Instead of writing my novel I am staring at a bunch of bananas, or more precisely at the juxtaposition of the fruit with a box of Gourmet cat food, a calendar, jars of pasta, a face flannel and a pack of hair grips. The randomness of this arrangement reflects the insanity of my life during these Covid months. If ever there was a plot I have truly lost it along with any desire to keep a tidy house. The absence of visitors due to the restrictions has eroded my inner hausfrau. Instead I have developed a taste for the creativity of chaos. I used to be one for everything in its place, now I think there is a place in everything.
I keep thinking about the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat. If no one speaks to me or sees me or hears me for several days there is the equal probability that I am both dead and alive at the same time. The reality of my existence is not validated by others. For ten months I’ve been living in a grainy gritty twilight zone like a scene from a movie shot on Super8. I need to keep looking in the mirror just to check I’m still here. There’s always a tingle of surprise when I see myself, relatively unscathed, looking back.
I am writing this with a yellow pen and therefore prone to optimism.
I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this short story I wrote about twenty five years ago and had forgotten about. A simple tale of revenge written not long after my divorce...no coincidence!
The suitcase waited by the front door while Morven took one last look around the house. The bedroom had an abandoned air; the usual bric-a-brac missing from the dressing table and only her sequinned party frock hanging in the wardrobe. For a moment she paused at the foot of the double bed and memories both happy and sad raced through her mind.
When first married they spent entire weekends cocooned in this room, oblivious of the world outside. The passion and laughter of early times had soon faded into the silence of lonely nights when the bed felt like an expanse of lifeless desert. As she left the room Morven gave the duvet a final pat, smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle in the cover.
The lounge was polished, tidy and still. The gleaming fish tanks lining one wall were empty of the bright colours and flickers of usual inhabitants. Only silver bubbles gurgled through the water and reminded Morven of the way the fish pie was simmering in the oven. She laughed when she noticed Neil’s favourite collection of books:- The Secrets of a Healthy Aquarium, How to Look After Your Angel Fish, Discovering Shubunkins and The A to Z of Water Plants.
She gathered them up into a large casserole dish, added half a pint of milk, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice and placed it on the bottom shelf of the oven where the fish pie was doing nicely. Pulling on her coat, Morven checked the note on the hall table.
Dinner is in the oven. Just popped out for a new life.
She didn’t bother to lock the door and walked down the driveway without looking back.
Unmute yourself in 2021 by joining The Buzzing Book Club. Meetings will take place via Zoom on the first Thursday of every month at 7pm (GMT). The first meeting is on 7th January and the book choice is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.
Places are limited so if you would like to participate please get in touch with me in advance through the Contacts Page. Hope to see you on the 7th January!
We follow the signs, white on blue autumn clouds shifting. Slings and arrows show one way to exit. We follow the twisted pitted road down the line. We avoid potholes, broken tarmac, pines felled by storms littering the verge. We drive slowly around those tight bends. The road south unspools an old home movie. In Golspie the doors burst open, the sun breaks gilding the moss, the dry stone walls, the sycamores. The paramedic with kind eyes wishes you breath. Magic moss crumbles gold dust between your fingers until only the scent of earth remains.
rose from the sea at dawn as sun funnelled across Burrigill Bay. Her long black hair trailed a seine net slack from her fisherman’s cap. In the shadows of the stacks she bore down on the eastern shore casting off wrack and bilge water. Her feet, bloodless as starfish, spiked the shingle. The life of the sea spilled from her oilskins. She ran dead ahead up the hill through meadows glazed with dew and sheep, passing the busted creel boat aslant and hulled with bog myrtle. Clouds frothed on the horizon in a herringbone breeze as she ran to the crest where an old hen waited by the gate and one wall of a ruined croft pointed skywards like a prayer.
Everything is more beautiful in retrospect. Sometime between the sepia past, the grey today and the flash of tomorrow truth slips away unseen, a tangle of electric eels squirming in an underground stream.
We look back and see only clear skies and carefree picnics but never the cold. We look back and feel only tender kisses and the soft caress but never the blows. We look back and remember nothing.
There was nothing but the hunt,
the pain, the struggle, the dark.
She had to keep running. Run!
She could barely recall a time
before the breaking of branches.
She could barely recall her time
of being human, of skin
touching skin and naked picnics
when she gazed boldly at the sun.
In her upright days moss and wild
flowers sprang from her every
footstep, birds sang her every word.
Now she ran on all fours. Run, run!
Her cloven hooves were raw, spiked
by thorns. She was pierced by nine
arrows, fur rank with pus. Venomous.
Calculating. The forest was silent,
a lifeless zodiac of roots and branches.
She could no longer recall her name
or why she had to run. Her lungs failed
and she fell in the shadow of a crippled
tree. As she waited for her joyful exit,
forked lightning unravelled silver
threads of hope across the night sky.
Note:- this is an ekphrastic poem based on Frida Kahlo’s painting shown below.
The passage of one life is like a poem,
the end an echo of the start; a solitary
fight to enter this world, darkness
to light. The bloodying of white
sheets observed by strangers in a room
with thin curtains, mirrored in the final
stanza only without felicitations. You hope you die before you get old.
The romance, the action, the clues lie
in the middle section of your poem,
an exposition on your main theme;
a search for happiness, love, money,
acceptance, fluffy cats, fame, red hair,
a good shag or prize-winning dahlias. You hope you die before you get old.
Whatever floats your boat, baby!
By stanza seven you learn you are not
a boat but a desert island, unexplored. You hope you die before you get old.
You sit on the shore watching the murky
tide of water and wait for the Ferry. Angel
whispers in your ear. It is the jade game,
the sky is not the same blue, the sun holds
no heat and no one will ever truly get you.
In stanza nine the diminishing begins.
Your body shrinks (except for your nose).
You shape-shift, spend more time looking
down and back. Chins multiply but hair
and friendships fall away. Downsizing. You hope you die before you get old.
You can’t piss in a pot no more.
You can’t recall names no more.
You hope you die before you get old.
The passage of your life is like a poem
structured by repetition, rhythm, rhyme,
recurring motifs and metaphors exploring
a theme (same shit different day). The arc,
the meaning of your story remains hidden
to you (although strangers see) until
the moment God turns over your page.