We Live at Number Twenty-Two

Words by Joshua Strauss

Art by Ruby Comte


We live at number twenty-two,

Behind a cluster

Of broken bricks

And marred consecrations

Of bereft memories.


A playground all concrete

That leaves a nagging itch on the skin.

It opens its arm in an embrace

With the warmth of family estranged;

Forgotten and always hated.


On the walk to number twenty-three

Stumble over the mismatched

Paved slabs and sprays of dirt.

A delta of concrete cracks

Pushing us away.


Remnants of civilisation,

Car batteries and spray paints

Gather in hushed testimony

And arrange themselves

In thoughtful prayer.


Through the windows of number twenty-four

Peer in the perverse.

Young man, old men remind us

They are not locked out

We are locked in.


River of mud

Bursting banks of the gutter

Estuaries storm drains

Paints a tactile border

That separates us and them.


By the porch of number twenty-five

Whispers of past habitation

Lie discarded by the door

Snapped in two

Nestled among the weeds.


The garden’s earthly tendrils

Of childhood nostalgia

And teenage ambition

Left ignored and untethered

Strangle solitary roses.


At the side of number twenty-six

Hear the devils rave.

Ice-cold melancholy

Amidst warm bellies

Of drunken fools.


From dark windows,

A snow-white euphoria

For a little roll of gold.

Wide eyes, wide eyes,

Please don’t look at me.


There are no walls at number twenty-seven.

Metropolitan playground,

Where scraps of paper amidst demolished brick,

Bedding, blessed and burnt,

Stain the floor like shit.


Beady eyes glass over,

All white, no pupil,

Stuck too far back

In the skull of someone who shouldn’t be here,

But has nowhere else to go.


The sign on the door of number twenty-eight

Flips one way with sunrise,

And the other as arch wanes.

Aroma of imported beans

Wafts through half-closed windows.


Flooded with customers all suited,

All ignoring the urban wasteland

Surrounding the place of their morning beverage.

Up-and-coming café:

Gentrified coffee for sale.


The plot of number twenty-nine

Holds no home.

Rather, it cultivates a beautiful garden

Of roses and cacti

For the pleasure of number thirty.


Stone white monolith,

A king of plastered modernity

Amidst peasantry

Of crumbling brick.

Please. Let us stay.


The author Aayushi

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