transformation

My Collapsing Head

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

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

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

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was awake and calm during this procedure) they discovered another thing that interested them - my entire upper jaw had been replaced by an "orthodontic plate".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

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

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

Other Suns

lift me out of myself and carry me
to someone else's house
and leave me invisible on their sofa
or sitting at the end of their bed,
empty of whatever it was I used to look for

I will be the star they chase in their dreams
sparkling through their clean bathroom
smoking cigarettes on their patio at night
I'll smell their eggs in the morning
and make them shiver when they look in mirrors

I've forgotten what I thought I had to do
so lead me into someone else's purpose
let me read their story and guess how it ends
I'll see how they feel alone when they're with others
and how they hold themselves together when alone

if one day the sun gave up and disappeared,
this planet would still move through space,
no longer orbiting but tangentially hurtling
into the sugary galaxy like a starship
cold and lost probably, seeking other suns,

beautiful light and inescapable gravity -
to be enfolded in another orbit, lovingly -
someone else's house and someone else's life
and all of history and memory buried by time
until she becomes the only sun that could ever be

One-body-dream

At the edge of the mandala
we tiptoed through dream streets
trying not to wake the lizards
trying to avoid the tigers

we lay in the bodies of birthing galaxies
and wandered blindly inward
following the calls of dead mothers and fathers
leaves on our faces, stones underfoot

sisters and brothers of kraken and lungfish
blood flowers and soft hearts
we dreamed of mouths and voices
and woke to sing the song of the centre

we laughed, we saw demon girls
and shining soldiers, crowns of petals
we became a billion centuries
we forgot to ask for anything

among hills and rivers that circle forever
we are skeletons dancing in a black bonfire
wet with rain from clouds of every colour
trapped and shining in the blue jewel of one body

This is the place

this is our place,
river water walls, no words
nothing but the view over empty rooftops,
silent daylight, heavy glass
I know the flesh means nothing
it's withering and burning in time
every few seconds I have to begin again

this is a place
where things slowed down,
slow breeze, car engines, spiced tea,
mornings into afternoons into evenings
night-time too long and too short
ghosts started bleeding out through my skin
dreams and memories of someone like me
emptying himself to start again

this is no place
for anyone real
the stage is set for the pale players
the water spirits, revenants in the mirror
we who can never be full, we who
can never feel at peace, we
who can't stand the sight of the sky -
trees, birds, the dark mouth chewing stars -
every newborn word is crushed -
it's no use, I have to start over

this is the place

No-one's Garden

Parin tends a garden owned by no one -
bushes growing stunted in the red brick dark
between two terraces; old wooden gates
that only he opens; a path from street to street
never used and usually never seen.

With no alternative and no one to stop him,
he plants parts of his own mind in the dry soil
along with the shrubs and the ivy:
blue clouds blown across a cold red sunset
as he crested the hill at Roundhay Park on his bike;

the cold air and the noise the fox made when Sajid
killed it behind the school all those years ago;
the way the motorway noise never ended at night,
eventually drove the cat insane and made her shit
all over the house, until Dad wrung her neck in a rage.

Parin buried her in the soft dirt at the edge of the park,
because their garden was only glass and concrete.
The soil between houses is hard and thirsty, but he's healing it.
He remakes memories on the city council payroll
every day, in this dark little space between lives.
 

Dark Lifetimes

I thought I wasn't human sometimes
like when we drank too much on the tracks
of the old railroad, and ended up
throwing garbage at each other
and I got sick on my own coat
and had to scrub it in a puddle
before I went home

Or when I was on the bus in the morning
and the tough kids were smoking in the back seats
and my elbow hurt from trying to sleep
leaning against the rubber window ledge
I saw two burnt out cars together in a field
bleeding rust into the long grass
- this year's Halloween blaze -
- will be like islands in a sea of oil -

I went crazy, I stole bicycle locks
and left the bikes behind, I talked to rivers
and made them promise to remember me,
I thought my cat was a spirit sent to guide me,
I screamed in the living room at night
when my mother was away on holiday,
only alive after dark, naked warrior for destroying
demons that existed nowhere

dark lifetimes lost for nothing
smoke from smouldering moments
I was a slow fire, lying alone
on my teenage bedcovers being a burning snake
a star in a strange structure of light
compare this
to the taste of cider in your throat
the smell of your own sweat in bed
the nothing you thought you were
and always would be

The Golden Apples of the Sun

Tuesday evening waiting in a bus stop gutter
shaking off ten hours of travel and work -
from here I can see the bank building,
thousands of black blocks stacked
back to back, blank, reflecting nothing.

I stood on the bus's center circle
hanging on straps, turning with the corners
while a grey-haired man recited Yeats
somewhere in the back seats -
everyone window-gazed like it was normal.
He proclaimed: "The silver apples of the moon,
the golden apples of the sun," and smiled like a Siddha.
He didn't care. He moved on to Shakespeare.

The Liffey was low and lucid,
dark brown-green mirrored bridges,
totally calm, absorbing sound and light,
wasteland water full of traffic cones and mud,
and the rain held off until I got to shelter,
and I felt like myself again -
soft apple flesh rotting around a seedling,
I don't know what I'm becoming.

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.

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.
 

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.