Promise you won’t tell?

‘PROMISE you won’t tell anyone.’

As a child, these words were tantamount to law. If broken, the scandal would be unavoidable. Betrayal was simply not an option. Childhood is one of the purest times of Life. A time when a secret is treasured and happiness is normality. To this day, I have secrets locked away that were whispered to me in the corner of a playground or written to me on a scrap of paper during class. And I STILL would never breathe a word of them to anyone else.

You can’t break a promise.

Or at least, that’s what you’re brought up to believe. As you get older and life throws an array of challenges at you, you find yourself breaking promises more often than you make them. Events you swore to turn up to are forgotten; plans with friends are discarded in favour of someone ‘more important’; and whispers are shared around with anyone who happens to be listening, perhaps because conversation can otherwise be verging on dull.

Privacy is an illusion in the hustle and bustle of reality.

But there comes a time every year when a shadow of our younger selves flicker into life. As Winter settles snugly over the British countryside, a feeling of cosiness and privacy envelops people. No more casual chats in the street; coats are tugged around the face to keep lips from chapping. No more midnight strolls when you can’t sleep; why face the bite of frost when you can snuggle in the toast of a blanket and steam from a mug? We all scuttle indoors to our family and loved ones for a Sunday dinner in the warmth. The fact that the girl who is friends with your friend’s brother might be pregnant is no longer your concern or your news. Your priorities change.

And perhaps this is due to the hint of Christmas on the horizon. Lights are being strung up in the streets and the country is powering through Halloween and Bonfire Night with typical British gusto. Family and friends are clung to. There is excitement in the air.

And we taste childhood once again.

In a world that clamours all year round to have its worries heard and addressed, this is the time of year when we can all change down a gear and embrace hibernation state. The cold is a welcome respite from the chatter of gossiping teeth and the harsh intakes of breath that accompany a scandal. It is the one beautiful time of the year when the world is united in a sense of hope and family, and loyalties shift to a place of utmost importance over a steaming mug of warming cocoa.

Youth no longer seems so far away.

And as one, the population becomes hushed. Privacy reigns.

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Take a bow

There are times when, even on our own blogs or when performing on our own stage, we should step back and give another credit for the work that goes on behind the scenes or in the dark recesses of literature that not many delve. Let another master of craft step forward to take a bow. Beauty is scattered in every corner of the world and comes in many different forms – and they are waiting out there with baited breath to be discovered. I particularly feel drawn to those arts that I myself find nigh impossible to master; to process in awe that which I cannot reproduce on any level.

This is why today, instead of writing my own piece, I wish to share with you a short poem, entitled ‘Sonnet’ by Billy Collins. Not exactly conventional in its content, I think it wonderfully portrays the love of modern day. He doesn’t dwell on the clichéd imagery that is often associated with the sonnet, but instead revels in the strict rules and regulations before giving the impression that he surrenders to the simplicity of love at the end. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did – this art, though perhaps different from your own, may inspire something magnificent.

* * *

Sonnet

All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,

and after this one just a dozen

to launch a little ship on love’s storm-tossed seas,

then only ten more left like rows of beans.

How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan

and insist the iambic bongos must be played

and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,

one for every station of the cross.

But hang on here wile we make the turn

into the final six where all will be resolved,

where longing and heartache will find an end,

where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,

take off those crazy medieval tights,

blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.

-Billy Collins

Lost by my own hand

I was asked to write a piece centered around an object from my past that I had lost and that now held some significance to me. Unlike a lot of people who cherish an old teddy bear forgotten in the dusty recesses of the garage or a specific mobile phone that lost them contact with the wider world for a whole WEEK (or something equally traumatic), I couldn’t think of a single thing that I had accidentally lost.

But this made me ask the question: Why does something ‘lost’ mean something that you misplaced and, by mere coincidence, cannot find again? Can’t you lose something on purpose? Have YOU ever ‘lost’ something in order to bury or hide a part of you that you can no longer face?

This led me to write the following short creative non-fiction piece, exploring the realms of objects that are lost for a reason and by the possessor’s own hand.

* * *

The rusty metal beneath my clenched fingers is icy to the touch, but I cling on to the pain, sharp and distinct. Sea specks freckle my defiant face, upturned to the call of gulls sweeping high above me.  It would be magnificent to fly free of this earth, to coast on a current of air and bridge the gap between the heavens and earth, skies and sea.

My heavy leaden feet root me to concrete.

In the bitter air, my lips are sticky, wisps of hair whipping around my head and clinging to them stubbornly. This annoys me but I do not reach up to tuck them away. As has become my custom, I let it happen to me without objection. I have no power here.

Though, looking out at the wild ocean, a calm settles over me. Churning masses of grey rear up to reach their brother clouds before crashing back down again in a swirl of dirty green and ominous teal. The barrel chest of a mighty boulder bears a cracked and bleeding stance in the face of oncoming surges, battering them back with a determined cascade of salt and spray. It’s the role model I need to give me the courage to finally glance down at what I grasp.

In my palm a silver chain cuts into my skin, wrinkled and knotted, snaking an intricate history to the delicate silver pendant. Some of the shine has ebbed away, leaving in its wake a dull sheen, a foamy echo of its former brilliance. A strip of silver has peeled from the facade, revealing an ugly copper graze as a scar unavoidable and permanent. The sight no longer wrenches at my gut; no more does it burn wet tracks down my cheeks. Instead it hardens me. It turns to stone what once would beat fiercely with life, and scolds away a carefree embrace.

Enough.

The necklace is released from my arm like a spring and soars through the air. Time slows as it twists and squirms down towards its fate. No light glints from the metal, no screams of dismay reverberate down the pier as it sinks into the inky depths. But a flutter of my heart sends blood pumping through my veins with a renewed vigour, and, for the first time in months, salt water of my very own drips from my spidery lashes.

by kuchenuwe-komo

I want to be invisible

Yesterday, I was presented with a certain task:

‘Take a piece of paper and write your darkest secret on it – a secret that, even if you were in twenty years of marriage, you still wouldn’t tell your partner. Once you’ve done that, I will ask you to rip the paper up and throw it in the bin.’

This seemed like a strange task at first. What would be the point? But then again, I reminded myself, this is a seminar and for these two hours our pens are at the mercy of our leader.

It was interesting watching the people around the table. Some struggling to come up with anything; some merely pretending to write something down; others finding what they were writing extremely difficult to process.

The problem with it was, I realised, that once something is written down, it has been confessed, it is real once more. There is no arguing with ink on paper, there is no running away from what your eyes can see.

And this is what makes writing – whether it be prose, poetry, plays or any of the other numbers of genres and styles we could pick – so magical. It is a thing that can make the most courageous of us blanch in fear or the most self-assured begin to question our own morality. Around that room, people were feeling a range of emotions from shame to fear; around that room, people were feeling the power of the written word.

Not everyone can appreciate what I mean when I talk about this power. At the end of the day, I am an English student, so my love for the art would be that much more pronounced to the point of obsession than any other normal human being. But humour me for a minute: has there not been one story from your childhood that has stayed with you? Have you not at least once been seen rifling through pages of a magazine or newspaper to find out the developments of a certain article? Are you not word perfect to your favourite song? All of these are examples of the power written word has over us, even from a young age.

Once we had written down the most vulgar representation of ourselves in that seminar, there was a rush to rip the pages up and get them into the bin. In fact, the seminar leader even shook the bin up to ensure the pieces were sufficiently mixed. Isn’t it strange how closely we guard ourselves from others?

He then told us the lesson that I will never forget. He told us that one day, when we know ourselves more completely than we could imagine, we would be writing that secret down in the depths of a story or in the title of a poem. We would be putting that secret out on display for all to see.

But the secret of telling our secret to the world?

We would be entirely invisible when we did it.