old fears are still valid.

'Old fears are still valid' by Marlene Dumas.
‘Old fears are still valid’ by Marlene Dumas..

notes from the white city.


We’re in the middle of nowhere and we’re lost. We’ve been looking for the lost souls. After turning the corner from the McCafe we sunk into silent roads and estranged surburbia. The locals peer at my snow covered faux fur and red-chilled cheeks. Inappropriate shoes wade through untread depths. The journey gets odder with each twist. The train to the end of the line, the tram to the end of the line. We’re at the boundaries, walking without signposts.  And then, a sign points through an assortment of factories. Individuals abandoned to obscurity, no glamour, no fanfare. Death collected in a little field. I sat in the snow, wearing black in my mourning.


It’s approaching midnight and I’m tap-dancing outside Cafe Central. The courtyard is empty save for the few pairings that meander through the night. The snow is heaped at the side of the road and glistens under the street lights. The cobbles shiny, the buildings grand; a deconstructed kind of romantic. Love is a kind of madness they tell me. My gut is resisting. This form of happiness is wearing. At midnight, I’m alone and the words ring in my head: I love you, I love you, oh brother of mine.


Rot wein, bier und whisky. Kaffee Alt Wein, Kleines, Ich liebe dich. The boy with the long greasy hair lights another cigarette and he is beautiful. In different wor(l)ds everything is enticing  Groups of youth sit around the big tables over tankards reveling in debate and laughter and good food. The walls are lined with posters. One picture catches my eye, a female figure. She is nude and distorted.


In the day we see galleries of naked men. ‘Cock and Jeans’ the title reads. In another photograph the cock rests in a pint glass full of beer. Children walk past me indifferent as I muffle my giggles.

Each night I dream of rape, uncomfortable sex, nudity. A furious desire to feel. It shivers my bones.


It’s so quiet I can hear my soul creaking. The morning is raw but nothing stirs the slumber except the melange und apfelstrudl. I feel something dark and powerful inside. We’re constantly in translation. Without language, the landscape is terrifying and nothingness. To cling to my self I remember to note all the things I have lost.

Saying Something.

There is an order to words. They require a certain moment in which to be spoken. Sometimes though we say things out of turn. And it all comes tumbling out, messy, and the order is broken. The order can be temporarily repaired through denial and suppression. We pretend so we can retain the sense of reality we had known; the forms we had made. Saying something violently uproots our precious securities.

Saying something has always been a favourite poem of mine. Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful words blew my 15 year old mind as I peeled back the sensational nature of her language to pick out the styles and metaphors in my GCSE English exam.

I see you turning on the lights.

I remember this line being a point of contention. What could it mean? Surely it means more than someone was clicking a light switch. No it is a double-layered symbol. Turning on the lights: light of my life, relight my fire, you’re my flame – love and light, the cliches are endless.

For me I was always curious about those last two words: saying something. “This does not necessarily just refer to a verbal expression” remarked my English teacher. And true, the things that are said rarely capture the intent. Love poems always border dangerously between the cliche and tacky.

It dawns on me I should really stop writing about love. Try my hand at something I actually do know: death, loss, darkness. Let me describe the absence for love is always an excess; grotesque and greedy.

Saying something. Words tend to caricature the emotion, the experience. And so we are left with the silent bodily sensations, the indecipherable, the formless, the transitory. And now I see it all just seeping away, a pitiful death, it never happened, I never knew you, it was only ever a lie. Exhausted the language, no codes to express. I’ve already said too much.