Nails hammered into the trunk let him climb to the tree’s big branches. He edged out and hung his legs over, swinging them in the air. The sun was on his face. Then he pressed his palms down into the branch, feeling the tension, lifting himself up and pushing out, out, into the sky. He braced his legs, locked his knees, and then he hit. The earth was soft but the jolt was huge, a giant tremor up through his bones, and an impact that forced his thighs into his hips, breaking his pelvis as he crumpled on the ground.
Tie the history down. Me and little Kenny running in the dewy fields under the crackle of electricity pylons. Tie the family down. Aunts and uncles filling up my grandfather’s little sitting room with their cigarette smoke. Tie the present down. Me and my lonesome workplace banter and the nights drinking and looking at girls with Johnno and the crew. Tie the romance down. How something came to nothing so soon and she’s better off in any case. Tie the future down. The plans I make daily and the bucket list I email to myself. None of it is real.
She didn’t torch the place. Not yet. The others could have done it if they’d wanted. She fudged a tear. Anything more might have signalled guilt. Her predecessor, Gestas, would take the blame. They’d be happy to let him have it. They’d needed to crucify someone and Gestas, such an impenitent robber, the one she’d called friend, lover, rose highest. As she knew he would. Somehow she wandered away and washed her hands, thinking of how she might return. Someone would do well out of this. And she had the names and numbers, the secret places, the matchbox and fuel.
We played word association games:
Is this working? Sorry can we go back to Stump?
Ice the Levant.
Isis, the Levant?
This is misleading. Stump’s ‘Ice the Levant’ single featured on a shared EP for Sounds magazine, titled Track On, No1, but on standard weight black vinyl. Other artists on the EP included the Triffids, Happy Mondays, Head and Sonic 3.
It is boat season and migrating humans attempt more perilous journeys across the Mediterranean. Europe is a dream but not always a destiny. Paper-sketched holding centres are a plan for refugees: some sand-blown pop-ups in north Africa and the Middle East – not a solution, just a siesta for peace. News from the front line is of a colossal catastrophe. Humanitarianism becomes hubris in the mouths of the powerful. Razor-wire fences don’t stop the desperate. Riot police have bulldozed camps in Calais. There is nowhere to go. In London, I hear the sound of duelling koras seeking harmony in the night.
A broad-brimmed black felt hat lies on the tracks below the bridge that crosses the railway line on Shoreditch High Street.
They sip sweet creamy coffee, shuffle and talk of failed interviews and jobs that didn’t work out.
A man by the Tube shouts ‘Freedom out!’ or perhaps ‘Free Time Out!’
They add a pre-meeting meeting to the diary, tapping fitfully while taking a call.
A line of immigration enforcement vans passes by as they hesitate at the wet kerb.
Restless regions shift like cumulonimbus across the horizon. We are heading for a low. A black hat rests on rails.
On the bookshop’s basement computer
A deleted message relates
That Thomas Piketty has sold out.
The email from the book’s printer
Suggests a second run is required –
But the price of paper shows a long upward trend.
Customers leave empty-handed.
Along the city’s cigarette streets
Workers stroke their palms
And bud their ears in silent contemplation
Of Thomas Piketty selling out.
As the fast commuter train stalls
Where a fallen branch blocks the rails
The labouring academic closes
Her old copy of New Left Review
In which Thomas Piketty plugs his book
That all across the land has sold out.
The man who did too little.
The man who did too much.
The woman left in the frame.
The woman who ducked the issue.
The man who spoke too late.
The man who spoke too soon.
The woman with the loudest voice.
The women you never heard.
The man who no one liked.
The man who was most popular.
The woman who called the shots.
The woman who only followed.
The man who knew everything.
The man who knew nothing.
The woman who told lies.
The woman who told the truth.
The man who ran away.
The man who remained.
The day the border was crossed he drank sweet coffee. He had been waiting to hear a cuckoo. His father railed “Let them in!” and waved his handkerchief. The fields were yellow with rape. Vasily had his toys all over the carpet. His mother made soup. Later he would meet friends at the corner bar but make sure he returned home before dusk. The main roads were all busy with heavily laden cars and trucks. They were all headed in one direction. How quick things move, he thought. And how predictable this unpredictability. Oh she danced so well last night.
To S___ on High Street it would be the time when the names were erased. She counted them up, window-shopping in the spring sun. The names that were now gone, in such a brief spell of time. Sam T and Granny F. Uncle, suddenly. The fit guy in the year above. And now they disappeared off the TV and magazines. Icons, faces she loved and cared about. Time had been luscious and now it was cheap. The summer ahead was loose change. Comes to nothing. And who to turn to? Who would go the distance with her, in her life?