A ROOK SCRAWS

It’s morning, but through leaves I can see a star. A morning star is like an afternoon moon. Things mixed up. I poke my stick into the fly-tip again. A pigeon clapflaps. A cuckoo calls. Two hands make a cave, blow between thumbs but I don’t. I dig my stick deeper, lifting an old bike wheel and a bagful of broken plaster on top. Under the wheel is a doll with no clothes on, its head dinted so one of its eyes is sunken shut. I drink, then try to spear the baby in its belly. It takes three goes, and when it goes it goes POK. I dance the dead baby over my head, turn in the air under leaves, blue eye winks at me so I swing the stick quick, send the dead baby flying through nettles till it hits a tree, stays stood up one blue eye staring, dinted eye still shut not looking but the other one is. Funny… I drink, then pick up a piece of broken plaster, throw it at the dead baby like a bomb. I miss, so I bend down get another. This is a good game. I nearly hit it so I try again. The bomb hits the tree above the baby’s head. It pops on the bark and leaves a pinky-white star. I try again. And again. The dead baby is smiling. It stares at me. I throw harder. I miss. I drink… Hello Billy... The voice makes me jump. I turn quick, and there stood between two trees is that boy again. He’s smiling, and he puts his hands in the air like he surrenders. I’m holding the stick out in front of me like a gun. I put it pointing downwards by my side and I can hear my heart go bump bump. I put the bottle back to the ground. What you playing? he says. Bomb the dead baby, I tell him. That’s a good game, he says. Yes, I tell him… He comes to me through wild garlic and nettles, stopping halfway to look at the den letting out a long slow whistle. I pick the bottle up, drink, and when I put it back down he’s by my side… Let’s finish the game, he says. Yes, I tell him… We take it in turns, him first then me. We both miss then miss again. We drink… We need some luck, he says, and he bends down to pull up a dandelion clock that stands between dock leaves. Blow, he says, so I do. We watch the pale fairies float soft in the air, first going up towards treetops, then slow falling through spindly fingers of sun. We drink as the fairies fall… The cuckoo calls. I put the bottle down, and the boy says Riddle. I want to tell him no, that I don’t want to think about things, but before I can speak he tells it. He says Morning Glory chokes the corn so the angry farmer says Devil, but a happy girl makes a necklace blue, thanking God for the flowers… I feel a bit sick. I want to tell the boy I’ve stopped playing with people. He says, So who’s right?... We drink, then as we bend down to get another bomb I tell him I don’t know the answer, because I don’t… There is no answer, he says. I tell him that’s stupid, and he goes all quiet. I think he might go away, but he doesn’t. We drink. He says, Let’s finish the game, and he points to the dead baby. Look, he says, You’re winning… I look at my pinky-white star above the dead baby’s head. He’s right. I am winning… He goes first again, and this time he hits the tree, bits of bomb a dry rain trembling the nettles below. He smiles. On the brown-green bark above the dead baby’s head now are two pinky-white stars right next to each other… We’re the same, I tell him. Yes, he says… We drink. Then it’s my go. I close my eyes and hope the dandelion fairies have brought me luck. Go, he says, so I open my eyes and throw as hard as I can. My bomb explodes right next to the dead baby’s head. The baby blinks as the nettles shudder. You’re winning again, he says. I smile at him. We drink. Let’s have a rest now, he says. Are you hungry? I tell him I don’t know. C’mon, he says, and I follow him to the blackberry bush. We kneel down in front of it. A rook scraws. We should eat from it, he says. We can’t, I tell him. Why? he says. Because they’re not ready for us. Look… We look, and the blackberries are pale green with bits of red, not blacky-purple like they should be. He tells me that I’m a scaredy-cat, that I’m a chicken, that I’m a cowardy-custard, so I eat. It’s like a dare. The more he eats, the more I eat. Then, I’m sick. A lot. I tell him I don’t like being sick. He says, So it’s another riddle then. Yes, I say… So what’s the answer?... I think about it, but not for too long because this one is easy. I wipe my mouth with my sleeve. That I was right, I tell him. Yes, he says, But you had to do it, to know it, didn’t you… We stay kneeling. We drink. I feel better now. He looks to the den. C’mon, he says, Let’s go inside… We walk through nettles to get there. Some nettles poke up my trousers as I walk and my legs get stung. I go into the den and sit on the log settee. He has a dock leaf in his hand. He sits in front of me, rolls my trousers up to the knee and rubs where it stings. It feels nice. The dock leaf is cold on my skin. We look at the little white bumps on my legs. The little white bumps have red blotches around them. We drink. A pigeon clapflaps… What’s in there? he says… I look to where the boy is pointing. It’s my little cupboard in the corner where I keep things. It only has three legs. The fourth is a plant-pot. I’m not sure I want him to see inside, but it was nice what he did with the dock leaf so I tell him to look and see. I watch him open the door. He smiles. Yes, he says. He puts the things on the ground and sits next to me on the log settee. We drink. We look at the things. He points to each and gives it a name… Book… Cut… Fuck… I like the boy. He makes me laugh. He picks up the thing he calls Fuck. We drink, and look at Tracey in red knickers. We drink, and look at Sapphire playing tennis. We drink, and look at Cherry laying on a settee with her eyes closed. We both like Cherry the best. I kneel down and pull at myself as he watches. When it comes out of me I look at him and not Cherry. We stay still for a while and listen to the wind play soft in the leaves. It sounds like water moving in a river. I close my eyes. I hear my heart bump in my ears like a flat-hand pat pat against a cushion, slow, then slower. When I open my eyes again a bluebottle trembles on the wetness below, feeding on what came out of me. The boy laughs. I put myself away. We drink. I don’t know what to say so I say nothing. I feel bad because he watched what I did when we looked at Cherry. I feel him watching me now. He says if I don’t know what to say I should say a poem. He picks up Book and puts it in my hands. I look at it. It’s blue and it’s dirty and the edge of the pages are yellowy-brown. Go on, he says, Say one. I still feel bad so I just sit there looking at the book in my hands. This one, he says, and he opens it in the middle, pointing, Here, he says, Say the words out. I tell him I don’t want to. Not on my own. He says, Together then. So we do. We say, A furious angel swoops like an eagle from the sky, grips the sinner’s hair in his fist then shakes him, shouting YOU WILL LEARN THE RULE! FOR I AM YOUR GOOD ANGEL! DO YOU HEAR? KNOW THAT WITHOUT QUESTION YOU MUST LOVE THE NEEDY, THE SPITEFUL, THE DEFORMED, THE DUMB, SO THAT YOU MAY MAKE FOR JESUS WHEN HE COMES, A CARPET OF TRIUMPH WITH YOUR CHARITY! THIS IS LOVE! YOU MUST ACT BEFORE YOUR HEART EXPIRES! LET THE GLORY OF GOD SET IT AFIRE! RAPTURE! THIS IS THE TRUE DESIRE THAT CANNOT ROT! And the angel never ceasing chastises with love, beats the blasphemer with giant fists, and yet still, the damned man forever insists, NO! I WILL NOT!... We look at each other. I tell him I don’t understand. He tells me It doesn’t matter, because it got the bad out. And he’s right, it did… We drink. He picks up the breadknife. Cut, he says. We sit side by side and look at it. It’s as long as a school ruler and has Woolworth’s written on the handle. The knife is dirty so I rub it on my shirt. A rook scraws. When we look again we can see ourselves in the blade… Brothers, he says. Lips, hair, eye and eye… He tells me we should make a promise, like in films when Red Indians turn blood brothers, but I don’t want to cut myself, and I tell him so. He says, Spit then. So I spit in my hand, and then he spits in his. The spit is slippy between us. It’s funny… We drink… They’re trying to find you, he says, And they’ll tell you that happy is only if you belong to them… I think about happy. It doesn’t take long. I tell him what I think. That’s the riddle, he says, It doesn’t matter to them what you think, when they catch you they’ll tell you it’s bad to be alone... Will they always be after me?... Yes, he says, The world is already made that way… I feel sad now, and he sees it. C’mon, he says, Follow me… We walk through the wood to where the trees run out and the meadow starts. Somewhere a song thrush is singing. It sounds beautiful. As we leave the trees the sun hurts my eyes. We sit down in the long grass and lie on our backs. I shield my eyes with my arm. The sun feels good, sending little tickles over my skin. We drink. I can hear him breathing. A grasshopper is making a little crackly-creak sound… Everything out here is stuck together, he says, Because everything needs everything else, or it dies… I like the sound of his voice. It seems to fit between all the other sounds I can hear. The song thrush. The grasshopper. The little breezes that blow the grass. I ask him to say more things so I can listen. We drink. Then he says, The grass doesn’t think, the birds don’t think, the flies don’t think. But people do. And that’s the riddle… I don’t understand and I tell him so… Thinking makes rules, he says, But if you tell them no, they throw you out but keep you in at the same time… This riddle is hard. I still don’t get it. We drink, then I ask him to say more so I can understand. He says, We didn’t ask to be with them. They told us we were. We didn’t have a choice. And when we said no, they said we were guilty… I tell him this must be true because I am guilty, that being guilty makes me feel bad, that I’ve always felt bad so I must have been guilty always… Yes, he says, But what’s true?... We drink, and then I see it’s all gone. Everything looks different. The world bends through the empty bottle. To get more means to go back, and I can’t go back. I throw it. Gone… We look into the blade again and he tells me it’s alright. He kisses me on the lips. His kiss is cold but it feels nice. We stand up, walk slow back into the wood. I can’t hear the grasshopper anymore, or the song thrush. The air is colder here, and the deeper we go, the darker it gets. I follow him to the dead baby tree. I was winning, I tell him. NO! he shouts, and he runs at the baby, kicks it in the head, sends it crashing through nettles to where neither of us can see it anymore. NO! he shouts, and he stabs the knife into the tree, hard. I watch him as he carves lines of bark out, the lines becoming letters, the letters becoming words. I see it, and understand. We lie down in a prickly nest of flattened nettles. We look into the blade. Let’s finish the game, he says, and he kisses me, his tongue cold as it strokes my cheek. I look up at the carved marks, the glisten of the yellowing insides, the barkless spaces bare where sap slow weeps from the words. Everything always goes forward, he whispers, Never back. I close my eyes as his kisses sting my face. He kisses harder, his tongue prodding sharp, the hot wetness now running across my cheeks, down behind my ears, my neck, and it hurts, but I don’t want him to stop. In me, I tell him, and his tongue is in my mouth, cold as it burns, deeper, twisting, and I taste the blood, the burning, and the fire is on me, in me, deeper, twisting, until I cough the sharp snake out, open my eyes as his tongue kisses my throat cold open, the rook scraws, an angry breath shakes the leaves with the sound of a river, and I am alone, at last, and falling, the dark woods blacken around the burning words as every light draws in, a pale moth that flickers as a hand reaches out, and I kick it away, not wanting, not needing no God as the words burn red on the flaming tree above, telling them all, for no one,
BILLY
WOZ
ERE