by mac dunlop
(inspired by Carolyn Forche’s “The Colonel“)
this is an example from a series of new work that arrive out of writing from within a sense of “not knowing”
The breath of the uniformed family man was louder than the silence round the table. Watching him were tinkling glasses ready to toast the way the world is or was up to that point predictive he stood though quite small quite tall with a box under his feet which while sat had dangled from the chair several inches above the floor his eyes demanded attention and contact with everyone’s in turn as they tinkled twist stemmed glasses against each other their eyes meeting one by one and in turn or agreement clink and stare clink and stare abolishing their innermost thoughts which might otherwise appear in the reflections of each other’s diversions. The food was gone and no one was certain where it had come from or went, the price of it, the cost, the recipes all taken for granted or at least ignored this status of food where there was much agreement to be made and, as it might be wrong to say so not saying was best and the table was glad to raise glasses and avoid debate reminding them of what they meant. To one side the poet American woman concerned about the swearing sat witnessing their loose jackets on the backs of chairs folded toward her with medals dangling in silence. She could see they were worn with use though used only as and when, she sipped from a glass that held an ear swelling in the water as if it was alive again she noted in the years since her first thought was to escape the mad country and it’s brutal nature she wrote there is nothing one man will not do to another as the glasses sung with collisions she gripped her notebook and her pencil refusing to erase a word mistake or no it must be cast in stone even if cast aside like all things with words their weight an aftermath translated from past to future her shawl which seemed so important when she stood and read was sodden with tears, so many, and others its colour ran down her breast the men clinked and passed the bottle from friend to friend marking time like tattooed skin scabs long fallen off patterned runes enigmatic their meaning lost the value showing signs of strength and inebriation the family man took their hands flipped their palms one by one as if to read them like an oracle hmm… too soft he said signalling to the first to sit where he paled as a spirit his soul shrinking inside him till it was a tiny massive core hid well away inside his heart then the next ah… too small sat burning with injustice having got this far but no further the table slid away beneath his too small hands he stared and stared at them either side of the finished plate willing them gigantic like gods hands before him and he glowed bigger but not the hands they could not save him air crackled round them next there was a pause oh…you have a finger missing family man did not let go, would not let sit down… we met before wait here, some minute later he returned a hessian bag over his shoulder he spilt the contents onto the table fingers all shapes and sizes no two the same dozens and dozens of digits he sifted through, finally found the perfect match so shrivelled it didn’t seem possible he dipped it into his glass and watched it swell… this one is yours, I thought we had met before placing the finger in the man’s hand curling his remaining ones around it their eyes never wavered, no blinks watched their souls glow into one another absorbing all secret pasts the table dropped away between them a hundred fingers rolled onto the floor beneath and glasses clinked as they fell while in the soaking lap of the poet words did not pain them nor distract them from their raised glass stares.
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