19 Jun 2017

When in Blossom

They're moving. There's so many out there,
he told me while standing by
the window that casts sharply
light sworn to fade.

Yes, the first crowd, flowing like a river,
all as if in sleepwalk, sharing that same dream—
bright, violent tomorrows, and
why shouldn't revolution be a quiet affair?
What more it is, it is by our designs.

Then the fanfare of the city's
sounds becomes irrelevant
beneath the growing rhythm.
The percussion starts with
    desires chanted,
    rock-shattered windows,
    the dull thuds of tier-gas
    canisters, wailing, wails
        stretched long
        and hoarse
        by hands of rage,
            grief—for what
                but new names and old chaos?

When a tree blossoms, it's not to make a promise.
To put hope in its leaves, you have to forget autumn.

To Kill a Ghost (Excerpt)

Context (ignore at your pleasure):
  1. first draft of the final chapter from a book unfinished for about five years and has developed some kind of unnatural life of its own
  2. it's the end of the story but the narrative arc is held together with duck tape so it doesn't matter to me and shouldn't to you either
  3. sorry in advance but I need to finish this to a) satisfy a largely apathetic friend and b) sleep at night
  4. it's darker and more offensive than what I usually write, so blanket trigger warning
  5. and longer than 140 characters or even 500 words, and yes, I don't know what I'm doing with my life.
***

Sisyphus


Alex likes to shoot.

To be precise, he likes to shoot and kill living things. His only accessible opportunity in this country that is to his mind okay, but not exactly right, is foxes.

I reckon he would take down a defenceless human if the mood struck him and circumstance favoured it. I think what he really pines for is an island upon which he could hunt his own species. I know if I were on that island for any other purpose, he wouldn’t give third thought to gunning me down. I wonder if this is part of the reason I associate with him. Danger to me is this vivid snakelike thing that’s alluring at a distance and choking close up. I don’t know which end of that spectrum it is that gets me off, and I’ll only know for sure when it’s too late, but then that’s what’s most exciting.

Alex’s hunger is such that once in a while he’ll mention he’s heading up north to take a weekend and do his part for the ecosystem.

A clear-as-day fact of life: foxes go after chickens. Nothing is fox-proof, and if you keep chickens, you have to deal with foxes one way or another. The foxes are getting bolder. I’m convinced an especially vivacious turkey could take on a fox one on one, but poultry are simply easy prey. The ethics of it check out in my head, so please accept my aside.

I take Alex’s word as invitation and tend to go with him for a free ride to quieter places, because I have this impression that relative solitude and dramatic scenery does something for the creative mind. As his Mercedes gets muddier, I’m convinced I become more content. This is a self-fed lie I maintain right up until the engine stops, and then a little afterwards just for good measure.

We stay the night in a draughty room above a farmer's house up a track which is itself off a back road with no name or number. Alex would only settle for this lifestyle as long as he knew there was game to be had. I never worked out how he came to know the farmer, who’s mute. As if in compensation, his wife talks at great length on the topics of immigration (oblivious to the Russian expatriate in the room) and the global economy in her own humbly confused terms as she grills us some bacon before we set out about as early as the fucking sun itself.

The air is all the clearer here, that much crisper, that I don’t mind spending the better part of a day following a second-rate psychopath around a highland estate. My mind wanders on its own as he pisses in the wind about evolution and natural hierarchy in some reprise of the farmer's wife's drivel. Sometimes the mute joins us in a half-arsed attempt to act as guide or assistant or supervisor, but on this occasion we’re alone while the happily simple man is back at home tending to the bottle of half-decent whisky Alex had brought up for him. Wifey, meanwhile, is kindly certain we’re just good and honest lads from the city doing a fine day’s work out of doors.

We’re following a scant trail up a muddy bank to reach the muir when Alex speaks to me for the first time today.

– You should get a job.

– I work already.

– Then proper work. You know, I could get you a job, a bit of money, no more writing. You can't do that forever.

– I’ll to work something out.

– Right. I'll call someone. There'll be a job for you, serious.

It’s no good arguing. I can’t find it in me to care either way, but lack the farmer’s wife’s practised ignorance.

A sliver of orange and white bares itself against the darkening autumn pine by the tree line on the other side of the field from where we’re perched. Alex spends a good half minute eyeing it through the rifle’s scope before his head tilts back to me, one eye reserved for prey, the other for something all too similar.

– Karl, you get this one.

– Mm?

– He's like you. You take him. Easy shot for you.

Half shrugging, half nodding, I accept the rifle off him. It’s heavy and foreign, but I know the gist: point, then squeeze the trigger, hard. Through the cloudy scope the fox becomes tangible, a scruffy dog thing grooming forelegs in between surveying a field it sincerely believes is empty. I study it for a moment too short for anxiety to take hold. Yes, point, squeeze. The coarse ricocheting cry of a gunshot in the open bounds over the roughness of the ground, and that’s that.

I keep the butt of the rifle against my shoulder for a moment as I continue peering through the scope. There’s nothing up there now but the grey green, and the slightest orange tuft lying still behind long, raw grass.

It is in itself an uneventful weekend.

2 Jun 2017

Katherine

It’s the way you
    pull me under
        after that kind of dance we do,
            falling softly, never so softly,
                stop and start, in between lines
                    I give swirls to for some
                        dusty rune, crude mandala,
                            and now here we are, everything
                                we have laid out,
                                    and it surrounds
                                        and then melts,
                                            and we slip softly
                                        down rabbit hole,
                                    through blackened sun,
                                but still all’s illuminated,
                            and then rising, a cold hand
                        lifting the lost man—
                    and what’s a plateau if not
                    the smoothed-out height,
                    at every side an expanse
                    pretending it can be known
                    like paintings so fine, we believe
                    the subject could be ourselves
                    —then what did I miss?—
                        slipping out—take me back,
                            lay me down again
                                and tell me in whispers
                                    about those dark thoughts
                                        no one else will share
                                    making a home of your spirals
                                as your curling smile dismisses
                            all that is named, here and there,
                        time and place, foolish sense of self
                    at least for the daring nights spent
                together, precious hours swallowing
            themselves, mourned if not for
        moments that brighten an
    edgeless map, a strange sum—
I’ll be back, but you’ll be expecting me.