• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 02
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When It’s Time to Draw a Line

When it’s time to draw a line
I'll pick a grey afternoon in Paris, early March,
when the tourists are at lunch
and the bouchinists huddle in conspiratorial congress
beside their stalls.
I'll smoke a cigarette on
the Pont au Double, gazing
down into the roping
waters of the Seine, primordial, slate green,
exposed in their true tone by
the marble sky.
I'll be dressed in my finest clothes, a colourful tie,
my heaviest boots.
I'll hum a tune as I ease
my old body
over the rail and then
just standing a while
I'll watch the bateaux mouches
and salute the voyagers,
marking their disquiet, their timid, waved replies,
their murmured passing concern,
quickly forgotten.
Then, with all quiet
outside and in,
with an audience of indifferent pigeons lined up on the quay
and the tight-lipped gargoyles
or Our glowering Lady,
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Pieces of glass

When she sees her chance she leaves. She doesn’t take her shoes, or the coral lipstick she insists on wearing, although she’s seen the care-worker’s pitying looks, as though they are thinking, What’s the point, at her age? She picks up the scarf one of her daughters gave her, ties it round her waist. She’s not sure if that’s where it’s meant to go, but hopes it will keep her warm.

The girls with fat bottoms and long, cow’s lashes and plastic nails are outside smoking cigarettes and laughing. She walks out of her room with its neat bed and thick, swirled carpet, through the hall and out of the front door, which she closes quietly behind her. She knows where she is going, but isn’t sure she remembers the way.

She makes her way past cars parked on the gravel, and through the village. Everything is dark, apart from the yellow glow of light from windows. Her bare feet are like ice; stones and dirt press into her skin. She climbs down the steps towards the beach. She wants to see it one last time; the place she used to come with him. They’d lie under the giant rock shaped like a man’s face, with beaked nose and protruding forehead. She’d worry that a piece of rock might fall off and land on them, but he’d say, Silly bird, and kiss her nose. She can still remember the heft of him, the sea-salt smell of his skin.

She climbs onto a rock. Her mind might not be what it once was – sometimes she forgets words, or where she is, or who she is – but her body is still agile. The women in her family have always been thin as birds, and strong. She stands staring at the starlit sky, the ink-black sea. She imagines holding her baby son up to the stars, the way a lion did once in a cartoon, then laughs as she remembers he’d be forty-five now. She’d written to him once, and received a polite letter in return. I wish you all the best, he’d said. But I won’t be coming to meet you.

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Midweek on the Coast

Silver and white
Lay claim to day, greystreaming
Light as much as the next blue sky.

We see you speaking to cliffside,
Break of five in the morning,
Constellations fading on your hair—

Your blouse a bare, visible flag of death,
Flaring like a smile wide, billowing away from us.
Tell us which direction your head is honing in on:

Back to us, God in the sea reflections
There in the rocks, a deity’s mouth
In years of eroded solids?

Or are you waving our way, barefoot,
A friendly hey between dawn
And school hours? Apt, on a Wednesday for physics.

This is where your sister began
Her fear of craggy beach landscapes far afield.
We laid squat candles on cardboard boats.

Watched them go to you, never
Once a “RETURN TO SENDER”. Peaceful—
Just how we closed-eyed envisioned your face.

Die properly, in far escape from the study of light’s reflection
On planar surfaces. Seep away into the breeze beneath a seagull,
Take your last stare at all extant embers of earthly infatuation.

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The Summer I Became a Prophet

Overwhelming two-dimensionality; it is the visual symptom of my anxiety.

Re-calibrating my identity and position in the world following university was the cause of my first nervous breakdown. The sudden thrust from the warm waters of deluded Cambridge optimism to the ice-cold reality of the London urban struggle lead to extreme isolation. And isolation lead to my developing suspicion thatthe world was not real.

In acute moments of anxiety – fuelled by the aching desire for something to happen in plagues of loneliness – I would experience a physical dissociation from my surrounding environment. Everything in my visual field became quickly two-dimensional, as if the world was a flat pictorial representation on a thin sheet of paper. In doubting my immediate visual matrix, I became fixated – obsessive, even – over the notion that a tear in the fictitious plane of reality would lead me to “the essence behind everything.” If reality was a two-dimensional construct that I could not associate with, then I was not to trust it.

This niggling feeling that beyond what I saw lay a cavernous offering of alternatives catalysed my “eureka” moment – “I am a prophet.” It was my destiny to locate this tear; only then could I escape my solitary confines – to disappear and fuse more physically and intimately with the infinitude behind the two-dimensional. What was my prophecy to others searching for salvation? That anxiety was the result of multi-dimensional, corporeal, animal human spirits, failing to coalesce with two-dimensional fictions.

Looking up at the stars, at the vast ocean, at nature’s geological idiosyncrasies – the peculiar thin smoothness of Saturn’s “rocky” belt - enforced my prophetic quest: “I know these formations to be deeply complex, yet I see them as drawings. How can I get behind – how can I move to the sumptuous organs of worlds beyond ours?”

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