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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Unbeing

I am unbeing
I have thought myself into it

Into unbeing

I am like flotsam
Floating out across the ocean

I am real, not real

You can try and pluck me from the water
But I will slip from your grasp

Because I have ceased to be

I hide under the duvet
And there is form and shape

But there is no matter here

I puff and I pant
with my hand between my legs

Just so I feel something

But if I touch no one
And no one touches me

Am I real

In here, in the morass of
Nowhere and everywhere

I have somehow made myself disappeared

I am unbeing. 

And I cannot find a way back. 

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Resonance

There's an echo of movement, 
In these tired limbs
A sense of where they've once been
Of maybe what they once did

We are wedged here in limbo
Between the living and the dead
Between the dead and the nearly dead
We struggle through the day

Buoyed by a silence
A screaming moment
Free of the sound of sirens
Before they blast out into the night again

And then 
In the darkness of the Autumn
All of it
It, Re-sounds

The noise again and again
Louder
And loudening
Out across the landscape

An echo of a time we thought past
But the dead are walking towards us again
Silently, fearful,
Clutching at breath

We are bound, gagged, chained
Enslaved to these silent horrors
They happen outside of us
Yet stain the inside somehow

Scarring us in words we cannot find
The tap of keys on a keyboard
That is not a voice
It is an artifice

Without being heard
And somewhere a heart beats
Beats
Beats
Beats
And stops
And its not the noise that resonates with us
It is the silence
Echoing outwards
Ever closer
Towards us.
And we are not delivered.

Sometimes it feels

Sometimes it feels as if

We live in a dark place
A moment in time
 
Where there are more tears
Than laughter
 
More clouds over head
Moments when the sun
 
Won’t shine
 
There is before
And there is after
 
They knit together
Imperfectly
 
There is a tear
And a tear

I close my eyes
 
When all is nothing
And no one seems to hear
 
In the hours of darkness
And there have been a few

Look deep down inside yourself
On the inside there is you
 
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Compressing Water

And I just
 
Stepped
 
Out
Into the world
 
That looked the same
But was somehow
 
Different
 
Straggled hair
And dusty shoes
 
I wasn’t sure my legs would even carry me
 
I stood in the takeaway
And I felt
 
Normal
 
How it used to feel
I closed my eyes to
The stacked chairs and tables
I didn’t look at the shiny new stickers on the floor
 
I pretended not to see

Haggard tired eyes
Or hear the fraught

Kindness in the voices
I smiled
 
My face unused to the exercise
 
I went back
To a different time
In my head,
There was noise and laughter
The ghosts of happiness
Footsteps, light and free
Haunted the tiles

Where I stood

Adrift in a fantasy world

I sucked in air
It was like

Pressing down on water

My hands dripping wet
With nothing to show for the effort
 
Because whatever was here
Is gone now
 
I could only remake it in my head
I clutched a bag
Of soggy, greasy food
All the way home
 
I wafted the smell of hot chips
Through my kitchen
With tears in my eyes
I fondled polystyrene
Lovingly looking at the limp cheese
And chewing on cardboard meat
 
I remember this
Gone are the days of everything
I settle for less
When I buy toiletries

In half filled streets
Pale, sunlight starved, stupefied masses
Are making their way out
As if the zombies have been

Re-lifed
 
What happened when I was cocooned
In lockdown

Maybe it wasn’t real
Real was somewhere

Outside 

I think I have cabin fever
But no fever
Because then I would need a test
My words run on and on
For so long there has been
Nothing to say
No self improvement
 
For so long there has been
A quiet waiting
The only voices
The ones in my head
A quiet piece of music
A stiltified song unsung

Like pressing my hands

Down through the
thick
deep
water

A noise, lyrical and loud

But not a song

The world off kilter

And I feel all wrong

 
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