'The End Of An Affair' by Sylvia Petter

I’ve cleaned under the house at last. I threw things away. One of them was Papua and New Guinea with the bit known as West Irian back then. It looked like a bird, a sort of prehistoric one. It was a map in relief mounted on plywood. I’d painted the green hills and the rivers. Stuck a pin into Port Moresby. I’d made it at school. Can’t remember the year. Don’t know why I kept it all these years. Must have just been forgotten.

Stowed away,
like so many things one hangs on to,
it reminded me of you.

People said cannibals lived in West Irian. I still have a bag made from twine and decorated with wild boar incisors a friend of my mother’s brought back from one of her visits to Papua.  The friend’s daughter was working for development, she said, some UN thingy in Moresby. The man across the road, the one who never recovered from the war, told me stories about fuzzy wuzzy angels. They saved his life, he said. But the experience must have blown his mind.

You told me stories about leprechauns riding rainbows. How they would surf on electric storms all the way to New Zealand. You said you’d walked through the streets of old Japan with Anjin-san and that you skewed raw fish on a train.

I could see it,
puffing through the ravines,
or was it the bullet train from Tokyo?

I’d run my fingers through the jungle of your hair, run a thumb over your wishbone that jutted out like a crag and we’d play hide and seek behind the waterfall at Dunn’s River. How ever did we get all the way to Jamaica? We’d swim in the Ontario summers of Algonquin and dry ourselves in the folds of a sleeping deer. Bambi?  Felix Salten also wrote porn, but you didn’t tell me that straight away. Well, I thought that sort of thing was porn, but in Vienna I did some research. It was all part of the times.

Maria Theresia clamped down
on the morals of the city,
but clever ways were sought
to circumvent her will.

I trace my finger over the ridges of West Irian. It’s now called West Papua. Tribes have become extinct and people have been killed. You told me about a prison island. Can one half of an island be a prison?

Things are not always as they seem, are they?

When you told me you were going down the River Styx, I believed you. I knew that you didn’t believe in God. We were all insects, you said. Grist for the compost. At least you believed in a sort of after-life.

Where’s the after-life
now,
now that you’re gone?

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