Showing posts from October, 2013

A Declaration

We get a babysitter. We visit a public toilet. We go into the unisex disabled one so we don’t get into trouble and lock the door, check it’s secure. We’ve bought a new knife; a fancy penknife like Bear Grylls has. We’ve brought some fizzy wine. The door is busy with names, declarations, some swear words. I sit on the edge of the closed toilet lid and go to place the small cool bag containing the wine and the glasses on the floor. There are damp, discoloured patches there spreading into each other and I keep it on my lap. I can smell an abrasive mix of bleach and urine but take a sip of the wine and let the sharp fizz on my tongue distract me. He leans against the wall, takes out the knife and pokes at his fingertips with the point. We drink a glass of wine whilst we discuss what we will do. The bubbles make me feel dreamy. I’d like something meaningful, significant. Finally we decide. I pour another glass and sip. He begins to scrape. He looks strong and manly, his handsome face

Poetry, Life and Death

I don’t have a poem for you this week.   I have only my reflections on a feature in the ‘BBC 100   Women’   series about poets in Afghanistan which captured my imagination , roused my admiration and humbled me in a single heartbeat. You see, my confession is that I too like to dabble with poetry.   I have a complex relationship with poetry.   I have little control over my reaction to it. In various moods, at different times, I can love it, be indifferent to it, or even mock it.   I have actually been afraid of poems (particularly during literature exams) and nursed a shameful fear of not interpreting poems intelligently.    But I have never, EVER, questioned my right to attempt to write poetry, short stories or anything else.   I have never questioned my right to education or even to literacy itself. But as an aspiring writer and poet in Scotland I can afford the luxury of ambivalence. For me poetry has never been a matter of life and death. Not so for the women in Kabul, the

The Alternative NaNoWriMo

My brother-in-law is a runner: a proper runner. He looks like a runner, thinks like a runner, and doesn't make a sound as he glides along the tarmac training for his next marathon. He tells me that he uses target-setting software to motivate him and maintain his commitment to training. In contrast to my brother-in-law, I'm not a "runner". I have old running shoes which look brand new due to lack of use and my physique is (ahem) not that of a "runner" - when I thunder jog down our street it seems as though the neighboring houses quiver upon their foundations. In fairness, the world's greatest optimist would refuse a bet upon me ever completing a marathon. But, I've started using the same target-setting software and I like it. I've set my own running targets for the next month. Small, achievable targets, which might not seem like very much to a "runner", but which give me a real sense of achievement. I won't be running in any races

UFOs Arrive To Save Us All

Unpasted but still glued to us, kindergarten spooks On white construction paper. They are not us; They are no longer us; they are different from us: Pakistan, Lithuania, New Guinea, driving cabs in New York City, Anyone who doesn’t hail from Hollywood, and isn’t blonde and pretty, Pretty skinny. They are danger, monster-us. Not like us. We’re good. They are vampires, banshees, Martians. The night wood. They fly inhumanly divergent from our scissors And our sketchpads and our Elmer’s glue. Crayola-green little men. Paper tigers, Kleenex ghosts and witches. Animals. Those pointy-hatted bitches bleed. Those girls are animals. But still like us, alas; love is blind; our old blind spot. They are the animal part of us that we forgot; Like a cancer tumour, the part of us now extraterrestrial. The dreaded diagnosis inconclusive.   It will be a close encounter. They will come from Planet 9 from outer space; they will attack from Mars, And from even angri

The Function of Fiction

More than a decade after completing my undergraduate degree, I’ve recently started a full time MSc. This is a challenge, both in mental capacity and logistics as I also have a part time job, two children, two dogs and a spouse whose domestic skills have atrophied after years of having an obsessive and compulsive house wife. I am enjoying it; the course is stimulating, fascinating and opening up my eyes to a myriad of potential futures. Having always lived in small, rural villages, the campus is the most multicultural environment I have ever been in and my course mates are a varied and inspiring group. However, last week one of our tutors advised that, due to the immense workload, we should forget about trying to read any fiction until after Christmas. As I was nearing the end of a gripping sci-fi novel, I understood what he meant. I knew that I was reading it when I should have been reading a set text but I couldn’t put it down and when I did it occupied my thoughts throughou

After the Fall

  Anne sprays a mist of Chanel over her shoulders. She glances at her watch. Joe will be here in less than half hour. She runs the brush through her hair. She looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize the woman there. Her hands and her brush are full of strands of hair gently moving in the breeze. Dark brown threads stick in the fresh perfume drying on her skin. She runs her hands through her hair again. More clumps lift out by the roots. She sees but does not feel them as they pull away from what had been a respectable blunt cut. She thinks why doesn’t it hurt? She thought she would feel something.             She remembers when she was a child. She fell asleep with Double Bubble gum in her mouth. In the morning the sugary pink bubbles were tangled mats in her hair. Her first haircut happened when her mother chopped off all the gummy hanks. Anne never chewed Double Bubble again. The little pink bricks hardened on her bedside table as she read all the Joe Bazooka comic wrappers.  

Surface of a Rhyme

You pull into the drive and the free spirit I’ve exercised all day folds, abruptly, into itself. I greet you at the door with a pasted smile. Ask how your day was, expecting no reply yet, Feeling the sting when I get none. Supper is served. You take yours into the Living room, plopping yourself on the couch, Balancing the plate and the remote with the finesse Of a kerbside juggler. I remain at the table, staring at you, staring at the TV, Staring at you staring at the TV. A crooked rhyme plays in my head, Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. by Betty Bleen


She looked like a valentine; her favourite colour was pink. In fact, she only ate heart-shaped boiled sweets. When she went out walking with her ruffled parasol, her fingernails were painted in ascending shades of pink from light salmon to hot-whore fuchsia, never so saturated to hit violet or red.          Her hair she wore in thoroughly-combed ringlets and regularly looked out in advance to avoid puddles or dogshit or anything, indeed, that might make her walk feel unplanned or less than perfect. She only dated girls. She only went walking at sunsets or dawn, when the sky was appropriately tinted. She was a white girl, therefore her skin was close to pink. Her labia were also an appropriate colour.          She neared the lake in the middle of the park. She enjoyed asphalt and, of course, the roses that municipal gardeners worthy of the name had planted. There was a bush to her left; every little blossom on it was a papery heart, flowers shaped li

When nights cool

When nights cool Dying day in grey light  hued sky on bruised lips, enlightened by a flicker- finger traced around lines of laughter. Pause, anticipation of steady breath, in moment post-heat, where words are void but silence sings vividly   sending shivers down supine spine. Darkness undresses, gets into bed warming buried bones, languidly the lips brush, explore,  rekindle a phoenix flame  in these ashen nights, that grew so cold. Shan Williams


Between two mountains, amid forests as green as imperial jade, rises the sacred city of Karthal. When a traveler sets his eyes on Karthal for the first time, he is immediately impressed by its unearthly, feminine beauty, which can be described as moon-like and is further enhanced by an azure mist hanging over its narrow streets on late afternoons like a veil of blue cloud. He will admire the city’s buildings, made from a smooth, pale stone. Most likely, he will praise its technological inventiveness: its telescopes, hydraulic engineering and waterwheels, and will come to learn from a friendly market vendor – selling wares from flutes to carpets to necklaces of phantom quartz – that the name of that blue river over there, running through the city until it reaches the terraced rice fields, is the River of Crystals. Our traveler will find clues which speak only to the city’s charm: shy women with amber skin and waist-length hair, strong houses built by great sto