Small Press Spotlight

The Living on This Beach

Alex Leslie


 

 

Fish 1 

 

Somebody is living on this beach. Under the sweeping. It comes in. Broom of the whole shaking. Brings another. From the water full of it. I am the only recipient now. Only one after it. Study the sockets. Read the expression in the bone, frail face, and fin and sand is flesh. Press it. Press it, the thudding. I am the one to clear it away. To receive and clear away. Tide in. What is it that eats the last thing. Only itself. But I am here to receive it. The shadow it casts reflects the largeness of its flesh. Shadow swims from its previous body. Tide out. Vast eye, hollow is largest. I find them, embedded, half-buried, always tucked into the sand, the face is sharpest, I clear them. Tide in. Neck broken, handful of branches. Nothing sacrificial comes out of these waters. As per tradition I walk this beach and write the names of the dead on stones. I throw them in. Tide out. 

 

 

Fish 2 

 

Another. Rot down to its orange spine brown coarseness. Tide in. Clear her and place her in the grave with the others. Under skin, metal. The metal of the indestructible body. I dream their arrival. Herds sink to the floor of a screaming ocean and crawl in to me for rest. Red fingers. Tide out. The ocean is not. Leaves nothing. Takes nothing. Reveals itself in wrecked small bodies. Somebody is living on this beach. I walk and gather and the face on this one, sharp long nose. Can you see it. What is. This fish has given up its eyes to what is doing the eating. All offerings from the same hand are the same. Skeleton most simple story and line. The roughness of the skin, rubs off to pure colour, a red that will not leave my fingers, a red that does not run out. Tide in. 

 

 

Bird 1 

 

The ocean chews around ash-grey feathers, gently pulls the body from within its coat, and coast wears a collar of soft things harvested from these corpses. Tide out. Today the ocean sweats rain. Hydroplanes light. Down from white imagination of ending. I walk it and clear it. Somebody is living on this beach. This one and its almost living back. No softness without the living. There are shadows that stay.One shadow outstretched for flight. Replacement wing. Why study this body. Every day 

more. I am the only one. So I must. Tide in. Outstretched. Or did it fall from the sky while I was sleeping. Did it fall from the sky after flying across the ocean. What did it see. Another to clear and the feathers are coated each in the hard etched grey salt of the unswimmable water. Tide out.

 

 

Bird 2 

 

Black fronds. Hair. Knitted from the plastic wings that carpet the floor of the ocean. Wire laces the spine. Body built of small stones. This is the animal that has survived. Lay it to rest. One wing half-torn, one wing bent up to match the body’s straight line. Debris is a mammal, changing and sticking, breathing and climbing out of the water to where I walk and clear away. Tide in. Tide out. The Pacific is a dark recycled dream and I dream inside it when I sleep, the surf so close it pounds my chest. Waves resuscitate me. Break sleep. Sleepwalk to the edge and clear away. This one is not quite dead. I can feel its breath in the globular blue-white rock, frog heart fast, something like warmth in it. Tide in. Superior bone, strong creature from the deep. This one will survive. Somebody is living on this beach.


 

Read next: "Leap" by Marisa Silver

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First published in Branch (Canada)

 

Editors: Gillian Sze and Roberutsu

 

Mission: Collaborating since 2005, Gillian Sze and Roberutsu decided to turn the creative table on you. Branch Magazine is a national quarterly online magazine devoted to exploring the rifts andoverlaps of visual and literary arts while showcasing emerging and professional Canadian artistsand creators. Branch features contemporary literature, art and design and aims to produce acompelling panoply of art in different media. Each issue is prompted by a particular theme and,depending on how artists interpret the subject, Branch strives to present how artistic minds maybring together a magpie's nest arranged by its clash and compatibility. 

 

Alex Leslie's collection of short stories People Who Disappear will be published by Freehand Books in April 2012. Her chapbook of microfictions, 20 Objects For The New World, will be published later this summer. Her poetry, non-fiction, and fiction has been published in journals throughout Canada. Website: alexleslie.wordpress.com