Weekly Poem #85

Colliding Scopes

 

Understanding isn’t finite,

It can stretch out like a limb of light

And touch things incomprehensible.

Understanding is indispensable.

 

I looked into a red, nebulous eye

And saw ten thousand other skies.

Seasons and timelines split apart,

Setting fire to maps and charts.

 

There’s even fog when we look inwards,

The deeper intricacies of our cranial innards.

If we’re still exploring our own minds,

Imagine what others are out there to find.

 

Consciousness, perception, thought and death.

Notions with hidden, harkening breadth.

What boundaries lie chalked across the air

When the old quarries have been picked bare.

 

There’s no need to be fearful of the unknown

Or to cower backwards from ominous tones.

There’s such beauty in thoughts lying far beyond,

The glorious madness, the soundless songs.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Poem #83

Hemlock

 

He pressed his lips against hers and all he tasted was metal.

The acidity, the reactivity, the coldness and the relief;

It crawled down his spine like a pulsing silkworm.

It came to rest at the base of his pelvis, and split open

Spilling clusters of nervous sensation through him.

Sensation which overwhelmed, absorbed and receded

Leaving absolute nothingness in its place, absolute tranquility.

He was satisfied with this feeling, this remarkable calm

In the knowledge that something perfectly ancient

Had just been set in inevitable, unstoppable motion.

He felt no disdain for those around him still gripped by fear,

Merely a sort of tempered excitement for their futures.

That they would one day experience this finality.

A closing, smiling lid and a last chance

To count the chickens.

Weekly Poem #81

Rodents

 

My shadow is alive.
It’s a colony, a tribe.
As I walk it lives and dies,
My private kingdom, my other eyes.

My shadow feeds,
It bites, gnashes and bleeds.
Growing hungrier as it breeds
And gaining ground, gall and greed.

My shadow hates,
It rallies, rails and it waits.
Listening for breath that bates
And hunting down unfortunate fates.

My shadow feels,
It writhes and worries at my heels
Like a pulsing mass of electric eels.
A split, spilled soul that can’t be sealed.

Shambala Diaries

So, I have triumphantly returned from my second annual outing to Shambala Festival, something which is likely to remain a yearly tradition for a long, long time. Shambala is the first festival I’ve ever attended more than once, owing to my ongoing maxim of attending at least one new festival each summer (Boom Bap saw to that), so I had to wonder what it would be like. Last year I went to work as bar staff for Electric Swing Circus’s Swingamajig tent, I came away fairly convinced that it was the best festival I’d ever been to. The music was varied, the stages were interesting, the people were relentlessly lovely and the vibe was beautifully malleable. What I mean by that is that Shambala is what you make it, whether you want to chill, go absolutely ballistic or anything in between, you’ll feel welcome and well catered for. So how did it feel going again? Different, but just as fantastic.

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Once again I was managing the bar for ESC, as well as chipping in with all the putting up and packing down either side of the weekend. It was a very weird sensation arriving the day before the festival starting to discover that it looked almost exactly the same, it was like visiting family. This year we had a bigger tent, a better sound system, more decor supplies and less manpower (which is actually a good thing, somewhat oversubscribed last year). I tend to enjoy the first building day more than you might expect, considering how labor-intensive it is, it makes a nice contrast with the rest of the festival, since the site is populated exclusively by workers buzzing up and down the grounds and everyone is (more or less) sober. It allows a relaxed buffer zone to get acquainted with the new faces and get a feel for your surroundings. Unfortunately one thing that became quickly evident was the unseasonable and rather alarming cold, I spent the first night cocooned in my sleeping back wearing 3 layers of clothing, shaking like a leaf.

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The Swingamajig tent is designed with a speakeasy in mind, largely playing electr0-swing music, serving cocktails (after a fashion) and filled with vintage trappings. It’s a really nice place to be and being able to access it during the day before it opens made it a perfect haven when you wanted to relax. At any other festival that would likely involve crawling dejectedly back into your tent. Once everything came together I suited up and got my first shift out of the way, working from 6:30 until about 01:30. I liked doing it last year but this time around it was even better, the atmosphere was friendlier, the presence of traditionally prepared absinthe made drink prep more interesting and we weren’t so over-encumbered with staff, the bar never had more than 4 or 5 people behind it at once, which was ideal. Since we were one of the only places open late it packed out and we were all running around like maniacs to serve everyone. By the end of my shift I was fairly exhausted, but still game for at least a few hours of partying. As it turned out an old friend from university was there, working at a food stall. I hadn’t seen her in about 3 years so we were keen to have a catch-up. We ended up running around the site wasted out of our minds until the wee hours, before heading back to my tent to get more beer. At that point we actually ended up having very clumsy, inebriated sex. It wasn’t wholly unexpected, we’d had a few encounters during university but none that had gone that far, but there were no strings attached, just two people who were attracted to each other having a bit of fun, naked fun.

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Things kicked off properly on Friday, I was working another long shift so I spent the former part of the day checking out the site again, now that it was up and running. I hadn’t been able to catch any acts the previous night (apart from the first 15 minutes or so of Kate Tempest) so I was keen to really get stuck in. Like I said it was much the same as last year, nestled in beautiful mansion grounds, littered with interesting stages and stalls. The secret stages like Shambarber and Beyond the Stars (which you have to go through a TARDIS and a mirrored tunnel to access) remained the same but the reggae ‘Roots Yard’ had been given a major step up, resembling a timber fortress with a courtyard and indoor stage area. Post-shift I actually spent most of the night there, logging time with my cousin and her friends, on a potent MDMA-rampage. Friday was the only full-on all-nighter that I managed, ultimately ending up at a lakeside area with oversized driftwood furniture, one article of which I managed to smash my shin into. I was so blasted at the time I didn’t even feel it but let me tell you, I feel it now.

Saturday was my day off and as such I went all-out, day-tripping and drinking in as many acts as I could, ranging from The Mouse Outfit to Gentleman’s Dub Club to Andy C. Tripping at festivals (particularly on something as potent as shrooms) is kind of a double edged sword. On one hand your surroundings are perfect for it, I walked through the site whilst the sun was setting and later in the evening I went up to the Hidden Forest area and climbed a tree which offered a full view of the festival at the top. Both would have been stunning anyway but with the added visual stimulation it was on a whole new level. The difficulty with it is that it doesn’t necessarily benefit socializing so well, midway through the night I reached a sort of fever-pitch where all I could really do was sit and observe my surroundings, unable to muster anything amounting to an engaging conversation. Even with this in mind, it was a great night.

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Sunday was a funny one, I wasn’t working until midnight and everyone else was fairly occupied during the day, so there was a lot of drifting around. The funny thing about Shambala is that my core friends don’t go, my two cousins and one or two close friends are there but they run in a wider circle that I’m sort of peripheral to. That doesn’t necessarily bother me but it puts an interesting spin on the social side of things, I’m always meeting new people and trying to rally groups together to go and see things (or being rallied). I’m rarely with the same set of people for too long. I spent most of the earlier day bouncing back and forth in this way, I went to see Lack of Afro with some of the technical crew, Collie Buds with Richard (ie C@ in the H@) and the fireworks display with my cousin (as well as another reggae group whom I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember the name of). The bar shift actually ended up being the most fun part of the night, there was a palpable energy in the tent, I’m also pretty sure I’ve never been quite so wasted during bar work, owing to the drink-along-bar-tending technique, a rather generous man who kept offering the staff free balloons and ducking out for occasional hit of speed. It didn’t diminish my focus and everyone else was the same, just loving life. When we finally kicked out at around 5:30 we poured a celebratory absinthe and toasted an amazing weekend. I crawled back into my tent at 9am, slept for about an hour and a half, crawled back out and went off to pack everything down. One horrendous maelstrom of delayed/cancelled trains, heavy rain and overwhelming tiredness later the glitter coated, limping, half-dead husk that had once been me fell into bed.

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Shambala is utterly unique from my perspective. Other festivals kind of blend together in certain ways but Shambala retains a much stronger identity. It’s the perfect size, has a fantastic crowd and I love the people I see there, many of whom I see virtually nowhere else. It’s more than a music festival, it’s a summer rite of passage, that holiday that you always took with old friends, that beach you always visited, that pub you always went back to and ordered the same meal and drink. Seeing it again felt like seeing a second home. It just feels ceaselessly inviting and open, you could sit down and engage anyone and find a new friend, sure you get the same smattering of exaggerated wasters, thieves and those unsettlingly creepy people who go by themselves and spend the whole time floating around trying to pull and score free drugs, but it’s a negligible minority compared to somewhere like Boomtown. I adore it and I can’t see any version of the future that doesn’t have me going every year until I’m old as balls.

Weekly Poem #74

New World Order

 

I was so late, far too late.

Always in for 07:55, I had 08:01.

08:01 of the next morning.

 

Time had fallen apart

Between those two points.

It had shattered and splintered

Like an old, tired rope bridge

Beaten by angry winds.

 

I’d barely hit the motorway

When the sky turned navy,

The air sparked and howled

And brought everything down.

 

A clean pass with no minors

Doesn’t count for much then,

When you’re swerving away

From telephone poles, twisted wreckage,

Mangled bodies and collapsed concrete.

 

I pulled into a service station,

Threw myself screaming from my car

And into a Travelodge, into a cupboard.

I hid there for 23 hours,

Listening to the world thrashing.

 

Me and 34 others emerged,

All of us late for something.

Cornered, no working cars,

No signal and no power.

 

We rebuilt, started anew.

Made a temple of a Little Chef,

A home of an overnight halt,

A sentence of a comma.

 

Our new plastic world,

Brimming with hope.

A reef built on irony,

8 miles from anywhere.

A beacon of humanity.

 

Eventually wars raged.

The zealots of Burger King,

The infidels of Costa.

35 became 16.

 

A Magna Carta on a Smith’s notepad

Brought us reconcile

As what remained picked up

And started again.

 

When they finally found us

On our precious concrete island

They thought us savages,

Derided our new ways

And left us to rot.

 

They were all fools,

Wasting their time

Reviving the old world.

It’s already dead.

 

We are the pioneers,

The architects of evolution,

One day they’ll see us

And know we were right.

Weekly Poem #68

Reflection Rejection

 

Somewhere down the line dancing got sadder

As the beats sped up we lost our grip on the ladder

And now we shiver back and forth, bitten by an adder.

We’re all twitching and itching like we’re on a full bladder.

I could be madder, but the rave has sucked shades

From my name and face and I can’t fervently fight the fade

Or fake a smile when my brain is stained with ingrained

Disdain and strain, it wanes, wilts until it spills

Out of my gills like the ink I didn’t mean to knock over with the quill.

I’m ill, I’m ailing and I can hear my innards complaining

A pain that was ordained by a diet of shame

Force fed to me by flashing lights and endless nights

That would even grip Marguerite Chopin too tight,

It’s a blight to indulge into these artificial delights

Until age bites and burns and shatters and spurns

As it finally takes its turn to help you learn.

You can lie through you mouth and eyes but not your bones

And goodness knows that entropy takes what it’s owed.

Time flows, grows and tiptoes up your spine

With designs to start making your climb

Ever higher hills that can’t be cured with booze and pills

Or any other cheap thrill that might flush your frills

Because you’ve had your fill, you’re done,

You’ve had your fun and now you’re searching for the sun

At the tip of a this final tongue, this real-life Logan’s Run

Have you won? Find out, peer over the precipice

And measure it as you gaze back on the line you stitched,

Did you pleasure it, leisure it? You better have treasured it

Because it was a mountain from the bottom, from the top it’s a pit.

Jump.

Life Update – The Trilogy

It’s certainly felt more recently like I have been giving this blog quite the personal touch that I used to. The bulk of my posting over the past several weeks has been poetry. This is due in some part to the fact that everything else I write ends up on Cultured Vultures, but it’s also because an awful lot has happened in the past few months. With that in mind, I’m going to separate this update into 3 parts, the first will cover all the social rigamarole that I had up until recently been dealing with, the second will be about more current, pertinent issues and the third will be about the direction everything’s headed in. If it seems like I’m being deliberately vague it’s because I’ll just end up trailing off with no real structure if I start talking about anything specific now, this is just an intro. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a lot of personal information, some of it fairly heavy will appear in this post, so fair warning on that.

Part 1: Social confounditude and the art of moving forward without growing up

Last time I posted any kind of life update it was the beginning of a new year and I largely using it to motivate myself into getting my shit together. I succeeded in so doing but it ended up feeling like a bit of a hollow victory because after ultimately finding a new job and moving to Birmingham, I felt distinctly socially constrained. The primary cause of this ill-feeling was my ex-girlfriend, Tara. That’s not to say she was willfully making me feel uncomfortable or unhappy, but the difficulty I had around her was the primary issue. We broke up in January in rather blurry and perplexing fashion and I didn’t see much of her after that until I reached Birmingham in early March. Up until then I’d been pretty much fine, the relationship had ended more abruptly than I’d have liked and I was perturbed that things hadn’t gone according to plan (one of life’s great ironies) but I hadn’t been overly miserable or lonely in the aftermath. As a matter of fact I was actually happy. Once I started spending time with her again though, issues began to crop up. At first she seemed overly eager to spend time with me, then I became unsettled by how intent she was on emphasizing how well she was doing, later still she started getting with other people in front of me and the like, whether or not it was intentional it wasn’t something I enjoyed seeing.

I couldn’t get my head around it, the breakup had made complete sense, in all honesty I hadn’t had that much faith in the relationship from the outset, we’d hooked up at a one-day music festival and beyond that all we ever did more or less was go to gigs and house parties, more often than not getting wasted in the process. It was nice socially but it had no long term traction and I never really saw a future in it. The final weeks of the relationship were torturous, it had become clear that things were either going to get more serious and that obviously freaked Tara out because she started behaving very abrasively, making snide, insulting remarks and poking holes in my self-esteem at every juncture. Eventually a very unpleasant phone call lead to what I interpreted as the end, but I found out about a week later when we went to dinner to talk things out that she’d thought we were still together. Of course that didn’t become clear until we’d already been talking for more than an hour. I don’t know if you’ve ever broken up with someone through them realising that you’d already abandoned the relationship, having thought you were trying to salvage it, but it ain’t pretty and I was intensely relieved to escape from that massacre with my composure intact.

With that in mind I should have been able to move on cleanly but I let my ego get the better of me, I felt like I was losing, we’d broken up sooner than I wanted and seeing her act the way she was acting felt like there was still some unfinished business, some animosity or uncertainty. I let it get the better of me. Don’t get me wrong there was definitely something going on, she was acting strangely and being around her threw me off balance, but I was letting that unbalancing haunt me, I was exaggerating it. What I see now is that you can convince yourself that your overreacting or over-thinking as much as you like but that won’t stop it from happening, you have to just bear with it and eventually it’ll fade. At the end of the day we just weren’t compatible, we needed different things, she’s 10 years my senior, trying to reach a position of stability and fulfillment and I’m just trying to build up life-experience and really grow into myself. Neither of us were benefiting from spending time together after the breakup and trying to force a friendship wasn’t helping, clearly neither one of us has figured out what we meant to the other yet, so I’m keeping my distance now and will probably continue to do so for some time, it’s too murky right now and I can’t switch that off. Maturity only really holds water as a concept when it happens by itself, no amount of contemplation can accelerate it, I realise that now.

Part 2: Picking up and Moving Forward After a Huge Change

All that stuff’s pretty trivial by comparison to the bigger picture stuff though, the issues with Tara preyed on my mind a lot and I did what I had to do to alleviate that, but like the sunscreen song says, the big issues are apt never to cross your worried mind, they blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. In this case it was actually about 1pm, but we’ll get to that in a second. As much as social exaggerations had dampened my arrival in Birmingham, things were going according to plan, I had a job at a DIY store that would support me until I got something better, I was making contacts to further my writing and I’d found a decent place to live. Everything leading up to my Masters in September seemed stable. Life doesn’t care a fig for stability. I was at work, busying my self with shelf stacking or some such when my manager came over and told me to drop everything immediately, at first I thought I was in trouble, right up until he told me that my father had suffered a stroke. That was 2 months ago and in the time that’s elapsed since then I’ve moved back home, resigned from my job and undertaken the role of looking after my house and family. My brother’s time is almost entirely occupied with college and my mother can’t drive owing to one too many severe diabetic incidents, so all the driving, shopping and pet care now falls to me. Since the stroke my Dad has gradually been regaining movement on the right side of his body, he’s made amazing progress, from barely being able to get out of bed or make himself understood he can now speak clearly, walk with only the most basic assistance and move the fingers on his right hand to some extent. He’s still in hospital and will be for some time, but that just means he’ll have more regular access to the intense physiotherapy that he needs at this critical stage.

I’ve learnt a great deal about strokes and the recovery process since all this started, it’s a very slow, laborious process which motivation and positivity are of paramount importance to. It would be very easy for someone in Dad’s position to just throw in the towel and fold beneath the crushing pressure of the misfortune that’s befallen him but he hasn’t allowed it do to that, he’s shown extraordinary resilience and I am so proud of him for that. He can be stubborn and complacent at times but he is always willing to work as hard as he possibly can to get better. From my point of view, it was initially difficult to accept that I would have to return home so soon after leaving but in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor setback, the beauty of writing as a skillset is that you can do it anywhere and building experience is a constant thing, you never stop writing. When something huge like this hits you, you can either let it overcome you or you can accept it and carry on, which is what we’ve all had to do. My Mum in particular has dealt extremely well with it, before this she was so overcome with depression that she barely got out of bed, now she’s up and active all-day every day, driven by an incredible motivation to help her husband get his life back, it sounds a strange thing to say that this has helped her in some ways but I’d say it has. We’ve all come out of the other side much stronger. It’s a strange feeling at age 23 to have the rest of your family genuinely depending on you, but when you really need to be strong it isn’t a choice, you just fucking get on with it.

Part 3: Motivation and Understanding

An interesting part of all this is that it’s put me in a position where I’ve really started reflecting on what I want out of life and why. I’ve been doing so much journalistic writing recently and I’ve really moved towards pinning down what it is about writing that I love. The journalistic stuff is great and I really enjoy it but true creativity, true expression and manifestation of imagination, that’s what I’m really working towards. The work I’ve done with Cultured Vultures has been really gratifying, it’s allowed me to really broadcast my work in ways that I never have before and it’s been great seeing the site grow, but most of my work for it has been appreciation of music, games and films and that’s only a sidebar for me. What I take real gratification from is when a poem I’ve written, a short story or whatever else is openly complimented by someone I don’t know, the times when a stranger has really expressed their appreciation for something that I’ve created out of thin air with no bias or agenda. It means that I’ve sent out a signal from the confines of my imagination, the thing that defines my comprehension of the world and it’s tapped into somebody else’s, even for a second. That’s just mind blowing, that’s the dream. You could write or paint or make music or dance for years and years and if just one person sees or hears that thing that you’ve brought into the world and has an emotional response to it, that’s so important, that’s indisputable evidence that you’ve made the world richer. I think that’s why I have such admiration for Ray Harryhausen, he could actually bring his imagination to life before our very eyes, I may not have the aptitude for modelling or animating that he did but if I can do that with my writing, I’ll feel fulfilled.

There’s more though, something else that recent experience has taught me is that if you give people the right opportunity, they’ll express themselves in ways that perhaps even they didn’t think themselves capable of, they’ll grow. I genuinely think that people are more intelligent than the society that we live in, which still tries to tell some people that they’re worthless, inadequate. Nobody, repeat, nobody is worthless or inadequate. Beyond my own creativity I’ve decided that I really want to help other people tap into theirs, perhaps more than they thought they could. Recently I’ve become extremely passionate about prison reform, both in America and here, since we’re headed down the same awful path more and more of late. If there’s one group of people who are mistreated by the outdated model of society that we live in, it’s prisoners. That’s not to suggest that they haven’t done anything wrong, most of them have, but that doesn’t invalidate them, they still have something to give, it’s just that most people would rather not regard them as a part of this world. I find that idea distasteful and wrong. That’s why I’m looking into doing outreach work in prisons when I have the time to commit to it and ultimately I aim to set up a program that enables inmates to learn and spend time doing creative writing, so long as they’re willing. It might seem like a strange goal but I cannot abide the idea that there are people in the world that society wants us to give up on, to forget. Everyone on this planet is walking around harboring the potential for things that extend beyond themselves and everyone deserves the chance to express that potential, we’re all in this together.

That’s all I got, I’ll expand on some of the last points in a longer article at some stage, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, stay excellent 🙂

Weekly Poem #65

Nose Dive

 

The body was built to be pushed,

Cocktails of chemical compounds,

Tactile trials of stain and pain

And journeys through thoughts so potent

They could almost be lethal.

 

People talk like they wade on the banks

Of an ocean so deep that explorers cower.

But when a deeper whale calls we cover our ears

And even run screaming for cover

To avoid facing it.

 

Fear is a mechanism that’s been rearranged

And weaponized to combat the sharpest truths.

The sharpest truths are the most important,

No amount of cultural conditioning

Can cover the tracks that lead to them.

 

Don’t let anyone tell you which problems matter

Make that decision for yourself,

Nobody ever told everyone else they were wrong

Without something powerful behind their eyes.

Open yours.

Weekly Poem #63

Jenga

 

Get this man a megaphone,

Gather around him as he stands on the roof of his home

And offers you all something so much darker than a daily drone.

Because if you don’t take him at his tone,

He’ll still be carved from stone whilst the crows pick at your bones.

The pharaohs were laughing up to a minute before they fell

And you could never tell any well-feathered chieftain that hell

Was on his doorstep, until he stumbled in.

The fabric between our feet and the fire is pretty fucking thin,

At times you’ll find that the sweat runs up past your shins

But one day it’ll be waist high and then it really begins.

The concepts that hold us upright are old and tired.

It’s been decades since our society really expired,

Our rotting reef is spent, no spores for the new empire.

So when we’ve faded and our failings are laid bare,

Tell the new tenants that their day will come, see if they listen.

See if they care.

Weekly Poem #61

Jaguar

 

Can you see the Earth for the roots?

I’ve stepped out into the sunlight before

And recoiled away like a troll.

I’ve been afraid of life’s energy.

I think we’ve all been afraid of it for too long.

We grew skin over muscle over bone,

We became ourselves through a beautiful process,

We weren’t carved into shape by some godly saw

And scattered across the board to find our marks.

People ask what the meaning of life is,

But life has no meaning, none at all.

Don’t let that notion frighten you, embrace it,

It is the most beautiful thing you can know.

Life have no meaning but lives can have any meaning.

Whatever you choose, whatever you imprint

Is yours, so be honest, don’t be shy, ask yourself

What does your life mean?

Take pride in it.

Be honest.

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