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Issue Two

Vivienne Burgess


Here Lies a Bird


He glimpsed the sky reflected upon our living room, recognised

the clouds as places he knew well on his journey home.

So he tried to reach it. Perhaps he was on his way out anyway –

they can always tell – but wanted to be remembered.

Like people do. The glass didn’t break his skull enough

to kill him instantly. He reverberated and fell, a scared bird,

falling instead of flying, and when he hit the ground,

the physical thmpf of his hollow-boned body accompanied

a last push of air from his lungs. He wanted our attention.

He wanted us to notice. He fell fast, without grace and without

sound, because nothing dies in slow-motion.

Like people do.


Despite my suggestion, you didn’t move him before

the maggots flowed out. Instead, you squealed and gagged,

made a fuss and dragged the parasol stand across the patio

to place over his body, where it became an accidental gravestone.

I began to feel like the mother, and you the child. But then I

wouldn’t stop staring and you had to turn my head away,

walk me back inside for juice and cake. That is what he wanted.

He wanted a grave beneath a parasol stand and the quickest funeral

with the fewest guests. He wanted the shortest moment

of morbid excitement, then to be left alone in the dark.

He doesn’t want us to check if his stripped skeleton shines

white when it rains. He wants me to write this poem.

He aimed for a flash of sky between cushions on our sofa.

He knew he’d miss.






The memory comes back as pain, as the shock

of being pushed, and water grabbing her

young legs first. In 1986 the whole family took a trip

to Bel Air where grandma and granddad have a house

and a big, cold pool. Someone on the patio waits

to wrap her in a towel but she sulks on the lounger

and listens to traffic through the hedge. Betrayal burrows

through her breastbone; she catches mom and dad

laughing, blowing smoke from their noses towards

a sky that’s too blue. The small lies hurt the deepest.

The water’s lovely, baby. Even now, turning the album pages,

to see that towel again, a strop, thrown down

on the grass. To remember the argument between

the lounger’s hot plastic slates and the damp skin

of her back. It’s enough to not want to forget. Holding on

to the betrayal counts as pay back. How could they

have been so mean? When she gets married, they’re banned

from the church. She’s not coming downstairs

for dinner. She’s not wishing them goodnight.

Discovering she hasn’t forgotten will hurt them,

somehow. The sight of the garden in the picture offends

her like the taste of cigarettes will, stolen

from her dad’s pocket, just a few years later.




The House Cat


She noticed me there,

the same time I noticed her

waiting on the second to top stair,

with this gunk in her eyes.

After she blinked the gunk spread

back over her eyeball and I thought of

a gardener, made stupid by time

and no one to spend it with,

dragging a rake to pull all the algae back

across the surface of his pond.

And sometimes the sunlight points out

scales of fish through the purple water and I imagine

that while he does his chore he hums,

as though he doesn’t care or remember

that what he’s doing is wrong.

That was her blink, on the second to top stair.

Her disgusting, futile, blink.


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