Incumulonimbus

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How does one love a cipher, spook or fraud?
An incubus who wishes he was dead,
Yet penetrates his succubus in bed —
Such symbiotic nurture I applaud
How does one grieve the loss of an illusion?
Can one apply the real to the fake?
Twin vanishing, chimera, come awake!
Must I consume and purchase a delusion?
This thing was never real, was just a gist
Infection with such vaguery I purge
And cleanse all lingering of fantasists
It’s time to salve the lesion of this scourge
To dress and heal the wound that does exist
Rebuild, let light and good again emerge

Tim

cigarette-110849_1280Thirty years since the boy who smelled of smoke and skin moved away
You were only ever my height in chunky-soled steel-capped shoes
Furrowed brow puff down on your cigarette, gaze into my lens with intensity
(The bad ones always look at you sternly with barely concealed hate)
I grew more in time, bought copies of records we listened to while we fucked
on the mattress-covered floor — single or double, take your pick — mostly single, facing the window, you riding me like a jockey in heat
Billy and Leonard — reptiles and black satin — booze and yiros you refused to share
Withheld emotions and a mean resolve — hugs from the flatmate who loved me more — on our knees, embracing our shared pain of losing you
Margot was her name, but I was a goddess (or so you said)
A lesser goddess you refused to worship, refused to consume but happy to use
A pain so familiar and comforting, it was all I was worth to be your temporary whore

Mirror pool

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I never fell in love with you
I fell in love with me loving you
and loving unloveable me through you
How good it felt to love you
— unloveable you —
made loveable by me loving you
It made (the unloveable) me loveable too
all through the act of me loving you
loveable you, my self and me too

Loving you was loving me
— unloveable me —
Was love of me through abject mirror
reflecting me back onto you
and back to me
abject object
— me, you —
and how I prayed that in loving you
I was loveable too

I built self mirrors with light of love
refracted through the (dark and absent) void of you
an empty hole of a blackened self
We mirror back mirrors of my love
and mirrors of love reflect
the self and you and mirrors back to me
me too
I am loveable and no longer need you

Hallelujah

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The day of loss-tinged love is here, but
we all remember
when we were whole, when
things were real, if only in hope, if only in heaven; I
remember when you moved
me with your gentle glance, your tight embrace in
strong warm arms, you
and me, just us two and
a return to the womb, the
return to spirit both holy
and relieved like a released dove,
pure white and reaching for sky, our union was
moving towards thin air, moving
ever upwards, as we must too,
out of the darkness and
allow the light to enter every
cool wide breath
every heavy deep plunge. As we
moved in sync I drew
you deep in my lungs like air and it was
like life, it was like Hallelujah.


A Golden Shovel poem based on the following lines from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (via Jeff Buckley’s version).

“But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah”

Online culture, narcissism and the death of human connection

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What are we doing to one another? At a time when we have the capacity to connect more than ever before in human history, we’ve come undone. We pull away, we ignore, we miscommunicate, violate basic, shared social codes and manners that were the norm only ten years ago. We blame the technology (which we created), we blame age (it’s old fashioned to treat others with respect, and totally “normal” to treat others with disdain), we blame anything but ourselves, our own choices, behaviours or cowardice. We fail others online by failing to see their humanity, by failing to employ empathy, by treating others as flippantly as if they were products on a shelf to be chosen from, picked up or rejected, consumed, returned, exchanged, liked, disliked and thrown away when we tire of them. We idealise, devalue and discard both strangers and friends alike*. We hide behind screens, pseudonyms, and advertisements of our selves. We play up our good bits, hide the bad, and some of us outright lie and manufacture false selves. We are commodities, we are products. We are the pawns and by-products of late-stage capitalism. We perpetuate and feed the finely calibrated machine of consumerism that we created by selling our selves as products to one another. We publicise and perform our selves in ways that were previously only available to the famous, to celebrities, to performers. Andy Warhol’s prophetic 15 minutes of fame has morphed and mutated into fame all the time for all of us. Fame 24/7. We filter and pose our exteriors into acceptable versions of us, dictated by still-more-famous-than-us plastic people who have literally sculpted themselves into non-human, semi-artificial life forms, people who define the new “beautiful”, who define the new behaviours. People who seem to do nothing other than perform false versions of themselves to high acclaim. These are the people we emulate in this visually-focussed, superficial, virtual, performative, narcissistic world we have created.

We are all performers now, all the time. We willingly gloss over privacy agreements and give consent to god-knows-what’s-in-the-fine-print, not being fully aware of what’s being done with our information, our representations of self, our most private messages and photographs that we exchange without a moment’s care with strangers, all because we are so desperate to connect, to belong, to love, to share, to feel included. We are attention hungry and many of us are not prepared to do the self-work required to improve our selves and our self worth. Self worth is more dependent on ‘other worth’ than it has ever been before. We are addicted to it. The chemical rewards from the dopamine and oxytocin hit we get every time someone “likes” what we do, while intermittent, is enough to keep us coming back like junkies. Intermittent reward is a principle casinos operate on to get gamblers addicted, as do psychopaths and manipulative abusers. The principle goes like this (and it’s been studied): give someone a reward, randomly, but not always and definitely not consistently, and they will return to you, or your pokie machine, for more of that reward, no matter how infrequently you give it, and no matter how much it costs them, and no matter how much you violate them in between the moments of reward.

What are we giving up in the desire to connect, and why are we so blind to the fact that we are in fact, more disconnected than ever? Do we think that 24/7 connectivity in the palms of our hands via multiple social media or dating platforms makes us connected?  Messages stunted by limited character counts ping out on Twitter, bounce around the virtual walls and echo before dying, largely unheard and not responded to. Not only can we not say as much as we want to, the tiny messages we are permitted to send get largely ignored in the ever-flowing stream of self-expression and content-rehashing that whizzes on by. It’s overwhelming. I believe (and hope) we’d all rather cuddle up on a couch with a loved one, breathe in sync with one another, heart rates aligning, sharing words and experiences. I also believe that’s all we are seeking from these technologies and platforms, which promise so much, but deliver mostly heartbreak and superficial human connection of a magnitude I never witnessed in the pre-internet era. If I have this distance and perspective by virtue of my age, then what on earth is happening to “digital natives”? Have their brains developed in atrophied and stunted ways? Do they even know or appreciate the depths that friendship or intimacy can plumb if conducted offline without technological intervention? Or only as an adjunct to the shallow online default we’ve all become accustomed to?

All of these outbound one-way, superficial messages, all of the filtering and commodification of the self that is encouraged by social media, has led to an unnatural growth in narcissism, which is endemic to and epidemic among, such modes of communication. Narcissism has become normalised through social media and online dating interactions and threatens to become a global disorder that ruptures the fabric of society as we know it. The tech tools we’ve created encourage it and social media fuels and exacerbates it. Narcissism, in its most extreme form = the death of relationships. You cannot have a relationship with a narcissist, or not a healthy one anyway: a healthy relationship is one that goes both ways, in which both people’s needs are met. Narcissism is a solitary mindset that involves self-promoting to others or manipulating others for the sole purpose of receiving attention and admiration. It is a one-way transaction. Without attention the narcissist feels empty, hollow, meaningless, like they don’t exist. Just as we all feel when our posts don’t get “liked” enough online. There is a real danger in this way of thinking. With a narcissist, there is no genuine exchange; the narcissist’s disingenuous attitudes and extreme fakery render any authentic exchange or connection totally void. The equation goes like this: I pose, you applaud. There is no depth to the exchange beyond flattery and self-congratulation. It is a toxic and addictive cycle for those devoid of self worth or internal fulfilment. Read More

I am self-partnered (and these are the reasons why)

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Though it’s no doubt old news by now — given the speed at which information travels on the internet — a few days ago actor, activist and all-round awesome person Emma Watson declared in an interview with British Vogue that she considers herself to be “self-partnered” rather than “single”. I first heard about this in a video that Russell Brand put online today, discussing the merits of Watson’s decision to use this label. Apparently this statement has led to the usual barrage of mockery and cynicism by those less-inclined to seek new and alternative ways of being, thinking and relating. If you’re interested these responses, I’m sure a quick Google search will yield links to examples of this, but I’m not invested in delving into that side of things any further. By writing this essay, I do not claim to espouse balanced reportage. I am excited by and fully in favour of the term “self-partnered” and this article will explain the reasons why it resonates with me, as well as discuss the potential it holds to be a new and empowering way to identify, particularly from my own viewpoint as a feminist woman and as a survivor of psychological and sexual abuse.

Below is the relevant extract from Vogue UK:

She turns 30 in April, and describes 2019 as having been “tough”, because she “had all these ideas” about what her life was supposed to look like at this age. “I was like, ‘Why does everyone make such a big fuss about turning 30? This is not a big deal…’” she shares. “Cut to 29, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I feel so stressed and anxious. And I realise it’s because there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.”

If it’s staggering to think that Watson worries about this stuff, it’s comforting, too. “I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel,” she continues. “I was like, ‘This is totally spiel.’ It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.”

In a longer version of the interview, Watson also said:

“I see “self-partnership” as just taking some time out from the merry-go-round of relationships and “looking for the one”, and instead getting to know yourself a bit better.”

At this stage in my life, recently out of a relationship and delving into an intensive reinvestigation of self and purpose, I found this idea of self-partnership incredibly appealing. I immediately took to Facebook and proclaimed the following (to all 44 of my friends):

Thank you Emma Watson. This is the perfect way to describe where I’m at in my life right now. Self-partnered. I like it very much. We always need to be a partner to ourselves and get our self-worth from within. I suggest that we should all be healthily self-partnered always, and first and foremost. Having relationships with others should always come second to this primary relationship with self. If we don’t understand, respect and find our selves worthy, we cannot have healthy relationships with others. I also resent the idea that I have to be married to be worthy as a woman. It’s a notion that has weighed me down for decades and I’m finally throwing off the shackles. Self-partnership as a woman is a feminist notion as it subverts the dominant belief that women only exist (or are their best selves) in relation to others: as wives, mothers, lovers and carers.

In the comments section of Russell Brand’s video on Facebook about Watson’s declaration (he asked followers what they think), I wrote the following:

I think it’s brilliant. I’m recently out of a relationship and in a position where I’m really exploring myself and who I am. The relationship was abusive so I have to do a lot of self work to ensure I’m healed and also to forge a new future. Self-partnered perfectly describes where I’m at right now. I think we should all be self-partnered first and foremost, and partnered with another second. We should always have a healthy relationship with our own self and need to find self esteem and worth within.

Those were my initial thoughts, and since this morning they have developed. I believe that all humans, in order to be emotionally healthy, both within themselves and in relationship with others (friends, family, lovers, other-partners), must first and foremost be focused on cultivating a solid and healthy relationship with themselves. This means that one should feel ok to be alone, should derive a sense of worth from within, and be able to self-soothe, self-parent, and, by extension, I will argue, appropriately self-partner. We are already familiar as a culture with the concepts of self-worth, self-soothing and, to a lesser extent self-parenting. Self-parenting, for those who might not know much about it, is a concept explored in certain fields of psychotherapy (such as Internal Family Systems). It is particularly relevant to situations where people have had abusive or toxic childhoods. With self-parenting, in order to regain a sense of balance and healing to one’s wounded inner child, one takes on the role of a loving and kind parent (in an imaginary sense) and soothes the child self when it is triggered emotionally, rather than expecting others to do the soothing for you. It acknowledges and accepts the inability of one’s parents to have adequately provided the emotional nurturing one needed as a child, while also acknowledging that we carry within us the resources to be emotionally self-sufficient and to heal ourselves. It is potentially a very powerful process. Once familiar with this concept, the person can then consciously bring that inner-parent (who is inherently loving, caring and wise) to mind at times of need and crisis, in order to be able to provide solace, comfort and healing to the inner child self. Seen in the light of these other concepts then, self-partnering seems to me a natural extension of these more-widely accepted notions. It is one more way to rely upon and provide support to the self in a healthy, conscious and independent way. The next time you want to, say, go to the movies or eat out somewhere nice, but deny yourself the chance because you don’t have a partner (or even a friend) to go with, try going alone. The freedom and decadence of treating yourself to an activity you enjoy by yourself is a wonderful and self-affirming thing indeed. Read More

Butterfly kisses

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I lie on the grass
And look up at the stars
But only in my imagination
They are so clear there
My mind works in space
Among the flotsam and infinity

I walk up and down
Heels stomping
Heavily preparing for a sleep
That may never take me
Nibbling chocolates absent-mindedly
I am suckling Read More

With you my words are rainbow streamers

Silence was my muse
But with you
My words are rainbow streamers
Hurtling out of open mouth
They shuttle, spiral skywards
You invite them and you catch them
With your mind and with your tongue
And respond in kind
With sweet mellow timpani pulses
Your words a steady beat
They cadence and they pause
Sweep upwards with inflections
Struck firm upon taught skin
Stretched tight on golden timber
Like your hair, like your soul
And always the surprise
Of your questions
That stretch me Read More