Friday, 30 May 2014


You believe in magnifying glasses. You think there are things that you can see through; you think that sometimes tings are larger than other things because of your own perception, for no good reason of their own. You are bad at giving credit where credit is due. If you were given ten gold cards, and told to hand each one out to a person that deserved it, you would paste them to your wall in a circle and marvel at the rise of the sun. You are problematic. But you do these things because you look towards your own foundations and they are weak and suspicious and not yet made of bone. You do these things because you exist on a plane of rainbows and roses and you are hungry. You are not all bad. You are cute. I like you, I like you more than the deposed monarchies of imaginary nation states. I like you more than Monarch butterflies, or moths. I like you more than the first beam of sunlight on a cold winter morning, even if I am not wearing slippers, even if I am craving, like a desperate cat, the sun. No matter your motivations, never mind your trouble—I think better of you than I think of genuine vine-ripened tomatoes, grown on my own balcony. I like you more than mozzarella marinated in pesto and fed to me, in torn chunks,  by a lithe, lovely hausfrau who has promised to clean every last one of my dishes. You believe that I am just saying these things to make you feel better but I have my own fish to fry, and let me tell you: halibut. Perch. Sardine. I am about to drink coffee and I am about to make toast and I have no time this morning for any words but a pure, sweet, unencumbered "hello".

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Impossible to Resist

I know I shouldn’t have, but let’s face it—you started it. You leaned down to kiss me and you have the kind of lips I find impossible to resist. Fat lips, bee-stung lips, lips like a punch in the face. A mouth like a discarded mattress on the pavement in the 7 a.m. walk home and, though that mattress is probably filthy, it’s also impossible to resist. So I flung myself on it and I bounced upon your springs.


A confession: sometimes when I am leaving a busy place—a train platform, for instance, or a cinema after the credits come up—I let myself accidentally-not-accidentally fall into step with someone next to me. I do not mention it and I do not look in their direction, but I judge their step and balance it with my own, so we are walking side by side, not quite touching. It is a delicate thing. They are not supposed to know and we are not supposed to talk. But for those few moments, acutely aware of our arms’ proximity, I do not feel alone. We are at the end of a long day; our relationship is close enough to allow for this companionable silence. We walk next to each other and I am tempted to let it go on forever. I will follow them by their side until eventually we get to their house and climb the stairs and spend the night sitting on their sofa, silently, comforted by our companionable arms. But I don’t. I hold onto the moment for as long as possible—a breath in the back of my lungs—and then they turn a corner or duck into a shop, and I barely miss a beat. I keep on walking. I come back to my house. I sit and I run the tips of my fingers over the skin of my arms. I tell myself it is nice here. It is so peaceful to come back to a house alone.

yesterday's 5.30pm note to self

It is raining so I buy a bottle of red wine in the afternoon and come home and hatch plans to stay inside. I unplug the router. I make cheese on toast: emmental and black olives and cheap supermarket pesto. I spent 49 cents extra for the dense volkhorn bread, and it is delicious; it goes well with the wine (a rioja) and the day (a grey so thick it is almost guttural, a lazy insistent rain). There is no one to tell me what to do, except for myself, so I plot.    
    Today, I will read some short stories, luxuriantly, whimsically, in no hurry at all. When I find sentences I like, I will write them down. Later, when I come across these sentences, I will think for a moment that I’m a genius, and then I will remember, and I will laugh.
    I will burn incense. Why not? I don’t live with asthmatics any more and the smell of nag champa evokes everything about being seventeen. Why shouldn’t I, tonight, pretend to be seventeen? I will burn candles too, and when I blow them out I will make wishes that I believe in wholeheartedly. After all, there is no one here to stop me.
    I will take a bath. It will smell of eucalyptus and mint, and have far more bubbles than is strictly necessary. I will stay in the bath for a long time, topping up the hot again and again. I will read in the bath and make yet another book bloated and warped with steam.
    I will cook. I don’t know what yet, but it will be unnecessarily elaborate for someone living alone. Perhaps there will be multiple courses. There will be aggressive flavours: anchovy and capers, carmelised onion, szeuchuan peppercorn. I will serve myself at a candlelit table. I will send my compliments to the chef.
    I will write—of course, I will write. The stories I am working on: a dark little tale about teenagers and menstruation and the delirious feeling of girl-crush. A horror story about Salome and Circe. A childhood tale about cliff tops, about fate, about the game we played with the reeds. These words here.

<it was all true. I did each of these things in turn and ah, they were glorious>

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

certain things

The man with the sad dandelion eyes said take a deep breath because once I start talking we are ON this helter skelter and once I open my mouth you're going to have to crawl inside.

The girl with the fingerling lashes said come here little one, get under my stoop. I cracked my back and tested my knees on the floor; I got down. Under the stoop was dark and full of spiders.

The boy with spray glue secrets is stuck on me. I have slipped him in my pockets and carried him across a feral and febrile land. He believes in magic carpets and I don't have it in me to tell him that there's no such thing. I don't have it in me to lie.

The princess pirate is besotted with feathers. I take her to my bedroom and start plucking until all that is left is pale, dappled skin.

I am willing to share certain things: this beam of sunlight, this gold box of cookies, the girl with the fingerling lashes, the meat and the bread. We will sit around a table and you will break them and crumbs will fall onto our laps like timelapse photography of snow. Why look at this, we will say. It looks like the summer is over. We will laugh. I will share things with you. I will hold your hand at the fair and take you up the magical staircase. I will covet your lovers; I will dream of you on waltzers. When we are not around each other, I will spin, spin, spin.

The melancholic stopped answering her letters and they piled up by the door like garish white mountains, harkening for skiers who were, by now, all dead.

She did not write expecting a response. Rather, she had become addicted to the sound of her fountain pen scritching across the papery soil. She told people it gave her brain orgasms. This made people feel uncomfortable, but she was bad at reading facial expressions and kept on talking, laying out these truths like flags. She did not believe in salvation by pencils. Whenever she started talking, she got distracted by herself.

The melancholic moved more slowly than the creep of hieroglyphics. The melancholic made promises to dinosaurs. Many years ago, many centuries and millennia, he sat down with the pterodactyls and spelled out the destinies they both had coming. Of course, the melancholic lives outside of time—lives forever—because God is a trickster with pockets full of fortune cookie jokes, and what better one to play than this? Let the goofballs and the hula dancers die young. But you, your sad bitten lips and braces? You will live forever.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Where I Write

I blogged for the Scottish Book Trust recently, all about my desk. My tricks to keep me writing. My knowledge that yes, I am lucky to have this place.

Finish writing your book, Jane. How are pretty ladies ever going to read your book if you don’t finish writing it?

Read it here


We left it too late, and I dreamed of the apocalypse again. We got distracted; there were too many conversations to be had, and by the time I remembered about dismembering the bombs, it was already too late.

There were four bombs and they were all going to turn the sky purple. There were four bombs and these were the big ones. Although none of us could quite believe it, these bombs were the final punctuation to an existence that had been going on some time. Punkt, punkt, punkt. Punkt.

I was surprised we forgot that the bombs were about to explode, but there were so many sweet other things in the universe that it was hard to dwell on that. Small platters of food. A gameshow we were uncannily invested in the outcome of. Adorable people—such cute people everywhere. Is it so bad that I was fine with the apocalypse, if it meant I got to move my hand onto your knee?

I came across D, in bed, and they were crying. They were wearing a grey cotton ballgown and mourning humanity. I giggled, then hid my mouth with my hand. “It’s not funny!” they said. But laughter snuck into their face like bees. “Stop it!” We bit our lips and giggled. We hugged each other quickly. There were only four minutes left.

It was funny, really. Because how could we have forgotten; how could we have messed it all up this bad? But here we were, lasting it out, effervescent with everything. It was funny. And then it all went kaboom.

Four bangs, falling on the earth like the footsteps of otherworldly giants.

A violet sky, gathering and dissipating like shoals of flying fish.

Tents dissolving in thick, orange rain.

Three dimensional cloud patterns.

Radio static.

And then we were just sitting at the drive-through, still giggling, and waiting for the wind to change.

Monday, 5 May 2014

30. Making Time

I forgot to make time. I sometimes
do. Dishes turn scabrous; floors lapse;
people traipse to and from the city
thick with need. Work beckons
its claw. I cannot forsake
these insistent children, so I let them
fill time. I think
these insistent children are
small-bellied bairns, but then
they open their maws. Time slithers
down gullets—seagulls ransack
the binbags—and I am standing in a city
strewn with junk. I give myself to
tasks and get swallowed; you can
see my silhouette in the snake. A throat
contracts—it is me or the snake, so
today I slit the belly and fuck
the tasks. I will gnaw a small cavern
in time and curl up. Take
my stick smudged with ash
and start the words on the walls.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

29. Today, I Want to Forgive Everyone Everything

The lover who shuffled out on his bills, whose stubborn
white envelopes still thunk on the mat.

The Mexican lucky candle merchant in Queens,
who promised fortune in the flicker of the wick.

Everyone who ever stole my pens. No matter
that I wake in the night, bulging with ideas
that are lost to feathers and dust.

Today, I want to forgive birds for morning birdsong
when dark moods curdle my horizons,

forgive houseplants for their slow brown suicides,
forgive the architect who installed my kitchen sink.

Forgive my heart its softness, its inability to stay
upright, forgive every fall.

Take this—my hive of resentment—and let it
burn magnesium sulphate flowers.