The snake wore her heart on the outside
But when she fell in love with a raven
She shed her skin to give him her heart
And trusted him not to destroy her.
A bee hung in the air, the blur at its sides the only hint of how it was floating there. Or maybe it was the treacle warm air holding it in place? The stickiness certainly held her on the picnic blanket. Rolling slowly onto her back, eyes squinting, they picked out the vapour trails from a plane as it slowly carved up the sky. Somewhere on this planet he could be looking up as well. It’s what they used to do, summers past. Even in this type of heat they would have been lying close, the need for touch greater then anything the sun could throw at them.
The bee suddenly zigged to one side, dipping down onto a flower. Amongst the bird call and solo cricket, the bee was now a muffled buzz as it shuffled around, bum wiggling in the sun. A slow sigh escaped, adding heat to the surrounding air as she closed her eyes, letting the sun play across her skin. Letting it build to a level she almost couldn’t cope with…then the slight breeze chased across, stealing the intensity and replacing it with goosebumps. She bit her lip as she lost herself in the thought, remembering how the brush of his hands had once done the same.
He watched her from the window, as she lay half shaded by the palm tree, probably asleep. Her skin was starting to redden and he wondered where the suncream was. As he turned to go, a bee buzzed against the glass and he tutted at how stupid bees were. They obviously couldn’t see what was right under their nose.
I was drowning in the darkness,
Unable to hold on to the edges,
Numb to the world.
When your smile caught me.
It gave me light.
A second hand guitar,
Gave me a voice.
Music to fill the hole.
You might be gone,
But I have my own smile now,
I’ve found myself.
The pain and love I sing about,
Shows I’m alive.
Each word is a breath.
Each beat is my heart fighting again.
Each tear a badge of life.
The song weaves around me,
Binding me together.
I’m looking upwards,
As I ride the emotions,
Grateful to feel again.
This month our writers group prompt was a picture of the 2006 tornado in Brighton.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Alice hopped on one foot as she stared in dismay at the dog faeces on her shoe. She looked round to see if she could wipe it off on anything.
Grabbing a twig, Alice carefully scrapped the worst off, then dragged her foot along the tiny patch of grass. She was trying not to cry. Straightening her bag, slung low across her body, she carried on her way, eyes now glued to the pavement. She slowly counted her breath in and then out again, trying to calm the fluttering and accelerating heart beat. Continuing, Alice rubbed her chest to ease the constricting pain, while taking any chance she could to surreptitiously wipe the offending foot along the pavement.
The roads were filling up now, with large groups of fuzzy haired men lurching together, their primal grunts and calls keeping them in loose formation, while their female counterparts wheeled like nervous ponies, all high-pitched neighs and clip-clop heels. Every so often the circles would overlap, creating a cacophony of squeals and grunts as elaborate mating dances would start.
Alice ignored them all, keeping her head down and as much distance as she could manage, within the narrow lanes. The bag had worked it’s way round to the front again, banging against her thigh and causing her skirt to bunch up. She was regretting her choice of outfit.
Pausing at the junction, Alice worried in hesitation. In her old neighbourhood, indecision marked you out as a target and old survival tactics were hard to bury. Swinging left, she was pretty sure that she was still heading in the right direction, but the narrow streets all looked similar. This one had beautiful people, spilling out of café’s onto the road, all laughing and looking like a Gap advert. Alice tugged at her skirt again and hid behind her hair a little more.
Finally the pub came into view. Alice pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and double checked the details. The little hearts drawn instead of dots made her smile. They pretty much summed up Becky.
A bouncer watched disinterestedly as she paused, rubbing her sternum. Alice flashed him a weak smile, then dragged one foot in front of the other.
Before tripping slightly on the top step. The pub was packed and as she fought her way through, she thought she spotted her friend. Boy she could do with a drink right about now. Becky swung round, spotted Alice and started waving madly. Relief flooded through her as she elbowed her way through.
“Sorry; Coming through; Sorry”.
Engulfed in Becky’s hug, peering through her ruffled hair and over Becky’s shoulder, she could just make out a strong, male arm close to her face, the owner of which was side on to them and angled slightly away. It was the tattoo, a celtic, black fluid design flowing out the end of a navy tee shirt, that drew her eye and made her wonder what the rest of it looked like. Her fingers itched to trace the pattern, but before she could reach out, she was released from the hug. Becky held her outstretched, the mouth all smiles and moving. Shit, she was talking! What was she saying? Alice smiled weakly and nodded. Becky spun round, pulling Alice in beside her, arm round her shoulder.
“So everyone – this is Alice, she’s new to Brighton, so be nice to her! Alice this is everyone!”
Becky’s free arm swept with flare round the small semi circle of people, crushed together in the packed pub, a mix of people all smiling back at her before moving back to their conversations. All that was except tattoo boy. His dark brown eyes, held hers and he ducked his head closer to her ear.
“Hi, I’m Harry. So you’re new to the area?”
Alice could hardly breathe, just stare into his eyes and beg her brain to come up with something interesting. She nodded.
“I’m just going to grab a drink.”
She gestured at the bar, in case he had missed that they were, in fact, in a pub. He smiled as she turned and fled.
“Shit , shit, shit!”
Why wasn’t she beautiful and witty and clever. At least she was small and ducked under a couple of shoulders, slipping with relative ease to the front. Eventually a neon-pink haired woman come to serve her.
“Double vodka and a pint of ummm, I’ll try the Dandelion beer.”
With the minimum amount of movement the two appeared before her and the change returned. Alice downed the vodka and headed back to the group. Her stomach was now rumbling in protest at the neat vodka and her general fear. Alice hovered next to Becky, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, sipping her beer and trying to follow the conversation.
“So you came back?!”
Harry had reappeared at her shoulder. Now she noticed the slightly lighter flecks of deep amber in the dark brown. Would tigers have eyes like this? The smile definitely was all teeth….
Her brain obviously having given up on anything over one syllable. He laughed.
“Well I guess I deserved that, it was a stupid question.”
Alice ducked her head, a curtain of hair falling forward to try and hide the smile and scorching cheeks. Casually Harry scooped up a lock of her hair
“Are you laughing at me?”
He checked her face carefully, as he took his time looping the strand behind her ear. Alice let out a giggle and smoothed her hair, more to try and shoo his hand from her head where it was causing synapses to short circuit. The vodka and strong beer on an empty stomach were definitely causing her to feel brave.
She tipped her chin up, looking at him thoughtfully.
Now where had all her beer gone? God had she just downed it?! Harry thoughtfully removed the glass from her hand, leaving her without something to hold in front of her, leaving her only her skirt to tug at. He leaned forward, his mouth inches from her exposed ear, as she inhaled his aftershave.
“Fancy getting out of here, it’s a bit rammed for my liking…Maybe I could show you around”
“HARRY! You’re not trying to steal my friend are you?! Now Alice, I should have warned you about Harry, we call him the Tornado because the way he whirls his way through the whole of the Brighton female population, picking them up and spitting them out. He especially likes fresh meat, don’t you Harry?!”
Harry grinned sheepishly, but his eyes were still fixed on Alice, weighing her reaction. Alice laughed too.
“They used to call me Tornado as well, because I’m so accident prone, I’m my own disaster area!”
“Oh no! Is Brighton big enough for two forces of nature?!”
“Can anyone else smell dog shit?”
This month, my writers group had to write an autobiography of ‘anything’. The idea being that everyday objects/ things have a story hidden in them. We then had to write a life story of one of those “things”.
This is the poem it inspired:
The bud emerges shielded in green.
Slowly layers slip down her shoulders,
Until she stands proud in all her glory.
Ripples of elegant white,
Perfumed for her her grand entrance.
A hand reaches, deft in touch,
Separating her with a single stroke.
She didn’t feel it coming.
Her sisters are nestled beside her,
As daylight is slowly smothered.
Heat and dark.
Moisture leaches from her being,
Until only a fragrant ghost remains.
Then more hands, tearing her asunder,
Placing the delicate remains in a box.
A sweaty hand, swoops her fragments,
Releasing her for one last flurry.
Her curtain call of waxy grace.
This month our writers group had to write something inspired by a picture of a net and pearls on a pebbled beach. So if the picture is of a beach, then I should write about the North Yorkshire moors, right? It’s funny how your mind can take a tiny element from a prompt and go off in a totally different direction.
Above me is August blue, broken by the odd bleached, white patch, sedately sailing by. Beyond the blue, out of sight, is midnight, littered with stars and planets. And beyond that? The heather scratches my skin, digging in, protesting at my crushing weight. Their scent a reminder of half forgotten memories as the wind laps over me. A lone curlew’s pewit cry echoes across the moor. This is where we came, your hand wrapped round mine. Now my hands are alone in my pockets, rubbing the smooth pebbles, each a promise given to me.
A trail of salt water creeps, cold against the skin. The clouds continue past, made up of rivers, sea, lakes and tears. Tiny molecules which when combined could easily drown me. Do memories live on in the water? I shake my head as I would an etch o scketch, to wipe the stupid thought away. I wish I could rid my mind of all unwelcome thoughts that easily.
A rogue branch takes its chance to harpoon me.
In my heather tomb, I try to empty my mind of bilge, listening to my shallow breath and waves of surging blood. Piercing the quiet a shrill whistle scares the curlew into flight taking it’s laments with it. I rise, looking to my left and right as people emerge from the thick heather, a stretched-out line, young and old squinting against the glare and all facing the same rolling moorland. A nod passes down the line, unsmiling as it flies along, then we set off, slowly, methodically in our measured steps. A line of waving white, plastic flags, creating a sharp crack. Beating. The grouse in front of us fly up in fear, the smarter ones doubling back with cries of alarm. Over a rise, hidden from view, we can hear the lead shot. Hunters camouflaged behind the moss-covered, craggy stone butts, their barrels resting on the shaggy, grass tops.
Rolling a stone in my fingers, a worry bead of smoothness against my dry, rough skin. This was a promise to watch me grow old. It drops from my hand, soundless as stone returns to earth. Another pebble, hard against my fingers. A promise to love me forever, now released from my grip. The trail of pebbles disappear in my wake until only sand remains.
I concentrate on putting one foot in front of another, trying not to twist my ankle. Our line pinches in as we reach the butts, and I stumble in a hidden fire ditch. Shooters are handing over their guns to be cleaned, dogs are being called to heel and we are being herded to the land rovers. I’m watched – covertly – but watched, so I keep my eyes down, my face neutral, automatically reaching for my pebbles, grains slipping through my fingers.
Piling into the back of the transport home, we sit, exhausted two rows facing each other, bouncing on old springs along the dirt track, the tyres kicking up dust as we fly along. The twins laugh and joke, youth on their side while we sit in silence, smiling at their silliness. This is their backyard, their playground and today they are getting paid for it. Catching the eye of the eldest beater, his weathered face turns, the smile reaching through the heavy lines to his eyes. I smile back, my muscles rusty and sore.
Track turns to tarmac as we descend into the village. The other vehicles are already there, the guns being unloaded into the store room, ready to be locked away until tomorrow. With a creak of brakes we stop, the back door is opened and we start to climb out. I wait my turn snuggled in his jacket, taking comfort in the familiar smell of wax and aftershave. A hand is extended to help me down, tanned, firm. I don’t need to follow the line of the shirt up to the neck to know whose it is. I drop carefully to the floor, hands by my side. His voice is low, near my ear. “Want to help me feed the pheasants?” I stare deep into the forget-me-not blue eyes, not giving me any clues, so familiar yet so foreign. His hair has grown longer, a slight curl against the tanned neck.
“Sure, why not.”
“Meet here at five?”
He disappears into the throng.
Walking down the steep path to my house, I smile. This time it’s easier and without the pebbles in my pockets, I feel lighter. Slipping my boots off in the porch, I carefully hang the wax coat on it’s usual peg then move into the kitchen calling out as I go –
“Dad I’m home!”
Then I remember.
This was inspired by Road to Shamballa Teahouse: For the people of Japan: Azalea – “Take care of yo…: “The azalea is the symbol of passion and fragility. It also bears the message: ‘Take care of yourself'”
Leaves unfurl themselves,
Green against the slumbering brown.
Tight buds, hug their colour,
Through pink, paper thin petals.
Scent hangs in the air.
Sat in a terracotta pot,
Roots in acidic soil.
My precious cargo,
Carried from city to town,
A token of love
A reminder of home.
This is my azalea.