house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Fruit and Veg

I buy fruit and veg from a new shop today. Two shops, it turns out: we start with the fruit, on the right. The owner opens his arms wide and welcomes us. Big smile under the Afghan hat.

We don't really need fruit. Perhaps apples. Immediately distracted by something I used to grow in Portugal - beautiful sunny fruit, each growing inside its own leafy glove... what was the name? We're given one to taste and the name bursts into my head: PHYSSALIS! I shout triumphantly.

'Yes, yes', the owner agrees with great enthusiasm, 'GOOSEBERRIES'!


Apples and gooseberries in bag, we proceed next door. We need tomatoes.

Different management, clearly. Two guys wearing skullcaps and long beards, clouded eyes, beyond unfriendly. Disdainful and hostile. One forces himself to answer a question, spits out the price of tomatoes. WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Perhaps I should turn around and leave, but I want tomatoes.

This happens all the time, actually. Lots of friendly people, some good chats, laughs and wonder everywhere, and then these guys with the Attitude; the ones with the narrow foreheads and the scowls, who make you want to get your tomatoes and fly to Thailand for detox.

Tomatoes procured, we're making one more stop, at a gift shop. 'Can you hold the bags for a minute?' I ask Kira. She grabs the bags, I let go. The fruit bag stays in her hand, the tomatoes crash and squash.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Back Path

There's this back path that takes us to the nearest market. It's dusty and narrow, it goes up and down, it winds between piles of rubbish, it's anything-can-happen land. Today, for example:

Someone lit a fire in the rubbish. Having to devour dense and ancient landfill, the fire choked and left behind small puckered mouths that spew black smoke. Relentless this smoke, and stinking, it curls inside the nostrils like toxic treasure...

... sought by the children who squat on the next rubbish heap and sift through. What can they possibly find in this mess to keep, sell, consume? Their faces are closed and clouded...

... like that rodent - between rat and squirrel - that creeps out of a ditch, just behind them. That coarse fur, the pink claws, the pointed face. Cute? Shiver. What are they called? Starts with 's'?... Stoat? Solenodon? Shrew? As we pass it shrinks away...

...from us and from the next path-dweller. A man, relieving himself next to the rubbish. Not that you'd know. He squats with acrobatic poise, every inch of skin covered by his kurta, his head high. Meditation could look like this. The impression that there's nothing else he'd rather do, that in fact he could be doing THIS forever. At least now I know enough NOT to greet him with a merry 'As-salamu Alaikum'...

... as I call out at the checkpoint. Two slabs of concrete, staggered, and a plasterboard booth, guarded by two retired soldiers holding guns. Real guns! I can't get over it, especially when their faces melt into smile as Kira hops and skips along, chirping out some school gossip. The guns are propped against the wall today. One of the guards makes tea behind the booth. The other kneels on a small red mat praying, looking into that unclear distance where gods dwell. He recites in measured, musical tones...

... drowned by a Britney Spears hit from the building site next door. Bwooof-bwooof-tchhh-tchhh-bwoof - goes the rhythm inside my steps, under each brick laid in the wall, behind Kira's bouncing bag, then in the red dust flying from the rooftops...

... where a raven cocks his head, curious, soars down, steps closer...

... only to be scared away by a motorbike. They shouldn't be riding along this path, motorbikes, but they do. Cars would too, if there were enough space to squeeze through. We jump out of the way, breathless and twirled on the spot like spinning tops. Two more dizzy steps...

... and we're there. We've survived the Back Path, now for the Market! ('Start with a smoothie?' Kira quips and Never have I heard a finer idea, Darling Duck!)

Monday, 28 January 2013

Jaws for January

I hate January. January is a two-faced bitch.
Too close to the past, too far from the future
and all that talk about endings and beginnings and
not least, not last,
the high-laced boot
the scent, the snarl
of every war
I'll have to fight
and more.

So I dive back into December
the few days of December
when I still had you:
my shield, my secret sun
my white wizard...
I sit there a while
and hold your hand
and try to unlock
your last smile.
You feed your warm, long memories
to stranded swallows
and empty pigeons...
and they fly before I catch them,
and you fly too
inside a blizzard.

And then this bitch January
Comes and closes the gate.

Where do I go now?
Is it too late?

So full of longing and rage,
so careless am I and light,
so new (that's the spirit in January, right?)

I open my blue jaws
and crunch the harpy
in two.