She call them lollygagger, adjusted the folds of her scarf, let them watch her fingers trace the sweep of her collarbone like a wink but not an invitation. Clutched at the other hand with smaller, damp digits unsure eyes flickered from her to the jackal-backed boys circling their cigarettes, tongues dragging across their teeth. Nothing to be afraid of dear.
One of the men lifted his head and looked at me as we sloped past the ash fields, and rows of toilers like grey bamboo canes if bamboo was stooped and bent with brittle hands knuckle white against the plastic handled hoes. Her hands, smaller, firmer, sure, came down on my shoulders shadowed his face with fear. An explanation in a classroom pretending it isn’t an excuse claims to be progress, claims to be a new world built on the broken bones of the last. Mothers scream during childbirth. There is blood and pain and sometimes death. We are lucky we are not all toiling. If the old world had their way who knows what would have happened? We are smarter these days we can laugh at the facts that shattered when the world changed. Who know what will happen at the next night rise.
A moment stretched is still a moment. Curled into the afterglow we looked relaxed, yet I felt your hands clawed in the fabric, prepared to tear the seconds from an hour, as if they might be worth more alone than part of a whole.
There’s a sense of her, an echo, in the curve of your mouth when you say certain things or see your father turn, his face so open and like your own but not enough of him in it to hide the sense of her, the echo ringing from your tongue.
When finally the foot stuck in ‘was’ escapes the mud and plants itself in becoming there is a second of achievement, of fanfare flooding out yesterday’s shortcomings. Until ‘becoming’ equals ‘was’ due to the addition of the second and subtraction of the first. Already there is the pull of yet another step half taken already and calling.
Someone says ‘look how dark it is, how black’ to a sky mottled by streetlights almost navy blue with the singing of bulbs whistling away shadows, their footprints of fake dawn greying the corners of this bedroom so the only true night is behind lids of clamped tight eyes wishing I could say ‘looking how dark it is, look how black and thick this night sits now the hours have turned to quiet.
Each man’s home is his castle, so I made mine a fortress, my sitting room a keep, and a battlement of books to stand watch for invaders wielding words like realistic, while I was carving hope into a portcullis, certain these walls could hold.
How even when we whispered it there was someone shushing our small mouths with calloused fingers. Pressing the words back inside as if they were Ouranos horror struck but what we birthed in those terrible, unspeakable words. Filling our bellies with ideas we were not allowed to give life to. Until we burst from the ineffable and held it screaming before their faces. Made them look at what we’d made.
Stung between garden fences twilight coaxed you outside, to the square of wilding lawn uncut from summer’s end, the coils of wood smoke streaked with petrol rising above an evening glow of light behind closed panes as one by one they too flickered out.
Slipping I slipped deeper on every word you spoke, caught up in the letters like giants and their fingers pinioned and pyloned at the edges of my reason, they made a fence around my certainty. Territorial of territory you deemed dangerous you became guard dog reversed. All teeth and snarl when I made to leave. Or maybe that was me biting the hand at my collar…