Small Agonies by Richard-Yves Sitoski

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Anne was turned off at the prospect of hearing Jeff’s dream, as she distrusted their surreal and preternatural qualities. She doubted they revealed the inner workings of the universe and the collective unconscious, and thought that at best they might provide fodder for artists. But Jeff was insistent.

They found it, said Jeff, in town on a secluded part of the trail in the park. It – or he – appeared like a human male in every respect, and was even dressed ruggedly in furs, as you’d expect of a cave man, except for the fact that it could easily nestle in the palm of one’s hand. They estimated its height at no more than three inches. At first they simply looked down at it on the path, clearly dead and on its back with one arm, likely broken, flung across its face as if it had drowned and been tossed up onto the rocks, or had been warding off blows, or cringing at the downward swoop of a hawk. But it was unclear how it had died. There was no disturbance on the ground around it, which admittedly was stony, and they were some forty feet from the creek. There was no blood either on or about it.  

It was obvious what they had to do. On the edge of the path, in a muddy area between the rocks, Jeff beat a divot out of the earth with his heel while Anne gathered some fallen oak leaves and gingerly wrapped them around it. She remarked how insubstantial it was, no heavier or less delicate than a finch, as she placed it in the hole and gently patted down the dirt. He then gathered handfuls of pine needles and pieces of bark to scatter on top. To prevent scavenging it seemed appropriate to place a large stone above the mound.

And that was it. That was the dream. He asked her what she thought.

She said it was one of the saddest things she had ever heard. Not so much for the poor gnome or whatever it was, but for them. Condemned to keep secret something truly wondrous, truly world-changing. Condemned to become quiet eyes in the hurricane of society.  

He looked at her uncomprehendingly. Come on, he said. You know damn well you would stick it in your pocket and alert the paper.  

But she knew that wouldn’t be the case at all. She knew they would have finished their walk and said little for the rest of the day, as if what happened had purged them of unnecessary words. Just as she knew that tonight and from then on they would sleep facing outward, silence between them, exposing their backs to each other under the low noises of the restless wind, the settling of the house, and the emptiness of a forever dormant world.

 

Richard-Yves Sitoski is a songwriter, spoken word artist and the 2019-2021 Poet Laureate of Owen Sound, Ontario. He has released two books of verse, brownfields (Ginger Press, 2014) and Downmarket Oldies FM Station Blues (Ginger Press, 2018), and a CD of spoken word poetry, Word Salad (2017).

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