Girls with faces buffed smoother than dressed stone and cushioned, nude-glossed lips ushered Opal through a caramel maze of blonded veneer, past orchids poised in bud vases set into recesses. In the unforgiving grasp of her pale pants suit she cared not for meridian synergies or lymphatic coaxing, occupied instead by the ferric taste persisting in her oral crevices, sour little allusions to the meal retained within the infinitely capacious reservoir beneath her ribcage and slowly suffusing her cold tissues. The smocked girls showed her to a massage suite beneath a glass-block ceiling; the evening had turned it rufous grey but she scowled up at its transparency before stepping underneath it. Rachel lay face down on a plinth of padded marble while attendants trailed garlands of herbs over her naked skin, avoiding the chakra stones set at careful intervals on her oiled torso. Opal looked over her proportions with a jaundiced eye, aware how shortly gravity would start exacting the full price of its connivance in their splendor. She lifted the gold-chained tote from the neighbouring credenza and tipped its contents onto the wood. Rachel's eyes flew open.
"Invading the Lamb property again, in your endless quest for degredation. You really are determined to ruin the chance you might have had with any Sotherby-Curtis, aren't you?” Scrolling through the calls on Rachel's phone, Opal walked slowly around the plinth. "You thankless little bitch."
“Nicholas Sotherby-Curtis is gay." the former reminded her as the attendants shrank from her shoulders and began devoting themselves to her feet.
“Which is why he needs someone to marry, produce two viable offspring and smile until their face hurts while he runs for governor. I didn’t pay for those teeth so you could wear them down on deviant genitalia." Opal touched a hand to her immobile hair, inspecting a vial of white powder from amongst Rachel's belongings. "You are beyond pathetic. What's next? Snorting up this garbage until a frat boy wouldn't jerk off onto your face unless you paid him? If the columnists pick this up I'll make sure you spend the next three seasons in residential care. Stay away from that house.”
"Wil-liam is obsessed with me... he won't stop calling. What am I supposed to do? And who is that person they have over there? Some kind of crazy dwarf?"
Opal frowned at the lilies in their wall vase, each bloom plucked of its velvety anthers so that they seemed blinded.
“I sent over a housekeeper. I want the place cleaned up before I use it for the group show. And yes... she was petite... had a kind of... I think the word I’m looking for is milkmaid.” Opal turned her head as she swallowed down the flush of pink saliva in her mouth. “That love of your life is probably so exclusively obsessed with you he's bending her over something as we speak.” She shot a glance toward the masseuses as they stood with wide-eyed stares, hands stilled upon their subject's ankles; the smaller girl knocked a bottled candle from the corner of the credenza with a nervous elbow, though Opal's reaction was tempered by the appearance of a receptionist at the panel door.
“Ms La Rue, there’s someone here for you... a Mr Lamb. He’s uncomfortable about waiting any longer...”
Opal glanced back over her shoulder and addressed herself to Rachel.
“Go talk to him. I have calls to make.”
“I have an irrigation, and he hates me...” Rachel insisted, bare flesh shuddering like refrigerated consommé.
Edward’s sphinx-like features brought her worst anxieties into focus as she espied him from the doorway of the courtesy lounge; Rachel mouthed an affirmation and lifted the collar of her plush white robe, crossing the quiet bar toward him as if he had been waiting for her all along. He sat alone in a mood that stained the air around him like a halo in forboding reverse, a low glass in his hand.
“Opal’s taking care of something. Why don’t you get me a drink?” she smiled, lowering herself into the club chair before him. “She told me about the group show... kudos. Sounds like you're really building a name.” When he did not reply she repeated herself, to no apparent avail. “It's so weird... I mean, wherever I go, I hear somebody talking about your pieces, or about Wil-liam... it just feels like fate, you know. And with Opal getting behind your work, that's... I mean..." She tossed her golden ponytail back over a shoulder. "You don't know where Wil-liam is, do you? He's always wanting to hook up, and now I have some time for him I can't raise his damn phone... that thing is always broken...” Edward set down his single malt and stared through her face into the space beyond; she blinked tightly. “I knew it... he's with that hooker again... that son of a bitch...”
“That’s my mother you’re insulting.” he replied. The thought of the two sharing an origin was a notion that disturbed her deeply.
"What do you want me to say? You think, out of all the people in the fucking world that I actually chose him?" Rachel snapped, glaring at him over the vegetable juice that had been set down on the table. “You don't choose your soulmate, you fucking find each other..." Rage deranged the stiff, pursed poise she had maintained despite her dread of him, pushing her down in her chair and darkening the tone of her petulant utterances until she became once more aware of his scrutiny. Edward reviewed the length of thigh she extracted from her robe and draped over its twin, the two shallow creases that crossed her throat, and the lips that he had never seen naked; she offered them willingly, infusing the display with a languor that tightened the skin around her eyes and pointed her toes downward.
“Do you dream, Rachel?”
She laughed and looked up at the ceiling, the contents of her glass oozing over its lip.
“Of course I dream. I just... I don’t have the time to sit around remembering that crap.” Emboldened by the question's obscurity, she licked her glass and favoured him with her best side. “Ed-ward, how can you even be this messed up? You're scared, I can see it. You're scared of having to be your authentic self around another human being." His gaze remained with her as her smirk developed. "We all have to start somewhere. What are you thinking right now?"
His pupils were cinched into stationary shards of darkness.
“I'm wondering how you look when someone fucks you. When they're calling you Rebecca. Thinking of their stepdaughters.”
She glanced away, flashing toothy acknowledgement at a passing attendant, tugging nervously on an earring. Returning her blue eyes to his face Rachelle laughed, its pointless modulation an unwitting reprisal.
“No one talks ever talks that way while we're making love.”
“Do they ever say anything?”
She leant forward in her chair, grasping both its arms in a renascent fury.
"You really think you can run me off? You don't have a fucking hope in hell."
"Have you ever heard a tungsten blade passing through an adult femur? I get the first four notes of Ode to Joy." Rachel shrank back, glancing around herself as he rose. "Come to the house again and I'll put you in three holes."
In the privacy of his sedan Opal removed the cosmetic dentures from her mouth and slid them into her handbag; without them, her voice took on a lashing sibilance, hissing past the points of her remaining teeth.
“Where have you been? I had to tell the buyers you were at a treatment centre.”
"Whatever it was, I hope it bled euros." Opal remarked dryly, drawing the tips of her finger and thumb over the corners of her smirk to catch the lipstick in the creases.
“I was happy to correct a power imbalance for the good of the general community."
“Is there such a thing? Power is like Armani, darling... not everyone can wear it, but that's just nature in her wisdom.” She chuckled and picked someone else’s hair from the collar of her jacket.
“Nature’s wisdom informs my lack of enthusiasm for vampyre juntas.”
"One day you're going to say that in front of the wrong crowd. You of all people know that it's coming and it doesn’t care for your preferences. Why not make it easy? You may not be blood, but with your skill set I’m sure we can arrange to adopt you.”
A voice came to him as he slowed before an intersection, drifting over the shoulder of a woman remembered as she sat in sunlight on the steps of her house, braiding her own fair hair.
“To bow down is to die by your own hand.” he murmured. Opal rolled her eyes at his disembodied prose.
“Everyone talks that way while they’re alive. Crossing over brings clarity. The Europeans have their own death squads... domestic ones, committed to their program, and they won’t charge six figures to implement it.”
“Darling, I think the winged ones are different. Things like this should always look like a choice. It's lucky those stars on your knees are all in your head."
He pulled up outside her building and watched the doorman grimace to himself as he assisted Opal onto the footpath.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
BUY THE BOOK HERE
The Stellar Other
I sometimes meet the lost at night
and stepping over Cerberus's chain,
you were returned to me
I took your hand and held it to my face
I saw you through our fingers
your eyes always the colour of the
their darkest blue reserve
once more mine to remember.
And from the first I saw the muses
all attendant at your birth
Fortune had bitten you and left her kisses
ringed around your neck
her favourite son, you were her gift
to all who never knew her.
if you had
been raised by erring wolves
no one would have ever known
to look at you
you errant Adonaïs,
your perfect clay proclaimed you from afar
while the smoke rings took your fox-like laugh
into the blacklight.
And if your
mother never heard you
and your father never saw what they had made
forever deaf and blind may they remain.
They threw an alpha, ne plus ultra
and to me
all seven wonders
and I knew you were my people
born with stars upon your knees,
and even from your height
you would go down on them for me.
You heard with one, but smiled with both
our harmony a whole
wordless and perfect
as the moon
todas las estrellas
y la luna.
You gave Strange Fruit to me,
her voice, and not its portent
and in your bed your body
spoke the language of its blessed shape
I felt the word poured forth amid the dark miles that I passed
all broad and full-blown
driven deep against the slow roll of your hips
your hand a sweet guest and my private whore
shameless and unlettered
you loved like you had never seen the sun
but had been made to show me stars
and as I lay under your shoulders
your wordless mouth could mute the bard.
bright and crownless Solomon
I should have made your bread and washed your feet.
It is a bitter thing
our children left
before we could explain ourselves
there are no prayers
for small things
to ribbon red.
did not agree to lose you
to relinquish you to chemistry
that Nemesis was never anything to me,
but followed you
until you fell into that falling sickness
so unlike Caesar's malaise
already crawled behind your aegis,
your silver stolen,
darkness knotted round your arm
your hand lost to a fist
and when your blue
went down behind your lids
no Orpheus could sing you to the light
your left, that double bind
your ruined side had found you.
there is something to be said
but we already knew
there's no Elysium.
When we go down with stars upon our knees
it is to nothing
and it drives the hardest bargain.
could give no more offence to your creators
than to offer you in pieces
to return you to the Garden,
with a smile, wreathed in laurel.
whoever may have found what you had left
my sincere regret,
my deepest sympathies.
To have laid you low
and drawn the black around veinte dos veranos,
your bones not even grown
more gifts than you would ever know laid out in shallow silver
and when they weighed your heart Asclepius would weep
beside the stones.
your loss is something fatal in itself
caught in my throat
to breathe or move will be to join you.
That is what it is to lie with Nothing
you took me down and widowed me
and left me on the ground
to burn my eyes out in your ashes.
The stars upon your knees are on my own
have always worn them as you wished.
Inside me you have lain so undiminished
Fortune finished with you
perfect clay forgotten
would trade her bitter, graceless favour
for another day
to lash the muses, change your name and
feed the years to Cerberus,
that punishment they all deserve.
I found that I could play when you had gone
and now my heroes wear your colours,
delight their lovers with your smile.
that no one lights a flame for you
no sun sets on a day
without my hands upon your face
upon my life, you are still loved
always the scholar's dissertation
and my songs will wear the lustre
of your endless constellation.
Wait, there is a god. Patrick Stewart, baked, in a tree house, giving acting lessons to his 35 year old fiance who wears red glitter polish on her toenails and posted this on You Tube.
Thank you, thank you. I needed this really badly. You might not think you do, but just trust me.
I'd like to buy the world a toot and this makes me feel like I already have.
Mortality has loomed large this year, walking up to us under a number of guises then ripping off the hood and blowing its smoke in our faces. Death is a lot of things- expected, unexpected; affecting and indifferent. Sometimes it's not about the demise, but more the life- what it was and what it could have been.
Death narrows the field, both for the living and the deceased; it removes another friend, lover, familial figure, whatever from the living spectrum, and, inversely, turns off the light on everything the dead once were, so that they exist only in the impressions they have made on us, no matter how resplendent and deserving. That is so fucking bitter and almost impossible to come to terms with. No one gets a statue any more.
When they're old, maybe surrounded by their own mistakes, it is easier to let them leave, even if our business with them is unfinished, because they've had a chance to represent and demonstrate. We're left to sort through it and decide how hard to cry, and that's an almost logical process. It has a map, you can see the way out from where you stand.
When they are young and so full of inestimable qualities, it's like the world has marked them for destruction as some sort of crowd-control procedure; see what happens to the unicorns? We ghost them. Exhibit courage, difference, beauty, insight, any special kind of excellence and you'll be next, until it feels as though it's only the people of Walmart who remain. Alexander McQueen barely made forty and fucking Ralph Lauren is still three hundred and twenty six and breathing our air. The loss of the paragon is a vicious collective punishment, unbearable because they were never allowed the chance to find their stride; only to fuck up once, and then be zipped into a bag. The cruel and stupid grease the way; the illegality of drugs is killing the gifted even as I type the words.
A plague on both their houses.
We are a society that eats our young and I can't see that ever getting easier to deal with- on the contrary; I feel it more deeply all the time.
The ones we love are so often taken without our consent; not always- I was content to let my father go after all his suffering. But when we lose suddenly and too soon, that rage is double-edged and splits us open even as we swing the sword. Don't pretend that isn't happening to you if you're having trouble letting go. Breathe, and drop the weapon, if it takes you twenty years. Sometimes you have to be old enough to have given birth to them, and that's a hard, hard road and very lonely. Their absence locks you into a place where you feel you can't survive without their hand. Life becomes a choice between electrocution and coronary excision, every day when they are gone. Calluses and scars become your friends, and I hate those guys.
Is it wrong to want them back? Writing the book allowed me to avoid that question for such a long time, even though the theme is so overt; I don't know how that happens. So many things can stare you in the face, never speaking until spoken to, until you question them. Are forced to question them.
Hope I'm not shitting on anyone's parade today. Just thought I'd purge some tarry residues while I'm still so fucking high on life with rhinovirus.
Have a brown flower.
* More Selected Ravings * Like Photography? *
Sorry for the lack of postings, peeps, we
both have the flu to varyingly hideous degrees
heads full of alien mucous instead of right thinking thoughts and you don't need the details.
Will be posting the next book installment as usual but don't know if I'll be doing much else this week
where's a fucking shaman when you need one
I ask you.
Some things are perfect. The leopard shares its beauty with the flower and the person walking past you with their lovely skin or pretty hands and hidden depths. Smile at someone or something beautiful today; they don't always know it, and should be told.
Dear god I love the look of a brand new bullet of lipstick. Is there anything more luxe? So perfect and tactile and gourmand, somehow; I actually want to bite it. (Lol, feeling a bit teethy and demented today. You'll just have to bear with). My new MAC Diva didn't stay pristine very long, though; that sucker was on my pucker before you could say mwah.
Diva is superb. It's a full matte that doesn't tug going on and sits lightly and comfortably on the lips. Formula-wise, it's a dead ringer for MAC Prince Noir with its buttery, velvety textural perfection. No bleeding into wrinkles even after a cup of tea. Wears around 4-5 hours without a touch up, remaining workable and therefore avoiding the ring of death phenomenon that can occur with more immovable formulas. If you are nervous about hardcore mattes and dark shades, this is something to try before you move to the more high-maintenance offenders like Smoked Purple. Colour-wise it's a deep, cool-ish, very true merlot/berry that doesn't deviate into brown or blue. Just straight up wine, really, no matter how you build it up or smudge it out; in fact, I'll stick my neck out and say this is possibly MAC's most underrated matte. No sheen, no shimmer. I really can't think of a complexion that wouldn't benefit from this shade, but it's particularly nice with green and hazel eyes.
LIP PENCILS Above from Left:
Magenta lip pencil, Ablaze pencil.
On white writing paper, winter daylight.
Just as these images have affianced the song, the piercing of human flesh seems so perfectly evocative of the brutal ecstacies of love and lust, the rapture and peril of engagement.
Why is this mutilative impulse so universally appreciated?
Do we really suffer arrows through our hearts?
And would it stop us if we did?
THE NATURAL WORLD
flora fauna culinary
B L A C K T H O R N
O R P H A N S
What is freedom, when it is
all that remains to you?
In exile two brothers pursue an anarchist's trajectory, from an old world into the new, from East to West, subject always to the pleasures & horrors of an enduring flesh, to the ironies of karma & impunity. Love bears thorns, the lost return & the dead are haunted by the living.
E P I C D A R K F I C T I O N
T H E
B L A C K T H O R N
O R P H A N S
O N S I T E
celebrating glorious deviation in the land of the long white cloud
- New Zealand -
exaltation semicoherent speculation
& raw ingredients
& original sources
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