Aki's poetry and short stories have been published online and in print in Popshot Magazine, Synaesthesia, Ink, Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, Mnemoscape, Birdbook: Saltwater and Shore, CHEAP POP and An Unreliable Guide to London. She was chosen by Roxanne Gay to feature in the Wigleaf Top 50 (2015), was a Queen's Ferry Press Finalist (Best Small Fictions), and won both the inaugural Visual Verse Prize (2013) and the Bare Fiction Magazine Flash Fiction Prize (2014). With Kit Caless, she founded the LossLit digital literature project and co-edits LossLit Magazine.
If he asks
A mouth full of applause Wedding bells stretched between two hands
Rush of silk
At midnight all the trains hover
over the water in silence:
love as a sixpence
or a moon, there’s no difference when you turn them
clouds have no meaning here
or a single orange flower
growing out of the platform
(he left you, hang up the phone
before he returns to kiss your mouth shut)
Knucklebone pressed into the small
of my back
Step over the unsaid things
If he asks say nothing say [circle] yes/no
I have clasped your edges so hard
they leave grooves in my palms,
deep as the grooves of horse-reins
beneath the bridges on towpaths
wasted with bracken and buddleia.
These, and mine,
cut across lifelines:
a geometric interruption.
I cannot document dropping you
on a sunlit day, startled
by the sudden noise of a narrowboat
any more than I can document
but the fall happens
as if both were inevitable.
a drowning of lungs,
the plosion of capillaries,
a haemorrhage behind your eyelids
like a summer storm.
a smaller drowning
though no less significant,
this arcing towards water
of hard edges and palm-deep cuts:
the only photograph I kept of you
after your death.
Did you dive in after it?
she asks me when I tell her
what has happened. I am at a loss
to explain, when I shake my head,
why I didn’t.
It never occurred to me
I might be able to save you
Tipping point, the cracked rim
of a teacup, your spikes turned
inside-out. In my cupped hands
you curled, gently, despite your pain.
I could sense something was wrong:
you shouldn’t have been out in daylight,
wobbling down the garden while the dog
barked a warning into the rain. It echoed
sharp into the bay, and you fell sideways
onto the grass as if the sound had hit you.
Starry moss, your toes curling, the mud
caked around your neck: it looked like a noose.
We took you in. You trusted me to hold you
and I took you to my chest, brought you
close. I could see a single fault-line,
a wetted rim, thick with crust. No blood.
What lay beneath was invisible to me,
but I could smell it. It filled the car
when we rushed you in, the dog in the back
straining to look under the towel, whining
as we punched the co-ordinates for
the local vet into the sat nav. You snuffled,
pushed all your strength through your soft snout
to suckle from the pipette. ‘Drink, little one’
I said, and you did. Your teeth clacked
against the plastic and hope surged
like a current through my chest.
We sped past lavender rocks, the sea
blurring between them, silver slices
glancing off the windscreen and birds
looping ahead of us, clearing the way.
The vet uncurled you, a little too roughly.
‘Look,’ he said, and showed me where
the skin of you was coming away.
The maggots twisted up into the light
like strange white roots. ‘We can’t save him,’
he said. ‘Would you like to leave the room?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I want to stay.’ Something in my heart
kicked out. I held it down, clamped my jaw shut.
I wish he had been more gentle with you,
wish the needle was not quite so big,
that it could have been slipped into a spot
that wasn’t under your chin, the whole thing
in sight, right under your nose. Your nose,
small wet thing that moments ago
had sought me out, had tickled my palm
as you took the water from me.
I wished as the pink liquid flushed through
your small body, I could touch you, stroke
your spikes, curl you gently back into yourself.
Instead, I clutched the towel to my chest.
I said, ‘It’s OK little one.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry.’
The nurse snapped off her gloves.
The smell was on my hands,
in my mouth and ears, under my skin.
In the waiting room, a naked dog
was striking his cone against the wall.