Porcelain

PORCELAIN

Grip the porcelain and scream out
Silent little wishes that you
Hope she might remember, and how
Sweet the taste your throat pounds through,
How sweet the fiery breath of porcelain.

Door locked, bolt through,
Oh shitty painted wooden door,
Do not show me thy chink
Do not show me thy chink
Do not
Show me
Thy chink,

Grip the porcelain and you will
Die and don’t grip it and you will
Die and taste the sickly sweetness
Of the porcelain, porcelain;
Grip the porcelain, you shit, and
Crush it in between your hands you
Shit and let the water flow through
All your lungs you piece of shit, you

FIRE! FIRE! Fire in the theatre!
Crumbling prosceniums as plastic vines
Catch fire, and yes I’d like an ice-cream “Well!”
She said, “That’s quite a price for a choc-ice!”
And fire as rain and fire as rain MACBETH
Out, out, brief candle! Out, out, candle, out!
Now the flood, oh what fresh hell is
this? Porcelain! Soft porcelain,
melting down over the seats NO
not the seats they’re finest silk
and irreplacable for us
so why did you not stop the fire
the fire the fire you helped the fire
you piece of shit you helped it grow
you helped it ruin everything
you piece of shit
you piece of shit
you piece of shit
you

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
The television plays downstairs
And that will be some calm to me.
Hold the porcelain, the sink, and
Breathe. Breathe slowly, now, as it fades,
Thunder rumbling far away from this
Small suburban bathroom that you
Hold. You lived, at least. And that, to me,
Is enough.

This was originally a facebook post, but due to its length and for its posterity I thought I’d throw it on here. :)

This is an insanely long ramble about books, but the people who don’t care will read none of it and the people who do will read all of it. So I have no need to apologise for it.

The ever-wonderful Frankie Enticknap said I should do a list of 10 books that educated/improved/whatevered me in the name of spreading a love for books. I couldn’t possibly turn down that offer. I feel like this list is going to focus primarily on books that have educated me in terms of writing itself, since those are the ones that have had the most profound effect on me. So, in no particular order:

1) FANTASTIC MR FOX — ROALD DAHL: So Dahl was a really big part of my childhood. I think he was probably the first author that I really clung to, what with his penchant for messing about with language and creating amazing characters, especially in combination with Quentin Blake’s illustration. Fantastic Mr Fox stands out for me because I read it over and over again as a child, and it has a brilliant mix of pathos and humour: the plot is in league with Wile E. Coyote in a sense, as the farmers focus all of their efforts on a single cunning fox. Although I never understand why the secret underground society of foxes and moles and rabbits so happily dined on chickens…

2) MORT — TERRY PRATCHETT: You can do that with books, huh? I was introduced to Pratchett at a fairly early age — about six or seven, far younger than perhaps I should have been — and he’s been a huge influence on me. I chose Mort for this list simply because it was the first one I read. This was what made me love wit and satire.

3) THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY — DOUGLAS ADAMS: You can do THAT with books? Really? Is he in jail? He’s dead? Oh.
Hitchhiker’s is interminably silly yet also skeweringly clever. He takes convention, rearranges the letters and gets MOUSEDOLPHINVOGON. Absolutely a must-read. The trilogy is kinda long, but it flies by. I read this at the same time as Pratchett despite it being significantly longer.

4) VANITY FAIR — WILLIAM THACKERAY: I mean, it’s Vanity Fair. That’s usually enough for most people. But it gets on this list mainily because it redeemed Victorian literature for me. I’ve always found Dickens a bit turgid at points, but Vanity Fair is keen in its satire and genuinely hilarious.

5) TORTILLA FLAT — JOHN STEINBECK
6) THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT — JOHN STEINBECK
7) THE GRAPES OF WRATH — JOHN STEINBECK
Guess who my favourite author is. I’m not sure I’m even allowed to have several books by the same author on this list, but Steinbeck has been such a huge part of my life that I had to include all three. In summary, these books have been the grounding for the wild fantasy of Pratchett and Adams, ruthless in their realism and dark in their themes. Steinbeck is an author but also a poet: efficient, concise, yet evocative. He impresses me most, however, with his endings — they’re oddly satisfying in the sense that there is no real conclusion, but such a lack of conclusion perfectly mirrors real life. READ STEINBECK AGH YOU MUST!

8) THE BELL JAR — SYLVIA PLATH
9) THE CATCHER IN THE RYE — J.D. SALINGER
No, Plath wasn’t Salinger in drag I swear. I’ve grouped these two together not because they’re by the same other, but because they hit the beautiful and ideal mid-point of the spectrum I’ve hinted at. If Pratchett and Adams are wildly fantastical, and Steinbeck is starkly realistic, then Plath and Salinger combine the two. You won’t believe me if you haven’t read it, but The Bell Jar is a surprisingly funny book. Both of these books are riddled with dark humour, which renders a true-to-life environment while creating highly engaging characters. Plus these two are fairly short so you’d zoom through them AND YOU REALLY SHOULD

10) MRS DALLOWAY — VIRGINIA WOOLF: We’re at 10 already? Serves me right for including three Steinbecks. But anyway — I haven’t even finished Mrs Dalloway and it’s already pushed its way on to this list, narrowly beating out ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. The reason that Woolf triumphs, however, is her syntax. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s like that clichéd image of trying to catch a bar of soap in the shower. It’s like a living thing. It’s like you’ve just jumped out of a window with James Bond but on the way down you’re having a discussion about the economic situation of Albania. It’s so rich and condensed and wonderful and I’m going to be studying it this year I think. YES must read more Woolf

What Jennifer Lawrence Should Have Done

I don’t need to tell you, oh person of the internet, that nude photos have been leaked of several female celebrities — the most prominent of whom is probably Jennifer Lawrence, actor and person-that-everybody-likes.

It’s not an uncommon story to hear of nude photos being leaked online, and there’s always a furore. There’s a strong element of shame that comes from being exposed to the anonymity of the internet in your most vulnerable physical form. Indeed, there’s likely a perverse pleasure in being a voyeur to this vulnerability, like a greasy security guard installing cameras in changing rooms.

A natural emotion in such a situation, I imagine, is regret. Such questions as: “Why did I take those photos?”; “Why did I share those photos with X?” [Although, in the Jennifer Lawrence case, they were retrieved by hackers from Apple’s iCloud]. In fact, Ms Lawrence is probably interrogating herself as I write this, wondering where she went wrong.

Luckily for her, I am on hand to tell her EXACTLY where she went wrong.

Well, where to start? First of all, Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have displayed herself as an overtly sexual figure. It’s clear that when you do such things as streak through Hollywood in nothing but a towel billowing on the wind that you’re going to incite people to want more. Maybe she shouldn’t have released all of that porn of herself that implicitly reduced her body to a sex object. Who can be blamed for acting on their primal instincts if the other party has already taken the first degrading step?

Oh wait she did none of those things.

Well maybe she shouldn’t have sold her soul to the Satan of sex appeal in her movie career. Let’s be honest, The Hunger Games presents Katniss in a way that is sexualising and erotic. Silver Linings Playbook is basically one long sex-scene. Everybody knows that Jennifer Lawrence got to where she is today by flaunting her body, and she has absolutely no acting talent whatsoever.

Oh, hang on — none of that is true either. How embarrassing for me!

Well maybe she shouldn’t have taken those photos at all. Look, we live in the internet age — you can’t expect personal photos that you upload to a ‘secure’ personal server that you don’t post anywhere that you don’t want anyone to see except maybe one person — you can’t expect only one person to see it! That’s madness! Clearly if you decide to take these photos, intended for one person, then you should be willing to share them with all 7 billion people on the planet. Don’t you know we live under boob Communism?

Oh wait, that’s bullshit.

Well, maybe she shouldn’t have been a woman. Now there’s a point.

There is not a single male victim of this incident. Brad Pitt is not holding his head in his hands, and Harry Styles is not feeling guilty (at least, not for something like this). The hacker was motivated to do this, it seems, not entirely out of malice but because he [presumably] could sell on these photos to make a quick buck. And you know what that entails? That entails demand. There are enough people in the world willing to be complicit in the violation of privacy that a hacker will go to significant lengths to sate their horniness. Saddeningly, that’s not actually too surprising.

Violation plays an unsettling role in this incident. There’s something enticing about what we cannot have — the button that says “Don’t Push” or the red-painted letters of “No Entry”. And the leaking of nude images of Jennifer Lawrence, and potentially hundreds of other women, fits directly into that paradigm. The internet’s collective penis is denied the body of a certain woman, and it demands to be satisfied. The threats of rape and abuse whenever a woman appears on the internet are simply symptomatic of this deeper illness.

And it’s easy to dismiss certain cases, blaming the victim, cautioning women against the taking of such photos. Had this happened to someone like Rihanna, whose appeal is in no small part due to her attractiveness, then perhaps the victim-blaming argument might have been stronger: if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. But the fact that these leaks have been of Jennifer Lawrence, who is a successful actor and — in the public consciousness — one of the most ‘normal’ people in Hollywood, is even more disturbing. What could she have done to prevent this situation that she hadn’t already done?

She did not bait this at all.

And, for the record, any adult has the right to do whatever they like with their bodies, including taking nude photos of themselves; and any adult has the right to share those photos with whosoever they please. Because one person has access, that does not mean that everyone has access. It is the decision of the person themselves.

Sometimes I can’t believe I even have to argue for the cause of feminism. This is one of those times.

UPDATE: Apparently there have been a couple of male victims too, but that speaks more to the enormity of the crime; this is still clearly very much a gendered issue.

The Noble Fool

THE NOBLE FOOL

It seems the common thought that There is not so bad,
because it’s all very easy to say “I’ve been there”.
Perhaps their ‘there’, with a lowercase ‘t’, is just
a place to say “there there!” and then be done with me.

The ‘there’ to which they’ve been, and I stress the small ‘t’,
must smell vaguely of dust, with lichen on the door,
with a bed lacking springs and with marks on the floor.
Not a five-star hotel, but it could be much worse.

And they went there, to the lowercase ‘t'; they thought
they’d booked a grander residency but MISTAKE!
Don’t trust photographs you find on the internet.
Blackpool at worst is dreary and at best it’s wet.

So — ‘there’.

So people think that Williams,
genie, doctor, comic actor,
found himself one day in mental
Blackpool.

And people think that Williams,
not fond of dust nor dirty doors,
booked a quick ticket out of life,
the fool.

How selfish, eh?
To be a snob
and pass up life.
He robbed his kids
and pretty wife
of Blackpool fucking Tower!

And I’ve earned the right to glower,
sneering sickly in my power,
because I’ve been there, lowercase ‘t’.

But let me, if I may, suggest
a little change to your sentence.

The people who have been There know
it deserves to be uppercase –
those who have peered over the edge
like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal.

To be depressed, suicidal,
is not always irrational.
The arguments can be valid
while the premises are fucked up.

Here’s Premise 1: a penguin is a tiger
And Premise 2: tigers made all film noir.
Conclusion: Penguins are Hollywood stars,
or do you dare to call me a liar?

Point 1: my bed’s a time machine,
Point 2: my bed is Liz, the Queen
Therefore the Queen’s a time machine
that must be how she’s still alive.

Point 1: the aliens are here,
Point 2: ‘here’ now means Richard Gere.
I must conclude that I am safe,
though Pretty Woman now seems weird.

Point 1: the world is worse with me,
Point 2: those worsening must leave,
Conclusion: it’s time to go.

Well, I could never speak for you
but I can’t spot the selfishness.

He’s wrong. He’s wrong. He’s wrong — I know, I know.
Yet the argument is noble.
Were those premises true, I would not cry.
But they are lies that he thought real.

How dare you call it selfish for a weary man,
who has suffered so much he can no longer feel
the smiles and laughter that sustained him all his life–
How dare you call it selfish for a golden mind,
racked by ever-present causeless infectious guilt–
to sacrifice himself to ‘help’ those whom he loves.

Oh, he was wrong, undeniably wrong.
But as you spit your blood, remember this:
He lived and left a selfless man;
He was a noble fool.

Whale Song

WHALE SONG

Within the deep echo chamber,
Sounding out amongst the bones of
Whales who cried but rest forgotten,
Bound to sodden sand forever,
Chained to rusting wrecks of lighted
Boats who sailed a course of hope but
Now who sleep in silent water,
Danced around by restless seabed
Soot, and in the crevice of a
Shoal of floating bodies stained by
Azure dust from worn out pearls drops
A jar. It is there that lies my
Heart.

A Town By The Sea

A TOWN BY THE SEA

We all walked down to a town by the sea,
Shouting our names and shuffling shoes
Along mist-wet tarmac roads as we weave
And sally forth through avenues.

We were whispering for the old times long
Ago forgot to memory
Where we could never find what had gone wrong
In our sweet darling Emily.

We all cried smiles in a town by the sea,
Raising our hearts to the dawn sky,
Screaming weeping our desperate dreaming
For our sweet darling Emily.

We heard waves die in a town by the sea
And we drew ourselves thin to wail
Out a blood ice unending agony
Through our lips so gaunt and so pale.

I see her! I see her! I see her now
Borne on the mist past bricks and panes
As we run tangled foot on cracking snow
Through all the twisting wedding lanes

But we could
Not find our
Sweet darling
Emily.

February Gone

FEBRUARY GONE

Pale blue, we found her lying there,
Mist through her body bare, dancing,
She lay among the marlins fair.

And gems I gave for her to wear,
Oceans’ worn-out restless dreaming;
Pale blue, we found her lying there.

My heart I gave, so small and rare,
I tried to show all my weeping;
She lay among the marlins fair.

By all the Deep’s spirits I swear
To stare no more at souls writhing;
Pale blue, we found her lying there.

To think me subject of her care!
While I could not hear her breathing,
She lay among the marlins fair.

To call her mine I do not dare,
Her life is hers for her living.
Pale blue, we found her lying there;
She lay among the marlins fair.

Istiophoridae

ISTIOPHORIDAE

Wooden floorboards aching beneath my feet,
I crept along the musty hall until
I reached the chest, worn at the edges, as
Scuffed and scraped as a shipwreck’s treasure box.

With a gnarled key, I opened it.

I remember his return, covered in
Sweat and oil and rain, hauling home his prize.
Demon thrown down, the sea pulled from his beard,
He slumped in his chair, his palms turned upwards.

He knew Istiophoridae.

Flames burst from the cracks and scars in his hands,
Lashed hooks of white skin holy in firelight.
I burned like a salt wind in his staring
Eyes. He had done it and he had caught it.

Istiophoridae was caught.

From the chest I took the yellowing bones
And held them to the light of clouded moon.
‘They beat me, Manolin’ had beaten been
’til it had come to me to haul my prize;

My prize, Istiophoridae.

Havana

HAVANA

And so I dreamed of restless Havana,
walking sunset streets past houses lightly
touched with carnival paint that brightly
peels in musty smoke of marijuana.
The fishermen sail in from sea
to smoke and drink to their hauls.

And so I dreamed of Havana, restless,
imagining that dusty, Cuban stone
weathered by salt, an island alone
and alive, Havana dancing, careless.
The fishermen sail in from sea
to smoke and drink to old love.

And so I dreamed of restless Havana,
walking sunset streets with evening’s Emily,
trailing carnival paint that brightly
shouts to run-down bars and bearded old men and the moon and the waves and the never-ending restless beats of Cuban drumming and the curling smoke of glowing cigars and the deep-lined faces of the lonely and the beaten — surely I would be nothing without her.
The fishermen sail in from the sea
to smoke and drink to Emily.

Emily and the Marlin

EMILY AND THE MARLIN

Against a glassy sea
The Marlin; Emily
In tealy mirror-beams
That gleam from scales and shine
From heat, and scents of brine
Drift like water-nestled pine
Above our world, beyond
This bright horizon pond
And through the salt clear songs

I see the whisper-smile
That fills a world and while
Her touch is light and cool
We stare into the pool
And dream to swim among
That tealy glass, along
A chamber deep azure
To sound echoes so pure
That rippling waves will run
Into a falling sun—

I the marlin, she the fisher;
My heart a jar, I meant to please her.