Celeste – Jess Worsdale


There is an emptying. Moon by moon they crack from hatches, mutate into puckered tentacles of faces, upturned, awaiting the fever-clutch of mother country’s helicoptered wings. Their mouths purse spit-shined eggs of colonising vowels, and gripping oblonged chattels they are loud, certain that no, their hourglass of sanded time will not run dry here. Heat-stained backs of sea-legs stripe defiantly at yellow black flag and they are gone, whisked upwards into medical embrace. My treasoned lips beg them to take you. My grasping heart croons stay, stay, stay.

We are two of many. Along the line where salt sky fuse, we curl in allocated cubes of space and, feeling absence, we learn to spark the warmth of mother love. We speak with words that hold proverbs, proverbs that hold stories, and these stories fill our children as they dream. Our whispers stitch a sweep of stars. Peppermint on hammered copper, whorled fingers stroked through baharat, plunged in coal-puffed dough. Salt-streaked we conjure lives in lands that will no longer have us. The bloody citrus sting of unrequited love.

You cannot know this. You skip split-giggled from bow to stern and count cabins (daubed cross, sealed shut) until you run out of numbers. You make a xylophone of pipes and scream delight in clang, clang, clang. I will not shush you. You make me sing. In silent galleys we throw wild storms of flour and I clasp your chubby pinkies to plough stainless steel drifts. I show you how to write your name, again, again, and we leave that place finger-scribed with memories of you. You scotch and hop, send frilled socks flutter, and it’s then I see the sherbet rash that’s fizzing up your legs.

I have been cleaved in two so many times. A fist of crimson pushes, heartwrench. The sixth, they carved you out of me. You are the first and last. This will be a new kind of ripping. Once I tallied each wisped curl and now they tumble over queasy skin as, heavy, you return to my tendons, my bones. At the vast blue hush of the last horizon, I find a different kind of vaulted dome that will not trap my prayers. Palm to palm we watch the skies wane. Full, half, crescent, new.