Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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I think about our first kiss almost constantly; that shiver of electricity running along my skin, searching out the rhythms of my pulse, melting into my blood with the very essence of you

He drinks coffee like he’s drowning in the night, the warmth spreading through his lungs like sunlight seeking flowers. He clings tightly to that heat within him as he writes. Inside his palms lie secrets, hiding quietly beneath the wrinkles and the scars, too old at twenty nine to have seen the death of foetuses and the drawn out life of ancients. He spends his days with milligrams and needles, exploring veins and looking for tumors; he spends his mornings on cot beds in sweat-smelling nooks, and he dreams of home. At home, at home, there are mismatched plates and chipped tea cups, and a wife who cooks lasagna with an absent-minded grace. When he’s at home, he rests his head on his folded arms, and watches her sashay around the kitchen, watches her cook up stories of old Italia and bygone China, and he thinks, this is her operating room. And then he writes out the deaths he’s seen and the birth’s he has brought about. He spins poetry of how each birth was damning and death was freeing, and his little wife, his little waif-wife, sleeps on the couch and waits for him to cradle her to sleep like a child. Because he heals her like sutures and awakens her like adrenalin, and one morning she’ll wake up and he’ll still be sleeping next to her, and when she murmurs the time, he’ll fold her into his lungs and breathe away the next fifty years of death. 

You are the edges.

You are the circumference of my lungs.
You tighten, and I am filled.
You restrict with your fingertips.

You are in the periphery of my gaze.
You are the mouth of the beer bottle from which I sip.
You are the portrait above the piano when I am kissing a stranger.

You are the skin which wraps around my veins.
You caress my blood, and I drink you like vodka.

You are the blanket falling off the bed.
You are the cold that kisses my ankles.
You conspire with the moon to make the atmosphere smaller. 

You are the lingerie cascading from my shoulders.
You are clothes smelling of smoke on the floor.
You remind me in the morning of the secrets in my joints.

You are the lipstick stains on coffee cups.
You are the blood streaked on the bathroom mirror. 
You are the corners and the silence.

You are, you are, you are the edges. 

❝ You fill everything, you fill everything.

— "So That You Will Hear Me", Pablo Neruda

"I am breathing."

She comes naked to the doorway. She looks into the room. He is stretched out naked on the bed. His feet dangle over the edge of the bedframe. They had bought a double bed because they had not the money for a queen sized. 

"Will you come bath with me?" she asks, her head cocked to the side while she waits for an answer from the man she loves. His gaze is fixed on the ceiling and does not waiver.

"No." She watches the way the moonbeams from the open window glance across his chest, his collarbones, his light dusting of hair that travels down from his bellybutton and into the secrets of his groin. 

"Why not?" 

"I am breathing." His fingers twitch, a tiny spasmodic movement, disrupting the still air of the room. 

"Do you not do that normally?" She asks this honestly, as though it has never occurred to her that one day, she could hold her mouth closed and put her hand over her nose and simply stop, letting her lungs wither.

"I do not. The moonlight helps." And it does. The moonlight is filling his chest. He is photosynthesising in the night. 

"Will you come bath with me once you have finished breathing?" She longs to make love in the bath, with the scent of ylang ylang rising around their entwined bodies, and their moans frosting on the heated mirror.

"No. The bath is too small for the both of us." His eyes close, slowly, as though by losing sight he may disappear, melt into the silence and become a moonbeam himself.

"Everything in this house is too small." She is frustrated. She only wants to touch.

"Yes." His shoulders sag a little. She can see his body release, meld to the covers and become less present. She turns from the doorway, and pads across the hall. She watches the steam rise from the bath, and she smells ylang ylang. Her breasts sway with each breath she takes, and she never notices.

I love

I love
(all the time).

It is exhausting
to be in love with the universe.

I fell
for the trees,
and the sky,
and the wind.

I ache
for bones,
for skin,
for blood.

I pine
for the boy
who kissed me first,
for the boy
who fucked me last.

I breathe
with the dying man
from Vietnam,
with the crying newborn
from Paris.

I love
(all the time).

I dream
(of apathy). 

'Forever' is incomprehensible.
I’m looking forward to spending forever uncomprehending with you. 

I am lying in the backyard, reading Anaïs Nin’s erotica and wearing nothing but white panties. My breasts are exposed to the breeze, and I think to myself, summer is coming. I am stretched out on the grass, feeling sunlight kiss my inner thighs and wondering if the clouds are enjoying the warmth as much as I am. The pages feel coarse against my fingertips, and I read story after story watching lovers awaken each other with tongues and love-making. I am taking in words that explore sexuality so explosively, colours that drip from my lips like nectar, sensations that shiver down my spine, names that are called in the silence of the afternoon. I feel nothing. I am not aroused. I am learning anatomy, and feel no desire.

Then the wind whispers a greeting, and the leaves tell the sky ‘I love you’, and the grass grows infinitely around me, and I can imagine the atmosphere falling in love with the darkness of space, and I find myself melting in pleasure. My breasts tighten and my insides throb, and I am set afire by the universe.

I walked home today,

I walked home beneath a blanket sky.
The clouds looked like homespun wool,
grandmother’s crochet at the grey corners,

I had hoped for the grey wool clouds to cry,
for the rain to fall from grace, for sorrow to
come alive like nightingale song in the cold beneath
grandmother’s blanket. I walked home today.

If the rain falls slowly, I can collect the salt
within my cupped palms. Perhaps I would see my skin
crinkle and shrivel, like paper with boiling water spilt
upon the surface. Perhaps my flesh would run.

The world seems to love old books.
Perhaps they can learn to love old souls. 


“T’was a dark and stormy night!” cried Adam, as he swept dramatically in blackest cape and all into the dining room. James sighed, dropping his forehead into his hand, leaning his elbows on his knees.

“It’s a dark and stormy morning, you mean,” muttered James, hissing slightly as Adam threw open the shutters to reveal the blackened sky outside. It was nine o’clock in the morning in the country, in the middle of Autumn. Adam wore a strange, maniacal grin, his eyes oddly bright. He was, James thought, perhaps the most eccentric and cheerful widower he had ever met.

“Indeed it is, friend James, sour James,” Adam teased, standing all imposing like, with his hands fastened to his hips and knees astride, as though he were conquering a mountain—a very small mountain, in the middle of his country cottage drawing room in pastoral England, but a mountain nonetheless. “And you know what I say to dark and stormy mornings? Bah! 

As he exclaimed, he whirled around, his black cape billowing behind him like the night wind through an abbey. James rolled his eyes at his friend’s dramatics. He had been visiting Adam in his country cottage every Autumn for years, never staying longer than a month before heading back to the fumes of the city. Adam remained here in the country, doing Lord knows what, and James wasn’t all too sure he wanted to know. He was sure it was something altogether inappropriate and shocking, not at all acceptable to decent society—what else, save depravity and hedonism, gave such a bright grin this early on a morning with such poor weather? 

“We are taking our daily walk should you like it or not.” Adam strode across the room, his big boots, reminiscent of pirating days and damsels in distress, clunking along with him, before he hauled a grumbling James to his feet. “You’ve been blessed with lovely weather thus far, and even though it seems to be Night-In-Day out there,” Adam paused to chuckle at his little joke, “It’s really just a little overcast, that’s all. Come on, out, your boots are by the door where you left them yesterday, and you may borrow my favourite hat if you’d like.”

“You’ve been reading too much Coleridge, I dare say, Adam,” but James was dragged with furrowed brow from the drawing room nonetheless. He really very much despised the daily walk, finding the countryside, too picturesque to be appreciated, much too dull to be beautiful. The sunlight dappled through the leaves, the brook meandering its way for miles, whispering silently to itself. It all seemed to be out of a poem, and James had never been one for poetry. If you asked him to work out the budget for one of the new factories springing up in London left right and centre, he’d be more than happy to. He left the poetry to Adam, who’d begun reading sonnets and odes after his beautiful young wife had passed away. Sighing slightly, he tuned out Adam’s nattering about meandering rivers and mazy motion while he struggled on his worn leather coat and stepped into his gentleman’s boots. He reached up to take one of the two tricorn hats, but was swatted away when he reached for the one on the left.

“Not the one with the feather!” cried Adam, snatching it away.

“But I thought you said I could wear your favourite hat?” James blew his fringe from his eyes exasperatedly. 

“Well yes, I did. But they’re both my favourite and equally handsome, and besides, the feather does not suit your complexion in the least.”

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