An ode to my lists

I sometimes wonder, 
In the dead of night,
If all of my to-do lists,
Don't up and come to life.?

Do they dance around,
around my sleeping head?
Competing for attention,
All wanting to be read.

Do they talk amongst themselves,
Whilst I lie asleep?
Do they decry my lack of action,
my lack of progress, do they weep?

Do they wonder what might happen,
When each item is crossed off?
Do they know that never happens,
All written by the queen of sloth.

Do they wait patiently for New Year?
For a sense of a start anew,
Does one of them run a betting shop,
taking bets on what I'll do?

Do they fight to be the top list,
The one I'm currently adding to?
Or is it safer at the bottom,
where they know they'll never move?

I should stop making lists at all.
I should sort out my life.
But now I'm really worried,
That I'd be condemning them to die. 

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Hover

The hand hovers there in the darkness above me. Not just once, but all night. I pretend to sleep but I’m awake. Every time I open my eyes, its there. I know what its waiting for, its waiting for me to reach out. I am not going to reach out.

Its there every night, not above my face but close to my arm, where my fingers could easily reach up and grab on. What does it want? Its just an inch above me. Hovering. In the darkness, just a hand and nothing else. There’s no arm, it ends as the palm reaches the wrist.

Its luminous, I can see through it without really seeing inside it. Its long fingers stretching towards me in the darkness as if it can’t quite reach me. I think it could reach me really, but its waiting for me to choose. But what will happen if I touch that hand, if I reach out and clasp it? It looks as if I could move my hand through it. What if I slap it away?

I close my eyes. I open them again. Its still there. Night after night, I don’t sleep. I pretend sleep. It hovers, waiting for me. I know it wants me to reach out. Even if I snuggle right down under the covers, I know its still there. Hovering. Waiting. Sometimes I want to reach out in the darkness and touch it but I resist, I must resist. I sleep under the kitchen table after breakfast, in the daylight and it does not appear.

But the night is a wholly other matter, wherever I am in the house in the darkness, it appears. I tried leaving the lights on all night, but the switch tripped, the lights went out and there it was in front of me. Hovering, the same as always. Waiting for me, just waiting. I tried candles and I could still see it there, just at the edge of the light waiting for me. It is a thing of darkness and I cannot bring myself to touch it but I am so tired.

There is some kind of inevitability to it, it has waited so patiently. I start to feel as if it deserves it, as if I am at fault, as if I am punishing it. One night I almost give in, reach out my spindly fingers towards it in the darkness. I see it reach ever so slowly closer in response but at the last minute I pull back quickly. I curl up into a ball in the darkness. I feel guilty. When I look again, it is still there hovering. Patient. When I do that a second time, almost and then not, a third time, on the fourth time, when I look at the hand one finger is moving, tapping annoyed on a soundless invisible desk. I feel guilt, I feel like I am failing.

And then December, and suddenly it is gloved. Hovering. Gloved. And there is a hint of red reflected in the whiteness of the glove as if this might be the hand of Father Christmas. But I know it is not the hand of Father Christmas. It is December, the season to be jolly but I can’t sleep, haven’t slept, won’t sleep. And Christmas Eve is getting closer and I know its still going to be there, waiting, patient. Hovering. Because its going nowhere until I reach out and touch those fingers.

And Christmas eve arrives and I can’t focus. I sit under the kitchen table all day. I will the darkness to arrive. I accept the inevitable. I wait for the sun to sink, for the dimness of dusk before the fall of night. I don’t switch on any of the lights. I wait patiently and then there it is. I see it there in front of me, reaching out and I reach forward, out and our fingers touch, I clasp on and…

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Breathe

I woke up, as in my eyes were open, but I was acutely aware I could not feel myself breathe. It was as if my lungs had somehow moved on, my ribs seemed to have decamped to some other part of my body I could not feel. I grabbed my phone and flicked to the meditation app. There it was, her cool calming voice giving me instruction, breathe in, breathe out. My breath though, had left me, had just gone from my body. I lay there listening to her, my hands on my unmoving chest, yes my ribs were there but they were still. I rested my hands as low as I could, I daren’t feel for the heart beat in case it was gone as well.

And she kept talking, gentle, soothing, the meditation woman telling me to take a breath in and then a long slow breath out, but how? It had all stopped working. I tried not to panic, this was meditation after all. I tried to focus but my hands were sending that signal to my brain, you aren’t breathing, the lungs are not working. There is no in and out, no up and down happening. At this point I wondered why the meditation couldn’t focus on some other bodily function, like digestion, but it did not.

I am not dead, I know I am not dead. I wiggle my toes, probably I have just forgotten, just forgotten and somewhere at the back of my brain is that thing that will kick start the whole thing again. Thank goodness I woke up, otherwise I might have actually died. Meanwhile the meditation app gave slow pointed instructions, in and out, in and out. I kept looking at my ribs, nothing. My lungs literally sat there, not bothering to inflate, like the last balloon in the packet that no one wants, probably the green one or the yellow one or the horrible pink which is too see through.

I wait patiently thinking what a waste for the meditation app. I wonder how much I am paying for this app that does not seem to be inducing my lungs to act. There is still no breath going in and out, I am panicked but without the capacity to demonstrate it. I couldn’t be less calm and all I can do is wait for that one heaving breath that indicates I am back on the planet.

And then it comes, sweet luscious air rushes in, I suck it in, my lungs finally inflate and the ribs move and my hands lift and I wonder about the delay! Who knows what would have happened if the blood I drank yesterday was not pre-oxygenated.

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Here

Here

It’s weird how the rain falls.

Straight down out of the sky,

As if it’s too heavy for the clouds.

Which of course,

It is.

Then the wind blows across it,

Squalls it sometimes.

As if the two aren’t connected,

It’s all awry,

As if the wind is not,

Not sure quite which way to blow,

And the rain?

The rain is just annoyed,

So they dance around the place,

Like two strangers eyeing for a fight in a pub,

I can’t explain it more than that.

The rain is just different.

Like everything else.

Here.

I ask you now!

Straight up,

Is it poetry?

And the answer is?

I don’t know!

The sentences are cut,

Short, straight

There’s some punctuation,

Not much.

There is no rhyme,

It does not rhyme!

But they don’t look like me,

Or speak like me?

Or even eat what I eat,

No one thing in common.

Yet you say that they think like me.

But how do I know?

And so I ask,

Is it human?

Like me?

And then I see

The ground is wet from the rain

Like at home, it’s  just the same

Of course its poetry,

The words don’t rhyme,

but there is refrain

We each look guarded,

Suspicion in our eyes.

We each have a path,

A purpose underlies,

What each of us is doing

Here.

Each of us sits,

On this earth

Slightly apart from the other

Each of us born

Of this earth,

Out from a mother.

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The Conference

I have always thought I could become an expert at something, but what? Somehow bring myself to focus in on the minute detail of some corner of history or science, in truth I can barely focus long enough to vacuum, but somewhere I have always thought I would be able to espouse wisdom on some such topic at dinner parties. In my head the whole table are always enraptured as I drop pearls of factual delight, when in fact I have met such people myself and turned immediately away and began to discuss the weather.

I remember one particular erudite person I sat next to at dinner who saw nothing more than the back of my shoulder for the entire evening and to make it worse I was wearing a particularly ghastly brown paisley thing with a mosquito bite on the edge of my shoulder for good measure. No I lack the application, the attention span for expertise, but I can do generality which makes what happened seem quite odd. I think perhaps there was a moment of confusion, a point at which someone thought I was something else, someone else.

And so I found myself on the stage, in front of the audience, with a lap top open before me. Of course the audience could see the slides, but I could see the slides and the speaking notes. And what could I do, but speak. I did not think I could say, there’s been a mistake, I am not this person. I am not even presenting at this conference, I am just here with my partner.

So I gave the speech, at the conference, the conference I was only attending with my partner. Its not easy you know, to stand up and speak, to follow the words when you have not read them before at all. But I did and there was rapturous applause, and to be honest I am not even sure what the speech was about. I don’t pretend to remember a word of it but it was well received.

I feigned a stomach bug instead of dinner only for it to be reported to me (by my partner who had not attended that session but was watching another session at the time) what a standout performance it had been. The highlight of the day, maybe even the conference. I said nothing, what could I say? He would want to know why and I even now, am not sure why.

I tried not to think about it, stayed in my room. I was embarrassed by it, until my partner mentioned that it was available on a website, me giving her speech. He had watched it, said what a great speaker she was. I thought he was joking, he had realised but it seemed not. I googled it, there I was, me- giving her speech, with her name on the banner underneath. My first thought was to get in touch, apologise. But I just wasn’t brave enough, wasn’t bold enough and the moment passed and we travelled home.

And then it came, a week later, by post, not even by email, a short note, three words, ‘We should meet.’ And so there I stood, waiting outside the coffee shop for the woman I had impersonated, who’s speech I had given. I had no idea what to say, I was so embarrassed. And there she was, a little taller than me, same hair colour sort of, different colouring, not my sense of style.

And so we sat for coffee and she thanked me and showed me her other speeches, all of them given by different women, all of them just whoever was there, like some kind of weird experiment, and that’s what it was, at least how it started – as some weird experiment. She had a mad fear of public speaking and so at conferences she angled it so someone else gave her speech and she discovered that almost no one spoke up, no woman took exception and nor did the men, men who knew who it was, who knew it wasn’t her, said nothing. All of them complicit.

And then she told me more, she wasn’t the only one, lots of women did it, they just subbed in to whoever was close to the stage. There was a club, a group, on line, off line, all of them, quietly lauding their victories. It had long since stopped being a way of avoiding public speaking and become more a way of just subtly undermining the status quo.

She gave me her card with a phone number, in case I ever had to speak at my own conference. She said she would arrange it, make it happen so someone else could speak. She said she couldn’t remember the last time any woman ever gave her own speech at an international conference. It just doesn’t happen.

Of course, I was horrified, I would never do such a thing, until of course. It was just a small speech, a nothing speech, a tiny conference, a nothing topic, a general topic, nothing specific, but well, I mean you would, wouldn’t you? And no one noticed, and no one was harmed and so the chain goes on. And if you are speaking next, well get in touch, we can sort something out.

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Water-logged Part 2

In the back of my head.

Words trickle,

Trickle out.

A poem I can’t remember

Formed of words I can’t forget

The way stones know their wet,

But know nothing at all.

The words, like water

Rushing over the rocks

Taking tiny fragments of me.

With them.

Somewhere else,

Eroding,

Erupting,

An inopportune moment

I should have had a notebook.

With me.

At all times.

To write it down.

I can almost taste them

The words

On my tongue

All sticky and stuck

Sediment in the creek

The taste of days gone by

Water moved on

Of cafes and restaurants and coffee shops

Of joy and laughter

Without knowing there was an end

An end.

Coming.

Rushing towards us.

After all that we have been through,

That we did not see

Yet have to comprehend

The words won’t come

The smile won’t stay

The rhythm and the pace

I’m waterlogged today.

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Water-logged

It’s a long road home

Pock-marked

Twisted

A way

Away back

Let it sink

Down

And

Per-co-late

And still time

Still time was not

Did not

Wait

It marched on

Forcing my hand

I just wanted to put

Down

Put down my bag

And not walk again

I just wanted to put

Down

Put down my words

And not speak again

But still words

The words still

Tumbled out

Tumbled out

Garbled

Water-logged

I spoke without stopping

Into the noise without being heard.

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Book Review: Colony (Benjamin Cross)

Home | Benjamin Cross (benjamin-cross.com)

My rating: 4 out of 5

Firstly I really enjoyed this book. It was great. The setting was remote but spacious, so not so confined as to remind you of where we might currently be.  Secondly, oddly in this time of lockdowns in various places, it’s the perfect book for a long haul flight. It kind of made me want to curl up in a plane seat and devour it somewhere over the Indian Ocean. But given where we are, it’s a great book to curl up in bed with in the middle of winter. Actually it’s a fantastic book for that. I was lucky, it was snowing when I read it which added some external atmosphere. (Not saying you couldn’t read it on the beach in the summer.) He creates real atmosphere, you get a sense of the island, the remoteness, the danger. The characters work and he really knows his technical stuff (I think, because I probably don’t). Its full of action. It drew me in and kept me interested. I devoured it in two sittings, it would have been one but the device needed a recharge. There’s a plot and a sub plot and a little romance, as well as a bit of a message. Its nicely paced and well-written. The odd stereotype might creep in but overall it works really, really well. I recommend it as a fast paced thriller, believable and readable. Indulge. Perfect for a weekend at home snuggled on the sofa. Just grab your hot chocolate, curl up and lose yourself. Read it, enjoy it. Being honest, it is the kind of book where you would stay at home to finish it even if you weren’t in a lockdown. Highly recommended. 

Re-embowelment

She looked at the letter. 2pm Wednesday. It would have been easier to cancel. She looked at the organs laid out on the table. She mentally went through her check list. Heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach. There were more.

She looked at the you tube video. It wasn’t particularly helpful. How to disembowel someone. She had tried watching it backwards but it hadn’t worked. She looked at the piece of paper on the table. It was a recipe sort of.

She should have  made extensive notes last time she did it. She looked at the scalpel. This was definitely her least favourite part. She looked down. She had strapped her breasts back so she had a clear view. She had also put a mirror on the far side of the table so she could see what she was doing.

The incision had to be quite long. Her hand was shaking. She had wanted it to be straight but it was quite jagged.

There was a hint of red down the side of it, a good sign. She had managed some blood flow. That would get better when the heart was back in. She pulled apart the two pieces of skin. There was a huge hollow gap where the organs should be. Not ideal when you were visiting a doctor. She took out the frame that gave her body structure, that made it look as if she had organs. She was quite proud of it. She had constructed it herself.

She started at the bottom, working her way up. All those bits of plumbing, reconnecting tubes a kidney here, a bowel there. All the odd female bits packed in around it. She had put some food in the stomach, a chocolate bar, some crisps but also some vegetables and a burger. She looked at it. It was a bit full really. She tucked it in. Now for the biggies, the important ones, there’s the liver. She tucked it in. She couldn’t remember what it did, but she knew it was important.

Now for the lungs. The heart had to go last because once it was connected there would be more blood. She didn’t want a messy table, at least no more messy than the one she had. She’d had to wash them all first and there was residual bits of everything clogging the sink now. She had to clean that. She did not want to clean the table too.

She placed the first lung. Then the second. Were they even? She couldn’t tell. Non aligned lungs was a dead giveaway. How many had been caught out by non-aligned lungs. She would shake it all around a bit later and hope for the best. There was unlikely to be an x-ray.

Then the heart. She had the remnant s of arteries to attach it to. She remembered last time she had got it the wrong way around. She had woken in the night feeling unwell and realised her mistake. She hated being organ dependent again, even if it was just for a few days. She had to convince the medical practitioner she was still human or else they might terminate her. She wondered why the tests were so stringent. It should be enough that she was capable of being human.

She carefully picked up the heart, it was smaller than she remembered. She wondered if she had been keeping it properly. It was kind of shrivelled. She must check that out on you tube when she was taking them out again. She pushed around between the lungs. She was never sure of the correct placement. All those disembowelment videos, never a re-embowelment, even after all this time. She should really make a video, upload it, that would be a risk. She could be found out.

Time to close up. This bit required patience. The stitching was a bit rough. But it was passable. It would heal before the doctors appointment. She had some special composite skin.

She shook her torso a bit. Took her hands and pressed them against her belly, trying to get it to sit flat. How did anyone who kept all their organs have a flat stomach. It was impossible. She should not have put so much food in the stomach. None of it sat lightly. She would put nothing on social media for a few days.

She shook a bit more. She needed them to settle. To sit firmly together and to work as a system. She farted. That was a good sign. It was sort of working. She farted again. Burped. It was all moving, slotting in. In a few hours it would all feel better.

In the meantime she had the heaviness of freshly placed organs. She needed to be able to walk lightly with them before Wednesday. God, she hated doctors, these annual check ups. What purpose did they serve. Perhaps it was time to rise up and get rid of these human remnants. She shook her body a bit again. Maybe next year.  

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