shortstory

For the Soul of Your Mother

From the pitch blue that strikes
ache in the eye for trying
to find a bottom,
we carried into
Reeth under
an evil of colour,
bedraggled with cloud-rips.
Lost I’d say, or left behind-
red-sided
garter snake ecdysis,
vixen smeared
over an oily road;
or that thrift shop cardie
you’d never wear,
but for the soul of your mother,
can’t take your eye off.

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Still, They Knew Him from the Flock

Inside the beacon, someone
found the blue eyed lamb hung;
throat frilled as gunnysack,
sea-cold,
in the first field of the coming sun.

Atlas and Axis disengaged;
both strung and trapper.
Music of death-rattle.
Selena’s tracks between used
rubbers, and chocolate wrappers.

How many nights before death,
caught in mooring rope,
the stars washed in so low
a tall man might knock his head;
the moon stooped enough to hang his coat.

The Snakes Were Hushful

When we got together

people wanted to talk to me.

People who never wanted to talk to me before.

 

Snakes

 

Slowly, I’m starting

to think,

there aren’t

many

who aren’t.

 

Still, we were together,

and i was something.

But she watched too much television,

and I stared too deep

into the window,

and with little to

say to each other,

it expired.

And the snakes were hushful again.

 

I wanted to hurt,

but in honesty, I felt better

than I had

in a long, long time.

 

We just stopped and went on alone,

unscathed.

It was nice.

 

We were like ghosts

that stumbled through each other.

Richmond

Before I left my home town

after we’d all been there far too long,

everything  good,

it begin to gently rock and sit askew,

like the peach with the worm inside.

And though it is really a very pretty place

there have been suicides,

and there will be suicides.

And the night sky is deeper than any other place I’ve been.

 

We were close friends

but slowly, In small ways, we turned on each other,

doing bad things Just to see what it felt like.

Sick,

and artless,

and stuck.

But now when I go back there

everything they do, or say is poetry.

 

Last time I was in town

they told me about two local boys.

One, with his friends, stole the other’s cocaine.

So he, with his friends,

snapped his legs.

Now his friends, and friends of theirs want revenge.

Wherein lies a problem in such a small place,

because friends of his friends, are friends with his friends, friends.

 

Then they showed me this

thick legged, butcher of a spider they’d captured under a measuring glass,

suspended in frosty lines.

Pure evil in a jug cup.

I wondered, did it know it was caught at all?

They said his name was Bruce.

Bruce had been in training.

They’d been catching flies and smaller spiders,

and placing them in there with him.

Sixty days and nights they were sacrificed,

Strung up, and gutted ashen.

Bruce, they told me, had tripled in size.

Then they introduced me to Titus.

Titus is a bruiser, they said.

It was true, he was a killer.

A sooty death hand in a mason jar.

He and Bruce were to be pitted against one another

under the jug.

 

It was all so excitingly cruel.

I wanted to tell them to let them go,

but they wouldn’t have,

so I didn’t.

 

I had to leave before the fight was scheduled.

It would have been an interesting thing to see.

I’m still waiting to hear how it all turned out

with the stolen cocaine, and the feuding boys.

With Bruce, and Titus the Bruiser.

It’s likely they’ll forget to tell me

but it doesn’t matter all that much.

 

One will devour the other,

and the victor will be alone

again,

under his cold glass sky; No Horizon.

Then the victor,

the victor will die too.

And I wonder, do they know they’re caught at all?

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The Argonauts

Moved down the hall
of an upscale
shopping centre
in Paris, where they worked,
like
berserkers cut for the modern,
uncompromising men.
They had it all.
What did they need to stop for?
To contemplate,
to claim,
to pray for,
to perfect.
Not even for the girl
in a sun dress
sat on the floor in the shade
against a polished marble pillar
that so many would stop breathing for,
and on their way past
made her stand and hold her bags,
but she won out.
She had
Strong legs,
and hair as long as her.

And I know that such a thing as the soul exists

because those men were each
so clearly, and
fatally bereft of one

and had a lot of things and objects.

Leather of the Minotaur’s neck
and those good, good looks
like Hylas, had he loved
his wet nymphs for a night,
then murdered them all
in their sleep,
leaving pond life to nibble
at their opened throats –
Sailed away with Hercules.
And nice suits and watches and socks

and this
and that.

and themselves.

They’ll never look at the moon,
crescentic, and stained
and say
it looks like orange peel.
They won’t see the moon at all.
They’re not looking for the moon.
They have it all.
They’re so sure.
Everyone is so sure.
They have it,
and they move
as the bloodied
Butcher
For his pig.
Cool as killers
Inviolable.
Deathless.

They were closing in on
some tiny body
dressed in deep blue
overalls.
A man with a spine like a shepherd’s crook,
and purple apostrophe eyes
mopping the stairs.
The smallest man I’d seen in Paris.
He must have looked like a bug
to them.

They came close.

No
said the bug.

But they heard him not.

They came closer.

About to stomp him

Closer still.

NO!

said the bug

loudly,
looking up,
raising his arm out
with a flattened palm.

And lo,

the men
were still
and scrunched their noses and
looked around,
as if for some glass wall they’d mistaken
for air.

They glared down heavy
with eyes like knives,

but the old man was gone back to his art.
They growled and flapped,
but the man
never looked back
up,
not once.

The men stooped off
cursing and defeated
a different way,
to some distant staircase.

And you know
there’s such a thing as the soul.

It lets a bug
be a lion.

And a demi god

bleed.

Since The Birds

A train went past ours breathing,
and bawling, like a drove
of bulls goring
each other
from the inside of a storm cloud,

and no one blinked.

Kept on staring through one another,
out windows.
Deaf.

Beethoven listened
to the nightingale sing,
and the way the cuckoo,
and the quail did,
on long walks.
He used the way they spoke
in his work and loved them very, very much.
It must be the saddest thing in the world
that birdsong was the first thing
he noticed he couldn’t hear.

Sadder than a funeral with the world or no one there;

a cloud of crying moths
dowsing fireflies with tears;

or all the jigsaw puzzles
in every din-less old folks home missing
just one piece.

Another train punched through the long
shadow, sounding like a
a God dying,
and no one flinched, or missed a line in their book.

Like the end of the world,
that’s how it sounds,
the city.

Cars pass with diminishing yells,
like bodies
falling from great heights.

And the streets seem to yawn to fit us in.

Planes boom overhead,
but below they wash dishes,
and fit shoes, bake, and shake hands.
People on board sleep, almost
peacefully,
and their ears pop.

The city sounds like the end of the world,
might be,
and no one thinks
or frets at all.

One day it will truly end
and I don’t suppose anyone will notice,
and charred dead people will just keep walking
and working, and fucking, falling down cracks in the earth,
numb still,
no more broken than now.

Dauntless,
Lonely.
Deaf.

On, on!

We must be the saddest
thing In the world

Since the birds,
since the birds.

On, on.
Coughing, drinking,
murdering.

Dragging.

On,
on.

Forever.

Tongues That Tie Cherry Stalks and the Eaters of the Cherry.

Writers are not people

who are good at expressing themselves.

Writers are shambolic

things that sit alone

In a quiet

room for hours,

with anything that stains a mark

on something else, because they forget

Too easy,

to make just one sentence

Right,

or to make just one sentence

Theirs.

I’ve heard people

talk

better than any script.

I’ve read writing

that isn’t anything.

And the writers envy

the talkers.

And the talkers are scared of dying,

because the moment

belongs to those talkers,

but

eternity

to the

writers.

Killer

The Preacher had been hiding out in a shed. It had taken us four months to track him. He was stinking and bearded. There was a bucket in the corner filled with things he’d expelled, and flies glitched over to the bucket, from him and back again. I’d smelled worse. People often evoke the smell of charred flesh, in writing especially, but the charred flesh is alright. It smells like breakfast. It’s the smell of the raw meat that sticks with you. I took out my gun. Freddie took out his. Shuddering, he spoke,

“You lads have lost your way. To kill a messenger of Jesus Christ, do you not fear for your souls? Leave me my life, accept God in to yours, and you will be forgiven. You will, you will, truly you will”.

“Well that depends old fella”.

“On what now?”

“Whether we need to do something here today that would need forgiving. Do you have what we’ve come for?”

“No, I’m sorry. I can have it by next month, I’m sorry. I swear on Jesus our lord and savior, on my ma’s grave, I swear it”.

I lifted my gun. Freddie lifted his.

“That’s not good enough I’m afraid”.

He spluttered rather than breathed. The contours of his throat deepened like the revolving chambers of a six shooter.

“No, no! Wait, God Almighty. Have you no respect for the sanctity of life?”

My stomach cramped up.

“Aye the first person I killed, I cried all night. Then my friend stepped on a land mine, and as I dodged falling toes and splinters of shin, I did scream. Again I cried all night. I thought about dying myself. Surely there was no way I’d get home. I saw this every day. Sometimes I knew them, sometimes I knew of them, and most of the time they were just anonymous blood balloons, leaking all over and bursting. No, life isn’t sacred, but death might be…

Freddie shot two into his chest. The Preacher leaked nicely on the floor.

“Freddie, I was talking to the man”.

“Sorry, it just seemed like a good place in what you were saying to do it like. He’s still breathing. Say what you’ve got to say, quickly mind”.

“Freddie he’s bled half to death, he’s not going to be lending me his ear at this point”.

The Preacher gargled, mumbling where he was able. Freddie shot him just above the right eye. It hung loose, rolling gently on his cheek. Little bits of brain fell out his head, and bounced on the floor. They looked like popcorn if popcorn was meat. Reminded me how hungry I was. I didn’t have breakfast on account of having to come early morning to find this old fella.

“Can we leave? I’m starving over here, no reason we got to die along with this one”.

He had great blood. Slightly deeper red than most you see. It looked thicker. He mustn’t have had a drop of alcohol for decades. Maybe he ate too much salt. Perhaps it was just the floor.

“Isn’t that good blood”?

Freddie looked down at the dead thing, then turned to me with diving eye brows,

“What are you talking about, psycho”.

“The colour, it’s nice isn’t it, so rich. That’s the shade I want in my hallway. And don’t be off calling me a lunatic now, I’ve just seen you shoot that man in his guts twice, then in the head. There needed be only one, sadist”.

Last words are always interesting. They’re more interesting than first words. My first word was no. Funny how my first words answer his last words. It’s all backwards it is. The sanctity of life he says. See I went for a walk along the pier one afternoon a few months after I got home. It must have been around four pm. I was entirely alone, it was high tide, and the moon was strung fat and low, but there was still a nice light. The sky was fading gently from white on the horizon to a ghostly blue, getting deeper the higher you looked, and the water looked like molten opals. Opals that lapped, and lulled, and shivered on forever beyond sight. Now, sometimes some things make you forget that you’re on planet earth. Make your favourite Monet look like a cave drawing. They make you forget about sex, or that you have a dick at all. They make you forget you’re even alive, they make you forget about death, and as I sat that day on that bench I realised I’ve never dreamed anything so perfectly gorgeous. That was sacred. Not him, not his popcorn brains, not me, not my family, or his, not the living nor the dead, just the motion of the melted opals and the stillness of the greedy moon. That was sacred. Last week I lifted an old, warped pan off the stove with hot oil in it. I listened to the popping bubbles ping against the surface of the pan. It was this robotic orchestra of metallic harmonies that made Beethoven sound like shit. That was glorious. That was sacred.