Living nightmares, pills and oily shadows: the ‘Nocturnal Japes’ childhood files…

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That harrowing night (and I wish I being melodramatic), is not something our family ever forgot. But before I plough on into this tale, I should give a little context on this;

Thick as thieves, bonded as bricks.

Thick as thieves, bonded as bricks.

My older brother, by a grand old one-year, has a mild learning disability. This was diagnosed when he was a school-aged kid as ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder – as distinct from ADHD, which is the one where the kids are on Today Tonight kicking the crap out of everything and vowing to shiv their parents for not allowing them to eat Tim Tams for breakfast… So, conversely to that, my brother was what was deemed to be a little ‘slower’ than other kids, and not more hell bent on cracking desks on skulls, thankfully. My brother had precious little confidence, and often felt frustrated when he was aware that he wasn’t picking up on an instruction or a task as well as he was ‘supposed to’ both in school and at home. But this was mainly concerned with his literacy and numeracy as opposed to other more dextrous, hands-on tasks of logic and comprehension of systems. Yep, my brother leaves most for dead when it comes to understanding visual spatial things/machines … and CoD

Once, my brother took apart an old lawn-mower motor for fun, and put it all back together again. No manuals, no diagrams. No nothing. He was barely a teenager. He was in his element and for the first time could conquer things that most others couldn’t. This was a source of immense (and long-deserved) pride in him, and something my family henceforth actively encouraged. His natural mastery and skill around complex machines was astounding, and through nothing but instinct, he found one sliver of a refuge from the multitudes of rote-learned strains of bacterial academia he could never seem to cleanse from his sense of inadequacy from the mainstream education system. He was ‘too functional’ for special schools catering to those with alternative learning needs, and as such was subject to an underprepared public school system which wasn’t equipped to ‘deal with’ someone who couldn’t be gently hammered into their system of assessment and progression. It was not the fault of the integration aides, who connected well with him, and tried their utmost within their limited options and ‘accepted’ methods of ‘integration’ into a system fundamentally unsuited to a specialised, yet remarkably sentient and perceptive mind. So, on my brother’s exceptional talents and gifts, I, for one, protected that fiercely from those who might express ridicule, disdain or derisive incomprehension. It was clear that they were reacting to something their feebly combative, empathetically inferior minds could not, or would not understand.

Pivotally, however, my brother was prescribed a drug called Dextroamphetamine to help him maintain concentration in school. This medication is more or less and chemical stimulant. A ‘legal’ speed. Known as Ritalin in the US in particular, it is now more commonly known as a method of getting through further education by staying the hell awake. Even before knowing this more contemporary utilisation, I had – and subsequently still have – my own reservations about these medications having been prescribed to my brother. They made him operate at a level which only served to agitate his own perception of his failings through his already established (and very importantly, untreated) anxiety and anger due to lack of confidence. But, it was the ‘go-to’ mechanism to give to kids who had ADD. Unfortunately, one of the delightful side effects of this medication are night terrors. This is where the tale really begins…

When my brother had his first night terror… Or ‘Child In Living Nightmare’ mode, it was a night like any other. We were shipped off to bed when the dreaded knell of the closing credits of Home and Away sounded, signalling the arrival of 7:30pm. Time for the kids to go to the mattressed dungeon, whining and moaning about how unfair it was that we weren’t tired. Yet, we were being almost physically forced by my mum’s hammer-soft stare to go. It was a wordless directive startlingly more compelling than the loudest telling-off, to go over to the other side of the house and not be awake for a while. Off we trudged. We were all sharing a room at this stage – with the third bedroom serving as a trial ‘rumpus room’ at the time – an eventually failed experiment of mum’s to try to limit the whirlwind of stuff the three of us managed to scatter around the rest of the house, like an enchanted wind-tunnel of assorted miscellany.

Tucked in bed, three in a row. Kids a grand three years apart in total; with my sister as the eldest, my brother the middle at a year younger, and then me, scant a year younger still. We all chatted inconsequentially about how ‘un-tired’ we all were and had our ritual collective grumble about how heinously restrictive the 7:30 lockdown was – and how ‘nobody else’s mum made them go to bed to early‘. As far as we were concerned, Mum was making us even lamer than we already were – like we needed that on top of the jibes about being poor and therefore unforgivably unpopular. Woe! But nevertheless, we all passed out within minutes; our lumpy blanketed forms illuminated by the soft, low-wattage glow of the pilot nightlight my brother and I couldn’t yet sleep without.

The first thing I remembered next were my eyelids snapping open to see the glaring red numbers on the alarm clock on the other side of the room. 2:19am. I had one of those few moments where you know you’re awake, but you’re not entirely sure why or what might have woken you. Then I heard it, my brother, screaming and crying hysterically. Wet, muffled sobs echoing dully from the kitchen dining room area. My heart just about dropped into my guts with instantaneous fear and incomprehension. Everybody else was up already. Kylie’s bed was an empty twist of hot-pink fringed bedspread and flat-sheet and the main bedroom light was switched on. Feeling mildly queasy from the confused adrenaline, my brother’s squelching wails were being quietly hushed by mum. I disentangled myself from my cotton-cocoon and slowly walked out into the dining room. There was John, his reddened face protectively enveloped by mum’s pyjama’d arms. I could instantly see that she was spooked as hell. Her face was linen-white and her eyes were far wider than normal… I stood for a moment, not really knowing what to do or what was really going on. I thought that someone must be hurt, but dad, the natural protector, simply stood, towering meekly over my mum while she embraced my sobbing sibling. Both mum and dad, paragons of stability as parents, ready to protect us to the ends of the earth and all the under-bed monsters in between, were rendered speechless autopilots of vague comfort and frayed nerves against a seemingly invisible enemy…

Then the ambulance arrived, which only served to terrify my poor brother even more. The two tall men, in their stiff jackets and latex gloves took stock within seconds. Nobody was bleeding. All were standing. Conscious. No masked intruders. No swiftly exited assailants… There was nothing really they could do, but they said the magic words to mum; ‘looks like it might have been a night terror.’ My parents had obviously called the ambulance in a panic, but soon after I found out why…

Essentially, I slept through the entire thing. Which is extraordinary considering the story I was told. Apparently my dad heard John yell at the other end of the house, and sprung up to see what was wrong. When he emerged into the dining room, John didn’t react at all the way he was supposed to: he screamed, grabbed the nearest object (which happened to be a plastic clothes basket) and tried to attack dad with it as if he was fighting for his life. Dad, at 6’1″, and having no choice but to attempt to keep him from lashing out any harder, managed to just grab him in a bearhug until he stopped struggling and started to let the crying take over. Mum then appeared. John had begun to awaken then, right there in the dining room. No comprehension of why he was so mortally terrified. Why dad was looking at him like he was a ghost. Why he had this horrible urge just to RUN from whatever it was that was going to get him… It was a tense moment made of the true depths of an unseen horror not immediately able to be defeated. Mum became all instinct, and grabbed John and squished him to her like a mother cub, at a loss as to what else to do.

John doesn’t really remember the dream itself, but recalls that he was approached by a monster (dad) and that he tried to defend himself (clothesbasket) and then he was suddenly in the kitchen bawling his eyes out with everyone watching… then a pair of Ambos turn up… Needless to say, he doesn’t rate the experience highly. Even now, more than a decade later.

Uneasily, the Dexies stuck around for a bit longer. And unfortunately, yet awfully predictably, the strange sleep episodes, hallucinations and all manner of weird stuff kept on happening to John. As soon as we turfed the turbos, my bro was himself again, but he still couldn’t shake his fear of the dark for a long time afterward. Even now, at the age of 25, he will never again see a nightmare as a figure of the mind. The nightmare became him for those minutes, and was as real as his tears at awaking from being an unwilling warrior against mortal horror, and the foundations of his conscious self have never ever been in sync again since.

He has told me this. The shadows are tinged with oil, with fingers reaching from the ends of the cotton dreamscape, at the most random moments, during daylight and midnight alike. And me, as a person who found themselves as helpless as our infallible adult guardians for the long moments of an abject personal abyss, 2:19am will always glare from the electrical veins of sleep to me, whispering back images from a night which changed a boy into a man with stubborn hands, who fought from, and back into, his own home, against his own mind.

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*Posted with permission

Janice Doe, Jane Citizen and the lifelong paper jam…

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Gah. The amount of time I spend away from writing, let alone blogging, still has the power to astonish me. I’ll think nonstop all week about some revolutionary new topic to bang on about… but then I walk through the back door to dutifully scoop a tin of Fancy Feast into my loudly starving feline’s dessicated food dish at 5:58pm. All I can think about then is mediating the inner turmoil of whether to pour a glass of Aldi pinot or check the mail first. I usually resolve to brave the relay into the front yard with Pinot in hand… Thank the Lord of Cheese for 6-foot Colourbond fencing; my questionable multitasking remains safe from the narrowed eyes of the neighbourhood, at least.

Apparently I enjoy doing lots of things other than ‘things I enjoy’. I should totally create the next platinum-selling game; Call of Civic Duty: Normal Ops. My favourite expansion would be ‘Recon of Wheely-chair Ergonomics’, which would spawn masses of fanfiction like ‘The Posture Chronicles’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Filing’. … It’d have you sitting in the correct manner in your seat! Because ‘the edge is for lumbar-losers’. Awyeah. *cocks sniper stapler* Don’t mess with the Rexel Vixen.

Evidently, I’m a moforkin’ entrepreneur of the Mundane Citizen. I will quietly and politely refrain from revolutionising The Average and it’s Joes, because that would be mildly disruptive and innately incongruent with the begging of pardons and regular ironing!

VIVA LA MILD MANNERS!!! Spread sodium-reduced lite margarine, not anarchy!!! \m/ u_u \m/

Largely, I think that the issue is not that my 9 -5 job taxes me to the point of nightly wineglass-weighted bicep curls while hypnotised by Game of Thrones, I think that it lies more with how much I love writing. Strange, yes, but it’s this elating infatuation for writing that ensures that I cannot fathom ever opening my blog and mashing my curfewed palms onto my laptop keyboard, knowing that I have to walk away from it again at a set time. It makes me feel like I, in a way, haven’t earned my time in front of the Blessed QWERTY, because I’m anxious that I won’t be able to ‘get it up’ and finish the job in time for bed.

I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who shows up at his station and has to piss off again before the battle has even started. I love my time at the controls so much that it stops me from even approaching them unless I have a bottomless pit of time (i.e. say, a cracking Saturday arvo with not a plan in sight) to complete the full concerto. I hate leaving a post, poem or anything else unfinished so much that I don’t even allow myself to start, lest I roll down some random cliff of Speilberg-esque inspiration and end up losing my momentum because bedtime beckons. I would grieve for ideas that I didn’t get to have. So, I glue myself to the couch, weighted down by a fluffy, doughnut-shaped cloud of snoozing cat and admonish myself for being such a wine-dampened snowflake of time-poor mediocrity.

Business as usual...

Business as usual… with added AFL for a little extra larrikin-chilled flavour

My writing plays by its own rules, and I have long accepted that I am a mere spectator to the presses of my mind. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I suppose this is why the relatively few people who actually make money by watching their supreme inner-Xerox whirr out lucrative brilliance don’t play by the ‘hobbyist’s curfew’. I just hope that mine someday starts printing reams of literary Fifties too, or I may just be chained to my Pinot vs. Mailbox internal soap for weeknight-eternity.

I just hope that my battles have more patience than I do.

The thoughts scoured raw by the nylon of stubborn reality…

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Who said that partying like it's Cinderella's birthday couldn't produce a flash of its own hellish charm? Cleaning does have its own slightly sweaty and undignified catharsis...
Who said that partying with lemon-scented suds like it’s Cinderella’s 21st couldn’t produce a flash of its own hellish charm? Cleaning does have its own slightly sweaty and undignified catharsis…

Image © crackbluetack 2014

The Homecoming of the Vintage Desk Jewel: Battlestation version 2.0…

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Cat enjoys expanding her remit into attempting to physically be on the largest surface area of Whatever I'm Doing, usually via patrols.

Cat enjoys expanding her remit into attempting to physically be on the largest surface area of Whatever I’m Doing, usually via an interpretive dance which maximises her gifts of fur shedding onto all objects in the immediate vicinity.

Cat is Chief of ensuring that she is On Whatever I'm Doing.

Cat is Chief of ensuring that she is On Whatever I’m Doing.

The setup. My lair. Whatever... sans whatever the hell else will be scattered on, in and around it within the next 60 seconds.

My lair. My hovel. My home. *Serving suggestion. Tidiness results may vary.

My favourite place in the world to park my bum.

The word throne… with the ‘Default Cream’ Colourbond Fence of Inspiration reflecting its omniscient light into my chambers.

The queenly unit herself, in all her qwerty glory.

The queenly unit herself, in all her qwerty glory.

Bleeding for the keys…

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I don’t do things by halves. This much is obvious. Caught between a longing for a device that doesn’t rely on batteries/electricity/access to printing, and an almost psychotic need for all of my handwriting in journals to be neater than a nip of 18 year old Loch Lomond in a crystal tumbler (and thus the terminal role this need has always played in my short-lived journal keeping attempts over the years), I bought a manual typewriter earlier this week. Within 36 hours of igniting this impassioned affair with the idea, I Googled the hell out of typewriters, shortlisted a desirable selection, and promptly bid on one within the final two minutes of an eBay auction – and won it by the skin of my single dollar above a hotly-competing bidder who evidently didn’t have the quick-draw ADSL2 required to steal back their bargain in time… And a bargain it was! $45 for a white Adler Gabriele 25 manual typewriter, made in West-Germany, in excellent condition, with case and operational manual. A replacement ink ribbon is even on its way to me from the UK; such was my determination for supremely replete typewriter-preparedness. Even the drive to Donvale (fucking Donvale) from Footscray straight after work in peak-hour traffic to pick it up from the (rather lovely) lady who was selling it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I was bringing this obsolete little gem home and setting my mind to click-clacking reams of brilliance through it as soon as ridiculously possible… And by the hair on my head I darned well did it. Huzzah!

So, for normal people, on one hand, there’s accommodating a tantalising personal whim, a sudden fancy. Then, there’s prescribing yourself a cathartic solution to an undulating, rapid, energised need that develops a heartbeat all of its own… A solution fresh from the eccentic head pharmacy that elicits an impulsive lust for reaching above your current ability to perform a task that is fundamental to your life as you know it… To sate the whims of a mind that demands the assembly and destruction of ideas, letters and the flashes and grips of elusive somatic states of your physical body as the very fuel of its perpetual machination to create. I strive to feed a mind which refuses to close its mouth. Yep, I’m of the latter brand of lunacy with the garbage-guts for a brain.

An obese body of words is a healthy body of words… or so it keeps telling me. The rolls, bulges and folds among the valleys of things; thoughts, ideas, experiences, opinions, fears, hopes, dreams and loves form a body of gluttonous stimuli. A voluptuous figure of pure, and impure mind that despite its sheer massiveness, cannot ever appear as anything other than utterly desirable. It’s kind of delightfully weird to grin at the retrospective realisation that a state of alphabetic diabetes is something I find compelling… even a thing which beats with a steady pulse of hope, for my blood – the blood sugared by 26 shapes arranged into fresh, viscous, visceral groups, and eaten with a greedy, infinite fascination. The steady circulation of heated life fluid, full and heavy with sweetened, opulent enrichment.

Of course, however, the insulin doses come in virulent blowdarts of bitter, creative suffocation propelled by the hard-edged shapelessness of peripheral life and circumstance. Tiny needles invading cells to harpoons which threaten to shear bone from marrow. But, like any vibrant ecosystem tempered by the balance of starvation, loss, cruelty and even the claustrophobic cupboardspace of averageness, the acrid rivulets of self-doubt, tiredness, and generalised rending of flesh from a blind mass of knotted negativity which exists everywhere and nowhere is essential. If only to provide the divine disease for which my words are the cure, but also for that sugared, scarlet cluster of cells to taste all the sweeter after the sourness of hideous necessity leaves my tongue. The balance of my disease with the normalcy, grit and severity of everything around it. It’s almost a symbiosis where my infirmity consumes my surroundings and turns them into the strands of creation I exist to craft. The confectionery of the soul, made from even the foulest oil skimmed from atop a pool of depression, anxiety and stagnation.

I live by an infirmity which demands to be gorged with every single component of infinity that I can provide. For a sustenance that feeds us both, I will endure my whirlwinds of lunacy, and the medicines prescribed to salve the friction burns of unceremonious self-improvement. I will embrace my insulin and my hunger so that I can bathe my tongue in the saccharine pools of words bled onto pages and screens by veins which know sweetness ever more keenly, for the bitterness of spiteful bile wrung from life’s gut is a memory never far from the buds of a tongue made for telling stories.

Nobody can fucking drive…

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Aha! A reliable source of inspiration… My teeming stack of ‘Fuck I Hate That’ things.

On today’s menu, I’m dipping my freezing toes into a simmering pool of inner road-rage that is welling impressively fast. I’ve only had my Ps for four months – like a relatively newborn motorist. Initially, I was starkly aware of my relative n00bidity to lone piloting the comradely mottled bitumen trails and Every Red Light Between Here And The Thing I’m Late For. Thusly, I kept a humble head on my shoulders and reminded myself that I’m a 23 year old punk kid who sits on a cushion to see over the dash and has barely sprouted a Weary Peak Hour Motorist pube. Well, my humility has provided the princely sum of fuck all that noise. Very nearly nobody can fucking drive – and I’m damned well not going to suffer in silence as one of the dear few sets of torso and limbs sitting behind a steering wheel who knows what the stick thing beside the wheel thing does. It’s just the ticket to demonstrate to every other similarly fast moving object around you that you aren’t the Minister for Surprise Directional Change. This seems to be a little known gem of complex and bewildering knowledge. I also reserve the right to dearly wish for these lobotomised sacks of brine pickled self-awareness to be stuck behind a bloated landfill truck in the height of summer in peak-hour traffic as punishment.

It really is astonishing just how often I am blasting a ferret behind a wheel, looking around wildly for a reason other than their utter obliviousness and my hastily narrowing proximity to their flippant stupidity as to why I would be making some car-ish like sireny noise right at them. I assume that these glorified limbuckets have gone through the same bowel-freezing VicRoads test. Haven’t these people who are certified as allowed to perch their witless cheeks into a driver’s seat all experienced the testing examiner who basically tells you that they Will End Your Test if you so much as come within ten feet of a light sea-breeze because the car will explode and you will kill all the children and puppies within a three populated school-crossing radius as a result of your catastrophic failure to be constantly aware of the precise molecular structure of every object around you at all times? And yet it seems that an alarming proportion don’t know their seatbelt from a shoehorn.

Funnily enough, I’m sure I’m not alone in my curdled disgust at the sheer magnitude of gormless, metal-snouted road pigs who outnumber and outgun we who still live in mortal fear of the hi-vis vested Back Seat Woman. We still live with the echoes of her absolute certainty that you’re going to kill everything good and pure if you don’t change lanes with the, calm, precision and perfect 360 degree vision of someone who isn’t actually in a car, and who is in possession of a portable rotating platform. With this terrifyingly high standard of Not Hitting Things, it’s any wonder these scented bin-liner brained people actually avoid experiencing the same desire to Not Hit Things… they must feel like they’re on a big adventure in their carefree Space Dinghies in Major Arterial Adventureland. The unique theme park where insurance premiums and surprise games of tag are just part of the fun.

I can tell that the vein-popping trials of apparently being the only person in the whole history of ever who doesn’t drive like a blind, excitable marmot is going to channel quite nicely into my cheerfully expanding ‘Fuck I Hate That’ archives… The boundless petting-zoo of fibreglass floats and forays into fortune, failure and fuckwittery.

Good-o.

The quilted comfort of language pulled up to our chins… (Part 2)

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Right-o, let’s just pick up where we left off, then? The bit about people blowing out spent oxygen and even more recycled crap to justify laziness, decay and apathy… You with me? Good.

Okay, so most of us are lucky enough to live in a general realm of verbal comfort with our ability to turn to someone, whether it be to a stranger for directions or to a friend for discretion, and communicate an approximation of our thoughts with relative ease. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and there are umpteen reasons why this might be – and they would be quite beside my point anyway. Here, I reiterate that I refer to the collective majority as average, longer-term or native residents of Australia just going about their daily business.

Aside from ensuring I distil my point with this statement, I also point to this lump of persons as a pretty safe example of an assortment of people who should probably know better than to pull our downy English-language quilt up over their heads, like teenagers texting past bedtime and communicate like their thoughts are limited to 160 braincells. Bluntly, I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that we’re being backlit by laziness, not by progress or efficiency. This laziness is something that many people try to assert is ‘progress‘. Some studies centred around the topic of utilising SMS language in language learning conclude that it is, in this context - and some similarly limited studies have positive, but mixed conclusions, that also temper the positives against the consequent loss of ‘higher’ communication skills. Some pundits and people also liken it to the changes in the English language seen over the centuries of the written and spoken tongue. Pah! As one-part writer, one-part grumpy person and two-parts editor, I call bullshit on a majority scale.

Yes, it could probably be argued to and fro ad nauseum about how shit changes in language and things happen… and stuff and things and… and… why the hell do you have to make such a big deal about silly things like this? Are you on some kind of Macquarie Dictionary powertrip? There are well-fed children and starving third world warlords in those other countries. What? I didn’t say that. Look, I’m busy texting Bruce to pick up the ingredients for gore-may rissoles, leave it alone, would you?

Look, despite the simple brevity of mince, breadcrumbs and eggs being the key guests of the gore-may simplicity of a quick instruction, I passionately believe that this shouldn’t leak like the hose into the entire blossoming garden of how we use words. We should open our arms, our spellcheck and our sense of busy entitlement to rejecting the apathy toward the infinite possibilities provided by choosing not to speak less and communicate precious little else… I mean, people often invoke the classic example: ‘just look at Shakespeare and all the freaky-deaky things he did with English! And let’s not forget ye olde secretary shorthand as a valid form of shortened language widely used in professional business contexts WAY back when blah blah blah…’ Ahem. It goes on… Modern society demands speed and brevity. And we must spend more time looking out ahead for the next neon-blazing servo with Krispy Kremes for the board meeting than down at a trifling distraction like typing a three letter word with three whole letters. Our obsession with buzzword justifications to sell our own apathy ointment to ourselves is symptomatic of a culture always looking for a fix that satisfies without effort, like how we latch rabidly onto verbose vitamins, antioxidant wonder potions and miracle lemon detox diets. We’re making like a handbag snatcher does, or the comical character that falls, whistling down the manhole because they couldn’t see the gaping maw before they dawdled on progressively into it… We’re cutting off our dictionary to spite our own brain.

We’re all so quick to find the easy way out and smoothing papier-mâché thin justifications over our breezy mouths. We use our vowel-less, grey rations of letters to excuse our right to wave around a big dildo, slick with snake oil, and ream ourselves with the pleasure of buying a Costco-sized pallet of ‘Eau de No-Fuck-Need-be-Given’.

It makes me wonder what people might not even realise they have to say, and that makes us all poorer.

We are an affluent society, starving without food for thought.

The quilted comfort of language pulled up to our chins… (Part 1)

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Yes! It’s Disclaimer time! Yay! *ahem* So, this post is intended as a ‘Dear Jane and John Citizen’ open bleat at the native-English chatterer status quo populace far and wide. I’m more than sharply aware that there are many learned people who do not generally flock with this here ‘goodwill tanty’ – but, on the other hand, I also know many learned people who occasionally skulk in these realms… myself included, no doubt!

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I don’t know if it’s the brussel-sprouts I ate for lunch or the wasted carbons, aspartame and garlic fumes we’re huffing out of our busy mouths, but I smell an odour that is increasingly difficult to ignore… It seems to be coming from people who are blowing out a lot of spent oxygen and very little else.

Right, so, it’s no secret that I am totally crushing on English and we’re in love and it’s beautiful even if English hasn’t realised it’s true feelings for me just yet… But I’m pretty sure that shitting in English’s mouth and calling it nutrition is something I’m allowed to get all ‘nerd-miffed’ about without sounding too much like the why comments sections on tabloid newspapers should strictly be avoided for health reasons…

To give a little background to why I’ve decided to don the chainmail and charge the masses, just minding their own darned business, with pointy words, I’ll introduce you to someone I know and let you in on what happened recently.

Meet Manny, a learned, native Swedish-speaking friend of mine who has a remarkably well-rounded and comprehensive command of the English language. (Hi, Manny!)

With the awareness that most Swedish people are taught English alongside Swedish from very early in their education, it can be said that this alone isn’t exactly a groundbreaking or particularly eyebrow-raising claim to fame. However, there are two reasons why this dear fellow struck a chord in the tireless resident Symphony of Overthought in my head. Firstly, I have to reiterate my glowing assessment of my friend’s remarkably sound and confident command of English syntax, spelling and vocabulary. And aside from its relevance to this flaming arrow posted to the heart of English heretics, I mention this also partly because it’s something I feel I must bask in as often as possible; as it seems to be somewhat of an endangered birdsong. I indeed find myself actively relishing the occasions where I’m greeted with speech that doesn’t subtly wallop my sensibilities with blunt-force trauma to the simplest components of a sentence, or exhibit such lazy expression that I could swear they just had an audible miscarriage in my ear. Now, as a writer who occasionally steps on the toes of their beloved native tongue as tool toward creative necessity, I’m more than a little disposed towards bending the rules of language to illustrate a point, or to make a statement… but this aural plague bleating on my doorstep over the last decade or so is certainly not that.

Now, back to Manny! He readily knows the difference between parentheses and brackets, the right ‘your’/’there’/’could have’ etc., which is impressive enough among the many native English speakers who wouldn’t know their you from their ewe… But he also possesses a firm efficiency in utilising the expressive tantamount of English communication required in the fields of science and physics, like it’s common knowledge.

Yet, the look on his face when I casually mentioned something about ‘catching germs’ recently was priceless:

*Confused expression* ‘Huh? What the hell is germs?!’ He asks with a hint of alarm.

*pause* O_O … *laughs* ‘Oh! Germs are, among other things, often a simple way to refer to micro-organisms, generally used in casual reference to viruses, microbes and pathogens which commonly cause illness.’

‘Oh! Right!’ ._.

Germs? No. But pathogens? Microbes? Micro-organisms? o_o

I instantly felt a little tug of shame at teaching him the ways that we often oversimplify, limit and blanket-clause our use of the English language… *dabs away a fledgling English nerd tear*. But this, of course, is only the cotton-tip of the issue pounding at my greymatter.

While I get the flipside in saying that colloquial or slang phrases/usage can often take longer and prove more difficult to grasp than the ‘textbook rote’ of a language, and can indicate a sense of familiar ‘mastery’ or comfort of sorts; I felt that this pinged a much deeper note as an indictment on a much wider scale of how we ‘natives’ choose to use our language the vast majority of the time… Well, we don’t. And herein lies the stillborn messes of alphabet I see so often.

No, I don’t believe we should be speaking in great, bloated purple paragraphs of fifty-syllable words to request the table salt’s passage down the dining table. That would just be silly, and would also be missing the point by ridiculing it. What I mourn is the lack of flavour in our daily speech. We don’t use the words that we have at our disposal, like an army of tiny painters, blotting, dashing and stroking words into colour, action and engagement. It’s a well-established fact that if we don’t use vocabulary, we lose it… and we’ve lost a whole pool of our trusty alphabet soup, it seems, without so much as batting a half-explained eyelid. We don’t seem to seek to bend an image to make it move when we speak. We use the barest minimums to convey an approximation of our thoughts, and in this, we rip ourselves off, and actually end up saying very little. It makes me sad, and makes me mourn a hundred times over for a thought that might have been six feet taller or ten times bigger, but was stunted and bound into a lazy concision. An approximate meaning. A ballpark intention. And we seem to be okay with that…

Nobody generally knows what anybody is really on about anymore, because our Home Brand words don’t print in colour, and monochromatic wordsmithing makes for dull and joyless points.

Speaking from the heart of a writer, of a total nerd, an editor, and as a human who regularly makes words at other humans, I dare to say: Do yourself a favour… Expand your own brain… Plug into your words like you actually value your thoughts. Take a step up the ladder of expression. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stop printing yourself out in black and white to save toner – cheaper cartridges will cost you a lot more in the long run.

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Now, because I can never bloody well help myself, I leaped overboard and frolicked among related topics, issues and facets… and now I have to wash them off… Part 2 of the quilted comfort is coming soon! RUN! Or, y’know, stick around for some shit that contains actual research.

Yeah, I know, right? It’s like I’m actually expending effort without a coversheet and numerical validation to look forward to… Concerning…

Twisting and Popping the Proverbial Cherry – Highball…

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There’s something… that pretty much everyone who has come within a five-foot radius of me in the last two months knows… I got a little ol’ piece of mine published in a fine arts journal recently, called VoiceworksThis Yoda-old and well respected literary and arts journal has been going for longer than the raging socks/sandals age cutoff debate (well, for as long as 93 quarterly issues take to gestate and wreak havoc, anyway. I don’t math too good.).

Anyway, it was a poem that I first wrote way back in 2011 as a part of a uni thing that I instantly hated and thought was contrived ‘made-to-order’ rubbish, and since then, it had been kicked, punched, loved, hated, surgically altered and put into the witness protection program periodically… Up until early February of this year, when I decided to just try to marry it off to a nice piece of paper so that I could be done with it already.

When the ace team at Voiceworks woke to it crying on their email doorstep, they apparently thought it still had a little while to live, so they took it in – and the adoption email they sent me nearly four months later was the cue I took for the loudest semi-accidental ‘HELL YEAH’ ever yelled at a perfectly respectable desk in a quiet office… There may have also been a delirious Chubby Checker ‘Twist’ moment betwixt the desks of my bewildered colleagues whilst my outer extremities took the liberty of rhythmically overreacting…

Alas indeed, they took my dearly-weathered piece and worked with me to put just the right amount of lipstick and rouge onto it to ready it to be released into the wild. Yep, my first successful submission for publication anywhere, and my first platter of words to ever actually add to my Aldi Wine and Superfluous Stationer – erm, my Being a Responsible Adult fund… Ahem.

And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!

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Highball

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She smells dusty, sweaty, dipped in fever,

swathed in movement.

Lubricant spreads like jam, heated

between pursed thighs.

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The smooth lines of wood on the deck,

under tense calves and a huge umbrella.

The beautiful note of a bottle

propelled by a careless missionary wrist — now a gift

of inertia, untasted tannins swelling the woven rug.

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Ignored, pressed

instead by her smile’s weight as

palms cling to the muscled buttocks of verbs,

directions to the nearest gasp.

Flattening of chests and

a feathersoft touch

explores, unhurried.

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Languid stretching of toes

and the knocking of knees.

She smells the bourbon and rush of capillaries

now opening from the mouth of a highball glass

and heat pressed from the tiniest lip creases.

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Skin salts skin, cells under duress,

a dance untimed by tuneless candles,

the rhythm never once perfect,

but full and plum-red as the nourished weave beneath them,

goes unjudged by the reflection in the glass.

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© Skye V. McFarlane

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Yes, it’s a little bit naughty – it contains themes such as spilled wine going unsponged and nude toes. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone too much. Feedback, comments, questions and shares are very much welcome!

You can of course purchase a copy of Voiceworks to read and experience a metric boob-tonne of other amazing stuff from young writers and visual artists all over Australia and the rest of the world – all for less than the cost of a vat-sized coffee and a suspiciously cheap muffin! So, get on with it then!

That Never.

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The streets were choked with bereft eyes and dilated pupils atop bodies made of haphazard timeliness. I could not catch an eye that saw nothing. Towers of colourless skin with desiccated throats that blankly conceived of nil, went masslessly down the water-stained walkway, blinkered by the vast sheets of the Wednesday Age’s vacant tongue. All around the intersection, gormless metals boomed and clacked past, each containing an egocentric thunderstorm of oil and heat with a soft centre of unbeknownst imaginations usurped by drycleaning and overripe with shapeless vagary.

Everything around me was a monounsaturated human silence that threatened to steal my very next breath, despite the substanceless cacophony of chaos. The unconscious bags of meat, bone and flickering synapses simply continued to continue. Synthetic soles lifted and dropped onto the pavement like tuneless rain, punishing the gum-flecked slabs for carrying them like a tired widow’s featureless repetition, toward their infinite sameness. Rows of smiling teeth flecked the corners like tartar. Their vapid lies occupying monosyllabic faces and dishonest handshakes draped with garish salves for an inarticulate emptiness, sinking their packaged apologies against vacuum sealed ears.

I saw a story with no pages. A thing that should be kept far away from words. The words crumbled into the tinfoiled void of reflected sameness, as a simple cessation of the intent to place any cognition in the vicinity of these bipedal shapes. The tinfoil reflection offers nothing but the sickly smaller twin of the airless questions that are never formed.

The streets smell like a breath never taken by a stillborn child, the thoughts that will never flicker behind the perpetual nothing of distilled absence, and the letters which cannot and will not ever be the unfathomed sameness that is suspended between nothing and everybody. A directionless maw which cannot say goodbye to an idea that never arrived.

 

© S. McFarlane (2011/2013)

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