Enlil & Ninhursaga

Stung eyes watch four red balloons retreat across the sky, flashing off a stray ray of light, hiding out of reach behind the pane. Effervescing, rapidly: xylophone voices float up from the street. Each strained screech fights for dominance as they rise into the anonymous atmosphere and discordantly harmonise with the traditional wailing siren. Thrown together they entwine like rising smoke, and dance over the rooftops out of view.

Heavy, lying structures cut the brick blocks up, creating rivulets, standing stoically, imposing order for idle wanderers: the city drags itself back from the sea.

A stern man’s voice ricochets around the children’s, hesitating with uncertain fear, drawing them along. Suppose he sees another man, with a look he reluctantly recognises. Perhaps a flaccid wool hat lies hung on a railing, small enough to unnerve contaminated eyes.

Here is the city.

Pitter patter pinches the pavement, pirouetting back into itself indefinitely. The voices dim, and then drown. Fading red brick, punctuated by warped, doubled, self-reflective, windows. Standing firm: their faces turned to the sea. As glitter catches the eye in separate and random stabs, warm yellow holes begin to punctuate the undulating grid of blocks, catching here, and there, a flash, an eye.  Faces lean flat with windows, back against the rain, leaning back, back to the sea.

Here is the light.

Cold rain on plastic wrappers clinks like knives on forks. Gaudy, useless, wrappers drift, blown by furies, guided by bricks; searching for dark corners. Somewhere to sleep. First we hide our waste, then we build a maze, and it hides itself. Discarded, empty, packets can’t see the levels, the intuitive rules, but try earnestly in self-aware isolation.
Fury stomps through the grid, wreaking havoc where it is allotted: she marks her domain by default. All voices are drowned out in the rain, the storm, the children’s babble silenced. Why fear the rain, the storm. I blame the rain for the city, for my fear: sustaining itself and making me this way.

Here is the city; here comes the rain.

Here comes the rain; here is the city.

Here am I.

My warped window gives no yellow glow. Just out of life’s focus. Layers stand insolently between the rain and I, stemming us as we flow, creating new routes out of old restrictions; new points at which to divide ourselves and spread. To each drop its path; spreading out, drawing in. They pool at street level, and run towards the retreating sea.

No longer am I another child floating on a babbling balloon.

I am still spread across the pane, across the city. Nerves trace their paths over the cold, transparent surface: Nerves trace their path under the cold, translucent city.

Today, I have no excuse.

In the city is reflected my bed, running red. Half in front, half behind.

The rules and levels are clearer, while my head feels muggy.

Here comes the rain; here is the city.

Here am I.

Published originally in the Small World Anthology by Brighton Literature Society


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