• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 12

Hotel D’Arte

The boy can feel us in the room. He feels our silent laughter, perhaps. He does his best to ignore us, though.

He knocked several times before we heard the key turn. Time enough for us to jump up from the bed and to run across the expanse of carpet and into the cupboard. We watched him through the wardrobe slats as he pushed the door open, first a crack and then all the way, pulling behind him the trolley.

He must be new. None of the swagger of the ones who have been here for years. He stood on the threshold just a second too long, as though entering someone else’s room is not yet second nature to him, as though he does not yet feel he owns the place. We liked that.

He did what they all do. That instinctive appraisal of the room. What clues have they left? What crumbs? A glance towards the bathroom, though the door is open and the room clearly empty. He left the trolley at the foot of the bed. Pulled the covers back on and smoothed them down. Arranged the pillows. He did not check the drawers of the bedside tables as some of them do, though. We noticed.

He stands between the trolley and the regency writing desk now. I can feel her naked and feline in the enclosed dark and we slip for a moment out of the hotel altogether to where the river outside is all ice; white thick in patches and glassy in others, black water beneath. It has fallen below minus twenty this morning. She presses closer to me and holds her eye steady to a gap in the slats and we watch as he lifts from the trolley the teapot, the cups, the saucers, the covered platters of food and places them on the desk. As he does, his eyes flick from wall to wall, trying to find the source of our silent giggling, perhaps. How old are we?

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1

Elephant Boy

On first meeting Bradley, one is struck by the geometry of his skull: heart-shaped – a favorable descriptor when applied to the front elevation of a human face. In Bradley’s case, the likeness is literal: a three-dimensional replica of that convulsive mass of bloodied muscle tirelessly circulating oxygen and metabolic wastes, the good with the bad. Funny that the existence of Bradley’s actual heart, its nervous valves perpetually flickering open, shut, open, should be advertised by its nemesis, the head. The impulsive and irrational mistaken for the premeditated and planned. Bradley’s head is both paradigm and paradox – an accidental cipher crowned by limp but prolific strands of hair the colour of unbleached canvas when seen by daylight, in their natural state; conditions which have become increasingly unlikely, thanks to Bradley’s heart. Deflect. Delay. Disguise. Disappear.
2

Sphinx

are you speaking with my mouth? are you speaking with my dirty mouth? sliding into me at a painful and necessary intersection, this is how we occupy the same point in space: i will kill you. not so recombinant but enduring community, when a boy who is a girl, a sphinxing boy, is always slipping off the eyeball, such a womanly blue boy and with redder hair like a dirty-talking sunset. like her i am picturesque isolationist terrorism. riddle me that. over here persons are lambent as anemones, persons sway in the dark stir of the sea erotically, light dark persons and we say abide with me. in your fairness and my stupidness abide, in that yellow dress, in that hateful shirt abide, abide in your working and in my not working, in your all-levelling colourlessness (and in mine) abide, lie and when you do so abide. there is a moistureless desert which abides, there is a petrified wood which abides, in them are houses suddenly abandoned, the planets pass over them and abide. summers of biding and abiding, for in the winter we die. so if to say cedar is to smell cedar, then what am i? if a bird is a snake and a lion is a girl then get your eye off my eye! keep that mouth away from me! you wear a face of quietly sad dislocation because you do and i am off-broken, drifting above vague, gloaming anemones because i am. when the voice that ends me calls it calls like i do, traumatised, needy, righteous and raging. the sphinx is the beast of peace i sent to devour you, with just your head left, sticking out.
3

Mirror Test

Again the boy cries himself hoarse
while we sing these hours just

before dawn. First the alphabet,
then “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,”

then “Lupang Hinirang,” the words
like foxes, like milk teeth. We can’t

hold him quiet yet. His body must,
they say, learn now about hunger,

about being alone. So we
hum and shhh into the yellow-

bruise of Sunday, these songs the shape
of our mouths in the dark, open

seas, and a brightness we have no
name for—

4