Toxophrenia

  1. Twenty seven days. Feverish, I ask the doctor why. He looks at my notes, yellow folder telling him nothing and everything.

It will pass, he says.

Everything passes.

Take paracetamol, he says.

Universal panacea. Won’t it harm the baby?

It’s your first, you’re bound to be anxious.

  1. Anxiety knows no bounds as I lie there and sweat.

Do you feel the first lump, or do I?

It’s just your glands. You must be fighting off an infection.

Late night screen glows with possible diagnoses, cancer never far from mind.

My stomach grows, skin stretched taut, and I daren’t ask.

We … just … need … the … months … to  … pass.

And one day the lumps have gone anyway and I don’t think again, awash in breastfeeding.

Anti-apoptotically, your host cells persist and replicate.

Pro-apoptosis effector proteins, are disrupted,

Conformational change,

Proteins stymied.

The host will eat itself,

T.gondii triumphant.

  1. It’s amazing how quickly time passes with one young child, then a second.
  1. The first trace is a splash of yellow, bordered with black on the glowing red-orange of the back of his eye. Technology is marvellous, the doctor says as she shows me on the screen.

Can you cut it out, I ask.

It’s been there for years. He has two eyes. If you hadn’t had his eyes examined he might never have noticed.

Perhaps we should have remained ignorant. We were never meant to see the inside of our eyes.

  1. Is it obvious to everyone else? Omniscience is inhuman. Who knows?

I didn’t. And if I had known what could I have done?

I’m up late on the internet again.

Raw meat, soiled fruit, catshit? Nausea comes, years too late.

  1. Late nights are typical of teens, I read. In fact, it’s against nature to wake them early.

Let them sleep.

It’s normal for boys to become uncommunicative.

Of course it is.

It’s not normal to see things, hear things, that no-one else can perceive.

By then it’s too late.

Knife descends, repeat, and I wish I could have cut it out years ago.

Origin of self FINAL EDIT

A clap of wings startles me. The seagulls circle, then go back to the cliffs. I continue down the beach. My pelvis adjusts as pebbles shift and roll. My hips rise and fall, impressions on my feet. Stone-pain seizes my focus.

At the edge I hesitate, can’t do it again. A moment, you’re always too cold, but still I throw myself into you. Draw heat from me, I want to fill your lack. Always my gift dissipates too fast. You’re implacable: I’m bereft.

I kick off again, release, float, push against you, pull through you, surge, immerse. And beneath you, I’m gone. Moment in green. Perfect vision, until everything blurs, clears, blurs, salt filled eyes, mouth, ears.

Too much, I sink, stop, stand, relief in stone-made pain. I gasp. I’m not you, still within my depth. Still I ask, ‘Draw me out, write your name on me, gouge it in my skin’. I should stay, there’s safety at this edge, but I release the rock. Be in me, fill me, take me over. For a second I surface, breathe, submerge again. I’m in you, of you, and you enter me, every hole: every cell of mine takes you in, and my feet feel sea, just sea.

And it’s never enough.

Afterwards, I lie where the waves pour over me, in and out. A little way up the beach a dog’s nails scratch over stones, sharp against the hush of the waves. The seagulls circle again, screeches breaking the silence of the seas. [1]

Slowly, this time, so slowly. I descend. Spasm, contract, breathe, forced slow exhale, then down again. Painful pause, I crumple at your edge, inhale. Your waves reach out. At bursting point, I crawl until I’m in you, then I lighten. I need you as my body spasms, ice cold some relief. Contract.  Half standing, half floating for a moment, stones scrape my knees as I fall again. I scream, exhale, pant, breath subsides.

Hips widen, pelvis shifts, I open, push down, face full of salt, womb screaming, I give you more of me, all of me. I submerge, flow into you, expel it, release with one last surge …

It’s only instinct makes me hold him, warm against me, no breath yet, until we surface, dual gasps, both scream, bereft.

[1] Royle, After Derrida p56.

My books aren’t my books anymore

My books           

My books sit on my shelf. I watch my books: they increase, flying to the flock by post, in bags. I see the ones that come by day, and I can’t turn them away. I invite them in, welcome them home. Some are slipping into my house at night, I think.

David won’t give books away. And I don’t help the problem. I write.

My books grow, yard by yard, author copies come by the dozen. Quick thrill, quickly sated, write some more.

I give books away to friends, my books, books I have bought, books I have been sent for review. But still they multiply.

I took two shopping bags of books to the charity shop the other day, after the shelves fell down. I still have more books than space.

Would I like the remaindered books? Where would I put a few hundred copies of a book that didn’t sell? In the basement, watch it float. Otherwise, will it burn? I don’t care. I am writing something new.

Non fiction

My books are other. Other amongst others, defined by the absence of fiction. No stories here. But there are stories, real stories. Is truth necessarily a not-fiction? When I write about someone’s experience I fictionalise it, with beginning, middle and end, even when the true story is still ongoing.

What is non fiction? Is it critical writing? A description of something real? Can it be poetry too? How can a whole genre be defined by it’s ‘non’ness, by something it’s not. And is it a genre anyway? There’s a story in there.

Non, no, n … an ancient sound, prefixed to so many words. No, not, lack, sham, from the Latin “not, by no means, not at all, not a,” from Old Latin noenum “not one”, ne oinom, from the Proto Indo European *ne “not” + *oi-no.

Fiction derives from the old French ficcion, something invented. Is writing based on research, invented? Is everything invented in some way? This is then based on the Latin, fictionem, a fashioning or feigning, from fingere, to shape, form, devise, to knead or form out of clay.

I mould words too, shape them, make them perform, change lives, yet my writing is non. Is it not fiction, a lack of fiction, sham fiction? My writing lacks. What does it lack?[1] Is the meaning of what I write as clear as I think? How do you interpret it? What do I lack?

Non academic

By definition, what I write is not academic. It takes what is written by academics, and that which is known by professionals and translates it for consumers. Your words: I consume them like a mother bird, pre-masticating mouthfuls of information, making it easy to digest. Diluting, simplifying. I lie, because nothing is ever as simple as I write.

Not mine             The books I write might not be mine.

From the moment I sign the contract, when I accept the cheque, (publishers still write cheques), when I pay it in, I need to check. Have I ensured that the words are still mine? In print, online? Pennies accrue each time my books are bought, borrowed, photocopied, all according to contract.

If you buy one of my books, it is yours. Do you need to read it for it to be yours? Probably not. It sits on your shelf, clearly one of your possessions, or on your Kindle exerting a lesser demand.

If someone translates what I write, whose words are they then? They are not the words I wrote … or are they?

Can a word ever be mine? How silly: words belong to everyone. What about two words together, or three or a whole sentence? If I create a combination of words that has never been used before … I search on Google, will that tell me ‘never’? … is that sentence mine? What if you say it, write it, photocopy it, paint it, print it? Whose words are they then?

What if I quote myself, or use a phrase I wrote last week, one that won’t stay unwritten, wants to be written again, I repeat? Does reiteration make it more mine? What about another print run, a second edition? No shift in ownership there, but I feel my ownership lessons if a book escapes online.

If I buy your book, it is still yours. Maybe when I run out of shelf space I should release my books into the wild, hoping that they will find their authors. Or are they, like graduates, reluctant to return home, too big, too full of new ideas, once I have read them?

My father read Swallows and Amazons to me as a child, then followed up with eleven more Ransomes. He collected a set of hardbacks for me, a set for my sister. I have those books and they are forever his. Ransome and my father intertwine: his voice, other-his words, my memory. On my shelf, in my house, a piece of myself as a child, and of my father then, and his childhood before, and his brother’s in there too. My books are other people.

My books are my children. I nurture them in early days, then let them go. I help them on their way, then sit back, always interested in their progress. My books are loose in the world, watch out.

When I die, my books will belong to my children, double edged legacy. What would you do with a house full of books, ownership transferring to you on death? They will inherit the words. Perhaps all their own books will be digital by then.

My books have power. They’ve changed my life. Read with caution, in case they do the same for you.


[1] My books are bound in facts. Can I reference creative work too? Is work critical only if referenced? This footnote intended to talk about lack. Please note its absence.