Category Archives: erratic

rats

Sit, think. Come on now. Knit my fingers into knots, teeth press sharply into lips. I can feel you; I know you’re in there. Press a little harder. Push my fingers through my temples, force the point. I heard you last night, scratching round and scraping out. You kept me up half the night with your sickly wriggle and your girly giggle. Foot tapping, knees shaking. Where? No, not fair. Place a block of cheese on the keyboard, lean forward mouth open. Come on. Come out and play.

Prick my fingers, pull my hair, poke my eyes out with pointed sticks. I’m going crazy and it’s all your fault. I know you’re in there. Inside of my head worn down and round like an ice rink. All night long rats are skating on my cerebellum, around and around, razor sharp skates slicing and whirling. The things they say, oh! The lies, the terrible lies. They whisper and snicker and mutter and snigger. Lies, such horrible lies.

Sounds echo and jar inside my abused skull. I race up the absurdly jagged steps, the never ending stairs, through tiny creaking doors long since forgotten. A glimpse of rough grey fur, the skitter of filthy nails on concrete, just up ahead. Behind, below, then ahead. Who’s chasing who?

Round the corner, under, over, under, further under. Catch you by the tail. (I could be the farmer’s wife I’ll cut off your tail with a carving knife) Grip hard, both hands hanging on to your scaly appendage. Feel your wiry muscles tense and contract, no doubt your lips are curled up over yellowed teeth. We take off, you and I, helter skelter, slamming into walls, falling through holes in my head. Eyelids half closed, knuckles whitened and holding fast, ankles scraping over splintered floorboards. You show no signs of slowing.

Sometimes I can’t even breathe

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the long way

Lean forward, breath held. Will I survive the fall? It seems colder up here, the air thinned and stretched. Inhale sharply between clenched teeth, eyes narrowed into slits. I didn’t think it would come to this. A stone gargoyle leers suggestively, cold lips chiselled into a perpetual sneer. Everything is fast and slow all at once; traffic pulses in spurts like blood pumped through narrowed veins as somewhere an enormous mechanical heart squeezes and wheezes. Ragged grey clouds unfurl into dirty threads and do little to hide the shame smeared across the sky. Everywhere is the dense city stench of indifference.
Take one last look. Somewhere far from shore a tide has been building inside me. Little by little, fed on subterranean tremors, the eighty percent water trapped within thin skin swells into a slate grey tidal wave blindly careening forward. The roar of water fills my ears and spills out of my mouth as rage peaks and explodes, flinging me over the edge.
With unanticipated grace I carve a generous curve into the air. The tower offers me fragments of my reflection in its impassive eyes. One hundred blurry photos of my spiralling demise flash past. Perhaps this is why buildings are mirrored.
Bone weary and worn brittle thin I’m so very tired. My eyelids start closing; slicing through the smudged view of the vertical landscape I am hurtling past. The wind screeches sharply as I wince once and surrender.
The surface of the road arches up to meet me as though aching for impact. The tiny space between my softness and my end compresses ever smaller. The complex pattern of asphalt sprawls out into a kaleidoscope of black and grey.
I hit the ground and every cell reverberates with the impact, a single pure note that expands and swells to unbearable crescendo. Borrowed molecules once whirling girl shaped burst into pyrotechnic formation and for one millisecond, hold.

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swallowed, hollowed

There’s a snake in my belly. Wrapped tightly in upon itself, nestled in the tiny space between my intestines and my heart. I can look down and see the odd bulge it makes when it turns itself around, cat like, getting more comfortable on my pillowy innards.
I’ve slowly gotten used to its dry skin, the paper crackly sound it makes as it scales shimmer and scrape inside me. Every so often it languidly quizzes my internal machinations, pushing a flat snouted face into a lung or liver, sending a flickering tongue flitting over bones that shiver in response. Once or twice on the train I’ve been sent into full body tremors as snake’s oral examination of my interior have sent nerves uncontrollably rippling. As I pick myself up off the floor I mumble apologetically “I’m so sorry, it’s just that I’ve a snake in my belly”. I’ve even tried to let them feel it, as you would an encapsulated baby kicking.
For a while I felt sorry for it trapped in such dark, dank surroundings and took to standing outside with my mouth open on sunny days. I worried endlessly that my parasite might tire of the fare upon which it (by association) would be forced to dine, but no amount of lying face down on the floor teeth ajar would entice a tasty mouse to venture in and meet its doom.
And so we navigate these long days and longer nights, inseparable, indivisible. As I trawl the streets seeing enough for the both of us, snake ventures ever deeper into the other dark, beyond the lace of arteries, behind the veil of membranes and sees what I can not. Sometimes he reports back with a message scrawled on a train station bench, a stitch of half grasped conversation come undone, or the strains of music from another room. Always the same; just differently phrased. No sleep / No rest / No end / Just You and Me, My Love.
Some days, wearied by the walking of such treacherous mountain passes, I opt to stay tangled up in bed and ponder the babushka like arrangement we have here. If I was a doll you could break in half, you could lift out snake and break him apart too, finding forever smaller universes caged in progressively thinner walls. On these days snake makes use of the respite from the sloshing and joggling and dances in a most obscene fashion. He writhes, curls, ripples and side-winds his way into the depths of me and back again. When he really gets going its all I can do to lie as still as possible with my rib cage cantilevered open.
Snake is getting bolder. I sense his restlessness. His cave explorations have seen him span the continents inside of me but his curiosity is greater than my pink and red geography. He has poked and prodded his way through my history, fears and fear of history. He has licked the edges of my burnt sugar heart but still craves more.
I feel him heading north. Bulges appear in skin stretched tight across my sternum as his determined head forges its way ever forward. I lift my chin up as he ruptures my throat (my how he has grown) and an impossible amount of him chokes me. Politely leaving a straw width for air to screech in and out of, he presses on. If I open my mouth and look in the mirror I can see his bronze scales pulsating in the frame of my cracked lips. Pin pricks of fangs remind me not to double over at this crucial point. From my contorted position I look down expecting to see a now flatter belly. Not flatter. Still strange curves of my peculiar incubation. Did I grow another one?
Perhaps my snake is a she, not he, and is having her babies. I swell with maternal pride at the thought of our brood. I plan the nursery space inside my mouth, contemplating a quick repaint and some cute stencils. I listen for the pitter patter of tiny scales.
I’m mistaken. Snake is still a he. There is only one, and indeed how he has grown. What I thought was two was actually one, just extended to his new full height and rising fast. Grey matter is mashed against the coconut shell in my head as he fills space once occupied with the disarray of fractured thoughts and half remembrances. My temperature drops.
Perhaps I passed out, I cannot be sure. I find myself feeling as though finally waking up from a deep sleep. Drowsily my head swings down and I see my fingers splayed onto the floor in front of me. I squint as my eyes take in the fine tracery of scale pattern barely discernable through my cellophane skin. I’m still too deranged to notice that my eyelids are scissoring closed sideways. My nostrils flare as I sense on a level I am not used to. The reek of People assaults and overwhelms me. Slowly, slowly I wobble onto my feet, suddenly unsure of the mechanics of it all. It takes a moment to co-ordinate this strange amalgam of limbs. Do I really need this many fleshy protuberances? So un-economic. So hard to control.
Hips sway as joints express a new proclivity for sideways motion. I sashay my way with surprising grace from side to side. Leaning forward, I grip the door handle with my teeth and pull. An arm flops out unexpectedly. What on earth are those fleshy sticks for anyway?
A stumble, tumble, collapse and regroup later we are out on the street. This uprightness is vexing. How will we know what is approaching if we can’t feel the warning vibrations through the skin of our stomach? The forked tongue flickers out again, tasting the air. Our nostrils clench at the wretchedness of the air around us. Those people taste like a perverse combination of filth and misery. And they’re so moist.

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insectoria

There’s a monstrously large, black, hairy-legged spider crawling out of my ear. I’m sitting as still as possible, suppressing the urge to scream as first two, then four, then more legs blindly explore the contours of my earlobe, cheekbone and hairline. Stroking in a way that is more sinister than tender, these legs take their time negotiating the soft terrain of my cheek. The body duly follows the legs and soon enough I am eyeball to many eyes with a spider the size of an oven mitt. I only briefly ponder the enormity of the beast that has emerged from the rather small hole on the side of my head before its eight legs contract, digging into my flesh. With surprising alacrity it tenses then springs most acrobatically into the air and onto the floor. The creature scuttles away the way only an enormous spider can. I lose sight of it somewhere in the vicinity of the wardrobe. The scene is replayed in agonising detail as a parade of spiders in depreciating proportions make a similar exit from my horridly startled head. A single crystal tear escapes, wetting my frozen cheek as the last of them skitters out.

I pause for a moment to reflect. My first instinct is to liberally apply oven cleaner to every orifice of my body. I shudder as I remember the rasping, coarse hairiness of their bodies and the polished obsidian sheen of their many impenetrable eyes.

My reminiscing is cut short by a sudden rumbling feeling in my stomach. What feels like a sick kind of tickling rapidly intensifies. My stomach is in knots, and the writhing spreads. There is little I can do but hang on. My internal architecture tenses and my hands grip tightly to the arms of the chair. A sighing sound escapes my lips as my insides explode up into my mouth. It is now that I am aware that I am vomiting cockroaches. Thousands of them. I involuntarily shudder and slump in turns as wave after wave of seething black cascades out of my mouth and onto my lap, the table and the floor.

As quickly as they came, they disappear, dissolving into the cracks in the floorboards. I gingerly extend my tongue out conscious that there might be stragglers. The interior of my mouth feels strangely cavernous in comparison, as though the filthy tidal wave has eroded my oral outlet into a vast and expansive canyon. I politely cough up a collection of amputated legs and antennae.

Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Time scrawls out on the clock looming above me in irrational slowness. I feel paralysed, alarmed by what has just happened, terrified by what might happen next. Was it something I ate?

Shortly into my review of possible dietary infractions that could have led to such a literal outpouring, I am aware of what seems to be a buzzing sound. Quietly at first, but developing with rapidity into a voluble humming, I am very attentive to the fact that the sound is inside, not outside my head. My teeth are vibrating in time with the strangely mechanical chorus that rises in both volume and pitch to agonising heights. In what must approximate the feeling of balloons at the point of over inflation, internal pressure compresses the back of my eyeballs, and swells my eardrums. Dials spin madly as critical point is reached and breached by the epic sawing sound. There is an almost imperceptible pause as my head tilts back slightly, followed by an enormous whirring sound and the squeal of compressed air. Bees. Erupting out of my nose. Some project out with velocity and double back to hover in storm cloud density around my head. Others exit a nostril with less explosive power and busy themselves crawling on the rapidly diminishing topography of my face. In the few seconds that manage to feel like eternity, they group into precise formation. With hive mindedness to rival even the most consciously communist, they surge forward in an obscene wave of yellow and black and launch themselves out the window. The net curtain flitters gently in the breeze and then relaxes. The once overwhelming buzzing is replaced by a silence of primordial enormity.

And then, nothing.

I cautiously extend a foot, wriggle my torpid limbs and try to entice blood back into my extremities. Is it over? Is what over? What exactly was that anyway? I peer from my chair at my surrounds and can find no trace of the hordes, swarms or hosts of insects that just exited my face. A light tapping on my forehead produces no rattling sound. The only physical evidence remaining is the eerie hollowness. It’s also quiet. So very quiet.

Gradually I am able to unfold myself out of the furniture. Something mechanical takes over and I shuffle forward in a most ungainly fashion. I am vaguely aware of a numbness that spreads through me. An invisible skin has spread over my body, some kind of perfectly tailored cocoon. A rapidly receding sense of shock registers as the rubbery coating enters the previously hollowed out portals and proceeds to drown my insides.

And now, even less than nothing.

In my perfectly pliable yet peculiarly impenetrable state I gaze through the honey film clinging to my eyeballs out of the window. Turning my head to survey the now slightly yellowed vista takes aeons, every movement languidly lethargic. I note with nothing even remotely approximating surprise the word written with fine penmanship in cloud ink on an impossibly blue sky; “Shhh”. I blink dreamily and the clouds reform into “You belong to us now”.

Hmm, Ok. In severe slow motion I reel from the window.

Hours that could have been days that may have been weeks pass as I, encased in the ever present jelly drowsily navigate. Every so often a slightly uncomfortable feeling will penetrate my head and a feeble spark ignites inside my now pudding filled skull; “This isn’t me”. The change doesn’t go entirely unnoticed; every so often from the mouths of people I dimly remember knowing will issue unintelligible garble approximating “she’s much more pleasant this way”.

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just until the end of the chapter

armchair worn down in all the right places
corners of blanket curled around tongue like and hugging
pillows precisely placed
quiet, oh so quiet
and still

bubble of lamplight moored to the windowsill
the clock ticking
2, 3
the pages turning
2, 3
the years passing
2, 3

old friends stacked up in dusty corners
I remember when

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no words

I love you. The words scratch like dry leaves scuttling across your drive way concrete.
I miss you. Sighs collect under your living room sofa.
I need you. Feelings stacked neatly in your over filled bookshelf.

You are dying. Scrawled across your face. Held in your hands. Lodged between my teeth.

You are in pain. Hung on your protruding bones. Pinned to your sagging collar. Cut into my trembling heart.

I am afraid. Billows like smoke in cold air. Crowds our conversations. Glass half empty.

I am… Sorry. Lost. In pieces. Upside down. Inside Out.

You are dying. We are all dying.

You are dying now.

You struggle. You fight. You cry. You curse. You laugh about it. You sleep and dream and wake up. You dream of sleeping and not waking up. You sigh. My eyes are burning. For you, for me.

I hold your hand inside my hand. Your fingers rather slender, hands a little cold. Piano players hands. You could have been – (no more no more no I can’t go on)

I love you. Tears escape the netting of your kitchen curtains.
I miss you. Frowns heaped on the chaos of your kitchen bench.
I need you. Packed into your drawers.
I love you. Folded away with your clothes.

You tell me about the treatment. The drugs. The chemotherapy. The doctors, the nurses. The poking the prodding the morphine dreams the cutting the screaming the bleeding the praying the pain the dying the dying the dying, oh god, you’re dying.

You tell me about your garden. Your Aloes. Your African Violets. You cut back the Grevillea, you watered the pots, you put that out for some sun, you think they will start to flower in a few weeks. You crushed Rosemary in your hands for me to smell. I wonder what will happen to all this when I am gone. A sharp stone shaped from pain presses down on my tongue, cuts my mouth to ribbons.

You tell me about your old job. You worked six nights a week, always overtime. Lighting guy in a gay club. Couldn’t have been more perfect. Everybody’s darling. Six nights a week. You worked in spite of the chemo, in spite of the headaches, the pain and the nausea. You didn’t tell anyone when your legs nearly gave way when you were half way up a ladder. You made them look beautiful, made the light shine on them. Those were the best days. (said as your mind flicks through all the pretty party pictures)

We go to the park. Cupcakes, tarts and cake from the bakery. Lime sodas. (later I will feel sick from all the artificial colouring). We brought so much sweet food even though you have no appetite for anything these days. You show me your favourite trees, the roses, the bandstand, the birds, the view of the river. You come here most days. Walking slowly, you are out of breath. Sitting on the bench, you adjust position frequently as pain courses through your back. Isn’t the view beautiful? I want my ashes scattered here, at my favourite part of the park. My eyes trace the fragile curves of your face as I try to block out the image of you crumbling to dust.

If I could only hold fast to you, trap you here in this moment, lock you into my heart, but the ground is giving way, the tide is rising and the current is too fast. You are already receding, one step closer to the edge of the horizon. Maybe the world isn’t round after all.

How much longer?

I don’t know. Depends on how much more I can take. Some days are better than, others. Some days I just want *
I’ve thought about it. If my toes have to be amputated, I draw the line at that. No way. Or if I get pneumonia. I’m not going through that. Some days I think I will *
I’m not sure. I talked to my doctor. The cancer has spread right through me, lungs, intestines, everywhere. Then there are the lesions. On my face, my body, even inside me. It’s not HIV anymore, its AIDS.
It’s the final stage, the last leg of the race, the closing act in the show now darling.
My doctor has been good. He said that *
I know that I could *
But
Mum can’t stand the thought of it. It would be too much for her.
Too much for her to bear
But
I don’t want to turn into a *
Not be able to take care of *
Go through more *
But
Someone has already said that they would be with me, that they’d be there, when the time came
When the time came

*insert sound of screaming

He laughed and said that there was no dignity in death.
I want to be there when the time comes. So you do not have to be alone. So you know I love you. So I don’t have to be alone.

We’re sitting next to each other, but we’re both alone with this moment. You’ve already got one foot over the line.

I love you. The words swirl out on the water.
I miss you. Words turn yellow as the seasons change.
I need you. Words carried away with the breeze.
I love you. The sky darkens.
I miss you. We both turn to look at where you want your ashes scattered.
I miss you already.

It’s time to go now. The park lights have spasmed on and the air has a chill. We pack up the uneaten cakes. You tell me how here in Brisbane the sun sets quickly, it just drops from the sky and then it all becomes dark so suddenly. I say: yes, so it has.

(I’m so sorry. I’m sorry mother, I didn’t mean for it to be this way.)

We walk back to your house. You are a little dizzy, a little weak. The stairs are an issue. Little things become big things. Speech is laboured. Holding on tighter to the hand rail. We’ll wait for the lights at the crossing. You’re feeling the cold more these days.

(It hurts, no more it hurts, it hurts)

Open up the door to your house. You lower yourself down onto the couch. I put the kettle on for tea. Turn on the tap to do the dishes next to the sink. You go to protest, but I cut you off with a half joke. We both know.

(Sometimes I sleep for days)

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la reina roja

There is no way to describe it. It’s a fever that spreads over you that makes you want to turn your back on everything you know and on everything you hold dear at home. It makes you stumble through an unfamiliar language and it overwhelms you with a kaleidoscope of clashing colours and sensations. It creeps into your dreams and screams at you at night in the voices of macaques tearing fruit from heavy branches.

There is something particularly other worldly about this place. Your senses sharpen as your ears strain to cope with the overload. There is always music here, so much music. Even in the middle of this rainforest, there is the music of water on rocks and branches creaking in spirit filled breezes. As you bend your head to step through the tiny doorway carved from not so silent rock you feel the shift in temperature and your skin prickles. You imagine how this place must have looked at the time that she was buried here, resplendent in cinnabar and a cold malachite mask. In the surrounding chambers are the skeletons of those sacrificed to accompany her, to accompany her bright red bones.

A rainforest queen in the jungle city of Palenque. Decorated in hand beaten Mayan gold and feathers she would pray as a man’s blood was spilt before her that the sated sun might rise anew. Her slender slippered feet would trace familiar paths on hand hewn stone steps as she walked from the temple in a haze of smoke.
She would laze away the midday heat here at the waterfalls, right where I was standing, camera dangling from one hand, transfixed in the amber warmth of the filtered sun light. The tiny eye of my camera was never big enough for the vastness of Mexico, could never quite capture the thousands of years of violence and splendour that your feet could sense through the vibrations of the very unquiet ground.

Back at El Panchan, I left my camera on my bed and shrugged off the extra clothing. It wasn’t particularly hot, but here even my skin wanted to drink this strange country, to interface between the thickened air and my gelatinous insides, pulsing to a new rhythm. I walked between the peculiar cabins erupting out of the ground in haphazard formations. El Mono was dwarfed by the larger constructions of El Jaguar and La Estrella, but I’d been won over by the thought of a room to myself. Past the tangled washing lines and fading flags the path disintegrated into a dirt track over grown with frenzied vines and I had been told that once the sun went down to beware the scorpions and tarantulas.

There was something strange about the plant life here. Vines grew in earnest on every vertical object, supple tendrils winding up captive trees as they crept and climbed, strangled then suffocated. Ginger flowers erupted in flame red flowers, their perfume permeating the heady dank wetness of the rainforest. Even when the sun dropped out of the afternoon sky and slumped like a cracked egg on the horizon they blazed with their own heat.

I listened for the sound of the nearby river. I wanted to dangle my legs in the current, to feel crystal water from limestone caves slip under the arches of my feet aching from walking. The afternoon light was hazy and perhaps I should have turned back to the cabins but a strange sensation compelled me to persist sliding through the undergrowth. Low branches whipped at my hair and scratched my shins, but still I went forward, towards the sound of water.

I could no longer see the cabins behind me as I crawled through a maze of fleshy calla lilies to the edge of the river. There was a pool, deeper than I expected, and small islands of river smoothed rocks broke the water flow. I took off my shoes and tip toed to the water’s edge, stepping delicately through the shallows to the closest rocks.

Water like ice spread agonisingly over my toes and sent a flash of pain through my legs. I gritted my teeth and stood still as ever so slowly the shock gave way to numbness. As my muscles uncoiled I could feel my heat dissipating and dissolving in the water that lapped around my startled feet.

From my perch on the rock I could look down into the pool, black with the detritus of a thousand seasons. I remembered reading something about crocodiles and I shivered inwardly at the thought of one golden eye slicing lazily open to gaze up at my sun pinked skin.

I crouched down and stared into the shiny blackness, my trousers rolled to the knees. As I rocked back and plunged my feet into the pool, air compressed through my constricted throat wheezed out in a strangled scream. My ankles, the soles of my feet, the spaces between my toes, the taught skin of my calves protested in pain. I inhaled through a straw hole sucking warmth through my mouth as the water tore heat from my sun seared legs.

Slowly, very slowly, it became bearable. As convulsions of shock subsided and my palms flattened beside my thighs I leant back and let the last of the early evening light stroke my upturned face. I was drowsy from the day’s exertions and felt myself unravel in the current. It was all so much to take in, I felt so saturated from the past few days. My mind slowly disintegrated into the sounds of the forest shrugging off the heat of the day and awakening to the electricity of the night.

I thought about her tiny funerary crypt, walled in with imposing slabs of stone dragged by a thousand hands. She would have watched it emerge from the ground, take shape and cast shadows over her. She would know that they would lay her shrouded body inside it and seal the entrance. She would have her ceremonial axes and bone needles, the incense censers and her coronet of jade. In the dark she would glow red with cinnabar and spices as eventually her flesh decayed and crumbled into dust.

Water eddied around the backs of my knees, seeping into my rolled trousers. The hairs on my arms prickled as cool evening air swayed splayed branches and licked silvering leaves. Imminent night loomed impatiently and from the corners of my heavily lidded eyes dark streaks darted ever closer.

I looked down at my legs disappearing into the inky water. If I leant forward far enough I could see my face reflected in the obsidian sheen. It must have been the light but my face had a soft red glow. I stretched my neck and leaned closer to the surface, my breath making tiny ripples. My undulating reflection distorted and reformed as I held my exhalation inside myself. Red. So strangely red. I leaned a tiny bit further forward and slid head first into the freezing black mirror.

Its cold, very cold. A bubble of trapped air sits like a pearl on my tongue as the circle of light on the surface recedes. The pool opens into a cave as I sink unprotesting for so very long. Water weighs heavily and my hair is wrapped in a tangled nest around my head. I feel so tired.

She’s telling me to rest, to have a little sleep. I’ve come so far.

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