Tuesday, 27 May 2014

life lately -almost there

At the Mamco, Geneva

Life lately has been the odd bundle of mixed feelings and emotions that come with the pervasive sentiment of having completed your university degree, at which point questions that you had put off for a while start resurfacing in your mind -what do I want out of life? what do I want to do? am I doing the right thing? why don't I feel ready? what is the point of anything, really?? I have been trying to get accustomed to this feeling of uncertainty, but I must admit it feels hard at times and I guess that old man on the street wasn't lying when he said that really, no one ever knows and everyone simply pretends. Which is a vicious circle because the more you pretend, the less you seek for genuineness,  a rare quality these days. I find it incredibly refreshing to meet individuals who are so unabashedly honest it makes you shiver with shame at the mask you wear. What would happen if one day we collectively take off our masks, even reluctantly, and realise that indeed we share the same fears, and oh how comforting to the soul it is when you find out that feelings are universal! I tend to forget it, at times, and think that objects of desire shine differently to different people, that fragrances of happiness smell differently to different people... But really, we look up at the same moon and wonder why we are who we are -humans who get wet when it rains, and forget about it when our skin dries up, soaked and doused in hard sunshine... How come happiness leaves no scar?

I have been neglecting my writing and painting (and anything creative for that matter) for a while, and although I have been telling myself it is due to my research for my dissertation, it is otherwise... Mainly, there is this nagging feeling of dissatisfaction when it comes to my work -dissatisfaction which I'm sure everyone encounters at this stage of their life... The desire to produce good work suddenly meets the inevitable realisation that what you had envisioned for yourself isn't quite what you have and/or making. Everything is beautiful -even the ugly, especially the ugly, and bad work holds its place and importance just as much as good work does, but at times it feels like biting into cold metal knowing your teeth can melt it into a warm, bright liquid that will slowly slide along your ankles... only your teeth aren't strong enough, or incandescent enough, or sharp enough. I know the best teacher is practice, so I have been drinking a lot of tea, and I have been reading inspiring works of fiction, prose and poetry in my bed, hoping to get the pen going. I plunge head first into universes of wonder, and emerge fascinated, lusting for a kind of life I'm not quite certain exists. Constantly wanting more will wear me out one day, I wonder what defines me as a person, and perhaps this is it. I remember reading Antigone, and one of the many sentences that hit me went along the lines of 'You want me to love this life, it's repulsing, like dogs licking anything they find... I want everything, right now, and in its entirety -or I refuse!'. I liked that about her. I always want to say no, and I don't really understand why. I remember one late night of drunkenness, when a man told me 'You want nothing yet you want to devour life'; I swear I could have kissed him then but I walked away, ashamed that he had seen and sensed so much. Like that scene in Girls, when poor, miserable, fat, jealous Hannah secretly whispers that she wants to be happy, too -with an unavoidable sense of guilt and shame on her face. Some things in human nature will always fascinate me, like this notion of worth -happiness is undeserving.
Late nights in Geneva

Isn't it uncanny how we can simply say goodbye and leave? It's fascinating how we can, at any point, say goodbye to everything: friends, family, lovers, home, career, civilisation, cities and countries... Yet we all choose not to on a daily basis. Leaving is easy, staying is much more difficult and requires double the work. It's strange that an entity like our existence can exist independently from other ones. I never think about saying goodbye, but one some days like this one, it hits me that goodbyes could be as easy as closing the door  -or leaving it open. Is it human to turn back when we walk away and leave through the door? Do animals look back one last time?

The last few days have been ghosted by fragments of useless worries as I see things slowly falling into place, which frightens me to the extent that I start doubting why we would ever want things at all. As privileged as this may sound, getting things I wish for is extremely scary, and reminds me of the feeling you get when you finally accomplish a puzzle only to say 'so...what?'. Or the ending scene in the Graduate. I'm not really sure that's a good comparison, and I'm not even sure any of this makes a lot of sense -I'm pretty sure I sound entitled and undeservingly privileged, but I promised myself I would write honestly, even the bad thoughts, the jealous thoughts, the weird thoughts and the unnecessary ones. So, here we are..

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


I will be neglecting House of Berliot for a while, until I finish my dissertation! Please bear with me!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

I really do -I'm insane and I write love stories about toenails

© Ben Westwood

I hate your toes and your toenails, I swear, I really do. I think about your toenails and how confrontational they are -you know I was never one to shy away from confrontations but this... They are crooked, hard and layered in a ridiculously grotesque way over your rough skin the way a dirty roof hosts a dying family and I hear myself scream internally -yes, they have won. They stomp on the edge of my long vaporous dress and I see myself recoil at the ferocious grunts coming from the corners of the room, the coarse and husky sighs of your footsteps accompanying me into my retreat.

The day my lemon tree died your toes were carefully wrapped in a hideous russet blanket and I hate myself for remembering these details but I know I was thinking about the colour grey because your dirty feet always looked out of place on our grey carpet. I really hate your toes and your toenails, I really do, and I swear that day, I almost asked you to leave the house because it really seemed inconceivable that you and I could live together, that something so warm and visceral could be capable of anything else other than carefully managed violence. Your toenails make my chest heavy and my breathing shallow and I know these are signs of anxiety, yes before you asked I researched it and yes, I still hate the way your toes look even hidden beneath an old mustard sock.

It took me a long time to forget about your feet when I was in the same room as you, I never told you, but that was the reason I bought the lemon tree. I thought it would distract me from the plain sight of your naked, warm feet walking all over me as you left pieces of yourself all over the house, just like a cat, and I was right -it did, for a while. You shuffle from room to room, carpet to carpet, from bright, vivid lights to the dim lamp on my bedside and your toes, your ugly toes, they follow me into the warm spot in the bed and they make me touch you and them, and then you again -at times like this I think of the lemon tree and how powerful beings need powerful roots; I play hide and seek but there really is no one seeking me. Tense as wires, the muscles in my back finally gave in after a couple of months, and now the assault of my senses feels more like a tender caress that I cannot help but approve of.

I still hate your toes and your toenails, I swear, I really do. Only now there is something rather tender about the way they look when emerging from the white duvet or when solidly tangled in the grey carpet. In the morning I look at them and I still hate them.... but with crushing tenderness. Beneath the sheets I hear you murmur something incomprehensible and slowly, then suddenly, an elusive sense of belonging that is neither here nor there submerges me. It's peculiar how tenderness works its way into your body, like a new habit slowly drowning into an old one. The art of feeling at home whenever I glance at your ugly toenails feels like an ironic, absurd romance I cannot help but court in spite of all the warnings...

No, really, I hate your toes and your toenails, I swear I really do.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I have no recollection of writing this, but I must have because it was my handwriting

My scalp itches in the morning and the water here tastes like cold metal -almost as if someone had punched me in the face and I was left on the dark carpet, left to lick the blood remnants off my own face. Blood is thick but so are the curtains and the mustard rays they project are dancing fairies against an odd landscape where I don't belong. 

Idols are scary things because pedestals are only ever made of misconceptions: it's hard living up to a vision you didn't conceive, especially if they build your statue 5 meters too tall.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The bus did not stop for me

The lovely James Hunt invited me on his radio show 'For Folks Sake' two weeks ago, where we chatted about my short stories and how hard it is to be an existential cat. He also asked me to compose a short story while on air... so here it goes! 

You can listen to the podcast here, and follow James here.

The bus did not stop for me

I waited 36 minutes at the bus stop and
it did not stop for me. I waited 12 more minutes
and it felt like an old party I could not attend. Fists clenched
from the cold, I thought it was funny how
if you grit your teeth hard enough they will move inches
but not mountains, leaving a taste of bloody accordion and-
if even the bus did not stop for me, who am I to blame you for
not moving hills and taking my pulse?
Nursing myself back home is not an easy task. And -if even
the bus did not stop for me who am I to blame you for not
following with gritted teeth, trying to taste novocaine
but only licking on rusty blood clots? It's cold outside and
like an old party I can't attend, I await
at the bus stop of a city stranger than me.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Rambling midnight thoughts on honesty

Alfredo Jaar

I'm writing again and it suddenly feels like I can breathe again -the way a city breathes after the rain cleanses the crisp morning air. I used to write a lot. I used to fill notebooks all the time, I used to write on the margins of my books and my receipts and it felt both addictive and relieving. Then, when I ran out of papers I used to write on coffee shop napkins and on my phone. And after a while the only words I ever laid down on paper were 'jasmine tea, potatoes, tomatoes, milk'.

Sometime last year, the idea that words aren't enough started forming in my mind and it never quite left it. Are words and beauty enough for a lifetime? Is anything ever enough for a lifetime? Writing is an organic relationship between the hand and the mind, but there comes a certain point when the hand  starts hiding little things from the self, like a mischievous kid hides stolen objects. 

All art relates to perception not nature, but what if your perception was clouded by your nature? Laying out words is laying yourself naked, on a cold bed, for everyone to see. Being naked and unashamed is a hard truth for everyone to bear, but especially the self -some truths are so true they are terrible to admit. Hiding little secrets behind a word or a chapter is easy -having your deepest thoughts exposed the way the sky is exposed sounds like a betrayal. Though, perhaps it feels better the way pouring sweet words over a healing wound feels good, or the way the sand feels good when it remembers the saltiness of the water. 

You have to make it a rule to always be honest, especially towards yourself. It's the only way your words will come out right, and I understand now that this was a frightening idea for me. You cannot write if you cannot be honest with your own words: the moment you start becoming scared of your own self is the moment words cease to exist as a means to life. Looking back, I realize now that not allowing myself to write down the truth was denying myself assertion over... over what? Over ego, perhaps, sense of pride, feeling of shame... and the frightening idea that some people will not understand the anatomy of your naked mind, laid out there to be judged and touched by every passerby -beggars, and lurkers and vendors; and cruel minds.

Without prejudice, without watering down my words, without editing for fashion... Raw honesty is the only catharsis. Fearlessness starts with the taming of your own truth. It is not easy, my mind is bruised with secrets and desires but I know better now -wounds heal but do not follow. 

So, from now on, honesty. It's very scary because I know that I see myself in a fully disparate way than others see me, which is painful to admit for it means that no one can ever really know you the way you know yourself. But for now -I am writing again.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Response to 'I want the real thing'

I finally ventured myself to the Richimix Jawdance spoken words night last week, and felt inspired to write this as a reponse to a piece called 'I want the real thing', performed by a very shy guy with trembling hands -his voice wasn't, though.

Response to ‘i want the real thing’

You say you want something real
so real you could fall asleep next to;
I ask: ‘aren’t your own ghosts good company enough?’
she will smile and bear your insecurities, you say
like broken twigs collected for a birdnest,
she will mend your crooked teeth and your
crooked heart but, what is really crooked is
your chin
and please, please, let me tell you that you needn’t be afraid
of a crooked chin, it might break down but it will not
spill glass over wretched nights.
She will dip your sorrows into a white pillow, you say
I ask: ‘aren’t your own hands big enough for you?’
you want to play an orchestra of four hands
but the piano bears two without harm
you put her voice in a microscope
but up close human vocals are as ugly as spilled coffee
next to a drunkard on the 243 nightbus.
The girls in pantyhose wait
it’s the same as before, it’s the same as the other time
your sighs are as heavy and distant as the moon
she will reflect them in tune, you say
I ask: ‘don’t you tune your guitar by yourself?’
you say you want the real deal, the wars, the pain,
the parents, the house and the champagne,
I ask: ‘is it still real if 
the drugs are wearing out 
and your hands stop shaking
and your eyes are closing and
is it still real if time has eaten you?'
I fall asleep on a white pillow and rejoice, but I guess
not everyone finds pleasure in little things such as
a lone head on a big pillow