| THE PARTY|
by Laura Solomon The PartyYou have to be dead to be invited to this party.
As is to be expected, all the stars are here.
Janis, Marilyn, Jesus.
There are ordinary people too though.
Kevin Watson who died of a blood clot to the brain
shortly after his 40th birthday.
He’s been resurrected. Now he’s partying in the corner –
he’s put himself in charge of the music
and is playing Nirvana
as Cobain toys with a segment of his blown-off head.
Other run-of-the-mill folk present?
Jimmy Molesworth who hung himself
and is now hitting on Janis Joplin who is oblivious
to the attention, dancing wildly to Come As You Are
a whisky bottle clutched tightly in her right hand.
Jimmy’s still got rope marks around his neck.
There’s Cindy Rutherford who was hit by a car
while simultaneously cycling and listening to her iPod.
Not a good combination. She’s got splinters of glass
from the windscreen embedded in her face.
Marilyn decides to re-stage her death for our general entertainment.
She strips off and swallows a bottle of pills.
Then passes out in the bed. Nobody looks alarmed.
It’s all faked; we can’t die now that we’re dead.
The black telephone rings.
I move to answer it.
Nobody is there.
I can hear the 22nd Century heavy breathing down the line. AwakeningI am waiting patiently for you to awaken.
You are several hours behind
And half a world away.Perhaps it’s not wise
But I do it anyway
For reasons known to my heart
But still veiled from my mind.You say you wait for me
So we are equal
Though I do not like to keep score.A song plays –
“You and I were almost dead”
And I think of my many close calls;
The lightning strikes, the car crash, the surgery to the brain,
To name just a few.Yes, seven of my nine lives have been used up –
I’m down to just two now
So I offer them up to you –
Hoping you will take good care of them.I could now be almost the living dead, zombie, vampire or ghost –
You could walk or see right through me;
See me walk through walls, not needing a door,
A humble boast, a sleek trick, some call it showing off.
Scars and schoolyard beatings haunt your past,
Making me afraid for your future.Wanting it joined to mine.
We could help each other in mysterious ways;
Each manufacture half a skeleton key –
Push open every locked door,
Leaving nothing undone.I could hand you a sewing kit – needle and cotton thread,
You could stitch yourself a new heart –
I could make it beat in two-four time
And we could waltz
Perfect strangers who should know better. Animal InstinctMan or animal?
Well what have we here –
A near perfect stranger getting kicks for free
Every night like some Cobain song while I march along in time,
No doubt just as guilty.I’m old enough to be his mother, there’s something twisted about that,
I ask myself why I continue – nobody has an answer to this question.It’s trauma that makes the story great,
The wider yawns the abyss, the greater shines the glory,
Think of all the medals we could hang upon our walls,
Polished and shining, public display – if you care for that sort of thing.Gloss up your scars until they gleam – then put them up for sale,
There’s a space now where they operated,
Must be my lucky day – my mind plays tricks on me,
Not knowing which door to open,
Behind this one a candy store, behind that, a hard brick wall,
The sands of deception shift and change – as everything dissolves.A limited life span brings everything into focus,
People they care for me,
Well, don’t tell me I’m living beneath my dignity,
As other humans serenade with songs I can no longer hear
All my circuits are cut off.Kiss goodbye to your old way of living,
You too can dwell in cripple’s alley,
Thinking only doomed thoughts,
That back you into a corner, get you up against the wall –
Shrug and kick it off –
Song plays ‘There’s an empty space inside my heart’
The road stretches on ahead of us –
Into something that resembles infinity. GeographyThey were both prisoners of their minds.
“You don’t have to be a solo driver”, she said to him,
Hoping to lighten his heart.
He claimed it had the desired effect –
At least some of the time. Both of them bore battle scars.
Soldiers in the field, they stood shoulder to shoulder,
Facing the same way – a cold wind blew
As they stood staring into the midday sun
Just after that last eclipse. He reassured her fears with his constant words –
And a miniature universe was born. The phone lines between them were clear;
No crackle, no static.
Except for on one occasion
When he was speaking and she could not hear his voice –
Which was disturbing. She admired his tenacity –
He kept on trying to get through. She made a map, and he stuck coloured pins on it,
Markers to mark where they had been,
And also where they were going.
They could not see the edge of the map.He told her he wanted to be a land surveyor
So she sent him a book on topography,
Along with the latest MRI scan of her brain. Together they explored the geography
Of their strange and unexpected new love. Sky BurialI think I would like a sky burial –
No photographs allowed as the vultures take me skywards.I’d have to live in Tibet, get friendly with the locals –
Earn somebody’s respect. Those gigantic birds would circle overhead,
Waiting patiently, then swoop,
My body parts would be swept up in talon and beak –
The easiest way to take to the sky. More practical than cremation
When the ground’s too hard and rocky to dig a grave –
This would be my exit strategy. Instructions can be found in the Tibetan book of the dead
For this ceremony intended to help my spirit move on from
The uncertain plane between life and death into the next life. Who’d want to be hanging around on planet Earth
When you could be digested by greats of the sky,
Something with a decent wingspan
And spend your after death, pre-digestion hours,
Hovering high in mid-air,
Waiting to be born again. Ode To MuttNobody, Laika, captured their imagination like you.
So many arrived before me, honouring you with their words, that I hardly know what to say.
They’re paying me, Laika, to make this speech. I am employed.
The ghost of you must be sick of it by now; the poems, the tales, the odd shrieking song –
The yapping of ten thousand dogs trapped in ten thousand kennels.
So tedious to have become myth, when all you really want is silence, peace.
To quietly orbit the orbiting earth. And what of the other dogs, the ones they passed over, in favour of you?
The mutts that went on to lead full and happy lives;
Salivating, biting, yelping, humping the legs of humans and tables.
Were they envious or grateful? Did they want to take your place?
What did you have anyway, that made you so special?
Nothing. You were doomed to immortality. It was your fate. You were the one.It was as if a part of everybody had been sent into space with you.
You carried our hopes for the future, for what could be achieved.
They wanted to monitor your blood pressure, your heart rate, your breathing
To see how the rest of us would fare, if we followed in your path.
You were their experiment – they wired you up.
They wanted to know how deeply you slept, and if you dreamed. You were a Jesus of a dog. We all knew it. Your harness was your cross.
So? I can hear your shrug in your bark. What about it? You were always nonchalant. There had been others before you; your comrades, Albina and Tsyganka – a few sacrificial mice.
But they were merely suborbital. You burst straight through to the other side
And saw, for a moment, it all; the diamond stars, the distant galaxies, so many glistening moons. The universe pulsed in your veins. Time stalled, spluttered, stopped. You were shot straight out of the cannon of history – fired into eternity. It was the sun that killed you, cooked you alive; fried your fur, charred your bones, scorched your skin.
Your eyeballs sizzled in your skull as your last bitter bark reverberated in space.
And seemed as if it might echo forever. The tender howl of betrayal. No-one knows how long you took to die – the Russians claimed, for years, it was a week
But now, it transpires, you were baked within hours. Could you tell us the exact time, let us know?Laika, friend, enemy, are you out there somewhere –
Your skeleton still in orbit, your dream a universal dream? Only you know the truth and you are gone and can never tell. You have become metaphor. Such is your wish. Still, the curious in our number cannot help but wonder –
If you were here now amongst us and given human voice
What would you have to say? And who would listen? About the Author:Laura Solomon has a 2.1 in English Literature (Victoria University, 1997) and a Masters degree in Computer Science (University of London, 2003).
Her books include Black Light, Nothing Lasting, Alternative Medicine, An Imitation of Life, Instant Messages, Vera Magpie, Hilary and David, In Vitro, The Shingle Bar Sea Monster and Other Stories, University Days, Freda Kahlo’s Cry, Brain Graft, Taking Wainui, Marsha’s Deal and Hell’s Unveiling.
She has won prizes in Bridport, Edwin Morgan, Ware Poets, Willesden Herald, Mere Literary Festival, and Essex Poetry Festival competitions.
She was short-listed for the 2009 Virginia Prize and the 2014 International Rubery Award and won the 2009 Proverse Prize. She has had work accepted in the Edinburgh Review, Orbis and Wasafiri (UK), Takahe and Landfall (NZ). She has judged the Sentinel Quarterly Short Story Competition and the Needle in the Hay competition.
Her play ‘The Dummy Bride’ was part of the 1996 Wellington Fringe Festival and her play ‘Sprout’ was part of the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Solomon is her Wikipedia entry.
http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=Category:Laura_Solomon is her Bookbag entry.
www.laurasolomon.co.nz is her personal website.