All our elements
fill these fields
with flowery petals
ticklish as feathers
the thrill of us each
running off the leash
in great big overcoats
across fragrant seas
through skies above
the fluff unfurling
that by evening
fires will see us
I should've known better. I should never have clicked. I fell down the rabbit hole and got lost. I disregarded all the warnings. I know it was stupid. But the click-bait these days is oh-so-clever. How can people resist?
I should definitely have known. I was intrigued though. My interest was piqued. I clicked on one of those articles about race. It was a kind of provocative title, entirely designed to inflame and cause debate, or maybe offence and hatred. It was obvious. The danger signs were flashing at me but I totally ignored them. So, I clicked. And I read. And I let my outrage rise to the surface. How could they say this? I was offended. Damn my stupid offence. But really? I had to go to the comments section.
That was the step too far. Why did I have to go to the comments section? I could already feel the darkness slithering up my limbs like sticky road tar. If it got to my head... No, I wouldn't let it get that far, I said. I would just read a little and then I could take a shower. I would be fine. I would just buy some drain unblocker for afterwards. It would be totally OK.
The smell was beginning to burn in my nostrils. I still had time to read. Oh my god, what the...? These people! I started to formulate a response. I figured if I typed quickly I could get it out and then clean off this muck. I was shivering a little now, the cold ooze starting to get to me. Fast fingers, I thought. But they were sticking to the keys.
Someone added another comment before I could type 'enter' on mine. It made my blood boil. I was starting to see red but then I felt the black liquid pooling in my eye and it was too late.
Shit! I should have been more careful!
I fell down through the dark abyss and landed right in the middle of the war.
Comments were flying left right and centre. I ran to the side to take cover but my slimy feet slipped and I tripped right in front of some sort of white nationalist. He was hurling abuse with ease and, by god, he was lightning quick. Then I looked down and saw that he had brought a box of comments bombs with him. I ducked and narrowly missed being hit right in the face and then I rushed off to get away from the projectiles.
I ran down the road towards a crowd I could see in the distance. They seemed to be gathered around a woman who was standing on a wooden box. I joined them for a moment to see what was happening. The woman was speaking to them but they were prodding her with giant fingers attached to long sticks.
I shouted out, “Hey, what are you doing?” but one of the crowd turned towards me and snarled. He had a green face with huge, misshapen ears and large pointed teeth. I immediately stepped back and narrowly avoided his large green hands grabbing at me.
“Come on, let's get out of here!” I shouted to the woman.
She shook her head. “No, I'm not giving up,” she said. She lifted up a bucket and started throwing fish to the crowd. They fought each other to grab the fish, gobbling them up as soon as they could and then carried on prodding with their long sticks. The stench was vile. I wretched and then decided to leave the woman to her own devices.
A little further down the road I could hear music. It sounded like people were having a better time somewhere else. I followed the music, hopeful that it would lead me to some way home and the chance to get cleaned up.
It was from a nightclub. Yes, I thought. Some normality at last. The people here looked like they were having fun, chatting, taking selfies, looking great. Maybe someone here would know how to get out?
I approached a girl with long blonde hair and a very cute outfit.
“Can you help me get out?” I asked.
She looked at me and laughed. “Why would you want to leave here?” she said. She lifted her phone to take a selfie but her chin fell off just before she could snap the photo.
“Oops,” she said, bending down to lift it up. She placed it back on her face, smiled and took the photo.
I looked around. She wasn't the only one with bits falling off. In the corner a few girls were gluing body parts back together and a guy was trying to replace his teeth into his gum sockets. Another group near the club doorway were helping each other get their asses back together.
This is ridiculous, I thought. I left the nightclub and headed to a nearby park where I could hear someone speaking on a PA system. There was a guy near the gate collecting large sums of money to enter the park. I walked past and on around the park fence until I found a spot where I could sneak in.
On a stage in the middle of the park there were several speakers, all passing the microphone to each other and saying the same things in repeat. Behind them were large neon signs with the words “success”, “abundance”, and “secrets” flashing slowly in bright colours.
“Join my tribe,” one said.
“Join my group,” the next said.
“I'll lead you,” said another.
The people in front were gathering in groups, laughing, patting each other on the back and then handing money up to the speakers on the stage who were smiling from ear to ear.
I walked up to the edge of the main crowd and stood beside a man who was clapping after each speaker said something new.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you tell me how to get out of here?”
He turned to look at me, then screwed his face up. “Uh, I think you need a bit of a wash, no offence.”
“OK then, can you tell me where I can find a shower?” I asked.
He pointed to the edge of the park at a small building. “In there, but it might not be very pleasant.” He turned back towards the stage and began clapping again. I spotted some security guards strolling through the crowd and decided it was definitely a bad idea to stick around. Slipping into the shadows I headed towards the flat roofed building at the edge of the park.
I could smell stale urine before I even got to the door of the public toilet. Inside a blue light flickered and I could see some legs sticking out from one of the cubicles.
I stepped inside and pushed open the cubicle door. Jesus, I thought. “Are you alright?” I said.
The woman on the floor murmured slightly but didn't open her eyes.
“Don't mind her,” a voice said from in front of the sinks. “She'll be alright.”
I turned to face the woman. Her face lit up when she saw me and she smiled like the Joker.
“Frances!” she called to the other woman. “You might wanna wake up! Got some goodies!”
Frances murmured and shuffled a bit inside the cubicle.
“I, er... just want to know where the shower is,” I said.
The woman's eyes flashed to the corner of the room but her expression turned to one of concern.
“But why would you want to shower? Frances! Come on!”
The door of the cubicle opened and Frances began to crawl on the floor towards us.
“I guess I'll just go on ahead then,” I said, edging my way towards the cubicle in the corner.
The woman grabbed my arm but I pulled away and she lost her grip but some of the black goop was left on her fingers. She licked her hand desperately and then her eyes widened.
“Frances! This is good stuff! Grade A!”
I backed away as quickly as I could and turned on the shower. The woman rushed after me, grabbing my arm again but I broke free once more before she could pull me away. I placed my head under the shower gasping at the coldness of the water.
Frances was on the ground, suddenly finding a second wind and crawling towards me, her bedraggled hair covering her face. She grabbed at my ankle and pulled, almost dragging me to the ground with her but I kicked and made contact with her forehead. I got back under the shower again and started to scrub. The other woman sank to her knees desperately scrabbling at the dark gunk as it fell off my body and onto the floor.
“No!” the woman was yelling. “Don't wash it all away!”
Frances began to scream and cry. The woman joined her. I stood for a moment, watching two desperate figures try to salvage as much of the dark junk as they could. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, the room went black.
I woke up in a hospital bed to the sound of the slow, regular beat of a heart monitor.
“Ah, you're awake. I'm Doctor Reed.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I'm afraid we almost lost you.” The doctor lifted up the chart on the end of my bed and made a quick note. She looked at me and smiled. “Lucky for you that we had that electric cut.” She placed the chart back on the bed rail. “You're going to be OK now, but no more connection.”
“No more connection?” I asked.
“That's right. No phones, no laptops, no social media. No internet. OK?”
She handed me a card.
Connection Rehab Centre
Getting People Back in the Here and Now
“You're one of the lucky ones,” she said. “That stuff will kill you.”
I thought of you
My pen is raining poetry
My words are blooming flowers
At Hime station only the elderly
board the JR trains.
Youth has abandoned the
toil of the rice fields
for the glitter
of Tokyo streets.
They ride the train into an autumn sunset
comparing in whispers how much their hands resemble
the gnarled branches of
the passing cypress trees.
Cradled in the hum of Sunday trains
they dream in colors denied in waking hours
by cataracts and glaucoma.
Bright leaves continue to fall
Only the red shift of August 6th
still attaches itself to tired retinas.
It's your friend
while your uterus tries
from the inside out.
"PSM," that's what it is
getting high off the pills
you down just to feel sane.
Don't mind the bloating
I'm just pregnant from the salts
I've forced down my maw
$0.99 potato chips
the dollar store is your friend.
Don't mind the Moses
stepping into the Nile River
that drowns your senses
leaves you limping
clutching your stomach
writhing in the sheets
eggs are dropping
it's only a matter of time
before the week's up.
Quietly, I Bleed the Bricks
silence curls in my palm
like a gun,
and my pen is bleeding scabs,
and I'm sitting
in the stillness of her shadow,
eating fireflies to try to kill the light
so I can rest between the rays,
into the void created
between her heartbeats,
here I will swallow
all of it,
and I will drink her breath
like a fish
until my ringing ears
hear more than static and steps,
and I feel the mortar
until there are no walls between us
and I split the skin of bricks
and they bleed out bloody dust
and stand no more,
lying softly on the earth
like sunrise fallen,
like sand stained by our triumph,
and we will build
a castle upon the ruins.
I no longer cry tears
I cry words
They bleed onto the page
Sticky with relief
Write from the heart
Is my religionAnd my belief
Even in Summer
Give me back my muse,
dead verse haunting me each night,
I feel winter sad.
Enemies with Good Intentions
5-6 years ago, I used to live in a shitty apartment between unsteady relationships and working. On the first floor, I had a tiny garden in the back surrounded by walls and other buildings. And a boyfriend who knew about gardening a little, he helped me make a little garden. Just flowers and some fruit trees. He kept saying there wasn't enough space for a tree but I wanted anyway. I wasn't even going to be there in a year or two. Until then, I wanted to grow something. When we broke up, I thanked him for the garden. He told me to take care of it.
I don't smoke. I never smoked in my life. But I loved going out to that garden every night. Being there made me feel alone but surrounded with people, just what I needed. I could hear early sleepers snoring, TV noises, teenagers yelling their parents, people having sex. In the weekends, I'd mostly hear the lady living upstairs reading words, repeating, trying to spell them right.
One Saturday morning, she threw the book to my garden while I was listening to music. She pointed a line in the book she held. I got up and took the book, a first grade reading exercise book. She was reading it to me, asking me if she was pronouncing the words correctly. I corrected some of the words. She kept reading, I kept reading back and correcting. She thanked me and said she needed to cook, she left the book with me.
Next weekend, I was reading in the garden when she asked me if we could read again. I said yes, she kept reading, I kept reading back. Then she asked me "Where is the boy?" Their balcony could see nothing but my garden, I wasn't surprised that she noticed there was a guy and now he was gone. I told her that he needed to go. She asked me my age and why I was alone. I said 27 but couldn't answer the other question. She smoked, she smoked all the time. She told me she never learned reading. Her family didn't bother sending her to school, she got married when she was 15, travelled to a big city she didn't know with a grumpy old husband. Already 2 kids when she was just 18. I had nothing to say when she asked me why I was alone. She never knew how being alone felt like. I'm sure she would've liked it. She gave me a piece of cake she baked.
Next weekend, we read more. She was getting much better. She asked me if the boy was coming back. Women like her, women like my mom, people in my culture... They're always worried about lonely women. They never want women to be alone. They never say it to you directly but they'll keep asking. They'll never ask if you're happy but they'll ask if you have a man, if you'll have a man. Or if you had a man. You can't be angry at them for worrying about you, for hiding "you're old, you should have a man before it's too late or none will have you" in their questions. I could almost hear that but I smiled, said he wasn't coming back and I was ok. I couldn't ask her if she was happy. This culture teaches you to smile and nod even if they rub salt in your wounds. You learn to love the ones who judge you. You become the master of smiling, nodding to their worried questions mixed with judgement and doing what you want to do. In the end, she didn't know any better.
Most weekends, we read together. In a few months, she started reading short stories. I gifted her a La Fontaine book, wrapped and put it in her basket when she gave me stuffed grape leaves. She would ask the same question in different ways. This time it was loneliness. She always said that they were upstairs if I needed anything. To her, I wasn't whole. I had missing parts and she was offering help for me to be whole. I said thank you, once again like a good single woman. She asked "Aren't you scared of being alone?"
I said "it's quiet."
I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye... and target the fault that I see, finding its projection in me.