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Brinkmanship Brinkmanship
by Ovi Magazine Guest
2021-12-19 07:35:36
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Ian C Smith

We lived on our wits and savings then, a working holiday, her keener on working than holidaying. Exploring London’s vast echoing age, shadows tempting after Australia’s gaudy glare, I stopped at blue historical plaques signifying that famous people spent parts of their lives there, thrilled chancing upon Dickens’ Bleeding Heart Yard. I read ancient manuscripts in the British Museum, hoarding these days like precious jewels for the future. We also kept hearing an old hit by Procol Harum, the tune everywhere, even the front upstairs seat of a red bus, as if an anthem borne on the Thames tide.

bri001_400Too serious for such frivolity, she could never remember its wan title which I dragged from my trove of trivia, so I teased her about this, a kind of motif to that phase of our lives each time we heard it, daring to pay a forfeit if she could remember next time. Pledged scourging progressed from vaudevillian to outrageous.

My craving for colour, for spice, disarmed her, but not so much as my pride would honouring my word if she came good. I had already escaped stripping naked in Piccadilly, now, my thin ice on the brink of cracking, this rashness unnerved me. When the stakes soar I fold, yet couldn’t resist offering smartarse clues such as a metaphor for English complexions.

We heard his pulsing guitar well before we reached the busker, the Tube’s long tiled walkway’s echo chamber effect glorifying our sad ubiquitous refrain, those nonsense lyrics. Well, she demanded, stopping to face me, more than a hint of ice cracking in her voice, Aren’t you going to ask again? Seasons later she is successful in her sensible profession and I remember with clarity leaving for the coast, skin paler by then, torn thoughts, train wheels’ moody susurrus, carrying me alone into the risky future, away from the threnody of it all, that song tattooed on my hippocampus.


Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Amsterdam Quarterly, Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds, cordite, The Dalhousie Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.

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