Painted ghosts 

Poetry

They drift in and out of my life each day.
Their faces adorned with stark, lurid colours.
Warpaint, as they go about their business.
Are they even real?
These automatons. These androids from outer space.
And whilst their expressions are seemingly blank and impassive, they are also revealing.
There’s a crack or two beneath their cool facade.
But what does it mean?
Are they just lost in thought or, almost imperceptibly, communicating with me?
Do they even see me?
Or am I just grey background? White noise?
Perhaps I’m the ghost and they’re the most tangible thing in this world.
Wearing their warpaint proudly, like armour.
For each day, to them, must surely be a battle against the grey ghosts of patriarchy.
The menfolk who leer and lust, all licentious and salacious with their gaze and their thoughts.
For I am one. I should know.
Maybe as men we should paint our faces, too.
For our own insecurities are buried, perhaps even more so.
Hidden behind layers of bravado and testosterone.
The knowing nod to a fellow male.
The slightest of hugs.
The tough guy handshake.
Beer. Curry.
For we are men.
And we’re out of our caves now.
Our spears have been replaced with smartphones and laptops.
We’re just a few clicks from killing that woolley mammoth. That saber-tooth tiger.
Or ordering some more crap on eBay.
(assuming we can stop watching porn for more than five minutes)
So maybe colour is what we need?
Brush strokes of empathy across our face. The eyeliner of compassion.
The mascara of understanding and acceptance.
God, this is starting to sound like the weirdest fantasy game ever.
But there’s hope in these ramblings.
There must be.
For these painted ghosts and forgotten men.
All trapped in the ether between realities.
Drifting through life with abandonment.

Second chances

Poetry

‘So this latest session was a minor indiscretion I’m guessing?’ she says.
And this time I know, there’s no second chances.
What I’ve done, there’s no way she’ll look past it.
Not with those glasses.
Magnifying her contempt like I’m a total bastard.

Cos right now, I feel like she’ll stab me in my sleep.
Like that Christmas dinner I ruined burning the turkey.
She’ll choke me as I breathe.
I relationship was built on lies you see.
Basically, I’ve flattered to deceive as she’s watched me squirm and scheme.
Leaving scorched earth in our forest like I’m burning trees.
I just didn’t want to hear it.
Crushing her spirit like I’m spurning dreams.
With no simple way out like Jack’s magic beans, brother please.
Most I can hope for is she doesn’t parade me at her lover’s feet.
Cos if I’m honest, I’ve had enough of this heat.
And need to learn fast how to govern the beast.

But then, when do I ever learn?
I’m less likely to evolve as a man more crash and burn.
There’s a special queue in hell for me.
And all I need to do is cash in my chips and wait my turn.
Sit patiently because my fate I’ll learn.
With cool calm she eyes me like a tennis player.
And I know she’s about to break my serve.
Cos I’m lying to myself thinking I can make this work.
So she lays down the law, her eyes raw.
And it’s clear to me she can’t fake this hurt.

Then I take a step back and assess the damage.
Her sweet face pains me.
I confess it now looks ravaged.
Her brow all creased up, her mood savage.
I did this.
Leaving her in a state of rude damage.
Looking at her I ask myself…
Do I walk away or do I choose to manage?
This thought makes me panic and I want to vanish.
Damn, this chick has baggage.
And honestly, she’s no easy challenge.
Yes, this is a special kind of hell I’ve brought on myself.
But there’s a way out if I can find the passage.

However, this rant right here, it’s all about me.
What are her wants? Her needs?
Cos right now I’m classed as an enemy soldier.
Camped down in the trenches when I need to be bolder.
Letting my conscious hide in the bunker.
When it should be sending me over.
Making me face my demons and embrace these feelings.
But corrupt thoughts consume me.
I need to chase those heathens.

But like a wretched vessel I sit here and wrestle.
With my warped psyche that I’ve put on this pedestal.
All the while she looks on with a glassy-eyed stare.
Eyes like pits of darkness as she plays with her hair.

The flatline phoenix

Poetry

That dull, constant tone as life gives out.
You’re on a bleak streak, you need to fight this, how?
All you can do is take things one day at a time.
Don’t be a tourist be a Buddhist.
Embrace life and live it to its fullest.
This you say with balled fists.
Cos it’s rough, you’re dealing in tough love.
You can never be fulfilled by something that is never enough.
Like that scene in Trainspotting, babies crawl the ceiling as you sweat it out rotten.
Body convulsing as you fight.
Feeling like you’re wrapped in cotton.
And from the depths of your conscious demons call to you.
In that silky, filthy way that sirens do.
And like a mug, you follow blind.
Like Alice down the rabbit hole, you’ve gone in cold but all you’re doing is further twisting your mind.
Looking for that sweet, calming rush.
Something disarming that destroys you quietly with minimal fuss.

And no one understands that you’re a walking corpse.
Most people would baulk at your morbid thoughts.
Dark and twisted, you’re a sick fantasy.
Your better self sneers cos you’re proper odd to see.
Then you have a zen moment and veer towards perfect clarity.
You’re now the eye of the storm.
But your brain forever plays cruel games.
It’s high time you were reborn.
And lately, searing flames really burn through your veins like liquid nitrogen.
If you could just get through this then tomorrow you’d be right again.

Whatever though.
It’s your thing to beat… or face defeat and feel forever low.
You wish your seratonin could fill out stadiums but right now you can’t sell a show.
This realisation hits you hard.
Hammering down with every blow.
But moods are fleeting.
There’s no sense feeling defeated as they come and go.
You gotta roll with the punches and let your mind ebb and flow.
Surf troughs of paranoia and waves of euphoria as you try to grow.
Hell, it’s a snowstorm.
Embrace the blizzard and just let it snow.
You’ll either freeze to death or blaze bright like the phoenix.
But if you don’t try you’ll never know.

Inside Out: a sad, sorrowful joy

Film

American psychologist Paul Ekman pioneered the study of human emotions creating an atlas of thousands of emotions. These can be boiled down into seven: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.

For Disney Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, we start with the basics.

A child, Riley, is born. In her head she experiences her first emotion and Joy (Amy Poehler) steps into the void. A bubbly, bouncy, excitable character who controls a console in Riley’s head dictating how she reacts to any given situation. She’s quickly joined by Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Thus making up five of Ekman’s seven key emotions (surprise and contempt not making the cut being similar to anger and disgust I imagine, and for the film’s sake, seven are too many characters).

inside-out

With this film, Pixar, in all their inventiveness, have laid out how the human mind works in a way that’s fully accessible to children and adults alike. For example, to begin with they introduce us to how memories are formed and how they’re attached to the emotions; glowing orbs that roll into Riley’s mind, each colour representing the overriding emotion linked to that memory. From a few scenes we quickly understand the concept of long and short-term memory and ‘core memories’ that form the building blocks of one’s personality, in this case Riley’s. These power the fundamental aspects of her personality: friendship, family, her love of hockey etc. We also understand how the five characters/emotions fight for supremacy when faced with certain situations and how they defer leadership to each other.

For example, for most of Riley’s life Joy has ruled the roost (and her emotions). Then the family move to San Francisco and Riley loses her friends and everything she has known and her personality changes irrevocably. Joy finds herself increasingly unable to control Riley’s mind and the other emotions. This was the building block – and brain child – of director Pete Docter, and the idea upon which he based the story.

cbzvmptrh0gevqxuiwf4

As things go from bad to worse for Riley (at least in her head, moving to San Francisco can’t be that bad surely?), Joy and Sadness find themselves out of brain HQ and marooned in her long-term memory. So theirs becomes a journey movie, as they must get back in control of Riley’s mind and back to HQ. At least, that’s Joy’s plan. Sadness sort of tags along for the ride dragging her down.

The way Docter and Pixar personified these emotions in order to explain growing up, being a child and the loss of innocence, is remarkable and, at times, quite heartbreaking (the loss of Goofball Island brought a tear to my eye). Rarely has a film so succintly laid out the inner machinations of a person’s mind before. We get Imagination Land, the Train of Thought, Dream Production, even the corridor of Abstract Thought. It’s like Google decided to set up an office in someone’s mind and let loose (scarily, this may happen in the future).

ins

And just to prove it’s not just Riley (and young girls) the filmmakers understand, at certain points they dive inside other character’s heads to hilarious effect. More jokes for the adults than the kids, but the balance between pleasing audiences old and young is never an easy thing, and here Docter and his team makes it look easy.

Like a mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is is a movie which tackles big themes and complex issues in an almost effortless way. It will make you laugh and cry (definitely if you’re a parent) and, as long as you understand the importance of – and why we need – both, then the filmmakers will, no doubt, feel their work is done. Hurrah Pixar, add this to your classics.