you and me
A project between you and me. 100 postcards. 100 stories. You send them. I write them. Each one in less than 300 words.
If you’d like to be involved please send me a postcard with a word or phrase written on it. It can be bought, found, made, stolen in any shape you like. Shoot me an email in the contact tab if you have any questions or you’re just the friendly type.
Send postcards to
you and me
PO Box 92
Can’t wait to check the mail!
My thanks to Justin for being one of those dudes that bumps into you and says ‘Hey, I’m gonna send you a postcard for that thing you’re doing’ and really sends one in. Legend.
She dyed her hair red and was too skinny but she had something that men like him couldn’t keep away from. She wasn’t pretty. She had a face that looked too much like his. It sagged in defeat in all the worst places but she could pull it together if she had to. Other men passed them sitting at the bar and sometimes gave her a second look. But that was all. They could always tell she wouldn’t look too hot without her make-up. That her tits might sag and swing out once that halter neck was off.
What would you do without me, huh?
She slurred into his shoulder as they staggered home together out of step.
I guess find another barstool wearing a red wig.
She pushed away from him and skidded to the pavement on her knees. He waited while she got up and tugged at her torn stockings. She held her hands out knowing the sight of blood made him puke.
How’d you like that?
He slapped her just hard enough to her shut up and opened the door to his apartment. She followed him in and filled a coffee cup with cask wine.
He lit a cigarette and searched for a record while she sifted though his junk mail. She held onto a brochure for a long time before holding it out to him.
Why’s this guy standing in front of these tanks?
He flipped the hair that hid his acne scars out of his face.
It’s the Tank Man from Tiananmen Square. You never seen that picture?
She shook her head and held the image close.
What happened to him?
She cried quietly as she swigged from her cup.
He sat beside her and stroked her hair.
Postcard #37 was sent in by the freeaaakin’ genius of Misti Rainwater-Lites. You should read everything she writes. You really should. She’s fucking awesome. Just look at the card she sent me.
give until gone
Your mum slops a can of pork beans upside down into a saucepan for your birthday breakfast. The sucking, slurping sound is like an alien being born. Or aborted. My dad’s face gets tight when I say things like this. He used to think I was funny until your mum started crying.
I crunch my Fruit Loops and say nothing. After the beans she makes you a birthday cake.
A cherry cake for my Cherry girl!
I blow up balloons for the party because I’m old enough to help. The kids arrive but not many and their parents stay. Some of them stare at my old Snow White costume, especially the part where my boobs press up at the top. Your mum squints at me in her silver eye- shadow as I pop a cherry in my mouth.
None of the dads here are your real dad. So when the cake is cut you cry. My dad looks at his watch and gets his mobile out.
Then the clown arrives and he is creepy as fuck so you start crying harder and run to your mum burying your face in her skirt. She smoothes your hair but pushes your head over to her thigh so your face isn’t in her crotch. I go and swipe a couple of Winstons from her drawer and find her book with all the drawings. One’s a close up of a vagina and it has words and lines pointing to stuff like the clitoral head and outer labia. I take three Winstons and go back outside. Your face is back in herpubis mound and my Dad is trying to tell jokes over your wailing. The clown has already gone and it isn’t long before the other kids take their lolly-bags and leave too.
Thank you for number #36, LMB.
This is maybe my fourth cat-themed postcard. Sometimes people can just tell.
Ya gonna get fuckin’ cat aids, ya dummy.
He yelled when she returned to their tarp with fresh scratches and welts, cradling a cat.
She’s hungry and look, I think it might be Alby.
She held up the worn magazine clipping she carried everywhere, a watercolour painting of a cat amongst purple flowers. She said it was a photo.
She smiled when he pointed out the huge set of balls on the thing.
All cats are girls and all dogs are boys, she explained in her singsong voice.
She didn’t have the same high-pitched whine of the others around them.
You think there’s enough food? You go get it then, you fuckin’ retard.
His whine echoed off the heritage-listed bluestones of the alley, the mortar between them long receded, now filled with mud and shit and rubbish. The same glue that kept them together kept the alley together.
Please. I don’t like doing it.
She buried her head into mangy fur until he returned with glazed eyes and an empty goonbag hanging loosely from his fist. He pushed the cat away and pushed his hands under her thick layers, starting with her breasts, twisting the nipples hard. She looked at where the cat sat cleaning itself and then squeezed her eyes closed.
Good girl. You want some kitty food?
When the cat disappeared. She held up her crumpled picture to the others and asked if they’d seen Alby.
No one knew where to look when the nasal whine crept into her voice. Especially not at him.
So they looked at her hands instead.
#35 1/2 – Guest Post by Eric Westerlind
I mentioned in my #35 postcard introduction that you might be seeing Eric Westerlind’s words sooner rather than later and I’m happy as hell to introduce some of them to you now. Eric made me grin my biggest grin when he asked for a postcard so he could return the favour and write a shorty for me. His address tucked under a little secret pocket on the card compartment made me explode.
So enough from me – meet Eric…
Me. A Coloradan living in a three story bedroom, working in a treehouse.
Surprised I was, mainly at the thick stock of the postcard, then the trim handwriting of one
yt sumner of Australialand Ln. Mama, brother, peekin over my shoulders like ‘ooo what be
that, boy’ and i told em I’ve gotta write a story for this girl in another country since she’s doin
one for me and they understood that well enough.
Finding that life doesn’t so much change its manners as it does it’s mannerisms, this story.
That gumless shark idea I wanted to make into a movie ended up on the back of a crayon-eaten-
crayon-made postcard. Only wish I’d had the patience to snail mail it back.
Onward, forward, all that! Huzzah.
Thanks yt, for the project. The space, the creativity. You’re crushin and inspiring.
- fre(e) (w)illy
“Take your sweet time, hon.” That soft paper voice, brittle like starched linens.
Did you iron that apron before work? is what I’d ask Ken, apparently (short for what? Kenelope?).
Her skin looks thick, a buffer against this small cafés darker side + guys like me.
Dear Ken, I’m thinking to her backside, I’d take you if I had teeth left. Then again, the coffee’s good enough, appetite suppressed — three sips. She walks to another table, two dark and hairy’s (though who can say if its dirt or grease or anything). They’re probably ordering eggs benedict like all the other drivers do.
A window shatters, one of the big plane ones, CAFÉ DE dot dot dot just dust and a perfect spray of glass shard shrapnel and Ken saw it coming but that just means she gets a bit further before the front of the semi coming through the window catches her and crushes her legs.
The other two are just near splatters, neither less ragged than the other.
Strange thing — a truck in a truck stop café. Seen stranger though.
It’s been six hundred years. Things happen. A Turkish mob pulled my incisors, just post second world war, in Turkey.
MARTIN, who’s opening the truck door now, hypothesized at the time, tied down as we were, that they might grow back. A year later, x number of livestock meals, then more years and mud and hunger, he gave up hope too.
It’s harder, pulling/peeling at the skin, than just puncture-withdraw, but we’ve found that the more exposed surface area
the less work on our part.
Martin starts on the trucker under the table and I stand up, one more sip of coffee, hobble over.
Ken, her uniform soiled with hurts, blood etc, — there’s her tongue, either fleeing down her throat to her heart or playing with her molar, and then I latch on to the second driver, apologizing the whole time in my head that it had to be this way, not prettier, more finesse, nostalgic for a way that undoubtedly, after all these years, I can’t even really remember quite right.
Raymond Carver’s early tutor, John Gardner, famously advised Carver to use fifteen words instead of twenty-five. I always loved that. But the first draft of this postcard piece for Eric Westerlind was 600 words, so I had to pull up my drafting socks and get rid of half.
It’s a liberating process to limit my stories to this 300-word count when sometimes they want to go on and on. Liberating in the sense of the discipline of making very single word count, but getting rid of the last ten words was almost physically painful.
The writer Eric Westerlind sent in this postcard. I love his story, Slice of Life in Jersey Devil Press’ Issue Nine. It’s seriously amazing. You should read it and keep your peepers peeled for more words of his.
(Teaser – you may be seeing them sooner than you think.)
If her mother was one of those mothers she’d tell her wasn’t looking after herself. If she was one of those daughters she’d tell her why. But they weren’t, so she’s walking down an alleyway with tears in her eyes and an empty stomach. Rain falls and she offers up her face and it streaks mascara down her cheeks. She smears one stinging eye and looks wild, like she’s wearing war-paint. A suited man with a crisp umbrella looks startled. She ducks into a doorway and looks down at her wet sneakers and leopard-print tights.
Hello, Miss. You like some Tai Yaki?
She turns at the gentle voice and knows she will keep this image with her forever.
His golden bow tie and spotted braces. His gold watch and dad glasses. His crisp chefs hat and carefully trimmed moustache. His warm, dark eyes.
He smiles at the tabby on the bench beside the hotcakes shaped as fish. He giggles as the cat licks its lips in a cartoonish way.
Be quick, Aiko might beat you.
Although her stomach growls and her lips twitch, she shakes her head.
He ignores this and pushes the wooden plate forwards.
You need to eat. They’re good.
She sits at and the cat rubs its cheek against her hand.
I’m sure they’re delicious, but-
No. Not just good.
His tone is serious.
This is Tai, the good luck fish. You eat him and he will bring you medetai.
She doesn’t understand Japanese but she takes a hotcake, her eyes filling with tears again.
She eats and the delicious fish begins to fill the empty pit of her stomach she’d had since he’d left her.
The man nods and the cat purrs as she takes another bite of happiness and decides to believe them.
It’s been a dark month this one. But one of the brightest lights I’ve ever experienced was my co-collaborator, Jessica Tremp‘s wedding a couple of weeks ago. The glow was simply that intense I think every guest went home cocooned in it for good. This postcard is of course Jessica and my collaboration. But I’m sure she won’t mind me dedicating it to her and Michael.
Oh and I’ve got a bit of a thing for Leonard Cohen. When I looked at Jess’s word and image, the song Everybody Knows insisted on being part of the story. So I’ve included the Youtubey thing at the bottom so you can listen as you read if you like.
And if you haven’t already read about how easily it is to fall in love with Jessica Tremp’s work go check out and buy her art at http://www.jessicatremp.com/.
But I catch the plane without the whiskey and the sleeping pills. Without the heavy blue blankets and the stranger beside me and his hands beneath them. My clothes are crumpled and bathed in my scent by the time I reach the group. The leader is fervent. Bloody Americans.
I groan my backpack on and don’t make eye contact with any of the others. I shy away from the familiar accents the most. My boots have already been worn in because I’m prepared like that. We walk across the plains with the mountains in the distance. We stop and camp. We sleep. I look at the ground as I pass over it and listen as the distant rumble I’ve heard my whole life roars to a crescendo. I stop and the Swiss girl behind bumps into me.
Can you hear it too?
She asks with her hands to her ears and I nod and kneel in the dirt pushing small mountains around my knees. My teeth vibrate as the rest of the group walk on and a group of nomads pass us.
I want to warn them that the ground is about to open up and swallow us whole. How it’s going to take everything. But a man with a ram draped over his shoulders smiles as he passes and whistles a shrill note that pierces through the bass tearing through me.
I stand and the sound is different. I want to say thank you but he already knows.
The animal he’s carrying knows.
The Swiss girl grinning beside me knows.
Hey, so I guess it’s been a while, huh?
This postcard was bought in MoMA, New York but sent from Melbourne. Two of my favourite places.
It’s sort of an ode to the short French film Un Chien Andalou. I don’t generally do surrealism but it’s been that kind of month, you know.
Anyway it seemed a fitting and fucked up way to get back into this project of yours and mine. I hope you agree.
wish you were here
I woke up this morning and remembered I threw his hat off my roof.
I probably should have felt bad. It wasn’t the hats fault. It’s still sitting on the grimy roof of the Spanish restaurant next door. The best time I ate Spanish food I was angry and in New York. The hat landed right near the grease trap and all this slime and ooze started to weigh it down. Now it looks like a poisonous brick. The little badge that says ‘pussy’ on the side is completely covered in this ooze.
Eight years later…
We were driving along the coast like in that short story I wrote and that song comes and you started singing Moon CHAIN I pulled over on the side of the beach and held your hand tightly and waited for the ants to crawl out. But they didn’t.
Around three in the morning…
The book glared behind me. It bristled its spine. I hung out of the window and smoked a cigarette with my feet dangling. My stomach hurt on the old red wood and I watched a drunken man sway up the street with a pomegranate clenched in his fist. The juice ran down his forearm and I thought about screaming HEY been trying to meet you but he might have hit me in the face.
Sixteen years ago…
Before I was pale and buried in her pages, my feet buried beneath me as the others played. Now I bury the book in wet sand because winter’s my favourite. I closed my eyes for the Dormouse. I loved him the most. I opened them to see if I should feel bad as I placed my sister’s dollhouse on the top as a tombstone.
But no-one noticed.
I’ve also began a project with him that makes me remember how much I love good old fashioned airmail. Especially that little blue sticker.
don’t get comfortable
I’m walking home alone again. It’s late. Probably dangerous. You know. Men. Always having to be scared of them. I wish I knew how to fight. Properly like, not just punching and kicking and clawing. I remember when he hit me. How my head snapped back and hit the wall. I hiccup and remember how big those hands were. I hate the hiccups. They hurt and make me feel drunk. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone at the bar but I never do. I keep away from the streetlights. They’re too bright. Showing all my faults to the trees. The houses are quiet and I feel like everyone is gone. Just like the Mary Celeste. I walk past a house and imagine the late-night sandwich someone made, sitting on the bench with a bite out of it. They had perfect teeth. I’m the Omega Woman walking the streets alone, but there’s music coming from a house ahead. The doors are open but no one around. I open the gate and see someone is. A man on the porch. Asleep on a couch. He’s more of a boy really. I remember how I should be scared but I step closer. The porch creaks. I hiccup. He doesn’t move. I toss and turn a lot. I have bad dreams and wake up with hair like a witch. His hair is dark. Wavy. He looks gentle. I bet he is. I can tell how he’s sleeping. All curled up with his knees bent like he wants someone to sleep with. I lay behind him and slip my arm over his waist. I press my cheek against his back. We breathe together and his hand moves and closes over mine. When he wakes up I hope he smiles at the strange dream he had.
This card was sent in by three very special ‘Cageys’ that have known me and my stories longer than almost anyone. Thank you, Anne, Chris and Kelly.
That’s what she told me.
Bullshit, I said. I was a lot mouthier back then. In the beginning. Before the escape attempts. I said you don’t keep anything locked up if you love it. She said I didn’t know what love truly was. I said it was to do with her being abandoned by her fucked-up mother.
She didn’t speak to me for a week after that so I didn’t mention her mother again. She fed the dogs, the cats and the birds but she never even looked at me. Once she was smiling again meant she was feeding me again. I didn’t even care about the shackles she put around my ankle. There was always worse things.
There was one cage where a bird would peck at her hand when she tried to stroke it. It would make hissing sounds as she passed. I saw the hurt in her eyes when this happened, I saw how she started going to that cage last. How she started spending smaller amounts of time there.
As the bird’s feathers thinned out, it started looking more reptilian, it’s ugly squawks more alien, and I saw how the hurt turned to horror as she approached it.
I can’t even remember it’s name anymore, she sobbed at the bars of my cage one night. It’s dark down here, I said. He probably misses the sun.
She unlocked my cage door and slipped inside. I backed against the wall and stumbled onto the cot I slept on.
She looked hurt.
Are you afraid of me, Sam?
I shook my head as my hands trembled more and the ugly cry of the bird was the only other sound that filled the basement.
This postcard is of the German city Heidelburg but has a Greek postage stamp. I imagined all kinds of scenarios and mysteries behind the combination. But it wasn’t until I peered through those leaves that I found the story.
This distressed her more than anything for some reason. Her feet, which she always took care of, were hard and cracked. Her pale skin, darkened with grime. She noticed a toenail was missing and released a sob.
She stepped through the forest undergrowth trying to remember why she was naked in the woods. She leaned against the rough bark of a tree without feeling it. She knew this was odd because she knew she had sensitive skin. Just like she knew about her feet. She opened her mouth to see what her voice sounded like but a guttural cry emerged instead.
She knew she’d woken up terrified in the dark like in the middle of a nightmare. That there was incense. That she smelled honey and dirt. She looked down into the hole that she woke up beside and then at her split, dried hands and began to run.
She ran with bracken whipping at her face and bare thighs, hard stones and twigs piercing her feet. She ran until the sky became light above the forest canopy and the trees thinned out.
She walked until she could hear a river rushing and she knew this river’s name. She emerged from the forest and looked upon the town that had not changed much over three hundred years.
Sunlight played on the bridge where they’d carried her bound and drugged, the flames of torches and chanting whirling around her. She touched the back of her head and felt the dip where it had caved in as the priest struck her, kneeling beside the pit.
She retreated into the forest, joy flooding her withered body as she caught sight of the church she would visit first, as she returned to the earth and waited for night.
This stunning handmade card was sent in by the talented writer and artist Anya Riis whose blog is in my sidebar among others that you should check out if you haven’t already.
am angry at her
He was a goldsmith but had thick forearms like a tradesman and she used to love running her hands along them. His shoulders were also wide, he could scoop her into his arms with almost no effort. She used to love that too. Before she flopped like a ragdoll in them.
Now she watched him walk from room to room, his long strides compressed into a sort of shuffle so he didn’t make noise. She constantly wondered why he did it. The payout from T.A.C had made her wealthy enough for independent care. He hadn’t even been in the car when it happened. But he stayed. Stayed for the surgeries and the rehab. Stayed for the home renovations and her speech therapy.
She sat in her chair before the golden windowpanes he’d gilded by hand before she’d come home from the hospital. She closed her eyes against the light streaming over her body and swore she could feel the warmth. She heard his shuffle behind her and tried not to wince at his cheery tone as he asked if she felt like going out today.
No, thank you.
She answered remembering how she used to say,
Just because I can’t move doesn’t mean you have to stop fucking other women.
Just because I can’t move doesn’t mean you have to stop hitting me.
Her mouth, the only thing she had left, used to burn, the spittle flying from her lips as she said worse things and he trembled. She pushed and pushed hoping he would close those giant hands around her throat. But all he did was sob in her lap. He sobbed while she wished they were both dead.
These days, she was mostly polite.
#28 was sent in by a former client of mine from my wacky days of hair colouring. Thanks for the card, Deb, your support has been awesome. I think I may have forgotten the sweet part somewhere, but that’s no surprise given the excellent creepy vibe of the image.
Just get her in the cab.
Tim looks at Dee and his eyes turn to slits.
What the fuck you think I’m trying to do?
He hitches her slack body up again and her head lolls against his shoulder as Dee waves a cab over and opens the door.
Hey, no lady in the cab, she not awake!
Tim leans over her slumped body.
Nah, mate, she’s not asleep, just had a few too many.
The cab driver shakes his head.
I am not taking lady. Get her out.
Dee kicks the side of the car as it drives away
Go back to where you came from turban head!
Dee’s phone rings and he groans.
That’ll be Sarah.
So she’ll be at the party by now wondering where the fuck I am.
So answer and tell her you’re with her friend who’s unconscious because you gave her the wrong pill.
Dee runs his hands through his hair and shoves the phone back in his pocket.
What you give her anyway?
I dunno, maybe a roofie.
Tim grunts and shoves the unconscious girl at his friend.
That’s it. I’ve had it. Don’t know why I’m playing deal with the drugged bitch when you’re the one that fucked her up for a blowjob. You carry her. You deal.
Dee staggers under the weight of the girl who loses a high heel.
But Tim doesn’t look back.
Dee holds her while his face contorts. He carries her a block to a bus stop and lets her slump on the bench. Her head knocks against the glass and he doesn’t pull her skirt down where it’s hitched up before he leaves.
He doesn’t see the well-dressed man across the road, waiting.
And neither does she.
The saturated colours on this postcard were just beautiful. I think it’s an old postcard from Britain, but the Anonymous sender is from Australia. Thank you, Stranger, for ‘the space between‘.
the space between
The days are sneaky, they slide into one another. I pay attention to my contraceptive pill. The days labelled around the small tablets help. It’s easy to know the morning. He wakes me and I accommodate without making a sound. We don’t do it any other way.
Breakfast is also easy. Every morning I walk around the buffets with white table-clothes. The children sit with their parents, sipping tea. My mother would approve. I toast a slice of bread. He reads the paper and I scrape butter and marmalade on my toast behind his broadsheet. It’s the loudest thing in the room.
The afternoon can be difficult. There may be an activity. I say yes to every suggestion. It’s easy to say yes. My mouth opens and offers with word without pause. No stays trapped, vibrating behind my teeth.
The island across from the resort has a castle on it. It’s very old, he says behind the brochure. At the island a youth with dark hair helps me from the boat. He rubs his thumb across my wrist and tells me I’m very beautiful. He tells me my new husband is a lucky man.
I wonder how much time has passed on the way back to the mainland. We stand where the crumbled cliff steps end in the sea and watch the small boat disappear in the space between us. He kisses my hand, the one with the diamond on it, and tells me how pleased he is before he heads back to the villa.
I watch the rising tide lap at my loafers and realise the suede will be ruined. I toss them into the sea and make a wish.
But I can’t remember what it is.
This card was sent by my gorgeous friend, Marion Rouxel, whom I lovingly and creatively call Frenchy.
I think that has the most to do with it. Our tradition. My first memory is sitting at my Mémère’s knee close to the fire while she told secret stories. Later my younger sisters would lean in while my aunt tossed another log on the hot embers. Her arms were strong from chopping wood. There were no men. I asked about it once and Mémère told me a story about a Parisian Creperie run by women. How famous the delicious crepes were across all of Europe. Only the eldest sister of the eldest sister was passed the recipe.
My little sister didn’t like this part of the story, she didn’t like learning to chop wood and sew with my aunts. So I passed the stories on to her at night in our beds. When the dark was everywhere and even the moon was black I told her the secret ones. One night I told her about our tradition. The whites of her eyes glowed and her voice tremble as she said she was tired.
When she was gone in the morning my aunts sewed as usual and my mother talked with my Mémère then left. She came back two days later with my sister covered in mud. Her voice was different. She knelt by the fire and said how she was in the woods looking for her brothers and La Mère de la Nuit came for her. She tried to hide but it knew her name. It killed her. My Mémère laughed and petted her hair. No more night-time stories for you, Ma petite. But she was looking at me. Then my sister stood, still with twigs in her hair, and went outside to help my aunts chop wood.
This postcard was sent anonymously. Thank you for the amazing illustration in biro and pencil. I can’t tell you how much I love it. Send me a note and fess up if you like so I can smother you in candy.*
(* I don’t actually have any candy but I hear offering it to strangers works a treat)
Rockstars Without Music
Dave looks at Sal.
Why’d you always have to shit on everything?
She slits her eyes and he gets ready. She’s a feral cat when she’s pissed. But instead of her usual snap, she walks ahead into the living room where the party is.
She doesn’t look back and his step falters, like he might trip. This was bullshit. This wasn’t how it usually went. She knew how to dish it right back. Not walk away silently, making him feel like the arsehole.
Adam waves them over with a joint and she perches on the edge of his armchair while taking it out of his hands.
The beers are in the bathtub, D–man.
Adam says and slides his hand around Sal’s waist. She takes another toke and flips her hair showing the scar that’s usually hidden beneath her fringe. It cuts across her forehead and down her cheek. It must have missed her eye by millimetres.
Dave pushes through the crowd dancing to shit music and couples making out in the hallway. At first he thought the scar was hot. Hardcore. But she wouldn’t tell him how it happened. After a while he stopped giving a shit.
A girl’s bent over the tub in hotpants and his shoulders loosen as he leans over to grab a couple of stubbies. His hands plunge into the ice and she doesn’t move as his hard-on brushes against her bare thigh.
He walks back into the living room, smirking. This party might be all right, if they just sorted out the music. His grin slips when he sees Adam coming back into the room with a plate of what looks like burned toast. It falls completely when he pops a piece into Sal’s grinning mouth.
This postcard is pretty special to me as it was sent by my Grandmother who is a pretty special woman. Written in her elegant handwriting on the other side were these words.
This is a card I bought when you, Grandad and myself went on holidays to the UK all those years ago.
Love you heaps,
Grandma & Grandad.
So here is my word, Yas : Memories!
The women meet under the clock in the centre of town and eat their lunch together. It’s been like this for so long, if you asked them how it began they would have a hard time remembering. But the one with the slender calves and blue pencil skirt would speak first, she’d say, We can tell you how it is now if you like?
You remember those hot summers as a child, on the lawn in your bathers, running through sprinklers with your sisters? Remember trying to catch the rainbows?
You nod. It’s been a long time since you thought of that. You like how the memory is like an old home movie, saturated in colour, moving slowly like a dream.
She smoothes her skirt.
You remember climbing the tree and finding the bee hive? Watching them out on the thick limb, your terror turning to delight as you realised they meant you no harm, how the buzzing and smell of freshly cut grass lulled you to sleep up there?
You remember the shock when you woke with a start, as dusk descended with a few benign bees crawling over your arm.
So this is what you do? You ask, Remember my childhood?
The blonde in the grey blazer looks up shyly from her sandwich.
You remember the song playing when his fingers first laced through yours?
The time at the carnival, up on the ferris wheel, when he told you you never had to be scared again?
You remember waking up in arms that held you tight even in sleep?
They go back to murmuring amongst themselves as you swallow hard.
You remember everything? You ask.
They look up at the clock and answer together, Only the good things, honey, we don’t have time for the other kind.
This postcard was from the awesome Alis Rose from the radtastic blog of the same name. She is one funny woman and if you’re not reading her stuff you should be. I still have the post it note with the scrawled explanation about how she posted it in an envelope to use her works mail-out and not seem weird. Alis, honey, hate to tell you but they might be on to you even without this. xox Thank you for the wonderful collaboration.
Kitty and the Carousel
Kitty was the new girl and she was scared her teeth were going to fall out. She had these dreams about one getting loose. She’d wobble it a bit nervously and suddenly it would twist off in her hand. Then the rest would start to crack and crumble and she’d be spitting her teeth out in these little shards. I liked listening to Kitty tell her dreams. Mine were boring ones about being late for my Maccas shift after school and junk that made no sense.
When Kitty slept over she’d toss and turn in her sleep and say things like ‘Let them eat BREAD!’ in a French accent. We hung out at Luna Park and visit the guy that sold candyfloss near the bumper cars. Kitty had a crush on him and would hide her mouth behind her hand when she smiled. She made me do all the talking. He’d talk back to me but look at Kitty when he answered.
He was a dope and once we had free candyfloss I’d pull Kitty to the carousel. She’d spread her arms wide saying I was just like Cyrano. I’d say nothing and pretend I knew what she meant. She’d whip her horse and whoop and parents would take their kids to the other side. She’d grin and forget about the gap in her teeth.
I remember us hugging and crying when she moved. How I promised to write all the time and she promised she’d astral travel to me in her sleep. That first night I dreamed about my teeth falling out, they tinkled into the sink like Tic Tacs. I woke up in a sweat and put my hands in my mouth the check they were still there. And I never wrote her, not even once.
This card was sent to me by one of my favourite writers around, Mike Sweeney from New Jersey. It made me nervous having to write a card for him, especially when the words were ‘insouciantly ubiquitous’. Especially when this was the card breaking a mini word block. Hope you enjoy, this one ended up being lots of fun.
They decided to keep us in the lighthouse. All I had to do was pose and smile for their cameras and not eat anything the tourists threw. Like I’m an idiot. It’s right there on a sign in front of my enclosure.
Do not feed the gods.
The reinforced glass was relatively new. There used to be metal bars they’d poke grubby hands through. Like I’d come close enough to touch. Not like Him next door. It was his fault the glass was put in anyway. You’re not supposed to attack the tourists. It’s clearly marked in the contract. The poor man with his spine snapped and everyone taking pictures. My heart would have broken if I had one.
Then there was the time they put us together, I think they sold out for weeks. Then He got tired of being an exhibit. War was everywhere and he was starving.
I hadn’t told them in the interview but my job was boring me, silly. The tourists had no idea. Sometimes the women had a hint. They’d look hard at my eyes, while the men looked everywhere else. It was kind of pathetic.
My handler rolled his eyes while he arranged my hair over my breasts and dropped rose petals between my legs.
No wonder they’re having such trouble if you think like that.
I told him to shut up and his mouth disappeared.
They’d been getting lazier. Not making my job any fun at all. Not even believing in me anymore. Like I was the god damned tooth fairy. My neck twinged as I felt another divorce. No wonder I needed a break.
My handler rubbed my neck silently as the new group trailed up the stairs. And I stretched out on the chaise longue, ready to show them Love.
Sent in by my beautiful friend Lucy. I wish I was the kind of writer that read the word ‘entwine’ and saw two furry little things on roller skates and wrote something a little less achy. oh well.
When I wake up entwined in him, before real consciousness creeps in, I know this moment is why I do it. I kiss his back before he wakes up. He’s my friend, a good friend and I know I can’t lose him. Because he doesn’t love me. He knows the secret language you learn to speak when you’re lost at sea. He can keep me afloat as long as I don’t love him. So I dull the edges. I drink. I chain smoke. I swallow the pills one by one at different times of the day so no one catches on. I break down and cry in somebody’s arms one night. I can’t remember what it was that he said. I just remember the feeling of my head on his chest as the tears finally came hard and choking the way they always eventually did. I wonder how much I told him. The cab driver wants to know why I’m crying. He wants to know why I can’t remember my pin number. He gives me his mobile phone number and tells me I can give him the rest of the money another time. I hitch. The kindness of strangers always does that to me. I stumble out of the cab and try to find his new house. He calls and leads me to his arms and I don’t have any more memories. He murmurs words into my skin that maybe I dream. The last time I cried in front of him was when he told me he could never love me. I covered my face with my hands and let the tears come silently. But I was hiding my eyes too, so he couldn’t see that if he ever did love me, he would lose me.
#20. Yep. That’s 1/5 of the way there! This card was sent in by Michael Webb of New Jersey which is fast becoming a place in which I believe very awesome people reside. For some reason this card reminded me of an old poem of mine that suddenly wanted to become a story.
I hung over the balcony yesterday. My stomach balanced on the rail and my toes hovered close to the ground like baby birds. I swung back and forth teasing the vertigo until I paused, tilted towards the wrong side.
My hair escaped from careful pins and two thick plaits curled to the ground. One hit a man on the head tossing a baseball.
He gave the end a sharp tug and I wobbled but held on.
What are you doing up there? He shouted as he recognized me.
I wasn’t sure how to answer so I smiled.
What the hell are you smiling about?
I didn’t know why he was so upset. I remember him once telling me that my smile was quite something.
Come down and play.
I shook my head without thinking and one of my braids whipped him in the face. I jerked forwards as he grabbed the plait and wound it around his wrist bracing one leg against the wall. He lifted his other leg and my stomach crushed into the rail. I think I cried out something like help but I may not have made a sound.
As he climbed I thought about all the tugs I’d had on my hair. He was more than halfway now, grunting a little as he tore at my scalp.
I opened the scissors in my hand. Of course they’d always been there. The sound was lean as they sliced through the plait and the dead weight fell to the ground. I sliced the other one quick, grinning as he thudded back to earth. It’s true I heard the sound.
It went thud.
I tried not to smile as he yelled and tore at my useless hair, but my smile, someone once told me, it’s really quite something.
This postcard was sent in my the brilliant artist Faith Hunter of Postcards From The North. If you’d like to send in a postcard via her generous offer, click on the link and contact her, she may have a couple left. This photo just kills me, it’s so beautiful. Thanks, Faith.
the sky has gone out
Pete holds my hand in the dark and it makes it easier to do what we have to do. He’d like to go on his own but he can’t smell as good as I can. I can smell if the dead thing is too far gone to eat without even touching it now. His ears are better though and he knows if the feet coming past our shed are grown ups or kids. We never, ever go near the grown ups. They call the dark the Wreckning. I thought it was because they wrecked everything. Pete said that it was the Reckoning and had something to do with the bible. I didn’t know much about the bible, but was glad that Pete didn’t call me dumb. On the day it happened it was the hay-rolling race on our farm. All the kids came and it was so sunny, maybe the sunniest day in the world. And I was pushing as hard as I could, sweating next to Pete when my eyes started burning real bad. I started crying but I kept pushing coz I knew Pete wanted to win but the burning got so bad I stopped and I ran. Pete kept pushing and the other kids laughed and said I was a baby. When I took my hands away it was dark and I started screaming but the other screams had already started. It didn’t hurt after that and was okay until the Reckoning people came. Our parents hid us in the shed and said they’d be back and we keep waiting. I get scared sometimes. Especially when we have to go out for food because I’m still a bit clumsy and sometimes I stumble, but I never, ever fall because Pete’s holding my hand in the dark.
This postcard was sent by one of my favourite writers/editors/humans ever. Thanks Daniel. I hope it’s worthy.
Sometimes I fantasize about a guy hassling me at a gig, all pushy and gross about it, and then this guy walks up to stop him. If the jerk keeps going, the hero just drags him out by the scruff of his neck and dumps him on his arse.
This fantasy is even better if there are heaps of people and it’s the lead singer that jumps off stage to punch the jerk.
I only told Cassie because she showed me her mum’s vibrator one day when she was stealing smokes. It was purple and had a dolphin head on it and she called it the Motherfucker. I wondered if my Mum had used one before she left. Or maybe she used one now.
At the underage gigs we stood against the wall. Up front were all the blonde girls that knew the band. Cassie said they were sluts and I said yeah but thought they looked great, especially when the singer looked at them when they were dancing.
When I went to the bathroom, the other girls smiled at me with bright pink lips and started giggling and barking like dogs once I was in the cubicle.
I stayed in there for the rest of the show.
Cassie was still waiting but I didn’t say goodbye. I walked home and opened the back door as quietly as I could but he was waiting on the couch.
Curfew was twenty minutes ago.
In the shadows I couldn’t see his face and instead of being scared it was better when he stood up and took his belt off.
It wasn’t my dad at all. It was just some jerk. And any minute someone would come and drag him by the scruff of the neck and throw him out on his arse.
I’ve carried this card around with me in my diary for weeks. It’s so haunting and beautiful and I’m not sure if the artist, Emma Lindsay, is the sender of the postcard but I looked her up anyway. Pretty amazing stuff. Thank you for this one!
A cat spilt milk on this life
Mama, I wanna kitty!
She tucks a stray piece of hair behind her ear as the autumn wind blows dead leaves around their yard.
Alice, we’ve talked about this. You have Bluebell.
The Budgerigar squawks in its cage on cue.
I hate him! I wanna kitty!
The wail is hysterical and she picks her up but Alice wriggles and twists violently. She tries to quell her revulsion as one of the impetigo blisters on her child’s face erupts onto her throat.
Calm down, Alice!
She sits her wailing child on the bench and washes her hands and neck with anti-bacterial wash before applying more cream to Alice’s school sores.
His voice behind them is amiable as ever. What’s wrong with my Pumpkin?
I hate Mama!
It happens the way it always does. He laughs. Soothes. She enters their bedroom while he murmurs that yes, Mama is a meany, sometimes.
She opens the bottle and shakes two pills into her palm. Then another. She lies on the bed and closes her eyes, until she hears his voice, muffled like it’s coming from a paper bag.
He’s standing between the patio doors, watching their child play with something on her lap.
What is it? Her voice is still thick from the Xanax and he doesn’t answer.
She crouches next to her daughter and sees what has her head bent in such concentration. Bluebell is clutched between her palms, still fluttering weakly as she digs her fingers deeper into his abdomen.
She takes the dying bird from Alice and is sure to keep her back turned while she breaks its neck.
There is a rushing in her ears as her husband vomits in the pile of raked leaves and her little girl outstretches her bloody hands.
Now can I have a kitty, Mama?
Another gem sent via postcards from the north from Lulu La Muchacha.
A melted moment and nothing left.
It’s hot, with that hard wind that whips her hair against her face and sticks to her throat. She waits for him in the laneway wearing a floral dress with her bathers underneath. Trees from inner-suburban backyards spill over the wonky fences and don’t quite mask the scent of urine. She wishes they were meeting at the pool instead.
He emerges from one of the gates with a beach towel over his shoulder and doesn’t look her in the eye. What’s up? He talks like a child sometimes and she bites her lip. You’re late. He rolls his eyes up at the fence. God, I was only late because I was getting you something. He shoves a small package wrapped in a plastic shopping bag at her and she swallows, realising how thirsty she is. Thanks. The sun beats on her face and she can’t believe she forgot her sunglasses. She feels like a mole that’s been dug up and thrown on to a highway. She blinks a couple of times and suddenly she’s looking at him through the wrong end of a telescope. He’s so tiny, so far away that the glare is almost bearable. Earth to Emma. Fuck, are you even going to open it?
She hands the package in her sweating hand back to him and turns and walks with an even step down the uneven cobblestones. Hey! His whine echoes along the tin fences but he doesn’t follow. She knows he has a scowl and his hands in the air and soon her phone will start beeping with his texts but she doesn’t care. She’s melting in this moment, and she wants to get somewhere cool before there’s nothing left.
Thank you to the person with the great handwriting that sent this one in and wished me luck in a little bubble.
The care officer drops me off and I’m shown around the house by the woman. She’s pretty. She points at everything and tells me a story. The house has heaps of shit in it so I hear lots of stories. There’s a creepy iron mask. A gold pig. A Cleopatra wig on a dummy head. She doesn’t talk about the framed photos everywhere.
Your room, she says opening a door and telling me how the wooden dude holding a brick on his head near the single bed is supposed to bring the sleeper good dreams.
Later drinking tea I blush at the photo closest.
That’s kinda weird.
She laughs and I spill some tea on my leg. It burns but I don’t say anything.
Are you okay?
I breathe through my nose. I don’t want to get in trouble.
She picks up the photo of the naked couple and says she thinks it’s quite tasteful.
Then she laughs again.
My bum definitely isn’t that small anymore.
I lean closer.
No way, that’s you?
I blush again and want to put my tea down but there aren’t any surfaces.
Most of these are, she says looking around, and I get it.
You were in the movies?
No wonder you have so many stories.
The shit crammed everywhere doesn’t seem so crappy anymore. It actually seems kind of cool.
What about your story?
She says this is such a nice way my shoulders don’t even tense up. I reach into my bag and pull out an old crumpled photo of a smiling blonde lady hugging a little freckled kid.
I’ve only got one.
She says she’d still like to hear it, so I tell her.
This card was my first handmade one sent in by the beautiful and talented Al. She used to live in my room and I used to live in her apartment.
She decided she wanted a man.
So she went out and got one.
The first one didn’t work out because he was too old. He drove a luxury sedan with a practiced hand on her thigh. His gold watch would give her a rash, she was allergic, but he didn’t like to take it off. He taught her how to give the perfect blow job and hate cologne.
The second one was too young. His curls were soft and his eyes softer. He practiced guitar in her room at the edge of her bed and shyly showed her his paintings. They were in watercolour and hard to make out. He taught her how to love smooth skin and catch a lie.
The next was too wild. His beard hid everything and his eyes burned when he looked at her. She didn’t know what to say to him out of the bedroom so they mostly stayed there. He stopped calling. Then started again at 2am, at 4am. He taught her about rock n’ roll and switching her phone off before bed.
The next was too nice. Her mother loved him, her father still asks after him. He taught her she was just like everyone else.
The last one was perfect. He wasn’t anything. He was one thing one day and something else the next. Sometimes she poked him in his sleep. She never knew what to expect when she woke up beside him. He told her things she’d never heard before. He taught her herself.
The last one wasn’t real, actually. She just made him up because she thought it would be a nice way to end.
Lucky thirteen was sent in by Eirik Gumeny, a talented writer and editor of the awesome literary journal Jersey Devil Press. This was a hard one to keep below 300 words, this couple just wanted to keep going, god knows where they would have ended up if I’d let them go.
12 dollar hot dogs
Her arms are folded tightly across her chest as she stares out the passenger window.
He’s hunched over the wheel peering at street signs. He notices the lawn with a kiddy pool printed with the American flag for the second time and hopes she doesn’t.
Pull over, she says in a calm tone and he flinches.
Look, there’s a diner up ahead, we’ll stop there, okay?
He turns on the indicator, still with the slight feeling of vertigo as cars pass on the wrong side of the road.
He parks in front of the strip of huge restaurants and looks up at the huge sign.
$12 HOT DOGS!
Everything was so big here it was hard not to feel small.
She looks at him.
Are we lost?
Not really. Let’s just get something to eat.
$12 Hot Dogs? That’s like eight quid.
They’ll probably be gourmet.
Her face tightens.
You want to hire this enormous petrol-guzzling beast of a car, you want to drive around New Jersey, you want to experience the real thing and now you want a fucking gourmet hot dog?
He imagines what it would be like to slap her hard in the face, watch her head bounce off the window and her eyes widen in shock as his red hand print blooms on her cheek. He imagines what it would be like to get out of the car and walk away.
But he does neither.
It’s my shout, okay?
He hates the meek sound of his voice and she looks at him and sighs.
An hour later, pulled over on the wrong side of the road, he tries to say sorry as she heaves violently on her knees onto the nature strip but instead he clutches his stomach and vomits beside her.
This is from the artist/model/action woman Jo O’Brien and is a postcard of one of her photographic works. You can even buy it for yourself here if you like… be sure to check out the rest of her profile, she’s one talented lady. The title of the piece is the phrase and it evoked so many scenarios I found it hard to settle on one.
the morning after the night before
It’s a shitty hotel room that she wakes up in. One of those where the furniture is chipped and the TV bolted to the wall. She closes her eyes against the early morning sun beating through the thin curtains and groans behind lips that exhale a sour taste of the night before. She reaches out for the glass on top of the yellow drawer beside the bed and instead of grasping the tumbler in her hand she knocks it to the floor. It makes a dull thud on the floorboards and the smell of whiskey spreads through the room but the glass doesn’t break. She kicks of the thin blanket with a violent jerky motion and looks down at her naked body. She stares with red eyes at the way her breasts fall and rise with her breath, her nipples raw and red. She stares at her thighs, pale apart from bruises she doesn’t know how she got. She lifts her head to see if he left a note on the drawer but it is bare apart from the empty bottle of Jameson and a digital clock. At least she wasn’t late for work. She blinks rapidly, as if she hadn’t really expected to see anything there, even an apology. She heard him leave when it was still dark and she pretended to sleep through it with her hands clenched between her thighs. She gets dressed with smooth languid motions as her head begins to throb and she finds his underwear beneath her dress. She shoves them in her bag as she fishes out her sunglasses and steps into the sunshine. She will return them to him with her resignation letter at the end of the day.
This one is from Monica in New Jersey. These benign touristy postcards that are supposed to be pretty often give me the creeps, so maybe I can blame the theme on that…also another postcard contributor and writer Mike Sweeney (also from NJ) whose amazing story in Jersey Devil Press today tickled my post apocalyptic bone until this came out.
I long for summer.
The news said it was a world weather upset. That we should stay indoors and out of the black snow. When Dad left us at the cabin, he said he’d be back in a week with food. If someone came up the driveway before then I had to undo the hatch, poke the shotgun through and shoot. Dad made me swear I’d do this before they reached the second gate, he made me swear on Mum which made Henry cry a bit. He’s older than me but Dad knew it would be pointless giving Henry the gun. That’s just the way he was made. The black cold got to him way more than us. He was with Mum when it happened. He doesn’t talk about it, but I know that he picked up something was wrong and tried to warn her, that he pulled her out of its clutches even as it was tearing and biting at her. By the time he’d gotten the car home she was clawing at him from the backseat. Me and Dad came out at the screams and saw it trapped in the car with Henry trying to sooth it at the window. Dad made us go downstairs and pack. He said it wasn’t Mum anymore. By the time we left the Army trucks were heading into town.
Now we have two bullets left and the driveway is covered with their terrible shapes. But I won’t be using anymore on them. Henry holds my hand as we hear the second gate creak and see the thing wearing Dad’s clothes. As it howls and tears at the door I ask Henry if I can go first and he says okay, even though it will be worse for him, because that’s just the way he was made.
This card completes 10% of the project! Thanks to Nom, who is also a talented poet, for sending this wonderful card.
She met him in an antique store.
That’s the main thing I want to remember for her.
When I was small I’d sit on her knee while Grandad mowed the lawn and ask her to tell how they met. She’d look out the window as he passed, singing over the motor as grass cuttings and the delicious smell of my childhood wafted through the air.
Well, she’d start, I always carried an enormous tote bag and I was holding it to my chest so I didn’t knock any of the unmarked items.
She’d clutch me tight like I was her bag until I giggled then she’d roll her eyes and say how silly things without price tags were.
How are you supposed to know you can afford it, if it’s not even marked?
Like the horse! I’d shout and point.
Yes, poppet, the cabinet.
We’d look across the living room at the sunlight shining on the bronzed, carved door.
I only asked the sales girl how much it was out of curiosity, and she snapped that it was out of my league. Looking my homemade dress up and down. So I stormed out.
And you and Grandad bumped heads…
Yes, we walked right into each other. And there I was covered in sticky ice cream and bits of broken waffle cone. Now what kind of man charges into an antique store holding an ice cream?
Her smile would soften as we looked around the living room containing every precious item from the floor that day.
She never told it the same way once he died. Her eyes sparkled with tears instead of the story and when she was diagnosed she said it would be a relief to forget.
So I remember for her.
This one was sent in by the amazing artist and good friend of mine Michael Alesich. He’s one of those prolific artists that manages to do so much it makes your head spin, but I was delighted and honoured he found time to send me this fantastic hand- altered postcard.
Censored For Your Pleasure
I don’t know what he looks like.
I mean, he sent a photo but that could be bullshit. I know the one I sent him was taken on an angle that didn’t show that mole on the side of my chin, or the way these jeans give me a muffin top. He looks real classy if it is him. He’s wearing this jumper that my sister told me was cashmere. That’s expensive wool. Only jumpers that guys I know wear have hoods on them. He says that he’s an artist too and that he works mostly with his hands. I love hands, I love dancing with mine up in the air at the over 28 nights at The Pelican Bar. My bangles jingle down my arm as I grind to hip-hop and I feel like fucking Cleopatra. She was a Queen and a nympho or something. I don’t swear in my emails to him or write about sex. No way, I write like my sister speaks, she went to Uni and is classy. She doesn’t drink out of cans or wear her Uggs down the street. In his last email he offered to take me out somewhere real nice. This restaurant in the City and I want to go bad. I imagine him talking about his Art and reaching over to take my hand in his smooth ones. My nails are fucked from hairdressing, all brownish and broken. Even if I borrow a dress from my sister. No matter how nice I try to speak. He’ll see that I’m not what I’ve been pretending to be. I guess that’s why I haven’t answered yet. But I am thinking about taking another photo. One that shows who I really am.
Postcard #8 really intrigued me – and I actually thought it was from a friend of mine who knows me quite well but he swears ignorance. A little inside info that I’d like to share is that the thoughts are for each of the individual women on the card, beginning with the brunette in the blue jumper on the far left and working clockwise around to the permed woman in the red jumper.
There are things we’d like to forget as we sit and sew and speak very little with our two different languages flowing into one another as our thoughts and regrets become entangled in the lace.
I want to forget the time that I passed that note to Ben Calder offering my virginity and he printed it out and passed it around the whole seventh grade.
I’d like to forget about the time I moved my hand a little higher on her thigh and she parted her thighs but called me a lesbo and didn’t speak to me for the rest of the school year.
I’d like to forget about the time he came home with his privates smelling like women’s hand cream.
I’d like to forget that I look the money from my giagia’s wallet and bought ecstasy with it for my deb.
I’d like to forget that he wants me to have a threesome with my sister.
I’d like to forget that I read my sister’s diary and found out her husband wants a threesome.
I’d like to forget that my father died before I could tell him how much I hate him.
I’d like to forget that I’m not really in love with him.
I’d like to forget that cheating on him gave him his favourite child.
I’d like to forget that I’m only here because of a community service sentence.
I’d like to forget the bad things and remember the good but all I can see is our wedding night when I found him with another man.
Another postcard send via postcards from the north from Daan from the Netherlands.
I only think about it on Fridays. At 5pm when the office closes and I go through the last of my inbox and file Monday in small caps next to the correspondence I haven’t answered. I want to start thinking about it before I’ve left my desk, but that is not allowed so I begin a conversation with a colleague. The one called Dave is the easiest and he talks about his wife and the kids and the beer and the couch. The football takes us to the elevator and their holiday in Thailand takes me to my car. He always holds my door and looks down my top as I slide behind the wheel with numb limbs. Once inside I turn up the stereo very loudly and a pop song will play. If I’m lucky it will be a young girl singing. They are the best songs for the first thoughts. I wonder if Rapture has missed me. My shoulders shudder and I place my head on the steering wheel. Once I’m on the highway and out of the city I’m allowed to think about it. The suburbs slip by and a throbbing begins somewhere in my body but it’s impossible to tell where. I turn down the unsealed road and park at the shed that we chose so long ago. My hands shake as I reach for the set of keys for the locks. Rapture hears me coming and the sound of the handcuffs scraping against the bedposts greet me.
I always ask the question before I approach.
Have you missed me, baby?
Rapture moans yes and I slip out of my clothes and the numbness disappears.
Then the handcuffs exchange wrists and I take my turn on the bed.
This one was sent in by Shwell and simply had the word Qualia written on the back. I always get excited when someone gives me a new word, and this one’s a doozy.
Qualia are the experiences of sensory input (as opposed to the describable facts of such input). In the classic example, a sighted person can see red, but cannot describe the experience of such a perception; the best he can do is make an analogy (e.g., “red looks hot”) or provide informational descriptions (e.g., “it’s the color you see when light of such-and-such wavelength is directed at you.”). Simpler still, consider the impossibility of ever describing the experience of seeing color to a person born blind.
purple sky bleeding
the touch of your fingers
on my steering wheel.
I’m not supposed to be able to write poems. I made that one last week when he rode to work again. He hasn’t driven me in days. I don’t know how many. When I’m parked on the street the leaves get in my wipers and it feels bad. I think bad is when something is broken or rusted. The leaves are red. I know that word. It’s a bigger colour than mine but I’m like the sun so that makes me big too. The 4WD across the road calls me Morris. I think this is a bad name. When I cough in the cold mornings he revs my accelerator and calls me Lemon which is yellow and I think good. Good is when your tank is full and when he changes gear. More leaves fall and the big car goes into the garage. I think rust is creeping but the cold is good because maybe he won’t like the bike anymore. He gets in one day and revs and my sound is loud for him. He says Get In to the person standing at the passenger door. I keep idling while they talk. She says how much and he says a number. I’m not good at numbers but it makes her happy. They change seats and her hands on my steering wheel are different from his. Her foot is still big but it doesn’t push down hard and hurt like his does sometimes.
When she gets back in she is alone in the driving seat and I know it has changed. At first I cough but she rubs my dashboard and calls me Daisy and I think that is a very good name as we drive away.
This one was sent in from Mark in Niagara Falls (as you can see) and I was quite surprised at the spark it shot at me. Some of these are going to be a little abstract like this one (picture of a waterfall – story about a depressed lady in the shower) but I hope you still get as much enjoyment out of reading the interpretations as I do writing them.
to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may just be the world
After it’s done she has the hottest shower she can, and when her bare foot steps onto the cold blue tiles, everything swims behind her eyes. She reaches out with an unsteady hand and leans against the colourful 70s style tiles in her bathroom. She remembers feeling this same vertigo as a child. She used to think she was escaping to her own little wonderland as the spittle and words rained down. She saw a TV show recently that actually showed it was just her blood pressure dropping. She steps back from the unwelcome flood of memories and retreats back into the shower where she turns on the taps as hard as she can. Standing beneath the water that pummels thought away, that blocks out sound, she thinks someone told her once this is what they do for crazy people, put them in water because it’s soothing. She turns the hot tap up and the cold down and a cocoon of warmth blooms over her head, it encloses her face and she closes her eyes and smiles in the nepenthe. After a while she lifts hands that are starting to wrinkle and presses them to her mouth and a waterfall shoots off them. She opens her mouth wide and accepts the fact that it’s done.
This is another one of those special collaborations involving postcards from the north. If you’re not aware of her lovely offer have a look at her blog journal here detailing it – be quick though I think there may only be a couple left.
The phrase was sent in by the talented photographer Jessica Andrews. Make sure you check out her work, it’s really quite extraordinary.
(note – apologies for my ghostly hand and camera reflection in the middle of the image – this was one shiny postcard!)
the words left unsaid and the deeds left undone
Sean was always daring us to do stupid shit. I remember my last dare was eating that worm at the bottom of the tequila. People’s faces started morphing into demons then I’m coming to at the bottom of a cold shower. Ricky and Po were there that night but they still did his dares. Sean pulls a board out of his bag and Ricky squeals in that falsetto he has, OUJI! Po’s bottom lip sticks out but she leans forward.
We gather around this raised tomb and light the candles. If anyone was to see us they’d think we were sickos. I don’t get the big deal. It’s just dust and bones at the bottom of the concrete slab. Po slides over to me and her bare arm touches mine. Hairs rise on my forearms and wind howls through the cemetery and I think of how huge these tiny moments are – like someone’s zooming in with their camera on each stiff hair.
Ricky giggles and says that we’re about to summon the dead in this theatrical voice. Sean pays no attention, he’s looking at Po’s arm touching mine. Ricky sees Sean watching so he steps back and does this hand sweep, taking his jumper off and swirling it around like it’s a cape.
I’m not sure if I was about to say cut it out, or it’s that I prefer to remember it that way.
It was a big rusty chain that he tripped over. Hanging off the edge of the tomb, attached to nothing. The sound his head made on the corner of the tomb was like someone dropped a watermelon on the concrete.
He was learning to speak again, is what his mother said when we went to visit. We only went that once.
This delightful Yoshitomo Nara (I LOVE YOSHITOMO -I thought I’d shout it in case it wasn’t already clear) postcard came with the word ‘kindred’. There was no name on the card but I’m certain it came from a kindred Yoshi-lover.
I like playing with Lou. She says the best friends are the ones no one else can see. I hug my knees and so does she. We look the same. Except she’s prettier. I think we might be sisters but I’m not sure. I take my tablet while she sings.
Fly’s in the buttermilk, shoo, fly, shoo.
You have to take medicine?
I tell her it makes me not naughty.
She sticks her tongue out and I giggle because she’s got a tablet too – a blue one that looks like a lolly. She spits it out and it bounces across the bedspread.
Cows in the cornfield, what’ll I do?
She pinches me at the dinner table.
I want peas.
My arm hurts but I don’t cry because I’m brave.
You have to behave at the table, Lou.
Mum looks up from her plate like I said a swearword.
What did you say?
I shove the peas in my mouth.
At bedtime I tell Lou they’re going to make her go away again and she looks like she might spit but she still snuggles up next to me to dream.
Lost my partner, what’ll I do?
Mum’s crying at the kitchen table when I get up for my cereal. I pat her back wondering why she’s holding her long hair in her hands.
Dad walks out of my room holding the big scissors and he says what’s wrong with you in a funny voice, like he’s going to cry.
Lou says he’s a meany.
Did you do it?
She nods and sings.
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou,
But they think it’s me.
I climb under the blankets while Lou strokes my hair and holds the scissors close.
I’ll get another one, prettier than you,
Skip to my Lou, my darlin’.
This one is from Melbourne and was sent in by Jurate. I’m pretty sure the photo was taken by her also, as on the back of the postcard it’s titled ‘Winston’, Paris 1990.
I reach for another cigarette and know your face would wrinkle in that tense way if you knew. Everyone smokes here and I’m trying to think of a word that will describe the musky smell of this bedsit in the Marias. When I say how charming it is on the phone, I’m not lying, it’s just the amount of whiskey in the bottle. I never told you what you wanted to hear at home, but now it’s different. My voice hums all the way across the ocean and you don’t seem to be able to hear the static. I’ve stopped going to classes. I missed so many that stopping hardly seemed like an event. Just no more men on campus who spit as I pass. You sound cheerful when we speak now. Your voice has none of the cracks that it had when we lay in the dark on that last night. You think I’m going to be a famous artist. You probably brag to your friends about me. You imagine my cheeks cute and ruddy from the cold, not my hands cracked and bleeding from a skin disease I can’t pronounce in French. I finish my drink and ignore the ache in the small of my back. I think about how I’ll feel when I sober up tomorrow and read this. I write down one more sentence before I screw up the piece of paper and throw it away.
I want to come home.
She was born on the shortest day of the year. He was finishing high school and beginning what would be his first marriage. The rusty iron fence that lines the property they live on irks her. She wonders how the neighbours stand it. She hears them talking sometimes. She hears the clinking of glasses and imagines the table is set with tablemats. Knives and forks that match. She hears the squeak of springs and breathless laughter and realizes the kids are on the trampoline. A Kingfisher lands on the fence and shrills at her. Shoo, she whispers, and presses her ear against the tin. She hears a baby crying from somewhere deep within the house. She hears the woman’s heels clicking down polished floorboards towards it. She holds her own flat stomach and smiles against the fence. The screen door swings open behind her and the smell of cigarettes waft out. His fingers are yellow from years of them perching there. She follows him into the dim kitchen and sees he’s made her cake. It’s sunk in the middle where the words Sweet Sixteen have caved in. She says it doesn’t matter as he starts banging more eggs into bowls. These things, he says without looking up, are harder than they seem.