1435 c/o Crispin Best


I Am Amazingly Patient.
I Am Amazingly Humble.
I Am Alone. I Am Not Alone Enough.



I am amazingly patient. Sometimes I wait for weeks for things. I just stand there and wait. Sometimes the thing I’m waiting for happens, sometimes not and my eyes slowly close.

Today I was in a train. It was underground. A woman wore blue nail polish. A man zipped and unzipped the cover on his squash racquet. Three Chinese girls compared little fingers. The train stopped in the tunnel. An old lady sighed. I did not sigh. I was amazingly patient.


I am amazingly humble. This may sound like a contradiction or a joke. It is not. It is a fact. People often pay me compliments and I say,
      - No, no.
      And they say.
      - Oh. You are amazingly humble.
      And I say,
      - No, no.
      And they say,
      - Come on, now.
      And they get fed up and walk away.
      It is better to admit that you are humble. I am amazingly humble.

Today someone said to me,
      - You have kind eyes.
      And I said,
      - No, no. You have kind words. What countries border Tunisia?
      This was to change the subject. We were on a train. It is important to be humble on a train. There are so many ways a train can hurt you.


I am alone. I am totally alone. When I am on the train and the man next to me is doing the crossword and I know what “11. Depression - Animal food holder (6)” is, and he is tapping the empty squares with his pen, I am totally alone. When I am practising the glockenspiel and making lots of mistakes I am totally alone. When I am drawing with crayons and there is a sunset I am totally alone.

I am alone and I wear a hat and part of me wonders if it’s silly to wear a hat when you’re alone. I am alone.


I am not alone enough. Sometimes I am alone and someone will come and talk to me. They will ask me directions to the nearest supermarket. I will look up at them until they leave. Sometimes other people will hit me with their body as they walk past. Others will laugh at my bare feet. And I will not be alone enough.


I want to get in a train. And I want to ride for two days. And I want to find some woods. And I want to go into the woods and meet a man named Herman. And Herman will be alone. Herman will have a beard that looks like soap suds or old newspaper. He will have bare feet. Me and Herman will be alone. We will live in the woods. We will each build a monastery. Herman will teach me how to survive in the woods, what mushrooms I shouldn't eat and how to climb for nuts. I will grow a beard like Herman's. We will be alone. And we won't bother each other except to compliment each other’s humility or monastery. And that will happen only very occasionally, on a specified date. We will be alone.

We will be alone.

We will live alone for a long, long time.

And we will die alone.

We will die alone in the woods, thank god.

1434 c/o Jason Lee Norman


(There Are Ways) to Come Home


for m.m
&
j.b


When you return home, one year to the day that you left us, one year to the day that you decided that you should go elsewhere and the day that it rained, the day that we asked for something, the day that a man destroyed himself in front of a grocery store and the day there were fireworks and the day we saw icebergs floating down the river, remember to look to the east to remember why you left in the first place. Don’t try to measure how much the trees have grown; there won’t be any.

When you return home, one year to the day that you left us, you will wonder if you can do it all over again. You will wonder how you can knock on the same doors again and talk to the same shop keepers again, and you will look east to the factories and the smoke clouds that they make and your lungs will hurt and you will immediately want to leave again, to go away like you did one year before.

When you return home, one year to the day that you left us, you will look for changes. You will look for new street signs, you will look for children, you will look for vineyards. We took everything with us when you left, one year ago to the day, we took the seeds and signposts out of the ground and we followed you. A few stayed behind to turn the lights off. So when you return home, one year from the day that you left, please send for us and we will come back to turn the city back on.

1433 c/o Katrina Kymberly NGUYEN




On Thursdays the wind breathes on your arm and you become a goose in the dialectic of humanity.

"It's all pragmatics," you honk.

The Portuguese k/King has died four days before my birthday. It is 1433, I think, I thought, and I feel like my hands are consistently on display. I pull and I tug at them like they are an uncomfortable shirt.

"You had them in the dryer too long."

I squeak in non-sequiturs, "Only when I am sketching on them do I feel moderately comfortable with my existence."

Edward successes four days before my birthday, and I am smiling again, did you see that. Did you see it.

I feel like my lips are consistently on display. I pull and I tug at them.

and all I see is your shoes. All I see is your shoes. All I see is your shoes. Your shoes. Yourshoes. Your shows. Your Shows. You show me a few things.

and this will be the end of me. Composed and indicative. Platonic and corresponding. Oh, hell, this will be the end of me, I think, I thought.

and you look at me and say, you say, "Not much is going on in art."

You said.

I smile at you.

The art of collision. The art of accentual erotica. The art of windows. The art of top to bottom. The art of exploitation. The exploitation of "R"s and "W"s. The exploitation of panoramas. Hiding behind corners. Feeling lonely at the fish-market. Hovering above the sun-s rays. Standing on bridges wondering no-thing. So dogmatic. So totalitarian. Pull-ing -and- tug-g-i-i-i-i-ng.

We hold secret meetings in our mailboxes. This is Portuguese for something special. What have you to say to deja vu? This is Hungarian for my dreams and waking life corresponding with one another. I'm bursting into flames on the third floor of the library. This is Polish for the sadness I feel when I see airplanes flying. The leaves are yellow and orange and are shaking a little from precarious autumns and clumsy fallings. This is English. I can't warn them. Warm them.

Twinkle-toes, you say "human" and I think "lonely."

Twinkle-toes, I take out the yellow and orange paint. Twinkle-toes, I say to you, I say, "I'm starting with your face."

and the Ming Dynasty rules on.

1432 c/o Crispin Best


Strengthen, Strengthen, Strengthen



I was trying to paint something gentle. I looked out of the window. There was war.


I don’t want war. I want girls.


A man came to my door. I told him I couldn’t talk then. I told him I was busy. He said I had to go to war. I said,

      - Can it wait?

      He said,

      - No.


I don’t want war. I want girls. I want Guyanan girls. I want girls from Qatar. I want girls that look like polar bears.


I went upstairs to get my things to go to war. I looked out of the window. War is the colour of processed cheese. I came back down. I said to the man,

      - I am a painter. I was trying to paint something gentle.

      He said,

      - That’s too bad.


I want girls who take their own pants off. I want girls who don’t elbow me in the face. I want girls who take deep breaths and let the air out slowly, so it won’t sound like they are sighing. I want Tunisian girls.


I went with the man to the place, to conscript. They looked at my name after I signed it. They told me I had to provide my own armour. The man who told me this had a pillow wrapped around his head. It was held there with string. I didn’t want war.


I want a girl whose thighs move when she moves. I want unfussy girls. I want girls who lie on me and don’t apologise about it. I want girls from Greenland.


I put on cricket shin pads. I tied sponges to my elbows. I selotaped egg cartons to my head. I hung a biscuit tin lid around my neck as a breastplate. I put a fruit bowl in my backpack. About ten of us were doing this.


I want girls with few or no allergies. I want Nepalese girls. I want girls who don’t mind coins jingling in my pockets. I want Norwegian milkmaids.


I wore a teacup as a codpiece. A midget was grinding up eggshells into a fine dust. He rubbed the dust on his arms and his face. He rubbed it on any skin he could see. He was saying,

      - Strengthen. Strengthen. Strengthen.


I want girls with clean teeth. I want girls from Guam. I don’t want war. I want girls who’ll count while I do push-ups.


I went to war. I came back home. I went upstairs. Out the window the sky was painting something gentle.


I lived the rest of my life. Sometimes there were girls. Sometimes there are girls.

1431 c/o Crispin Best


How to Rule Unopposed for 42 Years


The first thing is to put your dad in jail. Squirt him with kerosene, burn down an orphanage and tell the local dungeon to lock him up. Visit him once to tell him he is going to die in there. And so he will, three years later, halfway through his book.


The second thing is to use your wife’s fist to hit yourself in the face. She will hate it when you do that and she’ll begin to whimper. Take her hand and hit yourself again.


The third thing is to off your big brother, Bernardino. Walk with him to the cathedral. Go up the 539 steps of the spiral staircase to the top of the tower together. Enjoy the view. A boy will be flying a kite. A pig will be running directly towards a haystack. Say,

- Would you look at that, Bernardino?

- Would you look at…

And kick him down the first of the 539 steps and he’ll keep tumbling and you just look up, straight up, at nothing.


The fourth thing is to eat bagels. Have three. One cinnamon, two sesame seed. Look out of the window and lick your lips and think about the foods you don’t like. You don’t like raw sugar snaps. You don’t like raw cabbage. You don’t like black pudding.


The fifth thing is to off brothers numbers two and three, Pietro and Azzo. Bury them up to their necks in the dry soil and sit in front of them eating fruit from a basket. Leave a coconut one foot away from them. Two long straws will poke out that almost, almost reach their lips. When they cry, wipe their tears away.


The sixth thing is to pour out the last of the orange juice and there will be just exactly a glass and you can nod to yourself as you crush the carton in your hand.


The seventh thing is to off brother number four, Albobrandino. Purchase one of those tiny guillotines which are actually a magic trick. Proceed to chop a carrot but not Albobrandino’s finger in half. Next, buy an actual guillotine. Albo will clap his hands and stick his neck straight in there. Put your hands to your cheeks before the blade has even dropped.


The eighth thing is to learn the sackbut. Practice every day until you've nailed it. The acoustics are good in bathroom. Play it when you are furious. Nothing expresses fury quite like a sackbut.


The ninth thing is to produce an heir. His name will be Ostasio. His name will be Ostasio, meaning ‘abundant’. His name will be Ostasio.

1430 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Don't Let Me Explode (Cont.)



At her kitchen table she sits doing her homework. Her mother is there, clearing up dishes and running water in the sink and wiping down the countertops. The girl’s backpack sits on the chair beside her, looking up like a neglected puppy. The girl puts down her pencil and looks up at her mother. Her mother comes up behind her and checks the homework. She reads with her fingers. When she comes to the end of the page she stops and shakes her head and then kisses the top of the girl’s head. In the girl’s head there is silence. The backpack slumps and falls on the floor.

In her room, at a small desk, the girl sits with her page of homework covered in pink eraser flakes. The backpack is sprawled across her bed like a junkie. Downstairs her father slams the front door and enters the house. She can hear the sound of his shoes in the kitchen. His voice makes a low echo. He comes up the stairs and enters the girl’s room. He stands behind the girl’s chair and brushes away the pink eraser dust. He shakes his head, kisses the girl on the cheek and leaves the room.

The girl’s backpack smiles as she fills it with her marbles again, and her sticks and an old sandwich that she found in her desk. There is a flashlight that makes a clicking noise when she turns it on. She closes the backpack. She opens her window. She jumps.

1429 c/o Pippa Best


The Last Tooth


So I'm flicking my cheek. Over and over. And pushing against the last one with my tongue. Over and over. Like I'm kicking the back of Jake's chair and he won't move, until there's a red flush on his neck and his back goes straight and I know he's about to turn and yell. Just flick. Over and over.

Outside, the roof of the games shelter gobs rain back at the sky. Up and out. I tube my tongue, making a bowl for my spit. Suck it through. Push the tooth with my tongue hard but it still won't give.

Bell. Feet smack down the corridor, girls screaming, bags whack the wall. If I shunt forward in my seat I can see the back of him. I can see skin where his sock's rubbed through at the heel.

I stop flicking. I get my ruler out and tap it on the side of the chair but he doesn't move. I stick the ruler in my mouth and rock rock rock it until I taste rust.

Then Jake comes out and doesn't even look at me just goes into the corridor and I can hear the slap-slip slap-slip get faster until he's running. I poke at the bottom of the tooth where the gum feels thin.

Miss Burton holds the door open and stares at the ruler and I kick my foot back so the metal legs scrape the concrete. It makes her squint so I do it again. The ruler leaves a brown mark on my sleeve.

The door sticks on the carpet and she is frowning as she tugs it shut pointing at a plastic chair in front of her desk. The floor squelches if I roll my right foot. She's sorry to see me here again. I hold my foot still but she can't see in my mouth.

Her voice sounds like a washing machine. I'm pushing against the last one with my tongue and then my tongue pushes through and the tooth tips forward. And. Out.

She doesn't see anything to smile about. Out the window rain skis over Jake's shoe full of water on the roof.

I balance its weight on my tongue. It's the last one. All my kiddy teeth gone. My tongue fills the salty gap.

When she has stopped talking and closed the door over the sticky carpet, I pop the tooth into my hand. I want to show Jake.

1428 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Don't Let Me Explode


The first time she thought she heard a voice it was over breakfast. She could barely hear it over the singing of her cereal and outside a plane was flying low over her house. She held up the bowl to her ear like one does with a seashell and listened for the voice. She listened until her earlobe was soaked with milk. Nothing.

Don’t let me grow up


At the door she tied her shoes. Her backpack was filled with books, a sandwich, marbles, and sticks of varying lengths. The two loops on her shoes stuck out like a rabbit’s ears, the knot in the middle was tiny but tight. She opened the door. Outside it was windy. The voice spoke again.

Don’t let me blow away


At recess she played marbles. She lost her favourite one that looked like a ball of mint chocolate chip ice cream but then quickly won it back, along with another that looked like a tiger and a shiny steel one that she named ‘King Kong’. When recess was over the bell rang. The other children ran inside the school, screaming and letting their tongues wag in the wind. She stayed behind. She took her sticks from her backpack and buried them in the ground. The sun was high and hot and bright. She looked up and squinted. The voice again.

Don’t let me explode

1426 c/o Crispin Best


Tezozomoc Between the Braziers


Tezozomoc between the braziers.

Tezozomoc holding an obsidian sword.

Tezozomoc on a hill, looking at other hills.

Tezozomoc trying to sit up.

Tezozomoc stepping ineffectually on the neck of a tapir.

Tezozomoc staring at a bee that is sitting on his arm.

Tezozomoc swaddled in feathers and skins and frowning.

Tezozomoc shaking his head.

Tezozomoc looking through clouds at the sun.

Tezozomoc alone, counting his sons on his fingers.

Tezozomoc feeling in every way slow, slow, slow.

Tezozomoc small and shrivelled and creased and clenching his fist.

Tezozomoc quietly immersed in eating.

Tezozomoc wondering what he's going to do.

Tezozomoc, sleeping, carried on shoulders.

1425 c/o Rebecca Perry


Buttons



There were guards dotted along the border like buttons.
The border was a red line an inch or two thick.
The red was the red of traffic lights;
the traffic lights all said stop, so did the line.
The line was painted straight onto the pavement.
The pavement was light grey on one side,
that grey was the colour of pencil lead;
the pavement on the other side was dark grey,
that grey was the colour of wet elephants.

The guards wore black uniforms, they had guns.
The uniforms were trimmed with big silver buttons,
the silver buttons shone like teeth in the moonlight.
The guns were small, the size of a hand.
The guards walked along the line, they never crossed.
They walked at the speed of slow-running water.
They had one job only, the guards,
that job was to keep Nanjing the same size.
That size was the biggest city in the world.

They came at night, when the guards swapped.
The guards swapped at 3am.
3am was the darkest and the quietest time.
The darkness hid them; them in their black tops,
them with their soft black shoes.
Those black shoes toed the red line, crossed it.
The hands with black gloves glued silver coins
to the pavement, coins embossed with ‘Beijing’.
They glued the coins onto the red line, they covered it.

In this way Beijing grew at 3am every day;
it eeked over the red line by a square foot each night.
Those feet, over time, became a whole square mile
and that metal mile made all the difference.
The red line had to be redrawn around the coins,
jagged like a dinosaur’s back. The Nanjing guards
ripped their buttons off and threw them in with the coins.
Conceding, swapping sides, wanting to be part,
as they always had been, of the biggest city in the world.

1424 c/o Crispin Best


Stretch My Skin Into a Drum



I want you to eat me when I die. You be the bobcat. I’ll be the old lady.

      I think my calves would be good. When I die, I want you to tear off a chunk of my calf and put it in your mouth and pull a face and chew.

      Or else cook it. I think my calf would go nicely with white wine vinegar, fried, with shallots. You will feel fancy while you eat me. Do you like shallots? Do what you want. But I want you to eat me.

      Cut out my kidney and liver. Rip off a buttock. Make a pie. Mash some potato. I want you all to sit around the table on a Sunday afternoon and eat me. I will be inside the pie. I want you to eat me and I want you to talk about how I taste. If I taste bad, you say so. You use as much ketchup as you want. But you eat me.

      You’re going to eat my tongue. Slice it thin and eat it raw. There are too many jokes you can make while eating my tongue. Hold it in your hand and make a joke. Put it between your teeth and make a joke. Feed it to the cat and make a joke. You’re going to eat my tongue.

      I want you to eat my heart. Cut it into chunks and grill it, but gently. If you burn me, you’ve failed. You will put the chunks of my heart in a flour-dusted bun. Mustard will go well with my heart. Stand around drinking beer and eating me and talking about sports.

      Use your imagination. I want you to wear a bib.

      The bits you don’t eat, I want you to burn. Rub the ashes into your gums. Throw them. Whatever. I don’t care. Do what you want with the ashes.

      Except the skin. I want you to stretch my skin into a drum. And I want you to beat it. And I want you to be angry when you beat the drum. And I want you to be angry. And I want you to be angry. And I want you to be angry.

1423 c/o Crispin Best


Turn Again, Whittington



The cat pushed her face into Dick’s until Dick said,
      - You are a lovely cat.
      Then the cat stopped and looked at Dick’s mouth.

The cat was primed on the arm of the sofa. She looked at the string. It was the first time. She was going to get the string. She jumped at the string. She missed. She landed.
      The cat lay on the carpet for a while. She felt embarrassed. She rolled over. Then, some string caught her eye. She jumped up onto the arm of the sofa. It was the first time.

Dick was eating something. The cat wanted to eat it too. She tried to put her tongue on the thing that Dick was eating. Dick pushed her onto the ground.
      The cat walked in a circle. She looked at Dick. She wanted to eat what he was eating. She jumped onto his lap. Dick pushed her onto the ground.
      The cat walked in a circle and looked at the TV. Dick put his plate on the floor in front of her. She licked the plate. It tasted nice. It was jam on toast.

The cat wanted her body to be under the sofa. She ran as fast as she could. She went under the sofa.
      She was under the sofa.
      She heard a noise in the other room. She wanted to know what it was. She ran as fast as she could into the other room. Dick was making a cup of tea.
      She wanted to be under the sofa. She ran as fast as she could.

The cat was asleep. She was warm and she was asleep. Her claws were perfectly sharp, she felt calm and warm, Dick was here with her and she was asleep.

The cat wanted to be high up. She looked for somewhere high to go. When you are high you can look for things.
      She jumped up onto the radiator. It was not comfortable but she was high. She wanted to be high up. She sat on the radiator and looked for things.

Dick put his hand on the cat’s face. She closed her eyes and made a satisfied noise. She liked the smell of Dick’s hand. She started to lick his fingers. They tasted good. His fingers tasted like prawn cocktail. She licked his fingers.

Dick emptied the cat food into the bowl. The cat started to eat. She was very hungry.
      Dick left the kitchen. The cat felt bad and alone. She followed Dick and put her body in the way of his legs. This was so he would know to come back. She put her body in the way of Dick’s legs and looked up at him. Dick looked at the cat. He walked back into the kitchen.
      The cat ate the food. She looked up to make sure Dick was still there with her and he was and she ate the food.

1422 c/o Jason Lee Norman


The Illegitimate Sons of Jacob Appiano



When you have a son you will love him immediately. It has nothing to do with love or the instant bond created with a being that bares your more genetically dominant qualities. It is because of nature that you love the child. This overwhelming feeling of joy you feel is nature’s way of telling you to not simply dump this screaming thing into the trash. In earlier days it would be this feeling that would keep you from cracking open the child’s skull and scooping out its insides and smearing them on your face. When my first son was born, I loved him immediately.

My second son was a gift. A gift from God that allowed me to fix all of the mistakes I made with the first son. I told him different bed time stories, I fed him different food. I even gave him opposing advice. The two of them competed for my love and respect and I cheered for my second son.

My third son was a wretched runt. All I could offer him with any regularity was pity. The other two boys terrorized him constantly. There was little I could do about it. I failed him.

My fourth son lives with his mother now. He may as well have been a daughter.

By the time my fifth son is eighteen years old I will be eighty. I will not speak a word to him until then. When he is eighteen, if I am still alive, he will come to me as a man. He will come to me and say, I am your son. I will give him nothing.

1421 c/o Crispin Best


Antoine, bastard of Burgundy



My baby is a bastard.
He curls his hands into tiny fists.
He poos.
There are many words he does not know.
He likes his genitals to be cool.
He is a kickable size.
He poos a lot.
He is a bastard.
He does not know the word ‘noon’.
You will be talking to him and then there will be poo everywhere.
He does not know the word ‘grandslam’.
His poo is a dark yellow colour.
I have trouble sleeping.
He does not laugh at my jokes.
He wees directly up into the air.
He sneezes and he does not understand anything.
He is a little bastard.
I am sorry all the time.
He smells unlike anything.
He closes his eyes.
I am sorry when I make a noise during the night.
Everything is covered in his poo.
He does not understand anything.
Yesterday he was lying on his front and crying for some time.
He does not know any swearwords.
He is not ashamed.
He is a bastard.
He looks at you and then he stops looking at you.
At night I dream that he is pooing all over my body.
I am sorry when my head thumps the thin wall my wife has erected between my bed and hers.
He is growing.
He does not understand anything at all.
He is a tiny bastard.
Such a bald bastard.
He is not interested in what I say to him.
He puts his hands together soundlessly.
I like to smell him.
At times he is lonely or bored or there is too much happening.
He does not know the word ‘scuba’ or the word ‘chips’.
His legs move slowly through the air.
He makes noises.
I put my face near his body and look at him and breathe.
He is the smallest bastard.
There is nothing that he understands.
Everything is covered in poo.
Right now he is growing.

1420 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Grace


It started with three ships. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The ships were built for durability and could defend themselves from any Spanish galleon or Italian carrack. Each ship had a captain, each ship had a flag, and each captain had a sword.

The Grace- Captain John Cutter: strong, virile, excellent at knitting, penis like a walnut. His destination was the Canary Islands. He dreamt of finding a spice that could be a successor to the hugely popular black cardamom. When they left Southampton he was seen shouting, “Cardamom is a dragon and I will slay her” from the crow’s nest. John loved limes and he loved whores and he loved sunsets. All three he would enjoy in abundance on the final journey of the Grace.

The Valentine- Captain Elizabeth Castle: entrepeneuse, raconteur, fluent in French, and the best prostitute in all of Europe. Elizabeth ran the strongest floating cat house in the world; a mighty ship of whores. They came from all over to see the wonders of the earth and to share their talents with the lonely sailors who had nothing to do with their wages but piss them away in games of chance. Castle was a fierce but fair captain. They ran the vessel in shifts; some worked on deck while the others worked below. Blowjobs and knot tying, sunsets and limes, Elizabeth Castle hoped the Canary Islands would never appear on the horizon.

The Falcon- Captain Ruddiger ‘Pieces’ Perth: mild, calculating, decomposing. Captain Perth sailed a ship of lepers. The sailing leper colony was stocked by the British Royals and was always given enough supplies as long as they never again set their feet or stumps on British soil again. Perth used to be the captain of the Grace and he and Castle were once lovers before he became afflicted. She would charge him half price and let him stay twice as long, deep in the warm belly of the Valentine.

One evening, at the stroke of midnight, the Falcon was a bolt of lightning. The lepers stripped the ship of all useful equipment. They stole all the limes, they untied all the knots. The mast fell into the ocean and woke the sleeping sailors. The sailors pulled up their trousers, they lifted their swords, they saluted Captain Perth. They were defeated.

1419 c/o Rebecca Perry


When You Are Preceded by Phillip the Bold



I am fine on a horse. On a horse there is no stopping me. For my last birthday King Sigismund sent me a stallion the colour of coal. The saddle was purple, and soft like a horse’s nose; it had sans peur in gold letters on one side and a lightning bolt on the other. They say that there is no one faster than me, which is very possibly true. When I’m on a horse I feel like I’m riding on the back of a whale, skimming towards the sun, which is an open mouth, which will swallow me whole and let me live inside its hot gold belly. I am fine on a horse. They say that I am fearless and on a horse that is true. I like horse’s hind legs; they are terrifying in a good way.

I am not fine off a horse. I am terrified my legs will buckle if I break into a run. My wife says my thighs are princely, she says they are princely and she grabs one with her whole hand. I am terrified when there are red or brown flecks in my apples. I am terrified my ankles will crack. I am terrified when my wife checks my testicles. I am terrified of taking the last barley sugar from the pack. I am terrified of cheese mould. I am terrified of fire, water and big trees. My wife likes to dance, she holds out her hand to me and looks at me and I have to dance with her. I am terrified of what my knees will do. I am terrified when I hold my breath in the bath and I hear my own heartbeat slowing in my ear drums. I am terrified of pronouncing words wrong in public. I am terrified of coins in Christmas puddings.

Sometimes at night I fold back my half of the sheet and lay it over my wife. I am sweating because I have dreamt about something terrifying like my ears, which never stop growing, getting bigger than the length of my face, or eating a nut I have never eaten before and being allergic, horribly allergic. So I go out to the kitchen and find a carrot or a salt block and I go the back way round to the stables. Usually I go to Mahog, he lives in the back corner, he smells like tree bark, he is the colour of conkers. I sit on his back in my night robe and I feel calmer than when I am in a chair by the fire. He shifts from hoof to hoof, he paws the sawdust patiently, he puffs. I look through the holes in the stable wall grain and, if the moon is out, I imagine I am heading there on horseback, climbing hill after hill, slowly, swaying; and when I get there I will look down at earth and realise there is nothing to be terrified of at all in all that green and blue. I will laugh at myself and do a somersault.

1418 c/o Crispin Best


Ixtlilxochitl Knelt Down


There was something impersonal about the world. People felt it in their shins. They saw it in the ripples that blew across the surface of their soup. There was this unshrinkable distance between everyone. People wept and other people quietly watched. Still, no-one could quite put their finger on it.
      Ixtlilxochitl turned to his son, who was in a basket, and said,
      - Son, what are we to make of all this? What are we to make of this unbridgeable gap? Should we at least talk about it?
      His son looked up to him and gurgled.


People tried everything. They ripped other people’s hearts out, placed the still beating organs in a bowl and tossed the quavering bodies down stone staircases. There was still this distance.
      They placed the severed heads on display. They brought more people to die. They burned them. They drowned them. They hit them with whips until they died. They shot them with arrows and let them bleed and they watched. They fed the entrails to the animals in the zoo. They waited for the distance to disappear.
      They stood watching with their fingers crossed. One of them whispered to another,
      - Any minute now.
      But they were not hopeful.


Ixtlilxochitl watched the people die. He turned to his son, who was in a basket, and said,
      - What should we do? Are we making a mistake? Why do we still feel this distance?
      His son opened and closed his hand. He looked at his fingers and blinked. He grabbed his bare foot and pulled it towards his mouth.
      Ixtlilxochitl ordered more people to be brought.


In the foothills, Ixtlilxochitl was running away. He was being chased. He had made a mistake. He knew this.
      Ixtlilxochitl was carrying his son in his arms. He looked at his son,
      - Here we are.
      He was repeating the words.
      - Here we are.
      His son started to cry. He told his son to stop crying. His son kept crying. He told his son to stop crying. His son stopped crying.
      Ixtlilxochitl looked at his son and said,
      - Here we are.
      Ixtlilxochitl lifted his son up and placed him in the branches of a tree. He put one finger to his lips for his son to be silent.
      Ixtlilxochitl walked away from the tree. He made sure his son could not be seen. He started walking back down the path, toward the footsteps. He placed his sceptre on the ground. He removed his headdress. He removed his robe.
      Ixtlilxochitl knelt down.

1417 c/o tafariuprising

Child Maintenance


Darling, I know I promised you that we would be together forever. Married till death us do part and all that. But guess what? Last night, I had a dream. I dreamed that a lily was eaten by a horse. Can you believe it? A lily, eaten, by a horse!

You know what that means, don't you? No? It means I'm leaving you. For good. To go and live in a cave. Yes, I know we have ten hungry kids. But I had a dream - the lily, the horse!

Bye!


The patron saint of Switzerland, St Nicholas of Flüe, was born in 1417. At the age of 50, after a distinguished military and judicial career, he left his wife and ten children to devote himself to a hermitic life of contemplation. His explanation was that he had received a mystical vision of a lily (the symbol of purity) being eaten by a horse (the symbol of the worldly life). Apparently, he survived without food for 19 years.


I think he was having an affair.

1416 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Trezzo



“Somebody throw a rope,” yelled one.
      “Somebody throw two ropes” yelled another from the opposite side of the ravine.
      “We can’t hear you,” shouted the first one, “we’re almost seventy metres away. Possibly seventy-two” The two ropes that stretched across the ravine made a rung-less ladder. The ends were tied to trees or the roots of trees.

The first two rungs were on the east side. A man of about forty years and his teenaged son. First the father lay across the taut ropes and then his son climbed over top of him and lay beside him. They were shoulder to shoulder.

Rungs seventy-two and seventy-one were a local farmer and a female contortionist from a travelling carnival. She had a bullring in her nose and the bullring had a ring through it, and in that ring, another ring. The farmer was worried about his donkey. The soldiers assured him that he would be safe tied to the same tree as the ropes that were about to hold his weight.
      “Nice to meet you” the farmer said to the contortionist as her knee dug into his belly. “Don’t worry Sofia,” he called out to his Donkey, “we’ll be back in time for supper.”

Rungs three through twenty-four were the members of the local boys choir. They were wearing their school clothes and arranged themselves on the ropes in order of descending height.
      “I’ve heard that lying on your back is good for your singing voice” said one.
      “Shall we sing something while we wait?” asked another.
      “Ave Maria?”
      They sang Ave Maria.

Seventy, sixty-nine, and sixty-eight were friends of the contortionist who worked at the carnival as well. There was a man who wore a beard of bees and another who bit the heads off chickens. A woman was in between the two men. She had short hair and toned arm muscles. It was not immediately clear what position at the carnival the woman held.

Twenty-five through thirty was a family of six. They posed for a family portrait on their backs, the four daughters in the middle of their mother and father. The two youngest girls had decided to wear matching sundresses that morning.

Sixty-seven to sixty-two were half a dozen nuns from Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. They had been selling handmade baby rattles and paper bouquets to passers by. They did this once a month. They lay across the ropes in alphabetical order of their favourite saints. Francis of Assisi, Heribert of Cologne, Iago, Isaiah, Leonitus, Yon.
      “It certainly is a heavenly day” said the first nun.
      “We are like the tower of Babel,” said the second, “but in a good way.”
      “Surely this is God’s work” said the third.

By late afternoon there was a noticeable gap in the bridge. The soldiers estimated about ten meters or so. Two soldiers on the east side went into town to round up some more volunteers. The soldiers on the west side played cards. The soldiers on the east had found a few drunks and sent them crawling towards the gap in the bridge, across the man and his son, and the choir, and the family of six and the girls in their lovely sundresses etc, hiccupping all the way.

The sun was setting and the soldiers had run out of time and manpower. They crawled onto the bridge to fill in the remaining gaps. They lay beside each other in order of rank.

To the west they heard the royal trumpets blow and the galloping of horses. A trumpet from the east side, where the castle stood, returned with a sound of its own. A carriage arrived at the foot of the bridge’s east side and out of it stepped the Duke. On the west side a team of horses had come. One of the men got down from his horse and took a wicker basket that was tied to the saddle. It looked like a picnic basket. The man opened the top of the basket and removed from it a small black and white kitten with a collar that had a bell on it. The Duke made little kissing noises. The cat came forward.
      “Ow, my bad knee” said the farmer.
      “That tickles” said the nun.
      “Look at her pretty tail” said the girls in the matching sundresses.

The cat made its last step across the bridge with some trepidation. The Duke scooped her up and kissed her pink nose. The team of horses rode away. The carriage rode away. By morning there was no evidence left at all of where the bridge had once been.

1415 c/o Tria Andrews


Slit



Everyone knows monogamy bores men so every night for her husband she was a different woman in bed.

As a frantic housewife, she wrote out To Do lists below his navel with her tongue. Dry cleaners, bank, yellow rubber gloves, feather duster, lasso, perfumed ligatures, Chinese finger trap.

As a disco queen, she snorted coke with tight-wound bills and faked more than her false eyelashes.

As Joan of Arc, she scorched him with the heat of her body and panted out her thirst for him until they were both overtaken by the flames.

As an Amazon warrior, she lopped off her breast and handed it to him though he said he would have preferred her heart.

So she slit herself from throat to gut and bared her blazing chest.

From pleasure, he began to cry and, she, touched by this display of emotion, bled to death before he could lick her wound.

The eve his first wife died, he took a young actress for his bride and she painted herself like a slit-up corpse.

1414 c/o Lai Fun Lee




[please please click for hi hi-res]

1413 c/o Crispin Best

The Death of Davit I

Dawit I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Chief Commander of the Order of the Star of Ethiopia, Special Grade of the Order of the Propitious Clouds of China, Elect of God, was buying milk. He was trying to choose between milk with a red, blue or green top. He could not decide.
      There was a man wearing a t-shirt. Dawit I asked the man which milk was the best milk.
      - Depends what milk you like, said the man.

      Dawit I nodded. He looked at the man and nodded. He put his fingers to his lips and looked at the milk.


Dawit I, King of Kings, Lords of Lords, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Gold Griffin of the house of Nassau of Luxembourg, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, was sitting on his sofa. He was watching a 24-hour news channel. The woman presenter was new. She was nervous and kept making mistakes. Dawit I looked at her. She was pretty
      Dawit I was eating cereal from a bowl. He had got the milk with the blue top. The milk tasted too strongly of milk. He puckered his lips after every mouthful. Half-finished, he put the bowl down.


Dawit I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Liberator San Martin of Argentina, Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, Elect of God, was only wearing one sock. He had no idea where the other sock had gone. He shouted upstairs to his wife,
      - Have you seen my sock?
      - On your foot, she replied.
      Davit I muted the TV.
      - It’s not on my foot.
      - Oh dear, she said.

      Dawit I sat forward and scanned the floor for his other sock. He saw some old telephone bills and a pack of playing cards. He saw tiny bits of thread. He saw popcorn crumbs but no sock.
      Davit I got slowly onto his hands and knees. He looked under the sofa for the sock. His bare foot felt cold. He saw a folded up envelope but no sock. He saw a pencil. He could hear his wife upstairs, painting, tapping her foot to music. He let himself lay on the ground. He put his cheek to the carpet and closed his eyes and listened. He lay there for a while.

1412 c/o Jason Lee Norman

Never Been to Spain
For DFW

It was decided, not in the high meeting rooms of the castle or the equidistant Stones of Mora but on the shores of the Baltic, that from this day forward no man was allowed to die. Women were also not permitted to expire and children, under the edict, were considered “little men and women” in the eyes of God and the crown. Animals could still die, and plumes of chimney smoke as well. All creations of man, whether practical or imaginary were allowed to fade, whither, age, and decompose according to the laws of nature but never to die in a flash of fire or rising water. Dogs could not die.

It was that day on the Baltic’s shore that the sun fought so hard to push through the milk of magnesia sky to give us warmth, because we were cold. We had just remembered the words of our beloved King who had promised us that he would not die until every one of us was himself or herself a king or queen. He died before fulfilling that promise.

Albert was our King and he was a King that we prayed for every night. He would not go to bed until all of his subjects were sleeping soundly. When it would rain he stood out on the balcony in his royal pyjamas until he was soaked from his grey hair down to his ingrown big toenail. He did this to feel like those of us who had leaky roofs and drafty rooms. He ate baloney sandwiches with warm mayo each day at lunch until every one of us had a goose, or turkey, or plump chicken on our table. All speeches were made on a Friday instead of a Sunday so that we could get off work early. The famous words from his last speech were, “No man will die until my work is done”.

He died writing the edict with his own hands by candlelight, to save power. A dried out ballpoint pen in his hand.

Our King was placed in a pine box and that box was put into a larger one of walnut oak. That box was then lowered into a tomb of limestone. The edict states that as long as there is snow, or hurricanes, or woodwind instruments that man would never again fear death. At the tomb we bowed our heads. The youngest of us laid a wreath. As long as there are empty pages, or bowls of soup, or hideous or beautiful things, that the edict would stand and we would no longer feel the paralysis of mourning. The messages came from as far as China, Ethiopia, and the Isle of Capri: The King is dead. Long live the King.

1411 c/o Xiena Ahmed


The Moments Immediately Before and

After the Conception of Our Juan


It was spring. It had just rained. The raindrops pooled on the upturned leaves on the trees, then dripped off their tips onto the grass.
      Yuliana Guzman and Eduardo Soto, they came to the hill with a cake, a basket of mamoncillos and a bottle of Crianza Red. The grass was wet, and though the world glittered, Eduardo was suddenly not so glad about the rain. Yuliana ran back to where they had came from, then brought back with her a knotted carpet and a plastic bag, inside which the receipt for the Crianza red, and a 100 mg container of gluten free baking powder still nestled.
      Eduardo sat on the carpet, and brought together his heels. Yuliana sang a song and twirled her skirts, and Eduardo blushed as he watched her chest move heavily in front of him. He sipped the Crianza. He felt the soul of Ceres in the rain wet air, in the smell of damp grass, in Yuliana's flapping braids, and deep in his stomach. He felt warm. A drop of water fell from a leaf, landed on his head, and slipped through his hair and into his ear.

Manuela Ramos had the bag of grains under one arm, and with the other, she straightened her apron. It was evening. The chickens knew this, and Manuela knew this, but for different reasons. The chickens flapped around Manuela, their clipped wings dancing on and under her skirts. Manuela scattered the grains, but her eyes were on the gate and fence in the front of her house.
      The chickens pecked the ground and her boots, searching for a grain, any grain. The old farmer Lopez appeared by the gate right when the sun shone through the crossed branches of the apple tree on the hillside. Lopez raised his hat, and smiled with his gums. Manuela averted her gaze and stared, for the first time, at the carpet of birds near her feet.
      Lopez pulled, behind him, a bushel of grapes on a wagon. On Manuela's apron were the words 'Hail to the Chef', in English. Manuela wished, more than anything, that she was on the wagon instead of the grapes.

Ridolfo Salazar sat on the church steps sucking on chicken bones. Alvaro Morales sat on the window seat and watched Ridolfo's adam's apple bobbing up and down. Ridolfo looked up and saw Alvaro looking at him.
      Alvaro wore a ruffled collar, and his shoes smelt like bathtime. Ridolfo wiped his nose on his sleeve. They kept their eyes on each other. Ridolfo's furious sucking slowed, and then he smiled, his cheeks full of bone. Alvaro slipped easily off the purple velvet window seat, his heart pounding.

Yuliana straddled Eduard. If her buttocks had mirrors on them, Yuliana's, at this moment, would reflect the sky. She had small hairs on her upper lip. Her mouth was loose and open. Eduardo suddenly thought of a birthing cow. Yuliana screamed Eduardo's name. Eduardo shuddered.
      Yuliana lay her face on Eduardo's chest. His buttons dug into her cheeks.
      She was heavy. He couldn't breathe.

Manuela went inside her house. She took off her apron and laid it on her bed. She took off her dress, and laid it on the apron. She took off her bonnet, and laid it on the dress. She kept her boots on.
      Manuela took her binoculars off the window-ledge and put them to her eyes. Lopez sat in his kitchen, a plate on his lap. He peeled the skin off the grapes with his gums, then laid the round quivering little piece of grapeflesh on the plate. Manuela watched him do that to six grapes. The binoculars had cost her a thousand gold coins.
      Lopez ate the naked grapes one by one. Manuela wondered how it would feel to have no teeth in her mouth.
      Lopez walked to his bedroom. Manuela followed him with her binoculars. Her breathing quickened. It was time.
      Lopez walked up to his own bed. He picked up the egg that lay on his bed, tied up with a red ribbon bow. He looked up, and towards Manuela's house.
      Behind the binoculars, she smiled.

Mama Morales entered the front room humming La Cucaracha. She carried with her a tray that had two china cups, a dish filled with small biscuits, and a dainty little teaspoon. 'Oh Alvo,' she called out. 'Tea is ready!'
      Alvaro was not in the room. He was outside with Ridolfo.
      Mrs Morales walked to the window. Alvaro was tasting the chicken on Ridolfo's lips. Mama Morales saw this happening.
      All the biscuits, all the tea and the teaspoon fell to the floor. The tray fell on top of them.

1410 c/o Andy Calvert

Dearest Ma,

      So, I'm the Pope. Well, I'm a Pope. I can't help but think this has all got a little bit out of hand. I’ll be honest with you, there was trouble enough with two Popes, but three Popes? That’s just asking for trouble. And some of the things people are saying about me! For men of the cloth, they’ve got some pretty sordid imaginations.

      While I’m being honest (it seems only fitting; I am a Pope, after all), let’s just say that not exactly everything they said may have been quite as untrue as you’d like. After I was done with school (too much Latin gets to a boy), you thought I travelled for a bit to ‘find myself’ before I settled down. That’s not entirely false, but there was a little bit more to it. I wasn’t exactly working as a merchant sailor, shall we say. Well, after a fashion I was. There was money being made, but it was being made at the expense of others. And under a Skull and Crossbones. It was a crazy time, without a doubt.

      I’m not proud of it, but I wouldn’t change a day of it. It opened a lot of doors for me, and I didn’t need to use a sword for some of them. Like, you know how I’m a Pope and stuff? That’s a funny story. Me and Crazy Giuseppe had been at the grog for a few days after we’d spent the week pillaging the shit out of some dump on the coast, when we got into a game of dice in Naples. It was one of those nights, y’know, where you’re just on fire, and I was on fire. I couldn’t lose. Roll after roll, crowds gathered, people were laying money on me all night, I didn’t pay for a drink, and Crazy Gus, he was lapping up the attention I was too busy to use myself, started making up all sorts of stories for the ladies.

      So, by the next morning, I was just weighed down with coins, and Gus says “Baz (he calls me Baz, I know you hate it Ma), I met these two girls, I told ‘em we were men of the cloth letting our hair down. They bought it, but they want to meet us, er, in the er, the uniform things those square pricks wear, so they can see if it’s true what they say about priests wearing nothing under the robes, like”. Now this sounded like great fun, I was still feeling it, I was rich, and I was chasing tail. So, we tapped up the Robes’r’Us, and Baldassare ‘The Cardinal’ Cossa was born. I got laid, goes without saying, but I kinda enjoyed the reverence, y’know? There’s only so much abuse you can take for being a pirate. So I got stuck in. Met some guys, proper Church guys, hung out with them in Pisa for a bit, next thing you know, we’re destroying the Catholic Church. More than I ever destroyed as a pirate, and those guys are …shit, that’s what they do.

      So, long and short of it, I was a bad kid, now I’m a bad man, but I’m a Pope. Pa never saw that one coming, huh? Anyway, I’d best sign off. Turns out schisms keep everyone busy.

      Love to Nona

      Your Son,
      Baldassare Cossa, Scourge of the Neapolitan coast
      Pope John XXIII (Pisa Division)

1409 c/o Crispin Best


Martin the Second



All of my children are dead. Every one. It happened slowly at first.

My oldest, Jaime the Vengeful, was a Sardinian Prince until he fell down a well. He was chasing a bumblebee that had stung him. He was screaming and swinging an axe. It was never the best.

Juana the Unprecedented was engaged to a Bavarian Duke. She had too much wine with supper one evening. After dessert she crept off and jumped from the aqueduct. We didn’t find her for a month. When we did, she was smashed and lumpy like an old courgette.

It’s strange to be morose and planning a wedding. But: a King needs an heir. Probably there is a better word than strange. Still. All of my children are dead. All of them.

Of course my fiancée refuses to cook, she is the Tsarevna of Minsk and has never touched a saucepan. But it would be nice, once in a while, for her to put on an apron and just stand in the kitchen. Perhaps wipe her hands on a dish cloth and look over at me. Just to stand there in the middle of all that heat and wait for me to come and put my arms around her. It would be nice.

Margarita the Ruthless tumbled down a wet flight of stairs. She was a Valencian princess by that point. She trod on a snail on the top step. They were, both of them, incredulous. Margarita jumped backwards and hit every step but one, which made twenty-six.

My fiancée has a beautiful spine. The curvature is something I cannot describe. I often wonder if this is a strange thing for me to think. I will wait until after we are married to tell her about this.

Eleanor the Fallen of Instep was lucky, we suppose. She was poorly but had caught the eye of a Castilian Lord. She was in bed. She had just woken up. A handmaiden told her that a nearby pier, a favourite of Eleanor‘s, had burned down. The handmaiden said,
      - It was totally gutted.
      And Eleanor replied,
      - So would I be.
      And Eleanor laughed and laughed until she couldn’t breathe or something burst.

My fiancée wears only pink. Everything is pink. Even the soles of her shoes. She has been living in the palace with me for three weeks now and I have never seen her wearing any other colour. Each morning I look at the door to her chambers, through which she will appear, and I think of oranges and greens. I think I would like her in a blue, a pale, pale blue.

Wilfred the Hairless was just a baby. He came out dead. His mother, my second wife, wouldn’t stop being sick, and that is how, two days later, she also passed away.

My fiancée often comments on my trousers. The comments are not entirely complimentary. It seems she does not like my trousers. I am not sure who I should ask for advice about trousers. The wedding is in two weeks.

Wilfred, the baby, was the last one born, but the last one to die was Martin the First, named after me, and by the end a King himself. Martin got typhoid. He gave a very serious speech in which he likened himself to other sufferers such as Alexander the Great, Pericles, and William the Conqueror. The speech did not mention that one catches the illness by ingesting excrement. The speech stated that Martin had rejected treatment, that he would triumph, that he was strong enough to beat the illness alone. He was not. He died, childless, the King of Sicily. And I have to succeed him. And provide an heir for everything.

The wedding is in two weeks. I will tell my wife how wonderful her spine is. I will lift her pink veil and I will tell her and I will kiss her on her lips.

I have succeeded my son. I am Martin the Second, after him.

1408 c/o Crispin Best


Taken from ‘The Great Canon , or
Vast Documents of the Era of
Perpetual Happiness’


Dragon - Dragons are moving statues. They are part darkness. They are good-looking and therefore feature on many flags. Their wings are too small to gift them flight, so they use them to fan fires they have started with their spit juice or their dad's matches. Their diet is rice, also maidens. They are susceptible to being stabbed in the heart by angry young men who are hidden beneath armour. Since everyone wants them dead, dragons are sad.

Cloud - Clouds are higher than a ladder. They are slightly islands. Polar Bears are landed clouds, and whipped cream, and snow. Clouds are maid of rice, also maidens. There are different kinds of cloud: Pretty Cloud, Angry Cloud, Cloud in Shape of Harp, Upside Down Cloud, Cloud in front of Moon. Clouds looks nice above famous landmarks. From above, clouds are mountains, also below. Clouds makes people cry because of either their beauty or aloofness.

Gravity - Gravity is the downward direction and a most unpleasant enemy. It is what makes us unable to jump, unable to reach that avocado so that we starve. It is what makes us unhappy with things to the point we punch ourselves in the leg again and again. It is why the earth is almost exactly a circle. It is what makes boulders crush our bodies until we become dead forever.

Tea - Tea is supernatural and refuses to be understood. It must be bargained with if it is not to burn you. It is poured from a distance to produce foam, or else blown on to produce steam. Guys in Turkey like to drink a lot of tea. Tea is good at keeping secrets, but because it is forgetful. It wants to throw a hammer through that light bulb. At first it finds it funny that you are afraid of spiders, but before long it starts pointing them out to you so that you don't jump. Tea is a dark liquid that makes you feel more at home.

1407 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Invitation to a Miracle



My brother showed up four years late for dinner. My mother made the same dish every night until he finally arrived home. It was a chicken dish that was my favourite until about six months into her standoff or protest or whatever it was. The chicken was good with my father though because chicken did not cause his gout to flare up. Sometimes even the smell of a steak cooking would make his big toe swell up with gout and he would stomp around the house like an ogre.
      It was a Tuesday when my brother arrived with his new wife and new dog and new car. The first thing he did when he came into the house was walk up behind my mother while she was at the stove, turning over a piece of browning chicken. He came up behind her and kissed her on her left cheek and said,
      “What’s for dinner mum?”
      Just chicken, Tom.
      Chicken for the last thousand days chicken, Tom.
      Long time no see, Tom.
      Then his new dog comes into my room and messes up all my scrolls.
      Jeezus Christ Tom, get your dog outta my room. He’s messing up all my scrolls.
      At dinner Tom chewed with his mouth open and said things like, “this is great chicken mum.” Or “so tender mum”, and made lots of mmmm sounds. He told us about what he’d been doing for the last four years while his new wife fed pieces of chicken to the dog. He told us about the ‘miracles’ he saw. The northern lights and the Grand Canyon. Sunsets on beaches and over the Rocky Mountains. They camped out in the desert one night, underneath a Joshua tree and counted stars while the dog chewed on mulberry bushes. They went surfing at high tide, dove for pearls, caught fireflies.
      My father kicked him out before dessert. The next week mum made steak. Dad had seconds.

      Mum invited Tom and his wife for Thanksgiving. I told her to tell him to leave the dog at home.

1406 c/o Rebecca Perry


John II of Castile becomes King aged 22 months.



During the coronation he started to lick his royal garb,
then he put a whole fist full in his mouth and chewed it.
I’d wondered if that might happen, knowing his love for peaches.
He started to make a sound like a duff violin note
every time he saw his own feet; they’d pinned rubies to his shoes.
He dropped the orb immediately; it hit the marble floor,
and rolled down the aisle like a grenade, bouncing off the pews.
The Archbishop’s hand flew to his heart, rings flashing like fire
in the spotlight, the congregation gasped collectively.
He snatched the silver spoon and tried to feed himself
the anointing oil, it dribbled down his chin and on to his collar,
his tongue flicked over and over his shiny little teeth.
He stared at the wobbly reflection of his face in the apple of gold.
The crown slid off his head like a blob of ice cream from a cone.
He started to cry and didn’t stop. He was King.

1405 c/o Rebecca Perry


Usquebaugh

We keep the pot still in the old prayer room.
It steams up the high windows and fuzzes over
the face of Saint Benedict we have framed above the door.
We lean our backs to it when we copy out scripture.
The wood is warm through our robes and eases our bones,
it smells like fire and makes our eyes sting.
Some of us think of it as a big heart, burning, bubbling.

During afternoon prayers Brother Deicola’s voice
had quavered through the corridors.
He tore at his belt, he cupped his red face in his hands,
he pressed his forehead to his brothers’ cheeks,
he lay down in the oratory and muttered
about salvation and a fire in the pit of his stomach.
His breath smelt like the prayer room.

We found Brother Ciaran beside an oak barrel;
splayed, florid, grinning like a mad man.
He begged us all drink from the barrel,
he told us we would all feel that the very breath of God
was in our throats, whispering to us His wisdom,
he called it aqua vitae, usquebaugh, he called it the water of life.
We offered our prayers and we drank.

Our bones were coaxed from the inside out,
we moved through the monastery as smoothly as ghosts.
We sang together in the courtyard so our voices
would best carry in the wind and up to the sky.
We vowed to cleanse the drink from orange to gold;
once for the Father, once for the Son and once
for the Holy Spirit; we slept in absolute peace.

1404 c/o Crispin Best


Owain Glyndŵr


After declaring myself Prince of Wales, I got down to work. I thought of all that was imperfect in Wales. I thought for a good long time.
      I realised that there was no statue of me yet in Wales. This was imperfect.
      I called a press conference, at which I made certain famous pronouncements, and announced I had commissioned a statue of myself to be built. The statue was to have the head of a bear. However, the bear would be wearing a mask of my face. The people would perhaps think that I was a bear. Underneath my human body, perhaps I was a bear.
      The statue was to be astride a bicycle. The statue was to have one hand raised so as to provide a photo opportunity where the statue appeared to be offering a high-five, or waving hello. Or even losing to scissors. It would depend on the person posing with the statue, of course.

At the end of the press conference, I resigned my post. The reporters all nodded to themselves. My work was done.

You can go there now. The statue still stands. Thousands of people a year have their photo taken with that statue. And, on the pedestal, beneath my name, the legend still scrolls mechanically between my two most well-known proclamations:
      - We, The Welsh, Do Not Like Disasters!
      - We, The Welsh, Want More Oversized Cheques!
      - We, The Welsh, Do Not Like Disasters!
      - We, The Welsh, Want More Oversized Cheques!

1403 c/o Crispin Best


Lazaretto



Day One: Today a bird landed on my shoulder. We looked at each other for a while. I felt OK. I’m going to call today ‘day one’.

Day Two: Two young boys shouted at me while I was sitting on a bench. I must have looked at them.

Day Three: I met a girl! I was behind her in the queue at the post office. She answered her phone. I heard the other person call her ‘Priscilla’.

Day Five: Today it rained and then it sunned. After that the sky was a single cloud.

Day Seven: I have been writing letters to myself and posting them one at a time.

Day Nine: I saw Priscilla! At the post office again. She was wearing a jean jacket. She looked like a movie star. I had just posted a letter to myself that said: You can do it!

Day Ten: I saw Priscilla again. Twice in two days. At the greengrocers this time. She was buying kiwi fruits and a punnet of blueberries.

Day Twelve: Today I had a bowl of cereal but my mouth was too small for the spoon. It was frustrating. I have been spending a lot of time at the greengrocers.

Day Thirteen: I miss Priscilla.

Day Fifteen: Today I asked the greengrocer if he knew Priscilla. I reminded him that she was the one who bought kiwis and blueberries last week. He gave me cock-eyes.

Day Sixteen: Today I followed someone that was wearing a jean jacket. I was going to ask them where they bought it. By the time I got courage, they were gone. I didn’t recognise the streets. I went into a locksmiths and they told me I was ten miles away. I just now got home.

Day Eighteen: I found a full roast chicken in the gutter. I didn’t know what to do with it.

Day Nineteen: I saw her! I saw her! I saw her!

Day Twenty: I saw Priscilla yesterday! She was on a bench. I got courage. I walked past her very slowly a few times. One time, she sneezed. I said bless you. I said it very quietly. I don’t think she heard. When she left, I followed. I know where she lives!

Day Twenty-two: I went to Priscilla’s the last few days. She lives in a basement. I think she lives on her own. She sleeps on her side.

Day Twenty-four: This morning I tried to follow Priscilla when she left her house. I don’t like trams. It was crowded. There were too many people touching her. I got very angry. I had to get off.

Day Twenty-five: I have been spending most of my time at Priscilla’s. She is out a lot of the time. She comes home in the evenings. She carries her supper in a bag. I can see her shoulder sometimes when she sits at the dinner table. Her shoulder is perfect. When there are no cars I think perhaps I can hear her breathing. I like her windows a lot. They are very clean.

Day Twenty-six: I like Priscilla asleep. She doesn’t look calm like other people.

Day Twenty-eight: I noticed a lump in Priscilla’s armpit. Does that sound strange? It was very clear in the moonlight while she slept. It was magnificent. It was sexy. Her house is very, very empty and has wooden floors.

Day Twenty-nine: I think Priscilla took the day off work. Or school. I can not tell how old Priscilla is. Today she stayed at home and lay on the sofa. There was horseracing on her television.

Day Thirty: A woman has noticed I am spending a lot of time around Priscilla’s. She swept the pavement quite aggressively very near to me. She seemed angry. I told her that her broom looked good. Today I forgot to eat again.

Day Thirty-one: Nobody visits Priscilla. She is covered in beautiful bumps now. They are on her neck and arms. She looks unhappy. She stays in bed a lot where I can look at her.

Day Thirty-two: A doctor came to visit Priscilla. I think he was a doctor. He was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a black cloak, galoshes, and a mask with a long beak like a bird. He was holding a thin, pointed cane. His eyes were behind red lenses. He walked down the stairs to Priscilla’s front door. Priscilla took a very long time to get out of bed and let him in. She has lost weight. She looks really good. The doctor prodded her with his cane for a while.

Day Thirty-three: The doctor came again. Priscilla is now covered in red freckles. They look very cute. After the doctor finished prodding, he sat opposite Priscilla and shook his head. Then straightaway he left. I started to follow him but instead went back to Priscilla’s and watched through the window and she cried and cried.

Day Thirty-four: The woman with the broom came and looked at me again. She asked me why I was there so much. I tried to think. I said I was there about the gas. She nodded and went back indoors.

Day Thirty-five: Today some blood came out of Priscilla’s mouth. It was bright. The colour. It was really bright. There are more freckles now. And they are darker. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever, ever seen.

Day Thirty-six: Someone has painted a red cross on Priscilla’s door. I am very, very angry at them. Priscilla is noisy during the night. There was some more blood. Whenever she moves she is slow and pulls a face. It is a beautiful face.

Day Thirty-seven: I was watching when Priscilla opened her eyes this morning. Her skin is very dark now. She opened her eyes once. There was blood speckling the pillow and sheets. She looked at the blood and then she closed her eyes again.

Day Thirty-nine: There was an eclipse tonight. Or the moon went behind a cloud. Priscilla doesn’t move any more. She hasn’t opened her eyes today.

Day Forty: Three doctors came and took Priscilla away. They put her in the back of a van. They saw me looking through the van’s window and told me to get out of there. I told them I wanted to say goodbye to Priscilla. They told me to get out of there right now. They told me to mind my business. I told them I didn’t have any business and then they looked at me with those red eyes. They got in the van and drove away. I stood there for a while. I looked at the cross on her door. Then I came home.

1402 c/o Jason Lee Norman


Animals in the Sky



So I decided to start a rumor. I guess you could call it a lie because it was about me. You can’t start rumors about yourself because the person that the rumor is about is not supposed to be aware of it. I told them I could talk to animals.
      They brought me dogs and chickens. I said not dogs and chickens, animals that live in the sky I told them. Like crows and flying squirrels?
      No, like stars and planets. I observe their behavior and sometimes they tell me secrets. They took away my bus pass for that.
      When the great comet passed over, everyone was at my door with pitch forks and rifles with extra long bayonets. Don’t kill it yet; I want to study its habits. I went to the top of the tallest hill and sat there with my listening shoes and my observation hat. The townspeople came to me every day at noon and again at six to ask questions about the animal in the sky. Some of them brought me tea and cookies, and once, a bacon sandwich.
      How long will it stay?
      Another day or so. I told them this every day. Only another day or so.

One day at noon I slurped my tea extra loud. The animal does not like our smell. Our chimneys smell like smoke. Could we not burn some mint, maybe some young pines? How about marshmallow leaf? At six I had a Chablis with cubes of spiced cheese. The animal has tremendous hearing but all that it hears is the stomping of feet and the squeaking of wheels. Would it kill us to whistle? What about humming?
      One morning it was cool and I went down for a sweater. They had their arrows and guns aimed high in the air. The animal has a thick hide, I said. Worthless. Its milk is the real delicacy.
      The animal wonders why we don’t have more fountains. A nice fixture could increase property values. We could throw coins into them.
      The animal left around nine one evening. The air was a fog of thin mint smoke. Why did it leave, they asked.
      It learned as much from us as we did from it, I said. And because of racism. It left because of racism.
      Will it ever come back?
      In a year or so. Another year or so.

1401 c/o Crispin Best


De Heretico Comburendo


(Note: due to the strong subject material, this story has been given both a happy [1] and an unhappy [2] ending. The reader is free to decide which ending they would prefer depending on their mood and disposition)

The Heretic was about to be burned. The Executioner told the Heretic that he was about to be burned. The Heretic was unenthusiastic about the idea.
      The Heretic thought about all the other things they could have chosen to do to him. He thought about being run over by a steamroller. He would definitely have pulled a face.
The Executioner walked away. The weather was hot. The Heretic was sweating. The Heretic thought about how he could use this sweat to escape. He couldn’t imagine.
      There were maybe eight or nine people standing around waiting for the Heretic to be burned.
      The Heretic was wearing a t-shirt and pyjama trousers. These people had pulled him from his bed. He had been dreaming about babies wrestling.
      The Heretic looked at the people. They looked back. One of them looked at her watch. One of them was on the phone. One of them was eating a sandwich.

1)     The Executioner returned. He was wheeling a small oven in front of him. The Executioner said,
      - Lo, I have baked a selection of Indian snacks.
      The Heretic looked at him. The Executioner said,
      - My friend. You are going to take them out of the oven.
      The Heretic frowned,
      - Do you have an oven glove?
      The Executioner shook his head slowly.
      The Heretic gasped. He looked at the people who were watching. One of them shouted to hurry up with it.
      The Heretic looked at the sky and took a deep breath. He opened the oven door and counted to three. He licked his hand and quickly removed the baking tray in one swift motion. There was a faint sizzling. It stung quite a bit. The Heretic looked down at his hand. The Executioner looked at it, too. It was unusually pink. The Executioner nodded.
      The people cheered.
      They came forward one by one to collect the samosa they had been promised and then they scuttled off back to work or wherever they needed to be.


2)     The Executioner returned. He walked towards the Heretic. The Executioner was carrying a box of matches. The Heretic sweated some more.
      The Executioner had to strike a few matches before one properly caught. He held it up in front of the Heretic. The Heretic shook his head. He closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip. He looked out at the people. Some of them were nodding.
      The Heretic tried to plead.
      The Executioner slowly brought the match forward. The Heretic said No. The Heretic said No. The Heretic said No.
      The Executioner held the burning match to the Heretic’s t-shirt. The fabric of the t-shirt singed a bit. The Heretic yelped.
      The executioner nodded. He shook the match to put it out. He turned to the crowd,
      - OK, kids. Show’s over.
      - Hey. What about our samosas?
      - No samosas, kids. Sorry.
      - Oh. But you promised us samosas.
      - I really am sorry.
      - You lied to us. That was uncalled for.
      The people folded their arms. They shook their heads and walked away. They were hungry and disappointed and they were extremely unhappy.

1400 c/o Crispin Best


Three Days Chaucer Would Rather Forget


I

Chaucer heard the doorbell. He opened the front door. The postman needed a signature. Chaucer signed and wished the postman well.
      Chaucer shut the door. He opened the letter and started to read. By order of the King, Chaucer’s stipend was to be cut to 252 gallons of wine annually.
      Chaucer sat down and wept.


II

Chaucer applauded after each name was announced.
      “Stanley Whitford. Come on down!”
      Chaucer applauded and watched Stanley Whitford shuffling past people’s legs towards the aisle. Stanley was punching the air with both fists.
      “Laverne Francis. Come on down!”
      Laverne Francis jumped up and waved her arms in the air. The woman next to Laverne put her hands up to her mouth and started to cry. Laverne just stood there waving her arms.
      “Geoffrey Chaucer. Come on down!”
      Chaucer froze. A camera on its mechanical arm swooped towards him. His wife screamed,
      “Geoffreeey!”
      The two women sitting in front of Chaucer turned round in their seats,
      “Oh! Oh! Go on! You can do it!”
      And Chaucer blacked out.

When he came to, Chaucer was standing behind a podium. The host was asking him how much a particular microwave cost. The audience behind him was shouting numbers. Chaucer was sweating heavily. He panicked,
      “Thirty pieces?”
      The audience roared with laughter. Chaucer shrank.
      The price of the microwave was revealed. Chaucer's guess was not the nearest to the correct price without going over. Chaucer shrank again. He did not qualify for the Showcase Showdown. His wife did not speak to him on the drive home.


III

Chaucer entered the room. He was wearing a towel. His wife had recently returned from a two-week trip to York. She looked at Chaucer.
      “What has happened to your body?”
      Chaucer looked down at himself.
      “What do you mean?”
      “It’s all different. What’s happened?”
      Chaucer put a hand on his stomach. He looked at his wife.
      “Nothing.”
      “Come on. What have you done?”

Chaucer shrank. He walked through into the dressing room. He picked up his notebook. He found a pencil and wrote: And luve iss te moste beuteful ofe absolut disastres.

for every year


A story or poem or picture or something else for every year since 1400.

It has to be in honour of the year, but it doesn't need to be set then.

So: Fort Assumption was built in 1753, so that explains that. Sunflowers were introduced to Europe in 1510, so that explains that. And so on.

The project works chronologically.

Pick a year within ~30 years of where the project has so far reached.

Check under "Forthcoming" that the year isn't already reserved.

Send an email.

Come up with a story/poem/something else dedicated to that year.

OK.

Nice.

Thanks.