Graceful Degradation


Sometimes bird song comes as though I breathe each note, as though they reflect the thoughts that churn and churn. But I can’t quite reach them. I listen hard, listen well, but these sounds, these moments of instinct pulse out. They seem to be my heartbeats, my neurones charging, firing and every second of my life is echoed in their song.
It’s February. It’s always February somewhere in my mind and today, the 10th arrives and though it’s Monday, it is Thursday in my head. The birds silence for a while as I inhabit, as I absorb the date and then they tweet, then they shout out towards each other, triumphant in their beaks spilling notes, their essence, existing in song.

And somewhere they sang on that Thursday, somewhere they clutched at branches and held on and I wonder did they note me rushing, did they feel for me in my chaos as I churned, did they send out their song to soothe me though I couldn’t hear the notes?
And it was there, birdsong, always, even on that day.
And it’s February and I am February, right now and I am the birdsong. I am all of it. I am their voices reaching out to me, to the startling, to my fracturing self. And I am the birdsong that tried to reach me when I couldnt hear their call.
It’s February 10th. I seek out birdsong.

And so I think shhh, don’t go there, don’t allow the thoughts and then they come. Bright faces, flaring and this is the thing you see, I don’t want to look but then I must. I must turn my face into the flutterings, into the scattering moments and down. Down and out, flat out. Careening into the sounds, the words, the mouths that speak as I watch them.
And then sun arrives, and then a bird cheeps as if to throw me a line, as if to say but it’s Now. And yes, the bird song fills me up and yes the light falls up the wall but it feels absent. Today there is a coldness, yet photons push through, resolute in their incessant need to glow, to saturate our room.

But there. Pauses come. Like wilting leaves. Places where the earth has forgotten warmth and I rest. I must do something with the gardens. It’s that thought always. Prising its way back in, that sense of morning, of movement and how stale it all looks, untended, devoid of hands that care. That winter face, that deep back to the soil kind of voice and I go round. Around and around it again, like the sun rising, like the particles colliding, thoughts bursting and forming with little rest. And then it stops.

The sun has taken offence behind thick grey, and I breathe out. That kind of long slow breath that turns down cortisol, that regulates and I return.
The birds are singing, I think they never stopped, not once, not even for a second over these long and rambling years. Sometimes I find that reassuring, sometimes not. And so it goes.
My body tells me it’s the 14th, I feel it in the tightness in my ribs, in the irritations underneath. Round and around with no let up like nature, like my exchange of O2 to CO2.
I tiptoe to the edge of my mind again and peer inside. Things coalesce and break apart, I try to untangle thoughts, to measure and observe them but as I look them in the face they change.
It’s the day before tomorrow, my quantum days. And I must go now, I must feed the birds.

15th: And I’m so grateful for the rain. The storm is tearing up the garden as though I summoned it, as though my friends turned up on cue. The sun still hides and that suits me, it’s so pointless to be a ball of helium today, to spit and churn, no one can see you anyway behind the heft of clouds. I like clouds, they’re almost family. They come and go but when they block out the sun, they seem so welcome.

Today there is a sympathy with the weather, a sense that I control it all. And why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I be able to send my thoughts into the skies and bring about the storm?

The blackbird hops up to the window, despairing, there’s only black leaves on the patio today. Of course I’ll go out later, wrapped a little against the bluster but revelling in the cut of cold across my face, a reminder that I breathe.

Storms have their place and if I were braver than I am, I’d climb the trees, I’d scrape my knees and cut my arms as I pulled up. And from the top, up there on the left by the raven’s nest, I’d hang on and sway in this harshness. I wonder if the sounds would be as loud from deep inside the branches, but how glorious it would feel, to not be the face at the window but to be sodden and ripped, to hang tight and bend as the rain slices round us. Maybe later, I’ll ease out into its din.

I’m grateful for the storm, as though the streets and towns and country I still inhabit can pop into my mind and feel my thoughts.

On days like these, I live for the howling of trees. I resonate. It calms me.

Meditations, maybe.

She was the taste of bergamot in her scalding hot tea and just to her right and upwards, she was the fragile bloom of rose. Today her choice was the sweetest of pink white, a hint of colour, subtle, almost there, just like herself. And she was raindrops on her window. Of course. She was always the rain. 

She had bought the flowers herself, like she did, like she does and now it was nearly time to leave, to take herself to the town, then the river, to see if the ripples would show her proof that she was there.

And then she was there, warmwrappedcold, coldwrappedwarm and the fast running water burbled past her. Traffic was a memory and she sat. The winter breeze ran down her cheeks, hair blew across her nose and she was still. Almost.

River dreaming, detritus swirling, licking up the rocks and cobbles underneath. And she was the moss under her feet and the sound of footsteps through the years and down the path.  And all she needed was the padding of hard chewed paws to come and sit beside her. 

Couples walked by, dog free with navy bags and comfortable ways, chattering and she was quiet and water gurgled in her stationary world. And nattering young parents, buggy shoving and a man just by himself and she was there. 

Waiting for it to pour, waiting for the sky to peel and soak her to the marrow on her bench. Waiting for the force of water to carry her far away.

And so, she sat.

Cold under grey skies, constant as the sun masked by her clouds. Necessary as the atoms in the water that held tight onto her name. Contingent as the day.

A distant bus pulled her attention to the left and lifted her up, traffic and people and days and birdsong. Places to go and to be.

The blackbird, sharp yellow beak across the slate, held out its wing to her and called her home.

And it was always this way, motionless movement, nothing stops for her, not even herself.

And an elderly couple with sticks, tapped by and she was the gravel under her feet as she gathered up herself and went back home.

And so, it always would be.

In The Dwelling Place

Bird Nightmare

I sit in your mouth and it’s warm, it’s a round pink place which enfolds me. And how the rub of your tongue soothes my back, how I hold onto your teeth to give me structure. The food comes in, it careens around me, over and into my spaces, the familiar battering and I despise every morsel but i know their names. I sit in the corner of your mouth, I live in this dark moist world and then you mash your teeth together and I feel them crush and smear my form, stretched out fibres of myself, wavering and flipping in the cave where I live, where no one can see me, where my voice fades to dust on spittle, my streaks are a lick of taste inside your mouth.

And you swallow

and I glide down and down, tumbling into your chasm until I climb and climb. I dig in with where my nails used to be, I hold myself up in the flush. I recall myself, I wriggle on the place where my belly used to be, up and up and through to your throat, slipping, craving a ledge until I rest. I sit on your tongue, it is warm, the bristles massage where my limbs used to be.

I am still. I curl up in the corner of your mouth and when you yawn, I can see the world I used to live in, outside, over there, sparkling and remote.

I live in the crevices in your mouth, it’s dark and tight and damp. This is my place now.

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Frank and I

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Frank was a subtle storm at the end of my year. He arrived unannounced like an old friend at a party who made their way through the throng, crept up behind you and shoved their knees into the backs of yours, crumbling your stance and pushing you forward into the buffet.

Frank was there when I woke, dancing around the garden, pulling out the saplings that we’d planted in the spring, sending leaves up in eddies that jerked and hurled before they dropped fast, to crash and I thought of the Christmas when my teeth fell out.

All through the night the howling and moaning. Rain smashed the glass, pots scuttled down the drive as you leaned in. You knew my teeth had to go. It was time, you said and I understood. I opened my mouth, a little at first, as you hooked your finger around my gums and wobbled. And then more, more fingers, a thumb in the other side and my mouth ached, the corners of the skin split just enough to catch the salt from your last packet of crisps and they swelled. The cuts puffed out throbbing splinters of white heat, drawing attention to the sides of my face, while you burrowed. And in deeper until I gagged, spitting bits of teeth on to your hoovered carpet, and they crunched up, little pieces of me, little shards, my blistered enamel and I swooned. I wanted to pass out, I wanted the fullness to stop but it didn’t and with your hand inside my mouth you flicked and eased, you twisted them out of my gums.

I can see us now, me retching, a slaver of blood that you’d hurry to scrub from the pile and how you looked after your carpets. How the windowsill was gleaming and the cleaning fluids lined up, parading shades of dolly mixtures when the sun came through. But it didn’t shine that day.

Storm Frank peeled the garden, wrenched the nature from this place, as we stood, you smiling, making little towers with my teeth and me, bent double, heaving, wiping saliva off the back of my hand.

My tongue hurt, my mouth sobbed. It was winter and you were so in love with me.

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