She has looked at them from both sides now, in all their colours,
as Joni Mitchell advised. First time in a plane she marvelled at clouds
unknown before, sparkling in unhindered sunlight, believing a refresh
could reset each day. A myriad of paints on her palette offering a scent
of essential oils to enliven all detail and also set a clean slate. A new regard
she had for life itself, up here, eager to sign her canvas with a flourish.
Back in her flat she notices only a lack of perspective; nothing can flourish.
Empty, endless days where drab drizzle infects her walls and all colours
lie muted and lifeless. Down here is like sinking deeper into a hole, no regard
for air or motion. Everything cools with a gathering grey net of clouds
so that she is trapped, almost buried, no stimulus except the bitter scent
of her sweat. Where is her new start now? Where is the button marked refresh?
Travelling takes effort. Time zones make her cry. Only a beer refreshes
her step. The plane lands safely, but she always crashes, unable to flourish
for several hours after planning for the unfamiliar. Warm tarmac is a scent
rarely encountered, restricted to a mythical season in which she remembers colours
other than earth and her skin uncovered, the sun again, clear sky, fluffy clouds.
All of this is available if she goes far enough. If she holds herself in high regard.
On the ground she forgets to look up. Too many obstacles, messages to disregard,
anchoring her in an uneasy place. She is a browser seeking constant refresh,
her focus continually derailed. She tells colleagues there is no time to look at clouds,
and they laugh, but she is serious about watching where she treads. What flourishes
is anxiety. Irritation settles in her stomach, tightness at her chest. What is colourful
is only her language, voicing obscenities to suppress the fear. She knows its scent.
She craves fresher air to pacify the aches of soaring pressure. Even scented
candles are now labelled toxic, a risk to life, and her footprint regarded
a planet-killer when she chooses to fly. What point is there, drained of colour,
drained of joy? A change of scenery, perhaps the night sky, could be refreshing
right now. She will look at stars instead. Their light, continuing to flourish
at distance, though already dead, shows a commitment to life not so fleeting as clouds.
She has looked at them from both sides now – all aspects of clouds,
as Joni Mitchell advised. And what does she know? Not much, except the scent
of a rose is a rose is a rose. Or was, until genetically-modified crops began to flourish
and honey bees disappeared in droves. Is there anything she can rely on, regard
to be precious? Her resilience has packed up. Resources are scarce, can’t be refreshed.
Looking up, clouds come low, blocking out stars; she is dazzled by the deficit of colours.
Clouds get in the way of who she is, and what she regards.
The scent she knows best is currently the least refreshing.
Still she looks for the flourish of air which may be a return to colour.
About the Contributor
Nicki Hastie‘s poetry has been published in The Soundswrite anthology of contemporary poetry 2011, 14 Magazine, Womb and Chroma. Other writings have appeared in critical anthologies relating to women’s health, coming out stories, and representations of lesbians in popular culture. Nicki has an enduring interest in autobiographical story-telling and the ways in which reading/writing can become routes for exploring/building identity. She is currently writing a memoir through blackout poetry, using pages of The Observer Magazine as her sole source material. Nicki is an activist within mental health and LGBT+ communities, lives in Nottingham, and regularly participates in the monthly LossLit events on Twitter. See more at http://nickihastie.co.uk
The Metaphysical Touch - Sylvia Brownrigg
This is an early (in the life of the internet) exploration of human connection online and how the mind seeks to rebuild and reconnect following loss. Pi loses everything in a fire, including a nearly-finished PhD thesis and all her source material. JD shares his thoughts about suicide on a literary internet bulletin board. I love novels which prioritise the inner psychological world of their protagonist(s) and aren’t afraid to look deeply into existential crisis. I have a need to understand myself through the written word, and the intensity and potential of online community very quickly became a significant support to me. I’ve read most of Sylvia Brownrigg’s novels now. She really understands the obsessional qualities of human existence and the learning and yearning associated with loss.
More from Issue Nine:
- The Place That He Can Never Return To by Linda Mannheim
- The Cyclops by Karen Foster
- The Girl with Many Names by Kristin LaFollette
- Three by Deb Scudder
- The Mourner by Louise Burgess
- Margot by Marni Appleton
- Pebbles on a Shore by Lynne E Blackwood
- blindfolded minds by Rachel Hawkins
- Phantom habits by Blakeley Bartee
- Dementia’s Mantra by Mike Ferguson
- Endurance by Gerard McKeown
- Pack Animals by Anita Goveas