Friday, 22 January 2016

"We love because it's the only true adventure..."

This is the last night in this bed under swallows and roses. The last night with sighing pines behind glass. The last time I will hear the neighbour's children cry, and the last I will bend my spine to fit the shape I have hollowed in this space.

From tomorrow, I live in a city again. And not alone. My breath won't sit in my lungs just now - how it rises, and rises, like the sun in the morning, like bubbles climbing the sides of a flute of champagne.

How words can soften and shuffle. How meanings can shift. How home can be walls in one moment, him the next. Two minty mouths in the bathroom mirror. Four lungs breathing the same sweet room.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

"For last year's words belong to last year's language..."

I lie in bed, my ribs bruised from coughing, the wind lashing the wet pines outside my window, so fiercely that it sounds like the sea behind the glass. I can almost taste the salt on my lips. I can almost hear the gulls wheel and scream as they ride the thermals, red tongues flying like flags.

I haven't brought my words here in a while, have been tending them instead in other places. I cycle through phases like the moon. Sometimes, all I can write is poetry, slim little slices that shine in the dark. Other times, I write ripe, and round, and full, and more pages fatten the ever-growing book.

And yet, as always, something eventually draws me back here, the way the moon draws the tide from the sand in foaming sheets, revealing a litter of treasures in its wake: crabs with their hanging claws like picked locks; relics of bottleglass worn smooth and blue; oyster shells, whose insides still swim with that pearly light, like a sunrise is held there, like a secret, like a spell.

I left 2015 with a full heart and a kiss. That was the year I loved deeply, and well. That was the year I wrote poems wrapped in blankets, where my body filled out from all the beer and cheese, and I didn't care, because my belly was happy, and my heart. That was the year I climbed hills wild with heather, saw shooting stars dance on the tip of my lover's finger. The year filled with cocktails, and tender words. The year of walks on the Yorkshire coast with its rolling mists, and sudden tides. The year of New York, and of camping in the Peaks, of pizza and beers in damp, foggy fields, and of laughter, always laughter.

I move in with C in a week or two, and still can't quite believe my luck. That the new year should begin so filled with promise, and with love. Such constant, quiet happiness since I've known him; it still feels like a gift. And so even as I lie here, sweating in my sheets, my chest sounding - and feeling - like it's full of broken crockery, still, still, I feel the wildest, strangest joy. For the year I've just spent, like so many handfuls of gold. And for the next one, already smouldering in my pockets. I can't wait to hold it, gleaming, in my hands. I can't wait to see how it shines.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

"I want to see the Kingdom come / I want to feel forever young..."


A twist of red and gold in the leaves of the tree at work, this week; a blazing helix winding in the green, a spiral of fire and heat. Cold lungs in the morning, and frost underfoot, a lace that glitters and crisps where I step. Webs in the fences, the hedges, the gates, stars of silk strung bright with rain.

A time of turning, this. The trees to fire, the skies to ash. The clocks turn, too, their fingers spun back an hour into the past. The nights turn cold. Breaths turn to smoke and hang in the air, rolling and fuming like genies let out of their bottles at last.  

These days of wiltings and woodsmoke, wool gloves, and leaf-drifts, stars and fogs and fires. The closing out of the old year, a quietness, a settling. It always feels like I'm resting, here, like a bear gone to bed for the season, snug under rugs of earth and fur, dreams full of sunshine and sea-salt and freedom.

The pull is too strong to wait for that last night of December, with its lists of musts and wills, its skies ablaze with noise and colour. The reckoning begins now, for me, as it does each year. The past months gathered in my lap like flowers. I sort with practiced hands through roots and blooms. Some I keep to press into forever. Some I toss, too bitter for permanence, too faded to brighten a future hour.

This, this life: like tending a garden. What do I want to plant in the clean  Spring rains? How will I weather the Winter? I cut and prune, and plan for the coming calendar.

The trees cast off their old greens and burn, and I, too, feel called to change. To rest before the next rising. To contemplate - with clear eyes and a quiet heart -  the next turn.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

"Autumn days when the grass is jewelled, and there's silk inside a chestnut shell..."

A walk home from work on Wednesday this week, a walk through the alley overhung by trees. I watched my feet move, dappled with light, sun-coins scattered over fans of bone that flexed and flashed, then flexed again. Then a breeze, and a drift of leaves - and the sudden shock of the falling colours, all yellows and bronzes and reds. Who stole the greens overnight, left changelings rusting in their place? Who took the softness, left parchment-paper sheaves?

I am a watcher, a notice, by nature. I see when the stars begin to hang colder, hang clearer. I notice, every year, the first bluebells chiming quietly in the garden. I see the first breath of frost in the grass. I watch the seasonal clock tick steady, even, through each neat quarter. And so I don't quite know how it happened, this year. How Summer faltered right beneath my nose. How brassy Autumn saw her chance and leapt.

How I worried about turning thirty. About leaving the word girl behind like a clue for someone younger, like dinosaur bones laid down in the dirt, the ghost of who I was preserved under fathoms of fragments and dirt. How I worried that I had spent the best of my days, my twenties, in one wild spree, that all that lay ahead was wistfulness, and thickening hips, and a hairshirt of nostalgia and fond memories.

The truth is: the only hurt of "older" is the seasons turn faster. And each one is sweeter and harder to part with than the last.

The truth is: the only thing I lost in my thirties was my heart.

A reminder to myself: Attend to the moments. The moments are important. They keep the stars, and the Poles, apart.

And so I write it, I set it here. I cast for moments, and I catch them: a wriggle of glitters, like fish in a net; a line of lights in a softly glowing string.

I realise now that the moments are the bones. The heart's-blood, the breath. The moments are the molecules and the moments are the cells. The carbon and the stars. The real, secret shape of every living thing.





Sunday, 19 July 2015

"I come into the peace of wild things..."

I live, now, in a city, where the buildings nick the sky, and the streets are quick with chatter and with feet. I live among a million shades of grey, the primary colour of every city - grey pavements studded with gum, grey pigeons with petrol-spill skullcaps and pink club-feet, grey cigarette smoke curling and drifting up to grey dishcloth skies, grey tramtracks in their clean steel lines, which make me sad, sometimes, the way only an incurable romantic can be sad - the way they run alongside each other from beginning to end, but never, ever, get to touch.

I love it, mostly. The lights, the noise. The way the sky looks like a mosaic between the officetops, cut into patches and boxes of blue. But sometimes my heart swells for the quiet, and I ache for wildness and green, crave rolling views of cool blue mountains, water braiding itself neatly over stones.

I forget sometimes how close we are to all of that. Just half an hour on the train, and it's like Alice stepping through the looking glass - everything reversed, the same world, but not the same, full of light and colour.

Yesterday, we went out to where the villages sit in tiny clutches in the folds of the hills, velvet folds of green and gold and brown, patched all over with heather, bright purple. We walked where the air was so clean and clear, it made our shocked city-lungs sit up in surprise, and the water was bone-cold, weaving its gold-green way through the fields.

We drank beer that tasted of lemons in a tiny pub with views as far as the eye could see, and I felt a sudden surge of love for it all, for everything. For C, his hand resting on my knee, traces of silver powder from his work beneath the crescent-moon of each fingernail, so that it looked like he'd been handling frost, or making constellations. The air that made every breath feel like a gift. New freckles like stars on my sunkissed shoulders.

I write these posts, sometimes, and I wonder if I've anything left to say. It's not that I don't love writing them, because I do, truly - stringing the words together like pearls, polishing them until they gleam - but I wonder how many of you still find them interesting to read. Is happiness - the calm, quiet kind that you live in day after day - remarkable enough to read about? Once I wrote like a hummingbird, all frantic beating, wild colour, and fervent heart. Now I am more like a Jersey cow - sureness and solidness, quietness and calm.  

I am at home in my life, and happy in it. It is more than I ever hoped for. But my writing style has changed because of it, has lost its edges and sharp corners. Writing fiction, writing poetry - those things are different. They have their own sharpnesses, their own characters, their own clean points and lines. But I feel like my blog posts have softened like butter left out in the sun, melted into one long lovely golden smear, the same words carrying from one to the next like a smudge pulled by a thumb: I am happy; I love him; I am full of hope.

Blue dusks and gold dawns, early-morning mists that wrap bare ankles like cats, or smoke. Beer in the sun so the glass glows with light like a lantern. His hand on my knee. All the words of the world in my throat. I want to do this forever, even if the readers peel away, in time, like birds in Winter, tiring of the same words, looking for different skies.
I want, almost more than anything, to touch people with my writing. I want to leave something beautiful in the world. But maybe that will happen through writing of a different kind. I write here hoping that people will leave with something - a scrap of truth in their teeth, perhaps, or a thought clutched in a fist - but ultimately, I write for myself - for the pure joy of it, but also to keep something beautiful to look back on from my future, like roses pressed between the pages of a book - yes, look at the petals, I remember this; I can still, if I breathe in deep enough, catch the scent.
Maybe it's her I write for most of all, that future self. I know how she will treasure the moments her own ghosts trapped and kept - the words in the library, the bones in the cool museum halls. This is my way of preserving my life - like butterflies in frames, like diamond-hard beetles pressed in amber, pressed in jet.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

"Into the blue, into the blue blue blue..."

Summer this year is the X on a treasure map: a spill of light and gold that we know is out there, but is proving impossible to find. It is buried under weeks of stone-greys and mizzling rains, the occasional glint of a sunny afternoon like a lone coin under a boot-heel. Where is the prize? The cache of gold mornings, the smelted afternoons, the doubloons of a hundred suns, glinting, glinting?

There is a heat that runs beneath the surface of the days, but the sky remains cloudy, and blank as a slate. It feels like living in the space between one thing and the next, the white empty place between parentheses. It feels like being the open eye between two blinks, looking and looking and seeing only the same grey horizon, never any closer, never any further away.

There are moments of loveliness. Golden hours scattered here and there like clues along the trail. Last night we sat in the fields while the sun blazed, watching the trees scatter light across the grass like breadcrumbs, like petals, like flung gleaming seeds. We drank beer and toasted, at last, to Summer. We sat until the evening deepened into dusk, and the birds quieted, and the bats came out to replace them, cleaving the air with their quick slicing flight until it seemed that the whole sky must rain down in a tatter of confetti, a shredded shower of stars, of night.

C asked, What is your favourite thing about the Summer? I knew, immediately. Those hours, early evening, after a long, hot day, when it's just beginning to blue and cool. The gloaming, they call it. A sort of early twilight. When the sky deepens into the most gorgeous, radiant blue, a blue I've never seen anywhere else in life, that I don't believe exists anywhere else - not in a Grecian sea, or on a butterfly wing, not in a pottery glaze, or the painted folds of the Virgin Mary's robes, or the gas-flame blaze of a lit Christmas pudding.

I said, simply, The evenings. When it's blue.  

I saw a fox once, on one of those blue evenings. I was waiting for the train in the richness of that light, the hush of the notquitenightnotyet. She detached herself from the shadows between the tracks like a flame peeling off from a fire. Nose testing the air. Delicate steps, like a ballerina. I stood like stone, the only thing moving my hummingbird heart.

What can I tell you about a moment like that? The world compacts. Two points on a compass. Two creatures under the same sky breathing the same blue dark.

And then the train came, rattling the moon, and shattered that brief and blinkless world apart. I remember looking away for a second, looking back - and the wild thing was gone, dispersed like smoke, back to her nest of earth and birdbones, her cellar of tree-roots, her ceiling of moon and stars.

These are the moments I remember when the grey days smear and blur. The splashes of colour, the glimpses of treasure - red fox, blue dusk, bonewhite moon. The lovely hum of magic in the air.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

"Give wine. Give bread. Give your heart back to itself".

The same question I asked last year, and the year before that: where do the hours go? And the weeks? And the months? Sometimes I feel like my life is an abacus, with a child in charge of the beads, slinging them from one side of the frame to the other so that the numbers accumulate so much more quickly than they should. Or a handful of sand that won't rest on a palm, but lifts in the wind and is gone in a spin of scratch and glitter.

I went to New York in April with C, for two long, beautiful weeks. We walked the grids of the city until our feet were threadbare, drank American beer in the park with the grass wrapping our ankles. We spent hours inside the 911 museum, and I left salt tears on the floor there. We drank Manhattans in a bar above the skyline and watched the clouds turn pink and gold; saw seagulls wheel and scream from the boardwalk at Coney Island. I took photographs of everything: the oysters we ate in a rooftop jazz bar; the Brooklyn bridge spoking out against the sky; the seats on the subway, the colour of Spanish oranges; the elegant brownstones frothing with magnolia flowers, miles high.


What else?

I've been writing. Writing hard and fast. The cheap book, the one I've pinned my hopes on like a flower pressed between pages. Between a wish and  dream. It's not good, exactly. It's not the poetry I want to write. It's not careful or elegant. It doesn't make me swell with pride. I won't even write my own name on the cover. What it is, is easy. What it is, hopefully, is a means to an end. And so I keep on, and my heart is on pause, and the words mount up, a pile of pebbles building a little bridge.

And also.

Sunday lunches with cold beer in the sun. Writing poems on the train trips home, as the city recedes and fields flash by full of cows, full of wheat. Friday nights in pyjamas. Bottles of wine. Long, lovely Saturdays where he works and I write, he sunk in his passion, I in mine. Impromptu trips to countryside farm stores to fill our basket with garlic-stuffed olives and elderflower wine, and cheese, and smoked meats, and eggs, and fish. Movie nights under blankets. Playing rock paper scissors on the weekend mornings to decide who gets up to make the coffee. Painting the walls of his house, room by room, so that when I move in, it's new, and ours, and clean, and shining like a newly minted coin.

And then.

Sending out poems, like casting glass bottles out into the sea. Waiting for the emails and the letters to return with a yes or no. Waiting for the journals and anthologies to come with my words pressed into them like footprints in snow.

These are the simplest and happiest days of my life. It's not about having money, or silk skirts, or clavicles so hollow that rain can collect there. It's the quietest things: good food. Enough sleep. Reading until my eyes are so full I feel they could burst, and send sentences out like confetti. Kisses goodnight and good morning. Corralling wayward paragraphs to make a book, like herding sheep after errant sheep until finally they co-ordinate, a single, substantial flock.

If I could wish, now, for anything, if I could rub my thumbs on a genie's brass lamp or spy the wink of a falling star, I would wish only for this. To keep making these quietly shining days. To collect them, like lights on strings. Like pearls at a throat. Like fireflies burning moon-bright in a jar.