I was told that water has memory. I can believe it. I think of how a drop – the cold moisture of a cloud, somewhere a continent away – might precipitate itself upon an azure sea. That it might get pulled this way and that, become submerged, forgotten, embroiled in the waves and the churn of marine life; that it might be lifted and fall again, that it might enter rivers, cross countries; that it might finally be taken along by a tide, that it might beach itself on closer shores, that it might pour from our taps, with its memory intact.
Choking from the tree pollen and the blanket of smog that had blown in from across the sea and the dust that had risen from the roads after the fires of the previous week. The atmosphere was unbreathable. Slowly jogging through the drag of streets from west to east was a chore for the chest. The sky was cloudless, but all the towers and cranes in the distance took on a muddy, sepia colour. It was a sense of desaturation, a fading, that was at odds with the coarse, thick reality of the air. The town was suffocating under itself.
I can’t explain it in any other terms, she said, waving her hands in front of her and gesturing at the trees. I can’t read the papers any more. I can’t watch TV. I know what’s coming. It’s like this every time. Whoever wins out, it will be the same. We’ve still a month to go. And then here, this morning, it hit me. The nettles are coming up, those little purple flowers dotted around. And there’s this stench. It’s meant to be spring but something already smells of decay. Breathe in: can’t you smell it? You know what’s coming.
Trains backing up into Surrey and the onslaught of the crush at the barriers.
A roadside reek of last night’s piss and the morning’s nicotine and bleach.
A man laughs into his hand.
A woman switches to flats.
The freesheets are a coconut shy.
Two shots please. I like my coffee very strong.
I couldn’t sleep because of our stupid neighbour upstairs playing music and crashing around at four in the morning.
Did you eat there? It’s amazing.
I am booked up pretty much all day, back to back. Sorry.
A notebook on a desk.
The words: ‘Dream of plenty.’
With one small bag and no note he became the next of the disappeared. He was seventeen. They searched for him on maps but the maps were empty and sand covered them. They searched for him across websites but found only redacted rhetoric. He was gone. And he was gone before he was gone. The government said they were liaising with other governments to see if anything could be done. The police said they had monitored him, but he was untraceable. His school said it was a tragedy. His parents said he was a perfect son. He had said nothing.
He stands in the empty doorway of his roofless house. Inside is only landfill.
The storm has passed.
They drive the sheep up to the mountains where they graze through the summer.
The blizzard continues.
They came to the streets to protest about land reforms and were met by police.
The water cannons flattened them to the dirt.
The pelicans land on the wooden platform and wait for the fishermen.
The fish are thrown into the sky, under the razor sun.
He dangles above the craters; a scientist confronted with mystery.
He hangs from a rope above ice and snow.
She is the daffodil girl with the golden hair. She is here in the spring, telling us to slip off our winter coats. She is warmth and smiles, turning her face to the sun and the coming summer. She brings tales of childhood and hopes for the year ahead. I sometimes think the garden grows for her, because of her, in need of her. If in autumn she is nowhere, remember she’ll be back – glimpses of her come like a miracle even in the ice of January. She is always there; beneath the seasons she is constant. She is life.
People say it’s the smell you try to hold on to. The smell of a person. Clothes. Blankets. Cushions. After they’ve gone. Of course this is true. I’ve lived through it. What’s less noted is the way voices come and go. The first time I realised I could no longer wholly recall your voice, after a couple of years or so, it was terrifying. I felt ashamed. To only have this faint echo of something. And then it came back strong. Sometime later. Suddenly. You were there. We spoke. And then you went again.
You come in waves, tidal remembrances.
Dreaming of Cairo, so I thought, and I was on some concrete balcony at the edge of the desert, with the city in the distance, illuminated by explosions – and the death-rattle of guns and screaming missiles echoed across the void between me and… them.
I peered harder and saw that the explosions were fireworks, lighting up the sky with their crackle and kaleidoscope wonder. And the city was maybe Romford, somewhere not quite London.
I woke up. It was still night. Deeply so. A blackbird was singing. It sounded so frail and confused, so beautiful, and so full of dread.
I looked at the silver mud along the banks of the river. A month ago it was filled with birds. You could see them scurrying even at night. Now they have gone. The seasons are changing and the mud is becoming bare. The gulls’ heads are taking on their summer colour. It’s as if the dunlins never happened. But they will be back. All of life succumbs to the gyre. Once we accept it, we can begin to make predictions, begin to understand the pleasures and the horrors that are as yet out of sight.
The guns were silenced yesterday.