One pattern slips inside another. Skittish and slippery. A beauty and illusion in this dance which confuses and beckons the eye with perfect geometry and imperfect chaos. Between the cracks, the lines, the spirals, the divine nonsense. That is where we are. Where we walk hand in hand while leaves scatter on the ground and wires cross the sky and flowers swallow bees inside seductive pollen dreams. We lie within the lyrics of Something Changed, the sultry tones of Jarvis confining us to a metafiction future that can never quite be. We are the lies I tell myself when I’m ready to give up. We are the hope that sits quietly on a darkened stool, waiting for its moment in the spotlight. It will crack jokes one after the other until the audience is rolling in the aisles, delirious with love and life and all those things which you and I will have once we step beyond this pattern, once we slip through time, once we spiral into chaos… Once the pattern finally makes sense.
June 2017 USA Utah >> Idaho >> Oregon >> Washington
The higgledy-piggledy fences sit lop-sided on small hilltops. The grass is drying out for summer, dotted with green shrubs clinging to the soil. There are animals in fields. Horses, lithe and muscular, cows with horns ruminate, goats cluster with mischief. The hills give way to rocky drops tied together with powerlines. The only constant as we trundle through a changing landscape. There are farms. Graveyards for broken down machines. A museum of yesterdays. An abandoned power station sits in a gulley. Crumbled stonework and strange shapes remain. Like a ruined castle for the fuel of the past. We walk towards a future which may swing left or right. The only certainty is uncertainty. We’re running perilously low on gas. But maybe just maybe, with enough downhill roads, we can coast it to the next town.
There’s a bulldozer that follows me around. The eras of my life in pieces at his feet. The smash and crash and vibrations through the earth as memories fall, crumble, disintegrate. Are trodden down into the soil ready for new foundations. For someone else’s memories to smother the land and chase through freshly made corridors.
The long corridors of my youth stretch out before me with bleached histories fading with the echo of laughter. The rooms where I made friends are all gone. Good friends and bad friends. Those I still exchange birthday cards with and gossip over coffee once in a while. We know each other like two backwards hands that can nonetheless find each other in the dark. But our memories have been smashed into the soil. The benches we sat on in the schoolyard, sharing music through earphones on old walkmans. The tuck shop snacks of iced buns and chip cobs. The places where we witnessed fights and fires, young energy and destruction in minute forms. Spreading through the concrete yard and squeaky classrooms with a furious futility that would soon dissipate to nothing. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.
My 6th form college. More concrete yards and playing fields with hidden smokers’ corners. Stone age teens talk of blazing and we laugh afterwards, mimicking demented enthusiasm. More classrooms with new friends made. Bonding over hatred of Tony Fennec. Watching horror films at 9am for Media Studies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre burned onto my early morning retinas, while other memories fade. Trampled down by the bulldozers which eventually demolished it all. Another identikit housing estate and my memories bulldozed.
My university campus out in the leafy suburbs. Light passing dreamlike through foliage and Victorian houses with curved glass windows. And the building which housed us a Brutalist shadow against blue-grey skies. More long corridors and endless stairwells splattered with paint, the legacy of careless art students. Climbing to better views and brighter rooms, cold with single glazing and the pinch of morning frost. More friendships formed and funny stories exchanged. Bonding over hatred of pretentious classmates who would no doubt succeed in the art word while we were still shopkeeping and bartending. The echo of those high, bright rooms towering above a northern city remind me of a special time. Maybe the best of times in my rose-tinted nostalgia. An age where the possibilities were endless and friendships would last beyond the final bell. Before the endless possibilities became mounds of impossibilities. Before the hills became too steep and slippery in the pinch of the morning frost. Before the bulldozers came and knocked down my Brutalist dreamscape. Another memory smudged into the soil ready for someone else’s foundations. No identikit housing estate to replace my bulldozed memories, just luxury apartments adding insult to injury. The paint splattered stairwells with ascending views fall away. It’s someone else’s view now. Smug above the city in fancy boxes.
And there’s a bulldozer that follows me around.
© Kirsty Fox 2017
Note: This particular prose poem is memoirish. The true weird fact about me is that my comprehensive school, my 6th form college and the university campus where I studied art have all been knocked down. I may be jinxed.
January came in from the cold and parked herself on the sofa. Somedays she was grey and full of gloom. Letting the winter in. Icy teardrops suspended above fog. Other days she was sunny and crisp and full of an impassioned energy that kept moving, kept seeking, reinventing existence with a frosty glaze that made dark tarmac and dull concrete sparkle like a solar system. Hypnotizing eyes and imaginations. Infinite and magical and crunchy underfoot.
But she struggled. She struggled with the blue mists that came in off the sea and settled on the hills. Settled around her shoulders. Heavy and damp. The weight of it sank inside her. Into the small muscles and crevices. So that even when it didn’t sit visibly on her shoulders, it was still there. Waiting. When the sky was heavy with cloud and icy rain lashed the world, she could only look down at her feet and shuffle on through. Biding her time.
But even on the gloomy days, January had hope. She had to. Only a strong will and swarthy heart can survive the bleak long winters that so tormented. The days when darkness seemed to close in almost just after it left. The days when a kind word from a stranger made all the difference to the morning light inside her eyeballs. She would stare at the sky, letting the light fill her pupils until they were full and warm. Letting the surface of each iris feel the chill wind and the glance of sleet. The brighter days were always better, always happier. They made her look up more and she would see the trees and tops of buildings. Stark pleasing shapes and the many colours of the winter light as dusk drew close.
On these days January was not sad. Was not blue. Was not grey. She was just January.
© Kirsty Fox 2017
I was born in the back end of paradise at the foot of a wall. Now I’m old enough and ugly enough to fend for myself. But I don’t. This morning I’m attending a conference on survival. Not survival in the wild, but survival in the arts. It’s much the same. It’s the end of the world as we know it right in this moment here and also the one you’re in now. So in the post-apocalyptic landscape, all forms of survivalism are valid. Dystopia is handed to you in the pages of the morning Metro as you hurry for your first coffee of the day. A man in a woolly hat stands still amid the human traffic of morning commuters. He studies the ground in a hazed oblivion searching for stray cigarette butts. He looks pleased and surprised when he spots one. As though just realising the answer to a puzzle. Automated voices announce train times and reality fades to a veil of early morning hysteria. Crisp packets rustle and work acquaintances make polite conversation. Struggling with weak smiles that seem heavy and irrelevant given the state of things. We have become like coral or a yeast. A living thing en masse teeming with anxiety unable to separate our consciousness from one another. The survivalists try to predict which apocalyptic scenario will get us first. Stocking their bunkers with tinned food but also learning to hunt and forage. But the apocalypse is here. It is this slow death. A slow death of knowing that it is all so subtly wrong but being powerless to change a thing. In the distance, a boat with a broken sail floats idly on flood lake in the midst of chaos. The scene fades out.
I wonder how long I drag out the self-referential fox jokes for. Until they’re as frayed and meatless as scraps of dried up kebab dragged from a 6am takeaway by hungry urban vermin. I light a fire which consumes discarded snot rags and street wood. My housemate pours me a glug of Laphroaig whisky and puts a Tom Waits record on. It is raining outside but also not raining. Water cascades off the roof and dries mid-air as though it had never been. Never reaching the ground which is dry cold and aches with a sadness belonging to more troubled souls than you and I. The lights inside flicker but don’t quite go out. The bulbs uncertain as to whether their time is up and they should take a long walk into the darkness. I read a book because it seems like the right thing to do with the music and the fire and the whisky. There was a TV scene I watched the night before in which a teenager explores his estranged father’s house for the first time. The first few rooms are typical Californian beach bum novelty, but when he enters the final room there is an entire floor to ceiling wall of vinyl records and on the opposite wall facing it a floor to ceiling wall of beautiful books. Life goals, I think. We gradually build up a pattern, one healthy glug of whisky per side of a record. Chapters of books fall out of sync with this, however. Disappearing into a broth of eloquent prose and non-existent plot. Time passes and pages turn. Tom Waits becomes Neil Young and books become cigarettes rolled up and smoked beneath the spotlight of a winter moon. Wild flames turn to hot coals emitting white heat and heavy thoughts. Cigarettes become books once more. Unraveled, unsmoked. Words return faithfully to the page, climbing inside eyes which transmit them into language for a wet warm brain of pink. The fire and the vinyl crackle briefly and fade as one. We fall seamlessly into the sleep of winter, born away on soft dreams with the promise of spring.
© Kirsty Fox 2016
In the park I am a nobody. A nothing. A part of the foliage, the cut grass, the dirt and twigs. Invisible to the human eye as they pass by with pushchairs and dogleads or sit on the bench midway round hunting Pokemon on their pocket computers. My attention rarely lingers on these hopeless creatures unless a particularly special moment catches my eye. The woman blowing bubbles for her German Shepherd to catch while a small girl watches. Or the elderly lady I saw in the spring sat so quietly and contemplatively on the bench beneath the cherry blossom tree, a confetti of pink showering her delicately with each small push of the breeze.
But no, the people are to be casually avoided with their nuisance and noise and peculiar ways. It’s the canine and tree population I wish to capture in memory. I watch the dogs play and interact with one another, baffled by the wonder in the face of an animal enamoured with a smelly coloured ball hurled down the hill. The hurtling energy of beast in pursuit of rubber prey. Or up on the path the small dog greeting the big dog with a wiggle and a nuzzle, then waiting so patiently and politely while the big dog sniffs his bum with unrestrained attention to detail. He is collecting your stories – what you ate for breakfast, what the neighbours cat smells like when it sits on the fence with a haughty stare, what illicit salt n vinegar treats the toddler lets you slobber on before eating herself.
But I am most happiest when amongst the trees. They overwhelm me with their calm, measured presence. The play of light through foliage. The creeping signs of autumn told to me by the auburn against the green. I listen to the wind rise through the leaves like distant applause. I enjoy the crack and thunk as the horse chestnuts throw their seeds to the ground. Shiny brown conkers encased in spiky green shells. The trees throw this perfect ammunition at us for fun and we laugh obliviously, collecting them for our children, so that they can join us in playing a game as old as time.