Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ripeness is All

I have finished Ursula Le Guin and have now moved on to a biography of CS Lewis. That the guy who wrote it is not an academic is evident from some of his comments in the introduction.

The book does not have the polish of a Daphne du Maurier or a Claire Tomalin or even, a Peter Ackroyd. But it does have its own charm. And CS Lewis is a fascinating subject. And I find, like me, he only read Kenneth Grahame as an adult and it made him all warm and fuzzy.

There is nothing quite so comforting as curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and Wind in the Willows. (I think it's the food that does it. It's the food that does it in Pickwick as well, the food and the milk punch and the games and the gaiety and the benevolence and the stories,and my dear, dear Sam).

I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.

This was how Lewis (or Jacksie as he liked to be known) described himself.

I've only finished the first chapter which deals at some length with the illness and death of his mother. His feelings about this, while breezed over in his memoir, Surprised by Joy, is treated more honestly in The Magician's Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, written much later:

"And so would you...if you'd lived all your life in the country and had a pony, and a river at the bottom of the garden, and then had been brought to live in a beastly Hole like this...And with an Aunt and an Uncle who's mad (how would you like that?)- and if the reason was that they were looking after your Mother - and if your Mother was ill and was going to - going to - die." Then his face went the wrong sort of shape as it does if you're trying to keep back your tears.

Helen wrote thanking me for the birthday card I made for her and the poem I wrote inside it. I decided to use an original one rather than taking one of the numerous ones I have on standby.

She said it made her cry with happiness, which was a first.

Her card was like a flame that flared briefly in this dark night.

These were the words on CS Lewis's mother's calendar the day she died. The first six words were later to form his own epitaph:

Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither:
Ripeness is all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lake-Sunk Stars Were Ringing

Swinging between Suzuki and Le Guin, one is apt to get a little unhinged.

Nine times the nine white heavens
call the things that creep, run, fly.
Come to the fish-meal, eat from the tympani,
drink from the chasing cymbals.


We say, "When the night is here, the dawn comes." It means there is no gap between the dawn and the night.

Today, I cleaned my room, because as I sat in the middle of dusty chaos and read about the socio-economic benefits of highways, I found I could not, no I could not, go another minute, minute! with these dusty windows, with my broken bed (how broken, I would need to lift the mattress and find out), unaired mattress, cupboard overflowing with clothes smushed in, floor scattered with the ruins of reports - torn papers, dust, oh my god, dust, dust, all that dust, choking up my windpipe, silencing me effectively.

So yes. After learning however many billion dollars we saved by having one highway, I started to fold some of the scattered clothes on my bed. But stuffing them into that overflowing cupboard was beyond me. I started to pull out the clothes, cast them on the floor, fold them up again...and it was like dropping a tiny pebble from atop a mountain.

It unleashed in me an avalanche of cleaning. I swept and sweated and cursed and sneezed and organized and dusted and found things I had lost (one beautiful bookmark a friend had given me as a present), Cocktail Time by PG Wodehouse which I read in one sitting when I was supposed to be reading or writing about highways - just a few days under the bed and it was covered in dust and old cobwebs.

Under my bed is where dreams go to die. Which is why every time I aim a broom at it it turns on me, snarls, hisses, bites.

The curtains heavy with the dust of years. Years! Maybe decades. Well one decade, at least. I pulled them down. I soaked them in bleach. I will leave them there for a while. And then run them through the machine.

And all the while, at back of my mind, the sad, ponderous clanging of the work I'm supposed to be doing.

Go away!


Go away!


So I sit here, meekly, sorting through the torn sheets, reading through pages, making notes, and soon, very soon, I will start the next piece.

And finish it.

And reward myself with...

Something. Only I don't know what.

What I Really Really Want To Read

I've been reading Ursula Le Guin's essays and now, after reading "The Fisherwoman's Daughter" what I really, really want to read is Three Guineas.

The rationale of exclusionists, as I understand it, is that the material privilege and social approbation our society grants the heterosexual wife, and particularly the mother, prevent her solidarity with less privileged women and insulate her from the kind of anger and the kind of ideas that lead to feminist action. There is truth in this; maybe it's true for a lot of women; I can oppose it only with my experience, which is that feminism is a life-saving neccesity to women trapped in the wife/mother "role." What do the privilege and approbation accorded to the housewife-mother by our society in fact consist of? Being the object of infinite advertising? Being charged by psychologists with total answerability for children's mental well-being, and by government with total answerability for children's welfare, while being regularly equated with apple pie by sentimental warmongers? As a social "role", motherhood, for any woman I know, simply means that she does everything everybody else does plus bringing up the kids.

Monday, June 28, 2010

La Belle Dame Sans Au Revoir

OK so this is how it is. Your perfume clouds my mind. I cannot think. Your colours are a little too vibrant. Van Gogh. Disturbing.

They mock my less-than-neat little world with emotions bottled away and emasculated happiness.

You pace up and down, hands behind your back, forehead furrowed in mock concern. I laugh because I can't help it. We share a Coke, and then a coffee and then a brandy and then some rum. (Please don't mix my drinks or I'll puke all over you, it's what I do:

Projectile vomitting is an art,
and I do it so well,
I do it so it feels like hell,
I do it so it feels real...

Sometimes I don't think it's so bad existing in these fringes and watching other people.

Drama is passing.

Drama has passed.

Drama was "this too."

You know what I mean? You know what I'm saying?

Sometimes when I'm shuffling along the street wrapped in my own thoughts I think I catch a glimpse of you. I turn slowly. Not swiftly because that's not how you do it with wraiths. If you turn quickly, you see the edge of a smile as it disappears. Cheshire Cat-like. If you turn slowly you see nothing.

And nothing is what I want to see.

Get it?

Each smile I see spread out in front of me, on those faces, faces, faces in the crowd, has a meaning. And I see one smile, sad, tentative, haunted, begging for permission. I watch that smile and feel my heart contract. I watch that smile until it disappears because it is the smile I know best.

You know what I'm saying?

There is silence and performance and something in between. There is silence and screaming and nothing in between. There is silence and tears.

There is silence.



You're gone now.

And you didn't say goodbye.


Sunday, June 27, 2010


I'm sitting in the midst of a swirling chaos trying to write. Robert Cormier used to write on a moving train with three million distractions around him. At least I'm sitting in my bedroom.

Every part of this swirling chaos belongs, in some way, to me.

I will finish and then I will start to clean and clear and dust and organise.

For now, I will write.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Fine Day

Sometimes abstinence does not cure. As good old Freud pointed out, whatever we suppress rises to the surface. If we rigorously police our waking thoughts, why there is what happens in sleep, with all those neurons firing.

And the heart breaks and the heart breaks but tears in sleep are not real tears. And weeping is for sainted statues (on a monument smiling at grief).

Pictures, pictures, scenes, disparate, disconnected (my dreams are never linear and they don't make sense) swirling like the colours of a rainbow.

I dreamt KL was drowning. Someone called me, an analyst and he said, do I have a story for you. He said, KL is under (I don't remember how many) feet of water. And I said, really? What happened to our beloved drainage and irrigation department? Wherefore the Smart Tunnel? And he didn't answer. He rung off after telling me that all the major cities were under water. Including the one I happened to be in that time.

The rain pelted down. It was pelting down in the waking world too. Maybe that's why. But it rained and rained throughout my dream where strange and wonderful and not so wonderful things were happening.

I was stranded in a weird place, stuck in a room with someone I loved and someone I hated.

I woke up with my sick father shaking me. "Did Julie arrive?"

Sleep fogged, I answered: "I think so. Mum said she did when I spoke to her."

And he nodded OK. I sank down again. (Fighting the flu, at the moment odds are even) He woke me up again. "Do you want chappati?"

No. What I really want is to scrub my heart and my mind clean of images that obstruct and make my heart shrink in sheer misery. It's not fair that this is happening now when I thought I was over it.

Jeez. How long does it take to get over someone?

Now I have the impetus to finish this project that is weighing me down like an Eiffel Tower around my neck.

I'll finish it and go on a road trip.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Alcohol doesn't help. And old haunts are haunted.

And if I run far enough and fast enough maybe I'll be too exhausted to dream.

The ten thousand things arise together
and I watch their return.
They return each to its root.
Returning to one's roots is known as stillness.
Returning to one's destiny is known as the constant.
Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.
To ignore the constant
is to go wrong, and end in disorder.

-Lao Tzu, Book 1, Chapter 16-

Adore: It Rhymes With Abhor

There are some people who fill your heart with such joy that being in their mere presence feels like basking in sunshine. Not the searing sunshine of summer. More like the ambient glow of autumn when everything turns golden. Indian summer. Where the sun blesses rather than blazes.

Yes, I know some people like that. And even if a million people tell you there's something wrong with the object of affection, you can't bring yourself to accept it. You draw up a list of reasons, read it carefully, but the words are just words. They don't move into your body, they don't connect. You cannot believe your own words. Light speaks louder than words, I guess.

Yes, I'm supposed to hate you.

But when I see you, I break into blossom.

Damn you for being so beautiful.

Damn you for filling me with such joy.

And then there are others. They seem perfectly nice. They say the right words, smile in the right places, and yet, and yet, there's something rotten in the state of Denmark. And the aversion takes hold. And it grows. And grows. Until you hate them so much it's difficult to share the same room. Or breathing space.

And nothing exists but the hatred.

Hating without reason. As inexplicable as liking without reason. Or loving without reason.

There may be a warning in there.

I know what it means.

I just don't know what to do about it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Running the Gamut

I found this in my pen drive today. It was the introduction to a series of stories and poems I had put together for a friend as a Christmas present. It amused me. Perhaps it will amuse you too:

Running the Gamut is a collection of stories and poems by JCJ, the illustrious unknown author who hangs out in her pyjamas and composes rhapsodies to the ordinary things in life (like butter pecan ice cream topped with chocolate fudge). JCJ, a rolling stone who manages not to pick up any moss, has wandered through life dabbling in everything from telecommunications to dotcoms to tolled highways. None of it sticks, for which she is thankful. In between these abortive forays, she takes long walks in shopping malls and contemplates the nature of joy in a post-Disneyesque planet. She also watches different versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and reads the fiction of Lewis Carroll, to discover the Meaning of Life. It’s hidden there, somewhere.

Friday, June 18, 2010


It is ironic that I should be reading The Infernal Life of Branwell Bronte now - the story of the man related to women who became famous, while he lurked in the shadows, an unacknowledged genius, an unrecognised giant, or not.

This book even doubts his one (personal) claim to fame, his highly wrought affair with "Mrs Robinson" that he blamed for his undoing rather than his dissipation, his lack of application, his inability to stick at anything.

That last is where I most resonate. Inability to stick at anything, the tendency which has been growing on me, I hold on to things so lightly and let them go, because nothing is worth holding on.

And no one.

I read this when I'm wondering whether to turf my current project, return all those reports that have been littering the floor of my room for months and which have oppressed my spirits to no common degree.

I've been advised by various friends to suck it up and keep on keeping on. There is a track record here I have to break.

But every word wrung from me is sheer misery.

And today, the other side went silent. I'll give it till Monday and then send an email to ask what's what.

I don't feel like doing another lick of work. Especially this is just going to go on the scrapheap of projects I've abandoned.

I'd like to finish something for once. But anger and hatred swell in me now and I don't know what to do about it or how to curb it.

I think I'll paint another picture.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sauce And The Consequences Thereof

I am seething, gently simmering here like a rich French sauce that you are going to use to cover your slightly turned fish so that no one will know the meat is bad.

An interview that was supposed to have taken place last week has been cancelled/postponed for the third time. Each time this was done at the last minute. The very last. The first time it was cancelled, I received the call just before I left the house.

Well and good.

But if that wasn't bad enough, I get a call from the PR guy of the regulatory body who has commissioned the book to ask if I can come to his office instead, which is all the way in the boondocks, at a very inconvenient time (it's far away, I have to pay a toll getting there and back, I will be caught in a jam getting back and best of all, I will be compensated for none of this as I didn't think to ask for "expenses" in my contract).

And get this: he wants me to come to his office on the off chance that I will get to interview the lady in question who has a meeting there. He hasn't checked with her yet. And going by his track record, she may just have to rush off for something else making my whole trip a complete and absolute waste of time. For which he will smile and treat me to some inane anecdotes and questions...such is the book coming ah?

Well not very well, considering that I'm sitting in your office wasting my time when I should be writing it.

Isn't that just the Malaysian way?

Since I am an underling, a "contractor" so to speak, they can dick me around as much as they want to and the creeping deadline doesn't matter.

Except that it does. They do expect the work to get done in time. No matter how many spanners they throw in the works. It's called "magical thinking". The notion that no matter what the circumstances everything will work out magically and there will be a shining manuscript at the end of the process.

Let me correct that.

It's called utter bullshit.

I asked Martin once, how he put up with all this. He said, you have to be very patient.



Anyone who's known me for more than an hour will know that patience is not my defining quality. Unless I happen to like you very very much, in which case I will overlook a multitude of sins, slights and downright rudeness. But only for a while. Once I've stoppped liking you (and it will happen, it's just a matter of time if you're dicking me around) everything will rush back with added force and I will hate you forever. And not speak to you for about that length of time.

In this case, it's not the inconvenience I mind so much as the lack of respect it implies.

So I've sent a message to Martin that I will not be going today or in fact, entertaining any calls from the PR in question. If they want to deal with me, they can deal with me through him. I tried to be respectful in the text I sent him because I realise that all the frustration I feel for these clients, I take out on him. Which is not fair. Because it only means that he has to manage hysteria on both ends.

I will be working on the chapter I was talking about.

And if they want to get a new writer I will gladly finish what I'm doing and hand him everything I have at the moment.

Money is one thing. But there comes a time when you just have to take a stand.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dude, I'm From New York!

Here's the thing about pushing the body into uncomfortable positions. It's, um, well, umcomfortable. Also quite frequently exhausting. And painful.

I was there for my yoga class all bright and early, despite a lousy night tossing and turning, and worrying about tossing and turning and getting no sleep. Perhaps I should have switched on the light and continued with my Didion. Perhaps I should have continued transcribing my interview for the day. As it was, I did none of these. I just tossed. And turned.

The alarm went off at six and I switched it off automatically. Then I managed to force myself up at 7.30. I hear some people are naturally morning people. They jump out of bed at six or seven, raring to go. I'm not one of them. I could be, if I went to sleep early enough, but that's the whole point. I don't seem to go to bed early enough.

So there I was, signing up for classes.

Richard asks me: "Are you ready?"

I say: "No, but I'm here anyway."

And I go spread my mat and try to get comfortable. The studio starts filling up with women, whom I can only imagine are expat wives. If their husbands come, they come in the evening. One nice Aussie woman told me just that.

"Why don't you go with him?"

"Are you kidding? By the time he's finished and grabbed a bite to eat, it's almost 10.30. That's already bedtime. No, I'm a morning person."

Ah, one of those mythical morning people. She tells me she started class about 3 months ago, went for 4 classes and then got injured and so had to stop for about 2 months. Her husband went in the meantime and after only 2 months, he can clasp his feet in the forward bend. She still can't reach them yet.

I nod sympathetically. Those forward bends are killers.

So we go through the different asanas. Slowly, as this is a beginner's class. But I find myself faltering at the warrior pose, unable to keep my balance at the tree pose, unable to lean forward very well, when it comes to the forward bend. Oh well. It has been 2 years. The last time I did this was in 2008.

I start to sweat profusely and regret that I forgot to bring a towel. I bedew the floor and my mat with drops, making it slippery and slick. Heck, my whole body is slippery and slick.

Richard walks around correcting positions. He's sterner than I remember him being. I guess it's because this is his own business. I guess it's because he's not a dabbler and tends to take the practice very seriously.

And then glorious, glorious, it's time for the final pose, the corpse pose, although there's a difference...he continues the hip opening element in this. But he says, if you feel uncomfortable, you can stretch out your legs. I do. I stretch them out and proceed to fall into a deep sleep.

Richard is sitting in lotus, meditating. Just a few seconds before he tells us to turn over and make ready for getting up, I find myself conscious again. It's like an invisible command has gone out from him, to us.

We sit up, namaste, bow.

He tells me I did good for the first class. I look at him incredulously. "Didn't you see how I struggled?

He laughed. "Everyone has to start somewhere."

I can sense a difference though. This time, I am not "enduring" the classes. This time I intend to practice, to stiffen my spine, to acquire structure.

And then, I find I cannot get into my locker, the key doesn't work. Richard tries and then he opens up a paper clip and proceeds to jiggle the lock.

No cigar.

He calls his contractor, who is on leave that day and who has promised to call his boss to see if there's anyone who will help. I go sit down outside and wait. My staring at him jiggling the lock and cheering him on doesn't seem to be doing the trick. And then Richard calls out: "Jenn!"

I go back to the locker room and voila, the door to my locker is swinging open. My mouth falls open. "Did you pick that lock? You're brilliant!"

"Dude, I'm from New York."

There are four missed calls on my phone, and when I call back the PR of the person I was supposed to interview today, tells me my interview has been rescheduled to tomorrow. Normally I would be pissed, but I'm so tired now, I'm elated.

"Sure, no problem."

"OK, make sure you be here by 2.40, k?"


I put down the phone, beam at Richard.

He asks: "Your next lesson?"

I say: "You have a morning class tomorrow? Then maybe you'll see me tomorrow."


I stumble out of there and take myself off to Devi's Corner for lunch. I haven't had breakfast yet and I'm famished. My Didion of the day splayed open I dig into my roti canai and mutton curry. And then a bru coffee. It's been months since I've been here. In fact, more than half a year. I don't recognise any of the waiters and my favourites are not there. No matter. The ones who are still smile in a friendly manner, bring me my orders and shuffle off.

Some grocery shopping and I think, oh well, I have time for a nap. I get up at half past five with most of the day gone.

Think I'll tackle the rest of the transcription now.

I've just finished Joan Didion's "Where I Was From" and it's left me with the sort of bleak, desolate feeling, all honest books that explore identity and cannot bring itself to sum things up into neat conclusions, do. I loved it. Now, that I've finished all my Joan Didions, I think I will eventually get around to getting "A Year of Magical Thinking". But for now, I will read "The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte" by Daphne Du Maurier. When I finish this one, I'll send it off to Mary. She sent me a text today to see how I was doing and I haven't responded. Sometimes, you just don't feel like texting. I'll send her a letter when I'm done.

Also worthy of note, I got a friend request from an ex, one of those who came, saw, broke my heart and left without saying goodbye. Normally, I would agonize over these things and it would take me a week or two to click "ignore". This time, I did it in two seconds, without thinking about it.

I definitely recommend sitting zazen. It seems to be having a positive effect on my life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I sat across from Richard, watching him intently. Of all the people I knew, he was the most graceful and poised. That is not to suggest, effeminate. But as someone who has been practising yoga for nearly half his life, and someone who spent a year in Burma as a monk, meditating, he is probably the most controlled and deliberate person I know. There is no wasted motion here. Precision is not just for the asanas. It is for every movement.

The thing about sitting zazen every day, even if for only a limited time, is that after the discomfort in the legs sinks into numbness, the psychic pain surfaces. And I would find myself anxiously thinking, OK, how many minutes more, I need to do this, I need to do that. Just sitting, observing my breathing, watching my thoughts, had me scuttling for cover. I don't know what I was so afraid of. Or maybe I do.

I have only been sitting zazen for a week. Maybe a little more. But I guess, even a week of effort has its rewards. I realised suddenly that my life was so untidy, because frankly, I was a mess. I had no structure, my bones were made of jelly, I did not sit so much as flop forward, I did not walk so much as shuffle, I banged into everything along my path vaguely aware of the dull pain and the bruises, I did not step lightly, I treaded heavily.

I did not have a practice. I stuck to nothing. Once I had yoga but after a while it seemed like I was doing it out of a sullen resentment. Part of the resentment had to do with the fact that the one who owned the yoga centre was surprisingly mercenary and tried to make as much money as she could off me and was not accommodating if I happened to miss a class. You miss without warning, you forfeit the class. That's just the way it was. That's just the way she wanted it.

But if that were the real reason I would have jumped at the opportunity when I bumped into Richard earlier this year and he told me he was starting his own centre. I didn't. I hemmed and hawed and said, maybe, sometime, whatever.

He didn't push it. Richard isn't an in-your-face marketer.

But yesterday when I realised how flabby my life had become (I guess physical flab reflects a sort of mental flabbiness, a laziness, a lack of discipline) I thought of Richard and suddenly, I longed for the simple discipline of his classes. Extend your hand, breathe in. Pull back your hand, breathe out.

I wanted bones rather than jelly. I wanted structure. So there I was, in Richard's office, looking over his schedule.

"What are you doing tomorrow?"

"I have an interview."

"What time?"


"Well, there's a class at 9.30 in the morning. You could make that one."

Huh. A morning class. Wouldn't it be great? Especially since I usually spent the mornings tangled in my blankets, willing myself to get up, never quite making it, the guilt building up. No wonder I was so full of self loathing.

"9.30 it is. See you tomorrow."

Monday, June 14, 2010

When Drunk, I Don't Care How I Look

And there goes Chekhov. Interesting, his short stories. A heck of a lot funnier than The Cherry Orchard (was that supposed to be a comedy? It was included in our readings for Theory and Practice of Comedy anyway).

So, feeling the need for fresh air, I took myself off on a walk, my face loose and vacant, my jaw hanging slightly open, when I bumped into someone I'd known from a long time ago. OK, not so long ago. Maybe two years.

I was brought up short and abruptly because we did not part on the best of terms. Actually there was no final scene, I just withdrew, the way I usually do when someone has been proved to be a liar beyond the shadow of a doubt.

There was no use is extending the misery by allowing him to "explain" or seeing him turn away coldly, not bothering to. So I left. And stayed away. And when I came back, it was all over, no more calls, no more...well, whatever.

And here he was, in front of me, as big as life. You know the funny thing my darling? The funny thing is that I was busy thinking I should be feeling way more than this. This big fat empty NOTHING.

But one of the very few good things you've done is to erase his face. I looked and looked and tried to see now what I saw then. But I couldn't. He was as thin as paper, as transparent as fog, and just as wet. We saw each other, we knew we saw each other, and we walked on, going about our ways without much concern. Maybe I'll turn into an anecdote to one of his female admirers. I can't bring myself to feel sorry for them because they keep on keeping on, knowing what he is. He will tell them how I've shrunk and shrivelled into this old version of me. Maybe they will laugh together talking about it, before they plant one pair of lips on another, for one big wet sloppy kiss. Her soft and unresisting, him redolent with cigarette smoke and a really really foul body odour.

I am vaguely aware of what I look like now. Not that it bothers me much when I don't think of you. But when I do, I sigh, sit down and cover my face. All the money in the world won't change this face. It may make me a little more presentable. But not enough. Never enough for you.

When I'm with you I wish I was beautiful. Beautiful enough for you to see me. But one good thing about this face is that it allows me to fade. Fade into the background. You don't see me. But nobody else does either.

So I read my books and mark my time and write this letter to you that you'll never read.

Maybe now I'll move on to Didion. But I also have Calvino. And Joseph Heller.

Decisions, decisions.

The Truth The Lonely Know

I want to mark this day, this hour, somewhere. Here. Why not? After all, this is a more permanent mark than my frantic scribbles in the air. Air evaporates into nothingness and my words fly away.

I finished Lighthousekeeping today. My third Jeanette Winterson in as many days. These books sat on my desk for years. I can't remember how many. I let them gather dust. And now, in one fell swoop, I am devouring them, blood, bone and gristle.

Written on the Body. The Passion. Lighthousekeeping.

And before that Robert Graves. Goodbye to All That. And before that, Evelyn Waugh. Decline and Fall. Brideshead Revisited.

And now I'm thinking of the one remaining Joan Didion on my table. But I shall settle for Chekhov instead.

This is the truth the lonely know. We people our world with creatures of other people's imaginations. We choose the people. We drown in the words. We switch off the light and turn off the tv and say, no more. We withdraw from life. We sit in cafes with a notebook, a book and rueful smile.

We sit in bars alone, watching. Waiting. In the quiet dark, for something, someone to spring. No, not the one with the clumsy thoughts, clumsy hands, eyes like dishcloths, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Not him. Not her.

We listen. Not for the endless interminable conversations full of meaningless drivel, dribble, drip, drip, drip, a leaky faucet somewhere...somebody turn it off. Turn off the main.

Oh for God's sake, shut up!

This is the truth the lonely know.

We could choose to be part of the pageant but the pageant no longer makes sense to us and we choose not to.

The dark envelops, overwhelms, comforts, caresses.

And we fall asleep.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I intended to stay an hour but I barely stayed half. I saw the boyfriend and went up to him with a smile and a hug and gave him my card. He said, you alone? I said, how long have you known me? Haven't I always been alone? And he smiled.

There are circles. And circles within circles. I sit outside the circle.

I sit alone.

I make my way along the outer rim and grab a seat. Order a tepid Coke because I don't want beer. And those are the only choices with the cover charge.


It's nice here, outdoors, feels like the beach. That's what it's supposed to feel like.

The boyfriend comes up to me after a while, his plate full of greasy food that he really shouldn't be having, not with his arteries in the condition they are. He feels sorry for me, sitting all alone, so he chats.

I see you there. Dazzling as usual. I see you there but you don't see me. And then you do. You see the both of us chatting. And you raise one hand in acknowledgement and disappear into a crowd, swallowed up by your popularity.

Within all those circles.

I sit outside.

It's not an hour yet, the time I've given myself to be here, but I cannot take it. I'm not as strong as I thought.

I hug the boyfriend, say I only came for a little while, I only came to show my support. He smiles and nods. He understands.

I leave.

Large gasping breaths, but I make my way demurely to the car I parked far away because I didn't think I'd find a place here.

Farther and farther from the circle containing you.

The Heart Asks The Pleasure First

My darling, a card lies drying on my table. It's for your boyfriend. Well, one of them. The only one I liked.

He of the broken heart, externalised. I made him a card I will put in his hand tomorrow if I see him. Along with some money. Very little. I have very little money on me at the moment.

But what is money, anyway? It's everything when you need it to pay for an operation. It's everything when without that operation, you die.

He looks at me, we acknowledge each other's presence. We're not enemies, but allies in this scourge. We both dove for cover, we tried to self protect, but you were relentless.

Lustrous, shining, as hard as diamond, we threw ourselves against you, and we ended up...

Well you saw how we ended up.

Him nearly dead. Me still dying.

I will put this card into his hand, with the appropriate sentiment. (Did you know I've taken to painting? It makes me feel closer to you. You used to paint, once upon a time)

But how does one commiserate a fellow broken heart?

I say, follow your heart.

But should he? Look where it got him.

Look where it got me.

My darling, when the paint dries, I shall outline the words, Happy Heart Day which surround a blood red heart. The rest of it I painted swirly waves of pink and yellow. Just because.

And I shall write inside:

The heart is so easily mocked, believing that the sun can rise twice or that roses bloom because we want them to. In between freezing and melting. In between love and despair. In between fear and sex, passion is.

And I'll give it to him.

But I mean it for you.

I Follow

I've taken to hiding behind doors and pictures to get a glimpse of her. Skin like silk and a face as limpid as plasticine.

We don't always get to choose what we fall in love with. Or whom. I meant whom.

I listen to her voice in my head and us talking, only it's not us, it's her, I'm silent catching the words as they fall from her lips, saphires to be stored away, sweet saphires I pop into my mouth, sultry saphires that taste of midnight.

Ah, but the moon is orange tonight. And unreadable. And you saw me hiding behind the picture and turned and smiled.

Why was I following you around?

I'm sorry. I thought if I did it quietly, unobstrusively, you wouldn't mind, you wouldn't notice.

And you offer me a glass full of blood. No, wait, it's wine. Yes, wine.

Drink up, you say.

So I do.

I always do.

If you told me to dive into my wineglass I would.

That's how much.

And then you've filled my glass again. I didn't see you do it. I was not looking. You always do things when I'm not looking.

She laughs, her teeth glinting like teardrops. Oh my, but it's wonderful here, in this world that shifts and wobbles and bears me up like waves. Motion. Motion is all I have.

I don't have her. You. You're just a dream and I'm not talking to you here. Not really. You're too beautiful and you only see other beautiful people.

I don't love you. I drown in you. You've taken my volition and I find myself grinning stupidly.

Oh my, but I have no volition. So I follow her dumbly, ducking behind doorways like she hasn't already seen me, accepting glasses of wine when she does, because that's all I know how to do.

I follow.

Love, love, love...

So are you to my thoughts, as food to life,
Or as sweet season'd showers are to the ground...

Love, love, love...

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire...

Love, love, love...

Don't turn around, don't smile at me, don't beckon and please, please, please...

Don't love me back.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Afternoon After

First, I assume the position. My version of the lotus. And as I sit, I allow the horrors to beat over my head. Primarily self loathing, but Suzuki says, to observe your breathing, and just let it be. So I let it be. I step outside and look at myself, a piece of scrap on the junkyard of life, and just...let it be.

Of course, the mother of all hangovers doesn't seem to work. I'm just thinking about my next drink.

But instead, I take my laptop and start typing. I have to do the various morning (afternoon) chores and then I'll write some more of the "history" section of my book. Flawed, but then, what is editing for if not to correct flawed copy?

Wish someone would edit me, but I resist all editing from anyone, however close or distant. If I had a guru I would probably kick her in the balls.

The screaming keeps on screaming. My head is a cage of spiders. I spit out a large glob of green silk and watch as I weave my phlegm from one point in the window to the next.

Pretty webs. Pretty pretty webs. Why should spiders have all the fun? For that matter, why should cockroaches?

Sit. Breathe. Observe calmly.

Never mind tonight.

I won't think about tonight.

And last night is just a blur. We are supposed to forget. Memory is not our friend.

Let me rephrase that.

Memory is not MY friend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville

It's been awhile since I got smashed, since I dove from a skylight into a puddle, since, since...I forgot what I was about to say.

This is pleasant, this softening of colours, the familiar smells, sweet and noxious, the pain that reaches into my marrow and slams me to the floor.

Do I weep?

Do I vomit?

Decisions, decisions...

There's something vaguely cleansing about the whole thing. Like a benediction. I look out of my little corner and smile sweetly at the blurred, indistinct figures all around.

Ah, someone is talking to me, but I can't hear over the noise (music?)and my ears are already blocked from the absinthe. Who is that? Is he looking down my front? What am I wearing again?

I glance down, oh dear, acres of cleavage.

I want to lean back, but that wouldn't be a good idea. I might fall and there would be no one to catch me. Because I'm here alone. As always. Alone. I don't mind. You get used to it after awhile. I just wish that guy would get his face off my chest. It's slightly uncomfortable. I know I'm supposed to be outraged but find it difficult to care.


I'll care tomorrow.

And maybe I should take a walk outside because, because, because, I could keep the rats company and wave at strangers and sing to myself....

Wasted again in Margaritaville
Searching for my last shaker of salt
Some people claim that there's a woman to blame
But I know, it's my own damn fault.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

And Then Silence

I choose to. I don't choose to. Those are the only answers we ever need. We don't have to explain, there's no one out there important enough to deserve an explanation.

And yet we find ourselves stumbling over words trying to justify a course of action that has nothing to do with the person we're trying to justify it to.

When really, the only words we need are:

Because I choose to.

Because I don't choose to.

Deep breath.

And then, silence.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Tawt I Thaw a Puddy Tat

So there I was, seated at the traffic police section of the police headquarters, waiting for my number to be called, deep into Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, the short, short chapter on control. I liked the way this book was laid out and the short chapters (from which Natalie Goldberg got her inspiration to write Writing Down the Bones) and I didn't bother to check my wallet to see if I had enough money to pay for the fine.

Of course, the only reason I was fined in the first place was that in an attempt to get away from home and work somewhere else, I had taken myself to a nearby Starbucks and parked illegally so as not to pay the exorbitant parking rates there. Nothing as exorbitant as what I would have to be forking out now for my fine.

Somewhere at the back of my mind I was vaguely aware of a RM50 note in my wallet so I was none too fussed about it. I didn't even bother to check.

Finally my number was called and as I dug into my wallet and ran my finger through the notes, I swallowed nervously. No, it couldn't be. There was RM26 there, two 10s and six singles. What about the RM50?

I checked and re-checked and in the meantime the police cashier starting getting restive. I mean, it was only RM30 for crying out loud. Surely I had that much on me?

I didn't.

Actually I did if I counted the coins, but I was way too flustered to think of pouring out all the coins and counting out RM4. So I asked if they accepted credit cards, she said they didn't, gave me back my summons and I removed myself from there with all speed.

All the way home I fumed. How could I have lost that RM50? I ran my mind over all the things I had bought in the past few days since I last visited an ATM machine and took out RM100. Well, there was that RM10 that I had to add to the credit card payment. And then there was RM2.05 for that card to Helen, the card, mind you, that I had made myself (no more am I going to fork out impossible amounts for Hallmark). And then there was that RM5.15 for water (the cheapest thing I could buy to sit at Starbucks). And today, there was about RM12.05 at the grocers for a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and grape jelly. How much did that come to? Oh yeah, and there was RM3 that first day, for a loaf of multigrain bread. (have since decided to shift to white because it's cheaper, lasts longer, and I'm nearly out of money till my next cheque which, knowing this company, will take its time in coming).

So that was little over RM30. I know I had some money left when I withdrew RM100 on Sunday. Where could it have gone? Where could I have dropped it? I ran through various scenarios in my mind as I drove home, completely flummoxed.

When I got home, I overturned my large large bag and set to work. Checked every compartment of my voluminous wallet (emptying it of sundry receipts, hey lookie here...there's the receipt for RM180 for the passel of books I bought from Kino just Friday...oh well, books, you's not a waste of money, it's a tax deduction) I carefully put away the receipt in the envelope marked "Book Receipts 2010" in my tax file. (Yeah, who knew I could be so organised...that filing cabinet changed my life, it did)

And then, there was a faint glimmer of light. Or the cousin of light. I didn't withdraw RM100 on Sunday. I withdrew RM50. Which meant that...I was lucky to have the RM26 in my wallet at all.

Oh dear. I thought of the chapter on control that I read, which urged us to watch our chaotic thoughts, just observe and do nothing about them, feel nothing about them. The first two chapters had to do with posture (fail) and breathing (also fail).

So I sat down, all Zen-like, acknowledged that I had messed up, made myself a pot of tea, and settled down before our rather large television set, popped in a DVD of random Grizzly Adams episodes, and read my Robert Graves memoir.

Now it's Sergeant Bilko on. And I guess I'll read some of my notes.

Just Zenning in the Rain.

Friday, June 04, 2010

What I Really Really Want

1. Seeds from a Birch Tree - Clark Strand.

2. Both seasons of Grizzly Adams.

3. To paint a picture full of purple and yellow.

4. Time to simply read my poetry books and not worry about highways.

I Thought I Heard You Laugh

You were always a joyous creature, a child of laughter, a lighthearted soul, and if you had to go, I wish you had gone simply, sweetly, like falling asleep after a long day.

I would have had you laughing till the end. Not diminished until your voice thin and tired barely made it across the phone line that last birthday, when so many miles away, I called.

It was the last time we spoke. You said you were ready to go. Immolated by the blaze of radiation, poisoned by the chemo and then, the two strokes.

Now I understand that you had to go. But I wish you had chosen some other way. I wish you had believed in a merciful God, I wish the angels had carried you off lightly, like a song, half-remembered, like the flutter of butterfly wings, like the whisper of mist. I would have waved goodbye and it wouldn't have hurt so much.

I know you're in a better place now, but your going the way you did has left a bitter corner in my heart.

So today I take back your death. I erase the pain, the deterioration, the indignity of it all.


You stepped into another room.

You dissolved into light.

And I thought I heard you laugh.