Art of Flames

He’d gotten as far as piling them up and fetching the matches before the will to set them alight sloped away from him, an exhilarating thought drained in an instant of all value. It would be childish, cowardly even to condemn the sheets to the flames, an act of bitterness not liberation. It would have been an act though, it would have been something which, sat at the scene of his placidity, was all he’d really desired.

The sketches were a life’s work, his life’s work. A personality defined in ink and paint and charcoal, a rigid skeleton for his life to hang off of. That’s what they had been anyway, now they were just a mockery, the jibing graffiti of a dead self, there only to remind him of how far he’d sunk over the years from being that soul wallpapered by it’s own creations to the desolate concrete bunker he’d made of himself now.

When and why the change had come he didn’t know, certainly there’d been no conscious breaking point between the old and the new forms of self he’d lived through. He’d never accepted defeat or abandoned his art, instead he’d just moved through it, broken through to the other side of the miasma of creativity that he’d once believed immense enough to fill the universe, to find himself stood in absolute nothingness. No more ideas, no more creations, no more art, no more anything, just longing gazes behind him as if the past might beckon him back and all would be as it was again.

That was the mood in which, in a frenzy, he’d hurled the stacks of forgotten ideas and projects, finished or still underway, into a heap and resolved himself to condemn all that he’d lost to flames. If it was gone it could be forgotten perhaps, or at the very least the mocking derision of what he had done would be stricken from his sight. The memories and loss might have lingered anyway but for a moment it had seemed like it might help.

He threw the matches to the other side of the room and slumped down. Childish, cowardly. What right had he to strike at that better man who’d created these things? How could he imagine that there was any gain to be made from hacking away at the icon he’d made of his own past? Temper tantrums didn’t make more of the person having them, they simply elevated their target by virtue of comparison. A knowledge that sapped all will from him, even knowing he’d seen the truth did nothing to offer comfort. The pictures had to stay, which meant they had to continue judging him, sneering at the empty vessel out of which all value had been drained.

With the fury of the moment passed he remembered the one option that remained to him, the one that presented no passion or intent but simply was. If they wouldn’t go, he would. After all, he’d already seen the passing of the only part of himself worth living for.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

Enemy of Grief

What could I have become after what happened? Anything, I was told. All they meant was anything they could understand. I could mirror any image those judgemental cunts could dredge up from their guilty and confused notions of what a ‘good’ victim should be. Scared and broken, scarred and tough, cruel and unfeeling, lonely and lost. All the permutations they decided were acceptable for someone who’d ‘suffered’ in the generic sense they needed to limit it to to satisfy their own discomfort. All the ways they could see to fence me off as a prisoner of what was done to me, forever shaped by it, never more than it.

What did I become? Nothing good, not in their eyes at least. Spiteful, they called it. They were there for me and I’d disappointed them, rejected them and ruined their narrative of how my pain should play out. A personal insult far worse than anything they cared to think had been done to me. That’s how eager they were to steal my pain, that’s how disgusted they were at me dealing with it in my own way – they had to make me the villain. An abuser of their own grief, which had long since stopped relating to me in anything but words.

What else could I have done? Maybe I am bitter and cruel and harsh. Maybe I did make their lives worse. Maybe I did reject their fawning and hollow pity. Fuck them. I survived, in the way I had to. If that makes me the enemy then I’ll still take that over being their victim.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

Shattered Idols

As the room filled up they could feel the chasm of their loneliness expanding. Words were spoken, seemingly endlessly but none really seemed to be directed at either of the parents. Not personally at least, but perhaps meant for them, as mantras and prayers of condolence. Voiced with grimacing faith towards two figures frozen in grief to the point where they appeared more carved idols than humans.

She thought back to the point four months ago where a similar ceremony had been played out. More words, more mantras, only then they’d been joyful ones, paeans sung to life and creation. Ready congratulations to what they had brought into the world together, received with burning, living pleasure. They’d been as united then, with the newborn held close, as they were divided now without it.

He broke first. An idol crumbling before a pitying congregation he turned and fled. Escaping the sterile, beige hued temple of their decline. She felt nothing, their duality already shattered she could only wonder if it was her weakness or strength to have stayed fixed in place as another wave of mournful and sympathetic laments were delivered by the faithful.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

Loving Foundation

I promised your love
an offering to myself
which you said was true

I feasted my soul
on that loving foundation
safe against tremors

Secure in my gift
I felt no fear in your doubt
I saw only security

And so I built on
extending towers of self
with us at their core

And as the earth shook
I refused to see downfall
tied to falling spires

Though the rocks did shake
stones fell, towers collapsed
I sat still, serene

That love, once gifted
still held, immovable
for you could not lie

Even as limbs broke
and as dust obscured sight
I swore I could see

As collapse echoed
and silence fell on my mind
I swore I could hear

As rocks scoured skin
and my nerves became numb
I swore I could feel

And only once dead
lost in the rubble of life
did I know the truth

I was forgotten
with your love you had long fled
leaving an empty heart

My foundation decayed
my tower a fool’s triumph
a folly to love

So with fading time
I found only my own self
muted and destroyed

But even by then
I took nothing back from you
for my love is yours

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

Decaying Idea

Funeral

The eulogies were beautiful. Weeping and barely controlled mourners outlined a saintly life, the sort which only ever really existed post-mortem and whose loss devastated individuals and diminished all else.

Tyrone struggled to look on passively. This day belonged to grief, to sorrow. The anger he felt had no place there. Not that that did anything to ameleorate it of course, if anything the struggle to surpress his reaction heightened the feeling that demanded it. A price to be paid though, not a high one either given the costs already incurred by the person that body in the ground had been.

He knew why they’d invited him of course. Duty. They felt a duty to let him know about the funeral, he’d felt a duty to attend it. In the small talk surrounding the event they’d all been aware of their ignorance as to what more could be expected from the experience. He’d been tempted to cry to break the awkward silences. Not for himself, but for them, to give them some hint that their sorrow was his too. The lie of it would have hurt him more than it comforted them though, or so he told himself, not bothering to question his own selfishness.

In truth he knew he’d never cry for the dead man. How could he? In life they’d hardly known each other, the finality of the grave didn’t alter that fact even if he’d wondered before coming whether it might.

The dead man was his father. A technical label more than anything else. In life they’d had no relationship except perhaps for a distant awareness edged with ill defined and vague feelings. A pattern both men had been seemingly content to let endure. Death, though, had issued it’s own demands. Hollow labels had been reasserted as biological fact, ceremonies of grief had laid out patterns expected not just by society but also by the individuals who felt themselves beholden to it.

Beside him a woman let out a tear fuelled yelp. Tyrone felt himself visibly tense up. She had loved the dead man, that much was obvious although he didn’t know her connection to him. His first thought was to comfort her, a human thought, a natural one, but following it came the truth of uncomfortable apathy. In the sea of grief here he was the only one not drowning, to offer her a shoulder to cry on would be a lie in itself and if she didn’t notice it he certainly would. So he ignored her, half watching as a flock of friends and relatives swarmed over, tears in their own eyes and sorrow obvious on every face. Tyrone stepped back, clearing ground for the grieving. With awkward looks they both condemned him and showed a painful awareness of his reasons for holding back, not willing to sympathise but not quite ready to condemn either.

Later on Tyrone cried. Alone and hunched over a bottle he shed the tears which he knew would have been an unintended lie to any observer. Still, he knew the honesty of them, in solitude he could accept that the tears were his own and not the work of real sorrow delivered by death. That body in the grave was just that and no more, inert matter left to fade away beneath the turf. A tragedy for those who saw more, but nothing to him. He wept for his own loss, something separate from the rest, the departure of something far more simple than flesh and blood. He cried for an idea, a hope that was now interred six feet under. The idea of a paternal love never known and now never to be known.

For an instant he hated the mourners he’d ignored. Detested their hold on the dead, their existence as a barrier between himself and what might have been if their own grief hadn’t screamed so loudly over his repressed sorrows. But how could he resent such feeling? In life the dead man had never won such disdain from him, to let him send waves of it out in death would be a needless defeat. No, his loss was of something that had never existed, a man that never was, an idea that had no right to spawn living reticence.

Still he cried. The idea deserved that much if nothing else.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.