My Golden Ratio

I will allow myself to wear red again or so it seems, in this image, on that day over there, in the corner of my mind. But if I’m honest with myself and I do need to be, it’s not in the corner of my mind, it’s in-front of everything I do, it’s loud and daring on my kitchen floor and I have unraveled today.

I’m waiting for the leaves to turn a little more, waiting for the soft ageing to calm me down, let the golds and umbers settle me, let vermilion still my mind. But it’s not yet.

The hawthorn outside my window is hanging on to summer, its leaves are glossed and green but the berries have started to burst through. I can feel the blackbirds watching, grateful for the abundance, for the ease of finding food.

They lived under my eaves through spring and summer, I used to hear them rustling and scratting in the dark above my head. Sometimes at night when I woke, when I couldnt settle myself, I’d hear them move around and I’d call out.

I’d call them birdies and would whisper soft into the darkness, go back to sleep now birdies and they would and I did too.

But now they’ve gone. I just hear silence in my eaves but I know they’re still out there, keeping an eye on my tree, eager for berries, waiting for the lush firm fruit to fill their beaks.

And I wait too.

There’s such a tension, like something humming at my core, some necessary essence waiting for its turn and this morning it burst through.

I have calmed a little now, regained some poise and quietness but this morning I changed my ways.

I charged out through the grey autumn, unfurling and stretching out as though there was no resistance, as though there was only joy.

And in my unraveling I booked tickets to the show and then my mind wandered up the street, past the estate agents, past the army museum and the old red brick walls I knew so well, walls that I knew from an earlier time, when I was chaotic and free. And so this morning I walked that route again, past the Hotel du Vin but then I stopped.

I found myself able to do anything so I paused and went through their doors, I looked at rooms and made choices and in my haze and daze I found a suite. And how perfect it was with patio doors that lead out to its own private garden and that would do nicely I thought.

And there draped in red, in russet maybe, nothing harsh or emboldened but a softened red of ageing, of wisdom, of a maturity to hold myself up to the light. And there in my russet awareness I almost booked the room. And I would have added dinner of course but stopped just short of that.

And then the winds danced at my window and pulled me back inside away from the streets I know so well, away from the memories of purple curtains and the swirling depth of wine. Days merged and frayed, moments hanging like the leaves that need to fall, like words dropping onto grass, like footsteps on cobbles, Italian streets when I wore cream linen and the golden light through their windows which rippled across and stopped time.

And somewhere in autumn, in the fracturing moments of myself, in the scent of the Sistine chapel I burst through, from there to here and out and onwards, upwards, outwards to another day, another time, when I would allow myself to wear red again. To wear russet and flow, to sparkle and drift through streets with no resistance and in the overwhelming colours of possibility I almost booked a room.

I can breathe again now, memory and fantasy have merged and drifted down. I’ll be alright soon. I do think so much of wearing red though, of being delirious autumn trees in sunlight, of not being afraid to shine.

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For Safe Keeping

Find her by the canal in her black and white skirt with bells. Find her navigating it all as she jingled, as she smiled.

And there under the August sky, find her leaning up the old Orion, in her black Mary Jane’s and her silk waistcoat.

Later, after chicken salad, no doubt, find her by her candlewick bedspread, chartreuse and tattered but perfect. The only way to end the day.

And in the morning, in the same skirt, find her smile at the bedroom door and make plans to carry her home.

Just find her. Over and over and over again. Always in August, to keep her safe.

For the Poppy Fields

I liked the terracotta tiles when we first moved there and the way the ribbed glass on the conservatory door shook every time we closed it. It was an old, neglected place, needing repair like me.

A deer turned up on the back lawn in the summer, must have come down from by the Clock House, the owners ran the local dance school, were always ferrying children or horses about. Their place backed onto the woods. The deer was startled, lost. Like me.

It froze when it saw us in the kitchen, then spooked itself and ran off, like I should have done but I stayed. Its white tail bobbed, flashed through the hawthorn, leaves ruffled where it passed, then settled themselves.

I tried to settle myself. I don’t remember the date when it first happened, somewhere near the start of that first year, I think. It just seemed a natural response, somehow. I do remember how I backed up to the white wicker laundry basket, I could feel the lines of weave as I smacked it with my hand. And then the melamine working surface, I noticed it as I shouted out and had a fleeting thought of how it might feel to bring my head down hard on it. Of course I didn’t, but it did help to think about it.

There were a lot of flies that summer, we gave up trying to catch or kill them, they seemed to take over the kitchen. I remember swatting at them, as though dislodging a thought, like something darkening which had buzzed across my mind. I was making sandwiches no doubt, my arm still hurt from earlier but it wasn’t my dominant side, so that was alright.

I remember the fake pine cladding in the hallway to the toilet, sometimes the bathroom was a place where I would stay a while, pretend I had tummy problems, that sort of thing. Keep out of the way, you know?

I wore a lot of bracelets in those days. I remember banging my fist so hard into the cladding that it dented, it formed a crevice where my small hand had smashed. My bracelets jingled in the force. A bruise came out later down the side of my fingers. I didn’t feel anything at the time of course, just the hot release of wood against my skin, something to let the energy out.

I grew to enjoy the sensation of my nails as they dug in. Well, enjoy is too strong a word but I would appreciate them, yes, I was grateful for my nails down my arm. I’d do anything to make him stop but still his words would carry on. And I remember thinking in some disheveled part of me at the back of my mind, the part of me that sat on the floor with my back to the wall and hugged my knees until it stopped, I remember that part of me was thinking this isn’t normal but by then it was already too late, by then it was just the way it was.

When we left there I took a moment with the fake pine cladding, I ran my small white fingers over the tiny gashes that I’d made. It helped me to balance things out. I didn’t want to feel sad for leaving there with all its endless lawns and deers, with the quails and rabbits, the chickens which we befriended and the summer house by the pond that I grew to call my own.

I wanted to remember how it was and where the scars were on the walls.

I wanted it to be a fresh start and I wished for that with all my heart as we drove away past the poppy fields where I had stood, smiling into the camera. I had lifted my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, lifted it up to protect myself.

I became used to that I guess.

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.

Beyond Glenfield Road

Breathe on me and I will vanish, I will disperse into the air taking my long thick dark brown hair away. And the red fleece of my jacket and the fluff in my pocket will be a memory on the wind.

But you will remain with your calcite core, with your compounds, your glinting similarities to my seashells and my pearls.

And I will shine near the summit looking out to Sabden and Padiham, holding tight to Colne.

While you nestle tucked away, carboniferous in russet, smooth in sandstone in my palm. And I will rub you while I crumble, I will feel the biting wind shriek up my hair.

There with my glacial tilt, my boulder clay which called me. Pick me up and hold me close and I did. I squeezed you in my pocket, I hid you out of sight.

While December chills took my left hand to my ear to keep out the gusts. And the smell of her perfumed cheek and thickness of her winter coat were shutter clicked and frozen to the bone.

We grinned in the cold.

But you will remain with your time smoothed angles, a permanence beyond my emphemeral form. So breathe on me and watch my smile flake to the clouds, watch me scatter in the hills.

And long after the imprint of my trainers has eroded, after my keratin has blown away, you will still feel me. The warmth of my hand embedded in your limestone and your limestone and my secret smile, a fossil of our day.

Ephemeris

I have been avoiding myself for a while, she thought, but the leaves rushed in and said don’t worry. Watch us dither on the bluster, see how we don’t care.

And she strained her head to the sky, to the spaces where she used to be and watched. They maundered like old thoughts which caught her out in the night, like missed moments, like the regrets which crumbled at her door, twisted and fragile, the haphazard seconds of her life.

But the leaves taught her well. They cried out as they tumbled into her, thither-zither, helter-skelter to her palms. And for those which remained on the trees, she poured her love up to them. They were weary, clumped and battered on the undressed branch. They knew not to resist.

Clouds moved in, cumulus caressed her mind and she didn’t care, not really. Not now. Somehow the day was still gentle.

Listen to the leaves, she said. It’s only spacetime. It’s only 9,192,631,770 periods in the hyperfine transitions of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom. One second after another falling to her soil.

There was nothing to worry about after all.

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.

Not a Leaf Flinched

So how would it be if the passing trees bowed over and came down to hold me, what if each leaf tore itself from the branch and flew down to keep me safe and I would smile.

I would welcome them into my arms and I would find shelter in their sap rich veins. The cobweb twists in the corner of the wing mirror, a distorted memory of its form, a shimmered recollection of when it stretched out, full of flies and dew and purpose.

It happened again.

I slid into the gutter like a chiffon scarf, like sea gusted hair, whipped and twirled, salted, sand sprinkled strands like the tail of a kite careening, flirting with ribbons and bows and the soft eager grip of a girl giggled and reeled it back in.

And I slipped, I gave myself up to the ground and as it welcomed me, the girl and the kite and the beach and my scarf flew away. Away like the beat of a wing, away like the startle of feathers, petrol pooled black mirrors as I lay.

My mouth smirked where they left it, upturned and silent beside the road. My feet, discarded by the gorse bush, one shoe on and one shoe off and Peter Rabbit trapped in wire rushed into my mind. And how the sparrows implored him to escape. And there would be stories and teacakes, jam down my chin and my kite curled up in the boot of the Austin 1300, tousled and day stained, like me.

But the gutter cradled and soothed, hushed me as the flock sprung, pulsing. Flapping, clattering, colliding, black diamonds and piercings, dustballs despatched as they poked.

I remember their beaks, eager, unforgiving, pneumatic drill in rain, dentist burrowing, twisting and the taste of salt in my mouth.

But not now. Now it’s the feel of the gutter and the little bits of me that still remain. Near the roadside, abandoned feathers where they took me down, straddled strutted, swaggered, like they owned the verge, ruled the fields where my kite flew. And now they peck me to sleep while I lie in brambles, near the pavement grey, I hear them as they laugh and caw.

Under midsummer rain on windscreens, fractured rainbows, I curl up. Little shards, little jagged remnants and I swoon.