For the Soul Dancers

She was wild, she was adventure,

she was passion, she was fun.

She was spirit and compassion.

She was comfort and she was calm.
And when night came, she was star dust

and her breath lit up her road.

And when her tears fell, she was released.

She was freedom and she was whole.
And her wings came and she knew them,

beating out so loud and strong.

And her feet blurred as she took flight,

her heart beat with nature’s song.
And when the dance took its hold of her,

she rippled, she began.

And when its rhythm filled her full, she sang,

‘I am, I am, I am.’


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The seagulls are back today, they swoop around, they circle her old home and from their wings she sees the carpet in the lounge, how it turned from spiralled blues to pink. And she sweeps above the kitchen, where the corner chair became a cupboard for the pills, opposite the kettle where she first made him a drink. 

And as she looks, the seagulls fill the rooms, their wings waft feathers in her face and carry her upstairs and there they beat the air, there they hover at the edge of her old bed, with its camblewick green cover and in the light that lifts from day to night and day to night again, she sees herself lying, turning, holding thoughts. 

The cupboard to the right is silent, where the drawer is stiff, the rich deep wood and a lamp stand of fading brass. She can smell the scented carpet and the polished trinkets, there, on a painted window sill that overlooks that world and as her seagulls settle and fold their wings she smells the coast.

Bedruthan rocks wrap around her and as the sand sneaks in her trainers she pads the beach towards him, laughing, parka flapping in the cut of air, then back. 

Seagulls resting on her bedspread, her bed by a bookcase from her youth, crammed with early interests and they whisper. The ivy green curtains are closed, the lamp is off. Her seagulls watch over them, their words and murmurs. 

And it’s August. They ruffle feathers around her and lift her up, away from her black and white skirt on the chair, its bells silent and the birds sing out, it’s always August, they call out, we’re always there.

For The Ravens’ Song

 

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Ruby liked to dance, she liked to wear layers of skirts and things that jingled and she spun herself around. And if it was a Friday she would sing. Fridays were the days when she went into town and she allowed herself the luxury of visiting the Tiffin Tea Rooms. How the owner Mrs. Joyce would crinkle up her face when she came in and she’d sit by the window near the plastic flowers and stare out. Mrs. Joyce would bring the teapot over, always assam and ginger and a slice of sticky marmalade roll.

‘So, thank the good Lord for a Friday,’ she would say and wolf it down. The butchers would save her a rabbit and it lay on the slab out the back, by her string of sausages, plump and pink parceled up in greaseproof paper.

‘I’ve saved you a titbit,’ grinned Mr. Jarvis and she took it from his blood-stained hands.

‘See you next week,’ he called out as she left the stench of carcasses behind her. But it was Friday so she allowed herself to buy the wine, nothing too fancy, you understand, just something smooth with plum based notes, to sand down the edges of her day.

The Morris dancing had been going well, she’d joined the group when Angie in the Post Office pointed to the advert in the window just above,

Honda mower, runs well offers over £90.

‘You show ‘em, Girl,’ her Mother used to say, and she did. She danced as a child, she danced around her wedding bed and there, in the town square despite the pain in her back and the corns on her feet, she stomped and swayed and she beamed from the side-lines as her new friends mashed up the ground. Of course, the cramps came late at night, in her shins, after the hours of skipping but she was determined to do it.

I will do whatever it takes, she thought to herself, to be that dancer, I have to let this rhythm out. Her costume glinted and shone, made with care over months as she sat at her old singer sewing machine. Her Grandmother had left it to her and despite its age and outdated mechanisms, it purred and joined the rag-taggles of fabric to each other. She coated her hitting-stick in tar, till the smell of bitumen made her eyes water and before it dried out she rolled it in plastic jewels from her childhood jewellery box.

She remembered her friend, Lyn, whose new heart necklace had knotted up on itself and how she’d sat on the bed in her bedroom, picking at the chain with her slender fingers. She spent ages on it while Lyn came and went and bought cake in that her Mother had baked in the afternoon. Ginger cake, almost too spicy and when the knots gave way to her fingers, she ate the cake and Lyn cried. She thanked her and hugged her and told her they would be friends forever, but they weren’t.

The jewels burned out of the blackness like fragments of hope and she twirled it in her hands and the costume ruffled as she climbed inside and hid away under the headdress. She had constructed it from her favourite hairband with a tangled mess of wool and wire, feathers thrown in, here and there, ones she’d bought from the craft shop by the river but mostly the ones from the park, on her walks, where she pinched them up from the earth or found them under bushes and she brushed the soil from their softness and combed them back into shape when she got home.

She felt such a power in her costume, as though all the times in her life when she’d felt fragile and broken, were just a dream, an aberration from the girl she used to be. And here in her kitchen, by the warming pot of stew, under the rosemary hanging up high, she felt so strange. And the strangeness took her by the hand to the mirror and the strangeness showed her her face, feathered and free, released from the old form as she nodded away to herself.

‘This will do fine, my dears,’ she said to her ornaments and cages of stuffed animals. Ruby ruffled her feathers, she opened the front door and sniffed the fresh air.

‘My dears, I do believe it’s time,’ and she climbed her spiral stone staircase in the corner of her lounge. The wall was cold like it always had been, the lumps of raw stone jutted out and she stroked them with her long fingers as she made her way upstairs. In the bedroom, her cheval mirror smiled back at her by her walnut dressing table with silver topped perfume bottles and photos of her cats. The once white lace doilies had turned to cream but their patterns were so intricate and in each thread, she heard a bird song, a calling from a distant beak and she glanced at them. It had been years since she used to iron them on a Sunday morning, to spruce up her room for the week but when she did, when the windows were open and the crows made themselves known, she would count. Ruby counted the threads that made the snowflake pattern and the picot edge framed the central star shape with nine tiny flowers.

Counting always helped to calm her down but she didn’t need to count today because now she had her feathers. She shuffled towards the arched window that flooded her small room with light. The window had been her reason for buying the property 48 years ago, how it filled her with joy, how even then it felt like a doorway to another world. She would sit for hours watching the sparrows hop from branch to branch as she made lace, as her fingers blurred the shuttle to and fro.

She stood in front of the window, shook her shoulders, making her feathers fluffle and shimmer and she was ready.

‘You know, my dears,’ she said to a room full of memories, to the ornaments and photos from her life.

‘You know, I am finally able to sing.’ She stepped forward, her white hands took the wrought iron handles of her windows and she pushed them down. They resisted, stiff with age and then gave in. The panes quivered as she forced them wide filling her bedroom with the smell of the countryside, with the thick scent of sheep and distant hum of traffic. Her garden had never looked so beautiful, the lupins swayed, the hollyhocks swirled like a bride on her first dance and the snowdrops turned their faces to the sun.

Ruby took a long deep breath, filled her lungs with hope and clambered onto the windowsill. She opened wide her arms, her wings rumbled and creaked and then she jumped.

‘I’m coming, my dears,’ she called and opened wide her beak, joyous notes spiralled out as flew up into the warm summer sun.

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To the Edge

 

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I seem to have spent many hours at train stations recently and I am draw to them, to their sense of purpose, of people moving and having plans, like they belonged, like there were places where they could go and I watch.

There are those moments, you know, when the announcement crackles overhead and the voice has such authority and it warns. Instructions issued, orders to follow and they implore us to keep away from the edge. The next train will not stop. There’s something cold about the words like a noose on a breeze and it hangs there. And then the seconds, then the air turns to anticipation. Feathers caught up in the slipstream, tussle to a safer place, a pigeon beats the detritus upwards and settles out of sight in the flaking paint of the eaves. He senses it coming.

And then it comes. There are these blisters you see, these weals of the world where people wait and wonder. It seems as though, for a frozen beat of our collective hearts that everyone waits and watches from the corner of our eyes. Is it today, is it this moment that they will choose to jump in front of the train? And we are braced, we bristle as the air charges, almost throbs with the approaching sound. And it’s nearly here and we watch and it comes. It’s here, the joyous cut, the ripping surge of an irresistible force, turning the station to dust, screaming by in grey and black. Grey-black, grey-back, grey-black whips my face to come inside, I am sucked into its rhythm, I dissolve in the repeats as it calls out I still live.

I live – I live – I live, listen to me, I’m here with all the potential to tear the heart from your form, to sculpt your skin onto my windscreen and it shrieks and it thunders and I sit, blurred in the fracture as it moves. The opposite platform startles into view, the moment that has passed and taken my hair with it, blown across my face with the chill of actions un met and I am numb.

It dips away to a hollow moaning, paper flutters in a distant screech as it leaves us and no one speaks. No one dares to raise an eye towards the look of a stranger because if we did, if we made that connection to another soul, then we might see them and in that glance, in that act of holding someone’s gaze, we might see ourselves – small and shaking, trembling in a fear we dare not name. And so we look down, we shuffle our stance and pretend we haven’t we shared the thought.

The platform settles, quiet and I check my ticket. I am still waiting for a train but not that one, not the one that doesn’t stop, not today, not here, not now. Not now in this fracture, in this scar of people with places to go to from my platform.

And I am alone in my head and I wait.

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Old Long Ago

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Well, she thought, here we go again. Yet another year, they tell me. Everything compartmentalised, broken down into fraction and number and though I understand the truth that number is written into our place, I do question it. I question where it started, who made all the divisions? I question these days, these hours, the minutes that we watch. So they say it’s another year, I don’t worry because it’s just number doing its thing. It had a 5, now it’s a 6 and it’s all so arbitrary. I have to make sense of how I will spend it and spend it is all I can do. What skills am I employing, what messages to our son? And I can move. Remember that, I can still move and while I’m in this machine they call time, I must use it. And use it well.

I have a friend, a good friend who though I’ve never met her, I sense that I know. And I mean I know her from a different place, a different world, long ago or out of time, I can’t be sure. She resonates somehow to my wavelengths, I pulse in time to her dance and the friend turns her ignition key just about now, she has her eyes fixed on the horizon and her small dog curled up to her side. As she eases out of her gateway, bristling with choices and verve, I think of her, of the energy to change, of the irresistible law of movement. And as she forges outwards making new tracks, I remind myself to push up from the bed, to leave this warm bundle of familiar fabric and taking my cold feet to the bathroom floor I will find me there waiting, hand outstretched, urging me to spend my moments well, while we’re here, while we breathe.

This concept, this notion of time still around us and I must take our son’s hand for the dance.
It’s January they tell us, it’s the first yet again, as I write. We are here and we have choices. It’s all there waiting for us, in the turning of hands, in the beating of moments.
Wild, possible, untethered – It’s a only a matter of time.

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More numbers and they keep coming. There’s little I can do but allow their process.

Mother bought me an abacas when I was young, I would sit near their old green settee and push the wooden beads back and forth, enjoying the slam and the click. I made patterns with my small fingers and I learned to count. Everyone learning to count, to add another year, another day, another moment, always looking to the next second, the time ahead, then they will have what they need, then it will all be in place and they will allow themselves to smile and be happy. And I can count backwards too, I remember the bear birthday cake. Mother spent ages on it, icing an upended Swiss roll, making small sponge arms and legs, the thick green icing swirled around its paws in scallops of butter cream sweetness.

I can do backwards. I can do then but all it seems to do is underline now.
Now, and my friend in this moment. Her little dog’s paws scuttering over new lanes, firing up dried out leaves as she runs. Something interests her, she stops, sniffs the ground, turns a circle chasing dust and then she’s off, my friend in striding steps behind her.

They tell me it’s another year, my numbers change but it’s arbitrary.
I am here. I am now. I am this moment.

I want to chase flecks of dust.

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Deconstruction

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What if I walked and walked and kept on walking.

Could I move so far that my skin would leave my form, that it would crumble from this shape into the soil? Would that be possible do you imagine? It would be so helpful if it did. If the Earth, this molten ball I stand on, would take my feet from under me with a steady grating rub, so hard that the gnawing pressure would eat up my legs to my knees. And I would scrub along the ground, like a broken toy. The birds would call out to me, the sky would lighten but I would shrink. And from my stumps I’d shuffle forwards not because there was forward momentum of any sort but because it served a purpose, it erased the mass I lived in and from my hips I would waddle.
I would look a strange sight tilting to and fro, unsteady in the morning, pivoting on synovial joints with the light peeping over my shoulders as I rocked along the ground.

And further on, the corners of my ribcage would chip and break but I’d keep moving as the morning sun climbed in the sky. Heat would arrive for the others and people would fling wide their windows, breathe deep and fill their lungs with the chemicals from the fields. They would throw on their lightest rhinestone clothes and guzzle their freshly squeezed orange juice, succulent bits making their way around their pallet and down their throats. These people, lifted by the day I can’t take part in. And as they smile at strangers glinting in the rays I would have worn down my ribs to my armpits. And now with an approaching balm I’d be reduced to arms and a head shoving myself down the lane. My shoulders heaving the weight of my brain, its mind seeping into the soil.

I see it all now from my lowered point of view, the dust and the bugs in my eyes. I see roots of grasses, tiny creatures crawling, foraging for food and the breeze cuts through my hair. My neck rubs along the ground as my arms wear away and the sun, so warm, shining amber lights into distant windows, bounces off the keratin in my hair. It casts a softening glow to my cheeks as my head spins to a stop, to look up at the rainless painless sky;

I roll, at last, to nothing.

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