Richard Pierce

Poetry, Writing

Day 328


We walked the day off our feet in the rain
When the darkness came, and more yards
Of words fled from the pens we flexed
In the half-empty café. It was a wild wind
That blew us into there one second after
The other, and the warmth tangled us into
One coat of one colour, and the same window
Seat collision. I can’t remember the year
Nor the years gone by, nor what came of
Those months and days that built them.

Our notebooks didn’t match in the smoke
Of that particular corner; yours A5, mine A6,
Yours a flourish of bright colours, mine a
Simple black, yours hard board bound, mine
A leather cover with yellow paper held in
Place by elastic bands. You used a biro, my
Tool was a fountain pen from some lost
Love who escaped me long before then.
Only our coats were the same – style, length,
Colour, make, source even, probably, how
Unlikely that might seem now. And the
Price was probably the same, too. Our
Yellow fingers spoke of thrift in the wrong

We sat at opposite ends of that bench,
Nervously eying each other with our
Peripheral vision while we probably wrote
Gothic descriptions of each other, down to
The finest details, your long and gracious
Hands, my stubby bruised and dislocated
Digits, my unshaven face, your smooth skin
And unblemished beauty, except for the
Slightly lop-sided nose, that asymmetry
Making you even more mysterious to my
Black ink on the yellow pages in the black
Binder of lonely words. We both opened
Our mouths at the same time, but no sounds
Came out; the coffee arrived that very moment,
Another match those double espressos whose
Saucers we extinguished our cigarettes in
When we were done. I do remember it was
A Saturday when I should have been at a game
But had lost the will to play or watch.

Cups half-empty, we tried again, those first
Words strangers always find so difficult. Now
It would probably have been even more impossible
Because respect and convention almost forbids
It. But between the smoke and the coffee and
The non-matching cake you forced into your
Narrow frame, we managed to find our voices
And introduced our fragile selves each to the
Other after having tried to guess who we were
In those brief scribbled phrases we’d planted
On the pages of our now closed books of secrets.
The rest was quiet voices and silence as the
Afternoon wound its way towards what would
Have been an uneventful evening had we not met.
I forget the year. I forget you. It’s a short walk
Back here to the empty window seat from
The fresh earth in the cemetery

R 24/11/2022, 20:18



‘How do you know?’ Cassandra says. ‘You can’t know.’

‘Says the woman who trusted me to go to the States,’ Aggie says, stares at Cassie, and wonders where her courage to do that comes from.

‘Fair point.’ Cassie shrugs. ‘I just don’t understand where all this knowledge comes from.’

Aggie smiles. ‘Neither do I, but I’m just running with it. I don’t understand what happened at the air base, but it worked, and all those modified humans stopped, and Lily and I managed to escape.’

‘Thank God,’ Lily says. Her first words out loud since Aggie got back, and the sound of it sends shivers down Aggie’s spine and into her legs. She puts her hands on the table to support herself, and hopes no-one has noticed her momentary weakness.

Cassie strokes her chin, runs her hands through her hair. ‘But won’t connecting to his network allow him to find us? And stop you from doing whatever it is you plan to do?’

‘I haven’t even got a plan beyond connecting. And he knows where we are anyway. But I don’t know where he went after the secret room blew.’

‘Sonic explosion,’ Cassie confirms. ‘Everything useless now.’ She stamps her foot. ‘There, that’s the tantrum gone. He could be staking out the house right now.’

‘Yes,’ Aggie says.

‘He won’t dare do anything alone. He’s a coward like that.’

‘Unlike his grandfather then’ Lily says. ‘At least he tried to kill us openly, and by himself.’

‘But he didn’t get very far, did he?’

‘Poor Martin,’ Robert says.

‘You can’t mean that, Robert, surely?’ Cassie says.

‘No, I can’t, can I? I just miss the friend I thought I had.’

‘You were always easily led,’ Cassie says, and there’s a softness about her eyes that makes it obvious she’s not criticising the man who loves her.

‘That’s why I’v always been waiting for you,’ Robert says.

‘Soft old man,’ Cassie says, and walks across to him, puts her arm around him, pulls him close.

Zav coughs. ‘So what now? Is the heart the power source as well?’

Aggie nods. ‘But I powered it down.’ She points to a single almost invisible wire that extends from the heart up to where the man’s left ear would have been. ‘Quite ingenious. No-one would have suspected, not even he, because it’s a touch-sensitive device rather than a switch.’

‘So anyone could have put their finger on it by accident and turned him off?’ Zav says.

‘I think so. Unless there’s some sort of fingerprint recognition there that stops when the body is, to all intents and purposes, dead.’

‘Weird stuff,’ Anna says. ‘Why wouldn’t the network just carry on living?’

‘They’re two separate things, I think,’ Aggie says. ‘The network is what carries out the programmed functions. If Valentine erases the programme, like he must have done when he made it self-destruct, the network ceases to effectively function, and maybe with it that fingerprint sensor, but there’s still power running through it, which might allow a connection to Valentine’s system to be re-established. It’s the power I turned off, so the whole thing is dead, really.’

‘Have you tried to turn it back on?’ Zav says.

Aggie shakes her head. ‘I wanted to bring it back here first to see what you all thought, to see if you thought it was worth the risk of trying to reconnect.’

Cassie laughs, a quiet gentle laugh. ‘But you’re the one taking the risk. You’re the one who’s been lecturing us about AI, networks, and power.’

Aggie blushes. ‘Sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ Cassie says. ‘I’m just amazed at how quickly you deduce and learn things.’

‘Should I turn it on then?’ Aggie says, her right index finger hovering over the sensor of the flat fleshless matrix.

‘Not yet,’ Zav says. ‘You need to have a plan first.’

Aggie’s brain races back to Montrose, back to what she did without realising, looks inside her for the solution, to see if it’s still there. The dark places inside her scare her, because they could have made her into what she will never be. There, a shimmering coral of a random collection of code, wrapped in a blanket of memory. ‘I’ve got it,’ she says, and puts her finger on the sensor.

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1 Comment

  1. Day 329 – Richard Pierce

    25th November 2022 at 20:36

    […] Yesterday’s poem brought a lot of private comments. Was it a memory? No. Was it real in any way? No. To an extent, that poem encapsulates what I always say a poem is – a novel on one page. Just like novels, poems can be fictional, just stories that fly to us out of the thin air. The opening line came to me while I was standing in the garden having a smoke. Yes, I drew on certain places to visualise while I wrote it down, one particular cafe in Fredrikstad, in particular, that, if I recall correctly, was split into two levels, so that half the place was about two foot higher than the rest. It didn’t have a window seat. I used to sit in there, whilst still acclimatising to living in a country whose language I couldn’t speak perfectly, nursing a hot chocolate for ours while I wrote down my thoughts. Nowhere near a cemetery, never a place for a first encounter with someone I’d be sharing my life with. What struck me this morning about the poem is also that it’s so androgynous – and I think that’s probably a good thing. At the end, it’s about loss, but I suppose it’s better to have a loss after a life-time than at the beginning of the life-time. But the other thing is – do we poets ever really know what we mean, and are we lesser poets if we don’t know the meaning of what we write? Bottom line – the reader decides. That’s what makes writing superior to cinema. […]

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