Friday, 31 October 2014

The Boy Princess

Excerpt from something recent. I'm totally back to finishing a short story a month, and it feels damn good.

Everywhere it is autumn, the leaves are capsizing, and yesterday I saw the boy princess in the woods. He was squatting beneath a stone bridge, throwing pebbles into the stream, while I watched from the other bank. I like to watch him balance. His thighs are sturdy—meaty, in fact—but I could see the muscles quivering underneath the skin. A pulse in the neck of a baby bird. His garter had began to unravel, and the dirty end of the lace was lapping in the stream.
    I didn’t want to disturb him. The boy princess is a paper sack of contradictions—part brittle sugar-glass, part thick, sure flesh. The pebbles made an empty thwack when they hit the water and I thought of wishes and wells. If I could be granted three true things by the wish master, what would they be?
    To be the stream, nuzzling at that grubby lace? No—
    To be the garter, quick against his thigh? No—
    To take the boy princess in my mouth and taste him, so sweet and slick he hurts my teeth. My rock candy.
    The wish master gave me none of these things. I left the boy princess to his pebbles and reflection, and climbed over the rocky banks towards home.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Jealous

I used to believe I was jealous. I called myself it repeatedly. “It’s a Scorpio thing,” I said. “The price you pay for all this intensity.” (I thought of myself as intense—don’t laugh. I’m a different beast behind closed doors, full of the sombre importance of the romantic act. No giggling and pratfalls.)

(I’m lying, of course.) I thought I was because the ones I latched myself to were: a pre-emptive strike. Or I didn’t just think—maybe I made myself. Maybe I trained my anxieties to fishhook beneath the skin of ex-loves, potential loves, and girls with cute hair.

It was confusing. Of course, I see what you see in them. Of course, if the opportunity arose I would slide with these women under cool laundered sheets on a balmy afternoon, I would tangle and taunt—we would play. Who wouldn’t? Of course, you’re thinking of it too.

Things are different, of course. But there are keen stalactites in a love with no room for subtlety. Slip into her arms and we’re irrevocably broken. We’ve agreed. Your kiss is a rejection. Your lust is a decision. Want is an OR gate. We can’t all get what we desire.

Sometimes love is a mirror and we fill in each other’s cracks. I made myself like these boys (they were always boys). I agreed. I trained the tigers in my belly to sharpen their claws and pad through the softness of my gut. I flinched. And yet, and yet…

After the last time, I quit. After the last boy’s, “It would make me sad, but I guess…” After the last, “Well, if it were girls…”

I have been thinking about jealousy on this sunny Berlin morning, perhaps because it is autumn and October and this time last year I fell into the arms of so many cuties, and the things that could have seemed irrevocable resolved in so much fine skin.

I have been thinking how much better things are since I gave up on the irrevocable. Although we’re all still dumb bears nudging blunt noses against the edges of the world, there’s also room for happiness for each others grins.

I have been thinking about the first time a boy ever told me, “I’m not like that, I just want you to be happy. You’re awesome” and how it felt like my every foundation dissolved beneath me. I was shored up by exhales and kisses on the 47th floor.

I begin to believe that jealous is a verb, not an adjective. I train myself to believe in choices. When the people I like tell me good things, I squeal. The secret is, it’s not a difficult happiness. I try it once and I start to understand my own skin.

Monday, 27 October 2014

cleaning

I clear the detritus.

I thought about doing it yesterday, but yesterday my bones were loose and my skin was a delicate net webbing holding all the toxic cat tongues inside.

I tended to myself gently. There were cheese boards, nap times and gif-based pornography; I amused myself with flash fiction and cartoons. Brief things, suited to my attention span of the day.

I asked for things from the ones who like me. Send me filth and affirmations in the mail, please. Come over here and drag me from this slippery hole. 

The far-away boy sent me adorations in caps lock. My butt, my skin, the cutest things. The closest boy came over and swept my floor. There were feathers everywhere, shed by glamorous beasts in the night. A glitter of broken glass.

We watched psychic reality shows and ate ripe brie, and I let myself fall and be caught. I trusted in the universe. Sometimes I am bruised and spent and slaggy, forgetting my chat of the night. Sometimes that’s okay.

“You are the cutest wreck,” he said. “Sit down,” he said. “Let me take care of this.”

I am not used to being taken care of. I protest, I stand up: “Let me be worthy of your attentions.”

I am trying to remind myself that I am. That this liking is sturdy, not fickle—none of it will dissolve in the night. I don’t need to prod and test these gums. The answer is yes. It always has been.

It is two days since the party and today I clear the detritus, wash the boys’ party dresses, and make myself pumpkin soup. I indulge in small kindnesses. I sweep the bathroom floor.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

SAND

You can find one of my poems in Issue 10 of SAND Journal, online here or at any of the fine bookshops of Berlin!

Friday, 24 October 2014

kicking leaves

I will go for a walk today and kick leaves. They're asking for it: these clumps of orange clouds who've given up on the trees. At least they have the decency to blush. So: I will go for a walk and kick things, and laugh at myself for being the girl that I am. I’ll go shopping. I will get drunk in the afternoon. Just a little: not so much that you'd notice. But still. I will leave the house behind, leave the worries about whether I am doing all of the right things. Which of us could ever keep up? I will have a daydream about a cute girl with a fat lip. I will promise myself fishnets. Oh and Sazeracs and laughing gas. I will give myself something good. Today, I will record church bells and play them back in the toilet. I will learn to wear earrings. Maybe I’ll just push paper clips through my lobes. Stationery is my heart's truest desire. Punctuation. Today, I will pretend the leaves are library books and I will borrow them from the parks and fill my bathtub. I will bathe in russet bubbles, which will stain my thighs. Leonard Cohen will be in the bathtub with me and we will talk about autumn and Leonard will ask me "Jane, is this your favourite time of year?" and I'll say "I think so, Leonard. But then again, I always do." He will pick up an armful of leaves and start lathering them into my hair and autumn will dissolve into a crackling amber froth. I will sigh into his fingers in my scalp. All my worries, all the things I have forgotten to do, will leak out into the bathtub. I will relax. Lying back between Leonard Cohen's thighs, I will concede that everything is right with the world. We will have squat tumblers of thick cut glass and Leonard will pour out two fingers of brandy—each—and we will raise them and clink. "Here's to the season," he'll say. "There's no need to worry at all."

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

w i g l e a f top 50 (very) short fictions 2014

My short story, Mermaids, was chosen as one of the top 50 short fictions of 2014 by the lovely people at wigleaf! You can read the rest of the winners here.

Black & BLUE

The REVOLUTION issue of Black & BLUE is available for pre-order now!

You should buy it.

You should buy it because language is an uprising and who doesn't want to fight the good fight with words?

You should buy it because I am in it talking about jerking off—because self-love is totally revolutionary, you guys—and when the revolution comes, you're going to want to be on the side of the lovers.

Right? 

 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Practice

It’s not hard. You just have to sit and start doing it. It’s simple once you do. The routines will build themselves. Practice will slip into your body; practice will seep into your bones. This will become normal. Forgetting will feel strange. Days without words will begin to feel like lost bin bags, rustling in the wind and spilling their contents on a grey Cardiff beach. Your heart will twitch and paw at descriptions; “listen,” your heart will say, “I want to explain.”

“Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear. We can step through moons right into bears.”*

I make a habit of doing this same thing, again and again, so that eventually I can start each day by loosening the muscles that hitch logic to my brain. I step off the precipice into hieroglyphics and photography balm. I carry pocketfuls of sherbet and climbing ivy. I am not afraid to fall; all that lies between me and the void is dinosaurs.

The man in the grey top hat likes to argue. “It is hard,” he says. “It’s almost impossible.” The man in the grey top hat believes in waiting, insists that all these things are coalescing. Let time do its toil. You are allowed to be a lark in summer; you do not need to believe in squirrels. We have forever. Harvest, and wait for the moon.

DO NOT TRUST IN THE MAN WITH THE GREY TOP HAT.

He is right—things are settling. He is right—wait, and all these days will sink to the bottom and lump together. But do you want your foundations to be sediment, are you ready to build your world on silt? There is a temptation in the riverbed but…

Don’t you want your foundations to be pomegranate and radio static? Wouldn’t you like to hitch a leg up to the orbital path of Mercury’s moons? Aren’t you bored of trying to say the right words, the ones that build a sturdy boat? Aren’t you ready yet to fall?

Practice. Routine. The same thing, again and again. Hitching words out of the throat. Sit and start doing it. The rest takes care of itself.

–––––

* Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones