Friday, May 20, 2016

Green Man

A group of people huddles around a man lying down on the cobbles, turning green. The people are looking over each other's shoulders, not knowing what they would want done, had they been in his position.

A woman in a brown cardigan is hysterical. She is sat on the cobbles next to the man with her legs sprawled out, like a marionette. Someone from the theatre café has brought her tissues and water in a plastic cup. The woman weeps, but all she can think of is how now she will never see the waters of Sharm El Sheikh or puff shisha sitting on satin cushions in overpriced seaside bars. She won't see the pyramids. The thought of not seeing the pyramids in particular makes her give off a high-pitched wail.

The traffic policeman is tired. The bribes he's collected today aren’t enough to get that lamb shank his wife’s ordered. He should be on the road, fining Mercedes drivers for making the wrong U-turn, restriction sign obstructed by a birch tree.

“Where the heck’s the ambulance?” the warden whispers to his colleague, a younger police lieutenant about to graduate from law school.

“They won't get here on time,” the latter answers inhaling the filter of Belomorkanal. He smokes this brand because of his granddad. He does not want to be a lawyer.

The artist sat opposite, displaying her watercolours, thinks about how she'd love to paint that, this picture. The people’s expressions, their silhouettes against the pungent autumn sky, leaves turning under their feet and in the midst of it - the green man, now turning a pallid yellow, a chameleon blending in with the leaves. That - that is real art. Five hundred reproductions of Ibryaev have made her despise the great watercolour master and his technique. But her shawl is wearing thin and her imitation skills have never failed to impress the tourists. She looks past the crowd to the back street, a wall partially hidden by the dusk.

A skinny goth leans against it, blood trickling out of his nostril, his collar encrusted. His watery eyes dart from the man on the ground onto his own black painted nails, which he bites with animal ferocity. A blooded knife handle sticks out of his trouser pocket.

The now yellow man watches everyone around him peering into his soul. The man waits for the videotape of his life to roll, but it doesn't. His wife's wailing drops away. So do the whispers and confused glances. The gash in his side stops ripping his body apart with pain and a soft cotton candy feeling descends onto his limbs.

The sound of the sirens echoes between the walls of the buildings. 

The man goes purple, his eyes roll back until you can see nothing but the whites. The women in the crowd sob. The pool of blood around him turns black, or perhaps it's the shadow that escapes the people's minds and walks across the scene turning everything ghostly.

Friday, May 6, 2016

When Doves Cry

Ken spotted the grand piano idling by the shoreline as he took Blue for his early morning walk. It was a huge ebony instrument leaning slightly into the lapping waves.

The piano lolled like a drunk around midnight. One leg was wedged deeper into the saturated sand than the others. It must have lolled there a while, he thought, as the lid already had speckles of seagull shit dotted like polka dots. Yet, it hadn’t been there last night, when Ken had taken his evening stroll with Blue.

Had it washed up on the tide? He wondered. But then, it was standing bolt upright, as though dumped there once the tide had gone out this morning. He considered his tide timetable back at the cottage. Living on this part of the coast, you had to be aware of such minutiae. Ken studied them religiously. Had more than once had to warn youngsters to get off the beach before they got washed off the rocks.

Ken stroked the top of the piano. He tapped a couple of the keys with cold, gloved fingers. The sound that came back was tinny, out of tune. The sound made him think of Maggie.

She had loved the piano, had taken lessons in the last year of her life. Ken had sat, ears stuffed with cotton wool, reading the newspaper whilst she practised on her grandfather’s old piano. Nothing as fancy as this one; she would have loved this.

He’d got rid of the old instrument – donated it to the local school – after Maggie passed over. Couldn’t bear to see it in the corner of the room where she’d sat, desperately trying to get a tune out of it, laughing all the while. Her laughter sounded like the tinkling of a bell, light and melodious. 

Much more so than the tune she’d emitted from the instrument, Ken thought.

He looked again at the piano in front of him. The receding waves were lapping the legs. His plimsolls were getting wet from standing in the edge of the water.

Probably some irresponsible person dumped it, too lazy to go to the local tip, he reasoned. Nothing mysterious about that. He would call the authorities when he got back home, alert them to it before it got carried out to sea later that day. 

About to leave, he turned for a final look across the waves, remembering the day he let his Maggie’s ashes float on the wind out toward the horizon. How much they loved this little patch of the world.

On an impulse, he reached across and tugged at the heavy lid of the piano with both hands. It reluctantly creaked open, jarring halfway.

Ken almost fell back onto the sand as a white dove rose from its underbelly, flapping and disorientated to be free. It faltered, then soared, high above Ken’s head, as he watched it fly across the sea, heading for the horizon.

Monday, May 2, 2016

And Then At Times

And then at times
the dips of our marriage are

no different than the falling
into love in Richmond Park
before we started home, and I
wrote every day until the motion
of the ship made me certain that
for every berth going out,
new souls put in, spit from
foam. If I could read Greek or
understand the errand of the
cardinal we watch for with coffee
in our hands, I could make poetry
on the tips of fence spears where
he stops and the fire of you would
go urgently from land to land.