A Message to An Older Me

Since National Poetry Day 2016 is just around the corner (6th October) here is a poem I wrote in relation to this years theme of Messages.

A Message to An Older Me

You must have frost between your joints now,
you find that the days run like clockwork and it’s
left a t ic k i n g insanity
teasing the mines in your head
your hands are tired, but so is everyone else
it’s not romantic anymore and it’s a bore to talk about
the glass is seldom lonely and the morning turns grey
with the soft sweet murmur of last night’s liquor

it’s been years
so I guess the kids can go a week without calling
now that they’re twenty-two
they’re out changing a world you finally thought you knew
you believed me once, or have you forgotten?
it’s me, don’t you see?
it’s me – I’m you
and you should listen, old lady, you should listen
I am young
a lot younger than you

I see an ageless dance in the sweet silver of today
in the space between the leaves
there is always a lucky piece of blue
now tip your chin up towards a shredded sky and wave
to a dawn of immortal flimsy gold
and never doubt
we are always part of The Movement
the world is loud
the world is old but life is young
and the best of times don’t leave the stage until the play is done

This is an original poem by Vivien Lin, if you wish to share or publish it elsewhere, please make me aware of this by emailing me for consent. 

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OFF THE SHELF: LUNCH POEMS BY FRANK O’HARA

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Lunch Poems has been published for over half a decade now, but still retains it’s youth. Published in 1964 by City Lights Books, Lunch Poems remains O’Hara’s most icon collection of work.

It was written during O’Hara’s time in Manhattan, having graduated from Harvard and arrived on the scene to become a key member of the New York School, which also included the likes of John Ashbery and other painters and poets.

1964 saw America on the precipice of a new, modern age, but society had not quite tipped over the edge yet. O’Hara’s Lunch Poems represented much of what a modern America would be.

The collection is rich with contemporary vocabulary and runs like a subway from destination to destination, from one event to the next like an endless stream.

Poems such as ‘Steps,’ highlights O’Hara’s uncomplicated romantic voice:

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and to drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

Unlike more traditional poetry, O’Hara’s work delivers emotion through simplicity and and lighthearted irony, which often conveys evident loneliness and sentimentality in his poems.

Lunch Poems successfully depicts life in the city, it portrays a colourful, human urban environment, swollen with the intense juices of life. O’Hara shows appreciation for fine art, such as operas, which comes as not surprise, as he was often seen as a ‘poet among painters.’ O’Hara was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and was surrounded by revolutionary artists. Similarly, his poetry was rich with the colours and textures of busy Manhattan.

Finally, as a reader on the 21st century, I think it’s safe to say that Lunch Poems has not aged since it’s 1964 publication, O’Hara’s modern artistic style and his interpretation of his city remains alive and relevant today. I like to keep my Pocket Poet Series of Lunch Poems with me when travelling, especially in the city. I’d like to see the center of life as Mr O’Hara did.

FOR ALL TIME: SHORT STORY

There were only four rooms on the sixth floor of the Clearview Hotel. Phillip Eastwood had designed the level before five too many shots of tequila on his twenty-sixth birthday killed him. They’d built the floor the way he’d drawn it as a memorial and named the four rooms after his four Siberian cats, because he had no children or distinctive achievements, apart from dying in a hurricane of neon signs and his own vomit.

Allister Web, more commonly known as The Spider, occupied The Rusty Suite, which was located to the left of The Shrimps Suite, which, very fittingly, housed Mrs P. Haddock. On the opposite side of the corridor, there resided two people who had spoken just once and then never conferred again.

From the moment he saw Gregory Valentine, Nate Silverman could not shake the feeling that, even on a different coast, he still shared a wall with his father.

This was what he thought of on his last day at the hotel, with his eyes fixed on a grey thread of dust by his lampshade and his forehead pulled back into an absentminded frown, Nate’s thoughts streaked through eight states, all the way back home.

He stood, poised outside his front door with one fist raised to knock, like he expected someone to answer. Noiselessly, he turned the brass knob, stepped in, and stopped.

‘Happy birthday, Nate,’ Mr Silverman bellowed from his dining room, two months after his son’s nineteenth birthday.

Nate eyed the gargantuan store brought cake that had been clumsily hacked into crumbling squares. A whole lemon had found its way into the lemonade jug, bobbing and struggling to stay afloat, drowning in a sickly sweet froth. The pearl of light in the top right corner of his father’s eyes made him look like a madman.

Nate let his bag drop to the floor with a thud as his father waited for his reaction, the hand that still held the cake knife trembling with anticipation. Nate sat down, one hand gripping the table leg and the other half stretched out towards the front door, grasping at the lingering strands of reality that licked his fingertips until they stung.

He thought he should visit them, the others, and bid them farewell. He’d see to Mrs Haddock first, she talked like tomorrow would steal her vocal chords, regardless of who was listening. Nate could hear her clarion voice now; it made the wall that faced her room hum like an electric fence.

‘Nate?’ Mrs Haddock’s voice blared out like a siren. Inches away from her door, Nate winced.

‘Yeah, it’s me.’

‘Well come on in, I’ve been waiting for you,’ Mrs Haddock rambled on as Nate let himself in ‘you know I can’t get far with my knees, else I’d walk right on over to your room and murder you for not visiting me.’

‘Well, yes I’m sorry,’ Nate said ‘but, you see, I’ve got this condition with my knees too, they pop right out of their sockets whenever I take a step and then swell up like balloons, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to adjust these bad boys coming across the corridor just now.’

Mrs Haddock let a smile breach her stern expression as Nate sat on the edge of her bed and knocked his knees together repeatedly.

‘Oh, you are terrible,’ she swiped at him, aiming for his leg, but brushing his shoulder instead.

Mrs Haddock was old, Nate knew that the first time they spoke, but she had not a single strand of grey hair or age spot. Her lips, coloured scarlet each day, still had some kind of youthful fullness to them and the nape of her neck remained smooth as glass.

She barely looked a day past thirty, but had he asked her who currently resided in the White House, she would have said Wilson. It was only her legs that betrayed her, they could barely keep her upright and Nate knew they had sentenced her to several life times in this suite

‘I can’t stay long,’ Nate said, holding tightly onto the hand that rested on his leg, but being careful not to grip tightly, even though he wanted to.

‘Will you come over here and talk to me again tomorrow?’ Mrs Haddock inquired as Nate began to leave, he paused and honesty stole tact from him.

‘No, I don’t think I will.’

Fingering her pearls, Mrs Penny Haddock smiled like a ten-tonne truck had not stolen her dancing legs over a lifetime ago.

‘I’d hoped you’d say that.’

It happened again the next day, and the next and the next. Nate would come home to a bizarre birthday welcome; sometimes Mr Silverman would even go as far as to tie half inflated balloons to the front fence, which Nate untied hastily as soon as he got home, in case the neighbours saw.

Each day, before he left the house, Nate reminded his father that today was just a normal day, not a celebration, not a special occasion, but each day he would forget again. According to Mr Silverman, Nate was thirty-nine years old when he was made redundant for arguing with his boss about his own name.

By the time his son was middle aged, Nate had stopped trying to remind him and locked the front door each morning instead.

Nate leant against The Spider’s door for a few moments after leaving Mrs Haddock to the sound of her own voice. He felt his perspective shrinking; his world was a peach stone, with only a fissure between Oregon and New York. The walls pinched and collapsed inwards like crumpled napkins, but this time, he refused to follow their example.

‘Nathan Eldred Silverman, I can hear you thinking from all the way over here.’ The Spider’s voice came from the other side of the door, Nate’s middle name was actually Caleb, but The Spider really didn’t care. He pushed open the door to the Rusty Suite and stepped in.

Since arriving, The Spider had terraformed the once immaculate hotel room into an alien landscape. Splintered plastic littered the torn carpet and a drum-kit slumped against the back wall like a beggar, a gold curtain tassel draped on the crash cymbal.

‘So you’re out of here.’ The Spider scratched a hangman stick figure into his guitar lacquer and blew off the residue before leaning back to observe his handy work.

‘I just came by to say bye,’ Nate leant against the wall tentatively; the room seemed to emanate the same restless energy that The Spider did. ‘And, uh, maybe I’ll see you soon, on the cover of Rolling Stone or something.’ Allister scoffed and flicked a lime green pick across the room with a deft hand.

‘Oh please, that ship sailed before you were born,’ Nate stopped himself from pointing out that The Spider was barely twenty. His brain was so vast that it would take you fifty lifetimes to explore it, but you didn’t bother, because his unfathomable arrogance made him unlikable even to his own mother.

‘Sometimes I think about calling home,’ a silence followed as Nate tried to conjure a response to Allister’s unexpected confession. He lay on the rumpled covers, insolent green eyes darting across the ceiling; the arm that hung off the side facing Nate was flecked with old track marks.

‘Where’s home?’

‘Minnesota.’

Nate turned this new information around in his head, ‘I’m sure Minnesota misses you.’

‘I’m sure you’re wrong,’ Allister snickered as he said it and finally turned to face him. ‘I’m also pretty sure you want to bludgeon me alive, so you better get going,’

Nate didn’t expect him to cry when he told him, but he did, mercury tears pooled in his eyes and dripped off his chin like a broken faucet.

‘I can’t look after you here,’ Nate paced around the kitchen table, exasperated. ‘I mean look at you, dad, just look.’ He jerked open the fridge to reveal the ludicrous amount of kiwi fruit that occupied it and slammed it shut again. ‘What are you doing?’

With his head bowed and tears dripping steadily onto the table cloth, Mr Silverman said nothing
.

‘Look, I’m sorry,’ Nate ran an eye over the wilted sandwiches and week old bowl of trifle that took pride place in the centre of the dining table ‘it’s for the best, this way I know that you’re not going to be in danger when I’m not around.’

‘Okay.’

Nate didn’t say goodbye to Gregory Valentine in the end, he opened the old man’s door and saw him ironing the same two creases out of the back of a blazer over and over again, his arthritic fingers fumbling the iron. It took ten minutes before Valentine noticed Nate stood watching him.

‘What it is?’ Mr Valentine eyed Nate with suspicion, he had these washed out blue eyes that used to be bright, but had now faded like the rest of him. Decades of neat lawns and clean gutters, but no one to share them with had gouged cavernous creases into his face. Gregory was old enough to be Mr Silverman’s father, but the familiarity left Nate winded.

‘Nothing, Mr Valentine, I’m sorry to disturb you.’

Mr Silverman died nine months after checking into the local nursing home, by then his son had disappeared.

New York had never looked so full, the street was heaving with people as Nate stepped out of the hotel lobby, even though it was nearing midnight.

‘Hey kid, are you okay?’ a street vendor tapped Nate on the shoulder and looked up at the Clearview Hotel.

‘I’m fine.’

‘They’ve been meaning to knock this place down for decades, you know,’ the street vendor gestured towards the hotel.

‘Knock it down?’

‘Yeah, it’s been abandoned since like the 1920s, but no one’s got around to it for some reason.’

‘But people still live there,’ the street vendor fixed him with an incredulous expression.

‘Are you kidding me, the windows are smashed and all, the place is a goddamn ruin.’

‘But it’s-‘Nate stopped himself and stepped back onto the pavement ‘right, uh, thanks.’

A few streets down, Nate turned back to spot the Clearview Hotel’s neon sign, so red that it seemed to scald the indigo sky.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ Nate approached a police officer stood outside Mary Goldberg’s Flowers ‘I’m looking for a place called Clearview Hotel, could you tell me if I’m anywhere near?’

‘It’s just a few blocks down, are you a photographer or something?’

‘Yeah, yeah I am, how’d you know?’ Nate lied.

‘I’m always having you guys asking me about that old place, it’s the most photographed abandoned building in the city, you know.’

‘No I didn’t.’

Nate turned back to face the Clearview Hotel and thought he could hear The Spider wailing on his drums, he thought of how the hotel, in all its forty story splendor, would never be big enough to contain Allister Web. Nor could it banish Penny Haddock, who still dreamt rosy dreams about dancing on Ninth Avenue, from his memory.

He looked around him and wondered who else knew the Clearview Hotel as an active establishment, because he couldn’t be the only one who made it out.

He felt brand new, no longer hiding in plain sight, he was new. In this sleepless city, that Mrs Haddock had known as a world of speak easies and jazz, where Allister Web had injected oblivion into his bloodstream, Nate could so easily have felt lost, but he wasn’t. He wanted to know what was playing in the theatre, he wanted to visit a cocktail bar and meet a smiling stranger, to leave the room.

In the warm glow of New York’s nocturnal lights, Nate came to the realisation that all the days, even the bad ones, had been special occasions, and that his father had it right all along.

By Vivien Lin
2016

A winning entry of the Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival Poetry and Short Story Competition 2016.

(Entry was included in winning anthology, however was not awarded the category prize.)

http://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/article/creative-writing-competition-2016

WRITE OUR AGE: RUTS AND INSPIRATION

I’m not the kind of person who can write their way out of writer’s block by aimlessly typing shapeless rubbish into a Word Doc until inspiration hits.

I’ve always stood by the theory that editing something, no matter how awful, is better than having nothing to edit. Although, writing content that you know to be bad, even as a draft, can be dispiriting and physically painful.

On a good day, my head is brimming with words that fit well together and lines of poetry that have distinct rhythms and messages. At times like these, I find my notes app full of bits and pieces of writing that have the potential to become entire poems or prompts for short stories. This is great, I’m sure you’ll agree, we all feel incredible when this is the case.

However, there are always dry spells, times when nothing we write seems to sound even remotely interesting, our poetry falls flat on it’s face and our scripts are dull. For me, times like these are incredibly frustrating, but I’ve found that, like an illness, the pain can be alleviated in several different ways.

We all write under different circumstances, but there are some common denominators. I often find that I write best after reading work that that sparks interest.

The poetry I currently write is heavily influenced by the work of the Beats and the New York School of Poets. If I look back on a time-line, I see time when my work was particularly influenced by Auden and Eliot.

Some phases pass, but many stick and become an amalgamation of your influences. The writers who you admire and emulate are often the ones that succeed in replenishing your flow. So when I’m short of ideas, I’ll flick through Birthday Letters, or Lunch Poems to recharge my battery.

Additionally, quotes can also be incredibly helpful, whether it’s quotes about writing, or quotes on certain subjects and themes, I feel that they are a quick fix to help sustain your writing. You may have a collection of favourite quotes that you can assemble into an accessible collection and come back to when you’re stuck in a rut.

I think non-fiction writer have less trouble with this next issue, but poets and screenwriters and novelists, I hope you can relate.

Occasionally, I feel like a fraud because I’m have no idea what I’m writing about and that is detrimental to my mentality. I become stuck in a stuttering cycle of writing and stopping and considering, until I run out of juice.

In my opinion, one of the best solutions to this problem is to defraud yourself. Writing about hiking? Find a mountain to summit, pack your own bag, experience the tumultuous weather, then transfer this experience to your work with the reassurance and support of your genuine experience.

Secondly, I think it is equally, if not more important, to remember this one truth: YOU ARE A WRITER. You are a creator of worlds and people that would not exist if it wasn’t for you! You are a creator of fiction and fantasy and infinite circumstances. It’s important not to doubt your own rules, because YOU MAKE THE RULES. Sure, you may have to sit down and untangle messy plots and patch up holes, but in the end, you have the final say.

Thanks for reading this post and leave your thoughts below, how do you fight writer’s block, what advice do you have and do you agree with what I said?

ALSO, if anyone would like to request a specific topic for the next WRITE OUR AGE, I’d be happy to take requests in the comments. I’d love to hear what you guys would like to see.

SHARE this post on Facebook or Twitter with anyone you think would like to read it and give us a LIKE if you want!

Until next time,

Viv

WRITE OUR AGE: SELF-DOUBT

If you’re a writer like me, I think the title of this post really speaks for itself. A few days ago, I posted a picture of a blog post in the drafting process on this website’s Instagram (@thereis_nowhy- if you want to follow.) Since then, that post has been drafted and re-drafted and now, is completely dismissed. I may revisit the idea another time, but for now, it’s moot.

I’ve discarded entire collections of poetry, short stories and countless blog posts in the name of self-doubt. I am duly surprised that this post made it to the internet. Like many of my fellow writers, I scrutinise every detail and sentence, and eventually, question the entire concept of my work and deem it void of purposeful content.

And I guess this has its silver linings, because I’m learning to edit and adapt and craft meaningful content. However, on the other hand, this infuriating cycle of work and abandonment leaves me a drained writer and a sorry excuse of a blogger.

At 16, the time I dedicate to writing does not exceed more than half a dozen hours a week, as much as I would like to, I am not a full-time blogger and writer. My energy and motivation comes in unpredictable surges, I create a months worth of content within a few hours, publish it in a wild frenzy of excitement and revel in the smattering of comments left. Alternatively, I abandon my blog for months, neglect my unstructured schedule and leave people wondering where I’ve been. (sorry)

Although I’m confident that I’m not the only young writer who has trouble being consistent, I’m sure there are some writers, either young or experienced, out there who have strict disciplines when it comes to writing and follow structures that help then produce a steady stream of content. I’m not striving for military discipline, and as much as I am in love with the notion of spontaneous prose and Kerouac’s work, I am fully aware of the fact that On The Road is old Jack’s single greatest hit.

Whilst I can, I’d like to nail the art of successful writing, seeing as we are destined to have a life long love affair, and I would like to share this journey with you.

This post is the commencement of a new blog series on this website: WRITE OUR AGE.

Share this post on Facebook and Twitter with any writers who you think may have the same issues and invite them to join the discussion!

MOVIES IN 2016

2016 has got off to a brilliant start in terms of TV and cinema. We’ve been treated to releases such as The Danish Girl and The Revenant. The BBC has also been good to us, with mind blowing adaptations of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Let’s have a look at what the rest of 2016 will bring:

SUICIDE SQUAD [Action/Adventure/Fantasy]

Release date: 05.08.16

Plot: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned super villains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

Director: David Ayer [Fury, Training Day]

Writers: John Ostrander, David Ayer

Suicide Squad features an all star cast, here a just a few:
Jared Leto [Fight Club, Dallas Buyers Club]
Viola Davis [The Help, Doubt]
Cara Delevingne [Paper Towns, Pan]
Ben Affleck [Gone Girl, Good Will Hunting]

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLLQK9la6Go

ME BEFORE YOU  [Drama/Romance]

Release: 03.06.16

Plot: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
Based on the book by Jojo Moyes.

Director: Thea Sharrock [The Hollow Crown, Henry V]

Writers: Jojo Moyes

Cast [starring]:
Sam Claflin 
[The Riot Club, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Rosie]
Emilia Clarke
[Dom Hemingway, Game of Thrones]
Janet McTeer [The Woman in Black, Cat Run, The White Queen]
Charles Dance
[Game of Thrones, The Imitation Game]
Brendan Coyle [Downton Abbey, Noble]
Matthew Lewis
[The Harry Potter Franchise, The Rise]

Trailer:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4pEn72mPeM

Back-September-2014-author-Jojo-Moyes-shared-glimpse-Claflin

PASSENGERS [Sci-fi]

Release: 21.12.16

Plot: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 60 years early.

Director: Morten Tyldum [The Imitation Game, Buddy]

Writer: Jon Spaihts

Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence
[The Hunger Games, Joy, Silver Linings Play Book]
Chris Pratt [Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World]
Michael Sheen [Frost/Nixon, The Twilight Saga]

HOW TO BE SINGLE [Romantic Comedy]

Release: 12.02.16

Plot: New York City is full of lonely hearts seeking the right match, and what Alice, Robin, Lucy, Meg, Tom and David all have in common is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love.

Director: Christan Ditter

Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Dana Fox, Liz, Tuccilo

Cast:
Dakota Johnson [The Social Network, 50 Shades]
Rebel Wilson
[Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids]
Leslie Mann [The Other Woman, This is 40]
Damon Wayans Jr [Let’s Be Cops, Big Hero 6]

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrDI4-BSovs

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR [Superhero/Action]

Release: 29.04.16 [UK]

Plot: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Mark Millar, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby

Cast:
Chris Evans [The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America]
Robert Downey Jr [Iron Man, The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron]
Scarlett Johansson [Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier]
Antony Mackie [The Hurt Locker, Captain America: The Winter Soldier]
Martin Freeman [Sherlock, Fargo, The Hobbit]

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVdV-lxRPFo

FINDING DORY [ANIMATION/ADVENTURE/COMEDY]

Release: 17.06.16

Plot: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Writers: Victoria Strouse, Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson

Cast:
Idris Elba
[Thor: The Dark World, Luther]
Ellen DeGeneres [Finding Nemo]
Kaitlin Olson [The Heat, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia]
Dominic West [Pride, The Wire]

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JNLwlcPBPI

ZOOLANDER 2 [Comedy]

Release: 12.02.16

Plot: Derek and Hansel are modelling again when an opposing company attempts to take them out from the business.

Director: Ben Stiller

Writer: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg

Cast:
Ben Stiller
[The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Zoolander]
Olivia Munn [Magic Mike, Iron Man 2]
Penelope Cruz [Blow, Pirates of the Caribbean]
Will Ferrell [Get Hard, Daddy’s Home, Anchorman]
Owen Wilson [Marley & Me, You, Me and Dupree]
Macaulay Culkin [My Girl, Home Alone]
Benedict Cumberbatch [Sherlock, The Imitation Game]
Christine Taylor [The Wedding Singer, Zoolander]

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CL4LNWHegk

THE ART OF BEING SINGLE

Helium balloons and soft toys shaped like internal organs. It sounds like the makings of a thrilling time, doesn’t it? It’s unforgivably deceiving, the entire façade of Valentines Day, but that is why I love it. It’s as if I’m watching the most intense and ridiculous romantic drama take place over the span of a few days.

You have happy couples strolling down the street, grinning serenely as they anticipate the arrival of Valentines Day, however, at least one half of that love-sick pair is bound to forget the occasion and end up having to present a can of condensed milk and tinned sausage to their lactose intolerant, vegetarian partner.

The wafting scent of chocolate and red roses stinks out the street like Mustard Gas when the dreaded day arrives. I look on fondly as people sprint in their pyjamas like greyhounds to corner shops and card stores before the crack of dawn, in the hope that their futile efforts will save their relationship for disaster.

I am single and free of obligations, Valentines Day is the only day of the year when I am #WINNING.

The good bit comes afterwards. As February 15th rolls into town, I take pleasure in strolling up and down the seasonal aisle of Tesco to embrace the essence of crushed dreams and unreturned texts, whilst I rid the shelves of discount chocolate and cheap wine.

Happy Valentines Day to me.

POEM OF THE DAY: Frank O’Hara

       ANIMALS

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

[1950]

RAILWAY CITIES – short story by VL

This train is bound for London, an uninspiring, soulless city, where the sun drags itself along the crumbling pavement in a top hat and gloves. What people are is where they are. I must be London through and through. My lungs are infiltrated with smog. I am circling, forever circling, myself.

‘Why don’t you leave, then?’ Douglas had asked me some time ago now.

I can’t remember what I replied with, but it must have been good because he shut up right away. I’m a magnificent deflector; I guess I have London to thank for that. In case you’re wondering, old Doug’s shovelling earth and herding sheep now, not because he got demoted or anything, but because he left when he wanted to. His stupid corporate mugs are still in our apartment, taking up space where mine should be.

I come up out of the ground just as a lady passes by, she is forty, fifty, maybe? It gets hard to tell after thirty-five and most people will lie if you ask them. Anyway, she looks like a splendid story, with enough creases and ironed out edges to be a long and meaty one too, but the swarming horde smuggles her away before I catch up with her. I would have treated her real nice too, been a proper gentleman and taken her back to a time when scotch was classy and dancing was friendly, nothing more.

The steakhouse I passed two minutes ago is coming up again, and the rain washed awning is gone this time around. What could it take to get it back? Would a twenty do the job, sir? Fifty? I’m a vegetarian, but even an old steakhouse deserves to stay dry, don’t you think?

Things are always disappearing in this city, purses, cheques, people, and no one seems to know or care where they go, they just become sucked into this invisible vortex. If I wasn’t currently occupied with this terrific job, I would do it, I really would. I would stick on a deer-stalker and find a Watson to help me and hunt down the lost pieces of London.

There was a man who used to scowl at me from the coffee house doorway, and I’d kill to have him back too. Which is quite ironic, don’t you think? My morning latte and muffin would have done the job. There was no need for homicide back then. We’re suckers for making life harder for ourselves, we really are.

This train is bound for Paris, where my sixteen-year-old heart lies. My silhouette has faded into the seat of this carriage, but people stopped noticing years ago. Let me tell you something about Paris. Doug would have hated it, hated it with all his muddy heart.

But to me, Paris was the dream, the city of the Great Manifesto, with its eternal firefly lights and the scent of decency, on its glitter dusted pavements one could never truly die. I was going to speak French like a real Frenchman and live in an apartment near the Champs Elysees with a coffee machine. I had plans to marry a Marie or Jaquez with a bob.

Paris was flames and dancers and evening walks on the promenade, a dream for shallow hearts.

This train is bound for Italy. I’m sat here on the cold metal bench on the platform, gulping down scalding coffee from a cup that feels like sawdust, and trying to stay awake. I was saving Italy for when I got tired, tired of swirling crowds and hotdogs, for when I was old and travelled and smiling.

I would find some faded little diner and know the owner by his first name. I’d tell locals about the time I ran a circus in Brazil and the phantom girl who kissed me at the New York cocktail bar I liked at twenty-two. I would eat olives, garlic and sun-dried vegetables until I was a hundred-and-two then die in a striped deck chair, drenched in sun and ready for the moon.

This train feels as if it’s been delayed for light years. You must remind me to file a complaint.

 

RAILWAY CITIES BY VIVIEN LIN