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Otherwise Silence

uploaded: Sun, Nov 21, 2010 @ 4:09 AM last modified: Wed, Nov 24, 2010 @ 3:10 AM  (add)
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Otherwise silence
All afternoon, at school
my stomach feels as though
I’m going down fast in a lift.
Trees outside the classroom window
are unnaturally still
I am trapped and restless
cannot concentrate on words and equations,
dictation doesn’t make sense
nothing adds up.
I’m unable to snap out of it
as the teacher suggests
with a harsh rap of the yard stick
across my desk.

At the afternoon bell I bolt
across asphalt and dried grass
to jump the fence and hurry home
to a house I already sense is empty
door left open, flyscreen unlatched
a blowie buzzing around the kitchen
unwashed dishes in the sink.
Otherwise silence.

I run for my bike and yank it up out of the dust
throw my leg over and pedal like fuck
I don’t think about the destination
as I race along hot half-shaded streets
where the only sounds are crow calls
and my own rapid breathing
the clicking spokes of bike wheels
at the last corner, the snap and clang
of a broken chain
and I’m sure I hear a distant train.

The two tracks are rusty with grief
they glint under the haze of heat
over scrub and stones
following a trail of litter along the mesh fence
there’s no-one on the platform to my left
but turning right I see a sweep of fabric
veiling the track, my mother’s battered handbag
my baby brother clamped to her chest.

My mother is a dead weight I cannot drag.
I scream at her deaf ears and don’t understand my own voice
I wrestle the baby from her and grasp the oil streaked pleats
of her dress, which tear untidily and reveal her bare legs
the rest of the scene is a blank in a recurring nightmare
somehow there is a sudden light in those haunted eyes
and an end to resistance, just moments (it seems)
before the train signals its approach
and the rails vibrate with reality
in the unreal suburb of my fear
where my mother, clutching a dusty handbag
wheels my broken-chained bike along late afternoon streets
asking me “How was school?”
while I hold my brother tight and kiss his fair head
and the train lurches on toward its destination
and we never speak of it again
otherwise, silence.

© Deb Matthews-Zott

"Otherwise Silence"
by debbizo

2010 - Licensed under
Creative Commons
Noncommercial Sampling Plus

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