Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stanley Pelter: THE SHORT STRAW

moon glow fails
as a baby grand is played
she spills white oil paint
Able to function without pain in only a few areas, time is contracting inside her. Uncombed white hair stretches for days. Unpleasant smells reach into creased flesh hung loose. She no longer says how hot is day, how cold night, what colour is this enclosing that faded white. No more sprung pollen of youthful lilies or glare of sentient romance. Tainted smiles pass away.

Once she lived with a husband because she sometimes remembers she did. Moved him into her mansion apartment. Minimalist theatre. His design. She mauled it. Alone, her body, bleakly rearranged, decompresses. Mouldering she is posted, unframed, to a Local Authority Care Home where she is helplessly cared for. Here, she is the rubbed short straw but cannot sense it. At least with him, she knew.
hardened asparagus
snaps under cracked fingers
open May blossom
starts to shrivel inside
a cavernous frost
In a side room, standing naked, she is bathed. A cold plastic apron presses against her back. Shaking arms held up one Carer smiles. Another, sometimes wearing a trilby hat, sometimes a mouth mask, soaps pitted arms, ex-breasts, one-time provocative hips, an ancient furrow. Breath heat travels her warped skin map. Unclothed fingers waver. She resets her eyes, reseeds those stone carved words:
ſame perſon is not to have this charity two half years ſucceſſively
Tries to remember if she did. Her Ancient Seer’s eyes pinch closed.
fingers clean up disused earth
that once was summer
now empty of seed
fallow shapes droop
into her deep age

She lives in an apartment with a husband. It is once-upon-a-time. She shuffles to remember. Always she stumbles into reconciling disparate design styles. An eclectic mix of minimalist kitsch, she never buys cheap, never does nasty. Nearly every day she plays a Bosendorfer Baby Grand piano. Nearly every day she writes something. Nearly every day a canvas accumulates either glazes or impasto paint. Every day she bathes in curves of designed light. A husband never smiles at what she does. A husband is never critical.

Now destitute, too ancient to resist, too indifferent to care, she is carried from her faded mansion flat to a distant Council Care Home. Knows it is not home. Here, an upright piano is untamed. In gaudy frames, photographs of amateur still-life paintings cry out to hang straight. She cries about that. Everyday, there is a struggle to straighten just one. Everyday. Everyday, cries a little less.
each night
her face grows linear
she breathes with a stranger
who wears a trilby hat
while his fingers play her
Increasingly, her bones disorder. She is washed standing up. Stained nightdress lifts. Naked, barely inviting, she is helped to a shower-room. This Carer laughs at that who wears a mask that covers mouth, nose, cheeks. Yesterday, it was a trilby hat. A pink flannel is soaped, chest washed in a criss-cross of curves. In a wall breadth mirror, indifferent to her enervated places, she watches twisted flesh, careless flesh, parched flesh, reply. A Carer of bright-lipstick-curves smiles back as white cotton hair is spread open to front a whirring dryer. She watches until…
cockerel crows
her face regards it
with an eye smile
A Carer’s breath warms a cracked surface. Responsive to this flitter of spreading light, she has little choice but to accept a gift that, in some mystery or other, signifies transformation of a kind. At this late stage it is not one she need reciprocate.

Later, with shrivelled pupils, she looks inside my eyes. I, in turn, hypnotize her, try to read between heavily smoked lines, wanting to gauge slippage, diminution. Unfamiliar, it easily misinterprets into something akin to shorthand of each Carer’s intentions. Want to return her to an importance, but it is too complex, too late to transcend suns near completion. At 6 p.m. she asks me to leave. “It is time,” she mumbles into a most minimalist of kitsch smiles while pressing her Gift tight to a concealed breast, “to sleep.”
lemon midnight
moon in a cobweb
reshaped clouds
already drift
into yesterday
by Stanley Pelter
Claypole, Lincolnshire, England

1 comment:

Alan Summers said...

A hard-edged haibun, unsentimental, with a lot of food for thought.

I really liked, but was intrigued by,
"lemon midnight," reminded me of Magritte.

all my best,


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