A new collaboration with the artist Rita Fenning, part of The Open Studios, Site Festival, Stroud, Gloucestershire, May 2014

The 18th edition of The Site Festival, Stroud Gloucestershire, starts on the 1st May 2014 and it will bring a dynamic programme of visual arts, performance, music, screening and open studios. The artist-led festival promotes collaborations and projects including a wide range of visual media, ceramics, textiles and poetry.
http://www.sitefestival.org.uk

My collaboration with the artist Rita Fenning for the Open Studios http://ritafenning13.wix.com/ritafenning-web explores the concepts of ‘memory’ and ‘identity’, in an attempt to define and compare childhood stories and games in two different cultures, British and Romanian during the Cold War.

Rita has produced a series of artist books and installations as well as a doll’s house which will be the centre of a new exhibition open to the public in her studio. The exhibition is part of The Open Studios Festival which will be launched on Friday, 9th May 2014.
http://www.sitefestival.org.uk/2014%20support%20material/OS%20Directory%202014%20for%20Web%20v2.pdf

The exhibition in Rita’s studio will be open to the public on 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th May 2014.
A preview with some of the included work and video clip, to follow shortly.

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Lesson of Admiration

Clara peels the potatoes.
She had her hair cut very short
so when she worked the land
the teary locks did not blight the grass.
‘Bad luck for the crops’ concluded father
one afternoon as he watched the news bulletin.

He switched the television off and
put the lights on.
He measured the length of each eyelash
and declared that ‘yes, indeed, they did stop us
understand the real life’.

Nobody could disagree with a scientific discovery.
Father took the scissors out of the cupboard
and laughed at me
as he dropped Clara’s plaits on the living room carpet.
My black plaits never grew after that.
The hair developed inside my lungs.
At night, I spat the growing particles out
and hid them under the floor boards.

Father believed the news as, he said, ‘we all
had to believe in something certain,
which can be seen with the naked eye,
in real things’, like the soiled potatoes
spread on the dinner table.

On Thursdays, we peel potatoes,
kneeling in silence by the water pipes.
Father sits on a stool to watch
my weekly exercise of admiration.
He checks the peels stained with droplets of blood
and laughs again.

My bald head tilted above the sink looks at Clara.
My hair comes
out of my mouth,
out of my chopped fingers,
floats in the air,
to cover her skull.

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Photograph: John Stadnicki

Family Photograph

‘No-no!’ I shouted ‘the fish tank will stay in my room!’
The golden dead creature, floating on the green water,
had my mother’s face
before she went away.
I liked to keep everything neatly
in the same place where she left them,
undisturbed by the melting sun.

The dust shined
on the glass lid,
on the doll’s eye,
on my forehead
each night
when asleep in the hallway.

I sat down on the cracked lino,
covered my arms with leafs
and kept watching Clara tidying-tidying the house.
Her yellow fingers piled everything in a black bag.
She left the fish alone, with a sigh.

Looking at her moves up and down the stairs
I thought she looked a bit like
the one-winged butterfly
unable to jump out
through the shut window.

I wondered what butterfly meat tasted like,
if sliced with a silver blade;
what mother tasted like
in the moment I was released
honey coated pearl.
I put my elbow close to my lips
and smelled to see
if she was somehow hiding in there.

Clara tripped over my spread legs
but kept singing.
She did not look ahead.
I looked ahead
at each room
with a serious face.
My empty baby skin rested
on top of the rubbish bin.

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Installation: Rita Fenning

About Wolves

We are asleep in a desert, back to back,
facing the mirrors.
My hands, behind your head, do not move.

The dog comes, takes a bite of my flesh
and goes away.
I keep still.

In a while, another dog returns to take a bite of me
and goes away.
The words seal the perfect wounds.
I catch the reflection of each letter moving,
wrapping the scars on my leg
with water knots.

At midnight, the wolves arrive to stare at me,
hungry, getting closer and closer.
I do not fight, nor howl. I let them
tear my skin apart
as you dream and sigh in your sleep.

Not me, a new born poem
comes to light at your rib, in the mud.

Games

The winter Clara and I secretly discovered
what socialism meant
we had nothing left in the house
that was worth burning.
The frost surrounded the bedroom,
we talked to keep warm
and I suggested to
write on the walls.
We used the kitchen knife to
sharpen the coloured pencils
and kept at it for a couple of hours.
‘All western countries, enemies of the people!
Kill the foreigners!
Kill RONALD REAGAN!’
I thought Reagan was a bad name
for a writer which never published
books for children
and therefore he deserved to die.
My spelling was not very good at that age,
so the room filled with rainbows instead.
Clara and I laughed.
We were hungry at that point
and I remembered mother kept
the bible covered with cloth
on top of the fridge.
‘But wouldn’t god be upset if we eat the holy word?
Clara asked. For a brief moment,
my spine shivered.
Fasting was a great virtue indeed but
I believed god was good with children
and forgave all their intended crimes,
so
I lifted the shiny red cover,
sliced it in very small pieces
and added water and salt.
The feast kept on for a bit.
Clara and I chewed with determination
several chapters. We got to the page number
three hundred and two when I read:
‘Then there shall be a time of trouble and
at that time thy people shall be delivered,
every one that shall be found written in the book.’
And then, in the middle of our small apartment,
my hair curled, my mouth stopped.
I went back to the wall
and changed the words around: RO-LAND.

The Supper

‘I suppose I’m hungry’ I whispered at last.
The birds looked at me with anger as I
stood up inside our empty room.

My skull became black,
my hair whiter and whiter,
my wings hit the ceiling light and
woke you up.

We chewed the supper with very small bites,
with precision, turned the pages
of our bedtime book,
probably had wine at the end of the ceremony.

Nobody laughed,
nobody knocked,
the neighbours kept the party going.
The frosted walls watched us asleep
on the burnt carpet.

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Installation: Rita Fenning
Photography: John Stadnicki