Karen Sandhu: Wow. Suburbia.

Wow. Suburbia.

Back. Here. To the suburbs where the only person I knew was killed in June. Four wheels chug along and then skid into a burgeoning cloud of smoke, and my mouth agape, launches into a broadside against divine forces. I pull into one street and then into another. Left. Right, another. I wait on the kerb, on the edge of a driveway, on the other side of a box hedge. I am here for earthly affairs.


Curtains twitch. Used up worn out energies and revelations in pretend temples of happiness. Temples capable only of repetitive suffering. Prayer and sacrifice on a living room floor. Fresh bread in a toaster. A silhouette of three women carrying a headdress made from glamour and feathers and optic cables. Tight belts of edible pineapple around their midriffs, lama hair socks. A long period of silence. I watch from outside and loudly proclaim wow.


A figure brushes against the bonnet of my car. I duck. A figure. Defying barriers of geography moving from one lawn to the next, and the next. Posting leaflets about packaged holidays to Charlemagne’s castle, King Arthur’s cottage and a private tepee on an island in the Tasman Sea. A leaflet is placed underneath my windscreen wiper. The wiper is lifted, a mild electrocution is felt as I compress into the foot pedals. Sitting in silence. Exhausted. I sit up and grip my fingers around the steering wheel of futility.


24-hour supermarket. Brightly lit. On the corner as one street meets another. A beacon. A deity. A promethean force. Bound up in desire, aspiration and collective insanity. Everything neatly lined up with a perfectible destiny. I hold a lasagne. Fetish objects. Anxiety soap. Wary clocks. Soul healing loots. Tins of chopped tomatoes, I hold. And other suspect objects. Caveats. Omens. Choice. Frenetic expectations. Flashing images: a 10-inch TV screen behind the counter. A shooting. A fiasco. A nuclear indiscretion. A next word mishap. I drive on longing for a cold bath.


Park. Mantle of the earth. Spider beetles and leafhoppers sliding off aluminium tubes. Languor of suburban life. Beside the shepherd’s purse weed, and underneath the sparrows and their planetary alignment. Above. Short-eared owls in priestly robes, airborne and upright, lending credence to the power of their pulpits. Surly. Restless. In the far distance the headquarters of sickness. A hut. Microscopic yet visible. I lie down in the grass and wait. Aeons of time ahead. I observe the leviathan in the lake. The bees, kestrels, snow geese. Bereft. Late into the night, I wait.



Author’s Note:

Wow. Suburbia. is a poetic account of returning to a site of one’s past. A site of old memories, places, people, smells and sounds. It is an excavation of nostalgia. The speaker encounters the clichés of ‘suburban life’: the driveway, box hedge, twitching curtains and TV screens, and yet things are not what they seem. Beyond the curtains rituals of sacrifice take place on living room floors, shootings and mass panic are screened on TVs, and package holidays to King Arthur’s cottage are being leafleted through front doors. There is an anxious energy in the air as the reason for the speaker’s return is unexplained. Everything is resting on the edge. Even the bees, kestrels and snow geese wait restlessly like the speaker. This prose poem takes inspiration from the wonderfully mysterious tales of Stephen Hines in his latest collection the late season (Tangerine Press).


Karen Sandhu is a poet and artist. Her poems are forthcoming in Writing Utopia (Hesterglock Press, 2020) and Women’s Visual Poetry Anthology (Timglaset Editions, 2021).  Her poetry has been previously published in Digital Poetics (87 Press, 2020), DATABLEED (2019) and Para-text (2019). She has collaborated with the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Flat Time House and Camden People’s Theatre (London), Arnolfini (Bristol) and Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris). She has also written for The Blue Notebook: Journal for Artists’ Books, and her artworks have been exhibited at The Showroom (London) and Galerie éof (Paris).




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