valentines [ii]

I was cleaning out my office the other day, and I found the box of crumpled wedding dresses that has been hiding in the corner under my desk. Three years ago we nearly did a basement space for Valentines Day. We’ve mentioned this often on here. But there was a fire, and the basement space team were either fighting the fires, or watching in horror; and musings on love and its absence became luxury in the face of such overwhelming destruction… we did a fire space instead, and the Valentines Day space was relegated to boxes under my desk.

It’s stayed unresolved. We mention it wistfully every now and again. We used one of the wedding dresses that i bought from the oppie for the Valentines day space in a Secrets and Dreams space a couple of years ago, but i have no idea what to do with them now. I’ve boxed them and pushed them further back into a corner of a cupboard in the storeroom, probably to be discovered when the building is demolished in 50 years time. Or I can pull them out when my Miss Havisham fantasies take a more insistent turn.

Anyway, all that’s to say that I’m putting the Valentines Day space to bed, completely. And the final act, as with all spaces, is to put the words up here. I really hope someone else will use them – and feel free to make them better! There are a couple of extra spaces for which there were no words – the projected words and images onto the four poster bed hadn’t yet been decided on; neither had the words for the red light district [bad girls of the bible]; and, sadly, the champagne bottle labels were still to be made. But these are the others…

Wedding dresses
wedding dresses, markers, scissors, needles, threat, fishing line
the opshop poem on the wall
[words: frayed]

‘an opshop of wedding dresses’
[the collective noun for the ghosts of dreams failed]

raw silk
hand-sewn with promises
and embroidered with unrealistic expectations

vows that came dressed in virginal white,
now indelibly stained with wine and sweat
betrayal and disappointment
failure and pain.

floor length hems and six-foot trains,
held up to protect against the world’s unwashed floor,
until they got too heavy to carry,
now marked with grime and dirt.

the safety pin that holds the sleeve in place;
after all, it only has to last one night.

written onto dresses:

dress 1 – ripped dress, fishing wire to suspend from ceiling, needles and thread:
sew the other loves into the dress
the ones that aren’t always recognised
as life-making

the loves that have the power
to mend the frayed edges of your life
and the torn heart of the world.

dress 2 – dress, fishing wire to suspend from ceiling, scissors:
cut a piece of fabric from the dress

take it with you
to pray for those who do not know love
or for the love you no longer know yourself

dress 3 – dress, fishing wire to suspend from ceiling, markers:
write the fear you carry
– of loves limits
and hopes end

Mills and Boon
bookcase of M&B’s [I have a box of these in my office as well if anyone wants them…]

Wire bound Mills and Boon cover with blank pages inside for people to write their story

Table with books of different Mills and Boon ‘genres’, post-its marking different turning points in the book [eg the argument which is always found on page 86 of a M&B book], the writers guidelines for each genre [found on M&B website] framed above the bookcase

Love – of any form – never comes with template
and can’t be written to a formula.

so here is a place for you to write the story of love
that doesn’t fit the rules
and can’t be defined by genre.

Valentines day dinner table, set for 1
table, cloth, setting, candle, matches, champagne poured for each person

Sometimes the loneliest you can be is with another person
and sometimes being alone is more than enough.

How is it for you, today?

If you would like, light the candle
When you leave, blow it out.

Hanging out the dirty washing
clothesline, pegs, lingerie from op shop
clothes [towels, whatever] to be partially obscuring bits of the line so people have the option of privacy

We’ve all got it.
The mistake, the regret,

the time we could have, but didn’t,
the time we shouldn’t, but did

We’d rather not mention them in public
[don’t hang out your dirty washing, and keep your smalls inside!]

But here’s a place to acknowledge
that you are as human
and flawed
and real
as the rest of us

Here you can hang your dirty washing on the line.

Mirror, mirror
mirror, red lipstick, lipstick kisses on mirror

If it’s cynicism that holds you back;
disbelief that it could ever happen to you,
that you simply don’t deserve it,
or that you don’t have what it takes to make it work –

let yourself believe here
just for this moment
that you can.

Betray your fear, with a kiss…

Photos / slides – grief
photos stuck on wall – in frames – next to it, a couple of shattered frames on the floor, photos outside of frames, a shoebox of photos; the following words framed:

I set an extra place for you at the table tonight
and then i remembered you won’t be coming

I should be over you by now.

but everywhere i am
the ghost of you lives too

it’s the smell of your laundry detergent
the cup you always used
your number in my mobile phone

and the sound of a key
in the door
that should be you

rip the absence of love into a photo
and stick it here to the wall…


  1. Lisa Hall

    I liked these words:
    ‘story of love
    that doesn’t fit the rules
    and can’t be defined by genre’

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