The Air Spoke

The Air Spoke

She places her cigarette on the edge of the desk and watches it smoulder. The sunlight catches the smoke in its hands and makes it gleam and it seems to fill the room around her. Last night’s wine still lies where it had been spilled, now a stain on the sheets of paper that cover the cheap, old wood of the table. One hand is warm on her thigh, but the other beats out a restless tattoo in the air. She stares into the mirror on the other side of the room, just a few steps from her. It is a beautiful thing, with a gilded edge only slightly marked by years of movement around the halls of this cheap hotel – the glass looks fractured, with several large frames running through it that remind her of her grandfather in the hospital bed.

She tries to piece together the fragments of the night before; tries to reorder the images like the glass.

Light.

A hundred thousand lights of a hundred, hundred colours, flickering out their mad neon desires into the darkness. She remembers beautiful Asian women, half-naked, weaving in the doorways of sand-blasted buildings. She can still feel the heat of it all, like the very air was filled with sweat.

“It used to be like a drug,” she tells the mirror, “every breath I took was pleasure. The air told me I needed to be here.”

There was a smoke-filled room; there always was. There was a gritty kind of half-light that fought with the bitter workings of the incandescence, that curled up against the jukebox like a lover, that spat and snarled at the one-arm bandit on the bar. There were men, men in shirts and men covered in mud and men with their hair slicked back like car salesmen – men who licked their lips and tried to order cobra whiskey but couldn’t get their words right and were jeered out of the bar by the owner. There were women too; old women in the corner and quiet women sat huddled together and the owner’s daughter who kept making these flashing eyes at her and biting her lower lip every time she ordered another glass of wine.

When there were more than four empty glasses on her table, and her lipstick graced a pair of cigarettes arranged in the central ashtray, one of the men came over. He tried to speak in English, then Mandarin, then Spanish, but she ignored him. He went away after she lit another cigarette, telling her that she was the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

She took out her camera and caught a picture of the table, with its wine and cigarettes and old stains and scars. She noticed that the owner’s daughter had perched herself on the bar, and that her legs were dangling in the background of the shot –  two long streaks in the haze; like bullets that had been fired underwater.

The air still speaks of lust, and hope, and potential – she doesn’t believe it anymore. Her bedclothes move; a long leg pushes through them slowly, deliberately, toes curled in on themselves until the whole thing looks pointed. It accuses her, accuses her of a thousand things; accuses her of wasted night and labyrinthine days; accuses her of pride, and rage, and lust; accuses her of decadence and desire. She stands, slowly, and feels the foreign sun on her naked skin. She casts a long shadow in the small room.

She hears the village come alive outside her window. The bicycles rattle across the uneven dirt and the wasted footsteps stagger to work. She doesn’t listen to the birdsong anymore; it’s all about the living. The bed moans. The old wood whimpers. She steps to the fragmented mirror. Half a dozen pieces of her look back, her thighs glitter darkly at her against the light and tell her she is alive. Her stomach, catching the curve of the sun like the crescent of dawn over the moon, tells her she is alive. Her breasts crackle with a thin web and she remembers the hints of them in a polaroid hidden in an old friend’s attic; they tell her she is alive. Her face tells her she is tired, broken, spread across the room like pages torn from her notebook.Hotel Room lit with blue light

Te ves como una diosa.”

She can’t tell if it comes from the bed or the mirror or the paper or the spilled wine or the smouldering cigarette. For a few heartbeats, she wishes it was the air, that the wet breeze cut through the building in such a way that it remembered her and loved her and knew that she existed, that her heart beat.

She feels warmth, and sees a smooth hand appear on her shoulder. It trails down, along her arm and to cover her breast and it splits in the mirror. A pair of lips touch her shoulder blade and the body pushes against her. The hands are hungry, and damaged and they break with her body when they cross the frames.


Another thing I wrote years ago. It might have been a part of the old experiments, where I’d stay up all night and try ot have something completely finished in the morning. It was something different than I’d be working on before. If I remember, I enjoyed writing this, enjoyed just letting the words play out on the page without caring about any narrative development really. It’s what I love about poetry now; that I can just let my fingers play, follow the words, and try to find beauty.

Anyway, enough artistic shit. If you want to read any other prose, there’s always Like Ravaged Porcelain or you can check out some of the novellas I’ve written over the years, like Mychandra or The Burden, all completely free.

I’m going to a poetry/prose reading tomorrow night, hosted by the amazing up and coming writers at the Salford Writer’s Journal. If you can, head over and check out some of the poetry and prose that they’re posting.

Swimming Against Themselves; George Orwell and Albert Camus

Swimming Against Themselves; George Orwell and Albert Camus

By February, 1944, much of the worst fighting of the World War II was already over. The month before, in January, the Soviet forces had managed to finally expel the German occupation of the city of Leningrad, ending one of the longest and most brutal sieges in modern history, and the Allies had made major advances on Italy, ending with the horrifying landings at Anzio.

The following year, 1945, the Allies entered Western Germany whilst the joint Soviet-Polish forces entered Berlin itself. By the end of April, both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were dead, the Reichstag seized and the war itself almost over. It is essential to know that this is the background, and the global environment, to the infamous meeting between two men who were, arguably, two of the greatest minds of their time.

George Orwell and Albert Camus: The Meeting That Never Was

George Orwell and Albert Camus had arranged to meet at the Deux Magots café, in February of 1945.  Despite their differences, perhaps even, in some small part, due to them, they were certainly two of the most unique and interesting literary and politically-conscious figures of the time. When these two are addressed together, they are largely noted for their differences. It is easy enough to compare the two based on their antimonies, but their similarities are in no way less interesting.

Their personal lives are largely the main area of concern when it comes to comparison between the two. The two of them were working towards something similar, but certainly through different routes, from impossibly different starting points. It might even be worth considering the two as polar opposites in everything but thought. The lifetimes and work of the two can be viewed as an inversed mirror image, pointing out the flaws, doubts and inherent truth revealed in each man and their bodies of work.

Moving Towards an Ideal: Cigarettes and Shapeshifting

As anyone interested in either literary figure will tell you, their incessant cigarette smoking was almost a hallmark of their lives. Looking at this habit shallowly might lead someone to deduce that the two, perhaps, had the same nerves, the same addiction and even developed the same habits to their lifestyles. However, looking at the evidence a little closer will reveal something much more profound and certainly more interesting when we try to nail down the history and personality of these men.

George Orwell’s CigarettesEdited image of George Orwell smoking and typing

Orwell would roll his own cigarettes. Now, that in of itself isn’t too telling, but when you consider that he used the cheapest British shag tobacco he could get his hands on, this becomes much more indicative of his personality.

Here was an officer, and educated man and a literary figure, smoking the same kind of tobacco as the poorest of the proletariat would choose, the same tobacco as smoked by the lowest ranking Tommies in the British armed forces. This comes as a clear indicator as to his political viewpoints, as well as with whom his sympathies typically laid – even if we were to ignore his body of work.

Albert Camus’ Cigarettes

Image of Albert Camus smoking Camus, meanwhile, coming as he did from a poor background and only managed to achieve an education because of his natural aptitude for it (as can be seen from his semi-autobiographical works including The First Man), always felt like an outsider.

He was desperate to be seen as part of the literary, cultures intelligentista of Paris, in much the same way that Sartre was. So, when he smoked, he ignored the kind of shag his family would have smoked in Algeria, and instead chose to smoke Gauloises, a particular brand of pre-packaged, unfiltered cigarette which was particularly popular throughout the French artistic community.

What did Their Cigarettes Mean to Them?

Both of these men chose their cigarettes carefully, as a direct contrast to their past and upbringing. For Orwell, his tobacco was a way to show solidarity with the British working class, in stark contrast to his fairly comfortable middle-class upbringing, his public-school education and even his role in the Imperial Police force.

Camus, meanwhile, was looking to escape his working-class origins and find comfort in the literary scene of which his favoured cigarettes were an important part. They could both be said to feel uneasy in their worlds, having had to shapeshift from their upbringing and even their natural forms into something that they actually want to be. Their cigarettes were both an ingredient in their shapeshifting. To some degree, they could be said to hold this transformation together; a daily reminder of their ability to shift and change as required.

Camus’ and Orwell’s Consumption

Both Orwell and Camus were afflicted by tuberculosis in different ways. Orwell himself was, naturally, a sickly man by all accounts. His entire life, he was plagued by vague illnesses, aches and pains which seriously impacted his view of the world in negative ways. It is hardly a surprise that he became, by all accounts, something of a pessimistic person to be around, and it is clear in many cases that his attitudes were heavily influenced by his myriad illnesses. Although it is not presented in the clear way that Camus presents his illnesses, Orwell’s entire attitude is – at times – indicative of someone suffering from a thousand minor ailments, illnesses and irritations.

Camus, as I just mentioned, was far more overt in the role that his physical health played in his literature, philosophies and his entire outlook on life. Although ruggedly healthy as a young man, blessed with the natural healthy physique so common in the poor Algerian community at the time, when he was 17 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. This diagnosis then went on to have a long-lasting effect throughout his life. For example, he often refused to go swimming with Simone de Beauvoir due to fears over his failing lungs. It was much more overt in his literary musings and prose style than that of his counterpart in this case.

His description of the almost fugue state that Meursault inhabits in L’Étranger bore a high level of similarity to his early descriptions of the symptoms prevalent from tuberculosis, of which he would have been intimately familiar. Of course, without the balance of Camus’ overriding absurdity (to my mind, I can’t recollect a single instance when TB created a mindset in which murder, even murder with something of a racial component, seemed appropriate).

Camus and Orwell Meeting Their End

It is almost ironic that the two should meet their ends in such alternative ways. Albert Camus, diagnosed with consumption at 17 and obsessed with the concept of his own illness throughout his life, would escape the clutches of his sickness whilst Orwell, who spent his life blatantly refusing to acknowledge even the concept of his own mortality, should succumb. It is hardly a surprise that the illness killed Orwell, ill through much of his life and certainly having suffered much throughout the Spanish Civil War, his time in the Imperial Police and whilst Down and Out in Paris and London. In fact, I would be confident in arguing that it was Orwell’s illness which gave his ultimate work, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, the desperation it possessed and reinforced the hopelessness which permeates the entire novel.

Camus, despite his twenty-year obsession with his own illness, was fortunate enough (if we are to measure fortune in such ways) to avoid the agonising end that Orwell met with some years previously. Albert Camus was killed in an automobile accident which he could have easily avoided. In fact, he had a train ticket in his pocket which would have enabled him to avoid the car trip altogether.

If only he had elected to travel with his family on the train, rather than rely on the skills of his publicist behind the wheel, he might have gone on to finish The First Man, his semi-autobiographical work about his childhood in Algeria, or his incomplete posthumously published novel A Happy Death. Perhaps it suits Camus – his death; to have something so normal, so mundane take away the life of a prolific philosopher, writer and essayist must have been preferable to the wasting disease which wracked Orwell’s last days.


I hope you found this interesting, because I certainly did. I’m leaning towards writing more small stuff like this, just covering interesting little parts of people’s lives which might otherwise go larger overlooked. There are a few sites which have mentioned their connection in passing, but I thought it might be worth going into a little more detail about it.

Anyway, if this isn’t really your type of thing, go and check out some of the *cough cough* poetry *cough cough* that I’ve uploaded before; A Red Dress, Bluebird and A Very Gentle Suicide aren’t too bad.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more prose-based, there’s my recent short stories Battery Tea-Lights and Like Ravaged Porcelain. There are also a load of free novellas you can check out on my Smashwords page, if you feel so inclined.

Swearing in Italian

Swearing in Italian

I spend my days wrestling with angels,
gripping and grappling;
I am regularly surprised by the amount of Mumford & Sons
played in the coliseums of Heaven;
what wars are empty wrestling rings;
nothing is so loud as the echoes
from empty stone seats flirting
with the skeletons of lions
and cannibals about the crucifix – licking their lips.

I spend my nights framing invisible scars,
with expensive ink from Rialto
and granting the same privilege
to mad doodles;
and only saliva or turpentine can bleach
the skin back to sweat only
the crushed bodies of purple leaves
can make the wiry hairs regrow;
like rat’s fur unrolling on the floor
of a shaded glass idol merchants’
swearing in Italian
with an honest smile.


This was something I wrote almost two years ago, while drunk in Venice. I’d spent most of the day walking around the city, admiring the streets and the canals. I stood on the same bridge that Byron did, surrounded by tourists with cameras and selfie sticks. It kind of ruined the mysticism of the whole thing, and what romanticism there was left there became nearly impossible to hear amongst the footsteps and chattering in a dozen languages.

Anyway, my latest novella, The Burden, is up on Smashwords, if you fancy something vaguely miserable and fairly existential to read. It deals with some issues I have around depression and identity and what the cost of any kind of mental treatment actually is on the individual. 

If you’re not in the mood for something quite so mentally-taxing, as it were, then check  out some of the other stuff I’ve written over the years like the short poems For Hannah;A Red Dress or Bluebird. And, as always, everything you see on the left is completely free.

Ghost

Ghost

S;

here comes your ghost again through the wall
wailing. The scars in the meat of your arm,
beneath spectral skin, catch on the iron nails
that hold up your art and make you scream
and pull away the muscle itself. With
scrabbling fingers, hooked claws, puncturing
the air like talons howling, disturbing,
disturbing my sleep and burning, burning,
burning the air itself with formless lungs
of rotten space that exhale tobacco cider
smoke. Nameless ghoul, wearing
another’s face come to take my soul
as I sleep.

To think,
that you return to me now a memory
rising from unfamiliar streets, when I
dreaming of chaining you and your
ghost beneath familiar flagstones
bloated, billowing through cracks
in the very stone; to smile and recall
crying at the sight as you drive
spikes from the railway through my
eyes and the bookshelves of pages
of half-forgotten verse turning
about you and I had nothing,
nothing else to stumble and
support myself against, along,
than the dream of a heart never
beating in time
with mine.

Of nightmares,
talk honestly about depression though
honesty doesn’t come honestly to us or
the gas of your breasts and your
thighs half-hidden in the shadows
cast by a dozen men’s eyes, and lips
and fingers but never mine though
they trembled and made the air shudder
in passion that left me sweat and
empty breathlessness
around the vowels of my affection,
trembling bookstore dancing and
blinding tears and scars on terrified
arms, and love.


So, I’m expecting to get my next novella in the Broken Polemic series out within the next week or two – make sure you keep an eye out for that. If you want to catch up (not that they’re necessarily essential for understanding, but they might help) then follow the link above. For more poetry, why not take a peek at Bluebird, or All These Words? I also recently wrote a short opinion piece on religion and atheism, A Gangrenous Limb, so you might find that interesting as well.

On Passion

On Passion

Mightn’t it make more sense to spill my passions out upon the floor,
Than direct it in meaningless frustration at these hollow keys,
And the clicking clatter of their tombstone impact upon the white-page door –
To ignore the lure of life’s great, dreadful typewriting ink seas,
And its prison-cell freedom;
And simply live?
Simply love?
Simply wear my knees to a ragged mess as I crawl to your apartment door,
Or to the door of your family home in the Northern night?

To ignore the maddening pulse of drug-dealing conversation’s lure
And the threatening theatre of post office robberies in the half-light,
And the smoking meth addicts outside the body of our Queen?
To ignore the bitter rain sweeping cold and frost from the ground
And into my freshly-shaven jaw
And my conscience stinging like a needle
In the pit of my throat and the back of my stomach?

Am I not to fall in love, in a moment, with the girl
Who rescued a ladybird on a drunken bus as I rolled with the ocean,
From the depths of disturbing slumber to weary wakefulness?
Am I not to love the waitress with gleaming eyes,
Whose smile makes my meal taste of ash?
Am I not to love the artist, for a moment,
Nervously expressing her passions and hearing nothing
But the practicality of HTML 5 in return?

Am I not to love the women,
Who refuse to dance but instead sit and drink and stare
And long and mock those who rename themselves
In their public self-loathing,
After talentless Shakespeare melds and acts
And dreams from the nights of Midwinter?

Oh, me; Am I not to love?
Am I not to love at all?

Am I to resent passion as a foreign body,
And resent orgasm for residing within the thoughts of your foreign body,
And hold affection in disgust as a weakness not a strength,
A weakness birthed from olive overhangs beneath the Italian sun and ignorant
Of Roman ambition and Venetian Titian artistry?
Am I to read of love and mark it down and return to the underground bars
Which have been my home and hope to see you once again
And know that you exist and that you are happy,
Or unhappy,
Or spitting out your happiness with shots of absinthe that ceased to work their magic long ago.
Are you to spend your weekend with vampires?
Am I to spend mine with ghosts?

The metal road screams with electricity, moaning
beneath the midnight summer streetlights.

 

The moon is on fire.


If you liked this, why not check out some of my other writing? For poetry, why not take a look at Bluebird, A Red Dress or All These Words? For opinion, check out my latest essay on Atheism and morality – A Gangrenous Limb. If you’re looking for prose, you can always follow this link to my Smashword‘s page, or click on any of the covers to your left (at the bottom on mobile devices).

All These Words

All These Words

And all these words are an act of vomit,
of feeling the soul pulse in the stomach and spit;
all these words like black bile raindrops on a white porcelain page

And all memory of the moment is replaced with the aftermath,
and the harsh pleasures of endless revulsion become apologies
and concerns and damage control.

And all these words are an act of vomit,
of feeling the soul shudder in the gut and spit;
all these words fading in the fluorescent light reflected from the tarnished drain.

And all things recorded are as nothing,
and all words that make the heartbeat faster or slower are a lie;
all things are a falsity.

And the nightmares come so easily now,
and the language of my dreams changed from English to Latin
and German outcries of hate.

And all these words are an act of vomit,
of knowing the soul revolving in the bladder,
all these words getting out of the body in any way they can.

And I’ve seen you, S, in my dreams,
and walking through the streets of Liverpool and shivering from the Mersey,
and rolling your eyes in fever.

And there is no madness on the minds of my generation,
and there is nothing naked about our confessions,
and there is no honesty in our self-portraits.

And all these words are an act of vomit,
of knowing the heat and bitterness of creation;
all these words getting stuck in the throat and exploding.

And that I were who I am,
and that all these words might blossom from my skin,
and my hair would be replaced with flowerings;
my sweat with the scent of grass.

And all these words were, once, the act of vomit;
and now they’re a memory of Rorschach ink on plastic;
of knowing the act of creation for a moment, and the dullness of maintenance;
and waiting for the shivering pipes to carry the water up the first floor
and washing my art away.


Last night, Saturday the 23rd of April, 2016, I got incredibly drunk. The drunkest and most obnoxious I’ve been in a long time. I woke up this morning wretched and retching and naked to the waist on a pile of old clothes next to my bed. I feel incredibly guilty and I’m not sure why. I’d like to say the being pissed makes me a great poet, or writer of some ability, but I’m pretty sure that’s a lie. Anyway, if you want to read something that I didn’t write whilst massively hungover, why not check out some recent poetry of mine, like Coal Carthage, Bluebird or A Red Dress. You can also head on over to Smashwords, and download some of my long form writing for free.

9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

Consuming literature is one of the greatest joys in my life, from self-published, modern authors to the literary classics. Similarly, I like reading a traditional paperback as much as I enjoy more interactive fiction.

Fairly hypocritically, I’m not that big a fan of eBooks really, although I’ll definitely read them if I can’t get a hand on a physical copy. Hell, I think the first eBook I ever bought was “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”, and that was only because I needed it for a class later that day.

I’m often criticised by friends of mine for my reading list, and it’s rare that I’ll read something by someone who’s still alive – although if I do see an independent eBook that looks interesting, I’ll always at least read the free portion.

So, rather than just go through all the writers that I already like, and focus on learning more about their work, I thought I’d go through the list of authors that I haven’t started to read yet, but are sitting firmly on my to-do shelf.

Top 9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

Now, these aren’t authors that have risen to fame at any point over the last few years, but they are authors that I want to have read before the end of the year. I’ll admit, I’ve not made much reading progress so far, (I’ve been more focused on reading back through Camus, Miller and Bukowski), but I will do!

James BaldwinJames Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor

Born in 1924, Baldwin was one of the US’ leading sociological and political writers, particularly in his dealings with race and sexuality. His essays are the stuff of legend, particularly his first collection Notes Of A Native Sun.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to approach his work, but I think I’m probably going to start with the infamous Sonny’s Blues, which is a regular appearance in a range of introductory anthologies to American literature.

George Gissing

An English novelist born in 1857, Gissing was the mind behind several great works of English Literature, including New Grub Street and The Nether World. New Grub Street, in fact, was named the 28th best novel by the Guardian some years ago, and it’s been on my reading list ever since.

Gissing has never been a hugely popular Victorian writer, but he has since been applauded for his brutal look at Victorian literary life.

 

Walter ScottWalter Scott Novel Cover

One of the most famous Scottish writers of all time, Walter Scott’s diverse range of novels and poetry are still read by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Some of the most well-known include Rob Roy, The Lady Of The Lake, The Heart Of Midlothian and Waverley.

His influence can still be seen throughout Edinburgh and Scotland. Addressing both contemporary (at the time) and historical Scottish issues, much of Scott’s writing was done in a post-bankrupt haste as he tried to keep his creditors away.

James Hogg

Another Scottish poet and novelist who was actually a James Hogg Novel Coverclose friend of Walter Scott. His most well-known work is The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner but his long-form poem The Queen’s Wake was also extremely popular.

His literary work was acclaimed during his life, mostly due to his ability to overcome his humble origins and make a success of his writing without any benefits supplied by high-birth or inherited money. He was regarded as a man of great intellect, albeit he was a little brusque and often offensive.

Simone de Beauvoir

Certainly one of the most well-known names on this list, de Beauvoir was a feminist existentialist and close compatriot of the French existentialism school. She was also widely known as a result of her open relationship with the philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre.

Although I will eventually get around to reading her well known 1949 treatise on feminism, The Second Sex, I am more interested in her fictional work including The Blood Of Others.

Nicholson Baker

Widely regarded as an experimental novelist, the idea behind The Mezzanine is what draws me to this author. The entire novel takes place in an escalator ride, but every page is dedicated to addressing certain parts of the ride with maddening detail.

As someone who has previously been accused of talking about the details too much, the idea is fascinating to me.

Johnny CashJohnny Cash Novel

Yeah, the Cash. I’ve been a long-time fan of Cash’s music, but I found out a few months ago that he wrote a book called The Man In White. The title is clearly designed to reflect his own title, The Man In Black.

Although he is still widely considered one of the best musicians of the 20th century, I’m still kind of in two halves about this book. Trouble is, I’m hugely anti-religious, and The Man In White is a novel about St. Peter. I’ll still give it a try, but I’m not in too much of a rush to check it out.

Saul Bellow

Believed by many to be one of the 20th century’s greatest authors, I’m excited to start reading Bellow’s work. Some of the many themes in his work which appeal to me include modern civilisation’s ability to create a kind of materialistic madness, and how knowledge can be used to mislead people.

A friend of mine told me that Bellow’s work also contains themes of redemption, and promotes the strength of the human spirit.

Lu Xun

Although I’ve not read much Chinese literature (excepting the Romance of the Three Kingdoms) Lu Xun seems like an interesting author to me. In particular, his 1919 work ‘A Madman’s Diary’ looks particularly interesting. The entire narrative revolves around the writer’s fear of cannibalism, and how he sees it occurring around him.

Although it is all only paranoia, it seems like a fascinating idea to explore, particularly when considered in terms of society and capitalism.

Any Writers You Think I Should Reading?

I’m always on the lookout for new authors and poets to read, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’d especially like to know about any self-published authors that are pushing more experimental forms of literature, particularly any self-reflective, personal kind of writing.