Snapshots of childhood, remembrances of bygone conversations, an acute look at a “hard dark past”…
by: Ian C Smith
“He loves what he hopes will last, which, gone, begins the difficult work of mourning” — W.H. Auden
English ivy’s relentless creep, like the white invading his beard, has overgrown the sandpit he formed where sunbeams once shone on golden bucket and spade mornings. He buried their pets, grew vegetables obsessively, and suspended tyres on ropes from trees smaller than flames in windless winters reaching like giant wings from their bonfires towards an idea of heaven. A drinker no longer, he realizes his life, that hard dark past condemned now even by his privileged offspring whose small soft fingernails he once clipped, resembles a C/W ballad though he favors classical.
In childhood, imagining a private eye of crime fiction, he aspired to trace a missing aunt. Burrowing back through his troubled English family’s past he discovered misfits scattered and battered, their history a cry in the overhanging night, his divided clan king hit. Posting an outline to LWTV, he convinced a producer to fly his parents for a surprise reunion. From the green room he watched, familiar anger gnawing at him, clashing again with his compassionate side. All this pathos lacked was a soundtrack with strings, or pan flute, those entrenched old anarchists struggling to make amends.
Inside, temper quieted now, bum propped on a naked windowsill, one foot on the barren floor, the other hooked around an ankle, hand clamped in armpit, he realizes he knew even as his ute’s rackety engine died, recognizing the adrenalin stab caused by utter stillness, its silence an echo of past wrongs. Gathering shadows spreading like a stain, that garden doomed to await his good intentions forever now, he thinks about how we don’t register signs fully until they are absent.
Doors agape as if in shock, fireplace dark, cupboards as bare as Mother Hubbard ‘s, excepting these new skeletons, nursery rhymes long gone, he thinks of families torn asunder and ruined mosaics, their tesserae pieced together only to be shattered again. He hears each vehicle passing on the way to a welcoming light, hears birds, the wind. A distant dog barks intermittently, its echo forlorn. He hears the significance of past conversations. And, each second, he senses the pulse of his honeycomb heart tolling, grieves for his dreams, this undoing, all that is left to lose, the dissolution of memory.
Ian C Smith’s work has been published in BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Ginosko Literary Journal, Griffith Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.