Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 33, 1992
Edited by Jenny de Reuck & Hugh Webb

A little lucifer

Peter Anstee

As I light a cigarette and draw on it I try to recall my first fag. I can't. The sulphur head of the match came unstuck from the wood; I instinctively caught it in my palm. I watched as the skin bubbled and blistered. I was immune from pain. Fire is my brother. I have always been attracted to the flame. I love having sparks dance before my eyes. Walking one winter night on the docks of Portsmouth, I was chewing air dense with phlegm, grey and familiar. I had a vision. An area of sky a few hundred feet from me was lit up in a divine orange hue. A fierce crackling accompanied it. I saw curlicues of angels rise from below the ground.

I reach into my pocket and withdraw an empty cigarette packet. I look out over the sea, slime green and cold. I pick up the rivet gun and fire a few bolts into the steel sidings. I catch my reflection in the metal and ponder on the wrinkles gathering around my eyes. It has become easy to recall my youth, because so many people had a future invested in me; I failed them. My father predicted this. He always said "There's a bit of hell in you son and when you run, you run with the devil."

I laugh at this, I always used to. I always will. He gave me the matches to my own funeral pyre. I look over the shipyards hoping to see my vision, the bright heavenly glow. I walk past the dry docks, but no acetylene nirvana today, just moss and rust and memory. The ecstatic ring of the blowtorch inflames me, those sparks flying like a chorus of mad birds in a blood sky. I touch the front of my jeans; I start to get hard, lost in a flight of memory, those sparks dancing at my groin, my brother teasing me, hurting me. My clothes start to smoke. What would my mother think of my charred trousers? She didn't think anything, just complained about patching them up.

A faint drizzle sneaks through my overalls. I seek shelter. Nothing lasts forever: not love, not looks, not heaven, not hell; everything rots and is extinguished. My brother swallows and vanishes in a puff of smoke as he always does. And now these words on nothing wrote...

New: 18 April, 1996 | Now: 11 April, 2015