Here’s a tiny one for you. It might be worth telling, I can’t tell.
I was wandering to the post office, a package swinging in my hand. A snug, fine, perfect little parcel: wrapped-up neat, stamp set straight, handwritten address just so.
It struck me suddenly: how splendid, how simple and splendid, to walk with something swinging in your hand. A cap, a suitcase, or the patient weight of a book perhaps… maybe some sweets (in one of those small, slightly waxy, brown paper bags). Better yet, another hand: the fingers, the palm, the touch of a friend or lover.
And I thought – and I thought – and I decided, without thinking: this was a moment worth writing about. So here we are.
of the bushes.
How each note,
each struck glass,
is like a toast
to that worn muscle
in your chest.
How they set it off,
to sound out above
of these days.
Under those pressures that we deemed
impossible, we managed to retain both
our heads and backs. That fuzz of doubt
blocked by the disintegration of any
appointments, whose responsibilities
we ensured remained silent.
We then shook off the excess lies
like spilled ash. We resided in those
back streets and bars; the seats just
a little too comfy, the beer just about cold
enough as we allowed the knuckles of our
ideology to eventually heal.
Back outside, drenched in rain we regrouped,
embossed in that grim, damp light; unable
to strike matches or conversations. Again, we
repeated those mantras that seemed by then
to have grown somewhat stale, yet still capable
of retaining an echo.
Brigitte de Valk
the soft roll
of a stomach.
They sat in each day waiting for the news, an ear cocked to the radio, dipping spoons towards the milky upsetting of their cereal bowls.
For the main part, their lives carried on under that mild temperate sky that did its best to convince you it wasn’t there. No news settled in like damp air.
But the bad news, the really bad news which everyone agreed was bad, they would savour. It was on those days that the toast had more crunch, the butter a more viscous appeal. The same toast, the same butter. And just when they were thinking of switching.
There is a bicycle, propped against a post,
halfway along Clermont Road.
Classic features: sprayed green of colour –
military – mud guards warped but still
cutting a half-shimmer on a startling
January day, two hours past dawn.
The seat, you could say old-fashioned,
oversized and cushioned; the handlebars, a
chic cream plastic, once immaculate –
it’s all retro here.
The wheels are caving in,
it’s been here for what seems like years –
since before I arrived South.
A regal-looking bird (stork or crane?)
for a cross bar crest.
But it’s the khaki I like best;
pride to the fenders, the coating
fends off the Brighton winter –
now the bitty-looking bike can
become one with the wooden telegraph pole –
At high-commuter times, briefcased men
and umbrellaed women, bound to and from
pass by and think nothing of it –
The water dazzled him with the whiteness of sky, the hulking black shape of the mangled Buick quivering below his elbows. He shattered the image in his thrashing attempts to scramble out of the ditch, but the mud beneath him was too wet, too yielding.
One final spasm like a netted trout, and he too relented, sinking beneath the water into the murky clouds he had churned up.
Perhaps it was better this way, he thought. Virginia could remarry; young Bill would still have a father to look up to.
Who knew, he might even grow up to be President.
She deceased, her doctor says. He shows me the dictionary he checked the definition in. We’re astonished. We’ve heard of death, obviously. But we’ve heard of unicorns and alien invasions, and know they’re not real. BBC Breaking News says, There’s been a death in the country. It confounds the public. Nobody understands how a person can just stop. Why can’t she stand up? Why can’t she be repaired? How does a photograph of her exist if she doesn’t? We don’t know. I wail, gouge my hair, poke my eyes, but the corpse is motionless, won’t get up, remains dead. I confess regrets to it, but its skin is green and peeling. I tell it things we should’ve done, but it’s acquired a caustic smell. Communication with the corpse is impossible. Sex with the corpse is impossible. I’m invited on TV but nobody understands a word I say. I try to explain the grief conundrum but I’ve been caressing the corpse willing it to move, and it won’t move, ever again apparently, unless I attach strings, dance it like a puppet. That can’t be explained. I say, Grief is like sand everywhere. The Prime Minister attempts a reassuring speech but she’s a famous liar. Then pundits posit the question of another deceased, who it might be. I finally agree to bury the corpse. People that never knew it are weeping, not because they’re devastated, but because they’re newly scared for themselves, the bastards. After something called a funeral, emissaries from other cultures visit. We’re so terrified of death, they say, we invented absurdities. Music, to drown out the noise of it. Money, to forget it. We invented war, which is a fight not to be the first to die. They teach me heaven and hell, various afterlives, resurrection, ghosts. An emissary says reincarnation and sand slips out of my ears and eyes. Now I’m roaming the earth, shouting her name at newborns, puppies, lion cubs, piglets, tadpoles, ducklings, fledgling owls, dolphin pubs, vapour trails, sapling trees. Until I find her again.
Gary W. Hartley
Do you want a death without dying?
Death without the key benefit:
Just the no going back
No official funeral
If your friends want free drinks
From your wages they must come
If given this choice and only this
I would prefer to live out
The dying death
Feel a little something
Before the eternal stretch
Give fewer the call
They never wanted to receive.