Broad backed, seal-like on the rock of stubborn acceptance
she feels flop-heavy, all fierceness gone. Dipping into morning’s
amber road, the journey absorbs her pain, smoothes the grumbling
edges. I try to read the whole of her: the shudder on the stairs,
her crumpled skirt dangerously torn. The road has seen and heard
it all before. The walking wounded don’t commit suicide on a whim.
My mind is a playground with a germ of an idea, a gem sparkling
within the umbra:
Mountains deny artificial explosives can be put
to good use. We explode naturally at times—all that fat.
Ash and steam create the loudest sound ever heard,
while history doffs its hat. We surmise that if we bubble
and expand enough, someone will hear the report.
Jets are ready to take off for war; banners advertise the beauty
of cruel weapons. Sticky-pawed children queue to stroke
red-tipped wings, imagine parachute silks floating through
clouds escalating beyond the hangars. Fathers, who won’t watch
them grow, climb into polished seats, their specialist camouflage,
invisible in dark paintings, quivering under the thrust of propellers.
The sky dribbles vibrant colour, drifts through the scenery. Destination
isn’t important when fighting is; challenging the insupportable
outweighs the risk. For gamblers, risk is everything and nothing
at the same time; they can’t imagine not making their mark, won’t be
remembered with the wispy beards and skinny shins of old men.
The end is a plume of dust rising from the tombs of the bewildered.
Clouds lower and prove the curve of sky circling
in broad strokes. Sea should soothe, it’s inevitable
power override the black dog pounding towards me.
Head-blows won’t cause permanent damage, though
double-vision is inconvenient. I watch sprite shadows
scampering along sea walls, see him hook
twin trout who wriggle on the end of taut lines, reeling
them in, hugging their slippery bodies with four arms.
I no longer lust for him, not even as an idea. My addiction
to unreality, found at the bottom of wine bottles, gives
extra layers of skin even as he flays them; we’re angry
as gulls squabbling over sea-food half-baked in sun.
At the tidal point where ripples run like dominoes
from sea left to sea right, memory offers up decades
of misunderstandings, trying to make things right,
managing to never be right. Reality pounds in my ears
leaving no room for imagination, the crest before anything happens
the only time our power seems matched. There’s no turning back,
no gentle retreat to look forward to, just being plucked like a bruised whelk
from its shell. I learn my lesson over and over again, but every wave
is a little different, shifting grains into distinct patterns, hitting new rhythms,
shuffling another set of broken dreams to fold in on themselves.
Tearing along the beach, pebble-heart scattering
sinewy seaweed, my small muscle begs to rest after
years of allowing foam to gather around buoys
undulating like chalk monsters dipping
in and out of oceans. My honesty doesn’t allow
what’s hidden to stay hidden, the breeze is Coor’s,
empty seashells crackling under my feet, asking
if I’m victim or executioner, waves telling me all I need
to know, though to translate them would be a travesty.
Karen Little’s first novella, ‘Filled with Ghosts’ was published in December 2015, and shortlisted for a Saboteur Award in 2016. Set in 90’s Southern Spain it was described as ‘Visceral, surreal, and utterly compelling. This is a writer who finds a strange beauty in the darkest of places.’ The second book in the trilogy, ‘Ghost Train Leaving’ was published in July 2017.