Writer’s Block – A Poem

He sat by the keyboard and eyed the knife,

And wondered to himself,

“Is this worth my life?”

But he raised the blade anyway,

And with despair he cried,

“Why did you desert me? Why oh why?”

And as the steel dug deep,

The blood began to pour,

And he knew, in his heart,

In his soul,

That he couldn’t do it anymore.

As the keys turned red,

And his sight grey hazy,

He wondered to himself,

“Am I really this crazy?”

His head fell to one side,

And his mind turned to mud,

Viscous, dripping, gloopy and thick,

Just as inspiration struck,

And he said to himself,

“What a kick in the dick.”

Bury Me in the Garden

Bury me in the garden,

So that I can be with the living,

The beautiful things that grow.

Leave no mark upon the grass,

No cross should be raised,

Nor a plaque with my name,

Just bury me beneath the bulbs,

And above the songs of worms,

And let the world be as it should be,

Above my grave.

Bury me in the garden,

The space is yours to choose,

For I’ll spread out amongst the soil,

Like a flare burning bright in the cosmos.

The soil is my sky,

Each pebble and stone a sun

Or planet waiting for me to visit.

And I will, one day, one night,

As I slip away beneath a dirty heaven,

Find a place.

Bury me in the garden,

And I will become a tree,

Though perhaps not one that you will believe can,

Grow to become a beacon of leaf and bark,

Where fairies come to dance.

My roots will fall forever,

Cementing me as one/some,

And I will live above and below,

Singing and blooming,

In my garden grave.

I beg you to bury me in the garden,

So that I am never too far away,

Where I can watch my world once again,

Learn to sing and dance and play,

And maybe even forgive me for

It was I who volunteered to leave.

I’ll rest my heart in the garden,

Retrain my brain with the blooms,

And know my soul is only a short walk away,

Waiting to see you soon.

 

Her Aria

The newspaper sat uselessly in his hands. The paper rustled as the mid-morning breeze bustled in through the open kitchen window, gracing the table he sat at – his home-cooked breakfast all but untouched – for just a moment. His eyes were thick with tears. His lips trembled and he coughed once, twice, three times. The tickle remained. His dressing gown was matted with raw egg, patches of congealed yellow looking like snot or worse. His glasses slid down his nose, the tears now leaking freely from his eyes, but he didn’t move to catch them.

Music played from outside. Whether outside his house or just outside his kitchen, he didn’t know. His ears had begun to ring. The music was a low, sleepy aria that hummed with the force of a bagpipes low drone – though far sweeter to the ear. It sounded like an angel’s song, her last call into the mortal world before she vanished forever. He thought of Moira, his wife, and how she’d adore the music. She never played it in the house, not anymore. She had grown protective over her precious arias.

He tapped the back of his neck, the muscles there tightening and squeezing on his throat. It ached unnaturally, like a spectre of long gone guilt was there in the bright yellow kitchen with him, choking him from behind. He coughed again, once, twice, three times. He smiled on the last cough, bringing his hands to the rough patch of beard he’d managed to grow along the flabby gizzard of his neck. As if a ghost would stand next to the bananas in the middle of the day. But still the feeling in his neck grew tighter, more constricted. The newspaper fell from his hands, the wind scattering the pages free of the checkered table cloth his wife had hand sown two summers before. A section stuck to the table, mired in a trench of egg and tomato sauce.

His lips were dry. When he flicked his tongue free of his mouth he winced, it was just as dry, just as horribly, horribly dehydrated as his lips. The feel of dry flesh on dry flesh sent spasms of pain down the length of his neck. He reached for the mug of coffee on the table and glugged a luke-warm mouthful. His lips stayed moist for a second, his tongue even less. He moved his mouth, trying to call out, but his words deserted him, betrayed him, and left him silent in the kitchen haunted by the aria from outside.

Panic became a strange bedfellow then. He’d never in his life met the ghoul that inhabited his body now. His breaths were short. His heart thump, thump, thumped like a hare caught in a hunter’s trap against his chest. He heard the feeling laugh in his ear, just a soft moan by his left lobe and he knew in that second – that clarifying second – that Karma in all its Hindu glory was real. He felt the weight of an overweight man on his front, the pressure in his neck the kerb of a dimly lit street. He struggled with his belt buckle, his entire body feeling too full, too full, too full. And then, like the Angel singing the aria, she walked into the kitchen.

“Moira,” he gasped, his hands so slick with sweat that they slipped from the table and threw him to the floor. But it didn’t sound like her name. It was the final moans of a dying animal, the vowels the same but the consonants were cut up and drawn out, their blood and entrails staining the kitchen floor. She didn’t stop. She walked to the window and shut it tight against the wind. He tried to say her name again, like it was all a dream and he just needed her to hear him. He tried to say her name again but the pressure in his neck grew so tight that he heard the faintest, softest click in his neck and his lips froze, mid-part, in a horrid ‘o’.

Moira picked up the newspaper and sat by the kitchen table she’d loving decorated. The aria grew in tempo, in emotion, in volume, filling the house again with its haunting melody.

No longer scared sing.

I’ll Never Hold Him

His hands are points of certainty

The only things I know,

a salve against the burns

that keep me tied.

He smiles

Green teeth, yellow or white,

His breath is the only outside,

The only breeze from beyond

Sometimes,

Only sometimes,

I pretend I’m by a pond.

He’s sitting on a blanket,

bread between his knees,

his fingers tickle mine

but even here,

by this pond,

on this blanket,

with this bread,

I don’t want him,

too.

His voice promises me,

one day he’ll let me go,

only if I’m a good girl,

a girl who is enjoying herself,

Smile,

Laugh,

tell him I want more.

He draws me pictures with his

cigarette light.

A dog, a rabbit, a knife.

He draws them for me,

while I’m on the floor,

listening to my bones bleed.

I remember my learnings,

and give a little laugh,

even though it makes me

cry, and wish that I was

flying through velvet,

diving through

chocolate.

He tells the baby to stop

crying, it’s stopping him from sleeping

I thrash against the ropes

that cut and burn some more,

but I can’t walk,

my legs tingle and slide,

they’re wet,

there’s no strength left,

it’s too soon and the dark is laughing,

Laughing at my empty belly.

Laughing while it’s crying.

Laughing,

laughing,

right back at the black

‘cos it still thinks I have that piece

all humans have

that gives a flying monkey fuck

about getting laughed at

by the

black.

There’s a crunching noise I’ve never heard before.

It steals away the laughter and the crying,

both,

and in the silence, the noise is terrifying,

the silence has no puppy whoofs,

or thud,

thud,

thud of first steps.

No nothing or anything,

a little it with no life now.

And a twig snaps somewhere inside

that when I was taken from my own mummy’s side,

From beneath her velvet scarf, in an aisle of bread

As she saw the chocolate that slipped my grip

Did she hear the noise I do now?

Has she heard it since?

His teeth are by my face again

his hands are wet, sticky,

dripping.

The only things that are certain.

The Hope of Strawberries

It wasn’t that it was sunset – though the golden hues that decorated the plain horizon reminded her of the quiet changing of autumn leaves – as it was the end of her day. She sat with her knees bundled beneath folds of blankets. Fresh strawberries sat on a porcelain plate on the boundary between night and day, a line that was slowly creeping forward like the advancing lines of a contemptuous foe. She’d brought the plate from home. It wasn’t particularly special, though, it had to be said, she didn’t give any credence to the taste of strawberries either. But each of them, the plate and the strawberries, felt necessary somehow. Like she had no choice. She had to bring them with her. Here. To the very limit of her own territory.

An owl watched her curiously. He had been eyeing up a harvest mouse a moment or so ago but the little thing had scurried away at the sound of his wings flapping. Now, hungry and irritated, the owl watched the woman watch the world and wondered what the human word was for Oostaphan.

She wrapped a third blanket around her shoulders and buried her nose in its smell. Laundry detergent, cigarette smoke and something else all mixed together into a lacy concoction that made her head swim. She felt that now was an appropriate time to cry. She didn’t. But she felt like, had she wanted to, now would be an excellent time to let go of a few tears – if only to stop the aching behind her nose. But no, she wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t. So, she plucked a strawberry from the little plate and bit into it instead. Stray juice ran down her lips and galloped for her chin. Wild and free the juice ran hard and fast, knowing that if it could just reach horizon it could be free. But the woman’s hand was too quick. With a gentle whoosh stirring the growing night air, she smoothed the juice from her face and threw the strawberry head down onto the grass.

The harvest mouse listened to its heart thrum in its ears, a furious angel song that whispered blessings and reprimands in equal measure. He knew he shouldn’t have strewn so far from the bracken. He’d known it. Every fibre of his being had begged the very sinew of his ligaments to stay hidden beneath the thorns. But that smell. Oh! That delicious smell! The harvest mouse was many things: a loyal borrower of straw, a heavy user of the snaking river, a viciously funny addition to any gathering of mice, and a gregarious singer in the correct company, but strong-willed against aromas as potently delicious as this one? No siree bob. He was not that. And still, even now, as the acid in his muscles was only beginning to slacken its grip, his nose was twitching, debating whether or not to make another dash for it.

She reached for the green stained bottle and relished the cool smooth curves of its body. The label was rough where the glass was smooth but she forgave it all the same. For, was she not right that it would taste as fabulous, regardless of label or glass or…fuck. Fuck, she swore beneath her bald dome, which pooled the moonlight in an untouchable pond of lunar white. Fuck, she clucked her tongue, stinging one of the sores in her gums. “Fuck,” she whispered white wisps of breath that drifted high above the advancing lines beneath. She’d forgotten to bring a glass.

The owl left its branch like a bolt of snowy lightening as it spied the pink feet of the hungry harvest mouse. The woman jumped, little white pills falling from her hand like hailstones, as the dying caw of the mouse zipped through the air – gunshot! – before returning it to silence. She didn’t understand the word, but the owl did. Curious, it thought to itself, that a harvest mouse would care so deeply as to lose its life in the hope of a strawberry.

Conniption, Chapter One

“The most painless way to kill a man…or a girl,” he said with a professional, calculated smile, “is to place your fingers beneath their jaw and with a quick…” he clicked his wrist up in a swift, smooth movement and the apparition of gold and green slumped to the floor – its neck broken – before dissipating into nothing.

“Why are you showing me this, Magellan?” Rennoc asked, his finger lightly tracing the embroidered title on the book before him.

“Because you may well float around this castle with not a jot of air or grace about you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to do. A job that may…and don’t you look at me like that…may, or may not, involve killing someone. I’m trying to stop you from making someone’s last seconds on this earth like that stone over there.”

It was cracked in two, each half only an inch away from one another. All he’d had to do was raise it up and place it in the battlements above them. Simple. But nothing with Rennoc was ever simple. Nothing. It had cracked in half like the splitting open of Pandora’s Canyon and now each dead half lay by its brother in cold silence.

“I’d never kill someone,” he lied.

“Look, m’boy, you can read all you want on the reformation of magical practices against “wicked witches” and their encumbered stereotypes, but that doesn’t change who you are,” Magellan said as his milky grey eyes darted covetously towards the glass pendant hanging by the boy’s heart. “You’re the Sahrail. And sooner or later, that’s going to bring trouble.”

“It’s already brought trouble,” Rennoc was on his feet, his hands clenched furiously by his side. “Are you too old or too blinded by the pendant that you can’t see that? Liza is going to lose everything, everything, because I am the Sahrail. I live in fear of the day Herthallin brings his armies here and…,” he broke off. “Don’t dare talk to me about consequences.”

“Peace, m’boy. Peace. Let the guards down,” the old man’s hand was outstretched, his elongated fingers like five wands pointing at his heart.

He hadn’t even realized he’d done it, though now Magellan had said it, he could feel the life of each guard in his grasp. They were engulfed in panic, their power useless in their chests, their magic a futile wind against the mountain.

“Sorry,” Rennoc mumbled, letting them fall back down to the ground, the stone walls behind them, the ones that lined the little courtyard high above Torrdunaigh, scuffed with metal scratches. Magellan nodded, dismissing them. Reno kept his eyes trained shamefully on the ground.

“It’s OK, lad. It’s OK. Sit,” Magellan gestured to the stone table Rennoc’s book sat on. “At least you didn’t split them in two.”

It was meant as a joke, but it made the boy’s blood run cold.

He’d been drunk only once before. He and Her Royal Highness Elizarine Lucaelic, had celebrated the Sepermeru festival of Set – though they were hundreds of miles away and neither of them religious. Glass after glass of chilled TeMor had burned both their throats, filling them with laughter and joy and a frivolity that did not, if ever, frequent Draothair’s Queen and the Saviour of all Thair often. He’d woken the next morning, his head against the soft feather pillow that was all his own, in his rookery, atop one of Torrdunaigh’s tallest spires, remembering nothing. His tongue was thick and dry, clicking as he pulled it from the top of his mouth. His room looked the same, though he could feel at least ten guards in the reception chamber beneath – eight more than usual. He couldn’t remember much after they’d taken a shot and dedicated it to Seth, the devourer of the sandy cities, and laughed at how ridiculous it all sounded. He remembered crying. Blood. Raised voices and…nothing else.

He’d gotten out of bed, the drink still in his system making it impossible for him to return to sleep, and before he’d even reached the window, dread swamped him with the terrible understanding that he’d done something awful. Beyond awful. Terrific.

The smell of fire and burning came leisurely through the little archway that peered out onto the city below, a sign that the kitchens were preparing breakfast. His stomach rumbled and then changed its mind, threatening to fill his mouth with bile if he didn’t step away. But that dread, along with its companion, guilt, wouldn’t let him walk back to bed where he could pretend that nothing had happened and the world was good.

He flicked open the little curtain and immediately looked to the sea, for, surely an armada had arrived in the night and attacked the city. The Palace of Spires was aflame. Scorch marks beneath the Queen’s Tower told him that it had been worse earlier, this was the dying days of the fire, shrinking under the approaching dawn, a hundred Thair all weaving their spells to quell the flames. That in itself was odd to Rennoc, who knew that every one of them was capable of snuffing out a bonfire twice the size of the little puddles of flickering fires they were each combatting. That was the moment dread and its friend guilt stepped aside and let clarity crash down on Rennoc with the force of a thousand horse’s hooves. The bile came then.

“I don’t remember doing that,” he said as he stepped out of his memory, talking about both the fire and his assault on the guards.

“I know you don’t,” Magellan’s smile was kind, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“What if I…” he couldn’t finish the thought.

“That’s why I’m teaching you,” the old man smiled at the broken boy and prayed the tears building behind his eyes wouldn’t show. “Because maybe the part of you that takes over will remember and then your guilt won’t be quite so unbearable when it comes.”

And that was that. That was his choice, his life in a nutshell.

Kill them kindly or kill them terribly.

But kill them all the same.

Cage the Beast?

The air in the hospital was cold, but his heart was colder.

A woman lay on a bed beyond a glass window, the door it sat within bolted and secured tight. She was wriggling and writhing; her great mass straining against the rough leather binds that held her so forcefully to a bed she hadn’t chose to lay down in. Her anger was palpable. It filled the tiny room she was in, so completely, that it spilled out onto the hall a man and a doctor stood side by side in silently.

“Will she always be like this?” the man asked.

The doctor looked at him as if he were about to accuse the man of something but he thought better of it and sighed in that way only doctors can.

“It’s hard to say. Our analysis has been conclusive, a homely environ-“

“No,” was all the man said, interrupting what would have been a o doubt rational, if slightly visceral, argument. “She stays here.”

The doctor bit his tongue.

Another man and a red haired woman walked along the hallway. Their feet were three sizes apart, one covered in faux leather and the other in trainers that squeaked like the rickety wheel of a passing gurney; yet both their steps, the left and the right, were perfectly in sync. It made the man by the window taste copper.

“Ciaran,” the man with the red haired girl said curtly.

“David,” Ciaran replied.

“How can you stand there,” their sister was on the verge of tears. “Just stand there and watch her after what you’ve done…what you’re putting her through. Have you no shame? No soul?”

Ciaran said nothing.

“How is she, doctor?” David asked.

“Worse, if anything. The confines of the room seem to be exacerbating the underlying illness. She’s…” the doctor looked at Ciaran warily as if he were about to turn on his heel and smack him for saying anything that belied his resolute stance that she was better off here. “Deteriorating.”

The doctor had the good sense to briskly walk away from the family reunion just as the red haired girl began to weep openly.

“You’re killing her,” she said. “If you keep her here, you’re killing her.”

Ciaran said nothing still.

“We’ve hired a lawyer, you know,” David’s chest puffed like a kookaburra standing down a mate, at the proclamation.

“I knew you would,” Ciaran said passively, as if his brother had just told him he’d got them both tickets to another football game down south. Not that he would anymore, not now. Those days were long gone.

“We will fight you. Just ‘cos you’re the eldest doesn’t mean you get final say,” his face blustered red as his he realized the futility of his threats.

“Yes it does,” Ciaran said simply.

“Please, Ciaran. Please don’t do this. You won’t ever have to see her again. Just let her out, stop this folly and be the bigger person,” the red haired girl wailed.

“I don’t want to be the bigger person,” Ciaran said.

“You’re a monster,” she wept.

“What do you want then?” David demanded, his voice so loud that the nurse stuck her head over the ledge of her station to peer at the noise.

Ciaran stayed silent.

“She doesn’t need to be here,” David insisted.

“She tried to kill herself,” Ciaran shut his eyes tight, the memory vibrant in his mind. It was the first chink in his armour he’d shown since he’d commited her here three days before.

David nearly said it then, the words gripped and tore at his lips, begging to be set free, let loose so that he could inflict the same hurt on Ciaran as he was on their family. Were he a younger man he may have, his impulse could have overpowered his reason but he wasn’t that man anymore and, as much as it pained him, the quickest way to resolve this wasn’t in the courts but by getting Ciaran to change his mind.

“She needs us.”

“She needs love.”

Ciaran said nothing.

“You’ll kill her leaving her here,” one of them said, Ciaran was passed caring enough to listen. He felt the soft fleshy ridges on his arm, self-inflicted, of course, but no less poignant for it. He’d suffered too – yet they all seemed to forget that. Everyone did with her.

He turned away, not bothering to say goodbye, and strode off down the hospital corridor without a second glance at the woman writhing on the bed beyond the glass window.

“She’s your mother, Ciaran, nothing will ever change that,” David shouted after him.

“I know,” Ciaran whispered to himself as the nurse poked her head over the ledge of her station so she could peer at the freak show family the hospital couldn’t stop gossiping about. “I know.”