Inside of my head there is a gate. Its always been there but I haven’t always known it. The woman who taught me about it had told me that the gate wasn’t simply in my head; the gate was me. My mind-body is a causeway or a threshold. The cracks that run through all possible worlds run through you she had said. This was a much nicer way of putting things than the psychiatrists had. She also told me some other things- things that may explain why everything around you has turned to rubble and shit. Or they might just piss you off. I wouldn’t blame you if they did.

I was probably six years old when it first happened. Nothing dramatic. The sky didn’t open. No angel descended to impart to me a sacred mission. Waves remained unparted and if I walked upon them I would sink as any other bundle of electricity and flesh. It was in Ireland, a backwater place in Tipperary where my maternal blood began. My mother had lived alone in that old house with its corrugated metal roof and mezzanines of wood. More a barn than a house, more a shed than a barn. But huge. She and her mother lived there together for some sixteen years. Both of them alone beneath a permanence of sky. My mother raised herself while in the pantry, such as it was, my grandmother would chatter to herself of shapes and tones, textures and obscenities. Years later, when Americans came to buy up the abandoned property, they would tell my mother it was quaint. Quaint with its unassuming old world feel. Having abandoned progress the Americans now mined the past.

It was on one of the occasions my mother returned to her starting place, the place where her sparks first tripped against the mute world of derelict farmland and quarries. As I said, I was maybe eight, although I could have been younger. I’d been playing in the garden all through the day while my grandmother, her huge glasses covering much of her face, baked bread in funny shapes to amuse me. Tubes and stars and triangles. Mother had probably been in her old bedroom blankly watching me play from the window. I never knew why she made this annual pilgrimage as neither she nor her mother enjoyed them. But families are like religions I suppose; you don’t have to believe to enact the rituals.

I remember I had been playing with rocks. Balancing them atop one another or throwing them to see how far my puny arms could get them. While heaving a rock far too big for a boy my size I wobbled unsteady and fell. Somehow I managed this with such precision that the rock ended up smashing the side of my head. Blood poured and I panicked. The first wound of childhood. The first knowledge of frailty. How do we all come to ignore the precarious fragility of our mortal machinery? Picking myself up I ran in to the quaint little shed, passed my grandmother and into the bedroom where my mother sat. Shocked and first but priming some instinctive sense she gathered me up and poured water from a bottle onto the cut. She cradled me a while and hushed whispering of its okay, its not that bad, come on you’re a brave soldier and other such things mothers say to their crying offspring. Probably the tears were for show by this point. Probably she knew that. The show was going to end pretty soon. The ritual would collapse.

There now, I’ve kissed it better so you can stop now. You had a nasty shock but its over now.
-Can I have some sweeties now?
But granny is making bread especially for you…you don’t want to ruin your appetite for that, do you?
-I suppose so.

She was smiling a big smile. Teeth the size of cobblestones in a young boy’s eye. She lay down on the bed saying something about rest and the wicked but not the phrase you might think. She was always doing that. Making her own little twists on things. She probably said something like there’s the wicked and the rest and the two don’t meet or something. Occasionally and as a complete nonseqeteur she would ask people if they’d ever been in a barrel with a goat, or if they’d ever seen a blind man wrestling a field of sheep. I think they had been things she’d been told her father had said. She hadn’t known him. Perhaps that’s what she was thinking about and thinking thus she tuned into my little cracks, sent my wires swinging from here to elsewhere and the gate opened for the first time.

He was tall. Very tall. His hair was what people would call a shock. It sort stood on end as if he had knives growing from the top of his head. Dark and undulating knives. And he stank of pipe tobacco. Later I’d find out they always smelt like this- just a byproduct of the process. His long arms were entirely concealed except for the razor tipped nails that pocked from the tips of fingers that were just barely visible from within the oversized great coat. It was like the man was all silhouette and no substance. But for his eyes he mightn’t have even looked alive. They burned. Inside of his eyes was a cauldron of seething fire. Imagine this: a computer graphic of the sun or an electrical image taken by a space roving telescope. Imagine the colours and the mingling of tongues of flame thousands of miles wide. Imagine the corona reaching out slightly and chunks spitting forth, arching back down into the heart of it. His eyes were like that. Like a solar storm. But it wasn’t destruction and rage that came from them. I read in those eyes a sort of sorrow. That was the first time my heart broke. Eight years old and my heart just ruptured like muscle bursting out from under the skin. Or maybe I was younger.


This is from a wee short story I knocked up. It might be total pish but it killed a boring afternoon while I waited to move into my new flat. I might post more of it once a week or something. Also, just to brag a bit…I managed to pick up a copy of Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in Highschool for 60p today.


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