is the production editor of Fuselit.
He has had work previously published in various journals and magazines including The Wolf, Nth Position, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Bizarre magazine. He lives in Jack the Ripper country and shares a personal website with Kirsten Irving.
—Back to Orsorum Contents/Issue Links—
who drop from high ledges
of sky, who came here with me from the arid
and geometric cliffs of English towns,
rake the sand with your half-shadows,
The sand is like flour, Anya says.
In my bronze feet,
I walk just to the aubergine bushes
outside the cabin. It’s like walking
on an Aga. For God’s sake, Anya, it’s fireflour.
But swifts, salvo of swift,
Countrymen’s devil birds who tie the wind
in reef-knots, evade my eye,
look back with me—I dread to even
think I learned a lesson today,
and I feel like talking serious,
so I order rum in a coconut,
as it does the same thing.
Higher, then—higher, swifts,
flickering swifts of violet dusk,
higher, tighter wheels—from circumference
of pupil, to circumference
of star. Out of my way, and sleep,
in the hands of warm air.
A power cut all up the beach
drives us inside to make a rough ouija board
and the spirit
of a dead Tanzanian
tells us things we know already.
We found ourselves talking to a tea-black priest,
who himself talked to God,
on the way back to Addis. We were the only white
people on the bus. His sweat shined, and his teeth
were the colour of a space shuttle—or, in terms of food,
lightly cooked chicken. He held his hands
like you might hold someone else’s dismembered hands
if you were pretending they were yours—not like a priest
at all—and he suggested that we meet for food
back at our hotel. We quizzed him about God
when the army stopped the bus. He bared his teeth
as we tried to catch him out. So. Damned. White.
White as a row of Somme graves, white
as white china. The soldiers, rifles hot in their hands,
rooted for contraband. Their teeth
were yellow. Soon you and I and the priest
were under way. Soon after that, back in Addis, thank God.
We hadn’t even had a chance to get any food,
however, when he turned up again. Just in time for food,
in fact. Chigger yellem. Down we went, got a table. Two white
guys and a strikingly tall man of God,
getting a meal together, eating with our hands
from shared dishes. We ate, and the priest
said nothing. I kept staring at his teeth
though—his cauliflower/cocaine teeth.
Suddenly, he was forcing a purse of food
against my tongue. A custom. I played along. The priest
smiled, and then we all did it. White
hands at black lips, black hands
at white lips, four times each. But God,
I wish my companion had clued me in. No god-
damn warning—just his whorls at my teeth,
this stranger with his oddly held hands,
assailing my mouth with food.
I wonder if it is because his own teeth are so white,
or simply the matter of his being a priest
which gets to me. Damned priest, digging up a god
I hoped buried. How dare you touch my not-white teeth,
and my food, as if blessing them with your excavating hands.