He sat in the sun on a bench in the park, his jacket too heavy. ‘May I?’ said the woman who appeared out of nowhere, pointing at the other end of the bench. ‘Aye, of course,’ he almost said but instead grunted and nodded and looked away. It’s not much of a story to tell, the woman may have thought, unless I invent that he is famous or an actor or identical to that man who had done that terrible thing when she was only a child. Her parents had turned the newspaper over but she had found and read the article, following the words with her finger. The memory had stayed with her like a fishhook through the lip. She sat and did not look at the man, who did not look at her.
He did not answer when she first spoke to him, nor later when she stood up and left. All he could think of was his daughter.
clouds beyond clouds
charcoal layers far horizon
pewter smeared across, an artist’s chalk
birdsong breaking silence
Your nails dig deep into my hands
We are scared, but trusting, shiver
All is for the best and all will be well
Sirens call the people
The lights of the aurora fade in the sun
and then a sudden darkness
The stone is pushed with silent force
Dirt, torn fingers, scarring
The light again, the screams, the silence
Nobody breathes. No-one says the word.
A whisper in the silence is the only sound; and then is gone. Sal turns in his bed but there is no one there. Then he remembers.
Thomas always called her ‘Miss’ and every day Sandra wondered why. She had told him once, from behind a half-smile, that he could use her name. ‘Miss’ was just too great a formality. She longed for him one day to call her ‘Sandra, my darling’.
Thomas could not say her name: his voice might crack and break. ‘Miss’ told how much he missed her when she was not there. One day, one day, he would call her ‘Sandra, my darling’.
Time passed but still warm words did not. The air drew frost when Thomas breathed ‘Miss’ and slowly, slowly, the ice between them grew. Seasons passed but words were always winter.
Then she was gone; and then she was back. And now her name was ‘Madam’.
I have no words to calm you, no words to soothe you, no words to change the past for better.
I have my silence and my arms and they are yours forever.