Friday, 3 June 2016

Flowers in the Mud - A prose poem with images


Flowers in the Mud

8am
1st June

I left it too late to see the poppies cupping sunlight like the chalices of a divine drink.  
Too late to inhale their intoxicating aroma, like Thomas de Quincey imbibing an opiate.






I think I left it too late. It has rained all night.  They’re sure to be battened down,  like hidden portholes, besmirched flowers of the mud, petals like dead hearts pressed into the ground...
Or perhaps they are missing petals, left with just tattered raiment.

I left it too late, dallying on the internet, as in a grimy bar, with a fraudster I did not first perceive was a fake, all combats and toted gun, getting me at my lowest, most base, a wishful imagination conjuring a hero subduing the Taliban out of chimera and lies...
The inverse of a hero, he played a dirty attack. 
They want you in the ring as defenceless as possible.
Don't tell anyone, they'll say, as the eyes you don’t see gleam like the blade of a hidden shank, secrecy, their gag, their accomplice in crime, and what they want is to get you like a mink on a slab whilst they skin you of the furs of defence, then move into you as if with scalpel, to leaving you gutted of heart, soul and valuables. 

A fortnight gone, the shield of laughter and adrenalin, set aside, like plasters pulled off an unhealed wound, the picture of a sorry girl entering, crestfallen, into a room, shown up, admitting she regrets it - such an idiot to be so charmed by a bauble of delights toxic like the apple offered to Snow White.
 I wish now I could erase that dalliance, disown that episode.

I don't want to go out...
Today, the wall of my self-disgust seems like a trench over which I cannot see or climb, and I feel like I could self harm, scratch a knife point down this lustful weak-minded carnality, capable of reducing my better thoughts as though to dust, making me think with flesh instead of mind.

But surely it would be pitiful to appear with a scar.
A sign I haven't grown up or learned from the knocks of life. 
If I was an adolescent I could perhaps be forgiven for sinking into it, but I cannot play the wounded ingenue role as though this is the first time I was ever hurt, or shamed by my mistakes. 

The poppy photos - Jonathan's, that is - which put the poppy idea into my head - well, I envy now that whilst I was obsessing on soldier fantasies, almost two days lost to that gun barrel of phantasm, Jonathan, was out in the park with his camera photographing poppies in the spring light. 

And I envy that he saw them not just through a screen, that he smelled and touched the fragility of the red petals, imbibed the actual poppy-ness of the poppy phenomena.

And I wish I had seen the poppies in their red skirted prime - fleeting as a blaze of ballerinas on a stage, a miracle of sun-shot tutu and leap and arabesque - their frailty, a gift, a sign of the fleetingness of existence, its elusive brevity surely a call to life...
but distracted on pixilated poppy fields in Afghanistan, diminished and distant on the standardised screen I did not go anywhere except for my escapist trips.

How stupid can anyone be? I feel so mad at me.
That shameless flirtation I wish I could erase out of my inbox forever. That.
If we could just throw it up, like alcohol after a bad night and flush it down into the sewers where it belongs as something we should never in the first place have sucked up. 
We should have left the lift shut on that Pandora's box.

In shame I die to self, my reflection a blurred dis-integrity, a sick fragment I try to pull off and drown, as a damaged limb, canker to the rest. And I loathe what I did and wrote about but now it's done, what's to be done? I fall as though down, down, this latest mistake was just one of a sequence, I regret…


The ground begins to seem shaky, and I admit I hate what I have done, that latest dalliance, somehow an echo of past, repeating mistake, talking to strangers when I know I should look away, and then a whisper like a gathering of angels, a Greek chorus that tells me, enough is enough, and it's like being lifted as though from the depth of a pond, and standing like Botticelli's Birth of Venus on a scallop shell.








4pm
(the same day)

When finally I reached The Regent’s Park, I felt the grass underfoot like a buoyant wave - the first feel of grass for many months, the openness of the landscape like an unrolling of a sheet on which are written all my mistakes and sins, nowhere to hide, the sky saying nothing but it is my own reckoning that hurts. 
And I picture the opprobrium of an all seeing eye in the gathering clouds, a gathering of minds saying - what false, empty values she entertained. 

But little time for self-recrimination, and I rush across the turf to meet J.M.
I'm sure they will be flattened, I texted on the way, by that oppressive rain in the night.
We'll see, he said.

By the rose buds, he calls my name. 
He saw me first. 
I turn. 
The first friend I have seen in four weeks. 
Twenty-eight days of solitude.  
Blue eyes meet blue, then a smile, an actual, bodily touch of hand on shoulder, light as a blessing.
I find it quite difficult at first to voice a thought but then he takes me to a border of poppies.
I tell him my misadventure, and it is gone, like a sin washed away in a confessional, but no Catholic priest to tell me they need the details, no questions. 
No penance required to cancel it. 
It's gone.

The poppies stand tall.
Not a sign that they were crushed down, just a single petal dislodged.

J.M has arrived with a camera.
Well, more useful to us than a rifle, I laugh.
And we aim it at the flowers just capturing what is there. 

I take the camera then and zoom into the poppy middle, an abstract like a butterfly pictures we made at primary school where you press the paper in half to make an almost symmetrical image.




It is a purplish middle and the stamens are loaded with pollen and magnetise the honey bees, but I am too slow with the camera technology to capture the bee in the picture before it flies off. 
Never mind...

I move on, along the poppy row, peering at petals, middles and the stems which some tourists snapped off to take poppies home like trophies of the royal park.  





J. says the stems actually bleed when they are severed. 
I picture then crying red tears, imagine a stem like a torso suddenly severed from head, face.


I want to remove a slug at one point, and try to move it with a grass blade but feel then like a malicious child and leave it where it is, the creature tenaciously bonded to its happy petal.
And what place mine to come in an evict him with stick or grass blade, like weapons to that small thing? I would be no better than that vile trickster on the internet to hurt one of Nature's little beings.


We wander on.
I photograph buttercups, to me, always a happy flower.
Forget-me-nots that remind me of the tins of anachronistic Yardley’s talc in my grandmother's bathroom smelling of forget-me-nots.
And a wild rose, white, almost hidden rose behind the railings of the inner circle.









In the café, we drink coffee before a vast, cinema screen sized window, J.M framed like a film star but he refuses to be photographed, which makes me have to remember each line and the flop of hair and the blueness of his eyes, the knit of the crew neck, instead of staring at the diminished, pixilated version on a screen.

I picture him as a soldier who survived a war. 
He looks no different to me from how he would look if it was 1918.


With thanks to Jonathan Michael Stone for participation and loan of camera equipment