Definitions: are for people without character

Erotica isn’t the right term for what I do. Could call it high heat… maybe. We’re all being told to do something original, right? On the other hand we’re also told we have to be able to allocate that originality to a neat, pre-fixed term so the marketing wheels can turn smoothly. And there’s always some grump who, once s/he’s read it, wants to sling your work into a category it doesn’t belong to. God, I’ve met enough of those! Leave off with the definitions, will you? Definitions are for people without character.

I only hope she doesn’t go for one of those erotica template book covers when Verses Nature is out. That’d be such an insult. A bit of style to match the man, if you please: no tits, arse or any amount of flesh anywhere.


Now, let’s get down to business. Read this:


‘The basement is everywhere. Water leaks like dark shadows on the bare cement, looking like silvery snakes streaming from the corners of the windows. When it rains you can see the rivers pulsing. Once the little trails reach the floor, they widen as they seep into the floor, heading toward the drain. A corner houses shelves of limping cardboard, labeled by a thin marker zigzag that can’t be read because there’s no light over there. We call this the dungeon and sometimes it’s where Barbie goes when she’s mad. I give the pink corvette a push and she sails into the scary shadows. In the corner by the steps, old sheets and sleeping bags are weighted down on ledges and chairs, or twisted in knots around the hollow metal poles, supporting the forts and tents of our imaginations. We hear creatures in the jungle. I feel the breath of wings. The trees from where the wild things live loom over us in faded pencil scratches.’

The Basement, by Amy Jo Sprague


Beautiful, Amy. No other word for it. The pain, the fear, tussling in/with the shadows. Faded pencil scratches… The use of space…

Had a crappy childhood, didn’t you? Join the club:

My father was a bastard. A violent bastard. He would hit my mother, and he hit my brother and me, too. Once, when I was six…

The boy in the shorts, the belt, the screams, the lash, the fury, the father, the belt, bursting to beat the truth out of the boy on the commode, the belt, the screams,

“It was not me and it was not me, however you may beat me…”

The sweat, the tears, the lash-


The mother…

The belt, on the mother, on the boy, on the mother, on the boy on the commode, on the mother fallen to the floor with her hands round her head, the mother at the feet of the boy who insists…

“It was not me, however you beat me…”


Leather nailed to their skins. Father, wide-legged, up to his knees in the blood, in sweat, in the salt of his fury; of their defencelessness. The sweat that turned to blood that turned to water that turned to the wine of the blood of the Christ the boy was being taught to honour: to love thy father, for thy father loves thee…

The hurt, stacked high like dirty dishes, like the corpses in a common still uncovered grave, fresh insult congealing atop old. The stench courted by the wind and cavorted away so the two may play, may forget; the boy, the tears, the mother, the tears. The shame.

The rage.

The hate.


Where were the stories, where the laughter that was my birthright if They were right? The laughter of communion? There were only sighs, mother breathing out, out, out…

I had to practise laughter like a fiddle, an accordion, pull it apart, make it wheeze like my mother’s sighs, pluck at it, slide across the gut of its strange melody that clung to the crevices of my mouth, fearful of the drop. But because I had been robbed of my birthright, because this right-turned-foreigner was naught to me how easy then to shove it in the back and watch it tumble with an anguished squeal, a noise, unnameable,

untraceable to an origin beyond my birth and her own.


all achievement but a quest for the origin of the (M)other, and being (m)other, frustrating our self-appointed imperative to control, to name –

we call her (M)other, but never by her true name –

we make do with surrogates and are reared to keep that secret: I miss you, what is your name, in truth I have never wished to be weaned, ever… the original, perpetual cry of all sons… to live (what we call Life) is but to long for that other unnameable by which I may see you as you are, at whose communion – unnameables embraced in forgiveness – and only then will there be light, will there be honesty.

What does my mother see when she sees me?

Herself, her redoubtable past thrown back at her is why she does not want to see me, never looks (straight) at me but through and around me, a stone parting the maternal shame of her regrets, I am but a bad memory, cursed mirror to un-suspend, face-to-back in a cupboard in a room no one uses; mirrored darkness, secrets ad infinitum.



…Like I said: Father was a violent bastard. Mother was a lying bitch. She told us a load of bollocks, which we, as children, believed. Looking back, I now  know it was a load of bollocks and that she was a lying bitch. She’d go out at night all the time, to meet her lover. The same lover for forty years, instead of bringing him home to be our father. I would have liked to have had a father. A father, and a family, instead of faded pencil scratches.

(adapted from The Red Room)

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