Tuesday, December 3, 2013


There were crows circling the corpse at dawn. It was cool in the desert, and the sun took some time to shake off the flat chill of the night. The highway stretched like a red ribbon across the valley, and the roadkill waved a grotesque paw in the thin air. In the foothills a shadow fell as something picked up on the scent and lifted its head. Food. The hyena’s neck fur bristled. 

On the other side of the valley a hawk drifted, allowing the sun’s rays to heat up the blood in its veins. It appeared to be lazy as it hovered on the light updraft, but if you looked closely, you could see its eyes scanning the horizon. Lifting a wing, it turned to the left as it saw a patch of something promising in the distance. A brief rasping scream announced its intentions to the sand and stubby bushes and the wind ruffled its feathers as it accelerated.

A rare wind swept through the valley lifting swirls of dust skywards, echoing asthmatically through the caves and boulders of the hills.

The crows scattered as they caught sight of the hawk jetting between the dust clouds, leaving the corpse in the pursuit of something less desirable. On the other side of the road, the hyena padded with intent across the pebbles, its tongue lolling to one side.

The hyena came to the side of the road. There were scents here which rolled off its nose incorrectly. The dank reek of diesel was faint but discernible. The hawk was closing in. Tighter circles in the air proved its tension as it flexed its talons slightly.

Metres apart, the beast from the hills and the surgeon of the skies caught each other’s eyes. An  orange glint of possessiveness flashed  across each one’s face and a charge of lightning in the distance signalled for the race to start.

Utterly focussed, they swept down on the roadkill whose obscenely acrobatic pose was shifting in the breeze. A gust and the briefest of clouds puffed skywards as a truck slammed into the scene, scattering hawk feathers and hyena fur in a colourful explosion, air horn blasting into the desert’s void.

The truck only shifted slightly as it slipped into the distance again, leaving the warm bodies of the creatures; enemies in life, united in death.

Two black spots appeared above them. The crows watched as the foreign truck barrelled away, leaving the desert to the locals again. We belong here the most, they seemed to say, as they cawed  their mocking laughter and fell to eating the impromptu feast.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Birthday thoughts.


Answers? No, thanks.

I just want to keep on asking questions. Hoping for the mysteries to be more than ever before. 42 is not the answer to anything, and it’s not the end. Unless you’re Elvis Presley, and then, barring some mistaken identity in Walmart or a waffle burn shape, you are gone.

There’s this beach I like to go to which has moods. You wouldn’t guess that straight off the bat, but visit it enough and you’ll see: When the tide is coming in, the rock pools are a foamy flurry, but when the tide is low, the little ecosystems are tiny arrangements of shells, fish, living creatures and seaweed slow dancing to the breeze. 

The sand on that beach can be a range of textures: Soft enough to dig a little castle out of, and coarse enough to turn up brilliant mother-of-pearl shards and unholy digging beasts.

Sometimes, after a spring tide or storm, reeking swathes of kelp litter the strand and provide perches for seagulls. The hunch-shouldered brutes bully each other away from scraps of dead things and shriek above the rolling belch of the waves.

The beach is always the same, but the sun, sky and sea act as sculptors in a contest using the same material, snatching the clay from each other and tinting it backwards and forwards. A plastic bottle wedged between rocks turns out not to carry a romantic missive from another continent, but just one from nature: “10 000 years before I disintegrate”, it whispers, “10 000 years, 10 000 years.”

Trains pass intermittently on a track just metres from the shore, and there will always be one small child lifting a hand to wave as you stand on the rocks. You can wave back, but it’s probably the same child travelling up and down, simply to offer acknowledgment to those who are trying to embrace their isolation as they stare out to an ocean which never pours off the edges of the world.

The smell of coconut hangs in the air from the lotion rubbed on the flesh of the visitors and washed off by the shower which dribbles fresh water into the saline pools. If you stare long enough into the blue-green-white-black void of the surf, you may see a dolphin or a seal, but your eyes will start to hurt so you’ll look away, willing that rock to move again.

Footprints form temporary craters that get filled and emptied every day, brittle, brief reminders that people walked where once a sea creature shoved itself out onto the sand with fins and slid off into the hills wondering why it couldn’t find fish to eat.

My children would report, having visited there: We went to the beach, the one with the pool. We looked at the rocks and picked up shells. We dug holes and had fun.

A poet took her wax paper-wrapped ham sandwiches with her in a scarred leather satchel and pushed into the breakers, sank like a badly reviewed volume of verse.

Bring on 43.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Goodbye is an echo which never fades. 

It hangs, reverberating, off canyon walls of grief. 

Words ill-chosen and clumsy, a distraction from the warm greeting which was life.

They’re shades, wraiths and mists drifting over the graves of the dead, blending and folding into themselves in a constant drift. 

Light retreats from them and the darkness consumes them.

What can be said of this absurdity we call life? 

That it can be a consummation of humour and love and that it consists of nothing at all. 

A legacy written in invisible ink; 

A vapour.

Nothing survives the analysis of the living, flawed with hope, fear and optimism. 

The contents of a beast’s belly cannot criticise that which consumed it. 

A butterfly’s wings blown free of colour, rendered translucent flightless. 

The echo of a doorbell in an empty house.

In the light the creatures are cornered in shadows, but in the dark they slip across the floor, scattering to their nocturnal pursuits.

A clock chimes, but nobody hears, and so it chimes again. 

A tar-coloured bird giggles in the darkness and then yells as if it is day.

But it isn’t.

A copper bowl sings with the strokes of a leather mallet.

Goodbye is an echo which never fades,

Goodbye is an echo which never fades,

Goodbye is an echo which fades, fades, fades.

There’s memory held in shades, shades, shades.

Death is the negative snap of life.

Life, inverted.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


It felt like roots. Light tendrils gripping his veins. In a panic, he tried to remember something happy. A firm stalk to grasp as his feet slipped against the mud. For some reason, the word “fig” slipped with ease into his head.

He remembered the stench of the fig of his childhood. The way the fruit smelt as it lay rotting next to the pool, and the way that smell dragged the fruit bats clapping their wings out of the dark like admirers of a cult leader. Clap, clap, in the dusk.

They’d gorge themselves on the ripe fruit, and then shit down the walls of the house in purple streaks.

It looked like blood in the slow autumn sunset.

He didn’t mind too much about the massacre happening on his parent’s wall, but, instead, went to the garage, where the chemicals were kept. The HTH for the pool, the Jeye’s fluid for the drains. His neighbour had shown him how to let the Jeyes dribble into the HTH in a jar and then bubble as the chemicals refused to get along… Explode…

A while later, his friend lay in the hospital bed, crying without sound as the fluid seeped through the thin tube into his veins. Living, not happy.

The burns doctors laughed as they shared pots of coffee in the cafeteria. The hats of the coffee urns dipping as they boiled. A sandwich sat under the lights, waiting for a surgeon to point at it wearily. The surgeon’s wife lay at home, crying as a character from a soapie fell out of love. Again.

He knew the dirty smell of his friend- the way blonde hair smelled as it fizzed into flames. And he knew that the time of childhood was past… The time of making fires for no reason and living without consequences. No fires without burns.

On the radio, an advertisement for detergent was playing.

Friday, March 8, 2013


There were ripples around the room. Mainly because the toilet u-bend had been smashed during the party last night. A palpable silence was dutifully poked by the small crowd which shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot to foot, like a group of sheepish college students waiting for the cue to start a flashmob. None came.

The police were on the way. The detective had sounded grumpy when he’d ordered them all to stand still until he could get there, but that could have been the fried egg he was chewing, especially since a big glob had dripped onto his tie while he was talking to the hung-over party people. It was his favourite tie, too. The one his favourite barmaid had once told him “brought out his eyes”. He wasn’t too sure what that meant, exactly; he just liked the way R2D2 was dead centre if he tied it right.

He barked a gravelly cough as he pulled into the long, curved driveway in front of the guesthouse, the chipped gravelled surface echoing him. Checking to see no one was looking, he buried his cigarette butt under the stones, not noticing the long tendrils of cat poo which curled up at him. he driveway was a giant litter basket to a loose alliance of two Siamese cats, both of which were peering at the man as he looked first through the windows, then the keyhole before knocking on the front door.

Nothing happened.

Gingerly, the detective pushed the door open and stared at the low puddle of water which was lapping at the ball and claw-footed entrance table. A paper plate with what appeared to be nik naks on it floated past.
He called out.  A muffled voice came from a door behind a spiral staircase. On inspection, it belonged to a man wearing a muffler. It had been chilly last night.

The detective took in the scene. Possibly ten youngsters wearing what could only be described as fancy undress. Partially naked, somewhat covered by feather boas, voluminous hats and items of spandex they all gazed at their feet. On a purple sofa, one was obviously asleep, face down, arms at his sides. One of the cats was sitting on the reclining man’s backside, forming an even more bizarre image. 

Muffled man sobbed.

So, what’s the story here? The detective asked, clueless as to forming his own conclusions.

Phobe, the man gasped. He held out his iPhone, and waved at it as if he never wanted to see it again.

The detective held it between his fingers as if it was a dead bird. Muffled man shuffled through the water and retrieved it, swiped his way through to the saved video screen. Pressed play.

The detective looked at the small screen. It had been filmed in this room, that he could see, but a neater, less damp incarnation of the room. Ten kids sitting quietly, reading, knitting, playing chess. One suddenly appeared to have some sort of seizure, and horrible music blared out. Inexplicably, the room was suddenly alive with dancing party people with a mixture of hats, lycra and... nothing. Hell’s Village People.

Muffled man shook his hand at the phone as the music stopped. He had goosebumps on his legs where his cycling shorts stopped. A woman behind him sniffed and brushed a blue feather off her cheek.

Plaaakkkk, muffled man said. Plaaaaaaakiiid.

The detective looked again at the person on the sofa who hadn’t moved despite the noise on the phone. The cat looked up at him, stretched and stepped onto the back of the seat, twisting its claws into the upholstery.
The man was not asleep. He was dead.

All at once the room began to spin, but it was just the detective trying to get his head around last night’s nightcaps. 

What’s going on?

It wasn’t our fault/I promise/we didn’t mean any harm/and now he’s dead, a girl gushed the sentence as if it was one breathless word.

We all planned to do the Harlem Shake and have a party but Mickey didn’t get up and at first we thought he was just planking and then we realised he wasn’t breathing so we thought maybe he’d thought up a new one, uh, corpsing, so we left him, but then he was still there this morning and now he’s.... she blabbed

Deb! Muffled man gasped.

The detective shook his head and splashed his way out of the room. In the driveway, he called the coroner. A hooting distracted him- looking up, he saw a naked man squatting on the roof of the house near the chimney. Twit twoo, called naked man.

Damn owlers, muttered the detective, fingering his stained tie.