Cathexis Northwest Press
Security; History Museum; Neighbourhood Watch
By: E. C. Mason
How do you say one more in a foreign language? Just one more.
Collecting numbers in a sound I don’t understand. How do you even
be so strictly now if you’re in the waiting room all day, sitting
at reception. I work first at the bakery, blunt knives pressing rounded
heads into warm foam, hanging pickle on the upper side of cheddar
sandwiches, then I’m at the retirement home. I’m called “security” but
no one ever comes, no one who sits upright ever goes. They look at this
unpainted corner of the city’s damp periphery, they look for years,
and I keep them safe here. Then I carry home, pilgrims stamping the collapse
of rainfall on the dewy lengths of my trouserlegs, and on theirs.
We share the footfall in our evening, slightly. I get home and I pour
you liquids, ferment the slow machine that turns us round
to morning. Wake up, blindless light gaping open the pedestal, overarching.
And I touch you a final time, one more, just one more,
before you leave
me silenced, back in line, the waiting, work, and so on
The house is almost neat
In its uniform of ruin.
A torn picture of the king and queen
Sloping in a coil from the wardrobe,
Iceberg blotches, hanging shreds of ceiling.
Did an auntie use
To mix genes here? An organ
Breathes and pine breathes and long
Wet coats hold away the coming
Future. Move into cities. The frosted
Steel stairs are peering into tenements.
An hour’s work will buy you
about a litre of beer.
Somewhere in the woods I find myself
Watching the collapse, arms up,
Surrendering any idea of the future
To the evidence of my own reproducibility.
The house can be made again, the constant
Sound of snowy pine, creaking steps.
I can be made again. A new name, stem change.
If a house burnt in the brown forest,
If there was a fire, unlovely
As my humid body. If there was
A place where this used to be.
The question with the gardeners was whether
to pay them a normal wage – or however normal
was defined by the investors – and have them rent
a house in the estate, or whether to give them
a free house and have them work for free, collecting
the bins, sweeping up leaves. We all said
they should get a house. They’ve been paying rent
for years, working on the estate after mopping floors
in a school, which is what they did for money before
retiring. No one had invited the gardeners, so we
couldn’t ask them. They didn’t speak much English,
or no one had heard them try. One of the investors,
who no one had ever seen before, who lived
very far away from this estate, said that a house here
is worth hundreds of thousands now, while a wage
until they die will be a tenth of that, maximum. A little
wage for gardening it was. They started folding chairs
and our uncle the taxi driver carried the investors away.
In the sunshine, I walked to Lexy’s grave, the finest
local prostitute, as she called herself.
Three days before she died, she was silent
for an hour, me smoking cigarettes at the bedside.
And then she spoke. She confessed that this
had all been agony. Being born was agony, living
was total agony, unquestionably. And dying
was the same agony again. The gardeners
had planted chrysanthemums around the stone.
E. C. Mason is a poet, playwright and PhD candidate, researching race theory in contemporary poetry. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, and he has translated the works of A. K. Blakemore, Rachael Allen and Sara Torres between English/Spanish. His plays have been on at many theatres, and his latest political comedy is ‘Everything Today is the Same’