#shortstory

One arm

Standing at the railway station,

A man with a long beard and only one arm came up to me.

“Don’t I know you?” he said.

“I don’t think so,” I answered.

I sat down on a bench, and the man sat next to me.

We didn’t speak, but he seemed to think there was some connection between us.

“The feeling I like best in the world,” he said, leaning toward me as he spoke,

“Is to get really dirty. I mean covered in dirt until your hair goes wiry,

And your skin goes white and brown from dirt, and then to wait for a really cold night,

And have a hot shower. I just love to see the dirt run off the skin,

I love the feeling of getting clean.

Do you know what I mean?”

I didn’t answer him. But I knew what he meant. I like that feeling too.

The man smelled bad, like a urine soaked mattress.

“Do you know where there are any showers around here?” he asked.

“The service station has some, in the truck stop. About five blocks toward the bridge.”

The man nodded and smiled. “Do I need to write that down?” he asked.

“No, it’s just over there.” I pointed toward the bridge.

“Hey, do those showers cost anything?”

“I think they’re free.”

“Hey, I just want to thank you for being a good friend.”

I didn’t say anything, but I laughed.

“No, seriously. You’ve been so good. I’ve been through a lot in my life.

My wife left me for her boss; my daughter is on drugs,

I ain’t eaten well for a long time

And I’ve got this pain in my legs that won’t go away.

It really means a lot to me that you are kind.

Could you lend me five bucks?”

I looked at the guy. He had red sores on his face,

His eyes were narrow and close to each other

His beard was white as cheap paint

But around his scabby mouth

The hair was brown like mud.

I had seen him before.

When I was in high school, I had seen him picking up bottles around town

The bottles could be returned for the deposit.

He had two arms then.

I took five dollars out of my pocket and held it out,

Then took it away.

“How’d you lose your arm?” I asked him.

He looked at my hand with the money in it; he looked hungry.

“I used to fix motors for the city, the big motors that keep the water pressure up in the city.

One day I’m fixing one and I got my arm right up in the tube

And some jerk turns the power on

And it rips my arm right off.

I got blood spraying up the wall, and I’m screaming; they rush me to the hospital.

The doctors ask where my arm is

And no one knows

So they just sew up the socket, and that’s that.

They never found my arm.
It’s still in the water pipes.

It’s in the tubes that supply this city’s drinking water.

My arms rotting in those tubes

And everyone is drinking that water,

So, a part of me is in everyone,

You’re all drinking me.

I looked at the thin man and the empty space at his right shoulder,

His red and white checker shirt sleeve pinned to his chest,

“Everyone is drinking me,” he repeated.

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Angie of office 93

She works in office 93,

A third floor view of a parking lot and a tree.

It is nice enough. At least she can see something.

A cold cup of tea upon her desk

A telephone and a computer

Stare her in the eyes

And ask her, ‘what is the point of all this?’

He left her last week, emailed her a note,

‘Get checked,’ it read, ‘I may have given you…’

She shudders.

‘I got it on the night I didn’t come home.’

She thought about the email and sighed.

Now she looked at the cold cup of tea

And dreaded having to get another

She didn’t want to have to talk to anyone.

The street at five was terrible and cold

The clouds hung on the tops of the buildings

And the advertising signs glowed redder than hell.

She let herself into her small cheap room

with no space for a proper kitchen

The bedroom just off the hall.

She puts on some music and cooks some food, enough for two.

At six a knock at the door

And she lets him in; she hasn’t seen him in years.

He was handsome when she knew him in high school

But now he’s turning fat

And his eyes are watery and always red

But she is glad to have company.

They ate in the cold room,

He looked from her hair to her breast.

She watched the clock near the door.

They sat on the bed and turned on the television

And soon he made his move.

She let him go, and he went all the way.

She was awake when he left, but she gave no sign.

He didn’t lock the door.

She turned to the window and looked at the darkness

A glow came from the city ten miles east.

Outside the street lamps glowed,

The man, his clothes wrinkled, his long hair over his ear

Tried to keep out of the puddles.

 

 

Mostly Mr. Hyde.

There’s a guy I know,

And he sits around all day getting mad,

Or he works at some store or wherever he can get a job

And then he goes out at night running.

He looks for fights; he looks for trouble.

He’s crazy, and he’s angry

He’s never been in a stable relationship.

He starts dating girls; then he starts to agonize about their past boyfriends

Or over thoughts that he’s not good enough for them

Or they’re not good enough for him,

And he starts to break them down and drive them away.

I tell him he has low self-esteem

I tell him not to worry about the things he worries about

But it only gives him more things to twist over.

He tucks a knife into his running shorts

And then he’s off into the night, running all year around,

In summer heat or winter rain,

He goes for hours.

Sometimes he comes back and you can see he’s been fighting.

Some car driven across a driveway, and they don’t give way to him

Or some teenager yelling something at him out the window of a car

While it’s parked at a red light,

Or someone won’t get out of his way.

Most of them regret doing it when he loses it,

Sometimes he finds guys just as angry as himself.

One day, he’ll stab someone

And he’ll go to jail.

I wonder: what’s he got to lose anyway?

A refrigerator full of beer

And some poetry books.

That’s all he has.

He writes poetry sometimes too

Like me.

His writing is good, but that’s not enough.

He’s a mad dog, tearing at his own fur.

 

True love

 

He found me walking home one day, and he started to walk with me,

Every house we passed, he would run in and check for any food left out

And see if he could win a bite,

But then he’d catch up to me and walk at my side with happy pride.

He followed me four blocks

Until we came to a highway

And I turned to him and yelled at him to go.

His face turned to hurt fear and he left.

I crossed the road and regretted what I had done, turned and returned to the other side

and searched for him,

That black and white dog,

But he was gone and I couldn’t find him.

Chances come and go, but I had a chance to love and I let it go.

She stood in the morning light, a sad determined look on her face

And told me to leave.

I left and turned, looking one more time at her standing in the doorway

And my mind goes back to that black and white dog.

The real mistakes I have made haunt me, again and again,

They come like spirits at midnight and dance in front of me, screaming.

The woman didn’t matter, she found someone else and moved on

We did not suit each other,

She’ll never starve.

But that dog! What became of him?

 

anvilsoul1aanvilsoul6o1

The lights in her eyes

At university

I took a few English literature classes.

I would sit in the same seat each week, usually alone

But I would read all the texts

I would hand in all the assessments

And I did well.

I loved the poems, the novels, the short stories.

I took a subject called literature and the screen.

Every Wednesday night the class would attend the campus cinema

To study a movie on that big screen.

I met her on the first night

She had dark black hair and sat just behind me

Her face was gentle like an angel’s

And beautiful.

The dark cinema, would throw pure white light upon her

showing her brown eyes.

She wore woollen tops, and the sleeves would be pulled down over her hands

She wore jeans that hugged her beautifully.

We would talk in the darkness

And she would make me laugh

Her perfection would burn me inside

And each night I would think of her, counting down the days until I saw her again.

I never asked her out, I don’t even remember her name,

But I think of her often.

That I was too shy to tell her how I felt

Still haunts me.

I wonder what she is doing now,

Do you wonder what is happening to those you loved?

I hope all those old loves are happy,

And may they live forever in our hearts.

 

 

 

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A childhood love

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I stood knee deep in the water

Looking at the brown body half submerged before me.

Its skin like dry paper

Or the skin of a well-cooked chicken.

I watched fascinated by the death,

The water playfully lapping about it

While I felt terrified to be near it.

‘Not so near, not so near,’

I whispered to myself.

The river had the brown colour of chocolate and the smell

Was of swamp, fish and now death.

My shorts were wet; I was not supposed to be swimming

But the temperature of the day increased

Until the river sand burned my feet and I needed to stand in the cool of the water.

The strong current, the smooth stones under my feet made me feel so good.

The animal’s horns were white and clean, the only things, apart from its teeth

That were not rotting, falling away. A part of its rib cage poked through its hide

The cow must have come from a farm nearby, or perhaps a farmer had dumped it.

None the less I was frozen, knee deep and fascinated.

Someone from the bank called my name, a woman,

I turned and saw her coming over the sand toward me,

Her yells, high and forceful.

She was not from here; she came to this town to study

My parents paid her to take care of me.

I wanted her in the water with me,

I wanted her confronted with this death and this life.

I was only young, but I was fascinated by her,

She would let me watch her dry her hair after the shower.

I would sit quietly, watching her face,

That gentle smile, the movement of her eyes as they flashed behind her blown hair

That soft brown blown hair that danced like fires on the sun.

She stood by the river, not screaming, just speaking to me

Asking me if I were to swim.

So kindly, so gently.

She had shown me pictures of her time in Africa

She had shown me pictures of her boyfriend.

His dark black skin shone like precious stones, his smile

His confident look, challenging the camera.

He had been run over by a truck

She told me

They had been together on the street and he had stepped out

She saw him

Pushed along the ground as a boot would do to a banana.

She had held me to her as she told the story

I hugged her and listened to her heartbeat

She smelled of honey and spice

‘What is that there?” she asked

We both stood in the heat, the sound of the river like a crowd’s murmur

And pondered the mystery of this death.

 

anvilsoul fb cover

Winter not a summer

 

There is not too much speaking

We’re brooding quietly

While through the hills, the sun is peeking.

We’re just happy sitting here, doing our best thinking

You’re more beautiful than words and all of heaven’s holy birds

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

Many people think that all I say is true

Most of it is, but some lies

I say to stop feeling blue

But if I say you’re beautiful

I mean it through and through

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

Your smile, your soft hair

The pretty clothes you wear

You think you’re just normal but my hearts says beware,

You’re better than all others

More kind and more fair

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

You’re honest and you’re kind,

I love your pretty feet,

If I had to meet anyone again,

It’s you l’d like to meet

And no matter where you go I hope you’re always on a loving street

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

anvilsoul6o1

The heart opens to failure

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There are no words

No poems

Sad enough to describe

This change she said.

It is true

I am too sensitive

I am too full of self-doubt

My joy is secret, untouched, unshared

She does not want to be seen with me.

But I still have legs to go on with

Eyes to see by

And I thank God.

Someone more confident, certain of themselves

With a brighter face and keener wit

Would suit her.

Someone who never doubts, never worries

Happiness is different depending on the person

It has to be this way, so everyone gets some

At least once.

Wounded and dying

Do not add tears to parting

What good is crying?

There are women who inspire poems

And those who stay to see you write them.

 

anvilsoul fb cover

What she does.

The clouds have been heavy,

They cling to the green hills,

The water flows quickly, filling the valley so the lakes and dams overflow;

Destroying the banks that were thought to be high enough.

I love the tumbling, drenching rain,

It comes like sadness, helping me to remember how beautiful sunny days are

Or how sweet happiness is when it comes.

She wrote a story today while we were caught inside,

A story of such joy I read it again and again,  

It is so happy and touched with the beauty that she possesses.

How can it be that she can bring so much sunshine

Into this world of rain?

Lines written in the Dome Reading Room

Glory in the architecture

Splendour in the light

A book, pages open

A love, a journey, a fight.

 

The king is victorious

He is returning home

To his castle on the hill

Under the golden dome

 

I wish I were as lucky,

But I have no one to love

A pocket full of wheat

And a cooing turtle dove.

 

Around me centuries of books. Collected and stuffed into shelves

To be looked at and photographed by tourists.

Young women sit by their computers falling asleep,

They must study because their education is costing more money than their grandfathers ever knew.

The sun shines in through the dome; the light falls on the marble

Where etched are the words

“Glory in the architecture

 Splendour in the light.”

I sit in a timber chair and lean backwards, the chair moans

The sound echoes around the library.

I watch the nearest woman over her computer

Her black hair shines as it presses behinds her ears

I think of silk and the smell of vegetables, the names of which I have never heard.

It has been eighteen years

A lifetime for some

Yet it feels like weeks only,

That meal you made me was delicious

I ate too much and felt sick.

What I wouldn’t give to have one more night with you,

Your black hair shone like dreams,

Dreams fade.