Lindsay Oldham
Finalist

The Pious Man

I lived with my dad until he died in his bed, and now that it’s happened, I’m not praying about it. He had a face like a chalk you drew hopscotch games in playgrounds with, those last few weeks when he was too weak for anything except believing, and when he coughed, only a sound like a trapped cat scratching at doormats came out. I’m not praying, no, how could I? I’m just thinking about how sorry things are, and how out-of-touch with us any god has to be that dares to step up and face me down.

He wasn’t always a dying man, and he wasn’t always the kind of man that spewed graces all over the potatoes at suppertime, either. In fact, I don’t know which was first, the mugshots of saints stuffed into cupboards or the first slow symptoms of the death coming. The house feels all clammed up now that there’s only me in it, and I pace up and down like some guardian of hell in front of the pillows that he could have been a gent and taken with him. Those curtains that droop like a starved moth’s wings on the walls, all those spidery upstairs rooms that he never said a Hail Mary in and where the wind death-rattles: they swamp the house like some soul so steeped in sin you can’t tell how it was born looking. I’ve gone around it all week, fishing rosaries out of sock drawers and smashing their beads together, and I keep on not knowing how to react to them as they strike out into their fifty-nine prayer rattle. Sometimes they sound the same as Dad did when his arms reached up out of the covers to drink something; others have china beads and sing like choirs — and that shows the division of rosaries, I think, into the ones that mock you and the ones that call up the ghosts.

The day before yesterday, a chain split in my hands just in between an Our Father and a Holy Mystery, and beads flung everywhere, like a sudden burst of tears I didn’t mean to let out. I’ve been getting rid of them since then, stretching chains across my chest until they burst apart, and then sweeping up the beads with Dad’s dustpan and brush, and throwing them out through his bedside window for the birds. He always liked it just ajar, because Dad’s Lord, apart from loving him, never did much else to beat the fever away when it came; I’ve left it like that. He had a bell on the side of the mattress where Mum used to sleep that he’d nudge onto its side when he wanted me — the damped, stubby chime of it that got stopped by the sheets like a ball caught in a glove — and a laugh like a branch shaking its leaves loose. I miss them both.

~

To get to his church, you had to zip up your boots on the doorstep, take the keys off their hook, lock the door; then follow the road down to the High Street, cross it; keep going to the river, cross that; pass a graveyard, a mansion with a lake behind it, and a longer-than-a-Passion-play golf course, glance left at the players where they’re posed for their shots. It was only after that that the church spire appeared, knifing through cloud on your right. We drove it, in the end, his wheelchair lying face-down in the back while the road water slapped at us, but from the time I first sniffed incense until when God lamed him, that was our Sunday morning walk. Down past the smattering of shops with their music lilting – the sound of it warping high to low as you passed – the bridge with nuts still spinning on its rails, left behind by the birds that had scattered as you approached. And then the detour past the bakery afterwards, where you could choose your lunch. It was hard to know what the religious part was of all that, really, the walking or the reading from the Gospel or the sticky slice of a treacle tart that you ate half of much too fast, and then put aside.

Perhaps that was why, when he threw a second service in — a candlelit affair on a Wednesday night — and then a Friday-morning third, I didn’t understand that it mattered. I had a feeling, back then, that all I wanted in the world was for us to burst out and be ourselves. That Christmas, the nearby parishes all sent cards through our door, and we drove through the snow like angry pilgrims, drinking wine and hearing carols at every one of them. But even once the cribs had all been taken down, some of those churches stuck. It was the kind of thing we joked about at dinner, though, and made him laugh like a bottle of port being uncorked and emptied out. He wasn’t kinder, or calmer, or more saintly, but there was a feeling about him, just then, of being celestial. I waved him off after dessert, or while I boiled the kettle for coffee, thinking how we spent all our lives getting better from some indescribable thing, and this was his best way to do it. I don’t know. We’re not the gods of this world, are we. How are we supposed to know?

I think the sickness was working in underneath us, then. I’m thinking of how you get on a train and pick a window seat and watch the sheep spotting fields and the garden swings and the bridges that hop over rivers without thinking how the rails are sparking against the wheels: it was like that, perhaps, us both too distracted to tell what the main thing was. I unwrap a slinky set of beads from a towel in the airing cupboard, its Glory Bes the same size as his chilblains ended up, and it reminds me of the evening when he first dropped the plate I had passed him for his dinner, and how the oil had curdled around the white-toothed, snake-scale shards. He’d said No when I’d offered him mine instead, and gone to bed before the nine o’clock news gonged the hour. That was a change: he’d seemed weak but also winged, up until then. The next day it was midday mass, and he’d come down just in time to get the car started, a scarf around his neck.

He was gone for hours, and I ate my lunch alone and kept his hot, turning down the dial on the oven every time I traipsed past it, like a tally on the wall kept by a jailed man. Then the tyres churned up the gravel on the driveway and he came into the house, scarf askew, face yellow. He knifed up his pie and ate the crust. ‘I got lost.’ His voice all flaky-pastry, all potatoes-in-the-middle-of-being-mashed-up. ‘The turning never came up.’

I wonder again, the beads making tides in the dustpan as I bring them up the stairs, if there really was some kind of link between them — the saints he brought home dollies of, fake as Legos, and the sickness that swooped — or if it’s just me searching out reasons for things. I wonder if that’s how God came to be there. When we went out on Sundays, after that day when his scarf came home wonky, we made sure we left earlier, and when we called in at the bakery, psalms still spinning in our ears, he gave up choosing and stuck to Bakewell tart. We would take off our shoes on the mat and hang our coats up, and then he’d get out the bag and give it to me. It would be nice to have this hot. Now, I nudge the window wider so that the gaping mouths of the Our Fathers might fit through it, and let them go into the wind like my voice when I came back from the funeral and howled.

If, when I prayed with him then — on those milky, sun-split evenings just before he turned in for bed, or else at the table, while our soup cooled — it was a watery, thin-as-ghosts kind of prayer, then it’s no wonder that now, at the end of it all, I can’t do it. I kneel at the foot of the empty, tousled bed he didn’t think to neaten up before he went on out of it, but it doesn’t matter how many accusations I’ve got to make. I can never work out who it is that I’m meant to be talking to, or where I should be looking. I get a feeling, now, that there are people hiding all over the house, and I put a lot of thought into where to hunt them down to. Under the hoods of our dressing gowns, which hang from the gallows of hooks on the backs of our doors, one time; or crouched just up the lips of the taps that shoot water out, as pent-up as all the prayers I don’t know how to say, when I spin them

Wherever I picture them, he’s always there, his scarf still crooked like the knife and the fork he gave up on midway through meals, the bows of his slippers neatly laced; he comes mostly after dinner, when I’ve tried to rest and failed again, and I’ve been outside in a night that smells of jewellery lost on beaches, and cats’ eyes on roads, and a moon hidden behind clouds. I never get to see him, but he brings an echo of call-and-response psalms into the house with him, and a faint frankincense aftertaste which sticks around all night in the air. I find a rosary in the spice rack, curled up around the pepper grinder, and I fling it whole out the back door. What good does the splitting do. I carry on hunting near it, because it feels like a clue, but there is never anybody there.

I began to find him sitting like a bear that needed stuffing across from his bookshelves, his jumper buttoned up like a duvet cover ready for washing, easy chair rattling on its legs. Then he’d hear me at the same time as he saw me in the doorway, look up to where my knees were, and ask for something. I started being able to interpret, from the pattern of the chair feet on the floorboards, when it was that he was sitting there, and then I ran through what his pain could be on my way out to the hallway, and what help-thing I could give him. It was around then that the bell came out, as shiny as the photos it had spent thirty-five years tinkling for in their wedding box under the bed, and first-kiss fresh. He sat on the mattress trying it out with me, fingers trembling. I didn’t worry about the shattering of china or things like that, when after soup and grated cheese in his room I tucked the bell into the bed with him. Just thought: so that was how prayer sounded. Carpet-quiet, limescale-pale, dripping-tap forever; that was how his ache was meant to be, not the ratchet and bump of chair legs coming down, quiet, through the floorboards. I could fetch and carry for him, then, and not have to worry about thinking on the gammy bones and the sorry, lippy poultry of him. He was just a bell ringing.

I was lucky, with things like that, because they forced me to throw some of it out as I went along – the yell of his voice on the stairs, in this case, that went years back; earlier on, his company at dinnertimes, or his sprawl-saucer hands beside the dishwasher, helping out. That meant I’d got some grieving out of the way already, when the time for grief came.

Another time that happened: when the look on his face changed to clouds passing, and the way that I grieved was to go to a Tuesday morning mass with him and, Isaiah booming from the pulpit, despise myself for how little I felt. Then on that Sunday: let’s drive, he said. Now, there’s no way for you to believe in an all-loving Lord if you can’t even believe in your dad.

~

There was this one time, years and years ago when I was so young I didn’t know to be afraid of things like make-believe, when I had fought about putting my boots on, and sobbed on the stairs, and hidden my coat under the covers with my toys. I didn’t see why those same old hymns that grated the throat like pumice stones and left the dust all over my tongue couldn’t go a week without me, or why they had to play trumps on the game I had started that Friday, straight out of school, and that still hadn’t reached a good stopping point. That was the first time they bribed me there, the two chocolate chip cookies shedding dust in Mum’s pocket winning me away from who I’d spent the weekend starring as. For weeks after that, being holy was easy. I took the cookies with me when we stood up for songs and then sat down again; I swapped them in circles for the biggest; I powdered them up in my mouth. When the priest got up, I was ready for him. I picked lost crumbs off the pews and laughed, Bring it on!

So as soon as Dad resorted to that trick of sneaking snacks into mass, I knew about it. That ritzy-wrapper sound was too fixed in my memory for me to have to waste time guessing what it was, and after that, every sermon had a taste of broken biscuits to it. Just a Kitkat finger snapping, and the Gospel story could have been anything. Just the hydraulics of his jaw catching, and I couldn’t keep my eyes to the front. No, not with all that sugar-smell siphoning off the incense I’d been enjoying getting high on. That night, we prayed over days-old potatoes, and I asked him, ‘Is it helping, does it help ever.’ It was mean, maybe, but he knew what I was saying. He didn’t let me know.

~ 

Once the rosaries are out of the way, I move onto other things, and I come to see that’s what he was doing as well: crucifixes that hang behind doors like Xs marking spots, Virgins with heads bowing over the bathtub. I recognised all the beads as I found them curled up around the handles of drawers or snaked in saucepans — how can you forget the ratatattat of glass hitting glass that they made as they ran through his hands?  — but these crosses that knock when you put keys in doors, they snuck in past me somehow, along with those sorry, velveteen Marys. After we had given up walking to mass, and he had lifted up his fork instead of answering me, I had this feeling of shaking inside that I couldn’t get rid of, and I stopped coming with him. It was something between cookies crumbling and floorboards twingeing under his chair and the bumper Eucharistic wafer that the priest ate first, being broken up: it got me where nothing was. It hurt. When I find the Saint Francis figurine behind the kitchen curtains, lambs plaster-of-Parissed to his heel, I take it, together with the missal from beneath his pillow and the Sacred Heart candle he never lit beside his bed, and I make a pyre with them. Get the matches out, then cave, and leave the unlit bonfire strewn across his covers. Think: is this, in the end, all that his prayers have left?

Then I find other things as well. I take the shirts out of the wardrobe where they’ve been queuing like people who aren’t sure what to do next, and I lay them on the bed. That shuts them up. Yes, I have a feeling that all the ghosts I come across are shouting, and it feels good, fanning those shirts out like sheep’s skins over the covers and seeing that they aren’t really much. I take his towels down from their hooks and wring them out over the bathtub: they’re wet still like a hanky a god has wiped his big old eyes on, even though they’ve been hanging around uselessly for days now. They go on the bed, too, over the shirt collars, as soon as they’ve stopped weeping down the tiles. I realise then that I am never going to light them. I put the matches back away. No, I need those sandwiched shirt sleeves and stubbled towels and handkerchiefs that look to me like planes crashing: right there, and just like that.

What I don’t need, though, are the priests who come with faces like tousled flowerbeds, rapping the front door like a parable they can’t get their heads around, hats in their hands. What I don’t need are their come-to-confession voices, slick like steam in bathtubs, and how, (they) sat across from me in an armchair the way they were doing with my father in the last days beside his bed, they tell me all the worst things. All dark-light, shivery-sweltering, about being alone and how it isn’t an end state for anyone, and junk like that. I make them cups of tea in Mum’s mugs that I remember him packing away in treasure-map-sized shreds of greaseproof paper, all those years back, then getting out again later; they suck it up with lips that jut out like the rim of the bell that he threw all his weight into summoning me with. I can’t peel them from their shoes and pile them up on the bed with the clothes and things, but can’t they tell or don’t they want to tell that their knotty theological sorries are the last things I want to know about.

After I had left him alone in his pew, and stayed at home cooking long lunches on Sunday mornings to get whatever that dirty taste was out of my mouth, he started having another think, too. Or perhaps he just got tired. The first time he played truant was a Thursday morning when he just stayed in bed, and I stood behind the doorframe not knowing what to say as I listened to all those tears coming out. That was more than he’d done, of anything, for a long time. That Thursday he didn’t even sit up ever, and when I did step inside, hot water bottle goose-pimpling my arms before its time, he had a flat kind of feel about him, and I think he made us both more afraid than we’d ever been. He didn’t touch the bell for days, after that.

I realized then, that whatever the truth was really, for him it was a vaulted, brassy thing that echoed. I got the feeling that morning, dusting down his cheeks that were as pale as Christ’s body, that what he was afraid of and what I was afraid of were meant to be the same, only they weren’t. I rubbed my arms down where the hot water bottle had burned them, and he watched me from his pillows like a sky full of rain, falling hard.

~

He hadn’t done much for a long time, up until then – only gone to his masses, and licked off the soup when it spun from his lips, and whispered to his beads every now and again, to make the ache ease a little. But then I went into town for the shopping and came back again — milk cartons batting my thigh, potatoes pounding — and there he was, sat up at the dinner table sliding-rule straight. ‘Will you phone up Father Gill for me?’ I hadn’t even set the bags down. The tins of baked beans took my pulse through the plastic, and I put them in front of him. I started to reply about only coming down when he needed a favour and how I thought it was pathetic, but I couldn’t say it. He left the post-it with the number on, screwed up at the edges, out on the table just next to the pears. I hadn’t unpacked the bags, or anything. I called the number anyway: like him, I had found out about all the little half-things you could do to keep the frights away.

I got through to the Father’s landline, and when I said nothing down the mouthpiece for a long time, I found out he knew what I wanted much better than me. Me, I had been all preoccupied with how it was evening already, the time when lights went on in the fronts of houses, and how Father Gill was maybe keeping himself warm against a different sort of loneliness from me. He asked how Dad was, and I didn’t know where to start. ‘Where should I start?’ I asked into the sticky, zingy line. I didn’t even know which day’s church I was talking to. He described his cats to me, and how they were scratching up the carpet on the bottom step so loud he couldn’t tell if it had stopped raining outside. ‘Is it raining still,’ he asked me, ‘do you know?’ and I shook my head. When I went upstairs afterwards, Dad’s cup of water jingling on its tray, I looked at him. ‘No. It hasn’t stopped.’

Father Gill came over quickly, the way you could dash a Dear God off when, at the end of the day, you had somewhere else to be. He came in a shirt with a tiny checked pattern, and pointy-toed shoes, and jeans that looked too tight after all the robes I’d seen him in. He shook my hand, and he talked to me for a long time in the kitchen before going upstairs. Am I a badsad case too, I thought, as his belt buckle swaggered up the stairs behind him, am I ill as well?

The next week he came without me needing to phone him again, and I stuttered in the bedroom doorway while he chanted over Christ’s bread and body. Dad’s chin raised straight like a letterbox flap, eyes wafer-wide, sins ready. I wondered what he thought they were. The third week he came, I dressed up smart: scrubbed hair, crisp trousers, comb picked up from where it had been lying on the floor like a flower pulled up at its roots and then forgotten about. I spent the whole white space of the days planning it, from the moment the door had closed behind him until he came striding back in: you know how it is when things that aren’t things at all suddenly become very big. My jumper felt clammy, and as I stood in Dad’s doorway watching, I felt itchy all over. Then the priest was quiet, and Dad’s eyes, they closed like a necklace clasp. I showed him back down the stairs to the door, then I went into the toilet and vomited.

I thought that I was going to start shouting at Dad, those days — all this loudness, pent up word for word, and dislodged by that wind-in-the-branches way that Good Friday chants had of rushing through us — but the only thing that happened was me waking up from a dream where all my teeth were tumbling out onto the pillow. The ground felt stony where I had fled to my feet, and I looked out the window at the dawn and thought I wanted to be with it. I snuck across the landing, dressing gown plastered tight to my hips, and snaked Dad’s hot water bottle out from under the covers on the way past his room. I don’t know: it felt fleshy in a way that I missed things being. Even my dreams weren’t like that: I only felt emptier after waking up. You know that wintery feeling of being both sweaty and cold together: it was like that. I closed the door behind me and ran my fingers around in my mouth.

Clouds looped. A soupy moon warped the skyline like a hand sloshing around in a bucket; a dampness worked into the lines of my feet as if it was there that the things like darkness hid when they came out then went away. I laughed into it. It was funny, after all, wasn’t it: all the way through that dream that had flung all my teeth out like gravel on a lake-bottom, I had known exactly what I was meant to be doing, and it was only now, out here — pyjama collar high, slipper soles droopy — that I felt I could have waited the whole day under the smeary thumbprint sky like this, if only the sun hadn’t had to pack it all in and come up. Dad’s sleeping, when I’d squeezed the water bottle out from under the covers, had a sound of shrines to it, and there was nothing all the way out to the horizon and back that could rise or set or whisper a sweet thing in my ear that could answer that. When I went back into the hallway in the end, it was because the birds in the trees had started bell-ringing, and I had no idea what I wanted anymore. This sickness, I don’t know, maybe we all have it. I turned on the kettle with the heel of my hand, and I listened while it boiled. I listened there for a long time before I went back up the stairs to tidy up.

The ebb and truckle of priests coming in became steady, around then. The dreams didn’t. I didn’t know what had happened to make him have to face his fears from his bed instead of halfway down an aisle as he had used to do, stations of the cross gently watching, but each time I came in with his bowl of grated cheese chattering in my fingers and his strawberry milkshake, the smell that the room had of spider corpses and compost heaps was always worse than I remembered it being. ‘Let’s get some light in, Dad!’ I said with a voice like a cat’s toy that squeaked when you trod on it as I slung the curtains back, or: ‘Dad, I can smell your breath from all the way over here — don’t you think it would be nice to have the window wider!’ Then he would scrunch up in a ball like a fly I had squashed in my fist and I would undo the things to how they always were. Maybe nothing happened, really, then, and all it was was just the things carrying on the way they always did. That morning of the dream, after I had come back inside and gone to turn down his covers, I found another phone number by his bed. It had a milk stain on it this time, and the Os had gone windswept, like the mouths of people shouting underwater. I left a cup of tomato juice where the paper had been, and went back out.

That was Father Friday. Father Tuesday I phoned while the one with the jeans was here, and Father Saturday, that was an emergency call when I found him with just the whites left in his eyes at noon. That day the line was fizzly, like a sweet wrapper being opened in a distant pew, and I had had to come off the phone and lie slightly. ‘He’s on his way,’ I said, and while my father dozed, I sat out on the patio and panicked. But these priests, they always knew what I had been meant to say. Father Fuzzy-Phone called by on his way to the church, and brought a gold clasped wallet shaped like a clam which he kept his wafers in. It was a quick and easy transaction by now, and I waited in my garden chair, tapping a radio show tune on its arms, until he was out of the way.

I worried a lot, though, now he had nowhere to leave the house for, that he’d start to forget what things were like. That was what my let-there-be-light campaign beside his curtains was aimed at, but apart from the leaf or two rapping the glass on the way down, there was nothing that moved quick enough for him to see before I cowed and let-there-be-dark again. Had nothing happened? Something had to have happened, I swore from beside the potted plants that had mostly made like Dad and forgotten that the sunlight was for turning towards; there had to have been something, if not during that run of those mornings when I had jittered down the phone then earlier on, when he had first begun spending most of his time inside himself, when the masses, from one day to the next, had started totting up. I keep calling things firsts – the first weekday sacrament, the first before-dinner grace, the first house visit – because how else can I make sense of it. The causes and effects of things. There has to be an explanation somewhere, doesn’t there? How else does a sickness work itself up?

In the end, all the seven priests came here, and broke the Lord’s body and blood without Dad even raising his neck up from his pillow. Just propped their briefcases up on the chair where I had used to sit and have him tell me what the hymns had been, got the wine out in its vial the colour of glands at the back of the throat, and operated in whispers on his spirit. I started getting headaches when I watched them from the doorway, and I retreated to the landing, then the stairs, then that plastic chair next to where the pansies had been. But I could never get away from them, or the rubber-gloves way those priests whispered. Is it raining, I remembered that first one asking, as I had stood by the windowsill, the phone pressed to my cheek with a sense of things melting, and me not knowing how I should answer him. It isn’t raining here, I said then in a wide flat voice to the deadhead stems, but it seems like it should be. When I heard the door click like a person’s last breath and went back up the stairs, I always found that they’d left my father sleeping. That seemed a black-magic sleep, what with how deep and silent it was and how long it lasted. I stayed down, washing up plates or peeling onions to put in his soup, but the grief that I wasn’t meant to have yet was never as disorienting as then.

It was a very surgical thing, I thought, what those priests were doing. It reminded me of the trips we had made to the greengrocer’s all those years ago with Mum: as brief and curt and quiet as weighing the carrots out had been, or handing the money over. It always brought me back to the question, drumming the seconds out on the chair arm beside the soil frosting over in the pots: what had come first, really; was it the sickness, or the bug that was God, and what was helping what. I couldn’t answer it, of course, or not in a way that I knew I would agree with the next time I asked it, but at least the question was steady there, his breathing on those deep, after-the-red-wine afternoons steady; the trickle of priests knocking at the door steady. If only my dreams could have been like that.

Most nights, I didn’t remember any of them — just the racket on the sheet that my toes had made while I batted away questions instead of sleeping, and the roar of the pillows around my ear — but when I woke up I always brought this punched-gums feeling with me. Or else I woke up in the middle of a dark spell, and the dreams I came out from then all shared the same obsession. Mum, Dad and me all eating sandwiches along a coastline. Or Mum, Dad and me all packing chocolate in the trolley in a French hypermarché, or all sitting in the car dully, or pigging out in front of the television. In the earthy darkness of the bedroom that, at first, you could only see the moon through or a streetlamp glimmer, I tried to sort the real scenes from the ones I had made up, and work out if they mattered. If I slept, after that, my sleep was always splintered, and as soon as I woke up again, around about sunrise, that same old feeling of being broken came back out. Shutting my eyes against it didn’t help; nor did venting myself, on the lawn in my rotty slippers, on the jammy, apricot sun as it dished itself up. I don’t know, maybe the dreams you have dreamed are too coiled-up-inside-you for you to ever be rid of them.

I thought, sometimes, when the priests were reversing down the driveway spitting gravel from their tyres, that it might be worth confessing, but then I thought: where would I start. I woke up itching around the ribs, and the cool air gently worked on it, and when I went back to my room to wring my pyjama trousers out from sweat, everything stunk, like the smell of the webs between Dad’s fingers that accumulated between washes. The priests left us alone again, and then I dreamed things, and I think that reek was of all my inside things, coming out.

So: ‘Look at this.I opened newspapers wide onto their middle, most scandalous pages and read the headlines out, I brought glossy photos up close to his bed that I’d torn from magazines. I stood in the doorway like a cock crowing and did it: some days listening for the TV I’d left on downstairs and reporting back to him; other days bringing a book up, and reading it loudly. What I worried about more than his milkshakes or all the trembly teeth in my mouth was that when he died, he would die afraid, because what if I was right and he was wrong and all the creeds he had made his tongue flaccid with hadn’t really done anything? Dad slept deep then, but I knew how it felt to be dogged by a sense of things going wrong once the lights were out. Me, I was distracting him. It didn’t strike me until after everything else that really that had been a cruelty as well, and that I was mixing bits of my death up with his: he could never be afraid of endings in the same way that I was, didn’t have a place in himself to believe in them, even. That had all been filled in. He snoozed instead of listening. ‘Dad. Dad?’ At the end of it, those books and those old unread copies of The Times are some of the worst things to lay on the pillow where his head used to be.

In the house now — his bed, stacked up with all the rubbish he didn’t clear out before he left, more crowded than it has ever been — my lonely clothes quiver from their hooks like the surfaces of oceans, the television prophet-wails, my towel on the radiator wets and dries quickly, as if it is there that all my tears are coming out. When the priest came that morning and closed his eyes, there was a sudden thing I saw on his face that was him facing up to something. The rosaries, they work their way off the bed somehow and glitter from curtain rails and the corners of mirrors like whispers of secrets in my ears. It should be easier, shouldn’t it? I don’t know, everything else seems severed, like roses cut up at the stalks and put into pots: and when I look to the ground, even the roots are gone that they sprang from.

 

 

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