“Cloaks” – Michael Salu

Cabaret Wittgenstein presents here a previously unpublished prose piece by Michael Salu, also inviting you to watch his video “Yesterday”:

Watch “Yesterday” on Salu’s page.


Michael Salu

Cloak No. 1 – Heat Haze

I remember she got married in August. I mean remarried in August, I don’t know why. Why August? There was a baptist church that stood alone amidst mosques, halal chicken shops and arabic grocery stores. It was blackened by years of false hopes as the landscape around it changed significantly over the years. From white to black to brown. I suppose I mean the demographic rather than landscape. The people inside the church stayed the same. They played, got married and got old in the same building. The prayed about their illnesses and thanked Jesus or the Lord for the little gains. Laura just came through her session of chemo. Oh praise the Lord! In their Sunday best. I was standing alongside my mother as was my brother, her new groom stood sensibly to her other side. His eyes never met ours. The entire congregation also stood. I saw a stiff sea of pastel colored hats and ties. I shifted in my cloak, it made a small jangling sound. Jesus looked down on me somewhat pitifully from the wall. I could barely raise my head to examine him in all his gouache-d splendour due to the leaden weight of my cloak. There were many layers. Wedding layers. In August I reiterate. I tugged at my tie’s knot a little. My shoes shiny and black. The Lord was supposedly sitting back listening to the pastor’s oratorical declaration about the tides of love, honour and responsibility and I’m overcome in waves. Who is this guy standing there? What is she doing? These sounds faded and fell into my heat haze. My brow simmered, hot and bothered by synthetic union. Metabolism is a bitch and these cloaks beset upon us to bear, shimmer as they may not be for harried twelve year olds with an empty stomach on a hot day. Goodbye for now everyone, with a thump and everything cuts to black.

Cloak No. 2 – Validation

The thing is their cloaks would hang lower than our own, their chains would be heavier and clank louder. You might even dig the music they play but do anything to escape the association though of course you know your attempts were futile. They were super-sized, gold plated. Heavy 24 inch rims of imprisonment. Now the thing is disassociation is impossible however starched your collar. Eventually guards will be dropped after the second or third drink and you’ll be lumped back into that circle, that conversation regardless how starched your collar, or shiny your brogue. Over the water those spirits in similar garb – but not the same i stress – to your own require external validation in daily an explicit declaration of self as it does not come from elsewhere. You see it in the rhythm of the spirits’ gait, also burdened, though this music is consistent. That oneness, that sameness be also a battle. You are them, they are you yet their cloaks don’t so much dazzle as gaudily blind through the reflection. You were never them, nor they ever you and you can see them clearly, weary and defeated.

Cloak No. 3 – The Private View

Inside it is always the same. Four white walls. The Hypocrites must carry the weight of their deceit for eternity, so our glasses clinked with adulation and we supped at a wine the correct temperature but remained just the wrong side of dry. Her cloak swooshed around the lone stalactite hanging from the ceiling, which we all stood around and discussed. Apparently it weighs half a ton, a feat of engineering as much as concept. We huddled underneath it in our heavy cloaks, each one the same no colour a swath of bodies absorbing the light. My own cloak was the only one made to measure and this was notable. It gave a more natural and comfortable drape as I was used to it and it was even attuned to my waist giving off a rather enviable silhouette. The artist was nowhere to be seen.

Cloak No. 4 – Lone Spirit

As I’ve already alluded to, the weight of these cloaks make it difficult somewhat to walk with one’s head up, revealing one’s face. A lone spirit for example, loped a quiet residential street at night. The street lighting was not so good. Each light would only pool the immediate vicinity, leaving pockets of blackness. This poor spirit’s cloak is heavy and dark, dragging along the pavement with the friction of ballast. His cloak does not shimmer in this light or reveal what lay underneath. On the same side of the street a woman walks towards him. Once momentum has been gained underneath said cloak, there exists a way to shuffle along. It is a trudge actually. Difficult to move in any other way than a laboured regulated procession. Yet this lowly spirit with herculean effort changes course, face still shrouded in part, castigates the moonless night and trudges to the other side of the street. For her but more so for him.

Cloak No. 5 – So, What Exactly is Smart Casual?

This is a quite recent bit of rhetoric. Sartorial aspiration has been made accessible to all through global capital. An assimilation of sorts. Of experience, of storylines, of faiths. Those cloaks lose their cumbersome weight once they reach the catwalk, feathered and washed. You can still hear them clank, as they make their way back down through the food chain to the streets available at a much higher price.

These aren’t to be confused with the cloaks of the spirits back home. Sunday best gleams and adornment tells you a narrative as hierarchies of class and status differ little. The weight came from the journey, the weight exists to control, the weight is a spiritual impoverishment cast down from a crusade. The weight deludes with illusory emancipation.

Cloak No. 6 – Wear it Well.

This pen weighs a ton. Don’t get it twisted, it in itself is a leaden cloak. Again it is shiny and you will stand out. Though be warned, every utterance is amplified. Your art is a cloak. It will be attended to with a lofty fondness. You may want to write about that steep climb you made near Inverness but you’re not Robert Macfarlane but that’s ok, as your cloak will gain you entry into heaven or at least a vagina. You’ll be unable to kid yourself as spirits go, as it’ll always set you apart and the hypocrisy of this lies partly within and partly within something you can never crush underfoot. Wear your Sunday best, show your best side, show your best moves. Your ‘self’ is replaceable with your ‘shadow’. That is how this story goes, it is fairly straightforward in its linear three act structure. Eventually they find your cloak tattered and worn through repetitious use because it probably is your only one and this path is for eternity. It’ll eventually come down to folky staccato rants aimlessly conjuring a dream that was never yours.


Michael Salu is a writer, award-winning creative director and artist. His fiction, non-fiction and art have appeared in a range of publications including Tales of Two Cities (Penguin RandomHouse), Grey Magazine and recently the inaugural edition of new literary journal Freeman’s. Salu runs a multi-disciplinary creative consultancy [SALU.io] and is a co-founder of the cross-disciplinary art event series Local Transport. He is currently trying to finish his first book and has two film projects in production. He is the former creative director and art editor of Granta Publications.