Saturday 6 June 2020

'First Dispatch from the Front' by Zoë Meager

This and that, this and that. She has a lot of this and that to do. Water this Boston-bird’s-nest-maidenhair-rabbit’s-foot fern, scrub that slow-cooking-toaster, that saucepan-sieve. She’s got a tea towel that wants a stubborn sigh removed, and a politician in the attic who wants listening to, for one hour, two. She’ll yank the ladder down and climb it and listen listen with this ear and listen listen with that, and he will smile spit shout and she will slip lit fireworks up his trouser leg and leave him to combust. Back downstairs she will fold the pinafores, fold the onesies, fold the silky-nightie-longjohn-fitted-sheet. She will switch the radio on and catch some of the news but only the highlights, because she’s got a patient in the sleep-out who wants tending and there’s a family of refugees in the living room who want and want and want, their boat spins in the middle of the carpet, sending up flares that burn the ceiling in the shapes of another language. She will side-step them to find a matriarch in the kitchen who wants the butter softened, who wants to press her palm into it and leave all five digits impressed there like tracks for blood to flow down. To a lost child in the hallway who needs comforting she will show garter-stocking-blanket stitch, and he will practice with clumsy fingers on his own liver but now there’s a knocking at the door there’s a knocking, a whole hospital waits outside with the smell of fluid inside-outness, and she will open up a crack and tell them I’ve only room for a crutch, but there’s a knocking at the door there’s a knocking, the sea is surging to come inside, and she will open up a crack and say Please, I’ve only room for one thin starfish, but there’s a knocking at the door there’s a knocking, firemen have come to stop an ouroboros forest from devouring itself, and she will open up a crack and say, Just hand me an axe. I’ve got to get back to the roses I’ve got growing in the walls.

'First Dispatch from the Front' was first published in Landfall in November 2019.

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