Cool

I will never

be cool

I will never

be funny clever forward enough

I will never have the right thing to say

on the tip

of my tongue

I will never be bright enough

I will never be the social shooting star

the one

the core

I would not want to be

in the middle

I would shrink shirk hide

I will never be cool

have it

be happening

or whatever the fuck the word for it is now

I will always be peering through the glass

glad to be on the dark side of the glass

but wistful

about the ease style smooth

of the people in the light

 

© Elizabeth Cutts 2014

 

***

This poem wrote itself in a few minutes flat, I think I’ll need some distance before I can evaluate it honestly. The total lack of punctuation makes me a bit nervous (see – not cool).

The Hardest Word

No.

 

To say it to you

To deny your request

Is like cutting my own flesh.

 

My gut swoops and hangs

My sweat stinks my fear

My head swings in an arc

And my voice will not sound.

 

To be silent now

To deny my own wish

Is like fastening my own chains.

 

My throat closes fast

My ears hum and buzz

My breath hangs in my mouth

And my voice will not sound.

 

***

Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Cutts

***

The Stocking Filler

The mechanic bent over his pride and joy; the zenith of his craft, his masterpiece, the culmination of his talent and the exemplar of his art. He breathed on an imaginary smudge in the red paint and then buffed it with his sleeve until the imaginary smudge was no more. He smiled to himself, straightened and gazed upon his project with a satisfaction previously unknown to mortal man. He straightened the pointy latex ear extension on his left ear and thought that he would reapply it properly later as part of the preparation. The novelty Christmas clock on the wall told him it was half six and so there was plenty of time to prepare and get his full costume on before midnight.

The mechanic turned and went into the room designated ‘the office’ where he kept the plans, papers and, most importantly right at this moment, the kettle. He clicked the kettle on and allowed his imagination to wander through a tableaux of anticipations and expectations. The door to the wardrobe stood open and he smiled and took out the pointed green hat and, in an unusual moment of impulsiveness, he placed it carefully on his head and directed the fall of the pompom so that it hung correctly down the back of his head. Perfect.

In the workshop the project gave out a metallic twang as it settled. It gleamed; the red paint slick over sheets of metal, the glitter of rivets, the smell of oil and hot mechanisms. It had beady black eyes that looked like they were made of coal but were in fact carefully worked dark glass and a round nose and cheeks which blushed with carefully applied red stippling. Below the nose and cheeks sprouted a chaotic beard of white painted springs in which nestled a red slash of mouth curved in a menacing grin like a knife in a bramble bush.

The mechanic stepped back into the workshop with his steaming mug and sighed with satisfaction. He took a gulp of his tea and turned towards his work bench. His hat pompom bobbed. Now that the project was finished the workspace must be cleared. Each tool must be put back into its place and the surfaces must be swept and cleaned.

Behind him the coal eyes of his project began to glow with a deep blue light and another metallic twang issued from somewhere in the rotund torso of the construct.

The mechanic pulled out a drawer and carefully placed three screwdrivers into their allotted spaces as designated by carefully painted white outlines and labels.

The construct raised its mitten clad hands in silence; the mechanic’s work was excellent and every smooth metal edge slid neatly alongside its neighbour, every bearing spun absolutely silently. The mechanic’s curved back bent and straightened, bent and straightened as if he were worshipping at the altar of his bench. His hat bobbed in time with his actions and he hummed ‘Santa Claus is coming to town.’ Tools slid into their places with conclusive clicks and thuds. He swapped from humming to whistling. The last piece of equipment slotted into its niche and the mechanic turned towards the corner where he kept his cleaning equipment. He stopped in surprise, the whistle dying on his lips, and gaped at his project which now stood before him, glowering, with its hands raised in a threatening manner.

‘Oh,’ he said aloud to himself. ‘Well, that’s jolly odd. Maybe I knocked the controller.’

When not in use the controller sat in a carefully constructed recess on the project’s back. The mechanic had been very proud of the design. He felt it was sleek and convenient and well hidden by the sack of coal the construct carried.

‘I’ll just have to get to your controller and see what’s going on,’ he said to the four foot tall robot in front of him. The way the eyes were glowing unnerved him a little and he didn’t know why he spoke aloud to the construct; there was no auditory input channel after all. He began to move round the robot. Snowflake shaped blades extended from the mittens with a ‘snick’.

‘Oh,’ he said again and took a step back. The construction now seemed to be looking at him, although the head had not moved. ‘Well, this is a bit difficult.’

The metallic mouth opened. ‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ The construct had a tinny voice.

‘Shit,’ said the mechanic. He was not usually one for swearing, not even when he dropped his largest spanner on his toe. His word for such situations was ‘fiddlesticks’ but this seemed a swearing sort of situation and so he restated it to himself, ‘Shit.’

And then after a brief pause in which nothing happened except the mechanic’s pointy ear-tip fell off his left ear, ‘Bugger.’

He considered the situation as the construct stared at him. He was between the construct and the door but he knew his project’s capabilities (even now he could not repress a smidgen of pride at the thought) and was extremely doubtful of escape. He should have considered this possibility; literature and film and so on were positively littered with examples of the created turning upon the creator and he could not, therefore, deny that he had been warned.

‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ It rolled forward six inches on its carefully designed tracks which could cope with rough ground and even stairs. The rubber treads squeaked on the smooth floor.

Some instinctive part of the mechanic’s brain took over and, hardly knowing what he was doing, he turned and sprinted for the door. Two attractive and very well-made snowflake shaped throwing stars buried themselves in the door with a decisive sound. Thunk. Thunk. He flung it open and ran out into the deep and undisturbed snow.

The construct’s tinny voice came from behind him. It said, ‘You are not a good boy. You are a bad boy. You must have some coal.’

The mechanic put on a spurt of speed hearing this damning judgement and six strides into the cold and sparkling night something dark and round landed in the snow just ahead of him, then something hit him in the middle of his back. He lurched forwards and then he was flying through the air as the world exploded around him. He landed face down in the snow, ash, snow and silver glitter floating down around him. His hat lay a few feet away in the soggy snow.

The construct rolled forward, its glass eyes focussing on the body. The mechanic’s flailing had made a very serviceable snow angel. The construct was satisfied. It looked up at the lights of a distant town and rolled on, clanking slightly in the cold air, to make its delivery of coal to all the naughty boys and girls of the world.

***

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Cutts

***

This was written for a seasonal challenge on the Ultimate Write: Tea Urn forum and although I missed the solstice deadline I’ve managed to get it up for Christmas Eve so I’m happy.

Today I Dismembered You, Old Friend

Today I dismembered you, old friend.

 

I took your sinewy strips of red bark

and narrow, crackling fingers

and put them on a bonfire.

 

I sliced your white fibrous limbs

into fat chunks for later.

 

It is a violation, a betrayal, a chore.

Can it be an honouring?

 

The incense scent of your sap

and the green grit of your lichens

are smeared across my skin.

 

I will miss you.

 

***

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Cutts

 

This is a quick’n’slapdash poem written because today my favourite tree came down in a storm. I originally posted it on my gardening blog but decided I would also post it here.

 

 

 

Dust

Eliza sits on a damp stair in the corpse of a genteel Victorian seaside villa. In the distance the sea sounds as if it is taking great gasping breaths of the air, which stinks of mud and fish. Jackdaws squawk and clatter in the broken roof above; a litter of nest material and the tiny bones of dead chicks are scattered across the stairs around her. She is looking at the oak door in front of her which must be the only untainted thing in this town with its brass door knob, still shiny as if it’s regularly used, and a keyhole with an ivory inlaid surround.

She stands up, steps towards the door and strokes the pale wooden panels. It smells of clean wood but that passes and the old stench of the town returns. The door is between floors at the turn in the stair and Eliza turns her back on it to descend.

In the kitchen the brown light leeches through the glassless window, staining the remains of a lace curtain with a tobacco tinge. Eliza pulls at a drawer and, with a crash, it disintegrates into the cupboard below. She sorts through a litter of cutlery and rotten wood hoping to see a key but there is none. The other drawers are empty but for faded lining paper.

The living room only holds a piano which gives out a plunk as she looks in, so she turns to the last doorway off the hall. The door is of a similar type to the locked door except that it is weather stained and rotting like everything else in the town. It lies drunkenly against the wall and Eliza carefully steps around it into the room. Above a writing desk hangs an old sepia photo of a regal looking woman in a high necked blouse. Eliza reaches out with a dirty hand to touch the glass which somehow remains in the frame.

The walls are lined with bookcases and, thinking a key might be hidden in a book, Eliza attempts to pull one from the shelf only to find that they are a sodden mass glued together by mould and damp. The smell of rotting paper and leather catches in her throat and she gags. Abandoning the books she finds the desk drawers are locked but remembers metal skewers in the kitchen and fetches the narrowest she can. She shoves the point into the first lock and wrenches it, grimacing as she feels the delicate mechanism snap. Hurriedly she destroys the other two locks, avoiding the disapproving glare of the woman in the photograph.

In the left hand drawer she finds some coins and a small congealed envelope of paper money. Useless. She rubs her thumb over the faces and letters of the coins. The copper pennies have a tangy scent to them and she puts the coins in her pocket to look at later. The right hand drawer has a packet of letters held together with a ribbon that crumbles when she moves them. They are dry, miraculously. A glance shows her that they are love letters and she shoves them into the drawer and slams it shut.

Pulling open the centre drawer she finds a pad of letter paper, three good pens neatly lined up, and a white key. She picks up the key and examines it closely. Ivory. Or bone maybe. Its surface is smooth as if it has been handled repeatedly.

She goes out to the hall and reverentially steps up the stairs, slowly, one by one. She is holding her breath. The key slips neatly into the lock, turns with a gentle click and the door sways inwards. Eliza steps inside.

The room is so bright that she squeezes her eyes shut before opening them slowly so that they can adjust. This must have been a bathroom; clean white tiles line both the floor and walls. Clear glass in the window lets in clear light through a white lace curtain. Two mirrors on opposite walls reflect each other, and each other, and each other and bones. Neat heaps of bright bleached bones piled against the walls; small delicate bird skulls, thick leg bones of large mammals, nests of rib-cages of all sizes.

The dusty smell catches in Eliza’s throat, she feels as though the moisture and life is being dragged out of her by the desiccated air. She gasps. A sense of disappointment and fear wells up inside her and she cries out and she turns to leave.

The door is smooth and polished and firmly shut. There is no brass door handle on this side and Eliza cries out again, beating on the door with her rough hands. She falls to her knees and puts her eye to the keyhole.

On the stair outside a jackdaw gleefully tears open a fish and eats.

***

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Cutts

***

This is written in response to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The idea is to roll dice against lists of genres and story elements and then combine them. I rolled:

Genre 1. Southern Gothic. I interpreted ‘southern’ as the English South coast because I’m not American and there is something gothic about our delapidated coastal towns.

Genre 2. Dying Earth.

Story elements: a locked door, a key made of bone. To get the door and the key was very lucky!

If it wasn’t for the fact there’s a deadline I would put this aside for a couple of days before making another run through it, and maybe finding a beta reader but there’s no time for that so here it is.