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Abominable blood ties

  • 07 February 2012


I was arrestedby my father's face in a hallway mirror.

I'm the age inhabited by him much of my life: youth spent, decrepitude on lay-by. It's an incontestable likeness, shape and set of the head, hair still thick, striated with grey, his eyes softened by capitulation, a face reposing in kindly ineffectualness. He seems about to say something, but I know he won't; this man who might have been someone else, if only ...

Suddenly the face wears a grey stubble-cut beard, the set of the mouth is harder, eyes watchful, sharp behind steel rimmed spectacles as though much has been lost, defeat suffered, tolerance strained, trust costly, surrender's terms rejected. If there's a treaty, it lies unsigned.

I turn away, leave the glass reflecting the empty hallway and a Dutch genre print, a courtyard seen through an open doorway from a room observed from another room; but I'll meet him again soon, glancing from shop windows, glazed pictures, closed circuit television. I greet him with affection. We know each other well — men we might have been.

B. N. Oakman



Suddenly, in the glass, facet-edged, an enemy. My hand, twined trembling in the tap's calyx, is a drunk's hand, deep flutter of wine along sinew, and idiotic, I am granted prophecy, that approach to the still waters permitted only those dumb as a filled urn.

Crowned awkward with feathers of maidenhair, I see: my crumpled iris-rim lip is her lip; the fine spoked wheel beneath my grimacing eye has etched itself deep with years upon her face. The wet red meat of my viscera is made of her, a shy-hood I cannot take off; the text that writes my living flesh bad at the source, the voice of a woman who might do anything, anything, crying out, Why are you doing this to me?

Belinda Rule


Brotherly love

I'm contemplative, shy with women, serious — he's visceral, impulsive, brotherly only in blood. He's certainly not otherly inclined, one woman told me, He's a riot. I hesitate and chat, where he's imperious and kisses them on the mouth — and women buy it.

He loves John Lennon, sings his heart, obsesses; Jane plays piano and hoards minutiae such as, What year did Buddy Holly die? She belts out Joplin (Scott, not Janis). Sweet talk explodes to fury. Then he confesses he's wrong, quite often lying. And they eat.

She's put on weight. They're like my tank of fish with their