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Times and Places

I won’t give everything away

Winter began.  The house becomes warmer and brighter; it’s looking for the sun.  I dreamed of a tree house, the beech heights, being neighbours with the crows, waking to the sound of leaves and branches.  I dreamed of a tree house, but the only person I ever knew who had one burned it down as a joke.  I wish I could push my bed to the window, enjoy the morning sounds, as though I’m waking outdoors almost.

There’s a tiny graveyard down by the river.  Every time my life changes, I find myself there.  Old and new stones, the sound of the park in the distance, ice-cream van and a eulogy, perfect.

Sometimes, I hold the hand of the city much too tightly, but then it is a very pretty town.  Already, there are shapes and patterns emerging.  They remind me of things, more dreams.  Dream of the town; I remember how huge it seems in dreams like those, flooded streets navigated by slender barges, like the world ended but we forgot to be afraid.  There are deep mazes of streets in the dream town, and if you open a door in the basement, it will take you to a deeper place, down into the vaults.

There are pathways through our memories.  Here’s the place that we used to cross the road, grey underpass, fluorescent lights.  Everyone always talks about the fish tank, but I liked the dome overhead, with a slice of sky dead centre.

There’s a bright bar – in the waking world – a place that I knew the second I walked in for the first time.  A little home, a treehouse in the city.  In a dream, I might open a door in my silent house and find myself there.  In dreams, the doors (the ones that aren’t there when we’re awake) connect to unexpected places, because that’s what we are looking for, the doorway into electric light summer on a December night when too much has happened to begin to think of.  

Over there, that’s where they used to hold raves after midnight.  Over there, that’s where the bomb killed so many in the Blitz, sheltering in the cellars; they say that you could smell the flowers laid in tribute for years, long after the days of hotel dances, long after the motorways and the towers, so that the heartbreak and silence of that 1940s morning seem like a story told in class.  Over here, that’s where I sat happily watching the night for the first time in years.  And over there, that’s where we will be, all of us.

I’m really tired.  The year has taken a lot; it is in the process of giving me a lot back in return.  That bright treehouse is something it gave me.  I spent the last week alone, except of course I didn’t.  There were so many people reaching out, acts of generosity, of creativity, of absolute life.  I know that I can ask for anything – I may not receive it, but I can ask, and do you know how important and rare that is, for me, for anyone?

That’s where the summer was.  It will be there again, sooner than you think.  I remember how sometimes, the cars just seem to stop and we walk in the road, as things make way for us.  

Voices, raising in the night, words fly, a language that I know.  Sometimes I can’t sleep for the anticipation of it.  The city of deep vaults, of flooded streets and scarlet sunrises, the place where there’s a haunted house down the road, and a path to the secret sea – that dream city is coming towards us now.  I can see the lights of it at night.  Hold my hand, waking or sleeping, doesn’t matter.  If I hold the hand of the city too tightly, it’s not to hold it back or in fear – it’s out of excitement at where it’s taking me tonight, taking all of us.

It is very nearly Christmas, and I love you all.

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Times and Places Uncategorized

YOU

You

Yes, you.  Right now, under a sky.  Looking up at Mars, which holds the horizon like an old friend.  I used to dream about walking, flying on Mars.  I had wings.  It was my favourite dream, I think.

You.  There you are, all of You.  I wonder what it is You look up for?  I’m standing on the front step of my house.  The waxing moon is to my left, Mars straight in front.  A cat hides under a car, watching me – I worry.  There are foxes here, late at night, a whole family of them, beautiful, probably lethal to everything.

There are so many of You, and I wish I could be here with many of You.  There are some I know well, and some I am just starting to know, and some I don’t know at all, You, the ones that I’ve never even met.  The night is huge and looming and full of a cold sound, but I think my job tonight is to be a musician, and to improvise a tune, a little counterpoint to the night song – I can’t see the other musicians, but that’s OK.  Sometimes, the song gets really minor key, and I don’t mind a song in a minor key – but not forever.  Not always.  Songs end, and I don’t want this to be the blues, no need for torch songs tonight, no matter how much I want to play the tragic femme fatale.  No.  Or rather, yes, because that’s how it changes.  Just when you think You know what the song’s going to be like, a new instrument joins in- you shout YES at the stars –

1973: with apologies to the Reptile House

Here I am, at the top of my life, with the threat of a downhill race in front of me.  I’m not sure I want to look over the edge, yet here I am.  If I’ve made the choice not to have children, perhaps not even to live with anyone, tentative future plans aside, what then?  Where do I go?  Is working worth it, just for a retirement?  Is staying healthy worth it?  Is any of it now serving any point at all, when what I really want is a life of mild debauchery and beautiful music and art?  Art, the Art, the one Art, the only one worth pursuing, the Art that is Us. The Art that is You.

And feeling, feeling an emotion so strongly and so well and with so much honesty, that it changes the world.  Like how I feel right now.  Like the words that you’re reading, because all of You, I want you to hear that sound.   To go outside and listen to the stars and the nightsong and know that no matter how fucked it seems, how lonely you feel, how empty the night looks, it’s not.  I know because I’ve felt that and god knows, it hurts like splinters, shards of glass under the skin, but when you look the night in the face and feel what you want to, and sing the song back at it, you can be more than you ever dreamed.  When You remember.  

You.   I love You. It’s as simple as that, the best truth of all, worth living for. I love You. Would You like to dance?

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Built Things Times and Places

Here

This is the street where it all happened.  Nothing tragic, no more so than anyone else.  This is the place.  I remember it all, every day it seems, I keep telling myself that .  We all have places like that, a street that you visit every day for a year, somewhere that matters.  Then, when a lot of time has passed, you come back to it, but it isn’t the same any more and you start to wonder if you aren’t remembering it properly.  Or has it changed?  Thinking about how that tree got cut back or how they’ve repainted the gate whilst you weren’t there and it feels like a small betrayal.  

Here.  These are our places, but they aren’t ours for long.  I wrote the above paragraph about 12 years ago, processing a huge thing that was very much happening to me, the echoes of which continued for years.  And I dealt with it (and it wasn’t really that huge, not compared to what some people deal with) by choosing my places carefully, new ones that I chose to be in, letting go of old ones.

Here’s another space.  Some random liminal retail park, but once, it was something else.  Once, I stood on this spot, right here, with a woman with very very red hair, and we drank really bitter awful coffee and smoked bitter awful cigarettes and perhaps she liked me and perhaps I liked her, but I really don’t know and it was several lifetimes ago.  I don’t remember my own face then, I don’t remember hers.  And there’s no trace left of either of us, and the place we used to sit and watch the dawn burning the frost away, that’s lost too.  

And I’m really happy about that.  I don’t want old places.  I want the new ones, the ones I’ve chosen.  Ice on the wind, and redblack mornings, oh, I remember the bitter and when I’m feeling tired I miss them, but I chose older and newer places for myself in the end.

Remember this street in that summer, not so long ago.  If it was years and years ago, things change enough to make it bearable, but not when it’s only two years gone.  Not far enough away.  A hot summer day.  Now it’s winter, fading into January and you didn’t spend Christmas here.  Fog in the air and the amber lights shining on, lonely, trying to pretend to be the summer sun.

And it was after writing these words that I found Here, an old, old place.  Fields and woods, looking down over a valley.  Old graves, hidden stones, water breaks the land apart.  The wind screams sometimes, speaks to the skin like a knife, teaches the joy of magpies.  Suddenly, that old world of amber lights was just a dream.  Here is where I’ve always been, Here is where I always will be.  In the places that I choose, that weren’t just arrived at.  Queer, expressing my love without expectation of response, or need to have it returned.  Freedom for the heart that’s been hidden, and kissing anyone who likes to kiss me.  In this place.  Here.

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Times and Places

Tuesday evening in town, March or September

 – throughout all the pain and fear, all our dark days, yours and mine, there’ll always be Tuesday night, and the big secret of Tuesday nights,

 with just a little rain, but still quite bright somehow without a sun that you can see, and it’s not quite seven yet, and not many people about, because everyone’s home having their tea, but not quite everyone, people going somewhere, they’re starting to appear,

 and it’s not a frenzied carnival like Saturday, it’s so gentle and the city holds you and smiles and it’s all right, that’s the big secret really, that it’s all right and Tuesday will come back around again, normal Tuesday, with all the stories carrying on, ending and starting and normal Tuesday night in town, absolutely like every other one, big life stories walking quickly across each other’s path, like skipping stones across the flat grey river, down by the bridge on the island,

and you aren’t at home, not nearly, you’re a bus ride, a long walk away, somewhere that’s different and holds the shape of your face with the shopfront lights left on and that couple walking past, still in shirts and lanyards and shoes that no-one wears, because it’s Tuesday night in town and not quite dark yet and still time to work a little bit late and get home in time,

 and it’s all right, even when it sings paper cut sharpt in your chest and behind your eyes, paper cut sharp on the edge of the evening, it’s all right, and Tuesday night when no-one’s out, there’s music somewhere and it doesn’t matter about work tomorrow, because there’s somewhere to be that isn’t the end of the world,

so normal and so full of a magic that sings like wineglass song right through our heads, and the roads will shine a bit in the half rain and half light, and it’ll be full of an enchantment too big for any one heart alone.  Hold my hand tight my loves, and we’ll go walking, shiny second skins reflecting all the stars as they come out one by one.

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Times and Places Uncategorized

Sunday Tracking

It’s night nearly, dusk, the shadows are almost complete and I’m moving onwards, over and over.  I couldn’t begin to count how often I’ve been there.  So many times, following the pattern; you drive or get the train on Friday evening, you travel back in Sunday dusk.  

The train, then.  Getting the train just as the darkness starts, then two, three hours of Sunday darkness.  The movement, the sensation, swaying.  The Friday train is full, thinning out over time, but the Sunday train is often almost deserted, bright lights and the taste of instant coffee.  It’s a cellophane journey.  The morning’s paper rammed into the back of the seat in front.  Old news.  

Each town swings around into view.  The car parks and retail estates, all empty, all locked up.  Optimal Sunday train time, four pm, closing up time.  Some places locked since Friday, that turned the alarms on when I was shuffling for a ticket leading out into the wide world, when my bag was full of outfits and ideas, not just laundry.  Look out of the window and learn to see past your own reflection, stare into your eyes until you can see the streetlights of somewhere unknown.  Empty voids, closed up cafes, glimpse a wrecking yard, a bridge, the rush of water passing, only there in waves that steal the light, out into the country night, nothing now, fleeting village station lamps to break the self portrait.  We don’t stop there.

There, you can see the fields, Sunday afternoon fields, dog walkers and kids running free, but now utterly impassive.  Everyone’s gone home, the shoes are getting shined and the dread of an ironing smell fills the space.  Kitchen lights on, upstairs bedside lamp, rush past, what dreams?  What are you scared of, what are you dreaming of, whose eyes are they that you see as you look out of your own train, at your own track paling away into the unknown horizon?  Who is it you long for, rushing on towards a morning destination?

I hope they will be there to meet you from your train.  I hope you run into each others’ arms and I hope that the day you have arrived at is the one you needed.  I hope the eyes you see are only your own when you need them to be, and I hope that when they aren’t, they shine for you, bright lights of warmth, of contact, windows on a place that’s more than getting ready for another day.