Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Caught in the crossfire

I should perhaps
Have left that day
Without another word

But I did not know

I thought the world
Was meant to be
Such a layered place

But I did not know

The fragments would
Like shrapnel rain
Such awful destruction

I should perhaps
Have left that day
Without a backward glance

But I did not know

I thought being friends
Would be like sunlight
At a feast

But I did not know

There was no way
To scatter wholly
The clouds in your sky

I should perhaps
Have left that day
And blanked you from my mind

But I did not know

How could I know

I should perhaps
Have left that day
But could not leave a friend

How could I know

The price I was set
To make you pay
For the things I did

But I did not know
How could I know

Monday, 3 September 2007

Fragment 3

Frankfurt, 3rd May 1937

My dearest Charlotte,

You asked me once how it all began for me. I never did tell you. Something happened. Something was always happening.

I don’t know why I should have thought of this now, but as there is a good half hour before we take to the air I thought I would write it down and catch the post.

Much of my time in those days was spent on my bicycle. I was a small, skinny child and not much in favour with my contemporaries. Bicycling was a great escape and a chance to have adventures.

I still have nightmares about it, focussed on that sphere. They always start as that day started, sunny and calm. I had bicycled down to the beach as the tide was out and there would be space to race about.

When I got to the beach, there was something unusual going on. Several men stood looking at a large object on the waterline. I made my way down in time follow them part way up the beach. They were staggering under the weight of something and one, a wild looking chap with untidy hair and a beard was dragging a chain.

Losing interest in them, I turned and went back down to the large object from which they had come. It was a sphere. Rather, it was spherical on the inside, but the outside was a regularly faceted polyhedron. On the top, I could make out what appeared to be a hatch.

Curiosity got the better of me. I propped my bike against the thing and clambered up. The whole thing was like a series of windows, so when I popped my head in the entrance, I could see the interior quite clearly. It was a mess. Tins of food, blankets, clothing, all in a big heap on the bottom.

Set into the inner surface there were panels with switches that looked intriguing, but I don’t expect anything would have happened if I hadn’t lost my balance and slid right in, crashing on to the pile of stuff on the bottom.

I wasn’t worried. The circular entrance was in easy reach. Once in, of course, I began to poke around, absorbed by everyday items in their unusual surrounding. I had no idea what the sphere was at that point, but it didn’t seem to matter.

There was no way of knowing how long I spent in there, rooting around, but it was clearly long enough for the tide to start back in. I had lost myself in a copy of Tit-Bits that was lying in there, much creased. When I finished and stood up, the sphere, now afloat, rolled. The hatch cover, with a horrible inevitability, slid into the entrance and sealed it.

Suddenly worried, I tried to push it open, but succeeded only in making the sphere roll about in the water. I clung to the interior of the hatch and it turned in its thread, tightening all the while in what was probably the only fortuitous episode of the whole sorry affair.

When it stopped turning, sealing me in, I lost my grip and fell. Of all the directions I could have gone, it was perhaps inevitable that I should fall against the panel of switches. For a happy second I thought nothing had happened. Then shutters moved swiftly across each glass panel shutting out the light. The sphere lurched and I fell.

At the time, I thought it had rolled in the water again. I was soon to learn otherwise.

I have travelled to many places, my dear Charlotte, seen many strange things and had some remarkable adventures, but I have encountered nothing that has scared me half as much as that moment when I realized I was weightless and the view through the one open panel was full of stars.

They are beginning to prepare for departure, so I must leave the rest of the tale for another time, or maybe as we travel. I will be in Lakehurst on the 6th and will travel on to New York. Once I am settled I will send a wire.

I am already counting the days before my return. Take care.

With all my love,


Private letter from Thomas Simmons to Charlotte Cornelius.

time is a simple thing

time is a simple thing
beneath low clouds
rolling in with strong winds
across this desert
where yesterday is buried
and the splintered remains
are wrapped in dreams
yesterday’s picture
replacing the truth

it has been an age
in this dark noon
waiting for rain

time is a simple thing
recalled imperfectly
and better for it
songs forgotten
dances seen only in sleep
seeds of wildness scattered
in dust

it has been an age
in this dark noon
waiting for rain

time is a simple thing
waiting for the past to flower
cultivated in other gardens
seen from this

the fences are high and the gates are locked

it has been an age
but time
is a simple thing

it is not

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Fragment 2

A photograph. Monochrome. Five inches by three inches with white border. Two young boys, clearly siblings, stand either side of a pushchair. They wear shabby jerkins and short trousers. One has a grubby handkerchief tied round his left knee. Both have sullen expressions. They stand on a pavement in front of a brick wall. Part of a door can be seen to the left; part of a window to the right. The front end of a Raleigh bicycle that leans against the window sill is also in shot. The tyre is flat. In the pushchair, a young child of indeterminate sex is asleep. Although the subjects are alone, their position and posture suggests an overwhelming presence just out of shot, rather than behind the camera itself.

On the rear of the photograph, written in pencil in a clumsy hand and now faded almost to obscurity is the legend – Frank, Cathy, & Jerry.

From '"...the price is worth it."' by Graeme K Talboys, First Class: Early Works of the Nearly Famous, Monkey Business Books, 2007.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Fragment 1

Know locally as ‘the College’ there is no record of the building having been used for educational purposes. In fact, there are no records relating directly to the site or the buildings. All the evidence gathered has been taken from references found in records relating to surrounding buildings and businesses.

Until 1946 it had been assumed on no real evidence that the site was privately owned. Locals attest to the fact that the grassed area between the railings and the standing remains was kept neatly mown until the winter of 1939. The ruins themselves also seem to have been kept in decent order. No one, however, seems to be able to recall who did the work and when.

Indeed, the whole site seems to have had a reputation. It would be too strong to suggest it was considered haunted, but it was thought distinctly odd. Children did not climb over or through the railings to play in the ruins as children will, despite their tempting appearance. Indeed, they were rarely to be seen playing on the pavement directly alongside the railings.

And therein lies another mystery. The whole site, even the portions where adjacent buildings came to the very boundary, was surrounded by high, sturdy, cast-iron railings. These remained in place throughout the Second World War and, as the photographs of 1944 show, presented a substantial barrier. What is more, there seems to have been no gate, or break for an entrance. One cannot be seen in any of the extant photographs, although as none of these have the buildings as the main subject, this is not conclusive. No one from the area who has been interviewed can remember a gate.

After the site was cleared in 1945, it stood empty until it was taken into public ownership in 1952. A local firm of carriers often used it for parking their vans and lorries. The flats that were subsequently built there were never popular with tenants. Several people who lived there spoke of them as being gloomy. Their one saving grace, it seems, is that they preserved the archaeology. The flats were erected towards the rear of the site which had mostly been open ground, overlapping onto the site of adjacent buildings that had also been destroyed. The gardens and play area at the front overlay the area where the original ruins had stood.

When the flats were demolished in 1968, the whole area became green space, serving surrounding high-rise housing developments. Popular during the day with locals, it remained free of the troubles that often plague such urban spaces at night. Vandalism, drinking, drugs, and rowdy behaviour did not occur simply because no one went into the area at night.

During the last few years of the decade, there were occasional reports of children playing there in the dark. The police who attended several call-outs never found anyone and there was never a suggestion of trouble making, merely a concern that young children were out in the early hours of the morning. These reports died away and only revived when the archaeological work began.

All those who have worked on the site, especially the night security staff, have expressed feeling uncomfortable at times. No one has felt afraid. Indeed, the most often stated feeling was one of having wandered into a playground and frightened the children away. One archaeologist with many years experience said he felt that a profound silence and sadness would envelop the site for a few moments before the mundane world returned.

Preliminary work on the site has begun to reveal a remarkably uncomplicated outline, as if the building had remained unaltered since it was built. This has led to some speculation that it is not very old, despite references to a building on the site dating back to at least 1342. An entrance to a set of cellars has been found, but there is no evidence of the network of tunnels said to exist beneath the building and surrounding area. This is a fairly common myth where old buildings are concerned and they rarely have a basis in fact.

From Crofton: A Local History by Rev Eric Simmons, Sapphire Press, 1992.

Monday, 20 August 2007

distant the mountain

the mountain
you climb
empty in the quiet space
within the skull
hard place
desert cold and dark
where you search
from whence you return

i know the land you seek

crying for the moon
i sought it too

on the mountain
lying as i am
all seeing

the stone of my body awakens
roots clutch
at this peopled coral
through my heart

on this slope
all knowing
all lost
waiting for the flower
dead before it blooms

bleak mornings
cold in early moments
of light without sun
cold in the shadow of the mountain
where a bright bloom graces the air

that stark fay beauty found
for the promised land you seek
cry again
city desert mountain
a cry
thrown into echoes
that have yet to settle

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Ninth day of August

to emptiness
somewhere beyond
any hope of an edge
touching hesitant
with strangeness
the noisesome silences

moving outwards
the lengths of a wasteland
just the thunder
of their making
disturbing the quiet
of their insanity

ceasing all function
dead eyes stare
ten-thousand years
as black grains settle

bleached sky
level ground
heat of sun
aimless scintillae
a beetle scuttles unaware
their crime
inane in its conception
carving its violence
through time

from their distant hillside
the architects
locked forever to their perversion
the twisted vision
from which we are no longer free

brighter than a thousand suns

no longer
a dream
this nightmare

Monday, 6 August 2007

Sixth day of August

the sun burst today
a lifetime since
etched shadows on the wall
reached across the ruins
into the very structure of life

the sun burst today
a lifetime since
etched horror on the memory
reached across the world
into the very soul of history

the sun burst today
a lifetime since
etched a spectre in our hearts
that haunts us still
like all the other spectres that

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Good Boy

you will not hear the children sing
or dance with them
guard their beds
and ease their sorrows

you will not sleep in the sun
or amble gently in the park
scratch at fleas
and bark at shadows

you will not run in the golden woods
or splash in cool waters
chase your tail
and make them laugh

they left you
to die
like a good dog
you did

Pripyat – April 1992

Thursday, 21 June 2007


I watched them heap the peach coloured sand with care, with love. It was only a small mound. They patted it into shape with long, elegant, starved fingers, leaving ridges down its sides as if it had been turned out of a jelly mould.

He stood first, leaning with great weariness on his staff, the hot wind catching his torn robes. She remained crouched, keening, singing a lullaby, crying. Then, exhausted, she stood as well. Beneath the hot sun they said one last prayer over the grave of their baby and began the long walk back to the feeding station, picking their way with care between the myriad rows of tiny sandcastles.

The hot wind continued to blow, smoothing, wearing, grain by grain by grain…

Thursday, 7 June 2007


I discovered
a time machine
travelled back
and saw you sitting
beneath that tree
went searching for
my mum and dad
caught nothing more
than a fleeting glimpse of
their childhood

saw unicorn
and grace and belle
sunshine moments
framed forever
half forgotten

there are places
it will not take me
places where
I must use
my own resources

I stood a long while
upon the lake shore
by the house boat
saw distinctly the sapphire flash
was overwhelmed by the smell
of sandalwood and rose oil
overwhelmed by

decades traversed
in a few twilight hours
the journey ended where it started
with a handful of photographs
in a box
my time machine

Friday, 1 June 2007

I have been

I have been in many shapes:
I have been a needle in the gun;
I have been a plane in the air;
I have been a shining brow;
I have been a book in a head;
I have been a victory in war;
I have been a flame in the darkness;
I have been a voice for the mute;
I have journeyed as a moonbeam;
I have been a queen of the lake;
I have been a feather in a merlin’s wing;
I have been a word in a spell;
I have been a tear in the eye;
I have been the string of a harp;
I have been enchanted for a year in the light of stars.
There is nothing in which I have not been.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Goodbye, Miranda

I remember your
red hair
green dress
smiling patience
as I told you how
I would conquer
the world

I remember your
wise eyes
as we walked
together never quite
hand in hand

I remember

Wednesday, 23 May 2007


There are no anchors heavy enough
No anchor chains long enough
To hold me
I drift on currents
Travel the branches
Move up
And down
The scales
Walk alone
The moonbeam roads