Exo-skelete!

Rhythm

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Heart

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Have been thinking
Turning it over

In my mind.
The outside
Covering.

Soft and permeable
No use
In this harsh world

I cut myself

Bleed.

Drip-drip-drip-drip

Like a dodgy

Tap-drip-drip-drip

To prove my point
I want to-I
have made the word

up-‘exo-skelete’!

To go from this
Soft outer coating
To something

Armoured

To bury my pulse
Beneath a heavy
framework

My pulse

Dot-dot-dot-dot

You are questioning
my idea

dot-dot-dot-dot

Sat in my chair
this afternoon
I thought my bones
outwards

I expanded them
I thought them out
in fragments

Out-out-out-out

Through the pores of my skin

Out-out-out-out

Armour, body armour
On the outside

And now I sit here
Enthroned
Resplendent
Complete

An ivory tower
A tower of bone
A hardness
Worn on the outside

I wake from dubious
slumber
Assured of who I am
What I am

I stand to shout

But

Crackcrackcrackcrack

My bones are brittle
Old
It is not how I thought
It would be

I am a seething mass of blood and organs on the floor
The dog comes and licks me away
The rug is stained forever

And I am gone

Gone-gone-gone-gone

And come back as a man…

I try and breath fire into my words
I try and find it deep down inside of me
As I hang the washing out

Again

You have to pay your dues they say
You are not a prodigy
There is no big break coming

You are just an oddity

Those people are truly talented
They spent time and learned their craft
In the hours you spent washing up

They were making art

You’re never going to make it
There aren’t enough hours in the day
You should just give up now

You should walk away

They sat at their desks
Pored over every word
You were doing ironing

They were being heard

I know you think you have a voice
You have something to say
But trust me when I tell you this

Housework doesn’t go away

The dinner it needs cooking
You need to clean their shoes
There’s no time to be a poet

You ‘re always going to lose

You should resist the urge
To put your words on paper
Theirs cleaning to be done

And it won’t wait til later

There isn’t time to write
Forget that funny life plan
Perhaps you’ll be lucky in the next life

and come back as a man.

The Chair Part 2

I have uploaded the footage to a website. Malevolent furniture.com. If you google that and nothing comes up then you know they have won.

THEY HAVE WON!

I am sitting on the floor of my kitchen, just looking at it. I wonder if it is looking back. It can’t, can it. I know it can’t. See, I am still sane and rational whatever anyone else says. I know chairs don’t have eyes.

NO EYES.

I have put the other chairs and table in the other room. It is just me and the chair now. In the kitchen.

I only really know some of what happened. But I will share it with you before I sit down in the chair. If it hadn’t been the same police officer twice I would never have known. He noticed how I spoke of only one child but in the picture in the hallway there are two children. Two children-where is the other one?

There was another abandoned car on the driveway-two in three months and he had ‘concerns’. I wanted him to sit down, invited him to sit in the chair but he wouldn’t. He stood up. He was not taken in. He lost patience with my evasive answers.

He made me go before a court on some trumped up charge. I told the judge, I told the judge I thought it was the chair.

The chair.

The judge referred me to the doctor and that’s how I ended up here. On the floor of my kitchen with the chair as my only company.

The doctor did not think I was sane. He thought I needed help. But I am sane. I do not need help, at least not the kind he thinks I need.

And you need to be careful. Its the chairs.

ITS THE CHAIRS!

I can say it out loud now because it won’t matter soon. When was the last time you went anywhere where there wasn’t a chair? Only it doesn’t have to be a chair, because they have different names but they all do the same thing-chair, seat, stool, they are all in it together. Shopping mall-seats, cinema-seats, buses, cars-all have seats. You work in an office right-all day-sitting on a chair. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And they are in control.

IN CON-TROL.

So I tell the doctor this, I say, everywhere I go there are chairs, everywhere I GO. He denies it! Denies it in the face of all the evidence. But they are everywhere. You know they are. I refuse to sit in the chair in his office. He tells me my case is unique. I have an odd kind of paranoia. But I know.

I KNOW.

He furrowed his brow. I know he didn’t believe me. But everywhere-everywhere there are chairs. Chairs, seats, stools. It doesn’t matter they are everywhere. Bikes have seats, toilets have seats-dear god, seats with holes, its a very bad idea. I went to the library-chairs, the cafe-chairs, friends houses-chairs-they are everywhere!!!! Yet still the doctor did not BELIEVE ME.

After the first few sessions of therapy he realised he wasn’t getting through. He wanted to come to my house and see my chairs. Specifically the chair. And I am so clever.

SO CLEVER

My husband isn’t here anymore. Did I tell you that? We had an argument about the chair. I don’t remember the details but he left suddenly and I haven’t heard from him since. I think. But I know that you’re thinking-it could have been and it definitely could have been.

The thing is when I knew the doctor was coming. I KNEW. I rigged up a camera in my kitchen. I did it in the dark where I thought the chair couldn’t see. But then chairs can’t see can they.

CAN THEY? NO!

How do they communicate??? Have you ever walked into a room and the chairs have moved around. Was that them or did someone move them? Do you know? Can you prove it?

And then he came, THE DOCTOR came to my house. A house visit.

DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Doctors do not come to houses anymore. YOU have to believe this. He came to my house. The doctor, he totally DID. He came because the chair wanted him to come. Its like he was summoned. SUMMONED. He came in and looked at the chair-then all cocky and brazen-he sat on it.

HE SAT ON IT.

I know he was reluctant to, I can sense he was repulsed by it. Everyone is. BUTT

HE SAT DOWN ON IT.

But the thing is. I filmed it. I have the footage. One moment the doctor is sitting in the chair, the next he is gone. Like magic. WHERE DID HE GO? THE CHAIR?

The chair knows. THE CHAIR KNOWS.

KNOWS I have footage. So now it is me and the chair-in the kitchen. And I am going to sit on it. I know I am, because I have no choice. Because the chair is in control. The chair is in control of me. I can’t help myself. I have to sit on the chair. Because the chair is so in control, I sacrificed my child to the chair. Two children and now there is only one and where is that one. I can’t remember.

SAVE YOURSELF!

Watch the footage. Say it over and over, ‘No I will stand thank you.’ Make it your mantra, ‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’ Don’t just sit down whenever the seat is offered to you. Fight back. Stand up. RAGE AGAINST THE FURNITURE!

BECAUSE.

Because the chairs are winning.

I can’t resist. I know I can’t resist. I have to sit in that chair. This is the end for me. But not for you.

SAY IT OUT LOUD,

‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’

RESIST, RESIST, RESIST.

I have uploaded the footage. If you are reading this, you are my only hope. The chairs are winning and we are all going to die sitting down.

I am going towards the chair now. I am sorry. I have let you all down.

I am going to sit quietly now.

The Chair

Do you have malevolent furniture-how do you know?

There’s a wooden chair in my kitchen. Actually there are four, a set, around a little wooden table. We use the table and chairs at breakfast but otherwise eat in the dining room.

There are three of us. Which means there is one chair that is never used. One left over chair. A solo. A loner. But its become obvious to me that it is more than each of us just having a favourite spot. If you move the chairs, that chair is still the chair that everyone avoids. No one has sat in that chair. Ever.

It’s like it has human repellent sprayed on it.

Not a family member, not a guest. No one. Ever. It is an unused chair. It has experienced a total failure to fulfil its reason for existence. I wonder if there are other chairs like it. Elsewhere. In the houses of other people.

People I don’t know.

Even at parties, and we’ve had a few, that chair is avoided by those reprobates who hover in the kitchen, the ones avoiding the dancing and drinking everyone else enjoys. It is so repellent that I never even offer it to guests anymore. I have thought of selling it but then I think of it alone without its wooden siblings. I can’t seem to part with it. Plus I have high hopes for its reform. I have been thinking about it. I am sure it just needs to be sat on once and then.

Then everybody will want it.

Anyways I have decided this week I am going to break with tradition. I have invited my very obliging friend Bea around. And. I am setting it up so she must sit in the chair.

You heard me, I am setting it up, so she MUST SIT ON THE CHAIR.

She is arriving at 10 past eleven. Which is very soon. I have put the other two chairs in the dining room. I have put a cake in the oven so we must drink tea in here until its cooked. Me in my chair and her.

Her in that chair.

I look at the chair. Bea is so eager to please. It seems such a nice idea that she should be the one to break it in. I am not manipulative you know, its just she is the most obliging of my friends.

IT’S ONLY A CHAIR.

That’s the doorbell. Time to swing into action. I invite her in and head for the kitchen. So far, so good. I see her look slightly disconcerted at the chairs. I ignore it. I begin to make the tea. I have sat my scarf over my chair as a point of ownership. I can see her hesitate. Look at the chair. Hesitate. But I know she will not take my chair. She is too polite to move my scarf plus I must sit next to the oven to observe my precious cake.

I invite her to sit down.

She shuffles her feet a bit. I invite her to sit down again and point at the chair. She says she’d rather stand. I am not defeated. Not yet anyway. I put the water in the tea pot and wait for it to brew. We are both standing. I can see the look of reluctance on her face. She does not want to sit in the chair.

I will not be diverted, I will succeed.

I put biscuits at the centre of the table. She has to lean across the chair to get them. I see her recoil as she touches the back of it. It is an odd chair. We are at something of an impasse. Both of us standing, pretending this is not happening.

But this is happening and I will succeed.

She suggests moving into the dining room. I say no. My daughter is carefully placed there doing homework plus I need to stay with the cake. Honestly I tend the cake as if I am giving birth to a child.

I make the tea and put her cup down on the table. I put mine down and sit down in my chair. I sense her desperation, her confusion, I see it being overridden by her desire to please.

Her desire to be liked.

I can taste victory. She looks at me with a plea for reason. I pretend not to see it. I look into my tea nonchalantly. I take a bite of my biscuit. Nonchalantly. Triumph is within my grasp. That chair will be sat on before this cup of tea is finished.

And then she does it.

Slowly. But she does it. I see her reach for the back of the chair. Pull it out. Slide into it. My face breaks into a triumphant smile as hers distorts as if I have betrayed her. It’s a chair, I want to say.

Momentarily there is a vision in my head.

A child. My child, a child I know is mine but a child I no longer have is sitting in that chair. I am pushing her into it because someone must use that chair. That chair. I feel horror. Its momentary. It passes. I look at the chair.

The empty chair.

I blink and look into my tea. I feel sure of a triumph that eludes me somehow. I have won something but I don’t know what. My mind goes blank. Oddly there is another cup of tea across from mine.

I seem to have made myself two cups of tea.

How weird. I have put one on the other side of the table. As if someone were sitting in that chair. Which is odd because no one ever sits in that chair. There is something totally repugnant about that chair.

That chair.

I pour the tea down the sink. I get the other chairs back from the dining room. I can’t remember why I put them there anyway. I look at all the chairs in the kitchen. The fourth one, the odd one, always looks fatter than the others. As is its just eaten something.

I must get rid of it one day.

Later that day I have to call the police. There is a strange car parked in our driveway. I really should sell that chair I mutter to myself as I cook the dinner. Yet somehow I feel like it has a part of me, a part of my life in it, despite never having sat in it.

Mort-i-fied

I feel like an outsider.

In my own skin

As if I tugged it on over my organs this morning

Fresh and new.

I don’t recognise the face?

It is peaceful and calm

But there are parts that are not mine,

The nose perhaps.

Perhaps I will own the nose

But the rest cannot be mine.

I look at the wrinkled hands

They should be red from years of washing up

The water was always too hot

Red from detergent overuse

Flaky from hanging out wet washing

Yet they look pale and unyielding

The hands I decry as not mine.

The legs, more stumpy,

not long and elegant as I remember.

The toenails,

a variety of yellow and greens,

browns and grey.

Those are not the colours of a rainbow

the colour of toes worn down

years of shoes that never fitted,

shoes that were damp and fusty.

Before trainers were de rigueur.

I want to look at my breasts

They are covered by the dress

but I can see they are sagging

down and to the side.

These flaps of skin that once affronted me,

both literally and in metaphor,

they were so often in the way when I was young,

These saggy heaps of flesh are not mine.

I wonder at my ability to look so calm.

People mill around.

They are looking at me,

but not really seeing me.

I can hear them talking.

they are all talking about me.

Nice words.

None of it is about how I look.

I wonder what crazed event this is.

Is it a dream?

A place where everyone talks of how much they like you.

This is definitely not the internet.

Then someone hands me a program

I look carefully at the words.

‘Oh, I see,’

I say loudly but no one hears.

This is my funeral.

The man in the van

It was dark. And cold. I clutched my coat around me. I walked in the dappled fug of the street lights.

The van slowed down as it drove past me. I focussed on staying warm. Ignoring it. It went past. I turned into the side street. Hoping.

Yet somehow knowing.

I had been here before. It only had to go right at the bottom of the other street, right again and it would meet me where that street intersects with this side street.

I walked on. I could hear footsteps behind me but I daren’t look. They might help. They might not. I walked slowly.

I saw its headlights just as I got to the junction. The van turned into the street. It slowed down. It was right behind me. Its head lights following me. Tracking me.

There were houses on this street. I could knock on a door, ask for help. Say what. There’s a man in a van following me. I’m not sure what they would do.

He would simply drive away anyhow. Wait for me in the next street. My husband was at home but I could hardly call him.

I could still hear the footsteps behind me, perhaps they would help. Perhaps there was safety there.

Perhaps not.

I walked. He drove. Quietly, slowly behind me. I walked just in the beam of his headlights. Deliberately. I felt in my coat for my gloves. I tried to forget the inevitable.

I could no longer hear the footsteps behind me. They must have turned up the alley. It occurred to me then that I should have done that. Taken the long way home. The safe way home.

Then he said something. It barely registered. Something like, ‘come here love’ perhaps.

I was momentarily rooted to the spot. I turned to look at him but was blinded by the lights. I felt my feet approaching the van even though I didn’t really want to. There was an inevitability to it.

What was I doing?

I saw his face. Looked into his eyes. I wanted to see kindness. It was not in the gaze that met mine.

It was quick. The neck was broken, the blood drained from the body in a matter of seconds.

I reached in and switched off the vehicle and took the keys. A trophy. The others said I shouldn’t. It was too risky,  but had they read the conviction rates.

I told myself it wasn’t my fault.

He should not have been driving alone at night. He should not have driven in the vicinity of a woman. He had most certainly approached me. He was not wearing a scarf. In fact his shirt did not even have a collar. What century was he living in?

I found it hard to explain why I did not want dinner again. I hid the keys in a pot with all the other keys.

I tell myself one day I will stop. But I know that I will not.

The suits of old men

Olive shirt,
Dark green trousers
Jacket, brown tie

In this heat?

He hobbles towards me
Clack, clack, clack
Perhaps it’s a war wound

‘Not all of them’
The words ring in my head
Its how I was raised

I smile at him

Welcomed
He smiles back
The twinkle in his eye

Not gone yet

What does that twinkle mean
Cleavage
I don’t know

Him

What if to somebody
He is him
The one who did

It.

It could be so many things
A grope in the dark
An unwanted hand on the shoulder

Or worse

How can I know
Blue suit, Brown suit,
Grey suit, suited

In this heat?

Did he take photographs when no one knew
Put them all round the office
Was it him?

Once

Did he court Judy
Then marry Jane.
I am still smiling

Clack, clack, clack

He is getting closer
I want to turn away.
To yell and scream and throw things

For her sake

But its like armour
That formal attire
The suits of old men

In this heat?

Its how I was raised
I have no defence

I have no evidence

I doubt

And he,
He walks on by
Unmolested, unchanged,

Uncharged

And me,
Me, I walk on
I am undone, unstilled

Unsated.

By the suits of old men.

 

Ten green bottles: Sating the beer gods

A man walks into a bar

There are ten green bottles on the wall
Hanging on the wall
As if the beer gods got angry.
He looks at them
Glad he is neither green nor a bottle
He gets a drink, sits down.
As he slides into his chair

One of the bottles falls off the wall
Smashes on the floor
No one notices.

He looks over
There is a man with pastry on his face,
smoking an old fashioned pipe.
He seems obsessed with what is on the screen
It is children in some town
He can’t make out the name.
H-something

Another bottle falls,
smashes on the floor
No one notices.

There is a woman roaming the bar
Selling bells and cockleshells
She says she grew them herself.
There’s also a rumour she sells maids
You can buy three in a row
She’s a pimp

Another bottle falls,
No one notices.

There is a distraught woman
Handing out posters for her lost sheep
No one has seen it
Although someone thinks they might have eaten it
Didn’t her mother serve lamb at Christmas?
No one will meet her gaze

Another bottle falls

There is a couple in the corner
She is battered and bruised
He is in a wheel chair and paralysed
He just keeps saying her name,
Jill, it was an accident
She inches further away every time.
She is going to leave him

Another bottle falls

The barman has bare feet
They are cut to pieces
From walking on the broken glass
When he walks out from behind the bar
He leaves bloody footprints on the floor

There is a man counting the bottles
As they fall
He is the statistician
Even gods have auditors these days
He is here to count,
He is here for the process
He is not concerned with health and safety

A woman comes in wearing hefty shoes
She sends the bleeding bar man out
And takes the bar over herself

Two bottles fall in quick succession
That’s not supposed to happen
Not even enough time to register
Although the statistician makes a grand gesture
A stroke of pen
As if to say,
I counted them both.

The man sips his drink
Outside a spider climbs up the wall
Falls, climbs again
Is eventually drowned in the rain
As a reward for his perseverance.
He is the last spider ever

Another bottle falls

There’s a shattered man with an egg shaped head in the corner
Soldiers fuss over him
But it is clear he is dead
They are fussing over a corpse
Trying to hold his brains in
where his head is clearly broken
They squabble as an eyeball rolls down his cheek

Another bottle falls

There’s a short plump woman
She is dressed like a teapot
She is on the cover of Vogue
Diversity in fashion
Another woman sits in the corner
She is plaiting the tails of three mice.
Their dead eyeless bodies in front of her.
A little trail of blood oozing out of each one
where the tail was severed.
She is smiling, its her hobby

Nursery tales are misogyny except

There’s a man,
A full grown man
Curled up in the corner
Enjoying the sensation
Of fingering a pie
Is that a plum or a cherry
Everyone looks away
At his trousers splayed open

The man who came into the bar sips his drink
Scratches his head
Wipes the dust from his shoulder
Puts his hands on his knees
And taps his feet together
As if he wants to go home

He does that all again

Head, shoulders, knees, toes,

And as he drains his glass, again

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

And then another bottle falls

There are no more bottles on the wall

The beer gods are sated

The man gets up and goes home.

A moment with the darkness

I look at the body. Everybody always said he was so full of life. Bubble. Pep. Verve. No one can believe he is dead. No one ever said I was full of life. I have always assumed that meant the flipside.

That I was full of death.

Perhaps in looking at him lying there dead, I am looking in a mirror. Is this how I look to the world? I get that these are thoughts I should not be thinking at a funeral. No one seems to have noticed I am here. You looked right through me. Its as if I am walking among the dead all the time. In your defence I want to be overcome with grief .  

But I am not.

I want to sob loudly and profusely. To let it all out. To do the occasion justice. But it is not my way. I have shed a tear. Just the one. A restrained one. Yet I tell myself a meaningful one.

I am stricken, in my own way.

If he sucked the juice out of life in his 28 years, I have sipped slowly in the corner in the dark. Where no one saw. I am not bothered. Everyone is wearing black.

Except for me.

I have chosen deep purple. Odd because I always wear black. I needed some way of differentiating. It is the most colourful I have been in awhile and I doubt my mother approves.

My mother never approves. Approved.

The word approved comes out in my head. Quiet tears streak my mothers face in an endless stream. They are all for him. I know what they think, what they are all thinking. Why take him? Why the beautiful golden child? I don’t pay attention to the end of their sentences. I want to scream -perhaps he got bored with your adoration? 

Your endless adoration.  

Perhaps he liked me most because I thought he was at best ordinary and at worst pathetic. Perhaps that is why I was there when it happened and you weren’t. You were somewhere else. Even now I think you are looking right through me.  

Instead of at me.

It is true he would have brightened this room in a way I never will. I walk with the darkness like a cloak. He walked in the light like the sun. It occurs to me that in that moment, the one does not exist without the other. The light without the dark.  

And then I realise the truth.

I look around me again. My mother hated me wearing black. Today of all days she dressed me in purple. I see again the stream of tears streaking down her face. Just for him? And you looked right through me. You didn’t see me. And now I hear all the words. I finally listen to the end of the sentences. Why take the beautiful golden child-too.

Two.

Two caskets. Two bodies. He was full of life, light. He has dimmed and died. I am full of death as always. Unchanged. I stand here. Unseen. Only I see now.

In some worlds the light does not need the dark.

Death changed him. It did not change me. I am gone to my corner to sip at my straw for eternity. As always, no one notices.

Crush: A romantic tale

She sees him
He sees her
Eyes meet
Across
A crowded room

Crush

She’s too shy to speak
He can’t find the words
He sees another girl
Gutted
She is gutted

Crushed

It’s years later
In a cafe
They meet again
Hackney
Over a coffee

Crush

He works in a bank
She won’t be interested
He gives her his number
Anyways
She doesn’t call

Crushed

She leaves the dimwit she’s with
Picks up the phone
Puts it down, calls him
Eventually
Together now, at last

Crush

Married, kidded, bored
She wonders what she ever saw
Chicks, clowns and housework
Drudgery
Endless bloody drudgery

Crushed

In a supermarket
A stranger, a possibility
She hands out her number
Unexpectedly
At her age

Crush

There’s just a note
About the cat
Nothing else
Silence
No explanation, she is gone

Crushed

Their daughters wedding
Years later
That old feeling, there
Still
They are together again

Crush

Driving home together
They take the bend
Too fast, too late,
Truck
In the way, head on

Crushed.