Traffic Island by Jeremy Atherton Lin

My earliest memory is of an island in winter, its formidable mountain blanketed with snow. We descended on plastic saucers, over the curb shore and onto the street. Illinois passed briefly. We moved to other cul-de-sacs, but the islet of Fernwood Drive remained singular. I battled through its jungle in summer, still visualise its tangled trees. Online imagery has cast aspersions on my recall abilities. In California, there were archipelagos in shopping malls, circumscribed by seating, planted with palms and ferns and other paleozoic leaves, lauded by floodlights in the soil. A bed, sofa or box became private key surrounded by carpet ocean. Sitcom families navigated a kitchen island, around which parents reproofed petulant teens. Ours was peninsula, adjoined to the wall. In the ponds of a local park, an artificial ait comprised gazebo. I was pushed, near the bridge, into a whirlpool by a Slavic boy whose father was incarcerated for manslaughter, having shot a passerby through the garage door to which his target was inanely affixed. Mom plunged into kryptonite-green water, rich with swan feathers, oils and shit. She was in regular negotiation between reproachment and pity. No person an island, each averring to make waves.

Originally published in Failed States issue no.1: island, September 2017.

Jeremy Atherton Lin teaches, edits and writes between South London and Highway 1.

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