ZW12 – Third Place and Best Poem

Almost Red

Neil Murphy

For the poet’s original layout see the print edition of ZineWest 2012

He is he is he is having trouble with the orange. It will not open up.
He could not taste sweet citrus.
He could not press into juicy flesh.
He could not pry open its tough shiny skin covered in small dimples.

Tries another knife. It, too, quivers in hand.
Trembles with downward pressure: the blade’s sharp edge,
the sturdy black handle, the phalanges of the hand, the carpals.
He grips on with two hands.
His shoulders shake, his back bends

he is having trouble with the orange. It will not open up.

His mother: it had been her hoarse words that had him driving home at three in the morning. She had won a fruit tray.
The blackness was quiet. The phone was a cold slap that stung his cheek.
She had had a dream in which his limbs were like paper clips, and she insisted he collect the fruit at once.

At once.
The motorway was deserted; shards of white light fell upon the road and it seemed unnatural to pass through the slow and deliberate movement of early morning in such haste.
A fox stopped by the side of the road.

He picks up the meat carver, touches the blender, eyes off George Foreman.
The grater, the corkscrew.
There is something pointy in the second drawer of his mother’s kitchen.

When he had entered the house, his mother was standing in her bedroom doorway. She was scratching the crown of her head, flattening unruly hair. ‘Is everything alright?’ she had asked, as if it was him who had wok
he nodded.
Her eyelids were heavy and swollen and he found himself padding the soft skin under his own eyes. She turned and went back to bed.

She is asleep.
The kitchen sink is empty. The fridge mumbles in a dim corner.
Tucked away in drawers and cupboards are weathered memories.
It is 4:43. The small light above the stove barely reaches the cupboard with no handle.
Contorted shadows dance around him.
He tries another knife.

In the garage there is an axe.
A bench saw, a grinder, a lawnmower a possum watches him carefully from the neighbour’s fence. The fluorescent tube flickers in no particular pattern is like a blinking eye, reveals hanging dust particles in the air. He picks up the sledgehammer, looks at the chainsaw
another flicker of darkness.
It will not open up.
It will not open up.

The street has speed humps now.
Where there was once a mulberry tree is now a parking
Where there was once a stripped car is now a cement mixer.
He used to jump that fence to cut in to the park, would balance along the water pipes littered with old porn mags and discarded clothing that no one ever came to collect.

Where are his shoes?

He squeezes the orange
in his pocket, notes the firmness between his fingers, the small indent where it once belonged to a tree.
The crisp edges of grass scratch between his toes.

The truck’s lights are bright, quells the blackness and uncovers disturbing urges ousted to darkened hours.
A dead cat in the gutter; another cat stoops over the twisted body and feeds off its flesh.
The lights disperse and blackness, the blackness
is even in the dark he cannot seem to shake the gritty and demoralising demeanour of Dog Trap Road.
Where bushrangers once prowled there are now developers.
In the dark, the formidable impression forged in childhood clings to his clothes like old smoke.

He is he is he is having trouble with the orange.

Bends over slightly to roll the orange into the middle of the road. It stops perfectly still in the centre lane.
The truck’s lights are bright; rushes by with such speed that
it is almost unnatural, pushes aside calm shades of darkness so that the orange rolls back towards him.
Comes to a standstill next to broken beer bottles.
It will not open up.

Bends over to pick up the orange.
Its skin is tough and shiny.
The truck’s lights are bright.
Burns his skin with prickly heat.
Burns like burns is like morning creeps up on night and there is a dead bat hanging from the powerlines. Like sunrise exposing anguished and feral bodies still wrestling with dreamings from the night before.
The truck’s lights are bright; burns his skin.
He goes to move but it is 5:22 and early morning has sped up, crashes into him with such vicious force that the world spins around two or three times before he lands face down on the cold concrete opening up opening up and everything inside is spilling out.*

the blackness is quiet
pry open its tough shiny skin.

*Fuck! I don’t I don’t I don’t understand!



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