Strings 1

‘dreams jangling with lost connections’

March 2024

Subtropical Rain

I remember spending an evening at Eugene’s in Beverly Hills
It was 1968
A week or so before the California primary and Robert Kennedy’s death.
Outside, hard subtropical rain had been falling for days.
The world outside was changing in ways we couldn’t predict, control or understand.
I suppose I went out searching for distraction
Instead, I found Eugene’s young wife sobbing into a pink napkin.
Tears on the roof and rain darkening the pink of her napkin to almost red.
Intoxicated and lit by candlelight
We all began to weep to the point of exhaustion.
As we were struggling to catch our breath
Eugene’s thin horse appeared out the window.
Without pause we went outside and mounted it.
I can still picture the night
Three of us dripping with rain and tears
Disappearing in the dark down South Almont Drive.


Last night in the theatre backstage, seven of us went in turn to use the ironing board – high on acid. The irons vapour squealed out secrets, landing on the cotton of our shirts, seeping through to the skin on our backs, damp and penetrative. We shared our breakthroughs of thought and disorient. The falling vapour highlighted by reflected stage light landed alongside us and the broken sculptures of the set (mimicking Pompeii or Corsica). We moved individually, spiralling in the back of the theatre through the broken props and debris.

This morning we awoke soiled in damp, stage dust and ash. Muscles stiff and skin speckled grey and yellow. The shower in the backstage was dotted with abstract shapes and forms dancing on the plastic curtain. Still, I entered my body coldly, removing all the sentiment and none of the perplexity that landed on me the night before. I had no towel and stepped back into my worn clothes. As I left, I locked the door behind me and paced tentatively outside to the daylight of Tuesday, May 4th.

Orange Sun, Black Sun

The sun jelled suddenly between two buildings
Intensely darkening the stiff silhouettes
At street level a man stepped out of a cab
Sweat on his palms and a brown leather overcoat
He carried a duffle bag and a sack of resin
The sun was for a second tangled in TV aerials and the tops of trees
As the man continued on foot down 43rd Avenue
His silhouette darkening
Taking a phone call from a woman
Whose image glowed from his screen
He walked confidently
Free as a meteor, possibly as doomed
Quickening form in a darkening city
As the sun's limp mass slid slowly beneath the pavement.

Regular 2.47 Litre

Half way through an attempt to traverse Bannock county I accidentally told Louise my plan to disappear to Pocatello without anyone knowing. Unfortunately, now Louise knows, I am unsure if the idea holds any further allure to me. What I do know is I am parked at the entrance to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, the skin from the orange I am peeling is broadcasting stimulating particles into the uncirculated car air, and the bugs on my windshield are casting spotted shadows onto the skin of my arm.

Lost in Mary’s Basement

Orange sunglow through high windows
Onto papered plaster walls
Pale skin and bony hips
Both apart and in cotton clothes
When will you be angelic?
I thought but did not say
Staring at the roses repeating on the walls
When will you take your clothes off?
I thought but did not say
I wondered about the state of unity
A strange helpless bond of mind and skin
The streets outside afternoon empty
Arctic air and orange haze

I witnessed her aunt’s passing shadow
On the papered plaster wall
Passing the high windows
Interrupting thoughts
Of muscles and tendons inscribed
When will you be angelic?
I thought again but did not say
Bodies still and still not touching
Lost in Mary’s basement
Staring at the roses repeating on the walls.

MELANIE COLES is an artist and writer from Canada, based in London, UK. Her work features detailed imagery spanning small fleeting moments in time.