Archive for November, 2009

Limbs

November 20, 2009

Slowly Friday slips beneath
The gravel which once was concrete
We travel nowhere down this street
As time unravels at our feet

And night comes on without alarm
It takes us in with seasoned charm
The wistful words, the twisted arm
She stays to please, but comes to harm

The orange glows conceal the hours
The hidden hands, the city cowers
Cocooned in cars and lonely towers
Marooned within these walls of ours

And yet, despite her taunts, we dare
To step unchecked into her lair
The fingers tremble in her glare
She does not fear, nor feel, nor care

Numbers

November 6, 2009

Numbers. Everywhere, numbers. Passengers get on. “One fifteen” “Two twenty”. “One sixty five”. That’s all they say. No hello. Just numbers. Sometimes they question me. I respond, “No, take the 16A or the 11” and the like. Numbers. Always numbers. Letters too. But mainly numbers. I have a number also. D12. It has replaced my name. It is how headquarters know me. “D12, you’re the 39A at 7:15.” And it’s how I introduce myself to them on the radio too.

I stare out through the windshield out at a sea of license plates. Countries with their names sliced: IRL, ENG, NED, FRA. Counties gutted of their letters: CN, WW, LK, MN. They’re bringing in postcodes soon. All that clambering for upper-class addresses, and soon our homes too will be reduced to numbers.

From the table of elements’ atomic numbers to the galaxies Abell2667 and IOK1, we have numbered everything. Before me the traffic stutters forward, stopping and starting, engines quickly resuming their gentle murmurs. And the rain drifts across the day, decorating the pane in tear-like drops, trickling down the glass in ever-changing glances; rivulets joining up and moving off in larger diagonal currents. Numbers. Everywhere, numbers.

Daylights

November 2, 2009

It’s funny how bright this place seems now, these fields, open and expansive. Even the woods feel light and easy, unburdened by memory, unhindered by regret. I stroll around the edge, stopping every now and then to read the names which have been carved into the barks of trees; wondering if I might recognise any. So far, I haven’t. Some are barely legible; only a vague imprint that something was once written there remaining. The trees also struggling to conceal their scars; each year falling a little further inside themselves.

It has been so long since I have been back here. My brothers – born a year either side of me: Darren, older; Shaun, younger – have long since left. As have I. We chased this place away when we could. It’s funny though; growing up we spent so much time running about these fields and woods that I keep expecting either one of them to jump out at me from where they have been hiding in the long grass, or to drop down before me from a branch above. I keep glancing over my shoulder, in case they’re coming up behind me with water-balloons.

You always had to be on your toes with Shaun. Ever-grinning, he was always up to something, and I was usually its victim – he was scared of pulling pranks on Darren, scared of how he might react. Shaun was an interminable messer. That cheeky smile fixed to his face, he was more prone to fits of giggles than anyone I’ve known. Strange how, when we meet these days, the memory and the man seem so at odds. The years have pulled down his cheeks. He smiles now only with his lips. The jokes no longer funny, his eyes grew dim.

A year and a week older than me, Darren was the rock of us. It almost seemed like he was born to be older than us, as though he had chosen the role. He was always the one with the plan and Shaun and I would follow him regardless. I remember the bridge he built. We found a log deep in the forest, a large trunk, and he pulled it at least a hundred metres along the forest floor, waded the water with it resting on his shoulder, and laid its end on the opposite bank. Shaun and I had given up after an hour; feeling ourselves to be more of a hindrance than a help. But Darren pulled that log all day, without a break, half a metre at a time. Step by painstaking step. And when it was done, he was proud. And he was happy. When he set his mind to something he could not be stopped. No matter how hard it was, or how long it took, he would not give up until he had succeeded. He never complained and he never cried. I remember how, once, while cutting roses for our grandmother, he fell into a mass of briars, and came out covered in thorns looking unrecognisable. He was so cut-up that I cried, and I could not look at him, but he didn’t shed a single tear. He didn’t even seem upset. And I really believed that he could not be hurt.

I continue walking along the track where the field and forest meet. No kids play here today. Maybe they don’t come here any longer. I go on a little further, and then stop; contemplating whether or not to venture into the woods a little. I look in past the trees, and then back out across the field. It is so much brighter here than I had recalled. Even the breeze is light. And as the sun streams down gently, I am stricken with sadness; a sense of grief, knowing I have lost something, but unable to remember what. And I steal off into the past. We catch minnows in the shallow pools; and cautiously inch across them when they freeze each winter. A fox’s den in the undergrowth; we lie in wait, us three, camouflaged, under mounds of leaves. Defending tree-huts from invasion, alliances rising and falling. In the long grass, after school; nervously; my first kiss. Her name escapes my memory, her face too.

It’s strange how far we let ourselves drift. Drifting off, and away, and apart. We were so inseparable then; my brothers and I, keepers of a sacred bond. Now we are grown, and we do not share our fears anymore. We divided them up between us, and each buried a piece.

For there are those other memories too. The ones we hid, and bade ourselves keep. The ones that Shaun could not laugh off; that Darren could not fight. Memories of hiding out here past dusk, refusing to go home; of the things we could not do then, of the things we did not understand. Feeling afraid. And over time, that fear became anger, and I could not put it out. We locked them up in the dark, and made them dull; those memories. We left them in our wake, so that they might fade. And the details slip away towards obscurity, but never fully get there. The colours dampen in the mind. Who wore what when? Who did what to whom? And in what order? These things go. Dialogue is erased, the faces are drawn blank; the light drained.

I look at the land about me, the woods, the sheer brightness of the day, the colours so vibrant in the daylight, and it hardly seems like this could have been the place.

Our memories are elusive. They paint their own past. Or cover it over. We are left with a negative; a small dark clip of the truth, and that is all that we are able or prepared to see. We are afraid to blow it up, afraid of the bigger picture. These things we have seen; they have shaped us. They direct us still. And we will keep them with us always, whether we mean to or not. So, no, we have not forgotten; but then again, nor do we remember.