The Emperor

From March 2019 to Febuary 2020, I worked as a pastoral officer for sixth formers, readying to go to university. I found that none of the students had been offered theatre as an option as A-levels, even as an extracurricular.

I went about fixing this by running a twelve-week after school drama club, and we had great ambitions to do a play with them before I departed. My time there would draw to a close, what with being on a maternity contract.

And so, I wrote for them The Emperor. An adaptation of Julius Caesar set in 1920s New York and everybody would get to be a gangster. Because it’s damn fun to play a mobster. I wanted to put these kids, with such a natural talent for acting, up on a stage with the same material I’d give to adults.

I did cut the worst swear words and all the kissing for the version they were meant to perform. I cannot even imagine the uproar from the religiously conservative parents had there been boys kissing in the drama studio. Imagine, if you will, the scandalised gasps.

Sadly, we didn’t get to do The Emperor, instead we switched plays twice (once to Child of the Grey) before we settled on a showcase of short plays (The House of Silence). I won’t get to do The Emperor with those kids, but I can share it with all of you.

My hope for this is to one day make it into a film, inspired by Joel Edgerton’s work with The King. That’s something to keep in mind too when having a read.

(Click here to read The Emperor)

The eagle that drags the sun

Some while ago, during the course of my Masters, I shared with you a poetry sequence called In Colchis. This was based on the mythological character of Medea and her relationship with her family on Colchis, transposed to a modern setting, almost like our present time. The perspective of Aeetes, Medea’s father, was explored and his world was torn.

I present to you the story after Medea and Jason, once they come to Corinth, and Medea finds herself alienated.

Between the two are poetic retellings of the lives of less prolific mythic figures.

Here is: The Eagle That Drags The Sun.

 

I wear glasses now

The summer solstice has passed, there is life everywhere, and I will doubtless have a splendid time in the sun. Yet, this year, and last year, loss stole in and marked this time for me. None of it expected. All of it brought people together.

I have not written about a friend’s death for years now but I have tried to again. Below is my attempt.

Sunlight on a stranger

Beautiful strangers on trains:

We have all seen them,

And all have one

That sticks and stays

To come again on lonely trips.

He is devastating,

In that sense of understanding

What I lack.

That I cannot know him

That whatever he is doing

Whatever he is writing,

Exists ten feet away

Yet functionally an expanse.

Sunlight seems to cling to him,

The day glorying in his studied expression;

Sunlight seems to live on him,

He had stepped out of a portrait

In a style since abandoned

For its perfections did not suit dim reality.

Eyes meet, and that will be knowledge,

All the knowing we have of one another,

Made up and unmade in a second,

I am left with the memory of

Sunlight on a stranger.

Affection’s many faces

Listen here you stupid cunt, I love you yeah?

Shut up whore, gimme a hug

I love you, you fucking reprobate

Don’t touch me! Love you bitch

Give me your big head so I can hug it and also make fun of your big head

But no really, I do care about you deeply

These are things I say to my friends

Stop being so silly

You’re a ridiculous woman

You’re so bad at singing

Please don’t fart you’ll clear the room

Have you dyed your hair again?

I love you so much

These are things I say to my mum

You’re the worst

You can’t just say you’ve won!

Yeah you’re right, that’s shit

I don’t know why white people like it either

At least you’ve learned to blend

We’ve got each other but don’t tell anyone I was nice to you yeah?

These are things I say to my sister

You’re a dirty old man and you’re not even fifty

Why do you hate art?

That’s a rubbish joke

I don’t want to watch Air Crash Investigations before we get on a plane

Haven’t you see this war film like eight times? Oh it’s a different one? Can’t tell

You’ll always be family, no matter what

These are things I say to my dad

C’mere you little asshole

Don’t avoid me you little bitch

Let me love you you bastard

I’m going to steal you

I’ll get you one day

Fine suit yourself…

These are legitimately things I have said to cats

Romance is grand to have

Being alone is easy at times

But never forget

Affection’s many faces

A First Impression: An Hesselius Tale

This was the little neo-Victoriana Gothic ditty which gained me a favourable reference for my MA a year ago, as British Gothic, and I would like to share it in its collected form A First Impression: A Hesselius Tale.

I borrow Sheridan Le Fanu’s Dr Martin Hesselius and recast him as a curmudgeonly magician, with a new assistant (to the tune of Conan Doyle), the eight fingered Mr Joseph Freer, a former surgeon with a troubled past. I hope to soon begin work on another Hesselius tale, a reworking of Carmilla for some vampiric action, under the title Une Femme Nocturne. And then you can expect a werewolf visitation from Clothed In Moonlight. No more promises though, go enjoy the story!

Reader

I would read to my sister sometimes, when she was little, whenever I was feeling particularly tender and in need of storybook familiarity with my family.

My parents never read to me. I read to myself at night. I do not resent them this. I wish I had read more. The power of a voice telling out an old story from another mouth to theirs to me was lost on them.

In my first year of university, it was late at night and I saw a flatmate, a friend of mine then (acquaintance now, we are better friends when we must share bathrooms), for the boy he was. He was sad and he was drunk and he had been crying. He had found out his trust had been betrayed. I read to him as he drifted off. All I had to hand was Poe short stories; “The Fall of the House of Usher” became a lullaby for perhaps the only time.

Sometimes I will sing to baby cousins. Sometimes I will read to them. I have read to my goddaughter. I have sung to my goddaughter.

To read to someone you care for is a little act of love, warmth reaching out in tone and timbre to soothe the troubled and restless,  to read is to say I care for you to hear. To read is to know they wish to listen.

At bedtime I will read to them often if I have a child. To be knit up in their sleeping, dreaming, to dream their many selves.