It can be difficult to find the most useful line to take when reviewing a time-tested classic. Everyone already knows Compassion is a great rose and this has been objectively established for some time now, so... um.. yeah. Then again, the factors underpinning Compassion's polymathic excellence aren't as widely appreciated as they should be. She's been around since the early 70s and that period of rose fashion has been tumultuous in the extreme, with many perfectly good plants dropping out of commercial circulation- we've all been distracted by successive waves of overhyped contenders that flashed their floral tits, so to speak. But while they faceplant into disfavour and oblivion, OGs like Compassion remain staples of the successful garden. I'm here to tell you exactly why that is.
Anyway, Compassion is one of those versatile in-betweeny roses, forming either a tall bush or a climber/espallier subject, depending on how she is trained. There's no point trying to constrain her size, though. She's a big Sasquatchy bitch and needs shrubs and larger perennials to provide sympathetic company. Pruned conventionally, she will stand on her stout cherry-tinged canes up to around the 2.5 metre mark before requiring any support (we live in a windy coastal area so I'm confident about that). When pegged out or arranged on a fence, I'm unsure of her maximum potential dimensions, although I have seen an old plant go 3 metres in either direction in a bot garden somewhere.
Compassion is endlessly vigorous and incredibly forgiving of shit pruning jobs, sprouting away from all points and putting out enough slightly olive-green HT foliage to cover our worst mistakes. Her open, upright structure makes her a great prop for the smaller clematis and honeysuckles and she won't shade out anything growing around her feet.
It's easy to take Compassion's flowers for granted because they are so consistently present and unbothered by climatic travails. But they're certainly worthy of gratitude. They begin as tight, violet-pink scrolls in the classic Hybrid Tea manner, holding on to that graceful twist for a long time before finally blousing out to reveal a golden heart and anthers, along with burnished coral, amber and apricot shading.
They can hold for a couple of weeks in the vase on stems that are always strong enough to support them; that is only something you miss when you're cursing a saggy fistful of droopy, petal-dripping DAs. They seldom ball or rot on the plant and keep their lovely colours for many days, even in our ruinous UV. Compassion offers a weird assortment of bloom presentations, ranging from single stems to huge cauliflower trusses that will open in obliging succession. I sometimes do a bit of disbudding on the latter to tighten their schedule in the vase, but there's no need to manage her production as her petals drop cleanly and all flowers will open in due course.
Though she is thoroughly remontant all the way through from mid-spring to mid-autumn here in Zone 9, with little to no downtime, Compassion always insists on a rest during our fairly trifling winters. It makes pruning easier.
Fragrance-wise, I rate her highly within her somewhat dodgy category; the tonality of her perfume is closely coupled with her colours, having a sweet and warmly classical true rose character, with none of the unpleasant plasticky notes than so often fuck up the Hybrid Tea nose experience.
I'm also pampering a Champaca in the hope I can get it past the frost susceptibility stage; most Himalayan biome species tend to do well here so all fingers crossed. Will post more soon.
Hostile Witness Review Recommendations: Binged Mindhunter- did not love this second season. It felt sloppy and laboured and exposed a few thespianic limitations (STFU, Agent Babyvoice). Also, the subplot with the freaky kid felt tacky as fuck: just saying. Season two of Succession is far more pleasing to the point of actual deliciousness, what with all that nipple-tweaking McKay DNA. Tough out the fucking drip feed and try it.
I make a lot of my own clothes, and as I've entered cronedom I've become much more conscious of fabric qualities over fancy construction. Which leads one back to hand-sewing everything; the tensions generated by hand and needle yield a much better result than machine stitching natural fibre fabrics. It's strange how the seemingly lax plain stitch holds your silk tunic and sack dresses together like no one's business, resulting in virtually zero seam pulling and holing etc. There's also some indefinable quality in hand sewn garments; they just sit and hang better. It's the same with natural colours over synthetic dyes. There are quite a few shades that just die horribly when attempted with modern chemicals; apricot, red, blue-greens and purples. Even the black that's been so treasured and ubiquitous for the last 40 or so years is really quite a horrible, revenant thing when compared to those found in vintage rugs and old school textiles. Blacks derived from indigo are sublime in contrast. The industrial versions may seem brighter or more stable at first, but after looking at them for more than a few moments, the eye feels tricked and assaulted.
I don't really know where I'm going with this so just watch the fucking doc.
To take the steps that turned down into the ruin and away from its starlit yard was a choice that Susan made with imperfect grace, shaking her fading torch and hoisting the piglet that had sagged under her arm as she descended.
The lowest row of cells within the monastery had been hollowed into the mountain's fundamental stone and shared its exanimation, the spinal passage lined with cells declared by the same blank style of arch that pierced the colonnade. The cold air stood in staled suspension between smoothly-hewn walls that threw back the shuffling of her boots as they bundled settled dust. Time was chastened by the entombing geology, the cool reptilian smell of the stone lying heavily under a paler note of incense cedar, the ghost of an expired consecration. Her own scent seemed so invasive and inapt that she grimaced to herself, shuffling onward in a darkness relieved only by the docent beam before her. It swept over a stout plank bench against the wall, the worms fretting its timbers betrayed by the mound of frass sifted beneath its legs, and she paused, bending to push a finger into the wood and waving away the powder that flew up at her face. Beneath her arm the pig began to grunt and move its soignée legs, impatient with her circumspection. She scolded it softly; the torch beam met a mounded form upon the ground that stiffened her with fright until she recognized it as one of Petrouchka’s furs. With the dying orange light she examined the arch beside it, lifting a hand and knocking upon the granite, ruing the stupidity of the gesture as it bruised her knuckles. Something in the dark beyond assured her of an answer.
"I brought Fyodor...” she offered. "I thought you might be missing him.” The remark was greeted by a period of deliberate silence, then an equally tenebrous reply.
“I don’t miss."
"I just... I feel... bad." Susan admitted. She stepped beneath the arch, only to be checked by the failure of her torch in a gloom so complete that she would not have seen a hand before her face. The pig’s hooves scurried against her arms, the animal leaping to the ground and trotting swiftly back the way they had come in an action no more diplomatic than it was ambiguous.
"You feel bad?" Petrouchka murmured. "Maybe you have disease."
Susan stepped back as she perceived the darkly-glassed shapes of the vampyre's eyes, gleaming in the blackness like the inlaid gaze of a funeral effigy.
"What you want?"
"Just to talk..."
"You people... all so in love with your own voice. Go away. I don't want talk."
Tiny rasping sounds informed Susan's drifting stare that her hostess had shifted, though she could not locate her black-draped form until a white, abortive flare hissed and died against the vampyre's hands, her outline suddenly elaborated as a bundle of matches held their flame and lit a slag-like mass of tapers on a socket in the wall. Their lazy glow illumed a face that still wore the slack, livid vacuity of solitude, and an unsuspected shape beside her that proved a tall expanse of shelving, the upper and lowermost compartments deeply shadowed by the candles. Each aperture was neatly stocked with a row of human skulls, flensed and desiccated to a narrow range of flecked and ashen eggshell and pallid sepia. Susan stared wordlessly at the baffling array, their order and spotless aspect damping the horror they might have otherwise inspired. Their hollows shifted with the flame stirred by her breathing as she examined the sutured features of each cranium until the blind orbits became a leitmotif far too relentless for sustained perusal. She looked from them to the surrounding cell, the space proportioned exactly as their own, though half-buried and windowless. While her eyes adapted she made out sounds of movement through the vaulting overhead; footfalls, then Sachiin’s chuckling address to Fyodor as the pig returned to the object of his transferred affections. His words were, for the most, part distinct. She closed her eyes at the thought of everything the vampyre had been party to while Petrouchka observed her mortification with a lean amusement.
Some of her coats hung, faintly delineated, on the wall beside the arch like the mortal leavings that they were, beheaded and transfigured as though by maleficia. The vampyre muttered, looking over the ossuary with a proprietary eye.
"Some, I kill. But most, they die. I saw them come into this place... little boys, then old, so soon.” Behind a dark length of the heavy woolen stuff that had clothed the tenant monks lay her makeshift divan, composed of worn furs heaped into a pile. At its far end a doting little doppelgänger arrangement lay upon the floor by an earthenware bowl half-filled with water; Susan’s heart sank further at the sight of it.
“I’m so sorry about Fyodor” she lamented. Petrouchka sat back down.
“I already say... everybody love Sachiin. Nobody love a dead thing.” Her accent embellished the sentiment with macabre dignity. “If you won't go away, then sit.” she added, offering a bearth. Susan quashed her reluctance and accepted, hidden timbers creaking beneath her weight. They remained too long without speaking while the candlelight settled like dim water around them.
“There’s a lot of snow out there now.” she ventured.
“Where I come from, snow is blue, like eye, and hard, like jewel. If you are still, the winter take you... put arms around, and crush. This... is only pretty snow.” To her increasing discomfort the vampyre’s glances, so slow and grudging, had coalesced into deliberation and Petrouchka rose, crossing to the sagging bulk of a leather-bound coffer beside the ossuary. From this she withdrew two objects, a brush and hand mirror in silver that wore the orthodox red and halcyon blues of Slavic enamel, thickly studded with bosses of cabochon gems. “Sit sit, like this.” she urged, beckoning her sideways. “You are big mess. I fix.”
Susan ducked as rigid yellow bristles sank into her hair and snarled amongst its knots. She pressed her hand to her scalp before it could be stripped by the vampyre's stiff, perfunctory attentions, though Petrouchka paused to examine the side of her neck where it was exposed to the candle light. Her voice had descended to the volume of a prayer murmured over tightly-clasped hands.
“So many scar now... ugly, kotik... make you look like camp whore. Lucky Sachiin have so many himself, he don’t care... I don’t think he care, from what I hear at night.” Her narrow little fingers snagged the hair that they had massed into a tail.
"It could have been worse."
“You think was good that I beat this creature who try to eat you? Some time, when you are old... grand-mére, with no petits-enfants... you will be sick and sad like me, not even with the blood of others as a comfort... you will lie as I do now and hear what you can't have. When Sachiin finish with you, you will wish I met you first.” Susan sat amongst the silence while it served the vampyre like a hand pressed to her mouth. The cold, dry points of the creature's knuckles drew a line beneath her scars in a mute coda to her admission. “You see I am more evil than the man I run away from, but I make no secret... I tell to you. You know sometime, at night... I think, while you are sleeping, how good to cut you open, see everything come out of you... make Sachiin and Kala'amātya dig a hole and cover you with stones.”
Though she had been leaning forward slowly, Susan grew still as the vampyre's fist closed in her hair, unwilling to allow evasive latitude while she indulged herself.
"Don't run..." Petrouchka whispered. Her chin touched her guest's shoulder as she stroked down the restive shedim roused by the prospect of blood-warmed skin, even as it twisted in silky knots inside her throat, muting her counsel. "Be still for me. I don't want to smell your blood here." The rows of empty skulls swam as one of the wicks perished in the wax. The joints inside the vampyre's fingers clicked as they slowly unfurled, partitioning her hair and commencing a narrow braid. Susan let her eyes lose their focus on the black wall before her. "You are so much your blood, milaya moya... you call sweetly to the knife. Look how good my english become when I imagine taste of you."
Susan murmured, tilting her head as her hostess worked the hair behind her ear.
“How long have you been like this?”
“I die before the devil come for Ivan Groznyi."
“How did you know? That you were dead?”
Petrouchka's hands grew still again, but the time she took to furnish a reply, the perils inherent in retrieval did not diminish the inquiry's imperative.
"When it fall on you, you don’t think now I am dead thing..." The vampyre avowed, as though dismissing an assumption. "You think... something has happen... maybe bad... but you don't know." She doubled the end of the first braid back into the weave and began another. "Some time at night, I go from my husband's house and walk along the road. I want only to breathe with no one to hear. A upyr, he find me... he do to me. I go, on hand and knee, back to the house, with nothing where my throat should be. At first, they nurse me, but... when I do not grow well, my husband, he bring an old priest. They take the covers from my body and in their hands..." The sound of Sachiin easing the door closed overhead pushed through the stone. "In their hands they have sword. That night, they kill the pigs before the winter. I wake in that hole, under the dirty pieces of a hundred swine." Susan pressed her eyes closed as the vampyre tore out a knot from her nape. "I run, back to my old home, thinking my father, my sisters, they would have pity. But no... they scream for god and do not know me. Was like a knife into my head, again." Her hands slowed. "Then, I know. The living put you in your grave. They say that you have died, and are accursed. Until they do, you think it all a dream."
"Did they never talk to you again?"
"I saw them no more, but for one time. My young sister, Galina... at ball, in Ostankino... she so old I could not recognize, but she see me. All her beauty gone, so few pleasures, but she look at me, and...” Her voice grew lower still. “I don’t go back. The places that were alive to you are gone... you cry outside the door... nobody hear you. So I find new places... to Paris, and to Frankfurt, then... why do you want to hear? You are tourist...”
"I live here now." Susan assured her.
"You don't say that to upyr. This death, it never finish with us. You die, but is beginning... you are still losing, so much... you lose feeling... for thing, for people... I try to keep a memory of feeling, but I can't have. I kill people for their feeling... but it fall out of me, like I am made of bad cloth. Life is shadow on my face. My body serve only the evil that is in me, and I sicken myself to please it. I am charogne. I drown, in my hole, with the pigs.”
Again the vampyre lapsed into a silence thick with her own battered spectre.
“When I think everything is gone, I meet de Marchand. If she was not evil, she was not good, but she find a way to live so you are not sorry. She say to me, Trouchka, what is death, but the breaking of our only chains? For a time, I hold her hand, and her face was the star that I had lost.” Susan touched the antiquated composition in her hair, and the vampyre took the mirror from her lap, holding it before her. “There. Pretty now.” she pronounced, turning the blackened glass upon her own flame-lit features. “They say we cannot be seen like this, but is only dead who cannot see. The truth... the one that make you more than you were a day before... is lost to us.”
“As much as I don’t know him, or Helaine... I don’t think Kala'amātya loved her to spite you. I don't think we have a choice.”
“I lie when I say she would not choose him. Would she choose me? He walk into her house, enough life in his great body for one hundred people, and no fear of what she was. From the first, they were vyehs' to one another. Helaine live, and then she die... I was dead, and try to live, but you can have no more when it has gone... not another moment, if you beg one hundred saint and paint their feet with blood. You have only time. Ask Kala'amātya, if time is good for company."
Leaning back into a curl against the wall Petrouchka gathered her skirt over her legs, regarding Susan with her darkest aspect.
"I lie too, to him, in what I say last night... Helaine find that she was enciente, and could not believe... but when she tell to me, she smile, and say... we never thought ourselves enough for this small creature, and I am happy to be wrong... I hear these words, and I want to cut it from her. I cut it from her heart. I tell her everything she dread... herself, of him, of what could come, and in a week, she drink the cup, make me promise never to tell. When he come home from Paris, I take his hand, I smile, and I wish him joyeux noel. But vengence taste like blood you lick from hole in your own skin." She touched her own face as though doubtful of its shape. "If Helaine come back to him... udači... I wish good luck. The darkness love her and has no patience. Of her Art... I don't know what she find, behind a door closed so long.”
Rising, the vampyre hoisted the lid from the trunk once more and leant over to lift something pale from its dusty bowels. The gesture redoubled Susan’s desire to escape, throwing a ripple through the candle light that made the creature's small shape slide out of focus with her attendant shadow.
“I want for you to have.” Petrouchka handed her the bundle; she mutely refused, but the vampyre grimaced and raised a hand to her head as though to ease some harping pain and spoke through heavy, torpid loathing. “Don't say you can't take... you already take from me... but I want for you to have. If you stay, and I hurt you, I won’t feel bad.” Her face lapsed into a smirk, the black holes in her eyes licking at her face. "If I do, it will not be for hunger... I don't feel. I will do because I am écœurant, et affreux.”
Her smile blackened again, blooming horribly and sending her eyes backward into her head.
“I love so much your great disgust.” Petrouchka soughed, looking down at herself. "This... is not even the worst I could be. In Praha I see this thing... never hungry, but always at the feast, where it devour, and exalt itself. I thought there was nothing more, but soon I will wake in that garden, where black flowers turn toward you, and the trees are all aflame." She dropped the mirror into Susan’s arms. “Sachiin will stay long enough to make you hate your own face, and Kala'amātya, he will leave you when you need him. Be careful.”
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Nars Rouge Basque (pictured) is closest by a mile, but still redder, glossier and more conventional on the lip. Nars Golshan and Bite Beauty Crushed Chili share a chunk of its DNA but they are, again, closer to red, even if I deem them neutrals. MAC Chili looks like Marrakesh's twin if you haven't seen the former in a while; upon comparison it's surprisingly brighter and yellower. MAC Paramount is quite a bit darker and a definite coppery brown rather than rusty. MAC Auburn pencil is darker and cooler. MAC Brick pencil is far redder. MAC Retro is oddly apposite, yielding a similarly muted, mid-tone effect from different ingredients, being cooler and more dirty-sullen-rosy, so if you can't werk Marrakesh, but are hurting for something moyen, look into that guy. I'm really enjoying this shade and advise you to pick it up... if you can find the damn thing. Get your shit together, MAC.
L2R, MAC unless stated: Russian Red, Marrakesh, Chili, Fresh Moroccan, Mocha,
Nars Rouge Basque, Brick O La
The moon was a jewel at god knows what in the morning a few days ago, so I took some pics.
After all this time, I still don't know shit about cameras or exposure or aperture priority etc. and you can probably tell. I was quite proud of myself for finding the ISO button in the dark and knowing to dial in one direction instead of the other. Normally I would be embarrassed, having to admit such abject ignorance, but when it comes to photography I just don't care. It's such a fucking vainglorious and utterly bullshit conceit, all that framing and recording, as though you were somehow responsible for the beauty or intrigue of the result. Unless you create objects to photograph, calm your auteur hauteur and realise that your genius eye is a commonplace thing, and that you might as well be taking brass rubbings for all that you actually contribute. Photographers can only ever convey what they once looked at; BFD. We should be grateful we've had the opportunity and just leave it at that.
With that in mind, I have a lot of (exemptionalist and nepotistic) respect for my partner's images and his impressive technical knowledge. He pursues photography as a craft and a science, striving to better represent the natural world that he values so much. It's not a vanity project.
Anyway, I prefer the one below lol.
Though I might be white and therefore privileged beyond the average POC hair experience, the degree of policing and assumption I've personally encountered would probably surprise a centre-part Becky. The suuuper-subtle inquiries about my background (they mean ethnicity) by that strange clade of people who are low-key preoccupied with one's precise degree of Anglo-Saxonicity; big hair and dark eyes get their pursuivant nostrils twitching. Am I... something else? The pervasive cultural insistence on curly (they mean mad) hair's link to certain kinds of personalities and conduct. All those wilful, temperamentally incontinent and usually doomed literary heroines: they don't have flat lobs. Then there's the inquisitive strangers who feel entitled to physically touch your fucking hair (old ladies at bus stops: okay. Jelly queens honking about your wig game: can deal. Creepers in the seat behind you on the bus: not fucking okay). And oh yes, the fetishisation from dipshits who think you're going to flip their penis for real with your feral, folicularly-driven sluttiness.
And last but not least, the reason why I haven't been to a salon in twenty years- that look they give you. As though your head was going to explode and infect theirs with your unruly aberrance. The wistful yanking of your curls out to their real (they mean straight) length; it could be so much flatter and longer! The clueless, disinterested butchering. The completely unsolicited attempts to blow it straight. The last peremptory ho to try this was astounded and dismayed that I preferred my natural texture and actually congratulated me on being able to 'come to terms with it'. That was the very last time I paid someone with a fucking pixie cut on a homely-arse five-head to touch my shit.
So now I cut and dye my own damn hair, wash it once or twice a week, air dry and don't brush. Recently I started using Deva Curl Let It Be finishing spray and I like it well enough; Deva products are fairly natural-ingredient based and non-irritant and I'm just grateful they don't make my hair situation more difficult. I wouldn't boost them to anyone who wasn't interested in cutting down on synthetic nasties in their personal care regime as I don't think their performance is substantially better than anything else I've tried.
Washing your hair with Sabun soap is a bit of a trip, requiring you to let go of a few deep-core assumptions. The dread of having to de-tangle non-conditioned hair is hard to understand unless you've held a fistful of your own crispy, broken frizz. I've come to accept that the artificial shine furnished by conventional Eurocentric products just isn't in curly hair's best interest. The softer natural lustre provided by organically-derived lipids is what curls need for texture stability and preservation. This might be old news to people of colour, but curly white peeps just get pointed at white-people product and told we're not doing it right when that shit doesn't work.
The Sabun lather feels rather unconventional on the head. It's important to get an even, all-over lather going, especially if you're longer, and to rinse thoroughly, working from back to front with warm water, to distribute the oils. While still wet (don't even towel dry, just enough to stop it dripping), spray in your favourite anti-frizz product and either big-comb through or just work it down the length manually. Scrunch gently to reinstate your curl shape. Then leave it alone. There's sometimes a slightly greasy feel while it's drying and it's hard to believe your hair won't feel heavy or dull, but I promise the finished product does not. Allow an extra half an hour of air-dry time if you're on the clock.
For me, the Sabun+spray allows my natural texture to reform peaceably without frizz, and doesn't bring on greasy-root syndrome by denaturing the scalp. It dispels that itchy product buildup that plagues us sensitive types and doesn't aggravate my psoriasis (it doesn't make it any better, but what does?). It hasn't stripped my colour, which is a semi-permanent black. And as a final blessing, the Sabun imparts a weirdly obedient cast to your hair; it stays placid and arrangeable. The result is natural, snaky curl instead of morale-destroying fluff. I am really pleased with how aggressively archaic it looks.
No one is paying me to say any of this. I just want to share this rare positive experience with widely available, eco-friendly and inexpensive products. The Sabun is about $7 per enormous bar in New Zealand; the Deva Curl spray is about $35 which is a lot, but for me it's lasted a long time and it replaces the $15 per bottle I dropped on shampoo and conditioner. And both are so much better than tipping litres of industrial chemicals down the drain. Taking one damn product into the shower is incredibly liberating. Give it a try if you have dry, frizz-prone hair and have lost patience with conventional shampoos and conditioners.
house in the mountains / house of the tiger
see the rest here
We live in a beautiful place. It enjoyed some 20C the other day, which was a record for the month.
June is supposed to be winter, with temps between 5 and 10 C.
I personally feel as though this super-ugly climate clusterfuck stuff is going to kick off much sooner than most people realise; it is already underway in more marginal parts of the world. We don't have kids, have never owned a car, don't fly and live very modestly, but we'll still be eating shit along with everyone who couldn't be bothered to do one fucking thing to be less of an environmental catastrophe. Cheers, arseholes. Cheers.
Syn. M bicolor, etc. A bird pollinated coffee-relative from montane forest understory in Brazil. It's easy here in coastal New Zealand, flowering spectacularly and pretty continuously, enjoying the same sort of conditions as the other not-strictly-tropical/upland forest South American plants in our collection.
A lot of people seem to have trouble with this otherwise desirable group; in this mild maritime situation we have canopy shelter, temps mostly under 30C during summer and cooler nights. So if you can modify your situation in this direction with shelter and shade, you might have success with flowering and general health.
This vine is supposedly hardy down to a soft Zone 8. Its leaves are tender and spinachy though, so I wouldn't put it anywhere it cops wind, hail or more than a brief powder frost. This one is potted and spending some time outside during winter to kill off the bugs that had scuttled over from a manky Hibiscus I'd put on a nearby windowsill. Other than this minor issue, it's never given me any trouble, self-twining over a 6 foot bamboo tripod in one season even with a couple of major hack-backs. The flower cover in these pics is relatively sparse compared to its usual performance as I had unfortunately hosed most of them off getting rid of the aphids. The bellbirds are hanging around it already, looking for nectar. I highly recommend this plant if you can find one.
"We rode into Samarkand, and the buildings were the first that I had ever seen... the shapes were like things in dreams, and I asked Kala'amātya if the wind had made them out of stone... he said the i'ss'it had made them through their labour, which I didn't believe. I had never stood between two walls, and I walked along with my hands on my head thinking they'd fall on me, until little i'ss'it started walking beside us doing the same. I thought I was doing well until a camel train came in from the east and passed on either side, and I got down on my hands and knees and threw up in the road. It was like the entire world had crashed into my head. I lost it and passed out. They had to carry me to Kala'amātya’s house.
It was a palace of whiteness, and... what are those things? Rectangles... I had never seen a rectangle before. Everything made out of straight lines... another universe, and it all belonged to him. In the courtyard there was a kind of water that did as it was told... a chahār bāgh, with peach trees and Persian roses, and I couldn't look at them and smell them at the same time. I just stared and stared and couldn't speak."
"A runner had gone ahead to let them know we were coming, and all the women of the house came pouring into the garden... Uighur, Russian, Rajastani, Greek, local girls, all in their best clothes so that they looked... like birds had married flowers... with gold and silver on their necks and arms, and bells tied in their hair, and they smelled of everything wonderful... champa and cinnamon and attar. And they were doing this strange thing with their mouths...” Sachiin pulled up the corners of his own into the shape of a smile with two fingers. “They were happy to see him. Sobh bexeyr, Kala'amātya.” he intoned, recalling the lilting, knowing fondness of their greeting. “Before that, I could have counted the number of people who'd been pleased to see my brother on two fingers, but there they were, smiling at him like he was the sun in winter, bringing us water and asking who I was. Their hands were warm, and every woman was a different shape and colour, which was so strange to me... even their voices were a hundred kinds of gold, the words tied like a necklace, with empty spaces in between.
They took me into the house and fed me fruit and honey, brought new clothes and washed my feet and laughed and called me bakareh... virgin... because I was so modest and stupid. All I could do was stare at them, but I decided then and there that exile was the life for me, and eating dirt at twenty thousand feet could go straight to fucking hell for all I cared.”
“I bet it could...” Susan laughed, but the colours of the image darkened with his silence while she drew another mouthful from the bottle. “How long before it started going bad?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember everything.”
“Yes you do.”
“It took about a year. We stayed with Kala'amātya, and he lived large. Every summer he would put a corps together and go off fighting, then hit the silk route caravans when that slowed down... all of that paid out, and he was gone for half the year. Rana stayed in her room at first and kept threatening to go home, but I could feel it changing... I could see, every time I tried to talk to her, that something was going wrong inside her head, I think because in her heart, she couldn’t leave the mountains. It was like watching a wound turn bad. I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know how to stop it.
In summer most of the women did their own thing, the witches heading up into the mountains to study, some riding with my brother or with their own crews... hoes heading west to work the Caspian boats... but with Kala'amātya gone so long, the girls who stayed home started looking at me a certain way. I didn’t think that Rana cared or even knew... stupid, I know, but I was stupid... I had no idea that people went crazy over that sort of thing.
One day she came to me and said ‘Sachiin... did you know that you may kill these creatures, merely by striking them?’ And I walked out into the garden and found that she had beaten one of the kitchen girls to death. In autumn, when Kala'amātya came home, he threw her out into the street. I tried to talk him round but he threw me out and told me... a'ma sa'anae sahai'is siith nala elaiinae... come back when you've had enough.
Living alone with Rana was... hellish, really, in ways I had never imagined, but if I ran to his house she would follow me and beat his slaves. After a while, when I left she would just walk into the bazar and kill whoever she got hold of... twist their arms and legs off. That would go on until I came back. One year Avi'ashān arrived, from nowhere, and then Nyāti, looking for him... everything was coming apart in the mountains, with Ana'siām'ilye disgraced... people were leaving every day and going into the sea, but we didn't know until they told us. For a while, Nyāti handled Rana better than I could, but it didn’t last. Losing the mountains was the final straw for her. Kala'amātya would ask me... nala siith i’nala elaiinae... have you had enough, Sachiin? But I could never say yes, because I knew once I did, everything he'd do to make her go into the sea would be on my head. When I looked at her mad face, I knew I was too weak and vain to think of myself as the one who had wished death on her." The snow slowed in the darkness until each mote seemed shed in bitter accord with his account. "If I hadn’t been that way, who knows how many people would have lived another day... Kala'amātya might have had the time he needed with Helaine. Her death wasn’t even Rana’s fault.” he admitted, his voice so quiet that she closed her eyes to hear it. “It was mine.” He brushed the snow from his hair. “His never saying it is hard... I wish he'd grab me by the throat and dangle me off forty storeys... but he won't.”
Susan leant over her lap and assured herself of his attention before speaking to his admission.
“When my parents died they were on their way to pick me up from my aunt’s house." she sighed. "I was supposed to stay the weekend but she’d found some cigarettes and I don’t know... condoms, I think it was... in my handbag, something completely stupid and we’d had this horrible fight, so I wanted to go home. I had to go and live with her after the accident. I asked her once if she blamed me, and she said yes... she blamed me, my parents, the car, the other driver, the weather... herself… but she said that's just what you do when you’ve lost someone. I was shocked at first, then I thought, god, I actually blame her, so I understood. That's just... normal.” When he opened his mouth she shook her head. “That’s not my point, though. Your brother isn’t normal, and I don't think he blames you. Mostly he’s just glad to have you... you're lucky to have each other. And I am glad to have you..." she smiled. "You don't miss her, do you?"
"Rana? No... it feels like something that was biting my arm has gone away. After everything she did, it's just... peaceful."
The dowager moon breathed her last into the clouds, her glow borne earthwards in the silver cells of every frozen element, as though the air were haunted by expiring spectres, their light extinguished as they met the ground.
"I wonder if they knew when they first saw him..." she murmured. "The priestesses... did they know he was the end of them, or did they make him Kala'amātya?"
"I've never known. Helaine once told me we all take our own lives, one way or another, and I like to think Ana'siām'ilye was cutting her own throat with those blackthorn branches. That would be..."
"Poetic." Susan smiled. "You're very zen about the strangest things."
"What can you do? I'm not the sharpest apple in the bucket."
She spluttered liquor and wiped it from her chin.
"Well, we're probably made for each other, then. Priestesses never get it right."
Susan shuffled on her knees toward the window with the sleeping bag, grinning at his wary face then lifting the bottle to his lips, its contents prompting him to shudder at the flash of bitter fruit and ethanol.
"Mmm... génial..." he coughed. "Merde, c'est bordelique." He turned his head from the kiss she bestowed in remediation. "Cloudcheeks, I'm too cold..."
"I don't care." she insisted, taking his face in her hands. His mouth was perfumed by the hueless liquor, tasting of distant apple and anise, and of the newborn winter descending behind him, the season that had settled in his skin and drawn his pupils into snake-like straits. She pressed her lips to his left lid, chuckling as their warmth reversed the transformation, if only unilaterally. "Is this you, when you're at home?" The cover cosseted their voices as she pulled it over their heads. He nodded, and she kissed him again, taking his hands and drawing them beneath her jersey so that they closed upon her waist, their breathtaking differential sliding slowly into novel, delicious inverse on her skin.
"You're making me feel like an enigma wrapped in a something else." he whispered.
"I know there'll always be some monsterism, but most of you is five-star." Susan admitted. He sighed softly against her neck.
"That kind of talk just won you a super-deluxe trip downtown."
"Speak more French..." she urged, grasping his neck as he hoisted them both out of the window and dumped her down onto the pine needles.
"Je ne peux pas le faire... pour le principe... c'est pour ton bien..." he murmured while she dragged his shirt over his head and struggled to assist in the removal of her trousers, stifling the laughter prompted by discombobulation. "I do miss parts of summer, if I'm honest... the only thing standing between me and la petit gâteau was half a foot of fresh air, or knicker elastic that was suicidal anyway..." He paused to suck the cache of freckles on the face of her thigh.
"I miss mattresses. Missionary with a mattress... it always feels like I'm going to hell for it with you. I don't know how you manage it." She closed her eyes as her legs were persuaded into dissociation.
"Whatever you're doing has to stay under the blanket, and en francais."
"Ça va sans dire."
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
That doesn't happen every day, let me tell you. Brown is often just too fucking harrrrd to accurately describe or depict, apparently, which is possibly why so many punters revile it. We've all been lured into blowing our dollar dollar bills on something regrettably poopy. But I firmly believe there's a brown out there for everyone.
Yes, and fuck it all; beautiful it may be, but Lonely Heart's performance sucks massive arse, in practical terms. It is the Keanu of the Velvet Matte line; picturesque and useless. Puzzingly for such an irreproachable stable of pencils, this shade is problematic in a basic, cheap-arse sort of way, suffering all the cardinal sins of separation, migration, line settling, patchiness and cementitious mouth-feel. I was gobsmacked when I applied it for the first few times, amazed by the crappiness of the result.
It's true that I have been an apologist for lesser shades and am all about recouping value with amendment. Just like Keanu, Lonely Heart is too beautiful to ignore and I am still experimenting with redemptive measures that won't pollute its divine tonality. Look at the hand swatches; see how it resists looking unsophisticated, even in the strongest warm sunlight? Looking at it on the back of the palm, you would never suspect the kind of fuckery it pulls when applied where it counts.
I tried it over Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone primer pencil and, while that dealt with the clumping/patchy issue, the resulting finish made the Sahara look positively dewy and felt like Moroccan leather layer cake. It also abolished the lovely violet leaning Lonely Heart gleaned from my natural lip, so I CPR'd that rosewood tint with some dabs of Bite Licorice. It looked good. For ten minutes. Before quickly lapsing into muddy, clown-ring horror. Mixing it with the recent and beautemous Bite Beauty Clove liquid lipstick (I will review it soon) offers some degree of salvation; 'tis still a tragic compromise.
Resist Lonely Heart. Enjoy the pictures and dream of what could have been.
L2R, MAC unless stated: Russian Red, Nars Lonely Heart, Paramount
Nars Audacious Deborah, Chilli, Jasper, Auburn pencil natural outdoor light
Some people want to complain about trains but I like them, even when they're bouncing me out of a great sex dream at 3.47am with brake screech and hard rumbles. Every time a train goes past, 34785 trucks don't. Think of it that way.
Will some arsehole please reinstate the formerly awesome Dunedin to Christchurch passenger service, because that route is dope and NZ busses are spectacularly ghettto. Only here would an incredibly scenic and already extant line like that, between two major centres godammit, sit idle for years.
I might be the last person to know about this band but I'm on it now, okay? Fuck.