Here is the News (That Never Happened)

Oh, the peculiar fears I carry around with me.

A black and green dirty rucksack, for example, deposited on the floor by an empty table where I sit to have my coffee that gets me thinking: who does it belong to? I ask around politely, and nobody knows. Could – and this is the very first possibility that springs to mind – someone have left it there with a bomb inside?

This is how my imagination works. Let´s just say I can get quite creative with my paranoias. So I begin calculating what kind of rucksack a terrorist would use to leave a bomb in this haven of depravity – I mean, cake shop – in Plaza Larga, Granada. Would it be a slightly grubby one, like this specimen? You´d think that such a decisive moment in the life of a hardcore extremist would warrant a bit of spit and polish. Isn´t there something in the suicide bomber´s handbook that regulates nice, neat backpacks in order to avoid raising suspicions? Or it is more suspicious to carry a brand spanking new rucksack?


Already exhausted with these worries – which have raced through my head in the time it takes to open a packet of sugar – I start to think, if it is an explosive device, I am the nearest person to it. I´ll be obliterated. Balls. I should´ve sat round the other side of the biscuit display.

I wonder at the irony of it, a Muslim woman being the first one obliterated by a supposedly Islamic poke in the eye of Western consumerism. Damn those walnut-embellished cookies! Just thinking about the decadence of this chocolate-encrusted institution would make the average al-Qaeda neophyte turn crimson with fury. The irony, of course, is that they would see me, with my long blonde locks shamelessly exposed and assorted prints and patterns and fringed knits, looking more like a walking circus act than the kind of subdued woman they expect Muslim women to be, and I would be lumped in with all the other infidels.

Yet I would rather run that (admittedly infinitessimally small) risk than to succumb to the fear of what might happen to me if I didn´t. What I fear most is to wear my fear as a cape, not in order to protect my precious body from the rapacious gazes of the barbarian hordes, but for fear of what might happen to me if I didn´t.

Whichever way I turn, fear stands with its steel toe-capped boots blocking the doorway, an amalgam of Hollywood psychopaths (as Wednesday Addams said to explain her lack of a Halloween costume, “I´ve come as a homicidal maniac. They look like everyone else”), a cartoon demon, a cardboard ghoul, a carjacking kidnapper, an ideological lunatic bent on purging the world of evil by, er, blowing it up, and, inexplicably, my high school P.E. teacher, Ms Haversham.

All of these fears are constantly bubbling, morphing, accreting new dimensions with every newspaper I read, evolving into a vaster and more powerful tyrant with every day I allow it to reign.

The craziest thing of all is that all of these fears are completely and utterly hypothetical. I have never personally been kidnapped, or murdered by a Samurai sword wielding teeange mob, or blown to smithereens by anti-Westernisation madmen. I have never even been verbally condemned by a Muslim man for my Western appearance; on the contrary, being an Anglo-American Muslim sometimes generates a little too much interest for my liking.

 All of my fears are completely illogical, but the subconscious does not respond to logic unless you pin it down and shine a 1,000 candlelight torch down its throat. Until I do that, my head will continue to be the most dangerous place in the world.

In the meantime, a stubbly, student-type young man comes out of the loo, picks up his rucksack and leaves. The safety of my immediate surroundings remain unviolated. A million tiny acts of disinterested generosity, kindness, and love take place undocumented all over the world, while I have spent twenty minutes running through a worst case scenario so improbable that I am more likely to be struck by lightning whilst playing a flute on a mountaintop. Dressed as a blueberry.

Psychological studies show that bad news is more memorable than good news. So the 99% of the time in which no violent theft is taking place, no verbal abuse being slung, no building blown up, no airplane hijacked, no child bullied, no alien invasion happening, are not documented in any way. It just isn´t as interesting. That 99% of events remains, like the 99% of people with 1% of the wealth, anonymous.

I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule of non-newsworthy events to read this article, in which no brains were devoured by zombies, no old ladies were killed in their homes by burglars, and absolutely no animals were harmed in any way. Thankyou. Feel free to carry on living your lives, a little bit happier, I hope, for them to be non-newsworthy.

The Whirler

At dawn
if you creep up
quite close to my brain
you will hear all sorts of
snorts and grumblings
as a motley crew of workers
are creaking out of bed
getting the show ready
for the world if it
wants it.

is clearing her throat
in anticipation of the
Debating Society’s
daily throng of one
(herself) to be quietly
seated for her assassination
of ideas and opinions
to begin.

‘Sirs,’ she squawks, ‘and
Madams, I put it to you
that the hippie ideal is a
shallow pretence of
great wisdom and
authoritative advice,
dressed up in a spidery
rasta wig, smelling faintly
of beer nad
old sweat. They
disguise their acute
of others, disdain
for alternatives
to their Alternative,
as Chilling The Hell Out
and Letting Things Flow,
whilst fuming inside
is a small moustached fascist
dictating how everyone
should live and believe.
I think I have stated my case
rather well, don’t you?’

Meanwhile, in a room
littered with guitar strings
and passed-out partygoers
a cantaora is rising at this
most unholy hour to catch the
bombona man (the gas
bottle’s low). Her wild
red-streaked hair is still
nest-like, mascara from
last night’s performance
a mad hash of black
under mad flashing eyes.
She doesn’t deign to talk;
her voice rips the air
after midnight, when lava
built up in her chest
will scorch ears in a cascade of
hoarse-throated passion,
heels stamping, hips snapping,
hands grabbing invisible oranges
plucking them free from trees
searching for real sweetness
amid anguish. Her singing
is melody inverted, no
little girl laugher to tinkle in
its canal. She is pure, raw, hot
woman-fire, longing for rain
and her song spits and crackles
with sobs of old pain. But this morning
she’s grumbly, a dressing-gowned
mess, in pink fluffy slippers, fresh
fag on her lip, tobacco-stained scowl
sending Mr Bombona
scurrying off to
another address.

Outside in the gardens
beyond Lava’s room
under palm trees on patios
mirrored with pools of
cool water with flashes of orange
and white, Green Earth Child’s
bum is straight up in the air
(the blood rushes down to
the head, very good for the
pituitary gland, so they say).
Her hair wafts about straggly
ants crawl round her ankles
dirt underlining quick-darting fingers
scritching out scratchy weeds:
some of them she nibbles on,
remembering their Latin names
and nutritional benefits; she is
oxygen-drunk in the company
of leaves.

Up in the attic
a songwriter huddles,
chewed Biro and paper
cradled in hands that
close and open, sculpting
the shape of this feeling
or that. Now music is
called out of emptiness,
notes throb and clash and
reverberate in the wooden vessel
pressed against her chest.
A creature’s being birthed
through the soundhole
intuitive action
essential to let it emerge
head first, twisting when
twisting’s needed to free
its four limbs: no rush.
It’s born and she licks it
into life, cleans away
the viscera that kept it
waiting in sacred darkness
safeguarding its secret
til it tastes air and is kissed
by the angel that makes it
forget all it knows. The song
is alive and the silence that
grew it is gone.

In a liminal space
at once inside and out
there is a fifth being,
her head tilted lightly
eyes closed to soak up the
Grace as is falls softer than
snow, melting into her spin
as she whirls in her own
private snowstorm. Her
white robe unfurls in a
circular sail billowing
out in an oceanic wave
transcribing airborne
acrobatics on unseen
vertices of Dunya and
Here-and-Now Paradise.
One arm is raised up
to let Light trickle down,
cross her shoulders and wet
the bare earth, cool the
faces of all the inmates
of this ramshackle home
in a rose-water mist.
But the Whirler herself is
immune to sensations,
so rapt in the Real that
no substitute bothers to
try and convince her.

The Whirler’s the one
who is mostly ignored, though
the sight of her levitating
UFO-like over towns and
green mountains should
make us break out into
ecstatic cheers. But she’s too
bloody true, so incredibly
real that the rest of this outfit
gets bored with her

I sit on the hem of
her skirt as it rises and falls
and I watch as the cycles of
heartbreak and hope follow on
while the feet that the whole
crazy circus is pivoting on
are sure-footed