I recently suggested to Miss Heart of House of Heart that we collaborate together on a particular hare-brained idea. I am delighted to say that the gracious Miss Heart agreed to indulge my whim and displayed not inconsiderable patience with so idle and tardy a rogue. The result is the following poem, one half written by the vastly talented Miss Heart and the other part by myself. Like any work of the imagination it can be read in a number of ways or fashions. Suffice to say that there are many conflicting versions of events, that the same incidents can recur in different locations with a varying cast of characters and that all you may surmise doesn’t necessarily dispel the mystery.
The autumn leaves have begun to fall.
Late October London is covered in hues of orange and purple.
On my bench by the river I daydream that I am
an adolescent reptile escaped from Kafka’s Die Verwanlung,
Laid back, baking in the sun.
My nostrils absorb layers of perfumes,
but women are for later, for now I am content to observe.
To my advantage I know all about the ladies
but they know so little about me.
Thinking of you against my wishes,
Dying just a little, dying and dead all sweet hope
of our dream never realised.
I imagine my earthly body padded sat beside yours on a grassy knoll
to breathe in the scent of lilac and the mossy green River Delta.
In the dark I am nude but for a shadow across my torso.
You are so near and to distract my self from the honey of desire
I distract my mind with “In A Dark Time” by Roethke.
You plead and to make me stay burn your breast with my cigarette.
By chance we meet years from now at the Cafe Rouge Et Noir.
You are so fragile, your eyes the soft halo of sunflowers.
In my arms you sway like a young birch in a summer tempest.
I am reminded of yesterday when we gave away what we had already lost.
We sing sad songs and hold each other, knowing love has died and we with it.
Can we ever escape the past?
Changing the scene, mood and direction,
Demolishing those very tender memories
Guilty yet again by this sense of omission,
Just leave the ruins intact, buried deep down.
The stratum of history juts all around here,
A nightmare but not my own, belonging to these others
That press against me in these antique streets
Desperately pretending that they are in fact alive.
Sometimes I catch myself wishing you were here
To guide me, hold my hand, stroke my hair,
Soothe me after the storm has subsided
That glint in your eye, the passion causing
My insides to unfurl like a flower seeking the sun
Can the colour of love transform this gray
Brutalist cell into the vivid fan of a peacock
Strutting through a mescaline paradise?
Only your intensity can grant this miserable miracle.
But in a future as yet undefined
I know we will meet again once more
By chance, of course, and we will dance together
At the Cafe Rouge et Noir, torn between
Hate and love and a fierce unquenchable desire.
Let me show you
The particular exhilaration
Associated with the ultimate
Annihilation of the self.
Yeah you know what I mean
I think you catch my drift
Just come down to me.
Perhaps at one point
We could have made love
Like the angels do:
A profound and absolute
Identification never to be
Sundered or torn apart.
But that moment, alas,
Has long lost past.
Instead I will hold you
And look you in the eyes,
Hoping you glimpse
But it’s not only words
That lie and mislead, looks
Can be very deceptive.
Maybe behind my
Oh-so doting gaze
You won’t see the hellfire
On a dimmer switch
Ready to ignite and rage,
That will consume us
In an orgy of lust.
Yes yes yes yes
Just let yourself get carried away
And scream out a yes and yes again,
In an agony of haste rip off my clothes
As I tear off yours so that I can sink
My teeth into your flawless skin,
Such perfection needs to be marked.
I so desperately long for your succour
But I am the kind that will always
Bite the hand that feeds,
So you better hold me down
Before I tie you up and tease
You with a merciless insolence,
Until we pass the event horizon
Of articulation, going beyond language;
(I am so tired of words,
Of their relentless, never ceasing,
Till we just
Squeal and grunt,
Groan and sigh,
Ourselves finally annihilated.
For if we cannot be angels
We can regain, at least temporarily,
The immediacy of our long lost,
Pristine, animal being.
My fourth (and final, well for the moment anyway) recording from my recently published collection Motion No. 69. My other recordings The Answer, My Evil is Stronger and Curvature can be heard by following the links. Of course to get the full works you will have to buy the collection available from Amazon.
Happy Christmas and Holiday Season to all my lovely, loyal readers.
More Beautiful Still
You are the bride
stripped bare by the
vestal bachelors, even.
I would strip you down
to the very bone,
to burn myself
on the upside-down flame
that is your heart.
For you, to me
are as beautiful as
a lipstick-stained cigarette
held between trembling fingers;
More beautiful still
than the parted legs
of an architect’s divider
bisecting a wearying,
unwavering straight line.
Even more beautiful
than a roiling dark cloud
pregnant with heavy rain.
As beautiful as
a string of zeros and O’s.
Still more beautiful
than the city in summer—
festering like an open wound.
Still as beautiful, even
as the angle
between two walls.
Will the conjunction
in the heavenly zones
between your beauty
and my uncertain,
result in a happy ending?
The sensation started in my thumbs. A weightlessness, an unbelievable lightness. I rolled over and shook my hands, thinking I’d just been sleeping too long in the same position. The sickening sensation only grew worse. I lay staring at the ceiling for a time, willing for it to stop. It spread from my thumbs to my wrists and back down into my other fingers.
I slipped quietly from bed so as not to disturb Henry. He was never pleasant when awoken in the middle of the night. In the bathroom, I elbowed the light on to protect my hands, hands that no longer felt like they belonged to me.
The flickering fluorescent light intensified the ghostly sensation. I heard the sound of metal against porcelain and realized that my wedding ring had dropped into the sink. What was happening? In my panic, I let out a scream that echoed throughout the house.
“For God’s sake, Molly, what’s with all the noise?” Henry shouted irritably from the bedroom.
For what seemed like an eternity, I was rendered speechless. How could I possibly articulate what was happening? “Henry, please come here!” I finally managed. “I’m dissolving!”
It was true, I was dissolving like sugar in a cup of tea. My fingers, wrists and forearms had disappeared. It was like I was being erased, I was being rubbed out. The phenomenon was dissolving every inch of flesh and bone as it progressed towards my shoulders.
With a sigh, Henry leaned against the door. “Really Molly? I think you’re being just a wee bit hysterical, don’t you?”
“Henry, look at me!” I cried.
“Seriously, Molly,” he said, frowning.
“Can’t you see? Henry, I’m disappearing, I am going to vanish!”
He sighed heavily and went over to the sink. “Please be more careful, you dropped your ring,” he said, holding out the ring.
“Henry, help me please, please, please help me,” I wailed in utter frustration.
He placed it on the bathroom vanity. “I don’t know what is going on with you Molly. Come back to bed when you have finished with your amateur dramatics.”
I sank to my knees sobbing. My shoulders had been rubbed out and now my breasts were being erased. Those breasts that Henry had so adored when we had first met. This self, myself, Molly Matthews, this unique identity was in process of complete disintegration. It was becoming difficult to breath; in desperation, I inhaled deeply as my body faded. Now I was just a head, an unconnected head floating in space. Henry always said that I lived too much in my head. Now all that was left of me was this head. For some reason this thought made me laugh hysterically. The light flickered before shorting, leaving me in the dark.
I sat bolt upright in bed. I was sweating heavily, but that was OK. It was only a dream, just a dream. I moved my fingers, they were there. I touched my arms, thighs, belly, breasts –all still there, Thank God, it was just a horrible dream. I was complete, I hadn’t vanished or been erased. I was whole.
My relief was so great that I couldn’t sleep. Unlike Henry, who didn’t stir, even though I tossed and turned. Towards four in the morning my limbs became leaden with the accumulation of toxins, but I welcomed this leadenness. If anything, I wanted it to increase so as to drive away the disturbing sensation of lightness that I had felt so vividly during my dream.
My sleeplessness meant that I didn’t get up with Henry like I usually did in the morning. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling. I could hear him getting ready for the day. The same routine, breakfast with two cups of strong coffee, a shower and shave. It was Wednesday, so Henry always went in a little later, but he still got up at exactly the same time. As I lay there, I thought about calling out to Henry to ask for a lift to my morning class as my car was in the garage, but I was seized with a curious inertia. I realized we hadn’t really spoken to each other for quite a while now, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember when or why. When had we stopped acknowledging one other? How had we let things come to this pass?
I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring. Who could that possibly be?
I heard Henry open the door.
“Oh hello Jane.”
“Hello, Henry. Is our Molly around?”
“No she isn’t. I don’t know where she has got to, to be honest. Maybe she went to her classes.”
There was a pause. I couldn’t shake this listlessness that had taken hold of me, because I knew that I should have announced myself and stopped whatever was going to happen from happening.
“Oh, that really is a shame, I was so looking forward to catching that new exhibition in town with her. I have so being looking forward to it. Really.”
“I’m sorry about that, Jane. Seems a pity that you will miss the exhibition.” Again, there was a pause, longer than before, but it didn’t matter, I knew what he was going to say before he said it. “You know, Jane, I’m at a bit of a loose end today. How would you like it if I took you to see the show?”
“Really, would you do that for me Henry? Are you sure you haven’t got something else you need to do?”
“Well, yes… but nothing that can’t be postponed. A little outing with you, Jane, would do me the world… yes indeed, a whole world.”
“I am flattered, Henry.” I could almost hear the smile in her voice. “Well… I would like that very much, indeed.”
“Great! Excellent! Come in then, Jane, while I get ready. It should only take me five.”
I heard her heels click on the marble floor in the hallway. I just lay there, unmoving, staring at the ceiling, while my husband and my best friend chatted and laughed away to themselves, like they were alone, like I wasn’t there, like I no longer existed, like I had never existed.
After the front door had closed and Henry’s car started up and they drove away, I still didn’t move, yet part of me disconnected… I was in the rear seat of the car watching the glances, the smiles playing upon their lips, the tension generated between them –tension that could only be resolved later. After the exhibition and the lunch, Henry had paid the hotel receptionist in cash and had received the key card –handed over with a knowing and complicit look– and my husband and best friend closed the featureless hotel door in some infinite corridor and Henry cupped her face, like he had done so many times to me, an aeon ago, an alternate dimension away, a universe apart… and kissed her parted lips. That disconnected part of me observed what followed without surprise or emotion, that part of me had known all along that it would eventually come to this. Even if they knew they were being observed it wouldn’t have stopped them, so intent upon each other were they. They knew I knew they knew…. And it didn’t matter.
And as I lay there in the deepening shadow, inert, listless, desperate, I willed myself to wake up, this time for real.
This is the cakeordeath treatment of Dr. Meg’s story Dissolved. She very kindly let me play around with her idea, and I added an extra layer of existential dread, a sprinkling of sexual paranoia and a dollop of ambiguity. You can find the original at https://drmegsorick.com/2016/08/18/dissolved/.