a chill

Frozen puddles on the walk home, slippery sloped paving slabs. Frost glitters
with the falling lamp-light. Worn rubber soles slip, toes curl inside. The figure walking a dozen paces ahead seems to grow and shrink, as streetlights cast moving shadows.

The first time she saw frost, she was frightened. It wasn't her white breath hanging in the air. It wasn't the sting on her cheeks, but the ice. She stood perfectly still, observing, digesting. All the time ready to leap back through the door, stung. The world looked alien, almost as if it were coated in icing sugar. But there was a harshness that scared her. Unforgiving, and worse, uncaring.


now in first-person, as originally written

Lying in the water, semi-dozing. I've just finished the book he sent me. At the end, I cried down the sides of my face.

Feeling the water swirl against my skin when I move. My knees and my breasts and my face above the water. Underwater. I can hear my pulse in my ears, like the rhythmic thrum of a generator.

I can feel my skin is waterlogged. Maybe if I lie here long enough, I will dissolve into the bath. Maybe if I lie here long enough, my skin will soak clean off my body. Suddenly I long to slough the soft shell of skin off, shed it like a snake. To emerge raw, and tender, and new.
So i stand in the bath and I scrub myself from head to foot. I can see swirls of soap bubbles on my side as I work my way up one arm, across my shoulder-blades and down to my other wrist.
Then lean back in the water, feel the too-hot sting and smart. I imagine hundreds of tiny abrasions on my skin. Thousands of nerve endings pricking, firing.

I have lain here so long I can't feel the difference between the water and the misty air. I lower my heel, trynig to guess when it hits the surface. I mis-judge, and open my eyes only after my toes are submerged. Then I watch ripples appear with the rise and fall of my stomach.

I cried a little into the water, my heart is still pounding in my throat.


She looked around, checking the street was empty. Then with a practiced flick of the thumb, she popped the latch. Then ducked inside and closed the door behind her in one swift movement.

It never failed to amaze her how she managed to fit inside the street-light. It didn't make sense, she shouldn't be able to fit. But every night since the first time she heard his voice, she'd felt that wierd sensation of the doorway ballooning around her as she swung into the circular room.
The first time had been terrifying. A tinny, muffled voice called her name as she walked home from work one night. Possibilities scrolled through her head; had somebody followed he, was somebody behind her? When she realised it was coming from the street-light she had to stop, check herself. When she was much younger, she'd entertained the thought that each and every street-light was powered by a tiny person on an exercise-bike, living in the wide base of the post. And hearing that voice brought the childhood fantasy back to her abruptly. She steadied herself, and placed a cautious hand on the lamp door. She'd half expected it to smoothly swing open, but the hinges were rusty, and the fastening stuck.
"Turn it left"
Came the voice from the lamp. She jiggled the catch, but it refused to budge.
"Left, fahking left. Christ, it's not that difficult."
After a few noisy minutes, and the application of her door-keys for leverage, she'd managed to open the door a crack. Inside was, exactly as she'd imagined, a man on a bicycle, in a tiny circular bedsit.

And now here she sat, drinking strong, sweet tea from a mug she knew to be smaller than an eggcup, but filled her hands like one at home. The man looked up at her. He'd been stirring a pan on the stove. Was he even a man? She hesitated to call him an elf, a pixie, a faerie, a gnome, because he seemed so very real. And he swore like a bouncer.
"Fahkin 'ell. Can't believe I went an ran outa eggs the night you come rahnd. Yew must fink I'm a proper batchelor, innit? Can't take care of meself or naffink."
She'd taken to doing his washing up when she was there. It did tend to build up, and she felt better if her hands were busy. Conversation could get awkward when he was puffing away on the bike, and she curled up comfortably on the sofa.

the untucked shirt

It was too big for him, the big white shirt. And it was a cold day. He liked being warm on cold, frosty days like that. So he wore the big white shirt and tucked it securely into his jeans. The comfortable overlap between his underwear and the shirt would keep his back warm even when he sat down.

Once upon a time, two lovers stood on a station platform. They were saying goodbye.
They kissed slowly, their breath clouding white under the strip-lights. She put her arm under his coat and slid it under his sweater, hoping to steal some heat from his back. Her hand was stopped by the big white shirt, and she looked at him. He smiled apologetically as she pulled a handful of the shirt out of his jeans, and felt a shiver along his spine with the cold air.

When her train had gone, and her on it, he climbed the stairs to his platform. Then he boarded his own train home, wandering down the aisle to a suitably empty square of seats. As he sat down he felt cold rise up his back, and immediately felt her phantom lips on his once more. Then he leaned forward to tuck his shirt in.

chapter one

It began childishly, as so many of these things do. A record of the day-to-day angst. The blames, pointed fingers and whispered conversations of girls. Later, when she looked back on those few years, she would not remember the intensity of feeling. The awful indecision. She would only be embarassed at her inaccurate use of extravagant words. She kept none of the hardback notebooks she wrote in. They reminded her of the crippling self-consciousness of being 15.
As she grew older (and, as promised, it did get better as the years clicked by) she continued to write. But not in noteboks, on scraps of paper. The back of an old birthday card. Bus tickets, ragged handfuls of lined A4. She threw these away immediately. She had no desire to be reminded of yesterday's feelings.

The week after her 25th birthday she stopped writing. It was not a conscious decision. The words were pushed out of her head.

His relationship with words was uneasy at best. He spoke intelligently, but not eloquently. Secretly, he would like to be thought of as eloquent. But he could never bring himself to say the words aloud distinct, insufferable, unparalleled... the risk was what silenced him. He didn't want to stand out. He didn't want to be laughed at. He had a horrible feeling that the words lined up in his head would come out of his mouth somehow distorted distended, macabre, grotesque...

When they first met (casually, through a friend of his brother's) neither of them would have guessed these things of each other. He thought her cold and reserved. She thought him over-familiar and drunk. Neither suspected the depths they would glimpse over the subsequent months of courtship.

He, though sexually adventurous, was less experienced. He had slept with two women since he drunkenly lost his virginity at a stranger's new years party. One was his first proper girlfriend. Mentally, he salutes every time he thinks of her. They fucked infrequently and clumsily, and she left him the day after their final exams.
The second was a stunning and manipulative actress. The relationship lasted for two years, but should have ended before six months. It was unhealthy, and sex rose more from a cloying need for closeness than from physical desire.
He enjoyed being single, primarily because it meant he didn't have to shower daily.

She had been promiscuous as a teenager, but had never had a 'lover' in the idealised sense. She had never had the opportunity to enjoy sex. She didn't know it, but it occasionally kept her up at night.

So their relationship began tentatively, with as much reassurance as flirting. When eventually they did share a bed she wept afterwards, once he was asleep, because she thought she loved him.

He woke early, before she did, and crept into the kitchen to make coffee. In the dark he collided with a bin in the hallway, scattering paper, used tissues and food packaging over the floor. Then fumbling for a lightswitch, cramming handfuls of rubbish into the plastic bin, trying not to wake any of the irritable flatmates.
Sitting in the kitchen ten minutes later, coffee brewing, he realises he still has a scrap of handwritten notepaper in his hand. The fact that he reads it could reveal one of several things about him. It could show that he loves the thrill of invading secrecy. It could show that he deeply wants to know more about her, and anything in her handwriting draws him like a magnet. It could show that the coffee is still in the pot, and he's too tired to think before he reads it.
Still clutching the piece of paper, he walked into her bedroom and shut the door behind him. She stirred at the noise, and opened her eyes. As he kissed her, she put her arms around his neck and pulled him onto the bed. He dropped the paper to the floor, and they made love again by the thin light shining through the curtains.

Every day after that, he wrote page after page of his thoughts. She wrote none at all.


He shifted on the bed, the better to rest his cheek on her bare shoulder. She raised her hand and started tracing her fingertips along his jaw-line. Then he kissed her arm lightly, and broke the soft silence

"You were singing in your sleep last night."
"Was I? I thought I'd stopped doing that years ago."
"It was nice. Peaceful."

There was a pause.
He breathed, felt her skin warm on his face. Listened to her faintly audible heartbeat. She sighed once, a long, sleepy exhalation.

"What was I singing?"
"Talking Heads"

She gave a short bark of laughter

"Which album?"
"I don't have a fucking clue. You know I don't like Talking Heads."

She craned her neck around to kiss his forehead, and then sank back into the pillows.

fighting boredom in the workplace

a collaboration with sookraj

#01. Write a short, brutally honest description of each of your workmates.
#02. Wander round the office stapling everyone's description to their foreheads.
#03. Laugh maniacally .
#04. Barricade yourself in the copy room, shout a lot, ask for a negotiator.
#05. You've heard of dirty protests, right?
#06. Demand emotionally raw PJ Harvey albums, especially "Rid of Me".
#07. Go the copy room, get yourself a ream of paper, return to your desk and proceed to ball up sheets and throw them at your nearest co-worker until they snap and proceed through steps #01 to #06.
#8. Boil the kettle and walk around pouring water into people's processors when they're away from their desks.
#9. Take the head of the mop off and wear it like a wig.
#10. Belch loudly.
#11. Jump up and down on every piece of paper you are given.
#12. Go to the toilets and take comedy pictures of yourself.
#13. Walk with a pronounced gangsta limp.
#14. Talk to yourself, twitch (your workmates will LOVE this).
#15. Hide under your desk, time how long it takes for somebody to check you're ok. When they do, leap out and thank them for saving your life. Then ask for a glass of water.
#16. Chew the top off a biro, smear the ink all around your face. Act like everything is normal.
#17. Approach a randomly chosen co-worker, grip their shoulder, tell them not to worry (loud enough so your peers can hear).
#18. Go to the bathroom twenty times in an hour.
#19. Speak into you lapel, relay your co-workers every move to your CIA buddies. "Target is now moving the filing cabinet..."
#20. Lace the office coffee with Ketamine. Enjoy the ensuing slow-motion hilarity.
#21. Secrete a drum-n-bass playing walkman somewhere in the office. Make sure it is loud enough to be heard, but impossible to find. Watch as psychotic episodes unfold.
#22. Take advantage of the large amount of free floorspace to remember how to do a backwards roll.
#23. Do handstands against the door to the kitchen.
#24. Refuse to speak to anyone, conduct all communication via the art of mime.
#25. Sellotape a tabloid newspaper into one very long sheet of tat. Wrap yourself in it, head to toe.
#26. Make a round of tea, and put eight sugars in each. Dissolve biscuits into some of them.
#27. Turn the thermostat up to a tropical temperature. Leave the room.
#28. Pretend to fall asleep standing up, snoring loudly.
#29. Add more options to this list...


3am. Untidy bedroom, clothes and empty plates on every surface. A man is slouched over a desk with an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

I remember when we met.
I remember, the music too loud. Your shoes too small, you told me. And then you spent the rest of the evening with one hand resting on my shoulder, the other working its way deep into my chest. Making the little hole in my heart that aches so empty.
I remember the first time you followed me in through my front door. I was terrified you’d be gone when I turned around. But you straightened up from putting your bag on the sofa and said music?

I remember that morning, when you woke me up by coming back to bed. You pulled the sheets up to your shoulders and stroked your finger down my arm. Then you told me where you had to go, and how long you’d been thinking about it. And I think it was only last week, that morning. When she whipped her hand from the hole in my heart. Still raw and unhealed, still losing blood. Maybe it makes the time move slower.

Remembering every moment she was close to me. Sitting in a restaurant, her arm curled around mine. Her fingers stroking gently along my upper arm. Then touching the sleeve of my shirt and tucking into the fold of my elbow. Anywhere to be closer.

mumps part 3

My ears are numb. My neck is agony. My whole face feels a different shape, my eyes are too wide. My shoulders even feel odd. The skin all over my body is dead. I scratched my neck. I scratched my shoulders my cheek my stomach. I have all these scratches and no memory of slicing myself. That sounds odd, like I’m taking a kitchen knife to my fingers, slicing them thin and placing them in a cooking pot. Or scoring little lines in my flesh. Like a tally. Or a line-drawing.

I’d rather be at work. I’d rather be on my feet, making my own decisions, making my own fucking meals. I’m wasting away. Shaking away. I feel inhuman. Less than? Just different. I don’t feel like who I am. And the punctuation is fairly arbitrary.
Watch her get restless.
Dammit. I liked my neck. It was long and it has those little tendons running down the sides. I had hollows and indentations around my collarbones. It was pretty. I liked my neck. Now I have some round, swollen trunk keeping my head up. I want me back. I look different, but I only feel different when I remember that I’m sick.

mumps part 2

Fucking hell. I can only eat after taking painkillers. Cloudy apple juice, plain yoghurt and honey, liquidised soup. I want TOAST! I want dark chocolate, straight from the fridge so I have to chunk it off with my back teeth. Melted butter, hot milk, glutinous bread sticking to my teeth.

Sitting in bed with my jaw pushed forward. It’s weird not having an overbite. None of my teeth meet. Taptaptaptap tapping my front teeth will have to do.

There is Belladonna on the table by my bed. And cups and bowls on the floor. A bottle of prescription-labelled pills. They look so ugly, blue lines and grey printed words and yellow lines.
Some other sweet white pill to put under my tongue every two hours. Ecinachea for immune system. Orange juice for recovery. Hot chocolate for my flagging morale.
Suddenly dozing, drifting off. Time is moving in odd ways. This song has been playing for hours, this minute has lasted for days. Melting away. I feel hot and feeble and cranky. All my chin wobbles every time I move.

I had a dream I was choking up blood clots. I had a dream I was coughing up droplets of blood, splashing in perfect circles on the tiled bathroom floor. How poetic. Reminds me of a song, but I couldn’t say which.

mumps part 1

(this was all written over the three of four worst days. i appear not to have left AM or PM on any times. testament to the fact i was only semi-aware of the world at best, and in agony at worst)

Impossible to flick my fringe. Impossible to drink the dregs. Impossible to yawn. My neck is so painful that my ears feel numb. How bizarre. The skin on my shoulders feels like rubber. Morphine, or something like it.

I never had much truck with recording the passing of time. Calendars, clocks, deadlines. And it’s always the same. The only reason I’d look at a calendar would be when my period came. Record start, record end, neglect once more.
And clocks. They surround me, walls, tables, phones, wrists. And they’re all telling subtly different lies. The only time I’ll listen is when I’m ill. “1 or 2 tablets every 3-4 hours” allowing 20 minutes for the drugs to hit my system...
I’m lucky I’m not vain. I find it hilarious. I look like some kind of retired opera singer, neck sagging but face still taut like canvas, courtesy of the tent pegs in their hairline.

Puffy neck puffy face. While I’ve been writing this the drugs have kicked in. My head throbs less. The sieve-holes in the pain are letting my sense of humour leak through. Possibly. My sentences are getting longer, always a sure sign…

hip heaven

You know that feeling

You've been sitting in a smoky, windowless room for... an hour? two hours? three? The third drink and fourth cigarette since you paid on the door. Smoke and dark corners. Water, sweat and a poet waving his arms at the walls.
And there's this guy. He's been sitting at the table next to yours and you've registered him, just like everyone else in the room. Just another punter, another listener, another addition to the applause. Just like you, in fact. Wearing black and denim and stubble. Drinking flat beer like everyone else. Laughing in the right places.
Walking down the stairs from the toilets, moving your bag off your chair to sit down again you meet eyes. He suddenly looks awake. You feel very conscious of your arm extended over your chair, your hips slanted as one foot takes your weight. He is only a few feet away, and you want to say to him "Where have I seen you before?".... But the music is too loud. The space between you is filled with people.

"Theoretical Girl"
"Pies Not Pills"
"Repetition, Percussive Breathing"

The posters stick in your mind like the poetry never will. You can feel his gaze on the side of your face, and return it when he's looking away.

fifty hours

The concrete and the sun do strange things to my mind.
Right now I can see the scent rising off my skin in waves. And the small damp curls of hair above my ears. And i can feel the thoughts scrolling through my head, leaving vapour trails. And the discords creep their little trails through the bark of the tree that's half-rotten inside.

And the little chemical monsters coursing around the racetrack. Mostly delusion. I'm turned inside out, something else is more distracting.


I am a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints.
(Joni Mitchell, a case of you)

I am a lonely writer. I live in a computer screen.
I am a lonely scientist. I live in a test-tube.
I am a lonely doctor. I live in a stethoscope.
I am a lonely mathematician. I live in a box with parameters constructed of logarithms and imaginary numbers.
I am a lonely Spaniard. I live in a bottle of mescal. Para borracharse.
I am a lonely dog trainer. I live in a dog.
I am a lonely midwife. I live in a box of emergency delivery equipment.
I am a lonely teacher. I live in a stationery cupboard.
I am a lonely tiger. I live in a cage.
I am a lonely antibody. I live in your lymphatic system.
I am a lonely student. I live in a textbook.
I am a lonely single mother. I live in sub-standard council housing.
I am a lonely dictionary. I live on the dustiest shelf.
I am a lonely novel. I live in the mind of an unpublished writer.
I am a lonely receptionist. I live in the speed-dial.
I am a lonely plant. I live in the dirt.
I am a lonely session musician. I live in the P.A.
I am a lonely teenager. I live behind my bedroom door.
I am a lonely airline pilot. I live in the departure lounge.
I am a lonely model. I live in an airbrushed photograph.
I am a lonely cardboard box. I live in the attic.
I am a lonely song. I live in the throat of a cabaret singer.
I am a lonely sponge. I live in a pineapple under the sea.
I am a lonely temp. I live too far away from my place of work.
I am a lonely bartender. I live in a clean pint glass.

I am a lonely blogger. I live in a computer screen.


Looking out through the rain-stained window. Looking up seeing the trees shoot past under the still sky. The clouds look grainy, like grey sand. After focusing closely, I zoom out to take in the whole sky. And i'm not looking at the sky, I'm seeing sand under the pure turquoise shallows, dotted with white surf. Zooming past, far overhead.

- - -

Wet skin rolls across dry sand. Pulls away, encrusted in glittering beige. The cold grips my ankles, crawls up my legs, grainy spiders. A million minute fragments of rock. I tread on a sharp patch, and stumble. Heels sink into the powdery sand, in my cuts, in my crevices, in my mouth and eyes.
Plunge in headfirst, the only way to forget the salt-cold slap. I surface, gasping. The sunlight stings my eyes. I swim far, far out until I leave the children behind, leave the surfers behind, way out of my depth. It feels good. I catch waves before they break, curving my body over the swell. Feeling the lift in the small of my back.
I spend hours at a time longing for immersion, longing for cool, longing for something else bigger and stronger. And now here i am, neck-deep in the Atlantic Ocean.
It feels good.

- - - -

Words keep slipping out of my head. As soon as they arrive they trail off, leaving a lingering taste. Nothing more.
The TV is slowly sapping my brain of thought. And more. It is turning every though to glass and setting my brain at a diagonal. Everything slides off and crashes onto the tiled floor. Crashing, crystalline and fragile.


All these fleeting, fictional distractions.
I have little to offer, and nothing that you want.
Summarise and condense
condense and conspire
Sift the rocks from the sand
and set them in a ring.

This squirming mass of muscle contractions
and keratin.


A heaped spoonful of soft brown sugar, crumbling into my coffee.
The sky was blue. Now it is uniform white like a school shirt, crisp and fresh. The clouds writhe. Summer has evaporated in the heat, spinning us back to April in confusion.
Pour in the milk, watch the white billowing up through murky brown.
You are my breath condensing in the night air. A cool breeze in the oppressive heat. You are the tingle in my spine when I'm falling asleep.


murky is sexy; muddy is sexier

binding is sexy; bilingual is sexier

chased is sexy; chaste is sexier


drums are sexy; bass is sexier

glamorous is sexy; amorous is sexier

sound is sexy; noise is sexier

black is sexy; grey is sexier

in despair is sexy; incoherent is sexier


“red is angry, green is jealous”
(joni mitchell, marcie)

yellow is curious, and talkative
orange is inherent joy, and sunlight, and hazy summer memories
blue is isolated, but deep as souls, brimming over
white is cold and cruel, and sharp-edged
black is empty and endless
pink is fleshy, pliable, smooth
purple is seductive and velvet soft
grey is tired and scuffed, and worn thin
brown is sunken, rich, thick
gold is brutal and brash
silver is tricky, evasive, slick