The roses on the wedding china are fading. Decades of spuds and butter, round ball meat and ceremonial gravy. The petals from a steady hand are being scraped away by a shaking hand of Sheffield steel. Nine thousand meals, they were pale witness to suburban drama, tired tension and too much silence. Heads down, forks up, eat the green stuff, stop making a clatter. Decades we sat over these steaming plates, four square and strong, twice exiled, foreign to ourselves. Dinner was the gravity that pulled us together, a simple ceremony soundtracked by a poetry murmur of taps and tinkles, slurps and sighs. This wasn't the good china, but it was the best china.
Here comes seven. He's stepping in, up and across the threshold, the litter runt, now like a lord. Gifted with the miracle. Someone did the counting, a knowing nod and small awe of something bigger. Something whispered in byres, spread in hayfields, considered like a praetie, examined in sideways squints, suspicioned over tea, never asked. She passed on the cure in her final days. Passed it down, passed it away. Into the hands of the wiry man, an incantation, a whisper, a miracle moved. "Just look into the cup", she'd said, and there it was, a dust mote, cast down from his blooded eye. Do you believe in these spirit things? The water-rod and the gypsy touch, the coffee grounds and tea leaves? These mysteries of hope, desire lines between sweated truths and darkness. In a country night, with only fire for company, there's plenty of space for all that, for places the embers go, for explainers that can't.
In this salon of hope, a haze of beauty chemistry, ceiling smudges of aubergine musk vapour, tanlines for hair. We're getting all blown up into feathered crowns, jostled around in the faux leather, sweat sticky and spongy. The plink plop of blades dip into their green antiseptic bath, deft hands tilting, angling, securing necks and jugulars. From above, it's Whitney, crooning lost love and redemption, a yearning soundtrack for the familiars amongst us. We're all here, old people into new people, spritzed and varnished, leaving our dregs, our sheddings, a black wire carpet on the floor, to be swept away like shame.
The crows came today. Reclaiming their streets, all beaks and black, more silhouette than bird. Into bare branches they clambered and shoved. Go bushtail, flee greyback. Their cries echo back, colder, off our brick and plaster nests. Pinging the emptiness and disguised decay. The blade geometry of broken glass, ambulance stains, eroding paint scallops, a salt vein fissure. Cackling, they wait, knowing what comes next.
Crumbs were whole once. Connected and part of something made, something nurtured and purposeful. Now, all but small annoyances, these dreg reminders of what was, run hiding on the faintest breeze. Into corners and carpet tangles, sanding smooth broken edges, crumbs discarding memory, their momentum only gravity. We went our ways, north and east, but mainly south. My new app reminds me of that day. All rain and ominous, a stale inevitability over us. We needed a big fire that wet night, but even that didn’t catch.
A seepage of gas. An infiltration of science. Cool clinks of tiny steel, medicinal, stealthy. The stress hum of faxes and file folders. Very profesh, this panto. It's all just life support for dummies. These sculpted little kingdoms, hiding above the street behind their veneer doors. These little pretenders with their grown up sincerity and single serving coffee, aloft in ambition, making busytime look lifelike. Scrape me, bill me, let's share some synchronised chuckles over predictable memes. This anaesthetic fallacy is dulling, desensing, objectifying us all into boredom, formfitting, cinching us into our straightjacket of vanilla charm. Isn't this weather terrible?