Monthly Archives: August 2010

saint no. 64

She worked in the gardens of a very wealthy family. This much was known. We could go into endless details to prove this, and other most lowly facts to fill out her canon, but that is where faith comes in, I suppose. Payslips, loan agreements, tenancy forms. The twenty-first century leaves few relics of great wonder in its wake. So, that we know – she worked in the gardens of a very wealthy family.

They say she reminded the flowers when day broke over the dry stone walls. They say she told the trees when it was spring, the fruits when it was autumn. She would weep through the regular death of wintertime, and perform last rites for each fallen leaf. They say she brought them back to life again. They say her real name means ’rebirth’, but this is not how she was known.

They say she had killed a man.


Saint no. 17

Recent polls suggested that one in every thousand people in this town had witnessed, or knew someone who claimed to have seen the young woman’s levitations. „It must have been difficult”, they would invariably say, „yes, it must have been very frustrating to work in such a small shop selling booze and fags and the sort of bizarrely shrink-wrapped pornographic magazines you would only see in shops like it…”

„It must have been frustrating”, they would say, „to do that, when the divine was speaking right through you, lifting you above the counter against your best efforts…” This was all said long afterwards, though.

„It was brutal, how they treated her”, they would say. „If any of it was true, that is.”

Her dark eyes lit up, and the till rang like a tiny set of vesper bells. Behind her, the door swung shut, and a million incenses blew inwards from the street outside – a hundred thousand passing lives, each with their own unique frangrances, billowing over linoleum and chocolate bars and the leftover news. They used to have a word for this sensation, she thought, as her arms prickled and the residue of the passing, walking heartbeats swelled through her.
’Ecstasies,’ – the meaning had changed, since then.

She was plucked from behind the desk by unseen hands, and lifted a metre into the air, between the spirits and the condoms and the keys to the safe, hidden behind a collection of packaged meats. It lasted almost forty seconds. The flowers sitting in the plastic buckets by the greetings cards bloomed simultaneously, a burn victim buying liver across the road was momentarily taken back three years, to a time when he could feel his right shoulder, or move his fingers.
„They’re getting longer…” she thought to herself, as she lowered back in time to give change to a teenager.

Almost nobody saw.
One in a thousand, if you’d believe it.


Three Short Poems About My Memories

1.

Verlaine said over and over;
„Memories, memories, what do you want of me?”
Verlaine felt guilt.
I feel something like
My memories betraying me, each day
Brings another set of untruths
Tumbling in its wake.
Truly, I remember;
Last year I levitated in the same manner
As I did when I was six.

2.

I spent this afternoon looking back
At real faces,
From the relative safety of the present
These were my friends, once;

There was the whiskered man in the frock coat
Peddling his powders and PVC neckties
We would gyrate to a mess of hits
White smudges glowed beneath blacklights

There were the impossible twins, metallic lovers
Inseparable, not really related.
I watched one bifurcate her tongue, for real
And woke up in stinking antique furs.

One of them now has a baby,
I still can’t tell which is him, or her.
But it really isn’t the same –
Eight years have passed, whether you remember them or not.

And then there was you; seven-foot wonder,
Straddler of council rooftops,
Purveyor of faster-than-colour speed travel
And the simple compounds they tell me killed you.

3.

I keep my days in mesh boxes
The locks are barely existent
And every month
One of my women
Finds where they are hidden.

They get their cutters out,
Sharpened on curiosity,
And spill the contents all over
Tomorrow morning’s breakfast, but
We soon forget again.


Saint number 354

Not the first, in a long, long series

We knew he was no longer a user. It was more obvious than he ever suspected, and yet he feigned his ignorance of our knowledge with a sincerity which veered into the unsettling. There was much that was unsettling about him.

They say he used to live amongst the gulls, his haunches smeared with guano and regurgitated cuttlefish, heels hardened on wave-shattered crevasses. His addiction was something quite different, then, those same strange psalms echoing into the tides, being dragged with waves along the spits, and returned to his dry lips over and over again, every seven seconds the same, each minute made up of speeding, crashing waters. His mantra was something organic, something which could only be howled into the sea, waist-deep in matted kelp, his jutted hipbones crystallised and misshapen with grey-green salts and the residue of lands. They say Saint Cuthbert was no different, sodden and meditative on the habitable side of Lindisfarne, unable to preach to anything human, or unchanging, or still. They say many things, and these things are often true. Still, he was no longer a user, and we were all painfully aware of this, at the end.

There were days when he came inland, pulling something of the ocean at the heel of his boot. Our parents spoke of when it started, and yours probably did, too. At first, it was something infrequent, an oddity. A reminder of the sea, and what we all owed it; A man from the shore, whispering his prayers and whipping around him a miasma of salted, stinking air, coming to town to see what might change, to see what was staying the same. As the years went by, and the glass and chrome of amusement arcades spread their neon and ringing tendrills further towards the shore, as shops rose and fell and rose again with a swelling ferocity, the visits became more frequent. He began to stop for hours outside the bus station, and then for days in the acrid hollow of the underpass. Within time, he was seen almost constantly, sat there with plastic bottles kicking around his feet like driftwood, and later, with other paraphenalia. He no longer whispered his psalms and verses; he muttered them, to anyone who should walk past. He muttered them to me, and I ashamedly admit I turned my head, covered my nostrils with my red scarf and shielded myself from the ever-present fulmar mist which covered him, the air of barnacle crusted vomit and rockpools which hung from his bleached sleeves.

They soon took him inside, and cleaned him up as best they could. They spent a fortune on programmes and detoxes and god knows what else, and none of them were exactly sure why. It was the right thing for them to do, I suppose. He came out twice in one year, and fell straight back in again, immersing himself in the comforting sterile greens of the wards, washing his weathered body for hours in flesh coloured tubs with hard edged bars of institutional soap, scrubbing away the hard stuff, then the slightly softer stuff they give you as a replacement, then that which is hidden. Rubbings and attrition, gradual, hygienic erosion under chlorinated tapwater, sanding himself down under watchful, matronly eyes until there was only grey, loose-hanging skin left behind.

We met him properly, for the first time, in the foyer of that place. He looked gilded, laquered. Preserved. The heels of his shoes were fixed, and they no longer pulled the tides and the stink of oceans along with them. We talked at length, about many things. He mentioned the sea once, in passing, as you do. His speech was careful, slow, precise, as if purposefully avoiding certain patterns of speech, staying well clear of rhyme and of weighted endings. He walked into the town, his head held forward and his eyes wide, unlike he had ever allowed them to be before.

We saw him once more after our conversation, three weeks later. It was a Sunday, and the rain was coming down hard on the English coast and the people of the town were compelled to move to towards the point where the land ends and he was spread-eagled across the granite cliff faces, naked and weeping and displaying a hundred thousand bleeding gashes across his back and feet, as the grains of sand held in the waves took him apart, piece by piece. There was nothing left by morning except a man-sized nest, tucked into a gap in the black stone, lined with seagull feathers and the polysterene graininess of cuttlefish bones.


For The Hive

We shiver in honey cells,
Hexagonal slickness
Blinding our queens and
Our one-eyed kings

Workers working, the guardian
Drones in the distance.
Deep, anatomically –
We mutate.

She lands noisily, and
Dances for my sweetness.
Many-coded signals
Gesture, grind, gyration.

When this legged congregation moves across the Baltic sea,
Our lips buzz with devotion, we catch a glimpse of

Girls from Estonian towns
Sleepwalking amber –
Hoarding time and
Grains of sugar

Waiting matriarchs,
Constant birthing,
Antiseptic, Swollen behinds
Hiding their useless barbs.