Dazed, they emerge: so long missing, it is unlikely they will ever quite shift the sense of a dream, their neighbours look at them strangely, then forgetting returns.

In chic bars, in far-off cities, gold has flowed into the rings on the fingers of wealthy, professional people: sunlight glints with the sweep of a racket, wave of a hand.

It is as if a giant fist has bashed their hometown, causing the whole settlement to buzz faintly as if still vibrating, impossible to get an accurate picture, a signal too weak, forever dropping out.

In the darkness, their skin has taken on an alien pallor: the new caress is not the old caress, enters at odd angles, cannot connect with what used to be, and lovers look unsure, smile nervously, sadly — loss has brought the foreign home, missing had become a state of mind, return too unexpected.

The blow of absence in a subterranean world has jarred their spirits, dislocated their souls — they move at subtly different speeds to all others, as if they carried the earth of the burial with them, cannot muster perfect focus, or own again the streets they pass through, show delight in the new devices.

The sirens call, the gates open, the smoke rises: it is all as it was before, but not for them. Try as they might, the trivial has engulfed their lives, their children have grown so tall yet lost weight, the ones who replaced them are callow and naive, disinterested in talk of endurance and fatigue, will not share in the promotion of legends.

In twos and threes, in small groups, in poor and unfashionable bars, they gather in shadows, seeking to eke out the precious remnants of the elapsed event — it is rare to grasp, at the time of their rising, the peak of lives, the rest must be a descent and lessening, possessing the lightness of afterthoughts, a gentle belittlement, right to the touch of babies’ skulls.

Some are not even sure if they really have survived: some — the best, or the worst — mourn the passing of the disaster, and wish a return to the darkness, regretting a death so deceptive they’d thought it home.

 

 


from the series Silver of the mine of gold (open-ended: 2013–present)

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