to my goddaughter ~ your name is mud

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IMG_3406{I recently became a Godmother to one of my dearest friend’s baby girl, Mya, whose initials spell MUD. Having been through a period of time which has brought to focus the idea of growing up and being responsible I have been thinking a lot about what being a Godmother might mean. I was struck by how strong my feelings for this little being that I have not yet met are, how in her I understand something of the future and the desire to keep the future safe. This is of course for her, and for her beloved mother.}

Little One, born of love and circumstance,
An apple seed swelling and dancing quietly in your own ocean,
A perfect moment in time; captured in peach soft skin, furzed, downy, sweet as milk.
Your name is Mud, we shall call you Mya, but really you’re from the earth, from the skies, a child of the sweet spring rain, the first gently opening crocus,
A gift of sudden sunshine after a squalling shower.

This is your world. Your tiny fingers, your nails the shells from some distant beach, the bow of your lips, the arch of each elegant foot, describes the Universe in its entirety; nothing is more true and eloquent than your expression.
You are, Mya, love written in flesh. Surprise and the lines of the future are caught in sweep of your lashes.
One day I shall know you, Little Being, we shall figure the world together,
I shall spin stories of experience and all the while stifle my gasps when I discover that I am learning more from you than I thought possible.
One day we shall stomp the cliff tops together watching the wielding birds far below riding the crests of the sunlit sea.
We shall let the wind blow back our hair and shout with joy at the scudding sky.
One day you will fall asleep with your tearstained head on my shoulder, your rebellious dreams tangling in my hair as I sigh and reach to phone your mother.
One day, God forbid it, we shall we be parted.

But for now, little Mud, Mya Una, sleep your milky sleep and dream your growing dreams.
You are loved, bound by love, held by love, free in love.
The spring will pass, and pass again. You and the flowers will bloom and grow leggy in the sunshine.
Washing will dry in the garden, the blackbirds will sing. Time will wheel ever onwards. Everything will change, and change again.
All, except love, Little One, that remains constant, the gentle web that binds us all in freedom, the unbreakable ties that allow us to grow.

 

 

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raw mind unfurling #3: kali’s shadow

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{This piece came out of an extraordinary workshop I was part of on women’s leadership called Coming Into Your Own. It came from the brave, deep, honest explorations of the women present and it belongs to them. 
Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or “false consciousness.” Who is Kali: Subhamoy Das}

Kali’s Shadow (For SJM)

Kali’s shadow followed me here.
Over the green and pleasant lands, over the streets and straight lines, over the neat fields and fallow fields and fields where lovers lay entwined before the harvest and blood soaked poppies.

Kali’s shadow did not creep, or stealthily steal. She blocked the sun, stood hands on hips, chewed gum. Laughed with head back, watched.
Kali’s shadow did not apologise for the blood, brazenness, low-cut top. She put on lipstick in a wing mirror and disembowelled those who dared to look at her without respect. Right there. Right there on the pavement. In front of the bus stop.
I am a fucking goddess after all.
Kali’s shadow howled. Danced. Strode and then decided she was tired and went home and read Jane Austen in the lamp light with a pot of herbal tea and Jaffa Cakes.

She took men home and then firmly and politely told them no. Actually no. For no reason. She took home men and fucked them until she’d had enough. And made it very clear that was all it was. She decided, and let them know and closed the door very firmly and smiled.

Kali’s shadow followed me here.
I didn’t mean to let her know where I was going. I changed the password on my phone, didn’t update my status. I did not want her voice in the room, in my head, in my voice. I can’t contain her within me I am the wrong shape. Too pale, too quiet, too, eurghhhhhh, flat.

Kali’s shadow needs a bit more sass, strength, fight, come on girl, ferocity! There is not enough here to eat, to embody, to shout and scream and stamp. If you apologise once more I will destroy you. I swear it.

I want to dance with Kali’s shadow, in the darkness with my eyes closed. I want to feel into this power with tentative talons, self-conscious of my raw unbound body.
Kali’s shadow sighs.
Not quite ready yet? You’ll never be fucking ready. You have to jump. You have to do, fight, act, be. Find your edge and leap.

As the light changes and shifts I see Kali’s shadow everywhere, growing longer with the hours. Following each and every one of us. Forgotten, ignored, cut away, waxed off, tamed, pushed out, covered over.
Yet she awaits us, omnivorous, omnipotent, devouring time and tides and the tawdry notion of her darkness (a shadow is born of light after all).
She waits smouldering until we can reach a hand and she can touch it with hers saying: Fear not, we all have to start somewhere.

When it is darkest, just before the dawn breaks, Kali’s shadow is nowhere to be seen. And suddenly, the sword we are wielding is weightless, cutting with clean conviction through the depth of the night.

 

raw mind unfurling #2: water meadow

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{Words came easier the second time I wrote, it was gentler, I had come back from a morning run and my thoughts were already writing themselves}

Water Meadow (for A)

We rise, the magpie and I, in a swirl of damp feathers. Look no further than the river edge, oozed mud between our toes. The tenderness of the tide taking everything under.

Nothing is left to chance, nothing is ever still. The briars and berries and dew new grass and dank salt-slow smell of the boat’s demise and the jacks on the cliffs and the rise and fall of breath on the water meadows.

The rough chaff of the strimmed path, itchy bashed weed seed heads smashed open amongst the washed-out crisp packets and the wind. Charming. Charms of goldfinches, Christ birds grace the skies without realising it.

The depth of morning shadow, the ancient murmur of trees growing, compassionate, rotting, compassionate, unknowing, compassionate.

All the while a blackbird and a mower sing rusty high-low duets.

The morning growing outward. The gulls chase the shadows and shadow birds and bones of the Downs and down. Down. Soft fleece of the rosebay flight.

Your hand that fits mine leaves a memory mark when I run this land. Briars, brambles, the dark stain of stolen fruit, a smile, evening sun on the slow, slow eloquent river. A gentle stare from a dusty beast, no one is fenced in, robin song from the river edge. The gentle fall of leaves, scales, scars.

Pennies dropping to the murky depths, bubbles rising, singing, sighing.

Drop. Stone. Story. Walls crumbling in the rain, rebuilt from the chalk. A thousand years of stories, faces in the wind. Blown away. Away, loping into the distance.

Thought given flight. Can’t fight it anymore. Heaven knows (really knows). Only stories. Running words, swallowing stones, writing, swallowing sobs, writing, the last swallow. Writing. Only words.

Home, breathless. Beginning. Again.

raw mind unfurling #1

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{I have been struggling to write for a while. I keep starting pieces and getting stuck, loosing the thread, not finding the right space or time to write. Fidgeting. Yesterday I just decided to sit down and start typing. It had been raining most of the day, I had left my flat and sat in Flint Owl, I felt crotchety, like I needed to shake out my feathers, arch my back, shout. So I started to type, without thinking. Just typing and typing, letting my mind unspool, unfurl, without judging or looking back. I typed on and off for 20 mins, pausing to draw breath. It felt good. Without pretence or form. A bit weird and rough. Today I tried again in a different mood. Just letting my fingers form what they were given. I’ll try again tomorrow. This isn’t proper writing. I am not sure what it is. But it feels a useful exercise. It’s very much inspired by Max Porter’s incredible book: Grief is the thing with feathers. But without the finesse. Anyway. Maybe I’ll finish those other blogs soon too….}

 

What is stopping me writing stopping the words flowing from me what is blocking me making me feel sick and strained and strange and stained what is stopping me from expressing outwards becoming bigger flying away leaving my feet travelling upwards what is stopping me screaming and shouting and heaving in lungfuls of air and wailing when I want to wail?

Why has all this time and space and freedom stifled me, pushing down on me like a solicitous blanket, killing me with kindness? Where has all my fire gone? Where has my drive, my fear, my itch, my dreams, my vibrant vertigo gone?

I don’t want to scratch at night but I do want to write again sense nonsense. I want to have the skeleton framework in which to hang my meat, my life, my trinkets and meaning and coloured bits of scarf and scruffy dreams. I want to work I WANT to learn I want to be able to be afraid and fuck up and that to be ok. I WANT to be appreciated for what I can do. I think I am quite good, but alone everyday left to my own devices who knows? Unpaid, unheeded, under-stimulated, same again, same again, same again. Who knows?

Pour it out, tip it down like the chemical glugging, stinking, retching poison to unblock the sink that will not unblock full of clogging, clagging shit of cake crumbs and coffee grounds that will not be dissolved, resolved, absolved. Not forgiven. Not even forgotten. Just left out in the rain until it warped and moulded and rusted and rotted away. And even then. STILL THERE. An eyesore just a block. Just a breeze. Just the solid stupid static feeling of the nothing. The passing of time without marks.

The lying in sweated sheets with the no-way-forward thoughts pressing out of your poor-slept sour skin. Nothing. Not a thing. Not a jot. Only rotting rhymes that will not.

Sieve out the lumps, stir it through until you blister. Bluster. Pester. Rub red raw. Random royal icing like snow. Heavy and curl-able. Not something that should actually be eaten. Something that should be looked at. Contemplated. Confiscated after the fact. Stuck. Strapped. Striped. Stripped. Whipped. Wanton. Deserved It. Deserved what she got. Served. Shot. Love all. STOP. Don’t stop.

Words which are stuck, spun, backwards. Not exactly what they means. Part of something else. Not funny haha. Most definitely peculiar. Not who they expected. Out of character. Ache. I am repeating myself? AM I? It wasn’t actually a question. This conversation is over. It wasn’t actually an argument. WE ARE NOT SHOUTING. Nail biting. Nails bitten. Nailed. Cross. NOT CROSS. Just having a discussion. None of your business. We can’t talk about it anymore. There is no point. Pointed. At you. Not. For want of a better word. For want of any word. MY KINGDOM FOR A WORD. Where has it gone? Pointed. On the tip of my tongue. Feeling. You. The tip of my tongue. Speaking. Tip top. Trap. Trop. Trop, trop triste. Mais ouí.

Fuck off.

Now.

Then.

Back and forth, it’s not like we haven’t been here already. We’re gone over this ground before, it’s not like this is NEW. River and stones and sudden floods and winter land. Scavenger. Scraped clean by the crows and rooks. Corvus taking all they want and there is not much to take. Beads. Bills. Beaks. Broken bones. Stoney stares. It was not there’s but they took it anyway. Didn’t they. DIDN’T THEY? It may not seem much but it was all we had. All we had and we we’re proud of it. Bare bones. No niceties in necessity.

Mother after all.

All.

 

past imperfect

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Kintsugi – healing with gold.

 

{I have been writing a blog for a lovely local shop, The Good Times Homestore. I generally write on living in Lewes and lifestyle type things. It’s been a real pleasure to have a reason to write, and I realise I need to make more time in my life for creative expression. With all the turmoil of what has been going on lately I have found it difficult to write. But when I actually made the time to  get pen to paper it has felt really helpful, I recommend it! Here are some thoughts…}

In Japan they revere old trees, propping up their branches, supporting their beautiful decline, respecting their extraordinary length of life, witness to ages.

They also do a wonderful thing with broken pottery called Kintsugi, which translates roughly as ‘healed with gold’ or ‘gold joinery’. It is the art of repairing the cracks with a mixture of resin and gold dust. Rather than seeing something as faulty it acknowledges the history and experience of the object, the apparent imperfection that makes it unique, as something precious, not just to be disguised but to be appreciated.

It makes me think of the oft-quoted Leonard Cohen lyrics from ‘Anthem’:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

One of the things I love about this little town is its history, its connection to the past in a way that feels relevant and alive in the present. From our beautiful castle and barbican, the plethora of tradition soaked pubs, the bookshops (often antiquarian), the Grange, Priory Park where I jog amongst the dog walkers, amongst the beautiful ruins.

This is a town of pageantry and protest, where on any given morning I wake to markets, processions (official and not) somewhat terrifying displays of Morris Dancing, not to mention the impressive site of Harvey’s drays and cart, complete with drivers in bowler hats delivering beer across town. The Downs that encircle Lewes radiate an ancient energy, crowned with the shadows of hill forts, scattered with flint arrowheads and scarred with ancient chalk quarries.

Then of course there is the bonfire celebrations. Although I am yet to experience them I have started to appreciate what a huge part of the Lewes’ yearly ritual they are. The fundraisers, fêtes, gala dinners, the heraldic signs above the pubs, the glimpses of structures, the bonfire sites in the woods. This doesn’t feel like a relic of the past, this is something alive and well, a steady beating anarchic heart which grows and changes each year as each generation takes it on.

When I tell people about the bonfire celebrations their response is generally one of delight and longing, sometimes surprisingly fervent. It has made me really consider tradition in opposition to the cult of the new, our high-speed disposable culture; particularly in this time of intense political upheaval where some elements of ‘tradition’ and the past have become laced with a dangerous negativity.

I was never great at grammar, but it feels like we need to appreciate the past imperfect at this present time.

Today I was sitting, writing from my beautifully battered wooden table, loving every mark and scar it holds.

As I watched an elderly gentleman immaculately dressed stood chatting with two teenagers one sporting blue hair, the other dreadlocks. A woman consulting her iPhone as she buys cherries from the market, a young man serenading the exchange kids with traditional folk songs. Tiny moments, but hopeful ones, bridging past and present somehow.

It got me thinking about Kintsugi. So much of the past it beautiful and valuable, there are so many lessons to be learnt, things to be appreciated, things to be valued. But to move forward we need the cracks, we need to break from the patterns that don’t serve us, we need to create space for the new, the different, as yet un-thought ways of doing things. The resin and gold dust. The light.

We probably need to actively break a few things to move forward, to allow the past, with all its imperfections to remain relevant. With all that is happening, I really hope Lewes will continue to appreciate and celebrate the past, and let it crack, or even make the cracks, when cracks are needed, so we can let the future burn brighter for all of us.

 

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Beach Fire Thormanby Island

 

 

in response to colour

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{I joined a writing class a few months ago called Write & Shine  which proved a wonderful creative start to the morning and a great source of writing exercises. These are 2 small pieces which came out of the workshop. The 1st inspired by a particular shade of dusky pink. The second, about the artist Paul Gildea, was inspired by a brilliant poem by Frank O’ Hara.  They were both written in 10 minutes.}

 

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Soft. Slight. The first light on the horizon, the promise of dawn, your tiny nails, the underside of your sleeping palm, twitching slightly as you sleep.

A petal fallen from the last collection of roses, leaves mottled with a black spot. It always comes this time of year, when the pretence of summer is finally dropped, and the sunshade (matching-mottle-mildewed) is taken down, packed away.
Petals fall at night, lying silent like sea shells on the table cloth, waiting for you.
So still, so perfect (tiny nails, tiny hands) that you can barely stand to sweep them up and drop them out the window.
By noon though, they have withered, browning at the edges.

Finding you in the lane felt like intruding on something I wasn’t supposed to see. I smelt you first. A strange sweet smell that filled my nostrils and made my throat tighten a little. You weren’t perfect, stiffened already, so very dead, so very black. Like a Victorian toy, strange and polite, lying neatly alongside the muddy path.
Your little pink paws made me sad. I leant down and touched them, forgetting myself for a second. Naked, vulnerable, clean – their contrast from your black-bloomed fur nearly unreal. I wanted to pick you up and take you home. But knew you wouldn’t have liked that.

 

Paul

Paul has shut the door.
I did not slam it. I shut it. He barks.
A long dark streak of grey, dawn, darkness…
It’s a fucking pavement, don’t get clever,
This coffee is cold. Filmed scum brown.

The next day the door is open, a lean shaft of light dances
Joni croons on the radio, the strokes are soft, gentle pale pearl
For a second it’s perfect, there, just there, do you see it?
Yes? Good. Now move, I don’t want anyone getting in the light.

Night falls, the house tiptoes. Shadows have started to grow long.
Tap on the door. Knock on wood.
Are you superstitious? Oh you would be, wouldn’t you,
Women and their witchcraft ways! No, come in, come and look.
And there, through the dark, gold breaks like a rebellious grin,
Paul acknowledges your praise. Now fuck off.
He says, still smiling, light in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

about the birds

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{Watching parakeets as I waited for a train in Dalston made me think of this piece I wrote about 6 years ago musing on ideas of identity and growing up.  Aged 2 I would request to be left in a tree, I suppose so I could get on with being a bird without the distraction of grown-ups’ disbelieving gaze. I still feel like that sometimes.}

 

High on Hampstead Hill, green arrows herald the dawn
Sharp parakeets, second generation Londoners,
Fly the Northern Line to Clapham Common
Sundays spent at home on the bauble hung Plane trees.

 

Looking to the sky, the man at the corner knows that
His call to prayer is still a foreign sound,
Parrots screech from the Mosque roof (furniture-store-below-not-an-inch-wasted)
And sound as at home as the schoolgirls,
Who race, hijab-ed, in twos, chattering across the winter skies.

He looks upwards, against all logic, it has started to snow.

 

You arrived at our bird table in a flurry of green, blushing pink
We were transfixed by you.
You lit the drab April afternoon like a lamp, but you didn’t stay long
And afterwards, we were to comment that you didn’t seem comfortable,
And we worried, when you had left,
About how you’d cope.
It was so cold that Easter after all.

 

I was startled awake by a sensation not unlike pain.
From each blade of my shoulders came the distinct feeling of movement.
My chest arched as if in convulsion and my arms hung like ghosts.
The moment was fleeting, but as I rolled back into sleep
I knew the little black and white feathers
Tickling my cheek, were just eiderdown.
My feathers would be longer, brighter.

 

You said as a child I knew all the names of the birds
Did it not occur to you that they knew mine?
I was simply trying to be polite.

I think now we are strangers. The years pass so quickly.