sea

The Factory

I was at home with my mother and sister talking about a radio interview. My granny called the house and left a phone message and it upset me because she was talking about her sister's death and she sounded so sad. Her situation saddened me, all of her friends and her husband and her sisters all dead. So I got up from the breakfast table without a word and left the house.

 
I went to university and skipped out of my psychology class to wander around the great building, right up to the roof where there was a gathering of people. Some of them were sitting right at the edge. A policeman told people to come back from the edge, walking so close to it that I was terrified. I had a bag full of my things - books, notes, clothes, a computer. Two of them were making fun of me and my hair and the way I dressed. Making fun of my self-image, as if I was vain and at the same time ridiculous-looking. I realized that I wanted to go back to university and that I had enough points - 79 - to do so. I could go to a foreign university to do women's studies and it would make me happy.
 
I went back through the university arts building to go home. On the way I met my girlfriend, who I had been forgetting to call or text (we had only just got together). This is something I used to do when I was a teenager, simply forget to call a girl I was supposed to be seeing. I made a mental note to call her. It was dark when I was leaving university and I had to walk back through a bad neighbourhood. A gang of young men - boys really - starting talking about the bags I was carrying, and started following me. I was just getting ready to run when a woman found me. She was older and very calm and she knew me, and the boys respected her and went away. She brought me to her house and said she would call me a taxi to take me home.
 
She started to read to me from a great thick paperback book she had, full of her own notes - not the Bible, it was called "The Factory" and talked about God as the Factor, the Maker. She asked me to look at a picture of the sea with the sun hanging over it, a great fiery orange ball. It left a flaming reflection on the water. Then all of a sudden it plunged beneath the water, surprising me and making me feel very emotional. Then several suns followed it underwater as if attached by a string. I felt happy and as if I was about to cry.
 
The woman seemed satisfied by my reaction and closed the book and went to call a taxi for me. I wanted to take the book with me but I realized that I couldn't because it was hers. I went into her kitchen and there was a phone message from my mother, who had been worried about me because I left so suddenly. She thought it must be because something she said made me angry. I said no, I was sad about granny. There was a message from my granny too. She was still talking about her dead sister, the funeral arrangements, the end of things. I wanted to cry again, and I wanted to tell her about my decision to leave and go back to university, and about the book that the old woman had shown me.

The city knows I'm leaving

The city knows I'm leaving and although it reacts slowly its judgements are intractable and painful. The roads are becoming difficult — decayed patches in asphalt and tarmac appearing every day, collapsed in on themselves like cavities, like sores in a long grey tongue. The ghosts are getting angrier. Maybe it seems arrogant for me to describe fellow human beings as ghosts, but I include myself. To me they are all ghosts, the grey ones passing me in the morning, stalking their own rain-shadows to work - they pass through me without seeing me, leaving only shivers. I pass through them too. Their faces flicker past me and begin to merge like the images on a zoetrope. Laughing, shouting, frowning, empty.

Everything here seems designed to keep an obsessive mind occupied for all eternity. Late at night, where I used to stand feeling lonely on the balcony overlooking the apartment district, now I stand with a baby, gently jigging up and down. Baby likes to be rocked, and I don't feel lonely any more, but the view is the same: endless lego-block buildings stacked and jumbled like the unfinished projects of a child. Everything is square, rectangular, straight, reflective. Office buildings like grids with coloured flourescent lights, apartment buildings like gigantic nests of cubicles. The window, the wall, the building, all right-angled, calculated for spatial efficiency and economic maximization. Stack us in like sardines and charge us as much as possible. On our walls we have rectangular pictures, the frames strangling the scenes. The windows strangle the world. The buildings strangle the people. Thousands upon thousands of straight lines and right angles as far as I can see. The cellular automata we have created as our dwelling-places and artworks. Our legacy of lines and frames and grids, our blocks stacked to the sky, the triumph of the endlessly repeated unit over the organic whole.

I dream of myself as a country. I dream of myself as a battleground. I dream of myself as a videogame territory, gridlines and hexagons and cubes all bundled together, arteries like superhighways, mapped out perfectly, and those warriors, those soldiers, those thoughts, go to war over my cells. In my body's day they fight by the light of an inner sun and by night they light torches soaked in enzymes. Their feet stamp to the beat of a polka, to the tick of the metronome that replaced my heart.

The city knows I'm leaving and it turns its best face out to me sometimes. The sun sets over the river and all the glass office rooves catch fire and look like the citadels of Byzantium. The canal docks smell briefly of the sea, and gulls and herons gather on the jetty, crying. I can close my eyes and imagine myself at the beach, on the shore of an island, on a hill overlooking the ocean thirty thousand years ago. The pounding rain melts the harsh angles of the windows and doorframes and everything seems to flow in my sight as I sit in the warmth. The baby is asleep and so is his mother and my apartment sits in the sky like a bubble of safe warmth suspended over distant walking ghosts, boats, toy cars. That's how she woos us, the city. That's the bargain she offers.

One day I will miss these shining angles and windows and the million ghostly reflections of myself in windows and mirrors, but not today. Today I miss the trees. The silent language of patience, the way a stone is embraced and loved by moss and rain until it forgets it is a stone and becomes the ghost of a growing thing, a home without angles. The way I will walk ten miles without seeing a straight line that has not been broken by something chaotic - a crack, a branch, a slant, a collapse, a meander. The way I'll feel that obsessive chant in the mind weakening: the city's voice, her final siren song painting images of a timeless perfection. In the future, love, always in the future. Until it stops, and I return to where I was before; to what I always was anyway. Imperfect. Alive. Now.

Lost We

be with me now. in voice. broken overruled. help to lift me skywards, lady. arms like music box dancer, poised like ballerina. pink and blue gauze ballgown, costume jewel tiara, lipstick smile and pale skin. music to dance to until we die. on a desk in my sister's bedroom one morning, thin summer light through single glazed window. brass window fasteners twisted to open, dusty windows never cleaned, cracked from tennis ball impacts. how we leaned out and looked over the gardens and the hedges to somewhere distant. our enclosed world. bookshelves and drawers and wardrobes crammed full of memory. accumulated possessions of 15 years emptied one day. our home, full of sunshine and voices, full of waking nightmares. we walked the carpets in the small hours trailing dreams from our fingertips. our skin and our smell we left in the corners untouched by cleaning. I am a small child lost in a red crystal. I am a man waiting for a small child to descend from the overworld. I am a boy lost in his own cold bones outside an empty dark school waiting for a man to come and bring him home. I am an old man trying to remember his father's face. lost moments strung together on a tattered string. lady, be with me now. let me live in the song you lift to the sky. your arms and eyes darken and you teach me about the sea. one day I said that I would learn how to swim. that I would swim the broken sea of my parents' dreams. let this story fall from me now. I am of the sky and the waves and the stars, if you will bless it to be so.

--

lost we reach for words. lost we. only for moments crushed. how blurred horizon breeds cloud ghosts, blurred vision like rainwater window, songs for sliding down. how in panicked sparks sunlight cuts into the mind. naming evanescences in amnesiac time, in time of perfect garden, age of gold, names given again for new beginnings. meaning emerging from chaos birthsack. love from eyes. horizon of sisters and brothers and lost toys, lost books, lost living brightness. friends poised invisible under weeping willow, unable to cross the water. lady wreathed in smoke stepping through puddles that do not touch her skin. soaked earth yielding fruit and footprints, lunar memories, a future death plummeting back through time.

--

touched by voices and listened to by light, we transmigrate. these are your windows and doors, winter-chilly and smudged with tears and hope. doors in the dark, doors in the day, doors along an endless corridor of what may be. that window you flew out of in your mind every night. rising through tortured cloud giants. purple starfield and streetlight glow. naked temples flattened and opened like unpeeled tesseracts into streets and houses and staircases. mother and father embracing underneath the black gates like forgiven titans. sister and brother hand in hand under petrified glittering forest, canopy of silk and birdflight, music of absolution. memories of other planets, washed down through new mind as over waterfall in tiny urban park. where as a child you stand and sing, lady. where you stand and sing us all to wake again.

Smiling Shining Everlasting

She asked me years ago how I stayed the same
when I cut my hair and years fell off my face
and I was just a boy and I wandered in my thoughts
in libraries and offices and bedrooms alike

how to remain the same, she wondered, in the grey world
the same as in the bright, the rainy, the blue world,
the neon worlds, the dark dancing worlds
how to walk through worlds wide-eyed as one being

as if I knew something, or worse, as if I didn't -
either I kept some knowledge from her, some secret,
or I had been given a gift I didn't deserve
that she, stronger and smarter, should have received

and neither was true - I kept nothing secret
but neither could I share it. I am what I am.
I create myself every moment in full awareness
but I can't tell you anything that would be any use.

How to remain the same through years of rapture
and disillusion and amnesia and loss and laughter
essentially untouched, walking in innocence
we are outside time and nothing can destroy us

it's nothing that you don't already know
we are outside time and nothing can destroy us
she asked me where the barriers were in my mind
between this and that, word and deed, yes and no

she saw me as a world, an atmosphere, a star
beautiful in my ignorance, beyond arrogance -
she saw me skimming stones at the edge of the sea
she said I was this: smiling shining everlasting

like all our generation, spiritual but rebellious
we ache for the church and the god we rejected
we see purity and we fall in love with it
and afraid of being abandoned we try to destroy it

but it exists outside time and cannot be destroyed
lighting us up: smiling shining everlasting.
In the neon world, the dark dancing world, the grey world
I'll do what I have to do, and so will you.

Sailships!

I was on board a huge ship leaving a harbour in a huge flotilla of ships of all different shapes and sizes. The one I was on was a gigantic hydrofoil, and the captain was making it swing and swerve across the water so that we could all hardly keep our footing; another similar hydrofoil behind us was doing the same thing. There were yachts and clippers and liners and little powerboats and galleons and ships from all times and places, all heading out on the world's biggest ever pleasure cruise, on a totally open ocean, under a totally blue sky with just a few little speckles of cloud. I thought "Yes! I have to write a book called Sailships!"

Machine Code Raindrop

this droplet from dark twig mirroring glints of glows
of fire in forest canopy burning throat of sky
and raindrop falling for insect-lifetime from space-edge
gathering images forgetting purpose frozen unfrozen and high

this fierce bonfire mind calm in rainstorm ghostly
called twice in pain from abandoned chest-locked heart
end of raindrop journey smashed into blackened skin
and arms bruised to bone and ash-whitened flung apart

seeks language made schizoid by intuition
seeks subjects and subroutines rivered from fingers to flame
for crashing continents for kissing oceans
leaf-ash floating higher, falling on storm-inspired no-names

singing and dancing closer, the leaf and the lover
flower-picker sweet and bell-ankled and henna-tattooed
clear water pouring from overloaded palms, over-
whelmed eyes, overcome heart-deep by ridiculous truths

and once in loneliness on knees in winter needles
roaring forest for choosing madness over agony
and raindrop floating earthward for infinite lifetimes
soaking into skin soft forgiveness of entropy

the inevitability of gravity, the hunger of whirlpools,
lost incantations and lore of amorality of love
of lunacy of loss and ecstasy of laughter of organs and bones
and taste of god the droplet bled from sun-veins above

Bone Ghost

my dad looks like a tree, wooden and pretty, alive but in a different way from me, hard to understand, maybe nothing to understand, just how trees grow and stiffen and start to rot, nothing to show for it until one day the heart is eaten all away and a strong wind snaps the trunk like old bone. if I was old, how would you see me? bitten to the quick like a nail. dried and crumpled like a fish going off in the sun. helpless like a worm on concrete. would my eyes be bright to you, would you love how I moved, would you think of it as a soul, the silent wave making me move until the last second. some of us don't like the sea, the endless dark pulse, the endless enormous life.

robot ghost dances in my bones, curves into the air and the roads leading away from every doorstep and every embrace. running knives in hand across the battlefield of every meeting and every dream. fused into the marrow with music, pulled into the future by the gravity of what i was born to be. alive on a membrane between this world and the next, the book and the reader, the dream and the dreamer. the ghost and i are both sure we're real and when i finally rip him out of my flesh and we see each other someone's universe is going to disappear and the murder of every living thing in it and the loss of every memory and every sound and the nothingness of every detail of every dance and every shining light

mother brightened me in the mornings. used to climb into her bed to read about dinosaurs and volcanoes and when she woke I'd listen to the water in the pipes above the bedroom ceiling when she washed her face in the pastel bathroom. everything was a story and i was always the hero and the light in her face when she looked at me told me it was true. nothing would ever be impossible for me, i would live forever and everyone would love me because i was the hero. sunlight through the curtains in those mornings was golden and i waited for her to wake. stories wove themselves in my mind and everything dark and fearful died in the shine of what was inside me, an answer to her call, an inner sun to her hungry moon. tell and retell the story and its lines become engraved too deep, the dance goes stale, the face becomes a mask and the sun a nova, a magnesium wick, and the hero a destroyer. now my mind sinks inwards through layers of tissue and sinew and nerve and finds no core. there is no ghost dancing in my bones. there is no person i was supposed to be. all the heroes have been kindling for a cold fire burning atoms into dreams.

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.
 

No Funeral

dream horizon
    rising indigo
        swallowing the sun

no one owns
    the killer wave
        or the destroyed city

in the arms
    of new friends
        we’re drowning

ivy seaweed
    fish caressing
        our shocked skin

where we lived
    hammerheads
        circling the hearth

no warning
    no funeral
        for these memories

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.