Babel

Thursday, 17 July 2014TEXTBIN
 
 
 

This is a poem of mine that was published in the July 2014 edition of the biannual Brittle Star Magazine

Please see the bottom of this post for a recorded version of the piece spoken by me.

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Sometimes he felt like he was outside of himself, looking with slight disdain at the expressionless features of his face, but still feeling his face somehow, numbly, like putty. This happened a lot in taxis. Often, he was attached to his body the way the lens in a phone is connected to its owner as it snaps the selfie in a mirror. Sometimes it was worse, much worse. Sometimes he felt like he was just a volume of paper thin skin encompassing nothing, a human balloon terrified of pins, trying to pretend to everyone that everything is normal, when he was actually terrified, rigid with worry that he might just pop at any given moment. This mostly happened in the build up to office socials. Occasionally he was overcome with remorse. He would feel like he had been entirely unfaithful to his previous selves by attaining so little, by forgetting their dreams, by allowing their passions to be slowly doused in alcohol and BBC reruns. This mostly happened during hangovers. His generally applicable panacea of aimlessly surfing Vimeo’s Staff Picks would no longer work in these instances, so he would walk. Preferably up and down things, like ramps and stairs, regular repetitions of similarly sized steps, but outside, so he could feel the cold or heat on his face. This left few options in his vicinity that were suitable, namely the assortment of multi storey car parks whose ramps and stairs he would ascend and descend in alternation, up the stairs, down the ramps, down the road and up the ramps then down the stairs and so on. The guards were always too busy chatting to notice him and incrementally, with each step he took, he would fill out. Not feel good or anything like that, just that the terror would go away. As he climbed he would slowly lose the feeling that he was his own double, or that there was nothing inside him and he had to hide it, or that he was only the sum of other people’s opinions of him. These walks, usually at night, lit by neon, were the only times he started to feel that the grammar-less 20,000 word email full of misspellings that he usually felt himself to be was sort of fixing itself, adding full stops, using spell check, becoming legible. The car parks were his tower of babel. He was building with his feet, up and up, piling on top of each other, ever higher ramps and stairs and stairs and ramps. Precipitously, endlessly, he was reaching for himself, for his one unitary self, whole, sure and pristine. But every time, sure as with the biblical tower itself, the moment would come when he would shatter. Like a warning that you can and should never try and approach an ideal, even yourself, let alone God, just as he was able to gather a glimmer of relief, each and every time, he would splinter back into a thousand anxieties, a million viewpoints, each with their own language, lost and confused. In the broken wake of his collapsed edifice, he would return home haunted each time with all of his facebook pages and twitter profiles crowding around him and shouting at each other like demented and vengeful spirits.

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