Playlist: May 2021

There is much I cannot tell you. I’m not going to be autobiographical. I want to be “bio.”

— Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. by Stefan Tobler

Hidden gardens where a bioluminescent frisbee, in imitation of the mysterious diskettes that roam the deepest zones of ocean, drifts upon the late May breeze. It is unseasonably cold. We take pleasure in relishing the ‘unseasonably cold’, as to say something is unreasonable or unforgivably it. The thing. The heating is on all through the month of May. Rain-sodden trainers left to dry on radiators. A documentary about nudibranchs had revealed to us the secrets of experts. Experts in general. How you really have to hate the thing you study, in order to love it. The thing has to perpetually withhold from you what you want, not knowing what it is, but always in pursuit of it. So the nudibranch in question, this pinkish one, does what is told as a ‘dance’ for the diver, who has gone too deep in the song. The sea tells nothing after the bridge. It is barely a chorus. 

I am a heart beating at fish time, deep in the abyssopelagic city along with the dumbo octopus, the cookiecutter shark, the shrimp. I will not say much about these animals and how they came to adapt to such aphotic lifestyles. I myself was once a chaser of light. We are circus anomalies, dependent on a phrase of unseasonable coldness. The freak quality of not-to-want oxygen or like, having been left here then stubbornly I will stay here. Make of my heart what you want — a jewel or rock, a piece of cold life, swallowed. Bare and beating. Something is getting dark around us. Darker yet. 

And so never to leave the perpetual lockdown of the not capital city, and so to leave it for gorse and blue realms and the haar of what is by the sea, in a wavelet transformation. Having to go inland to escape it. And so to give up one’s limbs for the personal study of human impossibility, as if we had also been persons all along. I wear a delicious, impermeable bracelet of kelp. The order of adjectives tends towards certain qualities, for instance when I say a blonde soft hair it is wrong somehow, touching the thing in a wrong order, when everyone wants a soft blonde hair as delicacy. To be in this month and spearing the secret fish of the story, one after the other meandering down this channel. At the bottom of everything, when you see it. When you see the story. 

Let us go deeper yet. I have these new glasses, you have these hands that will brush away masses of silt and sand. You have the order of words corrected. Living in a grammar of ceaseless helium. Lamentation of the soft urban fox you were once, once were. The frisbee glows quietly in the grass at night. At dinner, J. gives the lowdown on *********** and various fish glow quietly in their sadness and having been farmed to believe I too am in this story, eating. The very delicate scarce thing we would toss to the word of the mouth, the open wound of it, melted substance. Brushing a fork through soft blots of cream and saying is it so, deep sea, very scarcely. This instant, speared, you are the story also. Salt. Twice removed from the lavender thing twigged from the garden and drank in gin with soda, so the ice knows more than I do. So the ice clinks in the quiet night, which is never a night. So T. confesses the end of dark lunch. I read it. 

The cold fresh lenses allow us to witness how the deer get sick, how the white deer especially are beautiful by any standard of “I love you” said between the innocent eyes of how we are also roes, taking our glasses off to see better the way faces exist when brushed together, clicked and twisted, kissed. And the gorse so yellow, sky so blue. Immediately, to have been tourist for mourning. The most disappointing best hot chocolate in the world has all the good sweet silt at the bottom. I finish it, feel sick as expected. Flush. I throw up my arms or something. Wash the cup, recycle it.

So the nudibranch’s name is derived from the Greek words ‘nudus’ and ‘brankhia’, meaning naked gills. They have no special skill in discerning between light and dark, often using chemical signals to locate what is needed: food and each other. They possess a pair of ‘oral tentacles’. Soft-bodied, dragon-like, losing their vestigial shell during a larval phase. The extreme vividity of their being works as advertisement. I am obsessed with them. The sap-sucking slugs, algae rich. They produce solar power from munching on corals, absorbing their chloroplasts to photosynthesise nutrients. Bright colours result from their diet. The month of May has a toothed structure that tongues the very campion and jewelled aurora that passes for what you want ‘pure total nature’ or sweet poisons, for which I take showers to exhume from this system. 

The writing, at the bottom of everything, is colours. They come from what we eat. 

Null cerise and sweet neutral grey, back into darkness again and gently. 

Now it’s 10:29 of Sunday morning and last night’s song thrush and the afternoon skylark and none of this heard on a podcast exists — it is all true and continues. The frisbee flies sentences through the wan air and hark is it early to never want to leave, to always be entering the room spreading butter on toast and holding a glass up for persons, wild-cats, in a language the daylight speaks and speaks along, another dark lunch hidden from the universe only to be camembert nightmares of rosemary — whisky — do you remember this shadow man or his shadow step-daughter, do you remember the riot, do you remember the castle of gold, clearance and loneliness? This place is tricky to heat. Black tulips, white hyacinths. Coming up the stairs is the question. 

A nudibranch bristles into coral and kelp bed. At the bottom of everything is the nudibranch. Do you see it? Do you see it? 

I burn my tongue on the question. What will be coming 
around the mountain of bleached consideration, haunted and lovely 
through the haar and more blue to come
exists 
as breath, underwater, this pause before each born 
to scrub our hands with sea kelp soap from the isle of darkness and safety
trending in the United Kingdom
of the girl, with her voice of crunched glass
abolishing sky castles, sand castles
her salad days
her spectacular glands
her nudibranch heart

~


Arca – Brokeup

Nap Eyes, NNAMDÏ – Blood River

Burial – Space Cadet

Brian Eno – Little Fishes

A. G. Cook, Charli XCX – Xcxoplex

Katie Dey, Lonelyspeck – Darkness

Caroline Polachek – Breathless

Slayyyter – Troubled Paradise

SOPHIE – JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE

Zoee – Host

Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen – Like I Used To

Judee Sill – Down Where the Valleys Are Low

Lana Del Rey – Blue Banisters

Bright Eyes – The Difference in the Shades

Playlist: April 2021

Last year’s April was a leap year. For every 29th day I summoned to think of the hours as gifted, secret, strength. I spent the actual leap of February in somebody else’s bed, a cherished cliché: cradling sadness, cat-sitting, reading Anne Carson and rolling the word ‘tableaux’ around my stressy mouth, whose hostile environment required twice-daily salt-rinses. On the 29th of last year’s April, I wrote about vermillion and silverware, ‘the lint of your heart’ and hayfever. A friend and I exchanged tips on how to best work from the floor, how to make it your best work. I miss ‘working the floor’ in other senses.

What do you want is not the same as What would you like?

There was a reading group on Lisa Robertson’s The Baudelaire Fractal (2020), and the Zoom chat was elliptical pursuit, a good fuck pendant, fractal kissing and restless deferral. The word besmirch which isn’t a word search.

Those days

I remember cycling long into the hard sun; I recall better eyesight.

Okay, recently. Do you want to hear this? I spent a week of anticipation, languishing with migraines and digestive upsets and the kind of blues where mostly you curl foetally into the fantasy that really you, or this, doesn’t exist. Sip worry coffee and brush the hair, tweeze or shave, sit patiently on top of the abstract, waiting for something lucid to hatch. ‘Opening up’. A weekend bleeding, the minor cramp of womb in Autechre rhythm; then a further week of physical ailment whose primary treatments, according to the lore of reddit, included punching one’s spine, counting to ten, pinching between nose and lip and lying in hot baths. I did not have the baths, which seemed terrible and luxurious given how faint they could make me. I read two books by Samuel Beckett.

In Garments Against Women (2015), Anne Boyer writes that ‘Everyone tries to figure out how to overcome the embarrassment of existing. We embarrass each other with comfort and justice, happiness or infirmity’. It is awkward to smile and to squirm. To be red-faced and faint after a luxury bath. To be found frowning in the Instagram reel of somebody else’s dreaming. To apologise, to dwell upon, to ask for help. To be the one clutching a hot water bottle in the Zoom call; to hide or show this. To sip beer, the migraine coming. To say “hello” from the room next door. To deem something luxury, to partake of it. ‘I have done so much to be ordinary’, writes Boyer, ‘and made a record of this’. Say I learned this month how to paint my nails grape soda, define hypercritique, appreciate the slept-in curls of my hair. 

It is awkward to be unwell, to express this without clear definition. “Sorry it’s all late, I’ve been sick” and to not elaborate on that sickness, the specific ways it kept you up all night, kept you retching or clutching something tight inside yourself which seemed to want to give birth. A stray barb or small contaminant. A numb pill. Transpiration is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation from aerial parts. Plants are not awkward; they just grow. Sometimes upwards, sideways; sometimes back inside themselves. Wilt logic. ‘Let’s be happy insofar as we were for a few days not infirm’ (Boyer). The ecstasy of a new morning where the body stretches out, the mind clears and one is ready to work. Who gets these mornings? Can they be traded? Is their delicious ease somehow fungible? What would I give for more of them? Fungus, rot, the fangs of lilies.

Maybe it starts with crisp garments. But pretty soon the neat attainment of day will unbutton. Watch it happen in Lorenzo Thomas’ poem ‘Euphemysticism’: 

Some happily sing
They have joy for white shirts
Singing “O white shirt!”
And that’s just the start

What ecstasy to declare the white shirt! What embarrassment! The chiaroscuro of lily-white shirt against the everyday’s dull shadows, but then showing up ‘baby pictures / Of pollution becoming disaster’ and Thomas’ poem is all about this. Disaster. Headlines, emissions, confusion. And that’s just the start. ‘A man crashes with his shadow’, perhaps because there is no one else. I did this for months on end because nothing else was safe. I could go the long walk for my safe grassy spot and crash there along with my shadow. I crashed in sunshine and rain. Crashland. Why did I bring the lily. It was like being fourteen again and walking for miles just to find a safe, anonymous place to smoke or weep. Sleep crash. ‘In the prickling grass in the afternoon in August, I kept trying to find a place where my blood could rush. That was the obsolete experience of hope’ (Lisa Robertson, XEclogue). It was like staring at the potential of Marlboro Golds tucked behind books and wondering what version of me they belong to. Synecdoche. Rising swirls. The poem burns out but also gets better. Blood rush and screen crash are lyric in pop songs. Sorry my windows. They are getting cleaned today.

Narrate my day again to you.

Thomas’ poem turns to the reader: ‘I’d like to check your influence / Over these ordinarily mysterious things’. The poem takes pictures or talks about it. What is a photographer responsible for? Do they re-enchant or estrange? If someone took a picture at this point or that point, if there was evidence, who would need to be told. How do you photograph pollution? Is this merely witnessing? In the past year and more, I have become witness to my own inability to really see. Disaster itself recedes into medial condition, blood swirls, scratching matter. I think of the way Sibylle Baier sings ‘I grow old’…

Some happily sing the white shirt and are they complacent with their conditions of work? Influence! ‘Desire is a snowscape on a placemat’ (Thomas). I trace its snowy lines in the stray thread of this weave. Ant-sized bloodstain. Am I to be made safe, or eat giant buttons? Put your plate on a place elsewhere and devour the rolling hills. Artificial snow is delicious. Crinkled thread. The white line curls around my tongue like spaghetti. Lila Matsumoto has a poem, ‘Trombone’, about hammering buttons. I unbutton the top three buttons of my blouse to walk around in fifteen degrees, absorbing/zorbing, and call the sunlight oil inside me. 

‘There is a risk inherent in sliding all over the place’ (Boyer). This is what language does. There is a risk in crackle, in static, in the O shape of ‘sorry’ or ‘love’ or ‘alone’. Petition to upgrade for bubble emoji.

Last night, on the train back from another city I had not visited since August, I opened Sarah Bernstein’s new novel, The Coming Bad Days (2021). I did not close this novel again for several hours, except to pass through ticket gates or beyond groups of steaming men whose presence was vaguely threatening. They seemed cardboard cut-outs, stumbling towards me. When a migraine began burning my temples, I took paracetamol and kept walking, reading. When the light became gloam I walked faster. When I got home I sat at the table and opened the book again, like a schoolchild eager to begin their homework (as a ticket to freedom) or revisit a dream. It is risky to write about something you finished barely twelve hours ago. It’s embarrassing, the way talking about illness is, or happiness. To gush. You risk offering a raw piece of thought. Something has stuck to you and you are trying to convey the exact, impossible, vicious way in which you are changed by it. Still steaming.

This is what I understand by gorgeousness. As in, I gorged on it. 

In the book’s last third occurs a fabular moment. The narrator is often telling their inner life through external surroundings — textures and fluctuations of weather. This is also to tell disaster. It is not the dramatic crash so much as a slow, implacable violence whose consequence ripples below and above the surface of our lives. Sometimes there is rupture: a cyclist is hit by a motorist, a storm occurs, an unspecified act of harm is committed, a life-changing conversation alluded to. But so much is in the insidious atmospheres which turn between dream and reality, which refuse to be nailed to the moment: 

I dreamt of a landscape, overgrown grass, trees blanketing a hillside, leafy canopies moving against the sky, a deep river bisecting the scene. Fat berries pulling on their stems, apples weighing down their branches. Then a breeze came through with a slow hiss, and I knew it carried poison on its back. Here was a green abundance that I could not eat, a cold stream from which I could not drink. Take care, a voice said. Take care to call things by their names. 

(Bernstein, The Coming Bad Days)

In this Edenic scene of harvest and green abundance, nothing is properly named. The landscape is unspecified, generic, anywhere. The voice belongs to anyone. It could be a serpent, a god, an angel, a person. Unlike Adam, the narrator cannot name things in nature. It is not their purpose. They came to Eden in dreams and after the fall. What fruits of knowledge exist are overripe and almost a burden to their branches and vines. In addition to the biblical resonance, this passage recalled for me the fig tree motif in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963),the poison tree of William Blake’s poem from Songs of Experience (1794). Wrath is in the air, and failure. I want to wrap around the passage like a kind of vine. Hold and be held in it. Is language a kind of taking care? A watering cruelty? What are the ecological arts of attention and tending to, towards, against? 

I was struck by the possibility that Bernstein’s narrator embodied the abject and porous, slow and injured thought of an anthropocenic subject. This statement feels inevitable. The only abundance they could conjure was unconscious and laced with ‘poison’. It could not be imbibed; was not nourishing. But somehow such dreams nourish the text. For all its depiction of coldness, cruelty and the failure of communication, the cold stream of suffering, the weathering of Bernstein’s lyric prose effects a possible intimacy. Weathering, for Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Mae Hamilton, ‘names a practice or a tactic: to weather means to pay attention to how bodies and places respond to weather-worlds which they are also making’. I think of the narrator skittishly eating cheese sandwiches at the window of their office, every single day of the week. I eat this sandwich with them. What is it they see? Each iterative mention of the weather reminds us that the social and interpersonal dramas of the novel are part of the medial, immersive or remote dramas of climate. The agential presence of rain, frost, clouds and fog, the turn of the waves, the ‘glistening violet evenings’: it’s more than metaphor. It sinks into the prickling skin of Bernstein’s language. Maybe you’d want to call this a weathering realism. 

This novel seized me to read with compulsion, the way a dream does come and the writing of the dream is luxuriance that only later you bathe in. Not quite vulnerable or resilient. Responsive. Exposed to something. 

On the 28th April 2019 (no entry for the 29th), I wrote in purple ink: 

We would do better to sleep now, I have been sleeping much better and trying to resist the pull of insomnia, trying to perfect a monologue. What comes and goes in a dream without noticing, whose handwriting on the sun you recognised chancing your luck with yellow corn and fields of trials against sensitive, colours of smear and floral obstacle. Hyperboreal data flow into the crinkle cut futurity. Applying for latitude, acid. 

Not sure about ‘we’: did I mean the ‘we’ of me reading back, and the ‘me’ who was writing, there in the moment? Are you also included, reading this passage over one of my shoulders? Can we take care to name things in dreams? But when I dream of people — friends, loved-ones, family, colleagues the famous — as I often do, what happens when I write their names? Am I opening them up to something that could harm or exhaust them? Is their presence a giving over of energy? Am I to be persecuted by the purple, anonymous flower of somebody’s need? What if I didn’t even know? What if the mark-making of initials was key? Will it bloom or wilt?

Go back to sleep in the forest, soft cosmos of dissolving forms. 

There is a sense of missing someone that grows an acorn in your belly. It hardens and rattles with new life. It burns out of place. Leaves you with a feeling of placelessness. Impregnates every word with the possible, the fizzy wake, the fear and hurt. Makes you grow sideways. Hey. To exist in no-time of not knowing when the feeling comes. Pastel vests are back in fashion. Pull over. Kisses. Rarest flower emoji that doesn’t exist. To be sometimes well and other times racked in a well-documented madness that pays various attention to weather. Something painful. A few days of goodness seized. I would leap out the door, do 15,000 steps each day; so I would name the colour chartreuse when I saw it. Watching for changing bone structures in Zoom tiles. Your hair grown long and lemon blonde. My internet broke for a whole day and night. I felt old-timey in the pdf archive. Phoned you.

~

Bebby Doll – Weeks 

Ana Roxanne – I’m Every Sparkling Woman

Zoee – Microwave

Cowgirl Clue – Cherry Jubilee

Laurel Halo – Sun to Solar 

trayer tryon, Julie Byrne – new forever

Life Without Buildings – Sorrow 

Cocteau Twins – My Truth

Kelsey Lu, Yves Tumor, Kelly Moran, Moses Boyd, ‘let all the poisons that lurk in the mud seep out’

Iceage – Gold City

Le Tigre – Deceptacon

FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. – Don’t Judge Me

Porridge Radio – Wet Road

Angel Olsen – Alive and Dying (Waving, Smiling)

Big Thief – Off You 

Perfume Genius – Valley 

Grouper – Poison Tree

Sonic Youth – Providence 

U.S. Maple – The State Is Bad

Sky Ferreira – Sad Dream

Waxahatchee – Fruits of My Labor (Lucinda Williams cover)

The Felice Brothers – Inferno

Bright Eyes – Train Under Water 

Weyes Blood – Titanic Risen

Lucinda Williams – Save Yourself (Sharon Van Etten cover) 

Playlist: April 2020

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April, the quarantined month is sweet. Not cruellest, for that would be February. What is the human capacity for crying exactly? I had cried all 28 days to water the snowdrops, saved the 29th for one great, acidic cry of my life.

April, I dreamt you had leapt from the hole in my head / and the hole in my head from the length of your light.

April, we name our sadnesses arbitrarily. The sadness is a euphemism for what we are tired of saying, and even saying ‘these times’, and even saying the strangeness. To live in the sadness or strangeness, say

April, a shattering epiphany that I still

April, my kindest regards.

April, the dying narcissi.

April, I never signed on to be locked indoors, never signed on for these losses or debts. Never signed on for these sadnesses and yet they are happening, belonging to someone in pain upstairs, lending a movie, tending a wage.

April, the sadness of paragraphs.

April, I watch you teach at a distance, blue-dimming with cans of juice.

April, The Baudelaire Fractal.

April, the pedagogy of longing. I lose dull words. I teach myself not to need you. I learn to need the living itself. Lil Peep screams in my ear, ISN’T LIFE BEAUTIFUL / I THINK THAT LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. This is a kind of instruction.

April, the sarcasm of flowers.

April, I walk in the underpass reading the red paint, Make the rich pay. The president is everywhere and nowhere, confected aleatory; a bad rhizome, the president has bleached his words. Tap root political, it can’t get out. The water doesn’t flow here. There’s lead, but no leader.

April, I found a Jason Molina lyric buried in a poem by Peter Gizzi. I had been writing about the undersong but this was ‘Oversong’, the verb ‘to be’ eclipsing ‘me’.

April, I wander the lonely rhubarb clouds, an hour or so. The world on edge.

April, there’s lead in the water.

April, I would polish your cutlery.

April, someone on the radio is defending his advice on a bleachy digest.

April, say hi to Angela for me.

April, where are your showers?

April, what would I ask of your showers?

April, the poems. Mary Ruefle filling the 22nd with sunflower hearts, or was it her friend, ‘Please Read’. How I misread wilted for waited, waited for wilted. Seeds of words. How I knew nothing about the orange blossom excepting its smell, which I drunk so hard, not knowing the name but only how passing a top-note I wanted it all perfumed within me. This form of quietness akin to heat or light. Who would design this, and all that beauty.

April, the air is cherried with synonyms. You spit out the coolest noun for this.

April, I eat breakfast at six in the evening.

April, you are teasing me with readings and the old response; I have no ability. My year folds back into last, remembering the burn in my stomach, wanting to get there fast and slow, the scenery seen from a train. Manchester blossoms before Glasgow and the song about the orange room, the pinks in the street, the wondering. I did not know then that I would take you, carry a little seed in me.

April, I have so little to say.

April, sprained ankles.

April, the canal is glistening at dusk.

April, the supercut / us.

April, in these uncertain times, you are the discount. Please let me out for a walk, on all things said, the passing around of a line.

April, James Schuyler remembered you to a French pear and the sulphur-yellow bees. I was nostalgic also, pollinating the document with all my normals. What difference it made. They said a world.

April, the pollen set free.

April, the edge of the world is grey.

April, the sunlight’s adultery.

April, what sex?

April, fuck you, that was yesterday.

April, I’m reading Lee Harwood again for the sea that I miss. Infinite sea that I miss.

April, I want to run down the slope of the universe and think a single intelligent thought.

April, they are absolute units.

April, the rivers are so low I’m starting to think ‘they’ need sertraline. Sweet relief of the rain.

April, fuck it I love you.

April, it’s always somebody’s birthday and now they’re blowing out candles on Zoom.

April, you buy me groceries.

April, I’m starting to think I once met a girl called April. She wore her hair in elaborate braids, and the kirby grips shone in the sun the one day in July when I ate ice lollies by the fountain at the end of all I remember. The roses were over-watered, all colours of the sun. Generous, redundant, you tossed in bank notes to wish this was over.

April, Lee says ‘her beauty undresses       the sea’. You picture that, the flicker where the dress is the same as the blue as she is the sea.

April, I wear blue and roll myself out where the sun would set.

April, I can’t stop quoting Clarice.

April, I want somebody else’s salt.

April, the pink moon, the Lyrid meteors.

April, there’s something I want to delete.

April, I was crying for the violinist on the radio, crying for those in her apartment, dying. Two of them, she said, barely in their forties, choking up.

April, I felt like a meme. A bad guy.

April, make the rich pay.

April, it was so on the nose the writing was giving me zits and I’m sorry. Keep thinking this is it this is it this is it and I’m sorry.

April, step into the fifteenth century.

April, Joanne Kyger in the song called ‘Belief’.

April, this stamina of maintaining the romance of living.

April, naming us yellowest flowers.

April, a lunar-resistant photography sings.

April, give me the negatives.

April, it all started on the eleventh. I went a ritualised cycle in the sweet warm rain, with flies stuck jewel-like to the sweat of my chest. I kept going and going until my heart gave out a charitable breathlessness.

April, you have a shark smile and I wonder what it is you might do to me.

April, I really miss Nice ‘n’ Sleazys, pints of Guinness, gigs & readings.

April, the air is a silver curve.

April, you are thousands of results.

April, the change I can’t have.

April, the little black cat tried to get in the door and for a while we sat there and then scooping her up I held her awhile, her wee beating heart next to mine. The warmest thing in weeks. Her glass eyes looked to the curve-glass moon and we both were momentary slivers. I went inside and washed my hands and the soap bubbles… and I hope she got home eventually.

April, oracular.

April, it felt stupid as a miracle.

April, consider the orchid.

April, it made of us talking heads. I dreamt I went through the screen and it was all a quiet darkness of matter, having read Karen Barad, having watched Twin Peaks. Is it that you go through your own eyes, zooming, watching to see what they’d do in the afterglow, repeating yourself. Here is the other Maria, etc. I watched you on someone else’s story, like a bad cartoon, the bad rehearsal of all of our laughter, a bad white powder.

April, I hate this.

April, my pins and needles.

April, Marianne Morris says ‘Never lay in the dirt elated’.

April, my dad sends me pictures of lambs.

April, it gets so I don’t want to call anymore because it hurts more not being with you in the summer, the summer, the amiable feeling.

April, the president says to try light and heat.

April, you are rice cakes, sadness and crushed velour.

April, the world is not primed or administered.

April, ‘they’ failed ‘us’, etc.

April, blue masks lay on the pavement like plasters afloat in the pools of my youth and I wonder whose wounding was minor, to take that off.

April, I swim in it.

April, a lesson.

April, I felt in the fortress of dreams the falling into after-this. On a spinning top at the park by the beach and we held on forever / and all my old friends were shining.

April, walking outside labyrinthine over…’

April, I can’t listen to Joni anymore.

April, the crisp sea air.

April, the police are everywhere.

April, I miss everyone.

April, if I could transcend already, the froth on a latte, the password required of me.

April, I make a donation.

April, if the story is lifted.

~

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~

Cocteau Twins – Rilkean Heart

Ariel Pink – Feels Like Heaven

Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Gena Rose Bruce – The Way You Make Love

Lil Rae, Pelican Tusk – ODYSSEY

Field Medic – POWERFUL LOVE

The 1975 – Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America

Neutral Milk Hotel – April 8th

Felicia Atkinson – Everything EvaporateSky Ferreira – You’re Not The One

Goth GF – Horse Girl

Lil Peep – Moving On

Paramore – My Heart

Double Discone – Red Light

Grimes – Rosa

Cindy Lee – Plastic Raincoat

Gia Margaret – Groceries

Laura Marling – Held Down

Jess Williamson – Infinite Scroll

Porches – Xanny Bar

Frank Ocean – Dear April

Mitski – I Bet on Losing Dogs

Pinegrove – On Jet Lag

Angelo De Augustine – Santa Barbara

Hand Habits – Flower Glass

Peter Oren – Falling Water

Tim Buckley – Marigold

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win

Fiona Apple – Under the Table

John Prine – Pretty Good

John K. Samson – 17th Street Treatment Centre

Mount Eerie, Julia Doiron – Belief

Songs, Ohia – An Ace Unable to Change

Bright Eyes – Forced Convalescence

Nic Jones – Master Kilby

The Lowest Pair – Shot Down the Sky

Lana Del Rey – Bel Air

Sun Kil Moon – Ocean Breathes Salty

Outer Limits Recordings – Silhouette

Pelican Tusk – Rhubarb’s House

Roddy Woomble – Context of Midnight

~

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Bluebell Haiku

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I label you un-
marked hyacinth, cleaner to
eat bluer tendrils.

A many-shadowed
platitude would bloom, what blood
then lulls the body.

Remedial ring
within a summoning to
sleep and sweetly die.

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The gloomy bluebell
sleeps in the woods, so bluely
as to bewitch me.

All symbolic thought
of alkaloid flower, this
styptic aroma.

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Beyond ornament
the imitated image
leaks its bulb of blue.

May’s sweet clustering
never wanted so many
luminous anew.

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Criminal to pick
our thin green stems, to uproot
what kisses the wind.

Emily Brontë
dedicated her sorrow
to our purple breath.

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Many lettering
delicate Atlas Mountains
stung with amethyst.

The unwritten trees
harbour our suckled bodies
in honey-gold pools.

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Striations of blue
to red make feathery air
so cool, alchemic.

Our blooms affected
the nectarous scent; some shade
stipples the valley.

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Take care: eliminate
sensitive weeds, following
spring we wilt and weep.

You will get leaves, then
five years before our flowers
startle the garden.

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Mostly used in spells
of love and death, many haunt
the colourless graves.

Amid leaf litter
this saturnal air, ever
against bright details.

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The ersatz scented
candle belonged to mother’s
old mantle, a cry.

Here in the richness
most fair-haired blue to boast the
days of mucilage

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A dose of three grains
settles the diuretic soul’s
accorded longing.

Such abundant blue
with gummy heart, a mystic
of similar hue

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Linnaeus’s great
west wind, plucked grief from the copse
of ancient longing.

Unfortunate name
of the poisoned glade, circle
a chant to miss you.

Our Spanish sisters
have no scent, we dwell here so
gently forever.

All photographs were taken in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens, a slightly overcast day, the 22nd May 2018. 

Playlist: May 2018

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If April is the sweetest or cruelest, May has become the strangest month. Not ever but ever at present. It is summer’s gatekeeper, but also something other. Nurse of darkness and grief, rushing in bright lines and new delusions. Keeper of shadows flickering among green. In previous years, the season when confusion blooms. A dull need that quickens with the light through dawn to dusk, that honeys the flesh and the flesh’s sense of itself as pearlescent. Coming to endings. I brush my hair smooth copper in a mirror and notice green rings beneath my eyes. My eyes turn green from the copper, the sun. Moss agates held to the light. My irises look less like little sad pools of ocean; more forest now, with secret capillaries. With vague fantasy, I keep planning day trips I don’t then take. The sense of this name or that, a train stop, a heady clifftop walk, is sometimes enough. 

Alcohol does me favours, then doesn’t. That absolute sinking sensation of four in the morning, the day already blooming before you a pale lilac silver that streaks the sky and exacts a sort of spermicide resistance to the nourishment of sleep’s regeneration. So you are still electric, pacing at six, drenched in the ersatz light of the screen. White upon white. Straining fingers. I leave early one day to buy crystals, snapping photographs afterwards of bluebells in public gardens. The bluebells hide miniature universes. Still entranced by the fairies; the barmaid knows because she offers me absinthe, green bottle labelled with a delicate eye. The beer garden teeming; cradling sticky glassware back to the bar. Couples come out in the sun, as if so many never existed before it got light and warm. I’m very small, like a vulnerable child, but then swollen and huge altogether. I can’t help the Alice comparison: that sudden shrinkage or growth, beyond the normal bounds of the human. I lust for the fall—that’s all I want now. Air rushing quick around my skull, a delicious plunge. Shake out plumage, feel ridiculous. Everything limps.

It all started with a simple accident: flipping my bike off the road, the front wheels spun thrice, a smashed head smashed knee smashed hand and leg. Smashed brakes. The most extravagant black-purple bruise spread down my shins, clustering like a brand new galaxy around the bloody wounds of my knee. To bleed with gleaming garnet blood. Shocking the folk outside bars with my bleeding. To feel fresh and young at the sight of your insides red against the old old blue of flesh. This youth, this youth. I pedal forever to exact the same feeling, the rush of getting back on again, unlocking the city. I seem to be terribly in love with falling. The streets feel dizzy, the shapes and forms of things are not what they are. I sense they have changed without telling me. The world knows a secret I don’t. 

Illness, as it hits. The invisible sickness. I become an overflowing jar of water when I drink, the brimming emotions about to spill—things I usually hide and quench and disguise. Need to piss in awkward situations. Things you can roll out with a bike ride, a cluster of lung sucks and cheek flush adrenaline. But when they get to the surface, they poison the air around you. I spend longer hours in bed in the morning, night shifts and gigs leaving me delirious. To unroll from the covers is an art hardly mastered. I spend hours drifting back into sleep’s coma: a settled levitation of uncertain images, which I try to translate upon waking. A friend and I keep a dream journal. I notice she is always noting faces in crowds: skins, layers, mirrors; juices and rinds and types of paring. My dreams grow more detailed over time, a side effect of writing them down, giving them the agency of language. They dance with image, they have additional emotional import.  

I walk across the city, because sometimes that seems the only safe thing to do. The colours in the park just shy of midnight. Pastels brushed and blurred by a child’s ham-fist. Chalked sentences around Woodlands. Pick up your dog shit. My nails grow long and strong and I do not clip them. I want them to seem like a pianist’s, as if at any moment they might pluck out a symphony. 

Something of grief scored into my bones. We lost someone we loved, after days of looking and sharing and fighting. My timelines overflow with collective sorrow and personal pain. I spend hours scrolling through tiny stories, slices of joy and memory’s catharsis. We have all been hurt in some way; there is a tear. What rushes in and scolds the fresh wound. It is the one grey drizzly day I remember of this May, utterly fitting. I walk along the Kelvin, listening to The Midnight Organ Fight over and over, hymn to my youth and so many others. The drone fills my blood; I do nothing to stop the rain dampening my hair, filling my shoes, dripping down my neck. Shake out my stolen Monet waterlily umbrella. Remember the bleak streets of Ayr, adolescence an age of cool slain time. Kicking litter, drinking. Rain. Falling into sick sick love then forgetting. The rain rain rain, the rain falling into the sea. It is a membrane I crave, the pale wet indifference to shroud my pain. Sand on skin. What glisters at the edge then beckons. I did not know it was possible to hurt so much for someone you barely knew. It hurt more, in a way, than forms of loss by blood. Family funerals. Toasts. Drunk, I walk back along bridges and try not to cry at the moon, the black black water. Something astride us, everlong waxing and waning. Photographs of plastic, closeup and swallowed in song.

I tore an elegy out of my hours in bed and maybe one day I’ll share it. Something in the darkness, heard.

By some miracle, I regain my night off to go see Phoebe Bridgers play Saint Luke’s. It is a warm night and I walk all the way from west to east; the football’s been on so the drunks stumble out of pubs in their green. She purrs something from the stage, like “So I heard y’all had a sports ball game on today”. We smile at the understatement, there’s a mesmerising space. I stand and my body is so weak my knees hurt and thighs burn and it takes every nerve in me to keep standing, to negate the presence of those around me. Her silvery voice slices through all that, makes perfect rivulets in my soul. When I think too much about it I can’t breathe. There’s a trembling of recognition, little swells of emotion that prick the whites of my eyes. What you thought you were over comes crashing again and over, over. The world whirrs and hurts. It’s barely enough to keep clinging. Walking home, seeing old friends, I felt exhausted: every pore stung but I was also exhilarated. Climbing the concrete city. That feeling of release. The sweet way her vowels lit up the Mark Kozalek cover, the encore. I imagine bright candles snuffed out one by one, the great murder and the guilt of afterwards. Cold and red. The soft caress of the senses, a temporary catlike imaginary. Darkness comes over, consumes the white space you left for happiness. You can’t have it without dreams; you can’t have dreams without darkness. I am dependent on this sorrow. Watching the Ohio river flow at night. These landscapes I know mostly through song, these burning reeds and the gilt-edged clouds over desert metropolis, lost coyotes. 

I start writing a novella, set between Britain, Berlin and some mysterious American prairie. Think cheddar-red sunsets, unrequited desire, distance. The indigo swimming pool, covered in leaves.

Distracting myself from everyday idleness, I go to see vast quantities of decent indie, mostly at The Hug and Pint or Glad Café. I take a break from an all-dayer to sit atop a hill in Queen’s Park, south side, watching the sky grow peachy. Chew fruit bars. Drink gin to feel better, in soft medicinal quantities. Do not write as I wish I could. Leave gaps. The pages don’t fill as I’d like. Walk back alone.

I think I am okay but then I walk over water and think of the cold decision. My mouth sours as though filled with the juice of an apple and any word I might have dissolves in the acid, prior to speech.

Remember as kids we’d build dams in rivers? Inefficient structures of misshaped rocks. The cool cola feel of water, smooth through our fingers.

In some hot bright room of the CCA, practicing Oulipo techniques with Lynn Crawford and Josh Thorpe. I write a handful of sestinas, a process that feels akin to weaving. I am paring threads. In times of crisis, I used to sit and make friendship bracelets, focusing on the unconscious flicker and flow of my fingers. The particular colours woven thrice. Pick six words and make do with their pattern, the possible. 

Iced Americano from Caffé Nero. Jolt of the nerves. Heat haze over Greenock.

A delay in the body akin to the moon. Waxing slow motion; glitch and lag; the sense of being dulled; the sense of being injured, cramped and twisted. Walk around, see friends, drink bright and early. Waves of hot agony. Go to poetry readings. The sparkle and trance of listening. Speaking. Record poems that settle a corridor of airwaves, signals, emoji. However the connection works. 

Get haircut. Scalp massage. Brighter orange bleeds to gold. Sodium. Get on a train. 

Loch Lomond never looked so good in green and gold and blue as it did that May of 2016. I lay in the bluebells taking pictures, feeling so restful, red-headed. Fire against green. Now I arrive and make it my imperative just to walk. Early evening of a Sunday and I want to walk my way out of a sorrow, past gaggles of boozy youths; the fresh wound of loss still there and irritating, itching and burning. It is hard to have ordinary conversations, so I take myself off. Everything is so green and the green is so necessary. My body is heat and then freezing. Later, he holds his cold fingers to my neck and we trade levels of shiver. Purple nails and tales of bad circulation. I trip up on my past and can’t help it, looking for the clavicle. The endless craving of a former body…

I parse more and more my botanical ignorance. 

Missing the last train home from Edinburgh, after a poet’s birthday party. Doors slammed shut in our face from the carriage. We missed the margaritas, and then the disco. Drank beer in the Meadows, contemplated snow. Menthol vape smoke and cluttered streets, strangers playing tennis all through the dusk. Lovely people. Record collection, good books for miles, pizza. Conversations sweet & real & funny.

The maidenhair fern grows healthy again. I have had her for two years and she’s seen frazzled stages. Clipped back, green again. Does that boy drive? She asked, in the car to the garden centre. I miss the winding corridors of plants, the paint samples, colour cards, smell of wet pine and murmuring water features. May goes on, regardless.

A series of goodbyes. One friend moves back to Greece, the other to the Highlands. Life goes porous with the temporary emptiness that nonetheless lingers without supplement. Miss our wee chats at all ours, in stairwells or pink-tinted texts. Cascading games of our rucksacks swung. I listen to Josh telling Canadian ghost stories in the restaurant: tales of a bride burned alive by tea lights catching her luminous dress, doomed to forever haunt some hotel in the vast, faraway mountains. The geography remains vague in my mind. The customers come and go or don’t at all. I polish cutlery to a deathly sheen.

Festival atmosphere of everywhere in sun. A sunny day in Glasgow, then another one. Minor riots in the park. How are we so blessed, it’s amazing. Botanical taste at the back of my mouth forever. Bewitched house plants, buttered bread rolls, cold tea, slabs of Aviemore carrot cake, tarot readings in Thai restaurants. I wish I could be more glistening. The air in the park at night smells musky and sweet, weed smells and seeds and greening. Saying goodbye without babbling. I noticed the blue, two iris skies at the station.

The last card pulled a cosmic future.

Run across roads to see old friends, nearly get knocked over. Every day I regret not waking earlier. Not going to bed, the struggle to sleep and reset again. Scared of the endless bleed of days.

Feeling kinda weirdly low. I think he’s one of the biggest inspirations in my life right now. Can someone inspire you, I mean in the way they deal with feelings? I value an honesty I can’t offer myself. Not yet. 

Rereading old Wordsworth and falling asleep while writing and leaving black dots of ink that seep through my diary. Opening scene of a whirlpool. Talk about Stonehenge with a singer from Portland I love very much. Something about the lapse of water, like every trickle another neglect. People walk round and round in circles, scrolling the whites of their phones as if in sync with the rolling traffic. In my childhood bedroom, I kept a framed photograph of the stones at sunset. I felt calm and serene and apart from myself, apart from time, when I looked at the stones.

I worked a 9-5 the day they found the body, his body. I was serving people with a smile I didn’t recognise and trembled all over and the sense of witnessing this alter-reality or shock, the opening of feelings I thought I’d forgotten. What went on inside the shell, a quivering. Hid behind crates of dirty glasses, in curtains. Tried not to cry on my lunch break, watching solo acoustic version of ‘Poke’ on my phone. Hugging everyone. Earnest conversations. Work is a family. Hot strong coffee takes the edge off. Sometimes no need to talk. The lyrics come again and they burn harder this time. I need to catch my breath. Regain metabolism.

Beautiful messages out of the blue.

Emotional hangover. Best cure, I dig among the piles of clothes in my room and pull out a hardback book: Sylvia Plath’s journals, Christmas gift from my mother in 2012. The book feels heavy and secure on my lap, like a complicated baby. Read her through sleep, while dinner is cooking. Steam, garlic scent, onions, steam. Her voice makes sluices through the fug of everything, so I can feel clear and real again. She mentions ‘the adrenaline of failure’, the up-and-down wavelengths of acceptance and rejection. A poet’s lot. Lust. Apple-bitten first encounters. Fears & jealousies, petty grievances. Genuine pain. Periods of drifting depression, absence of thought. Blood. Self-laceration. Womanhood. Fizzy inspiration, sociability. New challenges in life are a test of endurance. ‘Interesting’, she notes, as to whether she would ‘pass, keep myself intact’. How often are we aware of our everyday proximity to breakdown? 

Saturday October 10th, 1959. 

‘Feel oddly barren. My sickness is when words draw in their horns and the physical world refuses to be ordered, recreated, arranged and selected. I am a victim of it then, not a master’.

7.30pm Wednesday, October 17, 1959.

‘I don’t know why I should be so hideously gloomy, but I have that miserable “nobody-loves-me” feeling’.

Journal Fagment 31st December 1955 – 1st January 1956. 

‘Sun well up, losing red and paling into blinding gold, air fresh and cold, essence of snow melting in sun, checking baggage and wandering toward the sea in a strange city’. 

I will be flying to Munich in less than a week. The first time travelling alone without family. Somebody gift me with orientation. As though without sleep, the comedown slides across a map, egg yolk cool upon blue and green. My eyes won’t focus.

Leaving the flat after 4pm each day, I am a stranger in a world I recognise dearly then don’t. I am best in the early hours or late at night. Catching spiders on sidewalks. Everything between that is strange oscillation, is tuning in and out of social existence. What about when the words don’t come. So many trite feelings. A terrible love. The shapes of things. I’m walking with. All of Glasgow a building site, dust of destruction and foundations laid. Piles of concrete slab, churning tar; industrial scents lace the too-warm air. 

Where once I would say, hey I’m addicted to chocolate. Honestly, 200g+ a day! Now, it’s a serotonin craving. Simple as. Deficient.

Playlists make better sense of these feelings. Thin black lace, an open window. Warmth.

Easier not to just clack and bite.

Go to prom re-enactment. Balloons and alcopops, rhinestones; blue velour and slacker rock. Fall asleep, nearly, on the night bus, passing airport and eerie business estates. The pool and the plastic palms. Walk home, low battery, ruinous sadness. Insomniac documentaries about Karen Carpenter. Milk cookie eyes and innocent villanelles. Her voice a creamy river, glossy brunette, hometown glory.

We enter Gemini season. The energy shifts. Borderlines and places I can’t cross in my dreams, lost people glinting in distance. Blue folds of tumblr embrace me again. Streams of midnight images, pastel landscapes and metallic objects melted to abstraction. Things split and twin and I miss all my soulmates, past and present. Editing, editing. I miss when the truth felt less of a shimmer. Sleep it off, sleep it off.

The loud loud noise of all these feeds.

Out in the hot dusty yard of SWG3, disco ball scintillating in the sun, I see LCD Soundsystem with my friends around me. For once, that’s totally enough. Stand between two brothers. Smile all through set. There is a sort of ultimate feeling. I can change I can change I can change. Synths blister through me. Drums. Feel drunk when I’m not. Feel heady. The old chandeliereal, teenage way. Sun glitters. Swap limbs. Burst memories are easy.

Wander home through herbaceous border. Covet her 3am poems, blog posts. We stay up all night discussing complex crushes, then I’m sad because endings are happening all around me. Withdrawals. Wilted tulips. Little flurries of unexpected messages, best sensation. Campari with soda or cherry brandy, amaretto on ice and sharing a seat, clinking glasses and feeling breezy. Sitting in dark galleries on hay bales, waiting. Clutching cigarettes I won’t smoke but stole anyway. Talk of literary idols, musicians and artists. Writing things down with conviction, like: I love the new Stephen Malkmus album, so much! Sparkle Hard! The dreamy subsistence of the suburbs at dusk. Those shoes are shinier than my future. I hope he’s okay. Plagiarise conversations. You could boil it all down to a haiku, May a tiny, significant bulb of gorse: 

Luxury sadness
Twice for sale, gold and then green
Forget to mention.

*

Bob Dylan – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

Sharon Van Etten – The End of the World (Carpenters cover)

Cat Power – Metal Heart

The Twilight Sad – I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face (Arthur Russell cover) 

Manchester Orchestra – Architect (feat. Scott Hutchison)

Harrison Whitford – Poltergeist Love

Pavement – Type Slowly

LUMP – Curse of the Contemporary

Bright Eyes – Coyote Song

Common Holly – If After All

Sufjan Stevens – Romulus

Milk Carton Kids – Wish You Were Here

Mark Kozalek – Good Nostalgia

Fossil Collective – Disarm

Nap Eyes – Every Time The Feeling

Arctic Monkeys – Star Treatment

Iceage – Beyondless 

Parquet Courts – Violence 

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Animal Wisdom

Kendl Winter – Shades of Green

Big Star – Thirteen

Hatchie – Sleep

James Blake – Don’t Miss It

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Bike Lane

Sufjan Stevens – Make Out In My Car (Moses Sumney cover) 

The Innocence Mission – Look out from Your Window

Frightened Rabbit – Head Rolls Off

LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

Playlist: April 2017

IMG_4879April… the practically non-existent month in general temporal terms (I wrote the last one of these yesterday it seems) and yet so rich you were, plump with blossoms: like only this evening I stood in a snow swirl of pale pink flakes which felt like Paris or Japan, trace imagery of semiotic foreignness whirling around us as if weather had been borrowed from another place, a lovelier time. Love blossoms. I love April. April rain; it’s sweet and very quiet almost like a rustle, the silk crease in your jacket, how I imagine the pillow of the sky clouds to crease or maybe they fold like lightning and it’s more of a shattering, a bit like sheets of ice cracking with the sound all resonant rich in pain. Stay up late to cheat time or find hours abandoned in the first flashes of daylight which alleviate their airy orange through a bright red sieve or am I getting mixed up with sunsets? I have followed the resonant crescendos of synths until every loop is a transference of frequency through various slot machine ratios which fall on the clinking chance of ice in my glass my mouth all misted clearness of vision dissipating vision upon vision, red lights and the cherries glister with money & abstract value which is nice O so nice. ( ( ekphrastic reveries mould quicker in memory) ) You can hesitate on an omen, I spent weeks writing astrological reports in attempted reflection on a bitterer future which needed a sugar cube of lumpen conversation or hours as proletariat spent plate-washing tray-carrying performance of eloquent emotional labour for strangers. His wide eyes, asking about plaits in my hair and clogs. The schmoozes gathered at funerals as I served dark liquid in watery transference of mass into white cups made for the purpose. Wishing for the red room effect where the stuff hardens to strong viscosity then elasticates its way back to fluid to spill on the carpet burn the bourgeois toes through the patent shoes. (my crush on dale cooper lives still uncured). Mine had holes, grazed through by contact with broken glass. I love

April rain. Tree rustles. It’s funny, leaves again; just being leaves. Green in the park and a gilded quality of the light on bark. I listen to music which quickens the senses. Clarity shattering synthetic beats. Very eclectic moments of hovering wanting confusing mixing the feelings which feeling makes feeling a feeling again not quite feeling but experience, touch, brief encounter with the liquid mirror of l-l-l trapped tongue on the moment can’t quite control or a button of the air to switch there’s a second you can stare through the window through viscid glassy matter or wishing for tears or the sound of pavement heels to cut through soft mulching rain you can’t see how the nightclub crashed with fire or how I lost a trail in the night to a newer location. creeps coming out of the grasses. thin leafy pages of choice discourse. Fallen have I in hexagon aromas of steamed vegetables, steamed cigarettes, the little vanish of an innocence, the widening eyes. April, pear-smelling nostalgia for autumn gone to the fresher ecstasies of the air and the sadness of wisping daffodil haircuts or the cloyingly poisoned imminent deadline. (we are not in May already) maybe.

The Cure – ‘The Top’

Anna Meredith – ‘Nautilus’

Joni Mitchell – ‘Amelia’

Belle & Sebastian – ‘Marx and Engels’

Eels – ‘Love of the Loveless’

Bob Dylan – ‘Up to Me’

Nirvana – ‘Dumb’

Radiohead – ‘Lucky’

Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘I Follow You’

Mooncreatures – ‘Guilt Chills’

Hazel English – ‘More Like You’

Beck – ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’

Fazerdaze – ‘Jennifer’

Slow Dive – Star Roving

Bonobo, Rhye – Break Apart

Father John Misty – ‘So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain’

 

Hillhead St.

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Springtime, 2012; first spring in the city. Living on Hillhead Street, with the cat, Miller, who used to mill around and curl his sleepy tail round your ankles at lunchtime, purring at the sun. It was sunny all through April and May. Early mornings in the library, level eight and nine with the light flooding the windows warming and pure, a dish of sun butter melting over sandstone buildings. The best seats, the computer screen a dull mist of unimportant philosophies. Walks along the Kelvin, tangles of fern and wild garlic and the solitaries who wander, sometimes stumbling, always clutching a spliff or a bottle of Bell’s or Buckfast. Coughing their pearls of greenish spit into the river. Summer of the Olympics, no care at all, sugar rush of coke and chocolate buttons and long evenings staring insomniac out of a tiny dorm window. The Decemberists, or Conor Oberst’s croon in the wanderings out to town, to the station or the Necropolis. Smell of cigarettes wafting from rooms below. So far, but not so far, from home. The red glow of the sun at dusk, the silhouettes of house plants, the sound of footsteps.

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

April, the sweetest candy of a pink-tinged sky blessing the late afternoon. Rebecca has sat in the garden for hours, watching the birds nibble from the feeder and splash around by the pond. This is her Grandpa’s garden, though he no longer enjoys it. They have him cooped upstairs on a dialysis machine, in a bedroom that smells of sweat and death. Rebecca is not allowed up there: the air, her mother says, is not fit for a young and blooming girl.

She misses her Grandpa. She remembers him mowing the lawn on Sunday afternoons, stooping with his bad back. She remembers him commending the shapes of his moon-faced daffodils. She remembers him singing Frank Sinatra in velvet baritone while pruning the roses.

The roses are now out of control. They cluster all over the flowerbeds along the path, dangling out with their swollen, sumptuous heads. They have grown so tall that they bend over, crippled with the excess weight, the stems stretching to breaking point. Grandpa would be so disappointed if he witnessed the state of his roses.

Sometimes, Rebecca liked to peel off a petal or two. It was hard to resist; once she took the first few, the others came off so easily and they just slid softly into her fingers. Vivid trails of pink and red petals are now strewn along the gravel path, where Rebecca has walked like a bridesmaid.

At the back of the garden is the apple orchard. In winter the trees are gnarled and bare silhouettes, and not a soul would dare enter the darkness between them. Now that spring has arrived they boast their pretty bows of white, flaky blossom. Every year, Grandpa used to send glossy photographs of the apple blossoms to Rebecca and her parents, who lived far away down in London and rarely made it up to visit. The sight of those lovely trees was always a dream to the young girl who yearned for the country.

“When can we go and see them for real?” Rebecca would sigh.

“Oh, sometime in summer. Maybe Christmas.” They were so often dismissive like this. They had waited too long to see him and now he was dying. Even Rebecca knew it.

She was growing quite bored now, in the garden with no-one to play with. She knew there would be supper soon: hot buttered crumpets with a dark smudge of Marmite melting inside them. Real Earl Grey (loose leaf) because that was the only tea Grandpa had in the cupboard. Rebecca thought it smelt a bit fusty, but you could read the tea leaves at the bottom of the cup afterwards. She thought she saw a bird in hers that morning.

Yes, she was quite bored. The hula hoop which she had brought up from London lay abandoned on the lawn. She had tossed away her tennis racket somewhere into a dense clump of shrubs, because it was no fun to play by yourself, hitting a ball against the shed wall. A bag of marbles had burst open on the patio, the little glass balls having long rolled away, to settle amongst their brethren of grass and gravel. Rebecca had no toys left and besides, she was so tired of them all.

Even the insects had bored her, with their slimy indifference to her existence, their urgent desire to escape her clasping girlish fingers. She couldn’t give a toss about snails and slugs, or even butterflies anymore.

It was in this moment of tedium that she spotted the boy through the hedge. She couldn’t believe she had never seen him before. It was a difficult thing not to be spotted, not to make a peep, but Rebecca crawled expertly into a gap and tried not to breathe as she watched him. He was lying on his front, kicking his long legs back and forth. From this angle, he looked about fourteen. His hair was sort of ginger but also sun-bleached, as if he had spent a long time outside in a streak of good weather that Rebecca must have missed. He looked like something the sun had offered as a blessing. She could see his freckles, the concentrated curl of his lips. He was drawing in a big sketchbook which was flipped open, so that sometimes the breeze rippled the pages. Rebecca felt her heart hum and flutter in the cage of her chest, like some swarm of insects had trapped itself deep within her. He was so beautiful.

She wanted to crawl right out of the hedge into the next-door garden, step into the other world where he existed. She wanted to talk to him, ask for his name. See what it was that he was drawing. She felt like the secrets of the world would unlock themselves once she had learned his name. The sapling of herself would unfurl and a bounty of happiness would overflow from her body like the golden leaves in autumn.

“Rebecca!” she froze. It was her mother calling. She had been searching all over the garden for her daughter and now here she was, discovered in the hawthorne with white blossoms caught in her hair and a strange smile on her lips. She saw there were tears in her mother’s eyes, clinging and spilling like rain from the knots of tree trunks. How could there be tears at a moment so pure, so lovely?

“It’s Gramps,” she gushed, “he’s, he’s gone!” And so her mother pulled her out of the hedge and clutched her in her arms, held her so tight Rebecca thought she would burst. It didn’t make sense: he’s gone, he’s gone. As her mother sobbed into her hair, she watched the apple blossoms being blown away by the gathering night wind. Next-door, the boy stretched out his long limbs, packed up his things and disappeared.

(This little story emerged out of a longer short story project combined with prompts from Glasgow Uni Creative Writing Society’s Flash Fiction February challenge (‘renewal’ & ‘orchard’)).