• Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton

 

i.

The house is floating, and the rooms are breathing. It’s no magic carpet, yet the motion travels across cities’ perimeters and wild borderlands. Cries penetrate the walls and the noise from a savanna is close. Words are like streamers at a child’s birthday. The house’s superstructure is made of them too, pushing ideas this way and that so that nothing settles — the house is still being made, flying as it is, skimming treetops. A child’s voice is piquant, as if it might be tasted. A coastal landscape shows dunes and a swimming girl. Water swallows her arms at each stroke; she looks flimsy in the huge wash. We see this from the house and already she’s a string of sentences — as salt splashes lips her gut-wrenching effort drops the words onto sand. Vistas estrange small rooms. 

 

ii.

The compass’s four points itch her hand — as if the breeze demands a raft or skiff; as if the world’s hazy perimeter twitch fingers. She’d sail towards red horizons, skirt the sucking coil at the heart of the ocean, find what’s improbable. Throw of rope, riddled lardons, jars of grain. Pack them carefully and tightly. Set the letter down.

 

iii.

In old movies, police draw chalk lines around bodies, or use tape to outline their shape. She remembers how, at primary school, her profile was traced in shadow; her ponytail making a unicorn’s horn against the light. He traces the curve of her ear, soft pads trailing her neck in a question mark. They sit in a windowless room waiting for her name to be called. Their silhouettes merge under fluorescent lights.

 

iv.

He parks the car and takes her to the edge of the water. His arm is a shrug that follows the line of her shoulders. She can’t see water meeting the embankment, just blue and red lights reaching across the lake; a reflection’s shiver. He thinks about explaining, but his words float away in those unstable lights. He sees four other lakes and a former lover standing at the edge of evening. She puts her arm on his shoulder. She’s arrived from nowhere and will vanish again, taken up by her family. For now, she leans her head close and wisps of her hair catch in his mouth, tasting of elsewhere. 

 

v.

He walks around her and, during every circuit, admires her more. He flexes his hands that made her and knows she stands beyond his art, like a smile enlivening shadows of a room. He runs a finger on her lips and surely she speaks — a murmuration. He stands back and waits and she simply put one foot forwards, in contrapposto. At that moment her beauty is a slash of desire beneath his ribs. He gazes at what is alien and intimate and does not know her.