November 23, 2019

You saved my life he says. I owe you everything.
You don’t, I say, you don’t owe me squat, let’s just get going, let’s just
get gone, but he’s relentless,
keeps saying I owe you, says Your shoes are filling with your own
damn blood, you must want something, just tell me, and it’s yours.
But I can’t look at him, can hardly speak:
I took the bullet for all the wrong reasons, I’d just as soon kill you myself,
I say. You keep saying I owe you, I owe…but you say the same thing
every time. Let’s not talk about it, let’s just not talk.
Not because I don’t believe it, not because I want it any different, but I’m
always saving and you’re always owing and I’m tired of asking to settle
the debt. Don’t bother. You never mean it
anyway, not really, and it only makes me that much more ashamed.
There’s only one thing I want, don’t make me say it, just get me bandages,
I’m bleeding, I’m not just making conversation.
There’s smashed glass glittering everywhere like stars. It’s a Western,
Henry. It’s a downright shoot-em-up. We’ve made a graveyard
out of the bone white afternoon.
It’s another wrong-man-dies scenario, and we keep doing it, Henry,
keep saying until we get it right…but we always win and we never quit.
See, we’ve won again,
here we are at the place where I get to beg for it, where I get to say Please,
for just one night, will you lie down next to me, we can leave our clothes on,
we can stay all buttoned up…
But we both know how it goes—I say I want you inside me and you hold
my head underwater, I say I want you inside me and you split me open
with a knife.
I’m battling monsters, I’m pulling you out of the burning buildings
and you say I’ll give you anything but you never come through.
Even when you’re standing up
you look like you’re lying down, but will you let me kiss your neck, baby?
Do I have to tie your arms down? Do I have to stick my tongue in your
mouth like the hand of a thief,
like a burglary, like it’s just another petty theft? It makes me tired,
Henry. Do you see what I mean? Do you see what I’m getting at?
I swear, I end up
feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search
my body for the scars, thinking Did he find that one last tender place to
sink his teeth in?
I know you want me to say it, Henry, it’s in the script, you want me to say
Lie down on the bed, you’re all I ever wanted and worth dying for too…
but I think I’d rather keep the bullet.
It’s mine, see, I’m not giving it up. This way you still owe me, and that’s
as good as anything. You can’t get out of this one, Henry, you can’t get it
out of me, and with this bullet lodged in my chest,
covered with your name, I will turn myself into a gun, because I’m hungry
and hollow and just want something to call my own. I’ll be your
slaughterhouse, your killing floor, your morgue
and final resting, walking around with this bullet inside me like the bullet
was already there, like it’s been waiting inside me the whole time.
Do you want it? Do you want anything I have?
Will you throw me to the ground like you mean it, reach inside and wrestle
it out with your bare hands? If you love me, Henry, you don’t love me
in a way I understand.
Do you know how it ends? Do you feel lucky? Do you want to go home
now? There’s a bottle of whiskey in the trunk of the Chevy and a
dead man at our feet
staring up at us like we’re something interesting. This is where the evening
splits in half, Henry, love or death. Grab an end, pull hard,
and make a wish.

Richard Siken

Shadows that are

November 23, 2019

Against the wall shadows grope, shadows that pin light to stone,
that are carapaces of light when sky negatives to purple black.
Sleeping rough, they fatten for the border crossing
on the fruits of rock vines; uncle who crossed too late
is a fossil in that wall. The ivy purposes to warm and shield him.
And the shadows are the bodies of dreamers deranged from bed
by the scent of the night-blooming jasmine, a plate of prosciutto,
the code of clinking forks. Languages flitter through cracks in the wall;
to the untutored ear they sound the same, but their blood types differ.
So the agents go on drinking vermouth while night bleeds the river
that is studded with fire opals cold to the tongue. They keep living
in this land that midwifed a stillborn dream. Peace does not come.
It merely lifts its shining horn and passes through indifferent stone.
Its cloven hooves crush mortar shells while evening prayer,
that dark orchid, clings fast and tenuous to the air.

Carol Alexander

I’ve heard Brian Aldiss talk about the same phenomenon. For him, a novel often requires two ideas. He describes them as a combination of ‘the familiar’ and ‘the exotic’. He begins with ‘the familiar’ – usually something germane to his personal life, either thematically or experientially – but he can’t write about it until ‘the familiar’ is impacted by ‘the exotic’. In his case, ‘the exotic’ is usually a science fictional setting in which ‘the familiar’ can play itself out: ‘the exotic’ provides him with a stage on which he can dramatize ‘the familiar’. Rather like a binary poison – or a magic potion – two inert elements combine to produce something of frightening potency.

The same dynamic works in reverse for me. I start with ‘the exotic’… but that idea declines to turn into a story until it is catalysed by ‘the familiar’.

For example: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is squarely – and solely – founded on two ideas: unbelief and leprosy. The notion of writing a fantasy about an ‘unbeliever’, a man who rejects the whole concept of fantasy, first came to me near the end of 1969. But the germ was dormant: no matter how I laboured over it, I couldn’t make it grow. Until I realized, in May of 1972, that my ‘unbeliever’ should be a leper. As soon as those two ideas came together, my brain took fire.

Stephen R. Donaldson
The Real Story

storm raging

November 23, 2019

I remember that night in the Dolomites when we made love with a storm raging outside – the deafening crack of thunder as you were cumming shook the chalet to its foundations and woke everyone in the other rooms. We both felt as if we were in another world.


Making a living from writing often involves talking about what you do rather than actually doing it. I’m asked to give readings, I teach, I deliver workshops. But on days when I can sit down and tap at the keys, time is generally shaped by what I need to do or where I’m up to with a particular project. In the final weeks of editing a novel I might be working at six in the morning and still be at it after 10 at night. Whereas, the earlier stages require a slower accumulation of words and ideas, and I can keep more sociable hours. It’s experimental agriculture, not frantic harvest. Throw stuff down, leave it overnight, see what grows.

Andrew Michael Hurley
My Writing Day
The Guardian 21st October 2017


November 23, 2019

I am the fever that lights your passion
the fire in your night
the storm capsizing your body…

read and re-read

November 23, 2019

As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Words are my matter