On a different note, I have this new flash story up at 52/250 A Year of Flash. It was set in the island where my family came from, though the story never happened and I never had such a girl pal. Our home was right by the shore and as a child I looked for tiny crabs with a tin or a little plastic cup in my hand, usually at dusk.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
She left the two concert tickets we had booked in my mailbox, so I went to sit by the harbor with a bottle of sparkling grape juice and waited for the night to pass. Whenever I sit by the sea with a bottle, I have the terrible urge to throw it into the water before anybody can see it--which is impossible in Hong Kong, not even at 4am when passers-by haunt the streets in this town.
My good friend Luke and I threw bottles into the sea at dawn when I was 15. Luke grew up in the club scene in Paris; he was already a man when he moved back to Hong Kong at 19. White shirts, hair gel that had the scent of watermelon and a scar on his upper arm. Back in those days we listened to a lot of Bob Marley, watched stupid Japanese reality shows and talked about his family. He did most of the story-telling. When I was quiet for long enough, he told me I should learn to explain myself to people. I think I must have given him a blank look, as I used to do when my best friends told me what I needed to hear. Another time he squinted his eyes and said, 'Just ask. I've never said No to you.'
Half a life later, I still haven't learned to ask. If I ever explain myself, it would never be when the story is drawing to a close. My friend L.D. did what I might have done in her shoe--it takes strength to walk off in silence. She should do what made her happier, even if happiness sometimes means unhappiness. Whenever people fade away from my life--or when I have a premonition of that happening even if they are unaware--I try to think of how life used to be before they existed for me. What a vast, empty space life really is, when you retreat to its limits.
One thing most of my friends don't know about me: I'm a fan of Ted Hughes. A poem for tonight, from Birthday Letters:
Drawing calmed you. Your poker infernal pen
Was like a branding iron. Objects
Suffered into their new presence, tortured
Into final position. As you drew
I felt released, calm. Time opened
When you drew the market at Benidorm.
I sat near you, scribbling something.
Hours burned away. The stall-keepers
Kept coming to see you had them properly.
We sat on those steps, in our rope-soles,
And were happy. Our tourist novelty
Had worn off, we knew our own ways
Through the town's runs. We were familiar
Foreign objects. When he'd sold his bananas
The banana seller gave us a solo
Violin performance on his banana stalk.
Everybody crowded to praise your drawing.
You drew doggedly on, arresting details,
Till you had the whole scene imprisoned.
Here it is. You rescued it forever
Our otherwise lost morning. Your patience,
Your lip-gnawing scowl, got the portrait
Of a market-place that still slept
In the Middle Ages. Just before
It woke and disappeared
Under the screams of a million summer migrants
And the cliff of dazzling hotels. As your hand
Went under Heptonstall to be held
By endless darkness. While my pen travels on
Only two hundred miles from your hand,
Holding this memory of your red, white-spotted bandanna,
Your shorts, your short-sleeved jumper--
One of the thirty I lugged around Europe--
And your long brown legs, propping your pad,
And the contemplative calm
I drank from your concentrated quiet,
In this contemplative calm
Now I drink from your stillness that neither
Of us can disturb or escape.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Two nights ago a girl friend of mine--I call her L.D.--called me up at 2am and asked if she could see me. Her voice was broken and I said yes, come on up. When I opened the door she slipped past me, sat on the edge of my bed and teared up. I gave her a cup of tea and retreated to my desk.
L.D. and I have only known each other for five months, though we talk a fair bit and I call her my genie--someone who understands and can always tell what I'm going to do next. At the sight of her tears, I knew better than to ask what happened.
Then she said, 'I'm moving back home.'
I tried to stay calm. L.D. moving back home couldn't be such a bad thing, except I'd feel lonely without her. It wasn't something I'd show either, since the whole time we'd become friends, she wavered between wanting to be around me and shielding herself in my presence. The way you take someone's hand in yours to pull them towards you, just to freeze up on the spot and let that person go. If she could talk to me in the safety of distance, just across the dinner table when I was clearly thinking of something else, she could be loose and funny. If I sat next to her and put my arm around her for a moment because we were having a good time and I wanted her to know she had my attention, she found a way to flee. This is how I get close to people as long as I am interested in them, regardless of who they are or what is happening. What the hell could I do about it except to give them space?
For this reason it was a mystery to me how L.D. turned up at my flat--until she used up half a box of tissue after half an hour. Then she looked at me and muttered something. My tall, blonde and lovely Swedish girl friend, her button nose all red and her mind scattered all over my place. I shook my head and stayed where I was.
A year ago I wandered around the city with a young man--a poet--I was in love with for the whole day. At one point we were at a sidewalk bar and I lit a cigarette. He asked me the question we had discussed and dismissed before: What exactly was it that I liked him, why would I want to be with him? I said I believed we complemented each other well--we were similar and had an understanding; he was cautious and drew on others' energy to act on things; I was decisive but slowed down to give people what they needed. We brought out things in each other that we normally wouldn't see and those were good things.
He took a long look at me and said, 'Yes, I think we're compatible too. You're someone who shares and supports my passion. You understand me the way I want to be understood.'
I lit another cigarette and watched the rain. It was getting too cold for us. He was half shivering in his slightly oversized jacket; I smoked and wept. Something couldn't be resolved and we had reached the breaking point. When the day ended I would enter my own life again where I no longer had to agonize over this young man: who he was, what he could have done, who he would become. Just the same, I stubbed one cigarette after another into the ash tray and asked my soon-to-be former lover, 'How many people do you think could give the answer that you gave, and that person actually likes them back?'
He took my left hand and pulled up the sleeve of my jacket, tracing the tattoo on my wrist--which says courage in Hebrew. 'It's because I don't have this,' he said.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Reposting this story for Language > Place blog carnival #5. Originally published in slingshot litareview.
I came to know your country of castles on square streets and rivers into the haunted night as you speak, that's the bridge we have to cross, past the snowy ground where we splash water on the rocks escaping into light. Will you stay with me in this land of forgetting and let the past burn like flies on our skin so that we no longer have to run but embrace each other in pain?
To give you an answer I burn my hair in your kitchen. You drop the pasta in the oven to spray me freeze me as you would attack an enemy for I have turned into Medusa screaming Leave me alone! before you nail me to the wooden floor with your jealousy—the Caribbean music cannot save the night. Our story is a dead soul swinging on solitary walk your mind curling up against the snow the passers by their diluted hope. You know I will not be back.
You do not know freedom the way I do. Seven years spent waiting for the world to turn until you put on your suede jacket and rode to the book of poetry you show me. Never mind the dedication for Andrea she had been there when I was not now it is for you. Life-sized puppets in a Japanese museum multiple yous and us to dart to laugh into infinite traces. For you a man with a long crack down his chest for me a girl in kimono writing calligraphy on a hand scroll delicate determined. In soft lead pencil you wrote She's a writer too.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
No, the 'very fine writing' label isn't for me--wait till you get to the end of this post. I have a poem up at Eunoia Review here. It's my first poetry publication in a journal. How strange is that? This poem was put together from bits and pieces of a story I kept failing to write last year, but somehow it just doesn't feel like I was the one who did it. Now that I re-read it, I almost can't tell what this poem is about!
To writers and artists who come out at night, please consider sending your goodies to Dark Chaos. We have had a recent run of somewhat explicit and gothic materials, but DC is really open to a variety of styles and subject matters. Lyrical, visceral, humorous, surrealist...you name it. We accept poetry, prose and art submissions on a rolling basis. Send us what we haven't seen. Surprise us.
To those of you who love to muse on language and places, here's five more days to join the 5th edition of the Language > Place blog carnival. The March edition will be hosted by Parmanu. Send a blog post of your prose, poetry, travelouge, essay, photography or multi-media art.
Here's a writer you guys should look at: Edmond Caldwell. Some months ago I came across his story The Collector of Van de Voys in A capella Zoo, one of those journals I'd love to get something in one day. Despite almost suffering from ADD for reading fiction online, I read the longish story in one go and left a note on his blog saying how much I enjoyed it. I am partial to experimental and surrealist writing, and Edmond Caldwell does it pretty damn well.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Matthew Hamilton has a new e-book titled Brain Storm which you should check out here. For those of you who are regulars at 52/250 A Year of Flash or Fictionaut, you would have read some very fine stories by this former US Peace Corps Volunteer. Very exciting to see Matthew's new collection and now I just have to use Kindle...What about you?
Monday, March 14, 2011
For the most part there is only one decision I cannot make--to stop being decisive. Those of you who are my friends in real life would know that I tend to give definite answers, even when I am caught off guard in awkward situations. Do I want to go to this place on Saturday? Yes, by 9pm, even if it turns out that I'm busy or I haven't slept in 20 hours on that day. Will I do this for you next month because you need help? Yes, you don't need to ask again because I'll remember. We have had the biggest fall out. Do I still want to be your friend? No, and it's very unlikely that I'll ever change my mind. Now leave me alone.
Unless it's a major ordeal and something falls through--I'm out of work, or I have another rather serious plan to attend to so I can't visit as promised--you can expect me to be there. If I can't keep my word, I'll tell you why, unless I want nothing more to do with you and just want you gone. This 'decisive' streak causes me a fair bit of trouble. I might have gone through a dozen reasons why it's a bad idea for me to do something, but I follow through simply because I've committed to it. Other times it works out for the better as it pushes me through phantom worries to do make things happen.
A part of this decisiveness is a kind of disguise. One day I can still sound consistent and interested as I'm trying to stick to a previous decision with/about you, all the while watching my patience vanish into thin air. Once it goes past my limit, that's that, even if you've been totally unaware. A tango friend of mine once said she refused to be degraded into the position of having to defend herself or her actions. I'm the same.
Monday, March 7, 2011
I had the fever and wobbled between broken phrases. A girl friend said to me: 'You don't feel right; you seem distracted, pacing.' I told her that I am ready for things to pick up speed. Yet between me and reality there is a long stretch of road that I am walking, trying to cross. She knew exactly what I meant.
Listening to a lot of dark wave could do something to a person's head--this I have known since my teens when I pictured myself kissing the floor goodbye. We have always known a lot of things: where to run, what to chase, who to shield yourself from. It does not stop us from laying in bed, defenseless against time.
Where are you?
Friday, March 4, 2011
A flash story I wrote for 52/250 A Year of Flash, 'Playing Safe', is now up at the March edition of Flash Party. Flash Party is a sister mag of LITSNACK and they accept stories of 250 words or less, so fire away!
When you're ready to call it a day--in just about anything--don't you just love this song by Led Zeppelin? (Don't click on the link if you dislike rock music, which some of you do)
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I am awake for long stretches of time that come down to a single moment--split open, splintering in losses, small openings of iron falling inside me until I wake up to see: this is happening again, the disappointment.
The sleep that follows is always the sweetest. Or that is how I would like to see things.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The forth edition of Language > Place blog carnival is now up at tasting rhubarb, hosted by Jean Morris. This beautifully curated edition features previous hosts: Dorothee Lang, Michael J Solender, me and fellow writers including Michelle Elvy, Karyn Eisler and others. Both the line-up and presentation are fantastic, so go and dive into the cyber journey!
The March edition of Negative Suck is up here and this month's featured author is Bill Yarrow. We have a special call for submissions for the May edition - check out the guidelines for the word prompts and send us some good ...!