Grey Matter

Grey Matter

For what it’s worth,
I can’t think of anything more vibrant,
More techni-coloured, spirit-soaring, smile-inducing and bright, than
Freeing yourself from the box-room cosy complex
That nothing you do will ever amount to anything.

Because it’s the easiest thing in the world
To do nothing.
It’s the easiest thing in the world
To let the greyness win.
Surrendering. Submitting.
Settling for a semi-faded filter,
When all your life your soul chose bold.

Deserving something, should not be a question.
Looking to others for an answer, losing ourselves to find
A pre-determined one?
No.
You have the answer already.
The greyness comes along to fool you.
Fight it. Go and do the thing
You have convinced yourself nobody will notice.
Because you’re right –
Nobody will notice.
The mental struggle it takes –
To put on socks.
The wide-eyed forehead-creasing terror
Of answering the phone
“HELLO? YES THIS IS HER.”

…and gradually, you smile.
Connection. Communication.
That’s what kills the greyness.
The belief that despite your reservations
And pale skin
And ginger hair
And natural disposition to think it doesn’t matter anyway
 – The colours do suit you after all.

Hati Hati.

It’s funny.
There’s a sliver of glass wedged in the ball of my foot,
But that’s not why I’m upset.
Physical restrictions have rarely prevented me from moving forwards.
Touching wood, I steady my gaze.
I wipe the windows to my world, the glass that is nowadays so easily shattered.
Even paradise has its monsoon, and today has been dense.

A mother calls out to her son over the squawking, cooing, twittering and ticking sounds of this Indonesian afternoon,
The French words as alien to me as banana leaves and outdoor showers.
A weekend of waning energy, one 6am sunrise from missing it entirely.
A break. A rest.
A language barrier higher than the volcano summitted just last week.

“Hati-hati” – Watch your heart.
Wait.

All in good time.

Bashful Balinese Biking!

Rumbling to life below me, my dusty, metal, fully-unleaded steed for the day surges eagerly forwards like a particularly strong bulldog just after catching a glimpse of his dinner.
Woah. That’s powerful.
I’ve pulled in to one of the many roadside ‘re-fill stations’ visible every kilometre or so along the country roads in Bali – (can you call them country roads when they’re the only roads around? ) signalled by a bookshelf populated by rows of upturned Absolut Vodka bottles filled with a mysterious yellowy-gold substance.
Petrol, obviously.
Usually these ‘garages’ are merely the front garden water-feature of the vendors’ house, and it’s not unusual to see small children playing with spare motorbike parts in the dusty gravel beside their parents’ work station – in this case a faded plastic garden chair and carefully bookmarked porno magazine. Great!
“Petrol?!”
Dropping a clearly unfinished plate of food to the ground, he’s up and jumping to assist before I’ve even tried to remove my helmet, gesturing enthusiastically to the selection of fine liqueors behind him. That’s the Balinese for you.
I nod encouragingly towards my newly acquired bike, hoping he’ll do a girl a favour here and know exactly where the tank is and how to fill it.
Because I sure don’t.
He watches, perplexed as I pretend to rummage in my bag for change.
“I just got it!” I try, sheepishly, letting on again that this isn’t the first time I’ve ever had to fill a moving vehicle with fuel. As he reaches for a vodka bottle, I straighten up and decide to play it cool.
“Make it a double!!”
I laugh at my own hilarity, exaggerated in the heat and reddening shame of my situation – I’m clearly not the cool indie-surfer biking chick I’m letting on to be. I should have just stuck to my yoga mat and pedal-bike.
This humour is entirely lost on my new friend, however, as he blankly holds out the bottle for me to continue.
“Ummmm…yes….petrol..”
I prod at several buttons. Nothing.
Flick a switch.
Nothing.
Meanwhile, Petrol Pete’s gap-toothed grin widens, and the petrols’ urine-coloured hue gets a worrying physical manifestation.
“First time?” He chuckles.
With ease, he flicks up the seat and twists a nozzle that clearly states “FUEL TANK” in very large (and English) letters. I laugh nervously.
“New bike! Y’know yourself! – Terima Kasih!”
Irish wit aside and rusty Balinese to boot, the deed is done in a matters of seconds and I hand over several withered bank notes. He then stands back with a smug grin and arms folded as if waiting for an amateur street performer to reach an unattainable punch line.
Here we go.
I truly deliver, surging forwards ungracefully, stirring up dust with my dragging heels and knocking into several bushes and innocent plants along the way. I regain balance briefly only to lose it again to the forces of my other side like an inflatable Mr. Blobby in the wind. Eventually finding the equilibrium through acceleration, I glance back quickly to see the man’s entire family outside the tiny dwelling pointing and chuckling together, shouting out in amusement;

“Hati hati!!”

Baile Átha Cliath

A middle aged woman shamelessly pouts for a selfie
 As she sits alone outside Butler’s;
 A fleeting insight into the Dublin of today,
 Broken buskers saluting wealthy suits and the hurried.

The invisible homeless.
 The ghosts who wander into coffee shops, where they’re sure they lost a euro,
 while college students scrounge to buy a pint for 6.
 A winding path where the people flow like veins
 Pulsing through the streets that never change.

It is the people who keep the city.
 The people, the flow;
 The unreliable bus service disrupting scheduled meals,
 Low blood sugars fueling angry drivers, and
 A haste to get everywhere before the next shower bursts.

The infectious desire to travel,
 As tourists stare in awe at doors you’ve never noticed before,
 Experiencing your city as a pin on a map
 -Where you’ve never pinned it at all.

Rooftops between the canal and the river;
 A refuge from the Georgian mansions that remain
 Stubborn in their depth, reluctant to relate to the redbrick-terraced hipsters
 That craftily have cycled their way to the forefront of the ‘culture’.

You jaywalk; a term on erasmus from America as we try it out across O’Connell bridge,
 The space between the Heineken building and the island in the middle a no-man’s land as you feel you’re
 Traversing the centre of Ireland.

The centre of my world;
 For up until today it is all I have known.
 A metal spike with no function seeing all
 While you see yourself in it’s base, longing in vain to catch a glimpse from the top,
 To be privy to a view it has been constructed to prevent.

All too soon I will be gone;
 Shunning the gloom of Winter in Dublin,
 Missing only the familiar; I will acclimatize again.
 To write, to learn, to build understanding –
 To glean from another city the self this one has given me.

‘My Super Sweet’ 1916

“My Super Sweet 1916”

A game of ‘who doth dare
To step upon streets guns have hounded,
Never have I felt
More isolated yet surrounded.

Language. Country. My own self;
It all froze on the line.
Irish girl in Ho Chi Minh’;
A headline of our Times;

Drawing stares and looks as pale skin
Took aback a driver,
Walking out, her independence
Bursting from inside her.

An extra vehicle with feet
And legs instead of wheels,
We steered away and took our land
Through crossfires and fields

From those who didn’t understand;
Confused, misheard inflections,
A language provides insight,
Understanding, and connection.

It’s within all our chemistry;
To share and seek direction,
But whatever way you look at it;
No leader sells perfection.

Without precursors, bloodtests, or a
Steady flow of income,
The land we sought, remained the same
Held us, as we held ransom.

But a bullet’s only bloody
if it reaches where it’s aimed,
And Sunday may be sunny still
if we just played the game,

Click’ and ‘click’, those fifty years
Passed by in echoed rounds,
Another decade, maybe five,
Made heroes of the hounds

A template for the ‘work-from-home
Convenience of now,
Potential seen as fact and not
The questionable ‘how’?

Determined as the vehicles
That race East Asian roads,
Our little country rebuilt what
A constant fear erodes.

Rationing what few reserves
Remained; ‘ár lá, ár saoirse’,
As hope became a daily bread
We preserved faith and reason

Grand old Dukes and Earls and Leaders
Marched their men to fight,
While clerks and tailors crossed-out tactics
Threefold overnight;

A world within a paling land,
A word replaced- a meaning;
Names of those we lost are still
Proclaimed on banners streaming.

One hundred years,
One hundred anniversaries of might;
One hundred times,
One might have bowed to gold way out of sight,

And as for me, I’m just relieved,
I’ve reached the other side;
My language and my country
Safe, to spread further our pride.

Friday

A middle aged woman shamelessly pouts for a selfie
As she sits alone outside Butler’s;
A fleeting insight into the Dublin of today,
Broken buskers saluting wealthy suits and the hurried.

The invisible homeless.
The ghosts who wander into coffee shops, where they’re sure they lost a euro, while college students scrounge to buy a pint for 6.
A winding path where the people flow like veins
Pulsing through the streets that never change.

It is the people who keep the city.
The people, the flow;
The unreliable bus service disrupting scheduled meals,
Low blood sugars fueling angry drivers, and
A haste to get everywhere before the next shower bursts.

The infectious desire to travel,
As tourists stare in awe at doors you’ve never noticed before,
Experiencing your city as a pin on a map
-Where you’ve never pinned it at all.

Rooftops between the canal and the river;
A refuge from the Georgian mansions that remain
Stubborn in their depth, reluctant to relate to the redbrick-terraced hipsters
That craftily have cycled their way to the forefront of the ‘culture’.

 You jaywalk; a term on erasmus from America as we try it out across O’Connell bridge,
The space between the Heineken building and the island in the middle a no-man’s land as you feel you’re
Traversing the centre of Ireland.

 The centre of my world;
For up until today it is all I have known.
A metal spike with no function seeing all
While you see yourself in it’s base, longing in vain to catch a glimpse from the top,
To be privy to a view it has been constructed to prevent.

 All too soon I will be gone;
Shunning the gloom of Winter in Dublin,
Missing only the familiar; I will acclimatize again.
To write, to learn, to build understanding –
To glean from another city the self this one has given me.

I Saw A Selection Box in Tesco Today

We’re in the late afternoon of the year,
Rush hour is greying,
The sun’s rays paling like the ever more frequent stray hairs my Mum used to Have me remove;
An insult to some,
But in this season they give way to truer hues.

Even if the frost comes early;
Ski-socks over leggings and my grandmother’s knitting needles working overtime.

Even if the locks become locked in place,
Intermittent as they are in silent segregation of the canal;
Slippery gateways to the other side.

Even if the cold bites hard,
Eating away at the flesh of a forgotten glove;
A harsh reminder that our bodies are not in fact made of steel.

Even if the streets hum with the deafness and subtlety of
The beginnings of a bushfire,
Black ice creeping it’s lethal way under the wheels of shivering passengers.

Even with this, I know for sure;

It won’t be as cold as it was last Winter.

Distilled Dexterity – Part 1

Part 1.
Lily.

A young, pale, and thin yet attractive male nurses a pint alone, at a table in the starboard bar near the railings.
Frequent traveller. Definite thrill seeker. Possible homosexual.

I amble up to the bar, and order my Jameson and ginger-ale – an old college favourite
that has since made it’s subtle return to my life, this time regulated in more ‘mature’ and sociable drinking habits (if that is at all possible). Making a point to sit opposite him, I perch on the edge of my neighbouring starboard deckchair, body language echoing the uncertainty and impulsive purchase of this boat ticket – I have one hundred euro to my name.

He nods furtively, a definite Irishness to the pursing of the lips and subsequent sup of Heineken as he glances to the ground and shifts in his chair.
Maybe he’s not gay.
Secretly chuffed at the attention, yet wary of the fact that we are clearly both for want of a better phrase, in the same boat, and merely looking for some company with whom to pass this 2 hour ferry journey into the unknown, I smile meekly at him, before also averting my attention to my silent glass of distilled dexterity.

I’m painting a wonderful picture of my nationality already. We’re not all alcoholics, I swear – just overly sensitive with an extreme lack of self—belief and direction…hence the whim of solo travel being heeded.
A old man shuffles past on a walking stick, marvelling aloud at the ‘wonderful European weather’, to nobody in particular.
We exchange glances again, like ignorant schoolkids whose teacher has just been overheard talking about having an actual social life.
The man passes on.
I sip again to fill the lapse of thought, and busy myself with the never ending friendly fire of blue-on-blue that is the horizon before me, and the journey ahead.

Somewhere in between going to get my third Jameson and braving my way down the steep, narrow steps from the bathroom, I stub my toe on a rogue floorboard and stumble forwards slightly, catching myself and straightening up just in time to pass his table.
He didn’t see. He couldn’t have.
Fat chance.
‘You alright?’
A conversation is struck up. He too is travelling alone. He too is escaping Ireland and a fruitless Summer in the hopes of procuring a job on the continent. He too has only a limited budget on which he intends to get there. He too has had a few drinks.

As our ramblings progress, the exaggerative sides come out, and laughs  accompanied by large gestures, heads thrown back and hands on stomachs turn into long-winded and in-depth personal stories and reasons for our need to get out of this country.
‘Want another?’
“Sure”.
He stands to make for the bar, hands digging into his combatted pocket as he goes. For some reason I’m a bit giddy, not because I fancy him, but because sharing my story and actually speaking aloud my unplanned intentions for this Summer has once again made me realise the extent of the possibility there is for it. I could do anything I like. Go anywhere. Within reason, obviously, but there is a certain element of excitement here that I’ve never experienced the like of before, and I currently want nothing more than to keep it there.

A waitor is clearing away tables around me, and turns to me, his hands full of empty drinking vessels and an exasperated look on his face.
‘Sorry miss, we have to clear this side of the bar. Downstairs only after 8pm.’
‘I-oh-ok!!’
I comply a little too eagerly, grabbing my purse, backpack, and glass while jumping up quickly. I’m just about to make for the bar when I notice that Sam (blondy’s name) has left a set of keys on the table, along with a shiny sports jacket on the chair. I make the decision there and then that my new drinking buddy is moving seats with me, and tug at the jacket whilst fumbling with the keys in my other hand. It comes loose, yet my heart skips a beat when I hear a gentle ‘flump’ as something from one of the pockets slips to the ground. I jump forward, dropping everything else in a futile attempt to save it.
Too late.
His wallet has just gone over the railing.
In the split second it takes for the ‘splash’ to reach my ears, a million thoughts rush through my mind and I end up spilling my last drop of ginger-ale all over the floor in an attempt to grasp the exhalation of smoke that is the wallet– it’s gone as quickly as it escaped the jacket-pocket. Stock still, the realization of what has just happened takes a moment to settle.

I have just thrown a stranger’s wallet over the side of a boat and into the sea. The finality and futility of the moment it took for the small rectangle of Sam’s leather identity to become lost forever hits me like a slap from a wet fish.
‘Oh. Shit.’
What else can I do? I giggle.
‘Oops’.
“What’s so funny?”
He’s back, two dilapidated cocktails in hand and a dopey look on his face that reflects the last hour spent consuming alcohol and watching the Irish clouds become slightly less-gloomy versions of themselves as we neared France.
‘I-um….I have your stuff! We have to move downstairs!”
“Oh cheers, thanks a million!”

As he turns to lead the way to the other bar, I hesitate.
I figure I have two choices. One: I come clean, own up that in my tipsy turvy rush to gather up all of our things to bring downstairs, the wallet had accidentally come loose from his pocket and slipped into the unknown depths of the Irish Sea, now sitting alongside lost Viking relics and various other tourist memorabilia swallowed up over the years. This option (i.e, the truth) terrifies me. And so I rather irrationally choose to select option two: I play dumb.