old house

Little Wooden Bull

I found a wooden bull in my granny's house during a party in which we were all there, at least all of my mother's side of the family. I brought it into the front room and it suddenly turned into a large and powerful real bull. I was afraid it was going to run wild and destroy the house, so I grabbed it by the horns and wrestled it to the ground, but I knew that the bull wouldn't stay passive for long and that we'd all be in danger when it rose up again, so I started asking my family what should be done with it, and who was going to take responsibility for it, since they had been keeping it in their house. No one was interested and no one wanted to do anything about the bull, so I decided I had no choice but to take charge of it myself. It had changed back to wood in the meantime, so accompanied by my mother I carried it up the road to St. Enda's Park, where we released it.

Straight away it came to life and started rampaging around the park, smashing through trees and fences. Other animals began to pour from its flanks and come to life themselves: a wolf, a tiger, a kangaroo, a dog, a rabbit, and more. We were glad that the bull was contained in the park now, but I was worried about unsuspecting people who might go into the park and be in danger. There was nothing we could do about that; people would just have to be careful.

As we turned to leave, the bull came back into view, charged into a thicket of oaks and reared up on it's hind legs. It was thirteen feet tall and its head was huge and horned like that of a bison. It looked straight at me, calmly and with immense power and authority, and I thought it looked like a god.

Suryodaya

suryodaya, the wave that wakes us
steaming land and hills sweating cloud
brief and still and the crying of gulls and
herons, the backs of fish glowing
in the bay and the rivers trailing fingers
up the crevices of the hills

every night the houses and I and the stars
in a dance full of gravity
rabbits creeping up to the dark grass
light from the kitchen in the tips of their fur
and I'm swaying, almost crazy from not talking
all of my life filtering through my mind
and my hands and my skin are not mine, they're moving
in a ritual of morning

I give the world it's geometry today
from schizoid equations and predictions
curves on the axes of my field of vision
patterns I see in the carpet and the grass and the sky
patterns I feel run through my flesh
as a silent, heavy core moves along the breeze
sliding down the arms of an attractor, wings
designed in dreams, given to the memory of the garden

and I'm so alone at the heart of my universe
and I love everything that I see,
standing still under the trees, a glittering mother
giving birth to the sun and my lovers

Moral Terror

In the rainbow jungle the soldier said that you must make a friend of horror and moral terror and I listened not because I understood but because it was Brando and when he speaks we listen and when he dies then god has died too and we are alone in the jungle at last with all the other monkeys who fight and fuck and sacrifice and feel feel feel in their hearts sensations so real they can be weighed in ounces or metres or joules - the units don't matter what matters is that the heart emits a measurable force that is not magnetism or gravity - the monkeys are adaptable and can swim through those like void but the heart-force twists them shapeless and kills the cramp out of every cell of their bodies. the body is ash and mud and levers and sacks, it is a suit of armour, a cello, a computer. like the knights of god riding into battle waving the banner of the skull and bones, we charge headlong into the unknown journey of our lives with every breath reminding us of the end. Yeats said man created death - did he know, or was he just writing pretty poetry? I know what the mystics know but I am not mystical - I'm nothing but a flower falling off a winter stem. I understand everything but I don't have any words for it. I know who I am but I can't tell you. I've been spending my life trying to bridge the gap between the body and the mind - what we know and what we can communicate - and I think it can't be done. I thought if you brought the gap close enough that a mind would pull sparks across it like a synapse but I've never seen it happen and maybe it will never happen. The body knows. The mind can never know.

Moral terror is an old woman lying in bed at night praying to Jesus to keep her from shitting herself while she sleeps. Jesus doesn't care; if he's listening I'm sure he loves her, but her shit and dignity is of no concern to him. He wants to bring her home and he knows she can't bring the flesh with her. Her body will die like everything else and no history will record her shame. She says that when she brought me walking through the park when I was younger she never imagined I would see her this way and she cries and she says that we are only clay, only mud, what are we, what are we? In her dreams she chases rabbits to try to cuddle them. Every corner of memory in the house is emptying itself. The bird died months ago and the empty cage catches her eye in the evenings, and she calls herself a little bird. In the bathroom as she takes off her soiled nightdress she says that it's time for her to die. I told her that she still had things to do and she smiled and said "Like what?" She knows what we are and there's nothing she can do or say about it. There are no words for what's really happening to her. She says that she doesn't know what to say to me, that nothing she can think of suffices. I am more and more quiet. She's dying, whether it's a month or a year or ten years, and there's nothing to say about it because every pretension and hope and platitude is dead in the naked body.

Roasting Pigs

I was in my old family house, and my dad's whole extended family were there, but the house was different - it was much larger, and full of strange rooms and corridors that I didn't remember. It was full of people, as if for a party. My dad arrived home after a long day at work - he was very tired, and there was so much distance between us that it made me sad, and put me in a bad mood. I started to sulk, just like when my favourite uncle got married when I was 14, and I refused to smile in the photographs.

Two psychiatrists that had arrived at the house for a conference walked in to the room accompanied by my mother, and one of them told me that I should open up and talk about my feelings. I yelled at him to shut up, but that made my dad angry. He told me not to be so rude. I told him that he had no right to talk to me like that any more, because of the distance between us, and he got very sad and agitated, saying that he wished that people would just leave him alone when he came home from work, because he was so tired, and he had nothing to look forward to at home except more demands on him - to cook, clean, talk, deal with problems. Right now, he said, he was trying to cook dinner.

I felt sorry and ashamed, and I saw how much stress and labour he had in his life, and even though I knew that he had kept me at this emotional distance, I couldn't stay angry with him. I hugged him and told him I was sorry, crying a little, and he hugged me back, and for a moment we truly connected - for the first time in years. We were looking at each other and really allowing the other to see the naked emotional person underneath the mask. Just then one of the psychiatrists walked in and saw us, and he nodded and smiled, as if to say "my work here is done."

My dad and I went into the kitchen. He was roasting two entire, enormous pigs on spits in a huge oven full of orange-hot coals and flames. He turned them and made adjustments to the heat, and then he left me there is the kitchen because he had other things to attend to. Suddenly Liadain was there, and I watched her nibble on crispy pieces of the pigs' skin. She talked about how her family used to cook stuffing in chicken or turkey at Christmas, and how she loved to eat it. It occurred to me that she was eating pork even though she was vegetarian, but I figured it was her business and didn't say anything.

I went to look for my dad again, and found him sitting behind a judge's bench in a large room along with my mother and the two psychiatrists. They were part of a telephone panel, answering calls from distressed people and comforting them or offering solutions to their problems. This seemed perfectly natural to me, and I left the room because I didn't want to distract them.

The next time my dad came into the sitting room, he looked completely different. He was shorter and had dark hair, and he was much thinner and looked much younger, with a fresher face and bright eyes. He explained that he had lost 32 pounds on some kind of diet and had undergone an incredible rejuvenation. Rather than face the unreality of this, I just accepted what he was saying, and we started to horseplay. I picked him up and turned him upside down, and just then a nameless relative walked through the room and I called out, "Look! I could never do this before!"

I couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong, though. I started to get ready for bed. I was looking for somewhere to brush my teeth, and I went into the conference room where the psychiatrists were, but then I remembered that I had a room upstairs with a basin, so I went up to find it. Next thing I know, I'm with a small Chinese girl who I must have met on the way upstairs. I was showing her all around the house. This was the old family home as I remembered it from when I was very small - full of dark, slightly secret rooms and passageways and musty smells and mysterious presences. I wanted to show the girl a picture of my father when he was younger, to prove that the dark-haired man downstairs was an imposter. "I like him," I told her, "but he's not my dad."

We walked along the long landing that led to most of the bedrooms. The carpet was a dull hospital green colour, and daylight was coming throught he windows even though it had been night just a short while ago. There were many family pictures on the wall, but none of them was of my dad. We turned a corner and found ourselves in a huge children's playroom and bedroom. The sleeping area on the left had a huge bed and great sheets and drapes which hung from the ceiling and billowed in the breeze of large fans on the walls. On the right was a play area full of brightly coloured toys and books and a rainbow rug. A tape-recorded voice could be heard telling a children's story. I knew that the room had been built for my cousin Mark, who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and was severely retarded. There was a picture of an older male relative on the wall - possibly my great-grandfather who died before I was born. The room had a very creepy, ghostly feel to it and we left quickly.

I pointed out some small stairs leading up from the landing, and the girl said "The post room is that way." I felt that we shouldn't go to the post room, so I brought her to my mother's bedroom. There were lots of pictures here, and I finally found a recent one of my dad, in which he was large and heavy and had greying hair. I showed it to the girl, and compared it to the man downstairs, saying "You don't go from this to that by losing 32 pounds!" She added "Or go from having grey hair to black," and we both laughed, and I said "Or from being 6 foot two to being 5 foot eleven!" We agreed that the man downstairs couldn't be my dad.

Just then the girl got agitated and told me that when she came into the house, she had seen a strange, unnatural blue light, and she thought this might have had something to do with my dad's transformation. I asked her to describe the light, feeling that this was very important, but just then all the lgiht in the bedroom disappeared for a couple of moments, leaving us in complete darkness. I felt instinctively that it was a psychic attack of some kind. After the lights came back on, to reassure both myself and the girl, I showed her a power cord as we were leaving the bedroom, and said "It's the speakers for the stereo - my mother leaves them plugged in all day and sometimes it shorts out the power." It was only after I woke up that I realized that my power cord explanation couldn't have been true, because the light that had disappeared and then returned was daylight. I think I just came up with my explanation so that I could keep a grasp on reality - in fact, throughout the dream I kept on finding rational explanations for insane situations, so that I could avoid facing the unreality of it - and presumably, the realization that I was dreaming.
 

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.
 

The Dark Pool

My friends and I were clearing out the garden  of an old abandoned house - it was full of weeds and junk, and at the bottom of the garden was a deep pond, almost like a swamp. We had to clear out the pond, so we were taking turns to dive into the freezing cold water and fish stuff out of the bottom - old TV tubes, bits of wood, plastic milk cartons. The water was sludgy around the edges of the pond, clogged with floating weeds and mud, and some of us were getting stuck there, and had to be pulled out by the others.

Then P went to the bottom of the pond and didn't come back up. We were staring at the water, trying to see his outline, getting more and more anxious. We extended a length of black hosepipe down to him to grab on to, but nothing happened, so Paul decided to go down and get him. He took hold of the hosepipe and jumped into the deepest part of the pond. After a while he jerked on the hose, and we started to pull him up - as he got closer to the surface we could see that he'd found P, who had got stuck in some weeds at the bottom, and they were both holding their breath.

Something went wrong. The hosepipe came free, and they floated back down out of reach, so we sent it back down again. Everyone started to panic.

The next thing I remember, I was indoors, asleep, and I woke up to the feeling of sun on my face and the sound of laughing voices outside. I knew that something was very wrong, but I couldn't quite remember what. I went out and I was in the garden again, and P was standing talking to everyone. That's when I remembered that I had thought he was dead, and I ran up to him and hugged him really tightly, nearly in tears. I told him how happy I was that he was still alive, and he seemed almost a little embarrassed, but he hugged me back.

Rotten Teeth

I was trapped upstairs with my partner in the house I had lived in for 13 years. It had been a sunny summer's day, but then a sudden storm came, and everything next to the open windows inside the house was drenched. I looked out of the window and I saw that the room underneath ours was on fire, started by an electrical short circuit, and I knew we had to get out of there really quickly.

We managed to climb on to the roof of the garage, and from there we could get to the ground and back into the house. I turned on the garden hose and pointed it at the main body of the fire, and then ran through the house closing the windows and turning off appliances. A lot of the electrical outlets were fizzing and sparking because of the rain. When I came back to the burning room, the fire had gone out, and there was nothing except thick black smoke.

After so much excitement and panic, we had to calm down. I was feeding the cats in the back garden, and I noticed that one of them was my mother's cat, Sheena, a gorgeous tortoiseshell-and-white persian who died when I was 14. She often appears in my dreams, and I always remember that she is supposed to be dead, and it usually signifies some kind of decay, something bad about to happen. This time was no exception.

I was feeling my teeth with my tongue, and I noticed one of them was loose. I wiggled it with my fingers, and it grew looser until I realized it was going to come out. A soft pop, and I was staring at it in my hand. The root was black, and my mouth started to fill up with black liquid which was bleeding from my gums. I ran inside to look in the mirror. Another tooth was loose, and came out as soon as I touched it. The root was also black, and I had to spit more black liquid into the sink. This was really starting to get disturbing. "I really have to make an appointment with my dentist," I thought. I felt around in my mouth again, and another tooth came out. I was starting to panic. "I'm going to be so ugly that Liadain won't love me, she won't even want to look at me!"

That last tooth was a bad one. There were shards left in my gums, which seemed to be turning into some kind of soft organic pudding. As I picked them out one by one, I caught hold of another of my molars, and an entire section of my jaw seemed to come loose. I realized my whole face was falling apart, and I started to scream "Oh my god, oh my god..." - I realized that I was fucked, that my only chance, the only chance I had left, was if this was a dream...let it be a dream, please god let this be a dream...

I woke up with a kind of spasm, and sat up saying "Fucking hell, fuck fuck fuck, god fucking damn it", and for the next five minutes I couldn't stop feeling my teeth to make sure they weren't loose. I've had several nightmares about my face falling to pieces and it doesn't get any easier to deal with.
 

You Felt That Way

dark houses
the burned bones of children
you felt that way

black hole stomach
like an iron universe
exploding

no mercy
for an old yellow rose
in a glass of water

or a girl with her face kicked in
leave them both to die
you felt that way

in your rage for relief
Sartre: iron in the soul
mercury

instead of blood
silverthread pain
let me not feel this way

except
I need to love
an old yellow rose

decayed petals
in a glass of water
I've felt that way

and I prayed
for the ones I love
not to discard me

in my ugliness
dark houses
walking with girl-ghosts

black hole mind
falling into silence
into bare loving arms

it burns me to love
it's not poetry
you felt that way

Sundari

I remembered, touching you,
how soft and loose your skin
how you smell sweet
the place on your neck for a kiss
your strength that costs so much
and your secret weakness

there's a house that's ours
it looks like every house of light and floorboards
we are the brightness there
and no story told of the house is true
no story told of me-and-you

lover, everything happens anyway
something in the silence
sleeps us through the night
and remembers to renew us in the morning.

No Outside

I cycled home through empty roads
under dead lights haunted by the ghosts
of cars and houses with dark curtains
tyres whispering on the tarmac
everything in memory is sweet and sad

climbed the wall and stood by the water
streetlights glittering above and below
a bird fluttered over the surface
bats arcing silently over the rooftops
while I stared into empty kitchens and gardens

taste of beer and chocolate on my tongue
stars blurred through mist and space
silent like swimming underwater
holding my breath to try and stop time
standing on the wet grass like a stranger