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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Els van Leeuwen


It’s a local café, late on a Sunday morning. Our backs are drinking the warmth of the sun, as we spread our lives out before us on the table, pointing out the beauty and also the places where it hurts. We nod and confer. The things that have kept us awake and alone in the watches seem to cohere into a greater narrative. It seems to help. In conspiratorial tones, we take turns admitting that we have been praying lately, though we can’t be sure we mean the same thing. We sip some more coffee. He is readily distracted by the physiques of passers-by: now a pale, muscular man with tattooed arms; now a woman with broad swaying hips. Then comes one with an uncertain tangent, who appears to be veering towards us. Her clothes are baggy, and her lips hang loosely from a doughy complexion. She leans over our conversation and mumbles a request for money. I have covered my phone with my hand on the table. I feel the ugliness of my gesture, as my friend searches the contents of his pocket for an appropriate response. He flourishes a 50 cent piece, but she asks for the fiver she saw in his hand. ‘Nah mate,’ he says, ‘that’s for me’. It is at this moment that I notice my friend has three hairs on the tip of his nose. With the urge of the grooming monkey, I think of tweezers, and smile, as I commend him for a generosity with borders, and squash down my shame.

suburban morning
the fall of light and shade
on stone angels