Sunday, 28 February 2010

#Fridayflash - Dishes

I’m standing at the sink, my hands covered in suds, when she sneaks up behind me. She wraps her lithe arms around my middle and stands on her toes, resting her chin on my shoulder. I feel her lips nuzzle me there, and her hot breath penetrates my shirt like the heat from an open fire. Her long hair is loose around her face, and it tickles my ear.

“Thank you…” she whispers, genuinely, though her teeth are scraping playfully at the back of my neck. “For dinner…for tonight.” I smile and meet her soft eyes in the window over the sink. It’s dark outside, and it’s raining…and the glass is a mirror.

“What makes you think the night is over?” I ask her, trying hard to be suave as I attempt to arch one eyebrow and end up raising both. She laughs at me, like breaking glass, instantly mocking my feeble stab at ‘sexy’…and as she buries her face in my shoulder she isn’t even trying, but her act beats mine, hands down. My insides twist inexplicably, and I couldn’t love her more.

“Happy Anniversary…” she tells me, as I position a plate in the dish rack, watching the soap slide over its smooth surface, echoing the rain on the window. It slides too slowly, like the time this washing up is taking…

I wash a knife; a fork…and her hands push under my shirt, tucking themselves into my waistband as though they always ought to be there. She presses her fingers into the flesh of my stomach, and draws me back against her tantalising warmth, while I place the paired cutlery in the drainer. Her tongue runs itself, firm and wet, up the back of my neck, and I shudder. She wants my attention…and I no longer care if the dishes get done…

I draw my wet hands from the water and meet her wicked eyes in the black glass before me…then her hands are on mine, fingers interlacing before she draws the wetness back up my arms and spreads the suds across my skin.

I close my eyes as her damp fingers push themselves up the back of my neck, into my hair, and I can’t help but hold my breath when I turn to face her. She runs her thumbs over my cheekbones like she’s touching silk and barely rests her lips on mine as she breathes, instead of says, that she loves me.

And I want to tell her back…so I let my breath go…and I open my eyes…but of course, she’s gone.

Damn it. I really fucked up this time.

Sorry my #fridayflash was posted so late this week! Started a new job and been very busy. Promise to get back on schedule very soon. :)

Friday, 19 February 2010

#Fridayflash - September

My childhood days were full of wonder and glory…or so it seemed. The sun, for me, was always shining, and the barley was always golden. My skin stayed tanned year round and I was happy and warm, breathing perfumed country air.

Of course, as an adult I realise, it must have rained sometimes…but strangely, I don’t remember. To me, it was always summer…even when my Sundays were spent picking blackberries and the mushrooms scented the woods with their heavy musk.

My father, you see, was an excellent parent, and undoubtedly, the reason for my eternal sun. He loved my brother and I more than he loved his life, and it shone from him like starlight. We never questioned that we were his everything.

When Dad wasn’t working, out on our farm, he spent his spare hours by our sides, backing up my brother and I at our latest swimming gala or rugby game. He was always the proudest father in the crowd, even when we didn’t win – and as we got older, he revelled in the warm embarrassment we pretended his attention caused.

My mother, on the other hand, had never been around. Dad said she left when I was three, but that didn’t matter – it only meant he would have to love us twice as much.

I asked my brother about Mum sometimes, when it occurred to me that I ought to…but at barely 12 months older than I, he didn’t remember a lot. She had blonde hair, he said, the colour of our barley fields, and eyes like the blue of the sky. She smelled of earth and fresh bread, and made chocolate chip cookies on Thursdays… That’s how he knew it was Thursday the morning he woke and she wasn’t there - because the cookies were.

My brother remembered Mum’s breakfasts best, he said. She’d made him eggs, just like I learned to when I grew tall enough to reach the stove. Our Dad had never been there for breakfast…because cows need milking when the sun comes up…but my brother recalled that he and the dark-haired labourer who lodged with us, would come in later for cups of tea.

It was around the time my mum left, that my brother also recalled the commotion of an accident. Our labourer, Dad said, when pushed to talk about it, had slipped and fallen under the baler… We didn’t ask for more than that, as Dad found it hard to recount that day. With no neighbours for miles around, the two men were the best of friends…and Dad could never bring himself to hire help again.

Each year throughout my childhood, Dad would take us up to the woods in September, with bunches of summer’s last flowers…which we laid at the foot of a pair of oak trees Dad told us he’d planted there for his friend.

We didn’t understand back then, why the trees were two. You see, I had no memories of my infancy...and through the years, the truth faded from my brother’s mind too. We grew up without thinking about it…content with our wonderful father and our charmed country life… And in the midst of all that sanctuary, we hardly noticed that our raven hair wasn’t red, like our Dad’s, let alone detected the reality of how our true parents came not to be there. Not even when we stood at their graves…in sunlight…each September.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

'The Sight'

I could see souls,
you said, and I know
that scared you
half to death
for fear that I’d
see yours.

But you gave me cause to look
didn’t you?
You wanted me to see through
your damage
and your lies –
you had something like
snake eyes, and they
looked daggers at me;
the doomed king (or queen)
to your Macbeth.

And you may call me damned
or blessed,
but I’d have hurled myself
from the tower for truth,
and it was clear how you knew that,
for there’d be no one there to catch me
when I fell.

I may as well have turned my soul
and all those seen,
over to the fires of Hell
and testified
to their lonely burning,
for only one thing is certain –
it wasn’t ‘the sight’ that left me yearning for
the rotten fruits of vile temptation,
for justice, love, and my own salvation –

No. You need not fear at all;
this queen never saw your soul –
just the choking blackness of
the hole
where once it should have been.

Been re-reading Macbeth this week, can you tell?! :-)

Monday, 15 February 2010

Medieval Architecture in my Glorious County - St. Hilda's Curves...

This is St. Hilda's, in Whitby, North Yorkshire.

First founded in 657AD, this glorious Benedictine abbey was the venue for King Oswiu of Northumbria's 7th century 'Synod of Whitby', wherein it was decided that the Northumbrian church would adopt the Roman Catholic calculation of Easter and monastic tonsure (the traditional monks' haircut!). It was also home to the Saxon poet, Caedmon.

The abbey was re-founded in 1078 on the orders of William de Percy, and re-dedicated to St. Peter and St. Hilda. It survived until 1540, when it was finally sacked during the Dissolution. 

The ruin has since been a landmark for many a sailor, and an inspiration to many a writer, including Bram Stoker in the process of writing, Dracula. I follow in their esteemed footsteps with a poem about my love of medieval architecture, and the compulsion to draw features and plans of St. Hilda's Abbey -

Drawing St. Hilda (Whitby, N.Yorks.)

I want to talk of curves and lines,
of willow trees, and creeping vines
and beautiful decay, I want to talk
of summer days spent
beneath your shade,
to vanquish all who seek to
take an ounce
of majesty from you.

O the things I want to do –

To touch you
And draw you
and coat you and call you
in dreams of sandstone and ice cream,
to hear you scream my name
back through time
in centuries infinitely more sublime than
this I dare call mine. I want to talk of
curves and lines –
Oh yes, and better still,
I want to caress them long and
Arched and true;
I want you – for as long as you’ll
have me, abbey, for as long
as you’ll let me
sit and copy
every swoosh and circle,
every rose and purple wildflower –

I want to taste you
for hours – to wrap my
fingers round pillars and butts
and cover you in the gelatinous
lustre of grace. I want to leave
it on your face, forever, – so you
stink of me, and I of you,
so we will be like the glued pigeon
feathers that cling to your hair and edges –
both of us soft and solid wretches,
unwillingly pledging
to be together until we are free.


This ought to be two poems, side by side, reflecting one another, but blogger won't allow me to improve its appearance here (grr!).
Said I: Who are you                                   Said she: Who are you
sweet, joyous stranger?                               who looks on me
Who stares back at me,                               here from coolness and water?
a mirror of persuasion?                                This morning, more than most
Where did you come from?                          she is her father’s daughter of time and space,

Were you born on light in silver dawn?         she is ready now to hear the truth and
She who pushes soft tresses back,                 take off her face of heaven…for she
with hands like holy, waxen flax                  is older. The voice in her eyes grows
and dresses here each day,                           ever colder as she marches with the
with such life-consuming courage                 soldiers of life. She has known the cuts
and fire                                                    of several knives, and she has survived –
that it eats her blushing face?                      ever still as she was. Ever just
Will you not take your place                      as wonderful to look at, and ever plagued by
in darkness                                              demon cats, who brought her chains long ago
and bliss                                                 and fed her grains of sand. They shattered her
as you belong with those cherry-lips,           dreams and plans of fairy-castles;
my devil? And stop,                                 and taught her just one thing -
teasing my escape?                                   she could sing of freedom aloud,

Brush those glorious clouds                       yet throb with the wounds of battle,
from your nape                                         for the clouds would always
and smile, child –                                    be there
I’d give anything                                     to hide
to be so free.                                           her chafing, iron shackles.

Why Can't We Help But Look?

The starving in deserts, the casualties of war, victims of terror, of tragedies, and natural disasters... They're on the T.V., in our newspapers, every supply and demand.

What is it about these images that keeps us looking? ...and going back to look again? And buying a book? And watching a documentary? And making a movie? And what do the subjects of these images feel? I find it fascinating enough for poetry...

A Comment on Graphic Journalistic Photography

I understand you
at me,
but why so
morbidly? Without pity,
or grace,
or reddened face –
how dare you stare?

How dare you imagine
Profess to care and understand
as you hand the image
on, agog?
“Oh, God!”
“That’s terrible!”
You’ll only ever feel the sting
of vague humanity –
you don’t
care about me –
go home! Turn on your TV!
I know you can’t get enough,
that’s it; buy a book;
take a hundred and seventh
look at my misery!

Vulture! Scavenger! Vile carrion!
In a moment you’ll cast me off
and carry on with
your daily life – pick up a knife
and slice tomatoes for tea.
And in a week,
after you eat
your fill of tragedy,
it will be as though you never
gauped at me – mangled and crushed
and mauled –
just as if you’d never
cast eyes on me
at all.

Something For St. Valentine's Day...

When nothing & no one matters but being together...

Selfish Lovers

there was that night,
on your sofa
when you told me the things
that I didn’t want to hear –
Things that should never be verbalised
by people
who want to be thought of
as decent –

but then
you and I
have never been that
and we clawed at one another that night
like cats, howling at a kitchen window,
begging to come inside.
We clung to one another –
Chimera on the couch, as though
we’d never be divided.

And that you could not look at me
that way -
was exactly
what made it so
forgivable to say
that it was ‘true’;
because it wasn’t something malleable –
it was just you, and I,
and I think,
it ever shall be. For we know
no rules,
and you,
in fact, we are, the epitome of cruel
to everyone but ourselves.

All their love should be shelved, so
we might spend
more time
in ours.
You’ve never brought me
spring flowers, and I know, you never will –
it’s not that kind of love still…
after all this time.
There are no doves, no jewels, no sky,
just enough to soak the breath from our sighs and insist
we cry our souls out on the floor…

at least once a week.

And I’ll tell you what is more…
the others know not of what they speak
when they say
they’ve never felt like this before.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Life On A Postcard...

Where inspiration's concerned, I'm in a bit of a Biblical phase at the moment! I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I've been re-reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein lately and have rediscovered and been affected by all the previous texts, themes of good and evil, and the Biblical gender portrayals and ideals that affected its Victorian author.

As a result, when I was asked last week, as a task for the Leeds Writers' Group, to compose a 'life on a postcard', the following poem is what I came up with. In my Biblically-influenced state, I decided this little 'biography' ought to be a comment on the development (or lack of development!) of the character of 'woman' in the first four books of the Old Testament:

The Life of a Woman
(From Genesis to Deuteronomy)

See here, woman, how thou art unclean
of flesh, and all living wickedness art in thee,
but still, see, how thou art loved the same
and made as one with man,
made from him, no less,
born of earth and rib in Genesis,
as daughters have rights of sons.
See how thou art done well, by an honourable
God, despite thy vileness and thy sin?
See how thou didst begin in all deceit and gore?

See also how the mighty law protects thee
and defiles thee,
see how thou art free and guided
into chains. For thou shalt not kill, woman,
but thou shall be maimed
for thy whoring, and thy adultery…
…lest, of course,
thou be guilty…or be not.
And no sons wilst thou have begot
‘less in pain and misery, for thou deservest,
as the one who yeildeth first unto the serpent, and led men astray -
thus shalt thou crawl ever as he,
upon thy belly all your days.
And men shall be as angels yet, in My image,
to rule upon you for all’s sake.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

#Fridayflash - Falling

“Are you sure about this?”


“Then I shouldn’t do it…I mean…you should just go back…”

“Is that what you really want?” Michael looked straight at me; almost held his breath. His deep-blue eyes were hurt and incredulous.

“No… God, no! You know it isn’t. I want you here…with me… But Michael, if you’re not sure..?” I sighed, heavily. “Look…the way I understand it, once we do this, there’s no going back…and I just don’t want you to hate me if you regret it later.”

“How could you think I’d do that?” Michael’s voice rose in irritation. “You think I could regret being with you?! Lucy…you’re everything…I could never hate you.”

“You might not think so,” I said, seeing truth in his eyes, yet needing to be sure. “But who knows how we’ll feel a year from now? Maybe your friends are right, maybe we’re being na├»ve about this and we should just accept that we’re different…”

“Lucy…I had no idea you felt that way… Do you really think they have a point?!” Michael sounded betrayed. I’d never said any of this before, but things were getting serious now…the point of no return. He had to be certain.

“No…of course I don’t…” I breathed, sad and conflicted. “Please, don’t be angry. I just don’t want you to give up anything you’ll miss…I couldn’t stand it if I made you unhappy. Michael…you have so much more to lose than I do…”

“You’re right.” He sighed and rubbed his fingers over his blond head in frustration. “I have a lot to lose… I’ll be leaving a job I was born to do, I’ll be leaving my men behind, and a war I believe in fighting…” he looked up at me, and smiled then, “…the Commander will be furious…and I’ll miss out on all sorts of officers’ privileges… But look at what I’m gaining, Lucy! I get you…and it’s better than all that. It’s better than anything! The war will go on without me…and so will the Unit …I think I’ve led it long enough.”

“And our differences?” I said, raising my eyebrow inquisitively. “What of those then?”

“Well, the way I understand it…after we do this, those will go away. I’ll be just like you.” He grinned, genuinely happy at the thought, and I returned his smile, curling my fingers around the back of his neck and leaning my forehead on his. I stared at Michael’s impossibly blue eyes and held their steady gaze.

“Michael…” I whispered. “Be sure…”

“I’ve never been surer,” he said, suddenly strong, as he pushed the knife into my hand.

Pulling him closer, I wrapped my arms around Michael’s shoulders and sliced the enormous, white wings from his naked back, with a practiced flick of my wrist.

Michael roared in agony as blood gushed from the fresh, ragged wounds…blood that was red…and mortal. His wings fell to the ground amidst a cloud of scattered, stained feathers, and I stepped back, dropping the knife with a violent clatter. I’d played by the rules…he’d had three chances to stop this…

Michael’s pained cries peaked as wails of desolate realisation when he saw the bony horns begin to erupt from my scalp and push through curly red hair that shortened before his eyes. I flexed my fingers as their nails lengthened to claws and a forked tail burst from my lower back, thrashing and whipping at the air.

“This doesn’t quite resolve our differences, angel…” I sneered. The voice that resonated from my morphing body, deepened with every word. “You’ll never be just like me…” I threw back my head and howled with hysterical laughter… Another divine warrior disabled...a leader, no less! This was getting far too easy!

I left Michael sobbing and bleeding on the pavement, as I descended through it, victorious. I didn’t know if the neutered angel cried for the Cause, his wings, or his broken heart…and neither did I care…

Good: 0 Evil: 1

Friday, 5 February 2010

#Fridayflash - What Cain Did

Some of you asked for it, so here's Cain's side of the story... 
The moment I saw her I knew she was more than just another beautiful woman in a bar. I hadn’t had the best of days, and honestly, I didn’t feel like talking…but there was just something about her…

She was tough…it radiated from her, but there was also something searching in her, like she knew there was more to life, and wouldn’t give up until she found it.

She had green eyes that seemed familiar. I noticed that when she sat down beside me; before she spoke, before she even looked at me. They were stunningly bright, and she pursed her soft mouth below them, whistling when the bartender placed another beer and whiskey chaser before me.

“Put it on the tab,” I grumbled, and she smirked… I could only see her out the corner of my eye, but I knew she was smiling. I felt it.

“Rough day?” She asked, leaning closer until I could feel her heat and smell her scent, like honey and jasmine. I wanted to ask her what the hell my drinking habits had to do with her – and if she’d been anyone else, I would have. But those green eyes were steady and genuine, like she’d listen for hours if I actually told her the whole sorry tale.

“Something like that,” I replied, offering a ghost of a smile in return. I couldn’t help it, and besides, facing her was far preferable to facing the images in my head.

We talked a little, the woman who said her name was Annabelle, and I. It was nice - sort of distracting - and mostly, I found I was honest with her. Except, of course, when we reached the inevitable –

“So what do you do?” She asked. I told her I was in IT, a consultant – everyone’s in IT now, aren’t they? She said she was a nurse, and it made a lot of sense. She had one of those invisible protective shells around her, like she’d got used to losing people. It was a shame, I thought. I’d been starting to really like her, but there was no use thinking ahead…Annabelle would never handle the truth.

I mean…how do you tell someone who saves lives, that you’re a professional killer; a specialist in lethal explosions? How do you tell her you fake terror attacks for a living, to feed the egos of bastard politicians and sway the opinions of the world? And how do you explain that a ‘rough day’ is the day a little boy gets caught in one of your car bombs? That the news channel in this very bar is reporting your handy work?

The truth is, you don’t, and there was no point pretending otherwise. It didn’t matter if Annabelle was a nurse really…my job wouldn’t wash with any woman. Even if it had been a choice between the Secret Service or prison - Cain Andrews, SAS deserter to Cain Andrews, government pawn - and I’d never asked to be who I am.

So, I charmed Annabelle instead, and waited for her to ask me in when I walked her home…because if she didn’t take me upstairs and take my mind off that boy’s blood on the embassy steps, I knew I’d never sleep again.
 *                                           *                                         *
The following morning, as I stood naked in her bathroom doorway, she told me she didn’t do this often…she didn’t invite strange guys from bars into her bed. I reassured her, of course I didn’t think that…she didn’t seem the type to screw around… And for once, I was being honest, she really didn’t. Annabelle’s mouth was the most truthful thing I’d ever encountered, in speech and everything else. Her tongue was masterful and practiced, but by no means mechanical. She was bitter and sweet, generous and attentive…and vicious…all at once. In truth, she’d touched my soul, and God help me, I wanted more…

“I must be special then?” I asked her, and every fibre of me willed her to say ‘yes’, to say she felt the same startling connection here as I did. When she didn’t respond, I sought the confirmation I was sure I would find, in her kiss instead. Laying on the bed beside her, my eyes locked on her green gaze and I leaned towards her.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I murmured against her lips, nipping at their softness between words. She made an inquisitive sound, but didn’t move, only trembled, until I twisted, drawing her mouth into mine. “You think…” I breathed, breaking off as our kiss deepened. “That this can’t be happening...” She pushed my shoulder and I rolled willingly onto my back, raising the intensity and gasping my next words, breathlessly, into her hot, open mouth. “You think you can’t feel this way…after just one night…but…”

I felt her catch her breath then as she clawed away strands of her hair that caught in our kiss. I didn’t need to finish my sentence, it was clear she felt it too…her body screamed it, without words. Annabelle buried her fingers in my hair and drew me tighter against herself, her graceful arms snaking around my neck and back... I knew I’d never felt anything like this before, and might never again. Maybe I could tell her the truth about my work…perhaps she would understand…

I didn’t feel her stab me until the blade hit my heart - sliding very professionally between my ribs, through my back as she held me. I didn’t understand it and I tried to say her name, to ask her why, but found I couldn’t breathe enough to speak – my chest was full of crushing air and blood. She said she was sorry and my dying eyes saw truth in hers…her impossibly bright, green eyes.

It wasn’t until the clarity of death that I remembered why those eyes were familiar. My boss had the same green eyes,...just older. And so did his son…the boy I’d left dying on the embassy steps last night. There had always been a photo of the child on my boss's desk - posing with a woman he'd once told me was his niece...