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by Anne O’Leary

When he finally dies, I hire men from the village to take sledgehammers to the walls — a dining room wall here, a bedroom wall there. I fill the gaps with brilliant colour, sheets of green glass, red, yellow. Anything that glows. I hang mirrors everywhere, inexpensive ones I collect at house auctions. They are round, and oval, and sun-shaped. I would like to find more of the sun shapes. Ideally, I’d like to fill the house with sun.

Never mind, they work their magic, capturing daylight and softening flickering candlelight. I paint the rooms in jewel colours, crush glass and stick the shards to the ceilings so that at night I see the glint of stars. Fragments drift down and caress my face as I sleep. They will embed themselves in my eyes, rattle around my lungs, become a part of me.

His room — outside, separate from the main part of the house — I paint black. I write “The Lion’s Den” above the door. Though he is no longer there, it still smells like an animal’s cave.

My visions pour out the windows to the scorched yard. At first, I feel the need to create owls, with large glass eyes using the bottoms of beer bottles long drained by him. But, gradually, other shapes come to me. The workmen dig out the flower beds, build wire frames and mix concrete. Together we apply layer upon layer, listen to what the shapes ask to be, then I decorate them with glass and nails. They become men and women with outstretched arms, mermaids and camels in perfect harmony, eagles soaring and springbok leaping. Slowly, beautifully, the garden grows into the shape of my mind.

***

(Inspired by The Owl House museum in Nieu Bethesda, former home of South African artist Helen Martins: www.theowlhouse.co.za/)


Anne O’Leary lives in Cork, Ireland. Her work has been published in The Ogham Stone (forthcoming), The Wellington Street Review, Fictive Dream, The Drabble, Jellyfish Review, Dodging the Rain, The Nottingham Review, Spontaneity and The Incubator. She won the Molly Keane Award 2018 and From the Well 2017, was runner-up in the UCC/Carried In Waves Competition and shortlisted for the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award 2016 and 2017. Twitter @wordherding; blog: anneolearyblog.wordpress.com.

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