‘ghosts’

May 18, 2010

Written in response to inspiration provided by Leigh (see inspiration in comment below):

You’re running the net through the water, picking up the last of the surface leaves, your knee numb where the early morning cold of the pavers pushes through the worn material of your tracksuit. You scoop the final few and knock them into the bucket beside you. You hold the net up, and the sun refracts through the random drops of water that have managed to cling between spaces in the netting. The effect is like a wafting remnant of a crystal catacomb, the last wan ghosts clinging to the mortality they don’t realise they’ve given up already.

You stand up, screw the pole onto the netting and shake those few ghosts away. You plunge the net deep into the water and start herding the leaves from the tiles on the bottom of the pool.

The tinkle-scrape of metal on metal alerts you to an intrusion and you turn around to see a business suited arm reaching over to unlock the gate. It swings open and the real estate lady walks through. You don’t know her name.

“Hello Julie,” she says.

“Hi,” you mumble, turning away from her.

You hear the efficient clicking of her high heels moving over the pavers as she walks towards the house. You sneak a look at her long legs, smoothly flowing out from beneath her miniskirt. You imagine how you must look to her. Your legs aren’t too bad either, but they’re hidden beneath your work trackies. You return to scooping leaves.

You finish and carry the bucket of leaves over to the lemon tree where you tip it out over a patch of newly turned soil. The ground seems to shudder with pleasure beneath the twisted golem of a tree.

“Julie.”

She is behind you. Now that you know that she is there you can smell her perfume. It is strong, applied liberally. It is pungent in its excessiveness and it makes you like her a little less, which in turn gives you the courage to turn around. You look into her grey eyes.

“Have you seen Mr. Albanese?”

“No.”

“Could he be at the hospital?”

“He didn’t like the hospital.” You pause and then add, ‘Cause of all the visits for his wife.”

“When did she die?”

“Six months ago? Something like that.”

“Okay.” It’s her turn to pause. “Well Mr. Albanese said he’d be here this morning.”

You pat the pile of disturbed soil. “Can’t help you.”

The real estate lady looks at the patch of garden. “That’s a lovely lemon tree.”

“Yes,” you reply, “It is.”

“I hope the new owners keep it.”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“This’ll be sold as a development block.” She walks away.

You look from her, to the tree.

Then back to her.

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‘claws of light’

May 18, 2010

Written for Mark Welker’s Blogfolio challenge:

Every child on the Grace of Titan was told about the claws, and Tom had been no different. It was a fairy tale, a warning to stay in your bed. “Don’t unstrap from your bunk,” his mother would chide him, smiling. “The claws might be coming tonight.”

The claws were – or so the story went – an alien race that found their way onto the Grace sometime during the first century of its journey. No one living had ever seen them but the stories were still told, and children ran through corridors pointing at burn marks, shouting, “The claws were here!”

Tom was one of the ship’s oarsmen, and like the rest of his ilk, was not of the disposition that enabled a belief in phantom aliens, even when he was a pre-oarsmen child. The oarsmen were a highly organised political force on the Grace’s board of governors and Tom had recently risen to the post of First Oarsman.

The First Oarsman was one of seven leaders who could challenge to be Course Plotter of the ship. The current Plotter, was Janice, Lady of Foods, the ship’s strongest industry. Janice was ancient though, and despite the fact that she had managed to hold onto the Plotter role for seventy years, the next Plotter was unlikely to be as potent a force as the old lady.

Tom was ready. He would be the next Plotter, and then perhaps finally Grace of Titan would begin the correct journey to its destination, and arrive at the new home promised the crew that set out upon her three hundred years ago.

Tom lay in bed, imagining the day when he first drew line across the nav screen and watch the blip of the Grace respond to his command. “It will happen,” he promised the dark.

From his position in bed he saw a glint in his blackened room, and unsure what could possibly be reflecting light; he unbuckled from his bunk and floated over to the opposite wall. The light – which wasn’t reflected at all – grew before his eyes, sprouting out sharp branches like an Aloe Vera plant. The luminescent branches flexed into a fist then one branch stretched back out, pointing directly at Tom.

The branches – the claws he realised with horror – slashed through the darkness, the after effect left burning in the air. The claws moved in intricate patterns, painting a portrait in the dark. When they finished Tom recognized the face of the Lady of Foods. She was smiling.

The claws stretched towards him.


‘the american sector’

May 10, 2010

Also written for Mark’s blog:

You are leaving the American sector? Christ, that didn’t look familiar. I look about. The world is dreary like the inside of a whale gut and it doesn’t smell much better either. Or perhaps that smell is me. I lift my arm and have a whiff of my armpits. Oh yeah, ripe. I run my tongue into my armpit hair, taste sweat (obviously) and funnily enough, curry powder.

The curry powder. Of course.

Curry has a displacing effect on me. As a twelve year old it had started when I bit into a curried egg sandwich that knocked me into the middle of next Wednesday. I was standing in my kitchen one minute, and then I was in front of my class, spluttering a mouthful of egg. The class exploded colourfully, every child jumped up, except for one: that little boy in the back who had known, dreaded, that this moment was coming.

Time displacement is difficult to explain so it was with a fair measure of relief that the symptoms of my curry powder allergy shifted to geographical displacement.

It had actually been beneficial. I’d just get to wherever I was going quicker. When I got married, I was displaced from my plane and met my wife at the Charles De Gualle airport with some hastily purchased flowers, and a baguette.

But the symptoms, like my wife, left. I hadn’t been displaced in, shit, I guess twelve years.

You are leaving the American sector?

The pub that I was walking out of when I displaced was full of stale beer, stale cigarette smoke, stale humans. I was turning grey, as grey as this place and I was getting used to the idea you know? It seemed like a slow, boring, harmless death. I’d accepted it.

But that sign, the warning it tries to impart upon me, has the opposite effect. The grey can’t get to me now. The colour is returning to my tar stained fingertips, they dance frenetically over each other like an upturned classroom of twelve year olds.

I’m going to die here. Bring it on.


‘heaven’

May 10, 2010

Written for Mark Welker’s Blogfolio:

Heaven poured through the window. Yates, who had only begrudgingly shifted his corpulent body to the sink at the behest of his wife June, didn’t notice it. He was thinking about Survivor, which would be returning soon from an ad break. He could hear the television, but the words were not clear. He would never hear who was voted off the tribe.

He sighed.

Heaven pushed through the thin lace of the curtain straining through into infinitesimal spots of eternal goodness. Yates squirted more detergent into the water, then stuck a fat hand into the boiling water and swished it around. The heat struggled to filter through his skin. Yates pulled his hand out of the water, looked at its lobster-steamed appearance. Surely it should be hurting?

Heaven fell into the soapy water, cleaning dishes as it went. Yates picked up one of the heavenly plates, completely ignoring its pristine porcelain finish. The dirty dish rag only made marginal contact with the plate’s surface area. He placed it in the dish rack without looking.

Heaven creeped up Yates’ arm. Beneath his sagging skin his wasted muscle pushed up until his arm filled out like it had been when he was twenty years old. Heaven got into his blood stream. Warmth spread throughout his body and Yates smiled. He could hear Survivor.

Heaven ran through his heart.

June got up, switched the television off. She walked through the dining room and into the kitchen. Yates was lying on the floor, eyes open and crinkled at the edges. His grin was lopsided like a six year old with a bag of lollies.

The dishes were very clean.


For the birthday girl

April 29, 2010

This is a poem I wrote about my daughter, who turns 7 today, written when she was kicking up a storm in utero.

Happy birthday baby, love you.

Daddy’s little girl

starts to twist and squirm in time

to Mummy’s latin heart.


‘Waiting’

April 21, 2010

Written for Mark’s website challenge, working through my delusions of poetry:

A criss-cross reality
Ordered and neat
The wall, like a mausoleum and
those blue, fucking, chairs just sitting there waiting
for you.

Doctors and trains and birthdays and cancers.
When you cut out all the waiting the highlights reel is thin.

The clack clack of the train tracks. The neon light spitting spitefully at the tiled walls. The ghosts of old commuters trailing briefcases behind them like sins.

You wonder about that wall, about the bodies within, about the smooth edges and the sterilized humanity and you guess it’s true: death is cleaner than life.


‘The Last Building Standing’

April 11, 2010

Written as an exercise for Mark Welker’s site:

The last building standing looked up. The sky, once his enemy, no longer rained upon him, no longer sent all manner of birds to shit on him or nest in him, no longer faded him with its glaring eye.

The last building standing looked down. There were no more steel animals in the street clambering over its legs, farting noxious gas over it, leaving tracks all over it, revving and beeping around it like parasites.

The last building standing realised that because there were no steel animals there would most likely be none of the little bags of pus which spilled from the beasts, worming their way into the building’s body, its bloodstream. He looked within and confirmed that this was the case. There was no evidence of the creatures’ food, of their defecation, of their noise.

All that the building could see was their skins; bright and multi-coloured, lazily discarded, and the faint aroma of charred flesh.

The last building standing wondered what one should do when it is the last building standing. The tethering lines that gave him strength and ears and a voice had been cut off: literally in some cases, figuratively in others. What good were ears if no one was speaking to you? What good a mouth if no one spoke your language?

The last building standing just

stood there as the angry clouds bloomed fiery petals over the sky

and he was happy