by Maddy Costa
the room is made of whispers. there are blinds over the window,
slats slightly parted (lips waiting to be kissed), bright sunlight –
summer, afternoon – streaming through, dust of course,
luminous streaks of it, dancing with the lines of shadow,
walls layered with sheets of newspaper, ochre of cigarette-stained teeth.
her room and also not her room. her prison.
she is old and lying on the grass, skin translucent, hair a white cloud,
lips slightly parted (waiting), bones fragile, ready to snap
with the slightest wrong move. desire, desire, escape, eternal youth
he is old too. hair white – no, grey – no, lost; eyebrows bristling;
a three-bar electric heater in the fireplace – 1930s, mottled brown tiles,
the kind most people now rip from their homes. it hasn’t been redecorated
since the 1970s: you can see the wallpaper, right? textured, beige,
discoloured with age (a theme is emerging),
and a green carpet – patterned – floral, or leaves, ravaged by moths beneath the armchair
where he sits, silent, alone, thinking of his daughter, who died (somehow)
and a girl: who is she? why is she here?
there’s a song in her head, a secret, a wondering,
and he brings down boxes from the attic, detritus of a life
this one is younger and dressed in pyjamas, walking London’s streets
at night. trainers, soft tread, Thames the colour of contaminated oil,
works in the City and doesn’t believe in magic, but dreams
skulk and unsettle his nights so he’s walking the dread away,
walking desire away, silent, not silent, muttering to himself,
alone, thinking of his ?
who died somehow (a theme is emerging) –
across the river, a woman in a wedding dress, suspended
in the spotlights of a bridge, shimmering in the petrol pre-dawn,
and he’s running running running because
it’s the same woman – is it? – but when he reaches her, she’s
frozen in imagination
like the leek abandoned on the bench of a tube station
to which he (someone new now) gives the name of a made-up
phobia – like the phobia of one lost shoe, or the phobia of
buddleia, or aubretia, growing through cracks in a wall –
and when the accident happens he is thinking
is this happiness?
is this a life?
enough to swear by?
enough to bother?
desire, desire, detritus, alone, lying in a coffin
thinking of the man she never met
(we never met)
who might have been a taxi driver
or a bank manager
or stolen gold coins from his grandmother
or she’s walking across the marshes with the boy who died
(it keeps happening)
who was always more secret than friend
or she’s dallying by the sea in Cornwall with a woman whose face is gauze
moonlight softened in drifting clouds
Maddy Costa is a writer and dramaturg, and a co-host of Something Other.