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Chapter 4, of Ark Noon that is…

and the rain doesn’t lessen and I’m hungry so I stop rowing and try to figure out where I am because I can just make out the hills, the church spire in front of them stabbing out of the water to the east and the little rise in land, it breaking free of water to the south-east where I know the Pennys are and their farm, their island, and my arms ache but I push on east because maybe, maybe now I’m calmer, now my body isn’t burning with everything, with anger or fear or whatever, maybe I should have rowed straight for the Penny’s anyway because dad might’ve gone there too, maybe he got here like me and looked around and saw the mountains in the east and the little rise that’s the Penny’s farm and the drowned stabbing church and realised there was nothing else, that everywhere was the same, just water and the occasional bit of land struggling free, denying the truth that it was drowning slowly, and if mum really was out there then she was out there beneath the water, lost like everything else, everyone else, so I row slowly towards the east because I’m tired now, because the tiredness of the day has hit me and I should be eating the fish I caught and I haven’t eaten a scrap since breakfast and the sun has vanished completely into the water and it’s dark everywhere and the stars are popping into the night sky, breaking free like land can’t and I start to think of Sarah, how it’s been a week since we kissed and I know I should’ve gone back sooner but every time I got close to their farm I turned back, honestly I wanted to see her, to kiss her again, but there was this tight ball of doubt in me, what if I got there and she pretended it had never happened and I’ve relived what did happen over and over in my head every night since, how we were up by the well, we’d managed somehow to get rid of Miles and little Harry at last and Skelly, poor big stupid Skelly, was out setting traps so it was just me and Sarah and we walked up to the well high up behind the farm houses and barn so we were looking down and we could see for miles around their little island, see the water all around their farm and sometimeS on a really clear day you could stand up there and see our cottage and Sarah said you know sometimes, when you’re not here, I come up here and look out to your cottage and wonder what you’re doing, so I went quiet and I remember my lips were dry and she was looking at me with pale eyes, her pale skin, her blonde hair falling over her neck, her hair roughly and unevenly cut by her mum, but it didn’t matter how bad her mum was at cutting her hair, it was still perfect and I kissed her then or she kissed me or both and we stayed there all afternoon, eventually we lay beside the well and I remember my hand was on her thigh and the feel of her underwear but then we heard Skelly coming, we jumped up, laughing I think, and I had to go then, not because I had to be home it was just I wanted to go home and take it all in as I rowed because I’d have time to take it all then but now as I row to the Penny’s it doesn’t matter if Sarah wants to forget it happened, if I believed that then it’d shatter me, break my insides up and I must be day dreaming as I’m rowing, thinking about Sarah even as I push her away, because I don’t see the smoke until my boat touches land, thud, and I’m awake and I see the smoke rising above the Penny’s farm houses, not chimney smoke, there’s a plume of it filling the black sky, billowing grey, and there’s a strange smell like food cooking, like food that’s been left to cook for too long, that’s been burnt, blackened, and when I tie my boat up I don’t want to go up to the farm, I can feel the badness of what’s up there, that nothing is right up there, that it’s far too quiet, and I go up anyway, walk as slowly as I rowed, not because I’m tired even though my legs are heavy and my arms aches but because with every step I know something terrible has happened, that the next step will bring that truth closer and when I see the smouldering shell of what was the Penny’s farm house, the ruins of their barn, blackened timber frames, all of it crumbling, a dead and charred sheep, guts opened, Jack their terrier lying beside the body of little Harry, poor little Harry with his body covered in blood, his guts opened like the sheep, and I can hardly walk now because I’m shaking, it’s like I’m tense and shaking at the same time, like my body might tear itself apart but as I walk there’s no sign of anyone else so I start shouting their names, calling Rick, Lois, Miles, Skelly, Sarah, and I call Sarah’s name more than the rest and I look at the barn and remember her standing there, the sunlight through her dress, but there’s no sunlight now, just the black air, the black sky and this black feeling in me of hopelessness and I know I have to go into the farmhouse because that has to be where they are, where Sarah is, so I stop calling her name and this thought smacks me in the chest then, what if dad was here too, what if he came here this afternoon, what he came to talk to Rick, what if the Wavers I saw did all of this, would there be Sarah and dad waiting for me in the farmhouse, what’s left of them like what’s left of Harry, and I’m sick then, proper sick, vomiting, heaving, and when everything’s gone, when there’s nothing left in my stomach, I fall on to my knees, on to the blackened ground and I’m heaving and crying and as I spew and spit I hear this cough and for a moment, for this tiny moment, I believe that Sarah is okay


About michaeleganpoetry

Liverpool based poet and editor. I have had four pamphlets of poetry published, most recently After Stikklestad (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010). Penned in the Margins published my first collection, Steak & Stations, in 2010.

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