stories

Phoenixes

smell of cherry blossom and coffee
cut grass illuminated summerlike and
uneven ground, footsore and unsteady
sitting under falling petals, shadows
your easy touch on my cheek, hot
from walking and sunshine, your eyes
and smile drowning memory and questions
we cannot follow the seagulls
we giggle at the robin in the hedge
he's not scared of wind, or us
and in the evening cloud squeezes out
the nothingness, the cold, stars, fingers,
cups of tea on the edge of and old bed
a balcony over the river, I held you,
kissed your neck, held my hands
on your belly and felt the baby move
and saw boats and raindrops, smelled you,
remembered you from long ago
and for a game we rewrote our stories
a game of memory where we collided,
were separated, journeyed, cried,
crashed and burned and were reborn
as incredible winged things full of the sun

A Mind of Glass

what they told me would come to pass     what I promised myself     a mind of glass     and shantih shantih shantih     the peace that passeth understanding     I promised you I would be so     sitting underneath library windows     long lonely afternoons     friends and classmates in lectures     rain gentle on chestnut leaf and windowpane     butterflies in stomach     mantra poised on recently kissed lips     lonely all the time     even in bed even at parties even in kisses     mantra in a library chair     2nd floor dark corner bare concrete walls     books no one ever read     lost in frozen time like me     lost in broken light like me     happy voices from the stairwell and the study desks     mind of glass     body of feeling swelling into the crevices     all my life just a story     called "lonely all the time"     written by my parents     and their parents before them     back all the way to curious monkeys     beached fish and bacteria and cosmic dust slowly condensing to stars     glitters in the sky on cold winter evenings     outside the library waiting for friends and lovers     for words and embraces passed in code     for minds of glass and minds of metal     for an end to the story "lonely all the time" to be told     and next day all embraces and joy and words and linked hands lost in time     lost into memory and memory to become glass     mind of glass lonely all the time     and next day to the library to sit alone     pine needles and sycamore leaves collecting near base of window     washed by rain and wind     grey walls and fluorescent light     and I am just a shadow you passed on your way to a lesson     what I promised my family     that I would turn them into glass     precious sculptures drained and peaceful     lonely all the time     blood washed from the doors and walls     blood washed from the car keys and the garden tools     blood washed from the bunk beds and the playroom     what I promised you I would become     something more than a silly monkey     something more than a selfish asshole     something to justify all the hurt I gave and all the hurt I received     a mind of glass and rainwater     joy in our hearts     where we stand and watch the moon fade and glow behind breeze-blown clouds     where we lay down and kissed underneath the trees in the schoolyard     lonely all the time     especially together, especially together

and then on fire     on fire in the cold sand     on fire in the conference centres and the musty cellars of the holy houses     on fire in the woods of stolen car shells and bluebells     every sunset and every shopping trip on fire     the creak of the front door in the early hours reeking of smoke     the dark hum of the painted hall before dawn     on fire the incense and the leaves     on fire the car engines and the quiet mind     as we walk away weeping     or as we walk away blind and burned and breathless     as we walk away into another life     as we throw away one of our most potent destinies     as we discard one of the universes that brought us into being     not understanding what we chose     all things remained true that were true before     dances still ended in peace     poetry still bled out of the mind     the light was still clear and blue and soft     only that we chose love over death     unlike Nero we cast aside our rod and dove into the mind's dark waters     do what you have to do

now lost in the mind of glass     rainwater the only everlasting thing in memory     what I promised myself forgotten     that I would not let it slip away     and what was I for those thousands of days but a window     between the mind and the world     reflections to each other     while I do what I have to do     sparkling river pulled through circuits of great machine     for generating the future     "lonely all the time" the story read to all the children     born into cells     here I am too     now that the confusion seems greatest     I might be as close as I have ever been     staring out through windows at trees or rivers or walls     staring at empty chairs and empty screens     all of it without end     what I promised to say     something to make you happy     something to help you to remember that you are happy     to do what you have to do     but all along I only wanted to become more than I am     more than a self and more than a window     and in the end as it all burns around us     we will see the flames caught and dancing in the mind of glass     caught a billion times and sprinkled into confusion     we are caught in a peace that passeth understanding     knowing that all of this is nothing     in the mind of glass

For The Last Time

For the last time, the last time
I will not remember what they said
on the television between the exploding stars
and the million miles asleep in midnight red
I will not seem angry
when my friends neither live nor die
but freeze in a smile and a moment
like loved characters in their final episode

not because there was no more time
but because in my dreaming mind
I wandered, and left them behind

this is no voice speaking
rain of flower shades in blindness
just the sound of it behind cafe windows
the colours flushed from the streetlights
and birds burning and singing on the wires

it all goes wrong when I try to talk about myself
so I will talk about everything else
except that there's this question, "who's talking?"
"Who's singing, who's burning, who's sad?"

Who misses their nonexistent friends
who laments their long-distant dad
and the long-distance chats
sizzling along dark wires
and the moist fresh-dug graves of beloved cats
hissing with rain or vampire hostility
and can cats become vampires anyway
or can humans - reality and fantasy
are not much different for me these days

like the one about the beautiful killer
with the power to share his destiny
and of course he would choose me
and I would not care about killing
if only I could be beautiful and immortal too

surely it can't be time to review my life again
and all the crumbling myths I built
how are they still there, how am I the same?
how can I not have changed into something
extraordinary and entirely different?

bless me to let go of these stories
that never belonged to me
nothing glows like nothingness
and I have a weird craving for the womb
no, not even the womb - just pure emptiness
endless space without even one sparkling star
just an abyss without a face or a name
and finally I'd know that awareness
that they say extends beyond both ends of this life

wine from old arteries in a singing glass
images and feelings torn loose from narrative
here is a bottomless sea and a roofless house
no meaning, no weapons, no voices
and a yellow wind from below the horizon
and I will be made ashes in the furnace of the sun

Bone Machine Operator

you aren't going to hurt us, are you? we of the rngs and gauges and endless interphysical circuitry. lurking in some vague electricity. listen to me carefully. I am looking for a virus. I think it's inside me, a cancer of my marrow. I want to know what's wrong with me, why I want to blow it all away. destroy myself, destroy everything else, I do not want to be this murderous impulse but I can no longer deny it exists in the robot core of me. we're not in the present now. all of this has already happened. the shotgun and the baby falling through the broken floorboards. the. we're animals, animals, animals, drugged and broken and translated into a million forms, and yet we have a key, we have been given one last chance, here. now. last chance. GO!

beaten senseless naked under neon and neoprene maybe we are crazy, finally and dreamily. all wars one war, all books one book, all minds one mind. time is a gap between memories of gaps between shapes and colours of photographs of frozen instants of time. in a voice bubbling and choking the bone puppeteer sings that the earth died screaming. while I lay dreaming. in the underworld chapel of rape and sulfur and snow churning out guerilla fighters for the futile snowball fight at the end of the world as the lava tsunamis lean over the horizon and blot out the sunspots. a monkey and a roast beef sandwich and a midnight run through luminous mists. sparkling stars in the gaps between trees and dogs running between split seconds of thermonuclear futures. I am insane. wouldn't that be beautiful?

scrabbling for leftover croissant in the bourgeois bins, fingerprints shaved into a bloody unknown, lost faces scattered underfoot. underwater. drifting down with lit candles in their mouths, teeth locked and lips stretched into endearing grins. we relied on our wit and charm all our lives hoping no one would see through us, praying we would go unnoticed, lying and acting even in the clenching jaws of the crematorium. candlelight fusion to sift us gracefully to ash. the shadow of our death writes the story of our life. the future causes the past. that's vertigo. that's hindsight. that's the triumph of the chaos lion, paw raised to tear down the screen, the maddened roar of the unwinding reel, the flickering tail of filmstrip consumed by a soft flame. the director and the scriptwriter give their lives to summon the animal army. I never knew what he meant: the sad quiet beaten morphine addict who shot his wife and only wanted to stare at his shoelaces for the rest of his life. for the eight hours it would take the blessed grains to sink into his innermost marrow and cross the barrier into the western lands of his soul. born cognizant of his own death. suicide re-enacted daily in his pages and his goodbye kisses. the smile she gave as his finger squeezed the trigger. palm touching palm in trust. her thoughts painted on the wall behind her. her thoughts that he would never tire of travelling in his opiate dreams. he's missing his teeth and his makeup is running under the spotlights and he's been high for so long that the earth is screaming for the touch of his whole body. it wants to love his bones into powder. he owes it an entire lifetime. her dark matter draws him back to its mercy. its mercy is the circle of dreams through which he will chase her. real and unreal bound together forever. or as long as he loves her.

Nemesis

Something was chasing me through underground catacombs, the same vaulted, rough stone that I always found myself running through, with muffled detonations from the surface shaking my breath in the cold air, and my family trailing behind me, half-conscious and vulnerable, hardly even alive in the same way as me. I'd shake them, "This is just a dream!" but they just looked at me reproachfully and turned their faces back towards their destinies again. So I'd stay with them, and sink back into the story of the dream, losing my wakefulness, until all that remained was a numinous awareness, an ability to communicate that exceeded most other beings in the dream.

Except the creature that caught me, finally found me, in some deep, fluted recess in the underground passageways of a forgotten citadel. It was golden and yellow and orange, shaped like an eight-foot-long lionfish, and it floated in the air, moving with implacable swiftness. I had been running from it for a long, long time, and I couldn't run any more. It was the end of a thousand dreams of flight from death. It had been following me all this time, and its purpose was to end my life. We had both always known this.



We spoke. I found that I wasn't afraid any more, now that it had caught me. I asked it why it was following me, why it had to end my life. It couldn't really answer the questions in the form I was asking them. I knew that I had once been a very different person, but to save my life, my whole psyche had been replaced, wiped clean. I could no longer remember anything about my old life and the person I had once been, so I asked my Nemesis what I had done in my past lives. It knew m,y thoughts and everything about me, but it wouldn't answer me. I kept asking, and he showed me images of a sick young man hanging around a school playground, tempting children away, waiting for them to wander over to him, the sun bright on their legs. As soon as I saw the images, I said "Yes! I knew it...I knew that in a past life I abused children," and it said, "You know everything you've ever done. You could tell me right now the whole story of your past lives."

>-<

The baby crawling towards the jagged hole in the upper story floorboards, like a scene from a movie rolling in slow motion through the water of my mind, and I spring forward to cath the child, but it's too late, it falls through the hole and falls three floors to its death. I stare down at its broken body, waves of horror and nausea washing over me. This baby was my mother's, and it had been entrusted to me. I had allowed something to happen that I could never get away from. I knew that I was as good as dead.

>-<

The man's body, bones broken, at the bottom of the deep, long staircase, where we had pushed him to his death. The air smelled musty and cool, heavy with memories from my school days, and around the corner was the tiny room, hidden in an alcove, where we played chess on Wednesday afternoons. It was a time without threat. Now we had murdered this man, and it was as if his blood became a tide washing over my mind, so that everything became dark and fluid, and the connections between my thoughts and my identity were lost. When I returned, and my mind was healed somehow, I was standing in front of my girlfriend and my father. They were crying, and lookinng at me, and I held up my hands in incomprehension, looking at the lines on the palms while they explained what had happened. I'd been in a lunatic asylum for the last 20 years, after something terrible happened in my past, something my mind couldn't bear, and sent me into darkness to keep me alive. The shock of all those lost years came upon me in that moment as I saw my own face, lined and full of sorrow and waste, and I looked at the people who loved me, and felt ashamed. But at the same time I felt free, like a soul coming out of purgatory. I'd gone as far down as you can go, and the sky was still blue and I was still loved, no matter how many years had gone, or how undeserving I was. I cried until I woke up.

>-<

I was crying while my nemesis talked to me. My mother was there too, and she told me that it wasn't in a past life I had committed these crimes, but in this life, only my memory of it was gone, destroyed. She showed me a bunch of small, plain flowers and a book of handwritten poetry that I'd sent to the parents of the children I'd molested, after I'd been caught and punished. I'd repented and become self-aware, and I'd been healed somehow, and that old me was dead, literally dead. I was crying really hard, because I didn't want to have done those things, but I knew that I had - that this was my legacy, my karma, my story that I now had to deal with.

I spoke to my nemesis some more. It explained that it was trying to find a way not to kill me. Its only purpose was to kill me, but it was trying to find a way out. I said "Is it something to do with stories?" and it replied, Not exactly, but close. It was something to do with stories and thought, and the inevitable repetition of old patterns and stories through the mechanism of thought. If I could change the nature of my thought, I could escape the destiny of the death that was waiting for me.

>-<

I went walking with a shifting-girl, an amalgam of several people I know, trying to explain to her the nature of thought. We wandered through nameless suburban estates full of white houses and walls covered with graffiti - "TEEN BRIDE IM SORRY", "CIRCULAR SELF PORTRAIT IN GREEN", "GOURANGA". I pointed out a tree branch, and said that in the mind, this was an 'image' or 'thing'. The image was made up of 'feelings' - the feeling of the bark, the feeling of the knots and shapes of the branch, its colour and weight - all feelings in the mind. And then I explained that when the branch moves or is seen to act, sprouting leaves, or moving in the wind, the mind tells a story to represent that action and explain it. "The branch is moving in the wind". But the story is false, because in reality the branch itself does not act, and there is no story governing its movement. It isn't even a 'thing'. Thought warps and alters reality by isolating portions of its flow and calling them 'things', and then telling stories to interpret the seeming actions of those things. This is the nature of thought. And it locks us into our already-written destinies, our personal stories, in which we are isolated actors reciting our doomed soliloquies to a presumed audience, poor little branches doomed to wither and fall, unaware of the life we share with the root, the blossom and the bole.

This is what my nemesis was trying to tell me, and I woke up explaining it to the shifting-girl, so that the last words about the branch were spoken into the silence of the bedroom before I even opened my eyes.

>-
 

Bookshop of Death

I was in a huge bookstore that I've explored in several dreams. It has several floors and many sections, and places to sit down and read. The shelves are black and the carpets are red. In previous dreams I've been looking for people in the bookshop, but in this dream I'm looking for a book about sex. I can't remember why I want to find the book except that I know it has pictures in it and I want to see them (I think this might be a younger me in the dream).

While I'm looking for this book I realize that there is somebody following me, and I remember that I am involved in a mystery of some kind. A man was killed and I was supposed to find out why, or how it happened. I was with a group of young people who were investigating the mystery, when a man had driven up to a gas station nearby with a young boy in his car. I knew that there was something wrong about the man, but I didn't act on my intuition straight away, maybe because I was afraid of accusing someone in the wrong. Then I remembered one of the "rules" of intuition, or at least one of the rules of dreams, and I realized that if I had this feeling, it was because I had seen ahead in the plot and knew that something was going to happen. I chased down the road after the car, but it was pulling out of sight. I felt terrible - I knew that the man in the car was going to rape and then kill the young boy. All this had happened a short while before I entered the bookshop.

I left the bookshop wondering what was going to happen next. I felt that the plot was rushing to a conclusion but I didn't know what was coming next. I stood beside two men who were talking about a historical novel based on real events, in which a man was killed by a group of English soldiers. He had been shot over a hundred times, but he kept running. Suddenly I could see it happening as if I was a movie camera following the man's face. He was wearing a red uniform with black boots, and a silver wig which was almost falling off his head. He was guilty of a terrible crime, and he was being chased on foot along a road in open countryside by soldiers on horses. They would shoot him, and reload, and shoot again, and with every shot he staggered or fell, and then get up again. His blood covered the grass and the gravel for hundreds of yards. The soldiers were fascinated and appalled. The man was dying, and he must have known that, but he refused to give up. Finally he could only walk slowly, his eyes far back in his head, and a soldier got off his horse and walked up behind the man. He put the muzzle of his rifle against the man's back and fired, and the man fell forwards and everything went black. I woke up.
 

If that wave comes

when we saw the tidal wave coming we realized why the sky had gone dark and the buttercups had stopped glowing in the grass and I knew what the sick feeling all day in my stomach had been, and even though running was never going to do any good we ran anyway, up the steep side of the hill to get to higher ground, and for some reason we were all laughing, as if we realized that no death could bring us to harm in this version of a life

then the wave broke over us and everything speeded up, and there were sharks and trees and rocks and people all rolling and tumbling in that heavy grey jelly that pushed us up over the crest of the hill and left us stranded there, alive and cold, looking down at the crushed cities of the coast and wondering what happens next. then I did something none of us had expected, I woke up and my arms were over my head and my wife was breathing slowly beside me and the morning light was shouting through the curtains.

something about deep sea fish that had me fascinated. the photophores blinking through the black, the huge toothed mouths and slack bodies, the total silence and the crushing weight of miles of water, the moon-glow of shoals of lanternfish rising to the surface to feed at night. I wondered how it would feel to live at the bottom of the ocean, on the surface of another planet, in the screaming cold of the Marianas trench. as a child I always imagined them dropping a mountain into the Pacific trenches and watching it be swallowed up, spirals and waves on the bright surface and coral islands following it down to death.

instead I'm at the bus stop waiting for the plump little Indian girl, to give her wedding video to her so she can see herself on the most important day of her life – all the things she did, everything anyone said, everything that might have some kind of importance. Photographs, memories, screens and webs of faces and words boiling and spiralling around her little nexus, that day, her face, her voice, her husband's life, bound together by the energy that pushes the leaves out of the buds and the magma out of the soft bag of Earth. Like us on our own wedding day, hugging each other close on a huge soft white bed in the Clarence hotel, fifteen euro for a bottle of water but the television is free and the apples are part of the décor, arranged upside down like buttocks on a silver platter. we were hoping it all meant something, and maybe it did. I watched emperor penguins calling to each other across gale-swept ice fields, swimming frantically from leopard seals hunting along the margin of the glacier, and then I woke her up and we made love until we couldn't see the white of the sheets any more. everything spiralling around a single moment or a single person, an idea, a god, a magnet for the material of that other world.

if the wave comes, I mean if it really comes, the wave of water or fire or ice that brings an end to everything, the wave we're all half expecting anyway, the wave the media screams for during the nuclear standoffs, the wave the astronomers see flying towards us at a thousand kilometres per second out of the Oort cloud, the wave rising out of the island that falls into the sea, the wave of the ice caps bringing the White Earth out of the computer simulations of meteorologists and over the world like a mantle, the wave of the sea rising as Antarctica levitates itself and everyone starts to burn, if that wave comes and the dust is flung upwards and carried by the winds to turn the sun into a yellow smudge in the dark sand of the sky, if it comes to start everything again and turn out the light of thought and memory, if all the screens go dark and all our eyes are closed and all our minds lose their spiralling energy and disintegrate into a mess of neurons and blood, if that wave comes will there be anything left, will there be a consciousness that witnesses, a power that preserves, a script written in the ash and lava to tell the story of even one person, just one person, one little nexus, will there be anything left of everything we tried to do and be, any of the colours and faces and the laughter for no reason, the love that shouldn't exist but does, if that great wave comes and we are just minds frozen in time and bodies buried in each other and none of the science fiction futures come to pass, if we never make it out of these choking cities, if I never see the stars up close, if I never understand the shape of the galaxy and how I can see it at all, if that wave comes to bring me home before I'm ready let me write what I saw, let someone read it, just one person, I just want to show you how it was, how it is, how strange that I'm here to see it

if that wave comes I'll smile. it's like a hundred miles of basalt cliffs looming closer, eating clouds and jetliners as it comes, and the elephants are wandering in herds across the dry plains, telling each other in infrasonic rumbles what's important to tell before the end. the sky is dark and I'm holding her. it doesn't matter now if we die because we did what was important, we found each other. if that wave comes the traffic noises through the open window will fade and the Sunday afternoon light will flicker and die, and as we look at each other suddenly there will be no time and no reality and everything we ever said or will say happens all at once in that moment, and as the wave breaks over us there was no fear and there is no pain, because we're just waking up. and nothing can be forgotten.
 

The Alien Queen

This very fucked-up dream starts off with me watching Aliens, but then my consciousness shifts through the screen and I become a character in the film. The Alien Queen has escaped and is hunting us down. She traps one of the men in my squad and burns off his face with a flamethrower - his jaw melts and he falls screaming to the ground. We are all captured.

The Queen decides to send us to Tax, the underground nest and homeworld of the aliens, and when the gates open, there is nothing to see but a heaving mass of human bodies and clambering aliens. Ripley, (who is me - or at least, who I have turned into), slits her wrists open rather than be sent in there. The Queen brings her back into the main complex and stitches her up again. When next we see the Queen, she has ripped both of her own arms off, and her lower jaw, and in place of her jaw is a huge, grotesque pair of red human lips. She tells us that she wants to be beautiful like us.

We are running and escaping from Tax, and we barely make it into our complex in time before something gets past the barriers and is halted by the glass inner door. Even the Queen is scared by this thing, which is called a Sleuth, and is bulkier, almost humanoid, muscular, grey-green-red in colour. It begins to crash against the glass, making a booming, thunderous sound.

I wake up.
 

The Unnameable Generation

I don’t know if I belong to Generation X or Generation Why, I don’t know retro-chic from ironic meta-retro, and I change too often to be branded and settled into a nice groove, another chilled statistic for the detached demographers who are so concerned with what life symbolizes that they don’t ask what it IS.

If you’re looking for the old symbols, the old man with the hidden lamp, the ever-cycling sun, the girl pouring spirals on herself from a water-jug, the dying prince, the lovers and the egg of the universe, you’re fading into a past that exists only in memory: we’ve changed the symbols, mutated them, thrown them into the kaleidoscope and snowed the fragments of the new on to an unsuspecting culture.
 
There is no wise old man with his lamp of wisdom; there are our own unanswerable questions, the spark of flame as we light the end of a spliff, the nonsense we speak to each other at 3 a.m. when we no longer know what is happening. Our sun does not cycle and return; it is one of billions of equal suns that we have seen streaking past impossibly from where we stand on the decks of starships. The girl pouring water on her hair is trying to sell you shampoo. The dying prince is an actor; we know he does not die. We know he lives in Beverley Hills with his wife and pays people to protect him from harm. As lovers we are not doomed to the eternal return of the marriage bed and shared grave; we are learning new ways to love each other that do not send echoes of debt and Karma backwards and forwards in time. The universe is not an egg; we do not know what the universe is. We have measured it in every way imaginable, and we have no idea what it is, except that it is definitely not an egg; physicists are quite adamant on this point.

We are here to wake up to who we are, AS who we are. We choose to learn our lessons as warriors, lovers, artists, rebels, monks, jokers, healers, priests, players, actors, runners, singers; we bring our knowledge of ourselves and of truth and love into all the worlds after this one; we have nothing to fear in any world, for all we can learn is to be who we are.

No one can tell us how to choose to be ourselves. No symbol or message or idea can be followed by us to its proposed source, because we are no symbol, we are no message, we are no idea. We are not corrupted by irony because we are not something that can be defined or represented or referred to. We are not old or new; we don’t know the answers to our most important questions; we don’t know where we came from or where we are going. We belong to the realm of the unknown, a mystery in our existence and our actions, always utterly free in every moment: in THIS moment, which we never leave.

As individuals our minds, our pathways through the funfair of this world, are made of combinations of character, story and symbol so complex and unique that no path of one person to their understanding of any thing will bring any other person to the same understanding . In us there are billions of different worlds that somehow interact and play through time. All we have to guide us is the remembrance of who we are. We are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we committed no sin and we are confined to no punishment. We have the right to demand to live in a world in which we can be awake, in which we are not told that to love as we want to love is forbidden. We are not mistaken; we are NOT asleep. We choose our world, and no one has a good reason to tell us we are wrong.

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.