She always gave up just before hammering the final nail. Whatever the debate, he never got very far. She started at the edge, hands reconstructing the world in the space between them, spice jars and spoons framing coordinates for her arguments. Suddenly, she would stop, mid-argument, and concede, submission stained red on her warm cheeks. He hated her for losing. Even like that. Even to him. What kind of love demanded this? What kind of marriage created this? He was never sure how to accept victory when he wanted the aching comfort of loss. He thought of his lover instead, her desire so lush, her wit so dry, as if the universe and every quark in it was created only as a hapless target for her humour. How often had he stayed up all night wanting to hear her shred reality into the kind of laughter that came from a faraway place of longing. A longing for everything to be wrong. A longing for everything to be right. He wondered if he could love her in silence. In tears. With a face without secrets. Or on the other side of a wall that could not be broken down with a clever word. He wondered if she loved him in that warped way – where theirs was a world within a world, the penultimate babushka doll that they dared not open, fearing the end. Would she still be real if he woke in a sea of abject darkness? What was she thinking about now? Maybe love is just the universe’s way of paying for its mistakes. Maybe life is the irony that love must endure just to be. Maybe it is all an orgy of expectations and improbables that time conjured up when it was doing nothing.
Outside, the lockdown raged as a noiseless storm. Birdsong floated above the trepidation of the occasional car. The dry summer was slipping away into the arms of another approaching cloud. It felt like mornings rose, hungover from too much quiet. 65 days of being inside. 65 days of a rectangle of window-framed sky. 65 days. Of being all alone. He couldn’t remember when his phone had stopped working.
Flash Fiction #6
Flash Fiction #5: Lockdown
Lockdown writing: ten things about The Poem.
1. When you open the door of The Poem, anything
can walk in. But look closer, inside and outside are
now one. What about these faces, are they arriving or
leaving? Where do you think you are standing? 2. Don’t
write about love. Love, like a story, demands an ending.
Everything searches for purpose and meaning. The Poem
will end the minute it has had enough. When there is
nothing more to say. 3. When a small word falls and rolls
under the table, under the bed, under a star or disappears
under the sky, make yourself even smaller and follow it.
what did you say –
that this damp twilight
now rhymes with darkness and dawn
Curfew: Day 43
It both is and isn’t a severe pandemic. Lockdowns are both necessary and unnecessary. There is both enough and not enough testing. It is both destiny and the devil. It depends on which channel you’re watching, whose tweets you’re reading, which world you live in and how many hours of Netflix you have been consuming. Schrödinger’s virus. Both living and non-living. We both care too much and cannot care enough. We both can’t be bothered and are bothered too much. It is both yesterday and today. For a while it was also tomorrow.
the longer you stay
on the straight and narrow
the faster life comes full circle
Curfew: Day 21
The images of reverse migration from locked down cities – millions of people walking on highways, stranded at state borders, crowding relief shelters and bus stands, hungry, tired and pretty much without any other option – will haunt us for a long, long time. Or until the next big thing happens. Inequality is also a life consuming virus.
“Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.” – Mahatma Gandhi
looking up at the night sky –
of the sun
Curfew: Day 3
Hunkered down. The inexorable wait. How does a
killer virus ask for directions? There are two of us.
One waits. One watches. Both are me. Both must
be real. The world has already contracted into a
page that updates the toll. The dead are marked in
yellow. Already, so much has been forgotten. So
much has been erased. A forsaken god has been
woken from his bed. How do you wait for peace
while you wait for death? How do you wait for love
when waiting overflows with dread? This is a silent
war – no explosions, no guns, no song, no words
that hold up the sky. The subtraction slips into the
quiet, into the dark, the way it was foretold. We
wait, we watch, one real, one masked, as the
world we know ends with a whimper, the world
we know leaves suddenly without saying goodbye.
like a worn cliché
chews the dark end of the sky
I woke seven times
and saw seven dawns
all empty of light –
how much darkness does it take
to hide a morning?
in this amorphous dawn
is a moon-eating sun
I hold the darkness close
I pretend it is you
It pretends I am the light
Inspired by Rosemary’s Variations on a Theme to present a thought (of sorts) as a haiku, tanka and cherita. Which one works?
Sharing this with Poets and storytellers United – As a newbie storyteller, I can’t bring my flash fiction there because of the word limit, but if you are of a mind, do check it out here and here and let me know what you think.
More often now, the hollowed out
husk of the afternoon light is overlaid
with images of impending dystopia:
an earth that will not forget, a culling
that will not be kind, an aftermath
that will frighten its oracle. How long
does it take for a glacier to turn to
grass, for a forest to return to dust, for
life to exhaust all possibilities? Already
our skies are empty, our gods have
moved, telling stories of the ghosts
of the sixth extinction. The universe
shakes its head in amused disbelief.
For earthweal.com – be sure to visit and share your #climateemergency poetry.
Had a little chat with fellow-poet, Khaya Ronkainen, about my book ‘Water to Water’ and about life and all things poetry! Thank you, Khaya, that was a lot of fun!
Khaya lives in Finland and Amazon being Amazon and international shipping being, well, international shipping, I mailed her a copy from the closest point I could reach – a tiny little post office in the middle of Old Town, Tallin, Estonia, which has the friendliest post-office-person in the world! From there the book could have caught the two-hour fast ferry to Helsinki, if it wanted to! Poetry crosses boundaries in ways we cannot imagine!
Here’s the link to the post on her blog.
Also, with Diwali round the corner, I’d like to give away a copy of ‘Water to Water’ to one interested poetry blogger in India. (Indian mailing addresses only!) So drop me an email at email@example.com before 27th October 2019 if you would like a copy and I’ll pick one name by lot. Please include the name of your blog in the email.
I feed on the cold like a beast at the water’s
edge, head bowed to an existential compulsion.
The chill traces a dark path to a primal hunger
that predates the sun. Predates skin. Predates
touch. That November mist is the shifting circle of
my want, intersecting the unmanifest moon in a
contemptuous Venn diagram — a chiaroscuro of
shivering deprivation. But, I will not switch my fealty
to fire. I need this wintry balm, the numbness that
burns inwards from the extremities. If this is dissent,
then I dare heat to make its move. If this is revolt,
then mercury will never rise again. For now, my
blood is frozen. For now, light is an unformed candle
in the guilty sky. For now, warmth is absence, warmth
is malevolent myth, warmth is icy premonition.
From the womb of mystery, everything
was birthed. That energy emboldens
the ocean, that fecundity fans the wind,
that weight holds up the gods. Light burst
from a doorway of darkness. Love emerged
at last from a contraction of blinding pain.
Drawing of a woman with melancholy expression: Raja Ravi Varma
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