he asked Delilah to take it all off
name like a sigh and her body the same
dark as a lion’s mouth, she wanted
and so with the scissors
all she’d ever wanted
round the soft cheek of Aslan
his great bare head with girl.
The head is a house divided in rooms. And you’re in the kitchen today, absorbed in the business of eggs, lemons and sugar, watching the slick resolve of butter dissolve into their curd. But there it is, his electric tread in the attic, audible even when the radio’s on. Especially then, because you’re a sucker for easy listening and you want him to make his descent to the kitchen and witness your steady domestic miracles. He says he’s content in the attic, with its slant on the sea and horizon, the swallows are nesting and his footsteps can whittle you down. He knows when your eyes are windows, raised to the roof of your head, so he hides behind the almanacs, and there is no future.
The bedroom is white and holds his facsimile, the o.k. smell he left on your pillow. But the neon flip of the digital clock at 3am announces that the real version hasn’t rung, and although he’s not the recurrent tsunami dream that’s woken you – the waves crashing over and over – or the other dream you have where your teeth collapse out your mouth, he’s incited their return. Curse him and ask your sheets to save you, you wash them once a week so they owe you one, how well you take care of them, practising hospital corners immersed in the joy of measured linen.
You take your house wherever you go, the idea of it and the idea of him looming in the attic. Sometimes you have people over but they keep asking about the strange noise upstairs, mostly because you keep talking about it. Yes, they say, it’s clean here but it smells desperate and all we want from you is light entertainment, so pass the wine. They are no help, using your bathroom and then barking instructions from the patio, they make a mockery of your indoor outdoor flow. So you use them like wallpaper, but they are poor insulation for the noise in the attic.
What you hope, in the vein of the hallway, is that that one day, the house will shift, or you will, you’ll learn to make do with other rooms. Let’s say, the light in the study is benevolent, that it makes you dry and clear as the monk in the library. You are prepared then, to make your ascent to the attic, where you find there’s a tiger, his toe caught in her teeth, like the feathers that hang from the mouth of your housecat. Let’s say, you’re not afraid because you’ve read Born Free and fancy yourself a woman in tune with Big Cats, that there’s lore of the jungle ‘contact’. She lets you lead her down the stairs and into the kitchen, your hand a grateful towel round her neck after victory. To give her a saucer of milk while you sit at the table, a reward for the silence now bursting from the attic, clad in the vision, the comic splay of his carcass.
but we were never there. It was like that then
or was it December, the month it makes sense
and eat lemonade popsicles, or raspberry for
things but I forget them. Once I brought seven
or maybe it was Steve, you would have liked Steve
and you met, and really didn’t like each other. Never mind
I said no but it made sense at the time, for their neon
a sweet white thing that swallows its tail
through the slack parachute of sheets.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Talia Marshall lives on the main road of a small town.
This is not as bad as it sounds.