There were two of our daughter
and my husband wanted to kill both of them
to make her come back to life as one.
While I held each of my daughter down
my husband wielded the knife, blood on both
our faces. Our daughter returned whole
but still my husband wasn’t happy. He wanted
to kill her again and bring her back
as someone else, yet recognisable
as ours. Once more I went to hold her down,
but this time she fled because a part of her
remembered what we’d done before.
In My Absence
The tree in the piazza has grown beyond belief,
its thick branches spread down and across
as well as up. Like fat snakes they’ve engulfed
the square. Why has nobody cut them away?
I’m tired and want to sit down, but I’m afraid
I’ll fall asleep and wake entangled.
We found what looked like a piece of light,
unmoving, frozen in the shape of a human being.
We were afraid to touch it – it looked cold enough
to burn us. What would happen if we could unfreeze it?
Would it melt and vanish, or would it keep its shape
and come alive? Could we take it away with us?
Would it make any difference to how we lived
or loved, one way or another?
My employer asked me to move from answering the phone to overseeing an international marketing operation. Soon I was so overwhelmed I no longer had the headspace for anything other than my job. To give myself more energy, I obsessively consumed the same meal over and over again in the staff canteen – scrambled eggs with black pudding, melted cheese on buttery toast, and orange juice followed by coffee, followed by more orange juice, followed by more coffee, followed by more orange juice, which made me rush to the toilet afterwards, so that I was nearly always late to meetings. One lunchtime, instead of going to the canteen, I decided to try and calm myself by going for a walk around the block. But once I’d started walking, I didn’t want to stop. I kept going until I reached the river on the outskirts of the city. On the other side was an area of parkland I’d never seen before. Around a bend in the river, I found a bridge and crossed over. Looking for somewhere in the bushes to have a piss, I stumbled upon a couple making love. She was the first to spot me. I couldn’t apologise without embarrassing them even more, so I moved away as fast as I could, and kept walking until I realised I’d lost all sense of direction.
I went to pick up my bicycle from the repair shop in the city. The girl at reception said my bike should be ready for collection, but she wasn’t sure that it was. I made my way through the busy workshop to the spot she was pointing at. My old town bike was there, but dismantled to the point where I could hardly recognise it. ‘Isn’t my bike repaired yet?’ I asked a lad with a spanner in his hand who was chatting to a couple of teenage customers nearby about a new racing bike. It was a few seconds before he stopped talking. His eyes went from me to my dismantled bike. ‘You’ll have to come back tomorrow to see if it is,’ he said, and turned back to his conversation. ‘But I’ve just taken a bus to get here,’ I said, ‘and now I’ll have to take a bus home, and then another bus back into town tomorrow.’ I must have been speaking too loudly for now everyone turned to stare. ‘I don’t want no trouble,’ the lad said. His hand tightened around the spanner. ‘The old man’s asking for it,’ one of the teenagers said. I tried to catch the eye of the girl at reception, as if she might be able to rescue me, but she seemed far away and her eyes were fixed on the large ledger open on the desk in front of her.
Photograph © Dennis Schnieber