“The night is always alive.” (Lucy Ryan on Nocturne)
Lucy Ryan is a contributor to Half Mystic’s third issue, nocturne. She is a London-based student and writer learning to filter the world's discord into poetry. Her words have been featured in various places, most recently Wanderlust and The Brasillia Review. When not writing she can be found losing her her soul to concert halls and second-hand book shops.
We asked three of our Issue III contributors to share with us their personal definitions of “nocturne”: how it is formed, where it has been, what it could be. Here is Lucy Ryan’s vision of the midnight drive – the shadow dance – the things leftover when the music fades to black (best read with this mix playing in the background)…
I have always been night blooming, like jasmine. It's a family trait. My grandmother lived in the country, and every summer we would pack up our lives into a navy suitcase and catch a five hour train to escape the pollution. Her old house felt huge and ghostly back then, china dolls contorted in plastic bags on the landing and dust filtering both my vision and lungs.
Everyone else would collapse exhaustedly into bed, but my grandmother would sit up until dawn, classical music weaving through the living room, a decade-old computer the only source of light. She would do crosswords or read a whole book in a single night and I would sit beside her and write romantic poetry for no one in particular, or practice dance steps from my class. Sometimes I would just sit in the quiet, restless and sleepy at once. Often she would look over my shoulder and ask what I was writing, and whatever I would answer, poetry or fairytale or ambitious first novel, she would touch my shoulder and make me promise that when I was a success I would thank her in the acknowledgements.
My childhood summers were filled with that, music and darkness and pinpricks of light; mostly it was staying up past midnight, but others waking up before dawn to see the light swallow up the gloom. So even now I can wear night like a comfort, even if remembering hurts sometimes. The moments still feel magical.
And whilst the circumstances have changed, my time spent in the country under the real stars has shortened and I run around the city, club to club in something closer to twilight, I still feel closer to myself at that time. Mournful and reflective, elated and alive. The sensations are never more entwined than in the dark.
I find myself standing amongst friends in the smoking area, huddled close and shivering, watching orange dots of light burn through the dark, and I see my mother and grandmother at the end of the garden in a cloud of smoke, feeling the same cold.
There are a thousand versions of this scene, from the first glimpse of stars in the night to the last train home. Neon lights cloud my vision and memories like film scenes play out with me in place. I am kissing a girl outside my taxi at midnight, clinging to someone on a tacky dance floor, music pulsating around us. I am walking dark country lanes ill-prepared for the cold, humming a concerto I can't name and wondering who else is watching those same stars.
The night is always alive, with streetlights and dreamlike song, plumes of cigarette smoke dissipating into the air and grasping at the stars. And I think perhaps it is something I belong to.
Lucy Ryan’s prose poem “Meditations on First Arabesque”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and three columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic’s Issue III: NOCTURNE, a rich and abrupt volume of work that stretches out through darkness, plucks the strings of night, burns stars into being even in all this black. It is available for preorder now.