Genevieve Hughes 2013

Tent City, North Run

The Dream Gallery

The Inevitable 

Doomed mountains

on the sunlit run,

as the black day fades

and the white night comes

into your cotton sheet homestead,

people stare but nobody sees,

the day is black, the moon is tired,

and dreams of hope lie somewhere else.

The city stretches far and wide,

going east and going west,

as does your miserable sun.

Perhaps among you words have spread

of water, places far unknown.

Blood and tears run rivers

down a dirty beggar street.

A stranger who comes in and out

bombarded with a one –eyed little girl.

No solid houses, nomadic race

the only world you know is this.

The cotton roof, the cotton walls

the wooden frame that holds it there.

The sunlit plain no longer lies

A flattened land of desert sun,

instead the doomed mountains bloom

 cotton homes, the mad North run.

Walking down the pathway

anonymity is your burden.

Stealing glances at passers by

who seem uninterested in you.

But secretly, when you aren’t looking

They glance at your softened face

your wild expression

your unorthodox beauty.

Pictures forming in your mind

making memoirs of the present

even though you don’t care.

 

And suddenly the road runs out

a fork in the road, a steep cliff edge

Will you jump?

Will you follow?

Screaming, piercing tears

Cannot change your mind.

And then as if by magic.

You find yourself right here

in the dream gallery.

You realise there’s too much

to leave behind.

 

 

Profound Combinations

Power is the measure of a monarch.

How they are tested,

and how they can fall to ruin.

It is their face,

their hand when they bring it down

upon their godly throne.

For they are the chosen ones.

But inside where only God dwells

there is another face,

a face which sees things great and terrible

and while their power increases

their faith unravels.

Until a once great nation writhes

in devastation and chaos.

Tyranny runs in the form of a king

and the world goes black.

 

 

.​

Even

We used to walk down roads of sunlit rooftops and high homes. Streets where silence was golden and grass was there to be walked all over. Trees were kind at hiding one’s fears and the night was there to close in and take the fear to a place far more treacherous. To make one realise that life was never bad in the day and terrifyingly painful when blackness did prevail.

Out of this din walked Even.

They said they wanted to correct it.

Walking past the world,

being part and parted from it

Being set aside

and used only for other’s needs

To find a place

that feels right enough,

to let the world in.

Mix the world with colour and wit

Let it sink in

Let it fly and glow

With all the pictures in these memories,

all these things when you are alone

don’t let them put it in a box

They may never –

Some never see what you see.

These profound combinations…

You and this universe

are a profound combination.

Zero

1. The Possibility that a Careless Decision had been made

 

Maybe the Cables had presented themselves to us but now they were growing old.

They stretched from North Cliff out past the ravine and far off past those strange looking peaks. Nobody knew who had built them though Doctor Martel insisted that the Donor had. Except the Donor only ever showed himself on Sunday mornings.

The Cables are our livelihood. The Donor shows us people making a living by growing crops and taming strange beasts but up here in Zero the hills are barren and the soil, dead.

Every month on North Cliff on the last Sunday at dawn we hike to the Cables and collect the food and supplies that are sent in the big green packages wrapped in plastic.

Every so often words are printed on the plastic.

CAUTION: FRAGILE CONTENTS
We all know this is the name of where we live, why else would they print it on the packages? But Zero has stuck.

Wonderful things are sent. It is a happy day. Afterwards everyone goes to the hall and weeps with joy though Doctor Martel makes sure we all thank the Donor for his generosity.

The ritual is simple. All the packages are carried to the hall. They are all placed in front of the TV.

And then we wait. Such a happy day.

 

2. The Donor

 

We have one TV and it lives inside the hall. Lives you could say - most of the time it just makes noises but now and again the screen clears and the Donor sends us a message from the other end of the Cable. The Donor is a strange looking man who wears a grey suit and never has any facial hair. He sits at a table and talks to us and he has a colourful screen behind him. It is more of a one-way conversation. We know he has other things to attend to.

He talks of strange, far-off places in a strange voice. He shows us pictures of huge buildings the size of trees and cities in pieces. Sometimes others appear in his messages, but they are the not the Donor so we ignore them.

“He’s smarmy” said 24 one morning as we walked to North Cliff. I didn’t know what “smarmy meant” so I didn’t say anything.

“Don’t you think so?” she asked

“I think he’s the Donor and we should respect him” I said

“Mr. Whittaker wants to find the end of the Cable. But Doctor Martel won’t let him. He might find the Donor.”

“Doctor Martel is trying to protect us” I said

24 shrugged and looked away.

 

3. Fixing the Cables

 

Of course the Cables grow old now so we must keep them in good order. That is Doctor Martel’s job. She oversees the Cable work and keeps them greased and in working order. It is a dangerous job. Only 43, 67, 11, 12 and Mr. Whittaker, Doctor Martel’s husband are allowed to use the harnesses. Everyone else must do “on ground” work.

It takes hours to grease the Cable. The oil must first be mixed thoroughly in a barrel and this takes a long time. 24 and I usually take turns with the churn stick.

The post and staples must also be secured in the ground from time to time. Gallons of concrete are poured around the pole and then sealed with metal pegs.

Everyone gets dirty hands and feet but at the end of a construction day we know that the Donor would be pleased. The washing hole is full with clothes the next day.

 

4. What Monday brought to Zero

 

It is Monday. I can hear the buzzing of the TV from outside the hall and I wonder if all TVs make such a racket. Our TV is old. Is a new one being sent?

We have finished breakfast in the hall. I am clearing up plates when Mr. Whittaker and 24 rush into the room. Everyone goes quiet.

“A Cable has snapped” says Mr. Whittaker

I look at 24 and I know they aren’t lying.

I look at Doctor Martel. But she looks the same as everyone else.

We go to North Cliff. I hope they have made a mistake.

But they haven’t. The fifth Cable has frayed and snapped and swung somewhere down the mountainside and now only a few wires remain attached to the post.

Doctor Martel begins to plan a strategy to repair the Cable and she gets very anxious. Mr. Whittaker begins to search for signs of weakness in the Cable contraption. They comfort each other. Everyone else stands around, still.

“We must repair the Cables” says Doctor Martel “but our wire is not strong enough. Does anyone think they could send a message to the Donor?”

Nobody thinks this is possible.

 

5. Most Importantly the People

 

24 is one of my closest friends. Our numbers were given to us when we were born. She is very clever and that makes me feel clever. Mr. Whittaker and Doctor Martel plan to make 24 the next doctor when they pass on. I’m happy for 24 but I wish they would look at me.

Mr. Whittaker and Doctor Martel are fighting. Again. They are both stubborn. We all tend to take sides. 24 says that Doctor Martel can be too controlling. I couldn’t forgive her for this.

But today is different. I think. They are not just arguing. Mr. Whittaker wants to leave Zero and find the end of the Cable. He plans to enlist the help of 24.

I tell 24 that it’s too dangerous to leave but she doesn’t listen. I suppose she wants a chance.

 

6. The Decision of Doctor Martel’s husband

 

Mr. Whittaker decides he will leave Zero to find the end of the Cable. 24 gives him a compass.

Doctor Martel says he won’t need it if he follows the Cable. But he pocketed it. Then she cried for hours.

He set off early on Saturday. He roped down the ravine and followed the Cable high above his head to find the end.

“Are you okay?” 24 asked Doctor Martel “you must have faith in him”

Doctor Martel narrowed her eyes.

“He won’t come back” she spat.

It was reported that evening after dinner. Two more Cables have snapped.

 

7. The Circumstance surrounding “the Truck”

 

It has been a week since Mr. Whittaker roped down the ravine to find the Cable. The Donor has not told us if Mr. Whittaker is safe.

Doctor Martel has become very productive. She and the others spend all their time trying to fix the Cables. 24 and I spend most of our time in the washing hole, scrubbing away at dirt-stained overalls and muddy trousers.

Great roaring sounds fill the afternoon air today. 24 and I run to the edge of the ravine and see a strange machine climbing the rocks. 24 says it is a truck.

The truck comes to the top of the cliff and a very large man steps out of the truck.

His voice is the same as the Donor.

“Has Mr. Whittaker sent you?” asks 24 excitedly
“He is gone” says the man “he sent me. You should leave too.”

The man didn’t look like the Donor.

 

8. Something nobody should have to see

 

We don’t know how it happened. The man is dead. His white eyes open as he lies on the ground. 24 is consulting an old dusty medical encyclopedia from the cellar. We leave him there in the sun and decide we will bury him behind the hall in the cemetery. Doctor Martel says he should not have a gravestone.

“But we should mark his grave” I say “with his name”

Doctor Martel laughs shrilly. She never laughs yet she is laughing.

She smiles “that’s why we are numbers.”

“But you have a name” I say “Martel is your name”

“Yes” she says “I suppose you could call it that.”

She paused for a second.

“The Donor chose it for me.”

She hands me a packet of biscuits and I laugh too.

 

9. The Smarmy Man on TV

 

We push the truck off the cliff under the orders of Doctor Martel. It tumbles into the ravine.

“You see” said Doctor Martel “the Donor does not think well of foreign machines.”

“But the man” said 24 “why would the Donor make him die?”

“He’s gone now. There is nothing we can do. We have a Cable to repair.”

24 glared at her, then at me.

I knew Doctor Martel was right.

But that didn’t stop me from glancing to North Cliff.

Tent City North Run

Doomed mountains

on the sunlit run,

as the black day fades

and the white night comes

into your cotton sheet homestead,

people stare but nobody sees,

the day is black, the moon is tired,

and dreams of hope lie somewhere else.

The city stretches far and wide,

going east and going west,

as does your miserable sun.

Perhaps among you words have spread

of water, places far unknown.

Blood and tears run rivers

down a dirty beggar street.

A stranger who comes in and out

bombarded with a one –eyed little girl.

No solid houses, nomadic race

the only world you know is this.

The cotton roof, the cotton walls

the wooden frame that holds it there.

The sunlit plain no longer lies

A flattened land of desert sun,

instead the doomed mountains bloom

 cotton homes, the mad North run.