Keep in Sight (Poem)

Keep in Sight

 

 

Some people must feel their way,

through unreliable space and sudden solid,

but seeing isn’t all they say.

 

A bilateral view of the red dress at play,

before the seedpod scatters and surgeries reap,

leaving me to feel my way.

 

The red racing car, on the lawn that day,

the proof that colour and shape still exist, somehow,

‘seeing might be all’ they say.

 

I learn two alphabets, A for A

but relying on my sight is wrong, I’m told,

I ‘HAVE TO feel my way’.

 

A tree in the window dies away,

with time and study, it might come clear

‘seeing isn’t all’ I say.

 

Longing for something that won’t stay

a rear-view never made sense to me,

because, after all, I can feel my way

and seeing has never been all they say.

 

I won my first writing competition (organised by Seeing Ear, an accessible online library) last week with ‘Where Nothing Hurts’ which you can find under the Short Fiction section. This poem (which is an adapted Villanelle-I’ve written another, ‘The Absence’), along with another one, will appear alongside that story in a soon to-be-printed charity anthology.

Clearing Up (Short Fiction)

While Tom and Mike took the kids to the park to blow off steam, Elli made a start on the washing up. Talia dithered for a second before coming to lean against the door frame. It was hard not to constantly glance back at her. Should Ellie tell her that she could read? Or watch the TV? Or would that be rude? Should she break off and go and chat? But they’d been chatting all day.

“Matilda really loved that art set,” she hazarded, feeling as though she ought to get in some practice before the battle of the Thank You Letters.

“It was great to see,” Talia agreed, “I’m so glad. It was hard to know which one to get.” There was a pause. “I think Darren will get a lot of mileage out of that Lego. Thanks so much.”

Ellie smiled into the washing up bowl. Talia spoke with the indulgent eagerness of someone who hadn’t seen what Lego could do to a bare foot…or the delicate innards of a series of vacuum cleaners.

“Are you sure you don’t want a hand?” Talia came forward with one of those engaging smiles, her hand hovering over a tea towel. It stayed hovering there as they heard Mrs. Paul’s outraged screech through the wall.

“‘no, no, never mind that,” Elli told her brightly, “I can manage.”

“Oh,” Talia was still smiling, “It makes me feel so ungrateful just standing here lazing about. You did all the cooking, after all!”

There was another noise. Ellie thought she caught a few curses in that one.

“Oh, alright then,” she tried a light laugh, “If you’re sure you don’t mind.”

Talia had already seized the towel and set to work on the cauliflower dish with gusto. Elli glanced down and realised she’d been running cold water into the sink.

“Did I here Mike say you were heading up to Manchester for New Years?” she asked as she flicked the mixer tap.

“Oh, yes,” Talia swiped the cloth around the lid of a pan she’d done the sweetcorn in, “We’re spending it with my brother and his lot.”

“That should be fun,” Elli smiled. Mr. Paul was shouting now and she could hear distant footsteps on the stairs next door. She splurged more washing up liquid in and the foam roiled up.

“It’s a great time to remember all the people you really ought to see more of,” Talia nodded enthusiastically, hugging a sudsy chopping board to her chest.

Ellie was trying to form a reply that was a bit more imaginative than ‘Mhm’ but the sound of shattering forestalled her. Even though it had been muffled, she still looked around on the floor to find what her sister in law had broken. There was a final scream. A door slammed beyond the wall, then there was silence.

“Should we”?” Talia trailed off.

“Leave this for tomorrow and go have a drink?” Ellie beamed and lead the way out.

 

Just a quick, rough and ready exercise I hammered out during a workshop in January. Unfortunately I’m in that familiar position of not being able to post very much on the off chance I end up submitting it in my assessed portfolios. I’ve also had a series of technological nightmares so it’s a miracle this has survived! (I also apologise profusely for any errors, this was exported from my Braille Notetaker and it isn’t a pretty process format wise)

Crystallisation (Poem)

Crystallisation

 

The first is inexplicable on my hand.

Tush…

The second lets me name it.

Tush…

The third lands heavily in my palm.

Tush…tusht

I cannot touch without crushing.

Crack…crackle….

The splintering of crystals

Tussssh…tush, shush,

They plop on my shoulders, weighed down by water.

Shush, shush, shush, then a harder sound.

I strain to see them in the air.

Tusssh, tush, shush, Shusht

Touch gives me no idea of the whole.

Shush…

Abstract, cold complexity.

Tush…shush…

I lift one to my lips.

shush

The collapse is softer this time.

Tush, tush…

My tongue cannot grasp the structure either.

Tush, scrush, scrush

But I have to be close to it somehow

Tush…tush…tush

Not cut off by waterproof cloth.

Tush, tush, scrush

It won’t settle

Tush, tush, Fush

There’s too much liquid there.

Fush, fush, fussssh,

It collects on the post,

Fussh, fussh…

Frothy but drenching.

Tush, fush, fush

As though each one takes a while to spread out,

tu-sh-sh-sh

The fifth, pulled from my hair, tastes sweet

Tush, sush, sush

I let them gather on me

Tush, tush, tush, tush

And I keep eating until the fall stops.

 

We’re supposedly in for a cold snap soon so I thought I’d post the poem I wrote directly after walking through an unexpected snow fall last year. It was one of those occasions where language just failed to capture the moment. Hence the rather strange and ineffectual foray into quasi-sound poetry….

Permeability (Poem)

Permeability

 

Thinking about it,

space feels dense, tingling,

like I’m passing through steel wool.

Why do we think of surroundings

As though there’s nothing between?

the sky is never the same,

it’s a churning mass of molecules

and it’s not just above:

we’re always fighting our way through hail

those particles beat against us,

spiking their way through gaps,

breaching cell walls,

driving our own molecules apart.

but we never remark the intrusion:

we look through it.

we continue on the street,

boarding buses,

crushing leaves,

skirting puddles

only glancing up to note the colour

as though that tells us anything

nothing more than the neon sign tells us

even less, really.

The Management (Excerpt)

The person knocked again. It was very, very tempting to crouch down behind my desk like a toddler until they went away…but they weren’t going to go away. More to the point, neither was the tale of catering or housekeeping or peace making woe they were surely bringing me.

I pushed a few longish strands of black hair behind my ears, smoothed my shirt, straightened my tie and stood up.

“Jamie,” Priya said as soon as the door began to open, “The water pressure’s gone in the bridal sweet, they’re demanding another room.”

“Did you offer to try to get the plumb-“

“Of course,” she shook her head, “But they want a shower and they want it now.” My event coordinator’s wrinkle-repelling black skirt suit was still crisp, though her manner was getting distinctly ruffled.

I considered for a moment. This wedding party had been nothing but trouble from the outset. The table cloths had been the wrong shape, the manicurist hadn’t had the brand of nail varnish the Bride had planned her outfit around and the groom had drunk too much champagne at breakfast. I still wasn’t clear on how that last one was our fault but we’d had to take responsibility for it anyway. All in all, I was very tempted to tell them to piss off and use the shower in the gym. But after the gargantuan efforts the team and I had gone to to avert world war III, that seemed a bit wasteful.

“Alright,” I sighed, “Put them in the woodland.”

“Thank you.” She was already steam-rollering off. Of course, she’d known that she’d have to do that. She just needed someone else to take the rap if even this gesture fell flat. Which it well might do.

Very gingerly, I opened the door a little further and surveyed the lobby. It was mercifully empty. Well, except for Tom sitting at reception directly in front of me. I could hear the loud thump of music from the ballroom, overlaid with chatter from the bar. Things seemed sufficiently lively for me to reintegrate myself seamlessly enough. Hopefully only Tom and Priya would know I bunked off for twenty minute’s quiet.

“Everything alright?” I asked Tom, pausing beside him to lean against the aged hunk of oak that passed for a reception desk around here. It probably had a pedigree longer than the Best in Show at this year’s Crufts.

“Computers lagging,” he shrugged, “and I’ve had to reprogrammed 224’s key again-.”

“Oh god.”

“-Twice.”

“And here I thought we’d taught him not to put it near his phone,” I grumbled.

I was about to straighten up when the carved doors swung inward on their noiseless hydraulics. The person who came in made straight for the desk. I stood to attention, embarrassed that a guest had caught me lounging. The dim lights from the sconces on the walls winked off the end of a pen in his breast pocket, making me blink.

When my vision cleared, it was all I could do not to stare. The guy was only a few years older than me, though where I was skinny, he was built like an athlete. We saw a lot of nice suits rocking up at this desk too but not many quite as nice as the one he had casually draped open.

“Good evening, Sir,” Tom said promptly, “How can I be of help?”

“I’d like to book a room for the night,” the guy said, not quite managing to make it sound as though he wanted to add ‘obviously’.

I smiled politely and went to withdraw. I was half way back to my office door and safety when Aden came hurrying into the room. Sighting me, he totally ignored Tom and the new guest and raced over. I frowned, sure I could feel the guys assessing gaze. With my luck, he’d be the militant trip adviser sought and I’d have to do a lot of explaining to my bosses while still maintaining the fantasy that such paltry websites couldn’t possibly have any baring on our sparkling reputation.

“The electrics have gone in the West Wing,” Aden informed me in that matter of fact way people always did when they were off loading a problem onto you. He glanced around and then lowered his voice, “And the guests in 25 are getting antsy.”

I was getting rather antsy myself. It wasn’t the first night where everything seemed to be panting at the chance to go wrong and it wouldn’t be the last. But that didn’t make it feel any better right then while I was stuck in the middle of it.

“Get Daley’s on the phone and tell them it’s an emergency job,” I told him in my ultra-clipped, I’m not losing my cool tone, “And while you’re at it, you may as well phone around to our usual contractors and get someone in first thing to fix the shower in the bridal.”

“Right, of course,” Aden nodded, glancing towards the phone, “what about….”

“Offer the guests all a coffee, spirit or liqueur with my compliments and assure them that the Aspen Lounge is at their disposal until we have this problem sorted out.”

“Yes….” Aden looked as though he’d liked to have said more but apparently my expression scared him off. I couldn’t think why.

I glanced back to the desk to find the guy pocketing a key-card. Our eyes met and I noted that his were a curious, pale grey. He lowered his eyelids in what might have been contempt or could have been dry amusement before turning away. I watched his exquisitely tailored back as it moved towards the foot of the curving staircase. What was he…business man? Self-made or silver spoon? I stopped, well aware that I was starting to sound like a film from the 1920s. My ideas on class and personal wealth were a bit weird.

A movement beside me snapped my attention back to reality.

“Use the phone in my office,” I told Aden, knowing that I needed an excuse not to go back in there and hide.

“Right you are, boss,” he said, sounding a lot more cheerful now he wasn’t the one dealing, “Shall I go offer your compliments first?”

“No,” I sighed, “I’ll do my own complimenting, thank you.”

Aden dived into my office before I could change my mind and I turned to Tom.

“Do people even offer their compliments anymore?” he asked.

“Not another word,” I said, fighting the urge to cross my arms over my chest.

 

I thought I’d put up a sample of what I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo this year (current word count around 94 thousand). It’s my first real stab at realistic and the roughest of first drafts but it’s been fun to write.

An Early Night (Poem)

An Early Night

 

The night frustrates, behind stubborn lids. Then

midnight passes, as the fan slowly stops.

what’s the use in avoiding the time when

the building around me usurps the clocks?

 

Aching fog forms just within the limits,

refusing to flow into that which might

smother the sounds from outside and dim its

own avowal of an unrestful night.

 

hours are blocks, to count what time remains

keeping me awake with my own futile

persuasions of how much poor sleep sustains

a receptive mind for the needed while.

 

As hours and anger mix, then meld, I keep

thinking thought must be disparate to sleep.

 

Celebrating my blog’s first birthday with my first and (to date) only sonnet. It’s vaguely Shakespearian in form but I decided not to restrict myself to solid Iambic Pentameter. Given that the only vaguely consistent rule for a sonnet I’ve ever found is that it should have 14 lines (tell that to Shakespeare’s 99th which has 15), I think I just about scrape by.

Oh and for anyone who might be interested, my National Novel Writing Month Word count is currently at 25 thousand-exactly half way. Thank you for all the reads and follows over the past year!

Redeployment (Excerpt)

When we got home, Jenny installed Pippa in front of a DVD before going to get a shower. She often did this, even when I was here for the purposes of offspring distraction duty. I always put it down to an engrained autopilot from all the times when I wasn’t.

I got started on the tea: fish fingers, chips and pees. The lounge diner meant I could always keep half an eye on the tiny shape in front of the TV. Not that I needed to worry. She was a remarkably safety conscious little thing. I’d never been able to decide how that made me feel.

I left the oven to do its thing and went to join her.

“Mulan’s a soldier,” Pippa pointed to the animated armoured woman doing acrobatic things on the screen, “like you, daddy.”

“A bit like me, Sweetie pie,” I agreed, inwardly deciding that if I’d had a figure like the ones the animators had given her I wouldn’t be.

I wasn’t sure whether Jenny and I had ever discussed whether a toddler should know about my career. If we had, it had been long forgotten and everyone now took it as read that Pippa knew, even if she didn’t understand. She probably thought I was one of the Duke of York’s 10000 men. In fact, I frowned a little, hadn’t the woman at the nursery said as much a while back? I couldn’t quite remember; Pippa went through so many phases. An idea was all that mattered to her until a new one came along.

Even now, she was only half watching her film. The remainder of her attention was divided between a Barbie, a plastic supermarket till and a miniature dressing table. These were some of her Christmas presents and I was pretty sure half of the pieces were on their way to being lost, only to turn up years later when she’d outgrown them. That or I’d come across them when I forgot to wear slippers while fumbling my way to the bathroom in the dead of night.

“You don’t want to do anything special tomorrow, do you?” Jenny asked, coming to sit beside me.

“No.” Did I ever?

“Good,” she gave me a smile. I reached out and pushed damp hair out of her face. I think she’d tried to brush it and given up.

“You look tired.”

“Well….” She shook her head, “it’s always a mad time. Everyone wants their nails done for Christmas, then re-done for New Year’s Eve.”

“Why don’t you just dye them like they do with hair?” I asked innocently.

“When science gets that far, let me know,” she laughed and reached down to admire Barbie in some kind of outfit. It looked like a leopard print jacket over an odd twist of tin foil but no doubt the subtleties of couture were lost on me.

I settled back and grimaced. Science probably wouldn’t get that far for a while, mostly because the only areas that saw any real progress these days were food production, health and the military. Not that I was complaining; it had made my job easier than it would have been a decade ago. It also kept Jenny in business. Beauty was, for the moment, still a human commodity.

I reached for her free hand. Though she spent every day caring for other people’s hands (and feet and whatever else), hers were unadorned and quite chapped from the cold weather. I let my fingers linger on the roughness of the back, put in mind of when I used to smear glue on mine just for the pleasure of pulling it off in strands when it dried. Did Pippa do that? I hadn’t seen her do craft in so long. Maybe we ought to try to make something tomorrow while I had the time.

“You been using that hand cream I got you?” I asked, mostly to distract myself.

“It’s too nice just to slather on for work,” she objected, half her attention on unsnarling Barbie’s hair from a plastic pony. Was it a pony? I couldn’t keep the bright bits of plastic straight.

“It’s there to be used,” I tapped her knuckles and she gave me a look. Thankfully, before she could point out how little I understood of economies, the timer went off and I had to go get fish fingers out of the oven.

 

It’s that time of year again when I’m gearing up for National Novel Writing Month and this year, it’s doubly hectic as I’m helping to organise events for my local area.  I just had a glance back through last years manuscript and I was actually pleasantly surprised at how coherent it was (so here’s a sample). Unfortunately, that means I’m having to funnel all my energies into getting stuff done before November starts and after that….who knows what’ll happen. I’ll endeavour to keep getting something up every fortnight or so, so long as I have something that isn’t utter tripe to post of course.

 

If you feel like joining in with the madness and trying to write 50 thousand words of a novel in the month of November, please do check out the NaNoWriMo site (and drop me a line if you sign up, I’m known as Mistiness):

http://nanowrimo.org