Monthly Archives: August 2008

Opiate Dreams

I had too much to dream last night. I have tried to reproduce what I saw and felt faithfully, and have failed miserably in doing so. This does not matter.

The office space is itching my skin, conditioned air slowly poisons my lungs, and I’m beginning to sweat. The flute I brought to work today keeps rolling off the desk and onto my lap, again and again I have to pick it up and place it on the mess of paper in front of me; and over and over I watch it tumble over charts and scripts, unable to intervene before it drops onto my knee, letting out a single, sad, involuntary note. I can barely see my computer screen (part of me knows that I am asleep, and my eyes are struggling to focus), and names flash up next to numbers I cannot read. My colleagues are all speaking too fast, reeling off immense lists of knowledge I never cared to learn, all grinning inanely into their plastic cups and gesticulating at me, eager for me to catch up, to help reach an impossible target of sorts. I stand up, and I leave the room.

The walk down the stairs and out of the building I live in for eight hours each day does not actually happen. Nonetheless, I find myself outside on Stoke’s Croft, stepping heavily behind the nightclubs, weaving between wheelie bins and the vivid orange paint and purple arabesques that adorn the walls. I cannot detect scents in my dreams, but I can remember them, copying and pasting perception into my subconscious. I remember the acrid, hanging fragrance of orange peels, of fermenting litter and dead leaves. Of old sex, of new birth, and of that which comes before birth. There is a man on top of a pole who burns an angry red, standing upright, to attention. A couple of seconds later, he has gone, and a new man appears, one who has relaxed his pose and exudes a bright green colour, flashing once, twice, three times. I walk across the road.

There is something glinting on the pavement a hundred yards ahead of me, attracting my attention with short, sharp bursts of reflected sunlight. I am immediately slightly suspicious – I don’t think I’ve ever even played ‘Tomb Raider’ but some part of my sleeping id has thrown up this recognisable little piece of iconography, this obvious plot device. I cannot help but investigate further. A few minutes of listening to my heavy footsteps on the paving slabs pulls me up the street, and I stop, swaying slightly on the spot, looking intently to my left. There is a shop, a ragged hut that I have not seen before. As I step inside, I realise that I have seen this shop before, many, many times. It used to sit outside the petrol forecourt outside Sainsbury’s in New Cross, just down the road from the orange striped train station I used to use several times a week to get to The Bridge, The Market, The Goodbye Place. Quite who had left it here in Bristol, nearly one hundred and thirty miles west of where it belongs is anybody’s guess.

I step over the pile of rusty books, and look at the large, impressively adorned lectern that lies on its side, blocking my path. The teak eagle spreads its wings, ready to take the weight of the word on its shoulders. I start sifting through the dusty world-residue, picking up the map that hung on my housemate’s wall, the key to a pair of handcuffs long since lost, a tube of sweet-smelling slippery cream I bought in Germany. I lift a series of canvasses out of a box, and one of the paintings falls into my hand with familiarity. I look closely at it. A woman and a child sit hunched at the front of the painting, skin marked by pox and filth and sadness, the heavy, blanketing blackness of the backdrop creeping in around their emaciated limbs. Their knuckles are a vivid red, and you can see traces of bone beneath the skin, beneath the shawls and tattered laces of their Viennese forms. A man stands behind them, at the centre of the painting; his long, naked, simian arms wrapped around their bodies, like the spirit of emaciation, a personification of the bony awkwardness of this mise-en-scene. It is when I look closely at the face, the shock of brown hair and assured, arrogant and slightly mad eyes, the prominent clavicle and jutting collarbone, I recognise him. Excitedly, my eyes dart to the dusty corner of the frame to see the iconic signature of E. Schiele, and wonder why I didn’t recognise this painting before, the knuckles, the hanging atmosphere of incest and syphilitic madness, that face; it is the famed ‘family portrait’ of Egon, Judith and their child, a work of art prized in its native Austria, one of the last truly great and haunting works by this sad master, this prodigy of Klimt, this supposed noble pornographer, this self-posed St. Sebastian, riddled with the arrows of scorn, adoration and Spanish Influenza. It has a price tag of twenty-five pounds, and with my heart pounding in my own jutting ribcage, I leave the money in a jar on the table next to me.

I step through the shop, now somewhat ignorant of the clutter and curios that sweep around my heavy feet. A door emerges from behind swathes of chiffon, and I reach out to open it, to see what is behind.

I step out into a space that I recognise, though from where I cannot tell. A steep, steep grassy slope drops down from the door. I have a strange feeling as I turn over in my bed that I have dreamt of this place many times before, that I may have ran up and down this incline as a child, that it was not as huge and steep as it appears. That I cannot help but see this particular patch of damp, angled grass through the eyes of the child I once was. Canvas held tightly under my arm, I begin to negotiate this mini, suburban mountain, still surprised by the fact I had no idea any of this was here, just to the west side of the Gloucester Road. I sit down to look again at my painting, to try and meditate on the sarcasm of the piece, the parody of conjugal bliss forced backwards in time to a more primitive, rueful, muddily narcissistic space.

I can hear a peacock. It is an unmistakable sound, like a child screaming into a tin bucket half a mile away. I turn around to try and locate it, and am astonished to see a vast, magnificent structure by my side. The temple is huge, gargantuan. Its two turreted domes pierce upwards into the low cloud, with saffron dyed flags ripping in the strong winds above me. The stone that the building is constructed from is that heavy, dark grey North Indian rock, elephantine and ominous, muddled with thick, green ivy and tangled, dry, dead roots that erupt in tangled messes from the walls, their tendrils hanging sadly over the doors. The temple is magnificent, dreamlike. The wind changes direction, and I can hear the mrdangam drums, the kirtal cymbals, the fluting harmonium and the drones, the chants, the mantras. My senses are flooded by the fragrance of frankincense and Tulasi leaves, and I walk towards the marbled steps leading to the entrance of this monumental wonder. As I walk through the wooden doors, having left my shoes and the Schiele painting with a blue-throated child playing with a fork at the base of the steps, I notice that my feet are wet, that the temple is flooded. About half a metre of water covers the entirety of the floor inside this central chamber, running down steps in elegant waterfalls, filling fonts and chalices and carrying the floral offerings, the waxy green leaves and spent joss sticks float around in a constant circular perambulation, through cloisters and beneath alters and between engraved arches. The deities are waist deep in the cool, running water, along with the other people, devotees, musicians, wanderers. We are all wet, all refreshed inside this beautiful space. A girl I half-recognise laughs as a large, old fish swims by her side, and I suddenly notice that the liquid is teeming with life, from fast moving shoals of tiny fish to heavy, slow koi carp, surveying the forest of legs and robes around them. The music has dimmed, a harp is playing somewhere, long glissandos of soma-sweet notes run over scalp like nectars, and a voice booms out over the congregation. A poem is spoken, a poem that I know. “If I were called in to construct a religion, I should make use of water. Going to church would entail a fording to dry, different clothes; My liturgy would employ images of sousing, a furious devout drench, and I should raise in the east a glass of water, where any angled light would congregate endlessly”.

The final word, ‘endlessly’ inspires a cheer from the crowd, who chant it joyfully, over and over again, splashing each other with that which surrounds and supports them, and dancing, and drums, and singing erupt from the smiling mouths of those who had found this place. I leap to my feet, and watch my precious painting float past, face up, before being fallen upon by an speckled fish, orange and white scales luminescent in the candle glow, pulling it down.


Tell It To The Trees

Bored at work and inspired by TheBeardedLady’s short stories. Will probably heavily edit this post soon, as I haven’t been paying close attention whilst writing this. Just a quickie today…but TWO posts for the price of ONE! Benjiva

The boy was struggling. It was three weeks into the month of September, and already his boredom was becoming desperate and puzzled. After the incident with the cough medicine and the smoked glass the boy’s parents had grown increasingly paranoid; they began drilling tiny holes into his bedroom door and pretending that they weren’t spying on him at night. They had started walking him into his classroom and watching him sit at his old, scratched desk for several minutes to make sure he wasn’t going to run away, dig a tunnel or ingest more bottles. They began feeding him food out of plastic wrappers, and touching him with latex fingers.

The boy lay in bed each night, feeling the dull lamps outside blanket him with an unshakeable ennui. Every so often, the single shard of light entering his room from behind the pin-pricked door would blink off, with the watery eye of his father or mother pressed against the peeling white painted wood, trying to find more causes for worry, for anguish, for conversation. The boy stayed lying down, still, following his breath through his body, tracing each tiny volume of oxygen passing through capillary and membrane before changing, and being released. The boy felt himself changing, felt the addiction to stillness growing in his chest.

A few minutes before the sun rose above the endless rectangular red-roofed houses, before it had the chance to turn the luxurious deep colours of night-time to the muted greys and sad, gravel-pink of dawn, the boy walked out of his house. Wearing only an extra-large white shirt which dragged around his calfs and caught on wing mirrors and topiary, he silently marched out of the carparks and began to climb the hill, atop of which sat the trees.

It took several muddied hours to scale the grassy knoll that rose, forgotten and dejected above the town, a sleeping woman’s kneecap breaking through the crust of tarmac and protecting her quiet, swaying children, tall and heavy with leaves, away from the exhausts and anti-bacterial handwash and plastic bags and petty deaths. The boy stood at the base of the tallest tree, turned around to face the town below him, and quickly, methodically, hammered a wooden stake through each of his feet, securing them solidly in the earth. Breathing out slowly and purposefully, he traced his breathing down through his lungs, his solar plexus. His breath continued to descend through his body, past his stomach and hips and thighs, into his toes, where it escaped and burst out in thousand million tiny fungal strands, each one anchoring itself into the rich, dark soil and drinking in microscopic quantities of proteins and water. The boys arms lifted into the air and started to harden, his skin thickening and cracking, his fingers elongating and entwining above his head. Each hair on the boys head had grown impossible long, knotted and swollen, they unravelled to reveal wet leaves, seeds which would become fruit. He grew quickly, with the moan and creak of the trees around. His parents had not even emerged from their plastic bedsheets.

The boy raised his face to the sky, to the sun which now flooded the hilltop, slatted and sharp through the boughs and branches. With a burning grin, a streak of joy carved in bark, he forced his way up; a sharp intake of breath burst him hard through the canopy to a flurry of panicking starlings, and he spread his green arms wide to catch the light on a thousand laughing leaves.


The Flatlands (Or The Quiet Death of Gog and Magog).

Hello…

Could anyone let me know why this particular poem is getting a huge amount of views this week? Please comment and let me know why! I am pleased, but puzzled…

Cheers, Benjamin

 

 

 

FLATLANDS.

To pick your fruit from chimney stacks

Is a quiet, steaming trigger.

The trees are slimming at the waist,

Applying whorish rouges

To their splitting seed pouches.

 

 

We stepped on mossy linoleums

To creep, hard-toed onto grass.

The garden is heaving with

Rinds and hammers,

Lubricant and whale-bone.

 

 

You scratched your favourite words

In ashes on the pavement.

Like your red-haired friend

Who knew a boy who died, once.

Loss on a martini glass.

 

 

The soot-flooded twig still lies there,

A testament to your good times.

I remember you flailing, bound

In hankerchiefs and father’s rule,

Stuck in hilltop houses.

 

 

And so, I sat down for breakfast,

Waited for you to descend

With arms piled high with chimney stacks

(Stolen from the more deserving)

On which to chip my teeth.


Turn Your Head, Cabin Boy!

 

 

A strange tide pulled me, moonlike,

In a tall ship, head to heel.

Past the Hammersmith Flyover

To a southern slaver’s town.

 

I sailed through service stations

And desperate public art,

To sit atop my painted hill

And feel the wind again.

 

This morning saw me sitting

In a merchant venturers box

Speaking to a pan-faced girl

Shut inside the open plan.

 

Dressed in cut-price finery,

My heels itching in new shoes

I lied, and my lies she wrote down,

An assessment of my wanderings.

 

Each mark against my made-up name

Is a lashing at the mainsail.

A plea for alms, a lame-footed tattoo was

Scored above my spine.

 

The poniard twists! My mutiny

Subdued by other’s fighting.

I thought I could be a coup de grace

In this slaver’s town.

 

The captain would not like this,

He would shout into my earpiece.

My weekly stats are thinning rope

Holding up the mess.

 

The tide will turn, one day soon,

To pull me back to London.

Though different winds shall drag these sheets

Through Reading, Datchet, Slough.


Night Visitors. Or, Death of a Famous International Playboy

Dreams are really starting to piss me off. It isn’t fair for my subconscious to vomit all sorts of memories behind my eyes, its vicious little attempts to revert me into somebody I stopped being only serve to make it harder to get out of bed, to get up and face the grey skies and pissing rain and open-plan. A quick, sad one today.

Emptying pockets on ring-marked tables

Produced a saddening pile

Of ticket stubs from seventy km

North of the Murder Mile.

 

Of folded Polaroid squares

Holding heavy, suspended fragrance

Of thighs in hotel rooms abroad

And slick, forbidden cadence.

 

The passport’s seen far better days

Dieu Et Mon Droit worn thin.

Sandblasted, deadened in Rajasthan,

Waxed smooth, strapped firmly in.

 

Emptying pockets with tobacco-stained hands,

Like waking from teasing memory.

Not asked for this arousal,

And never you, instead of me.


Exercise in Mirrored Verse

Don’t worry… I haven’t abandoned ‘Parts and Parcels’ just yet. The gnostic parable is still very much underway. I just got a bit of criticism for not posting anything new today (even though about 25-50% of the aforementioned parable was written and uploaded today…) so here is a bit of poetry that I did. Except… I’m not entirely sure if it is actually a poem. I wanted to make a reflection in a garden pond, but the garden had to be both metaphorical and literal, and the pond not even mentioned. And its always a bit of a struggle making reflections in non-existent ponds in metaphorical green spaces that only exist to symbolise the duality of ennui and unnoticed growth and development in a relationship. Anyway… here you go you demanding bunch. This is specially for you. See what you make of it, I cannot decide if its brilliant or a bit shit.


We Sit In Gardens

We sit in gardens,
Statues, on which lichen slowly spreads.
The verbal flower’s stifled growth,
Over-watered, Under-fed.

(We twist around a single, swinging seat.
The garden is old, and tiny plaques
Spread the base of the oldest trees you know
I love.
Bent down to read, you turn to me
And sprout the same old Marvell line you know
I hate:
‘If we had world enough, and time…’
As if the garden was young,
Not realising when, and where you are.)

We sit in gardens,
Statues, on which lichen slowly spreads.
The verbal flower’s stifled growth,
Over-watered, Under-fed.


Parts and Parcels

There is much, much more of this to come and I’m going to try and stick with it this time, instead of writing a beginning and losing faith like I normally do. Many thanks go to the lovely, if slightly perverse denizens of The Choke for their myriad childhood stories involving impossible memories, it was massively appreciated. Benjiva EDIT 13/08/08: Instead of creating a new post for this story every day, I have simply been updating this original post and extending what has been written, as I think serialising this story will confuse both myself, and you also, gentle reader. So don’t accuse me of not writing something every day as promised…I am! I have no idea what this story is about yet. Some sort of Gnostic parable I think. Anyway, keep reading, its going to get good soon.

EDIT 21-aug-2008 This is still a work in progress! Keep checking to read the next installment.

Memories are hitting me in the face like bricks, spraying bitter dust through my hair and raising vicious welts under my eyes. How did I get here?

I can remember… I remember some sort of impact, a sharp pain and immense weight crushing the side of my body. I remember seeing the street from a strange angle, feeling like an insect looking down at the world from the underside of some roof guttering, and then feeling weightlessness as I flew, free from my body for a few brief seconds before hitting the puddled concrete like a collapsing pillar dragging down the temple walls. I remember tasting rainwater, tar, then blood and what felt like death on my tongue. I remember seeing the paint on the house above me, in minute, incredible detail (every crack in the brushwork, each microscopic growth of lichen and mould) for half a second. Then red. Then black. Then white.

There had been some sort of an accident, and I had been hurt. I cannot tell how long I have been asleep for… I cannot tell if I am still asleep. I feel no pain, apart from the dull aching at the back of my eyeballs when I attempt to let some light into my head. Quickly forcing my eyelids open, I brace myself for more stabbing agonies and confusion, but they do not come. I see… I see that I am in a dark room, on a bed, in a hospital ward. The mattress beneath my bare thighs is rubbery to touch, the ever-present antiseptic green and mouthwash pink are easily distinguishable even in this dull gloom. I shiver involuntarily as a draught hits my body, and I notice just how thin I have become; ribs jutting forward out of my chest, arms looking like nothing more than pathetic mechanical offcuts, emaciated pistons for a broken engine. I study my hands; they are clean, and softer than I remember them being. My hands look good.

“Hello?” I call into the room. My voice sounds bizarre; it takes me a couple of seconds to realise why; If I have been asleep for as long as I suspect, I’ve simply become so used to only hearing the voice inside my head, my dream monologues, my everyday commentary. No one replies, but through the window I can hear the drone of traffic (this affirms I am not back in London, thank god. London has its own steady, indeterminable hum all of its own, once heard, never quite forgotten), the swishing of tyres against miles of wet tarmac. Snaking its way through the pounding of rubber on concrete, a melody is being carried on a penny whistle, some sweet flute battling to be heard in the miasma of the urban. I try to sit up, to no avail. My arm is bound on one side, and I cannot feel it. The other arm has a sickening mess of tubes coming out of it, clambering for attention into my veins and being vomited out of a clean slit above my wrist. My finger traces the route of one such pipe to a box with a button on it, labelled ‘morphine’, which I press, and return to a painless, heavy, poppyfield-filled sleep.

This time I dream, and I dream well. I am walking home, whistling, dodging cracked eggshells that spread around my feet, and the clouds of moths that form around my head and then disperse, like starlings massing in the autumn or a shoal of fish confounding a predator. My attention is dragged to a drain that lies a few feet ahead of me, and I watch, transfixed, hypnotised, as a line of ants emerges one by one and begins a harshly synchronised, regimented march down the road towards my home. I find myself unable to do anything but walk in time with them, my heavy footfalls matching their millions of legs striking the soil, which has become soft and lush and green. I am staring at my feet, staring at the disappearing road beneath them, and it is only a matter of seconds before I am outside my door fumbling for my keys like I do every single day. As I push metal through metal and begin to twist this tiny knife, my eye darts to the side and sees a vivid orange splash on the outer wall of my house. A painting has appeared in the past few seconds, the paint is still wet, and it runs along the cracks and drips onto windowsills and awnings. An enormous man (or woman) adorns the entire side of the building, his/her body split down the middle, with snakes stretching either side into the huge gaping hands that govern them. The legs are muscular, sinewy. A gash splits the figures in two, separating and blending the sexes, and this laceration is an appalling, hungry red that… that becomes something else if you tilt your head to one side. I shift my perspective slightly, step back and quickly realise what I thought was a space between the separating bodies is merely a crest on a rooster, and the serpents are feathers, the head an egg. The painting suddenly looks nothing like an androgyne holding two snakes, and I laugh at myself for thinking that it ever did, for not seeing that what I had thought was highly detailed leg muscle is merely reflections falling off of irridescent feathers.  Looking now, It is quite clearly a fowl being born from an egg, fully grown and stretching its wings to a rising sun. Symbols surround the beak that hangs open, and, as I blink I see the double figure once again, before it disappears. Still laughing quietly to myself, I turn back to the front door and fall over a man curled up on the doorstep, asleep at my feet. A breif moment of panic as I feel myself weightless once again, waiting for the agony of impact and the blackout, but it does not come. I merely stumble like a fool, with legs like misshapen paper-clips before landing numbly on my knees next to his head.

The man is old, and his beard is long, woven in plaits and filled with moss and snail shells. As he untangles himself from his foetal position, I see that he is clothed almost entirely in old velvets, a patchwork menagerie of antique fabrics swaddle his form. Looking up at me, he lets loose a thick, heavy cough, and then stands up so quickly I step backwards in fear and surprise. Flies swarm in his eyes, and my view is briefly blanketed by the moths that have returned to dance around my face, billowing inwards and outwards, the dust on their wings falling onto my lips and eyelashes. The man, now standing tall on my doorstep grabs my shoulders firmly, opens his mouth with its cracked lips and gold dust and shouts, screams one word whilst his gaze fixes me to the wall.

“ABRAXAS!”

I wake up suddenly, and harsh, grey light is pouring through the window onto my bed. My eyes ache with dehydration, and the tangled tubes and wires spilling over my fingertips have numbed my arm, and as the blood returns to my weakened veins, the heat and heaviness slightly sickens me as the word ‘Abraxas’ continues to echo inside my head. Rolling onto my side to get a better view of the room I find myself in, I see a row of beds identical to mine stretching in an unbroken line. They are all empty, apart from mine, and one other.

The boy has his back to me, and is breathing with a low, thin rattle that sounds painful. I watch him turn his body onto its side in a complicated series of shuffles, and pull the over-starched sheets down below his chest, so they fold and wrap and bundle around his waist, covering his small legs and feet. He can’t be any older than ten or eleven. I wonder what is wrong with him, why he would be placed in this empty ward, this empty hospital, with me. Whilst his eyes remain closed, I study him carefully. The boy’s skin is black, a deep, intense, jet black that would look magnificent if it weren’t for the greyish pallor his illness or condition was obviously forcing onto his body. There must be a fascinating story behind his parentage, his family tree must circumnambulate the earth; for his face held traces of many different ethnicities, a global melting pot forced into two eyes, a nose and a mouth. A cough suddenly erupts from the bottom of his lungs, and his chin is thrust upwards while his eyes remain shut. I watch his upper body rack itself and contort in his sleep, and I see that his throat is a startling blueish-violet colour, so clear against the black I momentarily doubt my senses. But no, there it is again; this unlikely hue stains the front of his neck, a solid, bruising streak tracing its way from his chin, down his oesophagus to his clavicle. I feel unkind for staring, and try to distract my eyes from this bizarre marking. I look down toward his feet, and see that one of them is turned inwards at am agonising looking angle, and has many flies busying themselves on it. Another harsh, dry sounding cough, and the boys eyes spring open and fix immediately on mine. I quickly shut them, ashamed, and pretend to be asleep.More hacking and spluttering burns dryly from the child’s pigmented throat, and then the coughing ceases, and the boy returns to his restful, rattling slumber.

I think I have fallen asleep again, I cannot tell for sure. Asleep or not, I am beginning to grow concerned about the numbness in most of my body, the amount of time that has passed since I entered the hospital, who had brought me here and what had happened. If I could move (which I cannot), I would get up, enquire as to what is going on. The morphine has thankfully killed my appetite, and some contraption and another assortment of tubes is apparantly making sure I do not die of thirst (despite my mouth being dry and cracked), but surely soon I will be brought food, water, an explanation? Perhaps I have been forgotten. Perhaps something catastrophic has happened, the outside world is changed completely, and I am alone, with this child, trapped in a sunlit cell. Perhaps only a few hours have passed since the accident, and I am delirious from medication. Or in a coma.

Nonetheless, I look up to see the child sitting crosslegged, his gaze falling onto my frame. I look back at him, and he has none of my foolish shame, he does not look away.

“My name is Chris. I was here when you arrived, and I will be here when you are gone. You have been in that bed, grunting and moaning for a week now. They fixed you. You were a mess.” His tone is alarming frank, his voice high in pitch, innocent and adrogynous as any other child’s.

“What happened to me?” I ask, quietly. My vision is beginning to blur again slightly, the wings of the moths are dancing at the peripheries of my vision.

“You fell.”

“I was… I was asleep. I had so many dreams; I can’t even tell if I’m still dreaming now. This is such a confusing place…I don’t understand why I haven’t seen anybody else, I mean, where are the doctors? Who is tending to me? Who is going to feed me?”

The boy blinks once, slowly. Purposefully. He lifts his hands to his head and teases a finger through his matted, black hair, and smiles at me.

“The staff here have done their job for now. I watched them; they worked solidly for over a day to keep you breathing. They set up the machine to keep you alive and to feed you. They gave you this bed, next to the window, and they gave you the drugs to dull the bruising, to help you sleep.”

I am frustrated, and I start shouting.

“And how long will I have to lie here? How long will I have to go without food for? I need to speak to someone who knows what is going on.”

The child is clearly upset, offended. He uncrosses his legs and turns over to sleep, again flashing me the strange colour on his throat as he lets loose another long run of spluttering coughs. My tirade has exhausted me, and I lie back awkwardly, the opiate numbness and crooked joints causing me difficulty in finding a comfortable position. I hear Chris’s voice escape from beneath the sheet he has pulled over his face.

“You complain about lack of food, and yet are you even hungry?”