It’s too sunny out,
the cicadas can be heard,
through the microphone
It’s too sunny out,
It’s too sunny out,
the cicadas can be heard,
through the microphone
If Jack remained inside his room for too long, he was often victim to having his body overcome with an overwhelming pressure. A kind of presence within his blood, pulling at the sinew under his skin and forcing him into a state of irritability, one which he could not account for.
At times such as these, he would stop what he was doing and take a long walk to gather flowers.
He couldn’t recall when he first started doing this, but he knew that when he returned to his house, hands full with fresh picks, he would be cured temporarily.
Jack found himself following the walkway which traced the edge of the creek. He came to life at the shifting gravel under his feet, the loose sediment playing a melody of white noise with every step.
It had been a wet summer, and the heat was late in arriving. Spring felt as if it had doubled in length, and Jack breathed deeply of the moistened air, taking in the fragrances of fresh growth.
The forest across the creek was absorbed in shades of pine and moss, all of the trees being evergreens, and the mangroves owned the banks with complete autonomy. Jack remembered walking through these as a child, coming back cold and covered in sludge, the stench of which was so that it caught like rotten eggs in the back of your throat. Once, a fresh shoot shot right through the bottom of his brother’s foot, coming up between the bone next to his large toe. It didn’t quite pierce all the way through and instead appeared like a tiny hill atop his foot.
These walks were walks of memory. Contemplation of nature and of Jacks own nature. It was his habit to walk the length of his walk, eyeing out potential picks, and then doubling back, confirming those choices. This was in line with how Jack lived his life.
At this time of year, the tuis had flown from the deep inland bush to feed on the flower nectars and the insects which stuffed themselves full of the sweetness of nature’s bounty. Their song was such that Jack found himself whistling back to them. He was envious of their two voice boxes, but he rarely knew what to do with the one he owned.
Jack now turned for home, the compiled list completed.
The tactile sensations of picking were his favourite part, and he would spend a short time with each plant, running his hand along the bark to feel their textures, along the leaves and flowers, gently caressing them with the lightest of touches, and coaxing them to release their distinct aromas.
He first picked a thin stem from a young Manuka tree, with small white blossoms climbing the length, and round woody seed pods scattered about it. Next, he pulled several lots of the long, curved flowers from the Harakeke flax bushes which dominated the walkway. Due to the odd weather, the bushes were in different stages of flowering and he was able to pick from a gradient range of yellows, greens, reds. Lastly, he came to some roadside perennials, blossoming in a rich shade of cherry, streaked with a tangerine and honey centre. Jack could taste the fruits of his labour.
The terrace is encased in trellises covered with grape vines, and troughs filled with herbs lay along the edges. The air is fresh and smells of meals that haven’t been cooked yet.
Rosemary on lamb. Tarragon rubbed chicken. Mushroom fettuccine topped with basil and thyme, and time put into it.
The waiter brings me a long list of drinks, and some bread, no butter.
The sea is to my left and the white canvas sails snap in the breeze, reminding me of the woman who lived on the cobbled streets of Nice, who would hang her washing to dry in the spring heat, snapping the sheets with a whip of her arms, and scolding the children who would run through the tenement yard, but it was their yard, everyone shared, even the baked pastries she would leave as treats near the wash basket, and the children would scrub soiled undergarments and white canvas sheets to earn a warm tart with cream, the only treat they would see, and they would be pleased, running through the yard which they all shared.
Sails will never go out of fashion, even with better and more powerful engines being produced. The sound of a sail catching wind is a signal to men of the sea to meditate and follow the currents of their lives. To catch fish and feed their families, to enjoy the breeze and misery of lost dreams.
I am not a sailor, I have no legs for the decks of damp surroundings, so I eat my bread and think of the woman hanging sheets, and I sail on the winds of my memories imaginings.
Can this hold to prevent breaking?
What can be used to brace?
There’s structural damage
Draining what’s left of dreaming
Boys hipping in daddy’s soot-suits
Boots faded brand new
Dark jaded unhewn
Stone and mortar replaced by paper and glue
That won’t hold
Become your own saviour
That rope around your waist
Is it long enough to tie around?
Can it hold to prevent breaking?
Will it hold?
Will you be ashamed of stains and stray frayed ends?
A face that’s afraid
Why not let it break?
Embrace the fall
The fall is as important as the hold
Not even this feeling fleeting moments past
If you return home now the memory will be in leaving
In flux or an influx?
Why this empty space?
There are so many question marks at the ends of all my sentences
An inward agitation expressed as curiosity
Breadth of interest concealing depth
‘That boy’s shallow’ they would say
And no one would dance
There’s no time for that
When was my last breath
I could chance it
Gamble my reservations in hopes that my place would be saved
To remain seated would allow me to hold my place
This indeterminate ill-defined location in space
Or was it indifference which defined me?
It doesn’t matter there is no difference
The thoughts keep me within the body
Foul flavoured copper mouth
I should eat something
With no sustenance the body will feed on my substance
‘He’s shallow’ they would say ‘eaten away at himself’
Not carved nor hewn
Stripping flesh and sinew
The body was empty to fill
The singular instances of my existence bring shame
Doubts and pains
Aches from stagnation and the stench of rotting meat in my hands
Is it the same?
Would it have been had I not been?
This can never be so give thanks it never will
How empty this instance except for what I bring to it
I am alone at the beach
On a bench
Or was it a seat in my home
These streets unfamiliar
The world was all kittens and rainbows
Blood and cum
The sum of some great nothing
There’s people making love while others are fucking
Some wear makeup with their misery
Some loosen their belts and strangle theirs
Welt marks of the beaten cock
The baboon Red ass
Red hand grabs
Red in their shit and in their shot eyes
Red beads dripping from cavities
Red cunt Red cock Red Red
Everything was Red
Paint me a picture of Red
The other colours are not vigorous enough
They don’t blind or stop or force hands
They are not Red
They don’t fill your body with the embalming fluid of the River Styx
Come back to me Red
I am exhausted
Step into the frigid silvered air
Leave your light on for when you return
Wander to places familiar to escape familiarity
Contours gouge large iridescent marks
Across the landscape in the shades of evening
Yellow spring flowers are subdued
The scent thick weight around their buds
Going stale after picking
Sienna and umber against the woods under streetlights
Their vapour of white flame
Contained and bound
Only moving when the current allows
The water below finds the light alluring and so collects itself
Far above before raining down cobalt bolts
Gathering atop and around the electric prison
Absorbing and refracting into a myriad of tones
Forming a symbiotic stained glass window
Dripping globules of nectarine gold
Guy that drinks lattes, but only in the cup, not the mug
Have you got cream? Put cinnamon on the top!
Cecil with the green takeaway container with masking tape, that says Cecil, on it.
Cecil reading a book on ancient roman history, he says
Bush and Obama have used lines in their speeches which coincide with roman leaders
He says Cicero was important in the forming of public speaking
He makes a passing comment about a ginger cat that chased the other cats
Around his neighbourhood, he says
It seemed small, but it was strong and agile
Simon’s the same as always
Alexander the woodworker in the red flannel
Black Buddhist beads around his neck
Hands stained the same from oiling wood by electric lamplight
Pauly takes his time changing the oil at 4am
The world doesn’t need councillors, it needs company.
Juan hadn’t eaten with another person in months. He couldn’t remember the last time. He couldn’t remember what it was like to sit across from someone discussing inconsequential things, like the quality of the food, what the people at the corner table might be talking about, or what he’d do when he got home.
Everyone that knew Juan, thought he was busy. A man-about-town, appearing everywhere at once and shaking every hand.
Juan had a knack at first impressions, they all agreed on that. They thought him affable and charming, though no one could tell you why.
No one could give any definitive answers about him, and as time passed they were more inclined to avoid the subject.
All in all, Juan was an acquaintance. He was nobodies friend, but everybody’s buddy. They would smile at him in the street and he would smile back, an empty mouthed, tight-jawed smile, wrinkling his eyes on reflex because he’d read somewhere that is appears more genuine. Everyone would smile this way.
It was only by chance that Juan found his way to parties. No one went out of their way to invite him. He wouldn’t be invited anywhere. He’d hear about these events after the fact, and everyone would assume he’d been there and they missed him, and he would lie and say he had been, or that he’d left early, or that his cat was sick, even though he didn’t have a cat. The only thing for him to tend to was his reputation.
Things were simply assumed of Juan. That he was kind, cultured, intelligent, desired by many women, envied by men. This is what people said to one another, but no one had expressed the fact, only shared it as second-hand knowledge.
Juan knew all of these things about himself, yet he was incapable of remedying them. He fermented in his skin daily. He’d ask himself why it was that he was forgotten so quickly? He would listen to others stories, feeling rejection well within him.
He would eat lunch at the same café every afternoon. During this routine, he would torture himself by watching couples and groups walk past, sharing their days together, and he would imagine that he was looking out of their eyes, living their stories.
Juan had no stories. His were confined to books, which he quickly forgot the details of because the quality lay in reading the words and not in the re-telling, or so he said. The only ones he told were his stock stories, which he would perform when meeting new people. These were tried and true tales. Ones that guaranteed to make his impression a good one. These were much like stock photographs that come inside picture frames from the stores, which incidentally, Juan would put on display, lacking any of his own to put inside.
He could never tell them true things about his life. He didn’t even like telling himself about those.
How he was miserable, desperate for affection, though unable to give it. How he still cried at night when he remembered how his brother would punish him by smothering him with a pillow. Juan had become so accustomed to this treatment that he found if he could get a hand in with his head, he could use it to push in the plush and produce a tiny pocket of air to breathe in. Juan’s mother did not believe him when he told, even when he showed her the outline of his face, impressed on the underside of the pillow by his crying and panicked sweating.
Once when Juan and an old girlfriend had been play-fighting, she began to force his head down with a pillow, and he beat her so viciously that he blinded her left eye permanently. Juan could not recognise her face from his brothers, through the tears, bile and burst capillaries.
How was he to tell people these stories? Blinding somebody in a blind rage over being blinded by a pillow.
He’d never get past the gate. And once he was through, he’d be confined to the foyer. He would never be allowed into the show, private viewings were for the inner circle. Juan had never been in.
Despite being seen as affable, it was unspoken that he made others feel anxious, guarded even. It’s as if everyone wanted to think him charming but really wished he would leave.
This is how Juan felt when on empty evenings when he looked at photographs of nameless families on his mantle. This is how he felt when he would smother himself with his pillows, leaving the shadow of his face on the casing. This is how he felt when he could no longer leave his room, and no one came looking.
Juan felt that he no longer existed, that he was imagining himself. Someone would come searching for him if he existed, he thought. They knew his name, his face, but all else was left to speculation if anyone took the time to speculate.
When someone did come looking, for the late rent, they found Juan with a blue velvet cushion tied to his face with a polyester-leather belt, and the picture frames of strangers arranged around his body like a funeral procession. His face had welded to the fibres and the skin pulled free from his skull when it was removed. Juan was unmasked and proved to be empty and decaying.