By | 1 December 2013
The story they tell here says that the river was formed when the god who made everything squeezed it from his wet hair. I want to believe in this but you scoff; you are the builder and I am the dreamer, you remind me. Here beside the river where our reflections part, a little boy sells flowers and a stick of incense. The incense won’t light in the wind, but the flowers you throw into the water drift away like small boats while we watch. Then we walk across the swaying bridge with our fingers unglued to the room where we sleep facing opposite directions. In the morning I wake to the sound of hammers and follow a map down dusty roads wet with spit. I pass a row of mules with satchels on their backs. A man tosses bricks up to the ledge of a gutted building, its insides full of iron poles and stones in crooked piles. At a gravel road where a machine spits cement, I walk uphill to a doctor named after a god who cleans out my gut with ghee. The doctor says that I was born with fire and confidence but warns that I should not be overly confident with men. He tells me to drink from the river for good luck and I do. After the sun sets I walk back to our guesthouse alone and still thirsty. I pass men with flashlights sawing wood and welding metal. They shout words I do not recognise; I move by them slowly as if underwater. At the door of our room I am full of stomach ache, a sickness I cannot cough up. I long for the tool belt that you left behind – tools which do not belong to me. You tell me I am my own doctor, my own builder, my own passage home. It is direction I lack, and my own dreams. I have put all my watery confidence in the god who would show me how to carve out my insides. How to use a pair of pliers to shape the holes. How to snap off the ends that do not belong. How to measure the straightness of a thing. How to knock down old walls. But the hammer is weighty and my grip is thin. My fingers greasy and wet. The key slips before the lock clicks open. Then I lose the map. The last thing that falls is your trowel, its blade the shape of a heart.

I’m in a room of glass. I see hair under glass, eggs under glass, clothes under glass, poems under glass – and then I see tools. Beside the tools are words in a frame. Ronald (Ron) Matthesius has taken great care to describe each tool, telling its story – the distance it has travelled from Brotteröde, former East Germany, and what it’s called. The ‘Jung’, the brand tiler’s trowel, and its function, to ‘guide.’ When I read the last description, I stop breathing: ‘the shape of the blade is like a heart.’ I know that this ‘heart’ has more stories to tell – other functions, other names, other journeys, depending upon who holds it. Here it is, under glass. On it is a reflection of my outstretched hand about to pick it up.

Return to Story Circle: The Transnational Story Hub and the Inspiraciones Literarias, a chapbook curated by Merlinda Bobis.

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