Bitter Fruit

by Jodie Oakes

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    Poetry by Jodie Oakes.

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Recorded in Nicaragua, Dubai, Sicily and Manchester.


released July 3, 2016

Poetry and field recording by Jodie Oakes.

Cover photograph by Flore Faucheux.



all rights reserved


Maybles Labels Manchester, UK


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Track Name: Bitter Fruit
Bitter Fruit

The hunger artist
Peels back her skin
Layer after layer
Sweet flesh falls at her feet,
Until there is nothing left
But the ripe mush
Of the heart.
The bruised peach
That pressed too tight
Against your lips,
As your teeth grazed the surface
The wound where the essence spilled out.
Bitter fruit
That clings to your fingers,
Binds your hands.
Soft fruit
That fell from the vine,
Upon the muddy banks of the Nile.
Lost fruit
That suffered
The footsteps of the fall,
Crushed beneath the weight
Of the Cyclonic seasonal change,
That leaves hands empty
Reaching for a fleeting moment.
Fruit that shrivels at the touch of winter,
Once so plump and beading
Under a harvest moon,
Now fades to brown puss
What was left to rot
Will never revive,
But stays pulped on the chopping board
Abandoned on the vine for spiders to devour
Or soaks back into mud
To become the molded clay
We use to build our lives.
Track Name: The Artist
The Artist

You put roses on cheeks
And apples in thighs
You bent the bone
To make a sculpture
And set the mise-en- scene
With broken ashtrays,
A toppled Christmas tree,
Lights blinking with ironic cheer.
You pushed the sofa against the door,
Prayed to the refrigerator
Left the phone ringing off the hook.
You grabbed stranger’s hands
And coughed out a laugh
All guttural
To crawl across the floor.
You etched lines
Across your body
Red lines that led to nowhere
Like some lost map
From another time.
You dragged the dead weight
Of soaked bandages,
Teeth marks and planks,
That pulled down your feet
As you drifted from town to town.
You couldn’t stand the sight
Of blood circulation in another.
Your sculpture
Fell to pieces,
Burnt out in the yard.
Now you are left,
Picking up fragments
Of dust and bone,
To the melody
Of your own
Track Name: Sylvia

You were left standing Godless
On the grim shore,
Curls unfurled and an emaciated
Waste line to match your mouth.
Stones cracked like bones underneath
Your cloth shorn feet.
What dream is this
That carves a wife from a broken soul?
Where podge faced babies
Watch your every move,
And that hollow feeling
Catches in the curve of the moon.
A womb that aches empty
As all the stars of night fall.
These small hours
That makes us human,
And this endless flight
Of daylight stairs
We have to climb.
Dragging the dead
On our heels.
Track Name: Norma

They idolized you
With your sugar spun curls
And sideways pout.
You, who by many accounts
Lay like a vamped up corpse
Shrouded in silk,
Dead eyes and a junkie smile.
The hip sway shimmer,
Carved out to carry life,
That left a dull ache
When the blood seeped out.
Little eggs smashed in the fall,
From two lovers,
Lipstick boys
Who etched their names in braille.
Your feet ingrained in the sidewalk
As you stumbled through smoke
And boiling water.
Scrub away the stink Norma,
Your mama called
From behind the gauze.
Leave them nothing
For you are everything
And everything
Is nothing more
Than the disarmed charm
Of a woman’s smile.
Track Name: The Sickness
The Sickness

Restlessly your body shifts
Behind a great weight
I watch you curiously
As a flavour rises
That I bite back down
Your skin leaks pale
Translucent and muddy
Your swelling encapsulates the room
Leaving me small
Shrunken in the corner
I pop the pills furiously
Whilst you sweat and soak
Beneath the sheets.
I count the drops of blood
With care
With love
And a sigh that is
Still my own.

Afterwards I feel ashamed
That I can’t shake the sickness
Growing inside
Of me, of you.
I tune out and think of
Burst balloons,
Slabs of flesh
And shards of bone.
I avoid the touch of your hand
But watch as layer by layer
Your onion heart becomes lost
In the folds.
That thing that whimpers
On the floor
Leaves me
Dull eyed in surprise
The hunger of the mouth
Always reaching
Never ending
The cries that shake the night
From its restless dream
Those prickles of hope
Fade and stain
Fade and stain
And I realize we have
Nothing left
To give
Except our bodies.
Track Name: Your skin is in me
Your skin is in me

I crease your lifeline,
Grooved in my hand.
Count the flags on the body
Where you once claimed your land.
Pull out the tongue
Those years have blistered.
Unwind the ears
Containing the whispers.
Thin the blood too thick
To run wild.
Stillbirth the remains
Of my inner child.
Fracture the skull,
Then pick out pieces
Of bone from my hair.
But even when scalped
I still feel you there.
I taper the lines
Of the cloth you’ve torn,
But they hang from my flesh
Weathered and worn.
I count my reflections,
Practice saying
You are alone.
Then count the hours
Until you get home.
Track Name: Breathing Room
Breathing Room

I think of you now,
Alone in that room,
With the perfumed fumes
Of old Sunday roasts
And pot luck lives
Blowing dry heat from the vent.

As snow scattered like ashes
Dashing against the wall,
Your children trudging home
With rosy cheeks in bloom.
Whilst yours withered
Like a snowdrop
Kissed by spring’s fierce bow.

Time to bow out,
With one last cigarette
Staining your hands.
A locked door,
The oven ajar
And the snow
Trying to break through
The thin windowpane.
Track Name: I couldn't blame you
I couldn’t blame you

I never did
Too many times did I stand
With a dripping garbage bag
Clenched in my birdlike hands
Watching the sky bloom
Like a tumour
Too many times did I stare
With incomprehension
At doe eyed children
Kicking in their sleep
And the razor blade
Still flaking flesh
On the edge
Of the bathtub.
Track Name: One

‘I have the night terrors’
Her voice loud and clear
On the first day of spring
In the terrible sunshine
Your body became their raft
Your broken limbs their cargo
She wakes to weeping
Surprised to find
That it is her own
Face crumpling
Like a paper bag
A scar etched across her belly
That cruel reminder
To carry to the end
Such a small thing
To steal so much
And dart back
I feel him here
In the wailing
Of cats in the night
The off kilter paintings
On the wall
Plant a tree
So he can grow
With branches torn and wild
Roots that go deep
A blossom that froths
As sweet as laughter.
Track Name: Assia

a whimper crept
When you lay on her bed
Wrapped in the shroud
Of cold death

A voice that flattered
Then faltered
In a room
Where the ghost
Of a gramophone played
A dead hare
A bloody rose

The tapestry unfinished
Lingered in your memory
The needle stuck in
A wound of cotton
Later it was
A blade of grass
Staining the fingertips
Before being trampled

During sex he stank
Like a butcher
Metallic, murderous
A feast for crows
(Or the albatross,)
That noose
Around his neck

You opened the door
And the nightmares fell in
Somehow despite the spritz
Of Dior and warm milk mingling
The trace of gas
Had left its mark
Atoms colliding
A flicker
A spark

Your thumbprint
Found her papers
Gorged and fat
By words
One child dribbled out
And this time
It was blood that stained
The sheets
As though she had taken
A razorblade
The oven left cold.
Forced to wear
Her widows’ sack

You held her knife
Between your fingers
Your throat a huge
And growing wound
You swallowed the house
You swallowed him
You choked on her
That blinding shadow
Lodged in your esophagus

The taps of a mayflower cooker
Bloomed ferociously
A whisper of spring once more
You went one higher
The fumes stronger
And your little one
A ragdoll
Forgotten on the floor

They found your signature
And finally
The hand was steady
Not a tremor
Track Name: In the Blue House
In the Blue House

In the blue house,
Where you raged and wept
With spots of darkness
Clinging to the bed.
The pillars holding
Your body cracked,
The foundations shaken,
But still the flowers bloomed.
The Veras oozed their soft scent
Into a sultry night
With gunshot stars collapsing.

In the blue house,
Where you raged and wept
And skeletons rattled
Their bones
Behind closed doors.
That withered leg
Shrinking beneath the folds
Of gypsy skirts.
But still the dogs barked,
And market cries
Dissipated with a hiss
Into the empty streets.
Leaving shuddering marigolds
And lotus.

In that blue house,
Where you raged and wept
And left sealed
With a kiss from death.
But still the broken vial
Cracked beneath our feet
And the womb ached empty.
Track Name: The Cutting Board
The Cutting Board

Time curved a constant grey.
You played old jazz
On the broken piano,
And the cat clawed
The violin bow.
Barefoot gypsy girls
Had sold peaches
In the road,
Rolling over in the dirt,
For strangers
Selling amber
From their pockets.

In the old hall
We smashed glass bottles
Against the hanging man.
Gangrene chandeliers,
Rusted taffeta,
And asbestos silks.
In the growing gloom
We devoured each other.

Starting with a fingernail
To gnaw away the hunger.
Nibbling on lips and lobes
Until we had lost
Our features.
By the bombed out skylight,
Stripping the skin,
To chew soft fat
For days.
Like Adam
You spliced the rib,
Your German hunting knife
Carved the rim.

The hearts we saved for last.
Barely bearing to let them go,
Avoiding each other’s
Torn out expression,
What a feast we made.
The ripest fruit
On the cutting board.
Track Name: This Callous Heart
This Callous Heart

In bed he stank like a butcher,
Murderous meat,
Metallic tasting
Like lithium batteries
On the tongue.
A callous heart
Is not a hard thing
To find.
Outside it rained.
Whilst others sang of spring,
I dreamed of a terrible winter
So stark it pulled the flesh
From my bones
And left me bare.
He chewed the gristle,
Visceral eyes
That hung on mine,
The whites as terrible
As the first flush of snow.
And beneath him
I thought of terrible things.
The glutinous dead
White flesh of a breast,
Lukewarm from the tick
Of a fat heart
Buried somewhere deep,
Perhaps excavated
Long ago.
Pulled out, leaving
Only frayed strings
Those strings that
You wound and wound
Trying to tie up
An old festering wound,
But that came undone,
Like shoelaces
Dragging in the dirt.
With every clasp you take
With every grab you make
I cool beneath the touch.
But you reach as though its fire,
For this callous heart
That cools.
Track Name: Panato - Hui
Panato - Hui

They ate peaches in every country,
Propped against the walls of Pere Lachaise,
Fingers stained amber in the rain.
Homeless under starless Rome,
The velvet skin burst revealing a moon
That dribbled pink down their chins.
Sticky fingers held the railings
Of Charles de Gaulle,
The brass band played beneath teal blue,
And they danced with lacerated leaves
Still warm from the vine.
Poland had the best,
In her green dress,
The sun pressed
On her teeth.
Exploding with pleasure,
Like glazed flesh.

As the road grows long,
And the dust that you once kicked,
Settles in the creases of your clothes,
Freestones become clingstones.
The fruit that can’t be stored fresh.
The dark spot where you pressed
Begins to grow.
Branches stoop low.
What was once starlight on snow,
Becomes susceptible to brown rot.