unseeing

Without realising,

the grass overran the pavers

by the garden,

concealing the cracks.

A caterpillar traced a blade,

slowly dipping

towards the grain of the ground.

Equally unaware,

the insect fell victim

to the swoop

of a keen-beaked magpie.

 

A puppy, husky,

had an unconscious thought

while sunning herself.

Her sapphire eyes caught the movement,

that was all.

Back legs sprang into action.

As the bird cleared the yard

the puppy launched too late

and wobbled the fence.

 

A mouse delicately traversed

along the colourbond,

oblivious

except to the straight line it was running.

When the tin shook

it was startled.

As quick as the snap of time

it tumbled,

the wrong way.

Instincts already activated,

the puppy pounced

and her jaws closed

and the rodent,

it’s eyes closed

not understanding

a single moment

of it’s life.

 

 

I stepped outside

to the wagging tail

and the bright, proud eyes.

It could have been the best time of her life

but she wouldn’t ever remember.

Until later,

when it had already snuck away.

 

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Mortality

He used her spare key to go into her apartment while she was at work. In the fridge he left a fresh punnet of blueberries. Two weeks later he came back and they were mouldy. It was obvious she’d been there, new washing on the airer. She just didn’t want anything that came from him anymore. Suddenly he realised it might truly be over. He knew they were her favourite and he knew she hated wasting things. The mistakes he’d made were too bad to excuse. At greatest need he’d gotten scared, left her flailing and doomed. It was momentary, but it was enough. It cut swathes through everything they’d built, everything he’d pretended to be. Now, it hurt so much. He might never see her again and it felt like he was dying, even though it was the other way around.

He’d heard from a friend she was over the hump, everything was in retreat. So he bought fruit. Later, he thought about maiming himself because he deserved it. Sitting above the ocean, amongst trees and ferns to calm himself, he’d tried calling her. Even though he was sure she wouldn’t answer he didn’t even let it ring out, choked again. It didn’t matter how much he wanted something back. Time, decisions, her. You couldn’t make someone who doesn’t want you, want you again.

That wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that she would always be hurt by it. There was nothing he could do to make her feel better. Feeling the reverberations of causing something so permanent, he froze in place. On a rock, hidden from the view of the path, they found him.

They Come In Threes

The most disturbing thing I’ve heard

was a man saying,

when describing a woman hit by a train;

“she popped, it was hectic.”

 

I churned like the harbour

from the pain

in my ankle,

knowing she didn’t want me,

and from the shock

of living in a world

such as this,

where that man exists.

 

“There was nothing left of her.”

These words in my head

from someone I now wished was dead.

I turned around

and saw the brightest of smiles

from a baby,

in the bed of his father’s arm.

If time didn’t then stand still,

it never will.

 

 

linked

There’s no better way to say thank you than to tell someone they owe you something.

Because I had never had Toblerone, some things just get past you.

 

Sitting at a friend’s place in our early twenties, recalling the old times,

I never thought to tell you how I felt because I was so sure I knew what you’d say.

 

The birds still sounded happy and I muttered for them to fuck off

since the smoke in my lungs didn’t make me feel better.

 

Half wishing I had a visible scar

I was realising our minds forever work in reverse.

 

I am sure that life is always time spent wrong

and I’ve been right before

but not as often as I’ve been scared

 

on a beach path, riding my bike.

A little girl totters across and my brakes fail,

I had never desired so much to be somewhere else

 

Lying in bed after watching a great film,

listening to good music,

my frustrating youth allows me only to think of a girl.

 

Sipping my coffee in the morning and thinking it’s mediocre

before a bullet blasts through my office window

and into my chest, and there is a sinking feeling

but also a sense that my inner struggles are draining away.

 

I have questions about myself that no one else can answer

so most of the time I end up asking;

does my skin feel the same on theirs as theirs does on mine?

 

The Lizard

Once, there was lizard. He was cold, a little dark, and slightly empty inside. Not evil, in fact he was kind of heart, but perhaps somewhat lost and lonely. He was lacking motivation, or at least he was lacking positive motivation. All his tasks he completed without a clear sense of why he was doing these things. He knew there was something missing. The world confused him and he did not know his place in it. How could he meet others that were so different to him? It was hard to comprehend. So many lizards exactly like him, and yet they were not. Nor he like them. They looked the same and they spoke the same but their minds were foreign.

A man in a suit whose sole defining feature was arrogance. I am not a violent person. I am kind, so why am I looking at you with dead eyes, hoping for your blood to be spilled? How do you see the world? How do you view those around you, if you acknowledge them at all? When the day arrives and you understand your grandeur is a mirage, my lips will move skyward.

One day, he met the sun. And it was light and it was warmth, it was everything the lizard had been looking for. The sun was joy, it filled the gaps within the lizard, filled the holes with a positivity the lizard had not felt before. He had more energy now. To the skies for all to hear he proclaimed that the benevolence of the sun could not be emphasized enough. It was brilliance and it was heat and it was illumination. The sun showed him that others could be just as good but different, and he was glad to have realized it.

He’d never seen a smile that looked so alive, and he’d only said something stupid. A smile you wished could linger longer, before you tried to raise it once more. It was nice to take time out from thinking of all the people in the world and discover only one. To wonder and learn about just one, instead of the infinite curiosity that had plagued him before. One proved to be fuller, more complicated and intriguing than many. He started to see complexity was not something he had known within himself. He was linear, they were made up of tendrils.

The sun could not always be there however. There were times when the lizard’s world would be dark again and he understood this. With the promise that the sun would return he could negotiate the quiet moments alone without losing vitality. But sometimes the absences of the sun stretched out for too long and the lizard couldn’t help but become slow, stagnant, and muddled.

Back to day-dreaming of Valhalla and red paintings on the wall. Back to examining profundity in the smallest of things. While it fascinated him it did not sustain him. Watching life taught him much, the most of which was that he wasn’t living it. So he slept as little as possible, believing quantity would catch up to quality eventually.

The lizard did not like it when the sun was distant. For him, the sun was life and the dark was not. If he spent too long in the dark and the cold, he was afraid he would fade beyond revival. He was convinced the strange things he thought about on his own were not the right things to contemplate so he chased the sun, for it was always shining somewhere. To bring it closer and move himself closer became a focus of his endeavours.

When they were near, when they touched, he was sure that moment would hold. Were his eyes saying what he wanted them to? He did not like speaking but was always told it was necessary, so now he spoke too much.

Every now and then the lizard would come across other pockets of light and warmth. They were not the sun and he was confused they held the same qualities as the sun but in smaller doses. They promised the same cures it seemed but they were not the sun and he always pushed on.

Again, he looked upon other interesting faces. Again, started musing of when their stories began but quickly lost his grip on attention when he asked, when they started telling him. He was thinking, you are human. You are wonderful. You are alien to me.

Sometimes he saw others who were totally devoid of light. They were struggling beyond what he had the capacity to imagine. He wanted to help them did not have anything to offer them. Moving within the confines of their pain seemed dangerous considering his own fragility.

Of course, each time the lizard found the sun, the sun was busy and the lizard knew this. Still, he hoped to prove a distraction, make the sun glow more brightly on him so he could grow to be something more than he was.

Locking the essence of himself away to remain accessible. Talking too much, always talking too much. Not smiling, not looking enough. There was a soul in him. There was a soul in her. How could they meet? What circumstances would bridge such a divide, when both were guarded by the head?

Eventually the sun had to intervene, telling the lizard “I cannot shine only on you, there are other things I must do. I cannot ignore my own heart’s warning.”

So the lizard was left floating in the dark wondering what he could possibly do. Was it the end of days? Was it not possible to be sunny all the time? Surely it was, if it was possible to be dark all the time?

He planned all the things they would do; the words he would say. Maybe he thought about the future too much and did not focus now? Could he have spent too little time in reality as he grew. Was his life permanently askew? He knew what he wanted but did not know how to get it. So he said he did not know, to those who asked.

Could it be that there was more than one sun in the world? He was convinced not but then he pondered those other lights. Perhaps they were suns that had not evolved yet. He was certain he did not feel comfortable with them, not like he had with the sun but if the sun was truly disconnected from him, what choice did he have but to source his survival elsewhere?

He had never bothered to search for the sun before so when he decided to he thought he’d found it the first time. He should have known you can’t be that lucky.

Acknowledging such a point was easier than accepting it but he would try.

Moving towards what society wanted felt like swimming against the flow. He did not want to be that man in the suit. He wanted to be organic and more and more it was becoming impossible to avoid being constructed and driven for someone else’s purpose.

Coastal (Full + Extended Version)

When he exhaled a deeper breath and a streetlight was near, he saw steam rise up from his mouth and disappear. For some reason he was always afraid he’d lose more than carbon dioxide, like perhaps his soul might fade away into the ether too.

Every now and then a piece of gravel would grind under his wheel and he would grimace. The tyres were always vulnerable, and him with them. He was out for a midnight ride. Black socks, black shorts, black shirt, black helmet; a sentient shadow. The bike path snaked the coastline, blurred like an analog TV picture in the moonlight. He felt like an animal on a track, nose down, about important business; quiet things no one else would ever know. All he could hear were his tyres rotating, his nostrils circulating air, and the sea pounding in his right ear. There was comfort in the fact no one on earth knew where he was in that moment. At his apartment a phone and wallet lay deserted on the kitchen table. His company was his own. His silent company.

Houses stood silent in rows on his left. In one of them there was a baby, he often heard it crying. Sometimes he stopped to listen, just to see if the parents would comfort it back to sleep. They always did eventually. Why he stopped he didn’t quite know but he felt something every time he looked towards the sound of wailing. Longing and regret seemed to swell in him, confusing his thoughts because he didn’t understand why he would react this way. The baby wasn’t crying this time and he didn’t stop. In all the houses bodies rested asleep or awake, it didn’t matter. None of them knew he’d passed by, beating out a cadence on the pedals, flying like a guided spirit to his destination.

One thing bothered him though. There was a dog, a Labrador as far as he could tell. It never came from the same direction but it always settled in behind his back wheel and came chasing after him, not barking or growling but loping along behind like a companion, as if it knew him. If he ever slowed enough for it to catch him he wasn’t sure what would happen, and he never entertained the notion. However, it upset his rhythm, made him feel hurried as he inevitably pedalled faster to lose it. Until the next time.

 

Tendrils rose off his shoulders to dissipate as he arrived at the rock pool nestled on the beach. He unclipped his helmet and started down the hill, treading the steps carefully in the dark. Halfway down he heard voices and looked up. Disappointment creased his brow as he saw two people sitting on the edge of the pool. Girls by the sound of it and as he looked closer he realised they were naked, or at least topless. They had their backs to him so he decided he’d quickly return the way he came and ride on to the next beach. Angry that anyone but him should be out there at such a time he tramped too heavily and dislodged a stone which rolled down the remaining distance of the stairs. One of the girls, in fact women around his age he noticed when they turned, spied him begin to walk away and called out.

‘Hey, you don’t have to leave.’

Holding his helmet by his side he ran his fingers through tousled hair. Although he was tempted to join them now he’d seen their profiles, he shrugged and shook his head.

‘I kind of came here to be alone.’

The same one spoke again, she had sandy dreadlocks. The other had darker hair, perhaps dyed blue. Their mannerisms didn’t strike him as being typical skinny dippers, whatever that was.

‘You’d rather be alone than share a pool with two nude girls?’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘I’m really not sure how to answer that question.

The other woman piped up. If he was being honest with himself she was stunning, the bones in her face had all cooperated, but it wasn’t what he came for.

‘Hey I think I recognise you, do you remember me?’

Now he’d heard her voice and taken a step or two closer yes he did. They’d had classes together a couple of times. He remembered a few occasions he’d not been able to stop himself admiring her.

‘Yeah I remember you.’ He also recalled she was about twenty-five, which changed his whole perspective of the situation. Mid-twenties skinny dippers were infinitely more interesting than teens. It spoke of breaking the mould, resisting the world view about what growing up meant. He’d never understood why maturity was a word that simply had to replace fun and adventure, frown upon them, and wipe them away like dusters on chalkboards. All the same, neither did he know how to let go of the pressure they had obviously chosen to release in their own lives.

‘Well come down, let’s talk.’

 

He was finding it hard to make an excuse now. They obviously didn’t care if he saw them; and it wouldn’t hurt if the other thing had to wait.

If they were comfortable than why shouldn’t he be? But for him, the intimacy of looking upon someone’s body should be kept private and exclusive. He joined them anyway. They were indeed naked. And they were beautiful. Why were they doing this to him? He felt like a predator if he looked at them and a prude if he stared away. He must have looked like he was tripping; his eyes were playing tennis in his skull. Had it become such a precondition that he couldn’t look at them without his gaze turning objective? Even focusing on their faces was distracting. The girl he knew, Blue, had a drop of water running arrow-straight down her proud nose to fall onto full lips that smiled too easily.

Dreadlocks, whose eyes gleamed with both mischief and kindness even in the dim light, smirked a little.

‘We were about to go for a swim, want to join us?’

‘Okay’. But he made no move.

‘Are you going to take your clothes off?’

He was taken aback. ‘No.’

‘Why not? You’ve seen us, it’s hardly fair.’

‘It’s entirely fair, you made your choice. You invited me down here. I don’t feel comfortable revealing myself to people I don’t know.’

‘It’s just a body, it has nothing to do with who you are’, said Blue.     ‘Except it’s my body and it’s completely a part of who I am. It affects me in so many ways. I have no relationship with you, this sort of closeness and familiarity makes me uncomfortable.’

‘If you say so, but if you ask me, there is nothing individual about a body, everyone knows what’s there.

‘I’m not so at ease with sharing everything.’

‘I suppose we have a fundamental difference then.’

‘I guess we do.’

Dreadlocks slid into the water. ‘Swim?’

He took his shirt off as Blue also submerged. She came up, hair slick, her face emanating a natural glow.

‘Halfway there,’ she grinned.

He laughed but shook his head. He jumped in and felt a lot better now he could only see a small portion of them. What they didn’t understand was he’d already forgotten what they looked like under the water, despite his initial evaluation. Immediately they became ten times more attractive again. He turned his head to look out to the open sea, wondering in bemusement what the fuck was going on right now, and would it mean anything in the long run?

‘So you don’t mind showing your nipples but it’s weird for us?’ Dreadlocks asked, bringing his attention back.

He just twitched his mouth and conceded the point.

‘Do you do this often?’ He asked.

‘When the mood takes us,’ answered Blue.

He nodded. ‘I like that, do what’s fun, do what you feel like doing. Too many people forget that.’

‘Most people would say it’s part of growing up.’

‘Yeah, but what does that mean?’

‘Who knows?’ said Dreadlocks as she duck-dived, her legs driving him to distraction as they disappeared. She came back up and continued. ‘Maybe it just means what everyone tells you it means. Maybe it only means physical change. Getting taller, fatter, skinnier, older, until you fall down, like trees. You’re probably entitled to make up your own mind about it.’

In a slight trance as he considered her words, he murmured; ‘That’s the problem, I don’t think I can.’

Blue floated away on her back.

‘So you do this all the time then?’

‘I don’t generally get naked and swim in the middle of the night, no. But I ride the track a lot. It’s like I’m the only one awake.’

‘Ahh so we ruined it for you.’

‘There’s pros and cons for everything.’

Dreadlocks was doing slow languid laps. ‘Is this illegal?’

‘You could always claim sexual harassment if they arrested you like that.’

‘But, for real?’

‘Well it’s a public pool, and you’re nude so yeah, you’re probably breaking the law.’

‘Ooh that makes it more exciting,’ grinned Blue.

He turned to look back up the hill, checking on his bike despite rationality telling him it was ridiculous to think someone would come along and steal it. He just made it out, a slight sheen on the handle bar aiding him. Standing next to it was the Labrador, seemingly monolithic as it gazed down.

‘Jesus,’ he whispered, unnerved.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘You see that dog up there, it never leaves me alone.’

‘What dog?’ asked Blue.

‘Right there by my bike.’

Dreadlocks cast a worried glance at her friend. ‘Dude, there isn’t a dog there.’

‘What do you mean it’s right th-’ but he looked again and there was nothing. ‘Oh it’s gone; you must have just missed it in the dark.’

‘I think someone has been awake too long,’ teased Blue.

‘It was there! It’s always there! Following me every night.’

‘Okay okay, it must have learnt to recognise you.’

‘Every night’, he repeated softly to himself.

The girls had moved closer together and further away from him, trying not to make it obvious. One change in the tone of his voice and they immediately perceived him as a threat. He could see in their eyes they no longer assumed he wouldn’t hurt them. Quicker than he could click his fingers he’d been made to feel like had to go out of his way to assure them he wasn’t a predator. It was one of the things he hated about the world, hated the people who did have violence within them. He couldn’t say where, he didn’t know where it sprang from. There was a lot he didn’t know.

He didn’t even want to be there.

‘Maybe I should go,’ he said.

 

They didn’t argue, the fun had left their faces. As they all ceased moving the water stilled too, like it knew to dance would be inappropriate. The girls looked younger in their doubt but he was more intimidated by them now than ever, he could feel the milling in their heads as they wished for him to leave. It was all he could do, so he did.

He gave them a sad half smile. ‘It was nice talking to you.’ He turned and lifted himself out of the pool to stand, water rushing off him but the sound of it hitting the ground was too loud so he started walking immediately. Surprisingly, Blue called out, ‘Hey, what’s your name? I forgot.’ He looked back, brow narrowed in puzzlement. ‘What does it matter? It’s the least important thing to know about someone.’

‘But it’s your name’, returned Dreadlocks, ‘You carry it your entire life, it’s part of what defines you, eventually it encompasses your experiences. People who know you see memories when they hear your name.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s a label like any other. It’s doesn’t say where I’ve been, where I’m going. It doesn’t tell you what’s inside of me right now.’

The extra distance had opened them back up, and they seemed interested in him again.

‘What’s inside of you?’ asked Blue.

His mind was made up now though. ‘I’m not sure. That’s why I have to go. I need to find out.’

He commenced his track up the hill again, hurrying to his bike. He clipped his helmet and was quickly on the seat, pedalling once again. With little resistance he moved through the comfortable night air. A voice followed, one of the girls’, asking him to wait but it was too late.

 

The next sea pool along the coast waited in mournful silence as he arrived. A children’s playground on the headland above was nothing but geometric shadows. It held no meaning without the bodies to traverse it. Settled in the calm night, the water of the pool looked bottomless. Normally when he rode he would have music in his ears and everything would take on some kind of significance. The music would show him that all the things he saw were important somehow; there was purpose to them, dignity contained in them, emotion to found amongst them. Without it, the view appeared lifeless and impersonal, like the heart of the land had gone away.

As before, he set his bike down and took the steps to the pool’s edge. Shirt off and tossed aside he sat down to put his feet in. Looking hard, he tried to make out the bottom but he couldn’t, just another unknown. For a long time, he did nothing except stare into the water, trying to process his thoughts. He was confused about a lot of things and no matter how hard he contemplated, no matter how long he stayed unmoving his feelings would not be simplified. If he was being honest, he knew it would come to this all along. For a brief moment he thought the girls might change his path, but ultimately the presence inside was too strong. It was time to see what the future held. Nudging himself forward he slipped into the water, exhaling the air from his lungs as he did so.

 

Mostly he was hoping the first sign of struggle from his body would convince him to resurface.

For the entirety of his formative years he had been trying to figure out if the world had a place for him, or if he wanted one. At times he felt so alive it was like he was a part of the earth, occasionally he felt like he came close to understanding it all, the minds of the trees, the spirits of the animals. Other times, he just felt all the sadness in the world crush down on him. The helplessness and hopelessness of millions of people in every corner seemed pointlessly cruel. And sometimes he simply felt lonely, even amidst a warm embrace.

Knowing what could be ahead of him if he found a way to get back up to the air, he was surprised when he didn’t start climbing. Instead he started to feel peaceful. Oxygen was in high demand but all he could think about was how quiet it was, how still, and how simple things had finally become. There was nothing here to hurt, and nothing to be hurt. He guessed it was like the time before birth, when everything was out of his control. A time of ultimate quiet and peace. It seemed somewhat of a solution. Suspended there, eyes closed, he could have been in space.

Just as he was ready to let go, a thought nagged at him. He wasn’t in space or the womb or any other place of isolation. He was drowning to death in an ocean pool, and in death he wouldn’t be blissfully alone either. He’d be another number without the ability to do anything. He could help no one, like the millions of helpless souls he’d be joining. Alive, he could at least have the chance to change. Perspective is one thing that can always be altered.

Up there somewhere were people who hadn’t been born yet that could be his family, up there were places of natural beauty that he could visit, up there were songs he could hear, stories he could read and watch, food he could taste, textures he could feel.

He forced his eyes open but was struggling to make his arms and legs move. Starving desperately for air, he had no idea how long he’d been under. No, everything was hurting. The pain in his chest was excruciating, he couldn’t think straight, his brain was bursting trying to make him breathe in, but that would be the end. No, no, just like most other choices he’d made this one was a mistake but he couldn’t fight it off now. He let the real darkness come just as commotion roiled the water above him.

 

He woke up coughing violently, water coming out of his mouth. He could feel grass under his back and unintelligible voices talking to him. Collapsing his head back to the ground he slowly allowed his vision to clear as his chest heaved. There was a light, from a phone or a torch, moving around. Soon, he could see Dreadlocks and Blue knelt either side of him, concerned. Something was still keeping him from interpreting them properly and he noticed another figure. Next to Dreadlocks stood a black Labrador. This time though it didn’t scare him, he didn’t want to run away. He lifted his hand, noting the animal’s kind eyes, and the dog bent and gave it a lick. Then it turned and wandered off, perhaps back home.

 

He finally managed to focus his gaze on Dreadlocks and Blue and smiled self-consciously. A boy embarrassed in the company of beautiful women.

Coastal (Part 4)

They didn’t argue, the fun had left their faces. As they all ceased moving the water stilled too, like it knew to dance would be inappropriate. The girls looked younger in their doubt but he was more intimidated by them now than ever, he could feel the milling in their heads as they wished for him to leave. It was all he could do, so he did.

He gave them a sad half smile. ‘It was nice talking to you.’ He turned and lifted himself out of the pool to stand, water rushing off him but the sound of it hitting the ground was too loud so he started walking immediately. Surprisingly, Dreadlocks called out, ‘Hey, what’s your name? I forgot.’ He looked back, brow narrowed in puzzlement. ‘What does it matter? It’s the least important thing to know about someone.’

‘But it’s your name’, returned Blue, ‘You carry it your entire life, it’s part of what defines you, eventually it encompasses your experiences. People who know you see memories when they hear your name.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s a label like any other. It’s doesn’t say where I’ve been, where I’m going. It doesn’t tell you what’s inside of me right now.’

The extra distance had opened them back up, and they seemed interested in him again.

‘What’s inside of you?’ asked Dreadlocks.

His mind was made up now though. ‘I’m not sure. That’s why I have to go. I need to find out.’

He commenced his track up the hill again, hurrying to his bike. He clipped his helmet and was quickly on the seat, pedalling once again. With little resistance he moved through the comfortable night air. A voice followed, one of the girls’, asking him to wait but it was too late.

 

The next sea pool along the coast waited in dead silence as he arrived. A children’s playground on the headland above was nothing but geometric shadows. It held no meaning without the bodies to traverse it. Settled in the calm night, the water of the pool looked bottomless. Normally when he rode he would have music in his ears and everything would take on some kind of significance. The music would show him that all the things he saw were important somehow; there was purpose to them, dignity within them, emotion to be found amongst them. Without it, the view appeared lifeless.

As before, he set his bike down and took the steps to the pool’s edge. Shirt off and tossed aside he sat down to put his feet in. Looking hard, he tried to make out the bottom but he couldn’t, just another unknown. For a long time, he did nothing except stare into the water, trying to process his thoughts. He was confused about a lot of things and no matter how hard he contemplated, no matter how long he remained unmoving his feelings would not be simplified. If he was being honest, he knew it would come to this all along. For a brief moment he thought the girls might change his path, but ultimately the presence inside was too strong. It was time to see what the future held. Nudging himself forward he slipped into the water, exhaling the air from his lungs as he did so.

 

Mostly he was hoping the first sign of struggle from his body would convince him to resurface.

For the entirety of his formative years he had been trying to figure out if the world had a place for him, or if he wanted one. At times he felt so alive it was like he was a part of the earth, occasionally he felt like he came close to understanding it all, the minds of the trees, the characters of the animals, the motivations of the weather. Other times, he just felt all the sadness in the world crush down on him. The helplessness and hopelessness of millions of people in every corner of every country seemed pointlessly cruel. And sometimes he simply felt lonely, even amidst a warm embrace.

Knowing what could be ahead of him if he found a way to get back up to the air, he was surprised when he didn’t start climbing. Instead he started to feel peaceful. Oxygen was in high demand but all he could think about was how quiet it was, how still, and how simple. There was nothing here to hurt, and nothing to be hurt. He guessed it was like the time before birth, when everything was out of his control. It seemed somewhat of a solution. Suspended there, eyes closed, he could have been in space.

Just as he was ready to let go, a thought nagged at him. He wasn’t in space or the womb or any other place of isolation. He was drowning to death in an ocean pool, and in death he wouldn’t be blissfully alone either. He’d be another number without the ability to do anything. He could help no one, like the millions of helpless souls he’d be joining. Alive, he could at least have the chance to change. Perspective is one thing that can always be altered.

Up there somewhere were people who hadn’t been born yet that could be his family, up there were places of natural beauty that he could visit, up there were songs he could hear, stories he could read and watch, food he could taste, textures he could feel.

He forced his eyes open but was struggling to make his arms and legs move. Starving desperately for air, he had no idea how long he’d been under. No, everything was hurting. The pain in his chest was excruciating, he couldn’t think straight, his brain was bursting trying to make him breathe in, but that would be the end. No, no, just like most other choices he’d made this one was a mistake but he couldn’t fight it off now. He let the real darkness come just as commotion roiled the water above him.

 

He woke up coughing violently, water coming out of his mouth. He could feel grass under his back and unintelligible voices talking to him. Collapsing his head back to the ground he slowly allowed his vision to clear as his chest heaved. There was a light, from a phone or a torch, moving around. Soon, he could see Dreadlocks and Blue knelt either side of him, concerned. Something was still keeping him from interpreting them properly and he noticed another figure. Next to Dreadlocks stood a black Labrador. This time though it didn’t scare him, he didn’t want to run away. He lifted his hand, noting the animals kind eyes, and the dog bent and gave it a lick. Then it turned and wandered off, perhaps back home.

He finally managed to focus his gaze on Dreadlocks and Blue and smiled self-consciously. A boy embarrassed in the company of beautiful women.

Leaves

I’ve been trying to figure out
If leaves have a life of their own.
When they fall are they simply done?
Do they just get blown with the wind
Or do they navigate?
When they leave home is that the beginning of the end
Or an escape?

Are they individual
Or are there too many to possibly distinguish?
Extinguish one,
It only hits pause on the fun
Before the rest realise they
Need to make the most of their time,
Especially if it involves making a dime
Into more.
We understand the crunch under our feet
Means they’re gone but we don’t mind,
They weren’t ours to think of.
And it’s probably more kind
To chop down the tree when it stands empty
Then to let it live without family,
But the tree is the only one that really understands the loss.
Despite the others moving in empathy,
It’s impossible for them to care
As much as they make out they do.

When a leaf is loose
It may fly for a while
Until eventually it spirals down,
As sad as the end of a good song
And the tree from which it came
Can only stand so long

as long as the earth lasts

a retired mother vacuums an empty house, implores the quiet spaces for response

and feels an overflow threaten her eyes when she understands

 

the sand blasted beach cottage where family mosquito-plagued board games

inevitably descended into

 

memories of a chance encounter. A night when soft lips held a smile at rest,

begging to be joined by his coarser embrace and to remind him

 

silent Christmas mornings, when no one else is awake apart from a parrot at the

feeder, feel like

 

the sorrowful waiting room dictating one visitor at a time transforms the vending

machine into a monster and only serves to accentuate

 

the gravity of a child’s giggling first step across unforgiving linoleum floor is as pure as

 

a fifteen kilometre walk to the family’s water source allows the necessary time to
think about

 

one gull in flight, so unmistakably wise and independent riding the updraft, can

see even better than

 

the most astute commentator may unmask government failings but will never

remove their own façade to comprehend the

 

sound of waves, ten feet above tingling skin, in an ocean without fear is the closest

one can come to

 

the feeling of a wedding day, when the flowers are fresh, lasts as long as

 

the time it takes to cross a loud, disconnected stranger-infested intersection is

enough to realise

 

we will never know enough about each other’s insides to uncover why

 

so many lost people are misunderstood and dismissed by those who are as ignorant as

 

a film star is everything you want to be, then in any interview is never the human you
want them to be but

 

music is always best experienced alone at night amongst slices of moonlight

while you imagine

 

the things you write under the sun but would never utter aloud except to

 

a pet is the kindest listener because they rarely pass judgement and you believe

they can’t translate

 

your emotions catch you napping in the merciless afternoons and none are as
complex as

 

the idea of love seems both tangible and foreign when you gaze upon

 

a sharp petite face you’ve just whispered a secret to, trusting them to keep it in
confidence so no one ever knows

 

a tiny green caterpillar arches its face skyward through the long grass, completely
unaware

 

that a baby is cradled by an arm of the church, gently wet and forced to follow

Jesus without a voice to speak while

 

the last bus recedes before she could reach it, and as the rain explodes on the
footpath, a hooded girl is waiting

 

for a young man who takes pale steps through a crowded room full of old people,
one woman repeating ‘nice to meet you’ to her daughter, to where his
grandfather is

 

listening intently before being questioned, the light in a politician’s eyes shifts in
shade and he spreads his hands; about to elucidate

 

all is not lost but we are always alone. That’s why misty-faced soldiers

 

never stay for long even though the beautiful bodies of blonde, mid-twenties, skinny
dippers at midnight speak of hope

 

when her lips meet his eyes he’s never seen such a complicated twist and neither can

say what they want because

 

friendship can seem so much easier when a smooth brown horse sharing straw and
sawdust in silent companionship with a farm dog explains

 

that even the weakest solitary iceberg, accosted from every angle, never becomes soft

but that doesn’t stop it

 

— disappearing

Expected Shocks

Eggs cr ack in-two

feathered faces.

Eyes open

for the very first time.

beaks split ting,

taste sharp air.

Nights still get cold,

wind still whistles

through open windows.

Insects popping in fire,

in flame

to pierce ears

with the worst of inevitable thoughts.

On cliff edge

death is always tangible.

A resting crocodile,

a loaded spring

flowing smoothly

through liquid glass.

Role playing nose-twitching gazelle

while tiger creeps,

launches-

misses you.

Weather balloons float by,

decide it’s safer to land.

Vast empty sky

speaks knowledgably

of kindness.

Its gentle way,

permanent presence, grandfatherly.

One more step,

take one more step

and you never have to hear the phone ring.

No one sees the water

fall

momentarily

varnish blue balcony rail.

Each year onwards

morbid celebration.

Candle

life

being blown

out.

People are glad

it wasn’t their family.

Tease you

for buying canned corn

(they wanted cob)

a couple hours later.

Wander away,

wonder

if you had not answered

to hear mother’s tears

wash down the line

would they still have sprung

and would oxygen

have continued to fill his lungs?