beside mill wood *

To be

Despair is bearing witness to an ungodly decent into old age, where the ravages of time and life whittle away at the core of the person you once believed invincible. The injustice of illness, the imparity of disease only strikes another nail into the coffin of my atheism.

Frustration is the jagged rage at my own intolerance, at my inability to accept the inevitable.

Worry is the nagging reproach that joy seems only to manifest itself in the physical. In the sweat and filth of sex, the ethereal aftermath of loving, the muddy, earth thumping runs through wood and field;  in the hungry gasps of air in gaunt open moorland and the measured breath of stretch and pull in asana. To truly enjoy anything I must forget myself – I must learn to free-fall.

Delight is captured in the dart and sudden stillness of a wren. It eyes me from a branch and does not move as I run inches past its tiny form. Silliness is in my sing song whisper troglodytidae troglodytidae and the disbelief that such a stony name has stuck to a bird so wick and small. I am a child again as I pull off my hood to feel the cold rain on my cheeks and my pony tail swinging to the rhythm of my stride.

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..

 

 

 

the past is never dead. it’s not even past

try as i might, we can never escape those hours and days gone by. i am a map of my experiences. the tiny white scar on my left knee, a remnant from all those years ago, another life and the same life, apple picking in greece. loose branches, sharp breeze blocks, gulping dark coffee and retsina to flood a bleeding wound. concerned fingers  bandaging with an oily rag. gentle smiles in an old man’s face. fine lines on my belly,  the soft stretches of a baby’s limbs, nipples tugged for milk and love. our hearts and minds are hidden but they push forth in other ways. their journeys present in hands and posture- the cadence of a voice. it does not do to forget because forgetting is impossible- that would be akin to asking a stream to stop flowing, the wind to cease, the sun to halt her rise. and so we are amalgams. the past does not flood back or trickle into now, it never left in the first place. as we strain our eyes into the future to grasp for love, to strive for acceptance our backs are bowed with the weight of the things we should have done, or our shoulders heave from what might have been. or we spin in dizzy giddy circles, drunk from the jubilations of our youth, we fling our arms apart in celebration of all those times never to be missed, impossible to repeat precisely because they were born in and of the moment.

my garrulous heart

.
summoned by longing
i flip which way and that way 
a sure libertine

remember it all
affinity is binding


the daring young men on the flying trapeze, part (at least) III

i surprise myself sometimes. sometimes upon reading back my words i think, was that really me, did i really write that? did such things really happen?

and yes, yes i did, yes they did, and the reading takes me back to it, to the feeling of that feeling, the taste of that time, the lay of the land,  the scent of it all and I think , hey despite your flakiness, your capriciousness, your lack of moderation, you’re not so so bad , when it comes to words. 

on days off, rare days of solitude and quiet, she spends her time in the middle room on the topmost floor of the old creaking house. writing at a small desk and being able to look out of a large window makes her feel very lucky.  in this room especially it is as if she is in a ship at sea. nothing is static. she is on a level with the tree tops that sway and amongst the clouds as they scud by and as high as the rooks as they leave with the morning and return with the dusk. over the way a huge house is being built. it is incredibly ugly and although she is glad that there seem to be no windows facing her own across the fields, she cannot contemplate building a house without as many windows as is possible. she sing-sighs to herself , what about the light, the light,  the light. and she knows it will be another big house with another tiny, oh so manageable garden, that inside it will be full of granite work tops and predictable decor and beige furnishings and a huge fridge and whatever else it is that is the latest must have. and even though her policy has always been each to their own, she feels sad that so many people want to live in such places as a mark of their success. that they choose to inhabit a big and imposing square alarmingly close to another big and square house, complete with double garages and not much land in which to plant and grow and watch things. people are strange, she thinks.

today she has taken picture after picture of things to sell. she has read part of a book which grabbed her by the title ( the girls of slender means ) but which has not quite grabbed her by the heart. she has painted her toe nails a bright coral which is neither pink nor orange and she has thought once again about memory, about the passing of time and the writing of stories. the lives in them and the life they take once they are set free into the world. she wonders whether her whim to abandon capitals is merely an affectation or actually quite a good decision, meaning that she can type more quickly without the need to stop and majuscule. the silvery image of words emanating from fingertips like drips of water from hands in a bath captivates her for a moment or two.

she has a secret. one so big and huge and full of its own life that were she to share it – were she to allow it to walk amongst her day to day – the rest of her life would come tumbling down. at times this secret has felt like the greatest joy, the giddiest ride. a blossoming, an opening , an enlightenment. a golden mend. a smile across the face of beauty. a cryptic game of words and signs, of maps and stories. but secrets beg to be discovered. they fester under rocks and when hidden deep they rankle tender hearts. they long for the open air and sunlight. they yearn to be the very thing thing they are not – overt – as conspicuous as a lover’s flushing cheek. they crave their freedom. she does not want to be a jailor, in fact it is the very last thing she would choose to be. she is, after all, air of air and like the daring young men on the flying trapeze, she seeks grace and truth and freedom more than anything else.

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a spy in the house of love,part two

the vanity of men and their fragile big dick ego’s. the sweetness of them, their aching vulnerability. the arrogance of my little finger

markie is over again. the spliff, the coke, the mandy have ravaged him. he looks worn and tired but still eschews abstinence in all its forms. he extols the  benefits of staying up all night, caning it over and over. i get to fuck all night long on the coke he says. i remember reading interviews with ageing rock stars or bohemian writers who had found sobriety in their later years. the feckless girl that i was scoffed at such temperance but now i understand. i no longer seek such excess , or rather i crave the simplicity of a quieter life. or maybe it’s just that writing makes me feel reckless, in touch with some wild, out of control thing. or maybe i am just middle aged. it doesn’t feel that way . i feel flush and vital. the opposite of jaded. i look for colour and force and movement and the beginning of spring is always a warm surprise. always. you’d think i’d learn what to expect but perhaps i am choosing not to. expect nothing. there is no place for disappointment in a life lived out loud.

i am tied to the weather, to the moon. to this landscape of moorland and millstone grit and yet i fasten my thoughts to the sea, to the sunlit shadows on worn boardwalks and the saltbright air and sharp rocks of a life lived a thousand miles away. of limbs stretched inside the warmth of an ocean as open as time. i  am choosing to see the cold of winter as a metaphor for the dark troughs of the mind and imagination as the saviour of many a shipwrecked soul.  it will always offer the most lavish of feasts at the barest of tables.

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a spy in the house of love

weeks and then months of days of the same cold starts and quiet mornings. snow forever threatening but never quite holding on. a metaphor perhaps. it feels easier to write in short bursts, sweet snippets. sensory even, which word to roll around the inside of the mouth before releasing onto the page, the beginnings of a slow dance. and still the same questions. hot debates on political situations and a realisation that what matters is unspeakable. i practice my asanas, i twist and stretch my limbs and breathe. i take light from that ancient practice and discard the pseudo spiritual drivel with a freedom which delights me. the best of me is uncynical. i berate my secrecy. i am ashamed of my envy of the girls who write in spoken word and voice their thoughts openly, bravely, brazenly for the world to hear. i recite emily’s words over like a mantra,  tell all the truth but tell it slant. and still yes, my words are an indulgent form of self harm. like hidden slashes to inner thighs and upper arms they slink on a little viewed page in a dark corner of a vast ethereal beast .

 

the sun still rises in the morning, we examine our bruises, we carry on

i read about your days and it’s as if i’m there too, on your shoulder, watching with your eyes, or perhaps more appropriately, in your pocket – a shining, sweet secret.

the rothko sunsets, the grey sea, the birds spotted and the familiar feel of the what ifs of a parallel life all strike raw chords. my hands wring a little and nail biting leads to otherplace stares out the window. should i , shouldn’t i ? the frost has claimed the mornings here too. the world is transformed into some narnia like landscape and walking through the crisp fields i can’t help but wonder how we are all howling center stage in our own tiny lives.  lives which are simultaneously so huge and yet abidingly insignificant.

in all my itemising at a valuation, the poem pierces my heart and immediately i think of you and try to commit it to memory. my shakey skewed memory. it’s written on some lined paper which looks like it’s been torn from a school book. a juvenile, innocent hand. pinned into the wood of an attic room which is stacked high with books. thank fuck for google. and like so many things i want to send it to you. or to say,  listen. take the words off the page as if they were straight from my mouth and kissed into your own.

empty handed i entered the world, barefoot i leave it. my coming, my going- two simple happenings that got entangled.

and yes, and yes, and yes, but oh that entangling! how to unpick and separate.  how to straighten, untwist and explain. all those kinks. all that is between . such simple facts. and of course, i never would. the joy is in the snarl of it all.

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small rain upon the tender heart

blown empty black bin bags gather in the neighbours gate well. i am done with capitals and capitols. with form. with drama queenery. the air is sharp, glass cold and the grass is waiting for the warmth to come. i am searching for the perfect greek blue. striving to be on time.  i sell old men with trembling hands even older bowling balls made from the heaviest of woods (it’s lignum vitae i whisper) and smile at the young girls who buy dead ladies clothes with a fresh relish. love and happiness. forgotten apostrophes. a heron hunches in the field below the road waiting with the patience of a hundred years. his shoulders are grey and his sharp beak and reedy legs are motionless. i watch him and think how small he is compared to a crane. bitten nails and my hair a little bit longer than in a long time. i practice standing , yes, crane like, on one leg , a minute each side. flying foward into natarajasana and catching a foot to arch back lightly. fingers tent like at the floor. drishti. in my dreams. bloody periods and periods of blood so bright red beautiful i have to marvel. avoiding my mother. irritated by my father. their dry marriage. my fleshy life. the privilege of wandering through strangers homes. a bag of diaries. emptying other people’s drawers.  al green. markets and poor people. academic’s houses on wide leafy avenues. three floors of staircases piled ceiling high with books. waring and gillows.  big tables and serenely beautiful young men. juxtaposition. discussions which broil over into arguments. arguments which dissipate into laughter. overdone scrambled eggs. a mothers love. ignoring the phone. mornings so early the light has yet to wake. the bliss of naked flesh and arranging my limbs under quiet sheets. symmetry . i ask myself if writing is a form of self-harm. laughing into the sky at everything or anything. tight dresses. lengthening my legs . enjoying the flow. copying four lines of buddhist poetry. smokey green eyelids. small rain upon the tender heart. the drip-drip of all that i am.

 

 

 

 

Saudade, or paper thin II

I’m on the road again, this time it’s for only a few days but time stretches as one travels – hours can sometimes feel like days and walking about a foreign country provides intrigue in even the most commonplace interactions. I keep slipping into Spanish but the Lisboans don’t seem to mind. Their conversations sound oddly Russian to me but as I often find, it is enough to understand very little and to concentrate on seeing a lot. The light here in January is so beautiful. It’s clear and somehow gigantic. I want to open my mouth wide and swallow it all.

The main streets are beautifully clean, foot worn smooth and a dazzling white. Most days the sky is so impossibly blue I find it hard to look down.  The streets get narrower and dirtier as they get further away from the big shops and restaurants, they snake and blast ingenious graffiti, spindly cartoon legs seeming to emerge from a bricked up house, flying brains and insects with gigantic human eyes. There is much to see inside the semi run down houses with tenacious buddleia growing from rooftop cracks and crevices. I walk for miles. At night the Fado breaks me as is its intention. I’m glad I don’t understand the words but simply feel the sentiment. It soaks right into my bones and hurts my heart in a perversely gratifying way.

I am alive in the moment. Now and now and now.  But, like I wrote many many years ago, I take you everywhere.* A different you perhaps, carried along by a different me for sure. But everywhere I go the man who pockets a silver coin and bends to tie a runner’s lace is never so far behind me.

 

*

I take you with me
everywhere , he said.
And so I am slid onto ancient shelves –
a love letter pressed inside
a book to be discovered.
Put me between the two Emily’s, I said.

He’s in the tangles of my hair
when I awake; he’s been there all night,
secretly tying knots
and licking my heart.

He loves me with his coffee
in the mornings, swirling round
a bitter dark, he breaths me in
and I am real.

I am loving him
when I sew back buttons
onto old coats to keep in warmth
and when the rain hits my face
walking down empty streets,
I feel his touches in every drop.

 

 

 

 

if you’re listening I will tell

On Monday I shall walk the soft worn white streets of Lisbon once again and smile at the ocean.

On Tuesday I will sip white port and eat sunshine yellow Nata and imagine the myriad what if’s.

On Wednesday I will set my breath and practice my asanas  and be glad for form and stretch and lightness.

On Thursday I will cry at the Fado and wrap saudade around my unruly curls and steel my capricious heart.

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The Expositrix

Because you have to *discuss* the reading once you've put the book down.

The endless landscape

The endless landscape

lost gander

stories & texts by s. d. stewart