Pale and Cold

By | 1 August 2017

the kayak is pounding at the rough-torn waves as though demanding to come inside, knocking at the troughs and striving to bash down through that open door, the surface of the sea; churning like a crowd, Alisa thinks with her aching shoulders throbbing as the paddle butterflies – like a subway crowd that is pushing in one great narrative but with subplots and rushes and doubts, with minor stories linking and intersecting, and she wonders if her kayak is actually moving forward or if she is caught up in this spitting, shoving crowd; will it drag her down, will it stop her from hauling the burden that trails behind her, this tiny barge stacked with the bones of smooth and sanded driftwood, this floating pyre with a low flame burning at its heart, sending up smoke like a thin scream for help? she had hoped to push it off in the morning, the silty rocks and oysters scratching at her feet, but it was as though the tide was prevaricating, holding its breath as long as it possibly could, and then the wind came up and the waves followed it and the pyre was caught on the coast like its load of grey, abandoned wood, and so Alisa had fetched a rope from the shed and hitched it to the rear of her old yellow kayak; and now she heaves at the water with this swaying raft full of burning branches, and she worries that it will overturn and the coals will be buried in the swells and the wood sent back to its grave, and even though there is no-one lying pale and cold below her load – and she is not entirely sure what loss it is that she is driving out into the ocean – when she looks back at the shoreline, all that she can see is the driftwood she has missed and left behind on the banks, fine and ghostly like strands of stiff lace, and it is clear that for all of her efforts, for all her collecting in the morning, for all her sleepless nights staring at the back of her hands clutched uselessly in front of her, she has brought nothing out here to burn and to sink and to drown.


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