Upon entering the city, I stumble upon the
pre-official pride. Protest, rally, I don’t know. Monuments have been scaled. A
few cops mill. A lot of glitter, a lot of nipples, a lot of pencilled
A drum circle draws a crowd. The tempo rises and rises
until the dancers shake into stillness and everything breaks. Defy pain. As
just now, thunder came, rain began, and now air prances.
Sleep lilts over rooftops, cacophony of beam and
brick, slate and stucco. A night to set anchor to ankles.
Catch rain on your tongue through the open window.
Squat inside skin, indignant purchase, sparse sanctuary.
At the bakery down the street, source of the summer’s
best apricot tart – juicy, silken, nested on a wisp of crème anglais atop a
paper-thin sheet of crisp, buttery pastry – the person behind the counter
stops, having used several times the address ‘madame’, and cheerfully inquires,
‘Êtes vous madame?’ I shrug. ‘Madame? Monsieur? Je n’sais pas.’
Their smile reignites. A package arrives. Their call resounds
into the depths of the bakery. We turn once more, eyes to meet and part.
Through the breeze-flooded door. Ill-mannered, I tuck in, shedding crumbs along
Wind-dazed tree catapults into itself. Rippling back
muscles beneath the taut white shirt of a rower. Further along the wall, light
limns the back of a goose. Hadn’t seen that Monet before. The sun casts golden
on tips and ramparts.
The theatre, a gouge of lightless basement, is
forgetful of time. Outside, an old guy busks. ‘Pretty woman, walking down that
street.’ Skirts swirl, the dance a flurry of laughter. He glows. My eyes
pirouette, landing on the floofy backside of a pomeranian, mid-shit, the
trajectory accurate, rehearsed.
Up: tourist shop, window jammed with hoodies calling you’ve
been somewhere. Once in that building, there was an internet café. As I
remember it, I’d gone in to get a boarding pass for elsewhere.
Welter of castles, of sooty turrets, marshmallow casements.
At any minute I might be dragged into a dungeon, tortured by inventive means,
and escape only by exercise of some maimed magic.
Something trebles, squirrels rootling
rage of pattern and pigment in a beet.
Haze cups streets along which eyes yearn.
I fall asleep, windows wide to the splash and rumble
of the street. Pull the curtain over to half prevent the light, and curl –
exposed, cocooned – into the generous arms of the indifferent city. Sleep as
well as that night on the sailboat, nestled in a gentle stretch between island
and shore, rain drumming incessant circles.
Shelly Harder lives and writes
in Oxford, UK. Their work includes zero dawn (above/ground press 2021),
intimology (Frog Hollow Press 2020), and remnants (Baseline Press