The heart is an engine, an engine, an engine. Four chambers thump away, an enigma, an enigma, an enigma. It is on the beach late one night, the tide full in, the shush of wave and wash full-echoing in the dark, her scarred, pitted face bright against a backdrop of cloud. In the syzygy of incoming water she is on her back, the moon in her eyes, panting, heavy-bodied, my mouth on hers, the bitter taste of coffee, fatal jabs to the heart.
The rock is a bed, the sky a cabin, the moon a lamp, and she is all I can handle and more, now one of the chambers of my heart has ceased to beat, closed its valvic opening, failed in its task. I feel sleepy, the rush of blood in my inner ear resonates with the to-and-fro of the ocean, and her body is laid out on the rock like laundry sinks into the porous sandstone, the rail of her tongue weakened, the shine of her eyes but a memory.
The scut, a young lad of no more than fifteen, sees me pouring sugar into the petrol tank. One of the intifada, he leaves me on the flat of my back, the bullet lodged in the base of my skull, the exact spot where last summer a tick embedded itself and gorged on my blood. For weeks the skin was cracked, flesh exposed, its torsoless legs tunneled into the skin. The area around the tick hardened, crusted with yellow pus. Fingers found tweezers found tiny legs found purchase and withdrew them one at a time. The swollen area looks like a crater on a distant planet, now, the fuzzy image beamed back to earth from months away.
I am flying forward against a table by the pace of the shot, the collapse to bare floor a sinking into darkness—a signal. Even in unconsciousness the smoke spirals from the barrel, an exhausted trail of rapt witness. I am not dead, only stunned, the duck egg on my forehead caused by impact with a wall. Where the snub-nosed projectile struck is bare of hair since the tick incident. Maybe it’s the shock, maybe something else, but I blurt my pants, and the warmth spreads across my buttocks.
The broken valves hiss and sputter and there’s a tightness in my chest from where the wires go in. Every day I swallow a cocktail of pills—blue, red, gray, white, small, oval, large, circular—and drain the tube that leads into the plastic bucket by my bed. I am spun thin in the bed, the numbers greening their way across the gray. Tongue thick, throat narrowed to a hair’s breadth, my fingers peel and crack, the tissue papery and forlorn.
The dizzying sun is behind the muslin curtain, a mirage of all the suns that came before it, the orbit elliptical, the stutter-stop-start a queer progression in the morning air. Once I lived across from a lane where we played French cricket with a tennis racket and pitched a threadbare ball through summer air. Now, the air is autumn, the systems shuts down, the last innings begun. The wind brings red hair and lost memories.
© 2013 James Claffey
Previously Published at Bong is Bard