Once, about the time you start to notice trees
and he found out his wife was not his wife
in any sense but name, Elijah took the dog,
two apples from the sideboard, and went out.
Not long afterwards, he came upon an old friend
bent beneath the bonnet of his car, cursing
every sprocket of combustion engines. What
do you suppose the point is? asked Elijah.
And the friend replied, I have to be there.
Throw your spanners down and come with me,
Elijah said. And so the friend did. And his name
was Tomos, after whom he never thought to ask.
And Elijah was amazed. Next there was a daughter
which, close up, they didn’t know. But Tomos said
she looked a lot like his girl would’ve had she lived.
He split one apple threeways, and the girl laughed.
And her laugh was as a pocketful of loose change,
as the moment when you down your pint and dance.
Her name was Manon. She was heading to the clinic.
Then she got her mobile phone out. Mam? she said.
So from there they went north, telling stories. Till
they came upon a farmer, bitter drunk, for all his fields
had failed. They listened, picking fruit seeds from their teeth,
and where those fell sprang cider-presses, booming.
Soon a crowd came out to see what had been happening.
I killed a man, said one man, looking thin. Shit happens,
said Elijah. Sell your house, give all the money to his folks
and walk with us. The man did. He gave nobody his name.
Meanwhile the crowds grew till there wasn’t room
to slide a slice of toast between them. Tomos asked,
what’s this about then? And Elijah said, just as you
left your hurtful car to walk with me, so this lot feel.
Look at the rhododendrons! They don’t give a toss
about the funding cuts, the polar bears. They do
their own thing. Throw your keys into that hedge,
ignore the cameras. Be your own true kicking self.
So Tomos did. He was a simple man, and able
to draw truth like tears from anyone. Elijah said,
you know the way that pressure-regulating valves
secure the rear-brake lines for heavy braking?
Tomos nodded. Well, Elijah said, you see, that’s you.
At this the grief beat out like crows, and Tomos felt
a hatching, in the space, of light. Elijah felt it too. And
where they left a third, unheard-of apple, grew a hamlet,
grew a village, grew a town, where people started over hope
fuller than all the Born Again Virgins of America.
These are the words of Manon, set down with the baby
on her knee. Elijah Tomos, he’ll be. All this happened.
From Catulla, Bloodaxe, 2011. For a review of this book, click here.