The train

One bald man gets out of his seat
So another bald man can sit down.
They don’t speak to each other.
They don’t know each other.
The do know each other.
Its like a dance.

Every day.

That is his seat,
that is the other ones seat.
They wear similar suits in dark blue.
With a light blue shirt
And a medium blue tie and brown shoes.

I plunge myself into my seat, melting.

And what was he doing there anyway?
Half naked.
In a stripped down phone booth.
Leering at every woman,
As if each one should be grateful.
With his 90s hair.

Today of all days.
They are not grateful.
They just hurry past.
He leans on a strut that once held a pane of glass.
His best days are behind him.
His best days are behind the booth.

There is no air conditioning on this train.

He is playing a childs game
On ear phones that don’t work.
Colourful little animals jump small bridges.
Everyone can hear the arcade tinkle.
He does it deliberately.
Plays it loud.

Most days.

Plunging thumbs,
into a control panel.
It annoys everybody.
It’s a protest.
You are not allowed to watch porn on the train.

All around me the world of trains and men, I feel like a freak.

He holds his head high.
The wi-fi was a little slow this morning.
The trainers are glossy.
He really smashed that avocado
Into the whole grain toast.
A sheep in wolves clothing.

A bit yesterday.

With that beard.
More a toad resplendent in cloth.
Still a toad.
He catches himself in the window.
Looking good, looking good for a toad.

Still after all this time, I don’t belong on this train.

The Gloves

It was late. The train was nearly empty. She didn’t notice the woman get on. She was suddenly sitting across from her, hands folded neatly in her lap. As if she wanted her to look.

She looked. The gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. The police had said to call. She should. Call. Now. Where was her phone, in her bag? But hadn’t it been a man?

She had only caught a glimpse but it had been a man. She had seen through the crack in the door, heard heavy footsteps running away. It had been a man. She was sure.

Was she? Those were the gloves. Distinctive gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. She should call the police. It was not possible. She could not be that wrong. Her phone was in her bag. She just had to take it out. Call. Hesitation.

She was staring at the gloves. Drawn. Drawing in her head, the scene. A crack in the door. The red gloves, pressing hard. The victim. She thought there should have been noise, there was no noise. It all happened silently. Except for the footsteps running away, great heavy footsteps. The footsteps of a man.

The woman sat there with her gloves on. Unbothered. The last of the other passengers got off the train. She sat across from the woman, staring.

Then the woman looked up. Smiled. Those gloves. She was caught staring. She looked at the woman’s shoes. Boots, out of kilter with the rest of her clothes. She looked at the arms, muscular, then the neck, stronger than she had first thought.

Her gaze drifted. Back to those gloves. It wasn’t possible. She had just caught a glimpse, through a crack in the door. She’d heard, what had she heard? What had she thought? Those gloves, so unlikely. She should call the police.

She looked at the woman, still smiling at her. Knowing. Knowing what? It was her stop. She got up. The woman followed, stood behind her. She could feel breath on her neck, a soft leather glove on her back. Panic. It can’t have been. No.

Call the police.

Hermit

‘I prefer recluse, it has fewer religious connotations.’ I mutter it rather than say it.

I look at the box sets strewn about the floor. I have been here for days in silent contemplation, watching them one after the other with a kind of religious zeal.

‘Hermit,’ she says again. ‘Robed in track pants and a hoodie, on a diet of crisps and beer. It begs the question, did you find that which you seek?’

‘All life is here,’ I whisper as I look at the variety of crisps flavours I have devoured in the past week.

He is gone. Taken. I cannot cope.

‘You seek enlightenment through the electronic gods, the gods of calories and fermentation. But there is only darkness here.’

She is right. The curtains remain resolutely closed.

She walks over to the window, flings open the curtains. Light floods in. I shield my eyes.

‘Enlightenment.’ she says.

I fall sobbing to the floor.

This awful mess

I want the words to soothe my soul.
To make it better.
To fix it all.

I want them to say something purposeful.
Sensible.
Meaningful.

I want them to fix my turmoil and confusion.
Set it out.
In a vision.

I want them to answer the questions I ask.
Finally, definitively.
To the last.

I want them to be mine when they come out of my mouth.
Composed.
Possessed.

Not this awful mess.

Fairies in the peanut butter!

These fetid creatures! It isn’t how they make it out to be. All those rubbish fairy tales. Its all just propaganda! I found one asleep in the peanut butter the other day. She woke just as I was taking the lid off the jar. She didn’t look sorry. She simply dabbed some peanut butter into her mouth. You can’t eat peanut butter after something has slept in it!

I can’t take it anymore. I pressed her down into the peanut butter. I could see her little arms swimming in it, desperate to get out. Some people say its ok to break off their wings. But I am superstitious. I don’t like to do that. Maleficent, sometimes the propaganda works even on me.

I put the lid quickly on and binned the jar. I know that’s not right. She might not be able to get out again. Maybe one of her friends came to save her. Almost certainly one did, I heard the bin lid in the night. The next afternoon as I was making the dinner one flew above the cooker and urinated in my mash. I had to throw the mash out. I went for the spatula but I was too late. I hate to squish them, but on the other hand, the ones around here don’t even bother with a veneer of civilisation.

You used to get crickets around here at night, you’d hear them in the summer, then the fairies moved in, spit roasted the lot of them. Never thought I would feel sorry for crickets. And then there’s the constant arguments with the birds. The smaller birds don’t stand a chance, just turfed out of their nests.

I set the cat on them when they first arrived but they sorted that. They darted the cat. Sent her back into the house with a sea of tiny arrows in her fur. Cost a fortune to get them removed and now the cat is afraid of them. She won’t leave the house. I heard they spit roasted the cat down the road for Halloween. Seems impossible but I haven’t seen their cat for a while.

No one who hasn’t lived with them can possibly understand. I have anti-fairy mesh. Its like a mosquito net. Its not hugely effective. Nothing is. Imagine flies with hands and you can see the problem. We have a wildlife pond. It seems to becoming a vacation spot for them. A hundred tiny tents on our grass along with the waste products that brings. Yes that is the bit they don’t tell you about. Fairies have digestive systems! And they all need to ‘eject’ everything every time they fly. Or at least not long after take off. We keep the car in the garage now.

The noise is something else too, squeaky whiny high pitched voices or music, and yes some of them do wear bells. That is even worse. Their parties are like wind chimes on steroids. You can’t sleep through it. Yeh I know earplugs, but last time one of them came into my room, took my ear plugs out whilst I was sleeping.! They use ear plugs as bean bags. Of course they do! Did I mention they get high on sniffing nail polish. Our pond looked like a paint shop after a hurricane as well as being a watery grave for all the newts and whatever else was in the pond. And no nail polish now!

They are making our life hell. The value of our house has dropped-significantly. You have fairies, you can’t sell! You get the odd tourist who wants to see one in real life, who is convinced they are all glitter and tulle and sparkles, only to be scared senseless by their aggression and rudeness. We have had several toddlers taken from our house straight to a secure facility to recover.

The thing is I feel we should be able to live in harmony. I have read all the stories and clearly someone thought that was possible. But they look at us with scorn and anger. I read somewhere they feel sorry for us because of our size. Something that big they say can’t possible survive on this planet. I look at my once beautiful garden. I look at how many of them live here now and I wonder if they aren’t right? Perhaps our time here is done.

Just the Flowers Screaming

I look at them but I cannot see it.

The flowers are all withered now.
They were cut off from their life force,
And brought inside,
Placed into water and a vase.
So we could watch them die.

And they died beautifully,
For our amusement.
Sitting on the table,
Brightening everyone’s day,
With their prolonged elegant death.

We gave them just enough water
To let them bloom.
But not enough to let them live.
I tell myself it was like being in a coma
But I am not so sure.

Perhaps their wretched screams
Rended into the night,
Too high pitched for us to hear.
If so I slept through it.
And woke afresh as they struggled on.

Perhaps their quiet malice
seeped into my dreams.
Maybe their perfumed mist
Blew into my food.
Just enough to make me feel uncomfortable.

Did the great artists know of such things,
When they named their pictures of fruit and flowers,
‘Still life’
Was it there, life still,
as they stood bright on the window sill?

Life seeping away, for my amusement.
Were they weeping tears of nectar
Holding their petals high until the last.
As we pressed our noses into them and
commented frivolously on their beauty.

Maybe when I pluck them
From the vase that was their tomb,
their spores will prick my skin,
Infect it with their vengeance
Tormenting me with itches in the night.

I look at them but I cannot see it.
There is no beauty in their death.
They belonged in the earth.
There was only beauty in their life.
To pick them, put them here, it was not right.

And her-

And her-

She is a child of the gaps.
Of the spaces between the things we say.

Her noise is voiceless.
Because its only purpose is to shield us

From the realisation, that we are a shell.

Of what we used to be,
Of what we wanted to be.

The inside is hollowed out.
Trauma, life has eaten us up.

We have no words to say to each other.
We savage our partnership with silence,

And salve it with cool contempt.
All so we can survive it.

And her-

She is a child of the gaps
Filling our void with her noise.

Noise, any noise, just noise.
Because the noise binds us together

Fills the holes where the world leaks through.

And the silences tear us apart,
Rends us in two.

She is the life raft of words.
Dragging us from the isles of despair.

And we cling to it, to her,
As if those words belong to us,

As if her birth somehow gave us the right.
One day her voice will be her own.

And we-

We will face the gaps alone.

The hand

I never went outside. Much as a child. I grew up inside. Afraid of the outside. A manor house. Big old stone thing. Creaking walls. Lots of indoor space. Perfectly manicured lawns. I think in half sentences.  

The hand.

I remember everything about it. It is the mark of. My childhood, that patch of lawn. Perfectly Cut. A square. Part of a bigger rectangle. Intersected  by a path. It sat right next to the driveway.

The hand.

I can’t remember how old I was. When it first happened. I was simply standing on the lawn. That lawn. A hand. Green and covered in grass, came up out of ground and grabbed my ankle. I was terrified. Frozen. Rooted to the spot. I looked down. I could see it had hold of my ankle. Then it let go. I examined that grass. Minutely. There was nothing there.

No hand.

A few months later the same thing. Again. It happened intermittently, as I grew up. The hand out of the lawn. I tried never to go out. Grasping my ankle. I stayed very still. It let go. I had an older cousin, Maisie. Her daughter strayed on to that patch of grass. They found her playing on it. But they never found Maisie. There was simply no trace of her. The police investigated. There was nothing.

No hand.

I could see the patch of grass from my window. Sometimes in the semi darkness it seemed to heave itself upward. Roll and then settle again. I never went on the grass. Not after Maisie. Then an even odder thing happened. The grass seemed to grow. In a neat line. Across the driveway. The gardener kept killing it off. It kept growing back.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I knew even then what had happened to Maisie. One day I simply packed my suitcase. And left. I remember stepping over that errant grass on the driveway. Knowing I had won. I took one of my mothers best jewels. I watched from afar. A pariah. A thief. As the house opened to the public. It shut again after a few years. A young woman went missing. No trace was found.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I married. Had a daughter. Then she had a daughter. It is all too painful, even as I think of it now. They were in an accident. A terrible accident. My husband. My daughter. My grand daughter. Not me.  In the days afterwards, that became months and years, I contacted my brother. He invited me home. To the house.

I wondered about the hand.

Back to that house. I would go. To live out my final days. He seemed to think there was some justice in what had happened. I still had that suitcase that I took with me when I first went. Tatty old thing. I took it down. Opened it. Empty. Except for a tuft of green grass in the bottom. I sat on the bed.

I wondered about the hand.

There it was, I went home. When I got there. The patch of grass had been fenced. First by wrought iron then clear plastic panelling put up. The gardeners struggled to keep it under control. I watched the grass grow, big and tall. I knew it was coming. Coming for me. It would snake out across the driveway no matter what I did. It was patient.

The hand.

Late one afternoon. After tea and cake, I put on my best dress. I went down to that piece of lawn. I opened the gate. It creaked. Clanked. As if announcing my arrival. I stepped inside. All this time, that bleak dark thing-whatever it was- had waited. I did not wait. I walked onto the lawn.

The hand.

Second hand Clothes: Saving the planet in style.

 In May last year I resolved not to buy any more brand new clothes except socks and underwear. I didn’t do it for charity or for anything other than the planet and my own sense of being a grown up and responsible.

The catch was that I could buy anything and everything second hand. And so I have and I have accumulated a massive collection of clothes, almost all second hand. I have more clothes than I can wear.  Far more than if I didn’t have this rule. I feel like buying second hand clothes is guilt free, which it isn’t but it is better than buying it all new and better than it all ending up in land fill. I usually buy in charity shops because that helps everybody.

If you’ve owned it before I am probably wearing it now. Has it been challenging? Not in the way I thought. I never go into ordinary shops anymore. I am not tempted by what’s in the window. I don’t like the idea that there are 15 shirts all the same on the rack. I love the colour and variety of charity shops.

I have bought things that still have the label on them, who knows why anyone buys something and actually never even wears it and takes it to a charity shop. I have bought stuff that is tatty and comfortable and stuff that is shiny and new.  Mostly though I have bought stuff, and it has not felt like I am getting second best, if anything it has made me think a lot more about what I wear and whether I can actually make something work.  

I have a rule that if I own it I wear it. This is proving challenging given the volume I now have.

I express myself differently everyday through my clothes. I have learned to style it up and style it out. Yes- you can wear that into the office, people will comment but only usually nicely and who cares if they don’t.  That is simply a reflection of their lack of bravery in clothing choices. Although I do admit, on some days, no one sits next to me on the train. I also see that as a bonus.

I haven’t really thrown anything away either. There is usually a reason you bought something. Remember once you paid money for it so chances are once you liked it. Clothes are like your husband, there is a reason you married him, take him out of the drawer and try and find that reason again. If you really can’t image why or how then give it away to a charity shop.

I have a dress that is really only suited to a 1920’s cowboy themed party. I have never been invited to one in all the time I have been on the planet.  Yet I did find a way to wear it-I actually arranged a charity day at work-‘if you own it you have to wear it’ was the theme and we raised money for a mental health charity. I wore it that day with a stylish cowboy hat (questionably stylish I would say) I had borrowed. I may yet wear it again, without the hat. If not it has to go to someone who does get invited to 1920’s themed cowboy parties.

Go through that cupboard, look at that dress, see those trousers, style ‘em up, style it out, you are the queen of your own fashion statement. Save the planet. Shop somewhere different and feel the sweet sensation that your clothes are part of a story that is not just yours, they belonged to someone else and have their own story to tell. They have been places you haven’t (more than just the inside of a washing machine), you are part of a chain, a fabric that is passing through lives, yours and maybe after you, someone elses. Go shop, go charity shop.