face

My Collapsing Head

I owned an enormous apartment in the penthouse of a tall building in the centre of a city which was an amalgam of London and Berlin. There were several bedrooms with double beds and silk sheets, and a huge living-space with marble floors which extended around a central room. I had been throwing a party for old school friends and acquaintances, and everyone was crashing out now in the beds. F was there, and we had some kind of brief, animated conversation with waving of hands and laughter, and I remember being happy that we could still get on well together.

An old schoolmate was there who had actually killed himself with a shotgun when he was 15, but this didn't appear strange to me; I just became suspicious when I saw him moving the Xbox out of the main room, because I suspected he was stealing it, so I followed him into the bedroom he was bringing it to and asked him what he was doing. He got a dull, haunted look in his eyes as he explained that he just wanted to get on to Xbox Live, and I saw that this was the room with the modem in it. I felt a little guilty for assuming he was thieving, since he obviously knew what I was thinking.

When I left the room, I noticed something a little strange about my head. My forehead felt strange. I found a mirror and was shocked to see that my "forehead bone" had become displaced and was moving around my face, making it misshapen. I thought, "Oh Christ, I've punched myself in the head too many times and this time I've done some real damage, I'm so stupid." I pushed it back into place with my fingers, and it slotted back in painfully and slowly, with a horrible feeling in my face of it sliding around under my skin. I was in a mild panic, and I decided I had to find a doctor. I ran out of the apartment and found some strangers and said "I need a doctor...please help me..."

The next thing I knew I was being examined by two doctors in a surgery. They were fascinated by my dislocated forehead, and they decided it had to be replaced by a prosthetic. While they were in the process of removing the old forehead bone (for some reason I was awake and calm during this procedure) they discovered another thing that interested them - my entire upper jaw had been replaced by an "orthodontic plate". I remembered that this had been done years before when my jaw disintegrated, and I'd forgotten about it. The doctors moved the pieces of my head around like a jigsaw and put me back together.

I went back to the apartment afterwards to find Jo and explain what had happened, because I'd been out all night, and I thought she might think I was out cheating on her. When I got back she told me that she knew what had happened, and she looked at me with deep concern, because the work hadn't taken properly yet. I looked in the mirror again and saw that the prosthetic forehead protruded at the sides and that my eyesockets were in the wrong places, preventing me from seeing properly. I tried to manipulate everything back into place, but it had all become plastic and my face kept morphing away from anything recognizable. My nose grew and shrank, my eyes moved around and even my skin tone changed.

All of a sudden my face turned into my father's face. It was his complete likeness, and I thought "OK, this is possible because genetically I have my father in me." I spoke to Jo, and my voice was my father's voice too. Then a little more manipulation and I changed again. At one point I looked like myself again and there was a sense of relief, but I knew that at any moment it could change again; that what was holding my face together was very fragile. I was trying to think through the implications of this when I woke up.

The Dark And Smiling Face

I was in my old house again, living with my mother, and some of my old friends from school had called over to play cards and drink. I was showing some of them my computer while the rest of them were watching television, and I showed them a website like E2 where I was posting articles on famous chess players. One of them asked "What about Etienne Bacrot? and I typed in his name and brought up a java applet of one of his games. I explained, "Etienne Bacrot just won the French  Championships.

The guys were getting quite loud, and I knew that my mother would be trying to get to sleep so I turned down the volume of the music and the TV and went upstairs to see how she was. I saw that her bedroom door was open and the light was on, and when I poked my head around the corner she said "Hi there," so I went in.

"Sorry about the noise, I'm just kicking the guys out now."
It's fine, don't worry about it. I see you disconnected the Internet and then dialled in again."
"The first call was from a mobile so we dialled in again from the land line, it's cheaper.
"Oh, that's good. Before you go downstairs again, will you do me a favour? Tell me if you see the dark and smiling face.
"What's that?"
"Oh, I thought I told you." She laughs. "The doctor showed me how to tell if I'm sick."

She gets out of bed and we walk to the top of the stairs together, and she waits while I go downstairs and look back up at her. She's half-naked and grossly fat and pale, and she hunches forward so that her belly pushes into a strange, contorted shape. As I stare at it, the folds resolve into a smiling face with dark eyes.

"I can see the face."
"Is it laughing or smiling?"
"Just smiling."
"Okay, I'm still sick then."

She goes back to her room and I get rid of my friends and go to bed.
 

Darkness Shaking

eyes closed
                      phosphor flashes
          earlobe heartbeat
pillow thunder
                      midnight quiet

prayers over
                      cool sheets
          cloudy blackness
growing deeper
                      sleeping shapes

hands vanished
                      air keening
          distant voices
faces floating
                      glowing weightless

heart racing
                      dizzy bedroom
          thoughts swarming
morning fever
                      darkness shaking

Freedom and the Travelling Circus

Freedom is a careful clown
Who takes his shoes upstairs
And polishes his toenails
With a brush of horsy hairs

Freedom's nose is festive
And his smile is gaudy paint
His buttons are a child's delight
Indubitably quaint

Freedom runs away
When all his friends are throwing pies
And wonders why the birdies
Grow much bigger than the flies

When Freedom sleeps he doesn't dream
Of persimmons or hoops
Nor of the bearded ladyboy
Who gurgles when s/he stoops

His head becomes a thousand feathers
In a pillowcase
And if he washed the night before
He'll wake without a face