I do not know
What peace this is
Spelt in mid-air
With a hazy finger
A city built
On stacks of butter
That could fall apart
Any minute now
But where is home, and bridges,
My favourite cafe
With a table for two
With invisible bricks
A fleeting feeling
Like a song
Made of thoughts
Here this second
And the next, gone.
Grief comes with its furniture, misspelled postage on the packaging. It leaves around the bubble wrap and the cushioning hay, empties the cartons and arranges it chaos while humming a French song whose words mix with each other. It places a desk against the wall, like it were here to stay. Your claylike body accepts the weight of its four metal feet, as they are pressed on like tattoos. It brings a typewriter with missing keys, papers torn from thick books no one ever finished reading. A chandelier made from collected shards of glass, sharp enough to slit your fingers. A flowerpot with magnolias that it never waters.
A second-hand sofa and a table with an Italian lace cover, that shows dust between its cream coloured reticulations. A can of dark blue paint that looks like it could hold stars but doesn’t, to paint the windows nightly. Grief brings no blankets for the cold. But oil lamps, yes, it doesn’t trust electric bulbs. Sometimes, it sits in the dark on a rocking chair that neither recognises it’s weight nor oscillates, and if you pass by it, you may not notice it.
Grief brings a clock with no hour hand. A cracked cup that cuts its lips every time it tries to take a sip of juice. There is no mirror, no cabinet or extra spoons. There is an eggshell shaped flask that it dreams of keeping a fish in. Grief has no name, and plans to call the fish with hoots. It keeps pebbles on the floor, blue, grey and brown, like a half-made seashore that someone forgot about. And a refrigerator to keep mechanical tools, a spade and an axle. It has a radio that needs a change of batteries and crackles with transmission buzz. A hotplate to cook food, and a piece of paper with emergency numbers written in haphazard handwriting.
My beret was damp with rainwater. Something about the rain today makes it sharp, prickly against my skin, like shards of glass. An angry lover has thrown a bouquet of pink roses on the floor, all its thorns falling down in a melody. I did not think of the umbrella in my bag as I walked from the driveway to the door. I place my hat in a watery choice on the coffee table. The eyes in the oil-painting we bought for our hall look numb. They seem to be looking away, outside, at the ice plants that smile like death.
I turn right, and walk upstairs. The sound of your music plays with my footsteps. I picture your hands moving like liquid from one key to the next, and in the spaces, something fills like a flower blooming in slow-motion. On the podium, I pause to brush my fingers on window. But the raindrops race and I quicken my step when your song grows louder. The attic’s green door is open, and your ghost sits on a stool by the piano. Your grey eyes turn to me, full of tears that refuse to cry, as if all the rain in the sky was here, in this grey room, between us, and if I touched you, it will all disappear.
I pull a chair and sit down opposite, fold my hands on the lid and place my chin on my arms as I listen to you stop at a crescendo, and then softly, play on, a song of life after love. I have left no wet footprints on the stairway, the house is cold like before. Nothing can tell if I was here, and for a while, you were too.
I wish we lived in an age of letters and radios and playing in the parks in the evening. An age of passing smiles to strangers and reading poetry out loud to share your favourite lines. Having to go out to buy flowers and fresh beans for tonight’s dinner.
But in the pre-computer age, how do you tell someone you miss them when they are miles away on their birthday? Shall I write you an e-mail at midnight, and pretend to have loved you in letters? Let technology save us sometimes when I want to show you the colours of dusk in my sky
You still have a moustache of chocolate foam above your lips
So we fumble a little at the door
Before I peck your cheek in a goodbye kiss.
I rush to the balcony to look at you again
You hadn’t turned to the mirror in the elevator
It’s five past nine, and you are running late.
In some lives, you are slow, as you watch the watercolour spill softly across the grass. Turning from blue to white, then meeting pink and red pools and quickly quilled into flowers.
On other days, hurrying, a paraphernalia about to turn into a painting waits spread across the living room floor. You leave violet fingerprints on the knob as you leave home.
The shadow of a roof on a wall with chipping paint
one house has a chimney and the other has a tree behind it
washing hangs on a clothesline
seen in a mirror of a home where no one lives
a creeper grows flowers
smooching from one balcony to a terrace in the shade
Sometimes, buying marmalade can be a big step. It could mark the settling down in a space, the waking up to a familiarity, claiming a spot in a refrigerator that wasn’t yours yesterday. I think there is something romantic in walking around the kitchen, eating toast without a plate, and spreading your arms on the sofa, like you belong here.
It might be how you start making a new life.
When you walk out of a forest, you turn into a tree. No longer human and made of skin. Your arms are barks, your legs are stems and you must let birds sit and chirp on them all day long. Before you notice, like wrinkles, your leaves will age. Like rings, years will settle in the iris of your hazel eyes.
And when you reach the city you can try to hide, camouflage yourself between the skyscrapers that rush past your neck, fit yourself between two grey towers, a little space on the pavement, on a hillock in a community park. But you will still swing with the wind, shed leaves in autumn and dress roads with your blood oranges. Your branches will spread, and the world will know where you’ve been.
There is no hiding it. You are a tree now.
And you must grow towards the sunlight until you catch fire and burn.
I spent all our nights
Searching your iridescent scarf
For constellations that weave together
Our distanced stars