Brendon Booth-Jones - Poems (3)
Seen From a Bridge While Doing the Commute
After six months of living in this seething metropolis I suddenly realize what I’ve been missing: the sight of birds in the sky and the euphony of their wild song chiming in my brain. Today there are birds, starlings, filling a void I hadn’t noticed in my daily hustle cluttered with less feathered nouns. Yes. Today there are birds.
Yes, today there are starlings beneath the sky’s sick sheen—a shabby flock, choked and flapping in panicked flutters. This place was a bad choice, they seem to say, though their actual voices are eddied away in the collective spew of fumes, and their erratic flight paths arch high above the tarred veins of the city, the black squiggles of their bodies dissolving into the distance like ash on the breeze as they flit between immense silhouettes of glass and steel monstrosities pointing into space, looming in the tartrazine haze of a vast and growing cloud of smog.
In the dream you strained to tag one more precious zero on to the tail of a vast figure, then, trying to sing for your supper, your lips were snagged on your teeth, your fishhook incisors.
After waking you went for a smoke on your penthouse balcony, watching the winter dusk’s cold fist descend swiftly onto the bald heads of the city’s rooftops stretching off into the gloom like a ragtag battalion immortalized in iron, tile and telephone wire: the slummed cenotaph to your corrupt inheritance.
From a nearby building’s rooftop garden a potted palm waved greenly at the darkening sky. The bloodshot eye of a satellite blinked and mingled with a few meek stars weeping in the twilight. Darkness swarmed into the gaps of missing tiles on neighbouring roofs, evicting the tepid day’s last shards of warmth and merging the broken teeth of the horizon with the sky.
The city’s grid of lights strung out like a cheap imitation of stars. The siren of an ambulance raveled up from some distant street, then spun itself away, dissolving into the night’s drowsy murmur. A rind of moon cut the reticent glow of a smirk. Over the cold cast-iron railing you emptied your conscience and your gold ashtray, sending a clutch of ash pirouetting down to the street where old Billy lay in his fetid, grit-streaked corner, grimacing in a febrile sleep. A mouth swarming with black gaps of amnesia, did he dream of soft waves kissing the arms of summer?
III (Thoughts of Billy)
What did me in? Billy, was it have another maelstrom of wastage drink/hit! Here’s to—tear ducts oozing glitter like sediment have another hit that once sparkled in a stream now dry—old Billy, old Billy, old Billy! Here’s to old Billy you—
You little shit, I’ll hit you to heaven before you go to hell! Do you hear me? What did me in? Was it the jungle trail of beatings, worn ever since your mother never loved you I was twelve and spilled my voice into the syllables of sin she told me that you were a disappointment to her wrung from raised hands on Sunday your mother never loved you sermons whose white and curling fingers formed iron answers to forbidden questions?
No, no. No. It was the arrow of Billy she’s gone, she’s gone, the arrow of Billy did you hear what I said Billy the arrow Billy, of they killed her monumental “YOUNG GIRL MURDERED” Billy they killed her Billy she’s the arrow of monumental our sweet girl, our baby the arrow of monumental loss. Maggie. Billy they killed Maggie she’s dead. Maggie’s gone.
…that he can no longer hear us. Yes? Yes, the serum. Administer what did me in? Hands dissolve, their grip on history melting, then morph slowly into a wave of asylum white, perfectly vertical and four-faced, confiscating memory. Hello, William. How do you feel today? My name is Doctor…
What did me in? Today’s shadow lies down faintly on the cracked sidewalk, sighs an echo of the breeze, whose breath is held waiting to release, to release and scatter, the dead leaves and the litter.
A snail crushed under your boot as you rush to your next board meeting squirms to die in the brick-lip shadow of the curb, anonymous among the paper-thin rubble shards of his shell and dirty snow. Slipping on the snail mid curse you sink your teeth into your own tongue causing you more pain than all the hour’s headlines do, spun with blood to saturation. A sunken moon forms over the wound, forcing you to feed and speak more tenderly, if only for a day. You’ll bite your tongue again and again.
In gutters and under bridges, the emptiness of snow angels lingers over an arthritic frost whose stubborn jaw holds back the volta of spring, whose green shoots will call back the birds whose voices will call back the sun.
An Arrow Through Outskirts
The scene reels out in its industrial grit and I try to sink it into me, sensory chug or guzzle, like the river, khaki colour, drags litter as it lumbers between the dilapidated high-rise apartment blocks—washing lines flap like bland flags— that shrug the shoulders of the railway tracks, and factories that slump waist-deep in weeds exhale defeat through broken windows above tangles of graffiti that sprawl and quiver past in seasick greens and purples, greens and purples, filling the
tracks of my dream-worn face to brimming, and I see few people under the sky of grey stone, but a ginger cat, a smudge of flame, poised one paw up on a sagging wall eyes jittery flocks of birds that scatter like teeth among junkyards where car bodies, picked clean of wheels, doors and panels, lie half submerged in mud, in a final, rust-thickened ring around this urban outer crust.
(Text & Images © B. Booth-Jones - Publication: Fall 2017)