17984 Slices
Medium 9781782205319

III

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

III

Upon seeing the photograph of the 3-year-8-months-old Arthur Pierce

The boy is young

but his eyes leap out of him like firm, big hands of a grown
up man.

Grab this fast moving ball, take hold of that crooked handle
of a door.

Check the tear in the leather seat of the bus.

Covet the more robust apple his brother has, the bigger glass
of milk.

Know all the light bulbs in the house by their names.

His eyes do not notice yet
the rising mound of caramel under a silk blouse.

This ankle. The curve of that waist.

The bright red travel of a moan from the bedroom to the
Register of Sweet Memories.

His eyes do not notice yet

the sad bottle of gin sitting on his grandfather's desk.

A wife pregnant with twins, the few crumpled bank notes in
his pocket.

A row of familiar graves.

The mute typewriter, beseeching like a puppy.

Not yet. But one day, his eyes will see all this and more.

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Medium 9781782205319

II

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

II

I want a giraffe with a goat's neck,

and a dog that flies in the air.

A mountain of water,

and a lake filled with iron.

A soundless song,

and a whistling grave.

A tree that walks,

and a train that goes nowhere.

A four-year-old grandmother,

and a twelve-feet-tall son.

Only having all this can

stop me from falling in love with you.

Bourbon of hope

flows in veins.

Rainy day in Paris

holds us in its glove.

Let us quit our regular jobs,

and go work in a circus.

You glide from one to the other trapeze

of difficult realities.

I tame the lions and tigers of my inconsolable hunger.

You ride on a gigantic plastic ball,

flirt with the red-nosed clowns.

I make friends with midgets and monkeys.

At night

we sleep in the trailer parked outside the tent.

Make elephant babies in our dreams.

Doctors from the illuminated continent declare that there are
five senses.

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Medium 9781782205319

I

Akhtar, Salman Karnac Books ePub

I

I love trees that are neither young nor old.

Trees that are taken seriously by animals.

Trees soaked in rain.

Trees that lack cleverness, fall asleep easily.

Trees that bear fruits liked by women.

Trees seen in dreams.

Trees that want to be near a river.

I love all such trees and I love ice cream.

Walk gingerly from now onwards.

The squirming dollop of love on an outstretched palm
slips, slides, slithers,
tends to spill.

Sharpen your knife.

Incise the thin skin of my temperament.

Cut through my rib cage.

Take out the ravaged heart that keeps my foolish hopes alive.

Block the vessels in which poetry of my ancestors flows.

Remove my intestines too, so that gut feelings lead me astray
no more.

Do not fret that I might not survive the surgery.

Do not worry that you might cause insufferable damage
since far worse has been sent my way
by my kin and by passing time.

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Medium 9781782205098

Part One

Gold, Miranda Karnac Books ePub

 

Less than an hour ago I was taking the same step past my mother's door, stepping back, raising my hand to knock, dropping it—she's a light sleeper, my mother, very light: I wouldn't want to wake her, not if she's managed to drop off, at least for a bit—but there it was, her dream-coated slur calling out:

Be with me, be with me, why will you never be with me?

Her voice but a ghost's words, the last shards of a dream she's always had. I can leave but her dream comes with me—she comes with me. Even now, two bus rides away from the house, I can still hear her—her note, her beat—the beat of the infant-mother, pulsing under the babble at Victoria station.

London to Brighton. Eight minutes. Platform six.

After the rushing and the shoving, that beat is all that's left: an empty iron fortitude, refusing to be beaten down by the clamour. How can such a little cry have such strength? Ensuring I remember, just as it pretends to help me forget:

Be with me, be with me, why will you never be with me?

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Medium 9781782205098

Part Two

Gold, Miranda Karnac Books ePub

 

“Sally—are you alright?”

“Fine, yes—sorry, I shouldn't have called so late—I didn't think—”

“It's alright, it's not yet eleven, I was just getting your mother off to sleep—”

“Oh God, I didn't wake her—”

“No, no I don't think—as long as you're—and Steven—”

“Yes.” I say it too quickly—

“Well, you'll say hello to him for me—”

“Of course.” Of course, yes, of course I would.

“If that's all, I'd better…”

“Yes, only…I love you.” It slips out like one of my misshapen sorrys and I watch it sink until I hear a quick, quiet “I love you too” catch it. “You will say hello, won't you,” he says.

I look at my phone for a moment after we hang up, try to shake off how odd that must have seemed—see Dad, his eyes closing, trudging up the stairs, the saucer for the pills in the morning, my mother, in and out of sleep, her gasp and swallow.

I scroll my way to Steven's number, stop, put my phone back in my pocket—

You will say hello, won't you?

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