Tag Archives: Art

The Course of Empire, Mischa Parkee

Part One: The Savage State

empire_savage_state

Thomas Cole, The Savage State. Oil on canvas, 1834

This is the savage state. You are the savage that charges down into the wilderness; a hunter with only eyes for your prey. This is your basic human instinct, yet you are susceptible to the expectations of consummating an empire. The light of dawn is struggling to break through the clouds and maintain brightness in the severity of the anticipated storm; your rawness of emotion, your untainted early stages of desire, your ultimately savage state. But the sun is soon to be unsuccessful; the figurative native is soon to be dispossessed from the land he calls home.

 

*

 

It is raining the day she goes to see Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire. The humid wetness soaks through the layers of her dress and her skin, and her bones shudder in exhilaration. The paintings from Cole’s collection are on loan for only a matter of weeks before they are to head back to the New York Gallery of Fine Arts. Mercy had driven the two and a half hours from Sydney to Cessnock to spend the day absorbed in the rich and rustic textures of the converted town hall, now known as The Hunter Gallery. Cole’s is the biggest collection that the esteemed rural gallery has ever commissioned and she is excited about finally getting to see one of her favourite artists’ works in the flesh. She had studied his brush strokes, his technique, and his harboured ambition to illustrate a pessimistic vision – the rise and fall of civilisation – for her thesis at the National Art School.  But now, looking at the dark palette of The Savage State, she sees it, not for its commentary on man’s early relationship to nature, but for what it really is. She sees the chaos that had been her relationship with Lucas; the cavernous wilderness in the foreground is like a giant gaping hole waiting to swallow the charging native, whose only thoughts are on securing their prey. She sees the vast openness of the land and danger of the looming storm clouds, and how easy it had been to be swallowed by her ideals.

There had been something about him that had made her ravenous. The movement of the days became more like that of poetry. The sun would lull into the moon, the days unknowingly become nights. All her thoughts were consumed by the burning beneath her skin, that instinctive impulse to secure her prey. It was as if her concept of time had become nothing but an inconspicuous blur as her hunger took over her senses and ravaged her thoughts. As it kept slipping into new day after new day, time seemed to escape her conscious thoughts until she was nothing but the shell of her former self; nothing but a fleshy animal of desire and hibernation. She had been part of the real world when she was first with him, but part of a fantasy with her own set of unattainable expectations, oblivious to the poison of her prey.

Mercy had always tried to make contact; when they went to the little Tapas restaurant on their first date, or when they walked down to the pub to get a quick bite before they went to see the latest superhero film that Lucas liked. Every so often she attempted to subtly let her hand catch the back of his as they walked in a strategic dance, like a hunter stalking its prey. Although Lucas seemed not to notice, she was sure that he had just been playing hard-to-get. Looking back, however, she thinks herself foolish for not seeing it earlier, for wanting to capture the feeling of it all with oils on a piece of canvas when every moment a little piece of thread had been unravelling from a jumper; the storm of the Savage State had been closing in on the sun.

 


Part Two: The Arcadian State

empire_pastoral_state

Thomas Cole, The Arcadian or Pastoral State.  Oil on canvas, 1834

This is Arcadia. It represents the space inside your mind that believes in miracles and impossibilities. The storm has cleared to reveal the idyllic alternative to the savage state. The part of you that is unpredictable; aligned with the hunter’s mindset of securing your prey. Much of the wilderness’s uncertainties have given way to ploughed fields and pruned bushes, depicting the foundations of what will eventually be your empire. It is the fabled world of knights in shining armour, of princesses who always find their ‘happily ever afters.’ It is the greeting-card picture world of your brain; the world that never came into being, and that never can.

 

*

 

Lucas hadn’t felt the rain. He wore only one layer of clothing, and Mercy noticed that he had no goose-flesh and did not shudder. Mercy, who sat in the passenger seat of his Toyota as they made their way back to Annandale after seeing one of Lucas’s unmemorable superhero films, remembers feeling the cold wetness of the rain seeping into her pores as if she had been sprayed by a garden hose. Her eyes continually glanced sideways, searching for Lucas’s eyes, for a reaction from him; an acknowledgement of her coldness, for him to take her hand or turn the heating on. His eyes met hers once, briefly, and then continued watching the road ahead.

She was wearing the crimson blouse she knew Lucas liked best. He had told her on one of their first dates that it had gone well with her long ebony hair. Mercy had been in a particularly jovial mood despite the weather. She was imagining all the ways in which it might prompt him to encourage her into his bedroom. He would take off her wet clothes and warm her body against his own. It would be a feeding ground. Her, pulling his see-through white shirt over his head, and him, tugging at each little red pearly button of her blouse with the fumbling hands of desire. They would kiss each other greedily, devouring one another until there was nothing left but scraps – leftovers for a morning feast.

‘I’ve never felt this close to anyone before,’ he had whispered, jolting her awake from her fantasies.

Mercy knew from bits and pieces he had told her that he wasn’t close to his parents – though she hadn’t quite deduced why at that point – and that this had fractured him somehow, like there was a magnetic field inside of him that would always find a way to repel.

Her heart swelled. ‘Neither have I,’ she replied.

But of course, that wasn’t exactly true. She had felt a similar way at least once, or possibly twice before. There was Darren in Year 11. He had wooed her with his surface level love of Romantic poetry, which had an unwavering ability to satisfy her youthfully primitive desires when they should have been studying for biology exams. And then there was Noah during her first years at art school. Mercy had fallen for his bad-boy-misunderstood persona, although she quickly tired of him when his façade wore thin, and she discovered that really he prided himself on taking inspiration from Picasso simply so he could paint whatever the hell he wanted and claim it was ‘abstract.’ But she didn’t want to ruin the moment with Lucas. She didn’t want their relationship to fall. She had wanted the idyllic pastures of their early and neatly defined relationship to remain perfectly ploughed, ready for the next stage, which meant responding in ways she knew he wanted. She was the hunter, and he was merely her prey.

Mercy wonders now, however, whether or not Lucas had been playing hunter as well.

 


Part Three: The Consummation of Empire

empire_consummation

Thomas Cole, The Consummation of Empire. Oil on canvas, 1836

Within the Empire, the majestic sturdy columns have slowly been constructed to form the foundations of your idealised relationship. Each brick, each stone, each pillar represents a struggle you believe you have conquered together, that you have built over time to finally form the beloved city of your dreams. The knights and princesses of your Arcadian state often visit this idle place to feast with their old friends and laze beneath the sail of a lulling boat, drifting without direction. It is a monument of achievement and pride, a soundly built structure of your desires. But an Empire built of ideals is doomed to fall. You cannot live in the Empire, feasting and idling for long. Soon you will have to face reality, and in reality your beloved Empire has been consummated to fail.

 

*

 

Mercy was preparing the fruit platter. The setting sunlight twinkled softly through the window of their kitchen.  The thought of finally having a space of their own, one that they had built themselves to create their very own personal empire had overwhelmed her with pride. She was starting to truly believe that their relationship was reaching sustainability, that they were compatible, that they understood one another beyond the initial hunger. By the time she had placed each watermelon slice, each strawberry quarter, each little plump blueberry into its prospected spot on the plate she had created quite a well-constructed tower.

‘Looks good,’ Lucas said, peering his head around the corner of the kitchen door.

She remembers feeling at ease in their new kitchen, preparing for their small housewarming as if she had done it a thousand times before, as if her and Lucas’s joint preparation was some sort of anticipated ritual. Looking back on it, however, Mercy thinks about how when she was doing the vacuuming, Lucas hadn’t even offered to lift up his feet.

When their guests arrived – an eclectic mix of Mercy’s old friends from Fort St High School, artsy classmates, and Lucas’s joinery buddies – she poured drinks and smiled like she was the face of a toothpaste ad. And later in the evening, when they had all had a bit to drink, talking over the top of one another about their lives and where they saw themselves in the future, Lucas reached across her to pour himself his sixth whisky of the night. Mercy forced herself to feel an indifferent sense of contentment as his arm brushed against hers, and she gave him what she thought was a playful glare of admonishment.

‘Just one more,’ Lucas declared.

‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough,’ she said, reaching out to place an affectionate hand on his sun-tanned arm.

Lucas drew away. ‘Oh don’t be ridiculous, Mercy! I can have one more drink.’ She was shocked into immobility at his hostility as he grabbed the whisky bottle in a fumbling display. The act might have been considered funny – a humorous anecdote to be passed on at the next dinner party; “remember that time Lucas got really drunk and made such a fool of himself? And remember how caring Mercy was, taking him off to bed like that? If that was my boyfriend, I would have left him in a heap on the floor.” That was if he hadn’t lost his footing and catapulted straight into her festooning fruit display with a loud and echoing clatter.

Mercy remembers watching the watermelon pieces drop with a deflated sounding squelch, the carefully quartered strawberries hit the floor, and the perfectly plump blueberries roll off in all directions (she had found little collections of them under the couch and beneath the shelves later). With the blinds tightly shut and the lamps casting a harsh glare across the mess, she noticed how the light was suddenly shining on things differently.

 

Part Four: Destruction

empire_destruction

Thomas Cole, Destruction. Oil on canvas, 1836

Destruction is dawning. This is what has become of your meticulously constructed Empire. This is what happens when you refuse to let nature take its course, when you become too distracted by the ideal. This is what happens when two people come from incompatible magnetic poles; they repel. Nature is dissatisfied with the idealised, man-made structure. The Empire begins to crumble, to fall apart at the seams. The savage clouds that the sun fought so hard to overcome are thickening, planning their destruction. The knights and princesses of Arcadia attempt to flee, terrified of the city’s crumbling walls, the rising water, and the fire’s ravenous rage. But there is no escape. The native is coming to reclaim the land that rightfully belongs to him.

 

*

 

‘Let’s go see the factories,’ Lucas announced one overcast weekend in July. ‘I want you to see where I work.’

He was reaching out. He must have been. Desperation filled Mercy’s lungs. He hadn’t initiated an outing in a long time. She couldn’t quite remember how long it had been, but she thought sometime around when she first moved into Lucas’s apartment about nine months prior. She didn’t know how she should answer. The desperation to connect clouded her judgement.

She had been reading Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the time. She remembers this because she found her copy a few days later, discarded amongst an array of trashy Woodworker and GQ magazines. Her heart had beat faster at the thought of Lucas pondering Chaos Theory and the analogy of stirring jam into pudding. On a lazy Sunday afternoon perhaps, when the sun hovers in that perfect transitional stage between day and night upon the horizon.

She never before considered the possibly that he had simply tossed the book there without even realising it was hers. Had he known it was one of her favourites? Surely she’d told him – although, staring blankly at the flames of the Destruction, she can’t quite recall.

When they arrived at the factories, they had lain on the concrete of the deserted carpark and watched the smoke leak from the heavy industrial chimneys as casually as if they were watching stars. Mercy wanted to see what he saw in the smoke, his furniture-making and the industrial world it came from. But in her mind, she was lying in an uncomfortable position with the pressure of the oily concrete beneath her head, watching pollution fill the air, slowly taking away their oxygen.

Is that what he sees too? Mercy had thought. By the look on his sombre face, he must have seen something more. He seemed to possess a connection to the factories and their smoke that ran deeper than a workplace affinity.

Maybe he saw how soullessly mechanical they were, that all they were able to do was something they were programmed to achieve. It concerned Mercy that there was not an ounce of life in the factories and that the same emptiness she associated with them she also saw in Lucas’s eyes. A vast, yet polluted nothingness, like the clouds of smoke that ooze from the chimneys, resembling giant cigarettes. The smoke had no purpose. It was simply what was left over from the mechanical workings of the factories where most of Lucas’s time was consumed.

Maybe that’s what he saw, Mercy thinks, a resemblance to himself.

 

Part Five: Desolation

empire_desolation

Thomas Cole, Desolation. Oil on canvas, 1836

The desolation will arrive slowly. The remains of the Empire will decay, until there is nothing left of it but a cold hard emptiness. You brought on the desolation yourself. The chaos of a deteriorating ideal has taken its toll, and nature has finally taken back what belongs to it. Beneath the surface of the mysterious water lie the remnants of destroyed cities, the desolate state of relationships passed, of artificial empires. People may visit it, take pictures, commemorate what might have been. But in the end, it is completely void of life, nothing but a past to be consumed by the earth until there is nothing left of it except dirt. From the dirt, with time, the wilderness of the savage state will return, slowly replenishing itself until the cycle begins again and another idealised relationship builds its first brick in what will eventually become this once again: desolation.

 

*

 

Mercy stares at the landscape of the final painting. There are no people in it, she realises for the first time. Perhaps they all drowned in the expanse of water whilst she had still been forcing herself to remain on the surface, too afraid to be dragged down to the bottom where all of those dead souls lie. There is nothing there but a sky of savage clouds, devoid of the mystical dawn light she so desperately wants to see in everything.

But, like jam cannot be unstirred from pudding, she knows that time cannot turn backwards. Mercy is there with them now, sinking beneath the surface to let nature swallow her. She embraces the desolation. She no longer feels like one wrong move could fracture her meticulously crafted world, no longer feels like the native of The Savage State is displaced from his homeland.

Mercy walks down The Hunter Gallery’s stone steps with purpose, out into the greying light of the late afternoon. When she reaches the final step, she turns back around to glance at the converted town hall. Its sturdy sandpapery columns look like the entrance to a tomb, Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire locked tightly away inside. A moment passes before she turns and takes the last step to the bottom, making her way down the long, winding path back to where she parked her car.

The empire that she built up with Lucas had fallen, leaving her in the vast solitary space that stretches out beyond the horizon – further than her idealistic eye can see. And she is free to do anything she wants with it.

 

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D’s Repairs, Brooklyn Andrews

I could see my underwear floating past the window. My left sock was treading water in the middle, and the sleeves on my cardigan were wriggling like a clump of seaweed. I pressed every button, twice. I waved my hands in its face and I kicked it in the shins. Nothing. Not a sound, a light or a breath of life. The machine had died midway through the rinse cycle, belly full of water, my clothes trapped like babies in a womb.

I searched the Internet for appliance repairs and called the company with the catchiest slogan: D’s Repairs ‘If it’s kicked it, we’ll fix it’. The man who answered had an accent, rich, curly r’s, possibly Italian. He sounded like a Domenic or a Dino, with a thick, heavy brow. I could hear facial hair scratch against the mouthpiece of the phone—some upper lip whiskers, or a patch of new growth on his chin. He said he’d be here between eleven and three, but I vouched on five.

 *

The door buzzed fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, or an hour and forty-five behind. I heard the elevator open, and the swish of wide legged pants make their way towards the door. I lit a candle as if that would mask the smell of how I spent my day: chain smoking and leftover pizza. Pathetic. I tucked my hair behind my ears, the strands were clumped and mucky and I had forgotten when I last washed it. I opened the door to a short, cushiony woman. I thought she might be lost—I was expecting a Domenic, or at least a man—but ‘DETTA’S REPAIRS’ was stitched across the breast pocket of her overalls. She was approaching sixty with dark features, large eyes, cradled by plump pillows of skin, and thin lips sliced into soft, fleshy rolls of chin and neck. She had the low, heavy brow I predicted, but beneath her brows her face was hairless.

‘Where’s eh machine?’

Her accent sounded thicker in person, like she covered her words in mud before she spoke them. Her eyes skimmed over the apartment as she made her way into the laundry. She turned to look at me, slumped her brows, bowed her head and sort of smiled. It was a slight curl on the surface, but there was something deep about it, behind it, I could see it in her eyes. I retreated into the kitchen and cringed. I reached for a wet towel as if wiping down the benches would clean up my act as well. I hadn’t returned my mother’s calls, I hadn’t got a real job, and the woman across the hall was trying to sell me meth.

‘Finish,’ Detta’s voice dispersed my thoughts and I threw the towel onto the bench.

‘Here, the problem,’ she handed me a fist full of wet coins, ‘Put these in bank, not pockets. It fifty for repair.’

I thanked her and she smiled again, her eyes diving into mine one last time.

When she left I put the wet coins into a jar. They splashed against the glass and the sound of it kept bouncing around the walls, like I didn’t own enough furniture to absorb it. When the echoes stopped I opened a copy of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. I had marked my spot in the book with the handle of a teaspoon. I tried to enter the story but I couldn’t get that smile out of my head. That Mona Lisa smile, subtle but deep. Just a twinge on the lips, but with brows folded over eyes that were locked onto mine. It was probably out of pity, because she thought I was a dropkick. Crusts on the counter, overflowing ashtrays, and a smell of staleness so thick you could part it with your hands. But I know there was hope somewhere in there too.

 *

I slept restlessly and woke with Detta’s image still circling my mind. I tore the last page from my sketchbook, clipping it to the easel in the middle of my living room. I filled the paper with closed-lipped smiles and then paused to microwave a bowl of oats. I stared at the lips, spooning the gloop into my mouth. They were rough and smudged, and some pressed against each other. I could feel sweat beading around my scalp, slicking the wispy hairs against my forehead. I laughed out loud in my empty apartment and the sound of my own voice scared me back in to silence. Just as the quiet began to prickle my skin the door buzzed,

‘Hello?’ The oats slid down the back of my throat like a slug.

‘Let me in it’s Kay.’

Kay was erratic, she carried pills in a tic tac container and was barely ever sober. I first met her at the supermarket. She was buying Doritos—at least, she was trying to. Nothing but fluff in her pockets. She didn’t see the problem. I was on the register, she was holding up the line. Trolleys were touching front to back, and kids hung from their handles like the place was a playground. I gave up and let her have them. She waited outside until I finished, thanked me, and we got talking. She lives in another bottom feeder apartment block three streets away.

 *

‘That’s some creepy shit, dude,’ Kay surveyed my sketches. She tried to pull her hair into a bun but it all just fell apart at the bottom.

‘I mean it’s good, real good, but,’ she took a seat on the couch and shamelessly ate a plate of pizza crusts.

‘I saw a flyer the other day,’ she paused to swallow, ‘It’s some competition for portraits. You can win a bunch of stuff. You should enter.’

I looked at Kay and let the idea grow inside my head.

‘You can win a scholarship, and money, and one of those vertical desks you have here,’ she pointed the crust toward the easel.

I looked around the apartment, the mattress on the floor, sketch-filled pages tacked to the walls, my obnoxious ‘super sale low prices last chance’ red cashier’s shirt.

I grabbed my keys, ‘Come, show me the flyer.’

 *

Across the hall, the meth lady cracked open her door as we were leaving.

‘Hey, I got something for ya,’ she said, leaning her bones against the doorway. Scabs, no teeth, hair stringing down her cheeks. She was ripped straight from a pamphlet warning kids to stay in school. Kay paused.

‘You got potential,’ the woman said, wriggling her finger at Kay and sucking her gums.

Kay cringed at the thought, burying her chin in the neck hole of her jumper. She stared at her scuffed-up shoes until I tugged on her shoulder.

‘Come on,’ I said, ‘I want to get another sketchbook and some felt tips.’

Kay followed me into the lift. As she walked the pills in her pocket rattled and she cupped the container to silence them.

‘This isn’t a forever thing,’ she said, looking down at her shoes, shaking the tic tac box in her pocket, ‘I’m not going to end up toothless. I’m going to be a nurse one day.’

 *

The flyer for the contest was pinned to a notice board outside the TAFE. The bottom was fringed with tear-off tabs, so I ripped a piece and folded it into my pocket. It was a scholarship for a Fine Arts course, $5000 prize money, and a ‘vertical desk’. I stood a minute, watching the people enter and exit the building as Kay flicked through a nursing pamphlet. A girl with a collar full of pins forced a couple of thick books into her bag. It collapsed her shoulders as she swung it onto her back, and she walked out the TAFE gates with her head bent over her knees.

‘Let’s get to the shop before it closes,’ I said. Kay was still consumed by the content of the pamphlet. She was staring at the girl on the cover, dressed in scrubs. Then she looked up at me, smiling.

 *

I pulled out a dollar to put on the lottery and Kay volunteered to collect the supplies. Two months ago it was my job. Everything was smooth until I reached the exit and three chocolate bars slipped through a hole in my pocket. If it wasn’t for the generosity of Kay’s V-neck, the cops would have been called. Now I just stick to distracting.

Kay wandered in first. I stood waiting around a corner opposite the shop, watching her browse the women’s magazines. I entered as soon as she reached the soft porn in the men’s isle. I strode straight to the cashier. He was a spindly Indian man smelling strongly of sweet tobacco. I told him my numbers. I changed them three times, on the third time Kay strolled towards the door. The sketchbook and pens were hidden inside the folds of her jumper.

The man raised his eyebrows, his gaze still consumed by the computer screen,

‘Ma’am.’

My stomach dropped but I kept my face together.

He looked up at Kay, his beady, close-set eyes giving her a once over.

‘Watch your step.’

He turned back to the computer and continued putting in my numbers. Kay left, stepping over the power cord that snaked across the doorway.

‘Okay, here’s your ticket ma’am.’

 *

I walked outside and went to toss the ticket into the bin. Kay grabbed my wrist. I only put the lottery on to distract the cashier, the tickets have never even won a cent, but she wont let me throw them away. She can’t bear to watch the possibility die. It’s the possibilities that get you out of bed; they keep your heart wanting to beat again.

‘Don’t sabotage your chances by binning the ticket,’ she said, as she tucked another cigarette between her lips. She laughed at her own contradiction as she dipped the end of it into the flame.

I grabbed the sketchbook and pens and went back to my apartment. It was that time in the afternoon when the last bit of sunlight violently pushed its way through my only window. I dragged my easel into the yellow puddle and ripped a fresh sheet from my sketchbook. I held my bottom lip between my teeth and chewed on the flesh. I felt the skin start to tear, peeling away, beginning to bleed. My page was filled with lips and eyes. Detta’s lips and eyes. I drew her hands in the left corner too, and drew them again and again in a row, each pair of hands a shadow of the last, losing detail, depth, dimension.

I needed to see her again. To see the way her mouth balanced on the edge of her jaw like a sad man on a cliff. To see her deep eyes, robust hands, and skin, rough and ridged from reaching into the pit of appliances and bringing them back to life. I wanted to know how she made it as a repairwoman, in a repairman’s world. I wanted her to tell me where she’d been, where she slept and what lay behind that flicker on her lips. Her face could win me the scholarship, but I needed to soak longer in the detail if I was going to replicate it right.

 *

I tipped the coins out of the jar and into my hand. One was still wet; I held it up and watched a little droplet slide down the queen’s nose like a tear. I put them deep into the pockets of my pants, stripped down to my underwear and threw the pants into the washing machine. I started the rinse cycle and slid my back down the wall, my bare skin pressing against the cold tiles. I had to wait until the coins rolled out and wedged themselves in the aorta of the machine.

It took three rinse cycles, seven cigarettes, and a plate of toast, slightly charred and buttered, before the machine slipped into sleep with a bloated belly. The clock glowed eight, the bags beneath my eyes glowed eleven, so I let my pants marinate in the dead machine overnight.

 *

I called first thing in the morning and spoke to the same muddy voice. ‘Between eleven and three,’ they said, but I still vouched on five. I went to work, cleaned the apartment and smoked my cigarettes out the window. Four forty-five came and went, five went by too, and six, and then it was quarter to seven. I filled another page with lips and ate another slice of burnt toast. I pressed the breadcrumbs into my palm and brushed them into the sink, watching them soak up the splashes of water and roll around plump and happy.

 *

It was quarter to twelve and I sat in darkness on the living room floor, my pants still marinating in the washing machine. The lips that filled the paper were smudged, faded, distant echoes of the original. No matter how much I tried to draw a pair that held the same subtle depth they did in reality, I couldn’t. I folded the paper down the middle and pushed it under my mattress. I stayed sitting on the living room floor until the sun began to spit morning light through the window. All night I listened to the meth lady open and close her door, but I never heard any footsteps coming or going. I heard the man next door chanting and screaming and chanting and screaming, and I practiced meditation to the sound of sirens.

I slipped into sleep for the morning, waking every twenty minutes and getting up that afternoon at three. I reached under my mattress and opened the page of lips. I flipped it over, using the folds as a scaffold for her face. I persisted through the quivering lines and wispy scratches and the outcome was horrible. The face was too cavernous, there wasn’t any depth, the lips were thin enough but they weren’t smiling. And then the door buzzed.

‘Hello?’

‘I’m here to fix machine,’ the muddy voice dripped through the speaker and onto my face.

 

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Crossroads, Alix Rochaix

 

I

What is it about the small hours?
Those between say, 2.00 am and 4.00 am?

‘These hours are as small as a human heart
— with no hope left in it.’
No. Too tragic.
‘These are the hours in which
to unleash a dam burst of
… creative agony.’
Worse.

I (for one)
rap out thousands of words
in these wee
small
hours
my face surreal in a monitor light.
(But you will never read them)
I hold schizophrenic dialogue with myself.
I may mutter.
Take my own pulse
— peevishly.
I examine my mad eyes in the mirror.
You know.
You have been here too
— in these same small hours.

What is it about the crossroads?
In these hours I can hear every sleeping scream
slamming door
and all the bottles
that have ever been hit
strike the pavement.

 

II

If we care at all about image
— as we doubtless do.
I would prefer to be seen as mad rather than bad.
You to be seen as crazy rather than stupid.
I’ve heard you smugly identify yourself
as a bastard
— even a cunt.
Because that to you, derivations aside,
implies power.
I think you have felt very powerless.
A bit like I do now in fact.

We know that misinterpreted power corrupts.
I know that it reduces the function
of a human heart.

 

III

I am alone in the room.
The room is sparse and loveless.
An oversized Asian washroom
— white tiles, cold surfaces.
No tell-tale signs of emotion here
— for you have sponged them from your life.
Everything on wheels.
As you decreed.
My heart shrinks and shrivels.
Outside it’s hot, heavy, acrid.
Fires in faraway mountains, but not here.
Here there is only the haze
and I have stumbled about in it.
The air is as heavy and polluted
as this ‘love affair’.
I can’t go out there.
The smells, the smoke, your silence
— are all strangling me.

I have thrashed about on blistered feet
trying to find a place to belong.
My scream is like Kahlo’s,

Diego!

I am alone.

 

IV

I stand outside the terminal.
You are waking to find me gone.
And all things shining and stationary
on their wheels.
I’m such a klutz.
I can’t do anything effectively
A stranger lights my cigarette
— face full of tender concern.
Can I get you anything?
What? A paramedic?
They don’t have an antidote
for disappointment.

This is the crossroads.
This is where worlds collide
and shove and push all things on wheels
— toting their collective baggage.

I must be a sight.
Tall blonde woman with tear-bloated face.
I inspire pity.
I have cut across the global rush
and served as a small reminder.
Stare if you dare
— or if your culture permits it.
Gabble about me assured
that I don’t understand
— because I really don’t.
Confusion is as much in the admixture
of my tears
as catharsis.

 

V

My last-minute escape flight
my adrenalin flung flight
— cancelled.
Grounded.
Thwarted.
This is no dramatic exit.
I make my displeasure known
to the blank face
beyond the counter.
I’m powerless, he says.
I may have ranted.
I did call a state of emergency.
You’re at the top
of the wait-list
he lies.
We’ll call you.
What to do
in this wasteland between
imprisonment and flight.

I check through the leather bag
bought at Bvlgari.
You thought it would make me happy.
It didn’t.
Now I’m inspecting it meticulously
— to ensure there’s no mysteriously materialised
shreds of marijuana.
Now that would be a thwarted exit!
Arrested
at Changi Airport.
For the tiny scumblings
of the marijuana I smoked
to make me happy.
The irony of that
makes me laugh out loud.
People’s heads pivot.
The thought then
of an immense space-age auditorium
this terminal
full of heads pivoting
at the sight of a tall alien
scraping her nails through
a Bvlgari bag,
feeling the surge
of hilarity hysteria
sometimes brings.
And this thought too
is hysterical.
Strange person
who stands alone

laughing.

I buy cigarettes.

 

VI

I stand outside the terminal.
Smoking and sniveling.
Yes. Yes.
I am a spectacle.
I’ve had a bereavement
a breakup
a breakdown.
Thank you.
Nothing to see here.
Move on.
Only the kind stranger stopped
at the sight of she
who scrabbled about in a
flashy bag muttering.
I’m such a klutz.
cigarette clamped
between her teeth.

I buy cigarettes.
But no lighter.

However,
being a spectacle pays sometimes.

For I am called.

 

VII

In the sky I splash my face
paint my lips a pink called Pashin’.
Take my seat and see
the blue that has stretched
gloriously above untainted
by the haze.
I had nearly forgotten it.
Eyes wide, clear now
as this sky.
— it must have been the smoke.

I can laugh out loud
at a stupid movie,
finish a forgotten novel buried deep
in the grinning gape
of a Bvlgari bag.

 

VIII

When you say,
What the hell?
We could have talked.
I say we could have.
But we didn’t.
And it was the silence
you see.
I need words and laughter.
You need your sad guitar
and silence.
And without words
I shrivel to a smudge
on the tiles
of Singapore
smoking and toting
a burdensome bag-full
of shredded dreams.

 

IX

So I stay awake
in the small hours
rewriting words.
But I can only start
at the ending.

This is a little story
— a flight, some sleepless hours,
a few words.
I thought, at least,
I should address it to someone,
rather than leave all that
folded up in the dark.

What is it about the crossroads?
There’s always small hours
of grief and madness …

Aren’t there?

 

Download a pdf of ‘Crossroads’

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Peroxide and the Doppelganger, Rebecca Fraser

 

Johnny ‘Peroxide’ Steele placed his sweating palms on the cool ceramic of the basin. He closed his eyes briefly to offset the bile that clawed at his throat. Christ, it had been a big night. Again. He took the weight of his body on protesting arms and leaned forward to inspect himself in the mirror.

A pair of bloodshot eyes looked wearily back at him. Peroxide took stock of the apparition in the mirror. His cheeks, boyishly fleshy less than a year ago, now looked as if they’d been carved into his face by a maniacal sculptor. A congealed streak of yellow – mustard? – ran from his pierced lip to his chin. It matched the overall pallor of his face with unsettling accuracy. Peroxide ran an unsteady hand through his shock-white hair, and he poked his tongue out as far as he could. He instantly wished he hadn’t. The surface was furry with a creamy substance.

He turned on the tap and cupped water to his mouth. It tasted metallic. He swished it around his cheeks a number of times before spitting it back into the sink. He turned the tap back on and watched as the water swirled the noxious glob away.

When he looked back up, his reflection was smiling at him. It was not a cheerful top-of-the-morning smile, rather it was a sly, knowing grin that didn’t reach his eyes. Peroxide gaped. His reflection didn’t gape back. It just kept up its malevolent leer.

He took a step back in alarm. He careened into the shower cubicle and clutched at the plastic daisy-embossed shower curtain to steady himself. The curtain rings splintered under his weight, and he fell to the floor. The curtain descended on his shoulders like a floral cape, and he wrenched it free.

‘Johnny, what the hell’s going on in there?’ Kaylene’s voice was muzzy with shattered sleep.

Peroxide kicked brutally at the curtain and got to his feet. ‘Nothin’, babe. ‘S’all good.’ He looked back at the mirror. It was just him again.

Kaylene appeared in the bathroom doorway. Even with her long honey curls dishevelled from sleep, and the oversized Ramones t-shirt she wore to bed slipping from her thin shoulders, she looked unbelievably wholesome. The sight of her freshness made Peroxide feel even more soiled.

‘The curtain’s broken,’ Kaylene said evenly, surveying the crumpled heap.

‘Sorry, babe. I’ll fix it.’ He moved to pick it up, but a wave of dizziness overcame him.

Kaylene steered him back to the bedroom and made him sit on the bed. ‘It can wait,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you just sleep it off here today? You’ve got a gig again tonight, don’t you?’

‘Yeah, over at The Bluebird. Don’t kick off ‘til half ten. It’s okay, Kaylene, I’ll head home, get myself cleaned up.’ He looked at her apologetically. ‘Sorry, I’m such a mess, babe. I’m trying.’

Kaylene didn’t say anything; she just regarded him with her usual sad serenity. It was a look that cut Peroxide deeper than if she had expressed her disappointment.

 

The midday sun smarted, and Peroxide groped in his jeans pocket for his sunglasses. They weren’t there of course. Another casualty of the night. They were probably abandoned; left on a sticky table at some seedy nightspot.

Peroxide berated himself. Kaylene had bought him the glasses as a gift. He recalled with a pang of guilt how excited she had been to find them. Black Buddy Holly frames with a set of faux rubies ostentatiously encrusting the arms.

‘Perfect for a rock star.’ She had laughed as she pushed them up the bridge of his nose, and stood back to admire him.

How in God’s name he had found such a girl, and why she stuck with him, was a mystery to Peroxide. She was nothing like the others. The endless bevy of groupie trash with their predictable tattoos, shrill voices and cut-rate perfume. Kaylene was on another plane entirely. Calm and intelligent, caring and funny. She seemed to dig him in a way no one else ever had, or had ever wanted to.  It had only been two months, but he knew that he loved her.

If he could only stop fucking up.

Lost in introspection, and with his head still throbbing like a demon, Peroxide turned left into Chirn Street. He could see his apartment block at the far end through a Jacaranda haze. It was November and the trees that lined the street, hueless for the better part of the year, were ablaze with magnificent blue-purple blooms.

Up ahead, someone with hair as blonde as his was walking towards him. Peroxide squinted. There was something about the walker’s gait; a familiarity of stride. He made his way beneath the footpath’s mauve canopy. The distance closed between them, and Peroxide felt an ice trickle of fear run down his spine in spite of the heat of the day.

At twenty metres distance, he saw a glint of red beside the other man’s head, like a crystal’s prisms throwing light in the sun.

At ten metres, he saw the source of the red. It was reflecting from bejewelled sunglasses: The Buddy Holly kind with faux ruby detail.

At five metres, Peroxide stopped dead in his tracks. It was him. The other him. The one from the mirror; he was wearing the same unpleasant grin.

He – it – didn’t slow down. It brushed past Peroxide so closely that he could smell its cologne. Globe – the kind he wore. Peroxide spun on his feet and watched as his other self continued along the footpath. He could see the outline of the crucifix that dangled from its right ear, and he whipped a hand up to his own ear to make sure his earring was still there. It was.

‘Hey,’ Peroxide tried to shout, but his throat felt as if it was stuffed with wool, and nothing more than a feeble croak punctuated the afternoon heat.

His other self heard though. Its shoulders tensed and it stopped. Slowly, very slowly, it turned on its – his – heels and stared back at Peroxide. It was too far away for Peroxide to read the expression on its face, but it cocked its head to one side in a whaddaya-want fashion.

The wool in Peroxide’s throat knitted itself thicker, and he found he couldn’t speak at all. Up ahead, his other self seemed amused. Its shoulders rose and fell in mirth, in the exact fashion that Peroxide’s did when he was trying not to laugh out loud. After what seemed like an eternity, it raised one hand and fashioned a finger gun. It then extended it until it was pointing in Peroxide’s direction. Its index finger pulled the trigger. Bang. And then it turned heel and was striding off back down Chirn Street in the direction Peroxide had just come.

Peroxide’s knees buckled. What the fuck had he taken last night? He remembered drinking first beer, then bourbon, and then they had moved on to shots. But he had stayed off the drugs, he was sure. It was part of his resolution to keep Kaylene. Unless the boys had been messing with him and tripped his drink?

It had been an awesome gig; that was for sure. Since he and The Regrowths had first taken to a wooden box stage at one of the grimy local clubs only a year ago, they hadn’t looked back, and last night’s crowd had to have been somewhere near five thousand strong. They played bigger venues now of course, and the after parties were bigger too. Since Kaylene had come into his life, Peroxide had been struggling to keep a balance between the two. It wasn’t easy, but like he had said to her that morning, he was trying.

Whatever had gone down last night, he must be still under the effects of some powerful hallucinogen. First the unnerving mirror incident, and now this. If he found out one of the crew had spiked his drink, he was going to tear them a new arsehole. With this thought on his mind, he walked on down Chirn Street.

 

His apartment resembled the state of his life over the past twelve months: hectic, uncontrolled, and messy. He prised open the windows to let the afternoon breeze have its way with the pungent smell of negligence that hit him like a physical force, when he opened the door. He was going to have to get his shit together on the home front if he was going to have Kaylene over on a regular basis. So far he’d been dodging that one by sleeping at her home.

He lit a cigarette and searched about for something to use as an ashtray, settling on an aluminium takeaway container, that judging by the coagulated remains, might once have contained cuisine of the Asian variety.

The green light pulsed urgently on his answer machine, and he depressed the playback button. It gave an agreeable little blip, followed by the machine’s androgynous voice: “You.have.one.new.message.”

It was Troy, The Regrowth’s bass player. ‘Yo Johnny, you home, bro? Pick up, dude. What a fucking night, aye? D’ya see that chick up front? She flashed her tits at me, man. Dave reckons it was for him, but …’ An almighty crash interrupted Troy’s flow. ‘… Ah, fuck-it, that was me guitar, gotta go, Johnny. Catch you tonight at The Bluebird for set up. Bring those Midas vocal chords.’

Peroxide couldn’t help but smile. He was starting to feel a little better. It had been a huge night, and he probably had been spiked, but so what? He was okay now. Wasn’t he?

That grin. That awful cunning grin.

He stubbed his cigarette out and peeled off his evil smelling clothes. A long shower and sleep was what he needed. He reckoned he could get a good six hours in before it was show time again.

The shower felt good. He let the hot water drum on his head and shoulders for a long time, cleansing away the craziness of the day, and the detritus of the night. He towelled himself dry, cinched it around his waist, and searched the vanity for toothpaste among the various bottles, disposable razors, and half used tubes of bleach that helped him create his on stage persona.

His fingers paused on the box that contained his Globe cologne. It was empty.

Doesn’t mean anything, his mind yammered at him. Probably in the bedroom. Or the kitchen. Hell, you know what you’re like, it could be anywhere. But his heart was pounding like a backbeat from Davo’s snare drum, and he was already racing to the bedroom. Suddenly it seemed very important that he knew where his bottle of Globe was.

It wasn’t in the bedroom. Nor was it in the kitchen, or the lounge room, or under the bed. He went shakily back to the bathroom. He had just missed it; that was all.

His twin was in the mirror.

It wasn’t grinning anymore.

Oh, it was smiling alright, but it was a deadly, elongated smile. Too wide for its – Peroxide’s – face, so that every tooth, right down to the back molars, were impossibly visible. Peroxide focused on the crown that he’d had fitted four years ago, and distantly felt the warm-wet sensation of urine on his legs as his bladder gave way.

The reflection threw back its head and laughed. It was an obscene sound that prickled at Peroxide’s scrotum.

‘What do you want?’ Peroxide’s words were barely more than a whisper through numb lips.

His likeness stopped laughing. It fastened its eyes on his, and leaned forward. Peroxide watched in horror as the face first flattened against the glass, then pushed hard against it. The surface of the mirror rippled and stretched with the shape of its face, until finally it broke free, and swam at Peroxide in three-dimensional horror. A pair of leather clad shoulders followed, and it kept coming until it levelled with Peroxide’s ear.

He felt the chafe of stubble against his own as it leaned close.

‘You,’ it rasped.

Something in Peroxide snapped. He launched himself at the thing with pure adrenalin. His fingers, hooked into claws, found purchase on nothing but the smooth surface of the mirror. The last thing he remembered before his head connected with the glass, and a blessed red curtain of unconsciousness dropped on his mind, was that terrible word.

You.

 

It was dark. For the second time in a day, Peroxide found himself prostrate on a bathroom floor. But this wasn’t Kaylene’s house. He was in his apartment and …

The mirror. The mirror. The thing in the mirror.

Peroxide lurched to his feet and jabbed frantically at the light switch. The mirror was broken. Shards of glass clung precariously to each other in the frame; the rest glinted here and there from the linoleum, tiny fragments that threatened his bare feet, and reminded him of his frenzied head-butt. He felt the egg on his forehead, but when he inspected his hand, it was clean. No blood. Small mercy.

Good Christ, the gig! It was nighttime. How long had he been out? He blundered back to the bedroom and snatched his cell phone from the bedside table. The screen threw up 10:17pm in its electronic font. Thirteen minutes until he was due on stage. The Regrowths would be cursing him six ways from Sunday by now. He could imagine how Davo, Troy, and AJ, would have cussed him darkly as they struggled with the last of the amps and lighting. Set up was always a bitch.

Peroxide checked his phone, resigned to the barrage of missed calls. The ‘where are you?’ The ‘you’d better not be stoned again?’ and the ‘get the fuck here, right now, we’re on in halfer’. Peculiar. There were none.

There was a voicemail from Kaylene, however, but no time for that now. No time to worry about the bump on his head either. And definitely no time to worry about his malevolent twin.

It was show time, and he was late. And so, Peroxide came alive.

Without a mirror, he applied his trademark makeup freestyle. He hastily dabbed on rouge and glitter shadow, and applied thick kohl outlines to his upper and lower lashes. A handful of gel set his namesake white hair into edgy spikes, and he pulled on his usual costume of leather and mesh in record time.

He was out the door and sprinting for the train station in less than seven minutes. It was only when he sank into the torn vinyl seat of a carriage that he relaxed enough to pull out his phone again. He tried Davo first. His phone was switched off. So was Troy’s. AJ’s rang out until it switched to message bank, so he left a garbled message. ‘AJ, it’s me, man. Listen, it’s been a crazy night, I got knocked out, but I’m on my way, okay? Hold the crowd. I’ll be there. Ten, fifteen minutes tops.’

The train rattled through the urban night. It was only a blessed few stops to The Bluebird. Peroxide punched at his keypad to play Kaylene’s message.

Oh Johnny, yellow roses. How did you know they were my favourite?’ Kaylene’s mellifluous voice floated through the phone. ‘Thank you, this makes up for … well, so many things. I’ll see you at the show tonight, okay? Love you.’ She laughed. The sound hurt his heart. He had never given Kaylene flowers. But someone had. And it had made her happy in a way he never did.

Peroxide reeled in his seat. No, he hadn’t give Kaylene flowers, but all of a sudden, he had a terrible notion of who had. A panic rat gnawed at his stomach as the train pulled into the station. He sprang onto the platform and pounded up the stairs into the street above.

He could hear music pulsing from The Bluebird from where he was. Surely, they hadn’t started without him? But there it was – the unmistakable electro backbeat of ‘My Society’, one of their firm crowd pleasers; and the crowd was pleased. He could hear them roaring every word to the chorus, drowning out the vocals.

The vocals?

Peroxide felt as if he was moving through water as he crossed the street and entered The Bluebird. Time took on a dreamlike quality. The crowd heaved and surged around him. There was Davo, thumping away at his drum kit with abandon. AJ and Troy were working the stage, bass, and lead guitars in perfect harmony.

But the real hero of the stage was him. Leather and mesh, makeup and hair. Bent over the microphone in classic rock stance as he belted out the last lines of ‘My Society’. As Davo pedalled his hi-hat to deliver the crisp culmination of the song, the Doppelganger flung his arms wide as if to embrace the audience. The crowd went wild.

A slim figure with honeyed curls pushed her way up and onto the stage. She threw her arms around the singer.

‘Kaylene!’ Peroxide elbowed his way through the crowd. He was dimly aware that he was screaming, but his terrified chant of ‘No, No, No, no, no nononono,’ was drowned out amid the cheering.

Someone to his left said, ‘Cool Peroxide, get up, dude. You must be, like, a total fan.’

He shoved and pushed at bodies blindly, oblivious to everything except his need to get to the stage and Kaylene. He was almost there – he could see the pale-soft down on her cheek, illuminated by the stage lights – when he felt heavy hands fall on his shoulders.

The security guards were unceremonious in their ejection of Peroxide from The Bluebird.

He bucked and kicked and fought, but they were irrefutably strong. As they muscled him back through the crowd, Peroxide strained against the headlock to catch a final glimpse of the stage. He moaned as Kaylene planted a kiss on the Doppelganger’s cheek. As the crowd roared their approval, it raised the finger gun in the same fashion it had on Chirn Street. It pointed it squarely at Peroxide and pulled the trigger.

Bang.

 

Peroxide roamed, his mind askew with shock and anguish. He let himself become one with the city night and the pedestrians that coursed through its streets like a tidal current. At one stage, he passed by a shop window. He stopped and looked into the glass for a very long time.

He had no reflection. None at all.

 

Download a pdf of Peroxide and the Doppelganger

 

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A Matter of Style, Christine Ireland

 

These poems, one light

and the others not, explore

                                                                                       different types of conformity.

 

 

Out of Style

I’ve clicked my selections on websites of fashion

but have often been tricked by the fit,

so I’m lugging a dozen garments on hangers,

their hooks biting into my flesh -

I’ve collected them all throughout my favourite store

and now I’m fitting-room bound for the test.

 

The first outfit clings to display perfectly

every roll, every blimp, every bag

from there it’s downhill: I struggle to fill the hips and the rear

while the waist just won’t meet in the middle.

 

Even the t-shirts this season are all so wide-necked

(for some reason) that my décolletage is as vast as a ship

just not what is needed to slim or to flatter

or neaten the middle aged figure.

 

I abandon the cause, head back to the shop floor

in search of shoes, way less affected by fat

but here, while there’s all sorts of shapes,

heels come only two ways: skyscraper or flat.

 

After years of the former, my back is now buggered

- so stilettos are out, as are paper thin flatties

which provide no support. And I’m left wondering

about the so-called choices we’re spoilt for,

and all the discretionary cash in my middle-aged purse,

trying so hard to get spent.

 

 

At The Gallery

Grey day

spots

start

falling to frizz my hair

then pellets are making me and my mascara run I nip

inside behind others asking for directions and all there is

is walls

tall white

over head

their bright lips are telling stories all at once

and loud and the noise grows

round and swollen

there are faces in the ochre dust

on ground that feels the evil

beating

hearts were taken from this place

‘black velvet’

daughters being led away

a man is trussed and beaten in a cell its 1962

‘and they just pissed on him’

they               just               pissed               on               him

my stomach hunches with the taste of blood and sand-grit, salt

I’m reaching for my tissues, pretend I have a cold

try to sidle slow and knowingly like arty people, not

racing through loud rooms of stories along white walls all tall

rodent scrabble-running out of here

past that name-tagged man

to exit

sunny

sky now strangely blue

 

 

Music-phrasis

The following are ‘music-phrasis’ poems, written to and inspired by two pieces of music, respectively:

 

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major by Brahms, and

 

‘Can’t Take That Away From Me’ by George and Ira Gershwin.

 

 

Dreaming Young

You thought you’d keep my edges tucked

teach me how to move,

a lifetime’s repetition perfecting scales in g and b

now everyone again, again

and we’ll all be glad about it in the end

but none looked up to see me

stepping staircase climbing grandly sweeping up and up

and out and flying over roofs and roads and rivers

merging with the seasons suns and continents

 

can you keep up?

better cling or be thrown off

just try! you cannot meet me where I am

this skin slips free and I may march on over

you I repeat I do not care how often

I repeat I chime I sing across civilisations

I pianissimo to breeze, to delicate partnered dance

 

yes, try to keep me skipping in your palm

do not let me trickle up the keyboard

or I’ll merge with other music irascible, untamped

 

I will get to where I am, I will

greet me, pause

selectively

for birds and

yellow flowers

then subside to glide to water, rest in ripples

 

before climbing once again

moving always moving past the roadside forests’

shade then light, striped shade of dizzy light

in restless swallowing of landscapes up to skies

see, I have finally flung you over

no more tucking

nothing holds.

 

 

Can’t Take That Away

Eighty years ago

 

my mother took me to Manhattan

a sweeping suite on Central Park

white on white with floor to ceiling windows

deco plush and gleaming chrome.

On milky curves of Gershwin’s grand piano

she taught me how to tap:

 

lily-slim she shimmers

sheathed in elongated satin snow

creamy feathers bobbing in her hair

that smooth-curled cap of platinum,

her eyes of quick warm chocolate

the only colour I can see.

 

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Bipolar Disorder: One Woman’s Story, Francesca Tichon

I’ve grown up around mental illness. My mum worked as a teacher’s aide in a class of severely mentally disabled children when I was a kid, and my sister and I would often spend Take-Your-Daughter-To-Work days there. To us, the kids were funny and harmless, often pretending to be tigers or elephants and playing silly games with each other. But then Mum would come home with stories of colleagues having to go to hospital when the games got out of control and the ‘tiger’ got angry and scratched the teacher hard enough to draw blood.

American feminist and writer Rita Mae Brown once said, ‘The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people are suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you’ . That’s pretty accurate. According to Sane Australia, an award-winning national charity that focuses on campaigning, education, and research relating to mental health, ‘around 20% of adults are affected by some form of mental disorder every year’ and ‘nearly half (45%) of the population will experience a mental disorder at some stage in their lives’ . Only 3% of adults are actually disabled with mental illness though, some like the kids I grew up with. Most of the time though, you wouldn’t even know if your neighbour, colleague, or sometimes even friend had a mental illness.

Earlier this year, I found out one of my close friend’s mother has bipolar disorder, which really shocked me. My previous experience with mental illness had all been so obvious, but Anne Naylor was a whole different story.

Anne Naylor @ http://becauseofbipolar.com.au/photos-of-my-paintings/sometimes-there-are-fireworks-2/

Landscapes of the Mind. Artist: Anne Naylor @ http://becauseofbipolar.com.au/photos-of-my-paintings/sometimes-there-are-fireworks-2/

I had always admired her strength and ability to juggle work and raising a family including a son with serious mental disabilities (including Down syndrome, mild autism, a severe speech and communication disorder, a mild hearing loss, obstructive sleep apnea and depression), and yet I had no idea that she had been in that 3%. Most people had no idea.

Anne Naylor is a teacher, a mother, an artist, and an author. But about ten years ago she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It wasn’t out of the blue; bipolar is a slippery slope, and it took four different psychiatrists and multiple diagnosis before reaching bipolar. You’d think a correct diagnosis would be a good thing, that she could be treated and get on with her life, that’s what I thought at least, but you’d be wrong. It’s much more complicated than that.

Sane Australia defines bipolar disorder as ‘an illness, a medical condition’ that ‘affects the normal functioning of the brain, so that the person experiences extreme moods – very high and over-excited or very low and depressed’. These mood swings can vary in severity, but generally however high one becomes, the individual will experience an equal low. Usually, it’s the lows that lead people to seek help, presenting with severe depression, unable to go to work, look after their family, do the grocery shopping, or even get out of bed. According to Anne, you’re so depressed you’d commit suicide ‘if you could be bothered’. It’s the highs that are the truly destructive part of bipolar though.

Anne got off pretty lucky with her behaviour when she was spiralling out of control pre-diagnosis. ‘For me, it didn’t start with photocopying, but looking back that was one of the indicators. I was planning a party for my son’s eighteenth birthday and decided it would be very creative to display large photographs of him in a continuous border at eye height around the room. I chose the photos I wanted and took them to work. Every day after my colleagues had left the office, I enlarged, copied and laminated photos, 200 of them in total, in what I recognised later as a ‘frenzy of photocopying’’. She would stay up until 3am every night, doing the washing, ironing and folding, cleaning the house, working on the computer, never tiring. She asked her husband for a lime green Holden Monaro for her birthday, and if she couldn’t have that then she wanted a tattoo (‘a big one with beautiful flames of red, orange and yellow, flaring up my right arm from my elbow to my shoulder’). She decided, in her 40’s, that she wanted to be an ice-skating champion, taking classes and confident that she ‘would be great’. She even began writing erotica, leading to a very inappropriate flirtation with a male colleague.

Others suffer much greater consequences from their mania though. In the book Mastering Bipolar, one woman tells of the financial consequences of her mania:

‘It becomes a devilishly expensive dance. I lose control over the purse strings. I need a new outfit; it must be black and sultry. I love it so much I don’t take it off for days. And always, the music. I have been known to buy twenty CDs at a time whilst high. All bought randomly, for their cover or some weird connection to something else that I can’t remember in the end. I love books too. And don’t the booksellers love me. I choose books on colour or because they contain quotes I like or maybe they just smell good. I am unable to stop at just one or two. The only thing that distracts me in the bookshop are all the men. All these gorgeous men seem to be shopping with me. I am admiring eyes, necks, beautiful hands, and even their glasses or the way their hair is parted. I have truly become part-woman and part-werewolf.’

Another woman tells of her husband losing control: ‘Receiving a phone call from him on his mobile at 30,000 feet in first class informing me that he is Neo from the Matrix and that I am to arrange a Porsche to collect him from Heathrow Airport is not a call I wanted to receive, nor could have ever anticipated’. After being released from hospital, he then went shopping and ‘clocked up an extra $3000 (on top of the $15,000 he had already shelled out pre-hospital when he was en route to his £400-a-night suite in London’s Park Lane)’. Whilst in hospital, the husband was also unwittingly allowed unsupervised access to email ‘which sent him straight back into attempting to develop a network for his reality TV idea, and enabled him to denigrate many colleagues for their lack of support, via a global email in which he also lovingly included many a personal detail about our relationship, and espoused our love story as the ultimate in blockbuster epics’.

The things people do when manic can ruin lives. You lose sight of what’s important, think you’re indestructible, and many become sexually promiscuous. According to Anne, the philosophy of a person under the influence of mania is ‘always surrender to temptation for it may never pass your way again’. ‘Some [people] have spent so much money that they have lost their homes. Some have slept with people they shouldn’t have and become pregnant and/or lost their families because of it. Some have driven way over the speed limit and crashed their cars, or been caught driving under the influence, once, twice or three times. Some have found God, or thought they themselves were God,’ she explains sombrely.

Getting a correct diagnosis of bipolar can take years. For many people, bipolar does not develop until later in life, and there’s usually a trigger. For Anne, it was the onset of menopause. For others it’s puberty, pregnancy, or any other shift in hormone levels, and for others it’s not known what the trigger is. Anne was diagnosed with ADHD at first and put on Dexamphetamines, a central nervous system stimulant whose actions resemble those of adrenaline. It’s supposed to calm those with ADHD, but for Anne it was ‘as if someone had plugged me into an electricity socket and switched me on,’ she laughs. She could concentrate, lost her appetite and consequently lost weight, and had plenty of energy. There was a sparkle in her eye and she became quick and witty (or so she believed), and her sex life became mind-blowing. But all this was just kindling for the fire that is hypomania, making her ascent even faster and more exhilarating, and her descent into depression even more crushing.

There are countless stories in books and online of people’s manic episodes. Anne suggests that this is because ‘in hindsight, the ups can provide some hilarious stories, and a great way of coping with the mood swings is to laugh about them,’ as she does when recounting the stories of her sudden passions for cars, erotica, ice-skating, and tattoos. No one wants to talk about the lows though. Sane Australia describes the lows as ‘feeling helpless and depressed, with difficulty making decisions or concentrating’. That’s an understatement. This is how Anne describes it in her book Art From Adversity, A Life With Bipolar:

‘I couldn’t do much. The only thing I could do was sleep. Every morning I would wake up and think, ‘not another day, another long, awful, agonising day that I have to somehow endure until it is time to close my eyes again’. The only respite I had was when I was asleep and yet, during the day, I kept going, forcing myself to do the things I had to do.

I was tired, desperately, achingly tired, with absolutely no energy at all. My limbs were strangely heavy. I saw everything through a fog. Literally. I couldn’t see properly. I was sure there was something wrong with my eyes, even though two optometrists told me otherwise.’

Anne was unable to make decisions on what to wear, what to eat. She couldn’t even read or watch TV. ‘Every single thing I had to do was impossibly difficult,’ she says. ‘I felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen.’ She couldn’t even remember what it was like to feel happy.

Though her family were generally supportive and caring without being overbearing, her friends’ reactions, though well-meaning, were not helpful. They would say things like ‘what can we do to help?’ and ‘I’m surprised you have no resilience. Can’t you control it?’, but there was nothing they could do to help, and she was trying to control it.

It ultimately ended in her bipolar diagnosis and a stint in a mental institution.

A correct diagnosis and treatment does not fix everything, however. For some people, the diagnosis offers relief and an explanation for their behaviour, but then there’s always the question of who to inform of your diagnosis. Many people only disclose their bipolar to close friends and family, and only those who must know in their place of work or study. There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness, and disclosing your bipolar diagnosis to people who do not need to know can often lead to uncomfortable situations. In Mastering Bipolar Disorder, one person explains that, ‘sometimes the knowledge burdens others or, worse, is titillation. Sometimes no matter how much you explain, people will never understand.’

When Anne was first diagnosed she took an extended period of leave from work and then resigned due to her illness and side effects from the medication she had commenced. She told only a few close colleagues of her diagnosis and received mixed responses. One refused to believe her and Anne had to try to convince her that she really was mentally ill, another became very embarrassed and suggested this was ‘personal information’ that she should have kept to herself, and another, whilst initially supportive, gradually distanced herself from Anne, and their relationship became uncomfortable and strained. Ashamed and embarrassed due to these reactions from people she had considered friends, Anne never told her boss of her illness. Though her rights should have been protected by legislation, she didn’t want her professional reputation to be compromised due to confidentiality not being respected and people finding out about her being mentally ill.

Once she had stopped working, Anne, who has always been a passionate and motivated woman, was determined to get a handle on her bipolar. She found out as much information as she possibly could, found a psychiatrist that she trusted and saw him (now her) every week (now every few months). She followed his/her advice (such as eating well, exercising, not over-exerting herself in any way), and took her medication religiously.

‘Having to take medication is the pits,’ she says with a resigned laugh. In her book, Anne says that ‘approximately forty percent of people who have bipolar disorder take three or more psychotropic medications and eighteen percent take four or more.’ Everyone is different in what medication works for them, and what works is always changing.

The side effects of medication can be horrendous, and they can’t be predicted. ‘Except in my case,’ says Anne dryly. ‘I seem to get almost all of those so helpfully listed on the information sheets from the drug companies.’ Here is just a sample of some of the side effects listed for Anne’s various medications:

Fatal skin rash, vomiting and nausea, dizziness/unsteadiness, headache, drowsiness, double vision, blurred vision, tremors, trouble sleeping, memory loss, irritability/aggression, joint/back pain, constipation, dry mouth, runny/stuffy nose, fainting, uncontrolled movements of the tongue/mouth/cheeks/jaw, sudden increase in body temperature with sweating or fast heartbeat, restless leg syndrome, seizures, allergic reactions, diarrhoea, excessive and rapid weight gain, inability to control the bladder or bowels, slow or irregular heartbeat, slurred speech.

To many people, these side effects would be too much to bear. But, as one woman puts the choice between sanity and side effects, ‘it scares me, taking a drug to control my mind. But the thought of another episode scares me more.’

Personally, I think the hardest thing to lose would be the creativity so often associated with bipolar highs. Some people, mostly with less severe degrees of the illness, suggest that the creative highs can be harnessed to advantage. Most, however, refuse to allow their mood swings any leeway, knowing how quickly they can get out of control.

When Anne was very ill, she took up painting. Before the onset of her bipolar, Anne had no interest, experience, talent or training in arts. ‘The idea came upon me suddenly, out of no-where. I knew in my mind exactly what I wanted to do, and that was to paint large works and hang them all through my house,’ she explains. She started taking private art lessons, and then enrolled in a TAFE art course specifically for people with mental illness. She went on to study at an art school, and would lock herself away in her studio for hours to paint, often ignoring all of her other responsibilities, finding it soothing and addictive.

Bipolar has affected so many artists, musicians, writers, and other creative’s throughout history, so much so that John McManamy, a renowned mental health journalist and author, has pointed out that this list reads like an ‘honour roll’ . He also says, however, that this runs the risk of glamorising the severity and seriousness of bipolar disorder.

So what is it that connects bipolar with creativity? Apart from the fact that a bipolar high makes the world a brighter place (you can see colours more vividly, feel the music, taste the sunshine. One woman even suggests that you can understand what the frogs are saying), Kay Jamison says that ‘individuals with bipolar disorder … possess the rare ability to think along unrelated tangents, then put the pieces together (‘making connections between opposites’) into a grand visionary whole’ , and that ‘unbridled self-assurance and manic energy fuel the creative fire’ . What I wonder, though, is whether the tunnel-vision and manic energy of a mental illness unburden a person of their other responsibilities enough to allow them the time and inspiration to give an outlet to the creativity they have always had within but never had a chance to express, or whether mental illness creates something within a person that was never there before. Medication makes the world grey though; music is just music, sunshine is just sunshine, and the frogs go back to just making noise, but what if it didn’t?

As hard as living with a mental illness can be at times, those with any mental illness should not be pitied. As Anne will tell you, pity only makes you feel worse. And a woman like Anne Naylor should not be pitied. She is an incredibly accomplished woman with a beautiful family and (now back at work) a job she loves. ‘I take every opportunity to educate people who don’t know anything about bipolar disorder or mental illness and I do my best to empower those who do,’ she says with such passion it gets everyone around her excited by her cause. ‘I am lucky. I have a supportive, loving family and a few very close friends who understand and don’t care about my mental illness. … I am courageous and strong and I am continually surprised by the hidden talents and strengths I find within myself. I celebrate every day, because however long I live, my life will be over in a flash.’

 

Sources
Eyers, K., and Parker, G., (ed.) (2008) Mastering Bipolar Disorder, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, N.S.W.
Interview with Anne Naylor, 16th August, 2013, Anne’s residence, West Pennant Hills .
McManamy, J. (2012) Madly Creative, McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web, http://mcmanweb.com/creativity.html (last viewed 8th October, 2013)
Naylor, A. T. (2013) Art From Adversity: A Life With Bipolar, Glass House Books, Cairndale, Queensland
Sane Australia (2010) Bipolar Disorder, http://www.sane.org/information/factsheets-podcasts/199-bipolar-disorder (last viewed, 9th October, 2013)
Download a pdf of Bipolar Disorder: One Woman’s Story

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Joshua & 1000 Words, two works, Aidan Wondracz

Joshua

static

- The difference between a man with religion and a man without is that the man with religion spends his life fulfilling a purpose   whilst the other spends his life searching for one.

follow this road: rugged and rude/ joshua and adem rattle along. dawn brightening to azure day/ falling ochre/ settling to dark waters— spheres glimmering/ in that sky/ that flinches from touch—draining to day/ and back again. sleep/ puffed/ under eyes that want for rest/ on that familiar sight/ home.

static

-And who has the harder path? You may say it belongs to the one without purpose. But how can this be? He can do nothing wrong, for there is nothing right to mark him by. He can make no immoral statements, for there are no moral judges. Such concepts do not exist in a world without purpose.

sun is settling/ ochre chalks the sky/ silhouette landscape/ nigerian border is the horizon/ three-kilometres of sleeping trucks: waiting for inspection/ waiting to cross/ joshua parks in line.  adem turns the radio up.

static

-When he kills a man he does not say, I have killed one of God’s children, for he does not believe in God. When he sleeps with another man’s wife he does not think, I have tempted Eve, for he does not know who she is. He lives free, but lacking life.

joshua lurches out/ onto the ramshackle road/ bordered by rusted huts/ with broken frames/ jutting the sky. charisma of/ safari of red sun/ over red land/ lost to image of/ safari of slums/ poverty’s tread.

static

- He may experience the warmth, the flowering and never the fall, but he will always feel the wintery cold— the same freezing that stems from emptiness. Without purpose, what is anything for?

taxis cycle past/ joshua saddles on one. adem/ obsequious/ stays locked behind/ guarding the wheels from those/ desperate/ to save their hands/ guarding the cargo from those/ desperate/ to sell/ guarding the truck from those/ desperate.

static

- No, the harder path belongs to the man with religion, for every religion brings purpose. He who wishes to fulfil it must walk a path that is hurdled with bumps and hollowed by potholes. And following not too far behind, is Temptation.

nigerian border/ road settles to dust/ dusk settles to dark. no streetlights/ passing cars are the light of the night. old gum-smacked lady sitting on folding chair/ drinking the moon away/ coaxing a smile.

static

- It whispers for us to strike the one who cast the first stone. So we do, and we trip, not seeing the bump. It tells us to steal a glance from another man’s wife. So we do, and we fall, not seeing the pothole

joshua pays taxi/ that curls away/ under blanket of night. he heads along veins/ away from beating heart/ horns echoing/ fading. huddles between shacks and passers/ the way gets narrower/ the way becomes darker.

static

-And sometimes it is easier to lie face down on that ground, or hide in that hole, rather than to show your face. But, for those who grow tired of being numb—for lying too long on the cold—and sallow—for hiding too long in the darkness—the path does not end. Rather, the struggle to rise begins. And you realise that you are not walking on the path of virtue, for virtue is our purpose, and virtuosity is our end. No. The path is hurdled with bumps and hollowed by potholes. It is the path of Error, and the hardest of all. For though the fall is definite, the rise remains uncertain. The ones who leap, knowing this, are the bravest of all. It is in faith and for faith that we do this. And that is all.

a shack/ no bigger than the others/ but smaller than some/ a broken wall/ serving drinks/ tables perched out front/ he pushes to the counter/ counts his counters/ pays/ sits and drinks. warm neon glow of mosquito light/ melts with moonlighting/ over that hunched frame/ brooding/ a sip for thought from a glass filled with drink/ shy of one- and- two- naughts. zephyr of night/ turns to gale of noise/ voices rise/ glasses clink/ urine flows/ shacks rattle/ all passing/ the hunched and brooding frame. into the dark pool of thought/ he looks/ his eyes have greyed/ his stretched lips/ lamed by weariness/ all that shows/ is a hopeless frown. ladies of the night/ splash their feet/ clean to step in. heels flicked on tables/ rags raised above thighs/ dogs go howling/ market’s opened. rensia: pulled- back black hair/ flower dress with ripped petals/ runs her red licked nails/ across joshua’s neck/ whose eyes always set/ on that drink/ shy of one-and-two-naughts. she floats away/ to another man/ happy to rub his face in the flowers. revelry recedes/ silence comes again/ joshua in his bubble/ of blue and moonlight/ sinking deeper/ into that drink that’s turned/ shallow. visions fall behind drooping eyes/ of past time/ sailing the horizon in truck/ sitting where adem sits/ obeying driver as adem obeys/ staying behind as adem stays/ not knowing where driver goes/ now/ joshua knows/ and he shall go. he slips through puddles/ trips over bottles/ staggers to a shack/ heaving inside/ it is busy/ stumbles to another/ whimpering inside/ it is busy. travelling deeper along/ darker it becomes. plastic lawns/ cracking under heel/ he passes through narrower/ darker/ spaces/ shacks almost touch/ clouding moonlight/ hands against walls/ guiding blind feet/ through hanging rags/ painting the laundry/ with sweaty face/ clammy palms. a murmur a rustle/ both at once/ woman appears/ in doorway/ she nods/ she walks inside/ temptation whispers/ he walks inside: one room/ four corners/ bed lies in one/ hatched quilt over stained sheets/ woman sitting/ arms stiff/ leaning over/ he sits beside/ spring pokes through/ deflated condom by his foot/ silence. she shivers/ thought of night carrying/ longer she must sell. he rattles/ thought of night losing/ less he’ll enjoy. he strips her threadbare/ of her threadbare clothes/ she paws for pillow for protection/ lying underneath/ neatly wrapped/ she tosses the plastic/ he flinches/ shakes his head/ she shakes hers at his/ and he shakes again. she pushes the plastic/ into his hands/ his palms are too clammy. condom hits ground/ His face up/ Je n’ai pas dit[1] reads across/ he presses against her/ she pushes away/ deal is off. he rises/ distraught/ disconcerted/ He spoke/ Je n’ai pas dit/ He spoke Je n’ai pas dit. he pulls out fists of money/ she spreads/ deal is back on. onto the streets/ shirtless/ missing a shoe/ joshua staggers/ leaning over/ fist anchored in red/ scrunching money/ whining grows distant. through and through/ he travels/ slipping/ sliding. from behind a shadow/ which one he does not know—perhaps from same one he is standing in—appears four/ three grown/ tall- like/ gleaming teeth/ the other/ small- like/ not yet man/ soon to be. surrounding him/ three umbrella thorns and one bushwillow/ joshua trips. trees bend down/ helping him by the hands/ bushwillow brushes his face/ branches rattle/ tempest subsides/ forest clears/ joshua lies/ blood wrapped/ hands/ emptied.


[1] ‘I said no.’

 

intermission

dawn swallows the dark/ smoke chokes the air/ distant horns/ joshua’s eyes recede/ consciousness catches up/ head goes spinning/ tastes blood/ he fumbles and tumbles/ checks his empty pockets. the night is what he remembers it to be/ dark/ gloomy/ obscure/ a woman sitting on hatched quilt/ he touches groin/ Je n’ai pas dit/ he said no. he crawls his way back to the heart/ with crowds of cars/ and people/ marching through/ market- stands standing in the way/ of every passer-by/ merchants run/ accessories assorted on wooden plates/ marked with prices negotiable/ Je n’ai pas dit/ why did she say no? he touches groin/ car noise exacerbates/ sight blurs/ three kilometres back he travels/ he reaches that familiar sight/ that’s not home/ finds adem curled in seat. joshua and adem move forward/ along that rugged and rude road/ adem pushes back the sleep/ he sits up/ dashboard is too high for him/ to

see

 

an

 

end.

 

 

1000 words

 

Artwork

‘I don’t like the painting. It’s too postmodernist.’

‘It is quite minimalist.’ Francesca tilted her head. ‘But you gain a sense of urgency from The Artisan— a cry for recognition.’

Marion crossed her brows. ‘How?’

‘Well, the red is obviously overwhelmed by the white,’ Francesca continued, ‘it’s as if the artist believes he’s insignificant—like a dot— and feels he is floating in the white. Yet, he manages to triumph because we’re always drawn to the red instead.’

‘I don’t know,’ Marion said. ‘It just doesn’t speak to me as suddenly as his others.’

‘What’s wrong with a bit of a tease?’ Francesca sipped from her glass, sticking a scarlet kiss on the rim, ‘I like my men with a bit of mystery. Though, they can’t be too enigmatic—I still like to have some sort of a hold on them.’

‘Paintings and men are completely different.’

‘The only difference between the two is one is stroked by the brush and the other can’t stop stroking their own, and both have the equal capability of amazing or disappointing.’

‘They always disappoint past first inspection.’ Marion sighed and lifted herself to laughter with Francesca.

The empty floor catered to the high heels and polished shoes that sauntered across the room; women, choked in tight dresses, and men pressed in suits had gathered to pamper and praise The Artisan’s paintings along the walls. However, The Artisan himself was nowhere to be found.

‘Speaking of which,’ Marion searched for a signature on the painting, ‘where is he, and why does he never sign?’

‘You know how artists are; always wanting to avoid the spotlight because they think it will fade the colour of the paint.’ Francesca fidgeted with her cleavage bursting from her dress. ‘I’d be surprised if he actually showed up to this demonstration.’

‘He never does show up to any of them, does he?’ Marion gazed obstinately across the room. ‘I’m never going to understand this male.’

A man, wearing frames without glass, overheard and squeezed himself between the pair.

‘From what I’ve heard,’ he muttered in his glass, ‘he’s homosexual.’

‘And what makes you say that?’ Marion drew tight eyes at the unwelcome company.

‘Well, why else would The Artisan be so shy of public eyes? He’s scared of being berated for his sexuality.’ He turned to Marion, clumsily twirling his wine. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being homosexual, dear. But they have to make a big deal out of it and, judging from the rumours, there’s not even much to make a deal about.’

‘I don’t care if he’s homosexual,’ Marion snapped.

‘Oh, my.’ The man beat his palm to his chest. ‘It seems that we have a bit of an obsession. There’s nothing to blush about, dear. Everyone is bound to fall in love with The Artisan sooner or later. And who wouldn’t! Just look at the paintings. This one is my favourite. I think it captures the true essence of his sexuality and frustration of being unable to speak out.’

Impressing herself upon people was an unshakeable desire of Francesca’s— sometimes she even managed to impress herself— and she replied in a tone that was not too far sounding from ostentatious,

‘The dot represents his loneliness in the world and its centring would show that he holds his sexuality as a core value, but he’s afraid to speak out, because once he does, his value might not remain at his core; he’s afraid of losing his sexuality.’

The man clapped his hands, smashing the glass and splashing the wine,

‘An artist too afraid to lose his homosexuality, why, he’s a proud Tchaikovsky! And you, my dear,’ he lost his footing and held onto Francesca, ‘are magnificent. If only you could peer into my soul, the things you could tell me that I don’t even know.’ And the drunken socialite tearfully tore himself away in search for another glass.

‘They should keep a tab on how many drinks people can have.’ Marion watched the drunken man cradle a stranger in his arm before beginning to sing.

‘No one would turn up to these, then.’ Francesca laughed wiping wine from her arms. ‘And it’s nice to have some character in this room, especially when the artworks lack it. They’re all just colours, shapeless characters; different hues of boredom.’ Francesca took Marion’s sniffing as an obvious expression of the question she wanted to ask, and answered, ‘Just because a painting has meaning, doesn’t make it interesting. It might be interesting to find out what it is implying, but the actual work itself mightn’t be anything fantastic. I could hang this painting on the white wall at home, and the only difference you’d notice was a perfectly rounded, tiny, red stain. No matter what cleaner you used it would never wipe off, and it’d annoy you for being so pretentiously rounded; an irksome red against the white.’

And it suddenly occurred to Marion that the artist did not paint the work for recognition, or to express his sexuality, but rather to become unrecognised. Even though he had layered himself in mysticism, avoiding the public lights, he could not remove his name—The Artisan—the core sentiment of identity. No matter how small a being he made himself, his name had marked him a noticeable red.

Marion relaxed to a look of content. ‘Whether there is anything to look at or not, this painting is still interesting. I like it.’

‘Like what you will, but that doesn’t affect my opinion— I’d prefer a much more interesting stain on my wall,’ Francesca replied.

The front doors opened. A combed man, smelling of lavender, walked in wearing a dress of leather shoes, white collared shirt, black blazer and pants. All eyes were agape; all mouths closed. His hands were timidly crossed in front, but he smiled warmly. After clearing his throat of some uncomfortable phlegm, he opened it to speak.

Francesca leaned over to Marion and whispered, ‘That suit doesn’t match his character at all.’

 

1000 words.

Download a pdf of Joshua & 1000 Words

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