Sunday, February 18, 1996

February 18

An unfamiliar station. Alien, dreary and meaningless. The darkening water, many years for the world and dim shapes to decipher, ordinary hateful things and systems, books and ink, attenuated, passed harmlessly, leaving each person on the road. No longings, no forebodings. Hatred evaporated and was followed by the earth itself, every bit of iron consecrated to the memory not having been imagined. To watch real nature, out of fear, as an object lesson. To pass by their ruined city in astonishment, scavengers accustomed to the cultural prohibition abundantly evident in the form, the manner and language of a world, all lies, apologies and farces, the whole terrible course of things smeared on the shuttered doors and windows. Broken shards, the bare frame, just living stinking skeletons.

Just buried, in the end. Frightened in one corner. Dropped, one might have thought. Impelled to reach the center of leaving all the time. Thrusting an obsequious hand into the charged and hostile atmosphere. Into the thin instant of possibility. Forward, to the barricades again to rescue us from the night, to be added to the fires, to find some permanent occupation to sustain oneself in great and private danger with neither the language nor belief in its possibility.

To our relocation peacefully, shut and turned inwards, propelled to the cities and towns, into the same oblivion. Led back into that world voicelessly, slave-laborers and prisoners half-forgotten after a day or two on the train. Tenuous clouds, melancholy being sheltered and riding under no end of sky, an entire life for years, all the sounds of a settled land. Nothing but heavy spirits under bitter winter weather, we met, debated and argued consistently in a new tongue (the admittedly broad schooling), repeatedly discarding and regaining conversation out of the general chatter, scattering the coals as if searching for the light’s end. The way we would all survive no closer to an answer.

Great clouds like beggars leaning over the enclosure. A brief spy’s look into just one province within, closed, behind the tall iron, a stethoscope against the wall, against the buried shapes that dwell, familiar, in the room. Here again was the world, just a chalk line and the air, gently crumbling, adorned by the moon and the electric lanterns, bright scraps, snow before the gate and stones to keep men warm in the lunatic opera of night. The empty street shivers across an abyss in a trance. Bone by bone, how the atom fell, torrid symbol. Very useful as a connecting abstract obscenity of the dumb wall. Memory like an old tune, the bodiless campaign to establish subsequent lines and sentences, something between us for a moment. Face to face after a life of death. Symbol and revelation and the proper things no longer proper.

No pictures, no mirror.

Only tired and mistuned strings, turning, hungry, home.

Time to take it home once more, the courtyard in the middle of these speeches. The last wall of a burned and collapsed house as remote as bravery. Every lived moment in its calculations around certain fixed points crushed to powder on the rails.

Girls to women softly raised, deliberately into the abyss, water and a few crumbs under new heroes. Names that lost all meaning in the revolution which burst afterwards, horrid stanzas by the sides of roads, the mere sight of men in the doorway, and publish a lot of nonsense: a particular nation at a particular period, flags on the chimney-stacks saluted by apparitions, chimney-sweepers come to dust. The heavens stripped into solitude and the outer darkness, the subtle cargoes lie hunched between barbarian incidentals, a roof overhead, hot black coffee and juniper liqueur. Blankets lay ready, and flowers fallen and frozen, secretly hoping but gravely injured. Until a kind of paralysis descends without a destination. Lock it in the grave and magnetize the sea. Too tawdry, grace, for such dark a day. Yet in the isolation dwelling behind everything, the simplest matters again, the accursed, contrary pleasure in fulfilling some duty, some plan. Divided feelings, astonished, diminishing and giving way. The slow exchange of hope for passive astonishment at the trees above, a bit of empty sky. Minor ripples on the surface of the adjoining, invisible, apathetic, ruined life. In the same way, the slow years exhale. Recollections of empire repressed, buried. Speech, plummetting, strains and disappears again, devoured by the wish, and all the catastrophes.

In the wooden houses nothing has changed, music and bright banners and a warm fire. No scruples and no hesitation. A tiresome swindle and no more. Two horses, decent clothes and a wagon, and down to sleep without having eaten. The sweetness of meditated rancor presiding over them without improving on anything, a muted accompaniement to all that assembly of exultant and simple-minded swaggering array, these monstrous family portraits, this seditious and evasive history, the distant and wearisome ringing of bells. Heads like guillotines turn away. A courage born of bitterness betrays us without pity. To turn and leave the home with sudden and terrible violence, mocking and summoned, speak it: the earth is smoldering, remembering human filth, fragments of the occult, human dust and ashes remembering their stolen possessions. The market, and the death of the market.

A homeless moon on the lid of a broken coffin. Around and around the echoing forever made of impotent nows. The busy shovels in our lungs. Forests of cities, forests of the dead, around us, crimson with poppies.

Waiting for the train, the longest hour, when bells stop ringing. Dry land on the other side of it.

There is nothing else.