Buttery and the shade of melted umber, she shines like burnished stone. I could look for hours and not see a sliver, barely a fractional vista caught in the horizon’s shimmer. Sharp in the way of absent notes in a felonious composition, her cadences carry a piano’s punctuation. I could listen for hours and not catch a word, simply drift upon a lilting cloud of consciousness. Marshmallows soaked in cocoa, her eyes are diaphanous chocolate portals flecked with gold. I could drown in their depths and be forever quenched. Boundless and scaled to suit, her love is tailor made.
As one might attend unspooled yarn, I try desperately to gather the logic of the world around me. In the same vein, I find myself so often tangled in a knotted skein made of my life’s own twisted purls. Would that I could take my teeth to the problem as my childish self allowing frustrations to force tears in my beleaguered shoelaces. I wish these problems were that simple or physically solvable, but there’s more nonsense every day, everybody adding to the fray, and if I can’t untangle or use it then I’d at least like to avoid it.
I take the medication less than I think about it now, which is good and doctor Charlotte agrees. Of course her real name is something perfectly benign, but she wears a lot of turtlenecks and masticates relentlessly and none of it does much to make her look less like a brontosaurus. I tell doctor Charlotte this and she shakes her head slowly as though it takes my words an epoch to reach her ears and have since turned to tar. ‘These hallucinations,’ she says, ‘have they been going on long?’ I can only imagine it’s been a lifelong condition.
I put on my pyjama pants, only my brain doesn’t call them that, it calls them yours. It’s a funny little moment, just one in a dozen daily instances that remind me how quickly we’ve commingled our minds. I no longer possess any decent nouns, nor impropriety, only tactile verbs. Smell, touch, taste, sleep, kiss, fuck, eat, cry, laugh, burrow, embed. I lay myself down and think of us. Of our bed. Of us in it. Of its vastness when empty. Of its occupied warmth. Hug, talk, sing, sigh, whimper, pant, proclaim. Love. I fall asleep in your arms.
Arris looked at the walls around us and said, ‘I bet we could knock one down if we wanted.’ Of course, I said, if it’s sound. She strode to each surface, knocked and listened in turn. ‘Well, they all sound amenable to me.’ Her laughter fell out and furnished the room around me, her dreams and intentions colouring everything. ‘We’ll start from the middle and work our way out,’ she said. ‘Making and shaping space as we need it.’ Knock down whatever you want, I told her, I will build the pillars to keep the roof over our heads.
I simply stood there and took it, worse, I thought it was right, allowing myself to be moulded by the doctrines of others. A malleable man sculpted by amateur artisans without vision or talent, I stood as a terracotta warrior, seeing myself as stoic but bound by stilted strictures scribbled on scrap and shoved carelessly into my head. Full of silt I called grit, glazed eyes and a burnished countenance, I was proud of my shape and ignored my counterintuitive commands and crumbling base, not yet understanding how to saw off my shackles, nor even see them as such.
Piece by piece I removed my soul and arranged it in the shape of a man in front of her. It’s fragile, I said, and worn. Please take care of it. ‘Forever,’ she said, ‘but first things first, lets put you back together.’ She set to rearrange the pieces then and place them back inside, making me whole again in new and unexpected ways. It is perfect now, I said, but she just shook her head. ‘It was always perfect, love, you just needed to see it for yourself.’ I embraced her then, finally comfortable to be simply myself.
I read omens in everything now, so desperate am I to cling to her love. What portents might the weather tell? What aching in my bones belies our fates? I find myself steering clear of minor obstacles, around a ladder or opting out of mirrors, and lately, wondering when might a black cat cross me. I was never superstitious, now I am become unilaterally suspicious. Life, you see, has been recently quite good to me. While not uncommon in circumstance, my own awareness of such happenstance is frightening, a little enlightening, and idiosyncratically contrived. I’ll take mine with salt.
Vignettes at the intersection of poetry and prose, the first collection of Hundreds is one hundred stories written in exactly one hundred words and accompanied by one hundred images. Connections exist between them all, they can be found or discarded as you please, but the links aren’t as imperative as the instances depicted, and won’t please any sensible chronology. Otherwise, just enjoy the moments.
Hundreds vol.1 is available now.
I gather my wares as might a mynah. A few scraps of song, some things not necessarily like sonnets but substantially poetic, perchance some art pieces, various vows, of course, and affirmations made of strong yet supple cords, spider silk possibly. I bind it all together with countless fine devotions and shape a nest around us. I coo, heedful of pride, as you percuss the air with a pleasured display of span. We preen each other of free of woes, flock together, and roost until sunrise, when I fly, as might a mynah, knowing my mate ever awaits me.
I giggle all the time now thinking about the things that make her laugh. Silly voices and swift caricatures tread the boards of my brain, running ragged the props department of my imagination. Such worth in her mirth though, and my own, in trying characters and satirical takes on self, in loving laughter and putting energy into entertaining what you enjoy. We do our routines together in the round, oblivious of any audience but ourselves, grateful for the glancing approval of strangers but always and only perfecting our performance for each other. All the world’s stage built for us.
Tapping the tabletop lightly, trying to remember a staccato timpani arrangement by movements so my mind doesn’t have to worry about eating itself, I ask Jo, what constitutes hate speech for mutes, and he shrugs, cocks his head about three degree, then scribbles quietly in his book. It takes a minute to recognise the missive he slides in front of me — Saying nothing is the worst crime. Startled, I stop tapping. Jo reaches out sharply, flips the note, strikes his palm to the table and beats an IO. I read what he wrote and it says — Go for baroque.
She screams, ‘Why are we fighting?’ So I make my voice cold in the way I was taught as a child, deep and sharpened for stagecraft. It’s because everything’s too good, I tell her, we don’t trust joy to come so easy or stay solid for long. Hard eyes and a soft tongue, she says, ‘Testing for imperfections.’ Like a peach. ‘Rotten inside?’ Delicious all over. It takes thirty seconds of staring before we’re holding each other in hysterics, the promise of tears swallowed with pride. ‘Are we being silly?’ Only about arguments, I say, the rest is serious.
Two stars collide in the centre of the universe, bow and step aside. Vagrant celestial solipsists, galaxies once so divided, now dance. In their orbits they pay homage, flung wide on vast elliptical trajectories that seperate and reconnect at predictable interstices with macrocosmic implications and minuscule variations. In this way, over time, they waltz through space, ever connected by merged purpose but coexisting merely in vicinity. Such sadly joyous manoeuvres have wrought lust and longing upon ageless energies and countless lives, leaving nebulous wakes and vast black lakes of antimatter demarcated by absences. Two stars collide with burning desire.
Soundlessly, she clamps her teeth upon my shoulder and spells out sentiments with her tongue. I don’t need to make them out, I can feel the messages radiating like reiki through every single cell in me. I can sense the convulsions taking hold between pelvis and plexus, solar and cerebral, insular and encompassing. Decades of unnecessary knots declot and redistribute as undiluted energy. I apply my fingertips with delicate pressure to points of chakra and surreptitiously pass my sensations through her skin. Light and ethereal, she moans gently into me and the flow of ouroboros chi becomes spectacularly complete.