memory

Morning in the city

The boat slaps against the timber wharf

the muddy water sloshes against the piers, like water poured out of an old boot.

Mr. Thomas lets out an inadvertent roar into the tired morning.

People around look at him,

not in surprise but more in disappointment,

as if to say:

Yes, we’re all in this, but we are controlling ourselves, thank you.

Thomas looks up and sees a group of teenage school girls,

laughing, their youth pleased with itself in the face of aging misery.

They are too young and strong to be brought down.

They are, in their beauty, like a powerful beacon holding off the heavy night.

He watches one girl for a moment, the tallest and most pretty of the group,

he sees the sunlight finger her blonde-brown hair

like the light in the leaves of a forest.

Then he looks away to see a man throw a cigarette into the harbor.

What promises he made himself

when he was young

and how much more beautiful that woman was

than even that girl

at 17.

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The conference

-How do you discriminate between the staff?

He asked, leaning back in his chair.

The place was an old winery

That never made enough money, so now they held all the university meetings here.

-Why would I?

The woman answered.

-How do you decide who is good and not so good?

The whole room of people stirred uneasily.

A fox and a hare had run past the window earlier; I watched out the window

Hoping they’d return; I began to daydream.

I remembered the night the old man started to cry in my office.

He was telling me how he had cut down German citizens from his Spitfire in World War 2.

They hadn’t done anything,

He just had bullets left.

He saw them crossing a field,

They were old men and woman and children

One of them had shaken a fist at him,

He could see their faces,

So close was he as he flew over them.

He turned and unleashed those barking pipes.

He cried that night as he remembered.

Now we sit in a meeting and argue about adjectives in our communication documents.

The old man had said to me that night:

-It’s a terrible thing to grow old

But it’s better than the alternative.

 

Shunt stone

She began to take the things off the shelf one by one,

first she took the radio and flung it against the wall and it came apart in three neat pieces, it reminded me of the time at work a fellow fell into a pressing machine and had his head split open. His body lay next to the top of his head, while the middle part, the brains and the rest, lay in a messy warm pile on the floor. The radio had three parts too, the back, the middle with all the electronics and the radio’s body. The only difference was the lack of blood. When that man died, there was blood everywhere, like wine from many smashed bottles.

Next she grabbed the children’s art they had made at school.

She flung these about, pages of paintings, clay sculptures, paddle pop stick things, all thrown and smashed.

Then there were two glass vases that went against the brick wall, they exploded with beauty and crystalline dreams. The powder floated for a moment in the air.

Last was a lamp. It was a woman holding up a light bulb with a delicate silk shade.

She held it in the air for a moment, taunting me, she knew I loved it, then she sent it to a shattering death across the room.

Breathing heavily, half naked she stood there looking at me. I looked down to her bare feet.

“Be careful you’ll step on some glass,” I said.

She raised her feet as if to stamp on the glass, she held her small well shaped foot there for a moment and I waited. But sensing it would hurt her more than me, she took it away, crossing the room carefully. She locked herself in the bathroom.

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