Five years ago, on the 21st July at 4am I captured a moth fluttering around a bedside lamp and let it out of the window as dawn started creeping over the Irish Sea towards North Wales. At that moment, whilst my back was turned, my mother whom I had been sitting next to for 9 hours died, and the 18 months of fighting, pain, denial and anger was over, or so I thought.
I flew back to Berlin and shortly after moved apartments – and became a workaholic as I tried to not remember the pain, or deal with my own chronic medical diagnosis – but for many years Monday has always been my day off, and then I would spend the day resting and writing, sitting in front of a daylight lamp – buzzing as the Vitamin D sped through my deficient body and I would pour out all that my 18 hour work days were preventing me from thinking about.
Five years ago, on the 18th September 2010, Dominik Benzler (The Island) sent me the first demo of Emergency Exits. And that was the beginning of a beautiful and heartfelt project for us both. I am honored that my words resonated with Dominik, and that the wayward paths that we had both followed drew us together at this moment, and my words could become another tool in Dominik's musical arsenal. Our path has meandered through break-ups, world trips, lost jobs, house moves, and reality, but,- Dominik's music has always stayed constant to my words. Thank you Dominik.
This piece of text was written for Wendy in 2011 - and was one of the texts used in The Seventh Wave...
Seven years ago I wrote the best poem in the world
It was about sitting on the banks of the Thames – not the nice bit further west, where the grass laps the edges and the canoes jolt smoothly past. Not the bit where people can have beer on manicured lawns, nor where Jerome K Jerome drifted along, but the Lower Basin. The bit that widens as it spreads out towards the Thames Barrier into the flood plane – where thousands of houses have been built for the disadvantaged, which laughably can’t be insured. The area where all there is (or was) are empty warehouses, condoms, struggling golden rod, spray cans and high waves. The bit that still smells of urine from the east cast tanneries and the long walk home from the too few and distant pubs.
I had been sitting on the wall, holding the Thames in or out (depending on which way I faced) with my friend Anitha, eating Space Raiders till the top layer of my gums had begun to peel. Drinking a bottle of red wine (2 for a fiver from a corner store) till my teeth had become red and brown – smoking between crisps and staring at the murky water and the incoming tide. Across the water was the city, and below - thigh high mud and slime-green covered steps speared with the shards of a million clay pipes. Lethal if you wanted get away from the rising water in a hurry. I assume it must have been summer, nearing dusk – as I have always had my yard arm rule with alcohol and a lack of tolerance with being cold.
A few months later I wrote a poem about that evening. About us staring at the waves, jumping them mentally – waiting, perpetually waiting, for the seventh- the lucky one to jump. I wrote about our imagined future, our one-sided perception of our pasts – oh, the arrogance to think we had a significant past. I wrote about us staring at the city where we belonged and loathing the beauty of the offices where we feared we would end up. I ended the poem by going back to the beginning and calling it the Seventh Wave. I printed it out just once and went downstairs to show it to my flatmates. By this time I had moved from the boat, a hundred difficult stories having emerged from that time. Cat’s had been lost, jobs had compromised dreams and Anitha and I had to move inland. We separated, but she still lived around the corner from me and at least I lived on a road called Oriel meaning ‘Golden, or Angel of destiny’ (or - less romantically a type of bay window). Slowly she and I had begun to accept that we were no longer being bullied as art students, but had still yet to realise anything was possible (nothing could teach us that)– and we had muddled through that year haphazardly. Going from a house on a hill where you could see the end of the world, to a floating dream caught on a mire of muck, to an oasis of calmness, a single road of houses, forgotten in a maze of council estates with no conceivable concept of a horizon.
I was proud of The Seventh Wave, I felt that it conveyed the loss and growth of our adolescent dreams into something real – In fact I was proud of all my writings from this time and felt that maybe I could start admitting this to people.
And time passed. And other stories formed and lay forgotten on hard drives and at the bottom of boxes. Pieces of scrawled-upon papers have followed me from house to flat, from flat to studio, from studio to bedrooms and through countries… and then I’m sitting in a bar in Prenzlauerberg, five years later with you. And our friendship is re-kindling - hesitating and spluttering, but we are laughing and sighing over red wine, eating nuts till the roof of our mouths have become like glue and our tongues are stained. The essence of our conversation follow the path it usually does with people I love – we are shyly honest, and truthfully painful about how our lives have twisted into other routes , so you (only one of two people who can do this) brings me back to a poetry reading that I had done before you left for Berlin – When Anitha , myself, Ann and you had lived in a house so high on a hill that we could see the end of the world, where we had the space to make catastrophic dreams and act on our fears. And I mention the Seventh Wave. The best poem I ever wrote.
You asked two years ago if you could read it. And I think then and more so now that, that poem conveys all friendships and all dreams – and I declined. I was embarrassed, as it’s so much easier to tell a story of one owns ability than to actually prove it. And now it’s your birthday – and I want to give you a poem. A poem called Seventh Wave, the best poem I have ever written. It’s about the potential of life, about holding hands, turning and facing a city with 12 million lives and jumping the seventh wave – always the highest my grandmother used to say- And now…Seven years on, I can’t, as I seem to have lost it along the way. Instead I give you this.