Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rafael Entertains the Priest.

In the hollow spaces between joy and pure, there is faith.
Ha. Faith you say. Faith. It begins below the heart. It begins in scar tissue.
We all suffer. Where is it? Your scar tissue. Tell me how you came by it.
What would you know about it?
You are a failed suicide and I am a priest. There are things I know that you won't dream of. And I've no doubt there are things you know that I won't dream of.
Won't or can't? Do you want to know what I dream of? I dream of tits. Oh yes. I dream of girls in pieces. Impromptu visions in my head. Like pornography. But better.
I'm sure you do. Let me ask you. Can you love without faith?
Ah Father. So often the searching gaze conceals the thing it is looking for. You and me for instance. I come here and you interrogate me on matters of faith, with precision and yes, I concede, a true curiosity. Which I admire. But what you seek eludes us both. You recite a catechism I cannot hold to. The truth is surreptitious. It resides in the flickering gas-lit parlour of the imagination. We'll not see it clear again. It is a relic of a time that is lost now.
Maybe so. If faith were tangible what would it be?
A stone between the ribs? perhaps. Something illicitly sustaining. I would test it like a blade against the wrist.
What would it make you feel?
Masterful. Compelling.
Is that so? What would faith not countenance?
A still mouth. A wreath burned to thorns, a wafer subsituting for nourishment.
The priest's eyes crinkled. And there and then, in the weak light, his smile broke. He looked around the cell. Held his hands open.
What do you miss?
I miss the green garden. I miss my father singing to his cat in French. I miss who keeps faith with whom. I miss love, like a marksman misses the target. And until I don't, I have nothing. Absolutely nothing. To declare.
Let me ask you again. Where does faith begin.
It begins below the heart, Father, it begins in scar tissue.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele

Monday, 9 September 2013

Cosmo's dream

Salt on the cold air, black feathers and a dark bed. Cosmo is dreaming of his second wife, he is drawing on her flank with his knife. Islands well up behind him: Britain, Madagascar, Santorini and Nightingale. Now you are my whole world, he dream-whispers, one of these days I shall love you to the moon and back.
Night wraps its heavy silk about them. Tonight there is no moon. His dreams come to him as wifely-interrogators, bleeding and pleading:
Where are my roses? yellow for unrequited love, orange for passion?
They are behind the door he answers
What colour's the door?
It's the colour of rotting pears
Who lives there?
We live there: An old married man and his loves
What colour's the door?
It's the colour of pale toad
How will I know it?
It's in two halves
Where are my roses?
They're here, of course they're here. There is no door.
And he flourishes for her a bouquet of stems, astonishingly green, their leaves and thorns reaching for their lost heads, because he loves her. He tells her. Yes, he does.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Angels watch over Rain Baby

Rain Baby sits in the damp cafe and consults her copy of War and Peace, attuning herself to its unusual frequencies: The seagull's cry of loss, the fall of blossom in the abandoned garden, the low hum of the bluebottle feasting on the carrion. Her copy of the novel is beloved, a well-thumbed treasure, annotated and diaried. She uses it for daily practice, consulting Tolstoy before making any decision. That is how she has come to be in this cafe, in this land. She is in her Russian period. Before Tolstoy it had been Chekhov and she had yearned for her three sisters, and to know the precise provenance of her father's silver topped cane. She had longed for Moscow.
Today, as the rain exhausts the cafe window, she taps out the rhythm of the book with her fingertips, drumming against the yellow vinyl of the table, not even knowing she is waiting for him to come in. When he arrives he is a stranger to her. He is dressed like an exclamation mark in surplice and trainers. He inclines his grave head by means of greeting, and lies down across two chairs, like a sword. His halo is as true as a gold coin. In spite of herself Rain Baby is interested. She walks round to his side of the table and stares boldly at him.
The stranger is asleep. Perhaps he has come to lie down, for nothing more than the simple mercy afforded by the cafe of somewhere warm. Nonetheless Rain Baby is offended. She perceives his eccentric sleep as a mockery of her patient waiting and her long journey. She beseeches the red-faced barman with her eyes, but he is polishing cups with a grey cloth, and is unprepared to intervene. She thinks, he probably doesn't care who does what so long as they're quiet. And the still guy in the vicar's outfit, he is quiet.
Rain Baby goes over to the stranger and places her hand on his frocked leg. The faint scent of cashews rises from him. He opens his eyes and sits, simply upright.  He hands her the envelope from his breast pocket, and she comprehends that his archness is merely a part of the message.
Far above them, the angels in their glass bottomed boats are peering down from the clouds and sending their blessing of rain on folded grey wings.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele