Jim fished for imaginary salmon, out in his back garden with a rod and live bait. We watched him and laughed as the line got caught in the fence between his shrubs and the fields.
Jim smoked a pipe and spoke wryly of the old times and how nobody understood his intentions. He always wore a hat.
Jim liked the children to come round on bonfire night with their lanterns made from turnips and bright smiles, but the mothers always moved them on. Jim was eccentric, creepy, strange.
Jim mourned his mother’s death and never got married. Jim died yesterday.
When I asked for a glass
Of wine and you
Brought back two
Or when you went
To town to window shop
And came back with bags of
I call it mission creep.
Things got out of
Hand – you say –
It wasn’t my intention.
But you knew all along.
It’s the same
And maybe so.
I make the leap
To the streets
Are always mentioned.
First with a higher police
Then with little
Soon unmarked officers and
And now come
‘Pipes’ connect countless channels of overflow from East to West, Agencies say. Politicians have dubbed it a ‘super sewer’ and ‘filtrations’ are due to commence – the cost already upwards of £400m.
A communication from a group calling itself Stop the Shaft claimed, using Securities language, that the channels were only responsible for a tiny proportion of ‘human waste’ dumped into the ‘river of humanity’. The cost to the taxpayer is unjustifiable, they said, and the cost to Rights…
Agencies said the claims were ‘misleading’ and joked that the rest of the world would be ‘piped’ to hit their latest target.
We always went running in fog, early mornings at six, six thirty, at just that time of year when the fields become obscured by the weight of water in the air, so heavy it clung to your face in the pallid light and ran down it like tears, dripping from your nose and chin, and the wet grass licked your shins like a sopping tongue and the birds whispered that it was beyond dawn, their sound so close in the thick low sky, as if perched on your shoulder, but with nothing to be told about who won, who lost.
Your arm around me like you say my belt and braces, oh but I feel the opposite, I say an open hand, the merest brush of a tip of a finger that leads me on, could take me anywhere and we do, we do go anywhere and everywhere.
Your arm around me you say everything you say like a best man’s speech, so witty and warm and I say no, you are feeding warnings like a my old dad, a head boy eyeing me in the corridors of everywhere and thiswhere, herewhere.
Where-erity you go I go, you and me.
It was the early period of the Pacific drought and every day, J___ would walk along the promenade, whether in a summer cold snap or the heatwave of a late autumn afternoon. He would stop and stare at the container ships on the horizon, imagining the imports and exports, and see the plumes of smoke from the refinery. All was well. On the pier, children whooshed down the helter-skelter. Through the haze of sea and sun, J___ saw the faint outline of the wind turbines. Were they nearer than before? There was something in his throat. He felt scared.
On the platform, lighting up a cigarette, loosening his tie just a little, looking at the commuters, wondering about their lives. Their lives and his job, these two things that had somehow got themselves entwined. And yet when he’d left college, with those ideas… so determined, so green.
Inhale, hold, exhale. There was ivy weaving round the railings and climbing up the blackthorn, across the end of the station car park and all down the line. That plant could grow anywhere. A pest, people said. Needs cutting back. A good hacking. You’d need to hack for ever and for ever.
There was a flickering on the screen: a small dot heading towards the mainland. Intelligence said the dot came from Africa, but intelligence wasn’t everything. The dot was uncontactable – recognised signals were not received. Codes failed. Some said it was coming as part of a deal, a contra agreement with certain military or government agencies. Its looming shadow headed for the heart of the countryside. Grey warplanes shot through East Anglian skies – a deathly escort. But all was safe – the dot Nigerian and allied.
For the rest of the world, the buzz of rolling news, channels upon channels of silence.
Johnny had grown to love that old dog. After the yapping stopped, when it was no longer such a keen and overbearing puppy, when its occasional mistimed bark seemed endearing, some kind of grudging trust had been formed between them. Then, the dog went missing. Rumours were that another snarling hound chased it straight out of the neighbourhood. Some said they heard it howling to itself. Johnny set out to find it, enlisting young kids to patrol the local streets and flush the mutt out of hiding. It was too cunning to have died, but where was it? Soon, Johnny…
Stuffy and straightlaced, that’s a square. A word parents say, or are. Fearful, inward-looking, conservative, old-fashioned and boring. Boring most of all. That’s a square.
And the box shape of houses, dotted along roads. Little boxes with hats on, regulation size and order. Boring. Terraces and semis, square gardens, rooms.
Or the symmetrical flats and maisonettes, linked by decks of walkways, in rectangular slab towers of concrete. The sleek squares of modernity, left to crumble.
The squares where people meet, met, opening up the grey planning to communities. Puncturing repression and uniformity, letting people gather, think. What is square; who?