Behind the Eye a Star

“We know that in September we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” Henry Rollins

Pinch, punch, first of the month – no returns (unless you really feel like it, and if you do, please be my guest).

T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruellest month (I always struggled with the Waste Land and Thomas Stearns Eliot for that matter), but for me it has always been the bittersweet, crepuscular encroachment of September that jolts my soul back to reality after the summer’s reveries. School starting, nights drawing, leaves falling, cold enshrouding  ,shadow-forming September; the start of the long road to winter. The end of the golden road to unlimited devotion. It must have felt like this in San Francisco, as 1967 rolled in to 1968 or as Hunter Thompson said in the extraordinary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

To ready myself for the joys of September to come, I thought I’d share with you all some of my favourite September songs, please feel free to add songs that mean as much to you.

PeaceLoveLight,

David Sylvian – September

Wistful simplicity

The sun shines high above
The sounds of laughter
The birds swoop down upon
The crosses of old grey churches
We say that we’re in love
While secretly wishing for rain
Sipping coke and playing games
September’s here again
September’s here again

The Field Mice – September’s not so far away

Captivating, mellifluous fragility

Green Day – Wake Me up When September Ends

Stone cold classic

Earth Wind & Fire – September

They’ve got da funk

Big Star – September Gurls

The never-ending genius that is Alex Chilton and the song that started the train of thought that started this post.

Have a beautiful day and a beautiful September. Peace.

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Sample it, Loop it, F*ck it, & Eat it

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‘Who the fuck wears deck shoes and tucks pressed pastel shirts into pressed pastel short slacks? For fuck’s sake! This isn’t a fucking Prep School away day to fucking Cowes, you wankers,’ Rhian stage whispered, looking beyond the objects of her ire. Her face puckered into a facsimile of childhood. The men clinked glasses of gins and tonics – a slice of lime fell to the ground between them – and laughed with mile long stares. Dead behind the fucking eyes; not so alive in front either. Rhian smoothed her Pop Will Eat Itself tee shirt, faded through infrequent washing since 1987; now more rock burns than material. Sample it, Loop it, Fuck it, & Eat it. Rhian lit another cigarette, slugged from her bottle of (rum and) cola, scanned the beer garden again, and favourited another tweet. The Pastels had pissed off. Above her, vapour trails crosshatched the honeyed sky; dissolute pigeons dropped their lunches in pints, on shirts, on tables. Supposed to be lucky. ‘Is it fuck!’ she said.

Rhian looked about the beer garden (Patio Terrace) to her left and scanned three hundred and sixty degrees. Two women, their twenties some summers passed, stood behind her, now: Louis Vuitton bags – fresh from the midweek market on their crooked arms – as authentic as their bottled tans. They stood, opposite hips thrust out and forwards, legs crossed so their little toes met, puckering, and not speaking. Life imitating life. Do they know each other? They were each holding mobile phones in their left hands and unlit fags in the other; somehow searching their bags, for lighters probably. Two men – sun’s out guns out – slouched yards from them, watching them, smoking Lambert and Butlers. Neither offered a light. What a lovely dance. Rhian watched the men watching the women watching the men. Phones stayed silent, so no one spoke. Have they known each other?

————————————————————————–

Deiniol came through the patio door waving at her, unsmiling. He sat down, took out his phone, and sent a text. ‘You all right? Not late am I? I’ll be with you now,’ he said not looking at her. ‘How’s Agatha?’ Rhian could hear the discordant tapping.

‘My aunt? She’s fine. What’s it to you?’ Rhian put down her half-finished pint of Cwrw Haf, stood, bouffed her hair again, and pouted. Winking daisies swayed in the half-filled carafe on the table between them. As she walked towards a table, twelve feet away, Deiniol eyed her disappearing arse, tremulous on unaccustomed heels, swaying over to the table twelve feet away. He smiled, took out a second phone from his breast pocket, and scrolled through a day’s text messages. Rhian stopped, pouted anew, twirling her hair, and thrust her breasts towards two men, pinstripe-suited, Brogue-booted, with open necked shirts, and scrubland chests. Uniforms uniform.

‘Yeah, sorry babes, yeah, I’d love to chat, yeah, but I’m just making money. Doing a bit of business, yeah,’ said pinstripe number one, slicking back his thinning hair with yellowing fingers, grinning at his pinstriped brethren, and winking at her. Ash dropped from his cigarette into his pint.

‘That pocket square looks shit,’ Rhian said to pinstripe number two, standing taller now. ‘Is it your nan’s tea cosy?’

Their voices carried across the shaded patio. ‘What’s she on about Dai?’ pinstripe number two said, looking at nobody, but noticing Deiniol for the first time. Deiniol had recognised him some minutes earlier and was smiling, chuckling into the ether of the springtide sunshine. Deiniol couldn’t be arsed to rescue her. He would let this one play out. He looked at his phone, properly this time, and saw the message from Rhian at 19.30 the previous evening. He clicked the home button without reading it and lit his first cigarette of the day. His official first cigarette. Deiniol had told Rhian, had told everybody that he was giving up, had given up, and was now a ‘non-smoker.’ He liked the idea, but couldn’t be bothered with the pretence. He would leave that to Rhian; she seemed to be doing well enough. He put down his phone and lit another cigarette, zeroing smoke rings through smoke rings.

‘Always good to see you babes, been too long, yeah,’ pinstripe number one said turning, his grey chest hair like an unused Brillo pad, ‘I’ve just got to finish up here, then I’ll be over in ten, yeah.’ He pointed at an invisible watch and winked at her. He pulled down his sleeve. More ash fell into his pint. ‘You here on your own?’

‘Might be,’ Rhian said, heels clacking on cobbles, as she walked back to Deiniol, but did not sit.

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The World Goes on

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As she stepped from daylight into darkness, the door closed behind her more slowly than before as she skipped a step. The step skipped by her. Door open-space-blank-closed. Step missed. Missed step. Nothing. Rhian heard her name, called her name from behind the bar, well a name, it might not have been hers, but Andy was looking at her and his mouth was open, mouthing words without making sounds. A one-man dumb show. She swept the room, unsyncopated echoes, mouths closed. There were no sounds. Rhian wanted to walk, but steps kept stopping and starting, starting and stopping. She put her hands out in front of her, inching her way to the bar, but the spaces grew and the bar retreated. Neither going forwards nor standing still. Definitely not retreating either. She was sure everyone was looking at her, though she couldn’t count them or see them, as she steeled herself and made the journey.

‘All right Rhi? You working tonight?’ Andy said, reaching up for the Mezcal bottle, wiping his hand on tattered jeans, and flipping over a glass. ‘Usual is it, me duck?’

‘Usual what?’ Rhian said holding on to the bar and looking to her feet for stability. The room stood still, still she felt herself swaying. Her oxblood Doc Marten’s would keep her there. If not the permanently tacky carpet would.

‘Usual drink? Mezcal, not Tequila, no ice. Double. It’s on the house, love.’

‘No wonder you don’t make any fucking money,’ said a man in a Prelapse tee-shirt, whom Rhian thought she knew. She had seen him before, there, but not standing there and not wearing that tee shirt. Brain scarring, whooshing left to right, a ham actress’s double take, imbalance, blackness, but then light. Rhian tried to breathe, huge lungs full. She did not know how. Gwenllian always reminded her to breathe.

‘Mick, that you?’ Rhian said, staring beyond him, to the stage in the back room.

‘Of course it fucking is. Who the fuck else would it be? You want a drink? Giro day!’ he said mugging to more of an audience than he usually got.

‘Erm, I don’t know…’ she tried to focus on his feet and work her way up.

‘It’s alright Mick, it’s sorted,’ Andy said, placing glasses of happy agave juice in front of them both.

‘What the fuck you been doing today?’ Mick said, knocking back the San Cosme in one. ‘You look as fucking rough as this fucking Tequila.’

‘It’s fucking Mezcal, you fuckwit.’ Rhian was still staring into the room and heard the opening bars of Gorky’s soundchecking Methu Aros Tan Haf. She sang along in welsh:

Rwy methu aros tan Mehefin
Aros tan haf
Rwy mynd i torri ti y haf hwn
Torri ti’r haf hwn”

Rhian translated as she sang:

“I can’t wait till June
Wait till summer
I’m going to break you this summer
Break you this summer”

The band stopped, but Rhian kept singing:

“The ocean paths this summer
It’s easier to waste your day away
Rwy methu aros tan mehefin – I’m going to wait till June
Aros tan haf – Wait till summer”

‘How the fuck do you know the words? It isn’t even out yet.’ Mick said nodding at Andy and holding up two fingers.

‘Oi, fuckwit. My name is Rhiannon Haf Bevan! I’m Welsh. I speak Welsh. I told you last night and every fucking time I see you.’ Rhian had reached Mick’s knees, but looked back down at his Doc Martened feet.

‘Are you? Do you? I didn’t even know that your name was Rhiannon. I though Ri was short for Marie or something. You don’t sound Welsh. You don’t even look fucking Welsh.’ Mick sank his second Mezcal. Rhian had not touched her first, but continued to look into the near darkness of the backroom and occasionally at Mick’s stomach. Rock burns pierced his shirt. Mick raised an eyebrow at Andy behind the bar, held up two fingers and pointed at their glasses

‘What? What do Welsh people look like and why the fuck are you wearing your own band’s tee shirt? You sad fuck,’ Rhian looked at Mick, saw her Mezcals, poured one into the other and shotgunned them, wincing. ‘Iechyd da, cariad.’

‘What? I thought it was Yakki dar?’ Mick said, ordering a further two. ‘Make them doubles this time Andy, could ya?’

‘You really are an ignorant fuckwit sometimes, Michael.’ Rhian held her hand up to Andy as he moved to take her glass, and put another before her. Mick drank both.

‘I remembered that you are half-caste. I need a slash,’ Mick said tumbling off the barstool, towards the Toilet Venue Toilets.

‘Mixed race, you eternal fuckwit.’

‘Are you going to be here when I get back or what?’ Mick said continuing his stumble, holding up two further fingers to Andy.

The Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia played over the PA. Rhian knew the words but, staring at the glass still in her hand, didn’t sing along.

Rhian did not answer. She put down the glass feeling in her bag for her pad and pens; her lighter, fags, and tampons covered in the perfume, dripping from an uncovered bottle.

‘I’ll put them on your tab then, shall I,’ Andy said clearing away the glasses and wiping over the bar, as Rhian stood staring again towards the far-off stage.

‘I thought they were on the house?’ Rhian said trying to walk again, but her body rebelled. Scarring-whooshing dizziness, this time longer; sustained blackness; no light – no breath, Rhian sought something solid. She could not see her shoes, as the whooshing scorched her brain. She turned to look at Andy, took a step, and fell to the floor. Her bag emptied over her and the wraps of whizz and coke spilled down her legs. Nobody moved, except for Rhian, convulsing, juddering, unaware.

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Namaste (or body and mind aligned)

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Cardiff, United Kingdom 2015

Rhian practiced yoga and meditated twice daily. She had always had difficulty focusing. Trying to remember things was even more difficult. Remembering was harder. A’ Levels – where dates and times, learned by rote, mattered less than analysis and understanding – were easy. Straight A’s – not that it mattered. Rhian analysed and evaluated like the last Freudian disciple. She had never understood if she understood anything, but kept on searching. For what? She didn’t know. She knew that she knew nothing, but was never sure how much more there was to know, or if she could know any of it. St. Mungo’s High School had invested what little capital they could spare in their present and future hope. Rhian had failed all her GCSE’s at first attempt; they were supposedly the easy option. Her teachers could not look at her. They had put cold arms round her and dredged up platitudes, but they could not look at her. She had passed the three Ordinary Levels and one Advanced Ordinary Level that she had sat a year early.

 

Rhian got straight A’s at second sitting, having committed innumerable facts and formulae, dates and durations, to her short term memory and regurgitated them in the Sports Hall and the ill-stocked library’s annexe. Perspiration headlocked inspiration; the cerebral cauterised. Each set of exams mattered more, but mattered less as time drifted behind her. Rhian needed to remember, wanted to pinpoint what she had seen and heard and touched, mould it, and translate it all into what she knew, but the yawning gaps remained.

 

Rhian yawned a lot. She could remember the names of Henry VIII’s wives in order and their means of death – Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived – what use were they to her? Rhian had learned nothing of slavery, nor of who she was, not that it mattered then. What use was a long-term memory or the formula for calculating a quadratic equation? The past ever there and gone, like a phantasm, ever tantalising. Rhian could adequately misremember quotes from Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. Often together: ‘All morons hate you when you call them moronic, it’s just like when people say…[N]igger-lover is just one of those words that don’t mean nothing – like snotty face. Stupid people use them.’ Rhian quoted a lot. She thought that people thought she was interesting. Knowledge by osmosis. Rhian found everyone dull beyond, her over-quoted, misquoted, words. Being interesting – more importantly, not being boring – mattered to Rhian, much more than missed deadlines and accurately transcribed interviews. Rhian could take or leave being interested.

 

 

The present mattered to Rhian, but she couldn’t remember it, because she hardly lived it. She lived out of it. Rhian lived in moments, unlinked, standalone, solitary. There were always gaps between moments, moments between thoughts but no thoughts between actions. Rhian had first noticed the gaps, or the rule proving exception, when she had gone to review Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci at the Princess Charlotte for her column in the Union Newspaper, ‘Seen, Live, and Gigging (Slag).’ Rhian had seen the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy the previous evening and had taken her usual going out mix of a gramme of speed and three lines of coke. She could always rely on Swifty for Class A’s, if for little else. Rhian felt alive even though she had not slept. A day’s drinking in the Student Union (Mandela) Bar and she was ready for the interview. Two grammes of Base Speed that night and another three lines of Charlie to sort her out and she was ready.

Hyperion to a satyr

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As the first bead of sweat snaked its way from forehead to nose, Agatha shifted her rimless glasses and stared into the sun. She turned off Halifax Street into Wilberforce Terrace and into Bonadies Supermarket. Agatha walked along the tinned fruit aisle, past the end of the dried goods and alcohol, to the small coffee point tucked in the coolest corner of the store. You couldn’t see it from the street. Only one person in front of her, fiddling in her handbag for change. The man behind the counter wiped his hands on his shirt-jac, raised his eyebrows at Agatha, and kissed his teeth. Agatha’s father made shirt-jacs every day. She recognised the style. He called them guayabera. She didn’t know why.

‘Stewps, you na wan fi make a decision before you get here? Just get out your money and I’ll pour you di drink. Come on na man, cyarn you see I have people fi serve. Dese is busy people, dey cyan wait all day for you. Stewps.’ He raised his left eyebrow and kissed his teeth at the woman, still searching for change. Four more people stood behind Agatha shaking their heads, sucking their teeth. The woman found the correct change, took her tea, and sat down on a raised bench by the open window.

 

Agatha got out a one Eastern Caribbean Dollar note from her purse in readiness and nodded at the man wiping his hands across his trousers. ‘Can I have some tea, please?’ Agatha smiled at him.

‘You na got no change!’

‘If I had change I would give it to you,’ Agatha said holding out the note.

‘Stewps. Put it on the counter dere so,’ he had his hands in his pockets and his face like, ‘Who shit dere?’

The man wiped the back of his hand across his glistening forehead and across his pale blue shirt-jac – the colour of the skies Agatha had seen in postcards from England – before pouring water from a steaming urn into a large steel kettle. ‘Condensed or carnation milk?’ Before she could answer, he poured condensed milk into a metal cup, and swilled the tea before tipping the pot.’ He picked up the note, held it up to the light before putting it in the till and counting out the change. He dropped it on the counter between them, ignoring Agatha’s outstretched hand.

‘Tank you,’ Agatha said scooping up the change into her purse without checking it, ignoring the rasping of teeth from behind the ring-marked counter. She took her tea to the scuffed wooden bench by the window. Generations of lovers had scratched their names. She wanted a piece of sugar cake, but couldn’t face the confrontation again. Kingstown went about its leisurely, sweaty business. Men in shirts and ties, schoolchildren kicking stones, and women with provisions in bags and on their heads crisscrossed in front of her. People said, ‘Good morning,’ stopped to talk, then scurried or ambled on to whatever came next. Faces insolently familiar, unfamiliar, watched through the shop window. Agatha, put down her tea and looked in her bag for the Book of Psalms. She just caught a blur of khaki, shirt-jac, and sandals, as a man with a white streak in his side-parted afro sprinted past. Nobody sprints in the midday sunshine. Agatha’s eyes followed him as he stopped, twenty yards from her, sprinted up a side alley and then thirty seconds later walked back past her to his blue Ford Anglia parked outside the Trans Caribbean Traders hardware store.

 

Coming from the opposite direction, Roslyn ran past the supermarket window in her best dress and white sandals, her straightened hair, earlier in a beehive, now strayed behind her. Her white dress, pristine twenty-five minutes ago, now creased and stained, her sandals scuffed and dirty. As she ran past, a clip fell from her hair to the ground. Noticing or not she kept running. Agatha called out to her, but she didn’t break stride, turn, or stop.

‘Roslyn. Roslyn. Where you going? You just dropped your clip on the ground deh.’ Agatha said as she watched Roslyn pick up speed, until she passed the Butcher’s shop and was out of sight. Roslyn left her tea, and ran back round the supermarket to the front door. Two women with Victorian perambulators were blocking it, discussing the lightness of their babies’ skin and just how knowing they were. Agatha stage coughed and said, ‘Excuse me please.’

The two women ignored her and talked about the rudeness of some nappy-headed gyal. Agatha patted down her hair. ‘Excuse me!’ Agatha said again and pushed past them into the lunchtime-thronged street. The women stared through her, questioning her manners and her parentage. Agatha saw the clip, a bow in gold-coloured metal and red plastic, bent down to retrieve it, but it was lost in the surging crowd, kicked about like a tin can on the way home from school. She saw it again. A man in a blue shirt-jac picked it up and pocketed it. Among the crowd of legs and shoes and bags, she recognised Scrampie’s khaki legs and bare feet weaving through the traffic jam of humanity. As Agatha got up a knee glanced her right temple and she fell to the ground, grazing her knee and tearing her dress. Agatha was twenty-three, but she would be in all kinds of trouble when she got home. She could hear the echoes of her stepmother’s homily about pride and the Lord and respect and, words, more words, and fists, the strap she always kept by her side, and blood. Agatha would mend and wash it before anyone knew. The crowd was no more and Agatha rose slowly, trying to get back her wind, trying to focus on breathing, direction, and the road ahead of her. After three attempts, Agatha was on her feet, dusting down her dress, the rip was wider than she had thought and had torn through her slip. Agatha walked up the street, and when she could trust her balance, started out at a light trot and ran, ran past shops and people, past signs and signifiers. Agatha ran towards home. Home for now, but that would change. Wales would be different.

In the Days of Ford Anglia

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“Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Revelation 9:1

 

Father Cuthbert Brown genuflected, crossed himself twice, bowed before the altar, checked his grandfather’s Half Hunter pocket watch, and walked to the strongbox in the choir vestry. He turned the dial, looking about him, until reassuring clicks sprang open the cast iron door. He reached inside, took out a sheaf papers tied with red ribbon, fifty Eastern Caribbean dollars, and an unmarked hessian bag. He looked behind him, not that he expected anyone. He hadn’t opened the Anglican Cathedral to the sinners of St. Vincent, seeking salvation in that mouldering monument to colonialist ideals. Only he had a key. He felt it in his pocket and recalled day the Archbishop had given it to him, his first day, and recited the verse from Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Cuthbert Brown, the man, the priest, the bishop, had always tried to do just that until the previous day when Agatha had asked him about England, and strongboxed memories resurfaced. He picked up the bundle, looked about him and headed up the nave aisle to the burr oak double door, for the first time neither genuflecting nor bowing before either altar. He opened the door, looked about him, locked it, and stood statuesque with the sealed portal behind him.

 

————————————————————————–

 

Pastor Cleeve Robert Evans covered his sewing machine, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes with calloused, bleeding, hands. He struggled to straighten from his eternal hunch over the machine, stood up, looking at the suits about him. Nothing new – all made do and mended. He walked to the front door, noting the time 12:37, and watched as Scrampie ran up the street, in the opposite direction to the Cathedral. He had slung Father Brown’s suit over a low, mossy wall, and was sprinting, looking back every ten strides. Cleeve Evans put his glasses back on and walked up to where Scrampie had dropped the suit, thirty yards from the shop. The shop’s front door open, a light breeze ruffling the serried suited ranks. He ignored the suit, instead he gazed ahead of him at Scrampie who turned again, caught Cleeve Evans’s eye and put in a concerted burst until he turned into Subba Row. Cleeve watched him watching him, saw him turn, then turned himself to pick up the suit, and walked towards the cathedral. He wanted to talk to Father Brown about his last sermon and its references to St. Matthew’s Passion. They were meeting for dominoes and strong rum later that night down Calliaqua. They could talk then. He needed to take him his suit. A car sped past him; a blue Ford Anglia. The driver’s focus was elsewhere, as he almost clipped Cleeve. He stumbled, his knee gave way, and Father Brown’s suit fell to the ground before him.

 

Insight (in mind)

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When he had turned the corner, Scrampie straightened himself up. Out of sight, out of mind, his mother always said. He never wanted to be out of Miss Evans’s mind, but knew that there were more pressing things ahead. The Dancehall would wait, but would Agatha Evans. He had heard that she was going over to England. He would have to be quick. As he climbed the hill, and Pastor Evans’s Tailoring shop skulked into view, he started running, until at full pelt, he dipped like a sprinter reaching the entrance.

‘Boy, you late again,’ Pastor Evans said, looking up from his sewing machine, checking the clock above the front door. ‘How many times must me tell you that you start work at midday? Twelve o’clock. So, me does need you here at twelve, boy. Twelve. You hear me? Father Cuthbert Brown did need his suit thirty minutes back. I told you yesterday. Take it up the cathedral, now, and come back straight. I have something I need you fi do for me,’ Pastor Evans pointed at the brown checked suit he had made before Father Brown had left for England. It fitted him properly then.

‘I did see your daughter at de Nursing Agency, just now.’ Scrampie said, standing by the door; suit in hand, but disinclined to move.

‘I haven’t got time to talk about Agatha, and you ain’t got no time to tink about she. She na tinking bout you, Jacob,’ Pastor Evans said and waved Scrampie off again.

‘Who say I was talking about Agatha?’ Scrampie said and was gone, back down the road to the Cathedral.

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 ‘That boy sweet on you Agatha,’ Roslyn said, watching Scrampie as he swayed into the road, but righted himself before a Blue Ford Anglia clipped his right leg.

‘That boy born doltish, me na bodder wid him no more. Stop smiling at me like dat so,’ Agatha said as she checked her reflection in the shop window and laughed hard.

‘You never did answer my question,’ Roslyn said looking at her wristwatch. ‘When you next have to go back to the Agency?’

‘Me seeing she again nex Tursday at half-pass-ten, but me have fi get me tests and dem and go to the Passport Office first. You have to do the same?’ Agatha relaxed Roslyn’s grip and looked back at the disappearing Cathedrals and the retreating St Vincent and the Grenadines Nursing Employment Agency, her ticket to another world. Her passport to Wales.

‘Yes. Me too, I’ll see you then. Wait, I’ll see you at Church on Sunday. Is your farder preaching? I have fi meet my mudder, now, in the market we need pick up some provision. Bye. See you Sunday morning,’ Roslyn released her hold and, without looking, crossed the road again.

‘Yes. Bye.’ Agatha Evans stood on Main Street, she would continue up Granby Street, and into Halifax Street. Who were these people they named roads for? Roslyn continued to duck in and out of Main Street’s traffic. ‘Do you want to meet up for a cup of tea before we go in…’ but Roslyn couldn’t hear her. She waved, nothing came back.

Agatha could hear Roslyn cussing the driver of a Ford Anglia as she reached the other side. Ford Anglia man, stopped, gestured at her and cussed her stink. That a man would cuss a woman so close to the Cathedral amused Agatha greatly. As he drove off, she thought she recognised him, but couldn’t think from where. It was the white streak, in his side-parted afro, she had seen somewhere. Forget about it and it will come back, she thought, as she took a last look at the Agency and trudged her twisting path home.

Wake me up when September Ends

“We know that in September we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” Henry Rollins

Pinch, punch, first of the month – no returns (unless you really feel like it, and if you do, please be my guest).

T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruellest month (I always struggled with the Waste Land and Thomas Stearns Eliot for that matter), but for me it has always been the bittersweet, crepuscular encroachment of September that jolts my soul back to reality after the summer’s reveries. School starting, nights drawing, leaves falling, cold enshrouding  ,shadow-forming September; the start of the long road to winter. The end of the golden road to unlimited devotion. It must have felt like this in San Francisco, as 1967 rolled in to 1968 or as Hunter Thompson said in the extraordinary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

To ready myself for the joys of September to come, I thought I’d share with you all some of my favourite September songs, please feel free to add songs that mean as much to you.

PeaceLoveLight,

David Sylvian – September

Wistful simplicity

The sun shines high above
The sounds of laughter
The birds swoop down upon
The crosses of old grey churches
We say that we’re in love
While secretly wishing for rain
Sipping coke and playing games
September’s here again
September’s here again

The Field Mice – September’s not so far away

Captivating, mellifluous fragility

Green Day – Wake Me up When September Ends

Stone cold classic

Earth Wind & Fire – September

They’ve got da funk

Big Star – September Gurls

The never-ending genius that is Alex Chilton and the song that started the train of thought that started this post.

Have a beautiful day and a beautiful September

Paradise Misplaced

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven…”

John Milton – Paradise Lost

Sly

Agatha smoothed her skirt, as she rose from the stiff backed chair, and smiled again at Sister Gillian Gayle of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Nursing Employment Agency. ‘Tank you very much. I mean, thank you very much. I will see you next week when I come back for the interview. Thank you.’

Sister Gayle looked up from the tooled, leather-bound diary and held out her hand. Agatha waited, looked at her smiling, took off her glove again, and shook her hand. ‘Goodbye, see you next Thursday at 10.30,’ Sister Gayle was still smiling, but was looking past Agatha to her next appointment.

‘Goodbye. Tank you very much,’ Agatha grasped the burnished brass handle, tutting. She could see Roslyn looking back in through the windows smiling at her, eating peanut sugar cake. Agatha stepped out into the humid air and the unhurried bustle of Main Street.

‘You did here about Merlene and de pickney she had in bush up Buccament?’ Roslyn’s wide, uneven teeth lipstick smudged behind a broad smile.

‘Why you na tell me a dese ting happen so?’ Agatha Evans said as she struggled to avoid the minibuses screeching along the pockmarked highway.

‘Me did tought you did know,’ Roslyn Jones said holding Agatha’s arm, smudging her Sunday best dress with sticky fingers. ‘Dem say she fat like she daddy, but no-one even know who she daddy is from time.’

‘What she did call the pickney?’ Agatha Evans looked across at the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, standing together for centuries; divided for eternity. The child could never be baptised in either.

‘Me tink she did name she Roberta, so we know who de farder muss be so.’ They stood again by Big Lloyd’s Butcher shop, where Agatha had waited an hour earlier before her interview. The cow’s head, with its maudlin eyes, had gone.

‘Dat could mean it Robert from Chateubelair or Bob from Calliaqua, or…’ Roslyn stopped and looked at the Cathedrals, before looking sideways at Agatha. Agatha reeled as she thought of the stories whispered, shouted about her father. Shouted at the Rum Shacks late at night, when he would reel around the mountain, homeward; three petit quarts of Mountain Dew firing his belly. All of it could wait and she would be leaving soon. She wanted to say goodbye, but knew there were too many ahead of her to start then.

 

‘Anyway, when you have to go back see Sister Gayle?’ Roslyn said, holding Agatha’s arm tighter as they retraced their steps up Main Street. The sun was at its apogee, but not a bead of sweat glistened between them.

A man of about twenty, in an ill-fitting, much-worn, off-green khaki suit, without shirt or shoes, stumbled past them, turned, and lent on the crumbling wall, by the crumbling verge of a road not resurfaced in Agatha’s memory. ‘Good morning Miss Evans. Anudder lovely day for you,’ he said, reaching higher up the wall for support.

‘Every day is the Lord’s Day and every day he blesses us,’ Agatha said, turning again to speak to Roslyn.

‘Every day is the Lord’s, so you wan come wid me fi de dancehall on Saturday night. We can celebrate de Lord Almighty in dancing,’ he said, still not balanced, but now more upright.

‘Scrampie, what are talking about dis stupidness wid me for?’ I did tell you yesterday, as I did tell you from time, I not going to no dance, no picnic, no film, no nuttin’ wid you.’ Agatha looked down at him, raised her eyes, kissed her teeth, and faced away from him again. ‘Anyway, me father is expecting you in the shop ten minutes back.’ Scrampie, looked at her turned back, but had no comeback, so sauntered up the street whistling.

 

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Visions of the Promised Land

St Vincent, West Indies, 1962

Maudie Lewis had never taken her partner’s name. She once went to church with him, no longer, but read her bible and prayed thrice daily with her mother’s beads. Maudie looked at the clock in the single, corrugated, living space – two minutes past one. She would need to wind it later. A mosquito landed on her arm. She crushed it, screwed her eyes together, crossed herself, and clasped her hands. Opening her eyes, she turned and smiled with recognition. She made to speak. No words came. A knife, sunlight bouncing from its blade into her eyes, ripped across her throat. Maudie fell to the floor, still, clutching her beads.

 


 

‘When you speak with them people, them, at the Nursing Employment Agency, use the English your mother did teach you. They cannot understand Vincey speak,’ Agatha Evans’s Parish Priest had said, as he passed her the typewritten reference required with her application. Father Cuthbert Brown lived in London from 1956 to 1959 and was the go-to man for all references, personal and spiritual. Father Brown would never talk of his time in England, bar the 1957 West Indies tour, captained by John Goddard. ‘Why was a white man captaining the West Indies?’ he would say, kissing his teeth. ‘I know he was Bajan, but no white man is a Bajan. He might be born in Barbados, but that did not make him Bajan. You know they said black men did not know how to lead a cricket team or even a horse fi drink water. Clyde Walcott knew how to lead. Frank Worrell knew how to lead. The white man leads the black man. The black man works – knows his place. That’s the way it is. That is the way it has always been. That’s not the way it will be. Go to England and lead, Agatha.’ He kissed his teeth and looked heavenwards.

‘Yes, I will. You told me to when we spoke after mass last week.’ Agatha placed the buff envelope into her bag without reading the letter. ‘Why did you come back from England Father Brown?’ she said.

‘…and wear something nice. Make sure it’s pressed nice,’ he said, opening his bible to the book of James. “‘Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful,’” he said from memory.

 

Agatha looked at him, but his eyes remained on scripture, his mind elsewhere. She walked out from the vestry, crossing herself and genuflecting before the altar. She picked up her Book of Psalms from a pew, continued along the nave aisle, and through the doors into the Kingstown sunshine. The St Vincent and the Grenadines Nursing Employment Agency stood as ever, across the road from her. Shutters down. Closed.

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