HELICON SPRING 2003


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Contents

Self-Portrait
Pier
Ducks on Ice
MacDonald's Ruined my life
Photograph
Photograph
Advice Not Taken
Nonsense
Picture
And the Old Songs Do Play
Photograph
Exchanging Gods
Church Interior
Crystals
The Louvre
Image
Nada
Photograph
Photograph
New Wasteland Exclusive
Photograph
In Sand
Photograph
Kumquat - extract

Andrea Paltzer
Caleb Parkin
Thomas McCarthy-Ward
Cathy Hume
Will Dean
Emilie Hunter
Juliet Tabor
Juliet Tabor
Jenny Parsons
Anindo Hazra
Nkem Onyeador
Jose Morgado
Clara Molden
Barnaby Roome
Nick Wright
Ellie Marchant
Emma Whitcombe
Emilie Hunter
Lester Hawksby
Laurence Publicover
Ellie Marchant
Caleb Parkin
Sophie Mckinley
Amy Nicol


Self-Portrait

Self-portrait by Andrea Paltzer


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Pier

Leaning landwards, bowing beneath billowing burdens,
Bare border trees fall to their knees at the effort of standing alone.

It braces itself like teeth, steel arches bearing down on a mat, potato sky.
An out-stretched arm of bygone charm, chewing the clouds like mash.

A fraying flag flaps at the thought. Fibre of forever proudly hanging together.
Old worlds sold, new worlds bought. Horizon hides, cunning, too clever.

Promenading wind waves to the sea, which proudly tides away, alone.
The exotic mesh of foreign flesh, the froth from which this bubble was blown.


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Ducks on Ice


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McDonald's ruined my life

I'm not suing. I want to get that clear upfront. I'm not interested in screwing money out of anyone, even if I thought it would work. It's just - I think you need to be able to see things clearly. To pin down the moment when it all went wrong. Then at least you can kid yourself you've grown wiser.

Did you have a childhood in McDonald's? I did. Not my whole childhood, I hasten to add: the first Bolton branch didn't open until I was ten. I never went to a Ronald McDonald birthday party, or sat in a boat. When I was at primary school - when we were still sweet little girls - we'd go to each other's houses or the Italian up the road for birthdays.

So I guess I'm really saying it was a teenage thing. At first we went as a family: my mother, my sister Sarah and me. In those days it was a treat. We'd go to the ringroad branch on a Friday evening, after a week of school: early, to be back for Top of the Pops. Or on Saturday, in the town centre, to break up a shopping trip. We didn't take the food away: my mother didn't see the point. It would have been cold by the time you got home.

I mostly ordered the same thing: chicken McNuggets, small fries, coke. Barbecue sauce. Each nugget took three dips in the sauce, three bites, to consume. If my mother was feeling indulgent, we'd have apple pie afterwards.

Sarah and I preferred the ringroad branch. We didn't see people we knew there. It was shameful to be out at McDonald's with your mum - at our age, you had to keep up the improbable pretence that you had nothing to do with your parents at all, that you lived an entirely independent and glamorous existence in bus shelters and the like. The only glamour in our lives, Sarah's and mine, was on cassettes and in books, and I hadn't quite cottoned on that musical escapism was cool.

We even concealed our McDonald's trips from our father. But when he tried to take us to the proper burger bar in town - real meat, crinkle cut chips - we hated it. You couldn't feel calm there; there were strange old West Indian men in hats and guys from the folk scene (their words, not mine) and the burgers just - tasted too much.

McDonald's, for me, was a way to be safe. There was choice, but it was limited. You could have a break from thinking, and what with all my adolescent angst, that was important. I liked the way everything was packaged: the nuggets in a box you opened up, with a slot for the sauce pot to sit in. The indentation they pushed down in the lid of my mother's drink to show it was diet cola. It was more like playing than dinner: like lego; like code. What's wrong with bland food, anyway? Salt, sweet: it's direct. It's simple. Once a week, there's a place for that.

So when I found some friends who, like me, were only half-ostracised from the mainstream, we kept going. And it was the same: the same food; the same chairs; the same panpiped muzak, phoney as the cola. We didn't have to feign sophistication: they never once looked at me like I was too young to be out on my own. In McDonald's I wasn't too young for anything. My acned face, reflected in the mirrored pillars, was ageless, signified nothing.

Photograph

Skycraper and relection, by Will Dean

Things change. My idea of sophistication evolved. By the sixth form I decided it would be grown-up to pretend my parents no longer embarrassed me. On Saturday trips to the town library I started borrowing books about what McDonald?s was doing to the world. Adopted a green philosophy. Stopped spending time with McNuggets. Went to university; haunted pubs; met men; worked out how to show an interest in the world.

I travelled right round Europe and south-east Asia, and the only thing that every backpacker I met agreed on was this: you should never, ever eat at McDonald's. Pizza, dumplings, noodles: starch and grease come in many forms. I dangled my feet in many seas, and fell in love with it all.

Fell in love with life, I suppose - I came back to my friends in London, and suffered none of the post-university disillusionment some people feel. I never got over how talented they were. If they didn?t write, they were in bands or acted or were off saving the world. I made a stab at that too, working for a third world charity near my flat in Hackney. A canal ran behind the office, a canal with swans, and if I hadn't bought sushi for lunch (the same toy appeal as McDonald's - none of the guilt) I'd feed them a quarter of my sandwich.

I don't think they even have swans in Bolton.

I hung out in a big gang, supporting all the bands my friends were involved with, smoking what we fondly imagined was too much pot, getting drunk four nights a week. And just as I noticed that something was missing, Tom, friend of a friend of a friend, turned up.

Tom painted. He had shaggy chestnut hair, understood existential philosophy and texted me lewd messages after the pubs had shut. Of course, I preferred him to ring - then I could enjoy the same things spoken in a soft Scottish accent. He had a studio in Shoreditch, hardly furnished except for a collection of rare vinyl and a permanently unmade bed, into which I fell with indecent haste.

I'd finally done it. I'd finally left suburbia; I was finally cool. All the things I?d once thought daydreams were real. My life was an indie video, an indie film. A neverending indie film, going on for months and months of decadent bliss.

And it was after a blissful Sunday afternoon that Tom, lying flat on his back on the sofa, said: "We never had lunch."

At first I didn't know what he meant. We never did have lunch on Sundays. Depending on the state of our hangovers, we had a fry-up or we had toast.

Then he looked coyly up at me and said: "I could murder a McDonald's. Shall we get a carry-out?"

I tried to look away - to ignore him, but the studio was too small. Jesus, the world was too small. I know: I should have found it comfortable. I should have liked the synthesis of my old life and my new. An erstwhile McDonald?s fan like me should have enjoyed the way the golden M was arching over all of it.

But that was never why I liked McDonald's. What I liked about it was the boxes. The bright little boxes you held in your hand. And the fact that we never, ever took them home.


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Photograph

Photograph of a photographer by Emilie Hunter


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Advice Not Taken.

If Oedipus had listened to the Oracle,
He wouldnít have shagged his mother.
If Cain had listened to the Lord,
He wouldnít have slain his brother.
If I had listened to you,
Iíd have found another,
Reason to stay.


Nonsense.

Bounds can still lime,
Where birds make no fence at all,
But itís chill poetry,
In some say or a brother.


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Picture


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And The Old Songs Do PlayÖ

And the old songs do play
For the sake of sakes.
And the old songs do play
Fancies in me too.
I think of when all roads
Were shining arterials
To this our El Dorado
Now mottled and plundered.
-As we needed so we took-
But the old songs do play
Of those slivers shining through
As we try out this life, as once
When the old songs were new.


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Photograph


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Exchanging Gods

Repetition and big cursive letters on a hard desk with attached chair. Miss Smith was my Charlieís Angel. Cheryl, I think. In the first grade, I only needed one, not three.

When I wasnít trying to read her, it was that basic holy trinity of boy, girl and spotted dog. Lots of white space, primary colors and big black text within simple settings. Green hills, yellow suns, red brick houses, blue skies. Black shorts, pink dresses, white fur. Freckles and pig-tails and tails-a-wagging. Dick, Jane and Spot ran, jumped, swam and played on the seesaw of childhood.

As time and birthdays and school years came and went, the funsters discovered an altered playground of jagged rocks and dark skies full of lightening and thunder. They ran and skipped and hopped past bodies torn and decayed, bleached bones, limping and bloodied warriors barking out hoarsely in a Scandinavian tongue.

Frightened, they ran into a cave for shelter. But darkness mutes primary colors as well as innocence and the idyllic joy of children. Fetid breath and hair and horns and teeth make your freckles fade. No need to rub half a lemon over your cheeks.

They suffocated in those rocks, in the great hall of the dragon. The boy, the girl and the dog succumbed to Darwinís rule. The Ďfittestí isnít the kindest or the moral or the innocent. Unless of course they have the biggest teeth. So now I light candles to Grendel, the spoiler, earthy, red mingled with stench and heat.

Childhood metaphysics are simple. When you are a child, you think as a child, you reason as a child, you laugh and play like a child. But too soon you have to put away childish things. The trinity gets put into a box with your glitter and macaroni sun and the pine comb turkey you made for Thanksgiving.

The three are no more, there is only one. Behold, thy god.


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Photograph of a church window by Clara Molden


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Photograph of crystals by Barnaby Roome


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Award Winning Photograph of the Louvre by Nick Wright


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Polaroid Image floated onto paper by Ellie Marchant


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Nada

Burrowing wasps surroud my skull
Sent by those who didn't know they did.
Some I bred myself.

Intermittent, their tunneling bleeds me gradually.
Sometimes aware, sometimes not, by evening I retreat
Behind glass doors.

Underwater, my soft nails just leave temporary scars,
Bright, but fading tongues of red, spread
On arms, breast and stomach.

I scrub and scrub amd shed my skins
Beneath the heartless toothless water -
But each is rawer than the last.

The swarm lies dormant in the walls and rafters of my head -
My neck and ears are empty - so I find short relief
In the unquestioning arms of my small bed.


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Photograph of rails by Emily Hunter


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Photograph

Riverscape by Lester Hawksby


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New Wasteland Exclusive

Beckham, Ellis-Bextor, Beckenbauer, People-Power.
His memory read like dispatches from papier-m‚chť.
I haunt the room with a knowing smile,
knowing nothing.

Past Westminster and the ghost of religion.
In the twisted perception of this faulty
chandelier of London, your images
stare at me in a matrix of existence, untouchable.

Michael of the magnesium silk,
is this your scorched earth I tread?
Are you the smoke or the fire?
No matter, we will choke or burn.

Iím jus making my way, guví
Itís only a game.

I should play more.

Time for my exclusive,
spread-eagled on the sofa.
Shutter, focus, shudder,
open legs and let them in
(thatís why you joined the gym),
you are the rumour,
the punter, the panter,
the week-end pull-out
and the well-timed shot.

Blood shed today is old news tomorrow.

You have been spliced before, pleasure being pain,
the unresolved of more beauty to the cultured eye.
The metal edge of my well-crafted words is rendered impotent.

So here is my hand,
to grab, to flex
in complex concentric circles;
never to touch.
No matter.
Itís stats Iím after.


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Photograph

Feet on the carpet, by Ellie Marchant


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In Sand

CP
HEART
SM
Until the tide comes in.
Indentations washed away. Or no:
A message protracted, augmented,
Mass-communicated, fragmented.
The specks gossiping wherever they end up
What has been between them.
Vast and thin, a delicate sheet,
Settling, a pollen of speech,
Thick and substantial, but changeable,
Amorphous as you or I,
Sculpted by the sea and sky.


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Photograph

People on the Beach, by Sophie Mckinley


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Kumquat

(This is an extract from the play, which was first performed as part of the Arts Festival 2003)

B
Ben introduced me to eyeliner by lending me some of his. Over the course of our very deep and emotional three-week relationship I cultivated a distant and distressed look with a tendency to flop into his black-leathered arms.

[E plays Ben. he gets eyeliner out of the trunk]

E
[While doing her eyeliner] You have, like, really deep eyes. Like the go all the way to your mind.

B
They do, optic nerve.

E
See; you're so clever.[Pause] I wrote a poem about you. can I read it?

B
Uhuh

E
[reading]
Huge
[Long pause, she baulks] Unquenchable
Darknes
Like the sky at night.
Nipples like constellations
Shielded by the cloud of your bra.
Virgin
[She giggles] You can tame unicorns
And you have tamed my horn
[mimes horn i.e. dick head] In your face I see a skull
And I know death is only as far away
As our love can put it.
But it will come and I will die for you.

What do you think? It's shit isn't it.

B
Ben was unhappy in that special middle class way - getting straight As and being able to afford Lancome eye pencils seemed to be more than a guy like him could bare. He said he was overwhelmed by the meaninglessness of it all.
But I thought he just listened to too much Radiohead.
We split up a few days later.
He wanted a girl who had tuberculosis.

D
Chris and I split up last Tuesday because he's gone to Southampton.
Theoretically I should have been my most "me" with Chirs but after you've been going out with someone for 3 months the nudity becomes inevitable and then the real me goes completely out the window. I mean, a bit of bra-less fumbling is copable with, and that kept him amused for a while by providing the requisite embarrassment when his mum came into the bedroom to offer us Coca Cola and Kit Kats.

But after a while it's just... time, and all you've got left on is a token pair of pants. And then even they're gone. You're naked, no more masks to hide behind, exposed and yet less me than ever.

I blame this on FHM.

His FHM purposefully leaves itself in "I'll just have a peak"-able places. Within the shiny covers, nestled between the stomach-turning stories and blue toned after-shave adverts and the "how to be naked" pages. Celebrities and non-enties spread legs across a double page spread and catalogue the options. These can be categorised into three main groups: [the others demonstrate each one]

1)mean and keen (usually brunette)
2)tranquillised Bambi (usually Blonde)
3)Fake (always blonde, never naturally)

So I'm lying on the bed in front of him, feeling more sick than coquettish, reasonably happy with what gravity is doing for my tum and how the duvet is smothering my bum. I try to pout and look irresistable. He asks if I have an ulcer.

But now...

A
I have practised licking my lips in a mirror till lip balm was required.

C
I weraing matching underwear and can't see him when my bikini line is re-growing after a holiday.

D
I have discovered new ways to flick my hair to avoid it becoming a third participant in more passionate kisses.

B
I breath in like a maniac when I'm in any position other than on my back. When I am on my back I worry that my breasts have disappeared between my ribs. When I'm on my side I have one mega breast, and a tummy that seeps across the bed like oil. Whichever way I'm lying I suddenly find it so much harder to be the other people I'm so good at being all the rest of the time. And he always seems so confident...


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