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The Dust Vault

Posted to Action Poetry

There is this place, you see, towards which, slicing the
night on his Honda scooter Garfield Snorkett is travelling. He cried out:
what a life, what a life, what an awful patronising time of my wife!

   He mused: I’m
a dualistic exile, methinks. Doubly cast out. When IÂ’m with Coral IÂ’m
exiled from the past, but in the Dust Vault with my memories of Coral
as she was, IÂ’m cut off from the here and now. O Corals past and present!
Gentle Death-pills! For godsake reconcile yourself, girls!

   Then anticipated:
what will my love bring me tonight? Past raptures? O Coral, my memorable
sweet! My beautiful insubstantial Coral! Illegal bounty! Wait a mo for
lecherous old Garfy, here!

   And finally drooled,
shuddering his head to shake a creeping string of spittle from his jowl.
On and on!

Confused? Then IÂ’ll expand. There is this place, you see,
towards which the fifty-nine year old spindly skinniness of Garfield Snorkett
is now travelling. It is a shelter or a dungeon or a tomb of some description
whose floor, walls and ceiling are somehow coated with thick layers of
filthy dust. Perhaps this venue does not suggest the setting for a tragic
love story – nevertheless it has long been a grave of romantic memories
for our misfit of a romantic hero. Not for the real is this place,
just for the surreal,
Garfield would cry, nothing done, nothing
explained, nothing really seen: just dreamt and . . . felt. That is how
it should be and that is how it is.
There is this place, you see,
towards which Garfield Snorkett travels, this Dust Vault of memories,
now ever closer, memories waiting, ballerinas in the wings, quickly on
to magicimaginationland, all the while screaming along at 25 mph.

The beam of GarfieldÂ’s scooter lamp illuminated a couple
walking ahead, mouths pressed together in a salivating kiss. Naturally
itÂ’s only physical at their age
, he thought, watching the snaking
groping arms of the young man and the desperate eyes of the girl, nevertheless
quite scintillating to watch. No time for that though! On and on.

   Soon after, he
spotted the backs of a younger couple, first loves, drifting dreamily
hand-in-hand along the roadside. They were oblivious even to the rattling
of SnorkettÂ’s machine as it approached them from behind. Aha, thought
Snorkett, in love with love and dreaming quite merrily. Perhaps IÂ’ll
wake them.
He reached for the horn but thought better of it - style="mso-spacerun: yes"> 
no, no, no, theyÂ’ll be jerked from that particular
sleep soon enough,
he decided. ThereÂ’s no point in rushing it,
is there, my little star-crossers.

   ‘I’ll leave you
to find your own peculiar nemesis!Â’ he cried as he overtook them, and,
without stopping to listen to the abuse they hurled at him, he dreamed
a further spurt of acceleration and sped into a tunnel of twisting black
trees. For the rest of his journey, Garfield Snorkett played God, devising
all manner of fitting ends for lovers poetic, lovers lustful, lovers negligible
. . .

. . . and then he arrived.

Forty-two years of retrospective yearning and prolonged
to quote the man himself. Yet in four decades he had allowed
only one string of memories to enter his head: one dream, one night,
one broken promise – just one image of the girl,
he had decided on
his first visit, and damn me if I go thinking of anything else.

   In the beginning,
Garfield Snorkett cried: Let me have Coral! – and Coral appeared
in all her insubstantial ghostliness. The lovemaking began. Man and memory
writhed in the clinging swamp of dust. And from that night the fornightly
cry for Coral echoed and the lust became ritual – as routine and compulsory
as the days of the week. Exhausted Garfields of all ages would roll off
the same apparition, then smoke cigarettes in the candlelight as Coral
danced naked around the Vault, springing and spinning, before she too
was spent, smiled sadly, slowly faded and went.

   Back to your
reality, my sister Coral,
he would groan cynically, before lowering
his head into the dust to sleep in bedsheets of dirt and darkness. Back
to reality.

   Enter Garfield,
aged fifty-nine again. He stands at the foot of a tarblack stairway, the
door of the Vault before him. Fumbling for a match he lights one of three
new candles he has brought to illuminate the night. Pressing his left
shoulder against the splintering door he pushes and with a crack of wood
and a gush of tepid air the Dust Vault swallows him whole. He stands inside,
peering ahead, searching for definitions.

   ‘What are you,
old fellow?’ he asks the Vault, ‘how big are you, where do you come from?
Do you exist?Â’

   Questions! Questions!
Questions! Always seeking to define the undefinable, yet it seems always
to be the undefinable, which most craves definition!
his mind circles
and finds no answer. He compromises with the Vault: Then I concede
and conclude with (believe me) no contempt that you are a figment of my
imagination and, if not that, then you are a figment
for my imagination!

   As for the size
of the Dust Vault, Snorkett had no idea. In all the forty-two years since
his addictive visits began, he had only ever inhabited the area visible
in the candlelight immediately in front of the door. Since the dust-thick
air lessened the distance the light could travel, Garfield SnorkettÂ’s
knowledge of the Vault was choked to what he now saw. Perhaps itÂ’s
he had creduled at seventeen. Since his first visit he had
found it necessary to reduce its boundaries to satisfy his claustrophilia.
Feeling queasy at the thought of accurate facts and figures, he now perceived
the unknown space to be large-ish before turning his attention
to more pressing matters.

   ‘O Coral, come
tonight, my little wife,Â’ he crooned, and crouched to secure the candle
in a mound of thick fluff which, as far as he could gather, coated the
floor throughout: ‘O Coral!’

   The name jolted
memories prematurely into Garfield’s mind. Panicking, he yelped: ‘No!
Not yet. IÂ’m not ready yet!Â’ and began to undress, flinging each garment
of clothing hotch-potch to the floor. Naked, he lay down beside the candle
and with clots of dust from the floor covered his stomach and groin for
decencyÂ’s sake. There: ready. He inhaled, filling his lungs with
stale air and dust and then bellowed the forty-two year old command for
the ceremony to begin.

   ‘Now let me have

   Garfield lay motionless
as images of his wife-as-she-was tripped towards him in succession: one
dream one night one broken promise – YOU CORAL SNORKETT FORMERLY VAUGHAN

   - At seventeen
years of age, he dreams of a girl he does not know: she dances before
him, now clothed in white silk, now naked as the night. She dances in
a moonlit field and in her hair is a chain of white lilies. The vague
apparition skips into his arms and kisses his nose, smiling. Then the
moon reddens and he cannot breathe. He struggles to break from her embrace
but a silver cord has joined them navel-to-navel. The twins grapple in
a tug oÂ’war and in his frenzy he retches then weakens and submits as the
girl smiles and persistently showers him in sororal kisses. They dance
on in an incestuous womb of night –

   - At seventeen
years of age, inspired by a dream, he searches for and finds the sister
he never had. In the flickering candlelit darkness of an old air-raid
shelter he tries to tell her she is his twin but, choked by her flirtatious
beauty, allows her to seduce him. As they roll in the filth and dust she
promises everlasting love: be mine, Snorkett begs – ‘Always yours,’
vows Coral –

   - At seventeen
years of age he sees the promise broken when Coral is married to Dustin
Vaughan. ‘I meant what I said at the time,’ is his sister’s only defence
to his angry rantings in the marquee at the wedding reception. Then she
teases: ‘You never know, though, keep your hopes up. I mean Dusty’s nearly
sixty and very nearly dead so think of all that money – you may just find
a rich little Coral coming running back to you. Thank about it. Not too
long.’ Garfield cries ‘slut’ and storms in tears from the tent amidst
a babbling gossip of What Coral a slut that slip of a girl slutting
not her never no slut? no.

   When Garfield Snorkett
is seventeen years old, the bottom drops out of reality and his spindly
skinniness comes tumbling down once and for all to a soft-dust bed of
memories in the tomb of his first and only love. And there he lies for
forty-two years.

   Now let me have

   Images flooded
SnorkettÂ’s senses: one dream-night-promise. And then faded, and
he lay in the dust, exhausted and sweating, breathing shallow and quick.
He awaited the return of his strength for the next stage of his ritual:
resurrection of flesh and spirit – not remembering but reliving.

   Voices leapt into
the Dust Vault, followed immediately by the yellow pulverulent tube of
a torch beam, dancing over the dirt. It landed momentarily on SnorkettÂ’s
foot. Shit! He leapt up, heart thumping eyes agape, and flung a
handful of dust on the candle to drown the flame. In the powdery pitch-blackness
he scrabbled to collect his clothes before dashing from the light.

   A boy and girl

   ‘Well, this is
it,’ said the boy, flashing his torch across the floor. ‘What do you think?’

   ‘I don’t like it,’
said the girl. She was trembling. ‘It’s filthy-dirty and I’m sure I saw
a light in here as we came down the stairs – it’s the maniac that as passed
us on his scooter. I know it is.Â’

   ‘Don’t be stupid
– we’re alone. Come here.’

   Maniac on a
thought Garfield, watching the two lovebirds he had overtaken
earlier – moi? He had come to rest about ten feet from the door,
praying that the light would not penetrate so far through the dust. He
gazed on, curled up and quaking like a maltreated puppy. Nevertheless,
he felt strangely touched by the gentle drama played out before him in
the torchlight. It was blurred and darkened by the thick air, as vague
as memory. And as disconcerting: maniac on a scooter – me?

   The boy and girl
now lay side-by-side, silent except for the occasional snide remark or
half-felt expression of love from the boy. Garfield noted that, gradually,
the boy seemed to grow more impatient, fidgeting with the dust at his
side. The girl had become insecure and shut her eyes tight, breathing
nervously through slightly parted lips. Snorkett stared at the pretty
shadowed face. He felt he could almost name the nameless girl. No prizes
for guessing what IÂ’d call her,
he thought, just like my little
. . . no!

   He had noticed
a hand clutched full of fluff, hovering above the shivering girlÂ’s face.

   No, not dust
in her face – not Coral’s!
Snorkett gasped as the hand opened and
from it flopped a compressed lump of dust. The girl spluttered, screamed
and struggled blindly as the boy bore down on top of her, laughing: ‘Got
you now, Lizzy, got you now!Â’ She cried for him to stop, her prettiness
uglied with terror – but he was too strong and she soon lay panting and
mouthing no no no as the same hand impatiently tugged open her
blouse, buttons springing off one by one, parting the material to pinch
the shivering swell of white lace, slipping that aside, then mouth down
to . . .

   O Coral, we
must stop him, we must,
thought Snorkett. In a shock of envy he lurched
snarling into the light to wrench the nipple-sucking youth to his knees
before cracking the ladÂ’s head against the wall.

   ‘Just deserves,
lecherous juvenile!Â’ he screeched as the boy slumped unconscious to the
ground. ‘Just a quick lesson in the pains of love! Remember it, little

   ‘And now to you
my sister-memory – let me hold you.’ He turned to gaze down at Coral but
was blinded momentarily by the torch. ‘Let me turn off your little light,
sister-wife. We need no light.Â’ Turning off the torch and placing it at
arm’s length he bent slowly down to the darkness where Coral lay. ‘Your
breasts, Coral – may I?’ Head down, Garfy, you lucky bastard, slowly
very slowly though and part lips moisten nice-and-moist no teeth gently
and in-for-the-kill.

   He sat up and spluttered,
spitting a clot of dust from his mouth. ‘What, Coral, where are you? Don’t
hide-and-seek from me. Not me. ItÂ’s only me.Â’

   He swept his hand
through the dust behind him until he found the torch and, switching it
on, lit the ground. Nothing. Nobody. No Coral. Just a small, slight indentation
where her head had compressed the dust. Snorkett shivered, whined and
choked as he fell forward, crying, ‘No, Coral, not gone!’

   He never noticed
the quick footsteps growing fainter up the steps, nor even the groans
of his younger self struggling to find consciousness. The angular fleshless
creature just lay on his front, naked, sobbing into the mould of CoralÂ’s
head. No, Coral, not gone.

Now alone, Garfield Snorkett falls dustwards into a deep
and dreamless sleep.

Confused? Then IÂ’ll expand. There is this place, you see,
where the fifty-nine year old spindly skinniness of Garfield Snorkett
now lies sleeping. It is a shelter or a dungeon or a tomb of some description
whose floor, walls and ceiling are somehow coated with thick layers
of filthy dust. Perhaps this venue does not suggest the setting for
a tragic love story – nevertheless it has long been a grave of romantic
memories for our misfit of a romantic hero.
Not for the real is this place, just the surreal,
Garfield used to cry,
nothing done, nothing explained, nothing really
seen: just dreamt and . . . felt. That is how it should be and that
is how it is. There is this place, you see, where Garfield Snorkett
now sleeps, this Dust Vault of memories, now somehow tainted by a lustful
youth and a bared breast . . . you understand now? . . . or perhaps
something doesnÂ’t quite gel.