In the House at the Edge of the Heart


After that she wouldn’t leave the house. 
Letters piled up inside the front door
as if holding back some indefinable flood.
She let them accumulate there. Within a week
the fridge was empty. She began to eat whatever 
tinned food was in the cupboards and became miserly
with each tin. A tin of peaches, a tin of brown lentils, and
a tin of sardines made six days of meals. She drank
boiled water  or black tea, and kept a teabag 
on the go over many cups. She could not bear electric light
for she perceived it to be male. She could feel it 
entering her skin, so the house remained in darkness.
After days of days that seemed to drag one into another,
like water entering water in a river, she began
to realise that the house was moving incrementally 
forward, indefinably ahead of the world outside.
She could hear a storm moving inside her head,
but through the windows the trees were stolid
in the gusts. People appeared motionless in the streets, 
taking days to complete a single step. The world outside
seemed dunked in a thick glue, while she aged visibly 
in front of the mirror. On the morning of the umpteenth day
the barrier of unopened letters collapsed under its own weight
and cascaded through the hall. A scattering of envelopes
shushed into the kitchen and made tide-fall under 
the wooden table where she was sitting. She leant 
under the table to examine a thick manila envelope.
Written on the front of the envelope were the words
Qingniao, Qingniao, but with no address. The handwriting seemed
like her own. There was a waxen stamp on the envelope 
that had been franked. The stamp was marked with sigils, 
but she could not discern exactly where it was from. She opened 
the envelope and thin blue and green chevroned strips of paper 
spilled onto the table. With them came a small instruction manual
with the word Qingniao written on the front. She began to fold 
the strips of paper as shown in the manual and to slot 
the folded paper sections together. Shortly she came to realise 
that she was building a hollow set of interlocking paper spirals.
In the fading natural light of the kitchen she found herself
completing an origami soul of slotted paper sections.
The soul was as large as an owl, and when it was done
she sat at the kitchen table and considered it. Outside, songbirds 
began their evening songs. The soul shimmered in its chevrons, 
though unmoving, both strangely fragile and strangely not.

About the contributor

John W. Sexton’s sixth poetry collection, Futures Pass, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2018. A chapbook of surrealist poetry, Inverted Night, came out from SurVision in April 2019. His poem The Green Owl was awarded the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007 for best single poem. His poem The Snails was shortlisted for the 2018 An Post / Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year Award. In 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.

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