There is nothing else to do but kiss. It is night. It is always night, yet there are no stars, no moon. Torches have not been invented. Once you have chosen your partner you are thick with his embrace. There is no other action but this kiss. Sex has not been invented, in fact, we are the only two people alive. We are white, we are cold, but we kiss. This embrace does not move us, we are still to it. Clothes have not been invented. We are frozen to each other. Some might call this eternity. I can breathe through my nose, so can he. My jaw no longer aches. We do not use our tongues. We have nothing to say to each other, so we kiss.
Here there is everything to do. Spring, coming late, writes hurried lists its ‘to do’s’ italicised in slanting shoots leaning out towards returning light.
The heron has come back, a shrugged shadow over the netted pond. The fish are replete with winter sleep. Heavy-still with darkness, they tremble briefly. We draw back the net, push the urgent yellows of king cups back through, straighten buckled iris swords. Prepare to clean.
Then we see the frogs. The periscope eyes, a slow surfacing into enemy lines, then the first low volley of lust’s beat. They swell into a timpani. One note suffices. In abstracted silence they stare golden-eyed, ‘in flagrante’, but already beyond the cold heat that dragged their moist bodies across roads, across gravel to this embrace.
I feel their cold upon my lips: an absence of princes the indifference of frogs.
The Narcissist and the Frog
I twist to admire the print of my new boots on the path. It is now that I notice the yoga
stretch of frogs, their long, cold, fatal embrace of mud. They stare ever upwards, their goggle
eyes spawned. I bend from the hip like a dancer, choosing the frog that is best preserved, peel
a dry caress of leather from the tarmac. I parade to the ponds, lift a leaf of marsh marigold, slide
the perfect body clean into the water, its zig zags weave under a headstone of hawthorn.
My lovely face ripples to the edge of the bank.
Self Portrait with Straw Hat, Arles, 1887
My mirror brims, each morning it promises light. Each morning it dulls, its eye a blank stare. Or is it my stare that is the mirror?
Here the lunacy of grey creeps like dust at the crossroads, denying fresh green, making drudges of wayside poppies. I wipe and wipe the small square of my bedroom window.
In the garden the other inmates walk, shabby men whose feet drag one beat behind each step. They stop, forget that they are men, and sob.
Today I do not walk. They will bring me my easel and paints. I shall scrape the sharp yellow sunlight into the straw of my hat.
My shirt I will imprint with the sky – not the worn blue of old men’s eyes – but a blue that burns liquid yellow into cornfields, ignites flames in the stars.
I turn the mirror to the wall, but as I paint he stares, red-eyed, hollow-cheeked in Gethsemane’s walled despair.
I crown him with a hat of straw.
Finally, I see the colour consultant, she tells me about the spectrum, decides on midnight blue. The stars come out
during the day on this jacket. Her friends, in jeans or worn corduroy, are lower down the spectrum in pale blues or browns, yet
they are gentle as they strap between my legs, pull tight across my chest. I fold my arms to keep the lines clean. Once, at art college,
I saw a man wriggle clear of his; it was buckled incorrectly. Mine is comfy, except when I think wrong thoughts; then the stars ignite and fizz,
needle my blood. I’m told my imagination leads me into temptation. I’m to relax. A man takes me to dinner, spoons the soup,
smiles and wipes my chin. I ask if the jacket matches my eyes. He asks if I’d like a shave. He is in love, so are the rest. Even the consultant
glimpses something special in me, she gazes through the glass, invites her corduroyed friends, their eyes, their ears follow my every movement.
I grunt through my psalms, the valley of darkness. My palms start to itch. Yea, I shall think only good thoughts, good thoughts, good thoughts…
Our job is to watch them. We are deliberately bland. Our training gives us tolerance and the slow smile of compassion. Off-site we practise the techniques: a hand on the shoulder, a verbal deflection, some small banter about lives we have created for ourselves out of fantasies that we know to be theirs.
They are grey and still in the jackets we provide. They think our jackets become them, consider the tightening laces as evidence of future beauty. Colour obsesses them. We dare not plant flowers outside the windows, only geometrics in khaki decorate their rooms. A rainbow is a disaster. We feed them with restraint and patience, watching their small mouths open and close. It could not be said that we love them although every one of our actions mimics that strange attachment. We know how to quieten their needs. Our strategies fool their escape. They think contentment while under the jackets their bodies rebel, weave fantastic parachutes packed against the cords concoct terrible reds and blues and yellows. Here we must always keep the windows closed.