Spume runs the gutter, out of reach. Her spine twists and diamond beads flicker. Where was she, when she was out at sea? A sky too bristling to be noticed, tumbling, the eddy.
Surface, surface, and then your face, on fire, and how I laughed. Because the flame was real and covered your features, whichever way you looked. Out there on the sea, where you stood on the tide. Foam shakes water loose over here.
White net, never a sail, falls over her, covers some, sunburnt the rest. This boat is too static, claims to be at rest.
Salty, that’s what you are, the man floating, standing on the blue. If it were monochrome, would you fly?, scissor through, like in The Truman Show? You make me see the curve of the earth, and I don’t want that.
Drink the dew of this morning, spread nimbly.
She wakes convinced she vomited the entire ocean in her sleep. The psychopomp fire-face man is silent and lets her believe it.
Overhead the sun sheds a skin, and it plops to the water, and sinks. Now, brighter, the star. It shines out rotten blood.
Codification nodules enter the sides of her vision, made ill by the disease of a financial crash. When all is economy, the stratifications of cellular arrhythmias disengage from beauty and its androgynies. Woe betide a falling sun.
A mock to sinistral Teichopsia, her blindspot interrogates the wash between them. The distance will not falter.
Blankness settles and the lowing blows spray across and about. Dead carcasses of manta rays giddy by.
When she fished as a girl the smell alienated her father, and now she considered the deeper meaning, but turned from it and dismissed any.
Was he a saviour? A blessed one? The flickering light coming from his face doesn’t seem to be of the burning kind anymore. He distinguishes the planet from episodes of war, separating the great sea battles out, and categorising them in parallel, as opposed to interdependent. Even from so far a distance his inner workings radiate.
There are jet planes in the heavens. She wishes with all her might that the face-fire will leap from the man’s figure and dart with a forceful bolt, up, heat seeking metal, downing the jets in a rapture of flame, just for some empathetic company.
He stands impenetrable, an ignoramus.
Three days he follows the drifting boat, her skin shrinking.
Night at sea arrives quickly and the blush of starlight chokes where it falls and covers.
The face is not bright, does not light. Instead the flames lick black and curl, suckers. Underneath the impoverishment of a state de-technologised, the itch of deprivation castigates every breath.
Her arms drag, thrown over the rim, drooped into the soft sea, hands bloated in prophesy, the remains of her dried away or lost to aerobic antagonism.
In great hiccups he at last makes movements, weird ones, full of half-remembered seizures of adolescence that happened in front of other people. This time he shows it to her, and her eyes can’t focus properly when she struggles to lift her head. A chain of lights conga the void, a cracked and broken whirl for the space between, in his getting closer. Why is he doing this now?
The only out of place factor is the gutter. Shouldn’t be here, is nonsensical. Everything else has it centripetal justification. the gutter stinks. She runs her hands through it, under the water now, because it can wander, and the flesh is numbed to whatever might be there. The fire-face man cries when he sees what she is doing, although he doesn’t understand any of it.
Red tears run into the ocean, and in the black below monsters thrash with memory.
Hot Poisoner of Summer Or The English Subsidence
Her first words were tastes like chicken/Fire alarms cause children to stampede phone shops, stepping on crack addicts, breaking backs/Nationalists get starry-eyed at propaganda barbecues, sentimental future groupies/The new prime minister beats up his girlfriend and tells the newspapers she is a cardboard cut-out, because he’s afraid of ageing/Pensioners rut in doorways/At the docks, the neighbourhood nonce waves a Union Jack/Preteens spit Haribos onto motorways/The paranoiac ice-cream man gives you two Flakes/There is glorious prancing on the heath/Sunburnt policemen chase hysterical benefit cheats through Whitehall—The faces are recognised/Professional hatemonger pays off his credit card debt and retires to a haystack outside Runnymede/Workmen build empty homes for spirit statistics/The ants fly, looking for teeth/Your father uses all his words, mistakenly convinced/Know one nos themselves anymore/There is an astrologer in the great ape enclosure at the zoo (it focuses on conservation now)/Everyone frets about cellular degeneration, while adblocking/It is a citizen’s right to invert maxims/The reclaiming of words becomes a career recognised by passport deciders/A drug tsar declares an amnesty on forced swim tests/Oligarch FC score the winning goal of the season with the decapitated head of a delivery driver/Your heart is the same as it ever was, just older/The Queen will never die, despite her new favourite word being sheeple/At Beachy Head, The Chancellor and Under-Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Exchequer recites his most recent text messages into a strong northeasterly breeze/Hooligan chic dominates fashion week, but the event is clouded by the unannounced arrival of critical thinking/The outbreak of hedgehog revenge continues unabated/Underclass scapegoats swap syringes at joint baby shower and needle exchange parties/The future King misuses his influence to not much effect/Pavements become nothing but chewing gum/Influencers sabotage scrying sessions organised by pet therapists/ Disembodied hands continue to massage shoulders, unannounced/Progenitor of original dubstep abandons tour of Portakabins before committing suicide by biro in a bus shelter in Ealing/
And mainlined with pox, it’s harder to step out, a mesh of membranous misgivings to oppress a beating heart, stamp on England’s wettest dreams, anointed with bites and snapping mouths, redolent of ways receding down hazy sunlit backroads rendered by software giants who backstab as a company motto. I didn’t imagine this when I was a child, and I imagined quite a lot. So, the steps hit lighter, repelled from the soil below, a home stripped of the meander and the bacterial undertow.
Rebecca Gransden lives on an island in the United Kingdom. She is published at Burning House Press, X-R-A-Y, Soft Cartel, FIVE:2:ONE, Muskeg, and The Cabinet of Heed, among others. Her books are anemogram., Rusticles, and Sea of Glass.
... if we left after school on Friday I could be eating sourdough waffles with my grandparents on Saturday morning. I always thought my mother took me there so I could be close to my grandparents. Now I wonder if she was going for herself ...