While Songbirds Wept

We are alone. We are alone to the point

of drunkenness with our own aloneness,

with the occasional rainbow visiting.

Mahmoud Darwish, ‘Ramallah’.

I knew a man who tried to burrow into a woman’s skin and make of her a shelter.

A slow brewing storm he was, carrying behind him a love that only took.

I met her after the sky drained out of her eyes. If you listened you could hear the wail that sat curdled in her throat.

She was a collector: she kept all that was broken in him. When she moved, glass rattled in her bones.

Her body was a temple of sadness and you caught glimpses of how well she preserved it: her catalogue of loss.

She said to me once:

“They took out my heart, placed it on a chopping block and beat it with a mallet.”

Maybe I imagined it.

Art: Mohau Modisakeng

Hers was a dark, turbulent silence; he was the story teller. That is why she loved him: how his stories animated him, blew him up, expanded him so when he told them all she wanted was to inhabit his fairytales.

It seemed half her love was spent healing from him. I found her wielding a large mop: a head of abandoned dreams soaking up sadness from the floors and walls. Even then the stains remained, glowing in the dark.

I knew very little about him except what he made her laughter into: a sound you would pocket. And I wondered if a man who could turn laughter into a release of doves wasn’t worth the cost that his love carried.

She loved him how she knew how: eyes glazed, heart on a paper towel, waving from a clouded-over window.

Maybe he loved her too, perhaps he just thought he did. I was never really sure.

I wanted to ask if she would not trade it in for an easier love, but her eyes were always looking elsewhere, awaiting his return.

Eventually, I didn’t ask.

“A love like ours,” she seemed to say, “doesn’t wane. It throbs, it pulsates, it spills over and colours the air. Where can I walk and not trip over pieces of him scattered on this lonely planet?”

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