Thursday, July 31, 2008

Daisies (a poem by John)

Moments of intimacy, in a public place
fine down bristles caress
goosebumpped canvas
Tickles, cool trickles
Moving softly over warm flesh
Throb of music, hum of voices
A haven of peace in this crowded corner
Golden or white petalled waves and spirals
Vegetation growing on bare skin
Smooth shoulders sensuous, Space invaded
Draw close, Move with me
Rest your arm here
Push back the curls
Expanse of pale neck
Fine downy hair
Pale, sensitive
Soft murmer
It feels nice
Oh .. that’s lovely

Thank you
You made me feel special
You made me feel beautiful
(but you were already)
Someday I will paint your portrait

Wake me up

A tribute to R.E.M. paralysis

Try to escape. Dry and tired of dread,
These eyes are trapped. These eyes are to be sold.
The darkness was so comforting once,
And now it's cursed. And these feet are cold.

Someone might be with me in this room,
Someone might be dressing up to leave.
But I can't wake up to see this someone's face
And I cannot speak. And I cannot breath.

Someone might be here in this room, still.
And I wish, I wish, I wish it wasn't me.
I want someone to give me back my will,
I claim for light. I demand sanity.

I wonder who is wearing my old clothes
I wonder who is wearing my old smile
I wonder who is using my old voice
If I'm not here, I wonder, where am I?

Someone is here but I can't see the face
Someone is here but I can't hear the voice
Someone is here, but I can cry no tears
Someone is here but I cannot make noise

Someone still might be here in this room
Someone who could give me back my breath
I promise that I won't be afraid of life
Just don't leave me here being scared to death

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A clash of generations

- All that matters in life is a good family, your health and an interesting job – in that particular order!
She had to turn away because her tears were filling up her eyes and the last thing she wanted was for him to see her cry.
- True, but in this world no-one can make you happy but yourself. Not being dependent is the main goal, remember?
- How can that be when all I think about is YOUR happiness? If you are not happy, I am not happy! When you smile, I smile!
- Well, that is not how it should be. We are all responsible for our own happiness and have to create it by ourselves. “Nothing is so good, it last eternally. Perfect situations must go wrong…” The song came to her so forcefully that she had to check if the radio was on. But it was not, it was all in her head! “But this has never yet prevented me, from wanting far too much for far too long.”
- Sorry, what? Did you say anything?
She turned around and looked at him. But he was silent and kept silent for the rest of the drive…And she was left with her own thoughts and memories.

A sea of numbers

I feel lost. I am there, alone among a sea of lonely souls and no rescue is to be found. Around me there is fear, tears, lonely hearts and abandon creatures. Once part of an identity but now nothing else than just another number in an incomprehensive pile of numbers, waiting to be counted, categorized, classified and forgotten. Once part of a culture, a heritage, a past and dreams of the future. Now just another shadow in the sad and dark part of the world where smiles are vicious and kindness a sign of weakness. Once part of an entity, a family, a clan or tribe, a society of importance and with respect to be earned. Now left with nothing else than praying for the willingness of the rest to stay alive, to live or die.

I am among you. I am one of you. I am part of you, your flesh and blood, your sister and brother, mother and father, family. I am with you and yet I am not. I am someone, yet no-one, nothing to be said and done. In this lonely sea of despair, fear and lost dreams they are the captains, they are the once with boats and they have the power to decide…Who will survive and who will be left behind. We are the waves, drifting endlessly in the sea and only stopping when we hit the shore, finally finishing our journey, just to die.

I used to be somebody. I used to be more than a number, a part of your statistical tables and graphs. I used to be special, important, part of the inner circle of life and love. I used to be a fighter, a survivor, a traveler and an individual with goals. I used to be everything but in your hands I am lost!

It is time. My time has come. A step ahead, then another one. A long and painful silent procedure toward becoming a no-one forever doomed to everlasting silence and anonymous…Gone! Name, age, origin, height, weight, colour of the eyes and skin…I am stripped off all my belongings one by one. I am robbed off my privileges and characteristics step by step. I am becoming their no-one, dying forever, and becoming just another number on the list. You can take me, strip med down, even kill me…But my dreams will stay and they will keep me alive, preserving me as the one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


My name is Clarity. That is because my mother wanted me to be as beautiful as light and to only speak the truth. She believed that names make you what you are. If she had to name me again, I think she would choose “Sanity”. The way my mind works has been a very unsettling thing for her.

I would tend to agree, but Helen says that actually, my twisted mind has been my greatest success so far. Helen is my agent, she finds clients who buy my work. I am an artist, I paint. Paintings are not a difficult thing to sell if they please the eyes of the bourgeoisie, Helen says. Mines do, so I am selling a lot of them.

This morning at 5:26 am, I finished my 348th painting, oil on a 30x60 canvas. It’s a purple and magenta horse riding on a black sea, though one could hardly manage to see what it is anymore, except that it is dark. It will go well with the sand colours of the rich peoples’ beach houses.
As usual, Helen visits my studio at 8 AM. She knocks on my door and opens it at the same time. She is wearing pink gloves and a hand-knitted white scarf. She is the one who should have been named Clarity. “Seems like this Hollywood Cerise is fitting your style” she says.
I love that about her. She can always tell the exact colours even when all I can see is just “pink” or “blue”. “Have you managed to sell them?” I ask.
“Rather well. They’ve all been taken by this new restaurant, you know, this five stars place I talked about the other day. They paid a high price. They are going for purple and black, you see, and it turned out that this touch of red-pink really did add something”.
“How is the lighting going to be?”
“As you suggested: soft. Candle lights, mostly, and a few bulbs here and there. Nothing too flashy. It’s going to be a chic and intimate place.”
Helen briefs me about the media reviews and latest trends but I barely listen to her. I have been painting all night. My muscles are sore and my arms tremble a little from holding a brush for too long. The restaurant wants to complete the collection, she says.
I will work on a commission. It’s going to be a large 200x250 canvas. This artwork is going to be what everyone who’s anyone will see when they enter the place. It’s going to do the cover of magazines. My painting will be the restaurant’s main feature. No, it will be the restaurant. Therefore, it must be a masterpiece. The restaurant liked my darker work, but now they want something else. They want bright, powerful and vivid. But mostly, they want light.
“What’s wrong with the black?” I ask.
“Nothing wrong, no, nothing wrong. They just want a contrast. A kind of Chiaroscuro of your own definition.”
“I’m not good with light”, I say.
“Clarity, you’re brilliant. You just don’t have the material”. But she does. Helen had planned everything. She’s got the colours in a bag along with pictures of the place. She’ll have the canvas delivered within the day. It’s going to be a very good pay. I should keep painting horses and children, the restaurant liked that theme. I suspect Helen to have made up the last part: how could they see what I was meaning to paint?
So there will be no sleep today. The trouble is, light is not my friend, it panics me. I like to paint with black colours. My work is deep, is dark, is dim. It’s Clarity painting the night.

I make myself two cups of coffee and draws off the curtains. What an irony to be named Clarity and not to know how to paint things white. I start making outlines on my sketch book. The restaurant wants vivid shapes. I would give him curves like if I was painting magma and flames.

You must wonder why I paint black. My mother doesn’t like it. She says it is all the evil of my dark soul projected on canvas. She sees black as the lack of colours, of light, as a nothing. Little does she know that black actually is a strong combination of colours. Black is not empty, it is full. It absorbs the light, it absorbs the heat, it is more mighty and warm than any other pigment. Besides, my first clients thought that it was elegant. “Clarity is the new black”, the press liked to say. Yet it also said I depicted a “world of shadow and unending darkness”, as if obscurity was somehow my distress. Most people fail to see how comforting black is. It is no black hole, it is no chaos. It is quite. Black is silence.

Light is nature’s ultimate fury.

I play around with the colours, simmering my brush into what now looks like a frosty pink. I don’t want pink, it’s cold, and if I am to paint light I must paint it warm. Light had been so warm that night. I first thought I should be painting something mundane, a colour I could call “amaranth” or “alizarin” without feeling pretentious. There will be no pretension. Horses and children, what an irony. I’ve been meaning to paint this for a while. It’s an excruciating path to take.

I was ten. My mother wanted me to play with the upper class kids, so every summer she sent me away to horse riding camp. I went because it made her proud. Besides, I liked the place. I liked the horses, of course, and I spent a lot of time drawing them, but mostly I liked the countryside. I liked the sounds of the nightfall, the frogs croaking, the bats sending ultrasound signals and the owls doing their owl stuff. How fascinating it must be to see what other animals cannot! But children were not allowed to go out at night because it wasn’t safe. The building was inescapable, everything was locked. It wasn’t necessary because the other kids were afraid of the dark: they thought that this was the time when the monsters crept out from beneath their beds. Yet I didn’t fear. I let the protecting mantle of the darkness surround me. At night time, you hear people breathing in their sleep, gentle dreams dancing through their heads. You hear the silence of the world, the hidden little sounds of the invisible. Then you start to think. You start to think about the things that your mind does not understand clearly. You think, you rest, you think, you rest, everything is quiet, and then you see it. You see the truth.

I am like an owl, I only see clear in the dark.

On that particular night, though, it was not normal. The darkness wasn’t dark. The silence wasn’t silent. You could hear the sound of wood cracking, like a campfire, except that the heat was much, much stronger. Then suddenly there were flames, licking the roof, devouring the fabrics with their violent gluttony. We were breathing ashes and red dust. It burned. There were ten of us, but because the building was locked, only eight managed to get out.

I never went to horse riding camp again.

I am brushing large strokes with rapid moves. There are the flames, the forces of destruction and light. What I am doing is raw. It is my pain, my fears, my losses, my cries. It is all what the earth took from me in its enlightened cruelty. I am painting horses and children crushed in a scarlet whirl. They wanted warm? I will give them a combustion. I am sweating from the effort provoked by the strength of my strokes. The canvas is my fight. I rip the colour tube open with a knife and throws white paint in the explosion. My chest feels about to burst. My work looks like a murder scene.

Then comes the night, and I cannot see the light anymore. It’s all dark. My mind stops racing. I remember I haven’t slept or eaten for more than 30 hours. I am tired, but more than that, I feel at peace.

When Helen arrives in the morning, she stands immobile in the front door. My masterpiece is there, disturbing, in front of her.
“Dark tangerine” is all she manages to say.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Exercise: write a short scene from the point of view of a man who has a long history of controlling a woman. Keep in mind this question: why does she stay with him?

I found a cookie box at the back of the cupboard. Again. She’s got this craving for sweet things so typical of immature women.
_ Honey, I don’t think that this item was on the shopping list, was it? I say accusingly.
She has to confess.
_ No, it wasn’t.
_ So why did you buy it?
_ Because I wanted to.
_ Don’t you think that it’s a bit unnecessary?
_ It is only one cookie box.
Her words are provocative but her body language is not. She looks embarrassed by the way I gaze at her. She’s been found guilty. How many times did we have this conversation before? She knows that the cookies are bad for her. She’s always on the edge of getting overweight. It costs us money – my money. Money which could be spent on useful things.
_ So this week you bought cookies, but last week you also bought shortbreads, and the week before, brownies. It’s not just one box of cookies, darling. It’s all the boxes that you keep on buying.
_ I can’t help it. I like sweet things so much.
Her voice is plaintive by now.
_ You like them but you don’t need them, love.
_ I don’t care.
_ Do not pretend not to care. I know how you are feeling about your weight. You don’t even want me to look at you wearing underwear. Eating these things will not help you to solve the problem.
She doesn’t say anything at first, as if she was trying to catch her breath, then she said in that broken voice she uses every time she wants me to pity her:
_ Stop calling it a problem. It is insensitive.
_ Sweetheart. You know I’m only saying this because I care for you. You’ve got to control your eating frenzies. I can’t control them for you all time.
_ Then don’t. I am not a child.
I grin. She is a child. A big child. She cannot take care of herself. If I wasn’t there, she would have been obese by now. I smile and I say in a cajoling tone:
_ I have so much affection for you, dear. You cannot reproach me to show you attention.
Then in a more passionate tone,
_ You know what? Eat them if you want. Eat them in front of me. I will not say anything. We’ll go to the gym class on Monday.
I kiss her on the cheek. She does not refuse me.
She’s a bit upset, but her protest is only formal. The cookie box is only a small incident on her way to perfection. We’ve made so much progress lately. Before we got together there were so many things that she was doing wrong! She lacked self confidence on every aspect of her life. She could never decide what she wanted for herself. She was miserable. For everyone except for herself, it was clear that she couldn’t be on her own. All aspects of her body and mind were looking for a guide. She was lost. I found her.
Since I’ve been there for her, life has been the happiest for both of us. She needed me and in return she gave me unconditional admiration and love. I was her hero. I do need to have her feeling this way about me. That’s what makes our love so strong: we cannot live if not with each other.
_ You will never let me go, will you? She says in a joyful but yet defiant tone.
_ Dear. You know I could never abandon you, I reply.
Then she cuddles in my arms. For a moment, I wonder if she might have meant: “will you ever set me free?”. This worried me a lot lately. I am afraid that there will be a time when she will not need me anymore. What will I do then?
But I don’t need to think about this for now. She takes the cookie box, pretends to open it, then hesitates and throws it away. I have to remember to check whether the box stays exactly on the same spot of the trash bin.
I will never let her go.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Here are the pictures! Taken by Monica, Sahar and Edina.

More pictures available on the Who is Who DVD.

What was the Creative Writing Subcommittee?

The folder that we gathered for the Who is Who looks great, with a lot of pictures, texts, sketches and videos. I am very impatient that you can all see it. In the meantime, here is the text that I wrote as an introduction to the folder (with Monica's part published in the backstage journal).
Photos will come next... Don't forget to publish your texts on the blog!

Monica Westeren described the Creative Writing Subcommittee a few weeks after its creation in these terms:

"The subcommittee for creative writing was formed on a buzzing night in an Irish pub near Schuman: a bunch of Commission stagiaires, looking for their lost creativity amidst EU Directives and Regulations; speaking points and briefing notes.
We share at least one passion: Literature. (And perhaps even another: Finnish chocolate, judging by the big turnout of people at the first meeting, after being promised a piece of the brown gold).
The first theme to write on was "intercultural miscommunication" – an area where we are all experts. Living in at least a couple of EU countries gives you a taste for the vastly different behaviour across the borders. Whether it is about eating manners, time management or ability to speak to strangers, at some point you are bound to run into difficulties. We saw these misunderstandings as a great source of inspiration, and decided to let our imagination run wild…"

It has now been five months filled with creative meetings, picnics and drinks. We gathered every Tuesday night around a glass of wine to let our creativity flow. Each reunion brought different themes and writing styles to learn from. The first meetings were attentively planned, with texts to read and themes to write on. Yet progressively, we all found our own directions and our own ways to express ourselves through words on paper – or with the help of sketches or a guitar.

As for my own experience, the spark of inspiration arrived at the first meeting. Sharing my passion for writing was something new to me. So far, my only audience had been friends and family, none of them being able to give me a feedback from a writer's perspective. On that day, Sahar was reading a dialogue with no title, which was later called "a clash of generation". I arrived home at midnight, sat down and wrote until three. It had been six years since I last touched a pen. Looking back, I am surprised I have managed to live without it. Forgotten sensations came back at once: the chill of expressing the inexpressible, of gathering a cluster of words into something meaningful. Going back to writing was like being reunited with a childhood friend.
Each of us had unique ways to tell things. Monica, the founder of the group, focused mostly on gender difference, a topic which was brought to a new light with David's male point of view. Edina, our writeaholic and cofounder of the Committee, wrote pages of powerful stories with a poetic touch; equally poetic were Ruth's short stories and Marcin's longer novels. Erna's and Sahar's texts were more vivid, based on dialogues at first, then slowly developing towards a greater introspection. Then there were John's creative pieces, on paper yet rarely as a prose: poems, sketches, songs, in whichever direction his inspiration drove him.
It was a great bunch of inspired people, and for sure an exclusive experience. We turned out to prove that creative writing could cross boundaries and languages, to form a sort of "intercultural communication", as to prove our first theme wrong.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

T.C. Boyle, Chixculub

I read a really good and powerful novel called Chixculub by T.C. Boyle. I thought I would share it with you. It was published in the New Yorker in 2004.
Here is the link