mother

The Carnival and the Prison

Liadain and I were at a carnival, riding the roller coaster, and I've never been on a scarier ride. It went up really high and plunged down into this deep, dark pit, and then it went upside down in this terrifyingly fast loop, and we were all screaming, and it kept accelerating, so that the cars would tilt as we swerved around the corners, and then finally everything went blank.

When I came to we were in the water up to our necks, and the roller coaster was above us. I grabbed Liadain, and we clung to the car and started kicking for shore where a lot of shocked-looking people were waiting for us. At first I couldn't work out what had happened. Hadn't we just gone for a swim? Then I realized that we'd fallen off the roller coaster into the water. One of the carnival attendants helped us out of the water and told us what we had to do to deal with the shock - "Don't eat anything, and you can only drink this mineral water." He handed us a squashy bottle. "This water?" "That one." I drank some. It tasted vaguely lemony. Liadain seemed fine, and I only had a couple of sore places, but I had this feeling that we should have been far more badly injured, judging by the height we fell.

We left the carnival to head for home. We had a long journey ahead of us, through several towns with strange names, and in one of them we had a run-in with the police. I can't remember exactly what happened, but we ended up being framed for a murder that was committed by a military man called General Miller. We had a travelling companion, General Miller's daughter, who we thought we were friends with and she helped set us up. We were taken to the police station and were awaiting trial, and were feeling pretty depressed about it, when I realized that I could get out of my handcuffs. I took them off and went into the next room where General Miller's daughter was sitting. She watched me approach, scared, and I punched her. Or at least I tried to. My hand kind of slipped off her face. I tried hitting her several times, just to get the message across that she'd done a really terrible thing, then I grabbed her. "I didn't even get to hit you properly," I said, "but we're going now." I turned around and Liadain and I left the police station. One of the officers tried to stop us and I said "We are just going to walk out of here and you can't stop us. These charges are total bullshit and everyone will know about it. There's nothing you can do."

They followed us out of the station, but there was a large crowd outside for some kind of celebration, and I started shouting the names of the police officers as they followed. Finally I yelled, "And I'd like to thank General Miller for our stay in prison!" and they quit following me. I think I'd hit the jackpot with that one - he was an important man and they didn't want him exposed to any scandal. As we passed through the police station gate I felt a strange itching on my ankle, and looked down to see a pink tattoo appear there. It was the word "FREE" and a symbol of some kind, like a bird. I asked someone in the crowd about it, and they told me that it had appeared there because I'd taken control of my own destiny. I looked down again and it was already fading.

Finally we got home, except home wasn't really home, it was my old family home, and my mother and father and sister were there, as well as my old friend Lean and her parents. I'd hardly got there before I wanted to leave again, and we decided we'd go out for the evening, but my mother wanted me to water the garden. So I thought, anything for peace, and I went outside to try and get the hose working. I couldn't seem to attach the nozzle correctly, and my mother came outside and was standing over me as I tried to do it, criticizing me angrily, so I pushed her away roughly and told her to go mind her own business. This sent her into a panic because she thought I had tried to hit her, and she ran around the side of the house waving her hands.

I decided in a resigned kind of way that I'd better go get her and apologize, and went around the side. She was in tears, and she'd grown, so that she was now about a foot taller than me, and very big. She was still panicked, and she was holding a mobile phone. "I'm going to call General Miller! I'll tell them all what you're really like!" I took the phone from her and hugged her, afraid that she might actually do it. "I'm sorry I shoved you, but I wouldn't really have hit you, I was just play-acting." She seemed to calm down a bit, and shrank to her normal size and went back into the house.

I finished fitting the hose, and started spraying the bushes and the grass, and then I noticed my dad watching me from the kitchen with a puzzled expression. I looked at him, and then looked at the hose, and the garden, and realized how stupid this was. I was just pandering to my mother's irrational desires to make my own life easier, and I suddenly felt ashamed when I saw my dad watching me do it. I turned the hose off and went back into the house. "I'm not going to water the garden today. It rained twice today, there's no need." My mother replied angrily, "There was a lot of wind!", and I said, "Yes - it was stormy. Everything got very wet. We're going to go out tonight, and if you think about it and you still think the garden needs watering, then I'll do it tomorrow night, okay?" She seemed to accept this. I added, "By the way, Liadain and I got thrown out of a roller coaster this evening, we're lucky we weren't badly hurt," but no one was really listening, so we just left.
 

Secret Staircase

I was in my family's old house, staying in my sister's room while she was away on holiday, and while I was snooping through her drawers I found her hash stash. I knew we were going over to my granny's for dinner later, so I took some and rolled myself a joint. The hash was old and dry and crusty-looking, but I didn't care.

When we arrived at my granny's house (I must have been quite young in this dream, because my mother and father were together) they met us at the door and I hugged my granny. My uncle was there, the one who I idolized most of my young life. He was relaxed and happy to see me, and offered me a cigarette. It was badly rolled and bits of tobacco kept coming loose in my lips. I was going to smoke the joint with him, but then I remembered that I was off marijuana, and I reluctantly threw it away.

We talked about board games for a while, and then he said he was going upstairs, and that I could come if I wanted, because he didn't have any work to do for tomorrow. I knew my sister would be jealous that I was spending time with my uncle, because everyone liked him and he was her godfather, but I didn't care. When I went upstairs I discovered that he had taken over the entire 1st floor of my granny's house. He had lots of interesting stuff in his room - the shelves were covered with gadgets and sleek black stereo equipment.

I took off my boxers and was wandering around upstairs naked, when I heard my father coming up the stairs. I started trying to pull my boxers up again, but they kept getting caught in my feet. Desperately I yanked them up just as he came into the room, and tried to look nonchalant, but he didn't even seem to notice. We were leaving, and on the way down I discovered the cutest thing - a narrow little secret white staircase going from the top floor of the house down to the ground. I didn't know how I'd never noticed it before, with all the hundreds of hours I'd spent in my grandparents' house. I got so excited running down it that I jumped too hard and banged my head off the low ceiling. My grandad felt my head with his fingers - there was a big lump.

Later, the dream is much hazier. My father, my uncle and I were making a big bed, plumping the pillows and smoothing out the duvet. I think the bed was for my mother to lie down in. Something had made her very sick. Or maybe it was me. My head was badly injured and I felt ill and dizzy. I might have lain down in the bed and passed into a deeper or shallower dream, because suddenly I was swimming through a bright, clear cavern covered with coral and underwater plants. I pulled myself forward powerfully. I could breathe water just like air. I could dimly remember my story - I was on a great adventure, and I'd been hurt somewhere along the way, but I was recovering. I was a warrior.
 

Family Miasma

I'd left my family and friends to go and live the kind of life I'd always wanted to live, up in high mountain country with Liadain where the air was clean and time wasn't so important any more. But it seemed like it wasn't so easy to leave that life behind, because they all followed me - my mother and sister, grandparents and uncles and aunts, in a convoy up from the city for reasons best known to themselves.

I was trying to find Liadain so that we could leave, but my uncle cornered me in a small room and told me that he had found a passage in the Guru Granth that would make me have visions. I stayed to listen, and he read from the book with high drama, making me kneel down at one point. I really wanted to have visions, so I started to sway back and forth, trying to get into it even though I didn't understand the words he was saying. My mother and sister were trying to get my attention but I ignored them. Eventually my uncle finished the invocation and nothing in particular had happened so I got up and went to look for them.

To get out of the house I had to climb out of a large hallway window, and I got stuck, and a couple of my relatives tried to help me get down, but my uncle came along and told me to stop looking for attention, so I screamed at him to fuck off, which he didn't like at all. When I finally got down I went up to him and yelled "I'm sorry I told you to fuck off! OK? I'M SORRY!!" and then ran off crying, because everyone was being such an asshole and no one understood me at all.

Especially my mother, who was getting into her car and driving away because I had ignored her earlier. I caught up with her and sat in the car and tried to explain to her that I loved her, but we were never going to be able to have a proper, adult relationship if she was going to keep on getting upset over stupid things like this.

I don't know if she understood. The next time I saw her she was playing Internet chess with a man who was pretending to be John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who kept sending her disturbing instant messages which were supposed to be erotic, like "Now I'm cutting off your little finger, slowly," or "I'm flaying the skin from the inside of your thigh." My mother would make her move on the chessboard, and reply with flirtatious, coy messages. I didn't understand what she was getting out of the whole interchange, and I know it's not just because it was a dream, because I so rarely understand what people get out of the things they spend their time doing.

 

You, The Marionette

you, the unstrung cello, with your factory hands and your crazy pale hair, what do you think you're doing? knives for the kitchen and kisses for the bedroom. you're supposed to be a healer. what else did you think would be any use? no physician heals the self

you, the bad actor, you live in a sea of mirrors, you're running through streets paved with faces cut from friends and family, you're always lost in someone else's labyrinth. you told yourself you were a chain on an angel but did you really think about it? your storm-smashed glass, your excuses to be angry. you, the maker of the sea. smiling shining everlasting if only it could always be that way



like furrows for planting seeds, red lines on your forearm. you, the unimportance of damage. so what does it mean when you stand in the empty white kitchen imagining yourself torn to pieces by knives. something is calling you - let me go. you said it was the closest thing to your dreams of flying, weaving through the rushhour animals with a mind like a razor, a razor through meat. let me go past the ring of hills into the psychic woodlands where dead pine needles crunched under the soles of my shoes in the silence of sleeping shadows. let me go out of the gravity well to swim in your space hotel.

you, the imaginary one. you met your twin and he told you the truth. he loved you and gave you the truth. where were you when the sky froze and the neverending mirrors toppled into the darkness of the sea, when the girl with no face danced the other universe open, when the star maker was visible in the eyes of every living thing, where were you when the fox screamed in the early morning through the fine mist of the woods, where was your heart when everyone else was given theirs. you, the island of the sun. you'd like to be marked. you'd like to be special. you'd like to be noticed. you'd like to tear yourself apart. you'd like to disappear. you, the one who was supposed to be loved and never hated, the gazer upon the face of the dark waters. Nero was an angler in the lake of darkness. we love for so many different reasons. we are shaken through space and time until we are free.



you, the mercenary. a visionary in the pounding aftermaths of your dreams, you're awake when you're invisible, forget what you think you know. your blood solves nothing, your thoughts are telegrams sent too late: when the door to the world of light closes stop you've seen all this before stop you've pushed the demons back a million times stop what new thing could you have to say now stop I broke myself, I lost myself, I wanted to eat the tendrils of the sun, they were made of gold sugar stop she told me I wouldn't ever die if I would only love

black windows falling. cold metal on your arm that you wish would bite deeper than you meant. oops - an accident. It's nothing. something bloody to show for all the wars you're going through. scars from someone else's battle. you, the healer. two homes high above the clouds, one a darkened pool of water that you fish in for tools, weapons, secrets. one a bright, quiet house, hidden between two leafs of a book with infinite pages. the clawed hand from the sky, the thousand-fired city catacombed through a mountainside. you, the hero, letting your friends pay the restaurant bill while you stare at the new continent in the sky. so strange you never noticed it before. I've been asleep all my life. crestfallen, ashamed, guilty. you stare at their faces full of love, at your own hands, twenty years older than you, the hands of someone shocked into silence and oblivion by a dead baby, a dark-eyed girl. never meant to hurt. you. anyone. dust and blood in spirals at the bottom of the broken staircase. the dread ringing in your ears fading with the grateful, lying thought, this is a dream as you give up the struggle and slip under the waves with your dark sister. sometimes it's true. if it's false, you lose everything, and start again with empty hands and a little more confusion. isn't it better for everything to be real than unreal?

your little comforts. the blue sky at the top of the mesa, the gravestones they turned into pavings for a park, dead acorns painted gold and hung on a string for Christmas. you, turning death into life. The mirror tells you that you’re dying with every second. life into death and death into life, the skeleton dancing in the valley of skulls and snowdrops. baby heads pushing out of the frozen soil of the suburban parks, the arcs of the suspension bridge lurking in the fog, bubbles and frogspawn collecting in the corners of the shattered cesspool. you, the witness, desperate for understanding. you, the mariner. you, the firm grip, the knife, the cut, and the end of the cut. you, the one who isn't harmed. you, the liar, the lie, and the truth the lie tried to hide. you, the menu and the meal, the map and the territory, the hand and the glove. you, the spiral flower.

offerings in the morning darkness to the empty chair, crying for a mother who never existed. you held her out of the bathwater until her death turned to life again. later by the wild shore raindrops closed your eyes, shouts from the hillside from friends hidden in the ferns and grass, hunting lemons and papaya for when the beach is set on fire. we'll set it on fire. we'll offer it up if you want. anything but what you're asking. you, the one who knows what the fire rituals mean, you, who kissed the sand at the centre of the universe, you, the only other person who saw the rainbow's end in the trees near the jetty, while the storm rains churned the sea and you floated with no dreams left.



the dreams came back. I am their playground, writhing between pillars of lightning. I, astronaut, caught in the birth of something that howls with flame and darkness. silent absolute zero burning through your bones. you, the one in the sun's heart. this is my mind. this is my gift and what it costs. to build bridges across a shifting sea, to link the cold cores of stars. this is the other world you wished for. I don't know how I didn't die.

I haven't been myself

I haven't been myself
been passing myself off as this other guy
with a golden look and a smile
hiding behind his eyes in mirrors
that kind of thing

been hugging myself close to his wife
because she's so warm and soft
don't know if she loves me or him
she says it's always been me
but I don't know who she means

I feel like a ghost baby, just pushing out
everything's starting to look insane again
like it was years ago - insane and full of light
I wasn't trying to understand it back then
I was just playing

but was that me or the other guy?
he's a whore and a liar, a mobile mask
turned to mother as she claps and kisses.
she made him and without her he's dead -
no one else knows him or needs him

stuck down in the primal dark
I’m afraid I’m going stupid or crazy
I might forget how to speak, how to make
my face look normal, how to move my body,
how to be liked, how to fake it, how to fit in

I haven't been myself
been this mannequin instead
sneaked him into places using my ID
let him use my name and run my life
now I want to come back and he hates me for it

it's natural
he doesn't want to die
and he doesn't understand
when I try to explain that
he never existed
 

Antimatter

solar powered, battery free hopeless incompetent hero drowning
partially helpless unclothed mystified you're my freshness and my sight
I'm outside everything, wiping a finger on the window of my dreams
fogged up and freezing, friends and failure, my god helps me to see into
the nighttime dynamo and the whirling metal glacier indigo
I'm not here, I'm not anywhere, I'm not a thing at all
nowhere, nothing, a twist in the sheet metal of the mind, a noise
in the storm of the mind, an image writhing on the surface of the mind's sea
all this is nothing, I need my own voice to come through
not some reflection of the screams and confusion going on in my brain
but my real awareness, how I'd want to speak to god, how I'd want to speak
to my own soul, my own heart, how I'd speak to my mother after this life is over
this is nothing, there's no reason for it, I can't see or hear, like something
not even born, wailing unformed and limbless, egg sac, egg yolk skin and eyes
not that nightmare, something real and ordinary, a fetus, an amniotic teabag
there's no identity here that stays the same across each moment and second
no ghost dancing in my bones, no woman drowning in my mind, no hero
puking into the dark river, no lion raising its paw to pull down
the screen of the universe and bring all pretending to an end
mama mama let me sing before the dark god coughs and the goblin claws my throat out
let me roll in the brambles near the reservoir, let me leave and never come back
fist, throat, name, hand, shoes, walls, sun, sister, road, knife, sky
a new style in the magazines or the third greatest novel in the history
of an insignificant country - another barefoot, smiling guru, another teacher
clawing desperately at a sick blackboard as the faceless students scroll by
on film strip winding around a prayer wheel, a maypole, a stick for entrails
three kilos of quivering calculating brain cereal, bone and meat, leatherbound,
decorated and stamped for approval and processing, rapid insertion into the equation
no purity, no home, no return - halved and quartered and divided until we are sand,
we are dust, we are antimatter, and our burning heals us, our screaming soothes us
I remember how I used to sing, and listen to singing, how I used to shout
when the birds and the frogs in the old garden woke up and the ditches shook
I am just a bag of memory, old stories repeating, sun and moon cycling, blood
in the veins and arteries, a system of systems, words and words and words
trying to find a new way of writing but my mind is empty, nothing comes
India, father, pillars in the evening, sand and kisses, the smell of the dead house
smoke from bodies, slow river, roots of mountains, clear water, the bellow
of an emperor trapped in a dream, horse rotting in a riverbed, flowers in eye sockets
fuck how I love to breathe, to feel it bursting in my stomach and my spine,
that insane loving energy shooting me like a maniac bullet at my own beautiful death

Reasons Not To Go Home

The city is drunk
and then there's me -
sober, surreal, softly
walking beside the viscid river,
witnessing:
her spangles, white and orange;
her patience, the way she gathers
everything in strange arms
as gifts for the ocean.

I have gifts, in a plastic bag:
a chocolate egg left from Easter.
A copy of Time Magazine.
Stray words in my mind,
which I will write down
because that is how I can stay alive.

My mother gave me the egg.
She wastes nothing, except time.
She never learned how to live
with time, and its gathering
of all the pretty things
to the mercy of their endings.

Alone in my bedroom, I can hear
traffic, voices from the street,
wind sometimes, and if it rains
I will leave my window open
and imagine that I am on a journey
across many miles of water.

I truly have no reason to be here
except that I'm waiting
to feel my lover's hands on my face -
I'm waiting to lie with her
and whisper that I remember her
from a lighter, more gentle place.

One day all the stories of me
will end, like the lights on the river -
maybe borne like funeral candles into the sea,
or maybe disappeared into daylight,
but either way, tenderly, without harm,
no one there to see or be afraid.

For now, I can only be a prayer
in the living darkness,
heard by silent companions,
stilled into the air's memory
even as I am carried without end
from moment to moment. And she
is the prayer that I am, the plea
that I make, the desperate language
that no one ever taught me -
no one ever needed to.
 

Little Burning Petals

Yellow roses are cold. Red roses burn you inside and white roses are broken pieces of a purer sun, but yellow roses have no flame, they are cold. Everyone knows this.

Karen remembers the day Dad gave her roses. She sometimes thinks about his as he was on that day, at that moment, the butter flowers making his face glow as if with an interior light. She knows it was only the fluorescents reflected off the petals, because as she took the flowers they chilled her skin.

Karen still sleeps in her old bedroom. She takes the same steps every day and smiles to herself as if each of her actions contained a secret. She is a shower of dark hair. She gets more beautiful every day. In the morning she sits outside and waits for the sun to crest the oaks at the edge of the garden, soaking up as much light as she can. When she comes back inside she radiates it – it’s almost painful to touch her, and there’s nothing beautiful in the world except her. When it rains she folds up her light neatly and draws it into herself. She drifts through the house like a thing barely alive. She arranges the flowers in every room. Daffodils for the kitchen, daisies for the bathroom, lilacs for the hall, and roses…

Roses are powerful flowers. Dad brought her roses that day. Their stems were bound with rough string. His face was caught in expressions from which he had no escape – every smile held the seeds of the frown that would soon return. He brought her flowers because it was raining and he knew that rain broke her heart. Karen thinks that the rain falling in our garden sounds like a dead person breathing.

Karen has put all her books in boxes and she says that one day she’ll burn them. In her bedroom she is surrounded by red and white roses in vases, jars, glasses, dried and hung from the ceiling, pressed between sheets of paper, pictures and paintings of roses, roses on her bedcovers and sheets. She says that they keep her warm at night when the sun is gone, and while she sleeps the scent wraps around her and she feels loved. I’ve seen her smiling in her sleep. I’ve seen her sleeping with open eyes.

She saw it in Dad’s eyes when he gave her the yellow roses. She didn’t say anything then, but later she told me that she had known what would happen. The yellow reflected in his eyes, the smell of the petals, the slow crumbling of his smile. The way he’d been reluctant to let go of the flowers when she took them, as if he needed the light. When she took them he went grey again in an instant – the stone eyes, the stone mask of skin, like a golem. When he left again she dropped the roses on the ground and wouldn’t pick them up again. They were pulling the heat from her, she said.

Sometimes I bring her away from the house. I try to take care of her because she needs it so much. She sees all places as if they were the same place. She gazes through people as if they were as shallow as the skein of dew on flower petals in the morning. But at home she’s alive because she knows where she is. Even on her dark days she burns from within like an angry ghost. When I have to go out she turns the lights off and moves through the darkness, and I come home hours later to find her glowing a subtle white, floating from room to room with her arms full of flowers, wet from the garden or crisp and pressed from the pages of books. Some day she’s going to burn the books.

She says that as Dad turned to go upstairs she heard him whispering, but she didn’t catch the words, and then it seemed to her as if she might have been wrong, and what she heard was really the sound of the rain in the garden, the deathly whisper.

I keep the room locked, except when Karen comes to me with yellow roses in her arms, smiling, her eyes full of hope, a knowledge that she would give to me if she could, and I open the door for her. He had always given her flowers. After Mom died his love locked itself deep inside, and the harder he tried to reach out of himself, the further away his voice seemed to be when he spoke, the more distance his gaze had to cover. Karen sometimes cried after he spoke to her, and that’s why he brought her flowers. They made her smile again, and the house would grow warm for a short while, and his spirit would come closer to the surface of his skin. He gave her lilacs and carnations and daffodils and irises and hyacinths and roses. Red roses and white roses. Then yellow roses, at the end. I’m sorry. That’s how she knew.

At first, Karen burned the roses in his room because of the gunpowder smell. The cordite scorched her nostrils and brought tears to her eyes, and she put the yellow roses in vases on the windowsill and the shelves of his room and burned them with a cigarette lighter until the sweet perfumed smoke hung in the air like fog and the smell of powder was gone. Black, tattered petals floated to the ceiling on plumes of heat and fell on his body as ash. Then she came out and looked at me and I locked the door because I didn’t know what to do.

Yellow roses are cold, like the moon. Karen watches the moon at night and smiles to herself. She knows who it reflects and she knows she shines brighter. She drinks the sun in the morning and gathers flowers for the house. She knows a secret. I don’t know the secret and she can’t tell me. She burns flowers in Dad’s bedroom to take away the smell. Dad smiles a smile that isn’t going to go away. Karen floats through the house like a star. I try to help her but soon we will have to go. When she smiles I feel warm. She’s my burning little sister. She cries sometimes because she doesn’t know how to say what she needs to say.

She says that we’re outside time now. We’re always going to be here, she says, and we were always here, pressed like petals between the pages of a book. She burns the roses and she will burn the books too. I know we’re not always going to be alone here. Someone is going to come. It’s not supposed to be like this, but I need her. I need her and I love Dad’s smile, his beautiful cold smile.

When the others come Karen says she will bring me home at last.
 

The Knife Dance

I, you, we
high on young energy
prance and piroutte the patterns of the Knife Dance.
Our feet are slithering in shit
and blood cakes our hands.

The sun drops behind the hills
and the air chills in our bowl of living.
We enter each night stamping and shrieking
Great Father, Great Mother:
the words of spells
that were taught without meaning.

Friends, lovers, strangers -
we cut each other to pieces
as our circles converge.

what was promised was given
and it is the dance
and the price is the dance