The memory of you
Pursues me like a Painted Dog,
Tears at my empty stomach
With its wet teeth, it’s wild claws.
And the sea, grey and blue on its torn canvas
Pulls the colours of the landscape into view,
The twisted grass, the thorn trees
Leaning into the red clay
And the paths that run along the sandstone cliffs
Run to you,
To your crooked smile
To your sideways glance
To your absence of being.
And I shall look towards the lighthouse
And pull at the shingle with my tired fingers
And count the clouds in your distant eyes.
The memory of you
Pursues me down dark alleyways of green oak
Through splinters of sunlight
And over the twisted roots of your heart.
And the sea, grey and blue
On its torn canvas
Pulls at my animal soul
With its seaweed fingers.
Let me take you back, back to one of my earliest childhood memories; I’m in the compound picking ripe mangoes from the tree by the fence. I’m on my tiptoes reaching up when I hear the gunfire, it’s rapid and loud and I drop back onto my heels to listen some more. Short bursts then a pause, a large explosion followed by my mother’s panicked voice. She’s on the veranda shouting, waving me in but I can’t move, I’m glued to the red dirt beneath by feet. In the end she has to run out to get me; when I get into the house I see that she has already filled half a suitcase with an assortment of clothes, passports and papers. A minute later she throws both the case and me into the back seat of the Mercedes and we are gone. The front door is still wide open and I watch it swinging gently through the rear window as we speed off towards the highway.
That is my first memory of panic. It’s the first time I can recall that breath-sucking monster, it’s the first time I felt alone and helpless and blinded with fear. They say that smell is the sense most closely linked with memory and I have no doubt that it’s true because whenever I pick up a mango from a market stall or supermarket shelf I can’t help but lift it to my nose and take in it’s cloying odour and suddenly I’m back there in that compound and my head is full of fear.