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  • Who are they?

    Skewed skeletons of ghosts, fashioned from the ash of old law, shadows, semi solid, looming, pulling strings from ledges, edges, in the corners of my mind.

    Here they are here, there they are not.

    Here, where ‘embrace’ fits no more for me than a life fits a cadaver. Here, where ‘voice’ means no more from me than a mute note in a maudlin song.

    There, melting through, consuming me, invading you. There, sinking in, I relish the earth, my fingers worms warm in the soil, my eyes the veins in the leaves of wire trees, I am the living earth. But they are not there. They are here.

    Who are they?

    Semi solid, chattering, sniping, bickering in blank verse, unfeeling, the air is no more than air they say, a line of words is nothing real, all is exactly as it seems.

    You're crying. I am here, but this body is nothing for you, nothing for me, for here my ready tongue cannot build you a sturdy home, it arranges the shape and then the shape crumbles. Here, strength is standing, no more whole than a brick shell, hard and empty. Still it obscures, shields the horizon of you from my desiring eyes. It is strength, and I know it, because it is what I am not.

    Oh to be there, for there I fall without fear, from the edge of the atmosphere to the edges of the earth, wondering what the ground will taste like when it hits, swimming through the updraft, lighter than gravity. There I clutch at the scene and the scene clutches me.

    Here they remind me, in unending repeat, here is now, now, now, always now. It can never be anywhen else. Here, awake, knuckles rap the desk in untidy rhythm, waiting, waiting, waiting, to be there, asleep, lost.

    There there. Comforted now, in the red red chair of the audience of a theatre of a play gone on too long. Pacified, but restless, needing to escape. The exit is a locked glass door. Turn, the empty red red chair, the stage, the stage is the way out, mount the boards, weave among the players, confused, curious, until the curtains in the wings show a split, invite me through, to a giant school hall and a single dwarfed desk on which my knuckles rap, rap, rap, until the scene changes, an irish moor, bracken and thicket, thorn and brush, where soldiers in battered grey uniforms fire their muskets, smoke billows and bodies, bloodless, drained, tessellate on the floor and I'm engulfed in it, gas, gas, gas, my fingers pulse, swell and shrink, from bulbous sacs to shrivelling bone, my teeth split from their roots and slip from my lips and my feet disintegrate like the last embers of scorched bark collapsing into ash. And suddenly I know that they are in my there, where they don't belong, that they are making my there here.

    It's like a sickness then. There’s nothing to grip, nothing to hold on to, a corridor bends, twists and stretches, corners plane off, furrowed earth turns to a slick, foul oil. The earth reels and spins, my stomach flips, the dream capsizes. I fantasise a cell, a strong bed to hide under, a mantra to protect me. It would be enough for it to be real, for doubt to be expunged, to be safe, to be dull, to steady the scene, to be predictable. Just to feel whole again, not to be so semi solid. At least until the cycle restarts, when they return, when then I feel the familiar unrest, the ache to escape from my self-made cell, the ache that becomes a wound, a sickness of an entirely different kind, and I crave to be semi solid, to slip through these bars and fly, just to be free of them.

    But who are they?

    They are the creatures that keep me from reaching heaven. They are me, or at least part of me, I can't be sure. Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes, if I can step out of myself, if my mind is just acute, if all the world and all the people in it, for just a moment go silent, then I can hear them, I can hear them singing, in the slightest of whispers, and in their song is a meaning, a meaning I cannot fathom.

    "Whether here or whether there,
    all that is solid melts into air,
    except for in the inbetween,
    for this is where the dead men dream."
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