I am a practitioner of art, said Alice, oil and canvas are my daily bread, charcoal blackens my fingers, darkens my soul, my dreams are of sex and men lost, I bed sad men in my thoughts. My art keeps me from asylums, takes me from the doctor’s couch to the lonely studio, the air full of fumes and stale food and my unwashed body. My mother was a slave to the kitchen sink, her life spent in domestic chores, in my father’s bed, in the worrying times she popped the pills, drank the bottles dry. I am the spyer of secret lovers, my sister’s men in her double bed, the laughter and tears in equal measure, the flowers and bruises all fondly kept, the split lips and black eyes, she wore with pleasure. I am the painter of other’s souls, images oiled in with the darkest colours,

their features blended with the darkness of their lives. My brother sat with his demons, supped with them in his lonely hours, injected the nightmare makers with the addict’s skill, he slept uneasy in another’s bed, chased by his demons and women until he died, a bullet in his head. I listen to Parsifal on the old Hifi the Wagnerian opera is my secret drug, my opener of days, my closer at nights, the background to my daily arguments and fights. My father was my only healer, his loving touches healed my hurts, stitched my cuts and wounds, he watered down my temper’s scorns; he alone shared my soul’s foul deeds, knew my heartaches, my scars of sex and doctored my soul’s lack. He was cornered by the cancer’s hold, its icy fingers in his bones and skin, its deadly smell in his breath and flesh and his parting words were lost in the final rattle. I am the artist of life’s dark wars and ancient wounding battle.

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