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  • H. K. G Lowery

Moonflowers

By H. K. G Lowery

‘Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?’

Adam Ewing, Cloud Atlas (2004)



Diary Entry of Luna DiRossi


22nd February, 1919

Assisi, Italy


Dr. Chiellini hasn’t visited since Tuesday he prescribed me vials of Mercury and Antimony and more opium for the pain he’s surprised I’ve made my 33rd year

still grappling with this Nocturne a complex love affair if ever one was simple the notes leave me like a dream I did not want to wake from still with the chest pains fevers coughing constantly blood in a handkerchief the maid Ariana yesterday she said something quite beautiful I’ve never dreamt of death because I know not what it is and loyalty Ariana is more loyal than the man I call my heart my husband Andrea the opium only a fingertip away like the notes falling in my mind’s eye like feathers into flames inevitable irretrievable all my life father told me be a wife not a performer father paid me no notice although I could play Schubert

by heart by the age of eight it was my brother Luigi who was sent to the conservatoire he didn’t know A Major from a major disaster but that didn’t matter to father only my womb mattered and for all the wrong reasons the notes again G Minor

¾ andante I hum the motif G dotted crochet semiquaver on F reminiscent

of Liszt then the Bb then the sonata of Andrea downstairs there are duets everywhere love heartache suicide

his is adultery the glissando of sweet shy laughs of younger women I can see Andrea now in secret tasting the smiles and holding the hips that aren’t mine this cruel crescendo locking the bedroom door blood in a handkerchief

I hear his footsteps semiquaver heartbeats these heartbeats are death

knuckles knocking husband calling tears

falling down face cooling on burnt cheeks hearing

hello answering


I love you

L. D.



A Letter from Theodore Baxter


February 22nd, 1964

Pays de la Loire

France


Dear Miles,


Residency in full swing. Do watch for my missives – I ought to have you teeming with joie de vivre from this very escritoire. Lo & behold, my conjecture towards this orgy of polymathy has been the more accurate: participating are Composers, Wolfgang Bauer & Clement Debecker – though, can a competent Composer (non-Russian & precluding the antediluvian Vaughan Williams) be named? – & Poets, Erin Arnold & Arthur de Greize. Poets are an endangered species (for that perhaps we are revered, as opposed to our artistry); however, it is the Composers who we should discern as genius: they have 12 notes to make misery sound beautiful, Poets have over 100,000 words to do so, only we make misery sound even more miserable.


Received at the château handsomely, by a butler effusing the scents of clandestine love affairs, with incisors the colour of custard creams. de Greize et al congregated in the hall for an aperitif when the offended littérateur divulged what I assumed to be a simple tête-à-tête:

‘Excusez-moi, Arthur,’ I said, ‘les toilettes pourraient être là-bas?’

de Greize looked at me as though I were asphyxiating a Masai Ostrich.

‘Monsieur Baxter!’ he declared with asperity, ‘Nous nous efforçons de ne pas compléter nos phrases, ici, avec des prépositions!’

The ensemble of extravagant intellectuals chortled with flutes of Bollinger. It was my wish to refute this grammatical impasse; I countered:

Mon faux pas; les toilettes sont là-bas, espèce d'âne récalcitrant?’

Eyebrows rose with smiles: all enjoyed our rendition.


Managed to adhere to my one imperative in life: never drink Merlot. The preludes of Rachmaninoff & Shostakovich were punctiliously compared over onion soup. With Coq Au Vin, we discussed Wittgenstein’s propositions from his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, my favourite being 6.373: The world is independent of my will. Later Comté (the 1950 Bordeaux shrouds my memory), we brooded over Bruckner being a necrophiliac who fingered Beethoven’s exhumed skull & whether Shelley’s tragic death was conspiracy or nautical incompetence. Arnold also enquired about the coloboma in my left iris.


Stumbled across a peculiar tome, heavy as my hangover: the journal of Composer ‘Luna DiRossi’ – yes: also assumed this would be a Clara Schumann (sister of) or Fanny Mendelssohn (sibling of) the male Composer affair; however, Mr. DiRossi seems to have been a lawyer: not one who could tell you the note an orchestra tunes up to (even you know that, you dunce!).


Yours,

T.


P.S. Devoured the journal all evening; shall write a poem on it – the final piece for my chef-d’œuvre.



Father, Father


“How long you been here?” Edgar asked.

“Not long enough.” Jack mumbled, the fumes of nicotine clouded his face before the tumbler touched his lips with whiskey, sweet and thick as honey.

Edgar kissed his teeth. His eyes interrogated the face of the man before him: the blood vessels in eyes were small stretches of a volcano’s most fiery discharge; there were wrinkles, like the feet of crows, either side of either eye; the dark, greying stubble formed an ashy perimeter around his thin face.

“You just gonna’ stand there?” questioned Jack.

Pool balls broke over blue cloth. The bartender finished four tequila shots for a man with an anchor tattoo. Mötley Crüe, Kickstart My Heart, sounds from the jukebox.

“I’ll take a-”

“Wild Turkey. Neat.” Jack interjected. “A man’s drink. It was his birthday last week-”

“Yesterday.” Edgar asserted.

“Shit.” Jack croaked. “How’s, err, college, then? You still learning that, yeah, what do they call him, Bingley, Browning?”

“Baxter.” Edgar began, “One of the most revered Modernists.”

“The fuck is that?” Jack muttered. “All these poets saying they know what’s what, like love, or God, or, they’re just bones in the ground with books no one reads. What do bones know of,” Jack hiccupped, “love?”

“What do you know, pa? Eh? Aren’t you gonna’ ask about Aunt Ally?” Edgar hissed.

“Shit, err, yeah…how is she?”

“Fuckin’ dyin’, pa; but you just sit here, fuckin’ drinkin’ your life away, with all your self-pity bullshit, feeling sorry for yourself that you used to be a bigshot before Hollywood spat you out like the rest of them!”

Jack sniffed, sweeping his palm down from his forehead to chin as the impasse silenced.

“You’ve never been the same since things changed.” Hung in the cigarette smoke as the doors slammed behind Edgar.


* * *


The bartender slapped Jack’s shoulder. “We’re closing.”

Jack rose like the resurrection, swaying and staggering down the bar to the doors, his knuckles whitening around the brass rails.

“Tomorrow,” another hiccup, “I’ll check into rehab. 22nd of April. Mark my words.”


Jack scraped the spark wheel of his lighter, stumbling onto a greenery before the statue of the writer his son previously mentioned.

“Fuckin’ poe’try. I’ll, s, show, you…fuckin’ poe’try.” Jack mumbled as he pulled his zipper down.

With a sigh, Jack heard footsteps.

The silhouette of someone stood in the flickering lamppost light.

“The fuck, do you w, ant?” Jack scoffed. “Laurier ain’t doing no autographs tonight. Fuck off!”



Interview of Patient 67600


DR. ANDERSON Today is Monday the 22nd of February, 2027. My name is Dr. Kathryn Anderson. This is interview number three with patient 67600.

I am also with my PhD student, Julia Wilson. The time is 14:11 p.m. So, how are you today, Mr. Terrance?


[Long silence at 00:22 while psychiatrists ruminate]


67600 Good. Good. Good. Good. Good. Good. I finished my painting.


[67600 rolls a beard hair between his fingers before pulling it out and placing it on the table]


DR. ANDERSON Okay, that’s excellent-


67600 Please may I have a cigarette?


DR. ANDERSON Will you answer our questions if we give you one?


67600 Indeed, I shall!


[Dr. Anderson nods to the nearby guard who lights a cigarette for 67600 at 00:33]


67600 Fascinating things: cigarettes. James A. Bonsack was granted the patent here in the US, in 1880, for the first machine (eponymous name) that makes these little, deathly cylinders.


DR. ANDERSON Yes, well-


67600 Fascinating. Once lit, they just burn, and burn, and burn…like a candle, exhausting itself,


[67600 pulls out another beard hair and places it on the table]


like ourselves.


DR. ANDERSON We would like to discuss God today, Mr. Terrance.


67600 Just like a candle, exhausting itself.


[67600 singles out another beard hair and arranges it on the table]


DR. ANDERSON Mr. Terrance?


67600 ‘No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from

heaven,’


[67600 inhales at 01:27]


‘the Son of Man’, John 3:13.


JULIA People say you believe yourself to be God, is this correct?


[67600 twirls facial hair]


67600 Is God not everything, Julia?


JULIA I think-


67600 I no longer believe I am God.


JULIA Why?


67600 Because I don’t forgive.


[67600 bursts into a fit of laugher at 01:43, stopping suddenly]


DR. ANDERSON Is that why you’re here, Mr. Terrence?


[The eyes of 67600 change; there was an abnormality in the left iris]


67600 They say one cigarette is eleven minutes lost.

Just like a candle, exhausting itself.


DR. ANDERSON Please, Mr. Terrance, we are not interested in your-


JULIA No, that’s familiar, the candle line-


67600 Just like a candle, exhausting itself.


JULIA It’s a line from Bleak Life, the Jack Laurier film.


67600 Just like a candle, exhausting itself.

Just like a candle, exhausting itself.

Just like a candle, exhausting itself.


[67600 erupts into a fit of laughter at 02:29, finishing his cigarette]


DR. ANDERSON Patient is not co-operating. That’s enough for today.



END OF RECORDING



The Birds

(Last Saved 22.02.2117)


16:02


“She’s there!” Sister says.


16:05


“She’s…there!” Sister repeats.

The hospital droid measures her blood pressure: 98 mmHg.

She is delirious with sepsis from her cancer.

Antibiotics are a scarcity.

16:10


“The forest?”

Blackbirds perch on branches outside.

I remember Sister said when the Vikings sailed to England,

they kept crows in cages. If the birds flew back to the boat,

there was no land; but if they did not return, there was land.


16:18


“She’s there!” Sister weeps.


16:31


“Please, who is she?”


17:07


The droid measures her blood pressure: 93 mmHg.

A blackbird sits on the windowsill.


17:10


“The candles-” Sister cries.

The blackbird flies away.


17:49


I tell Sister I cannot understand her,

that I wish I knew what she was saying.

I can see the little dark ring in her left iris.


18:01


“The candles, next to the woman.”

Sister is the strongest woman I know,

but even she knows how tears taste.


18:07


Droid measures her blood pressure: 87 mmHg.

Her fever increases.


18:20


“The candles are almost burnt out”


19:07


Blood pressure: 82 mmHg.


19:21


“Burning out-” Sister pauses, “The candle-”

It’s hard not to love something so helpless.

Sister once said birds are angels: anyone with a message.


20:07


Blood pressure: 70 mmHg.

Sister has just fainted.


20:35


Sister is being transported to the operation theatre.

It was her last wish that her cancer would be donated for trials.


20:47


Sister is living by remembering, by returning.

The trials begin.

‘Find land, Sister,’ I say, ‘the birds have not flown back.’


21:15


I sit outside and pray.

The birds are singing psalms and scripture;

and Sister joins what we should have been

all along, here on Earth: a community.



AVA


Day XXII

Month II

MMCXXII


She was offline; rubble, bandits.

Two Patrol Clones confronted me as I was helping her.

They arrested me, so I fired.

I retrieved the humanoid and hauled…Clone hit my sh, shoulder, shit;

back, t, to my pod, I, I fixed, her,

I was, was n engineer be, fore the S, sec, on Drough-


*


I restarted at 03:32 in Pod 3427. Lukas Martyn (Male, 33, with ocular coloboma) was present but unconscious: he endured ballistic impact in his left deltoid, causing muscular tear and blood loss. Lukas woke at 04:14, flustered I was online and healing his wound. Lukas requested my name. 89.24% chance Lukas has not experienced coitus in many sun cycles (intercourse was prohibited, unless for procreation, 12 years ago). 7.63% chance Lukas has not performed intercourse with one of my kind (92.37% of males have). Lukas thanked me for healing his wound. 76.16% probability we would perform intercourse; we did.


*


She was healing me.

She is A1172; but I named her Ava.

As she tended to my shoulder, I kissed her, but apologised.

It led to sleeping together; it was different to virtual reality,

it was real.



Outside is one big crossfire, protest and slaughter.

Ava confirmed a nuclear missile is imminent.

The bombs fly through the black sky,

like a shower of shooting stars

no one dares make a wish upon.


I see everyone:

fucking or fighting,

like crabs still feeding

even when the water is poured into the pan.


I searched my database for prohibited art.


*


Lukas completed intercourse with me. I alerted him devastating projectiles are approaching in 92 seconds – our survival rate is 0.00% – but he requested a linear art analysis. My system completed the check (within 0.00022 seconds): “Vita è Preziosa: Nocturne No.14 in G Minor, translates to: ‘Life is Precious’, by composer, Luna DiRossi.”


76 seconds until impact. Lukas asked me to continue.


64 seconds. DiRossi: unsuccessful Italian composer; contracted tuberculosis before committing suicide (via opium overdose) ‘because of the affairs of her husband, Andrea Lorenzo’, written by her maid, Ariana Conti.

56 seconds. DiRossi’s journal inspired poet Theodore Baxter’s The Ballet Of Death; Baxter spent his life unmarried and abandoned by his literary circle.

47 seconds. Jack Laurier, actor-turned-alcoholic, was murdered in front of the statue erected in honour of Baxter.

41 seconds. American serial killer, Oliver Terrance, committed the crime, infamously reciting Laurier’s script in every interview regarding his murder Laurier.

28 seconds. PhD candidate, Julia Wilson, studied Terrance and his paintings before becoming a nun. She was known to describe his sinister artwork when delirious from the sepsis of her cancer.

17 seconds. Sister’s cancer was the strand used to successfully cure the disease; and the first patient to volunteer for the cure, last year, was called…Lukas Martyn.”


*


Ava kissed Lukas on the forehead, wiping a tear from his cheek. She sat behind him, as they lay, hand in hand, looking at the apocalypse. As a needle pierced the nape of Lukas’ neck, Ava said:

“Life is precious, and now it ends.”



EPILOGUE


29th June, 1902

Assisi, Italy


What is forgiveness? I had a terrible dream the world came to pass. I woke with no words but to weep; how I wish I wept less on Earth. But, the Lord has given me a love in Andrea. He wishes for my father’s blessing and is fond of the abnormality in my right eye.

Andrea tells me of a newly discovered plant, they are called Moonflowers. They are beautifully small and slender, but only live to see one day – had I only a day I would not choose to live! Andrea says he will travel the corners of the world to get one for me.

I’ve just finished a happy Allegro in C Major for him – I do hope he likes it!


O, but of all these living things, I believe it is love, love which binds and eternalises us; love, frozen but flowing, everywhere…and if all the world, and all the things in it, were to pass, would we become love, transcending like reverberations of thanks and understanding? All I know is that it can be quite beautiful: to gaze upon the blooming sunflowers of spring, to spark the lips of your lover into a smile knowing it is there for you, or to listen to the genius sang from every songbird.

Be always gentle. I think life will bring many lovely things, and we will continue, joyous, and grand, and looking to the wonderful heavens with gratitude, and bliss; and upon these clouds we shall dream.


Luna



About H. K. G. Lowery:


H. K. G. Lowery is a writer & musician from Gateshead. He gained a Distinction in his Masters degree in Creative Writing from Graduate College, Lancaster University, where he worked with Paul Muldoon, Paul Farley & Terry Eagleton. The Department of English Literature & Creative Writing awarded him with the 2021/2022 Portfolio Prize for his work which received the highest mark in the faculty. Lowery has been shortlisted for The Bedford International Award & The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize, & his publications include: An Enquiry into the Delight of Existence and the Sublime (AMP, 2020), Being and Becoming (KDP, 2021), Death, And Other Angels (Errant, 2022) & 9:45 Drama (KDP, 2022). To date, Lowery has been published in: Poetry Salzburg, Amsterdam Quarterly, Pennine Platform, Obsessed With Pipework, Publishers Weekly, Hyacinth Review, The Ofi Press, Dreich Magazine, Train River Publishing, Sylvia Magazine, Lancaster Flash, Errant, Disabled Tales & Inky Lab Press.













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