The Blueprint is The Oxford Blue’s arts publication. It showcases creative work in a range of artistic media, providing a space to share thoughts, stories and personal experiences.

Issue No. 6—Touch

Touch has a memory.

John Keats

Here is the second instalment of our senses-inspired series! In this issue, we explore the tactile world through reflections on intimacy, texture, and our connections with others.

Featured Artist: Jessie Palmer

Song – Osian Williams
Illustrations by Jessie Palmer
‘stone face’
After Allen Ginsberg

I wasn’t meant to pick you up
With the weightlessness of water
But I wanted to, the way your buoying
Torso stops wrinkled arms from touching
The red quoit on the swimming pool floor.
You were smiling on my ingress
Was it there before?
I’ll shoulder your answer, too.
I wanted to pick you up
But I can’t do that forever.
Not because of age, no,
But the other reasons why
The body fails us:
Hunger, exhaustion,
An itch.
No, I could not carry you forever.
So I was shocked out of sleep
To touch a leg made of the same paper
You were holding.

I Love You – Jessie Palmer

Since the pandemic, I have been learning how to say ‘I love you’ to those I cannot touch. Though I cannot touch, I have created a new surface on my hand through sign. Above is a description of how to sign ‘I love you’. Please share generously.

Cooler – Bethan Draycott
Illustration by Jessie Palmer
‘screaming with hand petals’
I still tucked myself in
with the memory of you
But each morning grew cooler
I woke up
To the scent of roses
Petals fallen to my bedside
like evening clothes disregarded
Naked stems reaching
towards anaemic morning light
October dawn
falling through the splayed bones of the window grate.
Shivers are lonelier here.
The sheets fit loose –
Sheets we shared
On a bed we won't
Moments of time
stained by your blistered fingertips
strewn around me
like fallen leaves.
But every night
The shape of your ghost
held me a little
less tightly.
The night let itself out while I slept.
And the aftertaste of love
grew more and more 
like roses.

touching eyes – Jessie Palmer

Eyes were pricked and stained in the heat. Fizzing in the soda of the day. Let the lids caress and kiss the sphere into blankets of blackness, and switch off the monitor inside.

Mila – Lily Down
Illustration by Jessie Palmer
‘sat with dog’

His friends have congregated in the kitchen, but Noah is sitting on the floor in the living room. He can’t tell whether he meant to be so far. His friends are wonderful, but the kitchen is small and the way they press in, sitting so close to each other, is too much for him. Mahala once said the fear of touch was called ‘haphephobia’. It’s a complicated word to throw into conversation; but his feelings about being touched are complicated too, so maybe it fits.

The noise from the kitchen is loud, but it’s a comfortable background noise. He leans his head against the wall behind him, stares at the ceiling.

He senses his dog enter the room; Mila’s never been light on her feet. Still, she has a solidity to her that makes him feel… comforted, maybe. At ease. It’s corny but he supposes it’s true.

Mila walks over, lies down near him. He reaches out a hand and pets her ears. She’s soft, and so warm that she feels like a radiator that can bark. She huffs, and rolls over against his leg.

‘Good, yes, thanks, go ahead and cover my nice jeans with your fur,’ he says.

‘It’s a fashion statement,’ a voice says from across the room.

Mahala stands at the door, holding two plates of cake. She lifts them up in greeting.

‘I bring gifts.’

She places Noah’s plate carefully on a side table. She’s good at keeping her distance, making sure he’s comfortable. She straightens, stands, still holding her own plate. He’s sure she’s about to leave and go back to the rest of their friends.

‘Do you want to stay for a minute?’ he asks, and he’s nervous, even though he knows Mahala better than himself. He’s always nervous; it’s a constant state. But Mila perks her head, wags her tail, making up for his inability to communicate.

Still, he’s not sure whether it’s Mila alone that makes her say, ‘Thanks…’

She sits down, purposefully on the other side of Mila, and they eat in comfortable silence.

He wants to start a conversation, be interesting. He can definitely be interesting, he’s sure of it; he’s just not sure that Mahala wants to know some true crime statistics, or a history of Strasbourg. Instead, he finishes eating and rests his hand back on Mila’s head. The dog is staring at Mahala’s plate.

‘Aww, she wants people food,’ Mahala says.

‘Maybe she just likes you.’

‘Probably just the food, though.’

‘She can like both.’

Mahala smiles. ‘Maybe.’

Mahala’s hand moves to stroke Mila too, further down than Noah’s hand, but they’re still close enough to touch. They’ve been close enough to touch the whole time, really. It’s a disquieting thought, though not as unpleasant as it would have been to his seventeen-year-old self, hiding in his room from the outside world. Now, he thinks he could bear to lean against her shoulder like he leaned against the wall, and just rest. And maybe she’d let him.

 t-t-t-t-t-t-ouch me baby – Jessie Palmer

t-t-t-t-t-t-t-ouch me babe now why can’t you see that I am not afraid sh-a-ka-ka-kaaaa

‘Intertwined’ – Khadijah Ali (Photo Series)

I love thinking about how every individual is complexly and intricately intertwined with others. Every encounter we have with a stranger, friend or lover connects us and reminds us that we are all going through this crazy journey of the human experience together. I often visualise how many people I have impacted, and vice versa, and imagine networks spreading out between myself and others – whether that is a stranger on the street or one of my close friends. The series “Intertwined” is a physical embodiment of the emotional entanglement of relationships, which is incredibly beautiful, challenging, fulfilling and intense. The real life relationship between the two subjects is platonic but the images convey a romantic love. It is interesting how we associate different levels of physical intimacy with various intensities and types of touch, hence why we perceive the images as conveying romantic love. There is also a nuanced relationship between emotional and physical intimacy. Touch is comforting, intimate, vulnerable, authentic and passionate, which I hope these images portray.

One Minute of Hair – Cornelia Chen

There are two types of touch – Aiden Tsen
Illustration by Jessie Palmer
‘touching faces on walls’
There are two types of touch.            
One is light:
The brush of a stranger on the Tube,
A lover trying to be sensual,
The tag on the back of your shirt.
One is deep:
The feeling of  pressure from a massage,
A friend trying to comfort with a hug,
The constriction of tight clothing.
There are two types of touch.
One makes skin crawl.
No one likes the touch of a stranger –
This is different.
A tag in my shirt is fire,
A retreat from a lover’s advances.
"Is there something wrong with you?"
One makes me feel Safe.
Ev’ryone likes the care of a friend –
This is different.
A pressure vest for stressors,
A retreat to a tucked-away corner,
 Should I like ‘normal’ touches too?
Coronavirus means distance on the tube –
I am glad.
Coronavirus means no more hugs from friends.
Am I glad?
There are two types of touch.
I wish people understood the difference for
An Autistic boy like me.
read by Aiden Tsen

LoVERS – Jessie Palmer

mmmm all curled up with my YING my YANG love-love-love-lovessss me. What I shouldn’t have is all mine.

Circuit Theory for Beginners – David Collins

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Curated and edited by Emily Broughton and Yundi Li