Issue #39 July 18th - 24th, 2003


Dear Children
I believe in magic because you are magical. Iím practicing spells all the time. Iím learning to play. If I donít, how will I speak your language?
By Emily Ann Potter

Writing of you
...a southern town that summer hadn't left yet, her room, her yellow curtains, her blue sheets, falling asleep next to her with a record playing, the way she looked at the coffee maker while waiting for coffee to be ready...
By Dimitra Daisy

A Close Encounter Of The Bird Kind
I walked slowly and carefully toward the nearest one and with out warning it flapped its arms and whoosh! It was up in the air again.
By Belle

And for my next trick
Money didn't bore her but what you could buy with money invariably did. In the end anyway. Boredom. That's what it was.
By Paul Williamson

Birds
There's a pigeon on my windowsill this morning. Dash it, the noise it makes! Early on, with the break of day, it hatched from my dreams, shattering them into brittle baby-blue spotted fragments, and free it flew.
By JohaN Hugo

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Dear Children,

I take long walks. I gulp down history. I stay up late. I love the contrastof the green of treesagainst the white of clouds against the blue of sky. I want to do a good jobliving, because I wantto be a good mommy for you.

I believe in magic because you are magical. Iím practicing spells all the time.Iím learning toplay. If I donít, how will I speak your language? I put the tent up in thebackyard the other dayand hung white lights on the outside. From the inside they looked like stars,and we pretendedthat we were in heaven. A couple of days later I made a walkway of blanketsthat led to arainbow that was surrounded by candles and clouds. We put on funny hats andscarves and read abook about color goddesses. We blew out the candles after a while, sat on therainbow and justtalked and cried about love. Not long ago we dressed up in our most elegantclothes and we wentout to dinner... in the garage. We set up the table surrounded by old boxes andboards. Afterwardwe danced with Frank Sinatra as he sang one of my favorite songs, Young atHeart.

And then a couple of days later your olí mom needed her own time. Everyone leftthe house togo to the beach, and I watched a movie under a blanket and I ate all the icecream I wanted with abig spoon, right from the container. It was that night that I thought of youmost. I need to takecare of me, so I can take care of you. But I donít always know the best way todo that. Iím stillfiguring it out.

Do you know how much I think of you? I love playing soccer in the park. I lovesinging all thesongs from musicals when we do the dishes. I want you to bring your friendsover more often fordinner. I want you to feel comfortable talking about things that are importantto you. I want youto listen to what I and your father believe, and then choose for yourself if youbelieve it too.

Iím afraid, sometimes, to be your mom. You have such distinct personalities ofyour own.Sometimes I donít know what to do for you. You have needs and desires differentthan my own.Sometimes I donít know how to fulfill them. Sometimes I get tired of trying.Sometimes I donítknow how to take care of myself and your father and you all at the same time.Sometimes I cry.Iíve never been a mommy before. Iím still just practicing. I have so manydreams for myself.You are one of the most important ones. But I have others too. Can we helpeach other reachour dreams?

Dear beautiful children of mine, I want to be your friend. Sometimes Iím just akid too. Somenights Iím afraid of being alone in the dark. Sometimes Iím afraid to love andto trust people. Idonít sew very well, and Iím not the best cook. But Iím really good at savingmoney andplanning for meaningful things. And I do believe in exploring. Oh I hope youalways make a habitof exploring. Go out and discover what lives in the bushes. You better comehome with holes inyour jeans and mud stains on your shirt. When you get a little bigger, gotravel as far away fromhome as you want. I will send you away with all my love in your pockets. Andalways explorewho you are. Never quit. Journey on and on through the bushes and thorns.Journey on, evenafter the travelerís zest wears off. Rest, then journey on. And I promise you,Iíll do the same.

How I want to be a good mom. Iíve been thinking of you since I was very young.Iíve beenwriting letters to you all my life. I even devoted one of my journals to youwhen I was ten.ďDedicated to my Future ChildrenĒ it read. I wrote to you all about my slumberparties and theboys I liked. I hope for such good things to give you. I hope for the energyto be the kind ofmom I want to be. I hope for good health. I hope for good spirit. Pleaseforgive me for things Ido wrong. Please love me unconditionally. Please understand that I am justdoing the best I can.Consequences will follow when you do something wrong. But I will try to befair. I love youvery much. My heart swells with love for you. I want to play with you and hugyou and makeforts with you on rainy nights. I want to put on a mask and run into yourclassroom at school andpick you up and steal you for an hour and take you out to lunch. I want to openyour bedroomdoor just a crack while youíre lying on your bed and send a paper airplane tofall on you with asecret message about how you better come quick or the last of the cookies willbe gone. Howmany other ways can we discover how to say ďI love youĒ to each other? You aremy precious,invaluable children...

And I canít wait for you to be born.

Love,
Mom

Emily Ann Potter

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Writing of you

Karin was waiting for me at the airport. I saw her standing there in the middle of the crowd looking at her shoes as if there was something really interesting to see there - something most people would find better suited to someone twenty years younger than her, but of course not me. I love it when she does that kind of thing. She only lifted her head when I was close enough to hear what she was going to say. And she said: "you're in love". And she smiled. I was surprised. That was quite unlike her. Not to smile, but to tell me what's happening to me. Normally she just waits until I realise it myself, I think. Not that there was a need for something like that this time. I knew it. I smiled back and nodded.

Then we took my bags and my bewilderment to a cafe where I sat staring alternatively at Karin, my coffee cup and the view out of the window - the pink shirt, the white hairclip, the fat vertical lines in different shades of blue, the pale brown of milky coffee, the greyness of the pavement, the glistening blackness of the road, the greyish whiteness of northern skies. My blue scarf that kind of matched the coffee cup. The wind that seemed to blow very cold, but which I hadn't noticed on the way there. A paper bag floating for a while. Karin patiently eating a sandwich while I was trying to find a way to say I've been in love so many times before but this is different without it sounding silly, and failing. She was halfway through the sandwich when she broke the silence by gently asking me "will you tell me about it?"

I wanted to tell her but I didn't know where to start. Everything was blur, the flight, getting met by people, going out, getting tipsy, falling asleep, waking up and meeting people all over again until the moment I bumped into her and our eyes met. It wasn't the first time I saw her -she was one of the people that had met me the previous day- but it was the first time I paid attention at what I saw, and what I saw would have made me run a mile in the opposite direction if it wasn't for...

"Why would you have run a mile in the opposite direction?" Karin seemed genuinely intrigued.

I felt that she could see through me.

Karin nodded but I could tell by her eyes that she thought that was a strange thought.

If it wasn't for what I saw in her eyes, I went on. I saw the reflection of the boy I used to be, the boy who's supposed death I've mourned ever since the day Marie moved out of town to be away from me...

Here Karin nodded again, knowingly and slightly sadly and suddenly I was at a loss for words again so we paid the bill and walked almost silently to the bus stop in the fading light and the chilly evening wind - Karin murmuring a song to herself, walking almost as if she was dancing to its tune, me wrapped in my blue scarf and my silence, my hands in my pockets and my head full of pictures: a southern town that summer hadn't left yet, her room, her yellow curtains, her blue sheets, falling asleep next to her with a record playing, the way she looked at the coffee maker while waiting for coffee to be ready, the way she stared at her cds when deciding what to play, the way she held me, the way it took my breath away, the way she didn't cry when we kissed goodbye at the airport.

The bus stop was only a minute away but by the time I leaned against the shelter and looked up at the street my head was spinning with joy for having found her and pain for being away from her and I was wondering how could being alive feel so strange and so wondrous. Karin kept singing quietly to herself and I was about to ask what the song was when the bus came round the bend, she looked up again, stood on her toes to kiss my cheek and tell me she was so very happy for me and give me yet another bright smile and a wave, and by the time all that was over I was on the bus already thinking how much I like her way of saying things instead of keeping them to herself.

And then, dear diary, I came home and decided to write all this down. Because time will go by and if we stay together, which I very much hope we'll do, inevitably the moment will come when we start argueing and hurt each other. And when this comes, I want to have something to remind me why I should keep trying. In case I ever forget.

 

Dimitra Daisy   

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A Close Encounter Of The Bird Kind

It was a sunny day in June when I first encountered them in the park. Back then I was still a puppy and the world held even more mysteries than it does now.
I was sat with my girl and a group of other people. All in all it was turning out to be a very exciting day. The people had all kinds of food which they kept accidentally dropping for me when the girl wasn't looking. Out of the corner of my eye I saw, a small grey and white thing with a sharp pointy looking nose, waddling towards me. I ran to have a closer look but before I knew it was up in the air! I looked at amazement at the thing that I now know is called a pigeon-bird. Pigeon-birds are greedy things and as soon as they saw all the food that the people were dropping for me they surrounded us. This time I was prepared, and wanted to study these things in greater depth. I walked slowly and carefully toward the nearest one and with out warning it flapped its arms and whoosh! It was up in the air again. In no time at all of the pigeon-birds had vanished and I was left wondering about the strange creatures.

Since that day in the park I have discovered that there are many different kinds of birds: robin-birds, starling-birds, black-birds, and that-bird.
Despite the fact that, that-bird lives in the house it will not help me understand the mystery of how birds get into the air. In fact it is one of the sneakiest things that I know. It spends its days shouting insults at me through the bars of its cage. I do my very best to ignore it thinking to myself:

"Sticks alone are not as good as bones, but you can't beat chicken trust meÖ"

I'm not sure why, but the girl told me I should think that to myself when something is trying to annoy me and it would help me to stay out of trouble. It sort of works because the thought of the chicken makes me lick my lips and forget the silly bird's insults.

The garden-birds do not shout many insults at me and practically ignore me. They prefer to spend all of their time high up in the trees, only coming down to the ground when I'm in the house. I watch them carefully out of the window trying to see what it is they do that lifts them into the air. I've tried running at full speed around and around the garden hoping that eventually I'll take off, but despite my best efforts I've only managed to fly once. It was the time when the girl and I were out for a walk. A tree had fallen across our path and there was no way around. I concentrated hard, took a big run up and landed right on the other side! The girl who has longer legs than me didn't look that impressed and simply stepped over the tree and carried on walking.

Yesterday I though I was finally discovered the secret of flying as I met a small-bird close up. I was sitting on the ground just by the kitchen window. I ran outside to talk to it and much to my surprise it did not fly away the minute that I went to talk to it. I walked slowly around it looking at it form all angles. I noticed that its fur was smother and more shiney than my own and seemed to grow on branches which stuck out from its body. I completed my circle and stood and faced it. It looked at me wide eyed and opened its beak wide:

"I want food!" it squeaked

My brain whirred into actionÖ

"I can get you food if you do me a favour in return" I replied.

"I want food!" it squeaked again

I was un-detered by the fact that it was repeating itself and so continued to explain the deal:

"I could get you any amount of food, even chicken, if you could just tell me how to flyÖ"

"I want food!" it squeaked again

It didn't seem to be listening. I patted it gently on the head. And it squeaked for more food. At this point The girl came along and shouted at me to leave the poor thing alone. I followed her into the kitchen, slightly disgusted by the little-bird's one track mind.
"How could anything be that greedy ?!" I thought
The girl gave me a piece of her toast and I forgot all about the little bird for a few hours.

I remembered about it a few hours later and went to look out of the kitchen window to see if it was still there. It was.

"I want food" it squeaked, opening its beak wide.

A bigger bird came a long with a worm dangling in its mouth and plopped in gently into the little bird's mouth. I looked in disgust as the little-bird actually ate that worm! It then wobbled, stood on its two feet and shakily took to the air.

I looked on in amazement and thought to myself

"worms must make the birds fly!"

I have now decided that I would rather carry on eating chicken and toast and keep my feet firmly on the ground than eat worms!

Belle

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And for my next trick

"And we're all so proud of her."
"And so you should be. It's a wonderful achievement, wonderful."
"Fabulous I know, I know. Great."
"And onto bigger and, dare I say, better things eh?"
"Oh yes- she's got it all mapped out. She knows what she's doing, but don't they all these days?"
"I daresay they do. Now, where is our girl at the moment anyway?"
"You mean lady!"
"Yes! Yes! Of course. Lady. She's blossomed into a beautiful young lady."
"She's outside I think. Somewhere in the crowd of well-wishers probably."
"Ah."

The truth is, Chloe was on the toilet. And surreptitiously avoiding the masses, because she didn't like people very much at the moment, and she especially didn't like the crowds of flabby faces stuffing Marks and Spencers vol-au-vonts into their greasy chops in her honour, swigging good red ostentatiously in her honour and, in effect, feeling better about themselves because, being here to salute someone else enabled them to eke out a semblance of self-worth and dignity, gave their lives a self-congratulatory pat on the back. And yet all this time, as faces filled, hairlines receded, and livers eroded, their own lives were slowly ticking to their eventual stop. And they didn't know, they didn't know.

Chloe finished. She sat still. She realised that she wasn't happy. She also realised that she didn't know why she wasn't happy- she just wasn't. She almost felt selfish for being unhappy when everybody else was happy for her. Almost. She had just obtained a first-class degree (with honours) in Environmental Health and had just procured, on the basis of her degree, a high-ranking post with the local council's health and housing unit. So, on the face of it, she should feel immeasurably happy shouldn't she? She had worked so hard for the degree. She'd missed meals for it, missed fucking for it, missed sleeping for it. For it? For what? The job. The job. Environmental health officer. Flexi-hours. £26,000 a year basic. Company car courtesy of the council.

She couldn't drive. And what was she supposed to do with £26,000 a year? Money didn't bore her but what you could buy with money invariably did. In the end anyway. Boredom. That's what it was. She had grown so tired of her fathers lectures on what it takes to get on in the world, and how important it was to get a good degree, and how boys can wait, there's plenty of time for them, dear, and how to save money, and how to spend money, and what to say in interviews and how important eye contact was, and don't wear too short a skirt, look respectable, girl, look interested and smile smile smile.

She wasn't smiling. The truth is, was, is, that she really didn't know what to do with her life. She knew that she didn't want to end up like her parents, worrying about next month's gas bill, this month's insurance, and have you paid the garage yet for the new battery, dear, and all of the rest of the inanities, insanities, and as they got older, time ebbed on and on and they were nearer to what? Their dream? No, they were nearer to what they had to be, nearer to what society expected them to become, with the home, and the holidays, and the hospitals that replaced the love scenes.

Chloe scratched under her arm. Stubble was beginning to grow even though she had, out of a supposed duty towards something or another, shaved that very night. God, it itched, she thought. Yet the more she itched, the worse it got. She scratched so much, she started to bleed. "shit, that's all I fucking need." She tore some toilet tissue off the roll and began dabbing under her arms. Remarkably, she thought it felt furry under there, well, kind of furry but not furry. Intrigued, she walked over to the bathroom mirror and inspected under her armpits. At first she thought that she had perhaps drunk too much wine because she couldn't quite believe what she saw. So she threw cold water on her face. Lots of it. Then inspected her armpits in the mirror again. She wasn't drunk, but what she saw, what she thought she saw, was beyond belief. You see, under each armpit, tiny little feathers were growing, and growing at a rapid pace. "No, this isn't right, it's not true" she muttered. Had someone spiked her drink? No, everyone here meanders in safety and predictability to ever do anything like that. But these feathers. Surely not? Suddenly, little clusters of feathers began to appear all over her arms, like the german measles that she had when she was eight. She pulled at them, to make sure that they were real. They were.

"Chloe love, are you in there?" It was her mother.
"Erm, yeah. Just a minute."
"Will you be long? Everybody's absolutely dying to see you."
"OKÖtwo seconds mum."

The feathers were growing at a prodigious rate. Unreal. Nobody, but nobody, would believe this.

She sneaked a look out of the bathroom window. Laughter. The sun, setting, layered the sky in a dozy mish-mash of purple-orange. The people in her parents garden ate and swigged and cackled and thought of themselves as appropriate human beings. They wanted to see her, she thought, because that's what's expected of them.

There was another sharp rap on the door.

"Chloe darling, are you ok?" It was her father.

Insight. "So it they want to see me" she thought "they want to see meÖ"

She opened the bathroom window. She climbed onto the ledge. She jumped. She flapped her wings. She flapped for all she was worth. If you used your wings, utilised them and cajoled them, make them your own, trust in them as they trust in you, then you could glide through all types of weather. She smiled too.

Paul Williamson

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Birds

There's a pigeon on my windowsill this morning. Dash it, the noise it makes! Early on, with the break of day, it hatched from my dreams, shattering them into brittle baby-blue spotted fragments, and free it flew. Now it rumbles and it cooes, there, outside my window, and I can't get to sleep no more.

Funny thing is though, it's a long time since I've thought of birds. Ever since the fence got put up round the mountain - and though I've looked for chinks or gaps I've still to find any - and I couldn't visit them no more, there in the big nest-tree by the claydam, all thoughts have slowly flown the coop. Used to be they were with me all the day long, flitting and fluttering and noisy, and generally being bird-like - all shapes and sizes and colours of them - until only at night would I find some rest in the downy quiet of my feather-pillow, so I could face and enjoy their presence in the morning once again.

And then the fence, and standing by the streamlet where it passed through its harch grey mesh, trying to trace it back up to its source, there in the little claydam at the top, so distant now, where the big old thorn-tree towered with its many nests, and the swallows came to dip and taste, moulding little bricks for house-front apartments stuck away in corners, and where I used to sit so many hours, before. Ears straining, running the water through and through my mind for the glimmer, the last reflected echo of a song, a trill that might remain before it was siphoned off by the silent houses down below through which the stream must run.

At first it came quite easy-like, a million mumurs swelling in my ear-like caverns, but as the days went by and winter came, they came less and less, until one day I strained and strained in vain, till I heard the beating of my own heart like rapid gunshots in my ears, but no songs, no little twitters remained in that dead grey stream. Then I went back there no more, and so it has been. The same things happened with the memories. For some time they wuld come visit me, white and brown and dusty wings fletching ghostly shoulders, whispering enchantingly, but then that too ceased, and they were gone. (Once I heard the news: a big old aeroplane had blundered into a shock of swallows, and fell. I was in mourning a whole day for their little souls, so cudely shredded by the turbine-fans, then they too, would return no more. So it's been, as I have said.)

So for some weeks now the sky's been empty, clouds drifting across, but high, not hiding anything except where they should be, and aren't. And I have almost grown accustomed to this state of affairs, if the sad truth be told.

And now today, this morning, to be woken by a pigeon I had dreamt up all by myself. Who would give it any credit?

JohaN Hugo

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