where the sun beats

I own a small plot of soil. It is fertile and rich. I keep it tilled and neat but nothing grows, as is the fashion here. The sun beats down and the drum never sounds. The surface, though ordered, is rough and cherry brown – like bark milled into tiny particles and poured layer by layer to disguise a secret beneath ground. Insects meander idly by and, finding no flowers here, wind away. It makes for pleasant sitting and unpleasant looking.

I am crouching in my plot now, as I do every day, rolling a straw between my fingers, as I do not. It’s a crazy straw – you know the kind – vibrant, contorted, and definitely not the fashion here. It fell through my letterbox this morning, a gift, possibly – unexpected but mine. There was no stamp or return address. It is a straw. I puzzle over it as the hours pass..

I plant the straw into my little patch of land and blow. At once the garden hums, then purrs – a rich baritone pulsing from some point deep underground. The sound rises, disturbing the topsoil, and little clumps of earth shuffle and bounce as the music shoots through. It is definitely music, I think, though the harmonies move so slowly that I lose all feel of what the notes might be. They leave only soundless vibrations. The hairs on my arm wiggle and dance – I think the music must be quite good, since my whole body is suddenly imbued with hypnotic rhythm and gentle noise. I don’t notice being lulled to sleep.

While I sleep, the garden wakes. Tiny shoots, then shy sprouting tendrils – followed by sprawling stalks and vines – paint my carpet of dirt every shade of green: some familiar, some new, some with that unmistakable Statue of Liberty hue. Led by an invisible loom the vines weave and fatten into a cradle that surrounds and lifts me a little off the ground. Stems become trunks that multiply and warp: now they are pillars whose branches arch high over my body. The air fills with the smell of leaves, and light falls on my face as if through a stained glass window.

I am woken by shuffling. It’s quiet now, and I notice a curious gait, like footsteps in a cathedral – feet dragging on cold stone, the noise I first heard retreating from my letterbox this morning. Funny that now, while everything is tinged green, the eyes I find gazing down at me are cherry brown. There is a face behind the eyes – just a mesh of hard lines and valleys until I blink a few more times, and then a whole head appears. I recognise him. He lives in a walled house at the end of the road, I’ve never seen inside, but walking past I always catch the scent of pine and honeysuckle. He smiles at me and begonias blossom behind his face, like sunrise.

‘Nice garden.’ He hands me a book.

I am unsure why, but I know to say ‘Goodbye.’ I blink, and he is a flower, with somehow far more bloom than stalk.

Perched on my bed of flowers and ivy, I pore through his book. It is like a diary, exquisitely written. The pages throb with colour wherever my fingertips meet them. Long, immaculate – it feels like a life’s work.

Turning to the first blank page, I follow the instructions penned neatly on the inside cover. I pick a flower from above my head and press it gently to the page. As I press, it melts petal by petal, becoming a thousand handwritten lines of poetry wrinkling their stems at me.

 

By Jonathan Davies

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