Monday, 7 July 2008

Angel in Grey

©Pennie Quinton

Made in Hackney

She looked at the wee thing that had plopped out of her womb into her hands.

He mewed insistently, so she put her nipple into his mouth – but he did not know what to do with it and turned his tiny head from left to right in confusion.

She tried again but still he did not suck and rolled around unhappily.

“It must be hard,” she reasoned, “to leave a universe of water where you can float and kick and move with ease, rocking around to a booming heart beat, to find yourself here, having to breathe, in a bright, bright space without end. So come baby, food goes through your mouth now, not through here.”

She kissed his bandaged belly button, and then just had to kiss his wrinkled skin all over, unable to stop unleashing her relieved affection upon him, kissing arms, face, hands, fingers, wings…

Tiny wings, mucus-sticky, folded over small sharp shoulder blades, little fingers curling then uncurling, skin flayed angry red, damp and mucusy as the wings, like an extra pair of webbed hands embracing the hunched little body.

“Oh babe,” she whispered, “Have I a birthed a Dracula?” and then “Oh what will the world make of you?”

He had been made at a rave in a three-storey warehouse on Hackney marshes, to a drum and bass accompaniment, as figures staggered and lurched across mental lawns of keta-mined rabbit holes.

“Go ask Alice, when you're ten feet tall!”

Gleaming lights, a male smile, eyes flashing magenta, cerulean, lurid green, colours echoing inside her. Kissing and embracing, seas of arms, legs, whose fingers are whose in this circle of embracement?


Sleeping in each others' arms on piles of discarded coats, music muffled, distant, regular as heart beats deep within.

She woke knowing she had to leave, not wanting to learn the reality of her lover’s voice, or to see the night’s dreamy haze clarify into a harsh here-and-now. Clarity had to be achieved elsewhere.

Gently prising his leather-clad arms from around her, kissing fingers apart, after placing a random coat over his slumbering body, she crept away.

Dodging die-hard dancers, cautiously stepping over broken bottles and sodden wraps, out through the main doors into light.

Into a dawn, so fresh, sudden as a smile, that she laughs in the pinkering morning.

Across the marshes, dew sparkles grass, drippy on her shins, industrial buildings loom out of mists, monuments from trading pasts..

“Where to go, to go? Today is liberation,” this she intones to reeds lurking and murking out of a shifty-looking ditch.

“Home?” she answers, yet going home would be the end, the end of this freedom that was sure to vanish in the strengthening day, along with rush-hour traffic, unless…

Unless she left now, before the dawn shift was complete.

Turning out her pockets: debit card?




Yes, inexplicably she had slipped it into her jacket the night before, as though knowing all along of her imminent need to wander.

The cost? What the hell, she had to go, she was alive and had never felt so free.

Go go go, leave now.

But where to go?

To the river, to Waterloo, board a train to France, for full immersion in a bubbly hubbub of unfamiliar syllables and wide horizons.

Subtly, swiftly as an early-morning ghost, skirting London Fields under the sun-spangled canopy of plane trees, past benches at brew crew corner, graduating to the Cat and Mutton pub and along Broadway Market, past skeleton stalls new-laid out for traders' wares, straight over the canal bridge... at the Farm the cockerel screeches, pronouncing the day open.

“River, river, river, soon and nearly”, , running down Brick Lane toward Tower Bridge, its stretched-out chewing-gum structure already attracting the click of the tourist camera.

Eastwards the Thames is pink as a peony and west ways bridges are already rippled by silvery undulations of traffic heading in to the markets’ melting pot.

Away, away down stairs onto the south side bank, sea gulls call and circle. The river at low tide reveals the bumpy midden foreshore.

Down the hatch, down the ladder after Clink Street, to trample the uneven surface of the foreshore line, direct to Waterloo.

London’s land lust and space jealousy does not extend to the riverbank; right down close to the waves sings the tide pulse, owned by none except those who wander the mud, beneath the notice of London’s visitors, wary of the Thames's mutating powers.

Legends of the great stink, the plague, morbid inspiration for primeæval characters: slinking eels that slide out ofthe water into the ears of authors.

No Fagins lurk today, just the smell of damp rotting wood and sun sparkling ripples.

She arrives at the invisible bridge with no top, just rust-red columns poking up out of the water, the main crossing for London’s ghosts from rush hours past.

This bridgeless bridge, implementation of a secret mayoral directive to keep London’s teeming spirits out of traffic jams. In Iceland roads are quite openly diverted around færie rings; in the UK such strategies are rigorously observed but kept under wraps. It would not be in the public interest to let slip that there is an official ghost-maintenance policy.

A man canoes between the columns, floating rubbish skips, and of course the ghosts.

She waves, and he waves, their two voyages separate as he glides and she slithers across the muddy rubble.
The day is gathering its bright garments about itself.

Waterloo Tahdah! Trumpet resounds! A name to be played aloud by orchestral brass. Repeat, Waterloo Tahdah!

People, people everywhere scurrying down hectic time lines,

“should’ave arrived before I bleedin’ left!”

Queue at the ticket office, permit to travel secured, sorted for freedom.

To the mountains, to the mountains Gandalf!!

She giggles as Bilbo’s bid for freedom swims into her head. Text flatmate: “ Gone away to think!”

Away and away, the train skimming vistas at dizzying land speeds. Left behind: the preciously accumulated possessions. Yet why should a bunch of books and music keep her from this potential to find new horizons?

In the French Alps over the next 9 months, she grew fat and tight inside her clothes.

She had not returned to London, held by the meadows, the calm, and the mountains.

Here there was no one to condemn or judge her pregnancy. She hadn’t wanted to hear official concerns and vogueish commandments No Thou shalt not eat this! No Thou shalt eat that!!

She was driven by her need to be alone, away from technological scrutiny and judgements.

She did not wish to be confined. Confinement? Who thought of calling the birth process that?

It was anything but confinement: the lurching pains, the pushing, how could that be confining
caught in a process beyond her control?

Now here she was with her bat-winged baby, a mother, a single mother, a very singular mum.

“Are you going to be able to fly? Will you be blind like a bat? Will you swoop and snatch insects out of the sky at dusk?”

He lay gazing up at her in bewilderment.

©Pennie Quinton

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