Monthly Archives: January 2011

English Optics, 1.

Simple short story with which to end the month. Written for a magazine based in Copenhagen.

She was talking to Mrs. Grice, down outside the pebble-dashed slope which separated the community library from where the newsagents used to be, and which now held a brightly lit, achingly glossy hair salon. There were three false palm trees by the door, and they moved sluggishly in the wind, the downward breeze which scuttled a few half-smashed aluminium cans around the base of the swollen recycling depots. It smelled lightly of cat-piss ammonium hair dye, and of engine oil, and of everywhere else. She was talking. „I had my eyes done, recently”, she said, pulling the loose skin beneath the socket down slightly, to display a miniscule scar. „It’s miraculous what they can do, these days. Just last week, I could barely see the television, and now…oh…” She looked around her, „Now, I can see everything so clearly…”

Mrs. Grice stood to her side, and surveyed the precinct. Some kids had found something underneath a car, and were lying on their stomachs and shuffling along the asphalt. She couldn’t see what they were trying to retrieve. Something unpleasant, no doubt. Mrs. Grice looked back to her friend, who was following the seeds of the municipal park trees, spinning as quickly as her sight could allow – buffetted and teased by sharp-smelling zephyrs, settling between vividly coloured plastics, heavy, sticky tarmacs holding a hundred thousand million multi-faceted crystals, each reflecting the dull criss-crossed perspex of the street-lamp shelters above, which in turn threw out subtley muted images of magazine-wetting fingertips of waiting young women behind the frosted glass of the salon. The pale flesh first dented the brightly coloured paper, moulding it into a gentle curve, before leaving behind a dampened, shiney impression of the grooves and whorls of prints, each one unique. She saw this, and she saw the shadows of this thrown onto slanted surfaces, again and again. She was staring now, staring intently at the sparkling formica in the cafe, the last pulsing, quaking breath of a dying leaf, its final moments of photosynthesis bleeding green light into her optic nerve. She saw something of time, some sense of the bud, the blossom, and the fruit, with that one leaf. Something of the past, and a potential future. She followed the ghost of its fitful, airy passage, back up through empty air, past the guttering of the library, stacked heavy with cigarette ends and the detritus of neglect, into the sparse boughs from where it came, and above this, into the sky. The sky…
„Miraculous, what they can do”, she repeated.


Fun Rhymes with German dwarves.

This so-called kobold;
Ribald, pie-bald
close-hauled skewbald
little thief


Self Portrait. Poem and a painting.


He’s painting faces on himself, again,

the waterline slips
higher than intended.
Somewhere on the radio – possibly
everywhere at once –
a river breaks her banks.

Self portrait, self –
some fluid warps the base of my door,
but far too slowly.
Tiles are lifted, trails are split
but far too slowly for

Him, fixed in mirrors
flat-out between panes –
painting faces on faces, gazing back;
the waterline shatters light apart
as it levels with the bed.


Saga II, revisiting old themes in short, sweet prose.

The last person who watched her feet crunch and ratchet their way through the compacted snow and hardened leaf mould behind the fjords was a young man, no more than sixteen years old. He was sitting as he did every day, cross legged and turning the pages of his old book as his goats ignored the ice floes crumbling into the boot-black water as she stumbled past him, not three days ago. He told her family, as he told everyone else, that they had shared a glance and pocketful of pleasantries, that he had offered her a cigarette, a end of dry bread, a chance to rest her legs. Her family, as everyone else did, eyed him with a suspectful gaze, willing him to trip on his words, to betray a mundane truth, to confess. They hauled him before the oldest members of the community, a triad of weary eyes set deep and uncomfortably in weary faces, casked in social formalydehyde and horsehair – supposed wisdom in the collection of repetitive days – and these aged matriarchs of the town asked him again. What had he revealed? Why did the girl walk beyond the edges of what she knew and into the plains, to be taken by the cold?

A search party was sent out, with their greasy lamps and what remained of the dogs of the previous year. They stood at the borders and called her name into the horizons. Up there, you could barely see the treeline, if there was one at all. Up there, men had lost their sight, and much more. The gathering of the strongest couldn’t bring themselves the cross the lines in the snow, not even now, after all this time.

He told them again, and again. He had tried to pass on something of his own, and knew little about what lay beyond the harsh uplights of the whitened flatlands, only the stories of the times before, those they all knew. He was a simple boy, a keeper of emaciated livestock and a broken sled. His book was something passed down from forefathers, a relic of a forgotten time. He couldn’t read the myriad symbols, the writing, any more than anyone else could. The book was irrelevant, he said. He mentioned this over and over again, certain they would take the heirloom from him. It had happened before, and in his father’s time, he was told, but he held it to his rackety chest and passed his thumbs between the leaves bound in leather. He took some comfort in their uniformity, the thinness of the pages flowing like meltwater over his fingertips. Nothing else here was constant – each autumn the land and all in it was carved into a form of icy stasis, and each spring it was moulded through watery attrition into new shapes, for a few short months of glaring, unending daylight. Glacially, the landscape never stopped creeping south. Suet sat heavy in tight stomachs as the sun refused to move for another few months. Decisions were made, gestures were performed.

They say he pleaded his innocence throughout the length of the ordeals, and they say he looked into the cracking faces of the mothers without flinching. They say he would have passed all the trials an innocent man, were it not for the fact he confessed to being the last to see her. They say he stopped speaking, just before the end, and sat cross legged in the snow as they fell on him. They say they couldn’t prize the book from his frozen fingers, even long after most of the congregation had forgotten why they were there. They say he was probably younger than he looked. It isn’t easy to tell, at this time of year.


Parts (small parts) of Lorena Garoiu review


I am honoured to know this artist, and honoured to write at length about her important work. Here I enclose a couple of sentences taken from a larger piece.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing attributes of Garoiu’s portraits is their leaning towards beautification as a natural, almost effortless and organic practice. Inbetween furrowed brows, we see mychorrizic strands and leaf veins…

Other figure artists whose signature forms and styles we can recognise in her work focussed on such facets of portraiture as the putrification of musculature, using line to distort features and discolouration to emphasise the fittings of the human body – Garoiu does all of these things; we see sinew beneath papery flesh, we see jawlines jut harshly and eyelids crack, we see greenish knucklebones sit beneath the stretched skin of old hands. Fascinatingly, Garoiu takes these features of discomfort of bodily distortion, and uses them to her advantage in her lightness of form, her almost spectral dealings with the human face – these figures become less humanoid, more ethereal, washed out and suggested – the strong lines on the bridges of noses and the furrows of hollowed eye sockets merely becoming recognisable features on a memory that has begun to pass, an impression of a person we, the viewer, do not know….

We come away from Garoui’s portraits feeling surprisingly refreshed – we haven’t been subjected to anything voyeuristic, or heavy, or distressing in her paintings. Whilst on one hand, they are incredibly intimate, taking in uncomfortable angles and a repeated direct gaze, they are so skeletal and fragile (in the most beautiful sense) as to pass through the eye of the audience, and leave behind a memory of a memory, something to remind us of the way we truly consider faces….

Here we find an artist of our time and of no times, a relic of social-etherealism, a capture of beauty which lies on the skirts of our memory. How very…human that turns out to be.


untitled

They say she came from the north, and spoke the words of the horsemen, the horse, the men who eat the horse and the fungal strands that take the men. They say she was good with words.
They say she saw the flood gnaw and splice the foundations of all but eight houses in her city.
They say her fingers are stained blue with copper nitrate.
They say her ankles creep with verdigris, as would an old statue, in an older garden.
They say she is younger than she looks.
They say she killed a man.


Haiku/Instructions. Cut here.

1. Slip inside my frame.
2. Tear me with your healing hand.
3. Silence shaking skin.