The book I’m writing (very slowly as it is becoming quite personal) now has snuck its way into the first person plural. I loved Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides written in the ‘we’ and ‘us’ voice but I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off.
My work practice is sneaking into my writing too. I’m writing and talking a lot about movement, memory, the performed and the moment of disappearance in the live. D and I made a kind of comic book ages ago together: kind of to try out the Cage/Cunningham model of creating something in different but related art-forms without the art-forms being subject to one another… so for Cage/Cunningham the choreography and the music were on equal ground. Neither one were in the ascendant to the other. So with the book/pamphlet/artist leaflet that D and I made. It’s since turned into something a little more concrete now tho. Stars Dots and the New Junk contributed a CD to go with it and it’ll be sold in Orbital comic book shop in Soho, London til the limited run we made is all gone. I shan’t tell you what it’s called though, as my involvement was always supposed to be a mute form of writing seen from the corner of your eye. The original object was meant to be anonymous and left around to be picked up by strangers, so if possible maybe it can still have some of that despite its 15 minutes of fame this evening at the music launch.
Let me know if you think the first person plural is going to be a really bad idea.
If you’re going to be up North, then go to this exhibition. I had something to do with it. Despite that, it is very good.
Writing seems to be urgent now. What else can I do but document.
The car shakes us as it travels over gravel. I watch the bushes at the side of the road. My head is against the glass of the window. The seatbelt is at my neck. The bushes have spiky leaves in yellow, light green, dark green. We pass a set of bushes with fuzzy red berries, long spindles of branches. ‘What are they?’ I turn to ask Martha. She doesn’t look away from the road.
‘Just bushes,’ she says.
The house at the end of the drive rises. Its white columns are like the bones of another house, a house that has long ago withered into this one. It’s a sun bleached carcass of a house. Martha’d said that she’d found it last minute. That the reviews were good. That the pictures were good. We’d spend a few days here then head up to meet the others at the mountain lodge. My ex was going to be there, at the lodge. Christmas isn’t the right time to break this to her, we both think that, so we’re stealing a few extra days stolen before we have to be just friends.
‘Spooky house,’ I say.
Martha shrugs as she pulls our bags from the boot. ‘You think everything in the countryside is spooky.’
‘Bring me to a city,’ I say, ‘I’ll be happy.’
‘New York next year then,’ she says, slapping my arse. ‘Here, help me with the keys.’
I knew her mother. A woman who didn’t like other people much. You wouldn’t ask her to take in a parcel for you, to watch your kids while you popped out, for any kind of favour. I didn’t know she even had a boyfriend but she must’ve. One day she was ‘showing’ and took to wearing smocks. I asked her about the dad, a few times I asked. She said he was away, said he wasn’t into commitment, said he wasn’t interested. To be honest I think she was just saying things off the top of her head, getting rid of me kind of thing. Anyway the bairn, when she got here, was right bonny but a wild thing.
I usually write about autumn in October but this year, even though autumn is finally here, in the difference in the air itself, in the wetness of the air, in the russet twilight, I won’t write about it. Things are changing. I can’t spend my life looking back. Always staring into myself like Narcissus into a lake, although actively listening for Echo, re-working things that float around in my own head, taking twigs of experience and twisting them into some kind of wicker metaphor for something that could be universal. I should write a story about what is going to happen, or what is happening right now in this moment, unravelling at the speed of an eye over text. That’s what I should write. Even using ‘should’ begins to play into the past tense, but maybe doubt is the mood of the present tense, maybe ‘am’ has embiggened its role in our tensual state. No, I think I’m wrong. ‘Should’ is the moment before the present. But what can you say about the present? I am writing this. I am writing this to you. You are reading this. You are thinking, what will happen at the end of this sentence? Or maybe I am thinking that and in thinking that I reach the end of the sentence. Become the moment between the present and the future. Where are some characters to accompany us together riding this to the end, we’re both here, but is there anyone else?
I’m still working on my dissertation and creative project story fans (as of writing only 2000 words and lots of edits to go). Next month normal service resumes but until then please enjoy this guest post by the very talented Sue Oke. She blogs over at susanmayoke.com. Pop over and say hello!
North to South
It’s the voice I hear first, a baritone with the unmistakable soft edges of a Yoruba accent. We turn at the same time, tentative smiles of recognition blossoming as our eyes meet. And then he’s grinning, wrapping me in bear hug, his enthusiasm temporarily infectious.
‘How are you? How are the children?’
I grab a breath, the rote , ‘We’re fine,’ slips out of my mouth.
He barrels on, ‘And what of Oga?’
Oga… chief… boss… master… he’s using a title to refer to the man who, twenty years ago, used to be my husband.
In July, August and September I have to write a lot to finish my course. Instead of writing new things for my blog I’m going to tart up some old things. An early version of this story appeared in Words With Jam magazine in 2011. Let me know what you think.
The ice cubes in Ali’s glass made tiny twitches as the vodka melted them. ‘This means something,’ she said, her voice hoarse.
‘I’m sorry?’ I said. My chest ached with the sadness that bore down on my ribs. I wanted to drink, and talk, and not think about the way each second, or gesture or even thought, was a second, gesture and thought further from where you and I had been.
I can’t remember much of the flight – its innards if you like. I was told that in Spanish the word migas is for the soft part of bread. The middle part surrounded by the crust. Do we have a word for that? It’s what I need now to describe the missing part of the flight in my mind, or if not missing then out of focus, getting out of the way when I try and look at it. Not that anything happened on the flight. I think. The outsides of the experience I recall. At the boarding gate, waiting for the plane to taxi up to the window. Wondering if the plane would be in a hurry – it was already an hour delayed – and would taxi too quickly, bashing into the window, killing us all or maiming at least/ at worst.
I lived on a mountain. My house had thick walls made of mud which men had carried on their backs all the way from the river banks of my home country. They were whipped up hillsides, forced over rocks wet with pure river water and through gullies slimy with stinking moss. The rugs in my house had been stitched by the women of my father’s house. They cried over each stitch. I could taste their tears when I put my tongue on the rugs.