The Nature of Things

The Nature of Things

i - rain
In the morning she is quiet, touching my hair
so gently I barely feel her. I avoid her gaze and skirt
around her, although she is offering,
always offering, asking for nothing.
She cleans my boots, spitting spitefully until I feel

the weight of her resentment on my chest.
She persists, unapologetically determined
in softly, insipidly, changing the shape of things.
I move the lanterns; she shifts them back.
I free the saplings on the balcony; she bends them,

insisting it is her nature.
All day I shelter in my office block
While she hangs out in alleys,
hovering like cigarette smoke
between worn boots and graffiti.

I hide in doorways,
enter pubs I would normally pass by
in order to avoid her until at last—
seeing how tenderly she opens the frangipanis—
I spread my arms and welcome

her invitation to dance.

ii - fire
At night I hear him breaking the silence.
I lay poised, should a murmur become a spark,
tread carefully around his edges,
the corners of my eyes alert

to any flare that should cause me to run
or scream for the phone
to be dialed by a neighbour.
He wasn’t always this way.

In the days of my girlhood he gave
hot milk and honey, courted me with candles,
restaurants and cake, watched me luxuriate
in long baths and baked bread for my supper.

But there was that weekend the first time we camped—
I laughed it off, an accident that left no mark—
and our first apartment - a silly mistake I made while cooking—
his annoyance should have warned me then.

Here, in this house, his presence has grown.
He holds the gaze of every visitor in the room.
They talk around him, drawn to his charisma,
delighting in the pictures he paints with his ancient stories.

Oh, I know he is beautiful - that his warmth on my back
and the clicking of his tongue should be comfort enough—
but I have seen him rise, surprised
at how quickly the lover’s fury

can turn flesh to ash.

iii - wind
I can’t be bothered with this push and pull.
At times he is playful, turning me around in his
hands, gently teasing me, but he will not let me hold him;

I grasp at the air around him as he slips away.
I know he is not faithful, that when I turn my back
he is pulling hair and lifting skirts unashamed.

Of course, he is jealous, throwing tantrums that sometimes
make the front page. But he sings to me and calls to me
in beautiful languages I do not understand.

Ah, I have no plans for marriage—
his demands exhaust me—
The last time I saw him, he kissed my face

then was gone.

iv - earth
It’s been a long night walking but there’s no escaping her.
It’s like she’s everywhere, man.

Eventually I stop, give in. She says, hey, you wanna lay down?
so I do and our bodies are touching,

and she’s warm from the afternoon sun.
She smells good—real, y’know?

I knew your mother, she says and your ancestors all the way back,
and she shudders remembering what came before.

It scatters birds from the trees.
She settles and the sun begins to slide

beneath her hip. It’s been a long life, she says
and I say, tell me about it ‘cause I’m tired from walking all night.

Why are you so eager to hold me anyway? I say,
I’m not dead yet! And she caves,

offering refuge.

*Feature image created for Pipeline Artists by Antissima

Aminah Hughes is a writer, director, musician and photographer. She is an avid sunset beach walker in her homeland of Australia and her adopted home of California.
More posts by Aminah Hughes.
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