Lee Birdy, 2015
Navine G. Khan-Dossos & Sophia Al Maria
Photos: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis
I can’t tell you why but we are holding hands.
walking down an avenue. An Ave. like any 5th.
skyscrapers cast glare onto the cracked sidewalk.
these be the towers of terror that magnify the sun.
their shining makes the bare feet burn.
but these streets don’t make it Manhattan. This is the other city.
A city with no name. Every city. THE city, America.
all is well until we all start to hear the growl.
a new tinitus.
not swimming pool aliens. No secret agencies. No frequency out of CB range.
it’s the rumbling of unspoken undercurrents.
That is the ringing in our ears. A righteous deafening. A just threat.
And it’s up. Like it’s always been.
that spread frame is hanging lower than it should. That unnatural natural.
that all-steel wheel. that whale of Brushed steel. that bridger of seas. that trailer of
chems. the welder of times. Triple seven.
what’s that painted on its tender white underbelly? a new name.
‘Lee Birdy’ in Shadow Black.
An ad for Liberty.
The way ‘we’ say it: ‘leebirdi’. ‘plaidge’. ‘aleegints’.
You ask for the time. i check my wrist. a final glint – meager fuel before riding into
an unmapped battle.
And this manna, it’s one stinking mirage from a filthy, rotting heaven. And it hits
us. a burning engine shearing through the elevated rail. brains blistered with the
unspeakable searing. the downdraft of death. And beyond our suffering there is
sky. not the sky. a sky. A firmament not ours.
A bright place we see seeds being planted. Thousands of things thrown like millet.
Giant grains sinking in the sea above us like trails of white phosphorous. Our
global Gaza. Our tarred sky. Forever.
but that is nothing, that is beautiful. mere aesthetics of pain.
because in this dream. above all else is the sound, the un-trebled pitch of a million
screams. a shrieking sky without shelter. it comes from the above. and i is the.
because it is only. we forget pissing or shitting or the routes we walk. function is
irrelevant when chicken little calls it. ‘the sky is falling!!!!’
and Like everyone. you and me. lovers. leavers. we run. barely hatched. without
skill. we run faster than we have rights to. every glass door opens, responding to
the confidence of our bounds not the authority of our accounts. And For a while
we find Refuge. In A bank. In A hotel. Then in A mall of commerce in full flux
but no apparent malfunction.
You and me, babe. We feel like we can’t fuck it up.
Even if we lose – it’s just a game. That’s the lesson of 199X. That’s the received
wisdom. It’s never over until it’s over.
And finally our underused adrenal glands are engorged with all the unlikely likelihoods,
the many manners of impossible death. the man hands you a lock. and you
tell me we’re on a cliff but there’s no drop. The gravity here is like the moon but
everyone else is playing mercury. crawling belly down to the banks of a dry crater.
blood boiling into black pudding on the bank of a hot, dead sea.
We hear word from the minders. G4S, the largest mercenary army the world has
ever known say: the only safe place is a door marked The Albury. ‘yeh’ you say,
‘we saw it once on a walk before the air went out. Before the street went empty.’
On the way – there’s this ache. That everything is too right. Too safe. That we are
what is wrong. They offer us shelter in the corpse of a fallen angel. There is truth.
But it’s hidden. This Albury. The place by the underpass. With all the pine trees.
And there’s a janitor and the sound of pigeon wings. He hobbles out and asks for
$20. we climb the chain link and heave. There’s no back but there is safe. ‘there’ is
the end of the hallway. A frosted glass door. he says, ‘look for the smiling woman.
she’ll be on your right.’
the threshold is too easy. there is no drama. no ceremony. the chaos is in the ease of
the transition. in its uneventfulness. it is painful and it is violent because we don’t
know it’s done until it’s over. like a stabbing. no pain until death.
Sophia Al Maria, 2015
Sophia Al-Maria was born in Tacoma, grown in Doha, educated in Cairo and now lives in London
where she writes screenplays for a living. She wrote a book called The Girl Who Fell to Earth
(HarperCollins, 2012) and is googlable if you’re a super curious person.