Human Graffiti

I have twenty eight years on this God-given earth.

I think every single human being is made to put their mark on earth, in any which way. Little dots graffitiing out way through the blip that is our lifetime, before others replace us.

And others come across our art, for it is art, really, and what do they see? What do they learn? Do they continue our mark, adding paint and fine-tuning our brush strokes? Do they add details that we never saw, burgeoning our art into something else?

A beast, maybe. Clawing its way through solid walls and leaving a trail of rubble and wreckage in its wake. Sharp, sabre toothed, bad temper, a reek you can smell through seventeen mattresses.

Or a home, silent and still. Lampshades dangling cobwebs and dust. Do they come in and brush the dust gently away, painting warm glowing light in the corners, adding colour to the drab sepia, laughter of children drifting down hallways, carpets laid fresh like green grass. Strong, strong roots. Calm, loving, old arthritic hands knitting cardigans for everybody’s babies. And then years later, when you walk down a hospital corridor with your own babies and pass a rack full of hand-knitted cardigans a warmth floods your being. You wish she was there to knit cardigans for your own babies. My Nani. My Len. My first baby, she said, always, even though I was the first daughter of her first baby.

What do you see when you stand on the old old spot where millenniums stood before you? New homes on old grounds. New parks where old schools used to be. Do you think of the ghosts of yore, or do you dream of your own future ghosts to be?

Are you caught up in this race that everybody seems to be on?

Are you clouded by other people’s emotions and expectations?

Sadness and joy.

Have to fix all pains.

Not realising that sometimes, pain has to run its course.

What is your art?

New art? Continuation of somebody else’s art?

What pictures do you draw, my friend.

Watercolour

I used to paint a lot when I was a child. We did not take art lessons at school, there were no art supplies at home. My mother used to give us the equivalent to £1 a week in Emirates currency, and I saved enough to buy myself a set of acrylic paints.

Then, every morning, I would take myself on to the balcony of the flat my father rented for twenty one years, and set myself up on the dark green tiles. It was sunrise, so the coolness of the desert night wafted in on the breeze. When the sun rose, the heat would set in, and I would be forced indoors. But in that pinkish orange glow that heralds a new day, I would sit and paint.

Oh, I fancied myself a real artist. I imagined such masterpieces would flow from my brush.

In truth, it was just exploration. An affinity I had for art which I poked and prodded until my fingers began to feel accustomed to the brush, and shapes began to take form. The passion soon waned. Or else other things took precedence. Like exams, keeping up with peers, outings… an eventual move across the globe to another country…

Anyway. Recently I bought my son a set of kids’ watercolours. A very simple set. You dip your brush into some water, then dip it into a disk of colour, set amongst 20 other disks. Cost me £5. We sit everyday at around 3pm and do some painting. Baby has a nap, and we have ‘quiet time’.

Anyway. I love art. So I enjoy myself thoroughly.

This is what I came up with today! It’s amateurish, but I am proud of my amateur work, and I enjoyed painting it.

Poetry

Am I a poet?

Goodness me, no.

I certainly have never called myself one. And I never will, for I am too old!

I used to write fanciful little limericks when I was younger, inspired by Tolkien, of course. The road goes ever on, and all that, about raindrops being like bits of broken glass. Classy. My mother told me that wasn’t a pretty description, but I so forcefully loved it that I kept it in anyway. What a small large headed fool.

I wrote little descriptive rhyming bits about all the girls in my class. They aimed to be humorous, and were received very well by my chums. Aren’t chums supportive.

I wrote what I, at the time, perceived to be ‘epics’. The lines still echo through my head, labour over them as I did at the age of 12.

Here is an excerpt:

Twenty thousand years ago there dwelled an old tree

Its beauty was so great, a splendour for eyes to see

Delightful charms it laid on people who dared to walk its way

It stood there drooping by night

But sprung up to life by day…

And so on, of course. It went on to erratically, messily describe battles and passions and disease through the passage of time. It trailed off somewhere vaguely, after about 20  pages, as my mind expanded a little more and became distracted by newer, shinier ideas.

And then, I grew to despise poetry. How absurd it all is, I thought, crossly, forced to analyse bits of Dryden I didn’t understand.

It shape-shifted before my eyes. It no longer had the elven eloquence Tolkien and Lewis and Wordsworth so earnestly declared it did. It grew horns and barred me from entry by using long and complicated words as weapons. I didn’t understand, and grew frustrated because I felt left out of a club in which I once felt welcomed.

I hate poetry, I told everybody. I am a prose girl.

So. I stopped writing it. Stopped reading it.

Until, a few years later into literary maturity, I happened across Langston Hughes. My goodness but he was raw and painful. And then he opened doors to me, doors leading to forms of poetry that didn’t rhyme, but which touched emotional chords within me, written by voices stamped and ravaged through the injustices of time – not the silken, baby skin of Wordsworth, that is for sure.

There ain’t no Klu Klux, on a 133rd.

And I grew to love it again.

So, no, I am not a poet. Poetry and I have a tumultuous, often disdainful relationship. The disdain is entirely mine, I am ashamed to say.

I daren’t dabble in it, for I would not do it justice at all.

But I love to read it, and reading other people’s poetry, especially on blogs, opens my mind more and more to it. Why, poetry is almost like an old, long lost friend!

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What do you think of poetry? Do you write it? Do share some of your favourite pieces, if you feel so inclined, for I would love to read them.

Calidity

Today is a real Monday of a day, folks.

Nobody in the office wants to talk. All conversation is terse and halted. Stumbling and awkward.

The air is heavy and thick, and breathing is difficult. The heat pounds outside on the glass, in that silent scheming way it has. Condensation forms a layer of sweat on the lips of windows, and the small puffs of air we get through the slim cracks, made so because this country is an infrastructure of Health and Safety, are few and far between.

Alex uses two screens, her hazel eyes scanning first one and then the other. Her long neck pulls her head sideways, almost like an inquisitive sparrow, but there is a look of tense determination on her face. I feel irritated every time I look in her direction, so I don’t.

She always has work to do, and when she doesn’t she actively seeks it. She is like a badger sniffing out of its set. A mouse tottering to and fro. A beaver stacking wood. A long neck waving here and there, alert and watching, snapping up a job the moment it comes through. Scavenging.  She is an honest working person but she drives me mental with her oblivious morality.

And the Woman Who Laughs is wearing jodhpurs today. Jodhpurs. And a waistcoat. And a cowboy hat. Indoors. She might as well have bells hanging from her hems.

The fields in the distance sizzle with heat. The sun shimmers on the green, a lazy haze over the slopes. Even the birds seem too tired to chirp. And minuscule cars on the distant hills glint brightly in the sun as they wind around the curling country roads. I contemplate drowsing in my car for half an hour, but the heat in there is ten times worse.

A yawn.

A clatter.

Keyboards clacking away.

A laugh, hushed.

A murmur.

A conversation in the far end of the office.

Hello. I have a query today.

Goddamnit these people never answer the phone!

I would like to go home now please.

Anomalous

I am always looking for odd things within the normal. It is never good enough.

I am waiting for a plane to drop out of the sky. Is that too morbid? Hair made of cloud. Running so fast my feet lift off the ground, and I am leaping through the air. Not flying, no. Powerful through the kinetic force of my leaps and bounds. Why is a sunny day just a sunny day? It can’t be. There must be more to it than that.

What are brains whispering behind the closed doors of faces?

How many universes really exist, through the perspectives of billions of people.

Can the heavens and the earth sense our tread? And if so, are we hurting them?

A piece of heart. I pick up a ‘piece of heart’ with my toes when I am too lazy to bend down. It was a paper, but all the girls made fun of me. They said, ‘Eurgh you have real human hearts lying around your house!’ Cackling in that cruel way six year old girls have. Tears sprang to my eyes. I was only trying to be part of the conversation. I glanced at the boy who was my friend. He looked away.

A pair of knobbly, bright-red feet under a door.

A cluster of girls.

One brown face looking up at me.

‘What do you want?’

Hurt, walking away from the group I always associate with, because one newcomer decided she didn’t like this foreigner.

Or maybe it’s because I was weird.

But none of the other girls stuck up for me. None.

Why?

I feel like an outcast most of the time; but then I slurp some coffee and I am vibrant, energetic; ripples of laughter rippling outwards from my circumference.

Awkward silences. Lots of them. Lack of eye contact. Insecurity. Power. Speeding along country lanes; the sky is a different colour every single day.

If it wasn’t for the clouds, I think our sunsets would be monotonous.

 

But it is never any good. Not good enough.

I want an inspiration to seize my fingers, but I am learning that you have to create your own inspiration.

So this is mine, today. A mixture of memories and daily thoughts.

What inspires you? Do tell me. What makes your brain tick, your fingers itch?

Elucidate

Are we exhausted? We don’t know. Do we elucidate like everybody else does? Do we turn against each other, or fall into each other’s arms?

We don’t know, you see.

We sit at our desks, and days merge into other days.

Did we visit the pie shop on Monday, or Tuesday?

No, that was two Mondays ago. Henriette had a cheese and tomato pie, with lashings of melted brie. She smiled in Hans’ face, and told him he was doing a capital job.

The man who stole the moon sailed into the harbour on a ship made of Glimmer. Nobody knew what Glimmer was, but they all cheered as the tug boats hauled the gleaming ship into harbour. Men threw their hats into the air, and women waved crisp white handkerchiefs with their initials embroidered on the edges.

Their maids did that for them.

The woman who’s eyes were replaced with emeralds appeared on an emerald throne, among a throng of public supporters. They screamed that they loved her, trying to grab her, hands of all colours reaching out towards her glittering throne, but nobody could touch her, for she was protected by a wall of fire. Others lurked in corners muttering darkly about how she contributed nothing to the earth, and why is everybody celebrating her blindness?

And, do we elucidate? Do we make clear our intentions?

Do the offices of the world yield some world order?

We will never know.

We are mere cogs in a gargantuan machine.

 

 

Love Letters #41

Dear Hana,

Do you know what a wastrel is? I didn’t either, until Master Jeffman called me one today. A wastrel of a boy, he said, shaking his meaty fist at me. What is a boy to do, when called a wastrel? What did I do? I fed the pigeons with his share of the corn, that’s what I did. I fed the pigeons and thought of new ways to become a worse wastrel than I already am. He missed his corn, at supper, and blamed the cook, who was beside herself. I felt truly a wastrel, then, and owned up to it. Suffice it to say that my revenge was short-lived, and I must be more resourceful in future when I decide to carry out acts of subtle retaliation.

On Saturday Twig and I stole some bread from the kitchen. It was for the ducks by Het’s Pond – they seem a little on the waify side lately. Twig reckons it might be because the pond has frozen over, and they have nowhere to fly to. If you’re really quiet of a frosty dawn, you can hear all the manner of bird calls. Jenny wrens, jack daws, tom tits and robin redbreasts. The ducks are quiet, then. You can see them just about waking up, stretching their wings and giving their feathers a sleepy shake. The world is beautiful at dawn; we swing our legs over the side of the bridge and yearn to fish – only we can’t break that stubborn, thick surface of the water.

Twig reckons they should have called it ‘Het’s Lake’, on account of the pond being 40 acres wide. I told him quite dismissively that the idea had already been put to the Council, but to no avail. Twig reckons he is a visionary. He has started wearing those glasses he’d squirrelled away last year, and introduces himself now to the others, the new ones, as ‘Dr Blackadder’. Never to the Masters, of course, they would whip him to a pulp. A prime fellow is my brother, I say, in utmost sarcasm.

In the morning, sometimes, the folk at the House bring their skates down and have a capital time of it. We watch from the bridge, they shout eloquently at each other and have snowball fights on the ice, twirling about and making quite a show of it, their valets and servants bringing them hot cocoa on silver trays, traipsing down the side of the slope as though summoned by magic, floating over the snow like angels of warmth and luxury.

The dawn is our time, though. Our own time, away from the Masters, away from the drudgery, away from the relentless hours of physical exertion. We fall asleep at night as soon as our heads hit the pillows, but we always wake up just before the first light of dawn, when the stars, bright and twinkling in the winter sky, are just starting to fade. We wake up and drag ourselves down to the side of the lake, we listen to the birdsong and saturate our souls in the still atmosphere of a waking world.

And I think of you, Hana, and how I am not truly a wastrel, unless I have wronged you in some way. I am not a wastrel, if the world welcomes me at dawn, and allows me to live in the miraculous time when the skin kisses our part of the globe, and turns night into day. The air shifts, the songs start, and the day stretches, yawns, and slowly embraces the earth.

Yours, always,

Seb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letters #39

Have you ever sailed into a horizon of clouds?

A giant mass of faded blue puff, rising in the distance like a manifestation of a nightmare storm. It’s England, though, it isn’t real. It won’t turn into a tornado; it is too benign for that. It is still, like a painting, a wall of such exquisite detail, as though some artist in the sky painted every stroke with tender love and care.

Every shadow, articulated.

The road winds in and out, up and down ahead, and the sky around the faded blue cloud is an ombre of colour, from the palest blue, to a bright and sundry pinky yellow.

The trees begin to silhouette themselves, but it isn’t quite twilight, yet.

And the clouds billow in the sky as though fuelled by some ferocious fire, only not so bitter, not so black, not so violent.

Still, like a photograph.

A still moment in time, as the sky transcends daylight and becomes that sultry, mysterious mixture of day and night. Not quite here, not quite that.

I love those clouds. Those clouds that don’t quite know what to make of themselves, that take on the hues of the ever-changing sky, shrugging on the colours and exploding in every emotion. So ominous, yet so safe. So surreal, yet so familiar. So strange, yet so reminiscent of thousands of autumnal evenings, throughout the centuries.

And always, always, a fresh wonder to the eyes.

The Last Day

It was the last day of summer.

The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.

It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.

Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.

She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.

When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.

The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.

She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.

The Rooks had vanished.

The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.

The last day of summer.

 

 

Inspirational Cake

Here is a statement.

Cake is inspirational.

I say this as I lick the last remnants of the strangest and perhaps the most delicious cake I have ever eaten from my lips.

It was small, and arrived in a box. It was coated in a soft, luxurious film of glossy chocolate, and on top lay five single curls of the same, arranged to deceive my eyes. When the sharp knife slid down right into its core, and a small slice was gently pulled out of the whole, a golden brown substance oozed from the middle.

Once on my place, a cup of cinnamon and apple tea steaming beside me, I examined it. It was very brown, and I realised the little moist smudges within the cakey texture were dates. A date cake, then, coated with chocolate and filled with…?

I let my fork sink into the cake, taking a sizeable chunk along with some of the golden cream, and closed my lips over it.

An explosion in my mouth. Sweetness, solid cake, my mouth enriched.

First the dates. Not bad at all. Then the chocolate. Finally, swirling its fingers over my tongue, caressing my tastebuds, a surge of.. salted caramel?!

What an odd combination of flavours, but how well they worked together.

Immediately the exhaustion evaporated, I settled back to really enjoy this slice. Immediately my brain fizzled into action. I no longer felt lethargic. I washed my cake down with the deep warm cinnamon tea, the perfect balance to the overwhelming sweetness of cake.

Cake.

The perfect high note to a day filled with lows.

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Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935)