World Tree (Andrew Sutherland)

Verity La Heightened Talk

The day I tested positive, I walked from the clinic at the quay to my old university. And, I am sorry to admit, as I walked through the city — a forest built to scrape the sky — I pictured myself standing at the top of each tower, preparing to jump. Still, I continued to walk.
 
Each building became a tree, or the branch of a tree, fused together from fire and asking permission to be fire, again. I looked up, and with the daylight’s sun, I thought I could make out the moon and stars.
 
And I heard the bark of dogs.
 
The sun and the moon started to shake, vibrating with terror, and I saw a pack of hounds, drooling and baying, dashing across the blue sky. The sun and the moon tried to flee across the heavens, but the hounds could not be outrun. All the burning trees from which I longed to jump shuddered around me as the sun and the moon were snuffed out; torn apart by the gaping jaws of dogs. And slowly, one by one —
 
the stars started to drop from the sky like flies.
 
They fell out of sight, and as they fell, sight too fell away — and all that remained for me to see was an image of myself suspended upon the last light of a sky-scraping branch, like an outdated magazine in a waiting room, or the tiniest drop of blood on a thumb. Hanging from the tree, I tore an eye out of my socket’s grasp, and let it drip down fingers to the earth.
 
And still, I continued to walk.
 
Because that will not be me. Every day I keep my two eyes widened, clutched like lanterns; beaming from my skull, and brightening, too. I climb branches only to confirm the leaves, and the baying sounds of dogs don’t follow.
 

Andrew Sutherland is a Queer performance-maker and writer creating work between Boorloo/Perth and Singapore. He was awarded Overland’s Fair Australia Poetry Prize 2017 and his poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction can be found in various publications including Cordite, Westerly, Margaret River Press’ We’ll Stand in That Place and Other Stories, Scum Mag, Proverse Hong Kong’s Mingled Voices, Visible Ink, From Whispers to Roars and Suburban Review. He has twice been awarded the Blaz Award for New Writing, and makes up one half of indie theatre outfit Squid Vicious. You can find out more about Andrew on Instagram