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Been reading some Bukowski

 

She hadn’t replied but I left Friar’s anyway. The air in there was sweet and sweaty, and there were hardly enough black girls. I lurked outside, leaning on some knee-high patio and watched the sprawl of students outside the bar. Feeling self-conscious, a person who reminded me of a friend I held in high regard sitting drunk across the road, I moved on, towards the girl who had been occupying my mind the last week. She wouldn’t be there. I walked in her direction knowing she wouldn’t be there, knowing I would be sitting on the stoop of some dark house across from The Rat and Parrot with its wailing pop anthems.

 

 

 

The half-Asian guy

The urinals

The guy who looked the bassist

The drummer with an injured wrist

All in the men’s bathroom

For over 30 minutes

Unaware of Instagram

The hot chick who used to front for them

My knitted jersey that seemed to bother them

And my knowledge of sum 41 and blink 182

Which soothed them into a state of friendliness

All in the Rat bathroom.

 

 

 

 

Black Dog in the Garden

 

Stare at a spot and the trees merge,

Blurred impressionism,

Different green lights,

Moving differently,

Moving together.

 

The black dog was having a good time on the grass.

Rolling this way and that,

Moaning, snorting, pawing at the ground, stretching in pleasure

Then he moved to the metal gate and sat, watching.

His eyesight was poor.

The violent thing rarely left the confines of the garden,

With its tittering boundary of bright trees,

And concrete walls.

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Clouds of War

 

Dense nuclear plumes

towered in the dry, hot sky.

Stark expressions: the power of war.

 

Later by the window, a cracking

The first shell,

then the slew of ammunition

Battering the roof, glancing off glass,

dousing the parched white walls; ceramic sheen

reflecting vaguely the sky.

 

And green trees dripped

And the white carcass of a spider suckled in vain

At a drop that was stuck the other side of the pane,

And harder it rained,

And darker it became.

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The Old Man Swimming in the Sky

 

Living with a vista for a living room, one develops an affinity for one’s environment. Glass made up roughly three quarters of room’s walls. A panorama of mountains, clouds and sea were beyond them. At 5:17pm, on a Saturday, the sun glared off the wind-muddled water: blinding colourless ultrasound. To its left and right blue could begin to be seen, first as shadows mingling with the light-water, then becoming its own blue, speckled with fine white horses. The lighted water had that lake-like quality, wind swells moving without a frame of reference, static in a camera flash.

To my left was Camps Bay. One has to squint when looking around while writing. I do so because of my poor eyesight, of course, but glancing to the left through a squint seemed writerly. Through the poor eyesight and the panel of glass grimy with pool water residue, I saw Camps Bay and couldn’t think of much to say about it. Cape Town’s own little Miami Beach. People so desperate to make the place work that they put up with the wind. A brief squint at the beach and I could see the black dots of people and the broad tufts of white sea spray that blew back across the turquoise segment of sea visible behind the neighbour’s roof.

More squinting and wincing and sips of a G&T.

Over the sea, just one cloud hangs there, or now two, as the larger one’s fingers parts with the smaller one, asking to be examined. Well firstly, they’re clearly a pair as every time I look up from the page they seem to either be exchanging secret touches or wandering watchfully apart. The smaller one brought to mind a dove, the larger a snail. A strange pair sailing out, infinitely out, in the landless sky. While I wrote this they were shattered and transformed by the forces that be.

I don’t know where they came from. The same mass of clouds hasn’t been able to get past the mountain range. The mass always appears to move, in an ominous fashion, but seems stuck, constipated, clinging to the peaks, reluctant of the seaward journey. Only the brave fly before the writer, brave and bright and confident, stamping a shadow in that sea glare. But my God! The cloud had become a swimmer. An old man swimming against the wind. Grey skeletal shadows, his one arm pulled back completing a stroke, his other burnt off in the sun. Black skull, white hair, white eye. His resolve had broken. He feared the blue infinite, the inevitable transfiguration and disintegration. He swam weakly for that band of sticky clouds above the mountains. Within the first sentences of seeing him he was no more.

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The Kimono Dragon: The Path Beyond Reasonable Thought

Documentary on The Kimono Dragon in his role as substitute-Sensei at his dojo.

 

 

While his Sensei was away, The Kimono Dragon was tasked with being the chief instructor of the dojo. Some of the students at the dojo have given their personal accounts of The Kimono Dragon’s behaviour during the month he was left in charge. With great respect, I present The Kimono Dragon: A Path Beyond Reasonable Thought.

 

 

 

Chris

 

CHRIS: I only started aikido at this place a few weeks before Sensei had gone on his pilgrimage. I had seen The Kimono Dragon here. First impressions, well I’m, sure you know, he’s a humanoid white dragon or a lizard or something. He didn’t really speak to anyone, quite a serious guy. Came in, trained and left. The other guys seemed to really respect him, and so did I. Anyway, I don’t know if it’s because I’m the new guy, or because I’m strong and fit or whatever but he had it out for me. Being uke for him was brutal, he would hit me harder than everyone else, he would call me up and just start fucking me up. One time he did a move, kote-gaeshi, on me and sprained my wrist badly. I confronted him about it, asking him why he treated me like this, what was he trying to prove to me? To himself? He gave some vague excuse, saying that he was putting me through hyperbolic training, that he was testing my potential. I wasn’t buying it but whatever, he’s got issues. From then onwards in class he was very gentle with me, he showed me the basics and was actually a brilliant teacher. Strange guy but who isn’t, I guess.

 

Julie

 

JULIE:  Training would get very intense. We were doing this ground escape drill. He had me pinned to the ground and I couldn’t get free, and he looked at me and said, “Don’t think of Harvey Weinstein.” And that’s just like saying “Don’t think of a pink elephant. A rapey one.” I froze up and started crying.

He was sorry, I think. I could tell he felt bad because he didn’t say a word for the rest of the class. He then sat us all down and gave a long, in-depth speech about how to know when someone is being sincere vs when someone is trying to use reverse psychology. After that I was 75% sure he was being sincere.

 

LARRY

 

LARRY: So when our Sensei went away to see his own Sensei, uh what happened, uh The Kimono Dragon was taking his first class, he was still very much in pain from a wound to his gut. I asked him about it and he told me it was an accident in the kitchen, he said he was uh “practicing his sushi skills” and the knife slipped and he cut himself. Now I might believe that because I know he drinks a lot of sake, a lot, alone, and sushi blades are very sharp, but for the next week under his instruction we practiced only defenses for knife strikes to the gut. Something must have happened.

What else…He was nervous to begin with. He would make us all line up to start the class and he would disappear off to the bathroom and uh, me being the next most senior student, eventually, after 20 minutes or so I went to go check on him, and he was staring at the bathroom mirror, gripping the sink and his body was convulsing, and he was whispering rapidly “Goodenoughgoodenoughgoodenoughgoodenough”. When I knocked he said he was meditating. I meditate. That looked like a demonic panic attack. I’m just saying.

He took the classes very seriously…Initially his demeanour was serious and solemn, but he began to relax more as a teacher as the weeks went on. When his uke was crying in pain he would let out a little smile. When ending a class or just after beginning a class he was practically glowing. To initiate and end a class we would kneel before him, and he would then turn and we would rei to the homen, and after that he would face us again and we would rei to each other. He appreciated us bowing to him, he got a kick out of that I think.

 

Beard rubber

 

CRAIG: Imagine being thrown around be a giant white lizard…There’s something perverse about it…His scaly wrists…Repulsive but also…Perhaps if I were a lizard…I’d have to kill my wife…and kids…Well I’d never have met my wife if I was a lizard…my kids would never have existed…That’d be fine…Hmpff…I could be a bearded dragon…maybe I am…

 

 

The End

 

sake finished

 

 

 

 

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A Wander to the Silver Trees

A creative writing piece that expands on my poem, ‘Silver Trees’.

 

The wind droned. Grey distilled light fell from the clouds upon everything. The sea seemed barren. He stood at the foot of the mountain. The slope was full of silver trees that shook and battled in the wind, glittering. Beyond the crowd of trees were sheer granite faces rising to the peak.

Leaving the footpath, he clambered vertically upwards, gripping shrubs and digging the toes of his boots in the soft, moist soil.  Dead sharp branches from a dead silver tree blocked his path so he zigzagged around it, keeping the mountain-side edges of his boots firm in the ground and leaning a little into the slope. Dew rested on the fynbos and his boots, the lower part of his jeans and his hands were already quite wet.

He had been waiting for a day like this to climb the mountain. A day when the coast was grey, the granite and the silver trees shone and the wind droned. It was hostile, the way the trees fought in the wind, loudly and ceaselessly, yet at the same time it was beautiful. A kind of harshness natural to them and foreign to him. A splendid battle. He wanted to experience it more closely.

The sharp fynbos had lashed the dark brown varnish from his boots revealing the tan leather beneath. He looked up and saw that the sea of green and silver was much closer. A little to his right a tree with pale pink leaves caught his attention. It was a dying silver tree. There was something ominous about it. Its colouring reminded him of bones not yet clean and dry, of a carcass before the vultures descend. After climbing higher he looked back at it. It shivered and bristled, not yet dead.

Upon reaching the treeline he ventured further in and lay down on his back. The sound was deafening. It was as if he was drowning, laying on the seabed, somewhat removed from the tumult of the surface. The branches crashed and swept. He noticed their springiness, how they bounced against the wind. The leaves flickered brightly amongst the sky, dazzling him. He closed his eyes, breathed, and felt himself be tossed in the swell; of sound, of movement, of nature’s violence, and felt safe. Sublime.

After a while he sat up and peered out at the sea, dull and barren, and could make out its distant roar. Dark storm clouds on the horizon broke the sky’s uniform grey. Small cars moved along a road beneath a set of mountain peaks. He’d begun to have enough of all this noise. His journey back down was difficult and cumbersome.


 

Silver Trees Poem: Silver Trees

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Silver Trees

 

Silver leaved trees struggled

In the sea wind which stripped the coastline of sun-kissed colour

and blew across the sky masses of clouds.

Only metallic things shone under this grey light,

Granite boulders, copper flowers, those silver leaves

Flickering on fighting branches; the constant drone

Of the sea wind,

And the cavernous roar of swell.

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The Kimono Dragon: Snout For Justice

 

The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon

Shaolin City

11:20 pm

 

The front door was flung open and, hanging onto the door handle for support, The Kimono Dragon staggered in. His grunt was constricted by the pain in his abdomen, it squeezed itself out from him in a long, thin moan. He swam his way through the dark room like an injured fish. Instinct led him to the kitchen counter. Biiiiitch. He whined as he reached around the section of wall that joined to the counter. His hand found the bottle of sake. He readied himself to lift it but found that he couldn’t, or rather that it was a bit sore to do so, so he tilted the bottle onto the rim of its base and dragged it slowly back towards him.

Holding the bottle by its neck, he turned from the counter and drifted to a cabinet in the living room. He ran his finger along the waxy spines of his DVD collection before picking the one at the very end. He let a childlike sense of wellbeing warm him as he held it. Prompted by a surge of pain he took the DVD with him and moved towards the blue pilot lights of the DVD player. After inserting the DVD he limped to his old faithful, a plush leather Lazy Boy seated just meters from the TV screen. A combination of pleasure and pain struck his body as he collapsed into the chair.

Aauughh fuck. He closed his eyes. He knew what he had to do. Slowly he pushed himself out of his comfy seat. Placing a hand on the low coffee table, he leaned forward and stubbornly, not wanting to overexert himself, stretched across it to grab the remote. From his awkward, strained position he looked up at the screen, tilted the remote in its direction and pressed the ON button. The screen remained black but began to wickedly illuminate the space before it. His thoughts and body movements jarred to a halt as he caught a horrifying glimpse of himself in its awakening screen. His posture beneath his grimy kimono appeared crippled and weak, blackened blood caked half of his long snout, above which glared his desperate, tired eyes. It was at this point he thought that the traditional method of standing up to fetch the remote might have been preferable. Shuddering, he fell back into the Lazy Boy.

Alone in the dark room, his silhouette set against the now pallid blue square of the TV screen, The Kimono Dragon felt blood seep from the gash in his abdomen. He swigged from the bottle of sake and gritted his teeth. The glorious, crimson lettered menu of Steven Seagal’s Out for Justice, appeared on the screen.

 


 

Earlier that day

Mushindo Dojo

Outskirts of Shaolin City

06:34 pm

 

They were knelt in a row before their sensei. The Kimono Dragon, like the other students, was silently undergoing his own personal suffering that resulted from sitting on his knees for an extended amount of time. They periodically shifted their weight from one side to the other, back and forth until every inch of their legs from the knees down ached. The sensei was still. His face, like the rest of his body, seemed to be forged into a weapon. He had high, sharp cheekbones, dead black eyes, a muscular jaw and oily black hair tied back into a ponytail. His skin was a peculiar brick red. He would often refer to himself as a demon from a different time.  Nobody had questioned it.

“Budo, the way of the warrior, does not end once you leave this dojo. It is a path, it must be practiced in every moment.” The sensei’s expression darkened into an evil, knowing grin, as he looked at one of the students directly. “Yes, even in your worst nightmares.”

The student laughed nervously.

“To become, you must practice. To practice, you must train. To train, you must learn. To learn, you must know nothing.”

The Kimono Dragon had heard countless variations of this speech from his sensei over the years. To become, you must train. To become what though? He thought of his own path. A stumbling uphill climb driven by the vague notions of greatness and self-worth that sat further above. He tried to picture what exactly was there, on the sunny side of the summit, shielded from his perspective but suggested by the peak’s golden lining, but couldn’t. Only a feeling, or rather an imitation of a feeling arose in him. Insubstantial and transitory in its imagined form, the concept once formed immediately deflated and left him empty and sad. The wished feeling was solace. And as sure as the sun would set every day, and the peak’s foreboding silhouette would pierce the bleeding sky, the chill of failure that lived in the shadows would be stretched across everything by dusk. The Kimono Dragon, forfeiting his hopes, knew he would arm himself once again with a bottle of sake to warm him through the night. He steeled himself back on the words of his sensei.

“Only then can you receive the supreme ultimate, mastery of yourself, everything you wish to become.”

Yes! He saw him again. A silhouette stood atop the peak. His features were obscured by darkness but he knew who he was from his ponytail and the oriental, tasselled jacket he wore. The mountain was now a mound of bodies, of evildoers, dope pushers, abusers of the environment and of the native peoples, of fat cat businessmen who illegally maintained monopolies, no longer abiding by the free market principles of Ayn Rand, of whom he was a fan. Yes, his heart flickered frenetically, a beacon of hope in his darkest moments. He felt his resolve harden, his aspirations were reaffirmed, he would continue his training – in all things.

The sensei placed his palms together and inhaled a powerful breath in preparation to end the class. He suddenly turned to face The Kimono Dragon and said in a softer tone, “And remember to find stillness in yourself.”

But The Kimono Dragon’s mind was elsewhere.

 


 

Upon leaving the dojo, The Kimono Dragon pathed through the dusky streets in a direction that did not lead home. There was no definite destination in mind yet his strides were purposeful. His slit-like pupils stared straight ahead from behind a forced squint. This narrowed field of vision shielded him from the perplexed gawks of those he passed and allowed him to begin his submersion.

The Kimono Dragon turned his head deliberately one side to the other, as he did every so often, to take in the environment. He performed the movement with gravitas. Raising an eye ridge, he affected the inward-smirk of a seasoned detective coming across an all too familiar scene. Few could hold eye contact with The Kimono Dragon when he adopted this expression. Those who could he would think about for minutes afterwards, usually in a combat scenario. It appeared that he was going in the right direction. The streets grew progressively more squalid the further he ventured into The Slums of Shaolin. The number of cheap Asian restaurants occupying a given block had tripled since he had last looked around.  Sick neon puddles of oil gleamed at their feet, sitting stagnantly beside the open gutters. Illegal wiring webbed across the low sky. A pretty Thai woman was watching him from the doorway of a massage parlour. His eyes continued past her to the building’s XXX’d sign – Hmmm… I haven’t been there before – He cursed himself for breaking character and turned his head stiffly forward, clenching his jaw against the stirring in his loins.

The sounds of muttering rang off the walls of a particularly sinister alley to his left, causing him to stop. He tilted his head in its direction, took a breath, and followed the noise of injustice.

The voices came from behind a dumpster placed against the right wall of the alley. As he approached the dumpster he called out in a strange Brooklyn accent, “Anybody seen Richie?”

Three men stepped into view. From their ostentatiously placed tattoos he could tell two of them were local gangsters. One of them, wearing cheap torn jeans and a grey tank top, walked forwards in meandering steps. His arms were held supposedly politely behind his back.  He leaned his torso forward and looked The Kimono Dragon up and down. “No, Mister, I have never heard of such a person, but I suggest that you leave this area and never come back. This is a dangerous place.” He over-enunciated his words, crudely attempting to polish his rough accent. The Kimono Dragon ignored him and shifted his head to face the other two. He again called out, “Anybody know why Richie did Bobby Lupo?”

The gangster had also turned to face his cronies, his expression was twisted into something between disgust and disbelief.  The Kimono Dragon moved passed the first man and peered around the dumpster. Needles, pipes, and a dark substance in crinkled tin foil sat on an upside-down bin lid. He looked up at the man who now stood in front of him. A beanie was pulled low over his face, hiding his eyes in shadows. His mouth was harsh and grimy.

“Whatta we got here huh?” The Kimono Dragon remarked.

“You better get the fuck out of here before I put a fucking hole in that fucked up head of yours”

The Kimono Dragon was unfazed. He continued in a slack-jawed, Christopher Walken-tinged drawl, “I noticed a lot of boxing memorabilia, we got some gloves over here…” He gestured to the bin lid, “pictures everywhere…” He flicked his hand at some graffiti on the opposite wall. “Who’s the boxer?”

The man in the beanie had opened his mouth to say something but it had become momentarily paralysed in confusion. The Kimono Dragon turned to eye the man in the tank top, who was squinting diagonally upwards in search of a coherent train of thought. He heard a foot scrape heavily across the ground. He whipped his head around. The third man, a large man in an even larger trench coat waddled forward. His beady furrowed eyes were framed by a silly middle parting and moustache. His meaty fists were balled tightly.

“You a boxer? Tough guy?” The man nodded slowly. “Really?” He continued nodding. “What could you do?”

The man threw a punch. The Kimono Dragon slipped past his arm, deflecting the blow, and rammed his elbow into the bridge of his nose. The man let out a yelp as he flopped to the ground.

“That was a grave error of judgement.” The voice of the sly man sounded behind him. “Our business associates, his comrades, will be very upset. You are now in a world of trouble I’m afraid.”

The Kimono Dragon adjusted his position in the alley, bringing the two gang members within his limited field of vision. The intensity in his eyes was betrayed by his ludicrous, rapid head swivels. The gangster moved his hands from behind his back, one of them held a long hunting knife. The man in the beanie had lifted his baggy hoody up from his hip and was reaching for the black butt of a gun.

“Let me show you something.” The Kimono Dragon stared at the man who was reaching for his gun. Holding his own hand in the shape of a gun, he raised it in front of his face and began to rapidly slide his other hand back and forth across its finger-barrel as if he was unloading imaginary bullets. Once again the man in the beanie was dumbstruck.

“Here’s my gun. Fair game now okay” He awkwardly stretched out the “ee” and the end of “okay”. He then looked at the man with the knife, more for dramatic effect than for confirmation. “And here’s my badge!” He mimed throwing his finger gun to the ground before gripping the lapels of his kimono with both hands and thrusting them forward. “This is your trophy. This is your trophy! Okay.”

He tried to control the breaths that fluttered euphorically in his chest.

The man was aiming his gun at The Kimono Dragon’s snout. “You’re nothing but a delusional lizard wearing a fucking kimono, and now you’re gonna die.”

The vicious words seemed to strike him in his gut. The Kimono Dragon felt his composure shatter. He couldn’t breathe in. His eyes were gripped in thoughtless anxiety, they stared vacantly at the ground. A nauseating wave of sadness had hit him. No…he’s…wrong? His lowered gaze drifted across to an arm. He followed the arm’s length to its hand. In it was a bloody knife, half of it still in his stomach.

Train to become. The words of his sensei boomed in his mind.

He sucked in a breath. A fresh sensation of fear shook him awake. He trapped the man’s arm with his left hand, keeping the knife in his gut. With his other arm he scooped under the man’s elbow, locking the joint. He then shifted to his left whilst pivoting to his right, popping the man’s elbow and flinging him in the direction of the other gangster. The gun went off. Blood splashed on The Kimono Dragon’s face. The man had let go of the knife and become limp in his hands. The beanie’d man was training his gun onto The Kimono Dragon. Dropping the lifeless body, The Kimono Dragon lunged forward and grabbed the inside of the gun-bearing wrist. The gun fired again, this time the bullet ricocheted along the alley. He then spun around the man’s arm and, controlling his elbow with his other hand, he directed the man’s face into the ground. Bssshhhhkk! The man lay with his arse in the air, his weight was supported by his face and his knees.

“Motherfucker you knocked my teeth out.” came the gurgled murmur.

The Kimono Dragon briefly surveyed the grim scene. Leaning against the alley wall, he closed his eyes and pulled the knife out of his gut, immediately applying pressure to the wound with his other hand. He began to limp down the alley towards the main street, muttering a few lines to himself.

 


 

The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon

Shaolin City

11:58 pm                                         

 

The Kimono Dragon took another gulp of sake. Sedated, alone, unshakably sad, his tired eyes stared at the screen. Steven Seagal’s character passes in front of a purple neon sign reading “BROADWAY”, his eyes were darting side to side. He looked unsurprisingly composed after having beaten up an entire barful of scumbags. In a horrendous Brooklyn accent that was more than slightly off, he calls out “Anybody seen Richie?” The Kimono Dragon mouths the words along in silent synchronicity. “Huh? I’m gonna keep coming back ‘til someone remembers seeing Richie!”

 

 

The End

sake finished

 

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Interview with The Kimono Dragon: Part I

We’ve finally managed to arrange an interview with you, Kimono Dragon-

“The”

 

Right, apologies. You’ve been labelled everything from an eccentric, a martial artist, a weirdo, a pervert, someone terribly out of touch with reality, a saviour, a “Don” and a sex symbol. Now, bearing in mind that the last three were your own suggestions, what’s your response to these?

No, I think they definitely come close to capturing the essence. Some were refreshingly accurate.

 

You’re a purveyor of Japanese Culture?

Its’s a beautiful culture. I mean you wouldn’t see Steven Seagal listening to j-pop is his house for instance you know, unless he was having a karaoke party and one of his many Japanese guests put it on he’d probably groove along to it, he’s an artist. He probably watches the music videos actually, in his own time, for the aesthetic value.

 

Uh huh…

And the thing about Japanese chicks, they’re always slightly afraid of your penis size, just think about sashimi. Great girls…Respectful and uh their culture’s a different language, an entrancing different language. They can be both strong and weak like ice and water, yin and yang, ramen noodles before and after being cooked. Their resolve is…almost cartoonish sometimes, manga, you know… who’s inspiring who? …And if you’ll forgive me for objectifying them…I’d say they’re beautiful.

 

No, no, I wouldn’t worry about that.

And I respect guys who recognise that beauty, guys like Steven Seagal, culturally informed motherfuckers, Hemingway’s another one, Woody Allen…I’m assuming Matt Preston. They’re all…I’m just to find the perfect word, model… (Raises his hand above his face as if addressing invisible deities)

 

Role models?

Well of course but more universally…model humans…the pinnacle of human development and expertise. And I don’t advocate eugenics or a kind of governmentally driven social manipulation but hypothetically if was advising the scientists and politicians working on such a policy, I would say “There’s the bullseye. Steven Seagal is a master marksman, he can literally hit a bull’s eye. Aim for the bullseye. Follow the recipe, Matt Preston is the successful author of numerous recipe books and they’re brilliant, the recipes themselves unironically easy to digest, peppered with personal anecdotes and witticisms so relatable I literally thought I had written them myself and had somehow  forgotten about it. I remember being unreasonably suspicious of his glorious smiling visage on the cover, and thinking to myself “KD, you are being illogical. In what world would a divine man such as Matt Preston commit intellectual theft, especially against you?” I came to the conclusion that he is just that good. Just follow the recipe.”

 

What was the nicest thing you ate in Japan?

Clams.

 

…Is that a joke?

Next question.

 

 

 

To be continued…

 

sake finished

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Pieces of the Forest

Artwork by Jemma Clamp

Her breaths shook in rapid grasps. Trees approached and blurred past her. She jinked one side to the other, hopping over obstacles that littered the forest floor. She threw herself downhill. Air was dragged desperately into her lungs. She was afraid. She was running for her life.

Trees and branches rushed towards her. She suddenly sprang off her right foot and darted to the left. Through the sounds of her breathing, her heartbeat, and the claustrophobic rustles of the forest another set of footsteps could be heard, purposive, giving chase. FUCK! Her eyes flitted across the procession of trees in search of a possible path to take. The forest had grown denser, the branches reached out in hooks. She forced herself through a thicket and felt a hot sweet sensation as something sharp clawed itself down the length of her back. She yelped and gritted her teeth.  Run! Fucking run! She felt blood wetting the back of her leg.

“Look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” a voice cooed through the forest. Her head whipped around in shock before returning forward in time to narrowly avoid a tree. “Come back, you’re so much better off with me.”

“GO AWAY!” she screamed, purging her lungs of air before sucking in the next breath.

She was now using her arms, swiping away braches, pushing her way forward, forgetting self-preservation, driven by the strongest sense of fear that blinded all thoughts except that she had to run.

She felt the presence behind her, its fingers barely touched the nape of her neck. She clenched her eyes shut and ducked forward. Nauseating shivers crept across her body. She grabbed at the ground and flung dirt backwards. Premature screams resided in every exhale. She couldn’t escape this nightmare. Tears streamed backwards from the corners of her eyes into her hair.

She opened her bleary eyes and they immediately trained themselves on a spot of light barely visible through the black web of branches. Her body immediately sharpened in its movements. She lunged and leapt, snapping branches under her steps as she thrust forward.

“NO! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” The voice shrieked.

She burst into the light. Falling to the ground she scrambled blindly, creating distance from the dark forest edge. She stopped. Her head was lowered, she looked at nothing. Her breaths began to steady, the warmer air relaxed her lungs. She was tired. She looked up. Soft beams of light shone through the treetops, cradling the dust that floated in the air. The air was painted in brushstrokes of varying shades of gold. The ground was soft and warm.

She heard rustling behind her and turned to face it. The figure of a girl stood at the edge of the forest. Her arm was held behind the trunk of a tree as if using it for comfort. She seemed unwilling to part from it, caught in a moment of hesitation. Her face was not unlike her own, yet it fluctuated, breaking into fragments, a mosaic that billowed in an internal wind, fluxing and reforming. At first an angry scowl seethed amongst the rippling shards, however gradually a sense of sadness and longing began to appear.

“Please don’t leave me…” Her eyes fluttered on the verge of tears.

A sense of peace seemed to extend the distance between them. She gave the girl a final look of understanding before she turned away and strode amongst the light.

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Life is Like a Bowl of Milky Granola

 

I was guilty of gluttony yesterday. This was proved beyond reasonable doubt when after seconds of supper and the remainder of the tub ice cream, I had made myself a second bowl of milky granola, this time with a crumbled sugar cone. My stomach practically burst with each mouthful. The usual glowing inner-hug I felt after eating was replaced with images of the grey boerewors from earlier looking even greyer as it writhed in the milky mire of my stomach. It was curling and writhing viciously, seemingly intent on rupturing out of my chest as if it was a young Xenomorph. Of course there wasn’t a long, unchewed piece of boerie in my stomach, I didn’t shove the sausage down my oesophagus while using lubricative, melted ice cream to ease the process. I may as well have, I felt disgusted. Not only that, but the crumbled sugar cone went completely soggy and offered nothing in the way of texture or flavour to the dish. I was disappointed. Finding a sitting position that didn’t threaten the dormancy of the alien lifeform was also difficult and so after completing some work I made myself a soothing mug of peppermint tea. Since I was unwell, the tea was medicinal and was therefore administered joylessly.

Yesterday’s overexposure to milky granola prompted a wonderful thought. Food is like life. The more you eat, the less there is on the plate. I will use the bowl of milky, vanilla seed granola (usually made with dates, coconut flakes, a drizzle of honey, and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg) that prompted this insight to further explain the analogy. As we begin our lives we are faced with the full bowl with only its milky surface actually visible, save a few specks of spices or sesame seeds. The world is unknown, our lives are for the most part sheltered from anything hard or substantial. It is also pure in that sense and the first spoons are delightful, simple, and easy. Vanilla honeyed milk with only the softest resistance of floating sesame seeds testing our milk teeth. Ah, but we grow more inquisitive and brazen. Our spoons delve deeper and we begin to encounter the granola. The granola is harder and more substantial. It requires chewing, an action that like hard work is often its own reward. We become enthralled. The crunches pop with moments of delectable sweetness as unctuous chunks of dates are scooped up in the process. Aahh, the joys of life. It all begins to mix extraordinarily well, the flavours, the textures, all the while wonderfully accompanied by that never-ending pool of milk.

Or, it was never-ending, but as you pause to take a leisurely sip of your grandma’s homemade kombucha tea you have a moment of reflection. You are already half-way, maybe more, maybe less, and a feeling of dread attempts to set in. Here the mind will dictate how the rest of bowl will go. Every spoon from here on out not only depletes the milky granola, but does so at an increasing rate.  You could have never have known but the bowl is conical, the longest years of your life have already happened. You could attempt to bury this thought, let it become a dull but ever-present force that will destabilise that inner peace you had felt.  You could begin to eat it faster, ignoring your body’s pleas to slow down, you don’t care, or you say you don’t as with tears in your eyes you shove mound after mound into your mouth. You barely chew and swallowing becomes painful. Take a breath, there’s still so much left, you made yourself a big bowl after all. Take a spoonful, savour it, that spoon had two date chunks in it, would you have known otherwise?

We are getting close to finishing our bowl of milky granola. We are beginning to feel content and quite full. There are more dates at the bottom. Our smaller, more conscientious spoonfuls do little to slow the milks progress down the sides of the bowl. We have enjoyed it and feel restful. We make peace with the pangs of helplessness and greed for another bowl. We scrape the sides dotted with memories of times before. Our spoon has done all it can, there is no more granola left, just a shallow but richly flavoured puddle of milk at the bottom. Finally with a smile on our face, we grab the bowl with both hands, raise it to our mouth and take our last sip. A dribble of milk runs down the side of our chin and we recline with our eyes closed back into the chair.

I open my eyes and look at my phone. Ah, it’s already 11:00am, a couple more hours and I’ll have some lunch.

A Gloomy Room

I’d like to preface this story with a bit of explanation. I first started writing it around April, 2015. It was my first time really trying to write something serious and of value and it took me about 6 months to write the first draft. At the time I was listening to copious amounts of King Krule/Archy Marshall, reading wordy books like Infinite Jest and was suffering from a late onset of teenage melodrama and love-sickness. The writing was taken very seriously (it was my magnum opus after all) and only done when in the perfectly depressed mood. 

It’s not great. It’s too wordy, slow in the middle and the ending feels rushed. I realized this soon after I had finished it and ended up not doing anything with it. I’ve axed some of the more clumsy, long sentences from it and tweaked a few other things but other than that, this is it. What I admire about it though, is it’s earnestness, I remember trying so hard and feeling so much writing this. Reading it stirs some of those old feelings.

I’m still listening to copious amounts of King Krule, I’m still reading wordy books (the last one was Hemingway but Joyce is next), and the year-end melancholy has crept up. It’s quite nice to look back.

 


 

 

He sat with his eyes held at a distracted angle, their movement interrupted by a pervasive thought. He almost-recoiled and shifted his gaze to the other side of the dimly lit room. He was aware of the slouch that seemed to descend heavily upon his posture. His shoulders were tensed in feeble resistance. The dull clinking of ice in a glass came from the bartender’s stirring, shadows had pooled into the indents of his face.

He had walked past a group of children playing in the street on his way to the bar. The road was still wet from rain and glimmered metallically in the cloudy light. The manner in which they played was rougher than that of his own childhood. They were comfortable in their environment, running through the coarse-edged street with an apparent disregard that could only be developed through childhood familiarity. Their entire focus was reduced to the game’s objective and the enforcement of its rules, rules which every child seemed to both acknowledge as sovereign and yet willingly bend and break when given the opportunity.  He had felt a fleeting sense of admiration for their innocence, the world was still to them irrelevantly big. They were blind to the hardships that would inevitably alter them and to the bleak perspective that they would develop with age. They were yet to be trapped in the predicament of a bitter reality, forced to decide between soberly facing it or numbing, drowning and distracting themselves in it. This haunting premonition, this knowledge of the world that they would soon enter into gave rise in him to a tragic sense of power. The power’s concept was vague and cruel and involved a replacement of their blossoming innocence with his own sad and hateful perspective. When had his mind become so rotten? He had thought.

He waited for the bartender to look up before raising his hand, pointing at the empty glass in his other hand and mouthing “Another”. He completed the performance by raising his eyebrows and pursing his lips in what could at the very least be interpreted as a polite attempt at a smile. The bartender barely nodded. His eyes returned to the table with a sigh. You didn’t have to be so pathetically explicit. He acknowledged the insecure inflection in his thoughts with indifference. It often loudened and became more pronounced when he drank. It made for loathsome company.

He tried thinking of why she had taken a liking to him. He smiled at her sometimes and she probably ascribed some depth to the stoic expression he adopted when he was boredly scrutinizing the patrons of the café she worked at. In reaction to the strained politeness he affected during their brief conversations she would respond with a quiet air of understanding, as if to console the tortured artist she imagined to exist beneath his polished surface. In reality however, the innocuous topics of transit and weather were used by him to forensically probe her for information. He chose this bar because it was close to where she lives. There was something sinister about it all. The premeditation, what he was willing to sacrifice for the hollow gratification he barely expected to receive. You chose this bar because it was close to where she lives. Compassion and laziness had prevented him from behaving so sociopathically before, something in him must have corroded with time and loneliness. You’re still fucking lazy, the voice jeered. His sinking exhale was muffled by the refreshed glass he had brought to his lips. The brandy’s fumes stung sweetly at his eyes, beckoning him to cry.

The door opened, the outside light casting a silvery haze upon the drifting smoke and dust, and she walked in. She smiled immediately and brightly. Her long hair descended behind bare, glowing shoulders. She was wearing a blue summer dress. He was quite sure, in that suspended moment, that she was the only source of light in the entire gloomy room. He wasn’t sure whether or not to take note of how her smile faded as she made her way to his table.

He rose to greet her, tugged out of his chair by a dreamy force that could not have originated in himself. He drifted through their greeting in a daze until once again he was sitting in a heavy slump, the only evidence that the moment prior had actually occurred was the lingering sensation of her cold lips that she had delicately pressed into his cheek. And yet there she was, across the table, before his eyes. Her slender arms, traced by fine, blonde down, bristled with goosebumps. She was shivering. She smiled again, as if through it all. He shuddered. The dress was clearly not worn for her sake.

 

“You look lovely.” He said.

“Thank you.” She beamed.

His smile back was involuntary, a flinching response to a sharp ray of light.

“And you look..”

“Tired?” He offered with what sounded like far less conviction than he intended.

She looked at him directly and quizzically, earnestly evaluating either him or what to say next.

“How was your day?” He interjected hastily.

She began to cheerfully recount the daily struggles of her job at the café with what was for him an impossible amount of enthusiasm. She paused to recall an exact minute detail. He might have considered this endearing had he not been so preoccupied with trying to look pleasantly engaged in the conversation. Each moment of eye contact was a searing, white-hot flash, a surging discomfort that clenched his jaw and tightened his face into an exasperated wince. He took the opportunity to look away to a spot of emptiness diagonally behind her. He allowed his face to slacken slightly. Breath. He tried to swallow and became aware of a lump in his throat. As if emboldened by his awareness of his current instability, the lump grew more resilient. He released his hands grip on the armrest and lurched forward, grabbed his glass and gulped.

He placed his glass down with deliberate firmness in an attempt to disguise his trembling hand. His eyes had fallen once more. His head throbbed. He was crushingly aware of his own worthlessness. The sense of dark omnipotence he had desperately tethered himself to was gone, he knew it was merely the sum of the bitter rhetoric he had told himself as he floundered and wallowed in his puddle of mud. Scum. He couldn’t look at her. His head lolled forward and he closed his eyes. Worthless. Worthless. You disgusting fool.

Cracks of lightening in a dark sky revealed with horrifying lucidity his own wretched soul lying crippled and ashamed at the bottom of some abyss, held down by fear and sadness masquerading as resolve. He had grown cold and numb down there and it was dark enough to delude, to willingly mistake himself for a part of it. Yet he was not the abyss, the absence of light and love, he was just a boy, drowning. He felt a fluttering in his chest, it felt like fear, it felt like air. An upwelling of helplessness began to tenderly lift him. As he rose he felt the cool light, shattered and mottled by the surface dance on his body. She had taken his hands. He raised his head, his eyes welling and his breathing shallow and what stared back was the concerned face of innocence, soft and beautiful.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

Surfing v Studying

Judge, jury, law student, surfer…

Photograph by Alex Kibble (Instagram: @diaryofalex)

 

The sea seemed stretched, drawn out by long periods and a strong south-easter. White water reached up the coastline in measured surges. The waves looked good. The recent stormy swell had scoured out a decent sandbank. Another set ran across it, feathered by the off-shore wind. Swells approached with slow power and broke with ominous perfection.

I knew I had to go out later. It was now a matter of which responsibilities I was willing to forgo in order to get into the water earlier. I have some law cases to summarise, more than usual because I didn’t complete the ones I was meant to do yesterday. On the other hand, the work might go even faster after a surf, what with the new endorphins flying about and the freshened perspective that the Atlantic sea provides. The only surfer in the water pulls out the back of a close out and my reasoning loses a bit of its virility.

I stare at the sea and wait for the next perfect wave to roll through, the perfect evidence I need to win this case. A lull rests upon the water’s surface, raising its incredulous eyebrow. The judge taps his finger impatiently. The white dot of a seagull flaps amongst the expanse of blue. Another close out states its objection. The tides were turning. There was an audible crash as a left broke across the bay. “I really don’t like the lefts at Glen.” I thought, followed by an accusatory “Whose side are you on?”

“Ah, there you go.” A smaller wave ran leisurely to the right. The diagonal stretch of white water served as conclusive evidence. Another broke in the same fashion, this time further out and larger. And another. The case was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge finished his mug of coffee and banged it back down on the desk, adjourning the proceedings.

I stood up to fetch my wetsuit and watched helplessly as close out after close out washed vindictively into the bay.