CREATIVE Zillah Bethell

NWR Issue 98


I send my apologies very loudly to the sun for what it beholds
when it beholds me.
Elijah Bloom, Notes to Discourse on the Holocaust, Part One.

These ghosts. Like paraselenae, yellow stars, the rings on ancient trees depicting centuries and centuries of weather – sunlight, frostbite, lightning strikes. He always wore a Fair Isle sweater (too hot for Israel) spun by an old flame on the island of Jura, his tiny hands gesticulating from the bottom of the sleeves, his words unravelling at the seams. An eclectic mix of books on the shelf: Geology and Deep Time, Antique
Restoration, Varieties of Ladybird, The Myth of the Unicorn, the poetry of Philip Larkin. An orange going rotten in the middle of his desk so that we could all bear witness to the aftermath, the stages of decay. My arrival coincided with that strange vapour ascending, the black lacquering of the skin, reminding me of the boxes I’d recently left my father toiling with in Kyoto for the tourists.

Some of us were women who gave birth in the gas chambers – no need for epidurals, no gas and air here. Yes, it is a grotesque joke but we are human, we own a sense of humour, albeit a black one. The more sprightly among us cancaning, handstanding, arabesqueing at the top of that pyramid of flesh to reach the very last pocket of air. Some of us were senile old men waiting for a parcel of gooseberries. Some of us were children playing hide and seek and though we hid in the tiniest crack of every cellar, hayloft and cabbage patch, we were nearly always found; or eyes tight open and counting to infinity, we sought and searched but never ever found.

The Professor and I had something in common. We were both looking for someone. He for Belinda. I for Boo. The only difference being Belinda was dead whereas Boo was screamingly alive on every wall in the city of Jerusalem amidst Molotov scars, posters for coexistence, prayers and scarab beetles.

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