The air smells of fish and old men, cigars in a moist wooden room, the greenery that waves underwater.
Children ride on this air, their hair short and uneven, behind them the tired masses of mothers and wives, starting, finishing, bolstering those who have come before, submerged in the dark which stretches around the world.
Our dead lie here, in wait, stumbled from ships and wharfs, travelling miles and miles under they are left to only float past me when the tide returns. They’ve been there, they’ve seen.
We breathe and drink them all. They are, after all, just us.
I think while I walk, while one foot follows the other, my jeans pulling and heaving against the clammy air. I stare at the stars on clear nights, transfixed and slightly in love with the forever above me. I’d name them if I could, but satisfy myself with wonder and belief and that childhood fantasy that somewhere, someone else is staring at our star with a winsome, irresistible belief that someone is out there. That their planet, their worries, their griefs, are never lonesome.
Staring at that dark sky, obscured by urban light and smoke, I always become filled with what I can only identify as heady, blissful divinity. A world, a universe, a life filled with such mystery, beauty and wonder. A life, blessed with the ability to find, to learn, to touch and taste. How can we ever stray, ever feel doubt with such magic hanging above us?
I walk further, and I know the answer. The moon crying through trees, the heavy whisper of early summer slipping through the leaves, and I can feel my mother. She never truly leaves me, her voice in my ears, distracting me from that wonder, her life, and death, harboured inside of me, deep down, burning. She is the doubt.
She is the doubt that floats on that moist air, the scent of life and death, co-mingled until we can barely tell the difference. But she had memories, and eyes that saw the vastness of our past. Staring into the new green of these trees, I see the children, the missing sons and daughters left behind, or started forward. Perhaps they sit, kitty corner to the nearest star, waiting, growing as we mourn their loss. But their eyes never saw the great question, so I think of them as waiting for their mothers, and fathers, in that great beyond, dancing with a red dwarf, their hands still soft and clean.
I can’t help but think of them all, motes now, as the grass and the leaves and the strawberries grow, as the sky grows clear and the tide sweetened air fills my lungs. I can’t help but think that while they’re all dancing in the stars, I’m watching the trees sway in moonlight, and the air is tentative and kind like a first lover.
I can’t help but think of them all in the stark white of the moon, and where they’ve been. They float on, adrift on a sea of time, unravelling slowly as years drift by.
They touch us, they touch the skies, they touch the stars. Patiently, they become part of that wonder. Head in hands, chin poised on fingers, they wait.
I come home, sit here, writing this very piece. On my chest, a 4 month old kitten fidgets and purrs her way through the night.
Wonder and beauty, life and death are all very well. But they can never overtake the purring of a new cat.