White Witch

2010-02-02 10.44.40

The white witch of literature she called her. Angela Carter, the fabulist. Fabulist, what images that word conjures up. They’re on the radio talking about some poems of hers that they’ve found. Unearthed, unpublished. Marina Warner, Salman Rushdie and Andrew Motion, picking over the bones. God, she was visceral. I read her with bated breath. Gorgeous. A feast of gorgeousness but oh so horrid at times. Was it good poetry? the presenter asked Motion. Private scribblings in a journal. She made notes of what she read on one side, her writings were on the other. Picking over the bones. I remember seeing The Magic Toyshop on stage in a studio theatre in SOHO. That marvellous company Shared Experience. The tumbling, the nakedness and the blood-red feathers. Can one love and be repelled at the same time? I think so. I do think so.

Early morning, not yet light, and a tall black girl with blue hair wearing Doc Martens is walking aside a diminutive man in a leather jacket. Are you Italian? I hear him say. No, she replies, I’m Portuguese.

A pigeon, sleeping in a doorway, flaps its wings in a flurry of feathers as I walk past.

A robin bobs before me onto the pavement. A tiny dot in the still dark.

A man walks towards me, a hood over his head. He licks the side of his cigarette paper before rolling it into shape. He scowls at me as we pass.

She isn’t well today, her voice is querulous. My head is like a bucket, she says. I’ve earache, it’s making me grumpy. Sorry. I could swear, she says. I’m hot then I’m cold. My daughter says I should go back to bed. And the weather. That’s right, dear, she says. I will. Speak to you next week. Bye.

He was thrown. I thought it was radio, he said. We’d met before. Was it last year? I helped him onto the stool. It looked awkward. I touched his arm. An encouragement, a gesture of solidarity. Are you nervous? I asked. A bit, he said. His skin through his t-shirt was burning hot.

A slither of moon.

If I keep writing, she wrote in her journal, I will get better. I will be good. You do not have to be good, wrote Mary Oliver, you just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. She wanted a feast before she died. Yesterday a dying man had egg and chips. Some people are more alive just before death than they ever were living.

Can you forgive yourself? Isn’t that the beginning and end of it? Self-forgiveness.

I thought it was a graze. I’d been filling the flower jug with water. It was pollen dust. Lily pollen dust. Ochre-yellow, like saffron. Staining my skin. Yellow. He’ll be yellow again, tomorrow, she wrote. Mellow yellow. They call me mellow yellow. Yellow is the colour of the solar plexus chakra.

A drizzly day. A melancholy day. I wrote my thousand. Enough. For today. Enough.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.