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.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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.