Pretty Words

We were sitting in the window, and the sun filled the room. You looked so serious, so sad.

‘I don’t want any more pretty words,’ you said. And you watched me, waiting.

Then I remembered how much I had loved you: so intensely, with such intensity, that it was unreal, or misplaced. I thought there must be something wrong with me, to love so much.

I wanted to tell you, over and over. But you had the laundry to do. I had to take out the bins.

But then I realised it was not that my love was too intense, or some form of projection: it was just love, and I had never felt so much love.

In those early days I wrote you texts, emails, letters, poems, songs. I wanted to sing my love to world.

But you sat down and looked at me and said enough is enough. I don’t want any more pretty words.

So I leant forward and held you, and I held you as tight as I could.  I think that’s what you wanted.


Moth Island 1967

I’ve just read Tomas Transtromer’s poem ‘Breathing Space July’. It’s a beautiful, unfathomable poem. And there is one line I particularly like: ‘as the islands crawl like huge moths over the globe.’ Moths the size of islands.

I have a cold so am lying in bed coughing and spluttering. The moths crawl into the poem, huge, ponderous, almost mechanical. And they clatter over the surface of the globe, but they are islands.

When we lived on the island of Moth, back in the nineteen sixties, we used to think it had the most wonderful climate. It was only later we discovered the island was a huge mechanical moth operated by the poet Tomas Transtromer. He had several of them crawling across the globe. If he liked you he’d position your island so it enjoyed the sun and a breeze, maybe even a shower at night to keep the land fresh, and your coffee pot topped up.

If he didn’t like you, I imagine he situated your island in the Antarctic, or the Atacama Desert. I don’t know, I’m guessing.

We used to listen to the music of the islanders, they sang sitting up on the huge antennae, as if these were limbs of a tree, and sing their gentle songs, strumming instruments that looked like tiny harps, occasionally looking out to sea or closing their eyes to express some particular emotion.

Winter Solstice

The longest night of the year, and I haven’t slept. I haven’t slept because there is too much in my head. All that stuff, whatever it is, the labyrinths of cells and axions, of synapses busy talking about themselves, as they are now.  The cerebral cortex, with its billions of neurons, snapping away, all the stuff, popping and fizzing like a soluble aspirin. Plop. This is all part of the fizz. This. This. This. And so I can’t sleep. A silent voice, an array of images, endless activity that is neither of these, something kinaesthetic or nebulous, but I can’t sleep, and it’s the longest night of the year.

Fragments #2

You probably drink too much black coffee. You don’t smoke. You keep fit by taking the dog for long walks.

When you were small you saw a shooting star and were convinced it was for you. You tried to imagine where it landed. In a pond with a hiss. Or clattering down a rooftop a few streets away.

People never took you seriously, or seriously enough. You had the big secret and you weren’t going to tell anyone. You used to write messages in your food.

You prefer Wednesdays to Thursdays. The clouds gather over the sea. Someone has left a teabag in the sink.

I saw you in the supermarket. You seemed to be taking your time. You stopped suddenly and gazed into the middle distance, it looked as if you were concentrating on something. Perhaps you had forgotten your list.

You’re walking the dog along the front. The sea crashes against the cliffs, several homes are perilously close to the edge, a couple of bungalows and a large white detached house. They’ll have to move out soon, lose everything. Can you imagine that? You go into the kitchen to put the kettle on and there’s nothing, just the sea, and everything inside starts to slide, you try clinging on to something, a cupboard door, a table, but it’s all moving inexorably into the huge, wild, hungry, grey waves.

It was rosemary. You need to remember rosemary.

Fragments #1

There was a picture on that wall. At least I thought there was. It was a photograph of a silent movie star. I’m sure it was there, above the fireplace. Clara Bow?

Or was it an art print? A Dutch still life?

Do you think Rembrandt will be remembered in five hundred years? Or Shakespeare in  a thousand?

I haven’t been in this room for years. The sofa was there, the bookshelves along that wall.

You could hear the cathedral bells. And on summer mornings voices from the cafe, newpapers folded against the breeze.

It was a big city: Paris, or Berlin, maybe Brussels.

I can’t remember. I get so many places, voices, names muddled up. Not that they matter now.

I bought this jacket then, I still wear it. I’ve never had it cleaned. It’s stained with the juice of a prawn that exploded as I pulled it apart. Ten, fifteen years ago?

That prawn left its mark.

Binary Stars

Binary stars, forever spinning around each other. But now almost silent. Silent, but forever spinning around each other.

In orbit, we are forever falling, forever moving apart.

We fall, but we are pulled apart.

Without gravity, we would fly off into space along a straight line. With gravity we fall into each other. We are caught in a tug of war between these two states. Twin stars.

In each other’s light, never without the other, but still, so silent.

Lonely, but the other star is still here, still so present it burns a white radiance. It is impossible to see anything but the other. Everywhere the other.

In every face and in every street. In every step. In every room. In every book and every breath. In every word. Every fizzing atom.

Twin stars desperate to meet, to touch, to find each other again, to become one star.

A dance that goes on for eternity.  But it must end. It must end soon. The dance must end. And the stars, eventually, collapse, either into themselves, or into each other’s arms.

I will hold out my arms.

I will catch you.