July 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I was trying to go to bed when I heard it. I was sitting on the heater – literally – and listening to rain lash the lounge room window behind me. I was warmed as much by the heater as the whiskey which friends had given me for my birthday last week, and did not like the prospect of my unheated bedroom. I had the TV on low and was daydreaming, but when I heard the word it cut through the sound of the rain.


It was a character’s name on some late night crime show. I didn’t pay much attention after that. I didn’t need to: I knew I’d get a short story from that one name alone. Birdsong, sliced in half, part German, part English, and to my midnight ears, utterly beautiful.

But here’s the thing: I couldn’t see a pen to write it down. All writers know the promise ‘I’ll remember it in the morning’ is tragically and patently untrue, but I couldn’t quite lift myself from the heater to rummage through my writing desk. So I did the next best thing. I reached over to the top of my desk, and took hold of a container of snake skins.

I am serpent obsessed. I have snake skins all over my house, and rubber snakes on my windowsills to hiss their protection around my home. I have thirteen of them tattooed down my left arm in blue, black and grey ink, writhing around my Medusa with her hands on her hips and a stare of defiance. I admire the regenerative nature of their skin shedding, and their symbolism often works its way into my writing.

I love my snakes, oh yes.

Matt Burke Photography

Matt Burke Photography

I opened one of my containers and took out a coil of skin, shed by a coastal python. And I placed that carefully in the middle of my lounge room floor. That, so my midnight whiskey logic went, will remind me of the word Vogelsong when I wake tomorrow.

And it did. I stumbled out in search of coffee, saw the skin, and immediately said to my cat ‘Vogelsong!’ I think she was just as surprised as I was. I nodded, started imagining what kind of character could carry that name, and turned the kettle on.

I did not, however, pick up the snake skin.

Later that night I came home from dinner with friends, red riding hood up against the hail that left my umbrella in shreds. I tumbled in the front door, and the first thing I saw was the snake skin, glowing in the light from the street. And I said, so softly this time, ‘Vogelsong.’

It still felt beautiful on my tongue.

The skin has been there for five days now. I’m learning to step around it. I don’t think I’m ready to stop saying ‘Vogelsong’ just yet. The story is still brewing; my focus these last two months has been my novel, so to take up a pen and give birth to an entirely new character, in an entirely new life, is just intoxicating.

I will keep you informed.

In the meantime, here’s one that is ready: ‘They broke my name in half’ has just been published in 21D, and is available on Smashwords through the link below.


I’ll also be performing at the Newport Folk Festival this weekend. Stereo Stories is a wonderful website that celebrates the stories behind songs, and I’ll be reading about my trip to Jackson, Mississippi in honour of Johnny Cash. The songs will be performed by local musicians alongside the readings, so something for everyone. Head on in, and I’ll do my best to do a southern accent as I read.

stereo stories




  1. Dorie Mol said,

    I LOVE your style, Rijn! Its quite similair to mine, I think. How can I send you a copy of it? Dorie

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks,Dorie – feel free to send me a private message on facebook 🙂

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