Rag and Bone
The old man stands silent before the canvas, staring down the void. Every day, for seventy years - at least those he remembers, and he swears he remembers sitting on the floor as a three year old, paints and crayons scattered around, intent on bringing forth the colours he saw in his head - every day he created anew, and yet - and yet. Was it really all over? He thought he would die, hands stained in oils and turpentine blasting his lungs - but here he is, a blank; worse than failure.
He looks to his old companion - the collected Yeats, spine split open on “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”. Maybe it happened to others - but he’d once seen himself as a god, as Vulcan - molten, virile, endlessly generative. William B made it to seventy-three, his words pushed through with urgency, recreating the language of his youth into A Vision of age and ill-health defeated. And the painters he adored continued on - Picasso poured pure instinct, expressive to the end - lust reborn in ancient forms, consuming life in death.
But here, bordered by the remnants of his life’s work, he is alone. Windows that once poured light are now dulled with grime and nicotine tar. In the corner, the old grey tabby yowls - not quite alone, after all - but in her deaf-blind misery, a ragged ball of need. Food, water, toileting, occasional scratch behind the ear - but not too much, or she’d scratch back. A living being to keep him going when deserted by the creatures of his heart. But such a sad recompense, from so long and fruitful union! He strains at the glassy pane, yanks it open just a chink - then collapses into his grandfather chair, depleted by the feat. A low whistle through the crack; a zephyr lifts the wispy curtain, brings the scent of oranges and tea, a hint to Leonard Cohen - again, productive to the end. “Suzanne” on the record player, but no strength to make that walk across the room to replace the needle. Instead he leans down, picks up the book of poetry left just in reach, squints his eyes to draw out the words.
A rattle in his chest! more than a tickle; more like the frenzied stabs of a baby griffin shattering its prison shell. The shock of sensation rocks him, throws the book across the room, as he grips his heart to feel the knocking and rumbling within. Through skin paper thin protrudes the jabs of a creature desperate to escape. ’What is this?” he gasps through pain, unable to control the unruliness within - as talons tear, fierce and wild, a primitive anima clamouring for release. “For too long you used me - see me now!” it howls, as he rips open his chest and pours the dark clawed angel to the floor, savage and heaving, beating the black feathers of its blood-encrusted wings.