By: C G Ward
Count Orsino opened Twelfth
Night with a high kick
that nearly cracked the sky,
his declaration of if music
be the food of love…
almost distracting me
from the distance between us.
Almost. I had to hold your hand
to know you were still there
even though you were going
out of sight.
Rain started pinballing
across our faces halfway
through and the American
tourists sitting above us
turned into sleeping bags.
The production persevered
even though our relationship
hadn’t. I touched your arm
to remind myself of your presence
even though we were so far
apart you were nothing more
than a blur.
By the final act, the audience
had left, the cast had bowed
out and our love was flimsy
as a backdrop.
“cartocacoethes – a mania, uncontrollable urge, compulsion or itch to see maps everywhere.” John Krygier, Making Maps blog
I can’t help it. The ticket machines
are grey and harsh as Russia.
The businesswoman who got
on at Hammersmith gives me
a look as I squint at the student
transforming into New Zealand.
I look away, straight into the gaze
of a ticket inspector. My brain,
off-kilter since birth. It started
When I saw England in a cloud
at Hampstead Heath as a boy.
Mother became Wales on the car
ride home while Father, cold
and distant, turned into the Orkneys.
Everything started becoming countries,
even the lithium I was prescribed.
Getting off at Westminster to walk
across the bridge to Guys and St Thomas’s,
I watch the Thames slosh into Antarctica.
The Hurt came but did not cause a stir,
quietly fogging your Darjeeling as you retold
a childhood incident of how your brother
tested Newton’s theory of gravity by dropping
a pebble onto your head from a third floor
balcony. You were five, him eight. He did not
know how to say sorry, you explained,
when asked of his lack of remorse. Everyone
shook their heads in disbelief but the Hurt
grinned instead. It slipped out of the house
to devour a hare and floss its teeth with a turnip.
I heard it return that night, kicking the moon
into a dustbin before easing open the patio
door. It waited for you in the kitchen, tried
to force you to confess that everything said
earlier was a lie. But you said no and watched
it hurl everything your brother had squandered
his inheritance on: cartons of Marlboro, stamp
catalogues and parts from the Volkswagen Fox
that broke down every Sunday afternoon.
In the morning, everyone thought the objects
were a map leading to the underworld
and you had come from there. This is to the best
of my recollection, I swear.
Confessions Of A Rubber Duck
Being bald and yellow like a waxed
lemon is unfortunate enough, but still
I wait for another round of torture
from the baby. Pity him I must,
for he doesn’t know what instruments
wait for him. The crocodile, frogs
and blue whale have it easy compared
to me. I’ve gone through it all before,
so don’t worry: my innards were pulled
out on a hook and I was boiled and shrunk
to the size of a human heart. A Brazilian
that was not. Up here, I watch the daily
goings on to pass the time – who goes in,
who goes out. Sometimes I dream of flight,
of escaping the bathwater’s grip that holds
me in place, of slipping past tiny fingers
and toes to some other tub. But my angle,
as always, is askew and I let the thought
wander off like a bird preparing to test
the air for the first time, listening to its chorale
waking every vessel in its wings and body
and thanking the heavens for that moment.
In her later years, mother plays
cat’s cradle with risk instead of string.
An ACME anvil falling from the sky
wouldn’t phase her, a grumpy old god
chucking lightning bolts like javelins
might only make her blink. Mother
could ride a unicycle above Mount Etna
bubbling like a hot tub and wouldn’t break
a sweat. Perhaps it’s because of living
with a brother who tested Newton’s laws
of motion on her, carrying three children
who almost broke apart her insides
like Pangea or catching a blizzard
in the white of her hair that almost
froze her to death. Thinking about it,
it’s more likely to be the result
of marrying a man who turned her
the colour of a starling, stashed vodka
bottles instead of savings and tethered
her to the kitchen, where the clock
wept for them both.
Christian Ward is a UK based writer who can be currently found in Culture Matters, Impspired and Poetry and Places.