Saturday, September 02, 2006


I am isolation
Seemingly small
I’m harmless
Navigate me
Manoeuvre me
Come to me
Come closer
Crash into me
I’ll sink you
I’ll show you every horror that lies beneath the surface
I’ll plunge you down into icy darkness
Into desolate depths of despair

I’ll tear you
I’ll rip apart your hull
I’ll break you

And you will see the rest of me
And you will realise
And you will understand

Navigate me
I’ll drown you in my ocean
I’ll pierce you with my frozen soul
I’ll ruin you with my ancient pain
I’ll destroy you

I am isolation


Today the trees danced for me.
They saw that I was lonely,
So they swayed and shook.
They whispered to me on the wind,
Knowing that I’d look.
Leafy fingers hypnotised me,
Tantalised me,
Made me stare.
Tempting me to come to them,
To float to them on windswept air.

I want to learn to be like them,
To let life move me yet be still,
To stand so stalwart yet bend at will.

I want to feel connected to everything that lives,
While rooted in my isolation as long as I exist.

Ask me about my day

Ask me about my day
And I will tell you
How I watched the wind blow through the trees,
It put me at ease.
How I blurred out my eyes and fell into a trance
Every few minutes or so.
How I listened to music that made me feel sad
And wished I was with you.
How I typed poetry on my computer
And looked very busy
How I stared at my screen
So long I got dizzy.
How I watched the wood pigeons
That sit on the lamppost,
They huddled so close,
And wondered if they love each other
Or if love’s just a human word.
How I worried about the future,
Of a life filled with days like these,
Calm, slow and aimless.
Ask me about my day
And I will tell you
How the best part
Was you.


Let’s close every window
And lock every door
And let it be just you and me.

Let’s deafen our ears
To the rest of the world
We’re not what they want us to be.

Snow Haiku

I fall and I float
Like a psychotic snowflake
Whipped up in the wind

Wake up

Falling asleep
Just to wake up.
Closing my eyes
To really see.

The darkness dissolves
And all becomes clear
To me.


Slowly I slide into slumber,
I’m under.
I’m sinking in quicksand,
It swallows me whole.

The heaviest silence sedates me,
Don’t wake me.
Oblivion’s calling,
I’m falling,
I’m numb.

Lost deep in a sleep,
I’m nothing, I’m nowhere.
My essence seeps into the ether
Once more.

Alone in my darkness
Where no one can follow,
I’ve escaped from existence
To rest between worlds.


Dark skies glitter
Littered with light
Shimmering ghosts
Surging through time
I gaze


Sunset Sky
Silently burning
So slowly, melting
Light becomes liquid
and burns ‘til it’s black


Poisoned arrows
Point at me,
Everybody holds a bow.
All gripped with tension and dark intention,
Ready to release.

I call the arrows to me.
I listen as they whistle past my ears.
I buckle as they break my skin
And pierce my flesh.

The poison penetrates,
I’m weakened.

Cowards creep from shadows
To spit their venom in my open eyes,
To watch me die.

I rise.
I plunge my hand into my chest and seize my heart.
I hold it to the light
And there I see
Black blotches.

I rip them out.
I purge the poison and the perpetrators.
I throw them to the floor.
I watch them wither.
I walk away.


Washed away in a wave of woe
Wearily fighting against the tide
Weighted down by a thousand fears
Waiting to drown

Stopping the struggle
Starting to sink
Stunned by silence
The sound of the end

Though it hurts
To open my eyes
Stings and burns
I open my eyes
And now I see
Now I realise
I’m still alive

I can breathe down here
I can swim under water
I’m not scared anymore
I’ve become…

Kiss the bride

April showers turned to snow
And winter came to kiss the bride.
Her favourite season,
The perfect wedding guest.
The sky cried
Icy tears,
While careful not to wet the dress.
Frosty arms embraced her,
As the wind howled with joy.
December for a day,
A day just like her first,
A day she’d dreamed of.
Her fairytale fulfilled.


Everyday boredom
Repetitive role-play,
It tires her.
She shuts her eyes,
Just for a second,
And tumbles down rabbit-holes,
Plunges through darkness,
Only to be scorched by the light
On the other side of her eyes.


Bending, swaying,
To a tune I can't hear.
I want to be near to them
But a wall of glass is shutting me in,
Shutting me out,

The light is tinted, tainted,
Darkening my vision,
My sight, my insight.

But I have a square,
A square that leads to
Windy air
And I can stare,
I can stare.


I made this mask,
It's my creation.
I made it to protect myself,
I made it to be accepted,
It works.
Everybody loves my mask.

A pretty picture to look at.
Smiley, rosy apple lips and cheeks,
Big bright eyes and yellow hair.
Easy to look at,
Easy to talk to,

Some days it's not so hollow.
The smile beneath is just as wide,
The warmth makes the mask glow.
Some days the tears leak out,
Stain the edges,
Smudge the paint.
Some days it nearly cracks.

I want to tear the mask off.
I want to feel the air on my clammy skin.
I want to throw it on the dirty ground
And stab it with stiletto heels.
I want to smother it
Like it smothers me.

How would people know me though?
Without my mask.
My face is a stranger,
Unknown, unsure, unpredictable.
They wouldn't feel at ease,
They wouldn't warm to me with flaws and frowns.
It's too much, too raw, too risky.

The mask is clinging, gripping,
Sucking at my skin,
Fusing with my flesh,
Melding with me.


Paint on a smile
Sparkle those eyes
Wiggle and giggle
Until they're holding their sides
Make ‘em laugh
Make ‘em scream
Make ‘em howl with delight
Take a fall
Give your all
Entertain them all night

Dress up in bright clothes
For the freakiest show
Top the bill
You’re a loon
A buffoon

Dazzle and blind them
With a psychotic grin
Don’t give in
Get dressed up now
Make your face up
Keep on smiling
Everybody loves a clown

Don't stop smiling


Bring me to life,
Save me from this suffocation.
Find me, catch my hand and
Drag me out of this depression.
Lift my face up,
Show me the light,
Make me see.
Make me forget the darkness,
Make me forget.

Tell me you can fix me.
Tell me you can fill this void.
Give me all the answers

I don't want to look within,
I'm tired of myself.
I want a way out,
Why can't I escape?
Where are you?
Did you escape?


'An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.' Albert Camus

Stop watching me,
Stop judging me,
I can feel your gaze all over me.
Grading me,
Degrading me,
Please, won't you stop berating me?

I can't evade
This thing I've made.
I can't fool myself with a bubbly charade.
There's nowhere to hide
From the eye that's inside me,
It knows where I am
And it knows I'm afraid.

Perpetual drowning

Plunged into a grimy sea of emotions,
Falling so fast from such a happy height
Clinging frantically onto anything solid
But it all breaks away
And I carry it down
Down into the dark.

Polar sensations, so erratic, temporary,
The warmth of belonging,
The ice-olation.
Flailing and panicking
Screaming and crying
Perpetual drowning
Where is the end?
Where is the bottom?
Why do I keep jumping in?


Completely accepted,
Completely respected.
No more being rejected,
Just loved and protected.

Even here in my fortress
You climb through the darkness
With a smile and a biscuit
And some warm milky tea.

I never expected
To feel so connected
To a person so different,
So different to me.

The flip side…

Completely neglected,
Completely dejected.
Nothing hurts like being rejected,
Feeling weak and pathetic.

I'm here again in my fortress,
Slowly drowning in darkness
Alone with my tears
And my biscuits and tea.

Why does this surprise me?
Of course you despise me.
We're just too damn different,
Too different to be.


What's in your head?
Is it just like mine?
Are we really different?
Or do we just try to be?

Does my pain make you uncomfortable?
Does it remind you of your own?

Am I wrong to embrace it?
Are you right to ignore it?

If it never got dark
Would you still love the sun?

Can you really know yourself
If you only look at the pretty bits?

What are you so scared of?
Do you think you'll be consumed?
Do you think you'll lose yourself?

I'd rather be devoured
Than slowly eaten away.

Take a step into your darkness
I'll see you on the other side.


What is this thing I do?
Trying to paint a picture out of words,
Trying to draw my emotions out,
Trying to explain a feeling.

Where does it come from?

Like a beautiful bubble,
I try to capture it without popping.
Like a wound that needs draining,
I try to relieve the pressure with my pencil.

It flows like blood,
It feeds me and moves me,
It makes me feel real.

There's some deep understanding
Between my heart and my hand,
I just watch it happen.

Like a dream I vaguely remember,
Like a song I used to know,
Like a picture of me as a child,
I cradle the fragments,
And try to recapture
The meanings,
The memories,
The essence.


I'm melancholy,
I carry a brolly
On a sunny day.

I pray
For clouds of grey
To chase the sun away.

I cannot bear
The glare,
The light's too bright.

I hide
And count the days 'til winter.

I much prefer long nights
And candle light,
The doors locked tight.


Songs seem more important
When I listen to them with you.
I sit on the floor,
You sit on the sofa,
So how come I can feel your hands
On my heart?
I like the way you smile at me,
Like we're both in on a big secret,
We're the secret.

You always know which words
Will move me,
I don't need to speak.
The room feels warm.
Things seem
The lyrics pour
We bathe in their
I feel so calm.
I feel so warm.


I smile six days a week
But on the seventh day
I cry.

The clouds converge
Behind my eyes
And I grow dark.

Like a freak storm,
Sadness washes away the sun
And drowns my smile.
I'm flooded with emotions
That make no sense to me.

For no apparent reason
I am distraught.
Guilt, regret, self-loathing
All consume me.

My ugly body makes me wretch,
My swollen face looks unfamiliar,
A ghost possesses me,
I am haunted by a past I can't escape.

Rainy days

Rainy days remind me who I am.
Under a darkened sky
I burn a little brighter.

December days are cold
But stoke the fire inside.
It crackles and flickers
Behind my eyes.

I make the walls glow.


The day turns grey,
Droplets touch my window,
The sky is crying for me.


A whirlwind in my head
Drowns out all other noises,
I am alone with my voices.

A dark cloud sits heavy on my head
And rains down my face.
There is no shelter.

Drowning in emotion,
I pick up a pen
And siphon some out
Through my fingers.


A rock in my throat,
A dagger in my belly
And a splinter in my eye.
Pain possesses me,
Gripping skin with clammy fingers,
Terror throbs inside my head,
Dizzying and sickening.
Panic pulses through me, pounding in my chest,
A primal drum preparing me for battle.

The pale person in the mirror
Looks so calm.
A soundproof wall around an asylum.


Ugly and ungainly
Concealed within this chrysalis
It twists and turns in torment

Drowning in darkness
Stifled by suffocating silence
It struggles and panics inside its self-made prison

Desperate to be free
Too terrified to leave
Protected in its desolation

It rejects its graceless form
And writhes inside this deathly shroud

It breaks its bounds

Short, sharp bursts of light
Invade and then explode its former being
New life emerges

Beauty reincarnate
It glows
It gleams
It soars

95% Maintenance

Today I've swept the kitchen floor seven times
The dust and crumbs just reappear
Each time I leave the room

White cat hairs float through freshened air
And land on newly vacuumed carpet
The furniture needs another polish

Outside the window, he's mowing the lawn again
The grass grows so quickly

Every night I watch him water the pansies
Every day they're dry again

I remember a phrase I heard on a TV show
'Life is 95% maintenance'
I think about all the dusting and cleaning
and cutting and preening

I remember those words again
as I step into my nightly bath
my wet skin still smelling of perfume
I wash it off so I can put it back on
and the day after
and the day after

I turn back the bed that I made this morning
That I'll make again when I wake

I lay as I do every night
With my cat near my feet
And my boyfriend beside me
As my eyes close I think about my repetitive little life
The perpetual routine of responsibility

He hugs me
We kiss
Then we echo each other
'Good Night'… 'Sweet Dreams'… 'I love You'…
'See You Tomorrow'…

I smile in the dark


Eating sweets on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon
I realise I am happy
As I bite into the dark, crisp chocolate
And reach the fluffy, sweet orange centre
My mouth is in momentary paradise
I can't help but smile
As I unwrap another

I tuck my chilly toes
Under my boyfriends warm legs
And watch him watching his football
His face contorts from joy to frustration
I find it much more enjoyable
Than the boring match

I mimic him and he laughs
He concentrates and I scribble in my notepad
We both have our distractions
But we are connected

Safe on our sofa
In our cosy little living room
In the glow of our TV
A family friend
We are cocooned in comfort

For a short time
We are removed from reality
There are no politics here
No threat of war
No murders, robberies or rape
Just warmth and love and boring football
Pulling faces and eating sweets
And watching the sky in the mirror on the wall
From blue
To grey
To white


It's that time of year
Frosty fingers sting
Clutching at my naked limbs
… I feel exposed

I stand alone
Surrounded by difference
Aware that I am brittle

The sun comes
It melts my icy veneer
Here come the tears
I'm warm again

I sense a presence
A fluttering heart
A momentary rest of nervous energy
I crave its company
But this is a soul in flight

From beneath me… a vibrating
Of old and new life emanating…
Reminded of my roots, my earth, my source
I feel connected

It's that time of year
Frozen darkness numbs
Clinging to my drowsy limbs
… I feel content

Sean O'Brien Workshop poem

(inspired by an Edward Hopper painting)

I didn't mean to do it
How could I have known?
It seemed like such a good idea

The walls were closing in on me
The sound of nothing, hurt my ears
The branches tapped upon my windowpane

It felt like heaven, smelt like heaven
Pinecones, squirrels and a crisp, red carpet

I thought it was a fairytale
Things like that are never real
Just made up to keep young souls in line

The moonlight pulled me further in
I floated through the midnight trees
The wind… it carried me, encouraged me…

But then I met my dark surprise
I saw my death in both his eyes
I'd run into his arms
This night was his

As I waited for my end
There he appeared, my father, now my saviour
I was saved and he was lost
Now I'm alone


That's what I have to do
Why would I?

I only have a headache
My head is throbbing, aching, nearly breaking
The pain, it bursts through every vein
It pushes all the time, behind my eyes

Like splinters, stabbing through each lid
I open them and cry what feels like blood!
Hot and sore, it doesn't help
What does?

A headache, migraine, what you will
Is why I'm holding this bottle of pills
That's why! The only reason!

It's not because I'm screaming inside
It's not because of the pain I hide
It's not because I'm wondering
If I could really…stop…it all!?

…if I could give up trying, crying
saying sorry and being afraid
wishing I were stronger, surer, happier…
a little less crazy?

But it might hurt
And it might not work
And it might just make things worse!

I picture a cell in hell, alone
A disappointed God, 'how could you?'
A torturous drifting, a weeping soul
A vast black sea to drown in

Oil slick fingers suffocating
Strangling and deprecating
A Hamlet hologram glints on the lid
'What dreams may come' if I actually did?

Once upon a time…

I am the disenchanted princess
My kingdom is falling down all around me
My sky is Shakespeare blue and my moon is melancholy
My trees are all crying

My story is being told backwards
Happily ever after was so long, long ago
My Prince has tired of being Charming and has given up on saving me
He couldn't save me from myself

I am the wicked witch
I am the poison
I was asleep for a long time
But now I'm awake and I can see

The birds won't sing for me
There is no magic!
No spell to make my life wonderful

I can't blame my evil parents anymore
It's me who's hurting me

I keep running through the forest, wanting him to tear my heart out
It's too heavy for me!

Where is the wolf when you need him?
I want to be gobbled up
I want to be devoured and consumed
I want to hide in his belly, as heavy as a rock, where no one can touch me!

I wish I were an animal!
I want the gift of a conscienceless life
My conscience is strangling me

It's hard to be a good girl
The path through the woods is not so easy to follow
The nice people I meet along the way
are not so nice
and they're jealous of my lovely, red hood

I'd rather take my chances with the wolves
The woods look so inviting and I want to howl at the moon!
I want to run free and be wild

Why do we always turn the beasts into men anyway?
They're so much more as beasts
And weren’t we all beasts…once upon a time?

The Gaze

You smile at me with your mouth
But your eyes are assessing me,
trespassing, guessing me, weighing me up

You check out my clothes and my hair
I'm not there!
I'm much deeper inside, but I hide from the glare
Please… don't stare


I can't get off this 'Highway to Heaven'
It's all I know
I've thought about taking the middle way
But I'm not sure, I'm not sure
This guilt is so familiar
I know the words by heart
I whisper them every night
Into the darkness
And they soothe me into sleep
My melancholy mantra

Each day I strive anew
To be good in every way
Each day I fail
I carry my heavy cross in silence
But I stumble
I'm so tired

This journey is too hard, too long
And I keep getting lost in the woods
They're so dark and forgiving
But I can't stay!
I can't hide forever in these trees
With the moon on my face and a chant on my lips
I can't run away!

The highway is too loud
I can't escape the din
I always end up back on this road again
It's safe but suffocating
Dare I desert it?
What if I'm lost forever?
I didn't choose this road
But the gravel is in my soul


You soak me in your shimmering stream
I awaken
My senses are electrified
You scare and soothe me all at once
What is this hold you have on me?
So far away, yet I feel your force within
Your power pulls me
Stirring deep emotions down inside
Long forgotten, yet never removed
Pure energy, courses through my every vein
I yearn for fulfilment, but the nature escapes me
A pale enigma, you move me in ways I cannot understand
Restless but subdued, I give myself up
I lay down before you and surrender to sleep
Safe in your milky glow, until the black clouds encroach
And we are hidden again

The Wood (published in Aesthetica 2003)

(inspired by a painting 'The Wood' by Oriel Cockram Stratford-upon-Avon Art Society Gallery)

Warm, welcoming wood
Tempting me in to your shroud of safety
From the moment I enter I am lost to the world
You find me
You cradle me in your creaking limbs
And rock me into oblivion
A whisper on the wind
Answers every question I ever asked
And those I did not dare to
Your ancient wisdom reverberates through me
In every groan, every shudder
As the honeysuckle sunbeams illuminate your twisting tendrils
I feel the light run to me, through me
I surrender to your leafy lullaby
I become yours once again


I set off that morning with a grin on my face that would knock any cat right out of his tree
I walked, skipped, floated over the pebbly mess of a path that would lead me to my destiny
The sleepy sun was still attempting to rise
the chill of the night not quite passed, nipping at my fragile skin
I remember spotting the station ahead of me
Dusty lamplight, illuminating the ghost of a building
its rickety roof and tired benches exhausted
from the comings and goings of so many expectant visitors
As if the hopes and dreams of every soul passing through
stole a little energy from the weary wooden ticket stand
the crumbling concrete platform

By the time the tardy sun sat like a juicy orange in the morning sky
I was waiting on my chosen pew, my bulging suitcases resting beside me
groaning like fat old men, who not for the first time had over-indulged at dinner
I waited, the butterflies in my stomach impatient to escape
If I opened my lips, I was sure they would fly out in a flurry of colour
I waited, for the moment when I would spy his familiar shape
pacing towards me along the ancient platform
As my eyes searched the station, my mind carried me away
I pictured us both, stepping off the train in a new and wonderful place
maybe we would stay for a while in some cosy village guesthouse or maybe
we would travel further still, by plane or ship to some mysterious destination

A whistle. The deafening thunder of a monstrous machine
The train. Could it be here already? But he hadn't arrived yet
Confusion, fear, what if he didn't make it? where could he be?
The early train, that's what he'd said, we'll take the early train
What terrible fate had become him to make him break his promise?
The conductor tried to take my luggage, I wouldn't let him
I couldn't board the train without him
What if it were to carry me away, away from the station, away from him
I willed him to appear beside me, flushed and breathless from running
The conductor eyed me curiously, impatient to resume his journey
There were no other passengers to seat, not at this early hour
I waited and waited, but the train would not
As it left the platform, left me alone, a tear left my eye, then another

I don't remember how long I sobbed or how many trains halted, waited, left
I could not move from my lonely seat. Shocked, bewildered, afraid, where would I go?
How could I return to my empty house? I should be with him
As the sumptuous sun finally sank, my heart sank with it
The reality of rejection awakened me
I rose, took my life and my luggage in my hands and walked slowly, nervously back
back into the darkness I walked
The bitter black sky wrapped itself around me
That was the darkest night of my life

Friday, September 01, 2006


A boy wanders woefully down a dusky Sicilian beach, the sun slowly setting over the slumbering ocean. The pebbles beneath his feet are coarse and scratch his skin. He doesn't notice. His thoughts are elsewhere.

'Ciao Giovanni.' He turns his head, sighs, resents the intrusion. 'Ciao Paulo.' He walks faster. 'Giovanni…cosa c'e'? He wonders why he must explain himself to everyone. 'Niente, niente…ciao.' He continues along the now darkening shoreline. He has been rude to his friend, he didn't want to be, but he is in no mood for empty conversation. He is in the mood to be alone.

A girl sits solitary by a foggy Yorkshire window, watching the relentless rain. The radiator beside her is beginning to burn her skin. She doesn't notice. Her thoughts are elsewhere.

The phone rings. She turns her head, sighs, resents the intrusion. 'Dad again.' She checks the caller display and lets the machine answer. 'Hello…it's dad…can ya' ring me back please.' She wonders how a voice can make her feel so threatened. The sound invades her sanctuary and makes her shudder. 'Go away.' She deletes the message. She has offended her father, he knows she's there, but she is in no mood for a confrontation. She is in the mood to be alone.

It's late. The sky is black. The boy can't sleep. His mind is always searching, inside, outside, seeking a solution. The suffocating, sweltering darkness turns his probing eyes inward and the turmoil tires him. He sleeps, and dreams…of a loving father.

He dreams his father appears in the empty doorway, proud and smiling, reaching out arms filled with love and apologies. He is a child again. His father lifts him up and looks at him admiringly. Next he is a man, his father confides in him. It was all a mistake, a misunderstanding. His father is here now and he's here to stay. He is eager to know…his son.

It's late. The sky is grey. The girl can't sleep. Her mind is always searching, inside, outside, seeking a solution. The all-consuming, chilling darkness turns her probing eyes inward and the turmoil tires her. She sleeps, but dreams…of her loathing father.

She dreams her father appears in her doorway, cold and condemning. She is a child again. He berates her for singing, for talking, for making his head hurt. Next she is older, he's shouting again. Suspicious, and bitter, he turns away, ignoring her words. He refuses to listen, he refuses to trust, he refuses to see…his daughter.

This boy and girl are seas apart, but both haunted by one spectre, both harbouring a deep regret and hiding an enormous chasm. Each one estranged in a different way, each one bewildered.

The boy has never met his father. They live in different places. When he left this sleepy town behind, he also left his unborn son. All the boy has is a dirty old photograph with creased edges, of a young, skinny man with dark hair and green eyes. A picture from the past, that he keeps in a creaky drawer and looks at in secret, so as not to upset his mother. He searches the face for similar features but finds none. They share a name but nothing more.

He often wishes he could know his father. Whatever he may be. Nothing could be worse than the emptiness of abandonment.

The girl lived with her father for nearly eleven years. They lived in many places. At first she was his tiny treasure but the novelty became a nuisance. All the girl has are distressing memories, of an angry man with cruel eyes and a scathing voice. Pictures from the past, that she carries with her in a noisy mind and tries to discard; they depress her mother. She used to search his face for similar features but she found none. She realised that his face just like his heart could never be shared.

She often wishes she'd never known her father. However that may feel. Nothing could be worse than the humiliation of rejection.

A suntanned boy, a pallid girl, different, but the same. Each one hurting, sometimes hating, always wishing, things were different. Longing for one loving look, one caring word…acknowledgment. Each one, believing they're alone.

On quiet afternoons, these separated siblings both huddle in corners and scribble in notebooks, unaware of their connection. They pour their hearts into clean white pages and place the words they long to say on a shelf where no one will see.

In the shadowy hours before sleep, when daytime objects become crouching monsters, and the walls sigh and complain from the pressures of holding everything together, the boy and the girl close their eyes and travel to the same place. On a jagged cliff over a stormy sea, they shout their words across the ocean for the wind to steal. 'You don't even know me.' 'Non la conosco.' 'You're hurting me.' 'Mi fa male.' 'What's wrong with me?' Their agony explodes with each crashing wave. Their salty tears return to the infinite depths below them. Finally they scream at the thunderous sky in unison, the question that burns the fiercest. 'Papa…Dad…why don't you love me?'

Night becomes day. The boy wanders down the dawning beach. He wanders and wonders. He turns to the rolling waves and shouts. He feels the wind wrenching at his face and he sends his pain across the water, away, away, away.

Night becomes day. The girl wanders through the relentless rain. She wanders and wonders. She looks into the sky and cries. She feels the cool raindrops washing the hot tears from her face and the water washes her pain away, away, away.


The music flows into my ears
It travels through my mind
My soul is lifted through the roof
I leave the world behind

I feel the rhythm in my veins
The beat controls my heart
My body is possessed by dance
Now we can never part

I'm walking quickly towards the open double doors. I'm walking so quickly, that I'm almost running. I can feel the hairs on my arms rising up. My whole body is covered in goose bumps. The bitter wind whips around my legs, sending chills up my back, freezing my neck and causing my teeth to chatter. But I don't care about the cold. I don't care that my short, flimsy skirt and midriff top are not the kind of thing a young girl should be wearing on a cold night, in a dark car park, on the side of a lonely road, in the middle of nowhere. All I care about is getting through those doors!

I can see the rectangle of brilliant light shining out into the still, black night. I can hear the throbbing bass pumping out of the walls of the grotty, dilapidated building. I can feel the monstrous beating of the dangerously overloaded speakers, pulsing beneath the ground I walk on. The rhythm is pulling me in like a magnet. I can't fight it. I won't fight it. I want to run. I want to be inside!

I'm there. I'm at the entrance. Familiar faces greet me. Familiar voices call to me. "It's Smiler…. Hi Smiler…. Have a good night Smiler!" I pay my specially reduced members fee, then hold out my trembling hand to be stamped. I hurry up the ramp in my favourite knee high boots. My friends are close behind me, but I don't see them, I don't hear them. All I want to hear is the music. I push open the rickety, wooden door and become immediately enveloped in a blanket of sound.

As I float through the mass of bodies, all moving to the same rhythm, I feel like I have come home. Every way I turn, everywhere I look, a smile beams back at me. A smile from a good friend, a smile from a new friend, a smile from someone I have never seen before. There are no strangers here. Everyone belongs. I have never experienced such an overwhelming sense of belonging as this.

I begin to dance before I've finished walking. My friends appear beside me and we dance like the possessed. For that is what we are! The DJ mixes in another track. He starts with just a hint. A teasing taste of what is coming next. My heartbeat pounds in time to the beat. I begin to sing the next song before it even starts. I beam in the direction of my best friend and she returns the gesture. We both know what is coming. It's one of our favourite tunes. They're all our favourite tunes.

By now my smile has replaced my face. My cheeks are aching, I feel like my mouth won't ever return to its former shape. But still, I can't stop myself. It's contagious. Everywhere I direct my face, another smile breaks out. Such genuine pleasure aroused by such a simple act. I feel loved! As silly as that sounds, it's how I feel. Not one disparaging glance is thrown at me, not one disdainful comment, not one. Just pure and powerful happiness. It bounces from person to person around the dingy room. For that's all this place is. A large oddly shaped room, crudely attached to a smaller room and some cramped and leaky toilets. But the building doesn't matter; it's the people inside. We are one. We are music and movement and emotion. We are the perfect atmosphere.

I lift my head to gaze at the darting lights above me. The strobe, first white, then pink, then blue, illuminating the faces of the crowd below. I raise my hands and pound the beat into the air around me. I follow the light, entranced by its beauty. My fingers reach towards it as though they could touch its source. I cannot look away. It holds me in a hypnotic state. My only escape is to close my eyes. Once again the music flows through me, lifting my soul through the roof.

When I finally awaken from my lyrical trance, I see a face I know well. Another smiling member of this fascinating club. We hug, as is the custom here and try to talk, though words are hard to find in such a place. Then my friends return, before I realise they had gone and tell me that the night is nearly over.

The DJ announces the last song, though it never is the last! At once the masses chant in unison, "ONE MORE, ONE MORE" and our plea is answered. We dance again, praying for the clocks to stop their ticking, to join instead our soulful beat. But no! The music dies, the lights flash on too brightly and reality floods back into the hearts and minds of every one of us. We gaze drowsily at our new surroundings as though waking from a heavy sleep, then slowly we drift towards those double doors, reluctant to leave, lingering to say our goodbyes, to find our friends and to take one last look around at the now empty, silent, dance floor, before we must brave the chill of the early morning air and the eerie quiet of the new dawning day.

Walking towards our cars across the potholed car park, grudgingly leaving behind our perfect night, a strange hush falls over us. What is it that we have just experienced? What is that strange and beautiful sensation that is still rushing through our bodies? There is only one word worthy to describe it. One word….JOI (joy).

The Autumn Adventure

On a cold October day, the first October day, little Enzo was celebrating his birthday.

Autumn had turned the leaves on the trees into a kaleidoscope of colours. They were yellow and brown and orange and a wonderful shade of red like a burning fire. Many had fallen to the ground to make a crispy and crackly carpet that crunched when you walked on it.

It was too cold to play outside so Enzo stayed in the house and played party games with his mummy and daddy and big sister Romina. After they had all eaten a special tea and a scrumptious piece of birthday cake each, Enzo ran upstairs to his bedroom to play with his new toys.

When he got to his room he realised that among his presents there was a package he hadn’t seen before, but instead of the usual shiny paper and fancy bows it was wrapped in brown paper and masking tape with shipping labels on it from a country he’d never heard of. ‘Perhaps it was there by accident?’ he thought, but no, there was his name on the top, it was for him. He carefully peeled off the masking tape and pulled off the many layers of thick brown paper and eventually uncovered… a little brown wooden box on little brown wooden legs. It didn’t look very interesting. Maybe there would be something good inside?

He lifted the lid slowly, it was heavier than it looked and it creaked like something very old. He felt a cold breeze blow across his face and turned to see if the window was open, he didn’t know why it would be open on such a cold October day. As he turned to look, a blustery gust of wild wind whipped up around him and lifted him off his feet. He tried to grab hold of his bedpost but it was just out of his reach and he could only stare longingly at his little bed as the wind sucked him backwards into the little brown wooden box and the lid loudly slammed shut.

For what seemed like forever, Enzo hurtled down a dark and woody tunnel, caught in a current of air that pulled him towards a strange light. Then, with a sudden thud he landed hard on a bed of dry and scratchy leaves. He dragged himself up and crawled through a little hole in the darkness towards the eerie light he had seen before.

Enzo couldn’t believe what he saw! Bark, branches, leaves, it was true, he was kneeling on a branch of a very tall tree surrounded by many more tall trees, he must have just crawled out of a tree-trunk. The eerie light was the sun shining through autumn coloured leaves, making it shimmer and change from yellow to brown to orange to red.

The wind was much calmer up here and Enzo thought it sounded like someone whispering. ‘Welcome Enzo, welcome to the Kingdom of the Trees.’ ‘No’ he told himself, “I didn’t hear that, I’m imagining.’ ‘Welcome Enzo’ it whispered again ‘and Happy Birthday.’ Enzo shuffled around in a circle but couldn’t see anyone. ‘You can’t see what’s in front of your eyes’ the voice whispered again. Enzo stared into the trees around him and for a moment he thought he saw a face staring back. He looked again and there it was, two tired eyes, a gnarly old nose and a sappy smile. There was a face… in the tree! As he gawped in amazement, all of the trees began to shuffle and he realised there were lots of faces. He felt a rumble and turned to see that the branch he was crouching on was attached to a particularly old and weather-beaten face. ‘I hope you’re comfortable’ it groaned. Enzo froze in fear. ‘Don’t be frightened,’ the tree murmured ‘we won’t harm you, we brought you here to give you a gift, your final birthday present.’ ‘Yes’ agreed the other trees, all humming in unison, ‘a gift, a gift.’

Enzo sat still in silent shock and listened as the trees all spoke together in creaking whispers. ‘We are the Kismet, the trees of destiny. We gave one branch to a woodsman to make the little brown box that was given to you today. The box is a part of us, and so it returns to us and that is how you travelled here. We are very old Enzo and we know many things. We want to share our knowledge with a boy, who will grow into a man who will use it wisely. Will you use our knowledge wisely Enzo?’ ‘Yes’ gasped Enzo ‘I will, I promise.’ ‘Promise’ echoed the trees ‘good, then we shall tell you, but we can only share one secret each year, it is the way. You must return each year, on the day of your birth to the Kingdom of the Trees, so that you can learn from us and you must keep the box safe, it is the doorway. Do you agree to it?’ ‘I do, I do’ replied Enzo. ‘Then it is done’ the trees rustled ‘the boy is the Keeper of the Doorway to the Kingdom of the Trees.’

At this, the branch Enzo rested on began to shake and he fell, fast, down through the tall tangled tree. Just before he hit the ground a leafy limb caught him and planted him firmly in the earth below, the damp soil covering his feet and legs right up to his knees. ‘Your first lesson’ the trees sang. ‘Always remember to keep your feet firmly on the ground.’ With this a ropy root thrust up beneath his shoes and catapulted him back up through the branches and further still until he was high in the cold blue sky, looking down on the forest of amber treetops. He heard the trees beneath him calling, ‘But never forget to keep your head in the clouds, so that your imagination can soar with the birds.’ He fell down again into the tree he had started in and it quickly formed a cradle of leaves to catch him safely. As he tried to find his breath, the trees hummed again. ‘You must leave us now little Enzo, but come back next October on the day you were born and we will share another secret. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.’ The canopy of leaves above him parted and the sun shone down, lighting up the hole he had first crawled out of. ‘Goodbye then’ Enzo called to the trees ‘…and thank you I guess? I’ll come back in a year.’ He crawled back through the hole into the dark tree-trunk and the wind whipped up again and blew in after him, pushing him upwards like a jet stream through the darkness until he felt his head hit something and out he flew from the little brown box and onto his bedroom floor.

‘What on earth just happened?’ he wondered ‘and what did my lesson mean?’ Then he began to giggle, ‘I am the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees, ME! I am the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees!’ He danced around his room and jumped on his bed laughing and singing the words.

‘Enzo!’ shouted his sister from downstairs, ‘What are you doing?’ He bounced off his bed and leapt down the stairs and into the kitchen where his mummy and daddy and sister were making hot chocolate. ‘Having fun Enzo?’ his daddy laughed. ‘You’ve been very quiet up there’ his mummy added, ‘until now!’ ‘I was having an adventure’ Enzo beamed. His big sister Romina looked at him curiously. ‘What have you really been up to?’ she quizzed. ‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you’ he whispered to her, ‘it’s a magical secret. ‘Oh I know all about magical secrets’ she replied, ‘I am the Spring Princess after all.’ Enzo’s mummy and daddy smiled and Enzo and Romina scurried upstairs.

‘You have to promise not to tell!’ Enzo warned her. ‘I promise’ she said. So Enzo showed Romina the little brown wooden box with the little brown wooden legs and they each used one hand to slowly lift the heavy, creaky lid. Enzo held his breath and waited for them both to be sucked in… but nothing happened. He peered into the box and saw only some little brown wooden trays with toy cars and marbles, playing cards and dominoes and a miniature game of ludo. ‘That’s your magical secret!’ Romina frowned, ‘great!’ With that, she turned and marched out of the room. ‘Boys don’t know anything about magical secrets!’

Enzo closed the lid and opened it again but nothing happened. It was just a normal little brown wooden box with little brown wooden legs and inside it were little brown wooden trays with toy cars and marbles, playing cards and dominoes and a miniature game of ludo. He tried it again the next day and the day after and the day after, but it was always the same. “I suppose I’ll have to wait a year’ he told himself ‘until my birthday, a whole year, that’s such a long time.’ So he put the little brown wooden box with little brown wooden legs in the bottom of his wardrobe and he checked it often to make sure it was safe. Sometimes he played with the toy cars or played Ludo with his sister, but he always put everything back exactly as it was, just in case, and he waited, a little impatiently perhaps, until his next birthday.

For only on his birthday, that one special day of the year that is his, will the box transform. Only on a cold October day, the first October day, does the box become magic and transport him to another world, to the Kingdom of the Trees. Only then can Enzo return to the Kismet, the trees of destiny and learn their secrets, as the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees. Only in October, for it’s not just any adventure, it’s an autumn adventure.


The Spring Princess

Once upon a springtime, in the small hours before dawn, a baby girl was born, and her parents called her Romina. Little Romina was so precious that everyone who saw her loved her at once.

Spring soon became summer and autumn and winter followed. Time flew swiftly, as if on bird wings and baby Romina was soon a young girl.

On sunny days Romina loved to play in the garden amongst the grass and the flowers, and she would sing happily for hours. But her favourite thing to do was to listen to her mummy’s stories about a very special princess, who brought sunshine to the world.

Every night her daddy would tuck her into bed and her mummy would come and tell her about the Spring Princess. The Spring Princess was born with sunshine in her heart, hair that smelled like fresh flowers and a voice like a bird’s song. Romina thought it would be wonderful to be the Spring Princess and have all of nature love you so. Sometimes when she fell asleep, she would dream that she really was the Spring Princess, singing with the sparrows in the branches of a creaking tree and spreading sunlight over the garden, to make the daisies grow.

One cloudy morning Romina woke from one of her dreams and told her mummy and daddy that she wished she were the Spring Princess and not just an ordinary little girl. Her daddy laughed and said to her… ‘Romina, when you smile you make everyone feel warm inside and when you laugh the room gets brighter. That’s because you have sunshine in your heart.’ Then he lifted a strand of her hair and placed it under her nose. ‘What does it smell like?’ Romina gasped… ’Flowers!’ Then Romina’s mummy told her to look at the mirror on the wall and whispered… ‘Look at your eyes… do you see that sparkle?’ ‘Yes,’ whispered Romina, ‘I see it’. Her mummy smiled. ‘That’s the sunlight shining out of you, for everyone to see.’

Romina felt so wonderful. Her dreams had come true. But then, she remembered something. ‘Mummy, the Spring Princess had a voice like a bird’s song. Her mummy lifted her up and opened the window. Outside on the fence were perched two small sparrows. Romina began to giggle with glee, and at that a blackbird appeared and swooped down onto the window ledge. ‘You see’ said mummy, very quietly, so as not to frighten the birds. ‘They think you’re one of them.’

Romina’s heart skipped a beat and she was sure she felt it swell. She looked up at the sky and the most extraordinary thing happened. The grey clouds melted away and the sun shone brighter than she’d ever seen it shine. Romina exclaimed… ’I really am the Spring Princess! I really am!’

From that day on, Romina loved to play in the garden even more than she had before. She sang to the flowers, and her new friends; the birds, and had picnics in the long grass almost every day. But Romina decided that the best thing of all about being the Spring Princess, was that now when the day was over and her mummy and daddy called her inside, she never had to say goodbye to the sunshine. Romina knew that if she just started to smile and laugh and make her eyes sparkle, she could spread sunshine all through the house and her mummy and daddy would laugh and sing, because even in winter their house felt like spring!