by Cleo Mikutta
“It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung simultaneously, sound as a more beautiful polyphonic whole. The internal structures that create each of the voices separately must contribute to the emergent structure of the polyphony, which in turn must reinforce and comment on the structures of the individual voices. The way that is accomplished in detail is … ‘counterpoint.’”
– John Rahn, musical theorist, composer, basoonist
– I –
The bag she carries is large and mostly empty. It is her only bag, and the things inside are her only things.
Streetcars pass on the opposite track. Her reflection passes weightlessly over faces.
A group of people obscures her view. They move around her. She wants to touch them.
A streetcar has come to a standstill. The reflections she sees make foreign movements.
Two sliding doors open. She sits down by a window, rests her head against it.
The hum of vibrating glass, in her ears.
The light in the room is grey. Small particles are gradually descending.
He lies in bed with his thoughts. His gaze through half-open eyes rests on the sharp contours of his bones, as they press against the sheets from below.
His thoughts encircle him in the landscape of a city. With his eyes, he follows flocks of scavenging birds as they fly from building to building. They pass by empty windows.
He listens to their cries echo through hollow streets.
His body moves beneath the sheets. He uncovers himself. His skin, close to transparent.
Turning on his side, he faces the room.
A second room, in the wall-length mirror opposite him. He does not want to see himself there. Through the windows of the mirror room, he looks at the rain.
Here, wisps of grey on the sheets. Sitting upright, shadow drops, falling on his knees.
He cups his hands, pretending to catch them.
Stripes of light pass her by. The faces of dozing passengers are cast in and out of shadow. In the tunnel, all is enveloped in a yellowish hue. The street car screams. Metal on metal, in her ears.
Her knuckles press against her lips, and she feels her body sinking into a feeling of memory. Blurred vision, the sound of her own voice as though through a stranger’s ears. The sharpness of brick pressing into the skin of her back.
A voice announces the next stop. The tip of her shoe traces outlines of scrapes on the floor.
The heads of thick screws are all that holds the bridge together, and the construction is there to frame the sky.
They are approaching the river.
In the pocket of his hooded vest, he carries a small, round stone. It is perfectly blue.
Standing before an intersection, he watches the streetlights change color. A crack in the cement has filled with rainwater. The wind blows over it in ripples.
A large bag stands forgotten on a traffic island. A stranger comes, to look inside.
Drops of water run down her neck. In her mind, she traces his veins.
She thinks of the first time she felt his touch. She was walking through a crowd, and from behind, he gently pulled on the strap of her shoulder bag. She remembers the strain of the fabric, how it pressed against the soft spot beneath her collarbone.
Cleo Mikutta was born in Hamburg in 1991. She grew up in New York City and returned to Germany in 2001. She studied Fine Arts in Amsterdam and made her debut as a writer with Meeting Points, published in A Public Space, 2017.
Image credit: Wassily Kandinsky, “Small Worlds VI” (Kleine Welten VI). Woodcut, 27.3 x 23.2 cm, from a portfolio of twelve prints, six lithographs (including two transferred from woodcuts), four drypoints, and two woodcuts. Berlin: Propyläen-Verlag, 1922. DIGITAL IMAGE © 2018, The Museum of Modern Art/Scala, Florence.