Authors: Helen Guri
ears long on the chest, settling, spooling over time
to conch shells with her hush
and tick-tock in them.
Critter that twins its springs in a gizmo,
keeps its leaps sly
between twelve dens in sleep.
In dreams where racing is necessary,
our turned-out pockets fly behind us:
matching kites of lint.
In a fabric-panel alphabet, something illiterate
slips through the hole
in the middle of a letter.
Its listening cranked
like a silent egg timer.
Things happen. An event rubs up on the available canvas like a cat scratching its back on a pant leg – static. A marble dropped in a Rube Goldberg machine. I left my wife, or she left me, glass pebble down a copper pipe. The house had been drafty in winter, the stews too autumnal or not autumnal enough, radios tuned fractionally out of earshot. So we slipped seaward, and the vendors hawked yellow roses on the waterfront when the red ones sold out, fish when the yellow ones wilted, then tails and eyes. I bought a silver skeleton and kept it in my pocket.
It did not matter anymore whether I read articles on evolutionary psychology or peeled the potatoes clean as a nude thigh, filtered scum from the fragile ponds of sun in windowsills. Sounds blanched like jackets from the meanings of words, faucets leaked, abstractions such as the internet got out of hand like a frog colony under the house. No one pruned anything. Spittle bugs foamed cappuccinos on the undersides of leaves while I fell victim to three grey hairs in my beard, surrendered for long intervals to a shard of a tune,
the far side of the ocean …
My divorce was a breeze shot through with salt. All around me a great mind was porpoising – or was it? Coincidences welled like cuts.
Happenschance. A woman from work gets stuck to the flypaper of a TV special on dolls for grown men.
Ninety-eight-proof pure reality, a triple-distilled fairy tale, the dolls are as addictive as living. Then came commercial breaks.
Have you ever noticed how strangely most people walk? As if they once had extra limbs which now are missing.
Imagine a story where the hero has been lost at sea for decades, until several dozen tiny currents lap him to an of island made of chrome and glass from the washed-up wrecks of Mercedes Benzes. Nothing grows there except women, like pillars of fun-in-the-sun. One with a voice like an ambulance sings to him when the wind blows over her mouth. The hero would be quite happy to stay and escape old age. Consider also: he has very little choice.
… If I put the wheels in motion.
That’s what the unnamed factory worker must hum as she plants the newly minted body in a crate and ships it, oversized love letter coasting the highway, reverse funeral, a wink from the gods. And if a parcel arrives at my doorstep? A magnanimity about the gesture, a certain spite too. Let the dying love the undead, let the cool-blooded man from the age of tinned sardines meet the cold lady from the internet, let events of the cosmos drop like hail the size of cue balls, throw them spinning into a pocket.
A laptop plays dead, rehearsing,
its white light gauzing
the end of a tunnel.
We sleep, it and I, in a bachelor oxygen tent
made cozy by breath from our dark rooms.
It is like a tablecloth tent made in childhood.
The windows are blinkered, the precise depth
of thin books. We spoon at a five-foot distance,
exhaling deeply into each other’s ventilation systems.
We would dream of monsters in Technicolor
clawing the heads off peonies,
but we are not quite turned on enough.
The whir is our molars
in a gradual dance with tough seeds
it might take decades to complete.
The whir is our fan blades in the long grass
of distant summers, grazing.
This might be as close as we get
to parsing our relationship to the bovine.
But we expire utterly
every four years.
Let me tell you what I know of close spaces.
A parking garage reserves certain smells,
which refresh memories of being small, and engines.
Each sedan steaming like an astronaut’s supper.
A one-door room binds imperceptible
steam to the skin; the molecules are wishes
reabsorbed in wish nodes.
A room contains everything
until it doesn’t.
Hedonism will be staying up all night.
Hedonism will be clicking every clickable
until a crash.
Pups jostled in twilight sleep.
A marker running dry on its whiteboard diary.
The whole neighbourhood inexplicably in leather pants on leather couches.
A man with a tracheotomy steps into a windstorm, yard-long notes fluting the pitch of him.
The water balloon does not burst immediately upon hitting the tile.
The squint of a swab on a kitchen cut. The little rubber tires of calamari.
Unoiled machinery in the off-leash park.
A chromatic scale-playing violinist windlassed up the brickwork.
The fishmonger spills her catch to the seals.
The revolutionaries get paper cuts scanning tabloids through the checkout.
High-pitched appliances join the all-candidates’ debate.
He learns, aged three years, kazoo in mouth, that he’ll not be back this way.
The crickets are confused about the time of day and the location of the countryside.
A soccer match you won a long time ago, the zealous aunts.
The neighbours negotiate their separation on helium.
A hot-water tap squeals its emergency.
Not last words but last noises.
Cassettes wince back to their starting points.
Some tuning fork, some string
in my gut sets to humming
when Charlotte describes
what she saw last night on television
and Brian sprints his ears over
and the room swerves its attention like bees.
A doll – life-sized, Pyrex complexion,
breasts, raw loaves,
You can guess what she is for.
A pair of paws on Google Video confirms it,
kneading her chest counterclockwise for
four full minutes.
‘Necrophiliacs,’ decides Greta.
Charlotte worries her husband might just –
the doll’s pliant teeth yielding like trap doors
to a room in some terrible mansion.
‘Sad dweebs,’ Brian assesses,
mousing up a JPG of Alfred Truelove,
the man who keeps two
in a shed out back of his linoleum-clad shack
(‘Like prisoners,’ says Greta)
and blogs studiously each evening
of their loves and hates:
Sandra likes apple fritters
while Tammi prefers pulp fiction.
Both love Alfie to pieces, despite the fact
every real woman who ever knew him
stole and lied.
Alfie is 52,000 ineptly hashed pixels
in the screen’s rectangular eye.
Charlotte pointedly calls him a headcase
before retreating to her seat.
Brian cartoons him peeling off
Sandra’s Velcro-secured face,
slips the page into Greta’s inbox
so she giggles in long, slow gulps.
A short memo on the ‘suction effect’
of silicone orifices circulates.
My brainwave is the size of an arena –
please grab a seat.
Watch the mystery run laps
through a device
composed solely of antiquated childhood games
and ancient pains:
a crescendo of dominoes
sets off a model train; conductorless,
a flashlight’s plasma siren
burrows through textbook
migraines, refracts in a rat trap
below the buzzer – which one,
Keep your ears pricked as baskets
for the unmapped sound, for the crash
landing of a tossed girl.
Let your cogs be a crowd in a wave
of plough and follow.
When I examined the lips of the moths,
I found my answering-machine tape shredded
to glitter. They had eaten Linda’s message:
a promise to bring food for the ornamental pepper
and for us too, a dish of glass noodles.
By the time the moths hightailed for their hometown
of mill dust in the rust veldt, the holes in the story had taken over.
Lifted: a synthetic scarf from the far side
of a free-swinging door, a single bleached strand
from the vanity, a thumb’s oil slick from the spare key,
clipped nails from the carpets.
The possibility that it was a rescue.
Nature dispatching its search patrol:
Luna, Saturnid, Clearwing, Wax, Pandora
teamed and trained at the week-long intensive.
Now she with the delicate means
to turn and be lifted
to that place in the night where no light radiates –
no cook-fire, porch lamp, glow-wand, splinter-
planet. Not even the twin pinholes of my alarm.
Having renounced the known universe
in favour of anyone’s guess,
she is, naturally, quite hard to pin down.
The words that skirt the edges of her name
carefully as toreros goad a bull
without ever touching it –
lindane, linac, limuloid
are crystalline compounds, blue crustaceans,
particles speeding from a Spanish plateau,
soft insects in the wash of flax fields.
Sometimes I imagine her mantis-elbowing
her way among these other things
like a genie in a crowded market,
never brushing anyone.
Or she belongs to the breed of ascetics
who starve their way to enlightenment.
Each food she renounces buoys her higher into the air
like a balloon dropping ballast,
until, eventually, there is no balloon.
The first thing she gives up eating is my sweaters.
All November the terrible acrylic patterns fall like rain.
Pupils slick in chipped saucers, chapped palms at a shard’s distance.
Beach of bad-luck mirrors where the sun sloops, king squid, into its socket.
We crab-stroll the shore without credible skeletons, held up only by our pleats and the absence of a bench.
Other pairs are chain-linked at the elbows. They brew ketchup storms in Dixie cups, leave carrion for birds.
We post a request to our biographers: jig those jags into embrace. Meanwhile, tentacles of reddish light
pose questions. What could crumbs of the dropped colour wheel know of one another –
of a warm tomato flush below the gulls’ shrieking while the Lunchosaurus locks up and ambles home to its era?
Let me tell you about the cactus Linda bought and I kept,
, I learned later from a plant encyclopedia.
How, surly as a toe fungus, it parked on my sill
and bit when I came close. A year after she left,
it shrivelled like a blowfish. I thought it was dead,
put it out on the patio beside the frozen shoes.
It was only the thinness of my slippers, its petrified tines,
that stopped me stomping its insides to goo.
But night passed frostless, first time in months, February breaking,
and morning rolled in like blue paint. The bloom appeared
to snuff my sleep, its bright megaphone
lip-locked to a crack in my door,
the faint, breathless static
of its sewing pins: a southern belle’s crop
of varnished nails. Wide as a parasol, volatile
as an allergic nostril, funnel to suck
the known world of colour: my cactus in bloom.
I took it inside and placed it on the table,
drained a glass milkless studying its throat,
a goosey impulse pluming
greyly from the root
like a fuse. Lighting an element,
I told myself: don’t be stupid.
A plant is its own thing – try to see it literally.
Each night slips to hold –
Purolator will not deliver.
Transfixed by the perfectly empty
box of my skylight,
I look up to where children smashed
their tennis balls through the sky.
It begins to seem inevitable
that a confused migrating goose
will one day land in this box,
as if on water.
A cube van achoos and here it is:
a crate of elsewhere, special delivery,
tangled hatch to hatch with labels
and loose ends of tape – bits of the canopy
it snagged on its trip to earth.
It pauses in the river of the street:
an abstract expressionist soldier in camouflage,
poniless carriage, young couple’s first sofa,
vampiric mode of travel –
Come play in traffic,
it calls to schoolchildren,
who hesitate in the awnings.
They’ve heard of people going over Niagara Falls
in boxes much like this one.
Those who believe in tabula rasa
and those who believe the rectangular mass
tells the sculptor what to make of it
should set aside their tedious chiselling
and hop into this sweet ride –
short of a fall from the mouth of a stork,
nothing in life compares.
But all new arrivals are dead weight
to the delivery man, who grimaces as he hefts
this latest up from the concrete
to my door. I see through
the eyeholes in his uniform
he’d be happier as a ranger
driving herds of Trojan ponies
home through twilight.
‘Mr. Brand?’ he asks.
Ink answers to the charge.