Storm: 2013

Advertised for days, the weather men blustered,

The weather men in all the media clustered

And said:

‘We don’t know if this is another ‘87

But we endeavour to beware:

The wind will blow,

Trees will bow,

Trains will stop – the economy

Drop.

 

I woke up early to the howls

The wind beating trees down

Blasting beeches, fraying ferns;

Car alarms yowled,

My ceanothis, cowed.

 

And those great pines bullied,

Whipped to dance

First swaying, then more frantic and fast

Whipped and writhing

Till respite of pause, they dangle

Exhausted, sighing

Then it breaks them, crying.

 

Then the sky winked

The plumes of black cloud hail

Those pines’ waves a green sea beaten black

And the wind wailed,

It screamed its baleful reproach

As it lashed its own aches and gales

On our southern dales and rails,

The sails of sorrowing ships

Shattered in the whispering docks

The billowing blusters pale

And man’s endeavours

To restrain our weather,

Fails.

 

Next came the rain that thundered,

Boomed and plundered

Pylons and deciduous skylines,

Beating its drum,

Bashing at windows,

Defeating cars on A-roads and streets:

The first sirens weep.

 

Yesterday I heard about a boy

Swept away on a grey wave

In Newhaven

The tormented sea made a haven for his soul,

And deep under the turbulent whirls and frothing foam

The currents calm and offer it

Rest in the cold.

The Comical Chronicles of a Pirate, Part IV: A Love Story

To all friends and family of Brian Tinsley: these stories are partly true. Please forgive my own poetic licence, voice, tone and incorrect details but they were to fill gaps. Sailor told me these stories when he was drunk and so was I, and looking at my notes days later often didn’t help at all. Sailor insisted they were all true. I can only say what he told me; if I have made bits up to embellish the story, well everyone down The Ship tells me he did too. Either way, he was a finer story teller than I’ll ever hope to be. So raise your Guinness, your port, your glass of whatever the Sailor and his folk tales as they pass into legend. – Chris

Listen to my story, I’m howling to be heard; I’ll wail you my love story.

Young she was. I was home off leave, I’d come off the boat, the train and finally the bus back onto me old council estate at Melbourne. There she was, frail, tiny, a young girl. I got off the bus and spoke to her, alone; fourteen in the dark night. I got off the bus and gave her me coat.

Young I was. Much younger an’ him. And I never forgot it. Ten years younger than him and I was on the bus alone. Fourteen I was an’ I got off the bus alone and he was there. He put his coat round my shoulders.

I walked her home. Under them stars. She had a lovely smell from her hair, like honey and toffee as I walked her home, in a daze under them needle stars. Right to her door, back safe to her father’s arms, following the smell of her hair behind her. You could never picture how pretty she was with her light long hair glinting in them sulphur street lamps, but just try; try and imagine how pretty. A picture of innocence she was, with that long fair hair and them wide blue eyes with questions in ‘em and that glowing skin all trembling in the cold, all frail and shivering. Poor little thing.

He walked me home, to me door and me mother’s arms. I thought, well it was ‘cause he’d want his coat back wouldn’t he It was such a cold night, frost thick on the concrete but he didn’t seem to feel it. And god knows I was relieved to not have to walk through the estate on me own. Nice he was. Kind. Gentleman like. He pointed out his house where his family lived, two brothers and a sister and only a few streets away from mine. Then safe and warm to my door and me mother’s arms. I gave his coat back. He smiled and he was gone.

I took me coat back, smiled and went. I didn’t talk to her again – I was only back two weeks. I saw her twice after that. First time I was sitting on the bench in the park. I lit up – me mam hated me smoking indoors. Four boys were playing football, muddied rucksacks making shabby markings for goals; their shouts drowning the squawks of the crows flapping over dog ends. I’m getting sentimental now. I saw her across the park, head down, racing by clutching a pint of milk. I waved. She waved back. The second time I saw her she didn’t see me. I just smoked me fag quietly and watched her scurry by.

I only saw him once again when I nipped out to get milk for me mam. On the park bench he was. He waved. I never saw him again, until ten years later.

I didn’t see her again until ten years later.

I was walking through the park in Chelmsford centre alone. It was winter again, but day this time; a hard blue day. Me nose was red and I was walking on me own again. And suddenly there he was, right in front of me. He only recognised me and all! Straight away. I could tell from his smile, even though it’d been ten years and I was only a girl then. I walked up to him.

‘Take me coat love,’ he said.

I found her again. Alone as before, red nosed with cold. I’d never forget her.

‘Take me coat love,’ I said.

The Comical Chronicles of a Pirate, Part III – The Legend and Death of Jimmy Carroll.

tattoo.pngDedicated to Brian Tinsley – Sailor – of Chelmsford. 1948 – 2013. God Bless you mate.

Let me tell you why I left the Merchant Navy. Now this is all true. I got chucked out for piracy; no really, I’m a pirate! That and our man missing in the Med. Man down, Jimmy Carroll, died when he jumped overboard and swam for the lights. God bless your soul Jimmy Carroll!

But I’m getting ahead of meself. See, a couple of us thought we’d do a job; we nicked three and a half tonnes of sugar from the ‘Las Bahmas’ off the Cuban coast. Them trade routes round there have been used for piracy for years, there’s probably loads of stuff still buried in the Bahamas even now. Must’ve been something in the water, give us the idea! Well, thing was we looked mighty fishy, the first Westernised ship that side of the Bay of Pigs! Since America invaded Cuba, that international trade embargo meant we were sticking out like a sore thumb. So we had to hop it, quick; full speed ahead back to the Barcelona side of the Mediterranean.

Of course, trouble was, we couldn’t. There’d been an incident on an international level you might say – an oil tanker had leaked right into the harbour and there was two to three inches thick of oil right on top of the water. Try and imagine it, the hot sun, the lazy bobbing of the boat and all around this thick black viscous sea, murky and shimmering in the sunlight. Blue sky, black sea like some sort of omen of destruction. And the smell! Now this was nothing like these days when you congregate in a petrol forecourt when there’s been a bit of a spillage and the smell is strong enough to wrinkle noses for a fifty metre radius. Did you ever used to love the smell of a bit of oil as a kid? But see, this was a whole harbour, with three thick inches of oil over the whole lot. You was constantly light headed, and if you already had a dicky stomach, it was over for you. So we were anchored, trapped off the Bay of Pigs for fifty seven days, fifty seven! And all with three and a half tonnes of Cuban sugar hidden on board!

Well, Jimmy couldn’t hack it. That smell, that dizzy headache that lasted two months, the fatigue; the stagnation was telling on him. Jimmy was cracking up. You could see it; you’d look in his eyes – there was nothing there.

Well, with all that time to kill and all that tension, we played a lot of cricket. Only one time, when Jimmy was sitting there listlessly on the deck, we smacked the ball overboard. Well Jimmy just dived right in after it, daft bugger. After an uncomfortable couple of minutes he popped back up again, ball in his poxy mouth! Oh he looked like some unspeakable thing out of hell he did, slimy and black with oil, mouth stretched horribly round that black smeared ball and the whites of his eyes staring shockingly out. Well he proper lost it after that.

Finally, we made it out of the Caribbean and got that sugar out of Cuba. We took it up to Tenerife and sold it to a pirate who took it on to Barcelona.

That was it for Jimmy. Jimmy with the mad, white, empty eyes. Poor bastard jumped overboard and swam off. Swam for the lights of the Mediterranean one night. God knows what he was thinking – nowt probably. We never saw him again. I got chucked out the Merchant Navy for piracy after that; they tried to do me for Jimmy’s murder and all! This was in 1973. I was only twenty four, now out of a job, back home to Chelmsford to tell ‘em about pirates.

Next time, I’ll tell you a love story.

The Comical Chronicles of a Pirate, Part II – Breaking Brooklyn

Dedicated to Brian Tinsley – Sailor – of Chelmsford. 1948 – 2013. God Bless you mate.

‘Ere, what about the time we had that hurricane. Leaving the Bay of Biscae we came west out of Fitzroy across the Atlantic. That was the time of Hurricane Alayna and she hit us hard. Force 12 it was, and a journey that should have taken one day took three. Three days in that damn storm with the sea vomiting and grumbling, chucking us about. When it was my duty, I was the only one on deck, everyone else was in their cabins. We had a terrible time of it. Standing on deck, holding on to anything strong enough to stop you being pitched clear over the sides. Pitch dark on night watch, just the horrible cage of wind blocking your ears and smacking you in the face, along with whips of rope as you tried to tie them down properly. Then you’d see the white crest of waves emerge from the black just too late to get out of the way as they threw themselves angrily over you.

So there I was, pitch dark, wet, cold; me fingers too stiff to clasp a rope or rail to steady meself. There’s a fatigue that gets you on night watches like that. You don’t have time or peace to start feeling tired; just a strained petrified awakeness that creeps round the edges of your head and stops your legs moving; though you think it’s the cold. You don’t think of your watch being over so you can drift off to sleep, like when you try to stay awake during briefing and your body drags you sweetly down to oblivion; you think of only getting warm and dry again. But you dare not think of your next cuppa in a hurricane; no one’s sleeping. You think of drowning, being pulled inexorably down by the icy iron fingers that smother you, drag you away and swallow you in that monstrous mouth.  You think of being suffocated by the dense black and white, not fighting to stay upright anymore but falling as if in a dream, sinking in that unfathomable , incalculably huge empty space beneath and around you, and you try like hell not to read it in the faces of your mates. You make peace with your god in hurricanes.

*      *      *      *

We came out of it in the end. ‘This too will pass,’ our skipper used to say. He could say it a lot more comfortably from inside the cabin, I thought bitterly. We sailed gently into Brooklyn harbour and I was at the wheel on the bridge. The pilot was below shouting instructions. We had a big open space to manoeuvre into but the jetty was away on the starboard side. Well it was looking closer but the pilot kept shouting ‘harder starboard!’ Now I’m no pilot or captain nor skipper. But I can see when I’m right up on a jetty. But there was no arguing with him, he was in charge. Hard starboard and I went, and harder and harder.

Crashed right into that jetty.

Of course the pilot started screaming his head off at me; all my fault apparently. Then everyone else was after me too. The ship’s cook had been heating up two vats of stew when the almighty crash shook the ship to its core. Full of meat they were. Damn pots came out all over him.

I still never hear the end of that one.

Poem – Evening Failures/To Becky

Having come this far in vain

And thinking now to try again

I thought of you till it caused me pain –

To pierce through

What I knew

You fasten on to keep you sane.

 

Squatting down

In the gold blue haze of early spring

And drinking in the scents of liquid evening –

And being wary

Of my tired pastoral drawings;

Those weary pictures and depictions

Of liquid fragrance and stabbing sounds,

In which I’m caught between the mirrors

Wherein we see ourselves

And all experience – still and infinite

There

Held in me

Impaled by those piercing scents of spring senses

But pinned – I wanted to be free

And instead I thought of you.

 

Frustrated with my repetitions

Thrown impotent at the golden visions

And dwelling on the extremes

In which we know ourselves,

And what devices we abuse, in our free expressed essence

I fell instead on you.

 

In all our dreams and fevered talks

Of commitment to our higher Arts

I thought I saw our fears,

Our banalities and petty falls

That hover in dull grey balls

In the corner of an eye through which we see

What we despise.

The metal of the moon

Over the blinding silver night –

You always had more vision.

I am the eye that closes

And you the lid that covers it;

Covers you up.

 

I see death masks in the clouds all smeared

An inessential blur

As I tried to pierce the black mist

(Through the sweet forest scents of your black curls)

In which you shroud yourself

That keeps you warm and chokes you,

And so you remained the cloud that flies away;

That shifts and changes,

Romanticised or invalidated

From your soft and ever flowing edges

I never understood your outline,

Until your inner secrets flowed from me.

I could never catch you.

 

The lines of letters plait a pretty net

But you are plaited in the light

A gossomer web can catch the dew

But not in forest shadows, You.

You will not be contained in words.

And while you are all the forest floors and sliver nights

I love and wish to be,

I see you skimming lakes and seas and I’d rather you were free.

Girl in a boat – An Allegory

Loweswater. Bothy. 2007 038

Little girl in a boat.

Her head is a little black sun spot against the orange sea.

The roaring sphere has swallowed the pale dome of the sky.

The black figure bobs erratically on the plopping fathomless surface.

It rows. The sun frowns aridly at the sea. The monotonous vision sighs and sinks.

The black figure rows harder.

The soaking orange is impossibly eaten in turn by violet; erasing all memory of colour and tactile warmth.

The monochrome vision emits a sigh as the girl lays her paddle flat in the bottom of the boat and pulls a blanket over her.

She will have to wait for the sun to come back before she follows it again.

* * * *

There was nothing.

Gradually Something began to mistily distinguish itself from the void.

Gathering and distilling to a point.

The grey of nothingness intensified to an eternal

Something.

It conceived of itself as consciousness.

Separate. Subjective.

GOD perceived of the black around it. So unlikely that separateness could be achieved in the absence of anything to be separate from.

GOD screamed and caved again into the void in terror of itself and the overwhelming empty.

This was the first emotion of the universe.

A flicker remained.

* * * *

Like the frantic dying beating of a wasp’s wings inside an air-tight jar was the first fidelity of GOD’s creation. To console Itself from the hungry blackness of non existence that always threatened to devour it; GOD created its Grand Distraction. In the rounded inverted space before the eye It envisaged a world – circular – to fill that hole and stand between It and the Dark.

The World was all that God could see. It was endless.

* * * *

As GOD comprehended within the absence of space and time the concepts of space and time; comprehended form in the absence of form; and light within darkness and contrasts within fluid continuity It marvelled at Its scope for imagination. To conceive of inessential things and then wield them in to being; to flex them into perfect filigree and in the fluid silver of thought – create all these conceptions into perfect physical matter.

GOD blinked.  And stared for an eternity.

This is what It saw.

* * * *

The earth span, boiled and melted. Salt water gurgled its way across huge quantities of space then fell back; dissolving gases, spawning microscopic lives and nurturing them through the earliest aeon. Huge underwater caves were spun from the wheel of undertow. Mountains bubbled upwards towards the sky, then were worn down by the winds; earth roared open and slammed shut, spewed out; burned; froze; flooded until settled and it’s beings breathed between each caprice.

GOD watched.

And insinuated every shift until things shifted themselves.

In the still early morning of the earth; in the infancy of its life, all was now golden green. Dazzling purple flowers exploded against the stark whiteness of the early light and drew forth saliva from the very taste buds. The air was moist and fresh and entered the lungs like atoms of ice. In the early haze the shadows and mountains faded to blue and the dappled lacework of sunlight scattered through trees, ignited pearls of dew and the world woke up.

The first human woke up and was overwhelmed by the unasked for sensations. After gagging on consciousness it looked around at the mossy forest heady with the early morning fragrances that pierced it and gently reflected. On perceiving the beauty of creation it was stunned into delight. This was the second coherent emotion of the universe and the first human peopled it with successive after successive as it connected its own perceptions with every image. Finding names for every colour, words were developed for every sensation, every smell, every taste and texture that are not now found together in one language. Giving time to reflect next on the thoughts produced by each sensation it became aware of their emotional effects; and as the days in the early morning of earth continued, memories of the days before provided new connections in an infinitely connected mind and world. From what followed it learned fear from the howl of a wolf, comfort from fire, sadness for the loss of that gentle perfect time of day as the sun spun across the sky, pervaded over always by the original sensation of joy.

On the perfect time of day in the youth of the earth the first human recollected all it had learnt and having explored far and wide it began to contemplate the nature of its own existence. It perceived it was unique from other beings; it was different from the boiling seas, the stern mountains and scattered clouds and light. It perceived that while it moved and hungered and feared and performed all the functions as any other being scuttling along the forest floor or swishing its course through the rivers, it still understood it was more lucid yet. And incredibly it realised, in the yet hardly peopled world that other beings like itself were different still in varying degrees.

The first human leaned back onto the moss of the forest floor. The breezes flitted from flower to pine and tingled in the breast of that first human who felt itself open physically to the world. It heard the birds singing and watched the leaves and shadows flit and shift in the gentle sunlight. It closed its eyes on all it saw and pondered the world within. It’s imaginative scope was boundless; its capacity to conceive of the inconceivable and thus call forth the impossible into being within the realm of its own considered reality, then the exaltation of this thought itself; it’s own physical capacities to experience pleasure both inwardly and physically; to imagine the possibilities in the starry immense sky exalting in its insignificance and yet immense value. To be alive on the warm morning in the infancy of the earth with all the realities and the flickering shadows on the cave walls of perception seemed wonderful. The first human choked on its breathing as it alighted on the wonders of consciousness paired with sensation and wept quietly on the peaceful forest floor for the wonder of intellectual beauty.

GOD sucked into the void and stared in disbelief.

It did not prepare for this.

It was not inconceivable that It could create a being that was self aware like It was – a stop must come finally upon the imaginative faculty and it is only possible to repeat what is known after what one has never known yet can imagine. But this creature had consciousness and the ability to create a world the way It had; albeit intangibly within the minds eye, paired now with a stimulus and evolved appendages with which to fulfil its consciousness. GOD looked at Its projected mind before Its eye, stopping up the void. GOD was unsure of this.

It waited.

The little girl rolls over in the blue moonlight. The waves suck quietly at the boat. This scepticism and first faltering over the freedoms of GOD’s own creations will be made accountable.

* * * *

The girl was the last of seven sisters. The girl is always the last of seven sisters. In fact, she was the oldest and fatigued by her imposed narrative of minding her six siblings while the youngest quested forth for adventure. Leave that to the second oldest. She was the oldest of four. Four is an unremarkable number. Through such capricious inquiries and changes God also wove the world. She was born in Naples by the harbour where the skyline is impaled daily by the spindles of fishing boats and wealthier yachts. Feeling the jaggedness of this scope of civilisation imposed on nature she felt a preference for a more natural contrast between earth and sea. A harbour, after all, is not the most tempestuous of beginnings for one who would spend the defining moments of her existence struggling.

E nata a Napoli. Aveva due sorelli ed uno fratello piu giovanni. Era stuffa con la sforza di guardando i bambini e ha corso via. Da sola, avendo dieci anni e un mente profundo come il porto e un’immaginazione peggio, ha corso via cercare Il Risposto per tutto il Monde. La sua grande distrazione.*

* * * *

The world was still beautiful as the first civilizations grew up like the trees had once grown on the mountains. Earlier ones, lived closely with that first feeling of connection to the earth and preserved and lived within it. Later ones created beautiful things and the invention and imaginative capacity of humanity flourished in early philosophy and cultures within the gold and white domed cities.

*She was born in Naples. She had 2 younger sisters and a brother. She was fed up with the effort of looking after the children and ran away. Alone, 10 years old and having a mind deep like the harbour and an imagination still worse she ran away to search for The Answer to the world. Her Great Distraction.

The little girl reflected on her school lessons and counted the millennia through evolution and its stages; then counted through the various civilizations. Her journey

was arduous on the monotonous sea in mid morning. Rowing hard towards the sun, the little girl counted through them all.

‘Nel sud America, I Inchi. Nel Africa, gli Egiziani. Nell’ Europa, I Romani ed I Greci.’

She stopped to rub her hands and sooth them in the cool salt water inches away. She refreshed herself with a mouthful of water (non troppo! Deve servare fino alla fina…solo fino ad arrivo) and leaned overboard staring at the grey seas. It filled her with a vague horror to think of the depth beneath, teeming with life, then darkness, then nothing. Remembering her geography lessons she thought of the vast landscapes mirrored under water; the mountains and caverns and trenches and the deepest part of the ocean meeting the thinnest part of crust. The lava boiling underneath and the immensity of all this activity for unknown purposes, as if a suppressed rage had concentrated itself latently under the conscious and beautiful expressions of the earths surface. The little girl ponders this thought of malevolence under everything we know, and ponders the void beneath. She remembers all civilizations and feels them all through her own capacities.

* * * *

Precipitated back to that earlier morning of the earth; beautiful civilizations lived quietly among the forests. Here lies a gentle village beside the river; each shack with an earthy floor and a fire outside heating water. One hut is hung around with feathers and bones, tiny heads; animal skulls, coloured beads, skins, luridly patterned cloths and wooden figures. Quite an imaginative craftsman, this inhabitant. The sunlit faded curtain is pulled aside to reveal an old woman. She proudly retains no more than three teeth which are chattering together as she rocks back and forth with her eyes closed. She talks of spirits and demons and asks their advice on diseases, weather, crops and the surrounding forests. She hears their voices in her sleep, as she walks to the green river to dip for water, they tell her what to do and how they must be appeased before they will appease her village. She makes them offerings. Her opinion cannot be asked on an errant child, or a crude joke shared with her; in daily worldly matters she is barely sensible.

She is deferred to on all matters in the village. She is the village priestess; protectoress and guide. She is looked after where she cant care for herself as each member of her community from the oldest warrior to the youngest child fear her death and what spiritual retribution it will abandon them to.

* * * *

The collection of land and culture unifies into an infrastructure called France and Paris holds the most distinguished doctors in Europe. The girl paddles in the boat towards the sun at mid morning reciting France’s 17th Century.

It is late evening and cold November wind is coursing through the streets. It catches up the Siene in a macabre dance and drops it down to ravish the bare branches of the trees. The high pitched sound rushes past a street lamp which endures a temporary threat to its self assertion and wavers before cautiously re-establishing it’s light. In the flicker a wigged man emerges from the dark and enters the coffee shop. Hailed by his friends on purple cushions in the corner he coughs in the smoky air and removes his cloak. Installed cosily with warmed wine, they debate.

Gentlemen, he is the strangest case. What is to be done?

The doctors expostulate.

He is mad! He hears voices in his head.

Perhaps it is a metaphor? These are his theories and he conveys them as voices.

Fie man, he thinks the trees talk to him, and the river, and the very bricks and mortar of his cell. He’s a perfect heathen.

Or possessed, Sir.

Pah, I tell you it is a deficiency of reason and he had better hope so himself or its hanging for heresy.

But look you sir at the power of the devil in these times. He infects not just the minds but the actions of dupes far beyond just this sordid city, the vice he is responsible for!

I tell you again sir, we live in a modern world. His brain is diseased, simply diseased.

And he is no prophet from God, we are decided? A modern saint, an oracle to guide us, a gift to commend the advances of human intellect in these past years? Another interjects.

Ha! Fool!

Well gentlemen, what do you propose to do in any case?

Incarceration and observation.

Incarceration and observation.

Their comrades laugh and beckon to the serving girl to refill their glasses.

So it is decided! He is a most interesting case.

A girl timidly approaches selling oranges. On catching the first oration she ponders how nice it would be if perhaps there were spirits in the trees that spoke to you, and advised you. Perhaps it would comfort the poor and ease the solitude of the lonely. But such a thought is blasphemous, and instead issued from her mouth only messieurs, voulez vous des oranges?. The approach of the orange wench is cheered by the four doctors. They congratulate each other on their perfect correctness; that they live in the best possible of worlds and God has chosen to the advantage; He ordained their own lives to do homage to Him with their discoveries. They bestow not a thought more on the man with only three teeth rocking on his heels in a grey cell whispering sedately to the voices in his head. The four doctors depart with the orange wench to more private rooms.

* * * *

The girl reflects the world’s disparities; changes and injustices. Her brown arms flex again against the gentle waves in the calm sea as she untiringly rows on. Regardless of her good Italian Catholic upbringing, she suspects in fact that these disparities betray no considered design and little motive. That the world exists does not attribute it either good or bad. She chuckles at the thought of old Descartes reverentially scratching through the night threading together his infallible ideas on brittle twines. She rows. The sun rises.

* * * *

The figures GOD understands to have come to distinguish themselves as man and woman clamber over the hill. One of each. One is tall, one is not. They both are carrying rugs, bottles, fruit, they are laughing and talking cheerfully. Close to the water edge under the trees they spread out a rug and fall ravenously to the wine, then recline to admire the patterning of light reflected from the rippling water on the leaves above. They discuss what it all means, the lake, the sky, the golden day to be wasted over hours and hours of company and wine invigorated conversation. Amid teasing and blushes they kiss.

GOD watches.

It has observed this everywhere. Here, by the wide sea the powdered rocks are traversed by pairs such as these with socks and shoes discarded as they paddle along, stopping to embrace. Upon mountains, in silent forests, clamorous cities, in darkened candlelit rooms there is this, pervading everywhere.

GOD does not understand this.

It has never felt this emotion.

Why would It?

The girl rows throughout the afternoon smiling. The earth sweeps around the sun. She gets closer. The sun drops closer to the earth as early evening settles.

* * * *

GOD looks and looks. It reflects. Here is this world is has created that has continued to flourish and divide and develop long after Its initial efforts were finished. It watches the people, their wars, their peace treaties, their destructions and constructions. It reflects. It thinks It likes it this way. It is engaging. More distracting. It was harder to keep up in this aeon. To follow the thoughts and actions of every living being is as difficult as a human pinpointing every individual thought in their head in one simultaneous instant. But It has observed the little creations experiencing multitudinous emotions that It itself could barely conceive of. It had noticed these emotions were sometimes the cause of actions professed to be done in the name of GOD. It observed It was referred to by many names and motives. While GOD found It’s creation utterly necessary, It could barely offer an opinion on all these attributions. The void loomed large, cavernous and empty. GOD concentrated harder. The world carried on.

GOD watched.

This was interesting.

The little girl rows on harder and harder; vengefully towards evening. What cannot endure the truth of the void will be lost to it.

* * * *

The anticipation was building throughout the shimmering hours of late afternoon; although when questioned he could never answer himself why.These nights recurred every week, every term; often mediocre or frittered away in too many narcotics and too much student loan. And yet stepping out once more into the blue white evening when the first thread of night air tickles under the ribs and twines you on through the city he couldn’t avoid the lurch of life distilling within and it began. A moment of self and world awareness of never feeling more awake and vital and the choking, tingling attempt to hold it. The evening dissolved in the ephemeral delights of all bliss, the crystal clink of raised glasses, the embraces of newly arrived irreplaceable friends who would one day be lost; moonlight as they ford the river and the world is so beautiful. Entering the club and never been more ready to dance, to celebrate the wonder of our lives, our youth, each other.

God admires the sensual movement of It’s creations. How they thread around each other, the bright and burning energy. God wonders how It conceived of arms and legs and movement in It’s own absence of tangibility. How It conceived of and created sensations and senses from nothing in the sucking void. It regards Its creations in their sensory factory of coloured lights, fruited narcotics, silk ribbons on silk skins; music stamping in throbbing feet, sweat and spilled beer and perfume and the dancers spin on and drink on and sing and love each other.

Overcoming the overwhelming tragedy of leaving that beautiful place of infinite light and movement; of the half drunken joy spurred onwards by direction; journey; that of bursting forth through heavy iron doors into the night, refreshed by the impossible smell of trees in the middle of the city and questing onwards forever; all arm in arm and laughing towards the next thing and I think we must never be apart. Life will be these nights forever and my life stretches on as between two mirrors of sharp crystal repetition of perfection. I squeeze the hand in mine, my face transported by the evening scents, the poisoning terror of separation leaving its sour foot prints on the back of the tongue which could never thrust aside this sensation that we must never be apart.

The Eye of GOD mists and reflects itself in a pool of symmetrical water. On Earth, it starts to rain.

The children run on singing about English Summer Rain.

The rower strives on with this primal loss in a corner of her heart. She strives towards the bright white of the five o clock sun to ask it why these things must be taken from us, and why we fear it in the face of its own permanence.

* * * *

Doubt breaks in. The night falls. All the dizzying incomprehensible mass of feeling and belief in the accumulated world is to get one person at a time through the night. Cloudiness thickens in the world and in perception. All the demons of a fabricated God come to prey on mankind.

A man sits in a dark room. Despite reclining in the chair he feels no ease. He’s been sitting there for two hours while the earth got dark. Thinking in his head over and over, I should get up and turn the light on. I should go in the kitchen and make tea, or something to eat. I’m hungry. I must pull myself together, I cant sink.

His children are upstairs cloistered in their respective rooms and cant bear to come down to comfort their father in the face of his life siphoning loss. It isolates them all. He thinks. He thinks – if I get up and just get on with my life then what does that show? That our lives meant nothing; how can it just go on with the void, with the emptiness, without her, how can I pull myself together when it would betray the coldest lack of feeling as if humans were rote mechanisms, as if we were all nothing, but we are, we are all nothing on our own, nothing, nothing.

The motherless house echoes its emptiness. The father starts to tear things out the walls. The children shudder upstairs.

GOD watches.

A girl lies in the dirt. She has crawled away from her village which has been attacked by Mugabi loyalists. Her home is burnt down and she watched her parents be ground underfoot by the soldiers. The vomit beside her bears testimony to the recurring memory of it she just cant shake. If she can gather her energy she will creep through the bush onto the next village for refuge. She is doubtful asylum will be granted now – she’s barely adolescent and knows little of the bureaucratic procedures of acquiring passports to leave the country. She’s doubtful she can even scrape the will to kneel. She kneels and tries to get up but that vision in her head again beats her down and she’ll collapse on her side to scream and claw her stomach to try and cut the memory out of her.

The wail of injustice, grief, loss and despair echoes across the jungle.

The loyalists look up.

GOD watches.

The girl paddles furiously.

Another girl sits on the back door step of her inane suburban house. It’s nearly dark and she’s fighting it with gin. Restless she stares fixedly at the roses until her head reels. I must get out, I must do something; not waste another petty pathetic night here alone. She locks the back door and runs. Hidden in the undergrowth of the cold night she looks for solace and finds none. She is afraid.

GOD watches. It hears her thoughts.

I am afraid. I am afraid to die. I am afraid of the tedious inevitable playing out of life.

I am afraid. I am afraid I’ll sink. I’ll collapse under what I pile on myself.

She spins round and walks in circles staring at the lake. Blacker than the void in the moonless night with a white swan in the far corner glowing with the reflection of the last ray of the day’s dying light. Her nails nestle into her sides and restlessly move to her hair.

I talk too much.

Why wont someone shut me up.

An excess of air pours from my mouth and I cant tell from the lack of punctuation what has meaning; what has none.

The airiness of my free speech makes my voice; my being light, unbearably light.

The unbearable lightness flakes away in the night and the soul disintegrates. The tiniest ruft of wind or weight of darkness grinds and scatters being away.

GOD watches. It sees this everywhere; screaming through empty valleys; behind postered bedroom doors, on remote bridges; cliffs; railway tracks as one after another the light soul flutters away in shreds of paper and obliterates itself.

The despair, the spinning dizzily downwards; the spiralling away forever into darkness – GOD knew it only to well and closed Its Eye on the horror.

Little girl in a boat.

Her head is a black sun spot against the orange sea.

The roaring sphere has swallowed the pale dome of the sky.

The black figure bobs erratically on the plopping fathomless surface.

The sun is nearly down.

It is so close to the earth now.

Little girl rows.

Quasi li, quasi li

She embodies the anger of the world and its rejection of this creature. She embodies its freedoms which she will make sovereign, with no other being necessitated.

The girl rows towards the answer. The sun blinks. Little girl asks the question. GOD closes Its eye forever.

* * * * * * * *

The Comical Chronicles of a Pirate. Part I – Flesh Eating Toads

I was a young boy out of Chelmsford, Essex. Fourteen years old and chucked out of school. Me old dad turfed me out the house after that and signed me up for the Merchant Navy. ‘Earn yer own bread’ he said. What could I do? Well sir, I’ll tell you a story. I’ll seize you by the arm and pierce you with my mariner stare; I’ll tell you my story.

*     *     *      *

I was fourteen years old and never been to Africa in all my life. Never even walked beyond our local boozer where I used to carry my dad his fags from the local corner shop. And here I was now, on board a ship; heaving me guts up and green as a cabbage hanging over the edge of a deck. I was all alone at my tender age and heading for the equator. Retching for several hours into the Atlantic I finally slumped against the edge and stared up. I’d never seen such brightness in such pitch black. The sky was a streak of wispy white, studded like a belt. Gazing up at that encrusted crown my eyelids dragged heavily and I slept for the first time since I left the shared bed back home.

I got meself slapped round the earhole several times gaffing up the ropes over the next few days and being late up, but since my stomach settled I was only excited. I was always up late, playing cards with the older sailors who told me stories about the women in Africa. Oh they were colourful stories! Dirty stories, and best of all, they told me that the poverty in Africa was so bad that the women would do anything just for a bit of soap; money wasn’t required. They breathed deep on their dog ends and coughed and hacked their laughter while I sat wide eyed in wonder. I lay in my hammock at night wondering about these women, clutching a piece of soap I’d stolen and kept aside, wrapped up in sacking. We all slept in hammocks, all attached to the same ceiling. Hooks were all that separated us as the hammocks were linked by a single rope. All the rows and lines of hammocks would shake nightly as boy and man would shake their fist and set the ropes rattling. I’d clutch the soap and imagine.

We eventually arrived off the west coast of Africa in Gambia. We docked in the capital, Banjul. I was buzzing. Being under aged I wasn’t authorised to leave the ship at all, but got off anyway with the others.  It was a heavy night. It’s all a heady blur even now. Needless to say I was hammered. We’d been drinking lagers on the boat after docking at lunch time. I’d already been sick over the side again – I remember that. We were off the boat and there were lights, so many lights and we stumbled down the pier, down the sea wall and ate fried fish balls. We crawled along the sea front in the furious wet heat while the others brought me rum, whiskey, beers, whatever could be snaffled from roadside dusty stalls in the black putrid smelling night. I bumped my way from stall to stall; we ended in a room that was dark and fetid, filled with the moistness of pressed bodies, sweat and laughing. I clutched my soap. I was far gone by now and fell to the ground in the red yard outside to vomit again on my hands and knees. I was dragged back up while a rough sleeve wiped my gob again and shoved me in a darkened room. Cigarette and cigar smoke thick in my throat. I crashed against the walls and stumbled into wooden barrels that came up to my chest. Sniggering and laughing behind me from the doorway.

‘Open one! If you dig about under the ‘taters there’s the cook’s baccy stash.’ More guffaws, more shrieks. A high pitched laugh from a woman with thick golden hooped earrings and a long slim neck that rose proudly from her soiled shirt. I remember bangles, red and rattling. I lifted the lid of a barrel and plunged my hand inside. More shrieks from me audience at the door as I hit the wall behind me screaming, clutching my hand. The barrels were full of flesh eating toads; a delicacy I later found out were boiled alive like lobsters. I lost bits of my third finger from my left hand that night as I wrenched it back so violently that I nearly fell in the damn things. Could have lost a lot more. I’ve still got half of it though.

Back to the ship later that night after the hours and hours of drinking watched over by the moon until a storm blew up and did for as all. There wasn’t a man left that weren’t green by the end. And I got a right bollocking in the morning for leaving the ship under aged. Bastards docked me wages and everything. Me first night out with the Merchant Navy.