Luminescence

I wanted to be that little girl, right there. That girl, and she was four or maybe five. I passed her by on the roadside, in the sunlight, in the delerious white-out of a spring afternoon.

And look at that girl, I thought. Just look at her and I held her in my mind for three seconds or maybe four.

She shimmered on the roadside, on the pavements grey, in her sparkling silver padded jacket which fired back photons to anyone who dared to look.

She lit up the streets, defying smudged reflections of rushing people, of chaotic traffic on grimed windows. And passing by upturned hot wasps on peeling windowsills, she jumped the cracks in the pavement because it kept her safe.

Her baby pink flared jeans flashed candyfloss at anyone who noticed as she hopscotched herself along. Armoured bears growled behind her, goblins sneered up through drains but she didn’t care.

Because it was a springtime afternoon and the blossom frittered away the hours all around her and city sparrows sang joyous, despite the fumes.

Just for a moment if I could be that little girl, casting halos around the litter, that pulsing, beaming dance of limbs, I would be free.

And I passed by the little girl and held her in my mind, like a retina stain on my memories of what it felt like to sparkle under blossom. What it felt like to be magnificent in the spring.

And I passed by with her shimmering in a review mirror, with the candy pink jeans just a flutterering on my shoulder, like the falling petals in my pinned up hair.

And for a second or two, or maybe three, I remembered how I used to feel.

Chamber of Stars

And she breathed and unseen beaks opened as if to say, me too. They took in the fresh morning air and remembered what it is to fly. And on her wings she swooped over distant rooves where cars parked up and bins lined up and people did their thing.

She did her thing and she did it well and there she sat on the roof of the house, ruffling feathers and with knowing eyes, she peered inside his room.

And there she sat on the floor with her back to the bed and her lap was filled with books, with the words, with his bright blue biro scrawl and she reached in.

She traced her fingertips over pages and watched as he appeared. Out he came like a thought, floating up towards her, like the curve of a balloon in a hot summer sky and he circled and he led the way.

He led her to his shed at the bottom of the garden and pushed open wide the door. It creaked and eased onto a world she’d come to know. It was as though two small girls had found their way, had dared to creep over the threshold, like a childhood place, like a secret land that called them to come inside.

And inside they looked up in wonder and stared at The Machine.

What is it? What on Earth is it?’ they would ask as though they were characters in a well loved book.

Till the small girls faded and she was stood with him in the dust, in their particle-wave duality. And he would be in his element, in the quiet fug as he set the cogs in motion. Gears moved and wheels turned, firing bits of muck and fluff into the air. Beetles scuttled and woodlice trundled out of sight as the universe in the shed sparked life, shaking the detritus from the gloom.

And there they stood in the photons, as he burbled through his ideas and concepts and his thoughts danced around her like a flutter of butterflies, their fresh fragile wings entangling her hair.

They flew up from the contraption and out through spacetime, released into the universe, like a tensor, like a field equation of their life to come.

And she observed it all, sat high upon the shed roof, ruffling her feathers and watching herself take form.

There was a shed and The Machine, there was a bookcase and a girl. And everything rippled and reverberated out. Irrepressible, on that day, in the embryo of their world.

And she breathed out as unseen birds sang and beaks opened loud and glorious, as if to say all’s well.

El Techo de la Iglesias

It didn’t matter to her that she pushed English pavements under her feet, or that the maple leaves which cluttered round her boots were from local trees – she was not there.

And it didn’t matter that the spire which she was drawn towards, or the parapet which pulled her eyes up to the sky, belonged to Saint Peter’s Church or that the gentle whisps of white which framed it, came from her Hampshire sky – she was not there.

And because she wasn’t there it didn’t matter that her English streets were busy with people wrapped and warm. And because she wasn’t there, her form cast no shadow as she passed Saint Peter’s Church because her boots were in Barcelona and her autumn coat was a waterfall top. It billowed around her hips like the soft white fluff above the spires which framed the baby sweetcorn. And it was irrelevant that her eyes looked up to a Hampshire sky because they were not there. They looked out across the park and studied Gaudi’s glory which left an imprint in her mind.

It didn’t matter where her boots wandered in an English town because she wasn’t there. She was striding out across the Carrer de Sardenya as though her small feet belonged on Spanish soil.

Falling Teacup White Robe

Cushion pushing tight into the twists,

the rumbles. Shh, time to sleep

I said before ears came.

The night, perched on the bed edge,

minutes like breaths, squeezing me.

My foreign body. Pulsing.

Weight of silence, an endless open mouth.

Yawning, howling.

Wait in darkness.

Shoe-horned into the car

under my tree, its soft reassurance,

resolve. Battered power

of an injured tiger.

Here, take my body,

it’s yours now.

Pummel me with

your ice cold faceless faces.

Watch me like a cat pawing bird

as I jolt, ricochets up my spine.

I don’t recognise myself

as they trolley me to the new room

with endless breasts which smother me.

Suffocate me in starched white.

I lay still in-between judders

with their walls and wires, lights that beep.

Daylight, hopeful smile on a wheeled-in tray.

Entonox is my friend, it brings me echoes,

fractured words and giggles

as her fingers inch.

Searching for news

but there is none.

Try again tomorrow, they say.

And I search the ceiling for a way out.

I’ve grown used to their window

though I cannot see outside.

One day there’ll be flowers on that table.

Another face on the end of the nth syringe.

I laugh and cry at the same time.

My turquoise bag reminds me of home,

it jars me.

She’ll be back later

and she drops a smile by the door.

Later the ceiling mocks me,

while they swab me clean

and tidy me away to nothing.

I may watch these walls

for the rest of my life.

You know night, that space

where everything sinks?

It takes me, leaves me shaking

in their hard backed chair,

drunk on spasms, they roll me over

strip me bare.

There, they lock the medicine away.

Tight lipped, they make me wait

till morning.

In daylight, pethidine is my best friend.

I call for surgeons,

but their absent hands upset me.

They sip tea on Sundays

while I rock, ridiculous,

a wretched remnant desperate for a gown.

Somewhere a woman wails,

disembodied hollering.

I wonder if she has flowers in her room.

I have no limbs now,

no head to call my own.

My pupa waits, watches the clock

push the hours, breath by breath,

my shadow up their wall.

Till everything bustles, they rush and prod,

watch over me in their Petri dish.

They tut-tut and poke.

Their needles search and pierce,

severing my pain.

I am numbness on plastic sheets,

chrome glints at my feet,

lights wink at me.

They concentrate and congregate,

explore me until teatime.

I give it my best shot.

Then I concede, consent to them,

give up, give out and give in.

I am aware of my breath,

my lungs expanding and contracting

by their green scrubs.

Their scorching lights and tinkering.

Brush the hair out of my eyes.

And where my abdomen used to be

the world opens, lilies start to bloom.

Loud and excitable, like a new heart beat.

Ceilings come and go under the sheer love.

Aerial Faith Plate

She found August in the packing boxes, in the quiet chaos of the empty house with the phone on the floor and their son at a friend’s. And it was still, dust balls plumed in corners, little spheres of moments where they’d sat. She found August in the slow closing of the door, the soft steps to the car and the pulling away.

And removal men like Brutus and Popeye upended sofas where they’d sat, manoeuvred their minutiae until one home morphed into the next. And in August, she found it in the giggling of their son down hallways and the opening of boxes and playing hide and seek. She found it through the serving hatch which hatched out their new world. August, in the packing tape and box numbers, August in their days to change and grow.

The rain had soaked the bamboo, now it leaned over, leaned into her like the weight of feelings. Its persistent lushness rippling, forging through it all, like her. She found August in the way the bamboo had grown.

***

And then the bamboo took her oxygen for a while, it gave up and gave in, drooped down to the ground as she sat out on its leaves. She was the tiny spheres of her world turned upside down and in the inversion she saw the old kitchen chair by the bedside with her clothes laid out for the trip, the crisp, white, crinkled cotton top, the reams of Indian skirt. Ready. Waiting.

She sipped tea and watched. The leaves waved, sodden, as if to say this is now, this rain is right now. But she didn’t care. She was upside down in raindrops and then it came again, a rush, a gushing on her patio, the fractured sky where the water wouldn’t drain away. And in the rain drops she leaned up her parents’ kitchen cupboards, black Mary Janes and a smile. You know the one, the one that took her to Wooten Wawen with canal boats moored alongside, their gypsy painted roses watching them as they parked and went inside.

And every petal knew what lay ahead and boats bobbed and algae glooped and pond-skaters did their thing. It was early evening, and mid evening, it was much later in the day. But above all else it was August and she found it yet again, upside down in raindrops.

Thank goodness for the rain she thought and through it she saw herself swishing, with tiny bells which jingled from her waistband as they walked. And later her parents’ settee would rear up again and beyond that, later still, in the silence, the soft moth-winged breath of their beginnings.

She was so glad she made it rain today, she clung onto the bamboo leaves and waited to dry out.

***

The sun had turned up, a little too excitable for her liking, a frivolous energy like the birdsong. She paid attention to it but nothing more. The bamboo had perked up, it felt optimistic and each leaf was striped and the stripes were their roads heading south. All of them, filling her garden with directions, with arrows saying it’s nearly 4pm, it’s time to leave. And it was and they did, in the old Orion, pausing at Evesham for a tea-cake, then beyond.

Percolations

Maybe it would be on a Saturday and the pavements would shine dark, of course it didn’t matter and we’d cut through from the car park somewhere, turn left by The Baguette Shop and try to find the last remaining seats.

Jazz played, of course and the mothering comfort of coffee making sounds hissed and chinked and steamed up the view. And if we were lucky, we’d get the seats by the window and watch the humans go by. My earl grey was hot and I’d watch their disposable gloved hands load up the French bread with chicken salad, of course. And with a choice of six toppings I’d be reckless and wild and choose red pepper and grapes.

And we’d sit not too far down the road from Tyrell & Green, in the days before it became a nightclub, in the days before I waddled in there in my lilac ditsy print, to choose the rocking chair that held me while my back ached, which cocooned me while my tummy lurched.

We bought the footstool to go with it and somehow the print on the champagne fabric reminded me of a painting by Jean Miro from the days when I spiked my hair in orange mousse, when I pulled away from home and looked for myself in northern streets, in clanking lifts, in old buildings, with the smell of stretched calico on canvas.

There was something reassuring about the Jean Miro print underneath my swelling ankles as I rocked, as I soothed and it soothed me in the memory of when I wore zebra print, but not then. Then I held tight and held on as the spasms charged up my spine, as I took on my new form.

I liked Tyrell & Green and waddling in late summer, stacking up on the things we’d need for the journey ahead and while I twinged and swayed, somewhere just down the road in the steamed up Baguette Shop we sat looking out, Waterstones bags to our right, of course. And you ate prawns and I ate grapes and our Saturdays unfurled with raindrops down the window and the splintering shapes of humans doing their thing.

I always found it hard to hitch myself up on the high stools but once there I was content. Baguettes and books, wet streets which shimmered with the people that we’d become. On a Saturday through the filters of back then.

In Through the Out Door

To be honest she had not smiled so much in years and she noted it to herself, it was undeniable but shh, she wouldn’t think about it now, not right now at least.

She would take herself away and take tea. Yes she would take tea with herself, with her best china teapot, the one from her dearest friend Kerry. Kerry with all her verve, her energy bounding like a Labrador pup, frenetic, abandoned. And she would sit opposite Kerry in her own quietness, in her smallness and wonder how it would feel to be so light.

But now, here she was with herself, with Kerry’s teapot and how she smiled, how she used muscles, dormant for years and she would give herself a good talking to. Yes, that’s what she’d do. And maybe there’d be ginger biscuits, home-made of course. Yes, something pungent to bring her back to herself and ginger root, like an old friend, who would warm her up with their familiarity and that slight kick of heat on her tongue, like the friend she could trust who would tell her home truths.

And then Madeira cake, yes then the softness would come. So gentle and kind, it would break apart in her mouth, like moments she could no longer hold. And golden crumbs would scatter, left discarded on her plate, like fragments in a relationship, like the little things left unsaid.

And yet despite it all she continued to smile. Smile, like a child who had learned a new skill and her feelings bubbled loose and fluid, tumbling round her like a ruffled toddler fresh from bed, with pillow shaped hair and a teddy bear, dragged paw first straight to the toy box before breakfast. And she was giddy, unbounded by the day.

She wanted to rush up to strangers and pull the masks from their faces, she wanted to see them smile, with their whole face not just with their eyes and if she could she would take them all out to tea. She would find a hidden teashop where the bell would jingle as she pushed through the door and trailing skirts behind her, she would drag over a chair or two. Here, here, sit a while she’d say and take tea with me and there will be ginger biscuits, Madeira cake and Darjeeling will flow pale golden into their welcome cups.

And they would sit and talk and share and smile and she would flow. Around them, she would flow through them. Shh, shh, it’s ok now. Bring me your shadows, let them out and show me who you are. And there in our darkness you’ll be safe. Let me hold your shadows close, now that I can smile.

Place Value

Of course, if it were nearing the end of April she couldn’t be anywhere else but striding out towards the gate, at the end of the path, at the top of their alpine village. And her arms flew wide and wild, hair at every corner as the shutter smiled and caught her.

It held her face through the years, such that in times when she reduced in size, she would recall herself and the way she beamed. Trees blurred out behind her and his SLR bounced alongside them like a giddy Jack Russell, sniffing and rooting around for the next great shot. And they walked, for the rest of their lives it seemed, they walked up the winding path away from their alpine village which only existed for them.

It didn’t matter that her kitchen was still somewhat cold and although she seemed to sit on a hard wooden chair, she wasn’t there. She was upright on a plush train seat, looking right, as the mountains softened and the land lapped up to the side of them, in their double-deckered, pristine ride. And it would be the Wednesday, maybe Thursday but she’d be beaming, heading south, face up against the window like a child as the fields fled, as they sat side by side.

And it didn’t matter that her heating had just creaked on or the scarf around her shoulders kept her warm. She wasn’t there. She was, of course, on the low wall by the lakeside, kicking her feet and grinning, one hand holding the sunhat to her head, the other on the ubiquitous Diet Coke, in the days when all she needed was her small red rucksack and a first-aid kit to make her day. And if she paused, her wooden kitchen chair gave way to stone and the welcome seep of coolness reached her thighs despite her jeans.

Someone painted the lake for them, or so it seemed and everything was tinged azure and cobalt and they wandered. And the town was deserted or maybe not, maybe all she could see was their feet in unison, climbing the stairs up the tower and round and around and round and around to a platform where they peered out. The more she travelled the younger she became somehow as she clambered up the short steps to the very top, while he humoured her and waved from the opposite window. And she was there clutching the cobbled wall, perched on the window ledge looking down and her white cotton shirt billowed out like her hair.

And her heating rattled and complained, she needed to get the boiler serviced but not right now, now she was counting turrets and burnt sienna tiles and he was helping her back down the staircase in the secret places that they’d found.

Then the pier rose up, lakeside and people bustled but she didn’t care, she wanted to call home. And from a phone box (imagine that, a phone box) she pressed in the coins and waited for connection. Distant sounds came and crackled and then her voice burst out, like a child, like the youngest of girls. I’m in Italy, I’m in Italy and she laughed and gushed while they stood there. Cloudless, edgeless, sun waving streaks of speckled white on a lake to call their own.

And was it later or the next day, she wasn’t sure but the end of April held her close. She borrowed his shirt to protect her from the sun and while he packed or read or slept, she felt it flap around, over her t-shirt as she walked by herself in Zermatt. Not far but far enough, back up the winding path and out of town and every hanging basket sang out and called her name, colours cranked to full saturation, people on bikes and she strode. She walked out and up and away for a while, exploring by herself (a skill that would become vital years from then) but then there was no weight, no weight at all. Just herself and the village path and the drifts of snow, six-cornered starlets melting in the warmth. And could it be real, was it possible at all, that there she was, the smallest of creatures on the planet, yet her tiny frame expanded in the sun and the more she walked, the more she grew and she swung her arms and smiled, smiled liked she did on their first holiday, smiled as though there could be no pain.

She learnt to walk by herself, in his shirt to protect her and every snowflake saw her joy, every flower waved and cheered her on. It would always be the end of April and they walked the winding paths that led to now. At the start, at their start and Murano glass beads jingled round her wrist, throwing rainbows of Millefiori round her heart.

Boundary Conditions

It’s so still out there, so waiting. That sense of shh, don’t worry, it will come. It’s there in the way the sunlight holds the branches, in the faint call of a hidden bird.

And I pause, breathe, that’s all. And it passes by my window, up to the left with the sparrow wings and he watches me, watching him, watching them all. We slow down, the birds and I, pause to think of sunlight.

And there they are, my creatures in the trees, pecking and singing, ruffling new feathers in this spring. And I wonder do they sense their descendants, the ones I knew, the ones who gave me feathers years ago.

And while they sang outside that window from back there, in that house then, the hem of the dress caught the light as it lay out on the bed, as if to say look at me, look at me, lift me up into your arms. And later, a little later it would be held up as I clambered inside, as I manoeuvred into my new form, like a butterfly losing meconium, drying out its fresh wet wings.

Until its weight draped round my feet and I breathed out. Birds sang unseen as the hem brushed the dust down the wooden staircase and over new mown grass to rest and pause, where cameras winked and moments froze.

Sparrows darted to the neighbour’s tree, head on one side and down the path the hem of the dress shuffled leaves until it was bundled up into the car. It sat quiet, being, folded in upon itself, cushioned on the plush carpet of the foot-well until blackbirds cut the air, overarching the church gate.

And there with the creak of old hinges, with the warmth of a palm, with the click of heels on old stone, the hem of the dress made its way home. Home, on the short path to the archway, home to the hush of the slate and it dragged feathers and fronds as it swayed, as it made its way past pews to the front.

And there it rested for a while, settled in ivory, calm where it belonged. The hem of the dress over champagne silk boots, near to sharp creases in suits and it paused, waited, just to the left of polished shoes.

And then sunlight came back to stroke it, came to throw light at the door. The hem swept and rippled, caught the coloured flecks, scattered rainbows all around, then hands scooped it back up into soft contours in the car.

Trees moved above it unseen, voices chattered and laughed while it lay crumpled up and then the grass came back, daffodils nodded and bobbed as it moved around. Photons bounced up from the duck pond, white spots and sparkles, before it coated steps and carpet-brushed itself along.

And it swooned, the hem of the dress with the tiny remnants from the day and it danced over polished floors, glided as though it would always flow, would always sway, as though in its moment there was release.

And later it lay, much later it was still, smoothed out again and silent on the protective bag at the bedside, soon to be tucked far away.

And now hydrogen coalesces into helium, firing light and heat, like it did, like it does. How reassuring as it warms up the blackbird’s wings, as it listens to the soil.

And in a different wardrobe now the hem of the the dress sleeps its sleep, cradled and swaddled in plastic, over unused things and bits and bobs. But in its weft and weave it holds the moments when it danced, when it was free, when it could shimmer and it was home.

For The Canopy

And I will brush up the leaves from the garden, so delicate and fragile in my hands. I will place them in small piles on my outstretched skirts and stroke each one in turn. And they will be so glad of the sunlight and of my cotton layered skirts on which they rest.

These leaves, these moments from my trees, my overarching glades that kept me safe. How gentle they sit in the folds of my clothes, how grateful they are for my care.

The trees are bare now but their silhouettes echo out my life, the shapes that formed me, the branches that held me close and I will dance in their shadows, I will blossom again.

I stroke the leaves in my lap, they appreciate my warmth, my hands that soothe them as the photons lift the last of moisture from their form.

I watch them, crumble into the weft and weave, fragments of leaves in my skirts. I kiss each one. I thank each one, each particle, each atom of my leaves then stand to go.

As I pull myself to standing, full of warmth despite the cold, they scatter to soil. They drift and drop, replete from the day, ready to take on the earth.

And I spin, I twirl round and around, my skirts billowing out, floating up like a balloon in a hot summer’s sky. Dancing under the canopy where I grew, sewing seeds on the breeze of the trees yet to come.

And we are whole and we are rested, where noon’s a purple glow. My leaves and I, together and we are safe and we are one.