Photo Source: PxHere
Before the Storm
cold sprinkles from showerheads
on tired flesh in mute surrender
spray on walls, feet-polished tiles
escape through holes and merge again
in subterranean transit tubes.
approaching clouds of molten pewter
crowd out sun. the jostling bodies
fight for reign in finite sky and
sound their calls on shadowed land.
buildings, silent, stand in wait
in brick and stone and seasoned wood;
blades of brittle grass are forced
into embraces as they break
and float away in final whispering
scratching glides across the ground-
the cooling asphalt rumbles
startles dust back into motion
to resettle where peers took off
there to linger
there to wait.
You walked into a mirror:
your reflection took your hand
and led you through the yielding silver
glass into another world.
None noticed one turn into two.
There was no sound. The traffic roared
in silence past the windowed walls,
the crowds the same. They hurried fast
in rushing droves of muted chatter
eyes to phones or straight ahead
their bodies marching in parade
towards the doors out to the street
The carpet same beneath your feet
the station pillars old with grime
clocks marking time on backwards faces
words meant for inverted gazes
screamed from headlines, advertisements,
names of stores and other places;
None sees two turn into one.
The mirror, firm unyielding glass
that will no longer let you pass
In helpless revenge puppetry
you raise your hand to match the other's
wave. You wink, and laugh and smile
You are your own reflection now.
The day we died, nobody noticed
blood-stained steel wept on tired grass
in inanimate surrender;
said we'd fight to the death
but wounds can cut too deep
kill the spirit, vanquish hope, dampen will.
we passed as cowards in a world ablaze
a haze of fiery technicolour dream
skin stinging with the ice
of absent caresses
forgotten scents calling upon the breeze.
that's how we found heaven
through the eye of hell's storm
nostalgia blinding the pain
in a veil of bliss
till it might not have been there, then
in false memories of the day we died.
But this I remember:
the gold purple sky cascading to black
wild zephyrs stirring grass
billowing robes of slaughtered friends;
the first foreign stars peeking out to see
whispering poetry into the night.
"Not dead," they said. not dead, not dead
the newspapers run no tribute. no funeral
darkens the world, no crying fans line up
with flowers to mourn someone you never knew.
they cover the body. it goes to the flames
as you watch, one hand placed on the glass,
none to meet it.
you remember the time when your two minds
diverged and you saw his smile turn
like a mirror distorted; his body a wreckage
and yours factory-new, and you knew at that moment
that he was not you.
on the screen is a stranger, the memories distant,
diluted. you laugh far too loud at the jokes.
"you're amazing," they say, and fans gush in your face
but his death weighs your heart
and none mourns him with you.
the world lost a great man. you're a crude parody
plastered smiling in magazines, bright on TV
looking just like the treasure you never will be
you revolt yourself
you are meat, thinking you're famous
you cannot bear mirrors,
his family's embraces
you scream in the night
at the loss no one knew
for that science didn't save him;
it only made you.
engine idles, exhaust rising
merging into sepia smog
drifting over freeway
congested with a former fear
beyond the curve of traffic
skyscrapers bend, mid-destruction
lashed with alien limbs
on the radio: foreign tunes
share airtime with catastrophe
sips of peace
stretched to fill
each final second.
Davian Aw is a Singaporean writer and Rhysling Award nominee whose short fiction and poetry have appeared in over 30 publications, including Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, NewMyths.com, Star*Line and Not One of Us. Some of his writing is available at https://davianaw.wordpress.com/