Reflections issue 14 summer 2012 poetry: michael harris greg martin steve smith steven harris kate wilson prose: matthew banks laura quigley vicky smith adam brummitt art: adam grose robert bellisio monir ali sara bellisio read look think
Greg Martin Lost the dark despair that lights the night with passions flame, burning bright that draws all in and makes my world a blasted heath beyond belief impaled on desire's savage teeth on the ragged edge of reason, lost inside the winter's frost that coats my dreams in crystal rime suspended in time wrapped in the memories that bind, i am blind a speck upon the horizon far away across this wasted ground i have no wish ever to be found Hate me Hate me Hurt me Please Don't worry, it's not a contagious disease Just a need that's fundamental Welcome to self loathing central Where every jagged train runs on time In the terminus of my mind It's ok, this is not a plea for pity No cry for attention, nor scream to be heard Just a catharsis laid out in words A defence in case you notice the wounds Or the burns or the bloodstains which litter this tomb That once was a living thing Now just a carriage For the shit, for the winter, for the dark and the sombre Of the unholy marriage that I labour under The delicate balance of self pity and hate That double edged sword that cuts and feels great So hate me Hurt me Don't be afraid This place I have made
The difference between skies The difference between skies On different sides When looking up through light pollution In this green and septic isle No reason may I find to smile Strain your eyes, search aloft to find The Goddess, veiled by progress' cost That orange glow that greed dictates All but obscures Her perfect face This rat race No joy found here from gazing up The heaven has lost its resolution Wrapped in narcotic, chemical gauze No motivation now , to pause To take a moment to inspect What lies above, better yet To cast downward disillusioned gaze Continue through this modern maze That we have made
Steve Smith Fl창neurs Technologie I was taking a photo of a Rodin sculpture with the scene selection set to automatic: it read on the screen: blink detected.
Aphrodite Why do they always Take pictures of her? She's not even really Venus (she confided to me in 1893), Just some goddess of the sea, Not Love, Whereas I am, most definitely Venus (Well, a Venus I should say), As you can clearly see from my accessories. I mean, she is prettyBut her nose is shot And she's got no arms! No-one takes pictures of me...
Rosegarden The Gates of Hell lie at the very edge The garden clipped refines the scent of roses Dante's lovers kiss Ugolino devours his children This is where the Thinker sits head in fist
Les NĂŠgociants (I) she has honeyed hair espresso Balzac water cigarette parfaite
210 I love your face I love your smile here and your white naked legs while you write
A LOUER Shop/office a louer MMB 06 82 51 31 76 Rue Edouard Jacques betting shop/bar on corner boulangerie round the back and the supermarché You could sell books I'd stock imports of music-stuff and it would be our poetry prose and art-magazine office internationale on the lonely planet Paris map You'd drink café glace chocolat chaud and vin rouge I'd have 'seize soixante-quatre' a Ricard and some Breton cidre we'd both compose des mots and flâneur daily JM and Marianne would flit and rearrange rebellion LT would smoke a Gaulloise with Sartre-badge he'd pense and we'd dream our nights in a tiny shuttered attic and the scent of coffee and print and paper and the sound of scooters and cars careering and the colours of balcony flowers would imprint at the Shop/office a louer MMB 06 82 51 31 76 Rue Edouard Jacques betting shop/bar on corner boulangerie round the back and the supermarché
Les Négociants (II) he looks imagining her name: Camille as he rushes towards The Age of Maturity he can only look but smiles parfait
la rue ce n'est pas désolée the drummers drum for Marianne who holds the sword of Liberty who flies light-heeled on the roundabout traffic-jam on the Bastille Emile accuses no-one now his bones are in the crypt where Rousseau and Voltaire swap tales of freedom majestique while Victor mops his daughter's brow and carves his lover's name into Louis' statue he's equestrian and pale Auguste he's all shut up in dust dreaming of Camille their kiss is a damnation but it's beautiful and it's real the sandstone grave of Sartre and Simone it shines today close to beggars' benches cardboard houses in decay
the whitest walls are barricades there Monet floats in space as dawn to sunset lilies float as there I glimpse your face just over there dear Degas sits as Venus dries her hair fine curve of back and naked neck now is then and there while someplace else the jubilee rains on the dispossessed setting up a bivouac for a sandwich maybe less to toast the unelected crown jewels on her head I'm glad we're supping here my love with the revolutionary dead
Les NĂŠgociants (III) she leaves l'addition on the tray and leaves so does he
Communion We broke a baguette for lunch, side by side on sunlit bench, sand beneath our feet. Notre Dame to the right, river-flow to our left. Market-brie meltingly ripe, stuck creamily to your lips, and mine. And deep red real tomatoes bursting seeds all down us despite each careful bite. Inside the cathedral euros burned, two candles a throw. Exchange one for the other, a Notre Dame medal, latinate tin, a wafer for a throat or an eye, a commission for sin. Give me bread, tomatoes and brie anytime, and your smile as you licked your apple, dropped into your lap from the breakfast buffet, all duty paid, no snakeoil shapeshifting needed; a communion with a kiss, and tapwater collected in a plastic bottle to sip. Both sharing.
After Mid-day I'm handsomer than Ethan; You're prettier than Julie; And we don't need to talk so much On the Promenade PlantĂŠe. I haven't got a plane to catch; Our romance won't be missed; As while I filmed us roses bloomed, On camera-screen we kissed. It wasn't like a movie; It was just like real life; A snapshot without acting: Just me and my beautiful wife. The scent of trellissed roses' view Of a perfect place to stay: Uncaptured and undigitalIn our memory always.
Alight and here, on the night before leaving on the Avenue du Maine the rain on red lights' reflections on green lights' reflections on light from cafĂŠs, restaurants the late-night shop where we bought our wine for hotel drinking, channel-surfing writing dreaming glistens, weeps for no-one not the jogger or the couple sharing umbrella not the beggar with her coffee cup outstretched face shielded not the ripped-tight femme de maison flaunting age to passing trade not the smiling politicians on graffitied election-posters (Fronte Nationale Salope) the bear-like dog too big to pull by FĂŠlicie the dropped euro in shadow Liberty on her column in Bastille, where bones of rebellion lie where rosegardens fly on the viaduct for a lover's sigh where twice we kissed onscreen the chairs and tables sheltering remembering a week of sun the lovers condemned Dante poised at Rodin's gate the fate of Venus the fading sight of lilies' gentle force enfolding dawn 'til night on the whitest walls' respite not you- you are upstairs writing your journal me my last Gauloise no the rain does not weep for no-one it is but rain we are still alight
Matthew Banks A Monologue of Love On the day that I died, the sun shone down upon my skin and the sea lapped gently at the shore. White- horses danced around the bows of our ships. It was the tenth year of our war against Ilium and you swift-footed Achilles, lord of my cor-dis, granted me permission to wear your gleaming bronze armour, that had been a gift from the Gods to your mighty father Peleus, and to take the Myrmidon troops in to battle. Your anger over Lord Agamemnon, Lord of men and his slight against you held fast, and you Achilles did not join us in battle. If only you had, then you would not weep so. You forewarned me not to lead the Myrmidons on to Ilium, but to drive the Trojans away from our ships, that they threatened to burn. I was to do only this and to win you great honour. But in the heat of battle, with blood in my heart, I did not take heed; and now you, Achilles, weep for your fallen comrade, your best friend, your lover. I’ll never see the fields of green Phthia, nor will we ride the free horses that roam there again together. Achilles, not even your spear, giver of life or death can bring me back to you. How my heart aches for you, how I long to enfold you in my arms again and comfort you with sweet kisses.To tell you that I did bring you great honour with the many Trojans that I killed in your name, whose corpses I now wander through, while I wait for you to join me, so we can be together again in Hades. Your anger and wanting vengeance on the Trojan miscreant Hector is justified – he struts about in your armour that he took from my fallen body, and that he was determined to drag my body back to Ilium, to cut off my head and stick it on the palisade and my body to become a plaything of the dogs. He was to allow me no honour in my death. Even now he tells his men that, “The war-god has no favourites and kills the would-be killer.” But he lies. Oh, Achilles, know this, hear my words if you can. Hector did not have the glory of my death – I was killed three times. Swift-footed Apollo conquered me. He took the armour from my back and made my eyes roll up, so only the whites showed, thus blinding me. Then came a man, Euphorbus, and threw a sharp spear, which hit me in the middle of my back, between the shoulders. Though he finished me, with a spear in my lower belly, and now boasts that he killed me, Hector the scourge of Greece had no glory in my death. For as a man swats a dying fly, so Hector killed what was already dead. So Achilles, let the fierce passions that drive you, the love, the hate, the grief, the sorrow, let them take vengeance on treacherous Hector. Take your spear and take your vengeance upon them for me. Offer them no sanctuary in flight. Give them no honour in death. Take the spoils that they took from me, and do not listen to their pleas for mercy, take them as they retreat, as they did to me. But beware the gods, for they are as fickle as a child with their playthings. They promise much, but change like the wind. If you can hear me, dear Achilles, beware swift-footed Apollo, most malevolent of all the gods. Do not feel guilt over my death, though it flows through you and drives you forward into battle. Think of your mother, heart-broken Goddess Thetis, for she knows the prophecy of your doom will now come to pass. How she must hate herself for not making you invincible, and knowing that she cannot save you from the Fates.
Remember who you are Achilles, for many of our men, our friends, our family, perished to bring my mortal remains back to you; though Hector the scourge of Greece was determined to have my body, to desecrate it, so I would wander the underworld mutilated; and our fallen comrades and enemies would say, â€œThere goes Patroclus, slain by mighty Hector, greatest of all warriors. Not even swift-footed Achilles would want to look upon that tarnished beauty now.â€? Their laughter and merriment would echo around the very walls of Hades. But it was your voice, Achilles, blazing like a wild fire that scared the Trojans into retreating, so I could come back to you. Now my remains have been washed, anointed with olive oil, my wounds filled with nine year old ointment, and I am covered over from head to toe in fine linen cloth and a white cloak, and I cannot be mocked in the underworld. How that must grieve them, the Trojan scourge. The lamentation is now over, and your mother, silver-foot Thetis has brought you new armour, made especially for you by lame-god Hephaestus in his forge. See the sadness etched into her porcelain face as she knows what is to become of you and she is powerless to do anything to help you. How magnificent you look in your new armour that shines like a blazing sun, as you rush into the heat of battle. See the Trojan scourge run away like startled fawns that can sense that the lion is coming for them. You are the on-coming whirlwind of death. They cannot see the fire in your eyes, feel the burning rage within your heart, the roaring in your soul. If they could then Helen, the slut of Greece would be returned to magnificent Menelaus, who protected my mortal remains as fiercely as a lioness with her cubs, and treacherous Paris would wander the underworld, desecrated as I was to have been. Great Achilles, Lord of my cor-dis, I will wait for you at the Scaean gates.
Michael Harris Which Direction which way, up/down forward/sideways do a twirl, do a tango smile or frown, mad or bad. which way towards Hope; crossroads, bridges narrow way, fast lane steamed, stoned, stammering on the brink, the level cave or cloud. all past lifes, lived from dawn to dusk moonlite nights consume Time like some Hungry Dragon. left like a shell on sandybeach, tides have moved my soul and like a pilgrim, stave in hand hat on head and empty pockets I have stood many a Time on life's crossroads and wondered wot the fuck am I doing HERE.
Grey Times In deepest YORKSHIRE by canal two people meet to smile, grey ones in a Town Hall cafĂŠ pie and peas toasted cheese, step back a year or 20. lots of water lots of bridges. Happy Times, Sad Times not enough Time to go over everything, but time enough to know that true friends never tire or regret. when we in Future Times meet again then we can once again share knowing Smiles more bridges to cross and water to wash away and doubts of future TIMES.
Vicky Smith Vicky's Book Reviews â€“ Part One of an Occasional Series
Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure is the third and most recent title in Joanne Harris's Chocolat series. The main character Vianne Rocher returns to Lansquenet, a village in south west France where the first Chocolat book is set. Eight years have passed since Vianne left and cultural changes have occurred with the arrival of North African immigrants to the community. As a reader who enjoyed Chocolat and its successor The Lollipop Shoes I approached Harris's latest work with high expectations, which should have warned me that I would probably be disappointed by it. Throughout the series Harris has tackled the thorny issues of organised religion and female emancipation through the character of Vianne and the adversaries that she encounters. Once again her criticisms of religion are linked to the roles that male authority figures play in it and how they then use it to control women through a combination of intellectual superiority and fear. But however hard Harris tries to tackle this issue, using Vianne as her mouthpiece, she is unable as a writer to fulfil this due to lazy writing and a feeling that she is resting on her laurels. As in her previous books Vianne alternates her first person narrative with that of another character. In Peaches the second narrator is the same as it was in Chocolat, namely Father Reynaud. He has mellowed since we first encountered him and no longer behaves with the underhand characteristics that may be attributed to his namesake. The fox was taught a lesson by Vianne in the first book. One of my biggest problems with the narrative is that Vianne and Reynaud do not have different or distinctive voices. If you return to a chapter mid way it is fairly easy to be unsure which character's narrative you are reading, which suggests a certain creative inability on the part of the author. Whilst Harris's readership has matured during the thirteen years within which she has written the Chocolat series the author's writing style has unfortunately not done so alongside them. Vianne, who was once such an exuberant character, has become lifeless and trapped within Harris's extremely narrow depiction of her. The Lollipop Shoes ended with her discovering that she had been stolen as a baby by the woman she believed was her mother. The latter having died she is then reunited with her biological mother. This almost Grecian melodrama does not appear to have affected Vianne or made her question her relationships with her own daughters, who with which she re-enacts the gypsy lifestyle she experienced as a child. She has become 'holier than thou' because she has travelled widely and knows how to make harissa soup and so therefore considers herself a more enlightened individual than any of the residents of Lansquenet. Harris lacks subtlety and relies too much on the first book as she compares Vianne, who was once an outsider in Lansquenet, with the Muslim immigrants who now live there. Racism and xenophobia are topical issues in France, as in many countries. The condemnation towards the wearing of items of religious faith in public has been widely reported on. In Peaches the Muslim women are distrusted by some of the local community because they wear either hijab head scarves or the niquab face veil. There is an instance in the story when two Lansquenet women wear scarves over their hair. But rather than explore the contradiction of a scarf being socially acceptable as a fashion accessory but not as part of a cultural belief, Harris decides not to pursue this.
We are encouraged to try and understand the cultural components of Lansquenet's Muslim community but the same courtesy is not extended towards the local inhabitants. It might be argued that what Harris is specifically leaving unsaid throughout the book is done so for a particular effect and to suggest that ignorance and xenophobia exists within all communities. That just because you might be a member of a persecuted society it does not necessarily make you more empathic towards others in a similar situation. Harris's previous Chocolat books have been built around the framework of food and the belief that the creation and consuming of food has the magical power to unite people. This belief occurs in paganism and organised religion. In place of the sweetness of chocolate the reader is encouraged to sample the delicacies of traditional North African cuisine. The story occurs during Ramadan in a similar style to that of the first Chocolat book which was set during Lent. Food is once again linked to earthly pleasures which may then lead to sexual enjoyment. I could waffle on about original sin and the woman's designated role as the instigator of it but John Milton and Philip Pullman have put forward much better arguments for and against this. In my opinion Harris has lost her way within her latest book as she revisits familiar ground and unfortunately the exoticism of spices in place of Amazonian chocolate are not strong enough to carry the weak plot. Without the occupation of chocolate making Vianne appears to be as lost as the author. Harris appears to have churned the book out, which- call me cynical- has the aroma of money emanating from it rather than magic.
Laura Quigley Hit and Run The bridge was known for its daemons. But commuters wouldnâ€™t know that; the well-dressed, fast-car strangers who twice-a-day cut through the village, ignoring the signs, the struggling shops, the struggling people. Only metal-clad daemons drive at sixty miles an hour. Tonight though was unusual. The air was chilled with winter and a strange fog had risen with the dark. The roving mist blocked headlights and made brown shadows in the air. And she was tired, the driver, tired of twelve-hour days in a sunless office, tired of having to work harder than the men for promotion, and tired of always being the last out, rushing home to a frozen meal barely warmed in the microwave before it was time to collapse alone in bed. So she saw nothing. As usual, she manoeuvred around the tight bend, up as close as she could to the left wall of the old narrow humpback bridge, automatically avoiding anything unseen that might be coming the other way. She hadnâ€™t even thought of slowing down. Until something with flesh hit the road. She heard the thud, and her foot instinctively hit the brake. She came to a stop on the other side of the bridge. Secured the hand-brake and sat there shaking, suddenly aware of the cluster of stone houses around her, of side streets and factory gates sheâ€™d not noticed before. Of the quiet, boarded-up sense of the place. She looked in the rear view mirror for any signs of life. But there was only the bridge, a grey hump rising from the mist, like an ancient whale harpooned on the road.
She left the car and walked towards the bridge. Damp air closed in around her and she clutched her mobile phone for security, tried the little torch but it was feeble in the fog.
Her heeled shoes struggled with the rough roadside and her heart thudded in her chest. At first there was only mist ahead, revealing the walls of the bridge only as she approached. Then there was a hand on the road, an arm, contorted, reaching for her, then an open mouth crushed against the tarmac. She stopped. The boy’s pale eyes gazed at her, lifeless but somehow pleading. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old. Thoughts rushed at her: the police, the news, rising bile in her throat, her mother’s disapproval, her boss at work smiling in that patronising way as he explained how she hadn’t got the job, again, the stares and whispers, everybody knowing. She felt faint, her vision blurring, like a tunnel spiralling before her eyes, drawing her in. She felt so cold. And he was dead. The air closed in around her and there was nothing she could do about it. Then she was turning away and heading for the car. His dead eyes drilled into her, but she never looked back. She glanced at the phone in her hand. The display said Call, but who to call? She didn’t have time. She didn’t have time for this to happen. “I’m sorry,” she said to the darkness, and the boy. “I’m so sorry. I can’t stop.” She fastened her seatbelt and accelerated away.
In the morning, she caught the train and bought every newspaper she could find. She arrived a bit late for work, with a colleague jokingly called a ‘haunted’ look. But she knew he was just angling to take over the project and push her out of the way. So what if he had some postgraduate degree; she had more experience, didn’t she? She could handle anything they threw at her, when it mattered. She headed straight for the ladies room. She bolted the cubicle door and scanned the headlines. Civil wars in Africa, the death toll in Iraq, bodies found and a taxi driver arrested. But she wanted to know about a man-child struck by a car. She needed to see the details of an accident that now affected two anonymous people’s lives. She scanned all the little paragraphs she usually only read when she didn’t have time to read the features – the local news. But there was nothing there, not even in the local papers. Of course, she
realised, mentally giving herself a kick, there was the internet. Hurrying to her desk, she logged on, trying to look casual, trying to look like she was doing something for work, but acutely aware of him glancing at her screen. Was he hovering? Why did he have a cartoon on his tie? She looked him in the eye, as cool as she could, and he smirked and moved away. But the search was futile. There was nothing about a boy and a bridge, and a driver seen speeding away in the night. Maybe it hadn’t happened. Maybe she’d just dreamed it. Maybe it would all just go away and she could live her life in peace again, back to normal, disturbed only by her rival’s inane grin and his stupid ties. But she knew she’d killed somebody, and she desperately wanted to read about it, to know his name, to know if she’d been seen. Her eyes welled up with tears, for the beautiful youth on the road, and the lives that were slipping away. Everyone in the office around her kept their heads down, determined not to see the woman crying at her desk. On the third day, still nothing in the news. Data and presentations forced themselves back into her existence, and the boy’s eyes faded in her memory. On the fourth day, there was an early meeting, so she forced herself to open the garage and inspect the car, but there was no blood on the bumper, no marks at all, nothing to show for one night’s horrific mistake. It seemed she’d got away with it. She took a deep breath of sunrise morning air. She drove to work by a different route, anything to get away from the memory of that thud on the road. But coming home, late as usual, there were diversions and delays and she suddenly found herself on the same road as before, heading back towards the bridge. The place was strangely quiet. The traffic congested around her all seem to vanish in the deepening darkness. There was no mist this time. She noticed small shops with flats above, but couldn’t see anywhere that sold food. Was there now some massive Tesco's planted three miles from town? Did people here commute? The battered doors and
rooftops suggested little money coming back. She slowed down as she approached the bridge, expecting to see police cordons or blood stains, or ribbons and flowers tied in remembrance, or one of those police signs saying “Did you see?”, appealing for witnesses to the evil attack. She didn’t feel evil, just weary and lost, as though noticing the world around her for the first time. Everything seemed more in-focus than before. Her headlights hit the wall approaching the bridge and she drove over, buffeted by the curve of the road, a little rollercoaster ride that twisted her stomach, took her breath for a moment. Somebody screamed. And there was the truck, thundering towards her, its headlights blinding her as it took up most of the bridge in its wake. She swerved the car violently to avoid a collision, and as suddenly as it happened, it was over and she was driving past the factory gates and out towards the A-road that would take her home. She caught her breath. While her eyes told her hands where to steer, her thoughts raced. Who had screamed? She re-lived the moment in her mind. There had been nobody there. The truck had startled her and she had barely escaped in time, but there had been no-one else there on the bridge. She hadn’t hit anyone. And this was a woman’s scream. Not a boy’s. She couldn’t associate the scream with that pale silent face on the road, the tender eyes bleeding. There had been nobody there. She tried to remember the scream. There had been three distinct parts to it: a quick rush of breath, then a cry, then a scream as some horror took place. Had it come from the flats above the shops? Was someone there being beaten? Call the police, she thought, that’s what she should do. But what would they think of a witness who could remember a scream in such vivid detail but not know where it came from? Wouldn’t they think that was odd? That she didn’t stop? That she just drove on home, just like she was doing now. Would they think she was going mad?
And then she decided. Tomorrow she would be prepared. In the morning, she would put a torch in the boot of her car, and this time she would stop and see for herself. The morning was fine again, frosty, with red waves of dawn across the sky. Sheâ€™d left home early and the motorway was clear. She drove at a constant eighty-five and let her car consume the highway. It felt good to drive on mornings like this, now she had a plan. Approaching the bridge, she spotted a side street and pulled over. She changed her heels for a pair of flatties sheâ€™d found in the bottom of the wardrobe, to make it easier to walk the two hundred yards to the bridge. She buttoned her coat and locked her car as she stepped away. She found herself amongst groups of pedestrians sheâ€™d never noticed before. Gangs of children rushed past, stepping off and on the kerb to get around her. The humpback bridge ahead now just looked quaint, with a few shops and more pedestrians beyond. Cars streamed past and through the village. A bus navigated the hump to collect passengers on the other side. Behind a row of houses, she spotted a railway siding and realised where her walking companions were heading. As they approached the bridge, the path narrowed and disappeared. She looked over the wall, expecting to see rail tracks or a river below, but there was only a long ditch. It seemed deep, the bottom obscured by foliage. There could be anything down there, she thought, and no-one would know. Forced into single file, each group of pedestrians glanced behind them, looking for breaks in the lines of cars zooming past, before setting foot on the tarmac itself and walking over the bridge, between the cars. The traffic snarled and whined as it fought its way through, impeded by people. Those on foot seemed resigned to it. She looked around. It was the only way to get across. As she reached the other side, feeling polluted by fumes, she looked for signs of the accident. Was this where the boy was in the road? Unseen by her headlights until it was too late? She could almost see him standing there in the sun, his pale eyes gazing at her, his
horror-mouth-circle now bent into a smile. Why couldn’t he have just kept out of the way of her car? She spotted a small newsagent, the only shop open. The others were all take-aways that didn’t open till dusk. The newsagent’s stock looked like it hadn’t moved for twenty years. A Cadbury sales rep had had a field day decorating the place in purple swirls with cardboard glasses of milk. The notices in the window were selling old prams, and ‘work at home’ opportunities. She walked in, past the wall of sad-looking cards and chocolate bars. She waited patiently at the counter as the Indian owner served an old lady with dog on a string lead. The old dear bought a packet of Silk Cut and headed out still talking to herself. “Do you sell batteries?” she asked him. He found some the right size in an old shoebox under the counter. She smiled. He seemed careful not to touch her hand as he counted out her change. She said ‘thank you’ and repeated the smile. By the time she drove on to work, she knew enough about the street to come back again at night and look around. The day was hectic. Her dippy fool of a secretary lost a load of projections she needed for her 5pm meeting, so she had to do them all again. She narrowly avoided an insufferably macho pub lunch, and with it any contact with the office clown with his Mickey Mouse tie. She shook her head in disbelief that they were being considered for the same promotion. What did the bosses see in him? Then the accountant droned on at the 5pm meeting, with his intricate knowledge of tax laws. Only when she saw the sun setting did she remember her plan and the bridge. It was very late by the time she was on the road, the commuter traffic long gone. All around the village, the mist had risen again, from the depths of the channel beneath the bridge, obscuring the shop fronts and the side-streets. As her headlights hit the gloom, she made out the dark figure of a man heading home. He swayed drunkenly and merged with the shadows at the back of the newsagent.
Cautiously she drove the car over the bridge and parked on the other side. No scream this time. She was later than usual, but she had almost hoped to hear it again, so she could get some sense of the source. That she wasn’t going mad. Switching off the headlights, she could see how bright the moon was, only occasionally obscured by cloud-shadow. She watched the moon rise against the branches of a tree. It moved much faster than she expected. She changed her shoes again. The flatties wrinkled her tights but that didn’t matter in the dark. She grabbed the torch with its new batteries and stepped out of the car. For the first time she realised she was returning to the scene of the crime. Her crime. The cold air hit her lungs and made her gasp. She locked the car door behind her, but didn’t set the alarm for fear of someone noticing the yellow lights flashing. She wouldn’t be gone long anyway. Ahead of her the humpback bridge loomed out of the mist. She kept expecting it to move, to dive down again. She could almost feel it breathing like a monster, waiting for her to get just a little closer before it struck. Just get this done, she told herself. Mist swirled around her, obscuring her view of the road surface. Each step seemed to plunge her further into its damp grip. She tried to part the fog with her hand, to see if there were any bloodstains where the boy had lain. But her torchlight could not cut through the mist. She looked up suddenly feeling as though she was being watched, but the mist was blank-faced, all around her. She spotted a path leading to an old metal walkway. It jutted out into the darkness towards the other side of the ditch. She stepped on it carefully, letting it feel her weight. But the metal stopped short – it had buckled some time ago. One support had collapsed into the ditch beneath the walkway and the whole centre section had bent to follow it down. There was no way of walking across, and no-one had ever bothered to fix it. She backtracked to the bridge and looked again for any signs of her victim’s
presence – a hand-print, a shoe, anything that might prove that something had happened that night. Moonlight broke through the mist and she spotted a notice on the bridge wall. It was old and faded, despite its plastic wrapping, now torn. It was a police notice dated 17 June 2010. Two years ago exactly, she thought. A youth had disappeared. A young man of fourteen, tall for his age, missed by friends and family. There was a discoloured photograph, the boy at a party, smiling, happy, full of life – a very different expression but she recognised the pale eyes. His name had been Daniel. This was the youth she thought she’d killed just a few nights before. She stood up in confusion, stepping back to get her balance. She felt the headlights before she saw them. She cried out but the car was going too fast to stop in time. She screamed and the car hit her legs out from under her. She felt herself hit the bonnet and roll, then hit the ground. Time slowed but she could do nothing to stop what was happening to her. Her arm fell twisted, misshapen, reaching out in front of her. She could feel the blood trickling from her head, spreading out like a shiny red pool across the tarmac before her eyes. She couldn’t move, could only watch as the car stopped on the other side of the bridge. She could feel the driver inside, looking at her in the rear view mirror. The car’s headlights suddenly went off. Dark now but for a glimmer of moonlight. She tried desperately to cry out but nothing happened. Even though her mouth was open, she couldn’t make the noise happen. Was this concussion? Thoughts raced through her mind’s eye – the newspapers, her mother at the morgue, her secretary sending office flowers, everyone knowing. But none of that seemed to matter anymore. A man got out of the car. Even at this distance, her vision blurred, she could see he was shaking. He retrieved a long coat from the back seat and put it on. Glancing left and right, he walked closer. He picked up her torch. It had rolled a few feet away from her, batteries spilling out from the shattered plastic. He put it in his pocket. Then he was reaching down to pick her up. He would rush her to hospital. Let her
lie in the warm back seat of his fast car. He would tell her how sorry he was and everything would be all right in his arms. But his lift was not gentle. He shoved her body up against the bridge wall and gathered her up like a bundle. She could smell alcohol on his breath, and caught a glimpse of a Mickey Mouse tie. She tried again to cry out, “I’m not dead! I forgive you. Don’t do this.” But her body was already rolling over the wall towards the dark ditch below. She could feel her weight, falling, the sudden lurch of her body as it hit the bottom with a thud, weeds cold against her face. Her head lay on one side and she found herself gazing into the pale eyes of a youth about fourteen. A young man called Daniel. His body was twisted and broken, lying alongside her in the dark and the damp. But there was life in his eyes now, a kindness she had not recognised before, almost an apology. How quiet it was, hidden in the undergrowth. How peaceful. “My name is Ruth,“ she told him, and he smiled. And they lay there together there in the place of the daemons and listened as the car accelerated away.
Kate Wilson Jubilee Kill me against the cut glass edge of a champagne flute canapĂŠs cast aside. Let the shards of blue glass glitter, then slice my skin until the blood stains your lace tablecloth, running red on white: My English flag.
Cigarette on the back step Sometimes I watch you smoke imagining an absent mind you'll never find you who thinks in unending lines Sometimes I join you losing myself in the stars in the night sky, in your eyes Wishing I could rise and disperse like the smoke that passes your lips
Steven Harris All That Is Solid My name is stripped and cast aside As I melt into air. Is that it? The hurtling, ridiculous days Reduced to one last croak of dusty breath; Like gas or drifting smoke. And I fall. No blue lips left to feel the Judas kiss of empty space. No bloody teeth, Nor brain: The skin withered away. Age and clocks have beaten me Though drugs and youth convinced me I could win. The search for meaning Written through the fibres of my life. Seaside junk that rots the mind But helps the bruises heal. My name is lost, All reason gone, And silver pieces spoil. This is it: The hurting, The relentless pains Resolved in one fleeting after-burn; Like Vietnam by Disney. And I fall.
Worn Down Cogs, Still Willing Every stranger's glance is love unknown, Every pair of lips a kiss still waiting. I press my imaginary face against yours, Dreaming that we can fly. Is this desire? The crank and handle of my lust, The jarring, panting creak of worn down cogs, Still willing? It's like riding someone else's body: Move those limbs And ring the bell. Slow. Bit faster. Faster still. At last we make it up the hill, Smile And catch our breath. I sort of know you, Cup your breasts a little foolishly I feel. I know your love a little too And look for one last kiss.
Time For Tea Such scarred and scuffed-up wooden floors. Once work boots wore away the grain, Now Uggs and Converse walk this way. We drink our tea and laugh some more. White sunlight keeps the teacups warm. A waitress swivels through the chairs, All boyish hips and pulled-back hair. Her smile fixed on, her eyes forlorn. In laptop/coffee/iPhone town Some people still find time to talk, The clatter of their knives and forks A rhythm pinning friendship down. Old shoes scratch new grooves in the grain At cappuccino catch-up time. Like cryptic messages, the signs That cafĂŠ culture keeps us sane.
Ink and Paper Traces These are the indiscriminate thoughts of a changeling child, grown up and nearly forgotten. Virtually asleep. Almost left behind. These are the unusual dreams of a most uncommon soul. A little more lucid every day. A little more colourful night by night. These are the prayers of a born-again agnostic. Knees bent, hands clasped, ra-ra-rah! These are the ink and paper traces of a screen and keyboard soldier. Left shift, right shift, fingers smudged with biro. These are the rising, falling breaths of a final self-redemption. Inhale and the world becomes you. Exhale and you carbon dioxide alone. This is the meandering flow of the bright and babbling waters of my life. I am a droplet. I am the sea. The rest will just wash over me.
Letters from The Freak Files Political Pontification from The Politics Desk By Adam Brummitt Record Rain Leaves Derelict Roofs Without Urgently Needed Fire; Olympic Fever Causes Nation to Demand Medical Attention as Cancer Continues to Spread; Brace Yourself, At This Rate It's Going to be a Slow, Dreary Trudge to a Whimper... Here we find ourselves in the oft-termed Dog Days of Summer, though rather than carrying with it oppressive heat that apprehends most those that have the option of remaining behind locked front doors we are instead kept at bay by a rain besotted mongrel escapee from the local RSPCA shelter that stalks our front and threatens any who might brave the storm with depressive rabies. In effect, we are desperately mired as a society. Stasis has rooted itself in our lives, in our recreation, our reaction to political ills, and our attempts to reform these misdemeanors. It appears we’re on something of an indignation trip, ready to expose truths in our voyage, to comment with righteous conviction, to point a finger and demand explanation, and once given to not do a great deal more. Indulge me another of the potentially unpopular statements I've a propensity for making: the riots of 2011 were a good start. Amidst all the dismissive official admonition of the 'base criminality' of these demonstration, I'm certain they also inspired a certain degree of fear in members of Parliament who might otherwise have sought to enact legislation far more oppressive than it has in the past year. I'll grant this is purely speculative, but I'd venture to assert that the riots did a great deal more in influencing political consideration than any amount of chants, waving of signs, or camping on public property has. Whether aware of the ultimate ramifications of their actions as up-risers or blind rage precipitated by the state of our society, these ‘criminals’ represented what American Statesman Thomas Jefferson believed in pronouncing, 'When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty'. I certainly don't mean to discourage those participating in the various protests in all their iterations throughout The United Kingdom and United States and I'm not advocating violence in the capacity of the 2011 riots, merely acknowledging their effectiveness. In terms of enacting lasting, substantive societal, economic, or political change, historically there seem to be two options that have proven the most immediately successful: concede to participating in the pre-existing system or burn the bastard to cinders. I'm loath to rely so heavily on transcription, but this point was superbly articulated by the Rev. Bill Maher who stated in his June 8th broadcast of HBO's Real Time: "Last fall, I must admit that I too got caught up in the Occupy Wall Street excitement. I went down there, I chanted, I held a sign, I shared some sacred herb with members of a drumming circle, but strangely enough it turns out that having a sleep over in the park for four months didn't cause Wall Street to crumble…and that's not because Occupy didn't have the right message, it did: that [wealth] is increasingly in the hands of a tiny kleptocratic priesthood of finance cowboys and the politicians they buy, protected by a free fire zone of rules they wrote themselves, feeding on the republic from within like transcontinental tapeworm the size of Route 66. Sure, I'll give you that. It just that, I think it was Gandhi who said, 'the park, again, really?'”
Maher continued, ‘If you think I’m being too mean about this, go to the Occupy website. It says that their big plan this year is to have a national gathering on July 4th to, and I quote, “facilitate a visioning process designed to allow all voices to be heard while allowing repeat visions to organically rise to the top”. I don’t know what the fuck that means’. I’m fairly certain that I can abstract the meaning of this rather cryptic passage, but it doesn’t amount to a great deal more than what has been happening since the movement began. Again, it is not out of opposition to The Occupy Movement or any other expressions of civil protest that I target them rather than the ‘Kleptocratic Priesthood’, it is out of disappointment from what I felt was a phenomena with infinite potential that has dissolved into a forum for mere bitching, well-educated and well-intended bitching though it is. Thus we arrive at the immanent 2012 Olympic Games, and the complaints it has stirred from those similarly outraged by corporate bailouts and global poverty: It should come a no great surprise to those that know me well - or in passing - that I also have very much the capacity to be a moody, socially-indignant agitator, waxing political ire as I do in this column. *However*, the rampant anti-Olympics sentiment among many is beginning to irritate me more than the Olympic hype itself. It seems a fairly obvious indicator of our being too bloody comfortable to contribute to a legitimate discussion on social reform when we are distracted from all other global concerns by The Olympics. Is it nationalistic? Inherently…it's the fucking Olympics; this concept is not new. Is nationalism bullshit? Certainly, but between bombing the fuck out of one another in the name of an arbitrary sense of national pride and sending national athletic representatives to demonstrate who best can throw a javelin out of a slightly-lessarbitrary sense of national pride, I'll take the latter. Is it commercial, a misuse of funds, and economically irresponsible during a time of crisis? Arguably… I'm not disputing anyone's disinterest in the Olympics (I for one will watch the odd event, I'm certain…as many of you devoutly watch weekly football matches which operate on no less a commercially-driven engine), but for fuck's sake, have we no better target for our national cynicism? Truly, England appears to be the one country capable of consistently bitching about The Olympics. There are worthier causes, believe me… seek them out, I beg you.
Reflections published by steve smith/reflections magazine copyright steve smith 2012 editor: steve smith sub-editor: vicky smith front cover: robert bellisio 'beach babe' back cover: sara bellisio photographed by monir ali other stuff: steve smith, paris
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