Friday, 25 November 2011

Elegy (for Amanda)

Perhaps I saw you differently
softly scented
a thousand unborn stars
glimmering in parens
between each rhythmic hip-swing.

When the pale mists came
you rose like twisted willow
a sweet, difficult rising
arms outstretched
as far as being reaches.

Under autumn’s cold shadow
remnants of your breath
splashed against my cheek
like alluvion.
I could not let you go.

But where to keep you
among the soul’s clutter?
Here, in this waiting space
between open-beaked birds
and creases of heaven-red petals.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A review of Michael Richmond's book: 'Sisyphusa'

Take a sizeable chunk of Nineteen Eighty-four, introduce pieces of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, add a dash of Poppy Shakespeare – and you will still be missing several vital ingredients that the author Michael Richmond has blended together to produce his dystopian novel Sisyphusa. Influenced by his own emotional breakdown and a lengthy spell of psychiatric intervention, Richmond has created an intriguing work of fiction that satirizes Mental Health Services whilst, simultaneously, highlighting the disempowerment and stigmatization experienced by twenty-first century psychiatric service users.

Snatched from the local Liquidizer one dreary February night, Odis Winston wakes up to find himself incarcerated in Sisyphusa and categorized as Weirdness Grade 2.  After months of seclusion he is finally deemed ready to embark upon a rehabilitation programme with the ultimate goal of being discharged back to his home and family on the Island. As the story progresses, the chances of Odis or any of the other service users ever being allowed to leave Sisyphusa seem increasingly slim until, having been slung down into The Pit – a pitch-black hole full of human sewage – he meets the mysterious Gwen who, driven by her guilty conscience, discloses her secret plan for a mass break-out.

Running contrary to any such ideas of escape stands the formidable Warden Serky, an epitome of humiliation and control. Ably assisted by the beast-like henchmen, she struts her stuff like Nurse Ratched on acid, brainwashing and humiliating the service users in the ironically named Team Recovery. A much more insidious sentinel lies within the service users themselves as they succumb to the process of institutionalisation: a passive acceptance of and reliance upon the hospital structure, which is much more likely to thwart any escape attempts than the three-headed monster that prowls the corridors of Sisyphusa.

As time passes, Odis’s mind-set slowly changes as he begins to develop insight into the disempowering structures that underpin the mental health system in Sisyphusa. Identifying himself with the other downtrodden service users, he develops a quiet determination to redress the balance of power. Of course, despite a thin glimmer of hope, life in Sisyphusa continues to be plagued with tragedies, from the intimacies and tensions that emanate from service user relationships to the untimely deaths and suicides of a number of inmates. Perhaps the only realistic chance of escape is to follow the Flower Eaters’ example and ingest the essence of the Ziziphusa flowers.

Throughout the novel, Richmond manages to parody the negative effects of what we still refer to as mental ‘illness’ by introducing concepts such as ‘climbing pills’ (mandatory medication crucial to the rehabilitation process), ‘Normalization classes’ (where service users are cognitively restructured and taught to behave like ‘normal’ people) &, perhaps the most insidious of devices, the Neuro-Function Reading Mechanism – or earpiece – which is stapled onto every service user’s ear to deliver a constant stream of abuse designed to crush the individual’s self-esteem.

As a narrative, Sisyphusa works well. I was hooked into the story from chapter one & the unfolding plot had enough intrigue about it to keep me interested right to the final chapter. Having been written by someone with more than a passing interest in mental health issues there is a passion that flows from the author’s pen and drives the story forward. The characters & their roles have been well thought out and everyone from the protagonist to the smallest bit-part player are there for a reason: Dobbsy, Ella, Mr Femuz (who reminded me so much of Chief Bromden in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’), the splendidly-named Governor Shade, even Gwen’s cats play significant roles as Richmond never misses an opportunity to campaign for improvements in mental healthcare.

Every so often, a novel is produced that highlights the imbalance of power between the so-called sane and the mad. Sisyphusa is a timely reminder, perhaps, that – although there have been improvements made in mental health services over recent years – we still have a system in the UK that devalues difference and stigmatizes and controls by way of segregation and medical compartmentalisation. For those who consider themselves to be standing firmly on the sane side of the line, madness will always be something they can point to as being suffered by the ‘other’ – an unconscious defence mechanism often employed to deny their own emotional vulnerabilities.

Wrapped up in the hyperbole of Sisyphusa is an important Foucauldian message of a disciplinary power that is still enforced within our mental health system through various subtle methods of control.  Richmond has piled Pelion on Ossa in order to capture his audience – but beneath those imaginary mountains lies a very real problem and a call to arms for us all. Please do buy a copy of Sisyphusa – I found it to be a fascinating and extremely worthwhile read.

Buy your copy of Sisyphusa here - available as a Paperback or a Kindle eBook.

You can also follow Michael on Twitter

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Gift

Crouched beneath a rising moon I see them
strewn beneath the Firethorns: fallen stars, devil-red
and smelling of bees’ wings.

Without a second thought I gather an armful
and drop them in my basket, visions of her requital
glistening inside my ego.

I wouldn’t! A voice, sweet as a fig, sings out to me
rushing like an unstoppable wave of magma
through a congeries of shadows.

They may be beautiful but they are dying, it sighs
as the rain falls, a thin drizzle of mockery
that clings to my skin like alamine.

I hurry indoors, eager to lay my gift at her feet
but those luminous rubicund orbs have melted
into figments of dark matter.

Back in the garden a soft green light cools the soil.
Only night birds now, picking the flesh from the last
few fragments of starbone.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Gloaming: the book

Following on from my collaborative work with the artist Melaneia Warwick, I am so pleased and excited to announce that our book: 'Gloaming - drawings, paintings, poems' is now available to purchase from Blurb at:

This beautiful book includes all of Melaneia's artwork from her Gloaming series,the four poems that I created to accompany her paintings and a new poem of mine entitled 'Gloaming', which you can read below: 


in moonless cupboards
beneath a filament
of thin gold light
a curio
catches your eye.
Intrigue lifts it
like a soft skull
from the clutter
of dull green books.
In that instant
faulty clocks
chime the hour;
camphor balls
clatter to the floor
this junked
piece of lumber
gasps and melts
like warm rhetoric –
a new story
to be squeezed out
fat over lean
in swatches
of invented colour.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

The painting above this posting is by Giorgio de Chirico and is entitled 'The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street'. The original artwork is oil on canvas, painted in 1914. Heavily influenced by the writings of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, De Chirico painted familiar objects but juxtaposed them in such a way that his paintings took on an alien, often haunted affect that engaged immediately with the unconscious mind: Pittura metafisica or Metaphysical art.

'Underneath this reality in which we live and have our being, another and altogether different reality lies concealed.' Nietzsche

The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street 

As dayspring swallows darkness
light hangs curdled, olivine
like the toxic breath of gods.

On the piazza’s edge
a callous sun splits the arcades:
white hot stucco; charcoal ashlar.

A wagon stands iron-wheeled
and empty, the beast not long gone
its warm dung still steaming.

In the street a clockwork child
bowls her hoop along an egg-yellow
avenue of innocence.

Her pulse is clotted, beatless
her childhood stiff as a stick.
Dissonance rapes the stillness.

The poke of a growing shadow
looms black as sin, its saurian tail
flicking the ground with lust.

Lips curled, hackles matted
the prowling creature drools
behind the cool colonnade.

Inside the box I crouch, twisted
flawed, braced in the corner
waiting for the scream.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


The older/ i become/ the more/ i believe/ in dragons 

Swaddled in a blanket
of green smoke
I believed
yet did not fear them
their scuds of flame
benign as moonlight
on my amianthine skin.
When the time came
I ditched them easily
until not long ago
when I found one
in the garage
its breath reeking
of hot rubber.
I tried to slip away
but it spotted me
its sickled eyes
oiled by amber
Since that day
we have drunk
Oolong together
deconstructed Derrida
even spun around
the church steeple
a time or two
and though it has kept
its flambeau capped
in such a highly
flammable area
when the raven
taps on my window
I will be cinders:
gleanings and bone -
a grim ending
to any fairytale.

Monday, 6 June 2011


'Shell' is the final poem in a series of four, all created as poetic commentaries on the 'Gloaming' series of artwork by the visual artist Melaneia Warwick. This being the last poem, I wanted to address the issue of ekphrasis within it and, in particular, Roland Barthes' claim that the creator of a work of art is merely a functionary. He postulated that the real artist was the person who viewed the work: a postmodernist point of view that strips the author/artist of all her power, breaking it into fragments and issuing a piece to every member of an ever-expanding audience.

What Barthes seems to be saying is that the meaning of a text/work of art owes nothing to its creator and everything to its interpretor. 'The birth of the reader,' he hypothesised, 'must be at the cost of the death of the author.'

For me, creating an ekphrastic poem without acknowledging the artist's intentions is both pointless and disrespectful. Whilst the poem will always be my interpretation of the artwork, it must still pay homage to the art and be driven by the visual narrative played out upon the canvas. I can put my own personal spin onto it - even use it as a metaphor for my own experiences - but I must never lose sight of the fact that it is the artist's creativity and hard labour that have spawned and inspired my poem.

With this in mind, I have attempted to celebrate the existence of a truly wonderful artist within the body of my poem. Not only does Melaneia 'live' inside her painting, she is 'pulsing with feminine light' as the creator of a stunning piece of art.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Melaneia for inviting me to collaborate with her on this project. It has been such a privilege to step inside her works of art and, driven by emotions generated by her incredible creativity, produce this series of four poems. For those of you who have connected with Melaneia's artwork and my accompanying poems, we will be publishing them together in a commemorative book - hopefully during the coming summertime. Look out for more details on this blog and Melaneia's website.


Should I prise open those pleached fingers
and snatch you from the grip of the beast?

Nudged by the catchlight in your ironbound eye
I think again. Perhaps that scalloped hand
pumps your lung, holds you together
in the absence of bones?

You see, it’s all oxblood and mahogany in there,
hardly the bar at the Folies Bergére:
no mirror, no reflective gaze of the audience,
only you and your invisible gods in their boxes.

I step back inside to search for ekphrastic stars,
gaze at the red and blue fronds of la gerbe
wilting beneath a window of broken colours,
your lips spring-clipped in silence,

that bloodless limb skidding in white impasto.
I delve under layers of paint, burrowing beneath slithers
of warm oil to spawning grounds pulsing with feminine light
and there, in the catacombs of your painting, I find you

offering your art up to the angels, leaving your shell
to careen through space.  Only the pigment
of you remains, unconscious material oxidizing
towards a more stable state.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Rumblings of thunder tumble from the clouds like grumbles of doom as the doors of Heaven creak open. A crescendo of rain splatters the flags and ricochets in coronets of water. Wands of lightning scream like missiles, zinging across the carbon sky.

In the centre of a drunken town a young man raves to a gathering crowd: ‘And I, the mighty Heracles, I feel the Hydra’s poison seeping like acid into my veins. How piteous my plight! My skin corrodes; flesh melts and sinew dissolves. See the cream of my bones poking through the gore.’

Electric domes spin silently, strobing cobalt blue on rubber-stretched faces. The looming officers are dressed for war and have back-up: a tinny voice and an alien language spat through the nostrils of an automaton woman: ’Negative Yankee Bravo 3. No record of anyone matching that description. Suggest you action Section 136 and take him to nearest designated place of safety.’

‘Leave me you creatures, return to your mountain,’ the wailing man begs, dropping hard on his knees in splashes of gutter puddles. ‘Send me Poeas to torch my pyre that I might fling my dying body in the flames.’

‘What is your name?’ the chief centaur demands, his thick arms inked with ancient symbols.

‘My name?’ the man mocks, leaping to his feet. ‘My name is Heracles!’ he screams into the centaur’s face, his words flung fearlessly in gobs of spittle.

The officer’s face contorts with anger and disgust. He and his comrades grab the man’s arms and wheel him round, crashing him face first onto the pavement with a sickening thud. Wrists lashed tight, they drag him to their chariot and bundle him inside.

The throng of people begin to disperse. Some are laughing and shaking their heads, some are singing and making lewd comments. Others drift away, unconcerned. One person, a woman, weeps softly as she holds the man’s tattered jacket to her breast.

‘Yankee Bravo 3, disturbance reported on the Mount Oeta estate, please detour and attend.’

‘Roger Charlie Echo 7. On our way.’

Sirens howl down waterlogged streets, spraying eerie shifts of Doppler in their wake. Revs of adrenalin, tyre-screech turns in a macho blaze of thrust.

‘Charlie Echo 7, arrived at the Mount Oeta estate, vehicle alight behind disused garages but no sign of suspects or any other emergency vehicles. Will take a closer look, over.’

A quantum crackle of energy jumps the gap as two realities bump edges. Storms break again and the driving rains of Philoctetes’ tears skid in angled slides down the window of the centaurs’ chariot: a thousand teardrops, each holding precious the sodium glow that soars many light years to the world of the man’s ancestors who have abandoned him now.

Hissing gases, mauve-blue-green. Ash clouds, licks of palsied flame, yellow twists of yang. Splats of falling water fizzing on hot iron. Up in the realms of midnight, a judder, a monumental bang as the firmament is exposed in a blinding flash of glory. Steam. The reek and choke of miasma: burning flesh fusing with hot metal.

‘Yankee Bravo 3, requesting an update from the town centre disturbance. Are you still en route to place of safety?’

‘Negative, Charlie Echo 7. Young man clearly thought-disordered and hallucinating. Aborted section 136, chose parallel section of immolation. It’s what he would have wanted. We have served Zeus.’

Monday, 16 May 2011


Below is my very first attempt at writing a sonnet. After completing the poem I was convinced it was a pretty average piece of poetry but, after some encouraging & supportive comments from my twitter chums, I've decided to offer it up for comments on my main blog page.

It is a Shakespearean sonnet written in iambic pentameter & the rhyming scheme is: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g

In Greek Mythology, Merope was one of the seven Pleiades. Astronomically, she is one of the seven sisters in the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus.

I believe the correct pronounciation of Merope is 'Me-ro-pee'.


When I behold the silver crusted sky
you turn away, too shamed to meet my gaze.
Oh Merope, I bid thee do not cry -
What kindles your sidereal malaise?
Is it Orion’s chase that makes thee weep?
Did marrying a mortal bring you shame?
Each night before Erebus fosters sleep
I seek the wellhead whence your sorrow came.
Amidst the navy cloth of night you gleam,
A glowing sapphire stitched on heaven’s cloak.
Yet pulchritude does not beget esteem -
Your heart lies scorched ‘midst clouds of stellar smoke.
Switch off your starry light and let me be
your constellation for eternity.

Monday, 9 May 2011


This is the third of four ekphrastic poems inspired by the wonderful artwork of Melaneia Warwick. Before I reveal the poem I thought it might be interesting to share some of the process involved in its creation.

As with the previous two poems I sat myself down, took several deep breaths and stepped inside Melaneia's painting. I wandered round, gazing at the remarkable images and artefacts contained within it, even stopping to speak to them at times.

When I stepped back out I had little idea where to start. I had not connected  to the painting like I had on previous occasions. I felt unable to find my place within it. Something was troubling me, preventing me from beginning. Although the artwork intrigued me, I was aware that it also disturbed me. 

I looked at it again from the outside, confounded by its surreal quality. It reminded me of a Salvador Dali painting entitled 'Sleep' which is a painting of a monstrous head propped up by crutches. And then it struck me: Recession was the narrative of a nightmare. Now I had my starting point. I could climb back inside & start to gather all the symbolism & allegories together in order to create my poem.

For a whole day I toiled to create a blueprint of my poem. I could sense a journey of individuation, as if the dream contained unconscious material that, when interpreted, would somehow enlighten me. But I struggled and struggled to identify a coherent pathway from art to poem. I began to write but my words were laboured and forced. After two more days I began to despair until the strangest feeling began to consume me. I felt as though I was trapped inside painting and poem and could not find a way out.

And then it suddenly dawned: this was about death! My resistance to face up to this ~ my own mortality ~ had prevented me from engaging with the artwork. The painting was loaded with scary, deathly images but, having realised what was happening, I was able to surrender to these images and, in doing so, transcend the polarity of the life-death split. As Jung wrote, acknowledging the imminence of death and the limits of our existence allows us to let go of our egos, freeing the way for our creative Self to discover true meaning.

Finally, having overcome the obstacles that had prevented me from 'letting go' of my ego, I realised who the serene looking lady was at the bottom of Melaneia's painting. She was my anima, my femme inspiratrice, waiting patiently to accompany me back from my nightmare to a new space brimming with creative potential.

Above is Melaneia's incredible painting entitled Recession from her 'Gloaming' series ~ and here is my poem:


Like Coppelius, you lurk behind my eyes
                                                     waiting for darkfall.

Palsied by sleep I fail to hear your crutches
clack across the slick red mezzanine in my skull.

It is the reek of your breath that rouses me.
Looking up I see your voluminous head,
glimpse your mantic forearms as you loom above,
an incubus of pink gristle 
          spewing spoonfuls of curdled dreams
                                                    into my brain.

I strain to squall, to fling away the sheets but I lie
                                                 zip-tied like a corpse.

One final retch and your sphincter blows 
blasting out your gullet, spilling melted muscle
                                        through the hole in my id.

In the underworld, death smirks like a bullet-riddled clown.
A cartoon phantom sings in oblivion
scragged by threads of luminous plasma.

Yet under your jib an ageless lady sits gracefully
                                          waiting for wakefulness.

I blink hard and find myself at the edge of my nightmare
grasping the last few drops of allegory that slither
from the brim of your hat.

Soon, I will wander beyond the mortality line
                                back into the blue bag of night

towards a purpose glowing with afterlight. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

White Tulips

This poem has been languishing on my 'poetry' page for some time ~ so, after amending it slightly, I thought I would give it another airing on my main blog page.

White Tulips

You always said he would be early -
kidded by a false spring that, one morning,
            broke inside you,
hormones melting in quick thaws
            of pulsed muscle.

During those seven moons you were touched
by so many luminaries, some shining all the way
            from Eden.
With waters spilling on every pain
you saw those stars sink
            inside the doctor's eyes.

After two days you hauled back your body
and shuffled down corridors,
            stepped out through those glass doors.
And the world was big with cars,
the weather gentle
            with feminine light.

'No more frosts now,' you said
as white tulips settled in their beds,
            eggshells cracked in sunlight.

Friday, 8 April 2011


Following on from my previous posting the poem below is also part of my collaboration with the visual artist Melaneia Warwick. After wandering around inside a specific piece of her art I have tried to create a poem that engages with the narrative of her painting. 

This process is known as ekphrasis and there are many examples of poets creating such poems that have been inspired by works of art: 'The Disquieting Muses' by Sylvia Plath, which is based on the painting by the same title by Giorgio de Chirico'The Starry Night' by Anne Sexton based on the hugely famous painting by Vincent van Gogh and, much more recently, the absolutely stunning  'What the Water Gave Me' by Pascale Petit, which contains fifty-two poems in the voice of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo 

Here is Melaneia's painting 'Static' from her 'Gloaming' series that inspired my poem:

And here is my poem:


Dread was a concept you never really understood.
Only the sweet iron of stars and summer lightning
coloured your days as life straddled you, rode you
bareback and bitless over a switchback of tragedies.

When people spoke of the coming storm you saw
the twist of their lips but heard only tinkling cymbals.
Even the sweaty lick of their appled palms failed
to draw you from the reverie of your malted bed.

As the hours passed, you stared into a blackening sky
and waited, your skin frothed with latherin as prongs
of hot silver darted through your mane.  At long last
you began to smell the stench of your own immortality.

Spooked by the rumblings of a distant thunderhead
you jittered with ignorance as the first sparks fizzed
about your hooves. Hobbled and haltered, you gasped
as licks of yellow fire pulsed along bone-dry timbers.

Rafters, blazing like crazy now, collapsed and crashed
to the ground as the next bolt struck your blistered ego.
Veins popping, breath bloody and sputtered, you wept
black tears as the final explosion ripped off your legs.

That’s how I found you, petrified and smoking with insight,
a broken mustang, static beside the brightest blue ocean.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Trapped Memories, Invented Truths

When Melaneia Warwick recently invited me to collaborate with her on a limited edition book I was overjoyed. I had 'discovered' her and been following her as @Melaneia on Twitter for months, intrigued by her wonderful artwork.

Melaneia is a rapidly emerging visual artist who currently has a solo exhibition entitled 'Trapped Memories, Invented Truths' at the Butetown History & Arts Centre in Cardiff. Her artistic practice is concerned with the nature of oral history. She draws and paints in the way stories are told: there is a narrative, yet the characters are not figures but objects borrowed from friends’ houses – a top hat, an angel’s dress, a gourd.

These objects are not chosen for their formal properties but for the tales they could tell. Each bibelot (curio), whether a treasured or neglected possession, invites speculation about its history and, by association, our own: where does it come from? What has it endured? How will it be remembered?

Melaneia’s artistic process contains clues to her own history, one informed by her mother’s prowess as a storyteller, her dual nationality and her mastery of linguistics. In childhood she began painting with her fingers on woodchip paper. Now, she continues to forge a visceral connection with her subject. Rather than only drawing from observation, she uses her hands to explore its contours and its inner recesses and then draws from memory and sensation. It may take weeks to effect the object’s transition from a stranger spotted in a dusty store to a casual acquaintance to a much-loved friend.

Our collaboration, which we hope will come to fruition by the end of 2011, will focus on Melaneia’s 'Gloaming' series and include giclee prints, reflections, observations and word sketches: fairly brief interpretations of each of the four paintings in the series.

Although I have already written a number of preparatory haikus & senryus about each of the four paintings, I wanted to write a longer poem about a single painting that would afford me the space to word-paint my own invented truths. The painting I have chosen is called ‘Protective’: 

And here is my poetic interpretation, also called 'Protective', of Melaneia's painting:

You stood back at first, stunned by its opalescence
and nacreous pinks. Slowly, as if to spin out the thrill,
you raised it to your ear and gasped as Etesian winds
picked up those apple-scented murmurs of Eden.

It was when you peered inside and drew your finger
over its satin lamina that realisation began to dawn.
This was no discarded carapace. This was the creaking
frustration of compressed wings, a floundering Throne.

And then you saw her, the whole unfolding of her body
as she levitated in the gathering storm: a dithering angel
with coralline pinions, each laboured flap flinging droplets
of holy water, splashing a sacrament on your soft skin.

You smiled and held out your hands, invited her to stay,
said she could sleep in the room purged of all shadows.
That was when Truth raised her eyebrows in disbelief,
when the squall struck, sweeping her back to the sea.

Friday, 4 March 2011


In a theatre of green sanitized people
you lay blocked into submission,
screened from the red-soaked gauzes
piled like sandbags round your belly.
‘Is she alive?’ you asked me,
your eyes crushed with disbelief.

Four days later (your milk
still oozy droplets of yellow)
I watched the pain raid your face
as you softly trod the cobblestones
in our street, sunlit puddles
of mud steaming like butter-rich stew.

Driven by moon tides, your baby
(all ribs and thin flesh,
her navel clipped in pink plastic)
lurched blindly to your swollen nipple.
Your eyes, blue as stars
blazed gently on her artless fumbles.

When morning yawned we huddled
like hostages, her tiny breathings
captured beneath soft blankets.
Pillow-propped, you offered her your milk.
I caught the heft of your sigh
as she suckled to the lick of your flow.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


In the last of a series of therapy postings, I have chosen to write about endings.

Every therapeutic relationship needs to end at some point, though the ending itself can be difficult. If the issues brought to therapy were those of loss and abandonment, then they are likely to resurface as the final sessions draw closer. In fact, endings can generate trauma irrespective of the issues that have surfaced during the sessions. We are talking about a deeply emotional human relationship where the two people involved are about to part company and, quite possibly, never see each other again.

I have decided to focus on the very last session of the therapeutic relationship, when both the therapist and therapee are faced with that final ‘goodbye’. As opposed to using dialogue, I have crept into the minds of both players & created a dreamlike sequence, drifting in and out of their unconscious thoughts. Once again, my imaginary therapee, Riadne, has kindly agreed to join me in my rhapsody on the final hour.

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning that I have created a ‘good’ ending, where the therapeutic relationship has been productive and the ending positive. In the real world this is not always the case. Sometimes, for some people and for a multitude of reasons, therapy just does not work out.

‘Let it be so,’ I said
And my heart laughed with joy
To know the death I must die
Kathleen Raine

R 'Will you miss me, I wonder?' (tearbirth)

P 'I will miss you … you who landed here a distance ago, tumbling down from the heavens … crashing, crumpled, broken, empty. Here – this smile has lived in my soul since you arrived … it’s yours now. Please take it … for always (you can never lose smiles once you have accepted them).'

Twilight: umbra shades, lifting through a bruiseglow of fireflies and owl-light. I reach a clearing and a smouldering of embers where a fire has burned all day. Riadne is there, waiting for me. I drift over to join her (she does not feel me … but our breathings rise and fall in harmony).

R ‘You are my therapist. At first, I did not trust you. I thought you were smug. I thought you looked down upon me. Slowly, I began to like you. Eventually, I wanted to be with you … forever. Give you the all of me.

But you rejected me.’


P 'As the weeks, months, passed by your feelings changed towards me. I became your saviour, your lover, your perfect other. And I rejected you.

But oh! How I wished I could have flown with you back to your Eden - those balmy times whole testaments ago of figs and almond petals. What you wouldn’t have given to smell those musty hollows, rub fold of flesh beneath your mummy’s arm and curl into the cradle of her thighs, soft pillow bellywhite and shiny rips of skin cleaved by her amniotic sea.'

R 'You rejected me. I felt the steel of your resolve like soft armour round my body. I looked up and saw the smiles in your eyes. And I was a child again, grasping that bulging breast between my little hands, that swollen bud of nipple spurting sugarmilk: warm lactose pools that puddled in my folded tongue.

I came to know that you were there when you were missing … and though I have to go now … no, I choose to go now … you will always be alive in my soul … and I know that you will miss me.'

The calmness of a beautiful dying descends upon me. I rise, and smell the rich leaves that break quietly beneath my steps. I am on the edge of a still lake. Upwards, a storm threatens and clouds jostle angrily as heaven’s bells begin to peel their tonic sol-fa … clangs that echo in the distant Sundays of my childhood.

P 'When you arrived, staggering with the weight of your emptiness, you stood motionless at the margins of despair. You looked down into a paradise of darkness and only the dimmest of lights swayed and flickered in the howling winds that screamed inside your soul. I danced around you with my arms spread wide (did you ever see me?). You followed me around all day. I even took you home with me. I suffered like any parent might … though I knew my arms, my words, my actions would be snapped like twigs if ever you decided to jump.

Now, you have reached an edgeless place. This place has no limits. It is a feminine space, it is everness and it reaches far, far beyond being. So be nomadic, hitch your wagon to the stars … be free to roam in all the places you have been told never to go. Rip up your roots, be rhizomatic and wander through those pathless woods.’

R 'I am. I exist. And I no longer need the slow rip of a blade to prove my existence. I can be … I do not have to hide in the tall grasses of denial, nor do I have to sail my small boat upon a foggy, feathered ocean. I am enough of me, now, to dance between imagoes and long shadows. I am whole.'

A solitary kingfisher skims greenblue over the lake, heralding the dying of us.

I feel Riadne’s shoulders loosen, sense the strictures breaking open, hear the tumbling of her Jericho as the most beautiful dawn begins to appear: a hazy lemon light that plays so all-at-once over the late spring frost of a fallowed field … there is birdsong, the most wonderful aria that fills the sky with corals and carmines … and then …  twilight breaks, becomes dayspring.

P ‘It is time, Riadne … time for the end of us … for the beginnings of not-us again. Die peacefully … farewell.’

R ‘Farewell, my rock.’ *She watches as I crumble into a million particles. She smiles as she feels the mountain rise inside her chest*


Lunch, coffee … letter: ‘Dear Doctor … Riadne, etc.’ …


5.57 p.m.

Lock cabinet … lock door … down the steps … air shrouded in the after-rain scent of tea roses.

*a sigh: bigger than a planet  … *