The Elephant In The Room

The tiny man that lives in my chest is breathing louder.
Longer.
His lungs swell and ribcage expands and with each breath instead of retreating his body continues to grow. He sits curled, his spine arched and face unseen and with every inhale I feel my bones creak. You stand above me, watching me from the ceiling. Glaring and spinning as the room spins with you, one eye is fire, the other a ticking clock.

The clock strikes one.

You scream at me with a mouth invisible. From screens taped to my hands, pasted on every desk and available wall space you scream at me. Miles away, you remain in my view and in my head. Frightened by your screams the man in my chest breathes heavier and heavier.
I watch my skin stretch and distort. Like bubble gum on the pavement, like cling film torn on a serrated edge, my skin is changing. The colour becomes pale in the spots that are thinnest and scars once thick and healed become pink and splitting. I am breaking.

The clock strikes two.

You are everybody that isn’t me. Everybody that hates me. You are the news in my feed, the looks on the train, the scorned lover that believes me dirt. You are strong and I am weak. The man in my chest cannot withstand your war and my flesh and blood cannot contain him.
In my body the second room that is the housing that holds my heart and lungs aches. Walls are cracking and foundations below are receding. I want to open the door. I need space so the man can expand without hindrance but the key I have been given does not fit the lock. The man does not heed the cries of my insides as they are crushed.

The clock strikes three.

My stomach bursts as the man breathes in once more. I want to stop him. I need to stop him. With every message and hint of you the man breathes in and I am terrified he will not stop. Please stop screaming at me. I can be better. I can be good. But I need you to stop. I want this to stop and you want this and maybe you want him.
When he emerges maybe I will be replaced. As he stands in my stomach, my body twisted and broken underneath him like the shell of an egg, maybe he will step forward and become me. Be the me you always wanted and maybe finally I will be better.

I want it to be over.

The clock strikes four.

Collage (Old)

Everything I think has been thought before
Nothing I feel can feel like anything but nothing
I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do

Everything I think has been thought before.
And while my mind in make-up is unique,
In deliverance in intention and
In outcome I can only be
The same.
The same,
As all the rest
That have gone before.
My mind is not me but everyone else.
A sea of faces of all the people I know.
Waves of experiences reliant on other’s.
Crashing into one another.
Skulls hitting skulls.
Mouths biting ears.
Teeth scratching eyes.
Writhing, rioting.
I want to blow them away.
Not for an end, but for clarity.
I want to spray them against the wall.
In a burst not as violent as a balloon pop,
But not as gentle as a dandelion in the wind.
So once scattered and spread in a whole,
I can see the sea of faces in its entirety.
And then maybe I would be content,
Kneeling in front of my collage,
Of blood, bone and thought,
Knowing I understood,
At least for a while,
What I am.

I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do

Everything I think.
Has been thought before.
And it’s only when I realise,
That feeling like this,
Doesn’t mean,
I’m nothing,
I’ll be able to,
Think some
thing

else.

Too Much Has Already Been Written About Storms

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.

It was a once in a ten year storm. Catastrophic. Never before seen, heard or imagined. That’s what the media told us. In our current climate it felt like we had one of these almost every other week but we didn’t care,
not tonight.
Tonight felt like something special.
I chucked on an old shirt and my roommate’s thongs and flagged down my friend as she drove past. On the way to the beach we listened to Violent Soho’s ‘Slow Wave’ and I watched the sky, waiting for it to break apart.
The beach is the best place to be in a storm. The only thing between you and the sky is flesh and blood. The danger is electrifying and real. We were going to live forever and this is how we showed the world that we weren’t lying when we said that.
Half a bottle of red with ‘Medium Strength’ written along the side gets passed around the group. It wasn’t enough to get drunk but that was fine. We were fucked already.
Faces were grinning. Fingers tapped against thighs. We giggled and tripped over our own feet. Everyone could feel that tonight was something different.

The whites of our eyes reflected back in each other’s mad stares.

We ran down the sand screaming and yelling like we didn’t have jobs anymore,
we didn’t have houses anymore,
we didn’t have our selves anymore.

Me and my best mate waded out together, further than anyone else. We went so far the horizon stopped existing. The sea joined the sky seamlessly and nothing but blackness lay in front of us. He said the water looked as if it never had end and we wondered how far we could walk until we drowned.
Someone behind us told us to look out for crabs and we told them to get fucked. When something touched my leg I screamed and we splashed back to safety.
The storm didn’t come. That night I left my window open and listened to Violent Soho quiet enough hoping when it came I could hear the rain.

Interstate-95

Georgia, U.S.A. 2017.

There is nothing in my mind that is worth repeating
nothing worth keeping
sky green
and ground in between.
Driving a circular highway
lined by things unseen
Keeping me safe
Keeping me sound
sky green and ground
in between.

Spending money because that’s what I’m told to do
Pretending I’m trying because that’s what I’m told to do
‘What’s your plans for next year?’
because you’re currently not enough.
Not enough to trust
that you’re trying enough.
Not enough to trust
with the future I’ve raised for you.
And it’s true.
I’m not.

Apples wrapped in plastic
pass us one from the back seat
as we drive this circular highway
surrounding either side of our minds.
Things unseen.
Things unsaid.
The apples are marked with a sticker saying ‘red’
like the messages in my head
that I send myself in my sleep.
Apples wrapped in plastic
because it’s easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
excessive waste and stale taste
biting my tongue
as I talk in my sleep
about things I don’t
repeat.

sky green

and ground

in between

marked by exits on this highway
blocked by roadworks and signs on the wrong side of the road
that we drive by
that we keep driving by
keeping myself repeating
nothing worth

Punk Show

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Melbourne, Australia. 2017.
I’m wearing dirty blue jeans and a jacket to match. My checked shirt is from Kmart and the Docs on my feet were a birthday present from my mum. I’ve got shitty hip hop blaring from my headphones and when I walk I keep my shoulders hunched and my eyes straight ahead. In my mind I’m exuding edge, I’m exuding fuck-you attitude and everyone is getting out of my way.

I caught an Uber here even though they’re corrupt and exploitive.

A shoulder bumps into my side and draws me out of my punk youth fantasies. I twirl around as the girl responsible simultaneously flips me off, apologises and keeps on walking. I straighten and turn my music down. These boots are too new and tight on my feet.
I arrive at the gig halfway through the second support act. To get to the stage you have to go down a hallway next to the main bar and then past a secondary sports bar/gaming area. There’s no signs pointing to where the stage might be so it takes me a sec to figure out where the fuck I’m supposed to be going. This place sucks.
The room where the band is playing is carpeted with three complete walls and a fourth which is just a frame around holes where the windows and doors have been removed. Between me and the stage is this room and a paved beer garden, narrow with tall buildings looming on either side of it so you have to look up to see the sky. I go and get myself a beer from the sports bar so I have something to do.

I buy a Coopers even though they’re conceited and homophobic.

To get to the stage you have to go across the beer garden and step up through the empty doorway into the carpeted room. The room looks full from outside even though it’s probably not so I stand awkwardly back where I can’t see the band playing. To occupy myself I sip at my drink and stare at different people until they turn around so I have to pretend I’m looking somewhere else.
The support finishes, thanks us and packs up. As people leave the area closest to the stage to get more drinks I slide in. The crowd is full of middle-aged old-school punks. I watch a few stroll around with laces up to their knees and the headlining band’s vinyl tucked under designer jackets. The lighting is dull in here and every time there’s a lighting change shadows move across the floor which makes me feel like something is falling behind me. When this happens I flinch.
A loud woman with big cheeks, short hair and a Mambo hoody gets her drumsticks signed by the support act that just played. Enthusiasm rolls off her in waves of sweat. A man built like a wall stands to the side of the stage. He is bald with two red wiry mutton chops hanging off the sides off his face. There is something fast and loud being played over the speaker and I don’t recognise it but he is bobbing up and down. His two hands are balled into large tight fists and they sway with him.
There’s a fireplace next to the stage and he bounces in time with the dull flames inside it.
I finish my beer and don’t know what to do with the glass.
I see one of my old tutors and don’t say hi.
I wish these lights would stop flickering.
The headliner is taking an extra long time setting up.
I watch the bass player carefully stick several layers of bandages to his right wrist and wonder what it is for.
My back hurts and I think about leaving early.
I’ve just started counting the coins in my pocket to figure out if I can get another beer when they start playing. The loud woman with the big cheeks pushes past the crowd and stands uncomfortably close in front of me. She turns and says something to me that I can’t hear over the music then laughs. I nod smiling. When she swings her elbows around I have to step back.
Green lights wave wildly across the stage rendering the band a blur. Their sound is deceptively simple, with one guitar, a bass, drums and incendiary lyrics it’s easy to fall into a punk mould that denies originality and interest. But the extent of control they exert over both their performance and sound is astounding and destroys that mould completely. The stage is an instrument in itself with the guitarist utilising distance and space to her advantage. I watch as she moves back and forth from her amp, carefully pushing distortion levels up then down in time with the rest of the band. Heads nod in the crowd. The woman in front of me is totally lost, grinning madly to herself. The wall to the right side of the stage is swaying faster and faster. To the left a pair of men in suits start dancing, get embarrassed, stop, then dance again.
The songs I know get played first and I don’t mind when they play more that I don’t know. I sing the words loudly and get them wrong often.
The green blur of the stage coupled with the rolling build of the music and words is intoxicating. In this shitty pub on the wrong side of Adelaide I close my eyes. I forget my clothes, my skin, my mind and let my guts and insides twist to the sound. I am not me here, I am part of something, I am part of change, I am part of dissonance, revolution, something greater than.
A shoulder thumps my back. I turn, still grinning. The wall with the mutton chops glares back at me, a woman in identical black clothing twirling on his arm. Good natured I bump him back and turn back to the band.
My eyes catch the fireplace briefly. The flames are much higher now.
A hand grabs my arm and pushes me into the person next to me. I turn to apologise to them when someone knocks me forward. Someone else from my left pushes me and another from my right. I turn, drop my shoulders and start knocking back. I’m smiling.
My hat gets pushed off my head and I grab it quickly, hitting someone in the face with a flailing fist. The green lights spin and I spin with them, falling into ribs, elbows, knees, floor. In the blur of the band and body movement I recognise the woman with big cheeks, the wall with the mutton chops and a handful of others as the space where we mosh expands. Expanding because people are stepping back.
The wall grabs people and pushes them in, people who immediately pull themselves out. He swings fists. I watch in one spin across the front of the stage as he knocks the drink out of the hands of one of the men in suits and pushes the other to the floor. I laugh, lost in the violence of the moment.
I think we’re moving faster but it’s because more people are stepping out which means there is more space to fall through. I stumble when I push to the side and hit no one. As I gather myself I see one of the men in suits, now with wine stains down his front, is standing in front of the wall. He has a finger pointed between his muttonchops and I can read from the shapes his mouth is forming that he’s saying

“Stop this bullshit.”

The wall laughs and the woman with full cheeks pushes the man in the suit so he stumbles. He doesn’t step down. Things are getting quiet and it’s then I realise the band is playing the same note over and over again, watching what is happening carefully. I don’t know how long they’ve been doing this. A creeping uncomfortable feeling crawls up from my stomach, like alfoil that I’m slowly regurgitating. I move back into the crowd.
The bass player leans towards the mic

“We will stop playing.”

The wall throws his hands in the air like Nixon on that plane. He nods vigorously.

“Take your toxic masculinity and fuck off.”

The woman with full cheeks knocks the man in the suit again, and the wall pushes against her. A few others push again but I don’t want to move anymore. I don’t want to be here anymore. I am so aware of my clothes, my skin, my mind, my hate. I am not me here, I am part of something, something awful, something poisonous.
The guitarist starts to speak. The song isn’t over yet.

“I look out here and see men, men making everyone else here feel unsafe in a space where we have fought hard to make everyone feel welcome.”

The contradiction between what they represent and what we thought was support frightens me greatly. I was having fun. I was having fun making other people feel unsafe. I wish I wasn’t so tall. I wish I wasn’t here at all. She points at the wall and when he sneers she shouts him down.

“Fuck the patriarchy.”

I nod and clap and cheer with everyone else even though I’m part of the problem. I can’t turn around in case someone points out my hypocrisy and I explode. The wall’s head is down but he is still swaying.
They play the end of the song which is the part where I know the words. I say nothing and keep my hands in my pockets. Someone knocks me and this time I step back.
The band finishes. I can see from their setlist that they still have one more to go but the bass player turns to the guitarist and when they turn back to the crowd they say thanks and start packing up.

I clap and nod here even though I’m part of the problem.

I leave immediately, walking out of the pub and putting my headphones in. I don’t play any music. Guilt and shame follow closely.
Streetlights flicker. I can only see them in the corner of my eye and when it happens it makes shadows move across the pavement and makes me think something is falling behind me. When this happens I flinch.

“I am not a production unit,
I am a human being.”

‘Say What You Mean’ – Cable Ties

Cars/Do Me A Favour

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.
Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars
I didn’t want you to drive me home

Tears on the steering wheel, 
dripping on the seat

Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars
Sitting at the bottom of the shower
Sitting over the drain and watching the water level rise
Water draining
mirrors your eyes
as we fight and scratch in cars at night.
Yelling about nothing and fighting for each other

trapped

in

cars.

Where breath marks grey walls against glass,
fog of madness of fear
there’s no intimacy here.
Just sitting in cars getting trapped in cars.
Sitting at the bar with your friends at night
Finish your beer,
fog of madness of fear.
Tuck the glass in your pocket and make your excuse
Place it on the floor
and put your foot through it.

Clean

broken

glass

Where breath marks grey walls
getting trapped in cars
I didn’t want you to drive me home

so

Do me a favour,
And break my nose

Remind me that I’ll never be alone
He says he doesn’t love me
I didn’t ask if he did
He says he doesn’t love me
I didn’t ask if he did
Remind me that I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be

Grey walls remain with bleeding fist marks dotted along its side
Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars

And I watched, and I waited till she was inside
Forcing a smile and waving goodbye.

‘Do Me A Favour’ – Arctic Monkeys

Cut.

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.

Everything is foggy.
Why am I so.
Foggy.
There is a cut just under the knuckle of my left thumb and I don’t know when it got there or how but it has been there at least the last few days and it is not like it is bleeding or there is a scab just a small flap of skin that folds back when you play with it and I couldn’t sleep this morning and I was tugging on that flap of skin this morning and it was raining outside and the sun was still faded outside and I could hear dogs barking outside when under my grip the cut gave way.
The flap of skin pulls back. And I keep pulling.
The skin peels back as one whole layer. I wait for it to break but it holds together. I feel my stomach push itself up my throat as I watch myself skin myself. A thin translucent and bloodless layer, soft in an awful way rolls
past my knuckle,
down the back of my hand
past wrist,
past elbow.
I reach my shoulder and pass out.

I wake up next to someone I don’t recognise and my eyes are blurry and I am freezing I am warm. I can’t move. There is a cocoon of air around my body and it is invisible and sinister holding me tightly and I want to get up I want to get out but I can’t move I can’t move my mouth and it is open and I try to say something but I can’t speak I can’t move.
My eyes focus. The someone next to me isn’t a someone at all. It is human shaped with a full head of hair, elbows, arms, legs, but without body without flesh without bones.
Completely flat.
Empty holes replace eyes and mouth.
Completely
It is then I realise that the someone is not a someone but a something that belongs to me. Belonged to me. I lay paralysed next to my own shed skin.
Tears fall from my eyes and I feel all of them. The moisture, the salt, the lingering trail it leaves as it falls down my cheek. I can feel, everything. And it hurts. My lips shake as I try to, if not say something, at least shut my mouth. My teeth are moving in my gums and oh god I can feel them moving. Waving in the smallest possible way, shaking from side to side. I can feel them.
I can feel,
everything.
There’s a breeze coming in from under the door and I can feel the dust that has been carried on it from the front door to here. The mattress underneath me is a desert of glass with each granule of sand a hair from my head or dirt I have brought here before. They cut into me. I am freezing, I am warm.
I can feel
Why am I so
Everything is
I am terrified.
I stare open eyed next to half of myself and I want nothing more than to be unconscious again. Unaware. Disconnect myself from this reality and remain in the safety of isolation. I force blackness into my skull and wait for it to overwhelm me.
But something stops me.
But something runs over my hips.
But something pushes the black away.
Soft, smooth, safe. Hands and arms that are not my own run reassuringly across my stomach, up ribs, along my throat and push against my chin. They close my mouth. Arms, of which I can feel every imperfection, every pore, every hair, close a loop around my waist. Warmth runs down my spine, curls down to my knees and around my ankles as legs entwine my own. A mouth moves itself to my ear and whispers.
“You are okay.”
Words spiral down to my brain, like water down a gutter. They splash down and crash carefully against the walls of my skull.
“You are okay.”
I can move again. I lift my hands to my face and see someone completely new. Pale and blurred around the edges. No scars, no acne, no wrinkles, freckles, tan-lines. They are new. I am new. I see someone new and I am not scared. I am okay.
My skin is clarity and my mind is reflected in it.
My hands move down and I fold my fingers between those wrapped around my middle. I shut my eyes and feel content.

Everything settles.