Under every roof is a crowded cabinet, under every cabinet is some lost charm, under every dusty charm is a bit of lost novelty, under every lost article is dust ball, under every bit of dust or grit swept up is loathing and under every pange of loathing is a longing for a life that wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Skittish shadows leaving wet footprints and proof of our crime, right to the unlit pool, where the dark mirror has but one flicking moon.
The reflection melts as we enter and the biting chill drowns us, a pair of silhouettes sneaking a glace at each other while we look around for anyone who might see us at this hour.
I would have said it was a honest mistake, I came back after college and walked into the wrong apartment and someone else’s flame embraced me. I shook off the rain and I didn’t know where I was. The evergreens brushed against the windows and my breath steamed as we sneaked outside.
Here in the ice cold water I look at the walls before I turn on my back and push down into the darkness. My body freezes and then flows as I swim towards the light. I wonder if my reflection would shattered if I swam back fast enough.
For no reason at all I remember a novel, a child with a yellow origami dragon. I see my companion buoy back up again. We meet, the lights gone out and we’re faceless in the dark, laughing and shivering.
Tears shimmering metallic in the moonlight, we turned down the roads back to our homes, far, far away.
Far from this howling corner a plague has swept the world away, but we are the only ones running, walking on the railways. You may run your hand over a shoulder and say “I know, I know” but you fear you’ll never really know. That’s the convenience of guilt blasted from TV sets, product placements come next.
The days are heavy with summer and monsoon brings misery. The master is screaming as we bowed our heads and march on. It smashed the place were we slept, it tore up the railways, it took away our work and people but our family were days away. The rest we could handle, not this.
Now you wait for the ad break and what they say next.
Migrants on their own soil, the caravans walk on thin legs, one hundred kilometers from home. Their calloused skin numbing as the empty roads curled unmercifully across the great resurgent hills and plains. As stars invade, the water slides clear in rivers, brooks, and their home are burning.
When they finally look up, having outrun the silence, there are rifle shots of hunger and life as it always was. Flames illuminate the roads they have taken, thick pillars of smoke blot out the moon of harvest and the bridges are empty.
You are children only in news reports.
6 words: Prison edition
A prisoner orders Chinese for his last meal, his fortune cookies gives him these pearls of wisdom:
Don’t look back, life is short
They know you didn’t do it
Your future will take shocking turns
All your troubles will end soon.
See you on the flip side.
Suprise reunion with an old friend.
And now a little less
Better luck next time.
The cat walks past, cobwebs in her whiskers
clearing up the cardboard boxes
I thumb through picture books and socks
I listen close and hear laughter,
from a picture of my sister, who I take after
I fold it away, reach past a button-box,
I remember, every outfit, our stilted talks
so little was said, my sister’s sick bed
her hands as cold as mine
Back for a swim
It’s the water that stops you from drowning. Endlessly echoing the way you move, pulling at you, pushing you.
Its better than running, you don’t have to know where you’re going, you go from one end of the pool to another. It’ll even carry you- look up or under the water, it distorts both. Angry, lost or motionless, it’ll sway with you. I think back, piecing it together, floating, drifting.
Every stroke takes you further away, every paddle pushes you further. Maybe you’re getting there, maybe you aren’t. I think about things, people. The analogy of a womb comes to mind but its forced, ridiculous. I want to move, not stay asleep.
At least I’m not drowning.
The place I wanted
It was the kind of day that makes a spider’s web flash golden in the sunlight. When I think back I remember the musk and stink around the houses, along with the scampering, dressing and dashing off to college.
A free afternoon is a thing of beauty, with the creaking and reluctant windows gone you could peer right up. They could build around you but not above you. While I praised the logic of the chaotic room, rented while the old house decayed, she assured me I should try living there.
Time went by quick stride the three legged bed ride, the sky open, vast, deep, lavender. We should be afraid, floating in the air. I am. I wish I could hang all night, climb the roofs. Climb up with a blanket.
“You like the house or you like me?”
A year later. I tell them I wish I lived there.
When L laughs her shoulders shake. I’ve invited M & K. She’s in bed with P but I’m the main attraction. They kiss, juicily. She grabs P’s squirming hand.
I’m trying to recognize the song while I rant about something I can’t remember anymore. I can’t do both. I can’t do either. I put a hand to my head and forget both. I open my mouth and I wonder what’s wrong. It was a second. Must have looked like surprise. K sees.
“A penny for your…”
I raise a hand. I’ll take it elsewhere: my problem.
I didn’t want to see the house half empty, dishes packed, mats rolled up. Her house – so unlike mine. I remember it’s dim and the wall a strange damp. I am not facing the window, I look into my shadow and see others around it. One a shepherdess. I’m not like these sheep I tell myself. I have a lot of spite. It’s an easy feeling.
Big windows, bright colours. If I go now, I see the doors gone. Empty and abandoned. None of us could cook or afford to order. Sad snacks we called what we could make. I think I should call them but what’s the point? We’re strangers now but I still wish I had that house.
Hermit in a slum, walled in by his own desires, he watches the street lose meaning. It loses shape, it loses people, it seems to devour lives whole as one family after the other goes missing.
Stand on loose sand while waves move past you and you feel the ground give away while you stay rooted. That’s what our hermit felt when one day after some private tragedy he stood rooted and numb in his little hollow where he would hide from the receding tide. Without purpose and without reasonable fear, isolated he became an unwilling repository of a changing street, a city getting faster and further away from a man who dared not take a step forward.
He spoke slowly like his voice was traveling from his past, but it was really the present that occupied him. He squinted at the future or at least it’s portents. His world was just omens seen in the poorly behaved children, the failures of parents, the careless people who had lost their way while his despair stayed quiet.
Somewhere, sometime unknown to the hermit, he went from man to creature in a scary story. Emerging from shadows, inhabiting forests and mountains that protagonists journey to slay beats in. In silence he grew demonic, frightful for a future that would never take him. Doomed, the merciless tide would drown him.
Throw a glance at where all the furniture is pointed at and the room gravitates to an old TV. It could have died a quiet death long ago, but it lived to see it self in indignity, dusty and having the furniture under it sag ever so slightly.
On the screen is a face, we cannot tell if this is man or woman, youth or elder but the pose marks a quiet resignation. A stillness that comes with defeating contemplation. The mind wanders, soon the memory of a fledgling town where it eases into night, faces peering into a house to catch a glimpse of a TV. They stand outside and are colored in festive lights.
Somewhere unnoticed the memory morphs, turning from wondrous capture to little threads of other people’s stories guiding one through an ever changing maze. These stories begin seemingly vital, great tales that must be heard but seem to end in some dull and familiar cliche. Was there meaning or just color? Too late to say.
Slowly a mindless routine eases in, treading a well beaten path. It was too much to ask to begin unraveling the noise, the senseless broadcast that ends with a despairing figure. Grey expression on a grey screen, un-death on an old frame. When was it that its time passed?