasmuch that she was not familiar with this moment, or the lightness in her bones. They felt hollow like a bird’s. There was a greyness to the day which screamed out for colour TV. 

Here you go, I remembered how you like it. 

Three sugars?
Yep. And a drop of milk.

I’m impressed.

Where have you been?

I don’t know.

You look a mess.


No, I mean, I’m worried about you. You look skinny. I can tell you’ve been back at His. 

She looked at her friend without knowing She was her friend. The woman who sat opposite was an imprint in her mind, like the curves on the flesh of her thumb, permanent but faint. She studied her face with a removed curiosity. She looked worn and empty, perhaps she was mirroring Her. She too felt worn, an empty sack, devoid.

Babe? Did you hear me? I’m worried. First you don’t call me then you don’t answer my calls, then you become all everyone talks about. Every day someone asks me where you are. You’re missed, you know. What’s going on?

The question mark hung dead.

Are you sick?

No. I don’t know. Maybe.

Are you sleeping?

I think so. I keep getting these dreams. They feel so real.


It’s just...

She held her mug and felt the coffee inside vibrating with her nerves. The room was full of people, tightly bound to each other with conversation and ease, carrying on. They did not know about the danger on the other side, the gulping depths an inch away from daylight. What kept them so happy? Were they blessed with not knowing? It was the only thing she was certain of, she felt it rumbling in her stomach and coursing through her eye sockets. Knowing nothing, feeling it all.

I have to go. My shift starts at six. Have you got a phone?

No, I lost it. 

Well, I don’t know what to say. Are you coming to Sal’s?


It’s her birthday tomorrow. Please come. So I know that you’re safe.


She leaned her cheek upwards to receive Her kiss. 


From a streetlamp (8.59pm)

She was back at His door step, at the inch that bridges one side to the next. She knocked and felt the hollow sound. The door opened and she stepped in, following Him up the stairs with reluctance, but at the same time an apathy which held her by the the wrist and dragged her into murky moments such as this. The flat was full of smoke and week-old debris, scattered in piles like a modern art piece. There was a body on the sofa, arms covering the face, hiding in sleep. 

Come upstairs. It’s a shit hole down here.

She nodded. Without care or calculation she followed Him up the second flight of stairs, watching the creases of his jeans and breathing in the stale Fate in which she had been snared. His bedroom was just as she had left it. He had not tidied, why should He? He was immune to domestics. They say a tidy room makes for a tidy mind. His was mess.

Take them off. All of them.

She said nothing as she undressed. The light was cold and waning, lighting up her body with a yawn. She took off her t-shirt and jeans, stepped out of her underwear, watched as they fell. Her clothes lay on the floor like a bonfire waiting to be lit and she the witch to be burned. When she was naked she turned her back to Him and fell face down on to the bed, spreading her legs to the sound of His belt buckle crashing to the floor. 


Her mother kissed her forehead.

Remember, they’re only bad dreams. They won’t hurt you.

And the tears had soaked her pillow, made her hair stick to her face. 

Remember, this bed will keep you safe, it is like a ship which carries you to the next day, through the wild sea of sleep, until you are washed ashore.