The Simple Things

It may have taken me nearly three weeks to get hold of a copy (thank you for letting me temporarily steal yours Amanda), but the current issue of The Simple Things magazine has a lovely few pages with some illustrations from Speaking in Tongues.

Essentially exactly the same book as The Illustrated Book of Sayings, but Speaking in Tongues is the UK version with a different title and cover. It's both bizarre and wonderful to see your work printed in these places, and I always feel very gleeful about it all.

This Morning, Briefly

I wake before the alarm, light sticking under my eyelashes and trying to persuade me to leave behind dreams that have slipped small ideas into my body like bait hooks; it’s early enough that my limbs still feel like trees, but the birds outside are already louder than my subconscious and I can’t filter their calls out any more successfully than I can filter the thoughts of the universe from my stomach.

Turning from right to left, trying to escape my shoulder joint, I face the sun and curl into the smallest shape possible. I wonder whether under the cover of darkness more words have walked into the bed, but nothing comes to mind. For a handful of minutes I allow myself to feel entirely pulled to pieces by anything and everything that may be construed as sad, or worrisome, and then stretch my arms one by one over my head, placing my palms on the cold white wall; I am here.

I think of all the blank pages that sit waiting for me to kiss them all over with pen and ink and thought, feeling so overwhelmed and hopeful that my heart needs to sit down. These slow mornings will happen less, when I start the next book, but for now I swim languidly in 7am light and the possibility that unforeseen things might happen today; I might witness a man dancing in a street he believes is completely empty, or notice a perfectly circular stone, maybe fall into someone I haven’t even thought of in years.

Peeling myself from cotton sheets, I think about how differently people seem to interact with parking meters; I have seen those frustrated before they even finish reading the charges, others moving slower than time itself for fear of pressing the wrong option, and then the occasional person who you can tell knows how to gently ease joy from the mundanity of such tasks. Then I wonder if anybody else has ever observed me interacting with a parking meter; it seems unlikely as if you are paying attention to your breathing you can usually tell whether or not you are being watched. People are not very good at seeing things; their eyes are too small and they flicker too quickly from shiny object to shiny person and back again—dull, ordinary things are intentionally overlooked as they lack the glint found on the most obvious and glaring kind of beauty.

I try to see patterns or ghosts in the dried, chaotic sides of my coffee cup, but this morning all I can see are letters that I haven’t written, landscapes I haven’t walked across. Although I must tell you that this is all just distraction, mindless games to enable the forgetting of you; allowing myself to think sweet honey-dripping nothing at all while I know you are sleeping, sleepless. I dreamt that you threw my heart into the sky, and because you could throw very well it ended up high, caught between worlds, too far away from me to remember who it was meant to be coming home to.

On night-time thinking

I imagine it like this. During the day, you are standing, you are sitting, you are walking. The thoughts that you often need the most have not yet grown strong enough to climb up through your tangled forest of lungs, and they slip repeatedly down, like a sediment made up of word and feeling and worry, probably to your stomach, where they settle as much as they can.

Then later, when you sleep, you are like a bottle of good wine tipped on its side; that sediment is now able to move, along your spine and maybe even towards your neck enough that you can start to feel it. Lying on your back in the half-light, in the dark, you become aware of the thoughts. They catch in your throat; the past and the future made from grit and sunlight.

Memories clearer than the water they were made in front of. Isn’t that how everything was meant to begin anyway? Islands carelessly dropped into the ocean, from a height so great that they can stay there.


"The best translations into English do not, in fact, read as if they were originally written in English. The English words are arranged in such a way that the reader sees a glimpse of another culture’s patterns of thinking, hears an echo of another language’s rhythms and cadences, and feels a tremor of another people’s gestures and movements."

Ken Liu, Translator’s Postscript to The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin