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Father’s Head

A severed head bearing an eerie resemblance to my father, stares ahead with glazed over eyes from his niche in the back wall

In this long house rooms line up one after the other like pearls on an antique necklace.

I pause in front of the threshold

Staring at the kitchen floor made entirely of perfectly square pieces of rib-eye steak.

I approach in the dark leaving muddy footsteps in my wake.

The wall clock rings twelve in a low baritone, reverberating through the current in the electric fence.

The whinny of a horse in the neighbouring farm shakes the dust.

The attic hangs. The garden stretches.

My father’s head casts a guardian spell over the long garden stretching out towards the nearby hills.

Exiled from inside but still tethered to the house.

At the foot of the hill lies buried Pityuka the 8th – rest in peace – my grandmother’s pet parrot.

My sister standing in the wind in her grey plush pyjamas, bow strung, her waist-long hair to one side as she fires arrows into the cardboard box stuck over a tree stump for target.

Every hit beats a satisfying drum in my ears.

Every missed hit sends arrow rushing to burrow their heads into the ground in shame, biting into thick blades of grass.

The small black cat wakes from her afternoon nap. Pines shiver below the house’s blind gaze.

Cool air hangs sweet and round with spring’s promise.

The house hosts my father as a parasitic earworm

When I arrive the house breaks into a requiem

Through the cracks in its voice, I hear the long hiatus it has taken from practising scales.

I make my presence known by stomping loudly on the doormat to wipe the mud off my shoes.

A warning to the spirited soprano greeting me with her false accord.

I trace the length of the house like a caged wolf; pacing back and forth anxiously.

Rummaging through the draws of a nightstand, I find a shrivelled piece of my little-sister’s umbilical cord.

I stroke the carpet against the direction of the rich pile, changing it from dusty pink to sore mauve.

Eye sockets were carved out in the back of the house’s mustard yellow nape.

My father’s head nestles in one of these holes like a stone dove.

The attic homes the house’s own consciousness; a mass of grey dust, resting atop the innards bellow.

Holding on to particles form an age before the house was lived in, with ferocious defiance, long clawed aggression.

The air inside these rooms is thick with dust and baroque sensibility

to contain the hate that is congealed love, guts and mother’s milk.

A burning heat that could erupt through my mouth like a plume of rage.

Like sticky and itchy and heavy, breathing the air out of my lungs.

My father’s head stares ahead with glazed over eyes.

I step over flesh coloured faux marble tiles veined with white streaks.

Eager to impress with wicked liveliness.

Machine lace dulls the light and age old burgundy drapes cast a drunken glow over the yellowish walls.

Elemental wilderness.

Not for comfort nor for pleasure.

In one bedroom I discover my sister’s long, cut-off dark blonde braid coiled up in an ornate silver plate.

Above, the attic hangs. Outside, the garden stretches.

Effy Harle. 2020-21