Liminal

In the dream (because I am still dreaming odd, impossible dreams) I am running down a naked road at night, taxiing down it like a plane in the muted glow of the the dim streetlights; and my foot hits the ground in one decisive smack, propelling me into the air, and I’m suddenly back in the lucid indigo sleep of my childhood full of these secret flights. I rise quickly, grinning and giddy, my arms out at my sides. I know I can go anywhere, anywhen; open those doors hidden between seasons and orbiting stars and behind the rain and leap.  I turn as the wind streams around my limbs, thinking of a name…The scenery streaks past me like messy oil paint until I arrive…But I can’t find them in the great green field I’m standing in, butter-bright sun lighting up the grasses.

I feel myself settle back into my skin. Someone is next to me, sitting on the sofa blanket. I open my eyes suddenly, and now no one is there. Sometimes that happens, someone, something, follows me back. I hate these things; chittering, scrabbling creatures sniffing around the melting candle of my wandering spirit.

As a child, I never knew whether these nocturnal journeys were simply the whorls of my brain processing the day or if I was always lifting out of myself like smoke; so lightly tethered to my own flesh that falling asleep was one long, easy exhalation out of my mouth. Ectoplasmic, mystical, free.

IMG_0653 (1)

Now, for some reason, they’re back. I close my eyes and find myself in the ocean, or between the clouds, or standing in an unknown city; all reflections, clean metal and blown glass. Sometimes I visit places more than once – the cemetery with tombs engraved in a language I’ve never seen; the chapel that changes historical period every time I’m there; the grove of tall firs with a granite throne, covered in moss and ivy; and the city, of course. That golden glass citadel, temple bells ringing, saffron-yellow silk hanging from the doors and windows.

I don’t know; perhaps the fragile-fingered grip on my own sanity is loosening again. These explorations between dimensions mean I don’t sleep well, barely rest. Is it spiritual? Is it mental? I no longer know…I just desire a dreamless night, the cells of my body calmly soaking up the hours. If anyone knows how to stay nestled safely within your own soft shell, let me know.

Licking Toads

I see you. On trains and escalators; buying bread and walking the dogs. I see you clutching history books and muddy hiking boots in plastic bags. Invisible or too visible, broomsticks disguised as vacuum cleaners and butterflies nesting in your hair, cunningly mimicking plastic clips. I see you on the train; toying with old necklaces, picking scars, scribbling in miniature notebooks, sipping cans of pre-mixed Gin & Tonic.

I see you when you are young, and sad, and waiting to blossom; way behind the other girls. Barely tethered to the world, on slim and lonely paths the deer wend through the green; or padding through the city alleys, urban fox paws slipping out of denim jacket sleeves. I wonder if you are like me. I wonder where the cauldron is, it will be somewhere in your body but not full yet, or not ready to be tasted on the end of a burned thumb, like Gwion Bach. You must believe that your wet-leather skin is no less beautiful than the plumage of the blossoming girls. I see you. I see you when you too are riding the Hedge of a liminal late decade and the reality of your life – of what your life could be – is sinking in like clay.

I sit on those same itchy train seats with my own history books and fizzy green water. There are stoat bones around my neck and I am wearing sensible shoes and a lone dash of badly applied lipstick. I have started seeing you everywhere; in cafes and churches and doctor’s waiting rooms and yes, always, always on the train – or at least waiting on platforms speckled with gum like a hen’s egg. Toad Women. I see you everywhere phasing like ghosts through linen as I hoard more years, as I grow into my role with relish, leaning into the crooked bones of my house.

IMG_2420

I, too, am a Toad Woman. I have glittering eyes and hallucinogenic skin. A jewel hidden inside my head. I creep through dying leaves and pond sludge, fingertips sipping eccentric nutrients from moon-drenched soil. My palace is a hollow space in the earth to sleep in, my great hall is lined with lichen tapestries and pillars of decaying mushrooms. When I sleep, it’s to the sound of rain seeping through the tangled roots of my canopy bed.

I am glad for the invisible circle of us; sometimes one, sometimes thirteen. Endlessly together in our strange sisterhood, the ocean forever rolling stones around its mouth. I wait in threshold spaces for you to appear; public gardens, libraries, zebra crossings, A&E. Without fail I will spot another Toad Woman even if she is sitting behind me, with those extra, shiny black eyes rolling around the back of my skull like dice. Then I swivel my neck, Minerva’s owl, cough. She understands; she too has a throat full of mouse bones and hair from mourning lockets. She also feels the creak in that one glowing rib.

Come and creep with me. Let’s discover hare’s nests and hidden green stems no human eye has ever seen. Let’s slip between the loose stones in the wall, where tiny purple flowers thrive. Let’s find all the holy wells where a saint’s head fell, and hold out cups of silver, wood and gold. Let us rejoice, because the water tastes of myrrh, and apples.

Hush

There is a small tree growing out of the drainpipe on the old guildhall. Just beginning to brush the red brick with baby leaf hands, reaching up towards the cracked and peeling window frame. All around me the people hive-hum across the cobbles, a spilled yolk of morning sun pouring through cracks in ancient stones.

Some people stop, stare at me, point me out to their giggling girl gaggles, look me up and down pausing for breath on their mobiles phones; all because I am still and staring upward with a smile on my face at this gentle hand of spring relaxing into unobtrusive space. Tender green ears twitching to the city.

This happens. It happens when I stare too long at the dirt ingrained in the creases of commuter’s palms; overwhelmed with sweetness for the microscopic labyrinths of our bodies that breathe in ash and grease and motor oil. Happily drowning in our shared humanity; lashes streaked with cosmetic paint, the yellow crumbs of last night’s crying, filtering soot and dust from the mild surface of our eyes. Palms that weigh rice, coins, newborns; fingertips that test the quality of silk and writing paper and the texture of flower petals. Shoulders bearing water buckets, raffia baskets, coffins.

IMG_1433
I love everything. I love the eyes looking upwards to the sunlight sinking through leaves. I love whoever is marvelling at the exquisite pink of the new cherry blossoms right now. I love the girl, the boy, weighing themselves and wondering. I love the fingers fumbling with buttons and the toes rediscovering sand. I love everyone curled like living shells into dirty sheets: the sunlight touching old gravestones; holes in hand-me-down trousers, ragged hems brushing the pavement; the sweat clinging to people I will never meet in olive groves and orchards and corn fields.

I become these things, sometimes. My veins rise like ecstatic kraken and burst with thick ribbons of red and blue and yellow paint. I am the iridescent back of a long-legged beetle. I am every dissenter’s neck and every axe. I am hands cupping daily milk dishes. I am the shame that follows just one more drink. I am every nose passing a hot dog stand or candyfloss or stale urine at the bus stop. I am inappropriate laughter in church.

And people say, hands over ears, over eyes; Hush.

Why can’t you just be

A little

Less.