OK chaps, I find myself still up at 1am, still haven’t done my daily poetry, and haven’t written a blog for three days. Not Good Enough. Must Do Better.
So, here’s a story I’ve been working on recently. It’s at slightly-less-shitty-second-draft stage, but I quite like the way it’s shaping up. And I read it out at my writing group this evening and was told it’s poetic, so it’s not totally inappropriate for National Poetry Month.
The Fourth Rule
The path I am walking on slashes between the birch trees. They reach for each other, delicate branches trying to find the strength to defy gravity. Failing, but pulling the papered trunks behind them so that eventually, close to the sky, the heart-shaped leaves can dance together in the early morning sea breeze. My leaf-shaped heart thuds in its predictable rhythm, a dour counterpoint.
Sunlight skitters across the waves and penetrates deep into the wood, scattering jewels among the dewdrops so that I am a shadow walking through a chandelier. Worker bees buzz off to their daily tasks and blackbirds sing to their brown mates. The headland across the bay calls dive from the cliff, swim to me, climb my chalk-white slopes and dry yourself on my grassy belly. It knows I cannot swim that far, but the thought of crushing fresh grass under my salty rolling body twines with the longing already in my mind.
I am drawn to a riot of roses, brash pink against the subdued shades the trees have clothed themselves in for this sombre spring. Admiration for their daring briefly flickers inside my chest, is extinguished by the cold heart that reluctantly beats there. Why should they be permitted to challenge the decaying rules that bind me?
And what are those rules, Anna? the doctor asked me, yesterday. His thin red lips twitched underneath that ragged blond moustache and black half-rimmed spectacles slid slowly down his sunburnt nose. His pen ready to write down the rules, he waited for my answer.
I didn’t think he really wanted to know, but then he asked again. So I told him, and he wrote them in a list, like this:
- I will always fail.
- Hope is the king of betrayal.
- I must become my surroundings.
After the third rule, the doctor stopped writing, so I stopped telling. I was relieved, because the fourth rule doesn’t have any words. It is the city wall dividing lovers, the kidnapper who takes a baby girl from her parents, an old dog lying beside the dead body of his master. It is the strongest rule of all, the rule that cannot rot and crumble away, through which no chink will ever allow light.
I left the doctor’s office. The nurse smiled at me, a fiery smile to match her tightly bound auburn hair. How was it today, Anna love? she said. I couldn’t answer without breaking the rules, so I poured all my hope and longing into the wells of her deep brown eyes. Rule 2 was already broken. I could only think of tracing the line of her jaw with the tip of my forefinger and taking the smile from her lips to mine with a kiss.
Sleep did not come last night. The fourth rule stood over my bed and kept it from me. The nurse entered my room in the darkness and I could hear the whispering of her clothes falling from her body until she stood in silence like a naked tree in the winter, her cotton shirt like leaves around her roots.
That did not happen. The fourth rule put it into my head. Then it sent me out to the birch wood on the cliff top.
The roses are speaking with the nurse’s voice. No, not speaking. Gasping as the sun’s rays touch their velvet buds. Groaning as they open their soft petals to receive the wind’s caress. Yes, they whisper. Yes, yes, they scream.
And then the doctor’s voice, yes yes yes, from the sharp hard thorns hidden by the blushing petals, ripping through flesh and blunting their points on the fist-sized rock inside my chest.
The fourth rule welled up inside me and burst out of my mouth in rhythm with the pulsing of ice through my arteries. No – no – no – no – no. This is against the rules.
Her body, naked as she hadn’t been for me last night. Her face, framed by roses. Her lips, smiling. Saying Anna, what are you doing out here, sweetheart?
I run. Away from her, away from the rules. I cannot live by the rules any longer.
The path carries me through the birch trees, through the candles that hang from their illicit dance. Dew and tears soak my skin. I will dry my salty body on the green pelt covering the headland’s belly.
The sea calls me with the voice of the first rule, You can’t swim all the way across the bay. But if at first you don’t succeed…
The cliff calls me with the voice of the second rule, If you leap from my summit I will propel you, you will fly over the waves.
The blackbirds call me with the voice of the third rule, Join with us and we will show you how to become one with the sky.
The fourth rule is silent. It knows it has broken me.
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