Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bill Griffiths (Ghost Story 5): Needfire

Ganny sat i’ th’ corner, caad as owt.

Meg cam ower ti show ‘er hor latest drawin’. It woz a pickchor ov an egg, on end, beginnin’ ti brick, an’ a large muscle-man emergin’, leastways hiz heed an’ airm.

Ganny chuckled. It myed hor think o’ the renewal o’ strength – that she needed partickler, hor, at hor age. Meg woz an aud-farrant bairn, she thot, not like hor scatty-brained Mam. She puu’d th’ rug tighter roond hor, an’ leuked toward th’ winder – the fire seemed to gie nae heat, and the sun little leet the day, which meant –

‘How, Ganny,’ sed Albie as he waaked in, huggin’ a canny bundle o’ peat wi’ him. Albie woz Ellen’s man, her daughter, but most times she felt closer to him nor hor. It woz a matter o’ respeck – that gorl had nyen, nae mense at aal!

‘Heor’s some peat’ll keep us waam, eh?’

‘Ye’ve nut ti hoy ower-much on, it’ll aal be te redee later, ye knaa.’

‘Oh, aye. Ye’ll hev ti ax Ellen aboot that noo,’ he sed, gently.

They exchanged a gliff o’ th’ ee.

‘Is it fire-neet?’ axed Meg.

‘Why noo, Mowsie, whee telt thoo?’ said her Dad, ‘Naebody, on’y Aa’m aad enuf ti hilp, Aa am!’

‘Thor’ll be nae clartin’-on the neet; thee Mam’ll nut stand fer it.’

‘Clartin’-on!’ sed Ganny, sounding reet scunner’d. ‘Th’ bairn’ll dee better fer ye than that Ellen. Nae mense at aal!’

‘Noo then, Ganny, ye knaa what Ellen thinks o’ aal this superstishun. It’s hor hyem noo – it’s aal wors – an she’s wark enuf wi’oot us makkin’ mare.’

Ganny changed th’ subjeck. ‘Hev ye sarra the hens, wor Meg?’ Mebbies she leuked fer a werd wi’ Albie in private.

But – ‘Aye. An’ ye knaa, Ganny, the clockers wor aal huddled in a heap, it woz that caad.’

‘Aye caad it is,’ the aud wife agreed.

‘Aa’ll seun hev th’ fire fettled,’ sed Albie, gerring on his knees to kittle the gleamin’ peat. ‘The fire’ll nut born reet, nut the day. Thor’ll be nae heat fra that airt.’

Albie filled th’ kettle an’ set in on the fire.

‘A cuppa’s what ye need. What we aal need. It’s that bitter, ootbye. Are ye nut frozzen, wor Mowsie?’

Mowsie rubbed her hands afore the fire; answer enuf.

‘En Ellen’ll be fetchin’ the supper, jus’ noo…’
Ganny felt her consarn risin’ wi’ this hyemly crack – cud they nut see the fire’d nut tak, the femmer yeller leet o’ th’ deh, aal wrang, aal wrang…

She storred horsell ti’ mak a bonny protest, when Ellen waak’d in.

‘Lo luv’ said Albie, gie’in hor a kiss. ‘Caad ootbye?’

‘As if ye need ask! Meg, where’s your warm socks an’ jumper? Ganny, will you not come nearer the fire?’

She set a pile of shoppin’ doon on th’ kitchen counter, an’ began riddin’ things th’ way she liked them.

‘Mowsie, fetch thee gansy,’ prompted her Dad.

‘Is the tea not mashed yet?’ axed Ellen, openin’ packages an’ stowin’ them aal-wheers.

‘Ah dunno,’ said Albie, ‘it dizzent seem ti want ti’ boil…’

‘It’ll nut,’ commented Ganny, seein’ an openin’. ‘Ellen…’

‘Not now, Granma. I’ve the sausages to defrost.’ Mebbies she knew weel enuf what Ganny would start on aboot, se she myed great business o’ puu’in’ apart the frozzen sticks o’ sausage an’ arrangin’ them i’ the microwave. Then thor woz frozzen beans ti tackle. ‘Albie, haven’t ye finished with the fire yet?’

Thor wos nae gas laid on wheer they lived, se the fire hed ti dee its share o’ ceukin’. Ellen’d nut hev a kitchen range; she hed nae tyest fer aud-farrant ways.

But eftor a bit she hed to admit defeat. ‘These sausages are nut even thawed,’ she said, sittin’ doon wi’ a sigh. ‘Maybe it’s time we moved to somewhere civilised…’

The farm was Ellen’s by reet, but nyen o’ them thot she really wanted rid ov it. It woz a canny livin’, i’ th’ sommer!

‘Aye, an’ gerra farm in Jamaica,’ sed Albie, funnin’.

‘Bishop Aucklan’s canny,’ ventured Ganny.

‘Aye,’ sed Ellen; ‘it’s not your fault were stuck here. If we could only get planning permission for the land…’

‘It’ll sarve fer years yet,’ Albie reassured hor. ‘an’ then Meg’ll graa up an’ finnd a fine young man that’ll dee aal me wark fer us, an’ Aa’ll com n sit i’ th’ neuk wi’ Ganny.’

‘An’ what about me?’ protested Ellen.

‘Whey, ye’ll hev sailed te New York an’ started a consultancy bus’ness.’

‘They do have aeroplanes, now.’

‘An’ ye’ll send us a poke o’ peat nows an’ thens, te show ye’ve nut forgetten us.’

‘I’ll send you tickets to join me, you mad thing. If I could…’
It seemed th’ caad woz getten intiv iverything. The kettle’d nut raise steam, so they settled for waamin’ up some milk an myed a crowdie wi’ breed-crumbs n oatmeal.

It was later that Ganny started getting’ restless, yance Meg hed went ti bed.

“What is it mother?” axed Ellen, not unkindly.

“Me sticks, me sticks,” the aud wife seemed to mutter, then pu’in hersell tegither: “Ellen, hinny, Aa knaa thee an me dizzent agree ower aud matters, but ye mun fetch me sticks fer the need-fire, less’n ye’ll dee the job theesell.”

“Oh mother – you shouldn’t be worrying yourself over these silly superstitions. The sun’ll come up tomorrow. Spring-time’ll return just like always. And a bonny mess we’ll find ourselves in, what with Bush invading Iraq!”

“Bugger President Bush! Aa’m taakin’ of what’s serious, gorl. The sun gans weak; the fire losses its heat – it alwez diz, this back-end o’ th’ year. Even yor ‘lectric’s nae orthly use. That’ hoo it is. An’ alwez it needs wor help, that’s for what we rekindle the fire, to fetch it back again, to strength. Ye mun put the fire oot, an’ hilp me get riddy to start it again. Please.”

“You should be in a museum, really!”

“Oh Albie, insense her ov it, will ye?”

Albie, catched in the middle, picked his werds careful-like. “Weel, me fadder elwiz re-lit the fire aboot this time, but Aa wez nivvor tewed te dee it mesell.”

“Ellen, hinny, humour me – it canna dee ony haam.”

“Why I think it should – at your age! The cold’ld kill you, if we let the fire out. Albie, cannot we mend that electric fire? It’s the cold giving her these fancies. Why, I’m cold myself, just talking about it.”

Albie muttered summat aboot nut bein’ ower good wi’ ‘lectrix. In the end, they fetched extra blankets – fer Ganny wez ower aud to clamber up stairs these days – and myed hor bed as near the fire as they dared.

And wi’ a kiss from Ellen and a hug from Albie, they clamb up ti bed, an’ left the aud wife in th’ on’y heated room i’ th’ hoose.

Ganny could not sleep. A year back, she would’ve handled the matter horsell’, nae problem. But it hed been a sorry year fer hor, an noo she could hardlies waak wivoot hilp. But sit up and get up she did. Forst, she fussed at the fire, nudgin’ the top peat away with the poker, then brikkin up the glowy bits underneath. It’d seun gan oot, that way.

Then wi’ a match, she lit hor candle – poor leet that it woz – an’ myed hor way slaa-ly ower te the kist i’ th’ neuk. Thor she fand hor matrix, hor spindle, an hor bow. The bow torned the spindle in the matrix, te kindle – what? She looked aroond fer cottonwool or the like, but fand nyen. Pyeper hankies ‘ld dee. An wi scissors she cut bits oot o’ hor hankychief. Mare smaa sticks she needed, but myed dee wi’ cereal packets an newspapers.

By when it woz that caad, she woz tempted ti gan strite back ti bed. It woz a shyem Meg wazzint let hilp her; or Ellen horsell. Mebbies a match would be bettor nor aal this carry-on – but ye cud nut be ower-careful when it cam ti matters ov import, like.

Se she settled horsell bi the hearth, takkin time to twist the bow just-se roond the spindle. Weeny bits o’ pyeper she set roond the matrix, an lange twists fer when th’ flame catched. anither piece wood capped the spindle, an it woz time to wark th’ need-fire. But hor elbers woz awful bad, an she felt that dwalmy as she set the bow movin’, she dooted she’d not manage.

Aal she cud dee woz cry oot as she fell ower, torpled aza stot.

It woz Albie hord hor caal oot.

He wakkened Ellen, an tegither they cam doon ti check.

They lifted Ganny back onti the bed, but she wazzint breathin’.

“Oh Mam,” cried Ellen, “ye’d not be telled!”

Meg cam doon, wakkened be the stour. “Is Ganny aareet?” she axed, but Ellen’s sobbing telled hor otherwise.

Poor Ganny!

Meg took up the spindle, an began ti lake wi’ it, roond n roond.

The silly soond o’ wood on wood roused Ellen. “Don’t fool about!” she thundered, an’ clickin’ up the spindle, brokk it in twee haaves, an cast it on the deed fire.

Mowsie Meg gasped.

Thor woz nowt she cud dee ti save them eftor that.

Phew. If that hasn’t completely chilled you, then there is one further Ghost Story from Bill Griffiths next month.

Page 497

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kai Fierle-Hedrick : Some Poems and a Reading


is a mixed media writer interested in locational/interdisciplinary/collaborative practices. Since 2003-4, when she earned an MPhil in Architecture & the Moving Image from Cambridge University, she has mainly been exploring combinations of text and digital media. Documentation of her work is available on her website. Bad Press published a pamphlet.


this body pulls armfuls of shade less lashes, each blue iris —
in its small privacy haggles terror for a gut plot
less combat, more hope diseased

gone bed-ridden & fugitive, peers oblique
through curtains to grieve
a surfeit logic so moving no news
could cave to sleep — which is to say each collar bone
sternum, spine aches through sans rest

to bank slaughter like care, mass or pittance
there can be no helmet for this

too many, too soon precious bits, sky-blown scraps
& slabs of pink flung wide as queer
silage for a public eye once uneager to water
when angst spawns empathy, a quivered light

London, UK; July 2005

still 11

and impervious to seams this
feat of entirety
that this season I am

so beatific and
bound by air become chords
of soft molecules

their thronged pause sticky
as the pant of hours; this, how
[in the lethargy

of an exhaled lung]
a gal breaks light with gestures
meant for spring

Auto-portrait with news and text

this petite waiver, sly and tabloid, fuels digression from
and into the articulation of a true space, its mass
gray / I've handled colour as man should behave,
with trained and sensitive eyes
/ lot of politics grabs
front-page status [site, mock context], a papal election
made pretty blurb, made print / you can recognize this
double behaviour
/ how I love that Albers loves
red, our want of sincerity or ode / of colour
a mother, stabbed, displaces popes — another day,
the pope returns, a jewel in his hat, its would-be good
[i.e., net worth] retracting zilch / and from all this you may
conclude that I consider ethics and aesthetics as one

* italics signify lines pulled from an interview with Josef Albers conducted by Katherine Kuh

Postscript, Cafe Ouky Douky

Manipulation in particular seems to play a significant role as a strategy of dealing
with the world and assumed reality. [...] Manipulations and deceptions become guidelines
in a pursuit of communication and a proper place — but first of all — they are instruments
to investigate never-too-near-approached phenomenon of truth.

* Adam Budnek, for the 2005 International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Prague

the contemporary interior here short-circuits
alienation sums Prague as this woman or
that woman browsing packaged hours i.e., tram times
to plot arrivals how this man quotes tourism
as asymmetric opportunity their lives in ochre
chapped by the same, pale city or costume
change a time of day, say 6pm, undressing
its turnover with the command to ponder
regularlity substance some moving thing
or metronome their conversation, rhythm poaching
the page like other countries, interrupting
as spectacle made norm by the universal
of cafe culture junctured, caffeinated, common
grounds, the rhythm of human digits drilling
and dwelling swigging, twiddling their high-
strung ways as a taut boredom the preferred
mantra an elastic gainsaying i.e., how she overhears
'I was just traipsin' streets when...' and waxes
meaningful falls prey to another sham
mayhem as stained glass lamps bearing fruit
indeed might break her foreign prerogative
to evade even cross-cultural ruts by any
means the vital act to fictionalise the local
as events let loose the abstract, fatten
narrative, exaggerate, befuddle, fuck up
the line we love this, she and I, for its schizophrenic
stealth we, double-time, risk ethics through
meddling spurn talk as ornament and aim
for the blunt and dusted buildings, their striations
and back-lighting by proxy mark observation as a misfit
stalker interlopers as postcards by Durex quoting
condoms as flying saucers the clatter of wind-chimes
of panes of glass reflective proving our patronage
or my tiger of a t-shirt and foreign cheek bones
bunk presence as witness a sigh of bloody
eureka and scribbling nicks the place

Page 496