Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chiaroscuro

The light is a gift, it shakes down through the sycamore trees, catches the edges of leaves, illuminates a piece of patterned cloth tied to a branch. As it hits a sheet on a washing line, making the whole white square glow like a screen about to show a film, it also spills over me and my son, hanging the washing. It turns his fine, silky hair to copper, mine to gold. Makes the clothes dance on the line as they hang there, worn by the air, filled with readiness, shimmering with tomorrow’s shadows. The darkness is also a gift.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday, I'm in love

I died in a dream last night. Folding clean laundry, I was suddenly breathless, disembodied, pinned in my mind.
After I woke my boyfriend talked about sleep paralysis, while I got out of bed and pulled the blind open.
White out: the house wrapped in fog, the landscape obliterated. We dressed up warm and drove to the market at Will's farm. I filled a box with carrots, yellow pears and cress. Waited behind a woman with a voice clear as a bell.
I looked out over the fields beyond the yard to see the mist dissolve, the sun burn through.


I wonder if it's some kind of affliction; the creeping drabbles or something. It appears I can only post 100 word flashes at the moment. The truer to life they are the better. This is odd.

Happy weekend, all. x

Thursday, August 26, 2010



Empathy

You can dance in a cupboard if you put your mind to it. Face up against the door, smell of the oak plank in your nose, bruises on your elbows and knees. Suck oxygen through the keyhole and watch out for mothballs underfoot.
‘Can you hear something?’ someone sitting at the kitchen table might say, buttered scone halfway to their open mouth.
Their companion may shrug, turn back to their tea and blow on the surface.
‘Go on,’ they’ll say, leaning forward and ignoring the steady banging that signals you learning the complex yet expressive moves of an Argentinian tango.

For my mother

We try to stretch days, time, our lives. I can hear it screech, sometimes I can hear it creak and snap. I still can't stand up straight since J was born. I'm crawling about on my hands and knees in the dark, with my face in the dirt.
Silver is annealed by the application of heat. Softened so it can be worked. Train the point of a blowtorch on the metal and watch as it reddens, from deep cherry to a dull red and on until its bright orange. When it glows like this, unbearably, it is ready to work.

Whispering streets

Once a gypsy in the street grabbed my hand and told me I’d live to eighty four. She was making it up, of course she was, fast-talking bullshit in a low singsong burr, my hand gripped in hers, her long curved metallic painted fingernails dragging across my palm. She wore a silver bracelet. A string of charms, tiny tarnished mementoes that hung shivering from the chain. Around us the stream of hurrying people battered the pavement smooth.

I should have taken her curtain of long black-dyed hair and pulled it aside and laid my mouth against her tanned cheek.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Keeping Score

The day fills up with questions. I rewind and replay conversations. Weigh relationships in the palm of my hand; test for firmness, prod the tender parts. I make a tally. Change my mind. Circle, repeat and adjust. Memories become clearer as they turn into stories, though they stray further from the truth. Everything we believe is fiction, a lie, distorted, uncertain, and unclear. Everything but the beat of a heart, the beat that I can hear if I lay my face on your chest. This beat, and then this one. I can’t say more, I can only chase your pulse.



Written in a similar spirit to The Sound of One Hand Clapping, in  Hurts So Good: Unrestrained Erotica

Friday, August 20, 2010

Missing you

There are the times when the kiss has missed and landed clumsily; half on a cheek, half meeting air, when my mouth slipped, bumped against your collar and I came away with just the scent of you in my nostrils. When the moment passed, the body wilted, the lights came up too soon or the baby cried.
When we’ve fallen back or broken away and been too shy to meet each other’s eyes, but met them anyway and for a few racing seconds held our gaze and looked beyond and found there such electric freshness, such clear and beautiful longing.

Missing a beat

My heart has a fault. A flaw.
Hardly anyone understands.
A friend of mine had a murmur, turbulent blood. ‘It’s Grade six. Very loud with a thrill. You could hear it if you were standing next to me.’ I wondered if he’d pull a photo out; the proud owner of a noisy heart.
No. This is not extra rushing hot blood. This is the space inbetween, the skip, the leap up into a blank sky, when you’re not sure if you’ll ever come back to land. Not something a doctor can fix, this: the absence of you in my life.



Look after your heart.

Lightness falls

I lay down this evening as usual to feed the baby to sleep. He taught me patience, and the courage to make promises. Hush, hush. Everything’s okay.
I hold his feet while he kicks, and wait until his eyes start to close. Slowly he stills. The bed becomes a boat rocked by heartbeats. Once we are curled quietly like a yin yang with the light turning blue, I start to miss the cat. At night she would sit on my hip, balanced on one small warm spot, her paws neatly together, and purr us all gently into the drifting night.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And now, back to hearts and flowers. Well, hearts this week, anyway.



Heart of midlothian



High in the old city of Edinburgh, along the Royal Mile, a heart made of cobblestones is laid into the pavement. Some say that’s where they used to hang innocents, or those who had stolen to feed their family.

Also unclear is why those that pass must spit on the heart. Perhaps it’s to show contempt for the laws that valued property over life. It has become superstition, and every day the heart glistens with spit, for the same reason I tell my boyfriend that I love him every morning as he leaves; just in case he doesn’t come back.

Swerve

The tender hearted may wish to avert their eyes.


Feast


It must be a feast day, a fiesta of some kind. We visit the shops with our bags and baskets, my son and I. We’re early, they’ve just opened; the lights still flickering on overhead. Under the fluorescent glare there’s excitement from the sweating crowd. We turn to watch. They let a calf loose, a velvet black one, who skids around on the marble floor, who whirls and kicks and trips on his long dancer’s legs. The butcher has a sharp knife and a grin - he also has dancer’s legs. My son takes my hand. We join the queue.



If you know me, you'll know I am erratic to say the least. If you are not a frequent visitor; I'm afraid you caught me on an unerotic day. My cat got hit by a car a couple of days ago. Now here come the maudlin posts. Sorry, guys. This is how I deal.  


I should also add that this is my morning writing, straight from a dream. I don't know of anywhere that does slaughter calves in butcher's shops, but it wouldn't altogether surprise me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Consider the artichoke

A strange creature, this green handful; both sceptre and orb, torch and weapon. A soft-pricked beast with thick stalk.

First, snip the points and tips. Steam for one hour. Pull the leaves. Each is a bite to dip in butter and lemon; each a mouthful barely tasted. Eventually, you’ll reveal the choke: a curious plug of fibre, as though the thing is furred on the inside. Pull this away, too.
What you have left over is the heart. Take a bite. It tastes of an empty grass field, a day that won’t rain, a lover that won’t meet your eye.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Criticism. Yes. Again.

I wanted to write a post about audience and criticism and how we hope to not write into a void. I wanted to think about the phrase ‘dance like nobody’s watching’, but also Shanna’s point that we are responsible for what we write: ‘As a writer, tone matters’. I think of Craig's post on Amazon Vine and felt childish.

Audience matters. Criticism, feedback matters. Recklessness, bravery, contradiction, consideration, perversity all matter. Everything matters. When you are writing, everything matters.

I believe that a writer is also their own audience. That it’s hard to see one’s own work from the outside, because we are so blinded by our own motivations sometimes; and equally it’s hard to see a criticism from the inside because we are also blinded by our reactions. We have to move back and forth, each time abandoning more, each time gaining.

I think so much of writing is digging. Out of the dark, towards understanding, towards clarity. Reading is a part of writing and that is also digging. I am maybe not making any sense, I am maybe just turning over earth now and getting hypnotised by the smell of fresh loam and metaphor. Try harder. Write more. Cut more. Try again. Fail more, fail better.

Writing means being audience and performer by turn.

I am taking lessons at the moment. I asked Alana Noel Voth if she’d take me on as a writing pupil and she did and I’m loving, thoroughly loving the process of being challenged and criticised. I’m so lucky to have found a wonderful teacher. I think not all great writers make great teachers, but maybe the best are so used to being both empathic and honest that they make the best teachers, too.

I’m also lucky that I find myself among writers who are eloquent, hard working, thoughtful, honest, brave and kind. All of these writers teach me, all the time.(I wanted to pepper that sentence with links to the people I’m thinking of, but I realised that would be unnecessary.) Everything matters. Everyone matters.

As a writer, here’s a blessing: may we have good criticism. By which I mean not positive or negative necessarily, but honest, clear and fair. Thank you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

dirty books iii

It’s a nice thick one, four hundred pages at least. Average length – around seven inches, cut. Stiff, but not hard-backed. I lick my lips. Can’t wait to get this baby back home and curl up with it. Lay it in my lap and stroke it. God, I might just have to sneak home early. Maybe I can – under my desk? Fuck. Fuck it, why not? Nobody can see. Ease it open. Lower my eyes like I’m really concentrating on Monday’s spreadsheet. Run my finger slowly down the page. Find the first paragraph. Read: ‘It’s a nice thick one … ’


Read more flash from me in Frenzy, ed Alison Tyler

Thursday, August 12, 2010

dirty books ii

You go in and they’re lying there just waiting to be picked up. Sluts. One on top of another, overlapping. Lapping. Jesus. They’ve been used, and now they’re showing their best faces like cut price harlots. Thumbed. Scuffed. Bent open, wide open. Some of them fall that way; splayed. If you looked closely you might see smudges where the other hands have been on them, other fingers flicked through them, other fingertips moistened perhaps by a quick tongueful of spit.
Give in to it. Grab as many as you can. Stuff them under your coat, gather them in your arms.

Find more of my flash fiction in ... Pleasure Bound

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They love dirty books

... and I love their site. And ethos.

Bookkake.

If this is the future I like it. Look at those pretty covers, too.

dirty books

I tear off the brown paper wrapper. Pristine, almost severe lines. Perfect. I run a hand down the spine. It’s eggshell, that satin sheen that slips so beguilingly under my fingertips. Embossed. Oh yeah. A flowing, generous font, serifs intact because, yes, this book is generous enough to add curlicues and embellishments, cute little flourishes.

I prise it open. Stick my face in deep so the pages brush and press against my cheeks, like softly furred flanks. Push and burrow my nose into the crack. Inhale.

Smells of washed bodies, unperfumed skin puffed with talc. Dry kisses. Clean sweat. Promise.





Read more of my flash fiction in Playing with Fire

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What I am

Sex in the City: Paris v. 2

I wandered foolishly into a thicket of Amazon Vine Voices the other day. What struck me was that everyone keeps claiming a precise definition of erotica. A frequent criticism flung at stories, it seems, is to say 'this is not erotica'.

How many other genres have definitions so vague and mutable that it seems like an endless pastime just trying to work out what the fuck the genre should look like, let alone whether any particular piece is good or not in itself?

I'm not blame-free, I've spent a good deal of time wondering the same. We know it has to have a human head, (ahem) and probably some genitalia, at least in allusion. But then, there's EllaRegina's beautiful story with the fabulous character that has merely hooks and eyes.

Really, I'm omnivorious when it comes to erotica. I like porny stuff and I like the most subtle literary stuff, and lots in between. But then, I'm a bookoholic and I'm loath to reject any good writing merely because it doesn't fit some nebulous idea of a genre. Maybe it would be best to broaden the definition of erotica, rather than narrow it.

After all, if you're looking for a wide embrace, surely you'd find it on the erotica shelf?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Character

I always thought 'character' and 'actor' shared the same root. To do with action. Shows how much of an ignoramus I am:

Character: early 14c., from O.Fr. caractere (13c., Mod.Fr. caractère), from L. character, from Gk. kharakter "engraved mark," also "symbol or imprint on the soul," from kharassein "to engrave," from kharax "pointed stake," from PIE base *gher- "to scrape, scratch." Meaning extended by metaphor to "a defining quality."


Sense of "person in a play or novel" is first attested 1660s, in reference to the "defining qualities" he or she is given by the author.


(From etymonline)

act (n.)

late 14c., from O.Fr. acte, from L. actus "a doing" and actum "a thing done," both from agere "to do, set in motion, drive, urge, chase, stir up," from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move" (cf. Gk. agein "to lead, guide, drive, carry off," agon "assembly, contest in the games," agogos "leader;" Skt. ajati "drives," ajirah "moving, active;" O.N. aka "to drive;" M.Ir. ag "battle"). Theatrical (1510s) and legislative (mid-15c.) senses of the word also were in Latin. The verb is first attested late 15c.; in the theatrical performance sense it is from 1590s. In the act "in the process" is from 1590s, originally from the 16c. sense of the act as "sexual intercourse." Act of God "uncontrollable natural force" first recorded 1882. To act out "behave anti-socially" (1974) is from psychiatric sense of "expressing one's unconscious impulses or desires."

Well there you go.

'Never confuse movement with action' - Hemingway.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday walk

In writing as in life every time you think you have hit upon a seam, a road to run on, you read something that knocks you off down a side trail and you forget that you used to run along here, on this riverbed, and you try it out for a while. Everything is a running along like you do in dreams, circling, listening to the rhythm of your feet, focussing on the placement of your feet, how they peel off the ground and how your legs stretch and the texture of the road. Of course most of the time you lose yourself in thoughts of the maps in your head, half remembered and mistaken and distorted, and forget to look at the road under your feet, the landscape all around you. We write ourselves into the landscape of our own lives, back into the landscape, back and forth, forgetting and remembering.

And to be perfectly honest mostly I don't really run, I just walk shamble stop start lurch.

Meanwhile, read these two beautiful poems by Robin Sampson.