Vol. 40 No. 4 · 22 February 2018

The nine lives you might have lived, were it not for the nine thin spells through your heart

Abigail Parry

365 words

after Robert Aickman

Your sisters flash like jewels, bright as needles.
They’re threading languid reels in the ballroom.
Your heart is young and taut; your heart is strung
with sparkling futures. Put an eye up to each one.

Sixteen and juiced beneath the discoball.
Your pulse, a worried minnow. Repeating
rigmarole of knife and nerve, plastic cups.
Nitrous in the engine. Night-edge. Ice in gin.

City-mist, plaster-dust. An attic-flat with moths
erupting from espaliers of cracks. Moonbeams
over moon-things: tooth enamel, silver spoons,
flakes of eggshell. Milk blurting into vodka.

Acid coo of limelight, plundered gemstores,
shattered baubles. The evening leaking green
into the Bay. This whole town knows you’re a riot.
You’re a hoot. Barman – bring another gimlet.

Argon, blackout, aluminium. Kickback thrill
of ethanol, and sooty prints on naked skin.
The cowslick when the wick ignites, saltpetre
for a purple flame. Your lizard-brain, its pilot light.

Here’s swabbing alcohol, diazepam, and nibs
or needles. Streaks of ink. Here’s boredom,
languorous as bleach. The bad news breaking
through the skin in urgent, thixotropic script.

Another scene in the casino: shellacked black
of limousine or baby-grand, and glassy dice
and candied fruit. Oblong baize that prints itself
ad infinitum. Lime and mint conspire in a collins.

The map shows one last exit. And you take it.
Knightlike jink from 4th to 5th. The sky is cobalt,
coolant, curaçao criss-crossed with vapour trails.
Brand new blueprint: bright-lined superflux of now.

Blooddrop sun, and rust. Rasping teeth of the sierra.
Clever footwork in the graveyard, half in love.
Now Mr Calavera tilts a grinning glass of mezcal,
tips the wink. The maggot in the dregs: that’s for you.

A slug of single malt, and you’re match-flare, imp
and spark – a foxy twist of filament: pure mischief.
All the stars go pizzicato, and the city pulls a long
and lovely mewling from your low-slung violin.

Now look again: the past is drab as deadwood.
We’re rotting in the heap that was the ballroom.
The years are spent, and all your bitter sisters
shut your careless heart with rusting sutures.

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