Even the trees

I remember the first time I saw it. He was desperate, you could see he was desperate, that bit wasn’t unusual. It was the stomach that was odd. The branch wrapped around the middle of his body, the bulge above it, distended, hanging over it, his stomach. He was held fast, his feet long since lost and a branch loose around his neck, another coming out of his mouth, sprouting leaves. It looked like he was vomiting foliage.

You could see the desperation in his eyes. He was hungry, but the branch had grown to fill his mouth and so there was no way of feeding him. What point would feeding him serve anyway, it would it only prolong the inevitable. He was being absorbed into the tree and there was nothing that could stop it. You could see his hands had melded into the trunk and didn’t exist anymore and if you came back tomorrow, a little more of his arm would be tree.

If there was an escape, we had not found it. The trees had proven impervious to the axe, they had withstood our flames, we had even tried talking to them, just stood there opening and closing our mouth with words but there was no evidence they heard and it did not stop.

It was mostly men at first, because we needed wood and they got the wood, and the trees had always been so passive, so agreeable to what we did. Or so we thought. It was not all trees, the majority of them just stood mutely, as trees do, but these active attack timbers were new. You couldn’t tell the passive trees from the aggressive ones and worse when you cut into one that had absorbed someone, sometimes there was an outline in the tree, other times blood would pour out, or there were organs just sitting within the trunk and you would wonder if there hadn’t been some semblance of humanity left, some sentience that you had swung your axe against.

Not long after it started, it was alleged they adapted new tactics, letting themselves be cut, became the joists of some house and in the night crept down from their roof top space or their wall and took children. You simply woke up to find your child being absorbed into a beam, of course they were static, the beam couldn’t up and run away but your child was still gone. That was rumour and I never saw any evidence of it.

We were becoming a world of fewer and fewer people. There was nothing we could do, there was no cure, if anything the number of trees doing it was increasing. It was a hard thing to observe, a sort of rapid growth around someone as they went near a tree, a kind of snarling ensnarement that was strong and then a slow absorption over a period of days.

The woods were alive with the howling of victims until the inevitable branch filled the mouth, some trees seemed to revel in the idea of the screaming and the branch to fill the mouth was the last thing they did. Others seemed bothered by the noise and did it quickly.

I had a son of twelve, I did not let him go out often. The house had stood so long and I knew its beams, they would not transform in the night. Still I was careful with the wood for the fire, but I knew it is inevitable. I watched him grow, watched many die and knew the inevitable must happen. There were fewer of us and the trees were taking victims younger and younger. What to do?

Then came the day he simply did not come home and I ran to the road and searched like so many others and there he was and he was so far gone. I could not hold his hand or feed him. I could only see the terror in his eyes and stroke his arm and tell him it would soon be over. It was mercifully short.

The trees began in earnest on the women then and sometimes the animals. It was as if the trees had turned against all forms of life that moved. I had seen so much, so many suffer, I did not want to die that way. At the end I did not even think I could trust the trusses that held up my own house, I could not bring myself to light a fire out of fear. Many simply gave in, just walked up and placed themselves before a tree. It did not always work, the trees were whimsical, they knew they had won.

I could not bring myself to do that, I could not imagine how I could live through the agony of absorption, the slow solidification of my body into something firm and hard, the creeping stillness, the days of hunger until your blood merged into sap, your final taste just wood and leaves, the joy of sound silenced by a think branch on your tongue. I knew I could not bear such things, feet, hands merged into trunk, limbs melted into bark, torso melded into wood, none of it worked for me.

Instead I went to the river. The river is forbidden, was forbidden once. I dipped my toes in the water. I waded out into the depths. I lay down in the water and I let the river dissolve me. I felt myself come apart, each molecule of my body drifting apart from the other, the parts that held me together overwhelmed by the sheer amount of liquid I was drowning in. I felt the water seeping into me and I felt myself merging into it. I was at peace with the world, there was nothing left of me. I became water instead of wood. I joined with the drops of the river and floated out to sea.

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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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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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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.