Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What am I Swimming In? Am I even Swimming?

Swimming has a decorum all of its own.

We undress metres away from strangers and their swinging, exposed flesh – yet are  led into believing there is nothing thrilling about it. Perhaps it is the smell of chlorine and its determined physical presence, crawling up the nose and into the mouth so it becomes something to speak through. Perhaps it’s the cell-like structure of each cubicle, mocking with squealing plastic locks and wooden slats. Everything is always damp. Even the sound of the pool has a dampness to it – both that of running water, never the running water, only the jerky shots of splashing bodies.

The pool waits around a corner lined with showers and foot sprays. There is a kind of sequential pantomime to entering the swimming baths – hence the ‘costume’. Mine is black and intentionally shrouding,  pushing down the swollen stomach, sitting high above the half-shrunken breasts; yet it is ironic in that its black, its almost mocking embellishment at the back of my neck seems to emphasize my nakedness underneath.

There is a small rebellion as I slip past the showers. I offer the select the dirt of my body. the showers are an open-room structure with strips of metal tubing  rusting against the old cracked tiles. It is almost like an intended exhibition in self-control, half successful, in that the bodies braced under the running water appear pathetic and grotesque;  Those showering beforehand flinching at always the wrong temperature, those showering after -  red-eyed with chlorine, hair slicked against bulbous heads and bubbling mouths. They half-attempt to revel in that we evidently are not aquatic but attempt to be anyway.  Children screw their eye up and scream as  various hair treatments slither into their eye. The sound cuts through me.

I pass through hurriedly to the edge of the pool, goosebumps breaking out along  my sinewy arms like a kind of braille. I may well read ‘I am cold and exposed and everyone is staring at me’. Yet this is something ‘meant’ to be liberating. In the  artificiality of filtered sunlight intensified by greenhouse like windows I watch bodies clinging awkwardly to the metal bar running along the edge of the water.
Approaching the shallow-end  of the pool, I notice the  signs, attempting at first, to causally emphasize in comic sans ‘No jumping’. The apparent outlawing of a whole human action, expressed so casually. Laughable almost, as my knees twinge with temptation to plunge into the shallow end, to feel my feet  thud and buckle under pressure as they hit the floor, for the flesh to wobble in the sudden passage through water. But I don’t. I watch in vague interest as I see a child, of perhaps ten or eleven, carry their mother  in a cradling position shilling ‘look how light you are mummy!’

How light.

I feel the artificial light of the room, and eyes and  CCTV, slowly scudding against me. Even I convince myself the water will often some kind of disguise. I descend the ‘sensible’ steps into the shallow end, attempting to ignore the slight thrill of being able to sweep over them four at a time in the natural buoyancy of fat and limbs.  There is the typical dissection the water provides – the clench at the knees, the sudden grip of the stomach, and its final split over the shoulders. I become a  watering head, eyes stinging with chlorine, and a flickering  body beneath.

Let me become a flicker.

But not at the swimming baths, no. We do not ‘bath’ or ‘bathe’ either. Limbs thrash, there is something slightly dangerous, masked over with a momentary hilarity; what is meant to be energy, full grown adults marvel  secretly of how in the deep end they can throw themselves into a pit which would typically kill them. The adolescent’s stinging, creaking limbs are caught in a kind of dance, thrillingly aware that drowning is always a possibility.  The proximity of difficulty, of death, seems to set a kind of order.  occasional glances are aimed towards the single individual, lacquered in red and yellow and slapped  on top of a podium.

If someone could capture the moment, that would be like I view God.  Positioned with a kind of conditioned arrogance, expected to be compassionate, yet in reality on a structure assembled by other human hands. We even call  him a ‘life guard’. And yet how absurd life looks like this.
Everybody in a state of the best of their worst behaviour. Half-naked, lumbering. People seethe in jealousy or bend their bodies into shapes to disguise the lust. Children kick out with an a aggression which they would be scolded for otherwise.

 It cannot be helped almost feeling like this is a site of shame. The chance for cool, crisp water evaded by my body and sweat and dirt  and pump after pump of choking chlorine. I watch the eczema wrap around the neck of the man to my left, apparently losing trust in his own legs as he flails close to the side, swallowed by the angst of his own skin.  His partner appears to yell at him ‘You’re doing really well.’

Welcome to what is healthy. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

I'm Just Doing The Recycling

“I’m just doing the recycling!” She shrilled up the stairs.

(The present tense, why the present tense?)

That necessary warning. Her mind entertained ideas of her husband otherwise beginning to look for her, possessed by that slow nauseating creature we like to call compassion. Of course it was entertaining, for she knew it was idealisation. In the slowly unravelling reality pf the morning he would most probably be still curled in that half-embryonic position of assumed innocence, attempting to conceal the swollen s gut from too much wine on an empty stomach the night before,  delaying the ‘get up’ for work. He could assemble what was ‘ready’ in less than ten minutes – what he called an ‘art’ he assumed pride for, considering the rest his others had so significantly faded.

Typically, there was no answer.

She slammed the front door behind her as she went. She pretended not to care that she was still in her ‘nightwear’ – clothes even wholly ambiguous in cut or material still managed to attract a certain extent of scorn from a passer-by. It was a similar process at work. She had stopped ironing her own shirts as the creases became almost a kind of entertainment for her once precise mind to wander into.

The recycling was light today – just a wallet and some coins.  Other days it had ranged from all items of household furniture, ornaments, even jewellery which seemed to wink mockingly in the dilute light of the morning as she handed it  over. For Paul was always waiting, there at the kiosk, this hands expectant, efficient, It was half-because she wanted an extent of silence, his silence – regarding the desperate nights scattered over the years in which she had crawled to him, dragging her own limbs over the gravel of regret.

She still wanted the silence, yes, as unsaying, she went through the process of recycling. Metal coins became a glass bottle, melted into the already mangled flesh of her palm. She made a marked effort not to touch his hand as he passed it to her – though his eyes had passed the point of contact; she could feel them fixated on her neck.

She crossed quickly back over the road, through the gate, up the path she and Alex called ‘their own’.  She scrabbled the cap from the glass bottle and took three shaking  mouthfuls, felt the familiar burn.  Burning, burning – as if executing the act of taste. Just doing the recycling, turning up the heating in the mornings. It was as simple as that, she said to herself, as she slipped the bottle behind the plan pot edging the door.

She could walk in wearing that re-washed smile, and as the minutes began to trickle, she would be able to laugh, make breakfast, clean, make up her face – even an ironed shirt. All the right information.

All falls into place with recycling. 

I Can't Keep it Down

I can’t keep it down.
For most it is instinctive – healthy even
That they take what they are given
Consume without sound.

They have learnt the art of quiet
Keeping one foot on the ground
Whilst the mind departs.

Whilst time
Thrashing against the mesh of my face
Hurts, half
Unravelled with my pen angle.
The rehearsal of marriage
For the achingly singular
I sit and watch blots and mucus and threads

And think – am I a participant
Or is this death?
Is this the difference between art
And the exhibition?
Feeling a physical outpouring
Over and over
Yet the meaning unknown
And the door in the mirror.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

I Write Because I'm Guilty

I write because I’m guilty.

Some may be deterred from reading onwards because they see the ‘I’m’ and assume a certain kind of informality, perhaps a childishness. Some may read on because they see ‘guilty’ and assume sex and drugs and late nights of self-selling indulgence. Both are appropriate I feel.

And I feel through finding I write. It really is an appropriate expression of what I happens; suddenly I will notice I have written thousands of words, eaten into whole evenings with cold vegetables and aching fingers – typing, typing, typing.

I think ‘finding yourself writing’ though, is extremely difficult – almost like my indulgent kind of self-destruction. I hardly go through the process of writing ideas on paper anymore; perhaps because I don’t think I have any. Or perhaps because the physical manifestation on paper seems almost sluggish.  Instead, I feel awfully unworthy, turning over, mulling through, picking at words and phrases like the ultimate recycling. Everything I have read suddenly becomes a kind of carrion. In the saturation of the media age I wonder how many people have what could be considered ‘fresh words’ ‘fresh thoughts’. Often I marvel over Thomas Hardy and how at the turn of the Twentieth Century, he not only expressed a kind of lament but also coined a number of words. Perhaps worming a way into my language of my own is the only way to retain any kind of value – like a parasite riving through the rot.

However, the academically-esteemed method of value is often through ‘further reading’. Could woman or man make a masterpiece if she/he had the full ability of the English language yet had been raised on a diet of shopping brochures , road signs and a dictionary? A difficult drag of the tongue after life expressed in italics in the exp. Column: ‘ Question (noun.). The young woman asked the doctor a question’.

 What about myself – a  flurry of the Bronte’s, D.H Lawrence, half-read texts,  late nights pouring over incredibly  sensational paragraphs but not knowing of the  person who wrote them. Does this make me a bad ‘reader’? Does it make me ‘bad’ that I never finished Middlemarch but read the same paragraphs The Sea, The Sea three times  over drinking coffee so acrid it made my mouth twitch – like the formation of appropriate expression. When I sit and read the guilt thickens over my fingers like a stain, telling me of waste, of waste.

For that is perhaps a rashness of statement which has rotted down into uncertainty –  is it better to consume or produce? In reading the writing of others I may be moved internally. In writing things own I am moved, even externally.  There is so much waste here – time on one side, paper, energy, life, on the other. My guilt for this is all over everything, and  I fight myself at night.

Will it make me a bad writer?’ I wonder if people would rather be bad readers or bad writers. I guess that reading is typically an expected skill, whereas writing seems to assume  some superiority – debatably. The debate is chaired, today, tomorrow, day after bloody day, by guilt – the sharp wiry umpire-like figure who unfurls through the corner of the gut.

Guilty because the time spent not writing could constitute that of ‘wasted’. Guilty because the time in which I write is so often deemed anti-social, ‘wasted’ in the words of my family. I wonder whether I write to try and  offer a way to understand or to hide myself further. I cannot deal with questions and do not offer answers.

Do I talk about it to other people? If other people are passionate about your passion they become competitive. If they are not, they often regard it  with  a kind of hostility. We operate on an exchange of fears but perhaps this is too much. It is difficult to become attached to anything,  in light of this fear. That is why I am so attempted to detach – into tabloid television, even the safety of closing eyes and curling up. It is non-destructive, but also ‘lazy’. See where language gets me? Yet my hands still return to writing, like they are desperate to leave something other than blood and bone.

Language gets me nowhere, except guilt. I want so often to tell a person in the street that they are beautiful – beautiful has a meaning for me and a wholly different meaning for them and I would be glad we shared that realisation. That would mean something.  Shared realisation rather than shared experience,  finally something fucking recognised.  It would also mean, most probably, a series of stares and be seen as unacceptable.

Still, My grandparents still attempt to search my face for something they  can acceptably ‘see’ – for   writing too is the persual of the selfish, whereas as the social puppet seeing others is  the ‘expected’.  I am a brilliant liar. As part of that I am learning to perfect that equilibrium of ‘being there’ for my family without being wholly physically present, so giving ‘space’ too.  It leaves bruises.

I break conventions through writing and writing breaks me.

Because there is a difference between writing and recycling. A difference I have attempted  through breaking the skin, eating until  I’m sick, feeling the blood on the back of my head and feeling utterly empty. Then writing.  I write because I am terrified that I will instead be misrepresented by my own fickle voice, that I will die and will have only left money, belongings; nothing of difference. For I am guilty of  envying those visual artists –the opportunity to express something which has never been seen before. Words are my lovers, but also my fetter. It would be difficult to express if I love them, for haven’t they already been lovers with everyone else, in some sense?

Instead I use them to turn flesh.

I write because I’m guilty. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Help Me with Tomato Ketchup and Onions

It’s acceptable when you ask for it with a  burger. It becomes part of someone’s job to ask you, part of your role to answer, to smile.

I’m smiling now, but in a way which is not conventional or asked for. I’m in the house alone with the heating turned off, and the cold is starting to crawl over the surfaces. I feel it on the chopping board before I feel the marble itself. Smiling, finding it amusing almost, that the most expensive surface in our house is typically stained by  the juices of mangled fruit and vegetables.

An onion cuts clean though, only perhaps with the slight fizz of regret. Almost like an annoyance. I still smile.

I feel a kind of confirmation that I can mould the onion, like a long-misted lightbulb locked in a brown paper, to a mass of silver-hued rings. I can imagine them clattering but without sound. They wrap around only each other. The knife is blunt (the knives were are always blunt, over-worked, gored for their purpose) and starts to snag on the flesh, like protest. I have already unhooked the brown skin, as if completing a ritual undressing. Like a person rolls their sleeve up for the needle, and the sleeve is both inconsequential and immaterial.

Close your eyes. Sometimes I play this game with myself. Scissoring the knife through the flesh of an onion without  looking. Sometimes it is the thrill which makes the day. And if I slip, ah, sending this blundering metal through skin and mingling with blood, this makes me ‘mad’. If I complete the ring I am ‘normal’, I am ‘cooking’, I am ‘enjoying myself’.

Strange, how definitions change when cutting an onion.

Occasionally the rings seem to roll a kind of acridity which occupies the corner of my eyes like small weight. It is acceptable to cry whilst cutting onions, though not acceptable to cry when cutting apples. Not acceptable to stand with a knife cutting an apple crying even though you know cutting the apple is why you are crying, seeing a pattern of beauty slit through, and not feeling hungry and only wanting to feel occupied, occupied, occupied. People don’t tend to trust crying with a knife, except onions.

Strange how the word ‘except’ is like ‘accept’, isn’t it, yet so different. Sticking like onion-skin in my gullet.

I scrape the rings into a cereal bowl.  If I fry them this makes me ‘conventional’, if I fry them and press my hand in the hot oil and wait for sensation this makes me ‘mad’.  But I feel no heat and do neither. I cross to the fridge and take out plastic bottle of tomato ketchup. It allows me to  layer a design of sudden red stain over the onions.

I would call my designs abstract. Some would call them nothing.

Eat.  I stand with one hip against the kitchen counter, eating a bowl of raw onions  with tomato ketchup. I know what an act it is to slice them. The  emptiness of the house despite it bring filled with objects, the sound of cold vegetable flesh squeaking against my teeth. I don’t really taste, only witness. Sometimes I don’t feel at all, I simply occupy space, time, expectation, for a while.
But right now I eat raw onions, feeling the acridity fizzing at my lips, the sharp shock of vinegar in the cheap tomato sauce. My face is dripping.

It is unacceptable practice.

It is acceptable damage.

Friday, 27 March 2015

She went up the escalator in need

She went up the escalator in need.

She  found a vague amusement as the human conveyor chugged slowly upwards, the handrail revolving in  it its slick of grease of hundreds of insecure hands.  The structural support it offered was limited; though perhaps there was something subconscious in putting ones palm over the grip of others. It was the closest to touch Abigail got. Yet she restrained herself. Her hands, like wild animals, squirmed in the pockets of her coat – almost like game strung-up  pulsing from the fields.  The crackle of artificial temperature, that declaration of ‘ambient’ seemed to prickle her skin. She attempted to distract herself, watching the slowly  ascending line of bodies reflected in the giant pane of window, misted enough with the condensation of  thousands of breaths to provide more of an internal image than an eye upon outside. All there was to see after all,  was  the dual carriageway and the assumed battle between cars and pedestrians.

Reaching the top of the conveyor, she felt  an almost childlike thrill in selecting a trolley, pushing a grimy pound coin into the acceptance slot.  The noise of the falling chain was like that of the gates coming up at a horse race, there was a  kind of  orchestrated excitement to it.  It was in this sudden scurry to attach oneself to a trolley, that Abigail had failed to notice that it was one seemingly presumed for parent and child. This was made evident  by the seat pinned to the handlebar which was ultimately a wire cage with a little embellishment. As Abigail pushed the trolley along,  she noticed this more and more – the holes to let through the squirming legs, the reinforced front to provide that cold steel bite against a  giddy stomach.

Her own stomach flickered and fizzed. Perhaps it was attempting to articulate the sensation which some would call ‘broody’. However, she  acknowledged only that it was far from this. Continuing to push the trolley along, the weight of it and its wheels seemed enough, never mind the prospect of whole hot human weight.

The first aisle seemed to await her with an almost ceremonial irony. Other ‘shoppers’  littered its length, attempting order, though the majority frustrated by the concepts of expected conduct, slow and shaking wheels and cold metal. Strange, the informality with which hands now reached  for bread, compared to the determined movement of grinding the grain, Abigail thought. People seemed a little detached from the situation, like the food itself was laid between paper an plastic.
A funeral for old habits, a welcome to ‘domesticity’.

Abigail did not want bread, even though he  young woman who stood just by the bakery selection scanned Abigail’s trolley almost expectantly, she wondered why the young housewife was not stocking up on the ‘essentials’. The s he thought it was perhaps that Abigail already had a husband to for that, to buy loaves, fresh-baked . even. The young woman lingered, lingered in her own inaccurate nostalgia.

Abigail brushed past her.

In the next  aisle, a middle-aged man was  bent determinedly over the vegetables, aiming to look interested. He picked up a beef tomato and made a pantomime of applying pressure, what he called ‘testing for freshness’ in I an audio radio-monologue of a voice trained to be overheard. His eyes flickered upwards in the hope that someone, anyone, would consider him  ‘a professional’. Abigail attempted to brush past him. Her trolley meshed with the side of the basket he held proudly in the crook his arm, expressing a lightness of pressure. He spin on her quickly in irritation, but without speech – just a click of the tongue and shake of the head, it was like  the reaction of a territorial animal, or, Abigail thought, like a horse shakes its head to  stop the flies crawling in the damp funnel between tear duct and  lens.

Flies. Sticky, crawling, flies whose surface knows no caress.

She ducked her head and wheeled past him, as after all ‘wheeled’ was the verb she had t appropriate to her movements, her footsteps seemed unassuming and led. She paused slightly after where the middle-aged man stood,  drawn by the carrots slightly purpling at the edges, the rings of their   dirt-engrained skins like a token of age. She picked two with  a cold hand creeping from the coat pocket two carrots grotesque in size, almost woody, they would taste close to what was considered ‘nothing’; she found that vaguely comforting. The middle-aged man peered over, head propped on an exaggeratedly starched collar, not clutching a different, seemingly quivering tomato with thumb and forefinger and shook his head in a emphatic swaying gesture. She was insolence he thought, an example of insolence,

 Yet in the next aisle, the elderly gentleman only saw the gaping trolley with the two pale, still dirty vegetables laid side by side and felt an uncontrollable stir he would have called pity – only his wife said he didn’t pity anyone. He moved an agitation of hands through  this greying hair and thought of poverty.

At the end of the aisle, thinking of poverty saw a woman  waiting with a bottle of wine in her hand,  her feet were in trainers, but her arms were in a blazer – two points Abigail knew she was expected to think off as ‘odd’. Something glinted as the woman moved her face, but it didn’t appear to be jewellery. Waiting.  And then the woman’s eyes swum up and saw the  girl, staring at the swollen plastic bottles with a waiting ‘trolley’. An ‘alcoholic’ she thought. The woman topped her chin up slightly and sniffed back moisture. Right  back.

But  Abigail only continued, proceeded to ‘checkout’. the name itself, emblazoned in banners overhead seemed affirmative that  she had  not travelled a distance but actually competed a kind of inversion, an insertion of self into other, an invasion of identity.

And it was in paying in loose chains for two individual vegetables she also went from ‘citizen’ to ‘insanity’.

It was almost a game. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Certain Level of Metal

A poem written on walking past an arrangement of  Jim Dine art pieces in the 'Drawings' section of The British Museum. 

Saw – a language between the chords
Swelled – a stifling ripe tomato
Felt – the lungs perpetuate their slow sad breaths
A fog which declares it’s ‘fine’ again

As the clutch
This time is human
Selects a handtool, but with legs open
What have we become?
Is there time?

Carving out the white highlights of the face
In the shale a-scattered round
From an attack – old nibs, needles
Razor blades

Each strand of hair, intact, yet unbound. 

Is this pleasure or is this terror?

I live suburban. My head is half-heated to cycles which have come to be known as ‘commuting’, traffic, I drink coffee because it is acceptable to ‘wake me up’ when really it is to mask the morning acuteness of unbrushed teeth. I slip up in some areas.

Yet 5 days out of 7 I manage to proceed to ‘my desk’. Touching really, how a piece of planed wood, computer and a monitor I had no role in arranging have come to be associated with me. After all, I live suburban – a society which thrives on associates. That’s the preferred title rather than ‘friends’. I was dissuaded from having ‘friends’ since primary school – the term is  too slippery.

I suppose I am one  who would be ascribed as ‘slipping through the net’. Like a salmon with its side skewered, no longer beautiful or a piece of nature, but a flailing piece of flesh  with mucus spewing. That’s the reality, and I live suburban. I sit, streaming hayfever and heat and hormones into cheap tissue paper, bought by the boss in his edition of ‘care’. Sometimes I have nosebleeds and yet even the hot jammy pulses of red are not enough to make anyone notice.

After all, ‘notice’ is a strange thing. It’s handed out sometimes in a kind of condemnation, which sends people from the office quivering with upset, but I am sure  is a small triumph. To be given ‘notice’, to be ‘sacked’ or ‘fired’ – they are a step-up from the typical monotony but they are still non-physical.  I haven’t touched another human being for four weeks.

Reading is a kind of ‘reaching out’, yet only with the eyes.  When I used to read paper books, there was also touch – I would trace over the lines – but now I opt for screens because it appears more ‘normalised’, unassuming. I live suburban.

Yet I feel guilty for reading.  For in reading I am only consuming, sucking, sifting through the creativity of others. I attempt my own – during the accustomed lunch ‘break’ a literal gritty sweat breaks over my palms as  I try to write. Yet my fingers on the keys are amateurish, knifing.
There is a guilt and feeling of abandonment I leave work at 5pm. Then what ensues is the fight between reading and writing – the questions of cycling and creation. Right now I could be reading the work of someone incredibly skilled. And are these then only outpourings, adding to the wasted minutes of the world?

I wonder if you can answer my question. Everything is and simultaneously isn’t a question and this hasn’t answered yours.  Let’s be honest, a good portion of why your eyes lingered that slightly bit longer over text, over title was because you assumed something sexual by the word ‘pleasure’. Perhaps there is, a pleasure, but it runs l in a half-covered grime, like the gritty plaque coagulates at the bottom of teeth.  I am in a perpetual state of morning. I have coffee, a keyboard, I wonder whether I even have questions anymore.

In reading am I losing myself.

In writing am I losing everyone else.

Being Run Over Outside Work

We were both indulging in that uncomfortable sensation of being societally ‘free’. We had both walked out of our ‘place of work’, the clock-cards bore the burn of our exit, our numerical presence for the day had been sufficient.  it would have been easy to anticipate that our smiles were suspended with what should have been ‘happiness on going home’.  Afterall, we had both received the similar, sequential phone calls – the empty ‘hellos’ and unpausing ‘how are you’s’ with then the trapping, typical question – ‘so you’re free tonight, right?’

Right, Right, Left, Right. Left.

I attempted to confuse my own feet on the pavement outside the office block , stepping on alternate paving, not really looking around me.

I wore the raptured mask, the attempted stretch of skin over a mind turning, turning, turning. She wore not just a smile, but what seemed like a whole mouth painted in red. Like the overworked wound from grappling for language for too long. A jaw which hung as having been propped up  by a receiver, seemingly.

We had undressed too, although only just out of the door, into an almost illicit layer of silence. She worked in a nearby office, which meant very little considering we were only part of a spiralling industrial estate and she could have worked in any room, at any time.

Yet there was a kind of immediacy with which I stepped out in front of her car.

Perhaps I wasn’t thinking. Or perhaps I had spent all day not thinking to have a sudden hot impulse of thought.

How inflamed – excited – even, seemed her eyes  as my body jutted into the path of her vehicle.  Perhaps her hands ran, in the mind’s eye, over the gearstick, to push the car into second and to plough onwards.   She may well have felt the sudden jolt, not sure if body or exhilaration. For once, she would have felt what it was to have to a kind of power. We were suddenly both something incredibly different – for she was mechanical, a throbbing Jetstream of metal and machine oil. And I obstacle.

How close  we could have been to BECOMING, several things, several different things, for she could have been witness to the rolling wheels, an unfortunate part of a ‘tragic accident’, a manslaughterer, murderer. And I could have been ‘unlucky’, ‘confused’ or victim.

Only we weren’t.  Cold, distant, she snapped the car to a quiet halt and I crossed the road. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


On watching the ceramic figures in the 'Japan' section of The British  Museum.

You were made to be broken
Each mark a tattoo of anticipated strike

I thought you alien, rugged
Your mouth frozen

Were you offering peace or were you offering life?

Friends on Air

My friends are on air.

Sometimes they kind of taunt me with the fact.  I anticipate that they slither forward in what they call ‘secure roles’ with the snap of a suede shoe and  their cool crisp breath, ready for cue. I reach out to them sometimes, and they are there, either ‘on air’ or ‘online’ – a little green light  or a confirmatory crackle in a pair of earphones.

I feel the air through my sticky fingers.

“Good Morning…”

Sometimes my mouth  moulds back a response sometimes it does not . Ah, the bittersweetness of friends on air – the lack of pressure for a response.  I told Paul, a long-term presence and arts correspondent that I was really quite fond of him once. He said  that  it was a tragedy that libraries were closing at a faster rate than ever before.

I liked the spontaneity – friends on the air, walking the way home no need to bother about accidentally brushing hands or the hot deep pulse of the pining body. For I have been known to want for too much.

Of course I am not innocent. I have changed friends on air like a string of lovers,  slid under the covers listening to one and then the other.  I am inconsistent, inconsiderate and ultimately unwatched by these friends on air. Yet they are still there.

They carry on even when the things within me attempt to stop, or the mechanism moving my head unhinges and I throw up, or laugh, or bury myself into the pillows with that unbearable snorting laugh which seems the only alternative to  tears.

Even at 3 am where the night quivers in its uncertainty of approaching morning, someone will be stoic, trudging with determined words like boots marching through mud Almost militarily organised, these friends – with announcements every hour, the drill of pips before ‘the news’.

I don’t speak in case I miss something.

Yet I’ve been missing for years. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


 On watching the  interestingly-named cartoon 'Epifania' by  Michelangelo Buonarroti in The British Musuem. 

The holy family and other injuries

Tumbling flesh, the distant expression
Of caresses undressed, made wooden
-          Epifania.

Ah, seemed, the name of a woman
Identity frozen
Through twenty-six skins
Pulled back
Each an eyelid on the edge of sleep
-          The display  was almost intimate

It haunted the rivulet
Below the cheek.

I saw other
Women, men
Direct their gaze
As if disconcerted by the blur

Yet I only seemed to see the stir of faces
The pain in every


On being told to consider 'The Madness of Making each other Mentally ill'

In response to Paul Routledge’s  Daily Mirror column and the comment that young people need to consider the ‘madness of making each other mentally ill’. 

It was perhaps the title of the news column which struck me in its language ‘Anti-social media is causing our young children to turn anorexic’. I instinctively questioned what was meant by ‘anti-social media’ and how the phrase ‘turn anorexic’ seemed almost flippant. After all, would it be acceptable to describe someone as ‘turning cancerous’ or ‘turning diabetic’ – it just doesn’t seem appropriate and implies an element of choice.

 The article I am discussing was part of Paul Routledge’s column in the popular newspaper  The Mirror last Friday (which can be accessed here - http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/anti-social-media-causing-young-children-5365897) . It did open by bringing awareness to an issue which does need to be addressed – that ‘primary school children as young as seven are seeking help for self-harm, suicidal thoughts and psychological problems.’ After all, the mental health of  younger children has been oft-neglected, potentially highlighted by the scrabbling ‘pledge’ of  David Cameron’s government to increase mental health service spending, with a focus on children, by £1.25 billion. Yet many would say too little, too late. After all, Routledge cites the statics that ‘The number of kids under 12 hospitalised for anorexia has almost doubled over the last decade to 119 in the past year’. Yet, interestingly, these are statistics from a writer who opens the column with ‘Boring things, statistics’.

There are many adjectives to describe the rise in documented child mental health problems, but ‘boring’, is not one of them.

Yet it unfortunately appears that many of Routledge’s descriptions are, unfortunately, somewhat inaccurate.

His article  goes onto discuss anorexia as , ‘normally affecting teenagers coping with the pains of adolescence’ . Firstly, ‘anorexia’ itself is  the scientific term for ‘loss of appetite, ‘anorexia nervosa’ actually  being the psychological condition. Secondly, by ascribing a group to whom this ‘anorexia’  ‘normally’ affects it appears the writing is indulging in a little bit of labelling. Although around 40% of those who suffer from anorexia are adolescent females, such generalising statements can do little constructive in terms of increasing the awareness of a serious and limiting eating disorder.  People of both genders  as well as a diverse number of ages  face eating disorders – and by ascribing statistics to a particular range of people, this is not helpful for awareness or openness. Ultimately, many more people outside adolescence do face eating disorders – but it is these reductionist views such as what Routledge is perpetuating which can limit people in coming forward for help.

Then Routledge goes on to allude to his own adolescent years in the 1940’s and 1950’s, a time when, apparently, ‘Kids didn’t hurt themselves deliberately – indeed there was no such verb as “to self harm’.  There perhaps was not the same awareness of children hurting themselves deliberately, but it unfortunately, and undoubtedly, was happening. After all, the term "self-mutilation" occurred in a study by L. E. Emerson in 1913, consisting of recordings of various records of self harm – practised over the years. It is easy to idealise the past as being unaffected by mental illness as people perhaps did not have the same awareness. But not having the proper awareness of something does not mean it does not exist.

Therefore, I believe this is why it is important to spread and emphasize awareness in regards to mental health, as well as give opinion. Routledge is entitled to his own views of course, but it is unfortunate that he seems limited by language, as well by the past.

He admits, in terms of   how to address  rising mental health issues - ‘This old soul doesn’t know’. Still, he offers an area of blame for these mental health problems – what he calls the ‘anti-social media’.  He cites online bullying and various forms of peer pressure facilitated by the internet as substantially contributing to mental health problems.  Yet although people’s problems and anxieties may be exacerbated by external factors such as the media, the cause of mental illness is mental – in the mind. It is in diverting away from the mysteries of the mind and attempting to blame or bolster against things external which seems alienating on Routledge’s part, rather than accepting. Wow – I thought, stunned, as I read the line: ‘The generation going through this ordeal will have to find its own solutions.’

Here stings the implication that mental illness is an apparent ‘experience’ of adolescence, aggravated by the adolescent themselves. And that is why I have such an issue with Routledge’s article – as it appears to smack strongly of a tone of blame. Of course it is important for this generation to be proactive, but it is a generation of course part of community – where services should be available and accessible to all, at the right stages, according to mental health.  However, Routledge reckons that ‘perhaps the kids themselves will come to understand the madness of making each other mentally ill.’ Thus comes to a close an article based on the blame of social media and adolescent vulnerabilities as  a major cause of mental illness.

Yet social media can be used as a force for good and mental expansion – as reflected in the number of areas of support through Facebook, blogs and Twitter, to name a few. Yes, this is a way in which the ‘the generation going through this ordeal’ is finding its own solutions.’

For effectiveness, for energy in working to help people out of illness – NOT circumstance – is spread through AWARENESS. There is nothing as cold and condescending as being told to consider the ‘madness of making each other mentally ill’ and I’m sure others will agree.

Routledge is a Mirror columnist with the Tagline ‘tell that to the young people of today and they won’t believe you.’ I am still a young person yet I believe his article  even though I don’t want to. I For I know and believe that unfortunately this prejudice and stigmatisation, sweeping assumptions and inhumane treatment of people with mental illness continues.  Social media can perpetuate problematic situations, yes, but also can often offer a medium of breaking out of this, and can indeed be a force of good.

It is ultimately awareness,  which allows for a positive force to take action. Mental illness makes people ill,  not their adolescence or extra-curricular activities.  Of course social media can be used unhealthily, but it can also be a force for change. Just like an opinion column with these statistics on mental health could be used to drive positive change, but appears to have fallen into something a lot more unhealthy – a cycle of blame.

 I am a student from the North of England currently advocating for a greater awareness of mental health. More information can be found on my dedicated joint blog site: http://havingawordmha.blogspot.co.uk/  and you can find me on Twitter @EmilyvOldfield

Monday, 23 March 2015

Tapestry of Tablets

As part of 'Museum Week' I will issue one poem every day inspired by my recent trip to London. During this trip I visited a number of museums and art galleries, certain objects or images really prompting me to write, then and there. These poems are the result. 
Even the streets themselves seem like museums to me, a single extended human hand to take my ticket.

This first poem 'Tapestry of Tablets' was written whilst observing the exhibition 
Cradle to Grave by Pharmacopoeia in The British Museum. in two lengths of outstretched fabric are knitted over 14,000 drugs - the average prescribed to a British person during their lifetime.

Tapestry of tablets
Watch now as  this exhibition

Unravels us
These travelling capsules
These blind inhabitants
We convince ourselves are safe,
Worth having.

Is this the future
Or the stage
For the past masked? Is this a table
For ritual eating
Or embalming
Of days, days, days


For too long I have been mourning
For another language
Do these coloured fragments
Convince then
 Of something to manage?

A close-up of the piece

On the Streets of London at 6am

The soundtrack of life
They call it jazz
Trips through my consciousness
The confident bass
Played as plucky digits pour
Fingers on keys, trained thumb on stereo.
They boast of a glory
Of a touch they control

I take the cup, leant to me
For a comparative moment
I feel shallow
The wholesale porcelain, manufactured hollow
Lips to rim. I think
For who has done this before
Time and time over
Drinking chain-store coffee
- I could be anywhere.

The pulse of traffic
Tells of distant life
Watching the monitor
Waiting for light.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

"that unworthy hand"

Join in my affair
After all, the time is done of dating
I’ve writhed under these two hands too long
I am tired of waiting

Just give me a second
To make up my mind
Before we leave for the evening
The light I’ve managed upon each side
The smile unfolds like a beckoning

After all, I’ll invite you in for a drink first
Just as they do in the flicks
And I will set my face for the camera
As you already set the pace with the script

For my dear we have steadily captured
In words what it is to be alone
A reading which seeps into feeling
As you replay
-          The actor at home.

You say the cracks add porcelain character
The fingers I deed to the flames
Like Cramner declared his a liar
And did
And I, mark this, are the same.

Assuming you savour the encore
You watch on your personal stage
Let me live in the past  as you let me

Yet wait here for something to break. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Between the Sheets

They call it slipping between the sheets
A phrase which eases, slides
Like a knife between the envelope
-          The ink still dries.

This is not it
For it occurs just like the alumni book
I’m slotted through, the slice
Of my smile within a photograph
Since being a child
A sob, sob, sob
Of kidishness within an adults voice
Indulged, within a culture coaxed
Of classical music, broadsheet, and glossy mags.

Adolescence gleans a greasy smoke
Which wagers paper wafer thin
I speak as if with impediment
Slipped into sheets just like a crease.
For propped and pinned I form a frame
About the paging of a skin

At one glance people see inheritance
On another, vanity
And another, sin.

Still between the sheets I slip
The sweat puddles and the body breaks
In its instinctive shriek for sleep
My mouth becomes  the title page.
It is not kissable or round
But an incision interrupting font
And so I slip between the sheets
And know what means to lie alone.

For others I have let turn on me
Others shred me down to size
Clutched guiltily under jackets, skirts
Like the child at the wedding throwing rice

There is eternal scattering
‘Recycling’  like my mother aid
The routine
That I live between the night

Like the sheet between the body and the bed.

Holding onto your friends

Many people would say she walked alone. Always a similar route, the morning’s excitement perhaps diverting the foot over a different root. But same old, they call it. Not that they know that each journey was fuelled by individual narrative. After all, she would always diverge from the beaten track  and work her away  down the gorse coated cliff-edge. The vegetation could hardly be described as growing but more like ‘defending’ – liked the bristles upon a pock-marked face, there seemed to be layer after layer of this natural, narcissistic anger, and it filled her with a kind of triumph that her own  daily walk had started  to wear patches, pathways even, in the gorse. She told herself that it was otherwise unstopped, a sequence only her and the elements witnessed.

Yet within herself she recognised that the more one treads the path, the more likely other will be to follow it; even though this was the path of desperation, of anguish and fear. The routes she wormed along sobbing when she felt utterly distant.

She would work away through the gorse every afternoon, in order to come out into what would be typically considered as an  unimpressive cove. It was a cove of sorts, but rather than the atypical arc so often laminated in holiday brochures, it  was like what constitutes a mouth inside a shattered jaw. Raw and saturated  rock jutted into the sea at obscured angles, agitated by the endless toil of waves.  The sand seemed scattered like a dead confetti at the oceans altar, as if committing  the area to a kind of condemnation. It offered both exposure and isolation.

Yet she thought this was an ideal, deserved combination.   After all, the sand never remembered her footprints, writhing in the night under the cruelty of the winds. Occasionally the seaweed spat up at her booted feet as she approached the waters edge, feeling the enhanced sting of salt water on the skin of her face, often already touched by gorse. The force of water would replace her angst for a while, and she would smile, often cramming raw, cold food into her mouth – still irritatingly conscious of the weight of domesticity on her back; cosmetics, food, the rest.

‘Rest’ ultimately has two meanings, which in this reality simmers down to one. It is attempting to condense the endless, all the ‘otherness’, down to a kind of relaxation . This may be exhibited by styling the limbs or closing the eyes or smiling. But in reality the mind turns over and over, like her hands did through the pebbles at the water’s edge. It was strange that back in the place which would be called  ‘inland’ she could sit in a library and sift through friends on the internet, part of a kind of accordance. Yet here she was not sure what her location constituted, not her interpretation, for she was abstract, ostracised – the girl who would stare at rock, how every individual pebble was amusing temporary guise, creased and corroded by water and time, fascinated her.

Her hands had touched stone yet the body surrendered herself every afternoon, as she would wade out into the fizz of water, walking to hip-height. The final thrill of water over bone, almost as if begging to be folded into flesh. The water both addressed sand undressed her,  at last with something she felt intimate – even the cold, liquid, lashing, turbulence, the flurry of rejection and simultaneous acceptance, the sudden searing lightness of weight.

And always the weight, weight  of memory, as she walked home. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Do you look yourself today?

Poetry is an activity on the side of life, they say.

It was the typical ‘family’ occasion. This meant indeterminate hours seated in the pre-polished room hoping for the mercy of easy-enough conversation. That typically was not the case though. She watched her mother attempting that long effort called ‘engagement’ – offering coffee and an array of biscuits which were all really slightly differing shades of beige. The particular thing is that people paused before selecting them, as if it was almost ‘exciting’. It was almost like the canopy suspended above the baby’s head, offering soft colour and shapes at which to flail  a limb or two. The artificial fire kept the room an ambient temperature. Everyone was smiling.

Even Abigail had rouged just below her cheeks so that when she assumed a smile her face would look  ‘a picture of health’ as her grandmother said.  To complete the ‘picture’ she had pulled back her hair tight with pins even though they dragged against the scalp and had  covered the eye-pits over with what felt like a layer of filler. She felt like had almost bruised her face by rubbing so hard, so desperately. It was like her face was determined to drain colour; and she had piled on layer after layer of liquid that morning in front of the mirror,

The ‘family occasion’  had now assumed the stage when people were attempting  to conceal their unspoken but awning distances from each other by nursing their mouths with slightly overbrewed tea. The bitterness gave an excuse for any untoward expression.

“This is nice,” Her grandmother trilled, to which several heads hastily, gratefully nodded. It was as if they were an assembly of actors waiting for ques. An auntie was next.

“I’ve heard you’ve not been feeling too  well recently, Rita.”

They provided sufficient prompt for the swivel of a number of pairs of eyes and a gaggle of noise which allowed Abigail the time to examine the object in her hand. She wasn’t holding a cup of tea like the rest, for she had already downed hers minutes before, when the liquid still singed the back of the throat.

Instead she held a hand. She squinted through its yellowing surface, curling up at the sides of the nails like old paper. In fat, the nails seemed like the original, slightly milky surface which the skin had  swamped over. The veins appeared like slowly guttering spools of ink, and she traced a notably thicker one  with an unfeeling forefinger; it seemed it followed direction rather than actually felt anything.

The conversation had reached the level at which it was deemed appropriate to taper off about illness and collapse into laughter. It started on the word “Still” – Abigail’s mother seeming to spill forth a noise like bubbling vowels. It was met with others like the wings quickly buffet in a flock of seagulls. A hahahahah adadadada hhaeharahaar.

She felt the hand in hers squeeze down, slightly clammy, though with the pressure of touch or exertion she could not tell. She looked at her granddad, to whom the hand belonged it was strange to think that they were presumably joined, at such a proximity, by blood. Felt nothing, although anticipated the liquid lurch of her internals, yet only the long slow itch of a niece’s knitted jumper against the bare flesh of her arms. Her granddad’s hand was still in hers and her feet wrapped in a pair of socks her mother had insisted her to wear, the clips had been leant by her grandmother still digging, digging in her hair, her mouth ached as of for speech,  still coated with her uncle’s attempt at tea. She couldn’t move for the badly chosen, charity-shop jeans and  the well-thumbed newspaper over her knee.

It was  hard wondering what she was amidst all of this. Almost easier, instead, to  seize the adjacent coffee cup ‘belonging’ to her aunt, that may well have been enough to cause dispute in itself, perhaps she would take it one step further, would watch how the coffee  edged against the lips of the cup of she would twist it in her free left hand, spill the contents over her lap. She would be met with the adjectives ‘clumsy’ and ‘careless’ even as the liquid would singe into her skin and she would passionately care about that, those proclaiming inspirational minutes. The minutes in which she was not only witness but caught in some beautiful way.

She wondered why she felt so distant from the hand in hers.

She never noticed the silence and then

“You don’t look yourself today, Abigail.”

And she came forth with her usual confession that she wasn’t  Abigail but

“I’m fine.”

Monday, 16 March 2015

Different Mediums of Art

They call my work pieces
Because that is what they are
The linked excuses
Between writing desk and act.

-          And art
Some are sighing over expression
In a side room, basements
The places designed for storage
Are becoming porous.

I promised
I would reach twenty one
Before I shot my mind on a canvas
I would flick the gun
With a mock hilarity
On a kind of company

Yet these days
They seem to be preparing the gallery
I will never stand  in

But they preserve the hand in. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mental Health and The Voluntary Sector

The voluntary sector is undoubtedly a big and important sector where so many worthwhile and diverse roles can be sought. Whether it is assisting in a charity shop or being a befriender to the elderly or being an activist in mental health campaigning, among many others.

I think it is well-known that the army of volunteers in the UK, in their respective roles save the country millions of pounds every year.

In my experience, this sector does not judge or comment about people who have “issues” as much as some other areas do. Another important difference in the voluntary sector is that you may not feel under the same “pressure” that you have in paid employment. A committed attitude is a useful trait to have, though I believe everyone cannot go into “one box” as some high-powered people would have you believe, erroneously.

Watching a debate on Mental Health in Parliament recently, it was good to hear that at least some MPs in Westminster think that those with mental health problems can benefit the community, of which volunteering is one possible avenue.

It is my belief that if you go into volunteering, then you can make a difference. And there are those that are suffering that want to contribute to their local area, and the sense of purpose they get, can in turn in time help them to feel better about their own lives, as well as themselves as people. Give it a go!

Blog written by Scott W (@ScottMHC14)  

Scott’s Blog:   mhb14.blogspot.co.uk

Volunteers (A Poem)

They work with the worth of their actions
Changing circumstance, giving chances

Achievement unfurls

- Yet there is little announcement. 

Often in silence, unheard, yet enchanting

The vantage of change
We see so often advancing.

We accredit it to adjectives ‘magic’

Or chance or even in fear
But they are the ones often there without asking

-  The volunteers. 

I think that Scott has written such an inspiring article, highlighting both the importance of the voluntary sector in supporting people and in turn needing that support itself. With Comic Relief approaching, in this light, I think it makes it all the more evident that not only contributing to charity economically is important, but time and effort are perhaps two of the greatest things you can give. Some of the greatest acts of charity I have experienced are on what would be termed a ‘voluntary’ basis. For example, some of the greatest support I have received at times of crisis is through the work of volunteers – such as The Samaritans. It is encouragement to keep going in itself in that every day, people give their time, effort and integrity not for money but for the love of others. It so very much encourages me to do the same. 

Poem “Volunteers” & Comment written by Emily Oldfield (@EmilyvOldfield )  

This is the second joint article in the series, co-written by Emily O & Scott W.
Do you have any comments or ideas? Something you would particularly like to see discussed or discuss yourself with us, potentially part of a blog post? Or perhaps you’d be interested in doing a guest blog? Help us to build a positive project, do comment below :) Thank you.