Spoon Fingers & Moon

Spoon Fingers & Moon

There were flies in her hair. Not around her hair, but in them, in the middle of the strands, hundreds of baby flies. They went there to hide, from the spiders. She didn’t do well with eight-legged things, so the flies took their babies there, so she could look out for them without even trying too much.

Her fingers were spoons, too. For stirring cakes while she slept. She slept a lot. And the cakes were glad of that, especially the butterfly ones. In the wonky woods, the butterfly cakes did well, although it was disconcerting to walk there, in the summer. Avoiding midges is hard enough, so avoiding cakes with wings and frosting licks is quite something else.

Those that risked the woods though, they didn’t mind so much. The sight of the lady with the spoon fingers was worth the discomfort. And at the end, there was always victoria sponges waiting for their tongues.

That’s one of the funny things about cakes, they like to be eaten. Flies, they don’t, particularly. Although it does happen occasionally, even to butterfly ones.

The woman was old. She’d been born with the Moon. They tolerated each other because of the things they’d seen over millennia, together.

‘Do you remember when the first fish crawled from the sea and fell in love with that grain of sand?’

That’s what the Moon asked one full September night, as they sat together at the top of the rowan tree. Spoon Fingers did remember. She remembered everything, even when she didn’t want to.

‘And because the fish couldn’t breathe next to that grain of sand, it grew itself wings but refused to be an angel. And over time, as it lay next to that grain of sand, loving it while slowly dying, something felt sorry for it, and transformed the wings into arms, do you remember?’

The Moon was massive that night, and melancholic. So much that it turned men into wolves and bats into biting myths in some forgotten place somewhere in the quiet heart of a country in love with snow and castles. Spoon Fingers tried to block out the sound of the howling and the scorch of the screaming coming from that old country to the east of the Dawn. But her ears weren’t shaped well for fingertips made from the heads of stirring utensils. So she listened, as the Moon drawled on.

‘Then somehow, when the fish was land-caught, the world got shook and the tides shifted. And that grain of sand ended up in the ocean, beneath the waves that turned and turned and took it out to the deeps where not even mermaids remember the assurance of song?’

Spoon Fingers sighed. She knew how this story ended, just like so many others that the Moon spoke of when it was full and feeling sad.

‘Why do you tell these tales, again and again, when you’re fat and low on the western horizon, waiting for morning to make your melancholy sleep until the next month? Why not make a new one up, a one that weaves as it should, with smiles and sun and tomorrows full of laughter?’

Moon snorted, rolled a little from the branch it was leaning against, affronted by the old woman’s words.

‘You do it then. Tell a story that ends happily. With no separation, or things being shaken.’

Spoon Fingers closed her eyes. The nearby leaves of the rowan unfurled. Burst out a bunch of berries of such a vivid redness all the rubies in the between world sighed. A blackbird flew onto the branch, sat on the old woman’s crossed legs and used its beak to unpick a bit of wool from the caterpillar silk the old woman spun all the outside of herself from. It flew with the wool towards the Moon, hooked the red berries to the craters on its ancient face. Then the old lady’s fingers began stirring as she slept. Round and round they went, faster and faster until the world rotated beyond the blink of eyes and trajectory of thoughts. Then her old lips opened and out it fell, a damp oyster shell. She woke up.

‘Open it, Moon, open it. Then remember the grain of sand. Remember the arms of a fish giving up on being an angel, so love could grow. Do it, old friend, and tell me what you see. In your sky limbs, that are unfamiliar with feather and arms, open this oyster, and tell me what you see.’

But the Moon was gone. Fallen behind the last roll of night on the horizon, a ball in search of a forgotten something never quite wanting to be caught. And Spoon Fingers crawled down from the rowan tree, her fingers clicking stories as she descended, for the waking morning as it yawned golden from all the roots and wet places that waited among the quiet places of her secret quiet world.

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The Landscape Of A Head

I fell in love with the colours in his head. His mind was a walk among a forest of kaleidoscopes. Every shade and pattern altered into wonderful, intricate landscapes with each thought he opened up and shared. It was like standing below stained glass as the sun rose, being bathed in arcs of emotional rainbows.

He was North weather; billowing clouds, sunbursts, frosty mornings, heavy downpours. I loved the leak of his walk, the crests of the sea in his throat as he laughed at the stories I tried to snag him with – the big salmon surety of himself, comfortable in his own skin.

Then the greys slinked in. Beautiful beasts hanging low along the furrowed anguish of his brow. He became fields caught unsteady beneath the pressure of an existence lived racing the edges of a plough. His horizon was foxes skittering into cities, the meat of his history grown haggard and slim.

And I lost the brilliance of him, the suddenness of his laughter in the dark along the kite-string destiny that held us together and apart. The corners of his rooms chameleoned him into a dusty thing, cobwebbed and weary – an unravelling string being.

His colours faded, became shadows and ghosts. The landscape of his life eclipsed by the thought of endings and tombs. He became an exclamation mark lying flat along the borders of his hope he’d given up trying to breach.

He became chalk on a wall, disappearing wetly under the weight of his rainstorm soul.

The Invisible Woman

Once upon a time, when yesterday was still breathing, I decided to disappear.

The strange thing about disappearing is the traces that still linger. If you’ve ever seen bloodied feathers on a doorstep, you know what I mean. There was no cat around when I thought of disappearing though, or any doors. Just a bench and a book about the alchemy of apples, sitting in the fingers of an invisible woman. So I sat down to talk with her.

‘Are you a witch?’

She didn’t reply, just kept flicking through the pages of the book, stopping occasionally to sniff them. That’s something about being invisible, touch loses it allure. So the other senses compensate. At that moment, my invisible companion was obsessed with scent.

‘Are you a witch?’

When I was young, I studied silences. In all the folds of the world, there’s echoes. And when we begin to hear them, they burst, become refrains. This is a device that life uses to emphasise lessons. I mimic that, when I can.

‘Are you a witch?’

She bent in then, sniffed me. Her clothes creaked, whispered. The book in her fingers that I couldn’t see, it fell onto the ground. I sat and waited for her to pick it up. But she didn’t. Instead, she just kept inhaling, shuffling closer.

Then I felt something slot into me. Like somehow I was a matryoshka doll made flesh. The clothes that had been covering the invisible woman, they fell onto the bench in a tidy mound. Everything but the gloves, which ended up on my lap.

‘Am I a witch?’

I said this out loud, to the book and the clothes, to the bench and the trees, to the clouds and the atmosphere. I said it out loud, to God.

Then I was full of apples. My head swirled with images; Snow White, Eve, Aphrodite. The steep slope of my next door’s neighbour’s neck, gulping cider after we hadn’t lain together. After I forgot my silence, after I cried.

And that invisible woman that had slotted into me, she began to move around. I felt her in my legs, urging them to run. I felt her in my throat, urging it to roar. I felt her in my heart, urging it to unlock. And then she was in my fingers, commanding me to touch.

The gloves fell to the ground. Two flittering barriers, the velvet warders guarding the borders of the sensual world. And then the invisible woman inside me, she was gone. And I sat on the bench, looking at the clothes and the book, at the gloves lying on the ground like two want-to-be octopi without water, without a world. And I understood.

‘Witch.’

And the word became an echo, a trace of the memory of my ancestry. It found the fold in my thoughts that lessened me, confused me with invisibility. I bent and let my fingers flitter over the seams of the gloves, to feel how the stitches stay together, keep the essence of everything properly sewn.

Then I stood up, began to walk home. Aware at last of the magic of feeling, the spell of being known.

 

(inspired by the w’end writing prompt from Hedgebrook;

“The cold tells me what I need to know…”

I watch your breath as it escapes and wonder at the thoughts those little ghosts have been privy to. Although we stand within touching distance of each other, we’re already islands apart. Two birds on different flight paths; an arctic tern with dreams of winter already leaving behind his summer swift held by the memories of old bonfires and fields of wheat.

It’s the silence that hurts the most, not the bitter air swirling around us that bites my nose and our love until they’re both raw. I think about mittens, the ones from childhood, hand-knitted and laced together on coarse coils of cheap wool. How well they fit each other. Held always together through the arms and shoulders of that old, grey duffel coat, a hand-me-down from a cousin all grown into Nirvana and dreams of a broken America.

“Remember that day? In the spooky wood?”

My voice sounds cracked, a puddle of hope spilling then freezing as it laces itself into the darkness of the February night we stand against.

“We fell asleep, remember? Next to the haunted tree?”

I watch as you bring your hands up to your mouth, and blow on them. Once, twice. Again. Then you stamp your feet, one after the other, a beautiful beanstalk of a man doing a Rumpelstiltskin dance to ward off the frost.

“Remember, please?”

My words become bees. I listen as they fizz away into the privet hedge we’re standing next to. I wonder whether any of them will catch there among the spindly branches and squat leaves. Maybe become spiders instead, build webs and be caught in the hoary breath of the night, to tell stories to the crows tomorrow morning.

“I have to go.”

Your words are so small. One syllable things, too little for mittens. Too soft for old wool. I think about the snowman we built in the car park the year the village was cut off for five days in a row and everyone’s mother apart from mine made homemade bread and huge pans of broth. My mittens wouldn’t stay around the snowman’s shoulders. They kept falling into the packed snow around our feet, and all the big kids kept trampling on them.

Then Roy, the local stray that everyone loved, stole them. Raced them off like they were a pair of rabbit ears or some stunted, double kite. We chased him all afternoon, through the cuts and the blocks, down the wreck, past the churchyard where Auld Stumpy had hung himself because no-one remembered him. Finally he discarded them for someone’s homemade butty that had pease pudding but no ham because everyone had ran out of ham and other stuff that we weren‘t supposed to talk about, like properly bought coal and patience.

You picked them up. They were all chewed and holey. One of them no longer had a thumb. And the string was gone and I didn’t know what I’d say to my mam, because mittens were important, young lass, and you have to start taking care of the things that matter. You insisted we bury them, so we dug down to the cold clarts that were hiding under all the snow and we laid them to rest properly, honestly.

We both cried, thinking about what would happen when I got home. And you said you’d fight my da if he belted me, but not my ma because she was too scary. And I wanted to run away with you then, back to the spooky wood even though it was too cold. And I’d have made us a house out of snow and twigs, and even though I wasn’t allowed matches, I wouldn’t have let us get cold because I’d have spoken to the birds about feathers and stuff, in the morning.

But that was years ago, back when we believed in magic, before the bones of reality started rattling their melancholy at us. Before you became a silent thing with other dreams.

So I shut up and wait for the taxi to arrive.

And when it does, I’ll watch you climb in.

And I’ll wave and try to smile, even as the cold that’s really growing now, properly creeps in.Image

Distorted Starlight

I remember seeing the reflection
of your smile caught in a cup
of strawberry cider gone flat.

It had roses on it. Three chips
mwah-mottled its lip from the girl
with a camera trying to fly on
blackcurrant and vodka.

We laughed about wings on arses;
the madness of malteser-mouthed
angels attached to dislocated shadows
with not enough thread.

Now you’re dead, memories distort;
a bit like reflections in cider gone flat.

Cups with chips are thrown in the bin;
oblivious of rainbows chasing comets above
frost-captured cobwebs reflecting sun.

Scarecrows in throes of burning down

Saturday comes in seagull,
the throat of the week’s turned feather.
Egg thoughts crack, mottled memories yolk,
yellowing decisions not taken.

You become a matchstick mystic,
rising from the thickets of this choice
or that, a flaring comet of drastic precision
caught in your own cornfield of wishes.

Isolation street’s a hopeway-motorway,
even the belly of belief feels full as it heaves
from cul-de-sac to icarus-high as one more
wing-thing tumbles the sky.

Below – fields of old yearning
blaze-dry tired kindling.

Above – blossoms of jackdaws
rainbowing new beginnings.

Chrysalis

 

Walking around barefoot for days.
Cracks in the concrete become cul-de-sacs
For feet and thoughts to dead-end in.

Heads behave like America folded into France.
A no-man’s land of longing and retreat caught in
Trenches of regret overrun with hope rats.

Night becomes short, an adventure the length
Of ankle socks and messy plaits parliamenting
Themselves with lazy decisions inflated fat.

Pencil and paper have turned traitor.
Become unplotted maps and jeering laughter
Directing dark thoughts to coup from corners.

A midlife crisis sows rows of passports.
Doll parts in a dream patch with future-proof teeth;
Never-beginning replacements for never-found paths.

This is how a  butterfly ghost
Confines itself to a caterpillar life;

One more winged thing haunting
The confines of a breathing death.