Sunday, 21 January 2018

'Love Maria' - A Short Flash-Semi-Fictional piece about Making Up. When a 'just a drink' turns into slightly more than just a drink!

When it's meant to be just a card. (A picture, in this case, of a stag and a roe deer walking away, the usual rash of glitter),  but then I said, 'So did you get it?  The card.' 'Yes,' he said. 

I hope I did not say anything acerbic and barbed, the kind of remark that feels like a stiletto heel accidentally on purpose jabbing you in the foot,' I said.
'No. You wrote nothing.'
'Oh sorry. I forgot to write it? I must come then to write something in it.'
'I mean, it just says, Love Maria.'
'Oh. I'm glad I wrote something in it.' I typed and then, 'Remember last year, when you made the marguritas?' to which he replied that he had forgotten.
I said,  'I never forgot.' (My mind like a secretary's diary filing, remembering everything, key dates, memories, photos. Well, surely someone has to do it.)
So I ordered tequila on the internet and cointreau although it was supposed to be 'just a card.' And, because it was Christmas, and he lives alone, and men who live alone surely merit Christmas compassion visits don't they? That is, if they will let you get drunk on tequila during said visit, and wear one of those pure cotton shirts that just make you want to reach out and touch them, and have the kind of eyes that you want to look into forever, never taking your eyes away. So I went round for the 'just a drinks' date, crossing the common I had not once stepped upon during the three month split, thinking maybe, just maybe this is it. Perhaps it really doesn't get better than this, I reflect, as a rat scuttles by making me think of Baudelaire.

And on that same blue sofa, side by side, like we're on a long distance journey on a train we can stay on as long as we like we drink three margueritas each, bottles drained. A getting drunk as fuck, sleepover kind of 'just a drink date.' 
On the next, 'just a drink' date (the last of a bottle of orange truffle Bailey's - one of my Christmas presents) a love heart fell out of a sparkly cracker as easy as that, a no effort, faux cut-glass love token. 'You had better have that,' he said.

Yesterday I heard about the leap over the railed fence, the way you had broken your ribs, again, you said, after drinking and tripping home after meeting up with a friend. (What? Where? Why?)
And every sympathy string twanging as I pictured this foolhardy stunt, mad bad and dangerous as ever, and without a second thought I offered myself up for a day of nursing and anything you required. You said you wouldn’t mind a few of us - on shifts. 
'Oh. If you want replacements call Agency Nurses. I expect you would love the attention!'
I said... 'but seriously I can be there in an hour and stay the day.
Anything you want? 
'Yes. Fruit. Bread. I’ll leave the door ajar for you.'

No tequila today. Just friendship. 
And once in I started to set it right, pistachio shells all over the place, tobacco spilling from pouches and plates and glassware to wash and nothing could have made me happier than having your place
as my dominion, all mine, and mine alone, no task too menial. for I would do anything for my broken Adam, quiet, asleep, sweet as a baby put to rest in the afternoon whilst mother gets on, making everything perfect.
Nothing lovelier, sweeter than a man in his sick bed I reflected, polishing surfaces, sweeping the floor, tempted, then, by the unwrapped bar  of chocolate on the sofa and scoffing three pieces because
don’t we share everything? 

I eat it, the gold foil wrapper left on the dark blue fabric of the sofa, thinking, fruit, must put the fruit into the basket. So I placed the fruit into the bowl. Pears, oranges, lemons, limes, and seven bananas and then I peeled and prepared him an avocado for lunch.
How are you? I ask as the man wakes, unfolding out of a pink shirt and Calvin Klein's. Still in pain?

Flinching as I brush against the damaged ribs, my broken Adam.
We lie down then to rest and I consume you very gently as if you are the only apple in Eden.

Then I have to go out, returning in the middle of the night, a bus ride through Shoreditch, youngsters hanging out with alcohol and vapes and abstract of moving figures on the pavements outside the bars and clubs, but don't envy them. 

I just want to be with the man, the bus speeding through the dazzle of street lights and neon, little traffic on the roads, and I cannot get there quick enough, euphoric, elated as if on class A drugs, as if drugged the man. 

My sybarite. My ruined, injured sybarite, patient to most willing nurse.

'I can stay until around ten, in the morning,' I said, but then the rollercoaster carriage sways just a bit, a sickening little lurch,. 'No you can't. I have a train to catch to Norfolk tomorrow. The tickets booked already.' 
So I quiz him and he says he had an invitation to see a female friend. (A 'friend'?). 
And the carriage lurches a little further, still hurtling and as if about to fall off the rails.
'A friend? Really?  The fact that you call me a friend suggests that your definition of friendship is I think rather flexible,' but felt you flex the muscles of your arms, like an angel about to fly, as if you are about to take off and fly free from a carriage crashing and going up in flames.
'And the ribs?'
'Just fractured but nothing we can do. So long as I get bed rest. I can get it there. At her place. I just need some rest and recuperation.'
'Not exactly the plan,' I half laughed, sardonic, 'for the patient to leave the sick bed. The nursing has only just begun. ' We kiss. Between kisses I say,
'This is forever. I want to be be the one at your death bed.' 
He said that no one else offered that before. Booked then for the death-bed? That's something.

The next morning I watch as he unwinds his limbs from the foetal position the next morning. Sits, back to me, smoking. That familiar pose, the slow ripple of muscles. 'If you want to do something useful you could make the breakfast,' he says, and I do want to be useful. This is all that I want to be, at that time, be the best maker of a full English, so I make a full English breakfast to the best of my ability, taking every care not to split the yolks, pleased with the glowing half suns I serve on each plate, and the rest of it, and I melt at the praise I win because I love him, deep deep in, but all too soon we leave the little Eden behind, for is it my place to cage a bird? What do I want? A man or a broken doll that I break a little more with every attempt to own and control and stifle, like snapping more ribs or refusing to let them heal? 
And let him even 'sin' if he wants. For who am I to play a God? Who am I to try to rule over him? Let Love be the God of my world. And if you love someone set them free, I start thinking (grasping for anything, any platitude or motto to make this more bearable) as we walk over the common to the bus stop, quiet, out then in the wilderness, but these thoughts are not coming easily. I must work at them. I wished I was going somewhere with the man. On holiday. And it seemed we should be going somewhere together. Dressed well, washed, lipstick on, shaved. Going on a bus ride for ten minutes.

On the bus we hold hands. I want to plan a trip we might make together but he is just trying to figure out how many fewer seats the new London double decker bus has than the previous Routemasters.
'Message me,' I said.
'I probably won't,' he replies, knows how to play it cold, to torment me a little. And I think he thinks that I like it and I feel him play me like I am instrument in his hands.
And then he is gone, heading into a tube, and we are gone our separate ways. 

Later I message saying, 'Don’t fuck her. Just don't.' But I cannot say to come home, for do I own him? Am I the God of him? 

Only on his death bed, let him rest like a dying bird, all mine, in my arms, but don't let me not be the one to cage him or break him down rib by rib until resembling a damaged xylophone that doesn't play. Let me not bring about the slow death I watch as if happy I have shot the man down like a plummeting bird into waiting, hunter hands. I''m just here to keep the diary. The diary of the 'just a drink' dates. The diary of the anniversaries and the memories he doesn't remember unless I remember. And one day on his death bed I will say, 'Remember this.' 

And in the afternoon I go to a dance class to take my mind off it, of him and her, of them together, making my way through a lake of puddles, 

the rain seeping through the suede, arriving damp footed at the dance class, taking off my wet coat, rain soaked to the skin. And in the wood panelled room, on the wood sprung floor, I start to learn tango steps and my partner says, 'strong structure,' remember that. And I say, 'Yes.' And we try our best to learn the steps, 'We're getting there,' I said. 'Yes,' he says. 

Just tango on a rainy day. That.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Reading Keats in Hospital

Reading Keats in Hospital
A poem for Salvador 
(now age 19)

From the pillows of the sofa, you avert your gaze.
You no longer want us to talk. At desk or stove, I am peripheral.
Don’t you remember those times before?  I wonder as I make
your preferred dessert.  The sting of the bedroom light, as I checked
your complexion, debating the edge between ash white and blue,

you like a fish out of element, about to die, the calls to emergency lines.
the paramedics in the night and a babel to you of words like - ‘pneumonia’,
‘collapsed lung’, ‘asthma’ and ‘oxygen supply’, the surreal gadgetry
in the back of the ambulance van, 
the ‘time travel; journey through some kind of portal we later said.
Do you remember when I read you John Keats?

You,  buoyed on medical attention,
Prince of a half empty ward, nebuliser attached to your pearl white face,
dislodged to make your requests, then back in place.
A range of drinks and half-finished snacks on the swing out table,
cherry stones used to passed down rhyming chants,
quoted like half forgotten mantras.

A sealed view of the London Eye.
Film screen windows so vast and pristine that it felt like we
floated as though beyond portal or boundary line,
hospital robes like angel gowns granted
by some unexpected God.

A vermillion zig-zag charting every abyss of relapse and recovery.
You steamed and mute finding a route like a gilded thread,
a was through the Odes,
restricted to hospital trolley and bedside chair,
as I read of nightingales, and ‘mellow fruitfulness’,
sand waves and sorrow glutted on a morning rose.
Surely your delight is measured against those airless, melancholy days.

Now you post pictures of the skate-park in Camden Town on the Internet and
I do not ask. 

I picture your face like a bud of possibility, the oxygen mask in place,
as I read aloud, ‘And full grown lambs loud bleat from hilly borne.’
I do not say.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Reading Gaol - 7th December 2016 at the 'Artists and Writers inside Reading Prison' exhibition (Artangel)

Quotations from De Profundis by Oscar Wilde 

'I have lain in prison for nearly two years. Out of my nature has come wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb. I have passed through every possible bout of suffering. Better than Wordsworth himself I know what Wordsworth meant when he said:

'Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, 
And has the nature of infinity.' '

 The original door of Oscar Wilde's cell exhibited in the former chapel more recently a rec room at 
Reading Youth Offenders'Institute

 Stairways at Reading Prison

'To regret one's own experience is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie onto the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.'

 Abdallah Bentaga - one of Genet's lovers
by Marlene Dumas

Jean Genet by Marlene Dumas

 Oscar Wilde and Bosie 
by Marlene Dumas

 The first set of books sent to Oscar Wilde at Reading Gaol after a new prison governor, Nelson, agreed that he was to be permitted reading material.

 A further set of books sent to Oscar Wilde at Reading Gaol

A series of photos taken in Oscar Wilde's former cell 
on the day of my visit on 7 December 2016

"Many men, on their release, carry their prison about with them into the air, and hide it as in a secret dialogue in their hearts and at length, like poor poisoned things, creep into some hole and die,'

'I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned suffering and sorrow of every kind. I hated both. I resolved to ignore them as far as possible; to treat them as modes of imperfection. They were not part of my scheme of life. They had no place in my philosophy. My mother, who knew life as a whole, used often to quote to me Goethe's lines...
'Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
who never spent the midnight hours
Weeping and watching for the morrow,
He knows not yet, ye heavenly powers.''

'I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of great art. What the artists is always looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are one and indivisible, in which the outward is expression of the inward; in which form reveals... Truth in art is the unity of the thing with itself.'

'There is before me so much to do that I would regard it as a terrible tragedy if I died before I was allowed to complete at any rate a little of it.'

Reading prisoners in the Victorian age

'There is not a single, wretched man in this wretched place along with me who does not stand in symbolic relations to the very secret of life. For the secret of life is suffering.'

A lithograph of Reading Gaol

Photos around the exhibition

 The former cell were prisoners were held 
before being sent for execution at the gallows

 Me at Reading prison

 A poster I found

Photographs by Nan Goldin on the theme of desire,
her boyfriend of the time as the model and inspiration,
shown adjacent to the photograph of Bosie.


Random photos from around Reading prison
7th December 2016

Reading The Ballad of Reading Gaol
 on the train home

When left for the exhibition at the former Reading prison last December, it is honest to say, that my awareness of Oscar Wilde was scant compared with the perception I had as I travelled back home, a train ride, that is, from Reading to London, during which time I read The Ballad of Reading Gaol and began to read De Profundis, the encounter with Wilde at the prison somehow set in high relief against my first experience of his temperament and ideas, as reflected in the words and satire of The Importance of Being Earnest. st as Cecily Cardew in a costumed read through of the performance I remember to this day the exchanges of Cecily and Gwendolyn and considered taking a diary with me to read over on the train in true Gwendolyn style: 'One should always have something sensational to read on the train...' 
  I had been around fifteen at the time and my mother had provided a Biba Maxi dress she must have bought in the late sixties but with the puffed sleeves and tight buttoned bodice as well as the frills on the hem it sufficed at least to make me feel rather like a Cecily, and I found the irony and elegance of the play rather tantalising, an interest in Wilde at that stage was engendered. 
   Years later (last autumn in fact) I attended an exhibition at Le Petit Palais seeing the original manuscripts of The Picture of Dorian Gray and De Profundis  on display, as well as  the controversial calling card of the Marquis of Queensbury alongside notes pertaining to the legal case against Wilde and only then did I really begin too factor the significance of Wilde's imprisonment into my comprehension of this writer's entire oeuvre. By chance, I then read an article about the exhibition I have documented above organised and curated by Artangel, a group that exists to take art into unusual places, and having passed time in the former cell of Oscar Wilde and traversed the grounds into the prison and on exit, I feel I have a measure of comprehension regarding how radically altering his time in such confines must have been, the hooded masks worn on the yards at hard labour, the silence and no eye contact rules, for example. The content of De Profundis is entirely comprehensible in the light of the fact that he was sequestered from the world that he had previously satirised, and he had there encountered such a level of suffering and hardship for the first time, no chance, there of opulence or elegant society. 

Out of all the exhibits I think the sculpture, by Jean-Michel Pancin, which includes Wilde's original cell door seemed perhaps the most problematic and perhaps in the light of the way it lodged itself in my mind problematically, intriguing. To my mind the door is effectively re-contextulised here to suggest perhaps a shrine or altar of a kind, the door illuminated in a vast space and raised on the plinth, leading to ideas about the deification, at least the myth-making, surrounding artists and writers. 
A further reflection:
"Jean-Michel Pancin has created a poignant sculpture for the chapel: a concrete plinth in the same dimensions as the cells at Reading, with the original door from Wilde’s cell at one end. The door stands in the brightly lit room (one of the building’s less oppressive spaces) as a symbol of confinement, the barrier to freedom that Wilde would have likely stared at for hours on end when denied books and papers." Rachel Steven in The Creative Review