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Fiction by David Hay

Beyond the Iron Gate is a Garden

A crow’s song (if ears can fly to hear it) sinks beneath an endless rain of grey light. The bird, big balled and far too proud of itself, lands, goose steps across the gate, its mouth a Sesame Street smile. Hysterical pecked jazz notes transfigure into flesh and bone, drumming the path like gunshots through a cancer ward.

A fox snipes the viridescent blades for threads of prey left behind. Nothing captures man’s vulnerability more than that long, earth stunk, leaf-stained stare of that running red river. It stalks, forever fleeing passageways, entombed by the wild sorrows of drunken howling across the dim stars that wheel down the back window of the sky, never to be transcribed.

I see werewolves squatting down, awash with moonlight, their heads tilted to a long-silenced past, tears, the atoms of childhood lodged in their eyes, shaped once by loving hands, held in the first night that never leaves. If I moved without caution, their heads would turn and their tears held still by the pathway of Venus across the still firmament of lost goodbyes, would be sucked into eyes, before fangs once retracted, lower mechanically, squeeze out a growl born of lonely nights that will spread butter-like through mist-hued air.

I want for nothing. The dreams of lost nights cascade down the horizon like midnight whipped waves. A kiss cannot resurrect a gravestone. A lump in my throat, a mother’s memory hardened to coal, slugs out of my mouth, parting teeth, then lands on frost tipped blades that armour a countryside, only truly appreciated through a plane window, returning from another country.

These slim wilds imprisoned by iron, these boys topped by thinning hair and propped up by creaking spines, will retreat with bowed heads, as shadow into shadow into shadow, and finally into heavenly blackness. Perfect fit hisses the snake as old as Eden, before one of the slump-shouldered men kicks it into the long grass, before spitting onto the flash pecked skull of the first fox. A coffin-doored church and a pull-tin fish factory loom like a coming trauma above the garden. On certain afternoons, the undiscovered flowers that adorn the deep shaded groves, smell of mackerel and forgotten bibles.

In the tree carved light, I discard my chunky desolation into a shopping bag and throw it as far as my gym emancipated arms can manage. It lands in the garden, sizzles like an oil coated frying pan, then disappears into the dirt. In its place dandelions rise stop motion to the height of an infant’s ancle, burst into flames before growing plastic bag petals, that deteriorate but don’t rot.

I come here when I lose the idea of myself. I sneak my hand through the railings, grab a wildflower, pull it until the root is released, grab a fistful of dirt, put it in my top pocket and plant it there. The green sharp snap stirs ghosts. I bring it back to waking world, but it wilts. I can feel myself fading. I return, dig a small hole, and plant it there. In seconds it is reborn. Only memories can leave, and they are born of death. I feel whole once again. Through the iron gate I see all I need to keep me sane. I have cultivated it, entwined every fibre with the colour of my character. Some days the path there is lost, some days it disappears just as I’m at the threshold. I am too much for myself sometimes. This is common. Sometimes I walk there barefooted and hold the fallen wet leaves to my cheek. This is rare.

A pram rocks in the centre of the garden. I am ready to be a father. I have considered it for a long time but only now does it hold an image here. There are owls in the sky and dumb geese waddling over to rock the pram. The garden is mercurial. No two days look the same. It is infested with much originality and cheap pastiche.

The tram is approaching my stop. I must put my book away. I haven’t read it since I looked out of the window at least fifteen minutes ago. I make sure the gate is locked though it has never been opened and walk down the path. It disappears behind me as I go. My mum in a white dress, peaks out from behind one of the oak trees. I leave, I do not have time for grief today.

David Hay

Twitter: @arched_roadway

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