Monthly Archives: September 2008

Mandala

Been thinking a lot about Kalideva this week. This is her age, after all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a painted man once told me

I was born under a dark sign;

And that those of us ripped from succour

In the gaze of lofty gorgons

Would soon devour our kin.

 

This many-armed mother, he said,

Sanctifies with two hands,

But holds the dripping heads of

Men, and hungry scimitars

In the other. Arterial red and jet

 

Soon absorbed my limbs, as

My lolling tongue and stamping soles

Dragged a path back through

My earliest years, my eyes wide

With morbid fascination, a memory

 

Of twisted swan-death

At the estuary. Thick clay pushed

Between my shattered feet

As I stood enraptured

By the swallowing of snow.

 

My swollen, flaking leg-skin

Pushed into plaster, bound

In fresco, wet paint for

Teenage boys to kick out

While I waited on my back.

 

Each face at the foot

Of my bed, each kernel

Laid side by side creates

A pattern after all these years;

Spirals of sand, heavy with retrospect.

 

And perhaps when each piece

Of mind rests

One grain against another,

We can step back and glimpse

A mother who is I, and you

 

And they, and we.

This mandala can absolve,

And take the point of purity now

Made obvious when carried

By the water we breathed in birth.

Advertisements

Yolanda’s Song

We sit and wait in reeds,

Thigh-high grasses and spindle

Scratches on old palms which clutch

Sprigs of seer’s heather,

Waiting for the laughing

River to wash our soles.

Somewhere, there is a tent

And fragrant smoke from silk

Flags which rip around the breath,

Heavy with sand, a singular crusade.

The horses will continue pounding

East. Somewhere in an old walled town

The morning call to prayer breaks

The heavy heads of faith again.

The cardomon cracks my lips

And I shout out two words across

The spinning dust, unheard to you

Dancing at the city gates.


Saga

They found her on the wednesday after she had first vanished, encased in the ice at the entrance to the fjord. She was gesticulating with treacle-slowness behind the frozen glass, her lips moving silently, mouthing words nobody could hear.

She had gone for a walk almost a week before, after arguing noisily with Eric about puffins and oil, about cheap gold bracelets and the rising petrol prices on the island. She had put on her scarfs and gloves, tied the ribbons into her hair and filled her hipflask with bacardi breezer, the watermelon flavour evaporating off of her chilled lips. She marched off over the moors, knee-deep in gorse and black mud, not looking back.

A young goat-herd had stopped her, he said, on the first night. He had shown her his moped, shared his pack of twenty lamberts and kissed her for hours under the midnight sun. He was the last person to have seen her.

The people gathered around the body in the ice, watching her move in underwater motion, every blonde hair on her head floating above her like kelp in a calm, pale ocean. She would be there for centuries, like those trapped around her, miming her last seconds of freedom at the pace of the glacier’s heartbeat, watching the transcience of the land around her, watching youth, and age, and youth again, until attrition itself releases her, until erosion loosens the long embrace.


Haiku Morning.

Now, it seems to me

That England is suffering

From a lack of grace.


Sevakund

 

 Still no keyboard at home, unfortunately, hence the lack of new posts coming out of my car park vantage point. I thought I’d try my hand at ‘flash fiction’ today.

Tanya was having a divine day. Chris had risen early and left her glowing in bed after a night of delicious closeness, mentholated cigarettes, kisses and more. As she rolled over in the muslin sheets Chris had brought back from a business trip abroad, she noticed with a slight shock that her hands were bleeding, not heavily, just a couple of little scratches on each palm. She reached onto her bedside table and pulled a couple of wet-wipes out of their plastic casing, and in doing so, accidentally smeared a streak of blood down her left side, just underneath her ribs. It only took a couple of seconds to clean herself up; she was a woman, not uncomfortable with the sight of her own blood, and far too sated to be particularly disturbed by such a small oddity.

Tanya knew her room perfectly. It was her sanctuary, her place of tranquility. From the Madonna posters on the walls to her collection of bonsai trees by the door, she loved this space, and loved the warmth of her bed which lately seemed to constantly have the shape of Chris’ head imprinted into the cushions next to her, his scent filling her senses like a nectar. She reached blindly to the makeup box sitting next to the mirror on her right, and picked out the pot of gold bronzing powder she had been using lately in what even she would admit was probably copious amounts. A few quick applications – her slender fingers sliding over her pale cheeks – and she was sparkling against the pure whiteness of her pillow. Every day, her overeagerness with the irridescent powder left a ring of gold around her dark hair on the pale fabric, and she lay still for a few more minutes, enjoying the sweet fragrance of jasmine cosmetics falling around her eyes.

She could hear Chris pottering around in the kitchen downstairs, preparing a breakfast of pitta bread and fruit, and Tanya lifted herself off of her mattress and sat up naked in bed. As soon as she heard footsteps on the stairs outside her door, she pulled her sheets around her, like a shroud, and took seven paces towards the bathroom where she would wait for Chris to join her in the shower. As she looked over her shoulder, she saw a flower bloom on the carpet for every step she had just taken, and felt petals pushing through the carpet underneath her bare soles. She heard Chris washing his hands in the sink down the hall, and as the radio alarm flicked on, the newsreader’s deadpan voice was talking about yet more floods. The rain certainly was starting to fall down hard. It wouldn’t be long before all of Tewkesbury would be underwater again, she thought.

Chris seemed to be taking ages; it always took him several hours to wake up properly in the mornings, hence why they liked to shower together, the cold air from the window on their wet skin shocking them into alertness. At least he didn’t have all that hair anymore; Tanya had literally begged him to get it cut, and she had delightedly noticed a change in him since he adopted his new look; a softer, even slightly more feminine persona.

Bending down to pick up the breakfast tray that Chris had left outside the door whilst he went about his ablutions, Tanya decided to start without him and so crawled back into bed as she began applying the honey she kept in an adorable lion shaped ceramin pot onto the unleavened, wholemeal bread. She wished, for a moment, that it was Chris’s body she was nibbling on, and then poured herself a cup of tea and happily listened to the rain outside.


The Zenith – A Story For Jonny

I am very happy with this short story. Very happy indeed. I hope you all find it as enjoyably macabre as I do, as I really enjoyed writing this for the sole reason it is nothing like anything I have written before. Please take a bit of time out to read it! This story is for Jonny Perfect, in exchange for a song. Keep your fingers, kids. Benjiva xx

The Zenith, By Benjamin Jiva Dasa Norris

 

He’d spent almost a whole year on the painting, and had finished it several times. However; each time he thought he’d finished, he would spend perhaps an hour basking in the glow of his success before noticing that mustard yellow streak clashed unpleasantly with that green in the corner of the canvas, or that the texture wasn’t sickening enough, or that the whole thing was subtly, unfairly, quietly wrong. It was an almost impossible thing to put his finger on, this wrongness, this sense of incompletion and imperfection. One of the main reasons for this was that recently his fingers had started falling off. Every time he laid down his brushes and palette knives with a sense of finality, or kicked aside the wax coated wine bottles and shards of willow charcoal from around his feet, or picked the hardened paint from his greasy, matted beard, he’d move too quickly, and he would hear a noise –  ‘click’ – coming from his hands. Each time this happened, he would look closely at the source of the noise, always a finger, and watch it wrinkle like salted mollusc, turn grey, or brown, or black, and fall to the floor. The process was painless and fast, leaving a dry, flaky, self-cauterised stump behind, as if it was the result of an injury received as a child; an accident with a hammer, a birth defect, a mauling from the family dog.

It was late September, and the leaves were starting to dry and curl on the branches that tapped on the window of the studio. Summer was already starting to seem like a memory of a half-dream, held for a few seconds on awakening, and seen with perfect clarity before quickly being lost to garbled, mossy symbolisms and abstract word association. He sat on his stool, flecked white with paint and looked at his old hands. Only three fingers remained; his first finger on his left hand, pressed hard against his thumb, and the middle and smallest fingers on his right hand, looping around a palette knife encrusted with black, glutinous mulch. Every seven minutes or so, he would raise his right hand up to his painting – now several inches thick from the months of pigment plastered upon the frame, a physical, swollen calendar of frustrations – and scratch the edge of the knife through the top layer of paint to expose a sliver of April, a scar of spring.

For the briefest moment not so long ago, for one golden second, he could see the piece as finished. As he pulled his arm away from the canvas, trembling with elation, he was sure that this was it; that the one cut he had just made through the heavy globules of arterial red had completed his year’s work. It just required one tiny extension, another inch of dragged marbling through the layers and… and… it was gone. That extra inch wasn’t repairable; he had reached a zenith and then toppled clumsily, having completely changed the dynamic between the washes in the bottom-right corner and the sharpness of the veins stretching around the side. Tears of frustration ran into his beard and the artist stomped around studio like a chastised toddler, throwing his portfolio against the filthy windows, scattering praise and high reviews from many years ago, shouting at the papers and glossy uselessness that floated down over dead candles and a year of scratchings. His feet crashed through mirrors and kicked all in sight; the skeletal remains of a mummified aspidistra scattered into dust-motes and moth wings, and the acrid cloud produced a wracking, dry, rasping cough from the cracked old lips of the giant, wrinkled child. The artist fell into a wretched heap on the oily rug that covered most of the floor, and lay still, bare chest heaving, his liver spots rising and falling on pigeon bones, their erratic rhythms moving cog-like on his heartbeat.

‘Click’.

His head banged against the thin fabric with a hollow thud as he brought his hand to his face to watch the little finger twist and curl inwards like a dying spider, like a sleeping fern, atrophying quickly like a sped-up film of pestilence. It twitched twice spasmodically before turning the colour of London loam and hanging for a moment on a thread of papyrus-skin before dropping onto his stomach. His gut wrenched with as the appendage rolled onto the ground near his chin, the droplets of hope and impetus drying up inside him like so many grains of sand slipping through a distorted hourglass. Only two fingers now remained on his ravaged hands, ashen stumps forming involuntary fists hung on the end of his arms like chicken gristle. Soon, he thought, soon he would be useless, sterile, impotent and surely unemployed. He did not find the idea of mouth or foot painting at all attractive, and so what would happen if this wasting disease spread to whatever part of his body he used for his art? Would his lips suffer the same fate? His feet? His head? The idea wasn’t so unbelievable.

He had not stepped out of his studio for so, so long. His windows let in the occasional polymer of daylight, hanging limp and sticky, photons like dead spermatozoa coughed out over his cluttered desk with its smashed glass veneer. Nobody had seen any of the work he had produced for almost fifteen years now; the exhibition he was planning on putting together was going to be crowned by this final painting, this unfinished, unfinishable virus that would complete the retrospective. He did not know what had happened to his family, his critics, his customers and investors. It had been too long.

The artist walked over snapped pencils and crushed cans, stood next to his window and scraped at the mildew, scraped again at the months and years that had gathered on the glass. Outside looked different to how he remembered it; the trees, which before were all he could see through the filth, now stood in front of tall buildings which seemed to stretch away into the distance. A thousand identical houses rolled down the hill to the left of his parched garden, and enormous cars were pulled in and out of a thousand tarmac driveways, like flotsam on a Perspex tide. A look of determination crossed the artist’s face, and he sat at the desk and scrabbled for some paper, a pen, his inkpot and an envelope. A letter would be written to his old agent (or the agent’s successor), the address was one he had never forgotten, burned into his memory when he was young, a darling of the town at the initial abstract expressionist renaissance, an ancient, forgotten movement remembered only by himself and the dustsheets behind gallery walls. A letter announcing the completion of the retrospective, the apex of all of his work to date was written slowly and clumsily, in green ink on the old, stained paper. His remaining two fingers held the pen pincer-like, and the process was arduous, but determination drove it to completion. The old man was almost panting with excitement, a year of tears and struggles, a year with hardly any food or water and with nothing to stare at but the same canvas, a mocking year: almost completed! Unwilling to step outside at this crucial time, the artist forced open the window and flung the envelope out onto the pavement, several feet away, to wait for a neighbour to pick it up, to deliver it for him. They would. He was sure of it.

The artist stepped into the centre of his studio and looked hard at the canvas. He picked up the pots of paint, held them close to his chest in the crook of his wrist, and poured their entire contents over his naked body. When he was completely doused in every pigment he owned (even the tiny pot of silver metallic paint he bought for a futurist project that never materialised), he took a deep breath, bent his old legs and laughing, leapt at the canvas, knocking it off the easel and smearing it with the deep brown, sickly, heady concoction that covered and clung to every grey, wiry hair. He floundered around on the floor, feeling months of dried paint scratching and cutting his neck, his chest, his leathery thighs, plastering his beard to his clavicle. He caressed and attacked it, made love to and murdered it, prussian blues ejaculating over burnt siennas. He lay still, spent, panting in the knowledge that his work was complete. A smile crept to his dark blue lips that were flecked with paler cyan when he heard the sound: ‘Click’. The noise echoed once around the room, inside his head and off glass domes filled with old skin and moss. ‘Click’.

Then another. And another, until his entire body was crackling and popping and spitting with clicks like an untuned television set. The artist’s eyes closed as his body shrunk like an autumn leaf, dried and discoloured beneath the mess of wet paint. His body contorted once, twice, and then broke into tiny pieces, which settled like dust on the canvas, and waited for the curators to collect him.

 


Within Weeks, They’ll Be Re-opening The Shipyards

I like this. I hope you like it too. Its not quite a poem, and that’s how it will stay. It’s just a rumour that was spread around town, and a response to a post on http://theviscosityproject.wordpress.com

 

They knew it wasn’t going to be easy when

The men decided to build their homes

From the inside out; starting with running

Children, carpets spreading outwards, around them hopping

Over a single red stool; shouts of

‘No, it’s my turn’, ‘Grow up!’ ‘Stop!’

 

Once the coffee tables and the occasional

Broken pots were set in place, legs growing

Tree-like from the bases of veneers that were not

There just a moment ago,

The plastic wrapping seeped its way out of the

Sofa skin, shiny, keeping dirt trapped

 

On the inside, away from shaved legs and

The pins that buried themselves, unfettered,

Deep into the corner of the room.

The gas was breathed out of waxy leaves

And trapped beneath the oven.

That sinking feeling, driven home.

 

All that was left was to raise the walls,

And they pulled the stones all the way

From South Wales, you know. Nobody

Seems to know quite how, or why,

When the lorry runs on rolling logs

And reconstituted seashells.

 

So mum and dad and the two

New arrivals sit around the alter stone

Running red with iron ore, trapped

With double glazing while the

Telegraph pole outside falls silently into

The yawning earth, just like last time

 

And the time before. The pater familias

Makes a mental note to not forget

To stab the sun with mistletoe,

To keep up with the Jones’s,

Lest they have to build their house again

Or re-consecrate the patio set.