DAVID R MORGAN - A COLLECTION
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THE MERMAID’S SONG
He felt her hand on his shoulder, and when he placed his fingers over hers, he found her to be warm. Not cold at all.
I want to make the night short for you.
I want to take the knife to long hours.
Beyond the cresting waves, moving in the swell of the approaching ocean, light glinted off jeweled scales. “We were fish then, and I doubt our brains were developed enough to actually think, in the true Cartesian sense, of course.”
I want to poach you from the water,
where you float waiting for the dawn.
“We were just acting on instinct, thrusting ourselves out of the water and onto dry land. How difficult those first years must have been: learning how to walk, learning how to breathe, learning how to eat the desiccated food grown in the dead earth. How different that all must have been from being submerged in water.”
I will praise you with the tip of my tongue
and with my fingertips raise your glowing tail.
“I think we crawled from the sea because we wanted to touch Heaven. To become angels. We learned how to breathe air and stand upright because the sky was so far from the water. How else were we going to reach it?” He softly stroked her naked skin and scales; wandered into her wetness. “When we gave up scales and gills, we left other aspects of ourselves behind as well—empathy and kindness, possibly. Maybe that is why we forgot to grow wings. Why we forgot so many things.” Hidden in the hollows of the ocean’s roar, he heard the distant sound of her mermaid sisters singing, each to each.
As daybreaks through the sky,
I will leave you, only long enough to turn back the tide.
When the medical examiner opened the corpse’s chest, he found the body cavity filled with sea water. Two small sea turtles, their shells still soft like the fingernails of a baby, were floating in the briny solution. The lungs were stuffed with starfish, and a squid, coloured a pale maroon, was wrapped around the heart.
THE PROMISED ONE
There is a tang of disinfectant over leaves where you have settled, turning your body to the impossible sand. Molecules of air like mice come nibbling at your pores.
Now, you laugh as the hermit crabs drag their heavy shells through the shallows; you pick up smooth stones the waves wash ashore. We can tell you like this new place.
Do you remember the rocks that crashed through the stained glass windows just before we left? Or how you cut your feet on the razor sharp shards? Perhaps you don’t recall how angry everyone was, how they gathered around our sanctuary and demanded we give you to them. That’s why we had to find a new place. We would do whatever we had to, because we’d promised each other we would not lose you, our so very special girl.
You will do great things someday. Doors will open for you that are not open for anyone else. Maybe you will rediscover magic, or find the cure for death. Everything struggles to find you, Promised One, just like the salt spray, the silver fish that crowd around you in the water, and the smiles that fall upon you from every face you pass under in this new land.
Molecules of air like mice come nibbling at your pores. They whisper inside seeds where shadows are and know the universe, which struggles to be free,
ends with the breaking of a single law.
HE HATES THE FISH
He hates the fish I cook.
I sweep up the pieces of his plate. I bandage his knuckles, which is hard with these claws I have. My mother used to cry in her dark room, sobs that sounded like shattering glass. I stand at the windows in his lab, and I wish for light, and I wish for air. But we live at the bottom of the ocean. Fish out of water.
My father spent years building his Miraculous Machine. Three meters tall, it sits in the corner like a big, beautiful psycho-path, like the promise of a dreadful snow white Christmas, like a guarantee that keeps your fingers crossed behind your back where no one will see, because hoping that way leaves you vulnerable.
Our dome is at the bottom of the ocean. Do you know how much water weighs? On all sides of us, endless pressure. My mother was abducted from the surface in order to love me, but you never acquiesce to demands like that.
My father built me, brick by genetic brick. I am a seahorse, a lion, a darting mouse, a monkey. I don’t know where he got the wings. Because he built me, he is my father. Because he built me, I belong entirely to him.
After we ate my mother, who never thought the Miraculous Machine was a good idea, he said, She never supported my dreams. He said, We didn’t need her, anyway.
And now he is asking me to pull the lever of the Miraculous Machine, he says This is all for you. He wraps his fingers around my claws, and his muscles bunch, and there it is.
A flash like an immense darting fish finding sunlight for the first time.
Sucked in by such terrible splendor, he says:
You see, we didn’t need the world, anyway.
Together we implode into infinity
with everything else.
Then… perfect …
ART FOR ART’S SAKE
Mona Lisa waged war against the curators of Musée du Louvre. They never saw her coming. She was the speck of dust tightrope-walking through the air, the rain left standing in pools by the entrance on rainy days. Mona Lisa began to pull the museum apart like a Jenga tower, piece by piece. She did not believe in museums.
On Monday, Mona Lisa slid through the Galleries with no shoes on, slick as an eel. The eyes of the paintings watched her go. They had too many eyes, and too many fingers and toes, their skins shallow water, as if you could reach in and touch their bones. The painted ladies gazed at Mona Lisa from behind their layers of paint. They had sad tongues under their wet pink smiles, and their hands ached, they ached. Mona Lisa lay on the floor of the Mezzanine Gallery of the Musée du Louvre reading aloud from a book of poetry, and then she cried until all the words ran together. The painted ladies could only smile. Their eyes were coat-hooks for bad weather.
If you had a map of the museum, it would look like a map of your own heart. It would have valves and ventricles. You could not navigate it alone.
Wind tugged Mona Lisa close. Her breath made white filigrees in the air. This early in the morning the Musée du Louvre looked like a black face, with fluted columns for teeth and a wicked smile. Its heart beat faster to feel her coming. Mona Lisa stepped into the museum’s open mouth.
She walked the empty galleries barefoot with her thin white knife, splitting canvas like meat until her hands dripped paint. The painted ladies walked out of their paintings. They smelled of oranges and star anise. Their smiles had teeth now. One by one the painted ladies brushed past Mona Lisa, blessing her with their papery hands at her throat, her forehead. Loretta’s knife cracked marble and plaster from the sculptures until the sculptures slid out. They had soft white bodies, like uncooked dough. She thought of her friend, of what might sit underneath her skin.
The rooms disappeared behind her, cut by cut, until Mona Lisa stood in front of Mona Lisa in the Musée du Louvre, with the black window beside them. Mona Lisa studied Mona Lisa for a long time. She raised her knife. The sun rose over the Seine.
All day long, rich eighteenth-century women walked among the crowds on The Boulevard Saint-Germain, their long dresses whipping, with crumbs of ice in their eyes like Kay in the fairy tale. Abstracts with dripping features rode the train line up and down. In the storm they shuffled like playing cards. They held court over the city. Somewhere along the Left Bank, Eurydice walked into the Lethe beside shopping trolleys and empty bottles, her eyes a mirror of green water and light. Weeds rolled over her.
Mona Lisa stayed out in the bad weather until her arms became teardrops, her legs stuck in quicksand. She drank pocketfuls of storm. Her teeth were lighthouses to capture ships against the rocks. Mona Lisa left deserts behind. Her hands filled up with rain, filled up with storm, the storm Paris was built of, all the dreams and cobblestones, tourists and junkies and graffiti and litter and rain. Somewhere in the Musée du Louvre Mona Lisa drowned, her secret smile floating free.
I’m an English teacher in Luton and let me tell you this; ghosts are everywhere.
Some ghosts, low on energy, emit a small flicker, the click of a lighter that sparks but doesn’t fire.
Others, a bit larger, can drift from the end of a switched on MP4 player or hitch-hike on the roof of a car.
Sometimes the fields of things break loose, turn ghostly on us.
But remember, the size of ghosts is not proportional to the space they occupied in a previous existence:
some ants drag around spirits the size of houses and an elephant’s spectre can ride upon a falling snowflake.
One phantom rises from my Christmas fire and dances on the tips of the flames, a ballerina trying on red slippers
in a hopeless search for the perfect fit.
Her story, if you draw close enough to listen, is sadder than anything in Hans Christian Andersen. It always brings red tears to my eyes.
Since energy is never lost, only converted, do the big ghosts eventually swallow the little?
Perhaps, enlarged to the size of her spirit, the little match girl is matchless in another other place.
This is no joke — ghosts are real — as real as politics.
I saw one under a microscope in the science block.
The Science teacher said “Protozoa” and it vanished as if a counter-spell had been cast.
To Kiss a frog
Don't be afraid Princess,
your aging body has its own splendour
and I would give my youth to you
if my virtuousness did not frighten you,
or if you would take my kisses like grapes
to quench your thirst.
But your eyes are alarmed,
staring at my green, open-handed fruit
bubbled with the cool sweat of this elfin stream,
cupped in the skin I hold out to you.
Weary at the bar in the pub
in Stratford the Scientist
"What am I doing wrong?
I wanted to make
I gave them perfect rhyme,
clear memories of great
aesthetic theory and
polished skill at intricate
All they write is crap,
unworthy of a Hallmark
He drank deep from his
They lined up in the
Skycar bays, rhyme without
reason. "Help me?''
The out of work poet
tapped the bar.
''Listen,'' he said, " I'll need
a hammer, Some magnets, a
dust, and a knife. '' These
being provided the out of
set to work in the Skycar
He cast magnets among the
robots pocking perfect
with potholes as verse
became a stay against loss.
He hit them with the
hammer, some here, and
All dented, all different. He
scattered dust upon their
dribbled it in their joints.
So they all saw the world
and walked with personal
but knew neither any
Their hymns rose up
aching, moving, and
They were very good,
the Scientist was impressed.
He said, ''But what about
''Watch'' smiled the poet,
moving towards him.
''My work is almost...
GHOSTS DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT
Ghosts dancing in the moonlight as the moon
holds its breath.
Sad ghosts. Horny ghosts.
Bone weary, grief dancing ghosts, whilst
their families sleep aboard this injured world.
Ghosts, whose spouses
turn at night to the wall weeping, who
have sired grown up sons and daughters
whose memories turn to them, like
little hurt children with outstretched arms.
Fields of ghosts swaying like flowers.
They will sway this way forever, until
the Earth is healed …
the Moon exhales.
A FAULT IN STEPHEN HAWKINGS’S VOICE BOX
Laughing pierces the durable
and is itself
you will meditate
to make the little spin
we feel within a certainty
the pivot comes loose
we quick behind the glaze
you will be The Astronaut
and at the center
like a crystal fist
we discovered the gland
inventing the universe
© DavidRMorgan 2011