March 2020

6 1 0
                                                  

Named for the ocean her parents wouldn't live to cross, Atlantic O'Riordan hoisted one small bag onto her shoulder and whispered a prayer as the crowd's tide pulled her aboard the ship. A new world awaited, but she would never truly leave her old one behind.

- - - - -

whitecaps, rolling blue
and stormcloud grey, take my breath
and pull me under

- - - - -

A man waving a bottle wrapped in brown paper shouts at a seagull rooting through a fast food bag. I shelter from the rain in a doorway, air stained with stale cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes. The bus is late again. I'm sick of this place. I miss you.

- - - - -

By your silent side, I starve myself in tribute to your diminishing mass. Later, I sit on the corridor floor, hands hidden in opposite sleeves, scraping at tally-mark scabs while the man in the room next to yours smiles at me through an open door.

- - - - -

We did as we were told and stayed away from number seventeen, never climbing the wall or 

even opening the gate.Until, one day, years of lost footballs started to reappear in the street with two words scrawled in finger smudges of flaking crimson. HELP ME.

- - - - -

My right hand, an arthritic claw that hadn't pulled a trigger in years, took the blade meant for my face and I made my brother a promise, spoken in the language of home. "The debt of your betrayal will be repaid in blood." 

- - - - -

Choose a more convenient word for sorrow, a more palatable euphemism for pain. No sadness here, no grief, no loss, no fear. We do not have feelings in this house. Sit down. Shut up. Smile. Everything's fine. Everything. Is. Always. Fine.

- - - - - -

I want to jump. Not to drown, but to touch a vastness I can't comprehend, to be immersed in the unfathomable.

"What are you looking at?" he asks.

"Nothing. Just...there's a comfort to it, how small we are and how much there is below us."

- - - - -

Nothing is insurmountable. Not because we're brave, or even deserving. Because we're stubborn. Because we spit out the bitterness of loss and reach across distance, counting the days, hours, minutes until we bend the world to meet our desires again.

- - - - -

I'm used to being underestimated, to people misreading the signs. "Just a mannequin, carrying fancy weapons for show," was what the last guy said. I guess he wasn't entirely wrong. Throwing a knife directly into his eye was a pretty good show.

- - - - -

The robot clunked down onto the kerb and watched litter tumble with the breeze along the deserted road. It spoke in a metallic monotone to a passing cockroach. "I wanted to live forever, but now I'm not so sure. Forever gets lonely. I miss being human."

- - - - -

Children long since evacuated, the kindergarten was repurposed into a makeshift jail. Crayon drawings of stick-figure families yellowed on the walls as a sniper who had just passed her eighteenth birthday picked off attempted escapees like a computer game.

- - - - -

Our commanding officer's words echo in my head. "Lead from the front or you're not leading at all."

My troops load hunting rifles and handbag pistols behind me in an armada of flatbeds, campervans and taxis. It's now or never. Fuck.

It's now.

- - - - -

The trees are not organised into regimented rows and the riverbank is not structured by neat geometry. The sun rises over untidy mountains and flowers that grow in unruly grass turn their faces towards another morning of wild possibility.

- - - - - 

Haze
Over
Reality.
It's
Zen
Or
Nothing.

- - - - -

He gasps for breath past split lips and blood slick teeth, one eye swollen shut, broken fingers reaching for my wrists. "Life's short," I tell him. He already knows. He's shortened enough lives. He followed his own map to this moment, to me.

- - - - -

Skin warm and sweet air delicious, barefoot lawn wandering. Wake with the sun and dream under late twilight moonglow. Exhale, exhale, exhale. However you got here, when all this is over, stay.

- - - - -

He crushes a cigarette butt against the sole of his boot and waits all of thirty seconds to light another. "There's always something wrong."

A cloud drifts across the moon. I reach for his hand. "But there's always something right too."

- - - - -

I remember you in small explosions of grief, playing chicken with the heat behind my eyes. Fingernail crescents dent my palms and the stone in my throat sinks heartwards. Your memory deserves to be wrapped in joy, but I know you would forgive me for tears. 

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