What looks beautiful is also right, the Dutch (land) Scape (Amsterdam)
Ants attack II (Barcelona)
The second walk (Bratislava, 2015)
I promise I am not the one to blame (Zagreb)
What looks beautiful is also right, the Dutch (land) Scape (Amsterdam)
Ants attack II (Barcelona)
The second walk (Bratislava, 2015)
I promise I am not the one to blame (Zagreb)
He begins the day with several pre-emptive strikes against his own approaching anxiety.
Valium, shower, coffee. Text to his ex, asking her to come over after work. These tasks accomplished, he slumps dripping on the bed in the airplane brace-for-crash position. Wet patches seep onto the mattress on either side of him.
His favourite thing to do now, while getting drunk on his own at home, is to watch online videos of natural disasters. In the past week alone he’s devoured six earthquakes and two volcanos, flicking from rubble to lava in a sleepless blue-eyed haze, letting the destruction permeate until dawn cracks through the shutters and it’s time to get up for work. He thinks now about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, his staple of a few weeks back, the tide sucked out initially and those poor fuckers picking around on the empty strand, strangers smiling bemused smiles: What’s going on here? He remembers that in particular – the ominous camaraderie invoked by unusual events. Then the first hints on the horizon of a fast approaching mass, curiosity slowly turning to realisation. What was barely a ripple at sea becoming monstrous as it reaches the land, and then.
He surveys the carnage of his room: floor obscured by dirty clothes, half drank cups of tea with lilies moulding on the surface, a stray fork beneath the radiator. An empty naggin in his deskside bin with the remains of a Pot Noodle congealed like tentacles around the glass. The only chink of order is his wardrobe, doors ajar and empty but for two work suits hanging neatly, and five freshly ironed shirts. He did the shirts at 3 this morning, taking a break from Fukushima to clatter the ironing board out of the press, drag it into his room and kick a clear space for it through the clothes on the floor. He burnt himself a few times, created creases where none were meant to be but he got there eventually.
Even in his drunken state he knew the task was crucial: he’d found that by maintaining the outward structures of an orderly life, the inner disintegration was rendered invisible. Dressing well for work was a big part of this maintenance, replying to people when spoken to was another. Yes, no, hmmm, no – kept it fairly quiet this weekend, yeah, yeah, good match, yeah. Not jumping out of his skin or screaming in public was a third. And that was it really: if he managed this well enough while out of the house then no questions would ever be raised, no concerns expressed. ‘You doing ok’, his friend text him with no question mark. ‘Doing grand’, he replied, and that was the end of that. He’d fallen asleep without unplugging the iron.
He scans the floor for plausibly clean underwear and instead lifts the half mug of Jameson which he spies at the foot of the ironing board. He wonders idly about his public displays of effectiveness: whether they represent a last grasp at self-preservation, or a means of ensuring a undisturbed path to oblivion. Each possibility carries equal emotional weight for him at the moment – which is to say, none at all. He’s still sitting on the bed, naked and wet, reluctant to stand. In another life, these would have been prime conditions for pre-work masturbation but he hasn’t touched himself in weeks.
He tucks a second Valium under his tongue, squashes a third down between the bank cards in his wallet. He doesn’t intend to take them but they will be good to have in case of emergency – a neighbour attempting to strike up conversation in the hallway, for example, or a colleague dropping by his desk with a query. A baby is crying in the apartment overhead now, and the first traffic rumbles on the motorway outside. He changes his mind and swallows the second tablet down with a large gulp of Jameson, follows with the third and the last of the whiskey. Fuck it.
He spends seven minutes brushing his teeth and is borderline late as he steps out of his apartment into rain. He checks his phone as he crosses the road and sees that his ex has texted a one word reply: “Dickhead”. He exhales deeply. That’s closer to a yes than a no. He stops in middle of the road, feels his brain chemistry readjust to the cumulative effects of his efforts. That’s ok, he thinks, that’s alright. He’d been saving up some Midwestern tornadoes for tonight, but whatever, they could wait. He might even change the sheets, he thinks, mellowing out now as the cars approach at speed.
Dee Lyons lives in Dublin. She has a limited attention span and poor impulse control. As a consequence her interests change frequently but at the moment she’s into running and the final third of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy – yes.
Image Credit: Shawn Appel
I am sitting across from you at a cafe in Krakow, a cafe that I think is called Wesoła, but I can’t exactly remember, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because I don’t speak Polish. You do, and this gives you more power, but at the same time, I think you are a blossoming alcoholic, so the power dynamics at our morning table are confusing to me, and I am too hungover to consider them fully.
You start to ask me a question, but the waitress interrupts with our coffee. I hear her say “Ethiopia,” and this upsets me because I most definitely told you to order the Guatemalan. Guatemalan is creamier, nuttier, and has more of a chocolate undertone, perfect for a cold morning. I smile at the waitress cheerily, and the minute she leaves, I say this to you. You know how I am about coffee, and so I presume this mixup is intentional, and that hurts me in such an insignificant yet poignant way. You shrug and apologize. The coffee is served on a long wooden board that looks like a paddle. I wonder why it is so busy here so early in the morning and then realize it is probably almost noon. My lips still carry flaky pink residue from last night’s lipstick.
“I didn’t think the dad in that movie was really very funny at all,” I say. I am referencing the French film we went to yesterday with Polish subtitles, a film we saw only for that reason, so that you could scour the subtitles, and so my meager high school French could finally come in handy. Whenever my friend Natasha calls, she asks how we manage our relationship with a “language barrier.” I hate that phrase, “language barrier.” I want to respond that effectively, fucking and fighting are universal languages, but instead I explain how every couple has a language barrier in its own way, that it’s about mutual understanding, body language, being straightforward. I sound very actualized I think. You agree with me about the film and comment on how “great” your coffee tastes, and I am sure you say this only to enforce that the Ethiopia was the right choice. I respond, “Hits the spot,” precisely because I know that phrase will confuse you, and that you’ll be too haughty this morning to ask for clarification.
Last night, you took me dancing, something we’ve done many times. Once on an October evening, we went dancing on a boat across from Wawel Castle, and I had to wear a fancy red dress and meet your friend Mateusz. I felt good that night, because every man on the boat seemed enamored of me, but even better because I remember telling a girl from New York City that I was there with you, and I looked over at you and your beautiful olive skin and heavy eyes, and you winked at me, and she said, “Good work.” She sounded like she really meant it, too, meaning there was just a tinge of jealousy audible in her voice. Another time, you showed up at my flat on Karmelicka with a bag of freshly picked cherries, and you played Louis Armstrong on YouTube on your phone, and we danced while the sun set outside my dilapidated window and a round, tired woman hung her wash out in the courtyard behind us. We go clubbing together a lot and mostly just make out on the dance floor while strange men watch, and I don’t really care at that point, because we’re always drunk and I like kissing you. But last night, we went to see a cover band, Joy Division and the Smiths crooned with heavy Polish accents.
At some point, we decided it would be a fun and absolutely normal thing to trade shirts, like temporary couple’s tattoos, a visual “she’s with me.” I, as usual, was wearing a billowy white blouse with flowers I had embroidered all over it, and you were wearing a fitted black t-shirt, meaning the switch would be more noticeable on you. We threw our shirts off there on the dance floor and switched, and I didn’t care who saw my naked tummy or my chicken pox scars. We had already consumed two bottles of Soplica between the two of us, this after a three-day stint of whiskey each night while watching Nicholas Cage movies. On our morning runs, our sweat started taking on the sickly sweet smell of alcohol, and then this morning, we couldn’t even run we were so liquid-logged. I am remembering right now one of the first dates we went on, when you said I always smelled like coffee. You, running your fingers across my bare collarbone, sliding past the coffee sweat in the summer dark after love. Now our smells have merged.
I fly back home to Dublin later that day and pass out in the dark of my damp bedroom. In the early morning, I awake, confused because I am alone in my bed. Sometimes I have strange dreams that I am not alone in my room, but I think in comparison, being alone is more deeply frightening to me. I can’t get back to sleep, so I do some laundry, lacy panties, mismatched socks. I throw my blouse in, the one you wore, and then a strange desperation takes me, a need to smell it, to see if your musky, lineny, Soplica scent is there. My phone buzzes, and it is, of course, not you. It’s Natasha. Blouse up at my nose, I inhale, and there’s nothing but the smell of my own sweat. I notice a lipstick stain—my own—on the shoulder of the blouse. The phone buzzes again. Not you. I set the dial and start the wash. My own mouth, my own body, smells like coffee mingled with vodka. I roll the word collateral around in my mouth for some time before brushing my teeth, washing myself clean.
Shannon Kelly lives in Galway, Ireland. Her work has been published in Crannog and the Irish Times, and she was the 2016 winner of the Allingham Festival Poetry Competition.
Image Credit: Rob Bye
Beatriz Vöx Menendez is a visual artist and writer whose work has appeared or is upcoming in Cargo Literary, Roadside Fiction, The Referendum Rant and Foliate Oak Review, among others. In 2016, she published her first book of poetry, entitled Excepciones Universales, with Impronta Press, which won the Asturias Poetry Prize in the same year. Short stories of hers were also included in the Manuel Nevado Madrid anthology. Her work explores the creation of place through space and the constant negotiation of borders.
My love forever,
I would have preferred him to die; I would prefer the canal’s black water to be his own coffin, and as I sit here and watch its onward stream, I imagine, peeping so palely above the surface in the dark, a corpsey toe of his – a little green old toe. Let rough seas drag down his body during some courageous expedition; I would visit the pier from which he departed and contemplate the crashing waves, and perhaps a tiny tear would dampen my face and impress the stoic hearts of nearby fishermen. I wish that he had perished in some kind of noble exploit, but, of course, he didn’t. I am just drunk on a bench by the river, and, pathetic as ever, thinking of him. The first time he slid out of me with a wriggle like a worm, the theatrical force with which he pulled on underwear, my eye observed and my heart approved him. The smack of his boxer’s band against his stomach, the slap of his palm on my bum; I was from the first troubled by some unforeseen emotion, of which now I try to rid myself to no use.
We had met in a club, all around us the unce, unce, unce of pop songs throbbing throughout the dark room like the deep sea against a submarine, when suddenly and forcefully I swooned into his arms. Unce unce unce… he had been watching me all night, he said. I was ill-prepared to grow so fond of him. Come here to me with that big penis, I’d say, and he’d run over and with it wriggling in his hand like an apprehended eel he would whack me on the belly and in the face as I’d squirm away and scream. So handsome! I was happy in the brown hairiness of his big arms. He reminded me of people from home. I wish that I knew more about him, that I was wise up on his childhood games or teenage disappointments or drunken misadventures, but all I really know is that he was from a small town in the midlands and that his parents seemed to love him very much.
What lovely breakfasts in his lovely apartment. The force of his electric shower and the softness of his towels soothed me immensely. But there obviously came a stop to all the niceness, which happened one night when the Euros had just begun, and he had gone out to watch the match with a few of his mates; I had messaged him: gwan the Romanians lol. From the office I watched the crowds smoke and laugh and mill around pubs in the June night while at my desk I awaited his reply. Up and down the ugly buildings tricolours were festooned in zigzag formations, the green, white, and orange reminding me of being strapped into a buggy, watching parades in drizzle. I stared at my phone. By the next morning, I had heard nothing from him still, and I felt like a dog that, while playing catch, jumps too ambitiously, miscalculating – and so the flying ball smashes into its throat violently, its windpipe shattered, collapsed. So you’re ignoring me then, are you? I texted him after four days had passed. I heard nothing in reply. Fuck that! I said. I went out and got hammered and kissed somebody else, I badmouthed him in front of the girls in work and said, well, I was glad to be single, and I felt shame’s heat discolour my cheeks for I already had made a big deal out of something that hadn’t lasted very long and had been a fool. But a chuisle, a ghrá, a chroí; I was so sad. I went out and got drunk, but I felt that it would have been easier to wear a black veil, and to clutch the cold hand of a bullet-ruined body at a wake.
My friend and my love!
A thousands confusions since the unanswering of the text. I drift through most of the day in a woeful condition; from the top floor of the building, I gaze down at the street, at the offices opposite which contain our counterparts, at the black electricity wires whose overlaps, if I close one eye, outline crooked diagonals of pedestrians below. I search his name, I look at photos of him, I study the uploads of his poached eggs and craft beers, I crumple over in my chair all day long as if my skin were tissue-thin, and I suffer dreadful palpitations. But my fingers itched over this nothing to be done about a nothing. Once, desperately drunk and finding myself in the ladies’ toilets of his local, I attempted to scrawl with my lipstick his name and some slander on the walls; but I was interrupted by three other girls, and feverish mortification quickly made me wipe it away. The girls laughed at me, I laughed back at them; after I turned to write UP THE RA on the wall for their amusement, we became friends. Out of the loo, looking down, I noticed that I had stained my hands red; terrorised by tears and snot, I shook, laughing.
Nothing works, no photos of tiny animals can cheer me as before. I get drunk and I sleep, my heart always thumps in grief and hungoverness, my throat is always dry, my stomach evil. Tonight I have drunk substantial amounts. At first I was giddy, blooming in the pink glow of inebriation like a blushing bride, but the unce unce unce of the club and all the men there still in their work suits recalled him to me and squashed my happiness, and I fervently wished him attacked, for his dribble to run into the neatly shaven beard and for his knees to sink to the ground, for me to kiss his eyes and hold him as my hands became cups of blood. Mo ghrá go daingean thú! I fled from the club to the chipper, but its white tiles and neon signs closed in on me like some terrible hospital; I fled from the chipper to the canal. I get up from the bench, and I toss my bag of chips into the water as if a floral bouquet; I watch the chunks sink, but the spectacle does not satisfy. I return to ancient routines.
Clíodhna Walsh lives in Dublin and is a graduate of English at Trinity College, Dublin. She previously has been published in magazines such as The Incubator Journal and Corda Magazine.
Image Credit: Anastasia Taioglou
In Porto by the banks of the Douro an old man is dancing as though he wants to shake the devil out. His eyes are closed and there’s sweat on his brow and bald scalp in spite of the chilly breeze. Not far from the old man is a guitarist: twenty-something, lanky, bearded and sporting a top knot. He’s playing for the tourists waiting for their river cruises and cares not for the old man, this stomping, shimmying addition.
The visitors listen but with a quizzical eye on the dancer. My mother and I watch from a nearby café. Sipping vinho verde, I imagine he’s conjuring his lost love back from the dead. He spins and lifts his arms. I feel as though I’m missing something. Perhaps it isn’t that he’s seeing things, maybe we are the ones who can’t see the love of his life for whom he turns and moves his head with such determination, using his body to move through space and time.
There amongst the bars, buggies and postcard stands, he’s oblivious: just living life to the furious strum. It’s funny how music animates our form, how it can own us. To the crowd, this broad little man is lost in the rhythm but to himself he’s found, he’s with his lover in the autumn air.
The musician shakes his head and tries to ignore this moth to his flame by changing song abruptly to drive him away. It is the territorial and dismissive swat of a player who wants no accompaniment, an entertainer who won’t share the spotlight. His actions speak and say:
“The past is a disease, forget it. Don’t watch him. Listen to me.”
Though the old man remains undeterred, my fist tightens around the stem of my wine glass and I think what a traitor to his ancestors the guitarist is.
Picturing my grandfather and his bride, on the first waltz of their wedding day, I recall the poet Yeats:
Oh body swayed to music, oh brightening glance, how can we tell the dancer from the dance?
I remember my grandmother waving me goodbye, doing a little Charleston on her doorstep. All smiles and curls before the cigarettes got her. How she loved to twirl and kick but in the end she could barely shuffle from her bed to her chest of drawers without stopping for breath.
In my mind’s eye I see myself at five, taking over the dance floor to You Can’t Hurry Love with my father on a ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg while the other adults around me clutch their stomachs and groan as the ship rock.
Now, gazing at the old man seems like an intrusion. It is in daylight and in public but this dance of his life, full of the stories from his heart and soul, seems so intimate and not meant for all of us to see.
My mother leans in and whispers: “Alzheimer’s?”
“Probably,” I nod.
The song finishes, the audience applauds, and the old man is still dancing.
The pompous sun boasted in at Jackie; linear and Venetian shadows settling on her skin. It was the hair and flesh sleeping alongside her, an elbow protruding into a crevice of her rib which convinced Jackie to lie there discerning the trivialities of the words belonging to a forgotten night a little longer. One day she thought, one day the air will lift the diaphragm of her one-horse town shallow breath only to fall again with a chemical-like sting of regret. And it would come as expected; first to appear in the morning and the last to leave at night. For the past 6 months Jackie has battled with the face of night, contemplating the capacity to love and fear someone all at once. For the most part she reckoned when a heart beats it can’t tell the difference in its rhythm.
‘Jackie you can love yourself or pretend to, but you can’t make love to yourself’ that was her mother’s spirit before, an assortment of grins and winks to embarrass her first-born with. Those days before, when happiness was the sound of her mother’s self-help pamphlet satire in a waiting room full of unattended teeth. The days before the love for her Jackie were untainted.
Now Jackie felt she was the embarrassment, in love with a woman as a woman living the reality of that bloody self-help pamphlet and selfishly choosing not to shut-the-fuck up and make love to herself.
As a kid Jackie would catch butterflies in glass jars and caress the grains of their powdery wings between her fingers. Just like the woman standing before her now in their own glass jar architecture, the same as and different to the woman laughing in the waiting room. The stale cyclical air where words would never find their way out, limply cast into a dead-weight existence
‘No Jackie, not this. Please anything but this.’
Some parasites grow old on their host and hide beneath satin nightwear instilling fear, reservations and hate. The jar air-tight and now Jackie was a dull orange lady clamouring, her wings stripped bare of paint. The catalyst for our existence remains a single act of love or fear or a fusion of both so that we clump together according to some sequence of genetics in pools of blood and security and we become affected moulded and sometimes clogged with nothings of the past. Those papier-Mache strings of parasitic human tied together by the wastes of nature.
‘How can you fly from human regret when your own breath is its leftovers?’ Jackie nursed a throat-burning bitterness while stroking the sleeping head of hair next to her.
As a kid, she had never noticed the streams of wet fear hemorrhaging at the mouth of her winged victims in that lapse of time before their death, but now she suffocated from the same intent of neglect. No matter who we are to this planet we stand on the environs, a mere 72 hour journey to navigate beyond the glass-jar
Gráinne is from county Tipperary where she grew up with a love for reading and writing. The unrelenting love grew wings and brought her temporarily to The Netherlands where she is now thesis-ing.
Image Credit: Havilah Galaxy
We were walking yesterday when he said, ‘There aren’t any waves in the Mediterranean Sea.’
‘I know,’ he continued, ‘because I used to swim in it every day. I’d put down my tools, change into my shorts, and cycle the path to the beach. I used to do it all year round. In winter – when I dove through the first waves – the locals would shout “Swim Loco, Swim!” And I would; I’d swim out to the furthest yellow buoy covered in ages of uncleaned bird-shit, hook my feet into its algae-ridden chain under the water, lie back and bounce with the tide. I could think of nothing and everything floating there in my open-air solitude. Memories and plans would stream across my eyes. I often contemplated if I had it deep in my will to swim to my own horizon – I never did.
‘I could always feel the urge build inside me, feel the straightening of the doubts, and then just as I had almost convinced myself; I would renege on the pact. All that I sought was confirmation that I didn’t want to die. Just to contemplate it for a moment was enough. But I would let those thoughts flourish; flourish and eventually fall. I knew if I ever fully convinced myself that it would forever be the right time.’
I felt I should say something about me being pleased that he hadn’t let go.
‘It wasn’t myself that I wanted to let go of,’ he said. ‘It was everyone else. Don’t you feel like that sometimes? Like you could commit to being you if there wasn’t anyone else around? Like a stray rock in a dune of sand.
‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘I’d worn a band on my wrist for years – a bracelet; and I’d had it so long that it had become invisible to me. I’d been given it in love and it had disappeared with hate. The seawater had been tugging it along my forearm as I lay back in my public isolation chamber. When I rolled the circular wooden beads back down the arm my mind tripped to what they still subconsciously represented. Being again made aware of its existence weakened my resolve, I still must have yearned for that nourishing and bygone feeling.
‘You see I hadn’t fully let go – how could I have when I still wore the band that I had been hesitant in ridding myself of at the time. Now it could turn out to be the last strand to happiness, or the final hair before balding.’
He didn’t speak for a number of paces but I knew better than to interrupt.
‘I pawed at the beads with my other hand, drifting in a pool of my own thought, using the swell of the water as my scales and weighing how much of myself was invested in each bead.
‘You see, I’ve always been a forthright man and my convictions are bound, this much I know. I was given the bracelet and I kept it; I kept it loudly for a while. Nevertheless the thing had meaning and I was dubious of throwing away the memories – but the pain I carried on my wrist was so specific and so exact to me that it had seeped inside and hidden itself. Y’know?
‘I eventually forged my thoughts, grabbed the beads in a fist and pulled them from my wrist – breaking the elastic that held them together. With that snap I floated backwards, hurled everything from me and let my feet unwrap from the sunken chain as seawater surged into my mouth and flooded my carnal cries.
‘My head dipped under the water – just for a second – and when I came back up I knew I was rid of it all. There were no more ties to the connection. No links left to shear.
‘If I had been unsure before; then I knew I was right once the act was completed. I had seen each bead separate from the string high above me in mid-air. Each one pitting the water at a different time. And I tell you right now; I hope they all sank.’
Stephen McGurk, an Irish writer, has travelled across Europe collecting stories, experiences and pain. Notably his short stories and poetry are featured in The NY Literary Magazine, The Galway Review, and A New Ulster. He currently resides in Bordeaux where he is developing his first novella. Follow Stephen on twitter @McgurkNehpets
Image Credit: Štefan Štefančík
The Waiting Room 
Some thing is wrong.
What is wrong?
I read about the side effects but I don’t remember reading about this.
The side effects extend beyond the text.
I felt hopeful.
To read beyond the text is the primary function of the text.
I found a spider underneath my thumbnail today.
A side effect.
I was not aware of the ramifications.
There are plenty.
Whatever it takes.
My fingers feel heavy.
It is heavy to see these things, lie down on the couch.
Do you mean the table?
Lie down on the table.
I fear osmosis.
Here, drink this.
What is this?
It is wine.
It is blue.
Do you mind if I smoke?
There are cigarettes inside your pocket.
Am I dying?
You have grown accustomed to feeling the outside from the inside.
I did not ask about the permeability of my skin.
I know. You have taken too much Avanza. You see spiders.
How do you know this?
Today you feel the outside from the outside.
This is a fantastical joke!
Reality acquires consistency through fantasy.
The punch line?
Waiting prepares one for liberation!
Too vague, and the spiders are multiplying. I told my arms to move thirteen seconds ago and they are only moving now.
A side effect. In reality, your arms have been moving this entire time.
How much time is an entire time?
They move in theory.
A conceptual discussion doesn’t interest me.
The spiders underneath your fingernails have always been there. The spiders ‘become’ when you look at them. Stop looking. Think of a rose garden. If you must look, look for flowers.
I am tired of talking in symbols!
Read beyond the text.
A spider is a spider because it is not a rose?
To see is to name. You understand.
Stop it. My skin is without body. I feel I could be the couch.
Maybe you are the table. Maybe you have always been the table.
I appear to be experiencing an internal dilemma.
You are a mirror without end. Try moving out of the doorway.
My hands are too heavy for this.
Would you like to see The Doctor now?
You are The Doctor?
I am not The Doctor.
Why am I here if you are not The Doctor?
You were sitting inside a waiting room. You cannot wait for no thing? Try to imagine a narrative arc.
I cannot imagine it.
You are imagining it now.
How do you suppose this?
Because you are here, and I am here.
And who are you?
I am waiting for The Doctor of course! The Doctor has been hoping you would call. She will be beside herself with joy!
You mean He will be beside himself?
No. I shall be The Doctor today.
Soon you will, yes.
This framework is unreliable.
It is of your doing. You asked to see me, now I am here?
How can it be my doing if I am unable to move?
You do in theory, and you wait in practice.
Are we discussing dream logic?
It is up to you. You are writing this story.
No, I am smoking a cigarette. How can I be writing if I am smoking?
You speak as if capable of doing either thing! If you are waiting, you are not doing. We just established this.
I need another cigarette.
You smoke only in theory.
How does one smoke in theory?
You are sitting at a desk writing about yourself smoking.
Only you are not writing. You are unconscious, dreaming of yourself as a writer.
I am not familiar with dream logic.
And yet, still, you are writing!
There is no difference if you believe you are writing. You are being written about because you believe you are writing about yourself. The Writer ‘becomes’ through writing. You have a voice because The Writer gave you a voice. You created The Writer to make yourself tangible. The Writer is a vessel! You are a product of that vessel! Capiche?
In a frantic dissociated state The Writer attempts to illustrate the tangibility of their reality. “You are mistaken,” she says, “Iamtwenty-threeIwatchCarlSaganeveryeveningIhaveanalmost boyfriendwhothinkshe’sStephenMalkmusmylittlesistercalledtodaytotellmeshefuckedherbossIIexperiencelifeviabenzoedfilterduetoviolentanxietyIwritenonfictionsometimespoetryIamnowwritingatcaféaboutthefirsttimeIoverdosedonantidepressants”.
Would you now like me to conduct a dream analysis?
“I overdosed eight years ago.”
Dream theory does not require a logical framework.
“Because time is relative?”
When waiting, yes. In reality, it has been sixteen minutes.
“But I remember waking in the hospital bed. I remember the charcoal purge tasting of miscarriage, the fluid drip, the vitamin infusions.”
To do anything when waiting does not negate the waiting.
“But I am not waiting for anything!”
You are between rooms. All things done Here are not done Here.
“If one is unaware of The Waiting Room, what does it matter?”
It doesn’t matter, but you wrote me into the story. It matters to you.
“Why write you in after eight years?”
Sixteen minutes. And nothing was guaranteed.
“Suppose I didn’t write you in?”
Death within the hour.
“But to me, one hour would feel like decades?”
“And looking at my current life trajectory, I would have been fulfilled?”
The Writer is now angry. The Writer shouts:
“IF I AM UNAWARE OF THE DREAM IT IS NO LONGER A DREAM!”
“MEANING IS ATTRIBUTED TO THINGS IT IS NOT FOUND IN THINGS!”
Are you finished?
“Are we talking in symbols?”
A spider is a spider because it is not a rose. Your fingernails are filled with spiders. Kill them. There is nothing beyond the symbol.
“I feel unaddressed.”
Yes, you feel addressed. You know what you need to do. Move beyond the text.
Sweat trickles down the bridge of The Writer’s nose, dipping into her mouth. She swallows, tasting miscarriage. “What then becomes of this document? What about the people who read this?”
It is an imagined audience. Those who read this text exist only in theory.
“My theory, or theirs?”
It’s all relative, if they do not know.
jessie berry-porter writes non-fiction, poetry, non-fiction poetry and also other things. She spends too much time quitting caffeine and flower pressing.
Photography by Paul Reynolds, a Dublin based photographer. He shoots mostly on film these days. Follow him on instagram @paulfedayn
They called him The Storm. His house blew in and out all kinds of everyone and everything. People came for the stories and because it was easy – the door was always open. The Storm was always peculiar in the way he invited people in so warmly and ran out the door without a goodbye when the weather inspired him. He was strange, but then we wouldn’t have bothered with him if he wasn’t.
There were always at least four of us but the four weren’t always the same and on an odd occasion it happened that there could be eight of us. We were the embodiment of complete freedom from the restrictions of childhood and the ignorant bliss of the troubles and dreary responsibilities of adulthood.
We spent our time in his sitting room on barely clad armchairs with chipped arm rests worn down by cigarette burns and scorched by blistering fires that spluttered turf and sticks up our nostrils and down our throats. We inhaled the fumes and shared cigarettes to clear the heavy fiery smoke from our lungs.
Damp winds blew bubbles in his wallpaper and painted black patches around the ceiling. The house was a nestling, a Russian doll – a babushka of items from every land there was but we never found anything more exciting than the words that bellowed from his dried and weather beaten lips.
“There are three there in the one person, you see, he began, the night I realised that his words were like seeds in me that grew into all sorts of things.
“This one is almost certainly insane,” his words filled the tiny space between our huddling shoulders.
The Storm turned into every character and every story – you never knew who was who.
“Watch her now, she is going again. The transformations are getting more frequent,” he continued, as four heavy heads imagined a woman with sixty years of normal thoughts in her head, as Storm had put it.
If street lanterns could pull their one remaining stubborn leg behind them more quickly, there wouldn’t be such a distance from one light to another. Why don’t you walk with me?”
The Storm yelled this one and his face was a fury.
“None of them dare to answer,” he added in a more controlled pitch.
“Her three children all look at her, feeling sorry for themselves, sorry that this is what they have to go through, at this moment in their lives, just when they had become successful and happened to rid the ugliness of the world from their pristine front doors.”
He paused and started up his voice again like an engine, coughing loudly before the first word and levelling off to the sound of a muffled drone.
“I passed through so many roadblocks. Wrong Way. Turn Back Now. Danger! I even saw signs that warned me of extreme danger; scary signs to tell me that there were no more signs. But I never turned back. Never. I knew better – the signs were blessings in disguise, I reasoned. I prayed that I would never reach where I was going, because then I would have arrived. And nobody wants to arrive on time to the wrong place. Now I’m not crazy and I’ll give you the one and most powerful reason why – I know.”
He paused for an irritating ten seconds.
“There are three here you see,” he repeated, before taking what he called a sup from his dirty cup of comfort.
“One you can see walking through the hilly head of hair – the sea underneath him, using its breath to soften the tips of long grass that bend to his long procession. He is Kala.
Two is Sortie. If his life was a drawing, he’d be the depth of shading that pushes out all that it illustrates. He’d be the shade that makes fields divide over and over and rivers and seas contract and widen and mountains run steep and near to the ground.
Three is Paoki, pulling and dragging at his own nerves, unravelling himself at the seams to learn how he works and then hysterically knitting himself back into a knot a moment later.”
Paoki discovered the note, carefully left unfolded between pages in a book mindlessly left to rot on a window ledge.
He opened it and the sun spread the letters across the page. Words zoomed in and out of focus, as rays choreographed themselves into a senseless pose. What great words had been written only to be hidden by their own aging dust; a secret withered by the sun and scented with the rash of mildew.”
“She left a note you see – do you want to hear what it said?”
We were all confused at this stage – the Storm’s stories never made sense until the end and even then I was thinking about it, wondering about it and remembering it at the strangest of moments.
“Go on Storm,” I shouted, leaning forward and feeling the slap of the fire’s heat on my face.
He took a piece of paper from his pocket and started in a whisper again and grew louder as the words took on weight.
My dearest secret,
I am in a transient place. Things around me remain, but I change, they tell me.
I’m where we once stood and I’m writing you this letter I wish I’d written before we both left. There is no credibility after Alzheimer’s.
Everything I say is suspected as being nonsense. There is nothing left to contribute. My body is cared for more than my mind. All that is constant is you. You are all I remember. You are moving with me it seems. I hold onto you or you are holding onto me: I cannot tell.
Words in this letter whisper beyond the reach of sound in your ears, beyond retrieval, beyond senseless thought, beyond doubt, beyond what they hear.
Duty and honour marched you off to other men’s struggles. How brave you were to fight for strangers’ beliefs. Weary, I threw away the pages of love you sent, and read your journey as an escape away from me.
All forms of thoughtless deeds scribbled on wasted paper until all was said. I slept on your side. The pen pulled from me pages of torment, up and down, across and down. Grief pushed and dragged at me until it had my hand seized. Pages crumbled and creased were discarded for a while.
I could feel your words on my lips, kissing me away. How could I remain with your words resting on me and your sense absorbing me through days that ran into years?
And now my love I want to write all the words in the world for you. But my words bump into each other, clumsy on the page, too long a part, too long without meaning.
I visited the place where we met and time has moved things there too my love. Bare steel beams hold the house’s shelter. Cement floors open to winds blowing in and out of every direction. No place for draft, just open spaces free to blow in and out of nothing.
I’m waiting only the time I know that passes. I manage to escape myself with all this transient confusion, but I imagine my torment in this moment of torment. I imagine the next will be worse and my last was kinder.
My memory of you is here and every moment they tell me something different. There are moments that you are married, happy and normal, and there are times when you are gone, lost at war – the unknown lover. And then there are seconds that you are on your way.
I search for you in every face, in every shadow that I see and in every foot step that falls into my ear. I search for you in every moment. Every thought takes me away now, away to places I have already been. There is nothing new anymore. My life stopped a long time ago and I go back and forth in search for where I really am.
This is the letter I’m returning to you. Decades have ran over me – a prisoner of your war. From where I was and always remain. I could have never imagined this love would be the only thing to survive in me. I die a beaten body, without a mind, but my love could live a thousand more lifetimes. Read me well. Read me in. Read me out. Take me with you.
The Storm let the silence slip in again.
After several minutes of watching the fire die down, he stood up, grabbed the poker and stirred the fire around.
“People chatter, chatter, chatter and leave no room for anything but sound. Imagine ignoring the ‘other’ voices in your head. Imagine indeed. I don’t ignore mine. Yes I said, I don’t. Mind you, they only come when I stop talking.
With that, he ruffled the fire up again to reveal the last few burning embers and said grinning, “I listen to them all. Indeed I do.”
Lyn Byrne is a Trainer of Business, Training and Communications. She has worked as a freelance print Journalist and as a broadcast news Journalist for local radio. Lyn has a degree in Business and French and a Masters in Journalism. She has also studied creative writing and Emotional Intelligence.
Image Credit: Obed Hernández
Sarah crawled across the wood floor, which was in the curl of its decline. Slapped up and frigid. The wood turned up at extremities to pare the bell end of the white wall. A cast of small shadows had sprung up, pared fields of not light, from the sticking edges of wood in an outreach to the wall achieved. Their smallish, short-lived bodies wavered in the admitting daylight on the calm of breastrock of the back wall against sun.
Sarah–a much greater body–hoped that Sarah could not hear her.
Sarah had been with Sarah–in or about her home or house of mind–for as long as she could remember.
She can remember Sarah leap off her chest to cling to the shoulder of her childhood friend Emma. They were five. Emma had closed the door of her bedroom but Sarah could still feel Sarah there; just beyond the door. She was not invited where Sarah could go, walking by purer paths. The grandmothers, romantically entwined wooden souls of her own head, had laughed, joking with one another:
“In the bedroom of a girl let the shadow of no man fall.”
“But, the bedroom of a girl is also the shadow of a man!”
An adult’s voice had come stroking out of a glass of water – “queer or . . . could sexually abuse her . . .” before settling back into the circle of the liquid.
One in a series of amputations of character that had affected Sarah from birth. Before, even. Amputation of the potent through the potent. Not that amputation was a bad thing. She is not convinced that there are such things as whole bodies pure. Yet, a standard of purity exists the proof of which: that it was amputation she was subject to over years.
Her trick: to make of the lessened whole. To project: this less piece over the wholer time is you and the amputated may be erased by the nature that knows it as it is memorized and restored by the features of your (intimate) knower (yourself). The green field with its absent cows may know Sarah as much as Jeremy, but Sarah may know only Sarah.
What was lost off couldn’t be you, or it wouldn’t lost, so the green field . . . but she remembers it all. She indexes it all in the variety of her, bolting, down bearing anger, grin. Her persistence that makes lessens.
The end of Sarah’s ‘subjection’ came about when she recognized, and in recognizing accepted, the hatred of others for her. She recognized that, whatever the ritual of acceptance, hatred of her would endure.
A true body, moving through a tide of splitting shadows, distinguishes itself in hatred. Is moved through the heavy earth by wearing a dizzying, conical and evanescent hat of hatred; it makes you seemfloat. It is wearing an absence of others you have cut from you.
Sarah has a practice of watching them. The haters. And does so from her window, recording them & their bodies by drawing them in her green–plastic encased–notebook.
On her windowsill she keeps a copy of a populist book ‘To earn back the world of people, we first had to believe we forgot them’ by a Lily Mushiga. She has read this book twice this year and its argument–that we can only get to one another by recognizing we are already with one another–has had and will have no effect on her practice of drawing.
The end of a public amputation–a motivated by concern amputation–generated a paradox of hatred. She was wholed now, and all her lessening forgiven, because hatred had that grip on her; that grip of gym hall, ball echo, sorrow. If there were no hatred to find in the world she would, in that instant of knowing what she wanted was so, cease to be held together. She would come apart like the dust loo roll her brother had placed in the low river’s stream when she was twelve. Her skin would gently fold down, and parts of it would crack into singles. Her grandmothers would come out from the large o the largesse of which was growing as the paper skin softened and ripped – they would come out and finally they would get to go on the journey–adventure–which had been their conception.
Sarah had witnessed, at age ten, a televisual portrayal of a hen night and the women had bright lollipops in the shape of penises. That was when her grandmothers had come to exist and she knew that if she found that there really was not hatred out there–but that all hatred was just, and only, and disappointingly narrow people crashing against each other as singles (and this was impossible to her, hence paradox, because singular people were made of real hatred)–they would finally go off to fulfill their conception. To go around the old village, knot of hair in the now suburb, with their pockets full of these coloured lollipops. Overflowing with these melt-marked penises. And every person they would hand one to would make a hen party’s sense. They wouldn’t, because they are magic, hit a single person in their journey who didn’t belong to the bride.
And where would she, the granddaughter of all people, be? She’d be a disintegrated womb of drymouth topsized by water.
Sarah was not happy to room with recognition of hate. She liked to play cold princess above the square compound of Sarah’s body. She considered it to be in her imagination. In her mind. She could look at the changing properties of it, the waxsound, waxshape, waxsmell, and see the square it was. She could see it composed neatly into boundaries; the fountain pen extra of her tongue and tip collapsing into the shadow of the surface of a face. Folded away.
Post-recognition Sarah could look, moving in her ghostly way about the house – making it feel without halls, without trafficking spaces she graced it as if moving claustrophobia – and Sarah’s body would not fold away from her eyes and come, peacefully, to sit in her mind. It would, instead, scream. It would cry out as if in need of help. It would make itself move like a thing that suffered but only by imitating the letters of the word that said suffering.
The body like a poor, otherworldly, actor who has confused the object of her imitation; taking the words of the speakers for the world of the act and the speakers–the persons–as vases of temptation, procurement, and induction.
Sarah had always managed closeness to others. She profited from the misrecognition which Sarah experienced. She filtered it into the minds of the others around her; creating gaps and possibilities for them and so drawing them close to her. This was how she managed closeness.
She offered something rare. Not herself. She offered the value, as a lump, of a missing whole ( person ). In the day it is so surrounded. So many to think of and break through. Something has to fall through it cutting. Ending the harangue of interaction. Can you imagine being as close to a man as close? A failing of identity. Some identities must be failing-identities if others are to even breathe for once, you know?
How they would sigh a hateful sigh of relief at–for once–running over a partly constituted person. I needn’t stop dear that person is only partly constituted and how Sarah would laugh.
Now that Sarah was building hatred into the wellish work of going through a day’s round and bucketless delight as a shut in with her recording of the people who went flat over the same day’s breadth, there was less and less of her to miss. To misrecognize. The less of her that was there the less of her there to not catch.
‘I miss her absence’ thought her absence, and Sarah commiserated.
One night Sarah joined her in bed. The closeness was so real to her, so consuming and so inexperienced that she carried on with it. Having never before slept.
The novelty of this experience produced in Sarah a love for Sarah she had not thought possible. The oxymoronic orthodoxy of Sarah, a material shadow through her life of closeness, was transformed in this novelty of their close lying bodies to a love.
Sarah understood herself well. She was not a whole mass of life but her actions were a code of pleasing others that, whatever narrative pressure she applied, broke down into proper discreteness and a vulnerability of exposure to interpretation. She was exposed even in safety for her safety was a function of the proper action of her solvent body. In Sarah, however, she discovered a means of elevating herself into an existence.
She began to eat of Sarah. Though just the superficial. The layer of dead skin.
Regularity makes a beginning.
In nights Sarah whispered graphics with her unreal and productive mouth. The Arizona blaze of the white coloured font hanging over and illuminating the two becoming bodies lying close–made close–in the clever dark of the am. Dark that figured out the world to around them and slotted it in place.
In the beginning Sarah wanted only the misbegotten of Sarah. Surface not depth.
Sarah found herself quickly with depth in mouth. Sarah’s organs were visible to Sarah. They were preserved on her glassy eyes. Her eyes were collections of frozen ponds in the gardens of another century; preserving on their cold surfaces the eachness of each organ so that the eyes of Sarah, so often turned away, could still provide in moments of collision a map to her interior. The drip vision of Sarah tempted. It offered a look that admitted only the least and the exact, paring down all things to create the most evidence of space between them. You could, once breaking the skin, leap from one organ to one organ in a purity affixed by those out-hanging, dull eyes.
Sarah is snug against the back of Sarah. She mis-matches the buttering and breaking liveness of her own eye, which holds itself on the slope of Sarah’s bare and borroughed back, to the opaque coldstocking of the eye of the woman she loves. Sarah does not see the world of people there is to know and love, to find solidarity with, and so she may see in the innate preservativeness of what’s vision the need of hatred to divide. Grandmothers, at once and together –
“You may pass GO! and not collect a world.”
She moved her hands around Sarah, pressing closer to the holes of her menstrual back, and closed each hand over each eye feeling the lack of difference.
The most traumatic event in this history occurred moments ago: is the occasion of Sarah’s escape.
Sarah was on all fours on the bed and up at the bedpost and Sarah could not hold back. She was eating of Sarah back and forward, back and forward. Biting down to make drag and biting up again to make letter. She made a slough of peached skin to reach up. She made a hood and nose of flesh that falls into itself like a ship’s mast falls in a movie where the water is actually parking lot shallow and the nose of the mast senses asphalt. She made a perspective of tang flesh that is ridiculed by the soft, wet air.
Think of the produce!
Can you believe that in the end the first mover was tucking?
I would say that an observer would describe it as genital semaphore.
The ghost stood up and had the perfect body–which all would envy or desire–that of a Brazilian transexual–congratulations ghost, you’re More than a Suzerain could hope to suffer fuck. She tumbled off the bed and collapsed onto the wooden floor of the bedroom. The warmth of the wood teased the end of her bodies and she slept for the first time involuntary.
The grass is pressed down and tiled with blood. Sarah lies on the front lawn, well maintained despite the desert climate, of her rented home. The ghost is there, standing over her. The pain is a lot for each of them. Outside they are properly confronted with one another. A neighbour goes by, thinking primarily of sorbet in the heat, and he sees them both. Really, he sees one of them but in seeing one of them he sees the other, and they cannot tell which one is being seen. The suspicion is it is the ghost.
Why are you calling me that?
I will eat of you completely.
Sarah sees, as she falls into the manicured grass, the two-bodies, the plural-body of so many others. She sees the part of it that lies falling underneath and the part of it that eats of; strong women, natural women who eat to survive their pluralism.
It is like, neighbour, when you see a woman in the street who knows she is seen. Who turns and sees you. Who has your eyes in that moment and is eaten. And you crawl out the other side of the blood tiles of time but her body breaks into two. In preparation.
Kate Kiernan is a writer based in Dublin. Another incarnation of herself once published work with the Stockholm Review of Literature and the Honest Ulsterman, among others. Now she waits for estrogen.
Image Credit: Micah Hallahan
Street Art by Joe Caslin during the build up to the referendum on marriage equality, April 2015, South Great George’s Street, Dublin
Half House, Cork Street
Paul Reynolds is a Dublin based photographer. He shoots mostly on film these days.
Follow him on instagram @paulfedayn
Fuck. Not now. Not as. Fuck. As my granny’s being lowered. Fuck. Not now. As she’s being lowered into her grave. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Clutching the grave stone I sink down. My left hand motioning sickeningly backwards, against my will. Again and again, moving, jerking. It is like a futurist painting, all the stages of motion seen at once. My right hand is doing it now. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck; I’m dying. Sickening nausea at the foot of the grave stone. Need to go to hospital. Now. Della, Veronica, Richard, Dáire. The priest and the rest, wondering. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Staring down at the bluish gravel of the car park. Staring down. Thinking of blue. Heavy, being half-carried, fixing my eyes on the blue and yellow art-deco pattern of my velveteen top. Focusing on staying conscious and upright, on controlling. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, shit, shit, shit. Finally at the car. Lying down in the back. Control. Stay conscious. Sit upright. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Take this to calm you down. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Around a round about. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Are we nearly there yet? Out. Another car park. Spewing foam onto Veronica’s funeral attire as she tried to help me out. If you want to, get sick in this umbrella, awkwardly open in front of me as I make it across the car park to A+E. Barely standing. Semi-conscious. Immediate attention brought to me. A flurry. A trolley. Helped up on to it awkwardly in my heavy, semi-selfness. She’s her god mother and a consultant. No she’s not, I was never baptised. Well, I can tell you what I saw.
Róisín Power Hackett is a Fine Art Graduate from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She has an MA in Art in the Contemporary World, an art writing masters, from the same college. She has been published in Minus Nine Squared, Minus 9 Squared’s Anthology, Word Legs, Mama Grande Press, Skylight 47, Pamphlet Magazine (Netherlands), Glitter Stump, The Weary Blues and the Irish Abortion Rights Campaign newspaper, Rise and Repeal. Róísín has written for Hunt and Gather Creations, an on line Dublin culture magazine. She has also been published in all of the zines she has been editor of, those being The Kite and WORDS Zine.
Image Credit: Lance Anderson