Phantom Limbs

Clockwork bees, hedgehogs and heartbeats are the metronome that defines the slow days and wearying nights. The days are long and hot, sunflowers droop in the summer heat, and daily trips to the forest provide a place to escape from the oppressive heat, the volume of the television and the fragile tension as the spectre of loss rushes towards us. There are places in the deep woods where the shade is as cool as well water, a balm for your tumbling whirring thoughts, and you sit in the humus of last years autumn and listen to the soughing of the impossibly green leaf mosaic overhead and think about all you have learned.

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You learned that losing two legs is more than the initial diagnosis and surgery. A list of complications flood your lives like waves. Phantom pains, painkilling opiates, wounds that refuse to heal, dehiscence exposing the bones, more surgery, phantom pains, repeat.

You learned that the neighbour who visits every day or so is an old school friend, and later, much later, you stumble across the class photo from 60 years before, and there are the both of them, one smiling the other scowling, captured in front of the same old school building that is now a shopfront, seated upon unkempt grass with the other village children. The air is frozen, and the shadows of time hold fast, now phantom limbs, torsos and eyes, gazing out from silver gelatine print. Stroke the paper and remember the way the neighbour would sit at the bed, and massage the pain into a temporary submission, hear the breath calming. You learned the intimacy of two very old friends, and the way that a lifetime of work as a carpenter gifted those fingers with the talent of a singular delicate caress.

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You learned, sitting there in the forest, that the path ahead would lead past old limestone caves and a place where the sycamores thinned and the birch trees sat in their serried ranks at the edge of a junction. Ahead the land falls to the rolling buckled world towards the snow clad alps, to your right an old ruin, to the left the Anniger Turm with it’s panorama from the ancient city, seat of the old Empire, the beginning of the steppe and the land of the Magyar, the clustered little villages, all set out in the summer haze. The summer wind stirs the landscape and you hear Gaia whisper ‘Not yet, not yet, not yet.’ And so you learned to hold on a little longer, and to be brave and ready for more days of heartache, and more nights of sleep that flowed deep and fast like a river cave, absent of light.

Our native soil draws all of us, by I know not what sweetness, and never allows us to forget. 

Ovid

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