March 2021

Back to Issue 9

Careful Liberties

By Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

  1. He says

In the cross-hatched light of half-shut windows she examines the ocean, considering the way the view gathers itself in her. Her sketches show collisions of architecture and water. Later, she places a medley of table napkins. Soon our guests will ask about our plans, and she’ll invent what she thinks will please. We have disagreed often, but she won’t allude to this. The air through the windows suddenly feels like a form of caress, and evening’s cobalt light looks like a painting’s ground. She makes flourishes, as if with a brush, inserting colours into the air.

  1. She says

You leave your shape in my bed; your outline on the top sheet, as if I traced you while you slept. The weight of me on you is written in the deeper creases, where our hips joined. In those ruckles, I see the moments where you rocked me awake; feel you sliding your hands underneath. Beneath the covers, I’m careful not to disturb your form, angling my head at the indentation in the pillow, lining up my chin with the space where your chest would be, if you were here. Sleeping again, I entwine myself in your absence; a wordlessness rolling in chasmic blue.

  1. He writes

The arms remember—then they were like wings or fins. There was a rush of sea air; an absence of the clock’s hands; soft down like a furring of light; and a disentanglement of words—adjectives melting; pliant, inescapable nouns. That edge of the world was like an implausible story, in which the sea falls away into nothingness …. Standing up, we faced the bay where three children played hopscotch. One chanted and threw a stone that lay like an indecipherable word. A body twisted; the sea fell into the room.

  1. She writes

You overwrite the darkness; a ghosted image with two parallels searching for a vanishing point. I have been here before; lights dot the circumference of the pine tree but show almost nothing. You suspend my noise with your smooth silences; a hibernation of longing forms on our breath. There is skin and bone between us, a currency of signs to be decoded when we part. I’m no semiotician, but as the afternoon gives way to dusk, I try to read your stillness in the palm of my hand.