Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Severed Exhaust

Unstable, hot metal sheets

Swaddle  Chanistskali  bridge.

Rivets tear at river’s bend as we,

All sat up and keen to arrive

Push forward over sheer drop cracks of space beneath.


Broken water rumples and cocoons tumble stones  from

Distant cousin mountain- tops.


Egg pebbles skittle as boys who,

Brown from acres of sky, haunch, squint, push hard against echoing white light,

Pluck up stones,

Lob them.


Our car, already lacking suspension

Passes, at some speed toward the far side when the

Rear-end arches to meet the vicious scalpel cut that

Slices, just under me, the exhaust





We were heading towards Martvili Monastery. The previous night I had sat, until late, at our host’s table,  with Nino, asking hard questions  about the legend of St. Andrew who, in the 1st century had stopped the Druid ritual of sacrificing a baby, one a year, every year, to appease the  gods.  As a mother, I could not imagine the horror of being  chosen, and being expected to be grateful for it, through a form of lottery, to bring my child, my baby, to die hung from an oak tree,  in order to bring prosperity to the region. I wanted to know more. So many Georgian songs are connected with the ritual of child birth and protection against evil forces it was fascinating to be able to see for myself the place where, according to Christian propaganda, these rituals took place.


Only one hour into our 3 hour journey, the car now sounded like it belonged on a formula one race track and the exhaust fumes filled the inside so that, even with the windows wide open, I felt sick. I knew it was bad, and dangerous but, the driver, who had picked up the severed exhaust pipe, reassured me that it was not. I became increasingly anxious and insisted that we turn around and return to Zugdidi. Curiosity about ancient rituals at the monastery was not a big enough force to risk my life. I had my own son back at home that I wished to see again. The irony of the situation did not escape me, I had survived the white mini-bus ride only to potentially be killed by a mad Georgian driver in a hire a day taxi! Pretty soon the other passengers realised I was  distressed and so it was decided to stop at the very next garage and get the missing exhaust piece welded back on.


This happened pretty quickly. The stopping I mean, not the welding, and at this point nature called so my companion and I set off to find the facilities.


Imagine a lean-to. Imagine a lean-to with an ill-fitting slatted door painted with a cross. Imagine a lean-to with an ill-fitting slatted door perched on a semi-concrete block with a hole punched into it. Imagine the concrete block perched over an open hole.  Imagine the heat. Imagine the heat combined with the smell and then imagine being inside the lean-to, squatting, having taking a huge breath before you went in and hoping against hope you have enough air in your lungs to last the time it takes you to pee. Bear in mind you have been holding your bladder for the last hour.


There was no way I was going in there.  My companion, made of sturdier stuff and with a bigger lung capacity than me, did.


Lean – to


Ramshackle shack.

Holy door swings

On rusting crooked hinges.


My friend,

Braver than I



Frown of concentration lines her face and

Trying not to breathe more than once

Like a swimmer deep diving she

Gulps air, rushes in




Quick, quick!


I pee round the back.

The gaping hole,

Yawning chasm

Of shit

Stares at me from

Underneath the

Crumbling concrete

Block as I, distracted, am

Stung by a nettle that

Lurks there.

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