Books of Late III

Another one!  Amazing, isn’t it?
1. Underworld – Don Delillo

Don DeLillo is one of those authors I have loved since high school, that I always knew I could relate to, that made me feel understood, pensive, questioning and thoroughly post-modern.  And I’d never even read anything he’d written.  Underworld was the first, I am ashamed to say, though it confirmed in a concrete manner my love for Mr. DeLillo.  I really don’t know what I was expecting.  Something depressing.  Something modern.  Something shocking.  I got all this and more.  The storyline is non-linear, but I didn’t mind, because it made it more interesting, really, even if I was confused (though in awe) at the beginning as to who the characters were, but I never have a very good character memory.  It’s a large book, okay, 800 pages, but I made it through in probably record time (for me), in just over a week.  Reading on the bus, I’d look up from the page and stare into the world of pavement, government buildings, public servants and modern architecture outside of the window, thinking about the things Mr. DeLillo had just told me and aware that the other people on the bus thought I was strange.  There were so many different segments, a multitude of different tales told in different settings, through different characters that intersected beautifully with one another.  The descriptions were great, the philosophy was better, there were bits so completely thought provoking that I had to write the quotes down on my hand or in the back of borrowed textbooks.  It was depressing, yes, but it had a slightly happy ending.  A very post-modern ending.  I couldn’t believe it had finished when it did.  Also, the characters were very interesting, you couldn’t decide whether you liked them or not, which was nice.  Nobody entirely good or entirely bad, all of them surprising.  Basically, I borrowed the book from my boyfriend’s dad and I don’t want to give it back to him.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Suggestions: could you have a blurb on the back next time?  The entire time I was wondering whether I wanted to commit to something 800 pages long, if you’d had something on the back saying there would be nuclear explosions, orphans living in cars, highway shootings, accidental shootings, interview shootings, love affairs, airplanes as artworks and lovers driving through empty deserts, I wouldn’t have worried half as much.

2. Cosmopolis – Don Delillo

So, after the breathtaking rapture that was ‘Underworld’, I really expected this next one to live up to the same standard, especially after I watched this trailer for the movie:

Which I watched over and over and over again, wondering why I hadn’t gotten the idea of mass protests and people holding dead rats.  But really, the rat protest was only part of it.  It made more sense when I read up on wikipedia (gotta love it) that the whole thing was a modern rewrite (sort of) of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is a modern rewrite of the classical tale of Ulysses.  So there’s this guy travelling across town in his limousine for no particular reason other than he wants to get a haircut when slowly, in amongst rat protests, having sex (or thinking about it at least) with every woman he meets, killing people, risking his life and having numerous affairs in a marriage hardly a month long (seems to be a DeLillo theme), his world is falling apart.  I was sort of waiting for the rat protests and when they ended was sort of wondering what would come next.  It did surprise me, though it shouldn’t have because I am constantly in awe of Mr. DeLillo, that the ending was so magnificent.  I don’t know what I expected, I suppose I sort of expected him to return home, like Ulysses in our Homer does, but it doesn’t exactly go that way.  About the last twenty pages are the most interesting by far, though I wouldn’t recommend skipping straight to the end.  Everything that happens, a multitude of seemingly random events, comes together at this moment, with allusions you never expected.  It all makes sense.  And then there’s the beautiful end.  The sudden end.  I flipped the page over and there was nothing on the back and I was so scared (because finishing books really scares me) that I flipped it back over and read the last paragraph again, stared at the last sentence until I was ready to come to terms with the fact that that was it.  It did end in the right place, though.  DeLillo surprised me, but I’m glad it ended when it did, not because I didn’t like it, but because it left it open to the imagination, to whatever you wanted to imagine.  Great.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Points of improvement: I suppose a book full of rat protests wouldn’t have been that great (it just means I can take that idea now and make a bestseller out of it, wooo), but there was a lot of philosophy, and what could I expect, really?  There was a fair bit of talk about economics, which is a subject that makes me nervous, and other things I wasn’t particularly interested in, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good book.  Another thing that annoyed me a little bit was the way the guy’s wife kept popping up everywhere.  She was just everywhere.  And finally I was praying that it wouldn’t be her.  But it was.  Also, he has sex with so many people!  It makes me angry because there’s that moral conscience inside of me that’s saying ‘you terrible, unfaithful person!’, but it happens anyway.  But these are just pedantic tendencies.  The ending it worth it all.

3. We – John Dickinson

So I picked up this book about three years ago as an idealistic teenager wandering through the Young Adult section and fell in love with the first few pages, well, the whole idea of it.  I have never liked science fiction much, but I thought this was one I might be able to get attached to.  Anyway, three years later my friend brought up the book again, having done exactly the same thing as I had three years ago.  So I finally read it.  Got to say that I’m always quite hesitant about reading books that I wanted to read a while ago, as I’m well aware that my tastes have changed completely.  I was right, I have to say.  It was one of those going-to-another-planet books, but the thing that always enthralled me was that the blurb specifically implied that they could watch humanity and how it had devolved from their lookout on this other planet.  I’m all for the devolution of humanity, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed.  But then I swear to God the author lied!  He told me that this guy who was going would be the only one there – and then as soon as he awoke, there were others around him!  And not only that, one of those bright and bubbly characters that always sort of annoy me.  There were another three people.  Damn.  People.  In addition, the main character seemed to do everything completely wrong – it was one of those scenarios where you’re reading and you’re ready to shout at the book “NO!  DON’T DO THAT YOU IDIOT!” but of course, they can’t hear you.  That was pretty physically painful.  But, as it goes, I never put a book down once I’ve started it, so I continued on.  The whole thing was a big mystery – who the hell is fucking up our systems?  Unfortunately, sorry to ruin the ending, but the mystery is never solved.  I repeat, never solved.  There is no sequel (at least, not one that I’m willing to read).  And the last page doesn’t seem like the last page and the last sentence confuses me.  What the hell went on?  I left confused and glad to continue on to the next read.  Sorry, Mr. Dickinson.  It could be that I don’t normally like science fiction, though I highly doubt it.

My rating: 1/5 stars

Points of improvement: the characters are ALL annoying (perhaps with the exception of one, who I am sorry to say isn’t the main character), the plot is okay though I wish it had gotten on with it from the start and perhaps finished it by the end to make it a slightly satisfying read.  Also, the blurb is awful.  Someone fix that up so that anyone who picks up this book will actually be mildly excited before diving into its disappointing interior.

4. The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer

After reading eons of Don DeLillo and strange science fictions, I thought I’d delve into something happy.  I love Georgette Heyer.  Her works make me ridiculously happy and usually make me laugh so hard I have to call my mother to read her out a sentence or two.  She writes eighteenth century comic romances.  They are bloody hilarious.  All the characters are stereotypical, the plots are predictable, but that’s why you read these books.  It’s like watching a highly dramatic soap opera for the fun of it.  This one was slightly more deep than the others, not so much a complete romance but a mystery novel at the same time.  Unfortunately, you could see the couples from the start, instead of in some of Ms. Heyer’s other books where they unexpectedly develop in a highly comical manner.  Also, it went on a little too long for my liking.  It took me over a week to read.  That’s too long for something that is only comic relief, in my opinion.  If you want to read a good Georgette Heyer that will have you in stitches, go for Arabella instead.  But I did enjoy it, I’d have to say.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Points of improvement: I don’t like the name Ludovic, it’s a bit ridiculous.  I wish they could have named the villain that instead of the main love interest.  Also, I liked the character of ‘The Beau’, because he was really funny, so I was a bit ticked off when he turned out to be the villain (sorry for spoilers), because I enjoyed him as the main figure of fun.

5. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Sparks

I really enjoyed this one.  I’d recommend it.  It was exactly what I was looking for, and I didn’t even pick it myself.  My mother with her impeccable taste knew that I’d like something set in a school around the Second World War period that was a classic.  It was interesting to me from the start, which detailed the younger lives of the characters, to the end, where they were older and some were even dead.  It was the whole lifetimes of these characters, and yet the book was quite small – perhaps not even two hundred pages.  The characters were intriguing, especially the main character, and it was interesting to see how their minds worked and developed over the book.  You knew the end from the start, but that just helped to add to the intrigue – you wanted to see how the start would become the end.  It was written very well, incorporating the right amount of monologue, description, dialogue, etc.  It was quite interesting and remained in my mind long after I’d read it.

My rating: 5/5

Points of improvement: oh, I don’t know.  I suppose this is one of those books that I’d read not to critique, but learn from.  I’d love to be able to write something like that some day.

Books of Late II

This post will come as a surprise to many.  Actually, only to me.  After long months of reading many books, I’ve finally decided to do another post on reviewing a few of them.  Here goes:
1. Most recent: Atonement – Ian McEwen

First and foremost, I wish I’d read this book before watching the movie.  I actually think that at the time of writing this piece, McEwen was a genius.  All the major plot twists and turns are mentioned in passing in a way that is shocking, but wildly captivating at the same time.  Damn, that it all should have been ruined by the movie starring Keira Knightley (I actually don’t think she’s that bad, could have been worse).  More than half of the book is spent setting the scene for the fateful day – therefore, more than half the book is spent detailing one day in the lives of the characters – but it’s beautiful, really, and sets the story in motion very well.  You receive a good amount of detail on each of the characters so that you know how they think, act and what their motivations are.  So nothing really comes as a shock to you.  It’s great.  I really enjoyed it, read it in less than a week (surprising, with uni) and was sad when it ended.

4/5 stars

Points of improvement: Perhaps the war scenes, that tend to go on and on and on, with trauma after trauma after trauma, so that the shock doesn’t quite register any more.  But, hey, it’s still great.

2. Before that: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Don’t know what I expected before diving into this book.  Something for teenagers solely perhaps (note the way I don’t even consider myself a teenager any more), another tragic cancer book, a black comedy?  But it surprised me, it really did.  And I think it shouldn’t have, because I feel I’ve read enough books to know when the plot twists are being set up.  I really should have expected, after a long stretch of happy, to come across complete disaster.  But, alas, it still surprised me.  Also, I never thought I’d come to really fall in love with a character called Augustus (it just reminds me of Augustus Gloop, you know, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but I did.  And also, I bawled in a way that hasn’t happened since Goodnight Mr. Tom and (I’m sorry to say) My Sister’s Keeper.  Looking back on this work (finished it in three days), I still find the scenes striking and memorable.  A fantastic book.  The jokes are funny, the characters lovely, the emotional scenes desperately emotional.  The sort of cancer book when even death, that you sort of expect, sets you off balance.  Anyway, literally, I could not put it down.

5/5 stars

Points of improvement: I wouldn’t even say the name Augustus, because even that grew on me.

3. Anne Frank’s Diary – Anne Frank

I wish I hadn’t read this with the ending in mind, but inevitably, I did.  I enjoyed Anne’s little commentaries about her classes at school and the various boys that chased after her (wish I was popular with the boys at like 13!) and then I watched sadly as the family went into their little cramped existence in the Secret Annexe.  It was interesting reading something, for once, that was  never meant to become a novel or even to be read by anyone, something without a plotline that’s been thought out by someone, characters that have been drafted and re-drafted, but then again, this was someone’s life, the source of all plotlines and the purest form of plotline in existence.  Existential pondering followed.  And, of course, it was sad.  Although the diary finishes before Anne even knows she will die, her constant musings about what she will do after the war is over is tragic.  Also tragic is the way she wants freedom more than anything, the way she falls for Peter van Dam and the way she matures so much in that tiny little hovel surrounded by the same people for years.  It’s quite incredible.  Sort of uplifting, the way the family tries to keep uplifted spirits, but disheartening in the same way.  It made me think about things.

You can’t rate a book like this out of 5 stars, because inevitably it will seem disrespectful to the author if you give a critique of it, you know.

Points of improvement: see above

4. The Getting of Wisdom – Henry Handel Richardson

Picked this one up because it was one of those books sitting in my bookcase with a bookmark eternally left halfway through, never to reach the end.  So I finally read it.  Yeah, not bad.  I wanted to read it mostly for a peek into boarding school life, which it gave me.  It was very whingy, however, going on and on about this girl’s trials.  Every time something good seemed to happy, the trials would come on the double.  It never seemed to get better!  Not even, really, at the end.  Interesting, though.  Characters were okay.  I didn’t fall completely in love with the main character.  She was a bit irritating.  Probably because of all the complaining, and a bit of a bratty attitude.  And the ability to get herself into a pickle very easily.  Probably a good book for kids to read, sort of like those morality ones that are supposed to teach you about life’s lessons without life experience per se.

3/5 stars

Points of improvement: less whinging, please, and more happiness.  I don’t usually say that.

5. Wolf Totem – Jiang Rong

Had to know this was a great book when I picked it up and it said it won the Man Asian Award.  Especially because it was about 700 pages long.  So I figured that if a judge of the Man Asian Award managed to get through all 700 pages and after that found themselves duty bound to give the author a significant monetary prize, it had to be good.  And it was!  I was sceptical at first because of all the description and seeming lack of a storyline, the difficult-to-pronounce names of the characters and the sheer amount of characters.  But, over the course of those 700 pages, I found myself hooked.  It suited me very much, as a bit of a nature lover, as it described the beautiful landscape of pre-development Mongolia.  Also, those 700 pages in itself, I found, was a literary device.  The story spanned for a long time, a couple of months to a year, and described just about everything that happened.  It plunged me into the world of inner Mongolia for about six weeks, I suppose, as I wandered through the hefty volume.  And by the end of it, I couldn’t believe I’d finished it, actually read the last page, put it down, been cut out of that world.  It was sad.  Also because the ending wasn’t exactly happy.  Not terribly tragic, just sort of long-term saddening.  Anyway, fantastic thing and the scenes remain in my mind today.  Read it.

5/5 stars

Points of improvement: oh, I don’t know.

Why Boots are the Best Invention Ever

Boots.

Boots on the tarmac,
Boots on the staircase,
Boots on loose gravel,
Baby boots.

Boots that stalk,
Boots that kick and slide,
Boots that are thrown
Into the face of the Minister for Education.

Boots that jingle,
Boots that flop,
Boots that are heavy
And have thick layers of rubber where the ground should be.

Boots that think they are boots
But actually are poor excuses for
The very fine category that is
Enclosed footwear.

Boots are boots
Are boots are
Boots are boots are

Boots.

Boots are the best invention ever.

Not Mum

An exercise we did at a writers’ group last night: write 5-10 sentences each starting with ‘your mother’ without involving any ‘ya-mum’ jokes

Your mother’s hair is longer than yours even though she is nearing that age when it shouldn’t be long at all.  Your mother eats Chinese takeaway from the place down the corner every weeknight, and ever waiter there knows her name.  Your mother never stops talking about when she went to Argentina as a young girl, even thought you’ve never found a single photo, souvenir or plane ticket that serves as evidence.  Your mother has been wearing the same handmade jumper for years, even thought the stitches are coming out and tend to catch on things.  Your mother says she was born in Oslo, even thought her birth certificate says Sydney.  Your mother says her parents are both dead, even thought an older couple rang the doorbell a couple of days ago and asked for her.  Your mother ran away.  Your mother decided Perth was a nice place to go to all of a sudden.  Your mother doesn’t call herself a mother any more.

The Run.

The Run.  Or: Two Lovers Flee In The Night From The Strange And Frightening World They Live In.

In the night we ran, we ran away fast, speeding til it hurt, the exhaust jetting out, accelerator pressed against the floor of the car.  The street lights streamed behind us through the windows, their fluorescent light burning lines onto the pages of our eyelids.  We drove so fast that no one could find us.  We drove so fast.

We sat back and we thought about the way the wind against the car sounded like a great river, or a waterfall.  And our hearts pounding staccato.  Like drums.

Beat.  I watched her and she got up and she left with me.  And I watched as her life merged seamlessly with mine.  As if the addition of fear and abnormality was easy but also meaningless.  And we didn’t talk as I drove.  Just watched the street lights as they passed.  Until there were no street lights any more.

Beat.  He said softly when I woke up.  Come Now.  It’s Time To Go.  And there weren’t any other words to describe it.  Just going.  We drove and we drove as the night deepened and we never, ever looked back.  We were strong.

Beat.  The petrol lasted the drive.  We surged out of the city and nobody saw us.  And when we reached the great dark, empty roads outside it, there were no other headlights that passed us by.  We were afraid to look back into the bright city, afraid of what we would see.  And so the cool night sped past us, chilled, frantic air between us and what we lived before now.  And we let that space become wider and wider.

And then the night began to shrink away and when the trees became visible, spiking the horizon, we stopped and we knew we were finished because the petrol tank was empty.  We left the car in the middle of the dusty, broken road.  We sat on the crisp yellow grass with our backs against the splintery bark of a tree.  We watched the night collapse into day.  Then we dug a hole underneath the grass and crawled into the warm earth to lay, like rabbits, away from the sun.  Then no one could find us, and we waited, feeling one another’s breaths on our cheekbones, for the night to come again.

We tried, but after long our tired hands curled into muddy fists and the dirt beneath our fingernails reached deep enough to hurt.  And so we stood and looked at our shallow concave of earth.  Then we sat by the roadside hand in hand, waiting for someone to come by.  We wept onto one another’s shoulders and when one seemed weak the other was always strong.  We waited there until the sun hurt our eyes and the noise of the car metal groaning in the midday sun hurt our ears.  And we could sleep in our stupor no more.

 

BELOW:  inspiration for this post was gained from about the first ten seconds of this song.  The rest is meaningless to me, but nice.

Rock and River

You keep asking me what changed.  Is that your question of the week, or something?  Why didn’t I want to keep running for my life, changing towns, changing identities every time things got hard?  Why didn’t I want to keep up my lonely, scared existence?  Good question, lady.  Tough one, isn’t it?

I’ll tell you, alright.  It was a lot of things.  It was the way the university campus looked nice no matter what the weather was, the kind lady next door who kept wanting to invite me over to dinner, the cat that always scratched against the windowsill, the trees in the garden, the rent on the apartment, my reflection in the mirror, that time I made a girl cry, the dream I had the night before.  I’ll start with the dream.

It started out and I was in the city, running.  Running towards the outskirts, like always.  Then I was out of the city and I felt relieved, but I thought I might not be far enough so I kept going.  I came to a big river with forest all around it.  All the city noises were gone, even though I hadn’t really gone very far.  There was only the wind in the trees and the sounds of birds and insects.  Nothing sounding like voices.  That was nice.  I thought I could stay there maybe, but it was still too close.  I was afraid that if I climbed a tree or something then I would be able to see skyscrapers somewhere on the edge of the forest.  So I built myself a raft out of wood and vines.  It didn’t take very long and when I took it out to the river it stayed afloat.  Before I climbed aboard I took off my shoes and my shirt and rolled up the bottoms of my jeans.  Became a new person, sort of, without all those clothes, trying to look fashionable or whatever.  Then I got on the raft and floated down the river.

There was sun keeping me warm and I could collect fruits from trees overhanging the river to eat, cup water in my palms to drink.  My hands became all sandy and brown from clutching the wood of the raft all the time.  I rubbed this brown all over my face, my chest, my arms.  Somehow I felt cleaner that way.  I was there for a couple of days, just floating down the river.  I was never hungry, never worried.  I slept in the sun or stretched out like a cat sometimes.  I loved the motion of the raft on the river.

I watched as the landscape around me slowly changed.  I had drifted out of the forest, into bushland where the river was smaller and the muddy banks around me were slippery and steep.  Then the banks became baked rock with perfect footholds, canyon-like and full of shapes.  The forest noises of insects and birds and wind in the trees had gone.  There was nothing except the sound of the river.  Every sound I made echoed and echoed.

I left my raft made in the forest.  It didn’t fit there and I didn’t want to travel any more.  There was a place where I knew I wanted to stay.  There, the river joined another river.  I had heard that river for a while, sometimes seeing glimpses of it snaking through the landscape.  And now this was the place where it joined me, in front of a triangular slice of rock.  There was a flat space on top where I could lie in the sun.  There was a little nook below where I could shelter from the rain.  All around me was water.  I could see for miles.  What did I see?  Nothing.  Nothing but baked rock, maybe a few trees in the distance.  I could yell and the sound would travel for miles and miles and no one, not a single person, would hear it.  I did yell.  I shouted and screamed as loud as I could.  I sang and I yelled meaningless, gibberish words.  Things I’d never said before.  Things I never planned to say.  I shouted and I sang because I was alone, more alone than I ever had been before.  More alone than I could ever be in real life.

I built a fire on a bed of twigs and dried leaves.  I burnt branches and watched the embers travel, the sparks swarm in a cloud when I blew on them.  I compared their light with the light of the stars in the sky.  I couldn’t tell which I liked more.  I slept curled around my dying fire, feeling its warmth on my belly like a feeling inside of it, some emotion I couldn’t understand.

In the morning I admired the mist on the river and broke off shards of rock to throw and watch disappear without a sound.  I dipped my feet into the mist and liked how soft and cool it felt.  I played with it in my fingertips and made animal sounds to hear them echo.  I painted my face with dirt and laughed to imagine what my reflection might look like.  No one to see.  No one to care.

When the midday sun came out, bright and strong, I bombed into the river and let it wash the dirt from me, tug at me like playful hands, rip at my jeans, comb my matted hair.  I loved the feeling of the water on my eyelids.  Then I opened my eyes under the water and watched the mandala of the sun on the ripples above me.  I think it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  I didn’t want to share it.  I wanted to keep it mine.  It was my secret.

I lay myself out to dry on the flat rock, let the sun brown my skin and bleach my hair.  Then I climbed and climbed and felt the strong muscles pulsing underneath my skin.  I crossed the left river and explored the land, running up mounds of dirt, sprinting across bushy scrubland, eating my fill.  Then I crossed the river again and fell asleep on the warm, flat stone.  When I awoke it was night and I told stories to the stars in the sky.  I tried to tell them about my past life, but they didn’t believe me.  I didn’t believe myself.

But then one day someone else floated down the river.  She came from the opposite side and she had made a raft just like I had.  Her skin was browned and her face was covered with the juice of fruit she had just eaten.  She climbed onto the rock and met me there.  We spoke a little.  My words were disjointed and I couldn’t remember how to say much.  Even when I’d practiced to the stars, I hadn’t used normal words.  I couldn’t remember a lot, but I think she understood.  She said she couldn’t remember much from her past life either.  So we didn’t talk about that.

She had very dark hair.  Still some clothes, all tattered like my old jeans.  She spoke in a low voice.  A quiet voice.  We didn’t ask each other’s names.  What use was a name?  I was boy.  She was girl.  Names wouldn’t have meant a thing to us.

I told her she was beautiful.  That was the first thing I said.  Then she shook her head and said her face was too bony, too many pimples, her mouth was too big.  I said no.  She touched my face and she said I was beautiful.  I sort of realised I’d forgotten what beautiful looked like.  I had really old memories of bad haircuts and picking at pimples in the mirror.  But my face was smooth to her touch.  I must have changed, become a different person, morphed in appearance somehow.  She said she thought she recognised me from somewhere.  From somewhere in the forest or the muddy bushland, perhaps.

There was nothing to teach her.  She knew it all already.  She knew how to talk to the stars and how to see the mandala in the river.  We told each other stories.  In her eyes, I saw the sparks from the fire.  I don’t know what she saw in mine.  One day it rained and we sat together under a ceiling of rock with our hands clasped, watching as a pale screen of water tipped from the ledge above us.  We let our feet catch the rain and wash off the dirt and dust, cool the hardened blisters.  I felt the touch of her hand on mine.  I knew nothing of her except girl.  She knew nothing of me except boy.  There wasn’t anything else to know.  There weren’t any words and there didn’t have to be.  She asked if I was alone before.  I said no.  Alone only has meaning when you remember there are other people out there, somewhere.  Secretly I hoped no one else would ever come to disturb us.  No one ever did.

She lay next to me when we slept under the stars.  I shared my fire with her, but we had our own warmth and didn’t need its heat.

I remembered something from the past one night.  Something about other people and danger.  I woke because I was scared.  And when I woke she clasped my hand and listened to my confused words.  And she helped me remember that now we were the only ones.  No one else belonged to this world, our world of rock and river.  It was only ours to share with each other.  So I went back to sleep and didn’t dream of the past, but of her and of the river.

But it was only a dream.  And when I awoke, the world hurt, it hurt so much.

When I awoke, I felt the light filtering in through the smudged window and it was cold and grey.  Only hours had passed, only hours.  I reached across and could not find the hand of the girl.  She was gone.  She never had been there.  Maybe if she had been there, but then gone away, I might have felt better.  But she never existed, never existed at all.  The rock and the river and the forest, the mud and the sun.  It was never there and I never lived that life.

I couldn’t work out what was real, at first.  I sat there, on my hard bed, not even able to look up at the grey light coming in through the window.  I heard the city, I heard the people next door, I heard my own angry breaths.  Swallowed salt water, rubbed at my face with shaking fists.  Sat for a while, for a very long time, like I do sometimes when I’m having a really bad day.  But eventually I got up and I washed and dressed and shaved and made my little bed in that cramped apartment.  I kept my eyes to the ground all day and I didn’t speak to anyone.  I did the right thing, I did what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t look at anyone, I didn’t meet anyone, made no friends, found no lovers.  So I’d never have to leave again, never have to get hurt again.

So, you asked me what changed my mind.  The dream helped.  Someone said something I can’t remember once, about dreaming in colour.  I dreamed that dream in colour, so then I realised that my world was grey.  And after that, I suppose, then I realised I couldn’t run away any more.  So I didn’t.

 

BELOW: this song helped me write it.  Basically on repeat in the background.  Bon Iver is great.

Dirt Words and Dust Words

It stopped afta you left, love.  Afta everyone left, but ‘specially afta you an’ Joe went off.  You don’ know what it was like, yeah, after seein’ you’s off at the gate.  The whine as the gate closes and the warm metal in my hand.  Then yer old battered Toyota kicks up a helluva lotta dust so for a bit I imagine it was all justa dust storm and not you goin’ away at all.  But then I turn back to the house and walk the way without ya.  The wind is all cakin’ dust on my face, but I go ta check on the animals anyhow.  All they a-doin’ was dyin’ in a ditch.  Ain’t nothin’ left to do.

So I goes back inside.  Turns on the radio.  We ain’t never got no TV out here, not even after you left.  You goes into the other towns and they nothin’ but papery wood houses and old border collies with even older owners, but they got these telegraph poles, and those wires above them, they is all parallel lines and criss-crosses.  Like it’s all mathematical or somethin’.  There ain’t nothin’ mathematical here.  No criss-crossin’ parallel lines.  An’ when you feed your cattle an’ milk em and look after them nice an’ good, they still go on a-lyin’ down and dyin’ at yer feet.  Ya think ya know ‘ow life works.  Then ya come out here an’ it’s like ya born again.  Everythin’ to learn and ya neva know the answers.  Yer’ll be in drought for five er so years, hard, earthy drought, so hard ya can feel it through yer boots.  Then straight outa that grey ol’ sky’ll come somethin’ you never expected.

I’m a-listenin’ to the radio, hearin’ static an’ old music they played at our graduation, love.  Tha’s when a dapplin’ sort of sound hit the roof.  It’s like the sound the metal makes right in tha middle of the day, like it’s crackin’ same as the dry ol’ earth.  But it was headin’ to evening now and the sun is just a bright spot between the hills, so it wasn’t that.

I could remember rain, yeah.  But I remember it real different.  When I think ‘o rain, I see it on glass windows an’ when we were kids we used ta chase the droplets with our fingers til’ ol’ ma says we’ll make the windows all dirty.  I think maybe there’s rain a-comin’, but it makes me think ‘o glass windows an’ we never had no glass windows.

When I was a teen we used ta go on cruisin’ through these streets and all the while ma brain imaginin’ stealin’ from those shops afta dark, takin’ beer, takin’ money, takin’ condoms.  ‘Cos they never had no windows, it woulda bin easy.  But we never did.  Then tha’ shopowner, he said tha no windows was bad for business ‘cos when the wind was up, the merchandise come flyin’ off the shelves.  So he left.  Then the big ol’ Greek man with the shop nexta him said ‘is business was all bad ‘cos no one come for the general store no more.  So he left too.

It’s like the rain, yeah.  Once it’s a-started, it ain’t stoppin’ any time soon.  In a coupla week’s time, there ain’t no one left.  Only me an’ you an’ Joe.  Then ya left and the rain come.  Only me an’ the rain in this ol’ town now.

I’m a-sittin’ in the corner of that crappy tin-roofed hut we used as a home.  The sun ain’t out no more and I ‘ave to get up to light the lamp, but I don’.  It gets darker an’ darker and tha’ patterin’ sound on the roof gets heavier and heavier.  The crickets are singin’, cos it’s a warm night, yeah.  There’s me an’ there’s the rain sound and there’s the crickets.  We’s the only ones left.

Then the rain, it seeps in through tha’ empty window socket.  It comes a little bit at first, like someone left a hose up on the sill once it’s bin turned off.  Then it comes more an’ more.  The rain’s getting’ right heavy out there, I thinks to myself.  Can hear it splashin’ itself in the puddles.  Can’t see nothin’ though, except tha’ stream of water comin’ in where the window oughta be.  I can smell it now, it’s all fresh, like what you think those waterparks on billboards oughta smell like.  All clean like.  Probly tastes that way too.  Not like the stuff that used ta come through our taps, that’s sat in a tank for all those stinkin’ hot days.  I feel like walkin’ out there an’ openin’ my mouth and feelin’ it pool up in there and hit my eyes and my nose.  Neva felt so clean in ma life.

But I don’.  I sit there.  Radio’s lost its signal by now.  Lamp’s not bin lighted.  Stomach’s a grumblin’ cos I ain’t eaten.  And tha’ rain comin’ down the window sill like a little waterfall, reachin’ down onta the tiled floor and swampin’ into those little cracks you could neva get the dirt outa, love.  There’s little puddles and they bigger now an’ bigger still.  They join up with one another an’ there’s one right at me feet.  I ain’t wearin’ proper shoes, my feet gonna get soaked right through.  Can’t hardly see now, but I can ‘ear that water comin’ closer and closer.  I ain’t sittin’ in no chair, I got ma backside on the tiles cos they’re cool in the warm weather, but I’m gonna be drenched by the time this rain stops.  But it ain’t neva stoppin’.  On the roof, it’s like a drummin’ sound, those songs that neva end, keepin’ pretty good time too.  Like Joe’s fat little fingers on the car dashboard and ya told ‘im off for makin’ too much noise.  Joe wouldn’t neva believe it if he were here.  I should be out there a-takin’ pictures or somethin’.  Ain’t got no camera.  Anyhow, I just sit there an’ watch the water poolin’ all around me.

Gets pretty late.  Can’t get up now, it’s all surroundin’ me.  Don’t wanna get ma feet wet.  So I go to sleep in tha’ corner, with ma backside on the tiles an’ the sound ‘o Joe’s fat fingers in ma brain.

When I wake up again, there ain’t no more rain.  All around me the water’s seepin’ back inta the tiles.  Ruinin’ the foundations, most likely.  Ain’t gonna sell this place to nobody anyway.  There’s still a drippin’ sound where the water comes off the window sill an’ hits the tiles.  Sounds strange.  I move about.  I’m so cramped up I’m groanin an’ yawnin’ all over the place.  I get up and look around me.  The place is just about empty.  I take a few clothes and ma toothbrush and ma good shoes and ma shotgun.  Walk out to the ol’ stationwagon and load ma things inta the back, cept the shotgun.  Then I go round to the paddock out the back.  Three sheep left.  They all lyin’ down.  I check ‘em and we really only got two now.  But then I let ‘em go.  Harder to die of starvation, anyhow.  They went quick an’ some fox’ll thank its lucky stars for me.  Then I throw ma shotgun down next to ‘em.  Don’ want it no more, an’ I know you’ll say I shoulda taken it to sell, but I didn’, yeah.  Then I go back to tha’ ol’ car and I drive off down the road.  Don’ close the gate.  Left wide open, yeah, as if I’m a-waitin’ for someone.  But I ain’t.  Nobody gonna come here no more.

So I go away, leavin’ ma house with all the water on the floor an’ its open gate an’ all the mud where there used ta be broken ol’ earth.

Drive on an’ nobody believes me when I say I saw rain.  Pubowner tells me I must be drunk already an’ I won’t serve ya no drink, matey, not when ya like that.  So I goes on.  Goin’ to the city, yeah, that’s where we goin’ meet again.

You can tell Joe Daddy saw himself some rain, or you can keep quiet ‘cos ya don’ believe me.  I’d keep quiet too if I was you.

I’ll see ya soon, yeah.

 

INSPIRATION: my boyfriend asked me to write a story about windows.  So I wrote a story where there were no windows.

Thunderstorm in Antarctica

They’re like waves, yeah.  Great white waves stopped afore they can break.  And when you stand there, alone, your shadow is the only black for miles.  Until the clouds come over, then everythin’ turns black.  You can’t use your eyes.  An’ all your equipment ain’t makin’ you see either.  You gotta use your ears, nose, the tips of yer fingers.  It’s hot, the rain, that’s how you smell it.  You remember how thunder sounds, but it might be the groanin’ of the ice.  The wind whistles an’ it’s like a wolf’s howl.  It’s a warm wind, yeah, but yer shiverin’.  Then there’s a noise comin’ from all around.  You can’t see, but yer guessin’ it’s the rain.  The smell comes a right inter yer nostrils.  Yer takin’ big gulps ‘cos it reminds ya of home.  An’ the little noises all around ya, they ain’t little no more.  They is poundin’ like footsteps on an icy doormat.  “The rain’s come ta visit, ma.”  There’s lightnin’ to give ya light, so yer can see the cracks in a runnin’ race at yer feet.   An’ miles away a great big needle o’ ice does a dive inter tha ocean below.

BELOW: song I was listening when suddenly had inspiration.  Does this not remind you of a thunderstorm building in momentum?

Nuts & Bolts

If the human mind is all we are

And our bodies are simply machines to our will,

We must be controllers at the wheel of

The greatest invention in the world

But one day, these controllers will become tired of controlling.

They will stroll out of their machine prisons

To see the world without bars and bolts and

Metal limbs and ligaments to obscure their visions.

They will walk and walk.

They are looking for an origin.

Where did

WE

Come from

?

I Dream Better When I’m Awake

What say you?Why aren’t I allowed to sleep?
Leave me.
This world is not real.

The wind battles against the window panes
But the cold still seeps in
So we battle it with fire which sits in the grate
But the smoke we want not so we
Battle it with a chimney and it
Protrudes out into the sky and
Is sent up to God to
Battle with.
This world is not real.

I have a fierce animal by my side
With a snarl eternally,
His face cracked in half.
One day it pounced but
Was killed by a shot and now
It lies here next to me
And my children rub their
Faces in its fur and
It cannot harm them.
This world is not real.

Once there was earth, dry earth
And then grass grew and plants and people
Who grew cows and sheep and wooden fences
And walls to keep one another out.
Then they grew buildings and barns and
Churches and factories and skyscrapers and
Towers enough to frighten God
We should be afraid but
This world is not real.