Invisible Clouds – prose

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On the terrace, I watch the moon get swallowed and then spat out, passing through the belly of invisible clouds. It’s late and the sky is black.

Overhead, a plane roars, briefly drowning out the drone of crickets. The wind stirs, making several twigs snap.

Inside, ants surround the sink, descending on crumbs I forgot to clean up. Their perceptivity fascinates me, but I am tired of murdering tiny creatures.

I do not understand this place – the moon, the crickets, the ants: acting on impulse, driven by instinct. Subject to the whim of emotion, ruled by my own dark tides: I covet their simple lives.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Yesterday

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A series of overcast days has reminded me how important the weather is, how much I value the sun; how deeply I loathe the winter, the accompanying cold and rain. With the decline, I’ve felt my mood plummet, matching the shift point for point. I cast my mind back over the past few months: the light, the heat – and forgive the intensity of it; even the nights when I couldn’t sleep, the mornings when the closeness of it was oppressive, hard to bear. Better that than this. Better that than me sat here shivering, struggling to warm up, cold in August) of all things.

Claustrophobia descends, settling around my body like a dense cloud: a fog I cannot see through. Hiding in my room, I seek the comfort of literature, curling my mind into the words as I curl my body into a blanket. I sip ginger and camomile tea against a backdrop of white: walls that are still, even after over a year of living here inhabiting this space, waiting to be decorated; the reluctance to put down roots, to claim my territory, to settle – here, anywhere – is evident.

I question my resistance, the reason for it, attempting to list the benefits. Footloose and fancy-free seem to have become my allies. Little and nothing my mantra. It’s all a bit too zen and a lot too modern. I’ve never been minimalistic. In England, my home was filled with personal effects; the space was a reflection of me. Fabric birds hung from painted ceilings. Paper butterflies clung to knitted plants. China ornaments talked to tin toys. Picture frames reclined in alcoves and rested on shelves. Books lined walls, creating temporary tables on polished floors. Paintings, mostly by me, although some by my friends, hung everywhere. I belonged there: it was my nest. Here, it’s more like someone else’s space, my being here borrowing.

I decide that I need to make more of an effort and that I need to work harder on finding my happiness within. This becomes increasingly important as August disappears, each day passing bringing me closer to autumn and the start of everything closing and emptying, shutting down. The tourists will leave, the hotels will close, towns will turn into shells. Unlike other places: there is only life here for half of the year. I dislike that, the isolation that prevails. It is hard enough to navigate my own rocky terain, without also having to deal with the external. I wonder if there is anywhere in the world that suits me; if there is such a thing as an everyday sunshine place? No longer convinced; I still choose to believe. For to give up hope, to abandon the dream, is tantamount to giving up and abandoning everything: my writing, my art, my desire to be something more, my pursuit of the kind of happiness that resides inside myself.

Tired of thinking, I let my eyes close and surrender myself to sleep.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Trapped until summoned

imageThe pain attacks my head,
sticking my eyes with needles,
making a cushion out of me.

My heart pounds,
my stomach lurches,
my throat becomes a summer meadow.
My feet want to stay still
but can’t stop moving.

Trapped inside,
glued to a chair by my dog,
waiting on him,
I have no option but to remain where I am until summoned,
staring at my phone,
willing it to ring.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Yesterday’s desire. Tomorrow’s heartache.

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Arriving at the beginning, she feels frustrated. How many times has she travelled this way, circling the exact same landscape, weaving in and out of similar trees, meeting and greeting familiar people? Despite having lost count, she knows it is too many. Only a fool would keep repeating the same mistakes, failing to learn, not just from what has already been, but what has been and been despised.

Feeling the twist of loss, she rushes cobbled pavements, ignoring the blade in her foot and the furnace that surrounds her, drawn on by the possibility that life will call her bluff and people surprise her. She knows her wish is futile, her hope naïve, but she continues to dream regardless. A romantic soul with a lonely heart, she always looks on the bright side, attributing to events the benefit. Only when it comes to the weather, which belongs to another being far greater than she, does she doubt. Dreaming is what she excels at, what spurs her on, what allows her to continue, even in the face of it.

She arrives in a puddle of heat, immediately losing half of her dignity to the floor beneath her feet. The other half following, the moment she opens her mouth. An inconclusive reply in her mother tongue, a tongue different to that indigenous to here, further proving just how terrible her grasp of the language is; although she was understood, which must (surely) count for something. It does, doesn’t it? The important thing is that she tried and that she keeps on trying, like with her dreams. At some point the world will feel sorry for her and grant her her reward. She waits, her hands prostrate.

The bathroom, the scene of the crime, is empty. Slowly, she peels open the door, steps inside, catches the light, disturbing a band of neon overhead. To her surprise, her heart’s desire is exactly where she left it, looking forlorn, face to the wall. She snatches it up, lifts it to her mouth, gently kisses it, welcoming it home; then presses it to her breast, where it fits exactly: the final piece of a complicated puzzle.

Returning to the threefold space, a space functioning as entrance, centre and exit, too many jobs for anything so humble to do with any real success, her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkling, her lips curved, she expresses her thanks. In the city centre, finding anything that has been left, forgotten or mislaid is unusual, unless that thing belongs to another and is part of their heart’s ache. She decides she must have a guardian angel after all and makes a note to correct her parents, who harbour more formal views. That means that God does exist, the Tooth Fairy is real, and elves can and often do live amongst the flowers and the plants at the bottom of the garden. Now isn’t that so much nicer than worshipping the shrine of insignificance, holding fast to the belief that we are all alone?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Super Moon

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Once every thirteen months
the moon is uncharacteristically large,
the circumference of its orb almost threatening,
its glow, suffused with orange, demon-like.
Typical, then, that my eyes look up to a cloud-choked sky,
bereft even of the smallest hint of light.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Forgiving what I took to heart

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I love my dog more than life itself
and I’m not afraid to say it.
I think in the absence of the real thing,
she is my human child.

Some days, like today,
my love actually hurts:
a pain behind my ribcage,
wide and deep.

I think of my friends with babies
and I don’t know how they manage.
A cut lip would destroy me.
A sprain, and I would be a wreck.

And what of something serious,
like a virus or a disease?
I could never cope with compromised
or malfunctioning bits.

And yet I have –
in my own way,
on a much smaller scale:
navigating a broken tail,

fixing a dislocated knee,
treating a suspected heart murmur,
a skin parasite;
seeing her through hepatitis and gallstones.

We’ve been through a lot, her and I,
and so far we’ve survived.

I look to my parents with added respect,
only now understanding their challenges,
forgiving what I took to heart,
loving what I hated.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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