The Typist by Claire Askew

The Typist

We worked together –
two of two-dozen in a warehouse of noise.

My fingertips were black
and slick with carbon film
but swift and deft –
in those days
I could fill a page
in four minutes dead.

He fitted tapes
and fixed machines
hot and ink-smeared
to the wrist;
drank what dreams he’d had
each night and sat all day
amid the stink of his regret.

We never spoke. I flicked
the single vowel of his name
across a wall in lipstick once,
the only clue I ever gave.
At night I wept under the bed
as ack-ack guns chewed up
the dark and spat it out
as rubble, corpses, fear.

He met a girl
with dark brown hair
and skin that gleamed
like scissorblades, then just as soon
he ruined her and went to war.
It’s years now since his bones
went in the ground,
yet typing this, my heart
still misfires, stricken at the sound.

                – Claire Askew

Claire Askew lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she works as a lecturer in Literature, Communication and Creative Writing and hoards manual typewriters in her spare room.