Tag Archives: magic realism

January

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

 

Love & the Sea

It’s a funny thing. Nature, the sea, makes other things seem small. Diminutive. The waves smashing on a windy day, stealth creeping up the beach and catching you out. Water over the rims of wellies. And then rushing back out leaving behind just the dusk light. The beach shines and gleams, vivid pink & orange & blue & indigo in mackerel patterns on the dowdy sand.

If you look down and walk forward through the shallows as they rush in and then back out you feel drunk and disorientated. Like the world is travelling in a different direction to you. It is.

There’s a certain enjoyment in this anxiety. In this chaos of being. In this turbulent crisscrossing of moving things. Because you can stop any time. You can look up at a stable horizon which moves only imperceptibly. The handrail in a Fun House which steadies you when the fun gets too much.

You are the steady thing I crave in my life. An even constant that will tell the same self-deprecating jokes. And hold things up. And make things function – a wood-burner, a roasting chicken, or the part of me that can change from grumpy to cheerful at the drop of a hat.

The sand sinks beneath my feet as the waters rush in. The gulls spill across the air above the shallows, twirling and intertwining their flights with one another. Calling out stories of good fish and hidden roosts. The north-east wind is cold on my legs, defeating damp jeans or woollen tights. Large raindrops splish unexpectedly in my face despite sparse clouds. Moments later they are gone.

The sea has its own rain. Its own pace of life that is peaceful and enraged all at once. It has the raw passion of brush on canvas, of teeth on bones, of a lover calling late at night in desperation to just hear that voice before they resign themselves to sleep. I want love to make me feel how nature does.

The sound of flames licking the roof of a wood burner merge with the coastal wind outside and the occasional rumble of passing traffic on a narrow street. Everything inside is driftwood and leather and old suitcases with rusted clasps. Nautical stripes draw cotton fabrics and wool. Minimal sketches of warm clothes and layers of bedding that surround us. Swallowing us as we sink and disappear into afternoon sleeps induced by the sea air. Soggy socks and gloves dry near the fire, despondent. Every source of heat is special and loved in a climate of icy winds and persistent wet.

Here we are beyond the clouds. We have left all things behind and run entirely on adrenaline. Our bones aching from ageless woes. The cold. The storm. The storm is internal.

Love & loneliness wreak havoc on the people we forgot we were trying to be. We lose ourselves in books and movies because they say things we’re unable to articulate. If we stare at enough of them we will learn to string a sentence together. To really speak to one another. To communicate emotions and feelings that lie dormant or latent in our beings.

The truth is a dribble of cold tea on the side of a mug as it’s placed back on the coffee table. It’s a small reality that nonetheless matters for a little while to someone. But the moment passes. The pot must be stirred and the potatoes tossed in hot fat. The practical busies our hands so that they don’t idle in existential doubts indefinitely.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Sketch (the sound of cucumber)

A sketch is a suggestion of a world, a suggestion of a place, a time, people, objects. Leaves blown in through an open door. The absence of something you thought was there, but instead it was in another place, another time. A lost duck. A falling down wall. The innards of an old analogue tape strewn across the concrete. The white noise in your head expressed in marks on a rough surface. The smell of recently eaten toast and the sight of cold crumbs on an empty plate. The way autumn seems to to sum up all the autumns that have already passed you by in your life. The anguish of a daft dog licking your ear. The sound of cucumber (a kind of empty silence you might expect in the middle of an arctic tundra). The gentle weight of a head rested against your shoulder.

A sketch embodies these moments, these abstract concepts that are familiar and strange all at once. It is a stream of conscious not quite tangible to any mind other than the one that conceived it. And yet it still conveys some of the magic. The intrigue. The tiny sensation of what’s at the tip of our fingers……………

As Blue As The Land Beneath The Ice

The summer you gave me has frozen over inside an empty flat. Black on blue like the bruises insomnia leaves below my eyes. The flat is the barren plain where scraps of scrub grow resilient to the weather which beckons their death. The shabby forms of five writers sit on the shelf above the television set which is fuzzy and speaking only in tongues. Icicles form stalactites below the broad shelf, the scuffed shoes of the writers dangling as they look to each other for an answer to the question my eyebrows pose.

Jack scrapes grit from his boot with a dirty finger.

“I know the most about this winter. This icesheet. But why should I help someone who has condemned me as tired cliches your young self believed in?”

He looks at Gabriel.

“No pedestal for me when sat next to him. But I make you write don’t I? Because you think you can do better. With him you tremble with love and forget the plot.”

Gabriel said nothing. He grinned at me warmly. His face was weatherbeaten and tanned. But a tan in the light of winter looks a strange and suspicious thing. His teeth were crumbling, the more he smiled the more they slipped from his mouth like sand. His dark eyes held a love and sadness that made my heart break. That simultaneously brought value to what I felt and devalued it as trivial nonsense.

Margaret is reading. A shabby old leather-bound book, the title so faded that I can’t make it out.

“Margaret,” Jack says. “Surely you have an opinion? Like me you always do.”

Margaret lowers her reading spectacles with a long finger and peers at me and then over at Jack. They look like the construction workers hanging over New York City in that famous photo. Smiles and lunch boxes, legs dangling into the metropolitan abyss. But Margaret is the tallest and the only one who doesn’t wear a hat.

“Are you making this political, Jack? You’re not always subtle.”

Jack pointed to a spider shivering in is cobwebbed lair. “I don’t make it. It’s just the shape it comes. The pieces just fit together what the picture says is up to you.”

Margaret chuckled wisely and turned to me. “Make of that what you will!”

Her voice is clipped. American English. Two Americans and one Latin American. And what of the others? Who are the mystery pair in shadow on the end of the shelf? The whites of their eyes faintly visible in the gloom as they study the cold room with puzzlement.

“Why is it winter in here and summer outside?” I ask aloud this time. My voice shakes as though my vocal chords are wired up to a distortion pedal. as though the frog in my throat is a snake’s rattle.

The distortion moves around the room, latching onto other sounds which gather like a storm until the writers’ voices are lost. The creaks of the house become shrieks. The slight hiss of electricity becomes a mass. The spider scuttles to safety.  Time folds up on itself like origami crushed under foot. And inside the folded pages I hold my ears and cower, waiting for the end.

Aspire to Asylum

ASPIRE TO ASYLUM

Back to the quiet routine. Back to watching the dust and the bar flies settle in the reflection of a patterned mirror. Moments nuzzle up close to one another, leaving no personal space. Gruff John’s glass is empty. Specks of froth scatter the interior in a pattern which defines the last disappointed sip. He leans on the counter and begs the nurse for another dose. Politely first, then more insistent, sensing resistance to the logic of just one more.

In the corner Dog One is getting ratty towards Dog Two. They see each other every night and exchange the same old woes. Some time is spent with belly and jowls lowered on the floor, paws pushed forward as though diving towards an idle nap, eyes watching the feet that pass, drool leaving a small pool to mark the passage of time. Some time is spent greeting regulars and staff, tail uncertain in its waver, an empty wine glass caught as it’s nearly knocked from the low table. Some time is spent, like this time, re-establishing boundaries. Dog Two must know where he is allowed to sit, and who gets first dibs on pork scratchings.

The Rude Lady thumps the counter. She’s tolerated here. She takes advantage of this by being demanding. She demands because the world has never given her nothing. Least of all manners and gumption. The more she demands, the less is given. Nobody gives a shit for someone who gifts them nothing but grief. She has spilt cider on her table cloth skirt and loudly jokes about pissing herself. Nobody laughs. Her neediness fills the space around her. Those closest shift bum cheeks on bar stools.

The Intellectual Beard is preoccupied by the cryptic crossword, or at least he seems to be. Really he’s wondering whether his best friend has read his new book yet. It’s been three weeks and nothing has been said. He has grey hair sprouting from his ears but has yet to notice how it interlinks with the kinetic energy given off by the skittish nervous systems of those nearby. The whole room and its life forms are interwoven and yet the sharp tug of a single thread could pull the whole place apart.

But. No, nothing, it doesn’t matter. I never meant to say that, I’m just a bit pissed, mate.

Gog the Manager is not as old as he looks. But he still looks younger than Gruff John, who has the beetroot nose of a man who likes his tipple more than himself. Gog the Manager doesn’t judge, he has been known to match them all glass for glass, each new ale turning over his tongue. They are all connoisseurs here, except those who have resorted to habit and can no longer taste anything but the routine slug. But this is a nice pub, fights rarely break out here. Glass is smashed only with laughter, and a disorientated grace of being. You can take the pub from the community with beer tax and monopolising Pub Co’s, but you can’t take the community from the pub. Every man and woman is one-another’s equal here, and knows it. The outside world is the place where madness and insecurity rampage the streets and shout at the traffic. In here they are contained. A safe jacket with a tab where sandwiches can be ordered before 9pm.

There is no detached observer here. Even the man who only drinks soda water and keeps himself to himself. He scribbles in a notebook but if you look closely at the black boards his words are reassembled there.

TITANIC STOUT 4.5% £3.20 A JAR.

The door to the yard is propped ajar. Laughter and the chill breeze slip in through the gap. Two women smoking share the jokes and secrets only smokers understand. The heat lamp lasts three minutes and then Sheila with the Big Bum pulls the cord again. She always pulls the cord because she feels the cold settling in her mittens. Frances with the Curly Fringe forgets. Forgets how cold she is, caught up only in the laughter, in the promise of the night sky that squeegees away the dirt of daylight and leaves a clean surface on which tomorrow can be written, like the next guest ale off the draymen’s list.

Thorsbairn…

Thorsbairn…

Murky psyche vibes of caves inside caves. The planet feels turmoil through its bedrock. Inner cavities drum with restlessness that isn’t boredom. A restless waiting. Knowing that thing to be coming. Stalactites climb down from the roof. You fast-forward in the mind’s eye their architectural lifespan. The shadows jitter-bug across the cave walls.

We are all here in spirit. A race of vagabonds bound to search for the centre of the planet but never ever able to dig deep enough. Never able to mine all the resources Mother Nature almost forgave us for violating. She stays hidden and elusive. She speaks softly to some of the creatures, tending to them with a maternal instinct she has lost with us. We are the child discarded in a wicker basket, floating downstream with the chuckle of the burn…

Night Logic

I am nocturnal by habit and happily so. It must be the fox genes. So it made beautiful sense to me when someone in my writing crit group distinguished the idea of night logic and day logic in writing styles. It’s like when I first ‘discovered’ magic realism. I was already writing it, I just didn’t know it had a name. Nor a complex cultural history, emerging between old folklore and contemporary writing styles like a shadow with its own mind and its own experiential narrative running through inky hand-drawn veins.

Night logic loves ambiguity, the fantastical, the subconscious seeping like goblin juice through the fine line between reality and the imaginary hinterland. I could easily slip here into a dense debate of whether there even exists such a thing as objective reality, but frankly I’ve not had enough whisky for that sort of talk.

I don’t dislike day logic. It was a mixed diet of both Ken Loach and David Lynch that turned my teenage self into a cinephile, after all. But in terms of both acute inspiration and self-expression, magic realism and night logic are my default setting. From Maurice Sendak, to Jorge Luis Borges, to Gunter Grass, to Richard Farina – my eclectic voyages into the human soul, into why we are what we are, start and end with the subconscious, with night logic.

All characters written, read or experienced are first and foremost a mystery. A mystery unravelling to themselves and the figurative reader. We show the most about ourselves in what we subdue, in quiet moments, in the black box recorder buried somewhere amongst our vital organs. Some stories just can’t be told with straightforward chronology, with clinical terms. We must wage battle with abstract nouns, mythical struggles and the restless song of the night-time breeze which refuses to explain what that strange sound was, or why our eyes forever play tricks in the dark.

This blog is written as a part of the Magic Realism blog hop organised by Zoe Brooks. For more on the magic realism hop here plus an ebook giveaway.

Further hops…

What is Magic Realism?

Sporadic Musings

Magic Realism or Fantasy?

Flying High with Magic Realism

Magical Realism and a Floating Life

Urban Fantasy and Magic Realism Matter

Serendipity – Down the Rabbit Hole

Real Magic and the Mythkeepers of this World

Facts and Fiction – Historical Magic Realism

Magical Realism Blog Hop Giveaways

White is for Witching

Magic Realism in Movies

Every Little Thing I Read is Magic

Everyday Magic Realism

What the Masters of Magic Realism Say

Some Brief Descriptions of Magic Realism Books

The Moon & Cannavaria – Children’s Fairytale Short

Extract From Company of Shadows

The Unknown Storyteller

Magic Realism for Men – No Swords or Flowing Beards Here