Empty Spaces – James Coffey [Fiction]

Empty Spaces

My colleagues sit steadfast before their screens. The usual eerie silence hangs over the office. I log on to my work allocation and slip beneath the algorithms to think about a poem I intend to write someday about a tree in a winter landscape. It will be a short poem with lines of different length and variable spaces between words. The spaces between the words will merge with the snowy landscape to express all the things I have not said. As I’m contemplating     spaces   between         words     and           how patterns   might form  on

the       page

I think about maybe adding calligraphic flourishes so that the poem becomes an ideogram but just then an error message on my work allocation comes up. This means I have to go into the technical manual to find out how to correct the problem. There are thousands of pages in the manual and by the time I’ve found a solution I’ve lost touch with what I was thinking about. What was I thinking about? A poem that is as clear and bright as a diamond?  Something about Japan? Now I’m getting vibes about a piece of automatic writing I did on my last shift and which I had forgotten about. It’s a narrative poem with no punctuation or grammar and for a few minutes it overtakes my mind. Now I definitely won’t be able to remember what I was thinking about earlier. What was I thinking about earlier? Was it a haiku? Maybe it was a haiku. It’s irrelevant because I’m behind with my work quota and have to concentrate to avoid getting a red key performance indicator on the white board.

On the way home I try to empty my mind and think about nothing. But I can’t think about nothing. In the station I notice a poster advertising an art exhibition; there are circles, triangles and squares all filled with empty space. Empty space, that’s what I was thinking about earlier. I get sucked into the empty space and I imagine a skeletal tree in a snowy landscape but I can’t concentrate because the station concourse is frenzied and I try to work out whether it’s chaotic or normal, safe or dangerous. I feel an irrational fear and I’m grateful to get on the train but can’t remember what I was thinking about. It was something to do with a haiku or automatic writing. When I get home the people upstairs are partying again. I put the television on. An aerial bombardment is taking place somewhere. The earth erupts and a city trembles on the screen. I hear people on the staircase and a loud banging on my door. I find myself cowering behind the sofa lost in a welter of noise from the television, the people upstairs and the banging on my door and just then I have an idea for a haiku about sunlight refracting in a drop of rain and I marvel at the fragile beauty of the rainbow of light as it shimmers and slides within the delicate world of the raindrop as it falls to the deep silence of the sea.


by James Coffey




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