Deep Impact

When she said it, the air left. It was as though the exact words she’d spoken had rung something out from inside his head. The grey matter of his brain, rinsed, like an old dishcloth. He couldn’t believe it, what she had said. 

Then everything felt brittle. Soundless. He wondered momentarily if, in some alternate universe, he was living through one of those scenes from the movies he loved: the ones set in outer space; the kind he’d watch over and over and over, where the big red button gets pressed, mistakenly, opening a hatch that vacuums out the crew into the gaping maw of space, and then maybe they’re okay, but maybe they’re dead. He wondered which he’d be, but – mainly – he just couldn’t believe what she’d said.

For a bit, the only sound he could hear was the sonar sound of his heart from inside his ear: the sonorous thud of each beat, landing like a dull missile, and it wasn’t until he looked up and around him that he knew that nothing had happened – no explosions, no rapture, no dread. For the first time since she’d uttered the words, he looked up at her. He just couldn’t believe it, what she’d said. 

Around them, the wait staff still continued to serve, bussing from table to table. Cacophony. Nearby patrons scraped forks over plates, glasses clinked on teeth, chair legs squealed and dragged. He saw the mouths of others open and close – even hers, so round and so red – but no sound came, and he couldn’t believe what she’d said.

His brain simply refused, inflating defensively inside his skull like a pufferfish, blocking all access to his consciousness, extensively, so that even the smallest wisp of her voice would not be able to sneak its way inside. Code red. His body simply refused it all, materially: he couldn’t believe what she’d said.

He felt swollen, all of a sudden – raw – like the blisters he’d get at football when he was still a kid. The kind his dad would burst with a hot needle, before wrapping his feet. He recalled his father’s explanation for them: nature’s airbags, he’d say. They pop up to protect what’s beneath. Good lad. When he’d finished, he’d always touched his head. He thought about him now: how long he’d been dead. He wondered how he’d have explained the words that she’d said.

And now here he was, but older – the injury unfamiliar, and not the same pain, but the body’s defence kicking in, all the same. It had been a long time since he’d stumbled or bled, but he felt like death, after what she had said.

Pieces

I remember when I stole
a piece of your jigsaw puzzle;
slid it across the countertop
like a miniature credit card;
half inched it like a thief
and hid it in the cat’s basket.

I watched you work for hours;
lay down bit after bit, unwavering
in your focus, unaware of my small
hostage, as you spread out across
our dining room table, smiling
at each of your fresh conquests.

More days passed as the picture
became clearer, and I remember
thinking: at some point, this will
all have to end. Then one day
I looked up to see you shovelling it
back into the box, as if you had
known it would come to nothing:

and just like that, it was forever undone;
it wouldn’t be finished, and neither had won.

White Sky, High

There’s something
about a sky like this.

Your mother’s clean cloth
laid out like a map –
it’s lace landmarks, hazy.

A ghostly flag, hung half mast,
to the four corners of
your eyes, pinned with pearl.

We walk into it, and it’s as if
our heels lift upwards –
blown far, like paper or steam

and I feel buoyant beside you, as
we walk lighter, lean in together
towards a sky like this.

Lunar You

when we find ourselves
together, I glow

like the moon

sometimes, it seems
so perfect – a soft light

like the moon

our shapes wax
and do not wane

like the moon

but then I reach out
and can touch only air.

I wonder about the eclipse
of you and I, and turn pale

like the moon

The Pigeon

I was seven when
the neighbour’s cat caught a pigeon
and dragged its twittering, tattered trunk 
through our kitchen.

The cat and her mouth,
now clean and empty, seemed innocent,
but the errant trail of crumpled feathers
gave it up.

We hid it from mam,
stayed up in shifts, fostered and fed it sugar
water from a spoon, playing each other’s 
game of nurse.

I remember the thrill
waiting for the magical renewal we were
led to expect: a resurgence promised that
would never come.

It fell still then,
its beak soaked, sticky with sugar, as its
drowned and silent body lay between us,
ruined and scrap.

Sometimes I wake from 
shadowed dreams to see the smothered thing
in its throes, and I do not sleep. We were not
what you think.

Some Give

I don’t feel bad about how
the world might be ending –
and I don’t feel guilty,
if that’s what you’re getting at.

I’m more concerned about how
I can feel myself bending –
a little like this, at first
and also, somehow, like that.

Brother

When it gets late, we watch Cops on TV,
once all the rest have made their way to bed.
Then you make cheese on toast, and I make tea –
we feel inclined to sit up late, instead –
and though our conversation is quite plain,
you’ll show me something funny on your phone,
and when we laugh our ribs vibrate with pain,
as though at something we should have outgrown.
At three or four o’clock we start to shrink;
my tired mind begins to wonder whether
you’ll think about us sitting here, in sync,
when you and I no longer live together.
For me, it’s that I’ll miss, though it seems trite –
when we watch Cops together late at night.

Love Letter

You write about the moon
its opalescence
a bowl of shadow and pearls

the way it paints over 
everything it sees
the world in pallid gloss

You write about art
its multitudes
the lawlessness of expression

the ghost that shapes
everything we do
the bent arm behind us

You write about love
its essence
and of the helplessness

the violent shooting heart 
without restraint
the thunder after the strike

You write 
You write
You write

and it makes me sick