The Present Where

1

The present ice. We skid. These opaque layers of deaths, sealing. Palimpsests. Separate, inseparable, fused and fusing; remaining as unreadable as the future. We skid and slide on all this past. Where. Where footholds, handholds. Where, where not.
     Ichthyosaurus, fern, hair, bone. The heart's stasis, chambers emptying into silence. We each have our mountainside where death or God might seek us. So they found him in the end, his Swan Vestas still cradled, tweed ice-po
cket. Skin bleached. Words home so privately preserved.
     Past, future, eternal present.
     When the light from the oldest stars overtakes that of the younger nearer ones? What then? When? When will be now?
     The road will remain always partially unwalked. But step step beside me awhile; bring your lantern of words, your voice of canyons and mountains.

     Help me hold back the darkness one more time.

          The pursuit of happiness
          is a game of imitation.
          The speeches are finished;
          most people are ready to leave.
 
          There is probably not a world beyond,
          more a world between idea and ability.
 
          Help me hold back the darkness,
          capture the shadow of absence,
          experience harmonic structure
          and hoover away my fear.
 
          Now it is sunlight all the way;
          ultimately, nothing true is in vain.
 
So spring songs, you say. Already. In search of the present. Spring characterised by its tease of small romances carried out across some distance. Do you remember the steps of the
Fitzwilliam Museum in winter, bare feet on the smooth cold stone? Words, like a love affair, are a way of staving off the world. The void. How we stumble and how ashes get in our eyes. The person I see is obsessed with erosion, with absence and departure. Words from other people's poems seep through veins: how everything bleeds, these last days, bleeds away... Bumping up against the stonework. Nudging the door. Sodden.
 
Only the dead, I think, aren't frightened of leaving.
 
          Losing our hearts
          to small false gods
          burnt out
          borne out on tributaries
          too fast
          once again seeking some ocean
          something that lasts.
 
I am happy to lose my heart to the gods or to words ┐ even others' words; they may ease the pain of leaving; they are much more than romance.
 
Perhaps we are right to be frightened of what remains totally unknown? After all, being a drop of water in an ocean doesn't appeal to us all. I'd rather be alone.
 
Words do not stave off the world, they are the world; how we make the world. The only way we make the world. They are how we know and document the information our senses record; there are no primal un-worded senses. We often stumble, for sure, but even in inarticulacy the words are all we have.
 
I do not remember the particular stones you mention, but I have walked barefoot on cool evening beaches and on summer city pavements.
 
None of this will last. 
 

2
 
She has said she dreams in colour. You are reading how volcanoes can change the sunsets for a year. How colours can mock our days. We inhabit a myth of darkness and alienation; we forget how to bloom and the budding almonds are a betrayal of our ingrained grief.
     A shadowy memory of the cathedral falls across your pages; a vast cavern:gold leaf, cobalt, madder rose, red lead. Gloom.

     Because we have refused the dark we cannot bear the light.

     You venture from the centre and arrive at the city gates. A million small fish storm the barrier reef guarding the entrance, each smaller than a thought. In the streets, rain; a faded sign at the entrance to this (any) ghostly city might read 'Life closed for business'. You are dog-eared, closed.
 
          The rain in the streets bleeds the colours away
          Your evening's subsiding. Your life's gone astray
          Though you don't quite know where. Somewhere else, you have heard
          Someone's stirring dead ashes. The future's absurd.
 
You are wondering how to contain and repair the fractures.
 
This may be the final version of the story: a different interpretation which can never be repaired and patched again. The distant, dysfunctional adult world stops us running wild in the woods; we are a variety of voices, reflected in the compromise of language. What is dear to me may not be dear to you. I play the hero and strike out in the water; you retreat into silence and novels about approaching death.
 
We are not ourselves any more. We have bargained with security and compromised happiness. My father's heart pounds, repeating itself each time I hear my daughter cry. I strive for abstract commentary and come up with dirty nappies and screams through the bathroom door.
 
Stock still in church I fiddle with religious metaphors and struggle with belief. I would like faith explained to me in clear, accessible language. You offer me hallucinatory cut-ups and dramatic monologues of doubt, I would prefer dreams and reveries, new terms of endearment.
 
Elsewhere a woman I only met once, for a week, lies calmly dying. She provides a different interpretation of domestic drama: an acceptance of the unknown. She drifts out to sea, her final crisis over in a few handwritten sentences.
 
Baby clothes, warm folded sheets, quiet songs in the morning sun. A shopping list of ideas and doubts. Bags packed for journeys I will never make.
 
Travelling in small circles where all movement is ultimately self-referential. Definitions of the ego, the 'I' who observes, in its unholy separateness, the 'I' who acts and sleeps and eats and laughs and cries and makes love and argues and thinks and is separate... the uncontained unsalved blood of the Fall. Our experience of time makes it unredeemable, except through small future acts of kindness. This is a form of confession.
 
You step outside, place the key under a stone beneath the bird cherry, already unravelling its acid tattyrags of spring. You wonder, momentarily, whether the key, the stone, the tree will still be there when you come back. This is not a war-zone; this is merely a bourgeois instant of ontological doubt.
 
A nothing.
 
You remember 'Camp Notebook', the unbearableness of the poem written on the back of a cod-liver-oil label, found when they exhumed him. Messages home.
 
You are thinking again about dead men.
 
The 'I' who thinks this is not the same 'I' who clatters down the steps and runs for the bus, hair flying and garments always slightly more dishevelled than you would like.
 
Somewhere else the cherry is already dead, the key unmade, a baby crying.
 
3
 
'...much of the information communicated by human speech is routinely obvious, and the faculty of speech may have prevented humans from learning how much could be communicated without it.'
     ┐ Ad Harvey, Warriors of the Rainbow
 
          Improvised revision. This is probably a draft.
          Sift, collect, mix, copy; quote and cut & paste.
          Improvise, revise, malfunction; nonsense, truth
 
          and lies. Uncertainty is my middle name:
          time and nature conspire to blur everything
          with language there simply to assist.
 
          I like new poems. I can't put my mind to
          working out why. They are all so sure
          of nothing, fail to cover any ground.
 
          In the middle of demolition chaos
          sense may arrive, a new kitchen arise:
          look for manageable patterns and secret signs.
 
          The past is little more than a forgotten track
          that takes us to a rambling disused house,
          which may, at any moment, fall right down.
 
          Upstairs language is holding a party we are
          not invited to. Syntax has had too much to drink.
          Rhyme and nostalgia are coupling on the bed.
 
          In the basement poetry is making itself at home.
 
You like new poems because they are all so sure of nothing. I like that; and I like the fact that at last I too am sure of nothing, least of all who that 'I' is.
 
Other things I like today:
the fat drops of rain against the window (yes, even that)
the companionable silence of dog, self, these few words to you
the six buzzards spiralling over the fields (that one's predictable)
the fact that I haven't heard the news
the wandering channels the tide has left in the mud
the taste of lime leaves, lemongrass and coconut
the taste at last of creativity again
my daughter's voice crackling over hundreds of miles
mica winking in granite
the anticipation of the smell of flowering currant in spring rain (the greening hedges)
the colours of the petrol slick in puddles in the gutter (though I know I shouldn't)
that right now I'm warm and dry
the knowledge that you'll catch these words
and reflect, deflect, divert, subvert
and make new patterns in the shapes that you like.
 
How to shape what we like? How to make sense of anything... the awful swirl of time and matter around us?
 
Every morning I am appalled that I am still here in the world; that the world carries on regardless, is so certain of itself. I don't need to hear the news to know it's bad, I know that melancholy is around the corner waiting to ambush me. I know that time is slipping away ┐ taking so many possibilities with it. Is the future a motorway or a ring road?
 
Clinging to uncertainty makes for an uneasy ride. Doubt is a bigger hole than belief; faith is sometimes forced upon me. Belief demands attention and consideration; words and paint also, although all I want to do is sleep.
 
'I should hate to see the place where the paint is made that colours the world, where the light is created that makes shine the splendour of the dawn, the lines and shapes of all form.'
     ┐ Carl Jung, in a letter to Father Victor White
 
Which is lucky. Because I probably never will. 
 
4
 
You're standing on the quay and the shockwaves from the ferry's propeller connect briefly the water, the concrete and rock, the fishing boats massed in the harbour where the seal plays dodgems, and your body. No inside, no outside.
 
There is no substance to these in-between moments and you're grateful to be suspended; each ending is a bereavement. The water in the Sound is scudded and opaque, and that too makes it all easier. The salt wind is a minor key playing wet against your face. Each leaving is too early and too late.
 
Travelling south this time is hard, despite your inner compass. In the lanes the drifts of anemones and the first tentative bluebells, the smell of spring rain ┐ all is obscured by this choking stench, burning flesh, the smell of money bringing down the world. Currency of greed. Across the westcountry these blazing barbaric beacons to commerce and consumerist myopia. Where is the God of Small Things?
 
Sometimes there is nothing to do but close your eyes, lift your face to the new spring sun, count the swallows, walk and keep on walking, don't look back.
  
5
 
I explore the world by association and analogy, prefer memory to the present tense. (Captain Beefheart: 'the past sure is tense'.) The voices I find in other pages are far preferable to the guttural echoes of my own speech. I see order and meaning in juxtaposition and accumulation, the random correspondences between what I overhear and see in the world. I synthesise, catalyse and sometimes verbalise.
 
How many arguments that biography is individual instead of communal? That my world is more than that, just one take of many, just one version of the story ┐ a story I have assembled from secondhand words, music and colour anyway. A never-ending story that this reader for one finds impenetrable and dull, a confusing tome of subtext, diversion and asides.
 
However far you travel, it never gets any simpler.
 
However old I get it never gets any simpler.
 
However simple I get life never gets any simpler.
 
Walking away is always hard. It takes a long time to realise you can take everything with you you want to ┐ memories, love, anger, desires and dreams. You don't miss what you don't have any more; though sometimes it doesn't seem that way.
 
'I sit for hours looking down into rockpools. Why does a grown man do that? because I got more time not to see what I missed as a child'
     ┐ Peter Everett, The Voyages of Alfred Wallis
 
I never wanted to grow up... But here I am, grown up anyway but wondering when I truly will, what growing up might mean beyond mortgages and bills and responsibilities and memories forgetting to stay where I can find them.
 
What is done cannot be undone, though one can try to invent or disown.
 
 

6
 
Yet the past, once past, becomes anything we want it to be.
 
We inhabit the spaces between the sacred and the secular. I am struck that here in this ancient building converted to feasting the music has none of the harmonies and cadences of sacred proportions. But still the night folds warm around our shoulders and the cathedral sits in soft light and eating together is always a communion; as was the sharing of words with so many others, earlier.
     The gift of words and the gift of shared words shared.
 
West of the city lightning flashes and a few fat drops sprinkle our hair.
 
How good to be building bridges; to be finding new ways of approaching chaos, to be continuing despite the weight of everydayness. You are not less for ´failing' but a success for trying.
 
Letting the darkness in.
 
          The soul has her own morality
          don't spread your dreams beneath the feet
          of those who don't care to know
          that there's more than one name
          for truth
          who don't care to dig too deep
          who turn away from edges
          who don't know the rush of wind as you leap
          the licking flames
          flying
 
Letting the darkness in may mean night and dreams and fear comes along for the ride too. Approaching chaos seems different from embracing it. I look aghast at disorder and want to tidy up... I try so hard to live from day today, but it seems the days are running out.

Tides of sludgy blossom blur the pavement and coat our shoes.

Roselle Angwin and Rupert M Loydell


www.tangents.co.uk

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