Friday, March 25, 2016

Charlie Baylis, The Litanies of Charlotte

 Ho|ma|ge to Dr. Vibe, the Gas Mask Anthropos, image by Daniel Y. Harris

The Litanies of Charlotte

For Charlotte, obviously

Silence on the sea in a red bathtub floating on an ice rink. A man in a mask painting shadows on flowers.

Frieda Kahlo dancing in the wind that jangles through vallies of rosemary and thyme.

A bowl of fruit licked of its colour, an empty plate sadder than a universe.

People in darkness putting a white veil on God. People in kitchens scrubbing the pink stain from a doll.

Huge craters in the Sistine Chapel made by cream tinted asteroids.

“We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”* Occasionally you find heaven in your books.

The lipstick on Oscar Wilde's grave turns black in autumn, Charlotte shakes the happiness tin, raises her doomed flag of youth, on her bedroom wall are quotes through which you can understand modern life, but since you do not know Charlotte it’s better not to wonder. 

Her, a carnival of eyes, an empty fairground ride, a ghost twirling in the moonlight, Hemingway lost in starless Spain drunk on empty bottles of halogen.

The Queen as a young girl discovering science with a chemistry set. Phenylalanine is in my ears and in my eyes.

A street light where I belong to the street, under the light, I belong, closer to everything, sleeping under the orange bloom in surrender. Nothing left to die for. Nothing left but a litany.

Ice. Wind. Colour. God. Asteroids. Darkness. Autumn. Moonlight. Queen. Litany. 


Charlotte: beware madness. 

Beware Jeanette Winterson's stone gods rubbing their salt through the ringlets of your hair. 

Beware ripples in the universe thicker than a knife blade. 

Beware Nancy Reagan's death the year before she died.

Beware men in mice suits talking into small silver watches, pretending not to be spies. 

Beware your reflection when it is who you are. Beware your reflection when it is not who you are.

Beware of luminous people with paper lantern hearts and dreams tied up in balls of twine, beware when they unravel and fly away.

Beware a young fox with large dripping eyes, red lipstick and shirt buttoned all the way up ripping a pink post-it note into raindrops.

Beware the 5886 photos you are tagged in on the unkillable pages of the internet. 

Beware summers spent high in the haze of hydrogen. Lost astronauts searching the clouds for fingers. Lost fingers searching the astronauts for clouds.

Beware of Lucy directing sad movies in your nightmares and lychee bobbing in the stream of your Chinese tea.

Beware of me and all of my answers. 

Take care when you enter the colour blue, take care not to come out alive.


Charlotte, we can never be free now that we have to work.

New Bohemia. London. A wife and a baby boy. 17 years of echoes. A plum and a pram. The cherry sky holding the cherries in your hands over Holborn.

The alarm clock arrives in a white van, the flowers are not flowers any more they are just paint.

Thick sheets of velvet on crumpets, varnish and anxiety, polystyrene evenings rendered bland by our surroundings, fearful but not unhappy, out in the street every evening looking for the dentist with the blue plaque.

Bitter mornings walking through each other on the underground. Silent tears held inside, the black blur of the bathtub on the sea, where are you going with that blank look in your heart?

A willow tree strung with pennies, paperbacks and planets, under its arms I find your wrist writing the same poems as me.

Here you are, here you are, here you are:

An ocean asleep for the rest of your days
in warehouses of statues and fireflies
crying as a rose collapses in your hands
senseless to the waves of oregano
blowing wild under white moon winds 
in the dust that drops from leaf to leaf

Bound to fail, bound for every next footstep, bound for acres of discourse with the yawning old men of philosophy in pea-green jackets, blameless frauds that underestimate the weight of your soul, confused by the beauty of the dust you clutch.

You fold your copy of The Great Gatsby against the tray table on the train and hear the first strains of the Moonlight Sonata reverberate through your mind.

Sometimes you feel so sad you find it hard to breathe.


Charlotte: Run!

Run away through a tunnel of wasps towards a circus built out of glass, surrounded by a river, in the reeds you find the street preacher who taught you to beware Shakespeare...

Beware buckets of blue soup and holes in the dinner table.

Beware of silver pots gradually accumulating dirt, beware plates of spaghetti travelling through waves and frequencies to collapse against the kitchen wall.

Beware the feeling that you are not wanted, the feeling that you are just an accessory, beware the plastic fangs of domesticity.

Beware the unhealthy glow of fashionable young novelists trading insults on expensive sofas

Beware of lost illusions, the ever receding fairytales of youth, the open vaults of the past that can never be recovered
Beware of rising like air through the powdery ceiling of morning, fifty years after the publication of Ariel.

Beware Friedrich Nietzsche in the corner eating polyester sandwiches. Ham sandwiches, or ham and pickle sandwiches. Beware Friedrich Nietzsche's mother knitting a tablecloth on a pearl.

Beware of black apples with an understanding of life.

Beware the clauses in the Banking act that allow the Government to alter dates and memories.

Under every full moon chant all one thousand of these words of this litany under the bonfire of the stars, when it is finished stretch out your arms. A litany is like a spell, a spell for your health. It will make you feel safe.

Wait. I am walking over a bridge in Paris. I do not know you. I have never met you. A strange feeling enters my stomach. I look up. 

*Quote from 1984, George Orwell

—Charlie Baylis