[Fiction] ‘Flesh Songs’ — Catherine McNamara

Foundation Song

He describes the persimmon tree as an equilibrium of weight and colour, a tree Gauguin would have liked. They stand at the bottom of her garden. The wet branches are clotted with scathing orange balls you could plunge a finger into and it would come out sullied with orange jelly, like you were poking inside breasts. 

In her language the fruit is called caco. There is no path between the two words.

They go to a concert which is King Arthur by Handel. When the King dies in the snow she can feel the capitulation of the army of her cells and the oozing inertness of her body. 

After the concert he collects their coats. His phone rings and he stands on the ruffled carpet of the auditorium with his phone cupped to his ear. 

In the car he tells her that his son has a disease and he will fly back to his country tomorrow. The disease is in its early stages and curable. He says he will stay there as long as it takes the boy to fight this malady. 

How she misses him already. It’s like a tourniquet applied to thrusts of blood.


Corinne Blekker was a busy ambulance worker who had seen many deaths, sheer escapes from death and not-at-all deaths in her district of Beaune. After work she would come home and lift off her heavy orange coat and hang it in the hallway, and feed her mewing cat before she scooted her out into the tangled yard. If it had been a night shift, she would shower and crawl naked into bed with Matthias, whom she would arouse as he turned and groaned. After all those needles and emergency incisions and oxygen masks making amphibians of elderly faces, Corinne delighted in the robust life of Matthias’ member, its disregard for the rest of his grumpy body and the fresh tragedies she saw every night. Corinne was blonde and chesty and an ex-skier, so often a mildly-injured man – say a street fight or a fall down stairs – would interpret her coercive eyes and gentle questions as womanly interest in his person, when it was not.

My Family

He says My Family and the furthest reaches of your organism, regions that have dwelled in peace within your being as an undiscovered species, are incinerated by light. He says, My Family, and you are awash outside a citadel where the walls run into the sky and these are walls that would repel you with a charge, send you smashing across a room.

He says My Family, and you know you have reached your last bastion of hope, and there will be further chains, and no water.

He says My Family and you remember you were once chaste.

He says, My Family, and you imagine the song of their flesh, her cries, his body sweeping, their original compulsion; the shifted radiance, the old radiance.

He says My Family and you wonder how that pointing of his body felt within the sleeve of yours.

He says My Family and you remember feeling wishful, all intuition jammed.


Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write, and ended up in West Africa running a bar. Her collection Pelt and Other Stories was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award and semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize. Her work has been Pushcart-nominated and published widely in the U.K. and Europe. She lives in Italy.

All work is the property of the author and is distributed with their permission.

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