At the Trading Post
after the Saga of the People of Laxardal
Gilli had all his wares laid out: ambers
which lock in ants and flies till Doomsday,
horns, fine clothes. I, all of us women,
are sat back shop – till a client lifts up
the curtain, picks me out with his finger.
I’m priced at three marks of silver, but
Gilli won’t sell. He brings up contractual
obligations: She never speaks, this girl:
you see, you’d be within your rights
to sue, if... In the Russian’s tent, holding
my tongue’s the last freedom left.
At last, he gives me up to the Viking
with the fork-beard. The next morning,
I’m woken at dawn. We will be sailing
north to Laxardal, he says, Iceland.
I’m rigged out in fine clothes from his chest.
Man came into the shop, friend persuading behind him. Pantyhose over the head that did it in the end. Time slowed around the mouth of a gun. I knew what had happened. I remembered --
Remembered. A child screamed, a fat mucosal tremble. The cash-till clanged. No use. No use for could have. No use for might have.
He said: — Get in. It took a long time for the world to swing far enough. Trunk spangled with bullet holes like a spoiled deerhide. Woke up later:
on the freeway. High up and far off. High up and far away. Sky like a balaclava too for all the good it did. Like clawing at the surface of the water. And crawling out, he pointed at me: my survival at the hands of another.
Six Weeks of Solitude
I’ve watched my own skin fry and salivated at the thought of eating it. It’s been forty-three days. Forty-three days of waking up with eyes crusted shut by sunburn and sand. Forty-three days of chattering seagulls and talking to Sam even though he bleed out on the first night. Forty-three days of envying Sam and hating him for it.
In these six weeks of solitude, I’ve learned that routine is how you survive. You channel all your hate and desperation into chopping firewood, hunting those fucking seagulls, and licking their blood off your fingers. Most days, your mouth tastes like pewter – like you’ve been sucking on quarters. You hate the taste but everyday you hunt those goddamn birds, you lick your fingers, and you season their meat with sand.
Every few weeks, you hear the 747 overhead, see the cruise liner in the distance. You get your mirror and you glint the sun but you know. You know, they’re on their vacations, eating and laughing and waiting for the person next to them to shut up so they can talk again. You know this, because forty-three days ago you were on your boat, on your vacation, eating and laughing and sparring for attention.
The sunset haloes the corpse of my ship wedged in the coast. In the seabreeze black, I fall asleep with the same grave smile and think maybe tomorrow’ll be the day. The day I see Sam again. The day I tell him how much I hate him.