Archives for posts with tag: writing

It sounded like a gull at first. A shrill caw that wouldn’t let. George jerked up when he realized what it actually was – a human voice. He looked about, half in panic. How many months since he had last seen another person? A man silhouetted by the sun shouted and waved madly, one hand holding a cloth. George knelt by the waters to wash his face and then ran to his tent.

George sat in his foldable chair, which he’d retrieved from the tent for this momentous occasion. It was best to make a clear first impression, he’d always been taught, but the lesson rang truer than ever these days. As the other man’s raft came within distance, George rested his arms over a folded leg. And in his rested hands rested a loaded rifle. The stranger dropped his tablecloth, both hands up in the air as the two rafts gently bumped together.

‘Bloody hell. Where’d you get a hold of that?’

‘Traded for it’, George lied. He took in the man’s raft. It was a neat thing, larger than his own. Where George’s was made of chopped wood roped together, the stranger’s consisted of segments of timber grouped together and buoyed by large tyres underneath. In the centre was a three-sided shelter. George hoped his face didn’t betray how impressed he was. ‘State your name and business.’

The man pointed to his shirt pocket, and slowly reached into it. He threw the contents to George’s foot – a red passport:

EUROPEAN UNION
UNITED KINGDOM OF
GREAT BRITAIN
AND NORTHERN IRELAND

‘I was an Englishman too.’ The man gestured at Her Majesty’s waving flag. ‘Name’s Nigel. Business is trading if you’re up to it. Could do with some things I’m short on.’

George cautiously bent over and opened the passport, careful to keep the rifle pointed at the stranger. HUGHES, NIGEL. Place of birth LONDON. ‘Not so fast Nigel. Who did you declare for?’

The man, Nigel, looked puzzled. He stepped forward a half step still smiling and met a raised rifle point. ‘What do you mean?’

George took a deep breath. ‘When it all happened. Who did you stand with? The continent? The union? England? The south? Where did your bloody loyalties lie, Nigel?’

The man’s eyes sharpened. ‘You want me to say the union, or England. But it was the south. Are you going to shoot me now?’

George chewed his tongue a moment and lowered his gun. ‘Doesn’t matter who was who any more, does it? What matters is you stood at all.’ He reached under his foldable deckchair and threw out some rope. ‘Name’s George. Welcome aboard.’

George rubbed the sea salt between his fingers and blew it into the winds. Gone, like all else he’d known before.

Toes perched on the edge, he squat low, riding the light bob of the seas. He was prone to seasickness – or motion sickness, as it had been back when they all travelled on land, by car and other motorized vehicles – or had been, in his previous life. He had sea legs now, had King George. Literal ones too, he thought, impressed by his own sturdiness as he pulled up the bare net. His skin was red and flaky, but his forearms were all sinew. Alone, he could admit to himself that life after the end of civilisation was actually quite satisfying. It certainly beat working in an office.

George released the net and blew his nose out between thumb and forefinger. Perhaps fresh fish was off the menu tonight, but he still had some salted supplies from weeks before. George walked past his tent and saluted the flags: one for Her Majesty’s once and future kingdom, and the other for his own sovereign raft (his above hers). Three days with no luck – there was no haul to be had in these waters. He unfurled his small sails and sat at the raft’s bow, waiting for the wind to whisk him where it may. The sun hanging low in the sky still felt warm.

How to explain myself… Have you ever looked upon a colony of ants with such fascination that you were compelled to become one? To live among them, as one of them. To dance and fight and feed and build and die as one?

And then, having done so, to communicate with them?

Perhaps the thought never occurred to you, as you stood over them, insignificant as they are to your higher plane of existence. Or not to the same depth, your imagination throttled by the physical limitations of reality.

Not so for I. For I am the god of all gaps. And I have stood over the creation, not of my own making, that is your universe, this colony teeming with humanoids, and looked upon your kind. Compelled to understand your feeble minds. And in doing so, decided to fold my being an infinite number of times into your restricted dimensions and live untold lifetimes as stars and wildebeest.

Perhaps another metaphor to better attempt an explanation. Imagine yourself at a museum of never ending scale, perusing the exhibitions presented by various artists. And all of it a grand waste of time. Until you come across the One work that moves something in you. Vibrates the waves in your soul. Not a lot. Just enough to halt your motions. To catch your eye and make you ponder. And this piece… a sculpture or flat painting so engrosses you the longer you stare at it, that you would partake in more of it if you so could. If you could pour yourself into it. Climb into its enclosures and become an ochre pigment or marble fragment.

I have been angel, prophet, god and demon. At times all at once. I come to warn and goad and guide and tear asunder. I have been both babe and mother alike, the lion and its meat. I am birthed and simulate an existence. I die and slip forms like you might a cloak. I scream past your little planets as comet, harbinger of doom. Herald of glory.

Still I do not understand you. I can mimic, serve, command. I have shaped and destroyed you, yet always something eludes, eluded, will elude my grasp.

I am not your God. But certainly I am the closest thing to that which you envisage when you prostrate and grovel. And I do not understand you.

I live it through forwards and backwards, inhabit every particle and wave of this colony. My experiment come to completion, I slip sideways into the dark. Spacetime washes over me like passage through a waterfall. I am more again. Resplendent once again in all the dimensions that are.

I stare at your little painting sculpture ant colony. I see my prints all through the weave. I saw it ‘before’ I entered, being outside your paltry concept of time.

I move on now, having written this note in ants tongue as farewell. Onto the other artefacts of the exhibition with infinite disinterest. Insignificant as you are, I could not, I cannot understand you.

robert johnson deal with devil blues

The devil watched the sun creep low from up in his tree. He swished the toothpick about his mouth silently before sticking it back out one side of his lip and sucking. In the distance a woman lugged a large suitcase towards his crossroad.

The sun was falling faster and faster. The woman moved slower and slower. One of the wheels broke and she profaned his names at her poor luck. He couldn’t help but grin. Shadows elongated and the orange streaked sky teased reds and purples. His hour drew closer, as did the dark unsuspecting woman. In minutes he would materialize for the night. As agreed in the covenant of old. The toothpick disappeared back into his gum line.

The woman was still muttering curses when he jumped down in her way.

‘Oh Lord.’ She said, a hand held against her chest.

The devil dusted off his suit and reached into his inner pocket for a comb. ‘I’m sorry if I scared you there, pretty lady.’

She looked him up and down twice over before speaking. ‘What the devil are you doing up in a tree?’ Her voice was the smoothest gravel. She laughed a short laugh before he could answer. ‘For a second I thought maybe this was a sundown town I’d come to, but my God, you’re as black as me. Ain’t that a relief?’

The devil said nothing. He wanted badly to hear that voice again but the woman waited for him to speak now. He pointed to the overpacked suitcase missing a wheel. ‘Must’ve been a bad set to throw you off so bad.’

She narrowed her eyes distrustfully.

‘It’s plain as day you’re a musician with a voice like that, and don’t try telling me you ain’t!’ The devil waved the comb about as he spoke like a wand, each gesture punctuating his words. ‘Why, I can smell out a musician sure as I can pick out a cat from dogs.’

‘You’re awful observant for a man jumping from trees. In a suit and in the damn near dark, no less.’

He soaked in the coffee cream of her voice. ‘I think… I think you know who I am. You look like a smart little lady. You know the price of the trade.’ He coolly put the comb back in his inner pocket.

The woman broke into a deep belly laugh. ‘Mama always told me this would happen, playing the devil hisself’s music.’ She looked at him with steel resolute eyes. ‘I have no fear for you to prey upon, nor any wants that you can false promise.’

His mouth turned to dry cotton. He believed her, by God. ‘You know what I have to offer. Surely you’ve heard the tales. What I’ve given to countless before you. What I may give to your peers if you pass. The great gift!’

She shook her head, all confidence. ‘What I have is God given. My soul is not for sale.’ With that the woman shook her broken suitcase, and trudged on passed the devil.

The sun was gone now and the devil stood alone at the crossroad.

Hugh knew exactly where he’d find Stevie when he opened the door. What he hadn’t yet figured out though was how to broach the topic with her once he did. He put his phone in his mouth as he fished around for the keys, careful to bite with his lips. Fridays he always finished work early, but purely to buy her a little time he’d decided to do additional grocery shopping. If she isn’t doing what I think she is… maybe we can cook together. Like how we used to.

He turned the key and stepped in. The thick stench of body odour and old sweat knocked him back. ‘Jesus Christ Stevie,’ Hugh said, jerking his nose away. Dropping the phone – and then the groceries as he tried to catch his phone.

He should’ve been used to it by now. The smell. But it had intensified again. This morning when Hugh had left for work, it was far worse than every other day this week. But in the space of half a day it had become more potent again. The stench growth is non-linear, he couldn’t help thinking.

‘Hey Hughie. Back so soon? Hope there wasn’t any eggs in there.’ Stevie stewed around on the couch but didn’t bother to get up.

‘Stevie. We need to talk.’ Hugh left the bag and phone where they fell.

‘Here we go again.’ To her credit, Stevie sat up now and made space for him to sit beside her. Hugh opted for the table instead, windshield wiping a forearm’s worth of mess off it first. He made sure to block her view of whatever game she was playing. He knew it would kill her.

‘Please tell me you’ve sent off an application this week. Just one.’

Silence. ‘Just tell me you’ve started one then. That you’ve found one opening and got a tab open.’ Nothing. He loaded up the laptop beside him. ‘Give me something to work with. Please.’ There were no such tabs to speak of.

Stevie rubbed the back of an arm. ‘Well. I only just woke up.’

‘And last night? Yesterday? It’s three pm, Stevie and you’ve not so much as sniffed a shower. I gave you a whole bloody week. You promised me.’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I can’t seem to do anything. It’s like… it’s like my health bar won’t fill back up.’

‘It’s a soap bar you’re missing. Mum would be horrified. You’re a grown woman Stevie.’ It was too much but Hugh had held back for too long. Perhaps in being so patient and kind he’d even enabled her sloth. ‘You used to go on and on about carving poetry into stone. What happened to that girl? What happened to that fire?’

Stevie shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes cast down to the control pad on the floor. ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’

These are not really new year resolutions. They’re not even statements of intent at this point. More like the broad strokes that I’m using to tailor the systems and mental processes I’m slowly building. I’m quite pleased with what’s happening on most of these fronts already.

* Developing a healthier relationship with risk and money and commitment.
* Giving myself greater permission to be mean, or at least indifferent, when required.
* More deliberate practice, and deep work where needed. Fuck the amateur hour dilly-dallying.
* Complete first draft of Untitled and get some works self-published.

* Bonus: new job ples. This has been a bottleneck for too long and I should start addressing it as such.

I wrapped my sense of self and meaning around my identity as the big brother. It’s shaped who I am since I was five years old. It has been my north star and my guiding principle. It’s the outline around which I attempted to maintain my colourings.

Obviously I will always be a big brother. Obviously. But still, I’ve always kept one eye on the closing target of all my siblings reaching adulthood. When they should no longer need me. Part of me relished it; the reluctant leader who could finally relinquish control. Who had in fact been purposely loosening the reigns for years. Inviting discourse, discord, discovery.

And now I stand largely free of those old responsibilities. These young women and this young man sit around me as my peers. I offer counsel, not command.

So what next?

The slow creeping realisation that I’ve conceded the only land I’ve ever known. It’s me standing on the far shore of three comings of age, feeling washed up and suddenly finding in this some common ground with my parents.

I’ve been outshed. As I naturally should be. I feel better for it all now. Truly. But that isn’t to say it’s been easy. I opened the door to their personal truths and uncovered ugly mirrored reflections of myself. Glimpsed distortions that shouldnt be seen, perhaps. To find out you haven’t entirely been to them (for them?) who you thought you were.

What was it all for then?

I thought I did the things I did for them(!), for myself. To struggle against type and swim upstream for decades, just to see it was as likely as not to have made any discernible difference on them. I suppose it did make me a better man in the end. So there’s always that.

It’s a curious feeling to find myself in the position of fostering selfishness. Enforcing solitude. Unpeeling the co-dependency that hid in all my noble sacrifice. To realise in some ways I’ve been holding them and myself in a stranglehold, stifling our growth. Does that betray some lack of faith? I’d never considered the possibility before.

I stand haggardly on the far shore now, with these thoughts and questions to keep me company and little else. In due time they may want my assistance again in also crossing over to this side. Should I help then? Perhaps not. Is that the lesson here? To stop nudging things and instead to stay visibly afar, leading from a distance henceforth: knowledge of my safe passage ought to be enough.

I’ve learned this much at least
That you spend the entirety of your life becoming, perhaps – if you’re lucky, that is
But even so, with this particular period, or that one, clearly demarcated from the others, some of the growth is simply more than the rest; stands apart

Those moments or days, weeks, years
when you’re the molten steel in the crucible
the angry hot, liquid empty rage
and at the same time, the refashioning hammer

It takes time and craft and mastery
Self-mastery:
failures and failings both
and those fears faced openly

Chasing it all just to see if any of the new pieces fit
and when some do, you begin to beat away at the clumpen thing again
Patiently, lovingly, with dogged determination

And a thing takes shape.
A re-purposed thing.

As you can track the winds in the flight of birds, so too do I trace the hand of god in your movements
A maddeningly pure grace, simple and honest – made all the more enchanting by your very ignorance of it
Your total commitment to the task at hand, the dedication
as you go about your daily works,
springs forth vitality in your wake
Life, even, as obvious as that which shoots up
from watered soil
Radiant. Glowing.

Perhaps more men have stirred to honest prayer
by the likes of your kind
than by priest or sermon or the knowledge of certain death
whose words are dimmed in your light

Honest prayer:
supplications, enduring affirmations of joy

Disney don’t takedown the image pls

I don’t know if dissociation is the right word
but in recent years I’ve found myself 
revisiting old memories
and seeing my younger self
not as myself, oddly,
but more often as a child stranger
or a younger sibling

Old wounds then unfold and tear again in surprising ways,
catch me unawares in the most unsuspecting moments
A line from some old film seen countless times before takes on new life and cuts me fresh,
leaves me struggling not to weep for little me
Some inoffensive tweet or rediscovered forgotten detail looses old thoughts

And then the big brother in me wants to ball up his fists
and fight something, someone
How could they do that to him? To that trusting child? To me
How could she say that to him?
How could he let that boy think that?

Arman once ran out with a cricket bat to fight a neighbour
who too loudly argued with our mum on the street
and I had to pull him away
even as I, myself the hypocrite, kept a keen ear through the crowding aunties

I on the other hand once mused that the deaths of my parents would be sore days I could easily move on from
– a hurtful truth to admit –
but I would certainly have to die before all my siblings
or God help the world that dared remain in their absence

And that same familial, brotherly instinct
kicks in
when I see small me
Us with our wholly shared genetics 
and him without a big brother to protect him

And if only I could punch a hole through time
just to whisper none of those things were his fault