A Few Frictions



Innocence got kidnapped on a camel but hear this, if I could spit green I would too. That’s my confessional and the Casbah in Agadir is half concrete half mirage. Away from the concrete black-sand seafront, things were different. It was raw meat hanging, sun induced squat architecture, white exteriors and indoor shadows, billboards decked with pictures of royalty and elaborate double doorways leading into courtyards. The house though, the women, the henna, the bus journey where we thought we were being kidnapped. Gillian tense, and me doing a half screaming idiot-woman bravado. Then tagine communally eaten, a little smoking and us breaking through all of anything that might have been appropriate. Pins and needle legged we absorbed the women’s sympathy, we beheld it and felt a bit more lonely, more alien. All I remember is the elongated elegance of the silver teapot and his brown feet and how the drugs stretched out every sentence, made them timeless, made them smoke filled.



These stupid hardwoods don’t know they’ve put me in danger. Give me an axe and the muscle to do it and I would fell them myself. Paradoxically I am grateful for their girths. I don’t want to be spotted. I’d never imagined being in a situation where I was at risk not because of something I’d done myself but because of something I’d seen. Worse again, something I’d seen that I didn’t even understand. Timber!
Step out of the way you’re witness to the end of naivety. Where I am from a tree is a tree and a pick-up truck is a pick-up truck, no more, no less. A gun is always a gun though. Wherever you are a gun is a gun is a gun.
At breakfast the following day I was told in no uncertain terms. I was given banana and papaya fritters, juice, coffee and a warning. I was pointed to a kayak and the calm morning-red sea out in front of the balcony. Maybe you would like to go to the Island this morning? Maybe I would.
Borneo store cupboard of Malaysia, Borneo the Missionary’s dream, Borneo’s censors closing internet cafes. Borneo the devout, the pagan, the longhouses, the earlobes and the tiny genocides. Borneo the muddy liquor and the leeches, empty South China Sea beaches. Borneo MSG in foodstuffs, the bush meat, the highways dead-ending in jungle, Chinese triads hanging out in Siva, the river landings and the markets, the birds nest gatherers, the oldest thickest rainforest; Borneo the planet saver. Borneo the militant indigenous. The discount timber logger’s lair, Borneo the small aircraft’s end of life destination.
Borneo no business me being there.



Real physical fear? That, I save for love. On Bucareli in Cafe la Habana, Dec told us that if he could write, really write, ‘you know’ he said, ‘if I could write in a way that would change whoever read my words so that they would never again be who they were before they’d read them; so they couldn’t go back,’ he said that if he could write that way, then he’d write on thin cigarette papers or in Christmas-cracker fortune-cookie disposable-slogan-type locations and when Tim asked ‘What about graffiti? Would that do you? Dec replied that it would be too concrete, too determined. I told them ‘I’m afraid I’m not who I said I am’. They both stopped talking and looked at me.


Go Down

The only time I ever got an upgrade on a flight was years back flying out of Fiji. I was covered in sand and I had heavy salt and sand hair. I’d been snorkelling, well to be honest I’d been accomplice to the murder of a baker’s dozen octopuses. I had loitered just under the surface in the shallow water watching a pearl-diving copper skinned 16 stone man manoeuvre like a ballerina, underwater spear fishing. He had no interest in me whatsoever. He showed me though, how to insert my hands into the innards of his victims’ head-like torsos and swim that way to the surface. My arms sheathed inside their fishy torsos stretched ahead of me and the octopuses’ tentacles trailed back towards my ribcage towards my stomach, that day was mesmeric. It was all about the body.
In the evening I was given an upgrade because the flight was late and I sat beside someone who trades in security. He was advising on the likelihood of a coup in some country that he couldn’t fly directly to. Desperately afraid of flying, he was also very dubious about me in my sand- salt sleeveless t-shirt. My arms were blemished with suck marks from the octopuses. A hundred little purple welts descended from my forearms in lines, looking like heroin addicts’ needle trails but fatter and I was too mid- time-zoned to explain them.
He thawed when we hit turbulence. He started crying like someone grieving. Later when we got held up in Fort Worth on May first the international day of the worker and our second first of May that day, we drank the airline food- vouchers we’d been given, at the bar together. We were reunited and repeated it when we were diverted once again to LA-X. I slept with him because it seemed expected, and because he was a first class flyer and as such was provided with accommodation.


Unspeak 101

While they questioned me I rubbed my palm against the grain of my newly cut hair. I palmed it from the nape of my neck upwards over and over again.
I watched the traffic, frenzied and purposeless circling below.
The older one pulled down a blind, a slatted cheap bamboo effect thing that only served to strengthen the acidic low winter sun. It striped him and his colleague in zebra-like bands of golden light. He seemed exotic, his earth and clay heaviness atomised into a golden weightless mirage. One of his gold dust hands slammed down onto the table and it wasn’t weightless at all; it sounded a low register; a resonating bass-note of violence. He said something loudly, leaning his face in towards mine.
I retreated beneath my eyebrows, behind my eyelids and thought of a big cat straddling a galloping zebra’s neck like a circus trick rider and then swinging down for the jugular. The zebra’s haunches would buckle, dust would plume and then would come the summersault transformation from gallop to carcass. He seemed exasperated and I had a hard time remembering that I might have been the cause of it. My not speaking, I mean.
The younger one lit a cigarette and offered it to me. I ignored it. I tried to dilate my pupils, tried to make my vision starey and vague; mirrorless.
I had no means of knowing if I was successful even though I could feel that wide-focus feeling, the one you get in the early stages of drunkenness; a sense of edges retreating.
‘Come off it’ the older one said ‘Will you just give us a break?’ I had to be cautious though and not let my guard drop. I sang to myself, in my head. ‘She wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini…’ Something nursery rhyme like and ridiculous is best for this purpose. It creates a barrier. My eyes smarted. Last to know; I am always the last to know.
I swallowed and imagined myself giving advice to others in similar predicaments;
‘What to do when questioned by individuals who may or may not be police’
Cue intro music:
First of all ‘think yourself into an abstract state of mind so that what is near you seems most distant and what is far seems within reach.
If you are fortunate enough to have a view, then choose something animated to focus on; tree tops moving in the wind, traffic or if you are lucky enough to have a view of the sea then watch one wave or one boat as it millimetres its way across the horizon.

If you have no view then you will have to create a focus for yourself behind your eyelids. It helps to picture a corpse’s open lifeless eyes, This is what yours should look like to those who observe. You, however, can create whatever you choose to focus on so long as it takes place internally. For some reason scenes from nature programmes work best for me. Most importantly though, however you arrive at this point don’t speak

don’t speak,


or aimless,

whatever you do

don’t speak.

Sarah Clancy

Sarah Clancy is the author of Stacey and the Mechanical Bull (Lapwing Press Belfast, 2010) and Thanks For Nothing, Hippies (Salmon Poetry, 2012). Her poems have been published in Revival Poetry Journal, The Stony Thursday Book, The Poetry Bus, Irish Left Review and in translation in Cuadrivio Magazine (Mexico). Winner of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature Grand Slam 2011, she has also performed at the Over the Edge, the Temple House Festival, Testify, Electric Picnic, O Bheal and the Irish Writers’ Centre.

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