Isobel Terry

Fire rages gloriously.

It’s a cold winter morning and the priest is determinedly walking with a dog in the rain on an empty beach. The sky and sea are a confused hazy blue grey. The tide is going out and shells lie scattered on the sand. The wind has dropped, small waves murmur as they break. Shhhh, shhhh. They cling to the shore leaving a wiggly line of bubbles. His head is bent eyes cast down, behind him his boots imprint in the sand. A wide stride and an almost straight line. His heart judders, his breathing is shallow and the rain is beginning to seep through his woollen coat. He raises the collar up around his neck. The dog knows the beach well yet does not belong to him. He walks with him as a friend.

Fire reveals everything; yielding clinging falling into fathoming depths

And how can I speak of him, or write of him, of falling into that love, of such a suffering soul, and of such beauty? It needs a new language, the tracing of his bones and the touching of his flesh. And that last meeting before I lost him to the cloth we lay together in my small brown Renault. The seats right back. It was August in the Cheviot hills. He had been visiting Scotland, we met at Berwick on Tweed, on the border. In an empty car park over looking a reservoir the windows steamed up with our breath. On Hadrian’s wall he had stood astride for me to take this picture. How handsome a Roman invader. At a stile he took hold of my left hand to help me over and held it longer than I would have expected. I should have pulled it away. I did not want to. The flesh of his hand was exciting, warm and smooth.

Fire light fleets and flickers on flesh; flaunting flurrying fingertips .

Our arms around each other I kissed his neck. The smell of him, of rolled tobacco, pine resin and almond oil. After he died I remember searching for it in his robes nuzzling them with my face, yearning for a last sense of him. He placed his hand on my left buttock, clutched it and pressed his body into me. I shivered vigorously, my cells shaking. He looked a little startled yet held me tighter and my eyes filled with tears at the relief of it, the comfort of it. The potency of possibility, of sex, of love, of finally finding home. I remember sobbing like a baby lying in his arms. The sorrows of my whole life pouring into that moment. That first moment of tenderness, a hint of joy waiting to explode

Fire brightens fearless then dies. Ash remains. Advances from nothingness ignite.

He stops and stands still turning towards the sea. His boots sink a little into the sand. A slight shiver down his spine. Suddenly there is no shoreline between his body and the sea. It is all heaven, the unfathomable ocean, holding the vastness of sorrow. The grammar of grief, the loss, is not a noun but an eternal verb like god. He feels warm inside his coat damp, his heart beats steadily. He breathes slow and deeply. The dog has stopped beside him, its snout sniffing the salt air. The rain has stopped.

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