Friday, July 16, 2010


Hannah became irritated when she was told one day – in relative middle age – that her name spelt the same backward as well as forward and she realised that she hadn’t realised this before. For ‘irritated’ please read ‘inexplicably distraught’, but that only became evident in hindsight.

Then – in some bizarre method of transcending the eventual despair – she found herself frantically examining words to see how they looked backward and it soon extended towards an obsession about anagrams. She couldn’t even read words without trying to shuffle their letters in as many permutations as possible and, before long, she couldn’t read anything properly even if she skimmed the text in an attempt to override her lexicographical tics while absorbing its meaning – a sort of enforced dyslexia where no dyslexia had existed before.

Writing words was OK but as soon as Hannah had typed them she then found the letters dodging about like flying insects – even words she had handwritten in joined-up letters designed to anchor each to each. She literally witnessed each letter uncurl, uncoil, dislodge, dehook, defuse – even to the extent she could watch the arms and legs of her attempts at linguistic glue unstick themselves with increasingly audible clicks, rips and hisses.

Hannah, of course, blamed whoever had called her Hannah – and then blamed the person who had first drawn attention to the palindromic potential of words, leading to a glut of tugging anagrams at every corner whether meaningful or not.

Her ‘disability’ meant she couldn’t hold down a job. Office work was obviously out. Even manual jobs were difficult as, without prior warning, here or elsewhere, she had begun to see objects as the words that described them, each business end or lever or aperture of the thing itself leaning or twining or twitching as if they thought she was dreaming about them rather than seeing them for real in real life. Things as their own increasingly fluid words made for a very strange world. Hannah’s world alone, thank goodness.

One day, her body itself came apart as each of its sections pulled into swarms of competing fixed and unfixed motives and whims. Her arm became an a and r and m, like a fleshy tattoo. The tattoo was her arm. Then, as we all watched, she visibly became an anagram of her body, a palindrome and rejigged jigsaw at several levels of twisted language.

She screamed as we tried to join up the letters of her soul – and in the right order.

“Nah, Nah,” were the only sounds we eventually heard. “Nah Nah,” again and again like a slow-motion police siren in pain. Several versions of Hannah who wanted never to have been born ... yet sadly couldn’t die.

Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah ... a pile of ants wanting to make ourselves an ant-hill.

Written last night as a speed exercise in a writer's group and revised today.

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