The river is black and fast legging it. High up in the bones of the trees, spring comes, pinkly, and every now and then swallows scissor across tin skies. I order builder’s brew, two twists of sugar. Inside his van, the tea man chalks up the new season’s menu. Proper calligraphy, that, I say, when I see the script of his fine ghostly cursive. Raspberry Ripple. Pistachio. Bet you’re the sort, hinny, he says, who prefers your cone to be less vanilla, far more ripple. Bang on, I say, and no matter who I’m licking with, I always eat it in such a way that my tongue can never be seen. A vulnerable thing, he says, isn’t it, this dismantling of ice-cream and he wrote Gooseberry Sorbet inhaunting italics. They reckon ice-cream can cure heartache, you know, I tell him. I stir my tea widdershins, make out a bowerbird in the ribbons of steam. Thing is, he says, how could a dessert even start to remedy the colour of pain? I’m with you, I say, is it too intrusive to ask the colour of yours? A bruise when it first breaks, he says, how about yours? On his cheek, great constellations of white chalk. Mine, I say, mine is the precise colour of this, and I put my finger to his face, hold it up so that he can see the stellar residue. You hurt like stars, then, hinny, he says. You hurt like stars.
Rachael Smart writes essays, poetry and short fiction. Recent work has been published at The Letters Page and Prole. She is writing a hybrid collection about what the landscape tells her, feels compelled by terrain without any people in it. She walks many miles to get the right shot.