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Rose Apple and the Desiccated Lake naush sabah

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P o e m s /

S a b a h

I Fractals bloom along the horizon inky-black and skeletal reaching upward as if fists have pounded from underground and the earth has shattered the sky. Or I could call them bare trees and tell you to see them as I do in dusk-grey distance, indistinct and fading. Only, there are no horizons where I live and no blue-haze of hills or towns, just the immediacy of walls and amputated limbs on narrowing pavements outside chicken shops. There is no distance in Sparkbrook, only other corners to turn into cul-de-sacs, and here – in the suburb I’ve escaped to – a chill.

II Weeks on, snow is still held by the woodland, ground so saturated that each step I take draws its own foot-shaped puddle up to the surface, pool here around me, my weight too much for the land to hold without spilling forth its water; my presence will cause floods and I am staying here to drown the city. Let it never be said I took more than I gave.

III I have taken to driving in the night to remind myself I am safe to move, confined in my containers of breath, hurtling through any darkness, as if it is normal to trust, at speed, with abandon. I have perched on a hilltop to overlook the lit city and pretend that elevated distance brings epiphany, that silent staring is contemplation, has meaning. Now, with a view from the promontory I transcend my own estimations, realise I would still rather look through glass than air.

IV Memory is thin, membranous. Something wet is slipping down the walls, the earthy dampness of paint and plaster, a smell that witnesses the negligence of disuse. It was a condition of my insurance policy to visit you every seven days and pass a tender look over each threshold, into every crevice, to watch for any drip that might bring rot; destruction is small, slow, then sudden and complete. I did not come for months, trusting that the neighbouring houses would keep you standing, knowing you had a longer lifespan than me and deeper foundations on this land.

V Mountain folk do not fear like valley people. I learnt this only when our guide placed the little shell of baby carseat at the very edge of the air and I stood trying not to send my breath plunging down with my baby, made pomegranate-heart grip granite and pull itself back into my chest from the dark of my stomach. He had a sense of perspective I lacked: it wasn’t sheer just because air was all around it or gave the pleasure of distant vision. But I’m of the valley and in the valley the deep rises up to meet our toes before it washes over our rooftops.

VI We pray for rainfall then watch the waters surge and rush the land away from us.

O Lord, let the rose apple be quenched not ripped by the deluge.

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