Kate Tattersfield

Still Water


The muck coating the surface of the sea is as thick and shimmering as old petrol. From certain angles it seems to vibrate, as if about to spill the hundred secrets hidden precariously beneath. Her eyes skim over it, creep onto it; lids lapping up deposits of dead magic. From a distance, you mistake her abandoned form for some flotsam washed up on the shoreline.

She’s very alive: left hand occupying the ground beneath; fingers perforating the arid earth, weeding out half-dead pieces of grass rooted tenuously within. Dirt deposits itself securely under fingernails for safe keeping and future cultivation. Today, the natural world envelops her; she in turn sinks into it, caving to its embrace in the security of blue skies and solitude.

The object in her right hand attenuates this, contributing nothing but brutish reality.

Are you sure you’ve thought this through.

Dead-tone sounds and white-hot noise – they do not connect on any level above or beneath the superficial.


She tosses monotony into the still water as if it were something cheap, used, and without nuance. Monotony pirouettes, mouth gaping. Following a photo-click moment of suspension, it plops into the water to be swallowed up in a single, seductive gulp. Rippleless, the water sleeps, well-fed and satisfied.

Earth’s reassuring gravity supports it all. Eyes finally closed, she invites the sunlight to make iridescent patterns underneath her eyelids; a kaleidoscopic indulgence that infiltrates vision, imagination, and dream.

Breathing deeply, she drifts onwards into a profound, uninterrupted sleep.


Patterns dissipate, melt away like orange ice-lollies on a new June day. Where do they go? Out of reach, into infinity, sometimes down into the body’s caves; oscillating through solid, liquid and gas. Or into that other world that transcends self, safe in the hands of generations past.

You are here with her.

Finding yourselves at the periphery of a thicket, out of breath and adrenaline-pumped, you spot a tunnel supported by branches and bracken. On all fours, together you burrow through the undergrowth, luxuriating in earth’s dry and green, inhaling its scent. The way the twigs near-break the skin and gravelly soil scrapes and scratches is something unexpected.

Once inside, human life buzzes like a fat moth to a strong light. The cave is formless, forming, beautiful in its incompletion. A stage lies to the left, on which a solitary wooden stool beckons all storytellers to its seat. There’s something mystic about that stage, although it is also near and tangible.

A poet graces the platform and sits on the stool, effortlessly, as if made of silk. It draws a deep, deep breath, and in doing so seems to swallow up the messy residue of everyone’s grief. The air is warm and still.

Reciting from an ancestral book:


In the house of my dream
saccharine trust seeps
through the walls like hotcakes
casting curses and spells –

The voice, until now slow and resounding, becomes fractured; it spits out shards of ruby and emerald as it proceeds –

the walls know,
the green and gold
creeping weeds that wind know
their way through cavity and corner,
through skin and vein
and resting memory.

It breathes in.


Look at her swimming through the water now – it’s crystal clear and cool as light turquoise. When you look closely, do you see brushstrokes? Can you stare from afar ‘til your vision blurs and envision the colours of the Northern Lights, precious and rare?

You feel it loosening now. The viscera’s grip. You’re with her in the water, warmed by the sun. You sense the sea’s consistency change as you glide into the centre: rhythmic; a serum that softens everything it contacts. You float independently, and then effortlessly converge.

Taking your hand, she leads you upwards and onto dry land again.