The Rust Man

by Saduni Wanniarachchi

The ashen silhouette liquefies. A pleated sarong collapses onto the granular beach. He is rust coated, the sleeping man who is frozen by the coppery miasma of his own breath. A ripened fruit indeed, he rests beneath the sun who is still in its germinating phase:

A rosette seedling
Trembling beneath the hot waves
Of the charcoal sea

Shadows begin to resurface. The bamboo trees that appeared deceased are now budding with a buttery glow. The miniature humming birds, previously subdued by the dusk, are now harmonizing together in a dream like opus. All things that were ostensibly unconscious are now revitalizing. That is of course, except for the rust man who simply snores forlornly. Perhaps for some, the last night’s anesthesia is still strong, if not stronger.

There are also those who are oblivious of the shade, because they were just born at dawn:

Three olive scaled tur-
-tles escape the desert to
Find a breathing cave

They are newborns, heads enlaced with the tiniest fragments of eggshell. Derelict, and drying under the intensifying rays, the chalybeate mans warm scapula is a tempting sanctuary. However, one of the hatchlings follows a different path, printing its semi solid green paws up and along the man’s vibrating chest. At the hairy cliff of his chin the hatchling squashes down just hard enough to resurrect the lifeless:

Two scleras reflect
The red fire of the sun
Like bleeding opals

His bleached eyes squint at the sight of this malachite creature. His skeletal fingers ensnare the newborn under a forceful grasp as he rises maladroitly with the hatchling high in the air. ‘You …You…animal… So stupid”, . He mumbles relentlessly as he circuits around, searching for a jagged stone. But then he catches sight of the other two baby turtles, who now are not alone:

Two crows arrive, black
Knights of the isle, mucin drenched
To drown the jade babes

His irises lighten and he disregards the third turtle. Instead he marches, oscillating from side to side, and begins to wave his arm at the crows. He hops around weakly as he screams “Shoo, Shoo,…Go go.. away now “, till eventually the greasy birds flee.

Rust flakes descend from
The wilting statue, like brown
Leaves from a dead tree

He is exhaling heavier than ever as he lowers himself and almost disintegrates down adjacent to the three hatchlings. They crawl inwards towards his face where his eyes are now fluttering back into a reverie. From then on his chest fossilizes. The turtles depart because his skin is now ice cold and still.

The crows however come back and their beaks dig into his murky flesh. The sun showers down its ivory petals.