I knock on number 4. These houses were beautiful, but not massive, and their location so close to St Christ's Chruch revealed a sense of comfortable wealth that oozed contentment and retreat. As I wait in the pebbled courtyard, grasping my stack of marxist newspapers folded over an assortment of leaflets advertising our foodbank, I am not expecting much. The previous 2 houses were empty, and the one before that, still in the same courtyard, proved fruitless. The man living there was a thinner, meaner version of Mark Kermode. As if he had been taken prisoner by a nation keen for him to review the worst movies they ever produced. After listening to me attentively and after a careful examination of my latest release, which he really hoped would had been better, he sent me packing. Not a fan of Marx, already donates locally. Mayo laughs in the background. I hear rattling behind the door. A lock unlocking. The door opens, giving way to a spacious interior bathed in bright natural light emanating from a veranda giving way to what I could only imagine was heaven on earth. St Peter is standing there as an old man, eroded by time, snowy white hair at his peak and two blue lakes punctuating his rugged face. I start the usual way, introducing myself, slowing my speech when I realise he comes closer to make sure he hears it all. Name, I'm a student volunteer, foodbank statistics, rely on individual donations (skip the 'no help from the government', it wasn't that type of wealth), bottleneck is food donations, accept other contributions. "What do you think?" He pauses to think. "You see," he tells me, "my problem is that I'm 80 years old". He smiles. Indeed, that's an issue. I engage in reassuring him that we can help facilitate food donations but he cuts me off. "In 3 months, "they" will put me away somewhere, where doctors will remove bits of my brain or something". He laughs, I laugh. "Now that is an issue indeed", I reply, we were ostensibly both in a good mood. I scratch my head, not sure how to continue. "We also pick up people's prescriptions, or help people shop. If you need any type of help we can be there for you". Not the best option, this man already had help, "they" helped him. I pictured his children, my parents' age at least, and his grandchildren my age and imagined grand-grandchildren coming to visit him sporadically, hives of activity around the steady trunk of the family tree. "I'm okay, I've got help". He waves the idea away. I'll tell you what, I've got something to show you." He reaches for his backpocket for his wallet, something my own grandfather does. He has something "to show me"? he opens his wallet, reaches for the credit card pockets, and excited, I imagine for a split econd him telling me to put an inordinate amount of money on my card reader. I realise I never told him I even had a card reader. He takes out what looks like a student card from my university. The coloured banner is yellow, unlike mine. It's a staff card. "I used to work at UCL", he starts. His hand wavers very slowly as he holds the card in front of me, losing it's battle against gravity. I laugh at the coincidence, and I explain my laughter by pulling my own student card. He explains to me he used to lecture there. [...]
Unfinished: St Peter's tenner
Light's like a bad metaphor, 8 minutes old when you get it Light's warm, even when it's not Heavy storm, embers from the pot Focal point for common destinies Bundled up in their own tragedies Light's seductive like The Sounds of the Sirens Wide-eyes starring at the ceiling, Not responding. Light's like a lost friend You've not seen for an evening I would never have expected To find you here at 6am Light's like your own mind Stable until it flickers Dim, bright, the whole spectrum Most of it if you could see You could not explain Light's like a punch in the throat You hear the curtains closing Maybe that's you or whoever else, But you're alive, take a deep breath Light's straight from another planet Light's wavy too, amplitude and magnitude. Like you, it's got attitude. Light feels like a fucking orgy, Eyes closed on your balcony Whatever it's doing It feels too good Light's like your parents, Good times when they're not there But they'll always be there Light's like food It keeps you living, Although sometimes it's too literal I'm vegetating
A myriad of decisions, Choices, at every moment and for every step, Like branches of a gigantic tree, The avatar of life. What is the path of least resistance? Is it not the one under our every step? Are we not forced to take it, Is it not paved with certainty? I used to believe I followed that path willingly, Life made easy: less strain, more gain. But what comes next? You cannot go back. You cannot go back, and before you know it, The path leaves the green hills, the pastures, The promises of bigger, brighter ventures. The path then becomes a track, You carry onwards, and onwards A false sense of security since Until there, it was easy. There is no stopping, no time for rest. But you're progressing, you take it all in. The path then winds, vegetation forms around you, The horizon disappears. You focus, concentrate. One step after the other. You think you're fine for now, But you miss the green pastures. Just a track now, the forest growing more dense You lose your sense of direction, You lose your balance, you fall. Hands muddy, tired, You're ill equipped for this, And in too deep. Forward, sideways, forward. You remember when you had other paths. Endless stairs snaking up the side of a mountain. They looked repetitive and boring but how I long for the view they'd offer. You can't rest. There's no way back, and the more you think, You more you lose the track. Where I walk now, every step Is a feat of strength. But in the face of constant struggle In every direction, I finally got it. I understand what is the path of least resistance. It is the one under our every step The one we're forced to take Paved with certainty I know now I follow that path Deterministically
The path of least resistance
If you come out during the day, you'll be met by growling engines - white vans, buses and other commuters, all waiting for the thirteen seconds that separate them from the next strech of their journeys. This will trigger you before you even shut the door. Your eyes will probably squint while you regain your social bearings, and the light will turn green. As you turn left towards the station you will come to blame the proximity of the M25 for this low-level aggression. You'd be practically right, and I will spare you the details of the conspiratorial plots of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but trust me: they had a hand in this. And don't worry about the huge tower on the left, that's Imperial. Your visual field will eventually have replaced the M25 with the high construction sites on the other side of the railroad tracks now flanking your left. “Scalespace?”, you’ll probably think as you see the sign, “do you know how tall that fucking Imperial building already is?”.
Jérôme now stood 227 metres above the bay, the incessant sounds of cars fusing with the roars of a windy December night. He closed his eyes and tried to remember the best moments of his life. But none came, save for a vague recollection of a larger than expected tax rebate. He focused harder, but the exertion made him nauseous, and he allowed his mind to sink into the familiar nothingness. This happened every time he tried to do two things at once. He had thought reading Chaucer whilst having sex with his wife would add a little freshness to their love life, but instead he felt his ego dissolving in that strange mixture of physical and cerebral confusion. He switched the TV on. Ellen DeGeneres had Justin Bieber on again. "I wonder if he'll ever write his own songs", Jérôme thought to himself as he reopened his eyes, now so confident in the tragic absurdity of his own life that, as he let himself fall into the darkness below, a smile appeared on his face.
Cadavre Exquis #2: They Could Not Save Jérôme
Cadavre Exquis: The revolutionary Tarantula frankly teases the advancing ether
FRESHLY PROCURED ART
How do you capture the life of a party? Pictures don't seem right. You'd have to leave your friends for a significant amount of time. Which takes you out of the party. A catch 22 of some sorts. I don't think I can do it.
A friendly evening
11:20 Writing starts. What's the brief? 11:21 I don't really care about the brief. I need to go to the bathroom. Louis needs to charge his phone. 11:25 Two shot glasses and some Mirabelle eau-de-vie. Maybe I could have started crafting a poem by that time. I don't really care to be honest. I want a cigarette. 11:26 I could stop now. This qualifies as art. 11:28 Louis says this is too meta. Maybe it is, but it's taking the edge off. At least I'm writing. Doing something. 11:30 Music's on. This feels nice, tipsy, seeing a friend I hadn't seen in a while, limited by the timetable of the central line. 11:34 FIP has carried me through so many nights and so many days. It makes you feel at home precisely because it regularly puts you out of your comfort zone. A slow drip of discovery, mixed with classics, old and new. 11:37 I'm warming up to writing. Not regretting this choice of format. 11:38 This exercise makes the end of the evening quite brutal. We're having to complete this exercise rather than enjoy each other's company. Something to be said, I guess, about commitment and determination. 11:39 I'll carry this on until Louis submits. 11:43 Why are writers, out of all kinds of artists, known to have a drink when writing? I don't imagine painters do the same. 11:45 I'm gonna have a cigarette. 11:49 Cigarette and another piss. They're on the same plane at this point, just basic needs that need to be fulfilled. Not much enjoyment out of it. 11:51 Come on Louis, surely you're done at this point. 11:54 Cutting it close, a copy and paste away from being done. Convenient format. Creative enough, probably. No one is judging it anyways. 11:57 Submitting this, don't care whether Louis is done.
Diary of the last hour before submitting
The sounds of tambourines and drums guided by a chorus of youthful mantras welcomed me out of the journey I had just made in the screeching belly of London's Northern Line. The Hare Krishna welcoming party outside the station hinted at the sense of rebirth I hoped this whole enterprise would turn out to be. I felt energised. It had been a long time since I had been in contact with the contradictions of Camden, the raw and the dream-like, this acidulated borough where everything had already happened but in which nothing was old. I rolled myself a cigarette to cover the distance between the station and the Club, judging I had time to spare to ease my nerves, and made my way with 6 minutes separating me from my first meeting. As I waited to cross the road, a keen-eyed addict interrupted me, asking for a smoke. He must have spotted me from a mile away. I was a tourist in these parts, and in time I'd understand to avoid rolling in plain view of the station. I was taken aback by the strength of the negative feeling his desperation elicited in me, my lack of humanity perhaps reflecting his own. My usual pragmatic generosity when it comes to giving out rollies (crystallised by my personal favourite: "the more you smoke, the less I do") had ran away at first sight to barricade itself in a fortress, all guns ready. This was war. All of a sudden I was late, and out of baccy. The crucial flaw of this otherwise reliable lie was immediately exposed as the pedestrian light failed to turn green. This gave my experienced adversary enough time to launch his last assault, one I couldn't resist. Held between my two fingers, the last crumbs of my humanity, which he demanded. I gave him the half-smoked cigarette, leaving with me a bitter taste of unfinished business. He had won, I had lost. I had to shake off this feeling. I did so by rolling another cigarette and elongating the journey around a block of houses, to further perfuse myself in the first warmth of the spring sun. Time considerations were out the window, my mood was on the line. Barely late and stabilised, I faced the Club's entrance. An iron door guarded by a colourful Amy Winehouse graffiti, a white "22" spray-painted on it in the same font as the numbers marking the wheelie bins given by the council. On the right hand side, a small copper plate was engraved with the name of the Club. Above it, a doorbell. Deep breaths. I rang the bell, and waited.
First day at the Club
The tidal urban roars, the brick wall and the tree A column of vapour, of rain, activity My own reflection, distorted and shady Through double-glazed geometry The moon and the night now laughing at me, For attempting again to kill the ennui
poem for my window
When your eyes Wearied by The cold light Of the supermarket Settle on The bruised, Worn out, Bleached, Exhausted fruits, Before your hand Reaches out, If the thought Crossed your mind That them, Like you, Have been deprived, Tossed, processed, Packaged, Shipped and priced, You may ask yourself Whether, That fruit, If it possessed The capacity, If it retained, Just an ounce Of energy, Whether, That fruit, Would be relieved, Happy even, To be, Finally, Eaten
in Solidarity with salad tomatoes
When the heat strikes with that familiar weight And the conspiring drink leads far from the noise Cushioned by the long grass under my head I give in to these sedative ploys Dreams bothered by a cool, sharp breeze, I shiver and sit, consciousness regained And shaking that sense of unease I find that darkness has been ordained I look up to let out a sigh At the beauty of the twilight hours The colours of day, absorbed by the sky That the sinking star slowly devours Thick shadows sharpen the red glow That guide me back to the place That was still, a moment ago Bathed in the light's embrace
My anxious hands reach it with ease Too familiar with its cold weight The shackled mind turns a blind eye Wanting nothing to do with it And then in flames, it dissipates And the spirit is put to rest
The smallest gun to commit suicide with
The music drowned you that night All I could read was the feeling And I regret not begging To follow you in your flight Left alone and surrounded By familiar faces, dances, stranded Moths on the surface of the sun Couldn't tell me why you had run I went outside and asked the sky Shrouded in mist, we calculated Would you hate me if I came by Could have I helped, am I needed A drunken folly driven by pride Lonely and foolish I took the ride The underground shredded the silence As it covered the short distance I expected only darkness, I could not have envisioned A cigarette light and sadness I sat by you, and I listened
The music drowned you that night
Haha, very funny. Well done. That's actually pretty good. It's twisted for day 2, but writing prompts isn't easy, right? "It's just a harmless bit of fun" "And who would know anyway?" "There's absolutely nothing incriminating!" "This is a perfectly fine brief!" But I've got my eyes on you Mr. or Ms. Prompt Writer (or Mx. ? Evil knows no gender) And what do you even get from it? Or maybe that brings YOU joy? A day 2 switcheroo on your minions, Your horde of artists. Do you feel a sense of power? They say it's all about power. Do you feel in control? Maybe you like it? They say it's addictive. They say, (I've actually heard this one) "Power corrupts everything" Even briefs! But let me say Nothing good will come out of it. We're decent people (Statistically). In fact, You're probably okay too. Maybe you didn't mean to? I've been told Maybe I should forgive you? No, I'm still too bitter! But give me time. In hindsight this is very much, A "me" problem. Come tomorrow, The grief, the sorrow, Caused by the brief. Will be gone.
Mildly worded correspondence to the attention of the so-called brief "writer"
If I told you I spend most of my days Mixing liquids and solids, Shaking, filtering, drying, weighing Isolating, analysing, storing various mixtures. Holding flasks at eye level To make sure The theory is correct. You might guess my function. You'd think of the brightly lit hallways Of futuristic labs complete With agents in white coats, Hurrying silently within Condensed modernity. And if, by a fluke, You'd cross their path, You'd struggle to discern Past the cold glare you would get, Whether you, or themselves, Is the intended target. I'm unsure, like them, Of my precise function. I can be a writer and a thinker, I can mix fluids With overwhelming precision. While I wait for automation, To replace me, eventually, I'll keep on dreaming While I mix, shake, filter, dry, Weigh, isolate and analyse, That I'm nothing but Your average barista. The same skills, yes, But a greater purpose. Doing away with empirical Abstraction. Serving the people, Would be my function.
If I told you I spend most of my days