reminded us of a place,
and it was bittersweet –
it felt like home, but also
not so, the wind
our age, something
I’ve been so deep in my head
I’m disgusted with myself,
so for a moment
I just tried to live
for someone else –
you, and your friend
we lit a candle
on the beach.
And so I dug
in the murky
sand and water
for shells, thankful
for thinking only of that –
shells, sand, mud
I didn’t realise how much I needed the rain
until it came, and kept coming
heavy and hard, reassuring
as a bronzed hand on the shoulder, silent,
two of us sheltering under one brolly
splashing, and the wind too, wrestling
with it like a rod reeling humongous carp.
We came to the river under a canopy
of thick red wood, the river whipped white,
boiling, and you shout:
I didn’t really hear, a wet hood sucked to my head:
I paused too long, didn’t show
enough emotion, you say:
“You’ve spent too long in the city”
You’re right – I watch the heron watch the foam,
the river thrashes in time with my stomach
as my mind crashes against its man-made banks
fragile, fit to dissolve as easily as salt in water.
A lot of respect for this artist. Didn’t do him enough justice in this sketch! 45mins, 4B & 6B graphite pencil.
Sit and think
about the year
he said and so I did
On my back ‘gainst rough plastic and rope
and I heard the sky,
swilled it in my mouth
like fountain ink
and tried to think.
Coffee came sweet
no more bitterness-
the old tan hand Columbian
rested weighty on my shoulder
like an answer
to the same old dread
sprung like from a split hose
strays shocked, even cats caught unaware
much older and much smarter–
been around for donkeys years,
been around since dino times–
fan their wings and nimbly dance
around that twinkling teasing shower,
their movements automatic
like those of mothers
who make the most
bowls of potato peel,
pints of drained fat–
some use some where–
torrents of left-overs!
I never learned!
I realise suddenly and with a pang
of panic,veins icy,
junked up on waste
and on the nod,
watching the birds
legs folded neatly underneath
They knew I couldn’t catch them if I tried.
I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe the cheek- I know. I know.
Sarah, you won’t believe it, if I told you you simply could not believe it /beginning to raise her voice/ and I swear, I feel violated I…I
Just tell me exactly how it started
I’m coming home from work, and I know he’s meant to be staying here, but I thought ‘he’s a friend of Liam’s, so just give him a chance’ because I’m a liberal person, I’m accepting – Yeah, uhuh – So I get home and what do I see – what? – a fuckin’ huge van right in my driveway leaking oil all over the place /pauses for effect/ – No-o way – Yep, I mean the real deal; no hubcaps, pillowcases up against the windows, books all over the dash, I swear I even saw dirty plates in there – Jesus – Okay so this has just set me up like really got my blood boiling already but I compose myself, all smiles. I get through the door, tensed and ready to greet one of them and what do I see? Three! / voice raised to a metal tea kettle squeal / – Unbel- I know right so for a second I’m taken aback, like, uh he-elo? And this one kind of shifts his feet like shit wouldn’t melt in his mouth before Matt introduces them. They’re friends of his and they actually live in that thing outside! So I say to myself ‘buckle up baby this is going to be a bumpy ride’ and show my teeth to them, show them the whites of my teeth and the whites of my eyes so they know who’s boss around here – Of course – Anyway, I’m on my phone messaging Liam because he is going to get it when I see him at tennis and Matt is running my fuckin’ ear off about something unimportant India or something I dunno – ha ha – and I’m barely listening when I spot it – what?- A wet towel on my carpet. / And the thought of this memory even now months later it seems too much for her, she can feel the rage bubbling upwards threatening to wet her eyes and loosen her throat to a terrible scream / A wet towel are you KIDDING me! Been here two minutes and look what he’s done to the place! So, still ignoring Matt and his yadeyadeda I climbed a mountain whogivesashit but responding in grunts and nods because I will always give people common decency I’m like that – Yeah, yup – I go to pick up the towel. And ho-oly Father in heaven the smell. It made me want to retch! One of these filthy urchins, these dogs these these / Her knuckles white with a brittle grip her frame shuddering / I honestly…on my cream carpet! So very calmly I place it outside all the while messaging Liam like : “These idiot friends of yours these pig idiots this is what happens this is what happens” but you can understand? – Of course, I would have done the same thing – But my patience does know bounds and I finally spit out at Matt saying we all have to pull our weight if we’re going to get along and I can see him and his friends his pig idiot friends glancing to each other like I’m friggin’ mental but I’ve got my eyes on my phone I won’t have it I just keep my eyes on my phone and I get out of there. – Unbelieveable, absolutely indignant – It’s like at work, the Maori girl that works there is so lazy so inherently lazy it’s the same principle these extended adolescents want to live in a van and eat beans from a can whatever I don’t care but don’t bring that hippy shit to me and my life don’t get me involved / Why did Liam leave her everything was perfect everything had it’s place but she mustn’t tell Sarah that she must… /
/The conversation ended, rang short by the arm of the clock making its way around to six, signalling the end of lunch. She flicked the butt of her cigarette onto the pavement and exhaled the last string of smoke into the air. She turned back into the building, where she would wrestle with the remains of the workday until such a time as she could be at home, in her cold, tidy apartment/
Some said he reigned from somewhere in the South Pacific, though none knew definitely, as he never spoke. His only verbal expulsion came in the early hours, when squirming atop thin embalmed sheets, he groaned incoherently as he thrashed fitfully in the grip of night terrors. None knew his name, though many experienced his smell, a pungent odor that mewled through the thick ever-closed door to his chambers. When I myself was led to this hovel I strained against the ever increasing urge to retch, I swallowed through gritted teeth, my nostrils flared and my eyes balled and rolled. This was my room for the night, and my travelling companion’s too. We could hear the rhythmic rolling of insects’ scurrying legs as we sat, almost in shock, on our appropriately bald and stained mattresses. The window could not be opened, no, for his bed lay underneath it – I say bed, though nest would probably be more fitting- and there was an animosity in the air that one feels when confronted with a dog that is reared to bite. For a second I studied him; I saw the droplets of oil on his dark arm, the long, wiry black locks made heavy and shapely with human grease, the blemished face, the dull black eyes. I was afraid.
We left our bags in that stagnant pit and stumbled to the street, hands clutched to our throats whispering ‘Wine…wine…please…the horror…’, and I say I didn’t really regain consciousness fully until I felt the warm slug of Merlot pushing the bile that lay in my throat back into the confines of my stomach. I only had thirty dollars left, of which the wine had cost seven, but I regretted nothing. We sat in a dark corner of a cathedral courtyard and drank in near silence, occasionally glancing up at the sky-lit clock face and murmuring, spluttering through wine stained teeth ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ spitefully and ironically. The dark presence in room five of our lodgings epitomized the past few days of struggle; our increasingly desperate attempts to find work, our vanishing funds, the seedy comfort of drink and bad food, the discontent of dirty clothes and dirty bodies, a crushing fatigue embodied by our heavy packs, the sadness in our eyes that stared back, rueful, from each public bathroom’s cracked and misted mirror.
Not for the first time I asked myself how I had warped and buckled the ideal of backpacking in New Zealand so thoroughly and with such finality. Though, (clutching my almost finished bottle tight, and smiling) a word pushed itself from my red lips – sui generis –