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seven silver buttons
13 January 2009 @ 01:08 am
this is where i'm mainly writing now:
seven silver buttons
20 October 2008 @ 12:41 pm

in summer, the clothes can soften and curl in the wind back to their original shape. now they dry under synthetic heat. though some clothes have warped and stiffened they look beautiful too; scraps of pink and red underwear confettied all over the place, vast avalanches of white hanging over the bath, and clear, glossy tights sliding from the back of a chair into a pool of yellow light on the floor.
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seven silver buttons
19 February 2008 @ 05:00 pm
i caught my reflection in the french door on the way out to the kitchen; the scarlet of my dressing-gown and the angle of my stoop. from where i was standing it seemed like a ballerina bending to her point shoes, tying and re-tying those painful ribbons over cracked feet. the dancer blanched and then was swallowed by the glut of shameful light.
seven silver buttons
19 February 2008 @ 05:00 pm
i can feel the leaves swirl restlessly about my feet. solaced by this simple design, this wild autumnal flash, i can forget my sorrow. it is grey here most of the time,
seven silver buttons
13 November 2007 @ 06:41 pm
What’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted?

The candles were so bright. Nancy winced under the light and thought of her most cherished dinner. Her first husband had been a butcher of course and he was an excellent chef. He wooed her with his blood puddings; she loved the way the black fat cracked under the grill and oozed just a little. The delicate shards of bonemeal that gave it grit.

Truffle oil I guess.

The girl just over the way was wearing an enormous black ballgown that was totally out of style. She sat down and smoothed it over her seat with enormous satisfaction. Nancy wished suddenly she were facing the other way.

Truffle oil? That’s unusual.

Nancy could tell by the way that he said it he had something far more unusual to tell her, that he was merely paving the way for one of his stories. She poured herself a little more wine.

No my glass is still full.
I mean what about your most interesting meal?
That’s a different question entirely.

The girl had two gold balloons in the shape of stars attached to her chair; the table was covered in gifts gift-wrapped in the same kind of foil. The girl had a bunch of flowers in her hand. It was a bunch of black roses. You could get seeds for them in mail order catalogues but it wasn’t certain in this climate. Maybe they were flown in. an aeroplane full of flowers comes every day to certain florists. Maybe she was going away. But her face was so young; she must have been having a birthday.

Excuse me are you ready to order?
Can we have a few more minutes please…
Another bottle of wine please.

He couldn’t see in the blaze of the candles that she wasn’t looking at him at all but rather at the girl behind him. He looked as though he was thinking very deeply about how best to begin his story. He dropped his answer between them with some gravitas, his glasses quivering slightly under the vibration of his voice.


She had been sitting there for about ten minutes now. She had finished a long pink cocktail that fizzed. She looked around it must have been for her friends. A waitress saw and sashayed across in her pin heels and up-do. She took the order. It was for another cocktail that fizzed but this time in green.

I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.

His face weakened a little. He ran a hand through his failing hair. He knew she must have heard him. He reached for the last of his wine. It stained his teeth but she had insisted on red.

Gold. The best thing I’ve ever tasted is gold.

The waitress returned with their second bottle of wine and poured a miniscule amount in each of their glasses before reaching inside her oversized pocket for a pad. They were ready to order. Despite their conversation they ordered two plain steaks and a dish of roast potatoes to share. Nancy toyed with the idea of winter greens and finally settled on a Waldorf salad. She took the bottle and added a healthy amount to each glass in spite of his protestations. When the waitress withdrew the girl became visible once more and was now drinking something dark purple and steaming. She was caressing the gifts through the paper and holding the shiny objects close to her face, rattling them and trying to guess their contents.

I would imagine that it tastes awful, hard and bitter. How can it be the best thing you’ve tasted?
My friends were in the chemistry class, they knew how to dilute it to make it taste good. I swear it.
I don’t believe you, it’s the idea of it you enjoyed, like the idea of champagne or truffle oil, it’s the opulence that appeals, not the object itself.
No, that’s not it at all, it really was exquisite.

Nancy was annoyed by the conversation. He invariably told these stories, and they were invariably lies. She could not bear to listen to his explanation, but neither could she bear the guilty silence that would follow if she didn’t. Their waitress returned with their charred steaks. She was not a pleasant girl and the plates were set heavily down, sweating with vegetables that Nancy had not ordered. He didn’t notice; he was looking at the waitress’s legs.

One of the girl’s balloons had come loose from its moorings somehow and floated towards the ceiling. It might be that she did it on purpose. She looked peaky in that vast velvet ballgown, her childish features dampened by the excess of black. Signalling for water she looked past the waiter for her friends. Unable to wait any longer she tore at one of the presents and gasped when she revealed a yellow-gold tiara. It was almost the shape of a cardboard crown and must have been some kind of cleverly disguised plastic. It was cheaply made and would not sit comfortably on her head. The heavy Viking plaits she had wound around her ears bulged beneath it.

How’s your steak?

Vile. If we have to discuss eating can you please continue with your story?

He perked up, drained his glass uncharacteristically and mopped his salad dressing up with garlic bread. It was disgusting to watch.

Well we were talking one day about how…

Nancy could not believe it; the man who had sat next to the birthday girl was pushing sixty. Surely her grandfather? Surely not her father? He rescued her balloon and with a practised flick called the waitress with the pin heels over evidently asking for a vase and two more drinks. A man of sixty drinking pink champagne!

His story wound inexorably on to the conclusion, she did not even nod but lit a cigarette and bowed her head beneath the smoke. He took this for concentration. Every time she glanced across to the girl and her grandfather he thought she seemed particularly animated. He smiled and allowing himself a delicious glimpse at the stockinged legs of the waitress he ordered their third bottle of red.

The girl was decidedly tipsy now and her crown had slipped entirely to one side of her head. They had decided to skip most of their courses and were sharing an enormous layered sundae scored with golden sparklers.

She really shouldn’t have been drinking so much.

His tall tale had concluded, those kooky chemists had consumed their gold and she was expected to make conversation. They did not bother with dessert and ordered coffee and cognac. He wanted a cigar. She allowed it.

It’s funny, I’ve got a story about gold too as it happens. It’s a real story my friend is a forensic scientist and he…

He pretended not to notice either the implication that his story was not true or that she was undoubtedly discussing a rival. He gave her his full attention and begged for her to continue. Over the way the sundae had been pushed aside and the girl had begun to open the rest of her presents. The last was a giant cake iced with her name. The old man urged her to cut it open, he winked at her, promising secrets. He took a steak knife and plunged it into the centre of the sponge splitting it open. There was a clatter as hundreds of gold coins poured out of the cake on to the table. Each one a pound coin wrapped in foil from chocolate money.

He was working on a case a few years ago, my friend that is, it was in France where he is originally from. It was out in the countryside. Some godless spot.

He raised an eyebrow at this, she was not exactly a believer herself, he feared her story might have some racist slant. It would not have surprised him at all.

Anyway they had had a call to go out to a crime scene, it was the middle of a quiet afternoon and he was hoping to get off early, but that’s by the by. He got there and there was a young couple sat on this terrible sofa, all springs and no stuffing. They were utterly vacant, looked unwashed and lunatic. He passed by them and went down to the cellar leaving them with the police officers. The cellar was a dreadful sight, three cardboard boxes each one holding a baby in a state of decomposition, one of them little more than a skeleton. The monsters! Anyway he took them off to his lab and did his tests, he’s extremely clever with that sort of thing, and the most interesting thing was the stomach contents. Somehow or other they had fed them with gold! Those peasants had killed their children by feeding them gold!

He looked ill. It might have been from the wine, probably not though. Nancy had been too caught up in her tale to see that his sickened gaze fell elsewhere. Not at the waitress now, though that was why he had wandered initially, but at the girl in the ballgown; the girl and her grandfather. The presents were scattered all over the table, the balloons crumpled and burst. Coins had showered on to the floor and bits of cake were stuck to them. There was a new bottle of champagne virtually untouched in an ice bucket. One of the dozen black roses were stuck behind the old man’s ears, he was evidently extremely drunk. Two red spots troubled the countenance of the young girl and sweat patches had appeared under her armpits. As the waitress walked towards them ready to clear the mess on the floor she stopped and slowly retreated. The old man had taken the girl by the shoulders and began to kiss her deeply. She crumpled beneath her heavy golden crown.
seven silver buttons
30 October 2007 @ 10:22 am
September 1:

It was dark when we left. My boots looked grimy under the low wattage of the bare unshaded bulbs. There had been colossal chrysalises surrounding them when we arrived earlier in the autumn but they made me feel nauseous, I could see them bulging, teeming with something undiscovered. They were flat now, slashed, deflated, unhung. The light was harsh but unilluminating. My boots as everything else in the room were now grey. They were stupid boots made of cottony fluff that itched and would be destroyed by any leaves or rain. I decided that it didn’t matter, they were right for the dark night, the uncertainty of coming here could be eroded by the certainty of definite ruin. I decided to ruin them because I wanted to. We left in a hushed three, the wine we had steeped in sugar, cinnamon and herbs lay stickily inside us and melted our conversation. Mute and compliant we followed the night.

October 19:

Cold. Sunlit. Entirely still. I was late and even if I hadn’t been I would have forgotten something. My glasses today so a headache I supposed. Alone I find it hard not to almost run. Not that I don’t enjoy the walk but I have this childish desire to prove I can get there faster. I can’t run by the way, or jog or anything specialised but I can certainly walk. My bare legs mottled immediately and the rest of me sweltered under scarf, coat, hat. I could tell that as soon as I arrived and the sweat dried I was going to stink. It seemed so unfair, I wanted to cry. Unbuttoning my coat and unwinding my extra long scarf I turned up the sound in my ears and tried to imagine myself utterly free. I was gaining time at least, maybe not too late after all. I walked past the man who sits on the wall down the road, he’s there about sixty percent of the times I go past. I think he must live there. I think about if he remembers me, the days I forget my make-up, the days my hair won’t lie down. That is the kind of selfish thoughts I have when confronted with his situation. Deflated I rummage for the volume button as the traffic increases. I look down to the open front of my dress, my hated décolletage that I had hoped to cover with a scarf. Vanity cannot outstrip discomfort though and I continue without. I lurch around a corner, there is a sixty year old man coming around the corner and we almost collide. His eyes are like dishes with a puddle of violet-blue dropped in the centre and they slide without apology to the front of my dress.

November 14:

We had a new oven fitted and the man told us that we shouldn’t have been using the old one, it was dangerous. The landlord is getting a fine and we get a packet of stickers from the workmen to stick by the oven and boiler. They should stay white to tell us that there is no poison leaking from our appliances. If they start getting sooty we should call them and not breathe in. I dreamed of gas poisoning that night, it was a long dream about death and ended with a really violent apocalyptic vision. I woke up and couldn’t understand why there was light. I thought we all lived underground in metal tunnels now it was the apocalypse. It took me ages to stop wondering how to get lower, to find cover. I looked at the new cooker and thought about all the things I’d cook on it and that some of those things would have salt, fat, additives, msg, gluten, cholesterol, sugar, e numbers etc. in. Those things would slowly kill me too, as effectively as monoxide but more insidiously. I looked at the flames on the gas hob, I threw different things into them: water, glitter, foil, food. The flames changed colour and sputtered. I felt afraid harnessing this fire it was so unruly and changeable. And all I needed to do was turn them all on and blow out the flames like birthday candles and lie down and that would kill me too.

December 28:

We went on holiday for Christmas/New Year. It was really depressing. We booked a room at one of those Haven Holiday Parks and it was just us and other couples who didn’t really have anything better to do. There weren’t any children or normal families, just loads of oddball losers like us. The entertainment was ok though, I enjoyed the Rory the Lion Quiz, we answered everything right and won a bottle of Matteus Rose. I always thought those bottles were really elegant. Late that night we ate the dinner (microwaved) and had these happy hour and then non-happy hour cocktails until three am. There was this sort of pushy older couple making suggestive remarks to us all night and we finally caved in, it seemed fitting. A couple of hours later I went back to our room to shower and woke up in the bath at seven, the water still running and big sticky patches of semen unremoved from my back. We packed and left soon after this.
seven silver buttons
13 August 2007 @ 09:23 pm
The twisted metal grew skywards piled on daily by a hundred strong men. Laxity had allowed his fingerprints to gather in odd, quiet corners where the dust lay. He’d arrived on the first morning with the others, been offered his hat though boots were not provided. There were men he sometimes talked to about his dogs. There was little else to say, his interests were not easily articulated and they deepened in secret. His mania allowed him general peace but frequent, intermittent misery. He told no-one of his pain but the tenderness of his work spoke of it on the days that he suffered. It seemed to him when this mania descended that he was not the stranger whose boots he wore, whose life and health he coveted but the true version of himself. It caught him like that sometimes and the devastating thing about his mania was the vividness of the picture he allowed himself to be presented with. Not one to be so black and white under ordinary circumstances, he fell into a violent frame of mind that he was alone, that he was unhappy, that there was no release. He felt a heightened sensitivity on those days as though he were a conduit for something. Removing his dirty gloves he allowed his work to speak of this. Tenderly he put the metal into place and slowly, softly joined the casing of the building that they would eventually raise from nothing. This act of creation moved him deeply and regardless of many near misses with his fingers he felt no release from his struggle until he removed his gloves and smoothed each section into place.

There were days when he felt much the same as the others, bored by the grind and counting the minutes down until his breaks and then counting them back up again when lumbered with some tedious and relentless conversation in the outbuilding where they brewed coffee and tea. There was a van for hot food and newspapers but he always avoided the conversation that attended these purchases and sat chewing his tuna salad slowly. He cared little for sensual pleasure and his food was not important to him. The delights of fatty bacon were a mystery that could not be revealed to him through mere verbal recommendation. If the weather was fine he could find a corner of his own to eat and sit in silence watching the building take shape. Even on the tedious days, the organic nature of the structure enchanted him and revived him for the long afternoon. Summer was harder than winter in some ways with no chance of early finishing due to failing light. This summer had been worse than most with the lashing rain and wind causing difficulties with the work but being so sporadic and mixed with the pale sunlight that work was never put aside for the day but merely delayed into the evening.

His boots got wet all the time and he kept a pair of dry socks in his belt always. He was miserable when he had wet feet, miserable and useless. During the flashes of turbulent weather he would retreat like the others into the huts and warm his fingers on his dented aluminium mug, squeezing out his old socks. He would then dry his feet on a paper towel and put on his dry socks. This minor idiosyncrasy was occasionally noted by the others who tended to battle on regardless. This had no impact whatsoever on his practice.

He was in many ways just like the others, by turns bored and absorbed. Yet on the days in question there was a chasm between his public appearance and private emotions. He had never specialised in anything and drifted from one job to another. He was a well-built man, fit from physical exercise and a boringly correct diet untouched by whimsy. With regular features and an even voice he had inspired trust in employers. There had been nothing special he enjoyed at school and from the time he left he had drifted from one thing to another. Competent and thorough in his work he still only received lukewarm references from those he worked for. It seemed that they had a common problem with him – the trust he initially inspired turned to suspicion as he grew to realise that they knew nothing at all about him. Only the occasional passionate description of his dogs allayed their suspicion that he had formed no real bonds. There was never any trouble about him leaving, merely a coolness in his verbal and written recommendations.
He’d worked on building sites for three or four years now and found the work sympathetic to his lifestyle. There was rarely any call for references and the work he did was more than enough without need for too much social intercourse. There was always a sense that a group like that, over a hundred men in close proximity, would contain varied levels of friendships and intimacies and similarly several feuds. This dynamic suited him for it was easy for one man to become lost within many and he didn’t ever really become involved. He was interested only in the work and it was with the building that he felt a communion, not the men.

On the days when his mania deepened, he retreated to the corners of the site which the others tended to avoid. The places where not much initial work had been undertaken could prove difficult to get started and the easier, more satisfying work could be done in other places. Preferring a wild, scrubby heath to a well tended garden he flung his vagabond soul and gloveless hands into the work away from prying eyes.

It had been more turbulent than usual the day the accident happened. Though they were used to working in all conditions, as soon as the earlier shift had arrived it became apparent that things would be more difficult than usual. He came at seven oblivious to the general clamour for tea and coffee seeming somehow to be beyond the daily anxieties and preoccupied with his thoughts. He made his way from the hut where the others were happy to congregate and delay their tramp out across the hazardous site. They knew it was unsafe to work with so much metal in a storm. They had clocked in already and felt safe in the thought that no-one would expect them to go outside in such weather. Huddling around the boiling copper urns and reading the papers or complaining about the lack of food due to the lateness of the van they didn’t notice him slip away out into the darkness.

He wasn’t afraid like the others, he felt such an affinity with the building and the sky was so beautiful that morning, all sheet metal tones under the eerie red light. For just a moment, the rain slowed and a bright streak of sunlight struck the building, shedding sparks across the steel like a glassblower’s torch. He felt coldness spread along his chest at the sight of such beauty and could not control his breathing. In the midst of the violence he felt infinitely calm, walking no more quickly beneath the hissing and torn tarpaulins, battered by the downpour than as though the sky were utterly still. No-one looked over towards him, but if they had, and if they were in an artistic frame of mind, they might have thought he cut an allegorical figure; solitary against a hostile and turbulent world.

The site was wedged neatly between a high school and a hospital. The hospital had small windows shuttered against the cold with beige Venetian blinds. He had asked the others once why the windows at the top were always obscured. They had told him that the higher floors housed the terminal wards and much like a prison, the sight of outdoors could prove unsettling. Someone else had joked about keeping the patients out of harm’s way and the long history of suicides by defenestration. The school on the other hand was fairly modern and nearly all glass. The sixth formers at the top of the building were rather restive, the discussion of poetry with their however impassioned teacher paling beside the beauty of the storm. Sentences trailed off and eventually all the students were contemplating the weather more than the poems. Their administrative block completed the set and rose greyly in the midst of youth and mortality.

That morning he felt a certain fitness to his actions as he approached the crane that was suspended neatly mid-job. He hadn’t known before that he was capable of such passion. The rain did not subside as he removed and discarded his gloves and surveyed the work they had done. He wished there was one person he could tell, it wasn’t often that these flashes of longing touched him, but today one did. There had been his dog, but although she was as close as a family to him, she could never understand. Nor these men he laboured with daily, not one felt exhilaration and despair as keenly as the work took shape. He stood long, staring at the towering steel that he had intimately touched and set into place. A single sob escaped him, the force bending him further into the wind. The sky was darker now and clotted with blood coloured clouds. A thin keening escaped as the winds ripped through the space between the buildings, muffled only by their embryonic construction, a benign presence in the storm.

When he began his ascent, the children at the window were obscured to him, the rain-streaked glass as impenetrable as a one-way mirror. They had given up even half-heartedly dissecting their poems and had been moved rather to take in the terrible beauty of the sky. The poem they had been reading had ended with the line “he offered her a poem; she said to him, it is a dish of plums”. Their teacher had told them to think of the plums themselves as the poem. Some of them began to understand. From the top of their glass block, the first to notice what was happening was a boy named Colin who was sharp-eyed but renowned for his imaginative powers and therefore frequently dismissed. He wanted to tell but something within him wished to selfishly claim it for his own. Like a lepidopterist spearing a butterfly he wanted to crystallise the moment without thought of the pain to his subject. Colin was not to be allowed his moment however as there was a sudden flurry to the window of two sharp-eyed girls who realised that Colin was transfixed by something more than the clouds. By the time they noticed it was already much too late.

As a child, he had been left quite often alone to his own devices. His parents were of the opinion that if you let children run wild they would get into trouble, and if you let brothers and sisters play together they wouldn’t respect each other in later life. He had been a few years older than his sisters and could not penetrate their close world. Though they were forbidden to spend too much time with each other they snuck into each others rooms at night and talked about mysterious things in a giggling whisper. He had felt too shy to ask to join in and felt himself ill-equipped to offer them hospitality himself. His room was small and cold and had nothing that would tempt his sisters in. He knew without being told that his mother preferred girls. They knew it too and bent rules that he would have never have had the courage to. He began to feel hollow as the awareness and intelligence that came with maturity highlighted the unsatisfactory situation he was in. He had never known that life was different until he started visiting his friends and saw the way their families were, the roughness of their discourse, the ferociousness of their debate and the bitterness of their silences. He had never known that silence had different qualities, that it could signify so deeply a mood or emotion. Silence was his ordinary way of life and he was overwhelmed by the realisation that to other people silence was a tool for discussion as often as words were.

Later he realised that the painful spells he could not control were a reaction to the silence of his childhood, never having anything to say as a child, he harboured his intelligence and it blossomed awkwardly under glass. The power of his emotions led to a violent despair at his inability to express them and the more he shut down his daily routine into nothingness, the stronger his rages would come. He let everything go slowly, until that year when he started work at the building site he had no ties left at all. There was a room he went to every night paid for weekly. There was a wardrobe with his clothes. No books or records, no photographs marked his taste from anyone else. There was just his dog. When she had sickened and died he knew it was time to deal with his correspondence such as it was and await the perfect day to end his life. His sisters had no idea where he was and his parents were dead. He would harm no-one by his going and he finally felt ready.

The day he’d chosen was perfect, the beauty and violence of the storm appealed to his romantic side and he felt remarkably peaceful. He knew that work would continue when he’d gone, that he would be part of its history. That gave him the most pleasure he was capable of feeling. That morning as he climbed the crane in the midst of all the metal he had a twinge of fear, wondering what the pain might be like. But he knew it would be over before long and he felt a thrill of excitement at the thought. Before he reached the top, he put the dust mask he had in his pocket over his face, a final gesture to his blank identity, and a kindness to whoever had to bring him down. Eventually, he reached the top of the crane.

There was a wave of fear in the classroom, a sick stomach wrenching silence as they watched his ascent. Their teacher realised what was happening and quickly ran to the telephone in the next room to call for assistance, she didn’t have time to stop them watching. He had reached the top and stood on the metal crane, weaving his body against the wind, his face obscured by the mask and the rain and looking utterly wild. Before their teacher could return there was a huge flash of sheet lightning, which turned the sky the colour of copper pans. They could not hear but only imagined the scream of pain that came from him as he was struck with the full force of electricity, cut off as suddenly as the beating of his heart by the current. Someone began to cry and then someone else began to scream. But Colin understood the man and felt as though he understood the poem better. This man had shown him a poem.
seven silver buttons
22 May 2007 @ 11:48 am
we walked quite a long way down the beach on saturday. there was something in the distance that we wanted to get a closer look at. i'd never been there before, at least not since i was a child and had no idea what it could be. the tide was completely in when we arrived and it had only just revealed a thin patch of damp brown sand. let's walk on the beach now that we're here. i'd brought two pairs of shoes but they both had holes in so i tried to stay out of the deep puddles that lay in the sea-scarred sand. both pairs got wet in the end but later on the train i dried them by the scorching heaters that were on in spite of the sickly orange sun that baked the glass. they were still wet when i got home. my lips tasted so salty, not like the kind you put on food but the kind that cakes and clogs and is apparently good for your skin. i always say i'd like to live by the sea but i think i like convenience too much, i'd probably like to think about living by the sea whilst drinking in bars and buying more shoes. we walked past the rollerocasters and i felt sick to my stomach to see the way people seemed to hang out suspended upside down. since then i keep having dreams about them falling, but it's silent, slow-motion. the lack of screams is maybe the creepiest thing. we walked past the illuminations in the shape of enormous tiffany lamps. we walked past nearly everything and could still see it in the distance, this enormous spinning, dazzling thing. up close you could see what it was immediately and if you couldn't the plaque was there to tell you. in the daytime it span in the wind and glinted from the sun, but at night time it came alive under the twinkling lights and i could imagine sitting outside in the breeze watching it twirl. but we had to leave before then. we had to catch our train.
seven silver buttons
02 May 2007 @ 08:05 pm
In the eighth month the heaviness pressed down and floored her sometimes. She’d been to the meetings where they told of the handful of butterflies that joyfully ran through them. She had no such sensation. She felt heavy as compost, layer upon layer of dirt and vegetable mass decomposing in her gut. In the dark room she sweltered, hotter with the curtains drawn, hotter with the sheet off. All she wanted was a quiet, dark room with properly shut drapes. Delirious with fever she dreamt of the butterfly museum, her tiny hands grasping her notebook and pencil. The heat had been oppressive then too and she’d wanted to leave, to go back to the shaded picnic area and have her ice-cream. They told her it had to be hot because of the butterflies; they needed to be reminded of their tropical home. It seemed stupid to her as a child, why take something tropical and imprison it in a simulated version of nature? She had felt terrified of the displaced creatures swooping madly in their hothouse dreaming of home. Worse still was the classroom at the end, though it was cooler in here the chemical smell pervaded and the walls were lined with speared specimens. Up close she could see the alien bodies that twisted beneath the weight of their fragile wings. How could something so beautiful and frail harbour this ugly creature? And they were so blue, bluer than anything she had seen in nature, Virgin Mary blue. The women at the class had no idea what they were harbouring.
seven silver buttons
14 March 2007 @ 11:55 am
Room 1: Grey Sunken Cunt

Woman lies in bed, room is almost blacked out with heavy drapes. One low lamp or candle burns at her bedside. There is an old fashioned silver spoon on black velvet beside the lamp or candle. She wears dark glasses or a blindfold. Intermittently she scratches her arms and neck quite violently but without gaining obvious relief.

Old Woman: I forgot this year to watch for the snowdrops. It’s been deadly cold and greyness has propagated greyness…No. I lied about forgetting I didn’t dare to look for the snowdrops. I saw them in a dream all curled up and grey too like dirty swirls of stale smoke. No, I didn’t forget. I lied about forgetting. Did I avoid looking for fear of disillusionment? No. That too is not the truth of it. It comes merely as a symptom of my confinement- no not that - my purdah. Perhaps I am the one who is parched and dead, wracked by this bone-twisting illness into greyness.

For all I know it has been a fresh and crisp late January; a blind white sun scoring the delicate frost. If I dared open the drapes would I see the snow? I think it has been snowing from the breath of the men who deliver my shopping – ragged, bitter and sharp. I know they have been told not to give me news from outside for fear of my severity. I would not mind one with spirit though, one to defy my unnatural demands. They look through me as though I am some parched leaf, some ribbon-veined ghost gum trodden and frayed. They believed the stories about me I’m sure until they looked upon my translucent death’s head, my mangled limbs.

Last time I dared look the lead-blue sky was snarling and pelting its niveous excreta. Hah! That pug-white showy bitch. I saw how it had cast its nasty tricks: the powdered landscape no longer bled into the air. There was definition, a straight dividing line between earth (grey)/sky (black). The crueller elements gather geometrically it seems as though some surer hand than mine were conquering our skylines. A winter blanket sparkling in the treacherous morning light is simple death to those who must endure it without protection. It pays us with a handful of cheap white dust yet exacts its toll wildly. Mingled with bone it will inevitably return.

My body has been covered just this last year with a powder all its own; some vile parasite has taken up her lodging and uses me most unkindly in her feasts. Illness upon illness has plagued me these five years but this last visitor has stripped me of all my dignity. She feeds so freely and so impudently on every inch of my clean pink flesh, setting up her banqueting table all along my thighs, my withered breasts, my scalp. All night I wake at intervals to the clatter of steely knives, the braying and chattering of my uninvited guest as she guzzles what she pleases. By morning she has spit out the bones, belched out her whiskeyed fumes and dropped her filthy napkins all along my body. Once she merely picnicked taking up a corner to spread her red and white cloth gently as she nibbled away. Now there is more of me devoured than healthy and she does not relent though she sees my pain. You must think me insane to be talking like this, perhaps you would understand the indignity if you too were robbed of all your proteins. It is not yellow nor white this crust, it is the colour of a clean shard of bone. It picks away at each cell scouring and consuming it, greedily claiming its furrow, its corner, its line. They tell me that you cure a poison with poison, they were willing to poison me with light. Of course, I refused.
The darkness in this room is almost complete, I have had the black velvet drapes completely drawn for some length of time now and I feel unwilling to become blinded by the sunlight any time soon. If I should turn off this muted then there would be nothing but blackness. I am the palest thing in this room, as I slowly turn to dust. Perhaps I am becoming exoskeletal as the cowardly flesh buries itself deep inside. Perhaps that is why I need my armour so terribly badly now, my armour of lies and darkness. I am nothing but a cage of bones with its innards exposed for what they are. All my private guilt and shame hangs outside my body as though I had been disembowelled. For there are dark secrets within me that seem pathetic now, not worth the suffering I endured to conceal them. They have all heard about me those men who stagger in with parcels for me, and I am not so old as all that - only fifty last year, perhaps they expected to taste of my fabled charms, to feast and devour along with my other tormentors. How shocking it would be for me to tell them the truth about my past, for I was not seeking absolution, but pleasure.

Birth, bloody mess, limbs wiped clean, sticky green knots untangled then severed with the physician’s blade, no cleaner than the abortionist’s knife. Not for me that blood stench spewing its virulent sponge - that murderous leech bloating and sucking in the darkness, fierce as a mouth.


One room much like another I lay in bed to wait for judgement. There were dark dreams that had me seated blindfold and swollen at the head of a banquet, glittering knives ranged above us in the cold white light.

Bedridden, bleeding, bleeding, bedridden.

Small pink curl of tongue that slipped between rodent teeth. She was no better, no worse than any other but it is all a matter of proximity. There was nothing shameful in our liaison, no fumbling or tongue kisses no direct or indirect stimulation. I don’t know that she felt my gaze too keenly at all, wrapped as I was in my endless winding sheet. There was a spoon that I had been given for the baby – silvery grey carved with hearts. She visited me once and took hold of the spoon (not like the others who all regretted so deeply and hurried away from the stink of failure that came from me, the cheesy smell of the unstopped milk that I let soak into the covers) inquisitive she did what all unformed creatures do to test new things, she placed it in her mouth.

One day she came in with a vanity case, sent to cheer me up she said. The truth is I was expecting a visit from my father and he was not to be bothered with all this female mess and ugliness. I was supposed to die of shame should he have seen the dirty napkins in the bucket spattered with the ceaseless spotting blood. Or the rags that were freshened daily in an attempt to stop the milk from staining all the good linen. Protesting inwardly at the deception she wanted me to comply with, still I let her take out the brushes, the rouge, the boned underthings that looked just like torture. It seemed to be the end of my long and fruitless confinement, she was to flatten me out like I had been before.
Artless creature she buttoned me up tight and presentable, never taking a moment’s care over the task. To have been softly laced into my new ribs would have been better than nothing. That moment she let her breath linger on the baby’s spoon, let it steam, blossom, fade was not to be repeated. Like a mental patient I acquiesced to her nursing as though underwater, under rubber, under glass.

I think it must have been around this time that I became obsessed with sick rooms and all their paraphernalia, cold metal stirrups, glass thermometers, endless syrups and potions and unguents. Dressing for night time, negligee’s, bed jackets… bandages. Why not? I thought. Why not become a sickroom companion. It solved my family’s anxieties around my future and yet had little to do with penance.

She did not ask me to help her undress. That was what they paid a nurse to do. But she would not disturb us for a few hours yet and I had her undivided attention. She looked stiff and uncomfortable in her church clothes and I knew that had I not been there she would have divested herself of the starched shirt and intricately boned undergarments. What lay beneath the fur blanket over her knees was uncertain to me. It took on the excitement of the forbidden, and how I yearned to know. My mistress was not used to such appraisal of her figure, and I could see her flinch and retreat.

"Would you like me to undress you?" I blushed at my audacity, retreated for the bell to summon a chaperone, a third party to my misdeed. Her hand on mine was cool, absorbing my flush and smoothing it as if she were a flat, cool pebble assimilating fevers. "Yes thankyou dear" was all she said. My hand now firmly removed from the button. Slowly I gathered my nerves and busied myself helping her choose something more suitable A dark red silk kimono hung seductively on a rail. She sensed my desire for it and with a calculated flourish declared her distaste for such garb, a gift from an artless admirer. In the same breath she offered it to me citing my relative youth and dark colouring as reasons. Mutely I acquiesced. For her an ivory wrapper edged neatly with lace - altogether more fitting for our little chat. Tenderly I removed the blouse from her shoulders and hung it neatly on the rail. Not wanting her to catch cold I removed her skirt and woollen stockings from beneath the fur. Pale greys both they blended with her colouring. The back of her corset was exquisitely crafted in pearlised satin, done in a hundred tiny bones. I did not attempt to converse but rather devoted myself fully to the slow unpicking of tiny ribbons. The task completed, I shuddered as the two pieces collapsed away from her naked back. Concealing my disquietude I dressed her quickly in the wrapper and turned all my attention to the folding and packing of the corset in its tissue paper and crepe. By the time I had finished she had fallen, so softly, to sleep.

They left me plenty those old ladies.

After my fall there was enough to see me comfortably into my own sick room. I took great pleasure in the design, to trick it out like a black box. Supplies delivered frequently, a doctor once a week and several nursemaids. I know the tricks those young girls play. One came in the beginning, hung a string of pearls round my sack neck and planted great balls of blush on my cheeks. Hadn’t the sense to bathe me beforehand so I sat stinking, rouged, ridiculous before the undraped mirror. Lopsided as a half-stuffed clown I saw finally what the others saw. Yes, I thought. Yes I am a witch.